Tuesday, October 24, 2017

I Got Mine…

In the age of Trump, this does not surprise me at all.

Many Trump voters who got hurricane relief in Texas aren’t sure Puerto Ricans should

Some supporters of the president, like Fred Maddox, agree with Trump that Puerto Rico’s infrastructure was frail before the storm; that the crisis was worsened by a lack of leadership there; and that the federal government should limit its involvement in the rebuilding effort, which will likely cost billions of dollars. But others, like Mary Maddox, are appalled by how the president talks about Puerto Rico and say the United States has a moral obligation to take care of its citizens.

A survey released last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that a majority of Americans believe that the federal government has been too slow to respond in Puerto Rico and that the island still isn’t getting the help it needs. But the results largely broke along party lines: While nearly three-quarters of Democrats said the federal government isn’t doing enough, almost three-quarters of Republicans said it is.

This includes those who think that living in Puerto Rico is a “paradise,” so who needs electricity, and those who think they should be helping “their own country,” ignorant — willfully or otherwise — of the fact that Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States and the people who live there are U.S. citizens.

Not surprisingly, there’s an attitude of ghettoization among some people, not unlike what we saw in the 1960’s after the civil rights marches and the riots in the inner cities of Detroit, Newark, and Los Angeles.  “They live there, they didn’t prepare; why should I have to help them?”  I suppose it’s pointless to explain that that is what Americans — or any decent human being, regardless of citizenship — would do.  It’s part of the Golden Rule — “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” — and yet it’s forgotten by many who otherwise humbly brag that they’re a bible-believing Christian.  It’s easy to forget when your new idol is a vulgar egomaniac.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Crap On A Cracker

Of course the right-wingers were horrified by Kathy Griffin’s severed Trump head photo, but don’t expect them to condemn Ted Nugent for his violent and obscene anti-Hillary Clinton and Obama statements; he was just speaking his mind.

Of course the right-wingers are starting a campaign to boycott Rachel Maddow for supporting liberal causes, but don’t expect them to stop calling a liberal boycott of Sean Hannity “economic terrorism” and a “violation of the First Amendment.”

And don’t bother to point out to them that they’re hypocrites who are ass-deep in double standards; these hard-core family-values types are old hands at looking at the exact same thing done by two different people and make a convincing argument — at least to themselves and Wolf Blitzer — that they’re completely different because, well, they are.

The best thing to do is marvel at the creative ability to come up with steaming bullshit and convince the world it’s pate de fois gras.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Sunday Reading

Trump’s Anti-Americanism — Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker.

Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, the couple who did so much to bear witness to the terrible truths of the Second World War, came to town last week to introduce their new memoir to an American audience. In it, there is a photograph that can only be called heartbreaking in its happiness, unbearable in its ordinariness. It shows an eight-year-old Serge with his sister and their Romanian-Jewish parents walking along a promenade in Nice, in 1943, still smiling, still feeling confident, even at that late date, that they are safe in their new French home. Within a few months, the children and their mother were hiding in a false closet, as Gestapo agents took their father to Auschwitz, and his death.

What the photograph teaches is not that every tear in the fabric of civility opens a path to Auschwitz but that civilization is immeasurably fragile, and is easily turned to brutality and barbarism. The human capacity for hatred is terrifying in its volatility. (The same promenade in Nice was the site of the terrorist truck attack last year.) Americans have a hard time internalizing that truth, but the first days of the Trump Administration have helped bring it home.

Within two weeks of the Inauguration, the hysterical hyperventilators have come to seem more prescient in their fear of incipient autocratic fanaticism than the reassuring pooh-poohers. There’s a simple reason for this: the hyperventilators often read history. Regimes with an authoritarian ideology and a boss man on top always bend toward the extreme edge, because their only organizational principle is loyalty to the capo. Since the capo can be placated only by uncritical praise, the most fanatic of his lieutenants end up calling the shots. Loyalty to the boss is demonstrated by hatred directed against his enemies.

Yet what perhaps no one could have entirely predicted was the special cocktail of oafish incompetence and radical anti-Americanism that President Trump’s Administration has brought. This combination has produced a new note in our public life: chaotic cruelty. The immigration crisis may abate, but it has already shown the power of government to act arbitrarily overnight—sundering families, upending long-set expectations, until all those born as outsiders must imagine themselves here only on sufferance of a senior White House counsellor.

Some choose to find comfort in the belief that the incompetence will undermine the anti-Americanism. Don’t bet on it. Autocratic regimes with a demagogic bent are nearly always inefficient, because they cannot create and extend the network of delegated trust that is essential to making any organization work smoothly. The chaos is characteristic. Whether by instinct or by intention, it benefits the regime, whose goal is to create an overwhelming feeling of shared helplessness in the population at large: we will detain you and take away your green card—or, no, now we won’t take away your green card, but we will hold you here, and we may let you go, or we may not.

