Thursday, February 11, 2016

From A Dark Place

There might be more to the Republicans’ preemptive strike on President Obama’s last budget than just financial disagreement.

Since he was elected, Obama has gone head to head with Republicans in Congress who have seemed to reject the president’s ideas with a ferocity that has been unrivaled. Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, said that the decision not to entertain Donovan on the budget committee came from the committee chairmen, but that “we support the chairman.”

From his executive actions on immigration to his signature health care bill, Republicans have vowed at every turn to reverse Obama’s policies even after they have been implemented. In 2010, the now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), bluntly told National Journal that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

But, the backlash–especially on the President’s final budget–is raising eyebrows and questions about Congressional Republicans’ motivations.

“When I examine the GOP’s mistreatment of Barack Obama in the historical context of presidential scrutiny, I can only assume there are some deep, racial motivations behind their actions,” one senior staffer to a Congressional Black Caucus member said. “Republican leadership has long tried to disguise the racial undertones employed by some of their colleagues, but I think it’s painfully clear the disdain many have for President Obama comes from dark place.”

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA)–one of only two black Democrats on the House’s budget committee–said in a statement to TPM that “the decision of Budget Committee Republicans to reject the President’s budget – sight unseen, without even a hearing – further shows that Congressional Republican are glued to their extremist, Tea Party agenda.”

“It is clear from their budget proposals and actions that they have no interest in effectively governing or improving the lives of American families,” Lee said.

In other words, the GOP once again reminded Barack Obama that he’s black and they don’t like it.

Short Takes

Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina quit the GOP race.

U.S. will sue Ferguson for rejecting policing agreement.

Fed chief Janet Yellen is being cautious about raising interest rates.

Senate votes to sanction North Korea.

NTSB calls for tougher lithium battery regulations due to fire risk.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Short Takes

Sanders and Trump win their respective New Hampshire primaries.

Supreme Court places hold on EPA carbon rules while trial proceeds.

Mercedes-Benz recalling over 700,000 cars over faulty airbags.

GOP pronounces President Obama’s last budget D.O.A.

Director of Intelligence chief James Clapper says the threats are diverse.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Cost of Freedom

The chief complaint of the kids playing fort in Oregon at the bird sanctuary is that they want the federal government out of the land management business.  Leave it up to the states and local authorities to run them; that would get them out from under the heel of the jackboots or something.

And while it is true that the federal government controls vast stretches of land in the west, the federal government also pays for it.  If all the land under federal control was turned over to the local authorities, they would go broke in about twenty minutes just for the upkeep.

How do I know this?  Because the state of Idaho looked into it back in 2014 and found out how much it would cost them to take over federal wilderness and BLM land.

A new study by the University of Idaho’s Policy Analysis Group finds it would cost the state up to $111 million a year to manage 16.4 million acres of Forest Service and BLM land in Idaho if the state were to take it over; the study predicted millions in losses for the state in eight of nine scenarios, with the only one showing a profit relying on both a massive increase in logging and high timber prices. The study drew criticism from the Idaho Conservation League in part because it excluded include Idaho’s legally protected roadless areas and wild river corridors; the ICL contends a legislative resolution calls for the state to take over 28 million acres of federal land, not 16.4 million, so the study overlooked a large portion of the costs to the state. It also excluded all transition costs, assuming the state already had taken over management of the lands.

I’m not privy to the budget narrative of the state of Idaho, but I’m pretty sure they don’t have $111 million — a conservative estimate — to spend on something that they basically get for free.  Even if they were to collect state taxes and user fees on all the land and charge for the harvesting of lumber, they’d have to charge the hell out of it to make up the deficit.

This bit of news doesn’t seem to occur to the Oregon campers, but why should it?  They have the news media and local political hacks giving them props, and they’ve been able to schnorr snacks and cigarettes from a bemused public (here’s the latest of their demands shopping list, including boxer briefs in medium, large and extra large and “Chew Copenhagen).  So they don’t seem to grasp the fact that if all the land they want was turned over to local control, they’d be taxed right out of their extra-large boxer briefs.  Then they’d have something to revolt against.

HT to Adam at Balloon Juice.

Short Takes

Relief aid reaches starving towns in Syria.

