Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Annals of Asshattery

Dan Emmett, a former Secret Service agent, wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post suggesting that the current head of the service Julia Pierson be replaced.

Pierson should be replaced and the next director should come from outside the Secret Service, with the deputy director remaining an agent. In this role, a true leader, not a bureaucrat, is needed. Someone like Florida congressman and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Allen West would be perfect for the role. West has successfully demonstrated that he possesses the leadership skills of a combat officer as well as managerial and diplomatic skills of a congressman, exactly the traits needed in the next director. Highly competent and beholden to no one in the Secret Service, he would be a superb director.

Yeah, that Allen West, the former congressman from Florida who is a Tea Partier and who believes that the military has a duty to commit mutiny against the president if they don’t agree with his orders and is basically the dictionary definition of a right-wing crazy guy.

Meanwhile, the good folks at Politico are suggesting that the only way to get things right at the Secret Service is to have a tragedy occur because President Obama is such a lousy manager.  As if the president is the person in charge of running the Secret Service and his death would be the only way to get the point across.  WTF?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ignore Them At Your Peril

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

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

From Mr. Pierce:

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

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

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

Steve M:

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

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

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

Monday, September 29, 2014

They Just Can’t Help Themselves

So Chelsea Clinton had a baby.  How nice for her and her family.  And of course there are those who immediately come up with attempts at political humor at the expense of the baby and the family.

David Frum Tweet Chelsea Clinton 09-29-14

Of course his defense will be “can’t you take a joke?”  Oh ha ha.  Yeah, except it’s not even funny; it’s just a cheap shot that sounds more like something what’s-her-name would come up with and then get all pissed off when people remind them of how she hates it when people attack her family.

Welcome to our world, Charlotte.

HT to Balloon Juice.

Of No Value

While we normal folk were enjoying a weekend of whatever it it we do over the weekend, the people who spend their time freaking out over same-sex marriage and President Obama’s birth certificate were having one of their little orgies in Washington.

Yes, the Values Voters Summit was back in town with its collection of hate and persecution complexes, rallying the troops for freedom and Jesus for all Americans who are white, Christian, and straight (although I hear that Grindr gets busy when those lonely values voters head back to their hotel and there’s nothing on TV except Modern Family).

The usual parade of lovelies trooped to the stage, including a former governor of Alaska who arrived late because she had the wrong address or something, and they summed it all up by conducting a straw poll for their presidential choice in 2016.  That was won by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) because of course he’s the perfect choice to appeal to Republicans and Americans across the whole spectrum of the party as they see it: white, Christian, and straight.

The bad news for Sen. Cruz is that no one who ever won the straw poll at the Value Voters Summit went on to win the election.  The good news for the rest of us is that no one who ever won the straw poll at the Values Voters Summit went on to win the election.  Yet.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Thursday, September 25, 2014

I’m Seriously Thinking About Getting A Cat

If I got a cat I can put up pictures of it reacting to external stimuli on this blog instead of attempting to make sense out of life.

Because it seems the world has gone nuts and trying to keep up with people obsessing about coffee cup salutes is just exhausting.

Here’s Steve Benen on the situation.

Even by the low standards of our 2014 political discourse, this is pretty depressing.

[...]

Beltway Republicans have suggested the “Latte Salute Election” may be a worthwhile 2014 theme, and the National Republican Congressional Committee has even launched a fundraising campaign, urging donors to hand over money because the president saluted Marines while holding a coffee cup.

Yep, this is what contemporary politics has come to.

What’s even more depressing is that the NRCC will rake in a pile of dough because they know that there are people who will give them a shitload of money over something like this.  They know their base; they know there are plenty of pigeons to be plucked.

(Okay, I’m actually not going to get a real cat.  Snowball has been with me for over fifty years and his litter box has yet to turn into a haz-mat site.)

Clear History

Right-wing school board members in Jefferson County, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, went revisionist on the history curriculum.  That did not go over well with the students.  Via ThinkProgress:

According to the curricula proposal, students would only be taught lessons depicting American heritage in a positive light, and effectively ban any material that could lead to dissent. Under the proposed policy, a review committee would regularly read instructional text and course syllabi to ensure that educational materials do not stray from subject matter that complies with the policy.