This is radical anti-Americanism—not simply illiberalism or anti-cosmopolitanism—because America is not only a nation but also an idea, cleanly if not tightly defined. Pluralism is not a secondary or a decorative aspect of that idea. As James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 51, the guarantee of religious liberty lies in having many kinds of faiths, and the guarantee of civil liberty lies in having many kinds of people—in establishing a “multiplicity of interests” to go along with a “multiplicity of sects.” The idea doesn’t reflect a “weak” desire for niceness. It is, instead, intended to counter the brutal logic of the playground. When there are many kinds of bullied kids, they can unite against the bully: “Even the stronger individuals are prompted, by the uncertainty of their condition, to submit to a government which may protect the weak as well as themselves.”

There is an alternative view, one long available and articulated, that America is not an idea but an ethnicity, that of the white Christian men who have dominated it, granting a grudging or probationary acceptance to women, or blacks, or immigrants. This was the view of Huck Finn’s pap, as he drank himself to death; of General Custer, as he approached Little Big Horn; of Major General Pickett, as he led the charge at Gettysburg. Until now, it has been the vision of those whom Trump would call the losers.

As the official ideology of the most powerful people in the White House, can that vision of America win? With the near-complete abdication of even minimal moral courage in the Republican Party, and the strategic confusion of the Democrats, all that Americans can turn to is the instinct for shared defiance, and a coalition of conscience, the broader the better, to counter the chaotic cruelty. (If the Koch brothers have some residual libertarianism left in them, let them help pay for it.) Few events in recent years have been more inspiring than the vast women’s marches that followed the Inauguration, few events more cheering than the spontaneous reactions to the executive order on immigration, such as the cabbies’ strike staged after Kennedy Airport seemed to have been turned into a trap for refugees.

Such actions are called, a little too romantically, “resistance,” but there is no need, yet, for so militant a term. Resistance rises from the street, but also from within the system, as it should, with judicial stays and State Department dissenters. Opposing bad governments with loud speech, unashamed argument, and public demonstration is not the part that’s off the normal grid: it’s the pro-American part, exactly what the Constitution foresees and protects. Dissent is not courageous or exceptional. It is normal—it’s Madisonian, it’s Hamiltonian. It’s what we’re supposed to do.

Democratic civilization has turned out to be even more fragile than we imagined; the resources of civil society have turned out to be even deeper than we knew. The battle between these two shaping forces—between the axman assaulting the old growth and the still firm soil and deep roots that support the tree of liberty—will now shape the future of us all.

Where’s The Opposition? — Charles P. Pierce on two weeks in.

Most of it happened before dawn. The getaway cars were idling in the plaza in front of the Capitol, a chain of red taillights in the darkness before the dawn. The United States Senate was at work before daybreak, and United States senators wanted to get out of town. Their essential workday was over before eight. They took two votes. One was to kill the SEC’s Resource Extraction Rule. The other was to invoke cloture on Betsy DeVos, the ridiculous nominee for Secretary of Education. The rule went down and DeVos went through and the sun had just begun to rise over the capital city and the weekend already had begun.

It has not been a very encouraging week for democracy here, but there are a couple of lessons to be drawn from all the activity, and all the non-activity, that’s taken place. First, and this has been obvious for a while, but it became vivid and clear over the past five days, there is absolutely no legitimate political opposition within the Republican party to anything the president* says or does.

His Cabinet selection is a ludicrous collection of the unqualified, the incompetent, and the destructive. Yet only DeVos, who is all three of these things, seemed to be in any danger of not being confirmed, and that danger likely passed on Thursday when Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who was said to be one of the last fence-sitters, said she had his vote. The situation is so preposterous that the Senate has had to delay the confirmation vote of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to be Attorney General, which is another kettle of botulism entirely, so that Sessions can stay a senator long enough to vote for DeVos. And still they might need Vice President Mike Pence to come down and break a tie.

#NeverTrump has been a joke for several months now, but now that the administration is up and bungling, we see its real purpose. The Republican congressional majorities will put up with any excess and eccentricity down at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue as long as they are allowed to put in place their plans to shove even more of the country’s wealth upwards.

(If you get a chance, and you have no life, go to CSPAN and watch the press conference given on Thursday by Speaker Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny starver from the state of Wisconsin. He barely remembers the president*’s name. He has his own fish to fry.)

Remember Ben Sasse, the young senator from Nebraska who went to Iowa a year ago to campaign for any candidate who wasn’t Donald Trump? I do, and so does Tiger Beat on the Potomac.

“We have a President who does not believe in executive restraint; we do not need another,” Sasse continued in his statement on Tuesday. “I am not endorsing any candidate—I am urging conservatives to hold every candidate accountable to keeping their word so that we uphold the Constitution’s system of checks and balances. I’m pro-Constitution and if that makes me anti-Trump, that’s Mr. Trump’s problem.”

There has been no more reliable vote for everything this administration wants to do than Ben Sasse’s, and he has been central to a strategy by which the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court has been used to camouflage the gross deficiencies of most of the remaining Cabinet nominees. But Gorsuch’s resume doesn’t make Sessions any less of a bigot, DeVos any less of an incompetent, or prospective Labor Secretary Andrew Puzder any less of a fast-food sweatshop proprietor.

But all of them are going to go through, and Ben Sasse is going to vote for every damn one of them just the way he voted in the dark on Friday to advance DeVos’ nomination and for passage of what Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, rightly called the Kleptocrat Protection Act of 2017.

