Friday, August 1, 2014

Cruz To November

The remote possibility that Congress would pass some form of bill addressing the border crisis — even one that the president would veto — died yesterday when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) lobbied Republicans to vote against the Republican leadership’s own bill.

From the Dallas Morning News via Balloon Juice:

Facing revolt from tea partiers egged on by Sen. Ted Cruz, House Republicans gave up suddenly Thursday on a bill that would have provided hundreds of millions to address the border crisis.

It was the latest in a string of embarrassments handed to Speaker John Boehner by Cruz, and the biggest since last fall, when the Texas freshman prodded House tea partiers to defy Boehner on efforts to avert a government shutdown.

The House GOP plan included $659 million, a fraction of the $3.7 billion requested by the White House. Democrats opposed it, as did some conservative Republicans.

Cruz hosted a pizza-fueled strategy session Wednesday night with some House conservatives – a reunion of the so-called Tortilla Coast Caucus, named for the Capitol Hill restaurant where Cruz and House allies huddled during the shutdown fight.

The senator’s meddling across the Capitol has drawn predictable attacks from Democrats.

“Whether it’s shutting down the government or stopping his own party’s efforts to appear relevant and in control on a key issue, Ted Cruz can always be counted on to lead the Republican Party to his own far right extremes – and further and further away from the rational middle ground that appeals to everyone other than the Tea Party base,” taunted American Bridge, a Democratic group.

Congress was due to leave town yesterday until the second week of September with GOP hopes that they could go out and campaign on the falsehood that they passed “comprehensive immigration reform,” which is a dog-whistle for “we kept the brown horde at bay.”  Now they have nothing, and the Republicans are so desperate that they’re planning on meeting again today to try and save something out of the mess, least of all their dignity.  Not as long as Ted Cruz — Joe McCarthy without the charm — has anything to say about it.

Were it not for the fact that it still gets nothing done about the immigration issue and that a lot of people on both sides of the border are suffering from this lack of action, the Republicans can comfort themselves with two thoughts.  First, they denied President Obama anything that could be seen as a victory for him, which has to count for something in the perverse minds of those who think that is the way to run a country.  Second, despite getting less done than any other Congress in history, it will not matter come November.  The polls indicate that not only will the voters not punish them, they will re-elect them at a rate that would make the North Korean legislature jealous and probably even pick up seats.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Big Talk, Little Action

For all their screaming about illegal children, the House Republicans came up with not a lot to show for putting their money where their mouth is.

House Republicans plan to vote Thursday on a bill that would provide less than a fifth of the funding the president requested to address the ongoing border crisis.

After more than 57,500 unaccompanied minors crossed the border illegally since October, President Barack Obama requested $3.7 billion to care for them, speed up deportation proceedings and attempt to deter illegal immigration. Senate Democrats proposed a $2.7 billion package. But the House GOP plan went from an expected $1.5 billion as of a week ago to less than $1 billion on Friday. On Tuesday, House Republicans announced the funding had been pared down even further to a $659 million package that was introduced on Tuesday.

“I think we should do something before we go home, and we’re working to get there,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters after meeting with Republican members.

Two-thirds of the bill’s funding would go toward border security, such as dispatching National Guard troops to the border, while one-third of the money is meant to provide humanitarian assistance. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) told reporters he was “optimistic” that the bill would get strong support from Republicans, and said the lower price tag would help attract fiscal conservatives.

In other words, the bulk of the money goes to sending the National Guard to stand around in the hot summer sun.  There’s not much else they can do; it’s not like the kids are trying to sneak across the border; they’re trying to get the attention of the Border Patrol.

Meanwhile, they’re trying to revise a law that was passed by them in 2008 and signed by President Bush that gives the refugee children from Central America legal protection.  Now that President Obama is actually enforcing it, they think it’s a terrible law, of course.

Monday, July 28, 2014

George Will Channels Emma Lazarus

Fox News may be rethinking their contract with George Will.

Conservative columnist and Fox News contributor George Will has long been an advocate for immigration reform, including a conservative version of a “path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants, for some time, but he took his position a bit further Sunday morning on Fox News Sunday. Referring to the influx of unaccompanied children crossing the border from Mexico and other Central American countries — over 52,000 since last October — Will told host Chris Wallace that the United States should welcome these children with open arms.

