Friday, April 24, 2015

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Short Takes

Standoff in the Gulf between the U.S. and Iran continues.

Saudi Arabia is ending its airstrikes in Yemen.

Over 850 reported dead in the Mediterranean after immigrant-smuggling ship capsizes.

The Senate will finally get to vote on Loretta Lynch’s nomination to be Attorney General.

A real Monkey Trial: Chimpanzees are granted the right to sue for unlawful imprisonment.

The Tigers lost to the Yankees 5-2.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Colorful Language

From the New York Times on the GOP “quandary” over confirming Loretta Lynch as the first African-American woman to be Attorney General:

The inert situation shows just how Republican anger and resentment over the president’s immigration actions color issues ranging from Ms. Lynch’s status to trade negotiations to the nuclear talks with Iran.

“Color” being the operative word here.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

This Is A Hold-Up

It’s been five months since Loretta Lynch was nominated to replace Attorney General Eric Holder and almost two months since the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of confirmation.  But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell still hasn’t scheduled a floor vote because… well, basically because he can and because he’s a shitheel.

Lynch has public support from five Senate Republicans: Orrin Hatch of Utah, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois. With support from all Senate Democrats, that would give Lynch 51 votes, enough to be confirmed.

But her nomination is tangled up in an unrelated Senate fight over a human-trafficking bill that has been bogged down by a partisan dispute over its abortion provisions. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reiterated earlier this week that the chamber would not move on to Lynch until it resolves the dispute over that bill.

The partisan spat over the trafficking legislation took an even sharper rhetorical turn earlier Wednesday when the Senate’s two top leaders fought over the impasse in dueling speeches.

McConnell accused Democrats of choosing to aid doctors who serve Medicare patients, while shunning sex trafficking victims. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) shot back that his counterpart’s complaints were “illogical” and devoid of facts.

Mr. Holder will remain as Attorney General until Ms. Lynch is confirmed.  So I’ll bet if his Justice Department were to open an investigation into Dick Cheney’s meetings with oil company executives back when he was in office and issue a few subpoenas, Ms. Lynch would be confirmed this afternoon.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Holder or Folder

The nomination of Loretta Lynch to succeed Eric Holder as Attorney General is still stuck in the Senate because the Republicans are scared to vote on it.  Via the New York Times:

Senate Republicans bolted for a two-week spring recess with the confirmation of Loretta E. Lynch as attorney general in jeopardy, and themselves in a quandary: Accept a qualified nominee they oppose because she backs President Obama’s policies or reject her and live with an attorney general they despise, Eric H. Holder Jr.

The nomination of Ms. Lynch, a seasoned United States attorney from New York, has laid bare the difficult politics confronting the new Republican majority. Lawmakers have found nothing in Ms. Lynch’s background to latch on to in opposition, and many are loath to reject the first African-American woman put forth to be the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

But, they say, their constituents have told them that a vote for Ms. Lynch affirms Mr. Obama’s executive actions on immigration, which she has said she finds lawful.

I can’t help but think that even though both Mr. Holder and Ms. Lynch would like to get this over with, there are a lot of people who are amused in a sardonic way by the fact that the Republicans are so afraid of their rancid base that they can’t even do what most of them want to do.

If this is their way of showing that they really want to reach out to voters in both the African-American and immigrant communities, they have got a long way to go.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What A Schock

AaronSchock-300x157Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) resigned because he was under suspicion of mismanagement of his use of campaign and taxpayer funds.

He had his office decorated for free like the set of Downton Abbey and  set up an Instagram account that had more pictures of him with his shirt off or with celebrities than a Kardashian.  (Doesn’t hurt that he’s built like a well-muscled frat boy.)  In other words, he didn’t know the meaning of “discrete.”  Naturally his lavish proclivities caught someone’s attention.

There are plenty of ways to be on the take from rich benefactors who feed your campaign fund, who make life comfortable for you and your loved ones, and who make sure that their interests and causes get frontsies when bills concerning them come up for a vote.  The trick is to make those ways so invisible and untraceable that you can go through your entire career in the pocket of a donor and no one else knows or at the most it’s just seen as part of good constituent service.  The quid pro quo is hush-hush-hush.  Life goes on and someone pays to wax the Explorer.

It’s not unlike men who fool around on their wives; if they’re smart, no one will know they’ve got a little something on the side, but if you parade through the halls of Congress with your girlfriend — or take trips with your personal photographer – you’re just asking for trouble.

I can’t decide if Mr. Schock was just stupid or was getting bored with being a congressman and didn’t care if he got caught.  No doubt he’ll land on his feet somewhere, either as a commentator on cable news or as a model for Abercrombie & Fitch.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Obama 1, Boehner 0

The House passed a clean DHS funding bill.

The vote was 257-167. Most Republicans voted against it, but Democrats carried it to victory.

The bill passed the Senate last week, and now goes to President Barack Obama who is expected to sign it.

Some conservatives weren’t pleased, and tried to delay the vote by ordering a full reading of the clean DHS legislation.

“I’m very worried because we have a president that’s completely out of control. He’s very comfortable with violating the law and the Constitution,” Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) told reporters. “And if we don’t have a Senate and a House willing to stand up to him … we need to get ready to start defeating some of these things and get serious about it.”

