Friday, February 14, 2014

Monday, February 10, 2014

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking Back/Looking Forward

Okay, campers, it’s time for my annual re-cap and prognostication for the past year and the year coming up.  Let’s see how I did a year ago.

- President Obama moves into his second term with pretty much the same situation in Washington and Congress as he has had for the last two years, so nothing will really get done.  The budget matters, including the fake drama of the Fiscal Cliff, will still be around in some form because it’s a lot easier to kick it down the road than actually do something, especially when you have a Republican Party that absolutely refuses to work with the president on anything at all.  It has nothing to do with policy, deficits or debt, taxes or revenue.  The reason is pretty simple: they don’t like him, and so like a kid in grade school who refuses to do his math homework because he hates the teacher, they refuse to budge.  You can pick your excuses, ranging from his Spock-like demeanor to his refusal to suck up to the Villagers, but most of it comes down to the unspoken reason that dare not speak its name: he’s black.  No one dares say that out loud, but get three beers in any Republican, and I’ll bet they’ll admit it by saying “He’s not one of us.”  How many dog whistles do you need?  A big tell was that in the last-minute budget negotiations, Mitch McConnell went to Vice President Joe Biden as the go-between the Congress and the president.  Why?  Because Mr. Biden was in the Senate and knows how to talk to them, and also because he’s the white guy.  So we will have another year of gridlock, and the new Congress will make the one just concluded look good.

That one was pretty easy, and I’m sorry I got it right.

- The Supreme Court will rule the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Prop 8 are unconstitutional.  It will be a very close vote, probably 5-4 on both cases, and they will narrowly rule on both cases, doing their best not to fling open the doors to marriage equality with a blanket ruling and leave the rest of it up to the states.  But they will both go down.  On the other hand, they will rule against Affirmative Action.  I also think there will be some changes to the make-up of the Court with at least one retirement, either voluntary or by the hand of fate.

Right on gay rights and marriage equality and a punt of Affirmative Action.  I had no idea about the decimation of the Voting Rights Act, but then who did?  And the court roster remains intact.

- Even if we went over the fiscal cliff or curb or speed-bump, the economy will continue to improve, with the unemployment rate going below 7% by Labor Day.  I know this only because I know that our economy, like the water level in the Great Lakes, goes in cycles no matter what the hand of Wall Street or Washington does… unless they completely screw it up like the last time and make it even worse.

A little too optimistic on the unemployment rate, but the economy really is getting better.

- After the extreme weather we saw in 2012, at long last we will move to do something about climate change or global warming or whatever it is fashionably called.  It won’t be done by Congress, however; it will be because the people who make a living off the climate, such as agriculture and coastal enterprises such as fishing and tourism, will make it happen through their own efforts.  (Yeah, I’m being extremely optimistic on this one.  A year from now I will happily concede I blew it.)

Blew it.

- The extremism from the right that entertained us in 2012 will continue, albeit muted because 2013 isn’t an election year except in New Jersey, where Chris Christie will be re-elected and start his Howard Dean-like campaign for the presidency in 2016.  The GOP will refuse to acknowledge they have a problem, but as 2014 looms and the wingers that were elected in 2010 face re-election, they will find themselves scrambling hard for candidates that can survive primary battles where the nutsery reigns and then win the general election.  The only reason Governors Rick Scott of Florida, Rick Snyder of Michigan, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and John Kasich of Ohio will be re-elected in 2014 is if the Democrats don’t move in for the kill.

Not muted, and did not see Ted Cruz coming.  That’s not because he’s a formidable force to be reckoned with, but I thought that even the Republicans have their limits.  I guess not.

- I’ve given up predicting the Tigers’ future this year.  Surprise me, boys.

They did pretty well, and it was fun to see them live at Marlins Park.  But I was happy to see the Red Sox come from the cellar to the dome to win.

- We will lose the requisite number of celebrities and friends as life goes on. As I always say, it’s important to cherish them while they are with us.