“We ought to say to these children, ‘Welcome to America, you’re going to go to school and get a job and become Americans,’” Will implored. “We have 3,141 counties in this country. That would be 20 per county. The idea that we can’t assimilate these eight-year-old criminals with their teddy bears is preposterous.”

Wallace warned that detractors will accuse Will of not understanding the issue, but he was undeterred. “We can handle this problem, is what I’m saying,” he reassured. “We’ve handled what Emma Lazarus famously called ‘the wretched refuse of your teeming shores’ a long time ago and a lot more people than this.”

He’s going to have to give back his Ted Nugent t-shirt collection now.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Short Takes

Russia tries to sound both tough and nice on response to jet attack.

Death toll continues to rise on both sides in Israel/Gaza conflict.

U.N. says Iran has turned much of its nuclear material to harmless use.

Perry sends Texas troops to border.

Wildfires continue to expand in Pacific Northwest.

Tropical Update: TD Two is east of the Lesser Antilles.

The Tigers beat the Diamondbacks 4-3.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Kids On The Bus

TPM has a video that encapsulates the racism and idiocy of some folks’ reaction to the refugees arriving in America:

Doofus congressional candidate tells how he saw the fear in the eyes of the migrant child being bused to a nearby shelter in on-going border crisis. Then confronted with the fact that they were local kids going to the YMCA.

If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be hilarious that all of these big tough right-wingers who sneer in the face of imagined evil-doers bringing their terror babies with calves the size of cantaloupes into the country are freaked out by the sight of a busload of ten-year-olds on their way to summer camp.

Monday, July 14, 2014

No Passing Zone

I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that Congress will not pass the president’s request for almost $4 billion to help the immigration situation.

We’re going to see a lot of bobbleheads on TV and hear a lot of noise from the Republicans about how all of this is Obama’s fault and why should hard-working Americans bear the burden of taking care of refugees from other countries when we have our own problems, etc. something something.  Next thing you know it’s Labor Day and some other shiny object will have popped up to distract our attention.

Could this be a problem for the Republicans?  I doubt it.  The Republicans see this as a winner for them if they don’t do anything but blame the president.  They can campaign on that because there’s no Republican who ever lost a race by finding a problem, pointing it out, and blaming it on someone else.

It’s not like they’re worried about losing votes from the Hispanics to whom immigration reform is important.  The GOP already knows that it’s a lost cause and they risk provoking the raging ire from the hard-core Tea Party base if they are seen as being too nice to brown people.  So they’re not risking anything by letting this effort — like so many other things that could actually help people like minimum wage and unemployment assistance — wither away.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday Reading

Road Trip — Julie Pace of the AP in TPM on the Obama tour to bolster support.

Welcome to Barack Obama’s split-screen presidency.

On one side: a confident Obama making campaign-style stops around the country and ridiculing his political opponents to the delight of cheering supporters. On the other side: an increasingly unpopular president hobbled by gridlock on Capitol Hill and a steady stream of vexing foreign policy crises.

Obama has long sought refuge outside of Washington when his frustrations with the nation’s capital reach a boiling point. But his ability to rally public support in a way that results in progress for his legislative agenda has perhaps never been weaker than it is as he nears the midpoint of his second term.

To the White House, the take-away is that Washington — and the Republican Party in particular — is out of touch with the American people and failing to address their priorities. But to GOP leaders, Obama’s activities in a midterm election year reinforce their view of a president more focused on soaring speeches and partisan politics than on working toward compromise solutions to the nation’s problems.

Each side has at least some evidence to support their case.

Many Americans are indeed deeply frustrated with Washington’s inability to get anything done. Polls show majorities want to see action on some of Obama’s proposals, including increasing the minimum wage and overhauling the immigration system. Yet Obama’s own approval rating has fallen to the lowest levels of his presidency. And with his party at risk of losing control of the Senate, the president has ramped up his fundraising for the midterms and taken on a sharply partisan tone when voicing his frustration with Republicans.

During a speech Thursday in Austin, Texas — a Democratic enclave in a GOP-leaning state — Obama berated Republicans for, by his account, failing to act on “every serious idea” he’s put forth this year.

“The best you can say for them this year is that so far they have not shut down the government,” he said. “That’s the best you can say. But of course, it’s only July so who knows what they may cook up in the next few months.”

