Friday, January 30, 2015

Oy, What a Shande

The invitation from House Speaker John Boehner to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress without consulting with the White House was an obvious attempt to embarrass President Obama and his negotiations with Iran to halt their nuclear program.

But it is not going exactly as planned.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has been reaching out to leading Capitol Hill Democrats to try to ease criticism over his coming address to Congress, but has made little progress.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said Thursday that Mr. Netanyahu had called him the previous afternoon to explain why he had accepted an invitation to speak to Congress without first notifying the White House. The prime minister has also called Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, and Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat.

[…]

“It’s hurting you,” Mr. Reid said he told Mr. Netanyahu. “I said: ‘You have to understand this. I’m not telling you what to do or what not to do, but you have to understand the background here from my perspective.’ ”

“It would have been wrong for me to say, ‘Don’t come,’ ” said Mr. Reid, who is recovering at his home in Washington from a serious exercise accident he sustained Jan. 1. “I wouldn’t do that.”

Ms. Pelosi said late Wednesday that when she spoke with the prime minister, she had stressed that the speech “could send the wrong message in terms of giving diplomacy a chance.”

There have been partisan recriminations in Washington and Israel over the speech, with accusations that Speaker John A. Boehner, who extended the invitation, and Mr. Netanyahu were exploiting the situation for political gain. Mr. Netanyahu faces voters on March 17 in a contest in which national security and Iran could be significant factors. Democrats in Congress have said Mr. Boehner is trying to undermine Mr. Obama and weaken his ability to govern, a charge that Mr. Boehner disputes.

Not only is Bibi bombing out with the Democrats, the invitation is actually working for the president:

For months, the issue of imposing sanctions on Iran split many Democrats from the president, as they feared his posture was emboldening the government in Tehran to further develop its nuclear program. But Mr. Netanyahu’s planned speech, a provocation of the president that many Democrats found distasteful and undiplomatic, has helped shift the political dynamic.

I expect that in the next couple of days we’re going to hear that Mr. Netanyahu suddenly remembered that he has a dental appointment on the very day of the speech and has to cancel the trip.

Then What?

If, by some logic that escapes an awful lot of people, the Supreme Court guts out Obamacare via this bullshit case King vs. Burwell, it will leave millions of people without the ability to buy healthcare.  But never fear, citizens; the Republicans will rush to the rescue and fix it.

Oh, what a relief. But with what?

“It’s an opportunity that we’ve failed at for two decades. We’ve not been particularly close to being on the same page on this subject for two decades,” said a congressional Republican health policy aide who was granted anonymity to speak candidly. “So this idea — we’re ready to go? Actually no, we’re not.”

Republican leaders recognize the dilemma. In King v. Burwell, they roundly claim the court ought to invalidate insurance subsidies in some three-dozen states, and that Congress must be ready with a response once they do. But conversations with more than a dozen GOP lawmakers and aides indicate that the party is nowhere close to a solution. Outside health policy experts consulted by the Republicans are also at odds on how the party should respond.

The party that has failed to unify behind an alternative to Obamacare for many years now has five months to reach an agreement. It’s an unenviable predicament, especially for the congressional Republicans leading the effort to devise a response — all of whom hail from states that could lose their subsidies.

“There are a lot of ideas,” Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT) told TPM on Tuesday. “If the case goes the way I think it should go … then we’ve gotta come up with a way of resolving the problems we’re in. We’re quietly looking at all that and trying to do that.”

For now, the GOP’s goal is to “make the world safe for [Chief Justice John] Roberts to overturn” the Obamacare subsidies, said one prominent outside conservative close to Republican lawmakers and the case, who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “What I worry about is — the goal is to not let our guys look like they’re going crazy and letting the world spin into chaos.” In other words, Republicans must show they’re willing and able to deal with the issue.

The upside is that it will provide hours of sardonic mockery of a party that claims to be the adults in the room and can’t do anything; but at the loss of critical care for millions of people who will struggle and suffer because of their incompetence.

