Time Mismanagement

freehandRepublicans, unconcerned with progress or sensible public policy, have plenty of free time to devote to other pursuits. Like feigning outrage. For that, and only for that, Barack Obama has been their ideal President. The apparent unflappability, exotic background, swift rise from obscurity, technocratic approach to governance and pigmentary uniqueness among Chief Executives are all ideally pitched to prompt sputtering Republican ire. It doesn’t even matter that it’s mostly as forced and insincere as a junior high production of a fifth-rate operetta; the GOP’s stenographic corps in the mainstream media reliably take it at face value.

Autobiographical revelations of madrassa attendance and youthful drug use, cherry-picked Jeremiah Wright sermons, the mythical “Whitey” tape, the remarks about “clinging to guns and religion,” the “57 states” gaffe, the “terrorist fist jab” with wife Michelle, the Middle Eastern and European “Apology Tour” and those faux-classical columns at the convention provided all the warm-up necessary.

Once the President took office, Republicans went on to being incensed by the Beer Summit (racism!), the auto bailout (socialism!), the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (big socialism!), Cash for Clunkers (socialism, sorta!), Obamacare and its attendant “death panels” (huge socialism!), vacations in Hawaii and Martha’s Vineyard (elitism!), withdrawal from Iraq (cowardice!), new CAFE standards (tyranny, tree-hugging!), IRS-gate (abuse of power!), Benghazi (treason, cowardice and abuse of power!), golfing (shiftlessness!), tan suits (um… gauche!) coffee cup salutes (arrogance, shiftlessness, with a soupçon of elitism!), and a host of other non-scandals so contrived and picayune most Republicans don’t even remember them.

Each of these tantrum-ticklers, it turns out, was mere prelude to Republican reaction to the President’s recent executive actions on immigration. Note to aspiring conservative naysayers out there: churlish and peevish are passé; this season, nothing but full-on hysteria will do.

Felon-in-waiting Michele Bachmann believes the immigration measures are a ploy to produce an army of illegal but dependable Democratic voters:

“The social cost will be profound on the U.S. taxpayer — millions of unskilled, illiterate, foreign nationals coming into the United States who can’t speak the English language… Even though the president says they won’t be able to vote, we all know that many, in all likelihood, will vote.”

Rabies-afflicted Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who also discussed with a caller to his radio show the idea that Hispanics could undertake “ethnic cleansing” in America, had his own variation on this theme, with bonus points for working in the S-word:

“There is still a decided bias in favor of bigger government not smaller government. So maybe this strategy of replacing American voters with newly legalized aliens, if you look at it through an ethnic lens… you’ve got a locked in vote for socialism.”

Tom Coburn, that poster child for gravitas, warned of civil unrest:

“The country’s going to go nuts, because they’re going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it’s going to be a very serious situation… You’re going to see — hopefully not — but you could see instances of anarchy… You could see violence.”

Rick Santorum’s evident distress stemmed from his deep concern for minorities and the working poor. Or so he wants everyone, including himself, to believe:

“You know who gets hurt the most by this? Hispanics in America. Lower-income workers in America. You’re adding 5 million mostly unskilled workers into a labor pool where wages are declining, when median income in America is declining… We’re going to flood the labor market and we’re going to hurt Hispanics, we’re going to blacks and lower-income whites, and he does this out of compassion? He’s doing this as a slap-in-the-face to every working American.”

Hugh Hewitt’s plaint was similar:

“The people in the country illegally will know shortly that this stunt… does not help them and may in fact hurt them – badly… The president’s lawless act will have the apparently contradictory impact of both making life harder for ‘those in the shadows’ by increasing the reluctance of employers to hire the obviously illegal, while at the same time attracting millions more north across the fenceless border.”

Though Hewitt too rushed to the defense of the document his beloved GW Bush once described as “a goddamn piece of paper”:

“… a disfigurement of the Constitution which will lead to future disfigurements. Wait until the environmentalists learn that a GOP president can suspend enforcement of their beloved if crazy Endangered Species Act.  Wait until all sorts of special interests realize that their special interest legislation can be suspended at a stroke of a pen.”