Second, it really is time to let up on the Democrats a little. I know it’s frustrating, and it was generally awful to listen to Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp take the floor on Thursday to vote to kill the Stream Protection regulation of the EPA, especially when the two of them decided to take the salt-of-the-earth rhetorical dodge to defend the coal industry. Small towns, you know. Real Americans.

(In fact, that whole debate was surreal when you consider that it concerned an industry that likely will die before the planet it’s helping to kill, but one that, somehow, has become the avatar for straight-shootin’ smalltown Americans of all professions, obsolete or not. I think there’s more concern for coal in Washington these days than there has been since 1902.)

But, in general, even these two did all they could to throw sand in the gears of what the majority party was trying to get done. (Manchin and Heitkamp both voted with the party on the two pre-dawn votes Friday.) The Democrats fought as hard as they could in committee against these nominees, and with every tool available to them. (Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, emerged as a ferocious opponent of the Sessions nomination, and Oregon’s Jeff Merkley may end up being the last man standing against Gorsuch.) They even forced the Republicans twice to change committee rules in order to approve nominees with Republican votes only.

There simply is only so much they can do, given their status in both houses of Congress, and the remarkable ability of the Republican majority to hold its votes together. They have pulled every delaying tactic available to a minority in the Senate and they’ve done so full in the knowledge that Mitch McConnell is perfectly willing to blow up whatever political norms—Hi there, Merrick Garland!—and change whatever political norms are in the way of getting what he and his president want. Right now, the administration has fewer Cabinet officers confirmed than any other administration at this point in the calendar. That’s something, anyway.

The wires and pulleys by which Trumpism is hijacking democracy have been exposed. The rest is up to the country.

“Look, I’m headed home to Oregon,” said Senator Ron Wyden. “I’ve had five town meetings when there was more snow in Oregon than any day since 1937. We had very big crowds with people really speaking out. Political change doesn’t start in Washington, D.C. and trickle down. It starts from the bottom up, as people become aware of the facts.

“What’s understood now, and it will increase, is they were told certain things in the campaign. Like with Obamacare. They were told there was going to be a repeal of Obamacare and a replacement. What we’ve really seen is repeal-and-run. They just wanted to repeal this program, get an ideological trophy, but they knew that just doing that would cause an enormous number of problems going forward. Looking for ideological trophies was not what the public was told during the campaign.”

Wyden is correct on the facts, of course, but he may be minimizing the primary “ideological trophy” that people wanted in the campaign and that the election of Donald Trump gave them—a defeat of That Woman, who was standing in for all of The Others who have made the world an insecure place for people who believed that their world should never be insecure at all. (That’s for The Others.) That was all ideological trophy enough for them, and they got it in November. Now, we’re all living with the consequences.

Both of the pre-dawn votes were bad ones. The DeVos nomination is ghastly on its face, but the vote on the Resource Extraction regulation is a vote for serious national security problems down the road. I know I’m harping on this a little but, if you allow American corporations to get back in the business of subletting despots all over the world, you’re buying an awful lot of trouble down the line. You’re going to have corruption and instability in the places under which resources we need are buried. You’re lining up with people who loot their countries and then flee with their ill-gotten gains.

When this happens, you get more instability and more civil wars in which the only things on which both sides agree is that the Americans—or, more generally, the West—are to blame. Of course, this is also how you breed terrorists.

“There’s no question that people’s public health can suffer,” Wyden said. “There is no question that you can have economic dislocation, and real economic pain, for families in a number of parts of the world where every day is an economic struggle just to survive.”

They did all of this before the sun came up on Friday and then, for the most part, they were gone, off into a country that doesn’t know what’s happening to it, and seems to be happier that way, a land of constant surprises now, most of them bad ones.

This Ad’s For You — Brian Alberts in The Atlantic on how Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad brings the immigration issue to the masses.

On Sunday, Budweiser will air its highly anticipated Super Bowl ad, “Born the Hard Way.” The short film depicts a young Adolphus Busch emigrating from Germany to St. Louis in 1857. Faced with a difficult Atlantic voyage and hostile American attitudes toward immigrants, Busch relies on his dream of brewing beer to propel himself forward, and ultimately finds a kindred spirit in one Eberhard Anheuser.

This ad appears at a tenuous moment. President Trump’s recent executive order barring travel from seven Muslim-majority countries has brought immigration policy to the forefront of national politics. Though the Budweiser ad plays loose with a few historical facts, it captures how beer served as both a cultural handhold and form of economic engagement for German immigrants in the 19th century United States.

Beer also holds another legacy that the advertisement overlooks—how modern American beer, the kind that millions of Americans will consume on Sunday, is a product of immigrant activism and entrepreneurship. In the 1850s, beer became a cultural battleground for German immigrants to defend not only their right to participate in American political and economic life, but also their very presence in the U.S.

Budweiser, in dramatizing the humble start and entrepreneurial spirit of its founders, took a few liberties. Adolphus Busch did not brew beer professionally, with Anheuser or otherwise, until years after arriving in the United States. And Budweiser was not invented until 1876 after Busch, in cooperation with St. Louis liquor dealer Carl Conrad, drew inspiration from the Czech pilsner style for which it is named.

