Saturday, November 22, 2014

Bye Bye Benghazi

It looks like the Nutsery will have to find something else to obsess about.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.

Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, intelligence about who carried it out and why was contradictory, the report found. That led Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to inaccurately assert that the attack had evolved from a protest, when in fact there had been no protest. But it was intelligence analysts, not political appointees, who made the wrong call, the committee found. The report did not conclude that Rice or any other government official acted in bad faith or intentionally misled the American people.

The House Intelligence Committee report was released with little fanfare on the Friday before Thanksgiving week. Many of its findings echo those of six previous investigations by various congressional committees and a State Department panel. The eighth Benghazi investigation is being carried out by a House Select Committee appointed in May.

But never fear; there is sure to be someone somewhere who is sure that this too is nothing but a vast cover-up and that if only they would have one more investigation…

Friday, November 21, 2014

Executive Action

I missed the live broadcast of President Obama’s speech on immigration last night (video here).  But fear not; Sahil Kapur at TPM has the essentials.

He will expand an existing program to avoid targeting certain young people, and create a new program to relieve undocumented parents of Americans of deportation fears, senior administration officials told reporters in the White House ahead of the prime-time announcement.

“That’s the real amnesty – leaving this broken system the way it is. Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character,” Obama said. “What I’m describing is accountability – a commonsense, middle ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.”

He also challenged the Republicans in Congress to fix immigration on their own, telling them that if they didn’t like what he was doing, the solution was simple:

“To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: pass a bill,” he said during a prime time address on Thursday night announcing his actions. “I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary.”

No, he did not add “Neener, neener,” but he might as well have.  The GOP is beyond furious, which is a sign that they know they’re in trouble.  The more they carry on, the more we know the president’s actions are going to have an impact both on policy and politics.

The reactions stand to sharpen the contrast between Democrats and Republicans, which is particularly salient among Hispanics, who broadly support immigration relief. Pledging to overturn Obama’s actions could become a litmus test in the GOP primary, if Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and other opponents demand as much. That could make life miserable for the eventual Republican nominee in the general election, where Hispanic voters, who helped give Obama two terms in office, are likely to again play an important role.

One of the things that pundits and the Village chin-scratchers have been saying since the mid-terms is that the Democratic Party has pretty much written off the white straight male voter and that it’s crucial for them to work to get them back.  Sure, it would be nice if the party that stood up for unions and the working class when the Republicans were all in favor of closing plants and sending jobs overseas could get the support of the folks whose economic well-being was trashed by the party they now flock to, but the Democrats chose to support civil rights and treating the least among us as well as the richest.  They’ve paid a price at the polls in Congress, but in the long term the number of people they helped and who know it is growing.  The biggest fear the Republicans have isn’t hoards of undocumented immigrants in Browsnville.  It’s the hoards of people in the voting booths in Toledo and Seattle and Omaha who remember who stood with them when Ted Cruz and Steve King wanted to ship them back in cattle cars.

Coates on Cosby

I have not written about Bill Cosby and the accusations against him because I don’t think I know all the facts.  So I turned to this piece written by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic.  I suggest strongly that you read it.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Little Night Music

R.I.P. Mike Nichols.

The Graduate was directed by Mike Nichols and was the first R-rated movie I ever saw.  It was April 1968 in Newport, Rhode Island, I was fifteen, and my parents took me.

There are many, many stories about Mike Nichols, but one of my favorites is about when he was directing the original production of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple” with Art Carney and Walter Matthau on Broadway.  He and Matthau did not get along and after one particularly nasty exchange between the director and actor, Matthau came down to the apron of the stage and said, “Okay, Mike, can I have my balls back now?”  Without missing a beat Nichols snapped his fingers and yelled “Props!”

Justo A Tiempo

Not one of the big four broadcast networks are carrying President Obama’s prime time immigration speech tonight.  The prime time revenue is too important to them, I guess.