Mike Kelly, an obscure Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania, believes the President’s actions are unprecedented:

“The country is witnessing something right now that I don’t think in our entire history we’ve ever looked at, a constitutional crisis…”

Or perhaps precedented. It’s a little hard to tell:

“Right now in the history of our country we have never had such an internal crisis as we’ve had, not since the mid-1800s, of what we’re going through right now. Why would this president choose this issue and cause a constitutional crisis?”

Peter Wehner, who worked in the White House under Reagan, Bush and Bush the Lesser and has thus seen, up close, more constitutional violations than almost anyone alive, took a similar tack: Continue reading Time Mismanagement

Stormy Monday, 12/1/14

StormyMondayThe Wall Street Journal CEO Council convenes for its annual meeting today and tomorrow in Washington, giving people noteworthy for having been promoted beyond their level of competence an opportunity to hear and applaud people noteworthy for having fleeced a majority of their constituents. This year’s scintillating guests include Jeb Bush, Mitch McConnell, Rob Portman and Rand Paul. National Security Adviser Susan Rice will also be there; perhaps the organizers got her confused with Condoleezza.

An NAACP protest march from Ferguson to Jefferson City, Missouri got underway on the weekend and is expected to reach the Governor’s Mansion on Saturday. Whatever time of day marchers arrive, I’m sure they’ll find Jay Nixon seriously out to lunch. Demonstrations continue in cities across the nation, while things have taken a turn for the better back in Ferguson: Darren Wilson tendered his resignation over the weekend.

The White House will announce badly needed changes to the disbursal of military surplus equipment to law enforcement agencies today, along with $263 million in new funding for body cameras and officer training. The President and Vice President will spend the afternoon in meetings with the Cabinet, civil rights leaders, politicians, clerics and law enforcement officials to seek ways to improve cooperation and communication between police departments and communities.

Will the least productive Congress in history use its lame duck session to get anything accomplished? Of course not, but they’re already pretending very hard that they want to. Keeping the government funded past December 11 is a nominal priority, with House and Senate Appropriations Committees aiming at having a spending bill ready by December 8, leaving up to three days for so-called legislators to preen in front of TV cameras while dispensing empty platitudes. Business tax break extensions will also be debated, though the President has signaled he’ll veto them for lacking cost offsets and failing to include renewed tax credits for low-income Americans. Also on the agenda is renewal of the NDAA, a once-routine matter that became litigious as soon as the President wasn’t a white guy. Both parties are still happy to confer obscene amounts of money on the Pentagon, of course, the only difference being the preferred degree of obscenity.

Time’s up for Mary Landrieu on Saturday, when the runoff between the incumbent Governor and her Republican challenger Bill Cassidy will finally answer the question: Does Louisiana prefer to be governed by a bad Democrat or a bad Republican? Early voting is already pointing strongly to the latter choice. As much as it pains me to see Democrats lose another Senate seat on top of last month’s eight, and while there’s no doubt Cassidy will be far worse than the incumbent, I’m going to accentuate the positive and just enjoy Landrieu’s heave-ho from public life. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 12/1/14

Stormy Monday, 11/24/14

StormyMondayRacist, sexist, homophobic jackass and Speaker-designee of the Nevada Assembly Ira Hansen, a – surprise! – Republican, will resign his speakership, presumably this week, after excerpts of controversial (meaning astoundingly stupid and deeply objectionable) columns he wrote for the Sparks Tribune between 1994 and 2010 were reprinted by Reno News & Review, an alternative weekly. It’s not clear whether he will also resign his seat. Like any self-respecting member of the Party of Personal Responsibility, Hansen blamed his troubles on “a carefully orchestrated attack to remove a conservative Republican from a major leadership role in State government.” For good measure, his official statement included a baleful reference to “deliberate character assassination and the politics of personal destruction.” Uh-huh.

Michael Brown Sr. and a group of supporters went door to door in Ferguson, Missouri on Saturday, handing out turkeys to surprised residents, as the community and the nation await a grand jury decision on charges against Darren Wilson. “Everyone is suffering over this… I came back to make sure that people have a nice Thanksgiving,” Brown told reporters. The grand jury will reconvene Monday, according to an e-mail circulated to members of St. Louis business advocacy group Downtown STL Inc. Ferguson remains under a state of emergency declared by Governor Jay Nixon last week, when the grand jury was originally expected to announce its findings.

