Friday, December 19, 2014

The Dignity of the Office

The House of Representatives takes on a frat house flavor:

Congresssman Who Owns “Blow-Me.org” Sued For Sexual Harrassment

On its own, last week’s news that Republican Texas Representative Blake Farenthold registered the domain name “Blow-me.org” when he owned a computer consulting business in the ’90s is amusing, but inconsequential. However, add that to a new lawsuit accusing the congressman of sexual harassment (plus an old photo of Farenthold wearing duckie pajamas and standing next to a lingerie model) and you’ve got one of the more colorful accusations of congressional misconduct in recent memory.

In court documents filed Monday, Lauren Greene, Farenthold’s former communications director, claims that he regularly made comments meant to “gauge whether Plaintiff was interested in a sexual relationship.” She says she was cut out of important meetings after she complained, and was then fired in July 2014.

I wondered who was going to fill the void now that Michelle Bachmann has left town.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Short Takes

The Taliban slaughter students in school in Pakistan.

Hostage situation in Sydney, Australia, ends with two of them and the gunman dead.

Newtown families plan to sue maker of the gun used in the massacre two years ago.

Supreme Court turns down Arizona abortion law case.

Senate finally approves Surgeon General nominee.

Greenland melting models may be wrong… and bad for Florida.

Frozen director apologizes for “Let It Go.”  (Too late.)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Last Minute Shopping

The spending bill passed with some real turds in it.

The bill faced opposition from GOP conservatives angry that it failed to defund President Barack Obama’s immigration executive actions, and from progressive Democrats who strenuously objected to provisions that weakened rules on banks and loosened campaign finance regulations.

The $1.1 trillion spending bill passed by a vote of 219 to 206, less than three hours before a midnight deadline to avert a shutdown. Fifty-seven Democrats joined 162 Republicans in voting for the bill.

[…]

The spending bill created deep and bitter divisions among Democrats, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and allies of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) saying the party must draw a red line against provisions that help big banks if they want to be seen as credible advocates for the middle class. The progressive faction nearly scuttled the bill.

Meanwhile, the White House has been pushing for passage of the spending bill, arguing to Democrats publicly and privately that Republicans would have more leverage in the new Congress if it were to fail.

We’ve been hearing that bipartisanship and compromise is good and that the best we can hope for is that both sides have something to complain about.  Okay, fine, but somehow I don’t think that this last-minute hash-up is what James Madison and the guys envisioned back when they put this system together.  They probably compromised a bit themselves.

Then again, they didn’t have to deal with cable pundits, breaking news banners, and countdown clocks on the TV, either.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Stern Talking-To

The House Republicans are really going to let President Obama have it, according to the New York Times.

The first step would be to allow a largely symbolic vote on legislation to dismantle President Obama’s executive action last month that delayed the deportation of millions of illegal immigrants. The second would be to fund the government through the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, 2015, except for agencies that spend money to enforce Mr. Obama’s immigration action, like the Department of Homeland Security.

[…]

The resolution to undo the president’s action, however, would largely be a way for House Republicans to vent their displeasure, and could come as early as Thursday. Representative Ted Yoho of Florida, who came up with the plan, acknowledged that his measure would be a “symbolic message” if Senate Democrats did not take up his resolution — something Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada and the majority leader, has said he is not going to do.

However, the caucus did vote to send the president to bed without dessert.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

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.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Must-See TV?

NBC was seriously considering replacing David Gregory on Meet The Press with Jon Stewart.

Before choosing Todd, NBC News president Deborah Turness held negotiations with Jon Stewart about hosting Meet the Press, according to three senior television sources with knowledge of the talks. One source explained that NBC was prepared to offer Stewart virtually “anything” to bring him over. “They were ready to back the Brink’s truck up,” the source said. A spokesperson for NBC declined to comment. James Dixon, Stewart’s agent, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

[…]

Though not a traditional journalist, Stewart can be a devastatingly effective interrogator, and his Meet the Press might have made a worthy successor to Tim Russert’s no-bullshit interviews. During the home stretch of the 2012 campaign, Stewart grilled Obama for his wan presidential debate performance, asking: “Do you feel you have a stronger affirmative case for a second Barack Obama presidency or a stronger negative case for a Romney presidency?” And last October, Stewart’s clinical dissection of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius laid bare the disaster of the Obamacare rollout, from which Sebelius never recovered.