But students involved in the walkout contend that censored coursework actually contradicts American history and ideals. Many of them brought signs about the patriotic nature of protest, and waved American flags as they walked.

Arvada High School senior Tyrone G. Parks disagreed with the school board, and argued that protest is a crucial aspect of American history, “and everything that we’ve done is what allowed us to be at this point today. And if you take that from us, you take away everything that America was built off of.” Tori Leu, a Ralston Valley High School student, shared a similar sentiment. “I don’t think my education should be censored. We should be able to know what happened in our past.”

It looks like the students have already learned a little history: that only repressive regimes re-write history.  It’s also just a bit ironic that it’s the right-wingers who always accuse the left of trying to brainwash the students with their political agenda.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Obama On Climate Change

President Obama at the UN yesterday:

Today, I am here personally, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second largest emitter, to say we have begun to do something about it….but let me be honest, none of this is without controversy. In each of our countries, there will be interests that will be resistant to action. And in each country, there is a suspicion that if we act and other countries don’t, that we will be at an economic disadvantage. But we have to lead…

Yes, this is hard. But there should be no question that the United States of America is stepping up to the plate. We recognize our role in creating this problem. We embrace our responsibility to combat it. We will do our part. And we will help developing nations do theirs. But we can only succeed in combating climate change if we are joined in this effort by every nation, developed and developing alike. Nobody gets a pass.

Speaking of interests that will be resistant

In an email to supporters, Tim Phillips, the president of the Koch political advocacy organization Americans for Prosperity, decried the president’s “radical international energy agenda for “what used to be called global warming, then climate change, then extreme weather, and now finally climate disruption.” (The idea that the left changes the name of global warming as a propagandistic fiction is a conservative meme.) Phillips then blamed the Republican filibuster of climate legislation on Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)…

Shorter Koch: Whatchamacallit isn’t that bad and we’re making money from it so shut up.

I don’t think the Kochs have anything to worry about.  They’ve bought and paid for enough of the House and the Senate to insure that no significant legislation that will do anything about climate change will be passed in the next two years; they couldn’t pass a kidney stone.  Even if the Democrats maintain control of the Senate or even win the House back (yeah, and get a pony and rainbows, too), there’s too much institutional inertia to overcome to do anything more than just tinker around the edges.  Basically nothing will happen until Rush Limbaugh’s house in Palm Beach is under water.

The president can tighten the EPA rules by executive order, but that’s like bailing out the Titanic with a sponge.

Soft On Crime

Conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza gets a slap on the wrist and avoids the joint.

Conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza avoided prison on Tuesday when a U.S. judge sentenced him to serve eight months in a community confinement center after he pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance law.

D’Souza, 53, was ordered by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan to live in a center, which would allow him to leave during non-residential hours for employment, for the first eight months of a five-year probationary period.

Berman also ordered D’Souza to perform one day of community service a week during probation, undergo weekly therapy and pay a $30,000 fine.

D’Souza, a frequent critic of U.S. President Barack Obama, admitted in May to illegally reimbursing two “straw donors” who donated $10,000 each to the unsuccessful 2012 U.S. Senate campaign in New York of Wendy Long, a Republican he had known since attending Dartmouth College in the early 1980s.

“It was a crazy idea, it was a bad idea,” D’Souza told Berman before being sentenced. “I regret breaking the law.”

His minions were all crying that he was being singled out by the evil Kenyan secret Muslim gay socialist dictator for daring to challenge his powers.  Actually, if Barack Obama had that much power, Mr. D’Souza would have disappeared without a trace long ago.  Now he can write a book about how hard life is in stir.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014

Swearing Off

God is no longer required to be your co-pilot.

Airmen taking their enlistment or officer appointment oaths can omit the words “so help me God” if they choose, Air Force officials announced Wednesday.

The policy change comes after an atheist airman at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada struck out the words on his Department of Defense reenlistment paperwork and ran afoul of a policy that prohibits omissions. The case went up to the Department of Defense General Counsel, which issued an opinion saying the language could be left out if the airman preferred. All of the other military services have allowed the alternate language for years.