The Supreme Court sounds like it might deal a big setback to public employee unions.

Millions of ISIS cash destroyed by U.S. air strikes.

The Koch brothers’ dad helped build an oil refinery for the Third Reich, according to a new book.

William Del Monte, the last-known survivor of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, dies at 109.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Looking Back/Looking Forward

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.

– Now that we have a Republican House and Senate and a president who isn’t running for re-election, get out the popcorn, and I mean the good stuff.  The GOP will try to do everything they can to destroy the legacy of Barack Obama, but they will end up looking even more foolish, petulant, infantile, and borderline nuts than they have for the last two years, and that’s saying something.  Repeals of Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and recharged attempts to investigate Benghazi!, the IRS, and the VA will be like the three rings of Barnum & Bailey, all of which President Obama will gleefully veto.  As Zandar noted at Balloon Juice, “Over/under on when a Republican declares on FOX that Obama’s veto is  “illegal”, Feb 8.”

They did all that except actually pass the bills for President Obama to veto.  Instead they putsched John Boehner and replaced him with Paul Ryan who will more than likely face the same nutsery in 2016.

– Hillary Clinton will announce that she is running for president by March 2015 at the latest.  Elizabeth Warren will not run, but Bernie Sanders, the Gene McCarthy of this generation, will announce as an independent and become a frequent guest on MSNBC.  Jeb Bush, after “actively exploring” a run in 2016, will announce that he is running and quickly fade to the single digits when the GOP base gets a taste of his views on immigration and Common Core.  He may be popular in Republican polls, but those people don’t vote in primaries.  The frontrunners for the Iowa caucuses a year from now will be Rand Paul and Chris Christie.

Nailed that one except for the last sentence.  But to be fair I don’t think anyone had Donald Trump on their betting sheets a year ago, and if they did, it was more for the entertainment value than serious consideration as a Republican candidate.

– The war in Afghanistan is officially over as of December 2014, but there will be U.S. troops actively engaged in combat in what is left of Syria and Iraq in 2015.

More’s the pity.

– The U.S. economy will continue to improve at a galloping pace.  The Dow will hit 19,000 at some point in 2015 and oil will continue to flood the market, keeping the price below $60 a barrel and gasoline will sell for under $2 a gallon, and finally wages will start to catch up with the improving economy.  I blame Obama.

Except for my overly-optimistic prediction on the Dow, this pretty much came true, even down to the price for gasoline: I paid $1.99 last night in Miami, which is not the lowest-priced city in the country.  President Obama is not getting any credit whatsoever for helping the economy improve, which he should, but then the Republicans never blamed Bush for crashing it in the first place.

– The Supreme Court will rule that bans on same-sex marriage violate the Constitution.  They will also narrowly uphold Obamacare again.

Happy dance, happy dance.

– The embargo against Cuba will end on a narrow vote in the Senate thanks to the overwhelming influence of Republican donors who see 11 million Cubans starving for Dunkin Donuts and car parts and don’t care what a bunch of domino-playing dreamers on Calle Ocho think.

The embargo is still in place as a matter of law, but for all intents and purposes, it is crumbling.  U.S. airlines and cruise ships are setting schedules, direct mail service is resuming, and travel there has become routine.

– The Tigers will win their division again.

Oh, shut up.

– 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.

I hold them in the Light.

– I technically retired on September 1, 2014, but my last day at work will be August 30, 2019.  (It’s complicated.)  I’m planning a return trip to Stratford this summer — more on that later — and I’ll get more plays produced.  I will finish at least one novel in 2015.

This was a productive year for me on the writing front: several plays of mine were done either in full stage productions or readings, and more are on the way.  No, I did not finish a novel yet.

