Friday, February 5, 2016

Proving His Point

President Obama made his first visit to a mosque in the U.S. the other day and talked about religious tolerance and how bigotry against Islam is anti-American.

Your fellow Americans stand with you …. That’s not unusual. Because just as so often we only hear about Muslims after a terrorist attack, so often we only hear about Americans’ response to Muslims after a hate crime has happened, we don’t always hear about the extraordinary respect and love and community that so many Americans feel.

Marco Rubio accused the president of being “divisive.”

He gave a speech at a mosque, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims. Of course there’s discrimination in America, of every kind. But the bigger issue is radical Islam. This constant pitting people against each other, I can’t stand that. It’s hurting our country badly.

Actually, what’s hurting our country are knee-jerk twerps who don’t even listen to what the president said before they come out with gross generalizations and accusations.  There’s plenty of evidence that President Obama is correct in saying there are those who discriminate against Muslims: firebombing mosques, physical assaults on people who look like they’re from the Middle East, and elected officials or presidential candidates who want to ban Muslims entirely.  The latest example is the New Hampshire Republican state representative who wants to pass a bill in the state house saying giving public assistance to Muslims is treason.

So thank you, Marco, for proving the president’s point about anti-Muslim bigotry.

Ted Cruz’s Friends

Sen. Ted Cruz isn’t shy about being anti-gay, and he has a strong support staff to carry that message out to the base.  Via Right Wing Watch:

Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, an anti-LGBT hate group, helped coalesce Religious Right support behind Cruz and campaigned with the senator in Iowa. Cruz apparently sees it as helpful to campaign alongside Perkins, who has defended Uganda’s “kill-the-gays” bill and claimed that gay rights advocates are pawns of the Devil.

Perkins joined Cruz on the trail in Iowa along with Glenn Beck, the conspiracy theory radio host; David Barton, the right-wing pseudo-historian who heads one of the leading pro-Cruz super PACs and who, like Beck, has declared Cruz to be God’s answer to his prayers; reality TV star Phil Robertson, notorious for making bigoted remarks; James Dobson, the anti-gay radio personality who founded Focus on the Family; Rep. Steve King, the congressman known for his anti-gay and anti-immigrant tirades; Bob Vander Plaats, the Iowa political organizer who describes homosexuality as a “public health risk” similar to smoking; and far-right radio broadcaster Steve Deace.

Other endorsers touted by the Cruz campaign have included North Carolina activists who have referred to gay people as Satan’sminions; a North Carolina pastor who has likened gay people to “maggots” and linked them to Ebola; an Oklahoma preacher who warns that homosexuality is part of a demonic communist conspiracy to bring down America; a Virginia radio host who has blamed gays for everything from terrorism to train derailments; and a Virginia lawmaker who has sponsored an assortment of bizarre anti-gay bills.

Most recently, Cruz welcomed the endorsement of Mike Bickle, the leader of a church that many have criticized for using cult-like practices, who has referred to Oprah Winfrey as a harbinger of the Antichrist, called gay rights as a Satanic plot that will usher in the End Times, and explained that Adolf Hitler was raised up by God to be a “hunter” of Jews.

So when Marco Rubio says he will do what he can to overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality — even though he doesn’t explain how or what will happen to the thousands of couples who have married — he sounds like a lightweight.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Waiting In The Wingnuts

Jeb Bush’s campaign sputters along — he’s pulling 2% in Iowa, maybe 6% in New Hampshire — and I think it’s safe to say that we’re done with this generation of Bushes running the country.

But wait, what’s this?  Liz Cheney, last heard from in 2013 when she tried and failed to primary Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), is making plans to run for Congress from Wyoming.  Yip yah.

My guess is that she’s going to win since Wyoming has but one seat in Congress (and it’s a seat her father once held) and the representative she’s seeking to replace is a stalwart of the Freedom Caucus, aka the Bug-Eyed Right-Wing Nutsery Coalition.

So the daughter of the worst vice president in history — and when you are counting among that group Spiro Agnew and Dan Quayle that’s saying something — is going to be in a position where she thinks she’ll have a launching pad to bigger and better things.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday Reading

Angry White Guy — Gara LaMarche in the Huffington Post chases those kids off his lawn.

I keep reading that people like me — older white guys — are angry about what is happening to their country. In recent years, their grievances have been voiced by Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs, Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck. Then they found an outlet in the Tea Party. Now they are filling the seats at Donald Trump rallies and perhaps propelling him toward what seemed unthinkable, the Republican presidential nomination.

Trump explained his own anger this way in the last Republican debate he took part in:

I’m very angry because our country is being run horribly and I will gladly accept the mantle of anger. Our military is a disaster. Our health care is a horror show. Obamacare, we’re going to repeal it and replace it. We have no borders. Our vets are being treated horribly. Illegal immigration is beyond belief. Our country is being run by incompetent people.

Hey, Donald! I’m angry, too. But the sources of my anger are quite different than yours. Let me explain.

I was born in 1954, just a few months after the Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education, dealt the biggest blow to white supremacy since the beginning of the republic, when a bunch of property-owning white men — to whom the franchise was restricted at the time — drafted a constitution in which Black slaves were considered three-fifths of a human being.