Speaking of free turkeys, DC’s annual Ward 8 Turkey Giveaway, scheduled for Tuesday, will have to go ahead without its founder, Councilman and former Mayor Marion Berry, who died early Sunday morning after returning home from a brief hospital stay. A family announcement regarding funeral arrangements is still pending.

The President heads home to Chicago on Tuesday as part of the administration ‘s continuing sales pitch for newly announced executive actions on immigration. He’ll speak at the Copernicus Center after participating in an immigration roundtable at the city’s Polish American Association.

Buffalo and area residents begin the week braced for flooding as a warm front encounters last week’s enormous snow accumulations. As of this writing, Monday’s high temperature is predicted to be 61, with sustained winds of 25 miles an hour and gusts up to 55 also forecast. Rain began Saturday, greatly adding to the likelihood of more collapsing roofs. Tuesday’s forecast is for six more inches of lake effect snow, as temperatures again approach whatever it is that passes for seasonal norms these days. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 11/24/14

Consequences

freehandWell. With last week’s little unpleasantness out of the way, it’s at least a small relief that the cable news networks have mothballed their portentous horn-laden stings and seizure-inducing election-themed graphics. Until shortly before the first ’16 primary, anyway.

It’s less comforting that their energies now shift to helping Republicans craft their Grand Obstructionist Lame Duck narrative for the last half of the last term of Barack Obama, one where the “deeply unpopular” President, still diligently portrayed as a disengaged and feckless weakling, will nonetheless also be vilified as a stubborn, unreasoning bulwark against the bold (though coincidentally asinine) policy ideas of Republicans, through his preternatural command of a microphone and a veto pen.

Unless Republicans impeach him, of course, in which case… well, who the hell knows? Personally, I’d be delighted if the President were to veto everything the new Republican majorities stink up the inbox of the Resolute Desk with, and publicly call them all out as mendacious shitweasels in his next SOTU before daring them to start impeachment proceedings. Alas, that’s not going to happen.

As is his wont, the President will pick his battles with a seeming overabundance of caution, especially early on as the parties begin to square off in Congress. And that very well might entail his signature on some misshapen, though – one hopes – not monstrous legislation. In a landscape this ugly, there’s no reason to believe this is going to be anyone’s finest hour, and whatever compromising there is, I’m sadly sure most of it will be done by Democrats.

Magnitudes worse, though, is the effect of more Republicans in state legislatures and governors’ mansions. The appalling consequences of this sort of thing were vivid in the wake of Republican state-level gains in 2010, and they’re going to get a whole lot worse come January. Progressive or even moderate victories in the Obama Era have been muted, blunted or outright denied to citizens of red states via Republicans in charge there, with the ready assistance of ALEC, Koch money, and a “free press” soundly asleep at its post. Continue reading Consequences

It doesn't pay to be a fossil fuel Democrat on election day

WillinoisThis was a difficult election for Democrats and it was even worse for Democrats still pushing fossil fuels. The Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Coal Caucus lost his seat along with a slew of others who tried to prove they’re as pro-coal, pro-oil, and pro-fracking as any Republican.

There are plenty of examples like Grimes in Kentucky. Or Tennant and Nick Rahall in West Virginia who mimicked conservative talking points on coal in their losing races. Mary Landrieau is expected to lose in a Louisiana run-off. If you can’t run on clean energy and climate change in a state that saw hurricane Katrina and the Gulf oil disaster then you’re an incompetent politician.

No state made the point more clearly than Illinois, where Democrats serious about climate won re-election while fossil fuel Democrats lost. Governor Pat Quinn once bragged about passing a bill to launch fracking along with lead Senate sponsor Mike Frerichs. Quinn lost re-election after spending months avoiding the issue (and anti-fracking protesters).

Mike Frerichs, who has been viewed as an environmental leader in the past, is still second place in a close count for state Treasurer. He raised climate change and clean energy early in the race but dropped the issue after realizing most of the environmental movement is unhappy with his lead role in launching fracking. Most environmental voters aren’t nearly as happy with the fracking law as the four statehouse green groups who supported it.