“And if I laugh at any mortal thing, ’tis that I may not weep.” — Lord Byron.

Nice Try

The American Family Association is now trying to put as much distance as they can from their freshly-fired paid spokesperson Bryan Fischer and all the garbage that he spewed out over the American landscape.  They put out a long list of his claims about gays, Native Americans, Muslims, and the so forth and told the world not to associate his claims with AFA.

To quote JMG: “FUCK THAT.”

Mr. Fischer still has his daily radio show, he is still paid by the AFA, and, as the Southern Poverty Law Center says, as long as the AFA keeps doing without renouncing Mr. Fischer and his bilge, no dice.  He’s all yours and will be forever and ever, amen.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Curious Question

The confirmation hearing for A.G. nominee Loretta Lynch are underway in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and so far they seem to be amiable.  Most of the Republican thunder has been aimed at the current occupant of the office, Eric Holder, to the point that they all had to reassure themselves that Ms. Lynch was not Mr. Holder.

But then Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) came up with this question:

“If the Supreme Court rules that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional, it violates the constitution for a state to try to limit marriage between a man and a woman, that’s clearly the law of the land unless there’s a constitutional amendment to change it, what legal rationale will be in play that would prohibit polygamy?” Graham asked.

“What’s the legal difference between a ban on same-sex marriage being unconstitutional but a ban on polygamy being constitutional? Could you try to articulate how one could be banned under the constitution and the other not?”

I’m not a lawyer, but I do know that it’s perfectly legal to limit the number of parties in a contract, but it’s a violation of the idea of equal protection to limit the parties based on something as innate as gender.  So, yes, polygamy can be banned on those grounds, but you shouldn’t do it just because the parties have the same type of genitalia.

But oh my dear Lindsey, didn’t they teach you reductio ad absurdum in law school?  But more importantly, why would you ask this particular question?  Where are you going with this?  Looking for loopholes?

Firing on the Right

Bryan Fischer, the dyspeptic spokesman for the American Family Association, a right-wing anti-gay hate group, is too vitriolic even for them and he’s been fired.

Per the attached clip from Rachel Maddow (note: video autostarts), Mr. Fischer lost the support of his homies when he claimed that Hitler used gay soldiers to slaughter his enemies because straight ones were too nellie to do the job.

He said that a long time ago, so the fact that they’re just now getting around to it means that there’s something else behind it.  Perhaps it involves coordinating a trip to Israel with the Republican National Committee planned for this weekend.  Mr. Fischer has stated that no one but a True Christian is entitled to the protection of the First Amendment.

That includes people who are Jewish, which makes this junket to Israel a tad awkward for the RNC.

As JMG notes, Mr. Fischer will no doubt blame his heave-ho on the Gaystapo homofascists.  But it frees him up to take Mike Huckabee’s slot at Fox News.

Triple Double Down

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal keeps digging in on the fictional Muslim “no-go zones” in Europe, and he’s using the official state website to do it.

Apparently Jindal believes that amassing a trove of links amounts to a preponderance of evidence proving the existence of the so-called “no-go zones” in Europe. The landing page of his website links to a page titled “Setting the Record Straight,” which compiles reports largely cribbed from a think tank linked to anti-Muslim activists.

[…]

To substantiate “no-go zones” in England, Jindal’s page links to a CNN segment and refers four times to the same Daily Mail article. That article quotes Tom Winsor, the U.K.’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, as saying “There are cities in the Midlands where the police never go because they are never called. They never hear of any trouble because the community deals with that on its own.”

What Jindal’s page doesn’t source, though, is the chief constable of West Midlands Police’s rebuttal.

“[Winsor’s] characterisation of these communities as born under other skies is just wrong,” Chief Constable Chris Sims told the Daily Mail. “Many members of communities in Birmingham are British-born and I find that a very odd expression.”