When I was in grade school, Betty Friedan wrote The Feminist Manifesto, and the pill liberated women to begin the long and still-incomplete march to full participation in the workplace and in political life. A vibrant and courageous civil rights movement brought about the landmark civil rights acts of the mid-1960s, which also saw the establishment of Medicare and the end of racist immigration quotas.

When I was in high school, the Environmental Protection Agency was established, and the Stonewall uprising marked the dawn of the modern gay rights movement whose arc, yet unfinished, led to last year’s glorious Supreme Court decision making marriage equality the law of the land.

When I was in college, the Roe v. Wade decision ended back-alley abortions and affirmed the right of women to control their own bodies and therefore their full personhood.

I’m angry not because all these things happened. I’m angry because they are in jeopardy from the likes of Donald Trump and his fellow Republican presidential candidates. They rail about “political correctness” to justify bigotry and cruelty, when in fact the most vigorous enforcer of political correctness is the far right “base” of the Republican Party and its amen corner in the media. Thanks to them, no candidate may dare buck the NRA’s absolutist — and murderous — stance against any sensible gun regulation. No candidate may acknowledge the reality of climate change and what is needed to save the planet, or the humanity of immigrants and refugees who deserve a medal for enduring untold hardships to make it to this country — where they are a vital part of its economy and its very fabric — not the scorn and abuse that has been heaped upon them.

I’m angry because I’m sick and tired of the lies we have been told. That raiding the Treasury for huge tax cuts for the rich will trickle down to working people, when in fact the gulf between the superrich and everyone else has grown to unsustainable dimensions which threaten the very social compact. That waging a war of choice in Iraq would usher in a democratic resurgence and make us safe, when it has left the Middle East in lethal turmoil, cost the lives of many thousands of young soldiers, maimed many multiples more, and sapped the country’s capacity to attend to the urgent needs here at home, like roads and bridges and schools. When my grandson’s pre-K teacher tells us that she has to spend hundreds of dollars from her own pocket for school supplies, it makes my blood boil.

I’m angry because the first African American president, elected to do something about the wretched mess he inherited, with a financial system on the brink of collapse and a soaring unemployment rate — and who has done something about it — has been opposed and vilified at every turn, from a right-wing which questions his very legitimacy (down to the facts of his biography) and whose most passionate cause is to strip away health security from millions who now have it, thanks to this President, for the first time in their lives.

I’m angry because Black Lives Matter is so necessary, given the epidemic of police murders of Black and Brown people trying to go about their lives. The law, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, may not be able to make a man love me, but it can stop him from killing me. But when it is the law that is killing you, we have come very far from King’s hopeful promise.

I understand that many white men — and women and people of color as well — who have been left out of this economy, who can’t make ends meet, who feel that the American dream is not working for them, are very angry about this, and justifiably so. But I cannot countenance the misdirection of their anger, and the ugly bigotry that has been stoked by opportunistic politicians like Donald Trump. Their anger should be focused on the greedy and lawless and their enablers in politics, not on those who, like themselves, are casualties of a political and economic system that operates for the benefit of a privileged few, not for all of us.

My grandson will grow up in a country in which most people don’t look like him, in which people of color and women will be the overwhelming majority. If work hard to restore the momentum toward a just and inclusive society that filled my younger years with optimism and hope about the future, this new majority will take its rightful place in the leadership of our key institutions, from boardrooms to capitols. There will be room for him, too, if we turn this country’s priorities around. But he will make his way without benefit of the rigged rules that men of my generation grew up with, where women and minorities were largely excluded from the game. When everyone is included, everyone benefits. That’s why I’m channeling my anger into pushing for policies and the candidates who will back them, that make our democracy and our economy work for all people.

My one quibble: being born in 1954 doesn’t mean you’re old.  I was born in 1952 and I’m not old.

The New York Times endorses Hillary Clinton.

For the past painful year, the Republican presidential contenders have been bombarding Americans with empty propaganda slogans and competing, bizarrely, to present themselves as the least experienced person for the most important elected job in the world. Democratic primary voters, on the other hand, after a substantive debate over real issues, have the chance to nominate one of the most broadly and deeply qualified presidential candidates in modern history.

Hillary Clinton would be the first woman nominated by a major party. She served as a senator from a major state (New York) and as secretary of state — not to mention her experience on the national stage as first lady with her brilliant and flawed husband, President Bill Clinton. The Times editorial board has endorsed her three times for federal office — twice forSenate and once in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary — and is doing so again with confidence and enthusiasm.

Mrs. Clinton’s main opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described Democratic Socialist, has proved to be more formidable than most people, including Mrs. Clinton, anticipated. He has brought income inequality and the lingering pain of the middle class to center stage and pushed Mrs. Clinton a bit more to the left than she might have gone on economic issues. Mr. Sanders has also surfaced important foreign policy questions, including the need for greater restraint in the use of military force.

In the end, though, Mr. Sanders does not have the breadth of experience or policy ideas that Mrs. Clinton offers. His boldest proposals — to break up the banks and to start all over on health care reform with a Medicare-for-all system — have earned him support among alienated middle-class voters and young people. But his plans for achieving them aren’t realistic, while Mrs. Clinton has very good, and achievable, proposals in both areas.

The third Democratic contender, Martin O’Malley, is a personable and reasonable liberal who seems more suited for the jobs he has already had — governor of Maryland and mayor of Baltimore — than for president.