Losing Nelson Mandela, Peter O’Toole and James Gandolfini in the same year was a shock, but we all lost friends and loved ones who did not get a spread in The New York Times.  I hold them in the Light.

- Personally, this year looks good on a couple of fronts.  The Pontiac is due back from the body shop this week, and I have formally entered it in its first national Antique Automobile of America car show to take place in Lakeland, Florida, in February.  Things are looking better at work with the Miami-Dade County Public Schools getting a number of important grants, including a $32 million program from Race To The Top for math preparation, and the District won the coveted Broad Prize for Urban Education this past fall.  One of my short plays has been selected for production in May 2013 at the Lake Worth Playhouse’s Short Cuts series, and hope springs eternal for a full-scale production again of Can’t Live Without You here in Florida.  This time I have a good director who would love to do it if we can get a theatre.  I’ll be off to the William Inge Festival in May to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Inge’s birth, and plans are in the works for our annual trip to Stratford, Ontario, next summer.  My family continues to enjoy good health and good spirits.  The blessings continue.  (PS: No, I still don’t have a Twitter account.)

The Pontiac earned its first Driver Participation badge last February and goes for its second in February 2014.  Work continues to go on and the District is doing well: no F schools this year, a marked improvement over the last five years.  My short play, Ask Me Anything, has now been produced more times than any of my other full-length works (two on-stage and one directing project), and my writing continues.  It looks like our trip to Stratford in August was our last trip, simply because of relocation and logistics, but who knows?  My family continues to enjoy good health and good spirits.  And I finally have a Twitter account: @BobbyBBWW.

Now the predictions:

- Despite the terrible roll-out and start-up of Obamacare and the opportunity it handed the Republican campaign strategists, the healthcare law will not be as big an issue in the 2014 mid-terms that all the Villagers say it will be.  By the time the campaign hits the final stretch, the law will be so entrenched that even the people who claim they hate it — even though they support what it does — will have a hard time trying to run candidates who promise to repeal it.  Still, the GOP noise machine and Tea Party hard-core is locked in on re-electing their safe base and the morning after the 2014 mid-terms will show a House still in the hands of the GOP and the Senate closer to 50-50.

- Immigration reform and gun control will go nowhere because it’s the same Congress we had in 2013 and they didn’t do jack-shit.

- By December 31, 2014 it will be a foregone conclusion that Hillary Clinton will be running for president.  Joe Biden will play coy with the Villagers about running, but in the end he’ll demur to Ms. Clinton.  The Benghazi! non-scandal will be long gone except for the nutsery who still think Barack Obama was born in Kenya.  The GOP will be lining up its merry band that includes Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Rick Santorum, and just for laughs, Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee.  President Obama’s approval numbers will be back up in the 50% range.

- Florida Gov. Rick Scott will lose his re-election bid to Charlie Crist, the newly minted Democrat, and Marco Rubio’s star will be as faded in GOP national politics as Pauly Shore’s is among Oscar voters.  He’ll pick up a primary challenge from the far right, but he’ll be safe in 2016 because the Democrats have nobody to run against him.

- Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin, John Kasich of Ohio, Rick Snyder of Michigan, and Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania will all face tough re-election campaigns, but Mr. Kasich and Mr. Snyder will probably squeak by.  Mr. Corbett is out, and just for laughs, the people of Maine will toss their gaffe-prone Tea Party guv Paul LePage.

- The national economy will continue to expand and the drive for the living wage movement will take hold.  The unemployment numbers will finally get below 7.0% and stay there.

- Marriage equality will spread to more states as more cases based on the ruling by the Supreme Court in 2013 are heard.  Indiana will vote on a ban on same-sex marriage in November 2014, and it will lose narrowly. But same-sex won’t be the law of the land yet, and I predict that unless the Supreme Court issues a sweeping ruling, Texas will be the last hold-out.

- The Supreme Court will rule 5-4 that Hobby Lobby or any for-profit non-religious corporation does not have the right “to deny its employees the health coverage of contraceptives to which the employees are otherwise entitled by federal law, based on the religious objections of the corporation’s owners.”