“We take any instance in which airmen report concerns regarding religious freedom seriously,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said in a statement. “We are making the appropriate adjustments to ensure our airmen’s rights are protected.”

This ruling has the usual suspects all twitterpated — Pat Robertson even got a touch anti-Semitic (blame the Jews!) — but there’s a little thing called the Constitution that explicitly forbids any religious test for holding a government job.  Rail on, supercilious twits.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Law That Dare Not Speak Its Name

It never ceases to amaze me how the American electorate can consistently vote against their own self-interest and for people who are basically out to scare and scam them with the full knowledge of what is being done to them.  Thomas Frank wrote about this in What’s the Matter with Kansas? in 2004, but he might as well have been writing about Kentucky in 2014.

From Amy Goodnough at The New York Times:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Affordable Care Act allowed Robin Evans, an eBay warehouse packer earning $9 an hour, to sign up for Medicaid this year. She is being treated for high blood pressure and Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder, after years of going uninsured and rarely seeing doctors.

“I’m tickled to death with it,” Ms. Evans, 49, said of her new coverage as she walked around the Kentucky State Fair recently with her daughter, who also qualified for Medicaid under the law. “It’s helped me out a bunch.”

But Ms. Evans scowled at the mention of President Obama — “Nobody don’t care for nobody no more, and I think he’s got a lot to do with that,” she explained — and said she would vote this fall for Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and minority leader, who is fond of saying the health care law should be “pulled out root and branch.”

Ms. Evans said she did not want the law repealed but had too many overall reservations about Democrats to switch her vote. “Born and raised Republican,” she said of herself. “I ain’t planning on changing now.”

Not to be too harsh on Ms. Evans, but without Obamacare, she would probably be dead and buried as a Republican a lot sooner than later.

There are plenty of anecdotal stories about people who hate something based on perception but then find out all along they actually like it when they try it.  It’s known in some places as the “you’re soaking in it” paradox drawn from the classic Palmolive dish soap commercials with Madge the manicurist.

This leaves the Democrats with their own paradox: how to campaign on a law that they voted for and is growing in popularity without saying that they voted for it or calling it Obamacare because of the unpopularity of the name.  Republicans were saying that no Democrat is running a campaign ad saying they supported Obamacare, and that is technically true, but at least one Democrat in a tight race — Mark Pryor in Arkansas — is touting his support of the law without calling it Obamacare.

In a new ad, Pryor sits with his father, former Sen. David Pryor, and proudly says he “helped pass a law that prevents insurance companies from canceling your policy if you get sick, or deny coverage for preexisting conditions.”

Notably, Pryor doesn’t use the words “Obamacare” or “Affordable Care Act.” But he talks up one of the centerpieces of the law — rules prohibiting insurance companies from discriminating against sick people — and invokes his past struggles with cancer.

It would be easy to dismiss the people who love their new healthcare but hate the man who proposed it as ignorant racists who are under the thrall of the GOP and Fox News spell of hating anything associated with That Man.  There is an element of truth to that in some quarters, but it isn’t the only reason.  New ideas, especially those that have a bearing on something as personal as healthcare, go beyond the logical thinking process and trigger the lizard brain run-and-hide response.  Changing healthcare is not the same thing as changing your cell phone calling plan (although there are those who do make as big a deal as possible out of that).  Simply put, we humans don’t like change and will go to great lengths, even if it causes pain or money, to maintain the status quo inside the comfort zone.

I don’t blame the Democrats for being skittish about campaigning on Obamacare.  They don’t want to change the status quo either.  Their problem is that they have yet to figure out a way to get the people to vote in favor of their own self-interest without resorting to the proven method that has worked for the Republicans: greed, fear, and loathing of abstract ideas like marriage equality, black people voting, and health insurance that actually saves money and lives.

Next Gen GOP

Via TPM:

A Wisconsin Republican dropped out of the race for a seat on the state assembly on Tuesday after he admitted that he made offensive comments about gay and black people on social media, according to The Gazette.

Jacob Dorsey, a 19-year-old candidate challenging Democratic state Rep. Deb Kolste, apologized last week for referring to gay people as “fags” in a tweet.