Egged on by a raucous and supportive crowd, Obama slipped deeper into campaign mode, leaning into the podium, responding to commentary from the audience and slipping into the familiar campaign language of his presidential bids. “Cynicism is a choice. Hope is a better choice,” he declared.

Why We’re Never Rid of Torture — Rebecca Gordon on why Dick Cheney’s America still has the capacity to do it.

Once upon a time, if a character on TV or in a movie tortured someone, it was a sure sign that he was a bad guy. Now, the torturers are the all-American heroes. From 24 to Zero Dark Thirty, it’s been the good guys who wielded the pliers and the waterboards. We’re not only living in a post-9/11 world, we’re stuck with Jack Bauer in the 25th hour.

In 2002, Cofer Black, the former Director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, told a Senate committee, “All I want to say is that there was ‘before’ 9/11 and ‘after’ 9/11. After 9/11 the gloves come off.” He wanted them to understand that Americans now live in a changed world, where, from the point of view of the national security state, anything goes. It was, as he and various top officials in the Bush administration saw it, a dangerous place in which terrorists might be lurking in any airport security line and who knew where else.

Dark-skinned foreigners promoting disturbing religions were driven to destroy us because, as President George W. Bush said more than once, “they hate our freedoms.” It was “them or us.” In such a frightening new world, we were assured, our survival depended in part on brave men and women willing to break precedent and torture some of our enemies for information that would save civilization itself. As part of a new American creed, we learned that torture was the price of security.

These were the ruling fantasies of the era, onscreen and off.  But didn’t that sorry phase of our national life end when Bush and his vice president Dick Cheney departed? Wasn’t it over once Barack Obama entered the Oval Office and issued an executive order closing the CIA black sites that the Bush administration had set up across the planet, forbidding what had euphemistically come to be called “enhanced interrogation techniques?” As it happens, no. Though it’s seldom commented upon, the infrastructure for, the capacity for, and the personnel to staff a system of institutionalized state torture remain in place, ready to bloom like a desert plant in a rain shower the next time fear shakes the United States.

There are several important reasons why the resurgence of torture remains a possibility in post-Bush America:

* Torture did not necessarily end when Obama took office.

* We have never had a full accounting of all the torture programs in the “war on terror.”

* Not one of the senior government officials responsible for activities that amounted to war crimes has been held accountable, nor were any of the actual torturers ever brought to court.

Final Notes — Everything you need to know about the World Cup final game between Argentina and Germany.  From Joe DeLessio at New York magazine.

The World Cup comes to an end this afternoon in Rio, when Germany and Argentina meet in the tournament’s final. It’s Germany’s eighth appearance in the final (they’ve won three times), and it’s the fifth time Argentina will play for the title (they’ve won twice). The game is sure to draw monster ratings, with both die-hard fans and casual observers tuning in. And so if you’re the type who only watches soccer once every four years, here’s a primer to get to ready for the big match.

How did these teams get here?
Germany went 2-0-1 in the group stage (the draw came against Ghana), then beat Algeria and France in the knockout round to advance to the semifinals. As you might have heard, they embarrassed Brazil (the favorite to win it all) in that game, defeating them 7–1, prompting a lot of sad Brazilian front pages.

[...]

Argentina, meanwhile, has won all of its games, finishing the group stage 3-0-0 before beating Switzerland and Belgium to earn a berth in the semis. They needed a penalty shootout to get past the Netherlands in the game, after neither team scored in either 90 minutes of regulation or 30 minutes of extra time.

What do I need to know about Germany?
• They’re an efficient, disciplined team that beats opponents by working as a unit. Their midfield is a major strength and a big reason they walloped Brazil in the semifinals, and Manuel Neuer is one of the best goalies in the world.

• They have the second-leading goal scorer in the entire tournament in Thomas Muller, whose five goals are behind only Colombia’s James Rodriguez’s. Those who jumped on the U.S. soccer bandwagon may recall Muller as the guy who scored for Germany in their 1–0 defeat of the Americans…

• Germany’s roster also includes Miroslav Klose, the all-time leading goal scorer in World Cup history. His goal against Brazil in the semis was the 16th of his World Cup career.

• Jurgen Klinsmann, the coach of the U.S. team, is rooting pretty hard for Germany. The German-born Klinsmann both played for and coached the country in past World Cups, and with the Americans out, he’s not hiding his rooting interests.