An upset few predicted six months ago is the loss of incumbent Congressman Bill Enyart to confessed dog-killer Mike Bost. The Democratic district hasn’t elected a Republican in 70 years but has a long coal mining history. Enyart became Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Coal Caucus with John Shimkus, who’s best known outside Illinois as the Republican who conducted a failed investigation and helped cover up the Foley Congressional page sex scandal.

What did pandering to the coal industry accomplish for Enyart? He lost by a wide margin, getting just 39%. The Green Party candidate increased her vote share to over 6%. Voter turnout was roughly half what it was in 2012. Southern Illinois Democrats had little motivation to vote with the top of the ticket, Governor Pat Quinn, angering them by cutting public employee pensions, closing important regional facilities, and launching fracking.

The coal industry didn’t give Enyart a money advantage either. His fundraising was lower than most incumbents in competitive races. His opponent received larger donations from many fossil fuel interests, including Knight Hawk Coal and Koch Industries. No matter how pro-coal a Democrat tries to be, the industry can always find a Republican who will promise more.

It didn’t work for central Illinois candidate Ann Callis running in one of the nation’s most closely divided Congressional districts. After getting a Sierra Club endorsement in the primary, over two opponents with better environmental platforms, she expressed her support  for more spending on clean coal and promised to not support President Obama on new clean air rules because they wouldn’t create enough coal jobs. By trying to find a safe middle ground she managed to make both sides of the debate unhappy. Continue reading It doesn’t pay to be a fossil fuel Democrat on election day

Fever Dreams

freehandFor all the mainstream media’s obsession with Ebola in recent weeks, one disquieting aspect of the virus remains largely unexamined: its ability to provoke delusional raving from right-wingers.

Take, for example, Larry Klayman, whose history of delusional raving actually predates the current outbreak by about 63 years. Klayman took some time out from his current projects (barking at the moon and petitioning the Department of Homeland Security to deport Barack Obama) to discuss Ebola in the October 10 edition of his WND column. More specifically, Barack Obama and Ebola. His opening salvo echoes criticism leveled at the President from various quarters, not all of them arch-conservative, insisting that “free entry” into the United States by people from Ebola-affected nations be halted.

But Klayman’s just getting started. He then alleges the White House forced CDC Director Thomas Frieden “… to walk the proverbial medical plank, by spewing forth what in street vernacular was vintage cr-p to the American people.” Putting aside the odd revelation that there’s such a thing as a “proverbial medical plank” – who knew? –  Klayman’s contention that Frieden is being “forced, likely to keep his job” to toe the White House line on travel from West Africa begs the question of why the CDC Director would acquiesce and allow, in Klayman’s framing, “potential massive death to our citizenry.” Maybe there’s an obscure out clause in the Hippocratic Oath.

Breaking out multiple dog whistles, Klayman then goes on to claim that Ebola “appears to be even worse a threat to this nation than AIDS or other incurable African generated diseases,” and then calls it “more than likely” that “suicide terrorists from ISIS, perhaps American Muslim traitors” will infect themselves with Ebola and enter the United States. Hey, way to give ‘em ideas, Larry.

Klayman then promotes his deportation petition and closes out by castigating the President for “relegating whites and others who are not black or Muslim to the back of the bus,” castigating Republicans for lacking the “guts or desire to impeach a black president,” and promising a lawsuit to “force Obama to curtail travel and immigration from Liberia and the rest of West Africa.” No doubt the judicial system is on pins and needles.

Also courtesy of WND, living antediluvian fossil Phyllis Schlafly shared her “wisdom” by observing:

“Obama doesn’t want America to believe that we’re exceptional,” Schlafly said. “He wants us to be just like everybody else, and if Africa is suffering from Ebola, we ought to join the group and be suffering from it, too. That’s his attitude.”