In December 2013, Dorsey tweeted “fags need 2 leave my favorite state alone” after a judge decided not to stay the ruling that struck down Utah’s gay marriage ban, according to the NOManiancs blog.

Now, Dorsey admitted that he made other offensive comments on Twitter and YouTube, which were discovered by the NOManiacs blog.

In comments on YouTube videos, he used the words “fags” and “niggers.” In one comment he said “Niggers trash cars. I’m not selling my town car to one…” according to NOManiac’s screenshots, which were also posted on the Janesville Community Facebook page.

Kids these days.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Common Core

Okay, students, here’s a pop quiz: which prominent political alliance is violently opposed to the teaching of evolution and promotes religious theories in the science curriculum?

  • ISIS
  • The Texas Republican Party

Trick question: they both do.

ISIS:

In Mosul, ISIS issued a statement nearly two weeks ago, declaring “good news of the establishment of the Islamic State Education Diwan by the caliph who seeks to eliminate ignorance, to spread religious sciences and to fight the decayed curriculum.”

The AP report added that Islamic State explicitly prohibits lessons on “Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.”

As it turns out, Iraqi schools weren’t teaching evolution anyway, but in the name of “eliminating ignorance,” ISIS wants to be absolutely certain that modern biology is banned from science classes. The violent extremists prefer “religious sciences.”

Texas GOP Platform:

The document also rails against teaching evolution in schools, demands that schools restrict access to “community organizers” [...], and encouraging schools to embrace “subjects with emphasis on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which America was founded and which form the basis of America’s legal, political and economic systems.”

So the real question is do we fight them over there or over here?

Speaking Of The Stupid Party

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal famously noted that the Republicans have to stop being the stupid party.  To that end, he keeps providing examples.

At a prayer breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor this morning, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said the Obama administration is filled to the brim with “science deniers” who are “holding our economy hostage” by not harnessing every available domestic energy resource.

Yeah, this from a guy who thinks the jury is still out on Jesus vs. Darwin.  While he acknowledges he’s not an evolutionary biologist, he believes mythology should compete with science so students can make up their own minds.  That’s why he’s opposed to Common Core, which he once supported until he found out it was on the Tea Party hit list.

Well, he never did say that the GOP has to stop being the craven party.

Fried, Dried, and Laid To The Side

You may have come across Bryan Fischer somewhere in your internet travels, but in case you haven’t, he’s a Christian fundamentalist with a radio show who spends most of his time obsessing about Christian supremacy and gay people.  He also claims that America is a Christian nation and that the separation of church and state is both a myth and a radical homosexual agenda plot.  Yeah, he’s one of those.

Anyway, his latest proof that America is a Christian nation is bacon.

“You want one single item of proof that America is a Christian nation and not a Jewish nation and not an Islamic nation?” he asked. “One single bit of proof is all you need: we freely allow restaurants and grocery stores to sell and to serve bacon. That can only happen in a Christian country.”

“So the sheer fact that we freely allow the sale and consumption of bacon,” he continued, “is absolute proof that we are, in fact, a Christian nation.”

Based on that logic, Israel too is a Christian nation:

The fact of the matter is that it is not that difficult to buy pork in Jerusalem.

Most supermarkets in the city, including the large chains, are either kosher or halal, and thus do not carry the product. But between the secular, native-born Muslims and Jews, Christians, the local tribe of internationals, and Russian Jews who lost many kosher habits during 70 years under communism, a significant number of consumers hanker after the rosy meat.

In fact, the stringency of Jewish and Muslim prohibitions against pork may well serve to heighten the desire for it in a city that almost glows with religious fervor.

In recent months, among journalists and diplomats stationed in town — men and women alike — there has been a quiet thrumming about someone referred to as “the beautiful pork guy in Beit Jala.”

There’s even a popular supermarket chain in Israel that sells non-kosher food, including bacon.  And you can buy it in Dubai as well.

HT to J.M.G.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A History of Pearl Clutching

Jon Stewart via Crooks and Liars recounts the history of Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) going over the top with his warnings about doom, death, and destruction.

The poor man lives his life trapped in the Blair Witch Project. For God’s sake, I’ve seen chihuahuas in handbags who are less fretful and shaking.

Well worth watching.