Busch was one of 950,000 German immigrants who came to the U.S. during the 1850s, many of whom became brewers. Though others stayed in eastern brewing powerhouses like New York and Philadelphia, many continued their journey to Midwestern cities like Chicago, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and St. Louis, at times accounting for 25-40% of the local population.

Busch’s muddy, unceremonious arrival in St. Louis, as portrayed in the Budweiser ad, speaks to the rugged frontier lifestyle of these cities’ early years. Chicago’s downtown streets, for example, bore no semblance of pavement before 1855, and were impassible following any measurable rain.

Nor were the locals always welcoming. In the ad, a native-born American channels Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York by shoving Busch and yelling “You’re not wanted here!” and “Go back home!” This hostility overwhelmingly came from the large and politically successful anti-immigrant factions of the 1850s.

Organized into the American Party, also known as Know-Nothings, some Americans objected to the rising tide of immigrants, German and otherwise, as lower class undesirables, competition for labor, and undeserving recipients of American citizenship. German beer did not escape their ire. Know-Nothings often joined temperance reformers in decrying beer-swilling Germans, like the whiskey-tippling Irish, as a source of degeneration in American society.

But, for German-American brewers and imbibers alike, beer made up a significant part of their dual cultural identity—one they were determined to defend in Germany and in their new American homes. Lager beer was not only a German style of beer, it was at times a centerpiece of ethnic expression. Back in Munich or Frankfurt, modest increases in the price of beer led to riots, and in America the freedom to consume fizzy lager in family-friendly outdoor beer gardens (especially on Sundays after church services) served as both a demonstration of economic freedom and a cultural anchor in a new home.

German immigrants also adapted their beer for American lifestyles, serving lager in traditional saloons defined by brass rails and overwhelmingly male clienteles. The brewers themselves were likewise viewed by fellow Germans as hardworking entrepreneurs, using an albeit controversial product to forge a livelihood on American terms and navigating an increasingly capitalist and economically liberal nation.

When nativist and temperance activists sought to suppress German beer and, by extension, their rights, immigrants fought back. In 1855, a Know-Nothing city government in Chicago targeted immigrants with anti-alcohol liquor license regulations and a selectively enforced ban on Sunday alcohol sales. In response, the German population rioted. Police and immigrants clashed, shots were fired, and cannons were eventually deployed by what is now Chicago’s Daley Plaza, where a German-style Christmas market is hosted annually (without any need for artillery).

Germans continued to defend lager beer as a desirable alternative to hard liquors, persisted in their Sunday revelries, organized to promote their industry, and of course brewed more beer than the U.S. had ever seen before.

Though Prohibition and significant anti-immigrant sentiment lay ahead, Germans carried the day. Know-Nothing candidates lost political power and temperance efforts to enact prohibition at the state level failed. Lager beer spread like wildfire, replacing the English-style ales and porters that preceded it and multiplying the number of American breweries tenfold between 1850 and 1873. It was lighter in alcohol, easier to drink, tastier, less prone to spoilage and infection than previous American beers, and came to be preferred by native-born Americans as well as German immigrants. Adolphus Busch participated in a wave of immigrant activism that negotiated American economic and cultural life and in turn transformed both German-American citizenship and the brewing industry.

Contemporary questions about the rights and status of immigrants are no more foreign today than 160 years ago, and the unforeseeable social and moral implications of an increasingly globalized world carry significant weight. Immigrants in the 1850s, German and otherwise, forced Americans to reflect on the practical definitions of notions like rights and citizenship. These notions revealed themselves to be multifaceted negotiations rather than static monoliths.

Budweiser, if anything, now represents the old guard, analogous to the English-style ales that Busch and other German brewers once challenged. By reconciling American beer’s present with its contentious immigrant past, the largest brewer in America has shown once again how beer is culture brewed.

Doonesbury — Licensed establishment.

Friday, November 4, 2016

That Was Then, This Is Now

As I noted the other day, the Republicans are hell-bent on preventing a Democratic president from filling a vacancy on the Supreme Court.  And as I noted, that’s a bad idea.

It’s nice to find someone in the Senate who agrees with me on that.

Obstructing votes on Presidential nominees threatens the future of our judicial system and the nature of the Supreme Court. You see, I am not sure that many Americans have stopped to think: Well, what happens if this is exercised for Supreme Court Justices? Because I believe in the next several years we will have one or two or possibly more Supreme Court nominees to consider.

That’s Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC).  Wow, a staunch Republican up for re-election in 2016 who is bucking his party’s stand.  I’m impressed.

Oh, wait.  That was in 2005 when he was worried that the Democrats would be the ones holding the Court’s vacancies hostage.  Today he’s saying that it would be fine with him if the Senate didn’t replace Scalia ever.

If Hillary becomes president, I’m going to do everything I can do to make sure that four years from now, we’re still going to have an opening on the Supreme Court.

As President Obama asked, “What, only Republican Presidents get to nominate judges? Is that in the Constitution? I used to teach constitutional law. I’ve never seen that provision.”

HT to Steve Benen.