- This will be a rebuilding year for the Detroit Tigers now that Jim Leyland has retired.  They’ll do respectably well and may even win the division again, but it’s time for a breather.

- Fidel Castro will finally hop the twig, and the slow thaw between the U.S. and Cuba will begin as the generation that is as old as Castro continues to fade away.

- We will lose the requisite number of celebrities and friends as life goes on. As I always say, it’s important to cherish them while they are with us.

- Personally, life will continue at its gentle pace in good health and good spirits.  In September I will turn 62 and begin the first steps towards eventual retirement, but that won’t be for a long time yet.  I’ve already started on my paper for the William Inge Theatre Festival in March, and I continue to write and produce blog posts.  My parents are happily settled into their “life enrichment community,” and I hope to visit them this summer.  I might even get a smartphone this year, but don’t bet on it.

- The Ford Mustang will turn 50 years old in April 2014.  That’s not the longest continuous run of an American car model — the Corvette started in 1953 — but it’s an impressive run for a car that re-defined the auto industry.  My prediction is that it will last another fifty.

- And of course, the usual prediction: One year from now I’ll write a post just like this one, look back at this one, and think, “Gee, that was dumb.” Or not.

Okay, readers, it’s your turn.  What do you predict will befall us in 2014?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

GOP: No Immigration Reform Because Obama Was Mean To Us

That seems to be the crux of the argument from Republican Savior Marco Rubio:

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) said that President Obama’s handling of the 16-day government shutdown has made the path to reforming the country’s immigration system more difficult.

Republicans’ lack of trust for the president, Rubio said on “Fox News Sunday,” makes the prospect of a final bill bleaker than ever.

“The president has undermined this effort,” he said.

“I certainly think that immigration reform is a lot harder to achieve today than it was just three weeks ago,” he added.

Seriously?  Is that the best he can do?  Certainly they can come up with a better excuse for killing the bill that they had no intention of passing in the first place.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Not So Fast

It may take up to eight months for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to actually renounce his Canadian citizenship.

The Lone Star State conservative, who announced Monday that he plans to renounce his dual Canadian citizenship, must “win security clearance from Canada’s spy agency, fill in a four-page form and then wait up to eight months to sever his ties to America’s northern neighbor,” Reuters reported Tuesday.

Other than the schadenfreude of watching the right wing in the uncomfortable position of fending off the birthers, there’s not much more to this story than wondering why it’s all of a sudden so important for the senator to do this now.  After all, it didn’t take that long for folks to figure out that as well as being an American citizen based on the law, he had citizenship in Canada.  It’s not like there’s a rule against him running for president if he has dual citizenship.  And, as Josh Marshall points out, he could be an inspiration to a lot of Americans who come from different backgrounds or are immigrants.

Other than the fact that he’s adamantly opposed to any kind of immigration reform that doesn’t include East Berlin-style walls and boxcars for deportation, he could have been the lamp beside the golden door.

Immigration Reform Looks Lost

Via TPM:

In a bad sign for reform, the Republican chairman of the House’s immigration policy committee told a conservative radio host Monday that he opposes a path to citizenship even for young documented people brought to the United States as children, often referred to as DREAMers.

House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) told Hugh Hewitt that he would prioritize giving legal status to children who had been brought to the country illegally, but would stop short of giving them a path to citizenship.

“If you were to do something, I would start first of all with children who were brought here illegally by their parents. They’ve grown up here. They’ve been educated here. They are ready to face the world and they have no documents. I think there’s a more compelling argument to be made for them,” he said. “But, even for them, I would say that they get a legal status in the United States and not a pathway to citizenship that is created especially for them. In other words, they get that legal status if they have an employer who says I’ve got a job which I can’t find a U.S. citizen and I want to petition for them, ah, they can do that, but I wouldn’t give them the pathway to a Green Card and ultimately citizenship based simply on their entering the country illegally.”

Some kind of bipartisan agreement on citizenship status for so-called DREAMers has long been considered one of the easier-to-achieve elements of comprehensive immigration reform, but Goodlatte’s comments cast doubt on whether even that provision is within reach.