I’m glad it didn’t happen.  The Sunday morning chat show genre has basically lost any resemblance to serious journalism; they’re little more than infomercials for the GOP flavor of the month, and the audience demographics are aimed at people older than I am.  Not even Jon Stewart could make MTP hip.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Speaking Of Incompetent

George F. Will — or, as Charlie Pierce has dubbed him, “George Effing Will” — proves once again that just because someone has the capability to push a noun up against a verb and make it sound erudite doesn’t mean that what he’s saying isn’t a steaming pile of horseshit.

Conservative columnist George Will on Sunday made a small government argument for dealing with Ebola in the United States, saying that the current government could not be trusted because it had become too large.

“Government is not competent,” Will argued on Fox News Sunday. “Frankly, it is not competent under Republicans or under Democrats. It is always a monopoly, and monopolies are not disciplined by market forces to connect them with reality.”

“Teasing this segment, you said, ‘Can we had [sic] faith in government?'” Will reminded Fox News host Chris Wallace. “I think we have much more to fear from excessive faith in government than from too little faith in government. You asked, ‘Can we trust the government to do its job?’ What isn’t its job now?”

The pundit pointed to government “fine tuning the curriculum of our students K through 12 [through Common Core], it’s monitoring sex on campuses, it’s deciding how much ethanol we should put in our gas tanks, it has designed our light bulbs, and it’s worried sick over the name of the Washington football team.”

And yet he doesn’t seem to have a problem with government regulating what a woman can do with her body, who can marry whom, or whether or not certain people can vote in an election.  Ironically, Mr. Effing Will makes his rather fat and comfortable living pontificating how terrible our government is.  If it worked up to his standards, he would be out on his hypocritical ass looking for work as a color commentator for the Albuquerque Isotopes minor league baseball team and trying to explain to the hoi polloi why a bow tie is better than a bolo.

By the way, being a good writer doesn’t make you intellectually superior.  It does, however, qualify you to apply for a job at Hallmark.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Weren’t We Clear?

Politico tried to backtrack on their column that basically said the only way for the Secret Service to get their act together was to have the president get assassinated.

Editor’s note: Some readers have misinterpreted the original last line of Kessler’s article as somehow suggesting that the president should be held responsible in the event of his own assassination. That couldn’t be further from the truth, and we’re sorry if anyone interpreted Kessler’s meaning in any other way.

Okay, here’s the original version:

Agents tell me it’s a miracle an assassination has not already occurred. Sadly, given Obama’s colossal lack of management judgment, that calamity may be the only catalyst that will reform the Secret Service.

Two problems: it sounds as if the president himself is responsible for his own safety, which is mind-boggling, and yes, it sounds like Mr. Kessler is saying that only after he’s been killed will the agency reform.

So they edited that paragraph to say:

Agents tell me it’s a miracle an assassination has not already occurred. In typical Washington fashion, nothing gets reformed until a disaster happens. If anything unites Republicans and Democrats, it is that nobody wants to see a tragedy: We all just want the Secret Service fixed.

That’s much better, but it still makes you wonder who the hell is editing this shit.  But then, it’s Politico, or, as Charlie Pierce calls it, Tiger Beat On the Potomac.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ignore Them At Your Peril

We’ve spent a lot of time over the last ten years reading about the extremism that has sprung up in the Republican Party in the last few decades, and for the most part we’ve treated it with the scorn that it deserves.

Steve M has a good post on how the Very Serious People are finally beginning to take notice of the fringe folk who are occupying seats of power and those who aspire to follow them, and Charlie Pierce tells the Democrats that ignoring or trying to make nice with them will lead to a bad end.

From Mr. Pierce:

The great failing of the Democratic party over the past three-and-a-half decades has been the party’s failure to take political advantage of the obvious prion disease that has afflicted the Republican party since it first ate all the monkey-brains in the mid-1970’s. Whether this was out of cowardice, incompetence, or an overly optimistic view of the inherent sanity of the electorate, is no longer an issue. The failure to make the Republican crazee the Republican party’s standing public identity has encouraged the increased spread, and the increased virulence of the prion disease, with disastrous consequences for the rest of us. Why, in the name of god, would you not call Michele Bachmann crazy? Because it might offend the people who vote for her? It’s supposed to offend those people. Those people beg to be offended, and, by doing so, you at least inject into the discussion the notion that the Republican party has thrown its marbles gleefully to the four winds. A few elections later, that may become the general opinion. After all, the Permanent Republican Majority wasn’t built in a day.