Monday, September 12, 2016

In It For The Money

Donald Trump’s foundation seems to have one big beneficiary: Donald Trump.  Via the Washington Post:

The Donald J. Trump Foundation is not like other charities. An investigation of the foundation — including examinations of 17 years of tax filings and interviews with more than 200 individuals or groups listed as donors or beneficiaries — found that it collects and spends money in a very unusual manner.

For one thing, nearly all of its money comes from people other than Trump. In tax records, the last gift from Trump was in 2008. Since then, all of the donations have been other people’s money — an arrangement that experts say is almost unheard of for a family foundation.

Trump then takes that money and generally does with it as he pleases. In many cases, he passes it on to other charities, which often are under the impression that it is Trump’s own money.

To quote the immortal Archie Bunker, it’s easy to be generous when it doesn’t cost you nothin’.

In two cases, he has used money from his charity to buy himself a gift. In one of those cases — not previously reported — Trump spent $20,000 of money earmarked for charitable purposes to buy a six-foot-tall painting of himself.

Money from the Trump Foundation has also been used for political purposes, which is against the law. The Washington Post reported this month that Trump paid a penalty this year to the Internal Revenue Service for a 2013 donation in which the foundation gave $25,000 to a campaign group affiliated with Florida Attorney General Pamela Bondi (R).

[…]

Trump started his foundation in 1987 with a narrow purpose: to give away some of the proceeds from his book “The Art of the Deal.”

Nearly three decades later, the Trump Foundation is still a threadbare, skeletal operation.

The most money it has ever reported having was $3.2 million at the end of 2009. At last count, that total had shrunk to $1.3 million. By comparison, Oprah Winfrey — who is worth $1.5 billion less than Trump, according to a Forbes magazine estimate — has a foundation with $242 million in the bank. At the end of 2014, the Clinton Foundation had $440 million in assets.

In a few cases, Trump seemed to solicit donations only to immediately give them away. But his foundation has also received a handful of bigger donations — including $5 million from professional-wrestling executives Vince and Linda McMahon — that Trump handed out a little at a time.

The foundation has no paid staffers. It has an unpaid board consisting of four Trumps — Donald, Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr. — and one Trump Organization employee.

In 2014, at last report, each said they worked a half-hour a week.

The Trump Foundation still gives out small, scattered gifts — which seem driven by the demands of Trump’s businesses and social life, rather than by a desire to support charitable causes.

So not only is it engaging in illegal political activity, it’s pretty obvious to even the most casual observer that the Trump Foundation is at best a false front erected to make him sound magnanimous and altruistic when in reality it’s just a phony operation that does little more than three-card monte the money around so that all it gives away is basically the amount of money they find in the couch.

But the Clinton Foundation has got to be rotten because, y’know, Bill Clinton.  I mean, c’mon; nobody gives millions of dollars to fight childhood AIDS in Africa and wipe out malaria just out of the goodness of their heart, right?  They’ve got to be hiding something.

Okay, that’s enough sarcasm for Monday.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Not Her Problem

The headline in the New York Times is ominous: “Weiner’s Texts Cast a New Cloud Over Clinton Campaign.”  The article itself sounds even more filled with danger:

It was supposed to be a quiet, late-summer weekend on the exclusive shores of the Hamptons. But on Sunday, Huma Abedin, the closest aide to Hillary Clinton, received devastating news.

After accompanying Mrs. Clinton to fund-raisers, Ms. Abedin learned from her husband, Anthony D. Weiner, that The New York Post was about to report that he had again exchanged lewd messages with a woman on social media: the sort of behavior that destroyed his congressional career and 2013 mayoral campaign.

Only this time, the online indiscretions included an image of Mr. Weiner’s crotch as he lay next to the couple’s 4-year-old son.

Now, Mr. Weiner’s tawdry activities may have claimed his marriage — Ms. Abedin told him that she wanted to separate — and have cast another shadow on the adviser and confidante who has been by Mrs. Clinton’s side for the past two decades. Ms. Abedin was already a major figure this summer in controversies over Mrs. Clinton’s handling of classified information as secretary of state and over ties between the Clinton family foundation and Mrs. Clinton’s State Department.

Mr. Weiner’s extramarital behavior also threatens to remind voters about the troubles in the Clintons’ own marriage over the decades, including Mrs. Clinton’s much-debated decision to remain with then-President Bill Clinton after revelations of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Ms. Abedin’s choice to separate from her husband evokes the debates that erupted over Mrs. Clinton’s handling of the Lewinsky affair, a scandal her campaign wants left in the past.

Would someone please explain to me how Ms. Abedin’s marital break-up is going to derail the Clinton campaign?  So she was married to a skank.  We knew that.  So Hillary Clinton’s husband cheated on her and was impeached.  We knew that, too; it was in all the papers.  Is the fact that Ms. Abedin was close to Ms. Clinton for two decades and received classified briefings relevant to the fact that her soon-to-be-ex behaves like a horny teenager?  “Here’s a shot of my basket, honey; tell me what Vladimir Putin is planning for Ukraine.”