Of all the things that the Congress and the White House could have accomplished this year that would have actually meant something — as opposed to re-naming some forty-plus post offices — immigration reform was supposed to be the one.  The bill that came out of the Senate was basically what everyone — Democrats, Republicans, business, labor — all said was the start of something that would have led to real reform.  Even the House looked like it would pass the bill; if not exactly as written, then with room to make a reasonable compromise.

But that’s where it hit the wall: “reasonable compromise.”  House Speaker John Boehner won’t bring it to the floor for fear of looking like he’s caving to the center, and as the 2014 campaign moves out of first gear, any chance of moving to the passage of the bill fades into the background.  As Greg Sargent notes, it looks like the GOP figures they’ve got nothing to lose, so why bother?  It’s not like the Hispanics were going to vote for them in the first place, and that’s all that really matters anyway.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tantrum

Here’s the way grown-ups deal with something they don’t like:

Tea party Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) put the GOP on notice Tuesday by characterizing a vote against shutting down the government by refusing to fund the Affordable Care Act as endorsing the law outright.

“Defund it, or own it. If you fund it, you’re for it,” Lee said on the Senate floor.

Lee, joined by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), is spearheading an effort not to fund the government unless it excludes appropriations to implement Obamacare. The lawmakers are finding severe resistance within their own ranks, however.

You do know that when I used the term “grown-ups,” I was being sarcastic.

This is the equivalent of a child telling us that if he doesn’t get his way, he’ll hold his breath until he turns blue.  To which most parents would respond, “Go for it.  Knock yourself out.”

I’m not surprised to find Marco Rubio joining in the nutsery caucus over this.  He tried immigration reform; that was going to be the deal to seal it for the run in 2016 and he was going to be the savior of the GOP and get back into the good graces of the independent voters.  But now that’s blown up in his face — he won’t even support the bill he wrote — so now he’s decided to throw his lot in with the demagogues and the fit-throwers.  It keeps his name in the mix, and when the primaries come up, he’ll be right in there with the base in Iowa and South Carolina, rallying the cranks.

The thing is, though, that the two things that could bridge the gap for the Republicans and help them get back the majority of voters who could swing a presidential election in their favor are immigration and healthcare.  They touch all the voters regardless of party.  Even if a voter isn’t Hispanic or a recently-minted new citizen, immigration has an impact on the economy by stabilizing the work force, keeping families intact, and putting an end to exploitation by disreputable employers, not to mention getting the work done that a lot of people won’t do.  As for healthcare, everyone needs it, and since the law has been passed and passed muster by the Supreme Court, fighting it by trying to defund it is a cowardly way of trying to get their way.  Not to mention ineffective: the law will be implemented whether they want it to or not.

So the Republicans are actively crapping on the two things that could win them elections by landslides if they got behind them.  Go for it.  Knock yourself out.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Special Delivery

Heh.

Cantaloupes for King 07-25-13

DREAMers in graduation caps and gowns will deliver cantaloupes to Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) office Thursday afternoon in protest of the congressman’s controversial statement that most DREAMers have “calves the size of cantaloupes” from “hauling marijuana.”

The DREAMers–or immigrants who came into the country as young children–are being organized by United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth network in the country.

“Congressman Steve King’s accusations are outrageous,” Cristina Jimenez, managing director of United We Dream, said in a statement.  “His insulting comments only add to his track record of extremism and his ongoing crusade against immigrants and American values of fairness, family, and opportunity.”

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

More Hispanic Outreach

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has become the go-to guy on immigration for the Republicans.  Earlier he helpfully explained to Univision that comparing undocumented immigrants to a “good bird dog” was a compliment.  Now he’s telling us that for every one of those children brought into the country by their parents and trying to get ahead through the DREAM Act, there are ten kids smuggling pot.

King: It doesn’t mean there aren’t groups of people in this country I have sympathy for. I do. And there are kids being brought into this country by their parents unknowing that they’re breaking the law. And they will say to me and others who defend the rule of law: we have to do something about the 11 million, and some of them are valedictorians.