But there is one network that will be all over it, and the speech is timed to reach a huge audience.

Shortly after President Obama scheduled his Thursday primetime address to announce new executive actions on immigration, his top White House communications advisor, Dan Pfeiffer, took to Twitter to boast. “Great timing,” he wrote, noting a rather glaring non-coincidence.

As it turned out, Obama had arranged to start speaking at the very moment Univision, America’s largest Spanish-language television network, planned to begin broadcasting the 2015 Latin Grammy Awards, one of the network’s biggest shows of the year, with a 2014 viewership of nearly 10 million.

Indeed, Univision promptly announced that it would delay the start of the live event to take Obama’s remarks, in translation, ensuring the President a massive platform in the most crucial political demographic, even as many of the English-language networks said they would skip the address. The chances are high that the leading lights of Latin pop music will follow up his words tonight with on-stage celebrations of the President’s actions.

The White House, not to mention its Republican rivals, long ago learned the power of a network most American cannot even understand.

My Spanish is mostly New Mexico Spanglish, but I understand it.  This is the audience the president really wants to reach, and it’s the audience that his executive orders will benefit the most from.  So let them show “Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “Bones,” and “The Biggest Loser.”  Nosotros nos recordaremos.

From the Department of Obvious

Via TPM:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) admitted on Wednesday that it was a bad idea to run for president in 2012.

“I was a bit arrogant,” he said in an interview with the Washington Post about his bid for the White House.

Perry said that he thought he was prepared to run the country after serving as Texas governor.

“I was mistaken,” he said.

You don’t say.

Oh, by the way, he’s thinking about running in 2016 because he’s totally ready now.

Remember Ebola? Part 2

Following up on this post, coverage of Ebola has indeed gone away.

Between October 7 and November 3, the four weeks before the midterm elections, evening broadcast and cable news collectively aired 975 segments on the Ebola virus. CNN focused on Ebola-related coverage the most, with 335 total segments before the elections. Fox News followed with 281 segments, and MSNBC aired 222. CBS led the broadcast networks with 54 segments. NBC followed with 44, and ABC aired 39 segments.

[...]

In the two weeks following the elections, evening broadcast and cable news have only aired 49 total segments related to Ebola. CNN’s 335 segments in the four weeks preceding the election dropped to just 10 segments in the two weeks after the elections. Fox News’ 281 segments dropped to 10. MSNBC’s 222 segments dropped to 13. CBS’ 54 segments dropped to six, NBC’s 44 segments dropped to five, and ABC’s 39 segments dropped to four.

Unfortunately, there’s no vaccine against exploitation.

The Financial Climate

Jonah Goldberg is the right-wing pundit who told the world that it’s the liberals who are the real fascists and that conservatives are endangered because lesbians can get married or something.  Now he’s out with a new bit of Orwellian logic: climate change scientists are in it for the money.

Fox News provided American Enterprise Institute (AEI) fellow Jonah Goldberg a platform to attack climate scientists as profiteers who are “financially incentivized” to advocate climate change action, without disclosing AEI’s own financial incentive to undercut action on climate change. AEI has taken over $3 million from ExxonMobil, and once offered money to scientists to write articles criticizing a UN climate change report.

On the November 18 edition of Your World with Neil Cavuto, Goldberg argued that climate scientists have a conflict of interest reporting on climate change because they are ”deeply invested in the whole industry of global warming” for their university programs. Goldberg also called climate scientists and advocates “people who are financially incentivized to go one way.”

As CLW noted, “that must explain why I see all the climate scientists driving Bentleys and the oil company execs driving 20-year old Volvos.”

It’s also interesting that Mr. Goldberg would bring up the idea that climate change scientists are cashing in on it.  He knows whereof he speaks.

Though host Neil Cavuto did disclose that Goldberg is a fellow at AEI, he did not mention AEI’s ties to the oil industry or its history of offering money to climate scientists to write articles undermining a climate change report. In 2013, The Union of Concerned Scientists reported that AEI received $3.04 million from ExxonMobil between 2001 and 2011. According to ExxonMobil’s website, in 2012 the company also donated $260,000 to AEI.