He points to the apparent lead that Iowa senate candidate Joni Ernst holds in her bid to replace Tom Harkin, noting that her views on certain issues such as climate change and international relations seem to be channeled from the urine-soaked screamer on the corner of Biscayne Boulevard and the MacArthur Causeway.  And yet the Democrats are afraid to call her out for being a radical wingnut.  Why?

Because if they do, they’ll be labeled as the haters.  The Republicans have mastered the culture of victimhood.  Everything they’re accused of is turned on its head.  The Tea Party holds up racist signs comparing the president and his family to simians and when reasonable people object, the GOP whines about “the race card.”  When fundamentalist Christians seek to deny gays and lesbians the equal rights promised by the Constitution, they claim their “religious freedom” is being stomped on.  They raise such a stink about their faux hurt fe-fe’s that no one dare call them out on it because it only makes the whining worse.  Also, the Republican Sound Machine has become very good at accusing the accuser of being the one with the radical and dangerous ideas, something they learned very well sixty years ago from the junior senator from Wisconsin, Joseph R. McCarthy.

Steve M:

But Democrats would have to do this right. Don’t call these people “crazy” — you have to establish that they’re dangerous. These people can’t be described as comical or eccentric — they have to seem like people you’d cross the street to avoid, because you don’t know what they’ll do.

This has to be done in the solemn warning tones Republicans use when they want to scare your grandparents on Fox. But if the press won’t do its job, will heartlanders take the word of mere Democrats? People who, by definition, have inappropriate ideas and suspect patriotism?

It’s tempting to ignore people like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, but when people who share their beliefs get elected, it’s going to be too late.

Friday, September 19, 2014

From the Department of the Painfully Obvious

Wow.  You could have knocked me over with a shovel with this news via the New York Times:

The parade of politicians on the Sunday morning talk shows veers to the right, not the left.

Conservative members of the current Congress have appeared more often on the network talk shows than their liberal counterparts. Senators and representatives from the conservative end of the ideological spectrum have made 57 percent of the appearances, compared with 42 percent for liberals, according to an Upshot analysis of data collected by American University.

This slightly lopsided distribution is primarily the result of three Republican senators’ frequent visits to the network shows: John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell. Because of the Republican Party’s control of the House during the past three years, its leaders and committee chairmen are presented with more opportunities to discuss the latest political news.

Participants in the 2008 and 2012 presidential nominating contests also helped boost conservative representation: Paul D. Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who was the G.O.P.‘s 2012 vice-presidential nominee, made 46 appearances between early January 2009 and Aug. 3, 2014.

[…]

As we’ve previously reported, John McCain, the Arizona Republican senator, sets the standard for lawmaker appearances on the shows.

Which is why I spend my Sunday mornings in the silence of the Quaker meeting.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How Congress Really Works

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) tells us what we already knew.

“A lot of people would like to stay on the sideline and say, ‘Just bomb the place and tell us about it later,’ ” said Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia, who supports having an authorization vote. “It’s an election year. A lot of Democrats don’t know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don’t want to change anything. We like the path we’re on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.”

Congress always wants to be in control as long as they’re not held responsible.  Now that’s democracy.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Off To A Good Start

Chuck Todd took over the reins of Meet The Press on Sunday, and did such a crapfestival job that David Letterman is already making fun of him.

David Letterman has debuted a new segment in honor of Chuck Todd’s listening skills.

As he says, you’ve got to be on it, paying attention to every word. Watch him nail Chuck for missing four separate mentions of Syria before telling the President he hasn’t heard him mention Syria.

It’s got to be some kind of record.

Oh, and not for nothing, but NBC News has promoted morning show host and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough to be a regular panelist on MTP, but passed over Rachel Maddow because apparently she’s too partisan.  Uh huh.  I think the real reason is that she would run circles around Joe and Chuck and show them to be the dullards and hacks that they truly are.  And you can’t have them get beat by a girl.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Delaying Tactics

I’m not sure what difference in terms of actual policy it makes that President Obama is putting off his promised executive action on immigration and deportation, but I don’t see how it can help Democrats running for re-election in tough states like Arkansas or Colorado by putting the announcement off until after the November election.