Well my answer to that is — and by the way their parents brought them in it wasn’t their fault — it’s true in some cases, but they aren’t all valedictorians. They weren’t all brought in by their parents.For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another hundred out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’ve been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.

If you want to know why the majority of Hispanics are Democrats, this guy is one of the reasons.  He should be on the payroll of the DNC.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fading Fast

Unlike Ted Cruz (see below), the bloom is already off Marco Rubio, the rose that was once the rising star of the GOP.  (How’s that for a poetry-slam of mixed metaphors?)  At least according to Josh Marshall:

As I’ve noted elsewhere, I believe immigration reform is quite likely dead, unless its biggest supporters accept that fact and take the fight into the political and campaign arena rather than letting it die a slow death of opacity on Capitol Hill.

But it’s not too soon to note the main political fatality: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Rubio’s vulnerability is so great in part because he staked so much on immigration reform as a way to loft himself to the top tier of 2016 GOP candidates. But the other part is because there was so little to the man in the first place absent his fortuitous would-be positioning as the young new Hispanic face of a Republican party reeling from a reputation for having little to no traction with America’s burgeoning non-white population.

[...]

So now Rubio seems trapped, on the wrong side of his party’s base on a key issue – and one that looks unlikely even to deliver legislation that might have bipartisanship traction with middle-ground voters. It’s one thing to say ‘I bucked my party to bring change the country needs’, another to say ‘I bucked my party on change my country needs but it actually didn’t pan out. Sorry.’ And now he’s forced to become some sort of hyperactive conservative wild man – what he wasn’t supposed to be – in order to recoup ground on the right that likely can’t be salvaged.

The wind blowing through the ears of the GOP base is not in the direction of immigration reform, and that was going to be Mr. Rubio’s big pitch.  Once he loses that and the Tea Party figures out that he was just another opportunistic politician with charm and smooth talk, he’ll have a tough time trying to get back into their good graces.

Some of Josh’s readers responded with “not so fast; other GOP hopefuls survived setbacks,” including John McCain and Mitt Romney.  Both bucked their party and backed unpopular — at least to the base of the party — ideas such as immigration reform and healthcare.  But neither won their presidential election, either.

And there’s another factor that Josh brings up that a lot of us who live in Florida already know: Marco Rubio’s career here before he became a senator would become an open book on the national stage, and, depending on your point of view, it could be either a disaster or a Jiffy-Pop extravaganza.

By the way, as I’ve noted before and as upyernoz reiterates, sending a Cuban to sell immigration reform to Republicans is an interesting proposal since, by law, there are no illegal immigrants from Cuba in America.  But to most Republicans, a Latino is a Latino.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Keeping It Pure

There are probably a number of good and principled reasons to oppose immigration reform: it’s going to be expensive, it could enable scams by people who figure out how to exploit the immigrants, and it may be only a stopgap where those who are determined to get around the laws will find new ways to do it.

But some well-connected people are putting out a reason to be against immigration reform, and it has nothing to do with principled reasons… unless you happen to be a Klansman.  George Zomick of The Nation has the story.

Ken Crow, who used to be president of Tea Party of America until he bungled logistics of a Sarah Palin speech and is now affiliated with Tea Party Community, got up and started talking about “well-bred Americans.”

Here is some video of what followed, in which he made a straightforward case for racial purity. (Apologies for the quality; I didn’t anticipate something that crazy to about be said and so I wasn’t well-positioned. But the audio should be clear.)

The transcript:

From those incredible blood lines of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and John Smith. And all these great Americans, Martin Luther King. These great Americans who built this country. You came from them. And the unique thing about being from that part of the world, when you learn about breeding, you learn that you cannot breed Secretariat to a donkey and expect to win the Kentucky Derby. You guys have incredible DNA and don’t forget it.