It’s sad when any marriage breaks up, especially when there are children in the mix — although in this case it’s probably a good thing that the four-year-old may no longer be in the picture, so to speak — but unless there’s a real point to making the woman sound like a patsy and incapable of doing her job without her husband around  — and there most assuredly is not — this kind of patronizing pearl-clutching is bullshit.  And it has nothing whatsoever to do with Hillary Clinton or her qualifications to be president.

By the way, if marital fidelity and domestic turmoil are to be metrics for judging the viability of a candidate, the antics of the Trump family and the court records of Steve Bannon, Mr. Trump’s newly-hired campaign chairman, would disqualify that crowd from getting beyond the spitballing stage of a bad idea for a reality show on basic cable.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Look Who’s Talking

The Very Serious People got all worked up that Bill and Hillary Clinton make a lot of money making speeches: oh how unseemly and nefarious it is to cash in on their public service.

They’re not the only ones doing it, of course.

As critics over the years have chided Bill Clinton and also his wife for the industriousness with which they have pursued opportunities to get paid a lot of money in this manner, Bush, too, has been doing exactly what he said he would be doing.

Since 2009, POLITICO has found, Bush has given at least 200 paid speeches and probably many more, typically pocketing $100,000 to $175,000 per appearance. The part-time work, which rarely requires more than an hour on stage, has earned him tens of millions of dollars.

Relative to the Clintons, though, he’s attracted considerably less attention, almost always doing his paid public speaking in private, in convention centers and hotel ballrooms, resorts and casinos, from Canada to Asia, from New York to Miami, from all over Texas to Las Vegas a bunch, playing his part in what has become a lucrative staple of the modern post-presidency.

The difference is that George W. Bush is a Republican, so it’s okay.  In fact, it’s as American as open carry.  And another blessing is that his contract states his speeches can’t be recorded, which spares us hearing him talk.  If I wanted to hear him, I wouldn’t pay $150,000; I’d go to Youtube.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Discrimination By Decree

Because the Louisiana legislature didn’t pass a law legalizing anti-gay discrimination, Gov. Bobby Jindal has issued an executive order doing just that.

Trying to regain ground after a setback in the legislature, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal issued an executive order Tuesday to protect people who exercise their religious beliefs on matters related to same-sex marriage.

Jindal outlined the order in a statement: “This Executive Order will prohibit the state from denying or revoking a tax exemption, tax deduction, contract, cooperative agreement, loan, professional license, certification, accreditation, or employment on the basis the person acts in accordance with a religious belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

The order — which comes a day after Jindal formed an exploratory committee to seek the GOP nomination for president — is posted in full [here].

The order came just hours after the state legislature essentially killed the Marriage Conscience Act, a bill similar to the executive order that he now seeks to impose using his authority as governor.

So let me see if I have this right: Congress is useless on matters such as immigration, the minimum wage, and climate change, so President Obama issues executive orders to deal with them within the scope of his powers.  The Republicans claim that he’s lawless, overriding the will of Congress, stomping on the Constitution, and should be impeached.  Gov. Jindal does it and he’s upholding freedom and doing the work that the legislature refuses to do.

I hope he runs for president, I really do.  It will be the acme of karma to see him get his head handed to him in the first primary and then wait for him to show up on late night TV hawking reverse mortgages.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Equal Opportunity on Immigration

If the Republicans don’t like what President Obama is planning to do about immigration through executive action — going so far as to threaten impeachment or a government shutdown in response — then they’d better do a little checking of recent history.

The story begins on November 6, 1986, when Reagan signed the last comprehensive legalization bill to pass Congress. The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) gave up to 3 million unauthorized immigrants a path to legalization if they had been “continuously” present in the U.S. since January 1, 1982. But the new law excluded their spouses and children who didn’t qualify. As the Senate Judiciary Committee stated at the time, “the families of legalized aliens…will be required to ‘wait in line’.”

Immediately, these split-eligibility families became the most polarizing national immigration issue. U.S. Catholic bishops criticized the government’s “separation of families,” especially given Reagan’s other pro-family stances. In early 1987, members of Congress introduced legislation to legalize family members, but without success.

Shortly after Congress’ failure, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) commissioner Alan Nelson announced he was “exercising the Attorney General’s discretion” to assure that children would “be covered” by legalization. The administration granted a blanket deferral of deportation (logistically similar to today’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) for children under 18 who were living in a two-parent household with both parents legalizing, or with a single parent who was legalizing.

Lawmakers and advocates, however, urged Reagan to go further. Spouses and some children who had one parent able to legalize but not the other remained unprotected. A California immigrants’ rights group called this “contrary to the American tradition of keeping families together.” And as Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) told the INS, “If you have the discretion to protect children, why not a family?”

President Bush the Elder’s administration did pretty much the same thing.

In July 1989, the Senate moved to protect a bigger group—all spouses and children of those who legalized under IRCA. The Senate passed legislation 81-17 that prohibited the administration from deporting family members of immigrants in the process of legalizing and directed officials to grant them work authorization. The House failed to act on the Senate’s bill.

George Bush Sr. then responded in February 1990 by administratively implementing the Senate bill’s provisions himself. As Bush’s INS Commissioner, Gene McNary, stated: “It is vital that we enforce the law against illegal entry.  However, we can enforce the law humanely.  To split families encourages further violations of the law as they reunite.” Under Bush’s “family fairness” policy, applicants had to meet certain criteria, and reapply to the INS every year for extensions.