[…]

Mrs. Clinton has honed a steeliness that will serve her well in negotiating with a difficult Congress on critically important issues like climate change. It will also help her weather what are certain to be more attacks from Republicans and, should she win the White House, the possibility of the same ideological opposition and personal animus that President Obama has endured. Some of the campaign attacks are outrageous, like Donald Trump’s efforts to bring up Bill Clinton’s marital infidelity. Some, like those about Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server, are legitimate and deserve forthright answers.

Hillary Clinton is the right choice for the Democrats to present a vision for America that is radically different from the one that leading Republican candidates offer — a vision in which middle-class Americans have a real shot at prosperity, women’s rights are enhanced, undocumented immigrants are given a chance at legitimacy, international alliances are nurtured and the country is kept safe.

On the other side, the Times endorsed Ohio Gov. John Kasich for the Republican nomination:

Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, though a distinct underdog, is the only plausible choice for Republicans tired of the extremism and inexperience on display in this race. And Mr. Kasich is no moderate. As governor, he’s gone after public-sector unions, fought to limit abortion rights and opposed same-sex marriage.

Still, as a veteran of partisan fights and bipartisan deals during nearly two decades in the House, he has been capable of compromise and believes in the ability of government to improve lives. He favors a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and he speaks of government’s duty to protect the poor, the mentally ill and others “in the shadows.” While Republicans in Congress tried more than 60 times to kill Obamacare, Mr. Kasich did an end-run around Ohio’s Republican Legislature to secure a $13 billion Medicaid expansion to cover more people in his state.

“I am so tired of my colleagues out here on the stage spending all their time talking about Barack Obama,” he told a town hall crowd in New Hampshire. “His term is over.” Mr. Kasich said recently that he had “raised the bar in this election. I’ve talked about hope and the future and positive things.” In this race, how rare that is.

Catching Up With The Lies — Leonard Pitts, Jr. on vindication for Planned Parenthood.

We find ourselves embarked upon a post-empirical era in which the very idea that facts are knowable and concrete has become quaint. These days, facts are whatever the politics of the moment needs them to be.

We’ve seen this over and over in recent years. We’ve seen it in the controversy over Barack Obama’s birthplace, in the accusations that Sept. 11 was an inside job, in the charge that weapons of mass destruction were in fact discovered in Iraq, and in the claims that there is no scientific consensus about global warming.

Lunatic assertions that fly in the face of the known are now the norm in American political discourse. So last week’s news out of Houston came as a welcome jolt.

It seems Planned Parenthood was exonerated by a grand jury after an investigation into spurious charges the reproductive healthcare provider was selling baby parts for profit. Simultaneously, two so-called “citizen journalists” who orchestrated the hoax — David Daleiden, 27, and Sandra Merritt, 62 — were indicted.

It was a moment of sweet vindication for Planned Parenthood, following months of vilification and investigation. This all sprang from a series of videos secretly recorded by Daleiden’s anti-abortion group, “Center For Medical Progress” during conversations with officials of various Planned Parenthood affiliates.

Released last year, the videos purported to show the officials negotiating the sale of fetal tissue with people they believed to be medical researchers.

As Planned Parenthood first protested, an investigation by FactCheck.org later indicated, and a grand jury now affirms, the videos were deceptively edited.

Tissue from aborted fetuses has been used in biomedical research since the 1930s to study everything from polio to Parkinson’s, and while the law prohibits its sale, the patient is allowed to donate it, and Planned Parenthood is allowed to recoup reasonable costs for preparation and transportation to supply it to scientists.

This is what the Planned Parenthood representatives were talking about. This is what the videos were edited to hide.

One is reminded of how, back in 2010, another activist used another deceptively-edited video to suggest that a speech by a black federal employee named Shirley Sherrod was proof of anti-white hatred. It turned out Sherrod’s speech actually made precisely the opposite point; she spoke of the need to overcome such hatred.

That video, like these, suggests that what we’re dealing with here is not “citizen journalists” — whatever that idiotic term even means — but activist zealots out to advance their agenda and embarrass their opponents by any means necessary, without regard to simple decency or plain old truth. Increasingly, that is the way of things.

So it’s welcome news that the two CPM hoaxers find themselves facing felony charges for allegedly using falsified driver’s licenses to identify themselves to Planned Parenthood.

We are told that that constitutes fraud. In other words, Daleiden and Merritt were ensnared by the trap they set. Justice seldom gets more poetic.

Yes, lies have always moved faster than truth. But it feels good to see truth pull even every now and then.

Doonesbury — Thanks for nothing.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Ending With A Whimper

I was all set to write about the end of the occupation in Oregon and what a waste of both time and life — and loss — it was, but Josh Marshall said everything I wanted to say and a lot better.