Not only was this said in the presence of hundreds of people on Capitol Hill, but many important Republican politicians were present. Senator Jeff Sessions, who helped lead the opposition to the immigration bill in the Senate, was directly behind me, glad-handing attendees, as I shot this video. Congressman Steve King, who is taking up Session’s mantle in the House, was also there. Both men spoke (Sessions is the keynote), and Senator Ted Cruz is also on the roster. The rally was promoted by major conservative media figures like Laura Ingraham.

In other words, the rally and its place on the political landscape is impossible to ignore. Last month, another hard-right rally featured Representative Michele Bachmann holding up a white baby and talking about the “future of America”–not quite as explicit, but mainly a difference in degree.

This is not to say that everyone who is opposed to immigration reform is a racist in pursuit of racial purity.  But if you are against it, you might want to look around and see who is on your side.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The White Party

Every so often, David Brooks makes sense.  This time it’s because he’s frustrated at his fellow conservatives who are digging in their heels over the doomed immigration reform bill.

Whether this bill passes or not, this country is heading toward a multiethnic future. Republicans can either shape that future in a conservative direction or, as I’ve tried to argue, they can become the receding roar of a white America that is never coming back.

That’s what’s at stake.

By the time the Republicans finally learn to reach out to a minority, it will be the white folks.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Path to Citizenship Becomes a Path to Nowhere

Immigration reform is dead.

House Republicans huddled in a crucial two-and-a-half-hour session in the basement of the Capitol as their leaders tried to devise some response to the demand for immigration legislation, especially the Senate provision that would grant a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country. The bill also mandates tough border security provisions that must be in place before the immigrants can gain legal status.

The bottom line was clear: The Republican-controlled House does not plan to take up anything resembling the Senate bill, which many believe is bad policy and smacks of an amnesty strongly opposed by the conservatives who hold sway over much of the rank and file. The House also does not intend to move very quickly, and some Republicans are wary of passing any measure at all that could lead to negotiations with the Senate, talks that could add pressure to the House to consider a broader plan.

I believe I have been predicting this all along.

Of course the immediate losers are the people who are caught in the immigration system that is broken and making life hard for everyone involved with it, but — as is the case with all things like this — it has political implications as well.

Those who have bet their future on the immigration reform — Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) included — are now looking at the smoking ruins of the bill and wondering how to pull something out that can be seen as a win for them.  After all, that’s what’s really important; actually solving the problems of immigration was just an extra.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sunday Reading

We Can’t Prevent Forest Fires — The wildfires in the Southwest are harbingers of the future, according to Richard Schiffman in The Atlantic.

Handout shows burnt out terrain off of Forest Rd. 141 in the Gila National ForestIf you doubt that climate change is transforming the American landscape, go to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Sweltering temperatures there have broken records this summer, and a seemingly permanent orange haze of smoke hangs in the air from multiple wildfires.

Take a ride into the mountains and you’ll see one blackened ridge after another where burns in the past few years have ravaged the national forest. Again, this year, fires in New Mexico and neighboring states of Colorado and Arizona are destroying wilderness areas.

Fire danger is expected to remain abnormally high for the rest of the summer throughout much of the Intermountain West. But “abnormal” fire risks have become the new normal.

The tragic death of 19 firefighters in the Yarnell fire near Prescott, Arizona last Sunday shows just how dangerous these highly unpredictable wind-driven wildfires can be.

The last 10 years have seen more than 60 mega-fires over 100,000 acres in size in the West. When they get that big, firefighters often let them burn themselves out, over a period of weeks, or even months. These fires typically leave a scorched earth behind that researchers are beginning to fear may never come back as forest again.

Fires, of course, are a natural part of the forest lifecycle, clearing out old stands and making way for vigorous new growth out of the carbon-rich ashes. What is not natural is the frequency and destructiveness of the wildfires in the past decade — fires which move faster, burn hotter, and are proving harder to manage than ever before. These wildfires are not exactly natural, because scientists believe that some of the causes, at least, are human-created.

For one thing, the intensity of the recent fires, researchers say, is in part the result of a warming and drying trend which has been underway for over a decade, and which some climate scientists believe will become a permanent condition as anthropogenic climate change continues to increase.