What do I need to know about Argentina?
• Their best player is Lionel Messi, who may also be the best player in the world. He aggressively attacks defenders, and thanks to his sick ball control skills, creates opportunities to shoot and pass. He tallied 291 goals in 201 games for his club and national teams in between the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. (The only player who comes close to that figure is Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo.) And he has four goals so far in the World Cup, tied for third most.

• Argentina, a team not necessarily known for its defense, has been incredibly tough to score on in the knockout round so far: They haven’t allowed a goal in their last three games (not counting the penalty shootout, of course). Thanks to two games that have gone into extra time, that’s 330 minutes of play in elimination games, against some of the best teams on the planet.

• Javier Mascherano — who stumbled to the field after knocking heads with an opponent against the Netherlands, and later revealed that he also “tore [his] anus” while trying to prevent a Arjen Robben goal in the same game — plans on playing in the final.

[...]

All right, just tell me who’s supposed to win.
Through the semifinal round, FiveThirtyEight put Germany’s chances of winning the World Cup at 63 percent, and Argentina’s at 37 percent. Germany are the favorites according to bookmakers, too, even though no European country has ever won a World Cup played in the Americas.

Doonesbury — Rumor has it…

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Getting Out The Vote

Steve Benen on you-know-who’s call for Congress to impeach President Obama:

First, for a prominent Republican figure to use immigration as a rationale for presidential impeachment – just four months before the midterm elections – is pretty much the opposite the message the party establishment wants to convey. GOP lawmakers have already killed a popular, bipartisan immigration bill, alienating Latino voters nationwide, and now Sarah Palin is making matters worse, largely because her contempt for the president is unrelated to any kind of sensible electoral strategy.

Second, the more the party’s highest-profile personalities raise the volume on impeachment talk, the more it motivates the Democratic base to actually get in the game this fall (look up “1998, midterm elections”). Put it this way: who do you think is more excited about talking up Palin’s harangue this afternoon, the RNC or the DNC? I’m guessing the latter.

[...]

And so, with 118 days to go before the midterms, Republicans are increasingly positioning themselves as the anti-immigrant, anti-contraception, pro-impeachment party that shut down the government last year for no reason. The GOP, in other words, is practically begging the Democratic base to wake up, show up, and get engaged.

There must be some kind of psychosis in the G.O.P. that compels them to do everything they can to poison their own water and yet think they can get away with it at the ballot box.  Maybe it’s because they’ve rigged the system through gerrymandering congressional districts so that no matter how crappy Congress comes off to the electorate — right now a 10% approval score would be an upgrade — so many individual districts are in the hands of the hard-core base that a competitive election would be as rare as one in North Korea.  It gives them the feeling of invincibility, and all too often the Democrats have accommodated them by barely trying.

But now that the screaming reminder of G.O.P. incompetence (thank you, John McCain) is holding forth, perhaps the Democrats will seize the chance to exploit the fact that the threat of impeachment is no longer the mutterings of talk radio and the birthers.  She has laid this turd smack in the middle of the Republican salad bar.  Enjoy your lunch, Speaker Boehner.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Welcome to America

Tea Partiers put out the welcome wagon.

Three buses carrying 140 undocumented immigrants are heading back to San Diego County after being met by angry protesters at the Murrieta Border Patrol facility Tuesday afternoon.

The group was flown from Texas to San Diego Tuesday morning and quickly boarded buses bound for the facility. They arrived in Murrieta shortly after 2 p.m.

News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 were in Murrieta for their arrival.

A group of protesters waving American Flags actually blocked the buses from entering the Border Patrol facility. Residents were lining the street early Tuesday morning with signs, one of which read, ‘Return to Sender’.

After the protesters intervened, the buses turned around and drove away from the facility. Our crew at the scene confirmed the buses are on their way back to San Diego County.

Unless that mob was made up of Native Americans, the only chant they should have been shouting was “We got here first!”

HT to LGM.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Short Takes

Israel: The bodies of three teenagers who were abducted several weeks ago were found.

Airstrikes in Iraq are not a good idea according to a retired Army general who served there.

With immigration reform officially pronounced dead, President Obama will use executive action to bolster border security.

White House says President Obama will expand safeguards for transgender workers.

8.4 million: The number of GM cars now under recall.

Tropical Update: Invest 91L still moving up the East Coast.

The Tigers beat Oakland 5-4.

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Friday, February 14, 2014

Monday, February 10, 2014

Saturday, February 8, 2014