There’s your financially incentivized people right there.

NOM Broke

Get out the tiny violin.

On Wednesday, the viciously anti-gay National Organization for Marriage finally released its 2013 tax filings—two days late, in direct violation of federal law. The results are nothing short of brutal. NOM raised $5.1 million last year—a 50 percent drop-off from its 2012 earnings. Two donors accounted for more than half of that money. And the group’s “Education Fund,” which churns out anti-gay propaganda and homophobic calumny, raised less than $1.7 million, a 70 percent decline from 2012. NOM closed out the year more than $2.5 million in debt.

Heh.  Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of bigots.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How Noble

What a piece of work:

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) explained on Tuesday that a new policy that could cut off food stamps for thousands of people in his state would be “ennobling” for poor people.

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration announced last month that beginning in 2015, it would no longer request a waiver to the federal work requirement for certain people who use the SNAP program. Up to 65,000 single Hoosiers could lose food stamp benefits unless they are working 20 hours a week or attending job training.

Speaking to Fox News on Tuesday, Pence argued that 50,000 people had joined the Indiana workforce since 2008 so it was time to return to a “core principle” of welfare reform.

Not everyone who gets food stamps is able to work; many of them are children or the disabled or the elderly.  Not everyone who collects food stamps is sitting on their ass watching Wheel of Fortune and snickering at the minimum-wage shlubs who flip burgers.  A lot of the minimum-wage workers can’t work 20 hours a week because they have other obligations such as taking care of an aging or disabled parent, raising children (remember: family values!) or can’t find a job that gives them enough hours to work to pay for the food.

So not everyone who collects food stamps really wants to hear how Gov. Mike Pence is doing them a favor — “ennobling” them — by forcing them to give up one of the safety nets that any civilized nation or society should provide for those who are least able to help themselves.  And it’s hard to feel noble when you’re stealing food from the cat.

To quote Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof:  “I realize it’s no shame to be poor.  But it’s no great honor, either.”

Gun Show

Gun sales in the St. Louis vicinity are through the roof.

Gun stores near the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson have seen sales zoom as the area awaits a grand jury decision on whether to indict a police officer for shooting unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

John Stephenson of Metro Shooting Supplies in nearby Bridgeton said he normally sells 10 to 15 guns a day. But for the last three weeks, he said he has been selling between 30 and 50 guns daily, a nearly 300 percent increase.

The grand jury’s decision was initially expected by mid-November and law enforcement authorities have been training in case the jury’s ruling triggers another spasm of violent protests.

This assumes that the grand jury will not indict the officer and that the black population will riot in the streets, so all the white folks are arming themselves to the teeth.

Does it occur to any of them that the grand jury might indict the officer and the white folk might react in a negative fashion?  Or that even if they don’t, that there aren’t some white people who feel that Michael Brown was murdered and the policeman should stand trial?

Keystone State

Nice try but no sale.

Senators supporting the Keystone XL pipeline on Tuesday came up one vote short of securing approval for the controversial project after days of intense lobbying from some of the pipeline’s biggest supporters in the upper chamber.

Fourteen Democrats joined all 45 Republican senators in voting for the pipeline, which needed 60 votes to pass. The finally tally was 59-41.

The whole point of the vote seemed to be to rescue the moribund campaign of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) who faces an uphill battle in her run-off election next month.  Even if the bill had passed, it would have been vetoed by President Obama.

And even if he had signed the bill, it’s not clear if the pipeline would get built anytime soon.  It faces a number of challenges in court, including a ruling pending from the Supreme Court in Nebraska over who gets to determine the route of the pipeline, and resistance from Native Americans who don’t want it crossing their land.

If the only reason to vote for it was to save someone’s Senate seat, that’s reason enough to vote against it.