It’s one thing to set up a con and get the rubes to fall for it, but when you start to believe your own bullshit, then you’re just embarrassing yourself.  And to do it with taxpayer money just makes it worse.

Sisyphus Shrugged

Keep shakin’ that rock.

The House will vote next week on a bill to undermine the 2010 healthcare overhaul in what will be close to the 60th time over the last four years.

[…]

The vote will allow new House GOP freshmen who campaigned on repealing ObamaCare to put their pledges to a vote.

I love the idea that the GOP freshmen think that by casting a meaningless vote they’ve somehow fulfilled a campaign pledge.  That just about sums up every campaign promise ever.

So Long, Sully

Andrew Sullivan is calling it quits as a blogger.

He was the role model for a lot of bloggers and in many ways shaped what this form became, but he says now that he no longer wants to be a slave to it and he’s off to seek other ways of sharing his vast scope of knowledge.

I wish him well.

Short Takes

Hezbollah launches attack against Israeli soldiers near the Lebanese border.

Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch had her first day of confirmation hearings in the Senate.

Jordan agreed to terms to trade a prisoner for a hostage held by ISIS.

The Fed cites solid job growth in the economy.

Eight lives left: a cat that was believed to be dead rises from the grave.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Speak the Speech

I was going to write something about Jonathan Chait’s column on the resurgence of “political correctness,” but here are two people who do it a lot better:

Melissa McEwan:

There’s little I can say in response to this piece that wouldn’t merely be a variation on what I’ve already said before.

But I do want to note this important context: Chait et. al. have spent a very long time making a living treating defining the terms of debate as the debate itself.

And that’s why we get these petulant thinkpieces about “the nature of the debate” and tortured explanations about how what they do is speech, but what their critics do is something that endangers speech.

Chait is a professional gatekeepers, whose career is built upon having conversations he defines as important exclusively with people who view his being white and male as credentials, but don’t practice identity politics. Ahem.

And the thing about professional gatekeepers is that they get very miffed indeed when people start saying fuck the rules of sitting at your table; we’ll build our own table.

Oh the terrible rending of garments when you make it clear you don’t care about their rules of engagement for discourse, because their discourse is garbage.

Betty Cracker:

Chait also seems to engage in some magical thinking about the curative powers of the “free market of ideas,” wherein more speech is always the cure for bad speech and therefore all speech must be protected (with the usual caveat about yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater, one presumes). I subscribe to that view myself, in the absence of a better one. But as always, there’s a difference between protecting speech and insisting that it remain free from criticism — even from harsh criticism that results in hurt feelings and blog-flounces!

And maybe it’s important to acknowledge that there will always be an imbalance in the free market model of speech, just as there is in the commodities market. I’m just as free to invest in political speech as defined by the Roberts Court as the Koch Bros. are; I just have a lot less to invest. And that matters.

Well said.

For the Ladies

The GOP outreach to the women voters of America continues with a double-barreled shot across their bow.

First it’s that fountain of punchlines, Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) who turns the gun on his fellow “Republican females” whose objection to draconian abortion laws disappointed him.

“Most of the conference was 100 percent in favor of the bill that was going to be brought to the floor. Some of us were wishing that there would not be any exceptions because it was going to be 20 weeks — no abortions after 20 weeks — when the evidence is clear those babies feel,” Gohmert said on a conference call that included pastor E.W. Jackson, according to a recording published by Raw Story.

Gohmert then said that Republican women split the caucus by opposing the language on the rape exception. He said that opposition to the bill should have been voiced before the legislation made it to the House floor.

“I’m told that they’re still going to bring it back, but because there was such division among our Republican females, they pulled the bill that day,” he said. “And that was extremely unfortunate, and it sent the entirely wrong message.”

The wrong message is, apparently, that women have the right to control their own bodies.