When I heard that [LaVoy] Finicum had died my own feeling was some mix of sadness and disgust – not because I sympathized with Finicum, he clearly seemed to want to end his life like this, but because of how sad and stupid it is to throw away your life over bullshit. He had a wife and eleven kids. No doubt they’re devastated. Even with the rankest violent white supremacists or jihadis who blow themselves up or get themselves killed, I can get that there’s a thing they’re doing, a set of beliefs, albeit crazy and totally evil. Here, though, these guys have this bucket of nonsense hocum about Magna Carta and Sheriffs somehow being the true “sovereigns” over state governments, federal governments, the people themselves and all of this means the federal government can’t manage and charge grazing fees for land that it in fact owns. These aren’t archaic ideas that were once true but are now outdated. This stuff was never true or even made any sense. Clearly, there’s a sense of alienation and entitlement and a cultural posture driving these beliefs but I’m sorry, that’s just a complete f’ing pile of nonsense that isn’t based on anything. Like I said, it’s sad to see someone throw their life away over bullshit. Not because Finicum matters to me but because senseless bloodshed is sad and stupid and with any life ultimately tragic.

There are still some holdouts at the Malheur facility, but I hope that it is now over.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

We Broke It, You Fix It

You knew it would come to this.

The corporatist network is now circling the wagons around Michigan Governor Rick Snyder over his administration’s poisoning of Flint’s drinking water. This time it’s none other than the American Legislative Exchange Council. It’s not the Snyder administration that’s responsible, they say, it’s the retired city workers and their blood-sucking union pensions that are to blame…

See? Rick Snyder is just a victim of the leeches on the jugular vein of society: retired city workers. The fact that his administration has failed the city on nearly every level and at nearly every juncture is, according to these corporate titans and saviors of society, irrelevant.

Their article, by the way, is titled “The Government Poisoned Flint’s Water—So Stop Blaming Everyone Else” and has the subtitle “A failure of local government, brought on by public employee pensions.” It’s a catchy title because it says government is responsible, which it is. But the government they are talking about is the one that had no political power at the time the events leading to the poisoning of their drinking water were happening: local Flint officials.

I frankly don’t think these people believe their own rhetoric. They’re just paid very well to espouse them.

And now they will use this as a lesson in how government is a failure and we would all be much better off if the country was run by Walmart.

Oregon Update

After more than three weeks at a standoff, things are coming to a boil at the occupied federal bird sanctuary in Oregon.

NBC News:

Ammon and Ryan Bundy, the brothers leading anti-government protesters occupying Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, and six other people were arrested Tuesday, state and federal authorities said. One person was dead, the FBI said.

Shots were fired about 4:25 p.m. (7:25 p.m. ET) when the FBI and Oregon State Police began an “enforcement action” in connection with the occupation, the FBI said.

Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum, 54, was killed, his daughter, Challice Finicum Finch, confirmed to NBC News on Tuesday night.

“We all thought it would end, but not like this,” Finch said. “My dad did stress that they wouldn’t pull a gun on them [officers] unless they pulled a gun. They were all committed to not firing on federal agents.”

Finicum himself told NBC News the same thing in an interview Jan. 6. In the interview, he said that he had no intention of being taken into custody, preferring death to jail.

“There are things more important than your life, and freedom is one of them,” he said at the time. “I’m prepared to defend freedom.”

Three other people were arrested in addition to the Bundys in the initial incident, authorities said: Brian Cavalier, 44, of Bunkerville, Nevada; Shawna Cox, 59, of Kanab, Utah; and Ryan Waylen Payne, 32, of Anaconda, Montana.

Two more — Joseph Donald O’Shaughnessy, 45, of Cottonwood, Arizona, and Peter Santilli, 50, of Cincinnati — were arrested later in separate but related incidents, the FBI said.

Let’s hope that is the end of it.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunday Reading

Who Poisoned Flint? — David A. Graham in The Atlantic reads the e-mails that tell the story.

Why did it take so long for state and federal government to do something about lead in the water in Flint, Michigan? Or, put another way, who is to blame, and who should have fixed it?There’s a telling moment within the 274 pages of emails released by Governor Rick Snyder’s office about Flint. Dennis Muchmore, then chief of staff to the governor, puzzles over who should be on the hook. He gripes about Representative Dan Kildee, and mentions former state Treasurer Andy Dillon.

[…]

Muchmore went on, “The real responsibility resists with the County, city and [Flint’s water authority], but since the issue here is the health of citizens and their children, we’re taking a pro-active approach.”

The question of who really is responsible has become suddenly widespread. On Thursday, news broke that the U.S. House will call Snyder to testify. The EPA official responsible for Michigan also resigned on Thursday. Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have both called for Snyder to resign. The Wall Street Journal points a finger at every level of government. Disentangling the blame proves to be a difficult task.

Muchmore’s statement may seem a bit callous, but his mention of Dillon is somewhat tangential: After all, Dillon’s role was simply to sign off on the change to taking water from the Flint River, because of the size of the transaction. But Muchmore omitted the reason why Dillon was involved—a fact that also complicates his assignment of blame to the city. The switch to water from the Flint River occurred under the oversight of an emergency manager appointed by Snyder. Under a state law that Snyder signed, the governor can appoint a manager to take over cities in financial emergency.Prior to the switch, Flint had been preparing to move away from water provided by Detroit’s water service and toward a pipeline that would bring water directly from Lake Huron. (The city council did have a chance to weigh in on that change, and supported it 7-1.) But when Flint made the decision, the Detroit Water Services District announced it would terminate service to Flint a year later. That was legal under the contract, but it put Flint in a bad spot, since the new pipeline wasn’t going to be complete in a year. DWSD shrugged, saying Flint should have expected it. That’s how the emergency manager, Darnell Earley, ended up overseeing the switch to water from the Flint River. Flint residents and leaders blame Earley for the decision; Earley insists it was their idea. (Flint reconnected to Detroit water late last year, but there’s lasting damage to the pipes.)In any case, the final authority for the decision rested with Earley, the manager. That makes it jarring to see Muchmore write, in the same email quoted above, that the state departments of Environmental Quality and Community Health complained that the water issue had become “a political football”