Now for the predictions for 2016:

  • Hillary Clinton will be the next President of the United States.  I have no idea who she will beat; I don’t think the Republicans know, either, but she will win, and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it will be a decisive win.  The GOP will blame everybody else and become even more cranky, self-injuring, and irresponsible.
  • The Democrats down-ticket will do better than expected by taking back the Senate and narrowing their gap in the House.  This will be achieved by the number of voters who will turn out to vote for them in order to hold off the GOP’s attempt to turn the country back over to the control of white Christian males.
  • The economy will continue to improve; maybe this is the year the Dow will hit 19,000.  The limiting factor will be how the rest of the world, mainly China, deals with their economic bubble.  I think a lot of the economic news will be based on the outcome of the U.S. election and the reaction to it.  If by some horrifying chance Donald Trump wins, all bets are off.  Economists and world markets like stability and sanity, and turning the U.S. over to a guy who acts like a used car hustler crossed with a casino pit boss will not instill confidence.
  • ISIS, which barely registered on the radar as an existential threat to the U.S. and the west a year ago, will be contained.  There will not be a large American troop presence in Syria and Iraq thanks in part to the response by the countries that themselves are being invaded by ISIS.  Finally.
  • Refugees will still be pouring out of the Middle East, putting the strain on countries that have taken them in.  It will be a test of both infrastructure and moral obligation, and some, such as Canada, will set the example of how to be humane.
  • Maybe this will be the year that Fidel Castro finally takes a dirt nap.
  • The Supreme Court will narrowly uphold affirmative action but leave room for gutting it later on.  They will also narrowly rule against further restrictions on reproductive rights.  And I am going out on a limb by predicting that President Obama will get to choose at least one more new justice for the Court, an appointment that will languish in the Senate until after the election.
  • Violence against our fellow citizens such as mass shootings will continue.  The difference now is that we have become numb to them and in an election year expecting any meaningful change to the gun laws or the mindset is right up there with flying pigs over downtown Miami.
  • Marriage equality will gain acceptance as it fades from the headlines, but the LGBTQ community’s next front will be anti-discrimination battles for jobs and housing.  It’s not over yet, honey.
  • We’re going to see more wild weather patterns but none of it will convince the hard-core deniers that it’s either really happening or that there’s anything we can do about it.
  • The Tigers will not win the division in 2016.  (Caution: reverse psychology at play.)
  • On a personal level, this could be a break-out year for my writing and play production.  I don’t say that every year.
  • A year from today I will write this same post and review what I got right and what I didn’t.  But stick around and see how I do on a daily basis.

Okay, it’s your turn.  What do you see for 2016?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Short Takes

President Obama: “We are hitting ISIL harder than ever.”

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held captive for five years by the Taliban, faces court martial for desertion.

Congress works to avoid a government shutdown.

The Fed looks to raise interest rates, but not by much.

No Dice: Pete Rose kept on the permanent ban list of major league baseball.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Short Takes

President Obama’s speech on terrorism.

Jimmy Carter says he is cancer-free.

Justice Department to investigate Chicago P.D.

France’s far-right National Front gains in regional elections.

Germany warns Saudi Arabia over Islamist funding.

FYI: This is the 2,500th edition of Short Takes.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Short Takes

In Paris, President Obama urged world leaders to follow the U.S. in dealing with climate change

Karma: Smog covers a large portion of Southeast Asia as the climate summit begins.

Suspect in the Planned Parenthood shooting appeared via video in a Colorado court to be arraigned.

Officer in Chicago shooting makes bail.

Chinese renminbi approved as a main world currency.

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Short Takes

The Navy sent a ship within 12 nautical miles of China’s artificial reefs in the South China Sea.

The Justice Department is investigating the body-slamming incident in South Carolina.

Ben Carson passes Donald Trump in a new national poll.

Walgreen’s bids to buy Rite-Aid.

American Airlines will go “no-frills” on certain routes.

GM to recall 1.4 million cars to repair intake manifold oil leaks (like the one my Pontiac had).

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Short Takes

They may be close to a deal on a two-year spending plan in Congress.

The death toll in the earthquake in Afghanistan and Pakistan tops 200.

The Obama administration wants to limit standardized testing.

House Freedom Nutsery: The farther-rights are attacking the far-right for supporting Paul Ryan.

WHO says bacon causes cancer.  Life is now meaningless.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Short Takes

Iran convicted Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, but they didn’t say of what.

Suicide bombers were behind the bombing in Turkey last week.

Russian warplanes are carrying out more airstrikes in Syria.

Confederate flag-wavers indicted for disrupting a black birthday party.

Dell Computers buys EMC for $65 billion.

The Nobel Prize for Economics went to Angus Deaton of Princeton.

Friday, October 2, 2015