And then there’s the paragon of virtue and clean living Mike Huckabee, who is shocked, shocked, I tell you, to hear women use language that is better suited to a Ted Nugent concert.

Huckabee was discussing his trouble adapting to the “hotbed of the New York culture” on Friday during an interview on the Des Moines-based “Mickelson in the Morning” show.

Until January, Huckabee had commuted to Manhattan to host a weekly Fox News talk show, and he said that working in New York City was like visiting “a different planet.”

“In the South, in the Midwest, here in Iowa, you would not have people who would just throw the f-bomb and use gratuitous profanity in a professional setting,” Huckabee said. “In New York, not only do the men do it, but the women do it!”

“This would be considered totally inappropriate to say these things in front of a woman,” he added. “And for a woman to say them in a professional setting — we would only assume that this is a very — as we would say in the South, that’s just trashy!”

Here’s a video of Mr. Huckabee’s reaction:

Aunt Pittypat 01-20-15

I can think of any number of women who might have some “trashy” things to say to Gov. Huckabee, but I’m afraid that his delicate nature — not to mention certain parts of his anatomy — couldn’t handle it.

Short Takes

The blizzard in New England isn’t over yet.

Americans among those killed in a terrorist attack on a hotel in Libya.

A lot of people, including President Obama, showed up to pay respects in Saudi Arabia.

Consumer confidence is at its highest rating since 2007.

Mormons try to balance marriage equality and the right to discriminate.

Obamacare cost estimate keeps getting smaller.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Granma, Indiana

Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) is not happy with the way the press covers his administration.  So he’s decided to start his own state-run media.

Gov. Mike Pence is starting a state-run taxpayer-funded news outlet that will make pre-written news stories available to Indiana media, as well as sometimes break news about his administration, according to documents obtained by The Indianapolis Star.

Pence is planning in late February to launch “Just IN,” a website and news outlet that will feature stories and news releases written by state press secretaries and is being overseen by a former Indianapolis Star reporter, Bill McCleery.

The difference between “Just IN” and Granma, the news outlet in Havana, Cuba, is that the latter has no problem labeling itself as the official voice of the political party in charge.  Why so shy, Mike?

Big Snow

Yeah, I know, you don’t need to hear anything about a big blizzard from a guy in Florida, but I hope that those of you who live up there in the snow zone are safe and warm.

I spent enough time in the snowbelt to know that blizzards are no joke; they should be taken as seriously as the tropical cyclonic events we get here in Florida, and in some places, the results can be just as devastating.  So be careful out there.

Calling Them Out

This has got to have some folks nervous in Birmingham:

Alabama’s only openly gay legislator is putting her anti-gay colleagues on notice: If they keep espousing family values rhetoric as a reason to oppose marriage equality, she’ll start making their marital infidelities public.

“I will not stand by and allow legislators to talk about ‘family values’ when they have affairs, and I know of many who are and have,” wrote state Rep. Patricia Todd (D) on Facebook over the weekend, as reported by the TimesDaily in Alabama. “I will call our elected officials who want to hide in the closet out.”

Todd’s post came after a federal judge ruled Friday that Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. She told The Huffington Post that she decided to issue her threat after reading some of the anti-gay rhetoric coming from certain elected officials in the state.

“If certain people come out and start espousing this rhetoric about family values, then I will say, ‘Let’s talk about family values, because here’s what I heard.’ I don’t have direct knowledge, because obviously I’m not the other person involved in the affair. But one thing you would never hear about me is that I ever cheated on a partner or had an affair,” said Todd.

“One thing I’m pretty consistent on is I do not like hypocrites,” she added. “If you can explain your position and you hold yourself to the same standard you want to hold me to, then fine. But you cannot go out there and smear my community by condemning us and somehow making us feel less than, and expect me to be quiet.”

I am not in favor of outing someone, straight or gay, as long as they’re not doing one thing in private and then condemning the very same thing in public (Hey, Newt!).  But hypocrites need to be called out, and then some.