[…]

For one thing, it had become clear by the time of writing, in September 2015, that Flint’s water had dangerous levels of lead. The residents weren’t just angry because they saw a partisan gain—they were angry about brown and apparently tainted water coming out of their faucets. Meanwhile, their political representation had been directly curtailed by the appointment of the emergency manager who oversaw the switch. Officials in Lansing withdrew Flint’s power to govern itself, but when Flint begged Lansing for help, it was told that the problem was Flint’s alone.

End It Already — Charlie Pierce is fed up with the kids playing occupiers.

Enough is enough. I mean, really. It’s time for federal law enforcement to, you know, enforce federal law.

On the other end was an FBI negotiator who identified himself to Bundy only as “Chris.” And so opened talks between the leader of the refuge occupation and the federal agency in charge of bringing an end to the armed takeover, now in its third week. For nearly an hour around noontime, the negotiator listened to Bundy’s well-practiced litany of complaints against the federal government while probing for what it would take to end his occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. They ended the call with the promise to talk again Friday.

Isn’t that sweet?

The people of Harney County are fed up. The governor of Oregon is fed up. A group of armed jamokes—some of them with long criminal histories outside of the crimes they are committing at the moment—has seized federal property on federal land and the only people who seem sanguine about the whole business are the federal authorities. The thieves have been allowed to come and go fairly at will. They’ve been allowed to state their case at town meetings. And they’ve been allowed to return to the scene of their current crimes over and over again. Enough. If the FBI is still gun-shy about Ruby Ridge and about Waco, it has had enough chances to arrest these people without storming their winter clown encampment.

In sometimes highly personal remarks, speaker after speaker vented anger—at public officials, at the federal government and at the man in the brown cowboy hat sitting high in the bleachers to take it all in—Ammon Bundy. He and other armed militants on Jan. 2 seized the headquarters compound of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, situated 30 miles southeast of Burns. The refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He sat on the second row from the top as County Judge Steve Grasty, microphone in hand, strode to the foot of that bleacher section.”It is time for you to go home,” Grasty said to Bundy, vowing to meet with Bundy anytime,  anyplace—outside of Harney County. A chant then grew in the gymnasium: “Go, go, go, go, go.” That was a message Bundy heard repeatedly through the evening, one he once vowed to heed. He sat expressionless, making no move to respond or to comment.

Can someone please explain to me why Ammon Bundy wasn’t arrested as he sat in the bleachers? Or on the way to the meeting? Or on the way back to the land he is attempting to steal from the rest of us? If the FBI had been this tender about people’s feelings throughout its history, John Dillinger would have died in his bed at the age of 103 and Fred Hampton might still be alive.

Nothing good can come of waiting these people out anymore. By their lights, they’ve already won, the way Ammon’s deadbeat father, Cliven, won when itinerant gunmen faced down lawful authority, an episode that led directly to the one in Oregon that already has gone on too long. (By the way, the elder Bundy is still a scofflaw who owes you and me $1 million.) And it’s important to remember that they are only the shiny object shock troops of a general conservative movement to destroy what’s left of the commons by taking over the public lands, especially in the West.

Outside of its 180-degree pivot on race, nothing demonstrates how far the Republican Party has strayed from its own history than its abandonment of its legacy as the party of conservation and the environment. The whole idea of preserving public lands for the people of the United States was a Republican idea, root and branch. Abraham Lincoln signed the legislation putting Yosemite under federal protection. The Antiquities Act was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. For a century, the preservation of the public lands was as close to a bipartisan project as we’ve had. It outlasted McCarthyism and the turmoil of the 1960s and the backlash of the 1970s and even, to an extent, the rise of Ronald Reagan, in which the seeds of the current threat to public lands first were sown.

“Noises Off” Is Still On — Michael Shulman in The New Yorker on the undying appeal of the farce.

Wednesday afternoon; a British country home. The phone rings, and a housekeeper named Mrs. Clackett galumphs in from the servants’ quarters, carrying a plate of sardines. In a weary Cockney accent, she informs the caller that her employer is in Spain. His wife’s in Spain, too. She blanches. “Am I in Spain? No, I’m not in Spain, dear.” She hangs up and begins to leave, as her accent suddenly jumps up several socioeconomic notches and she mumbles to herself, “And I take the sardines. No, I leave the sardines. No, I take the sardines.”

If Mrs. Clackett seems like a stock character in a British comedy—the grouchy, bumbling maid—that’s because she is one. We are watching the dress rehearsal for a play called “Nothing On,” whose doomed tour through English towns like Ashton-under-Lyne and Stockton-on-Tees is the subject of “Noises Off,” Michael Frayn’s ingenious 1982 farce within a farce. A sort of theatrical turducken, the play has a lot to tell us about the comedy of chaos. Paradoxically, it only works when it runs like clockwork: everything has to go right for everything to go so wrong. Fortunately, the Roundabout’s revival, which just opened at the American Airlines Theatre, under the shipshape direction of Jeremy Herrin, nails nearly every slamming door, pants-around-the-ankles pratfall, and flung plate of sardines.