But Fleming said conservative House members wouldn’t try to oust Boehner, despite speculation to the contrary.

“There’s no plan, no discussion about removing the Speaker,” he said.

Not to worry; Mr. Boehner isn’t going to lose his job over this, more’s the pity.  The question really should be why does he want it now anyway?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Joke of the Day

Via Greg Sargent:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that his planned speech to Congress is not meant to signal any disrespect for President Obama, nor to insert political partisanship into the U.S.-Israel relationship.

“Never has so much been written about a speech that hasn’t been given,” Netanyahu said about the address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday. “My speech is not intended to show any disrespect to President Obama or the esteemed office that he holds. I have great respect for both.”

Pull the other one, Bibi; it jingles.

They Have Other Plans

Via TPM:

There are now apparently 51 members of Congress not attending Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech tomorrow. Seven Senators and 44 members of the House. The latest is Sen. Al Franken (D). The list is heavily weighted toward African-Americans but also toward Jews. By my count, Franken is the 6th Jewish member of Congress to sit it out.

Sorry, can’t make it; I have monthly projections to get out.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Short Takes

The House is trying to come up with a plan to fund DHS without messing with immigration and pissing off the right wing.

The guy known as Jihad John, the English-speaking executioner of ISIS, has been identified as a Briton.

You’re welcome — Liberia’s president thanked the U.S. for helping them with the Ebola crisis.

The F.C.C. votes in favor of net neutrality.

The Klown Kar is in town.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Short Takes

Three men from Brooklyn were arrested on charges of plotting to foment terrorism in collusion with ISIS.

The Senate moved a clean DHS funding bill towards passage.  The House, on the other hand, is not happy about it.

New Fukushima reactor leak went unreported for months.

Morgan Stanley will pay fine of $2.6 billion to settle the mortgage cases.

Chicago voters forced the mayoral election into a run-off.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

No Peking

Way back in grad school I took a course in Asian theatre, including Peking Opera, Noh, and Kabuki.  Each form is unique, but the one thing they have in common is that most of the audience knows the stories they’re going to see down to the last detail, they know the rituals of the form, and they have their favorite actors playing their roles.  In Peking Opera, an actor will play the same role throughout his entire career; even if he’s in his dotage he will still play the Young Lover.  But the audience loves it and they willingly suspend their disbelief for the duration of the performance and will come back time and again to see it over and over.

We’re about to start that on Capitol Hill.  The Republican-led Congress passed the Keystone XL pipeline bill.  President Obama said he would veto it, and he did.  Congress will have a temper tantrum and will try to override the veto, which will fail, and some idiot Teabagger will claim that the president exceeded his authority with the veto pen because, well, you know why.

This will happen again and again.  The next one will be some bill to repeal the immigration executive orders followed by something else, and on and on; everybody on stage for the Dance of the Spittle-flecked.

The difference between this ritual and the real Peking Opera is that the theatre production has an orchestra and it’s actually entertaining.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Random Thought

Even after they said they wouldn’t do it, the GOP is working their way toward another government shut-down over the funding of the Department of Homeland Security.

What I want to know is: after all the things they haven’t gotten done, who could tell if they haven’t already shut it down?

Friday, February 6, 2015

On The Cheap

For almost five years, the Republicans have vowed to repeal Obamacare and cast it and all of its remnants onto the ash heap of history.  They think they see a glimmer of a chance if the Supreme Court decides that indeed the Moops did invade Spain and the typo in the law strips away federal subsidies for states that do not set up healthcare exchanges on their own.

If that happens, then what?  Why of course the GOP would step up and unveil their totally different and much better plan for insuring Americans have health insurance.

Oh joy oh rapture, but what’s in it?  Paul Waldman sums it up.

What’s really remarkable about this plan is that for all the claims we’ll hear about how it undoes the tyrannical horror of Obamacare, the Republicans’ version of health care reform has accepted most of the fundamental goals and regulatory paths of the law they so deeply despise. This plan — authored by Senators Richard Burr and Orrin Hatch and Rep. Fred Upton — is little more than Obamacare Lite. Though the devil is in the details — and there are some devilish ones — this tells us that Barack Obama has for all intents and purposes won the health care argument, at least as far as it concerns government’s role in health care.

[…]

Again and again in the Republican plan, what they do is take a provision or principle in the Affordable Care Act and essentially say, “We want to do that too, we’ll just do it a little less generously.”

The technical insurance term is “bait-and-switch.”  You think you’re buying a Shelby GT350 but you’re getting a Yugo.

And, by the way, there’s no guarantee that Congress would even pass this piece of garbage.  There are enough right-wing nutjobs who think that illness is God’s will and the government should not help anyone.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Short Takes

ISIS stirs up turmoil in the Middle East after the brutal murder of the Jordanian pilot.

At least 31 people were killed in a plane crash in Taiwan.

Authorities identified the dead in the NY train crash.

Secretary of Defense nominee Ashton Carter had his first day of confirmation hearings.

Michigan will not stand in the way of same-sex marriages that took place last year when the ban was briefly lifted.

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.