Which I suppose is, in a sense, exceptional. And in yet a third unhinged tirade about the President’s supposed yen to unleash viral Armageddon on, among others, the 65,915,796 Americans who voted him into a second term, has-been actress and wannabe pundit Morgan Brittany cited DHS stockpiling of guns’n'ammo and a billion dollars’ worth of “disposable FEMA coffins” stashed somewhere in Georgia (she didn’t say where, but my intuition tells me it’s probably Statesboro). Why, you ask? Over to you, Morgan: Continue reading Fever Dreams

Stormy Monday, 10/13/14

StormyMondayLiberian nurses and physician’s assistants intend to go on strike Monday over insufficient hazard pay, an action that could deal a terrible setback to the country’s efforts to get on top of the Ebola epidemic. During a weekend tour of treatment facilities in Monrovia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf personally appealed to health care workers to stay on the job.

Now that a Texas health care worker, despite wearing protective gear, has tested positive for Ebola after “extensive contact” with victim Thomas Duncan before his death last Wednesday, the mainstream media can really get to work fanning the doomsday hysteria with even less regard for scientific accuracy or pesky fact-based caveats such as CDC Director Tom Frieden’s insistence that the new case resulted from “a breach in protocol.”

And if End Times Ebolamania doesn’t gain traction with the audience, at least the media has ISILW (Islamic State in, Like, Wherever) to fall back on. Sunday’s announcement by Defense Department officials that Turkey will make bases available to US and coalition forces conducting air strikes against Islamic State forces is sure to set off another wave of talking heads eager to explain how this move is a complete vindication of the President’s surefooted IS policy, or how it’s sad confirmation of a flailing, rudderless White House.

John McCain, meanwhile, is getting increasingly shrill in his calls for ground troops to be deployed against IS. Scoff if you must, but after destroying five planes himself, the Senator is at least something of an expert on aircraft vulnerability.

You’ll be happy (or maybe not) to hear that Dr. Brian Monahan, attending physician of Congress, posted a reassuring eight-minute video on an internal website last week, explaining special protocols developed to ensure that even in the event of a catastrophic epidemic affecting huge numbers of Americans, Congress will be able, disease-free, to continue doing not much of anything. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 10/13/14

Stormy Monday, 9/29/14

StormyMondayA new round of baleful partisan bickering – business as usual, in other words – could get underway this week if the Obama Administration follows through on a trial balloon floated Friday by White House spokesman Josh Earnest. Earnest suggested a Senate confirmation vote to replace outgoing AG Eric Holder could be called in the upcoming lame duck session. If that doesn’t come to pass, I reckon it’ll take Republicans about three and a half minutes to find something else to be hyperbolically indignant about.

Deficit hawks will applaud the timing of this week’s visit to Washington by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In addition to an Oval Office summit focused on trade, energy and climate change, Modi is scheduled to have supper with the President and lunch with the Vice President, but he won’t be eating anything because he’s in the middle of a nine-day fast for Navratri, a religious festival honoring the goddess Durga. I don’t know if there’s some sort of penance aspect to Navratri, but I can’t think of any other reason why Modi will also be meeting with John Boehner. The Speaker’s office has commented that Modi will be offered “beverages.” Presumably, the PM’s polite “No, thank you” will be followed by a hearty “More for me, then” from Boehner, especially if the “beverages” have a measurable alcohol content.

Afghanistan’s new President, Ashraf Ghani, will be sworn in Monday, while his former electoral nemesis Abdullah Abdullah will become the country’s first “chief executive officer.” The two take office just days after the Afghan government’s announcement that thousands of civil servants will have to wait for their paychecks this month because the cupboard is bare, a sure sign that Afghanistan is moving from failed state to red state, American-style. John Podesta leads the US delegation at the inauguration.

One of Ghani’s first orders of business, at least as far as the White House is concerned, is to sign the new “Bilateral Security Agreement,” which outgoing Afghan President Karzai had refused to ratify. The agreement would permit 12,000 US and NATO troops to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014. To what end, ultimately, I’m afraid I have no idea.

Literature & Law of American Slavery, a free non-credit online course offered by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, begins Tuesday. I recommend this because the eight-week course is taught by John Matteson, a too-rare example of a white man whose thoughts on the relationship of slavery to today’s race relations, and particularly to institutionalized violence against African-Americans, are well worth careful consideration. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 9/29/14

TSW #38

tswlogoBack in 2010, Media Matters posed the archly rhetorical question: “Jim Hoft: Dumbest Man on the Internet?” Hoft, who has the nerve but not the expertise or insight to pontificate about politics under his nom de spume, Gateway Pundit, has spent the four years since then proving the question mark unnecessary.