About those sardines: keep your eye on them. And on the telephone. And on the newspaper Mrs. Clackett can’t remember whether to take offstage. By magnifying the minutiae—props, cues, stuck doorknobs—Frayn blows up perhaps the most banal aspect of theatre-making to absurd proportions. Or, as Lloyd (Campbell Scott), the beleaguered director of “Nothing On,” puts it, “That’s what it’s all about. Doors and sardines. Getting on, getting off. Getting the sardines on, getting the sardines off. That’s farce. That’s the theatre. That’s life.” It’s not until we see every exit and entrance go absurdly, madly, hilariously askew that we begin to see his point. Viewed from a certain angle, life is about little things that can slip, crack, and slam in our faces.

Perhaps that’s why “Noises Off” is such a crowd-pleaser, frequently revived and frequently beloved. Over three acts, we follow the accident-prone actors as their missed cues and accumulating rivalries lead to catastrophe for “Nothing On” but hilarity for “Noises Off.” Sardines fly, cactuses are sat upon. Frayn gives each character just enough distinction to make the tomfoolery comprehensible. Dotty (the wonderful Andrea Martin), who plays the housekeeper, is a slumming grand dame. Brooke (Megan Hilty), who plays a blond bimbo, keeps losing her contact lenses. Selsdon (Daniel Davis) is a drunk. (The rest of the ace ensemble includes Jeremy Shamos, David Furr, and Kate Jennings Grant, as actors, and Tracee Chimo and Rob McClure, as hapless stagehands.) Likewise, the characters they play in “Nothing On” have only one or two quirks apiece. The point isn’t to delve into individual psychology but to marvel at the extremity of gracelessness, choreographed with meticulous grace.

Doonesbury — At a minimum.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Well, That Was Awkward

Via Raw Story:

While visiting lawmakers’ offices in Olympia with representatives from Planned Parenthood during Teen Lobbying Days, the group of Eastern Washington teens were stunned when State Rep. Mary Dye (R-Pomeroy) quizzed them over whether they had ever had sex.

Rachel Todd, a Planned Parenthood worker accompanying the kids, said that Dye asked them if they were virgins and indicated that one of them might not be.

“After she made the statement about virginity, all of my teens looked at me,” said Todd. “And I said, ‘You don’t have to answer that. You don’t have to answer that.’”

Failing to get a response, Dye shared some of her own views on marriage and sex.

Oh, I’m sure the teens were all just dying to hear about that.

One student at the meeting, Alex Rubino, called her conduct “insane.”

“It seemed kind of insane for her to say that, especially on the record, to constituents,” said Rubino, who noted that her lecture to the students came “unprompted.”

Yeah, that just about sums it up.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Year From Today

A year from today will be the first day of a new president’s administration.  Hopefully it will not be the first day of the administration of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or Jeb Bush, and Barack Obama will have left office to someone who is not going to turn the clock and the country back to whatever it would be for someone who demands that they “want our country back.”

Keeping with my New Year’s Eve prediction, I believe it will be Hillary Clinton, but a year is an eternity in politics, and a year ago no one really believed that Donald Trump would be the GOP front runner or that Bernie Sanders would be running neck-and-neck in some polls with Ms. Clinton.

One thing that I know will not change is that the right wing noise machine will still be in full force and that even if the Democrats re-take the Senate and chip away at the GOP majority in the House, the Republicans will still be in full denial and recalcitrance mode.  The vow to thwart a Democratic president’s every move will be renewed if not redoubled; a wounded and tattered GOP is still dangerous, and after losing three presidential elections in a row, they will not be in any mood to compromise, and they will, of course, blame it all on everyone else.

I have no idea what it will take to get them to break away from their desperate nail-hold on some semblance of power, and shake off the lunacy that somehow “the American people” are with them or agree with their fringe views on women, minorities, immigration, guns, and taxes.  But as long as they’re held in the thrall of a few people with a lot of money to support their 18th century views on equality and rights, they will keep pushing for them.  Money is a powerful drug and so far there is no cure or rehab for it in politics.

If though, by some stunning reversal of evolution and progress, a Republican is walking in to the Oval Office a year from today, it will be as if the country is rewarding them for their infantile and reckless behavior over the last thirty years, made all the worse by the number of Democrats, independents, and even the few remaining moderate Republicans who decided they were above it all and found some excuse for not voting the previous November.

So we have a year, folks.  A year to get ready to take on the money, the hatred, the gob-smacking lies and grasps of desperation that will infest this nation until November 2016 and beyond.  It’s not going to get easier and trust me when I tell you that there will be many times we are going to get to the point of saying the hell with it and start Googling permanent residence status in St. Kitts.  But it’s our country, too, and I’m not going to give it over to the fear and loathing crowd.  Not without a fight.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Letter To The Editor

Ursula K. LeGuin, renowned novelist and resident of Oregon, has a bone to pick with The Oregonian newspaper about their coverage of the camp-out at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

The Oregonian’s A1 headline on Sunday, Jan. 17, “Effort to free federal lands,” is inaccurate and irresponsible. The article that follows it is a mere mouthpiece for the scofflaws illegally occupying public buildings and land, repeating their lies and distortions of history and law.