Experts also blame the fire-suppression policy which has been in effect for much of the last century. In the past, frequent low-intensity lightning fires left behind a park-like patchwork of woodlands and open meadows. The Smokey the Bear philosophy of fire prevention interfered with this natural pattern. By always putting fires out rather than letting them burn freely, forests throughout the West have become thick and overgrown.

This well meaning but unwise policy decreased fire dangers in the short term, but increased them exponentially in the long run on 277 million acres of fire-prone public lands. When forests do burn now, instead of the gentler, meandering fires of the past, the unnaturally high fuel loads often make for rampaging fire-storms that typically destroy everything in their path.

Run For the Border — From Joshua Holland at Salon, here’s the next get-rich-quick scheme: border security.

Last week, John McCain gleefully announced that the Senate immigration bill would result in the “most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall.” Indeed, an amendment authored by Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., authorizes a massive increase in border security dollars — including $30 billion for hiring and training 19,000 new border patrol officers over the next 10 years, and over $13 billion for a “comprehensive Southern border strategy” (including 700 miles of high-tech fencing).

What the senators didn’t tout was that the wall is both functionally useless – and will enrich some of the largest military contractors in the world.

Only about half of the country’s unauthorized immigrants entered illegally through the Southern border to begin with. And with illegal entries at a 40-year low, and the undocumented population down by a million from its 2007 peak, the right’s fetish for security spending is shaping up to be a boondoggle for giant defense contractors with a consistent track record of bungling past efforts to “secure the border.”

The amendment passed with 67 votes, including the support of 15 Republicans. NBC News found it “striking” that “some of these Republican senators had opposed previous immigration-reform efforts — like the 2010 DREAM Act.” But, really, it’s not so striking. Immigration reform is being loaded up with a ton of the sort of “bloated government” and “wasteful spending” the right can get behind: military spending.

Perhaps by design, the defense industry is pushing friendly lawmakers to advance the pork-laden bill. Eric Lipton of the New York Times reported that, “the nation’s largest military contractors, facing federal budget cuts and the withdrawals from two wars, are turning their sights to the Mexican border in the hopes of collecting some of the billions of dollars expected to be spent on tighter security if immigration legislation becomes law.”

Another Cheney — Jonathan Martin of the New York Times says Liz Cheney is thinking of running for the Senate.

LUSK, Wyo. — A young Dick Cheney began his first campaign for the House in this tiny village — population 1,600 — after the state’s sole Congressional seat finally opened up. But nowadays, his daughter Liz does not seem inclined to wait patiently for such an opening.

Ms. Cheney, 46, is showing up everywhere in the state, from chicken dinners to cattle growers’ meetings, sometimes with her parents in tow. She has made it clear that she wants to run for the Senate seat now held by Michael B. Enzi, a soft-spoken Republican and onetime fly-fishing partner of her father.

But Ms. Cheney’s move threatens to start a civil war within the state’s Republican establishment, despite the reverence many hold for her family.

Mr. Enzi, 69, says he is not ready to retire, and many Republicans say he has done nothing to deserve being turned out.

It would bring about “the destruction of the Republican Party of Wyoming if she decides to run and he runs, too,” Alan K. Simpson, a former Republican senator from the state, said in an interview last week. “It’s a disaster — a divisive, ugly situation — and all it does is open the door for the Democrats for 20 years.”

The developments underscore the complicated relationship between the Beltway-centered Cheney family and the sparsely populated state that provided its political base. Dick and Lynne Cheney, who divide their time between McLean, Va., a home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and a house near Jackson Hole, Wyo., are widely admired here.

Liz Cheney, who grew up in McLean and moved her family to the Jackson Hole area last year, is eager to establish her Cowboy State credentials, peppering social media sites with photos of her children’s horse-riding competitions and descriptions of Wyoming as “God’s Country.”

Ms. Cheney’s ambitions reflect a greater tension within the Republican Party as a younger generation feels less reluctance to challenge incumbents in the party, especially if they are seen as too consensus-minded or insufficiently conservative.

Doonesbury — Ghost writers in the sky.