Hoft has made a long-time specialty out of posting photos of the President, which he then subjects to the most preposterous “analysis” possible, arriving at the most negative conclusion possible. As far as I can tell, he does this sort of thing for two reasons. One, his site visitors, being idiots, expect it. And two, being an idiot himself, Hoft just can’t help it. And so it went today with his “Featured Story,” viewable here through a handy donotlink link provided by Little Green Footballs.

Hoft got his dander up after seeing a White House video of the President arriving in New York City this morning on Marine One. As he disembarked from the copter, the President returned the salute of the two Marines flanking the steps, with a coffee cup in his hand! Thereby apparently befouling a presidential tradition dating, as Little Green Footballs notes, all the way back to the Reagan Administration!

To Hoft, this is “A NEW LOW” and the “Most Degrading Salute Ever to Men in Uniform.” Little Green Footballs was quick to trot out the familiar photo of Oval Office appointee George W. Bush saluting members of the military while awkwardly holding First Dog Barney, an event Hoft either missed or, more likely, found entirely acceptable. What’s really astounding is that Hoft overlooked a mile-wide opening to level some valid criticism at the President; the optics of arriving in NYC for a UN Climate Summit carrying what looks to be a Styrofoam coffee cup certainly made me wince.

But Hoft, like the rest of the President’s critics in the fetid swamps at the far right side of the Internet, isn’t interested in the environment any more than he’s interested in objectivity and honest critique. Which he proved later in the day with another post entitled: “Lawless President Announces New Executive Actions on Fighting Climate Change & US Prosperity.” Hoft’s considered opinion is that global warming is “non-existent,” conveniently ignoring a mountain of empirical evidence including the fact that “13 of the 14 warmest years in recorded weather history have all occurred in the opening years of the 21st century.” He’ll probably still be railing about the climate change hoax as the rising seas slip over his mouth some years from now. I wish I could live to see it. Continue reading TSW #38

Stormy Monday, 9/22/14

StormyMondayThe Secret Service’s Office of Professional Responsibility will undertake a procedural review following Friday’s disquieting incident involving a knife-carrying man jumping the fence and actually gaining access to the White House.  Through a spokesman, the President has since expressed “full confidence” in his security detail, a presidential statement I sincerely hope is a bald-faced lie.

Also helping shut the barn door after the horses have bolted, Congressman Peter King told Fox News Sunday he’s “sure” that the House Homeland Security Committee, on which he sits, will launch its own investigation into the incident. Which actually makes the whole thing even scarier…

Accompanied, presumably, by the most hyper-vigilant Secret Service detail ever mustered, the President and Mrs. Obama head for New York City on Tuesday for the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly. After addressing the 2014 Climate Summit at the UN, the President will speak at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. Wednesday, he’ll address the General Assembly, then chair a Security Council summit on terrorism. The First Lady will give the keynote address at Wednesday’s meeting of the UN Global Education First Initiative. Thursday, the President will speak at a special UN meeting on the Ebola epidemic, before the Obamas return to Washington in the afternoon.

Speaking of the Ebola virus, Sierra Leone yesterday ended a three-day lockdown intended to stop the spread of the epidemic among the country’s six million citizens. The lockdown enabled collection and safe burial of over 70 highly infectious bodies of Ebola victims; Ebola has claimed 560 lives in Sierra Leone during the current outbreak. If the large-scale containment attempt proves effective, expect it to be replicated in other parts of western Africa.

Is it that time again already? Sadly, yes. The 2014 Values Voter Summit descends on Washington’s Omni Shoreham Hotel Thursday evening, with two and a half days of trash talk and trashy ideas to follow. This year’s theme is “Defending the Dream, Defining the Future,” which, translated from Hyperbolese, means “Liberals hate America.” In other words, pretty much the same theme as the previous eight annual iterations of the event. Someone named Sarah Palin will be speaking at this year’s shindig. If that’s insufficiently loathsome news, the 2014 version of the conclave also features Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Michele Bachmann, Glenn Beck, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. Any way you look at it, that’s an impressive amount of pure suckage. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 9/22/14