Ammon Bundy and his bullyboys aren’t trying to free federal lands, but to hold them hostage. I can’t go to the Malheur refuge now, though as a citizen of the United States, I own it and have the freedom of it. That’s what public land is: land that belongs to the public — me, you, every law-abiding American. The people it doesn’t belong to and who don’t belong there are those who grabbed it by force of arms, flaunting their contempt for the local citizens.

Those citizens of Harney County have carefully hammered out agreements to manage the refuge in the best interest of landowners, scientists, visitors, tourists, livestock and wildlife. They’re suffering more every day, economically and otherwise, from this invasion by outsiders.

Instead of parroting the meaningless rants of a flock of Right-Winged Loonybirds infesting the refuge, why doesn’t The Oregonian talk to the people who live there?

Ursula K. Le Guin

Pretty much says it all.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

He Is Rather Untoward

A committee of the British Parliament debated whether or not to ban Donald Trump from entering the country after over 570,000 people signed a petition requesting the action.

  • The Home Office has said Donald Trump must live up to his promise of investing in Britain, after British MPs branded the Republican candidate a ‘buffoon, demagogue and wazzock’.
  • The three-hour debate this afternoon was sparked by a petition which gained 570,000 signatures, following Mr Trump’s call to ban all Muslims from entering America.
  • There will be no direct action as a result of the debate and there was no vote on the isssue, but MPs agreed they ‘duly considered’ the petition.

The government responded to the debate:

James Brokenshire, the Immigration Minister is responding to the debate on behalf of the government.

He says Trump’s suggestion to ban Muslims ignores the fact Muslims themselves are victims of terrorism.

He said: “We’ve also had comments in relation to Donald Trump’s comments in respect of investment in Scotland- the UK government has never given Mr Trump awards or appointments.

“Mr Trump has threatened to withhold investment in Scotland in response to the calls to ban him from the UK. Over the years Mr Trump has made a number of statements about the different scale of his investment in the UK and his willingness to maintain them.

“The UK is the number one destination in European Union for inward investment, the World Bank has ranked the UK as the sixth easiest place in he world to do business, so any organisation that makes promises about investment in the UK should live up to those promises.”

Echoing David Cameron’s comments earlier, he says Britain must work together to fight radicalisation and calls the county a “successful multi-racial, multi-ethnic” democracy.

He says the US remains our most important bilateral partner and it remains within our interests to engage with all US presidential candidates.

Mr Brokenshire tells MPs the Home Secretary considers a person’s right under article 10 of the European convention on human rights and thier freedom of speech.

But added: “We do not comment on individual matters”, for “sound legal reasons”.

Paul Flynn, who led today’s debate, says he hopes today’s conclusion will enhance our relationship with America.

I have no idea what a “wazzock” is, but I’m sure that Donald Trump is one.

Friday, January 15, 2016

New York State of Mind

I didn’t watch the GOP debate last night — I don’t even know where Fox Business channel is on the cable system here — but the news I’m hearing is that in defending “New York values,” Donald Trump came out looking like the compassionate one as compared to Ted Cruz.

Bartiromo asks Cruz about Cruz’s dig at Trump for having “New York values”. What did he mean by that?

“I think most people know exactly what New York values are,” Cruz says. And then to Bartiromo:

You’re from New York, so you might not. …Everyone understands that the values of New York City are socially liberal, pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, centered on money.

Not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan. I’m just sayin.’

Trump replies: “Conservatives actually do come out of Manhattan, including William F Buckley and others… New York is a great place, it’s got great people, it’s got loving people,” Trump says.

Then he plays the 9/11 card:

When the World Trade Center came down, I saw something that no place on earth could have handled more beautifully, more humanely.

Even the smell of death, it was with us for months. And we rebuilt. … That was a very insulting statement that Ted made.

Mr. Cruz is playing to the base that thinks New York is the bastion of liberal elites, not to mention “others” such as, well, you know, “those people.”  And it took Donald Trump of all people to tell him that New York is everybody and make him, Mr. Trump, look good in comparison to the junior senator from Texas.

Charlie Pierce:

This is what happens when you dedicate your entire political career to alienating anyone who can do you any good. You wind up in a death struggle with a vulgar talking yam and nobody has your back. In fact, more than a few people who might’ve helped you out, had you not been a dickhead big enough to have been carved by a Borglum, actually start whispering that, hey, you know that vulgar talking yam has a point here.

Welcome to NFL football, Tailgunner Ted Cruz.

It has not been a good week for the Tailgunner, poll numbers in Iowa notwithstanding. I agree with Steve M. that the revelation that his first Senate campaign was an upset financed largely with help from Goldman Sachs, where his wife is in upper management, is not likely to hurt him with the base voters. I would go further and say that it’s not going to hurt him in the general election, either, except in the unlikely event that he’s running against Bernie Sanders. Call me cynical, but I don’t see Hillary Rodham Clinton attacking anyone for their closeness to Wall Street without half the country dissolving in what my mother used to call HIGH-sterics. Still, having your lift-off bankrolled by the Great Vampire Squid does lend a kind of distinctly non-populist stench to the enterprise.