People who are against any kind of kindness or adjustment for undocumented people and families are not going to vote for the Democratic candidate in that race regardless of what the president does, and trying to take it off the table as a political chess piece makes it a political chess piece.  I’m pretty sure the people who support immigration reform don’t like being treated as pawns in the game, either.

This also hands the Republicans a couple of more months of demagoguery about immigration: “Obama didn’t do anything about immigration, and now he’s playing politics with it!” while they know full well that the Senate passed a bipartisan and comprehensive immigration bill over a year ago and Speaker John Boehner has stuffed it up his ass in the House.  Mr. Boehner knew that passing immigration reform, even if it had the backing of the majority of Republicans, would be seen as a victory for the president, and of course he cannot allow that to happen.  So out come the usual suspect charges of playing politics.  It is axiomatic that when someone points at someone else and complains about that, they’re usually looking in a mirror.

The White House is counting on the indulgence of the Latino community to support the Democrats through this maneuver, knowing that no matter what they do — within reason — they’re not going to vote for the Republicans.  That’s a bit of a risk, but the administration had to know that they were opening themselves up to this kind of problem and thought they could get through it.  But I concur with Steve M: it would have been a lot easier to get it over with in June and have it be a non-issue in November given the short-term memory of the electorate.

If Obama had signed the order back in June, giving the press and the population a few months to deal with the reality of the plan instead of paranoid fantasies about it, including lots of video of sweet and overjoyed families, how much effect would that have had on Mark Pryor’s campaign? How much effect did the original Dreamer order in June 2012 have on that year’s elections? Other than to make Marco Rubio very uncomfortable and thirsty?

Not for nothing: this White House has a pretty rocky track record for deals brokered between an election and the start of the new Congress in January.  Brace yourself.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Kool Kidz Table

NBC unceremoniously dumped David Gregory as moderator of Meet The Press last month and replaced him with Chuck Todd.  Mr. Todd, who comes across as a sycophant to all but the most Serious People inside the Beltway, is now populating his new gig with even more suck-ups and bombasts with all the intellectual insight of a high school lunch room.

NBC is bringing in Luke Russert, son of the late beloved “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert, as a regular panelist on the Sunday morning show in a bid to turn around its catastrophic ratings slide, Page Six has exclusively learned.

Also joining new moderator Chuck Todd’s team will be former Republican congressman and “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough, who sources say “is taking on a larger role within NBC News as a senior political analyst and would be one of the regular Sunday panelists.”

We’re told the move is part of a plan to bring a right-leaning voice to the program to appeal to viewers turned off by the show’s famously left-leaning former hosts including the ousted David Gregory.

The only people who think that David Gregory was “left-leaning” are the same people who think that Fox News is fair and balanced and Barack Obama was born in Kenya.  Chuck Todd is the heir of Mr. Gregory’s kneepads that he put to good use when John McCain and Lindsay Graham would drop by every Sunday.

Yet another reason why Sunday mornings in my house are just me and the crossword puzzle.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Optical Illusion

Now that President Obama is back from his vacation, is it too much to ask the Villagers and the rest of the people who seriously waste their time counting the days he or any other president takes off to please shut up about it already?

If that’s what they think is worth the time and pixels to waste talking about, then they need to find something else to do.  It’s not like anyone really cares, and if they do, then they can go back to reading about the latest antics of the Kardashians in the National Enquirer.

The latest version of this comes from the usual suspects like Maureen Dowd, who, in true eighth-grade-mentality aggravation, sniffs that playing golf is more important to the president than shedding TV tears.  Her theory is that the president has to fake phony sincerity in order to be a genuine leader.  Others, less neener-neener spiteful, worry that because the president would rather play a round of golf with Alonzo Mourning than John Boehner, the work of the Congress won’t get done.  News flash: the work of the Congress won’t get done — at least not by the current crop of Republicans — if President Obama sent John Boehner a case of scotch and a truckload of Camel cigarettes.

I would rather have a president who doesn’t give a flying rats ass about the optics of schmoozing some backbencher from Congress or glad-handing some donor than one who does.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Short Takes

72-hour ceasefire announced in Gaza.

G.O.P. craters border bill.

What a shock: C.I.A. finds that they did break into Senate computers.

Emergency efforts in Africa to combat ebola.

Stocks fall on weak economic data.

Tropical Update: We now have Tropical Storm Bertha in the North Atlantic.

The Tigers lost to the White Sox 7-4, but landed pitcher David Price from Tampa Bay.

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014