The Bush administration anticipated its family fairness program could help enormous numbers of immigrants—up to 1.5 million family members, which amounted to over 40 percent of the 3.5 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. at the time.

Whereupon the Republicans immediately voted out articles of impeachment and hounded both Reagan and Bush ceaselessly to the ends of their terms, right?

[crickets]

The way the Republicans see it, the difference is that when Presidents Reagan and Bush used executive actions on immigration, they were Republicans showing compassion for the downtrodden and trying to preserve family values.  When President Obama does it, he’s a Democrat letting in Ebola-laden terrorists and drug smugglers.  Can you think of any other reason that might be coloring their judgment?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Welcome to Earth

Just like the end of Star Trek: Voyager, a group of Republican congresspeople have returned to the Alpha Quadrant after being lost in space since 2001.

Forty-three Republicans have co-sponsored the resolution since Obama’s State of the Union address, where he threatened to enact policies if Congress didn’t act.

The Stop This Overreaching Presidency (STOP) measure, introduced by Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.), now has 104 co-sponsors, including Senate GOP hopeful Reps. Jack Kingston (Ga.), James Lankford (Okla.), Steve Stockman (Texas), Paul Broun (Ga.), Steve Daines (Mont.) and Phil Gingrey (Ga.).

In an interview with The Hill, Rice explained the STOP resolution is aimed at reversing Obama’s delay of the employer mandate, enactment of the Dream Act, extension of “substandard” health insurance plans and ending work requirements for welfare.

Two things: first, it’s nice that all of a sudden these folks actually care about the successful implementation of Obamacare since up to now their Earth-bound colleagues have been trying to repeal every word of it.  Second, if they think that Barack Obama is overreaching his duties as chief executive, they would have been apoplectic about the scope and extent of what President Bush and Vice President Cheney, who once described the Bush administration as the “fourth branch of government,” did when they were in office.

Hence the speculation that these fair-minded individuals who care so much about the balance of power and co-equality of government were in another sector of the galaxy when all of that was going on.  Welcome home.  There’s a lot we need to tell you about.

Friday, January 31, 2014

History Channel

Steve Benen has a good look at the Republicans’ myopic view of what previous presidents have done with executive orders.

…Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) insisted that when it comes to executive orders, Obama should follow the examples set by Reagan and Clinton. McConnell is completely unaware of the fact that among presidents in the latter half of the 20th century, Reagan and Clinton issued more executive orders than any other presidents – and far more than Obama.

What I suspect many on the right have done is start with an ideologically satisfying premise – Obama is a radical, power-hungry, extremist dictator – and then work backwards in the hopes of bolstering the thesis.

But the endeavor clearly isn’t going well, largely because conservative activists and lawmakers don’t understand history as well as they think they do.

“Can you believe Obama is issuing executive orders?” Well, yes, every president has issued executive orders, and Obama has issued fewer than any in over a century.

“Can you believe Obama has relied on czars?” Well, sure, most all recent presidents have had czars and no one considered it controversial until 2009.

“Can you believe Obama’s health care policy forces consumers to buy something?” Actually, the practice goes back to George Washington.

“Can you believe Obama has made recess appointments?” Yep, because every modern president has made recess appointments.

“Can you believe Obama has decided not to defend certain federal laws against court challenges?” Sure, but most modern presidents have done the same thing.

If Republicans had criticized any of these previous presidents for the same reasons, their complaints would be more persuasive now. But as it stands, it just seems as if Obama’s critics don’t know what they’re talking about.

Imagine if Obama did something really outrageous, like selling weapons to a sworn enemy of the United States in order to finance an illegal war in Central America. Now that would be worthy of screams about “tyranny,” “extra-constitutional abuses,” and “contempt for the norms of our democracy.”

It wasn’t that long ago — ten years or less — that the Republicans were all hailing the unitary executive theory of governance embodied in the benevolent leadership of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, telling us that if Congress wouldn’t act to save America from terrorism and the Radical Homosexual Agenda, then the president would, and more power to him.  Not only that, he’d be derelict in his duty if he had to wait around for Congress to get their collective shit together.

It’s not that the Republicans have forgotten history; I’m sure most of the whiners know exactly what went on before Barack Obama was sworn in.  It’s just that they don’t believe anyone else other than them should be in charge.  Ever.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ryan vs. Ryan

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the newly unwrapped Republican vice presidential candidate, was very much against the stimulus plan that President Obama got through Congress in February 2009. In fact, he was so against it that he told reporters last week that he didn’t even want his Wisconsin congressional district to get any of the government handout because it would not help. Of course, then we found out that he actually did ask for stimulus funds for his district, but he countered with basically, “Well, I didn’t really ask for it; that was my staff…” Way to go, Mr. Personal Responsibility: blame the staff.

But it turns out that Mr. Ryan is hugely in favor of stimulus spending after all. He said it was necessary for the government to lend a hand to businesses and communities, especially in tough times; it was a good thing. In fact, he even went against some members of his own party to urge Congress to pass a stimulus plan to get the economy going again. It’s vital to show America that we can all work together, right?