Reading Frank Bruni’s wrap-up, I’m glad I didn’t watch.  It sounded like just another GOP round of schoolyard bullying.  Who needs that?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Getting The Right Guys

The campers in Oregon are coming up on their third week of playing occupiers, that is when they’re not running off to town for French vanilla coffee creamers and pizza.  And they’re starting to attract a few admirers.

Via C&L:

A militant who recently joined Ammon Bundy’s armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as the resident computer expert is a follower of Adolf Hitler and has expressed support for ISIS.

David Fry told Oregon Public Broadcasting that he drove from Ohio to join the occupation because he knew that the other militants “were pretty good people.”

“It was (a) miracle, that I got here,” Fry said. “I’ve had quarrels with the government myself, and I feel there has to be some point where people have to put their foot down against the problems.”

Earlier this week, Fry recorded a video from one of the government buildings that militants are using as a computer and media center. He explained that he had created a website for the occupation.

Fry confirmed to Oregon Public Broadcasting that he had used government computers to create the website.

“I am using any computer I can use,” he said. “Their data is perfectly preserved … you can’t access any of that, it’s got encryption on it.”

During an examination of Fry’s social media accounts, Oregon Public Broadcasting found that he had posted in support of the Islamic State and frequently praised Adolf Hitler.

“ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS FOR ISIS TO NUKE ISRAELHELL!” Fry wrote in November.

Sounds like a good fit.

Let’s All Over-React

The Iran/U.S. Navy “crisis” lasted about twenty minutes.  Here, according to John Cole at Balloon Juice, is what happened:

Navy: Derp.

Iran: Hey guys, whatcha doing?

Navy: Umm, uhh, fishing?

Iran: No, you’re not.

Navy: Ok. You got us.

Iran: Alright, come on now.

And then the sailors got to hang out for a while until our guy called their guy and they had a little chat and then everyone got to go on with their business.  The end.

To hear the nutsery tell it, it was Pearl Harbor, D-Day, and the Cuban missile crisis all in one, and IT WAS ALL OBAMA’S FAULT!

Charlie Pierce:

Sometimes, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, it is better to let the news cycle play out and be thought a fool than to tweet and remove all doubt.

Secretary of State John Kerry thanked the Iranians “for their cooperation in swiftly resolving this matter” and suggested that the quick resolution of the issue was a product of the nearly daily back-and-forth that now takes place between Washington and Tehran, after three decades of hostility and stony silence. “That this issue was resolved peacefully and efficiently is a testament to the critical role diplomacy plays in keeping our country safe, secure and strong,” he said in a statement Wednesday morning.

We got our people back and, this time, we didn’t even have to send them missiles! It’s a new era!

(And may I just say, those are some nice rugs there. They really tie the room together.)

Of course, this all happened in the middle of the night in the eastern United States, so a lot of the usual suspects had a full 12 hours to decide how far off the diving board they really wanted to go. They did not disappoint. They rarely do.

Wouldn’t it be a hoot if we found out that President Obama and Iran plotted this all out just in time for the SOTU speech so that he could make the Villagers and the nutsery look like the idiots that they are?  That would have been perfect.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Haley’s Comet

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) was the designated GOP responder to the SOTU.  It’s usually a thankless job, and it’s often brought with it the curse of ignominy and mockery — think of Bobby Jindal’s audition for Nerd of the Year or Marco Rubio’s water bottle — so I am pretty sure that when the RNC called Gov. Haley and said “Tag, you’re it,” she probably didn’t jump up and say “Goody!”

I didn’t watch her response, but the pundits are telling us that she was frankly honest about the role the GOP has played in dividing the country and said that they have to do better.

“We as Republicans need to own that truth. We need to recognize our contributions to the erosion of the public trust in America’s leadership. We need to accept that we’ve played a role in how and why our government is broken,” Haley said. “And then we need to fix it.”

That didn’t go over well with the nutsery.

“Trump should deport Nikki Haley,” conservative commentator Ann Coulter tweeted part way through Haley’s speech. She later added: “Nikki Haley says ‘welcoming properly vetted legal immigrants, regardless of religion.’ Translation: let in all the Muslims.”

Ironically, by being the grown-up and conciliatory, she’s basically blown any chance she had at being on anyone’s short list as the running mate.

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.

Rallying The White Folks

Donald Trump is getting some help for his campaign from a likely source.

William Daniel Johnson, founder and treasurer for American National Super PAC, told TPM in a Monday phone interview that he plans to reach out to voters in both Iowa and New Hampshire with recorded messages trumpeting Trump’s anti-immigrant policies. TPM first reported on the robocalls Saturday after receiving a recording of the call from a reader in the Hawkeye State.

The robocall featured endorsements from Johnson, who is also the chairman of the white nationalist American Freedom Party; Jared Taylor, the founder of the white supremacist magazine American Renaissance and a spokesman for the Council of Concerned Citizens; and Rev. Donald Tan, a Christian radio host.

On the call, Taylor said that the U.S. should only accept “immigrants who are good for America.”

“We need smart, well-educated white people who will assimilate to our culture,” he said. “Vote Trump.”

And based on his past performance, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for Mr. Trump to denounce or distance himself from this gang.  He’s been pitching for their support since he got into the race… no pun intended.