How can this be? Has he suddenly gone off the reservation? Is he secretly running to replace Joe Biden on the Democratic ticket? Well, no. The Paul Ryan who was so gung ho for stimulus was speaking in 2002, when George W. Bush was trying to stimulate a limping economy. Seven years later, it was Barack Obama doing the same thing. And the rule is anything proposed by a Republican is a good thing; anything proposed by a Democrat is socialism.

Chris Hayes dug up the tape. Watch and enjoy.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Ryan vs. Ryan

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the newly unwrapped Republican vice presidential candidate, was very much against the stimulus plan that President Obama got through Congress in February 2009. In fact, he was so against it that he told reporters last week that he didn’t even want his Wisconsin congressional district to get any of the government handout because it would not help. Of course, then we found out that he actually did ask for stimulus funds for his district, but he countered with basically, “Well, I didn’t really ask for it; that was my staff…” Way to go, Mr. Personal Responsibility: blame the staff.

But it turns out that Mr. Ryan is hugely in favor of stimulus spending after all. He said it was necessary for the government to lend a hand to businesses and communities, especially in tough times; it was a good thing. In fact, he even went against some members of his own party to urge Congress to pass a stimulus plan to get the economy going again. It’s vital to show America that we can all work together, right?

How can this be? Has he suddenly gone off the reservation? Is he secretly running to replace Joe Biden on the Democratic ticket? Well, no. The Paul Ryan who was so gung ho for stimulus was speaking in 2002, when George W. Bush was trying to stimulate a limping economy. Seven years later, it was Barack Obama doing the same thing. And the rule is anything proposed by a Republican is a good thing; anything proposed by a Democrat is socialism.

Chris Hayes dug up the tape. Watch and enjoy.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It’s A Little Game We Play

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) thinks it’s perfectly okay for Mitt Romney to avoid paying taxes. In fact, it’s his patriotic duty.

Mitt Romney shouldn’t be criticized for using off-shore tax havens because “it’s really American to avoid paying taxes, legally,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday.

The presumptive GOP presidential nominee has come under fire for stashing assets overseas in places like Bermuda and Switzerland.

Graham argued that Congress is responsible for tax avoidance because it has crafted such convoluted rules and said he was fine with Romney’s taking advantage of the loopholes.

“As long as it was legal, I’m OK with it,” Graham said. “I don’t blame anybody for using the tax code to their advantage. I blame us for having it so complicated and confused. Pick a rate and make people pay it.”

In the meantime, anything within the rules goes, he argued.

“It’s a game we play,” Graham said. “Every American tries to find the way to get the most deductions they can. I see nothing wrong with playing the game because we set it up to be a game.”

Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right. And we were reminded of that ethical standard at every turn by folks like Mr. Graham when Bill Clinton got busted for getting his horn honked in the Oval Office. It was perfectly legal, after all. But, as the blue noses constantly reminded us, we must hold our public officials to a much higher standard.

Or does that apply to Democrats only? Is that just another game we play?

It’s A Little Game We Play

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) thinks it’s perfectly okay for Mitt Romney to avoid paying taxes. In fact, it’s his patriotic duty.

Mitt Romney shouldn’t be criticized for using off-shore tax havens because “it’s really American to avoid paying taxes, legally,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday.

The presumptive GOP presidential nominee has come under fire for stashing assets overseas in places like Bermuda and Switzerland.

Graham argued that Congress is responsible for tax avoidance because it has crafted such convoluted rules and said he was fine with Romney’s taking advantage of the loopholes.

“As long as it was legal, I’m OK with it,” Graham said. “I don’t blame anybody for using the tax code to their advantage. I blame us for having it so complicated and confused. Pick a rate and make people pay it.”

In the meantime, anything within the rules goes, he argued.

“It’s a game we play,” Graham said. “Every American tries to find the way to get the most deductions they can. I see nothing wrong with playing the game because we set it up to be a game.”

Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right. And we were reminded of that ethical standard at every turn by folks like Mr. Graham when Bill Clinton got busted for getting his horn honked in the Oval Office. It was perfectly legal, after all. But, as the blue noses constantly reminded us, we must hold our public officials to a much higher standard.

Or does that apply to Democrats only? Is that just another game we play?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Spiking the Punch

Jon Stewart lets the Republicans have it for whining about President Obama reminding us about who was president when Osama bin Laden was killed.

Part 1:

Part 2:


Yes, I am aware that I wrote a post yesterday about poking the corpse of bin Laden and suggested there were better ways to tout a candidate’s security chops. My cerebral cortex is functioning within normal parameters, thank you. The point here is that we have another prime example of IOKIYAR. And yes, I think they’re on crack.

Spiking the Punch

Jon Stewart lets the Republicans have it for whining about President Obama reminding us about who was president when Osama bin Laden was killed.

Part 1:

Part 2:


Yes, I am aware that I wrote a post yesterday about poking the corpse of bin Laden and suggested there were better ways to tout a candidate’s security chops. My cerebral cortex is functioning within normal parameters, thank you. The point here is that we have another prime example of IOKIYAR. And yes, I think they’re on crack.

Friday, March 30, 2012