Stormy Monday, 1/13/14

StormyMondayNine West Virginia counties begin the week under state and federal emergency declarations after last Thursday’s spill of up to 7,500 gallons of toxic 4-methylcyclohexane methanol into the Elk River. 300,000 West Virginians are without safe water and are expected to remain so for “several days,” according to area utility West Virginia American Water. The leak has prompted over a hundred people to make their way to hospitals for various symptoms, but the folks in charge at Freedom Industries, owners of the errant MCHM, probably feel just awful about the whole goshdarned thing, so there’s that.

Early in the week, the House and Senate are expected to approve a temporary spending measure to fund the government all the way until… Friday! Once a temporary measure is agreed on, both chambers will turn their collective attention to an omnibus spending bill. What could go wrong? Plenty, but there’s really no point in panicking yet. Best to wait until midweek.

The Senate will also go back to work on an emergency unemployment benefits extension, after Harry Reid backtracked on Republican insistence that the cost be offset. You were right the first time, Harry. The idea of an offset is indeed “foolishness.” Speaking of foolishness, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor made the asinine claim last Friday that his party’s focus is “on employment, not unemployment.” Consider it an indication of what any Senate agreement on unemployment will face once Cantor and his fellow jackals in the House get hold of it.

It’s one of those delegated duties that have led countless politicians to refuse a position at the bottom of a presidential ticket. Vice President Biden will lead the Presidential Delegation to Monday’s memorial service for Ariel Sharon. Hey, maybe at least there’ll be a nice buffet afterward. Accompanying the Vice President will be Reps. Debbie Wasserman Shultz and Eliot Engel, plus US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro and one of his predecessors, Daniel Kurtzer.

John Kerry will not be attending the memorial service. Instead, he’ll be in Paris for multilateral talks on Syria. Kerry is trying mightily to get the Syrian National Coalition to attend peace talks with the Assad regime.

Wednesday, the President heads to North Carolina for another in his series of addresses on the economy, this one focused on manufacturing. Expect common sense, some innovative proposals, and a giant shrug from Congressional Republicans. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 1/13/14

Stormy Monday, 9/23/13

StormyMondayThe most compelling evidence yet for the non-existence of God was revealed earlier this month by Roll Call, which announced that Darrell Issa is now the richest member of Congress. Flush with his undeserved success, Issa flew to Libya yesterday, breaking an Oversight and Government Reform Committee rule he himself instituted that mandates all committee-sanctioned foreign junkets be bipartisan. While Issa frantically searches under every couch cushion in Benghazi for a smoking gun that will destroy the Obama Presidency, it sure would be a fine time to revoke his passport.

A government shutdown on October 1 remains a distinct possibility following last Friday’s passage by the House of a continuing resolution that would fund government operations through mid-December, but also defund Obamacare. Despite Ted Cruz huffing and puffing about a filibuster, the Senate will no doubt remove the provisions related to the Affordable Care Act and punt the bill back to the House, probably this week. What happens after that is anyone’s guess, but assuming the worst seems an increasingly safe bet.

The House resolution includes a “death gratuity” payable to the widow of Senator Frank Lautenberg in the sum of $174,000, a common though not automatic Congressional perk. If the gratuity makes it into a bicamerally-approved version of the resolution, I expect Mrs. Lautenberg will probably steer the money to some worthy cause or another. She certainly doesn’t need it; her late husband’s net worth has been estimated at $57 million.

Having botched the continuing resolution, the House might also hork up a debt ceiling bill this week, according to reptilian Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Cantor is on record as saying it will include a provision to “delay” the implementation of Obamacare for one year, and another to ensure completion of the Keystone XL pipeline. Plus a bunch more provisions to do other bad things. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 9/23/13

Stormy Monday, 9/16/13

StormyMondayNow that Congressional Republicans have slunk back from their extended and entirely undeserved late summer holidays, they have a lot of catching up to do in their continuing efforts to make pretty much everything worse for everybody except the wealthy, and eventually even for them. Look for a bill to be introduced this week that would double the $20 billion in SNAP cuts over 10 years previously endorsed by the House Agriculture Committee and reintroduce work requirements for eligibility in an economy where the official jobless rate is still north of 7.5%. Look for renewed efforts to kill federal nutrition programs. Look for a measure to erode federal standards and increase timber harvesting in national forests. Look for more blather about a spending resolution, and a possible government shutdown. Listen for exploding irony meters across DC on Wednesday when the Joint Economic Committee convenes a hearing titled, “The Economic Costs of Debt-Ceiling Brinkmanship.”

Sybrina Fulton, mother of murder victim Trayvon Martin, will testify Tuesday at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights on “stand your ground” laws. Senators will offer condolences to Ms. Fulton, listen politely to her remarks, ask a few questions, make sympathetic noises, then head for the nearest Capitol Hill steakhouse to try and forget, over Wagyu medallions and merlot, just how heartrending their jobs can be sometimes.

Lest newer and even more egregiously contrived pseudo-scandals fail to hobble the Obama Administration, this week the House GOP also revisits – wait for it – Benghazigate, with exciting new hearings by the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The former is designed to ferret out previously unidentified State Department scapegoats, while the theme of the latter is “unanswered questions,” although really the only unanswered question still remaining is how much longer Boehner’s Complainers can keep up this obsessive/compulsive inquisition.

Speaking of scandals, you might have noticed that this column didn’t appear last week. I was busy buying duct tape and plastic sheeting in advance of a world war triggered by Barack W. Obama and John Kerry, his bumbling rube of a Secretary of State. Miraculously, after their bellicose mishandling of the Syrian crisis exposed the United States as a bloodthirsty rogue state and international pariah, that nice Mr. Putin came along and insisted on a diplomatic solution, thereby pulling Obama’s incompetent ass out of the deep fryer. Thank God we have the internet to keep us all informed, huh?

Back on Earth, the details of a chemical weapons agreement were finalized in Geneva on Saturday. Kerry then visited Israel over the weekend, eliciting a statement of support for the deal from the Netanyahu government, and will meet Monday in Paris with top diplomats from France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UK.

Meanwhile, some Republican Congressional grandees are already rushing to proclaim that the US/Russia accord over Syria sucks ostrich eggs and needs to be toughened, while still others are magically rebranding themselves as principled peaceniks. And the Wall Street Journal weighed in Saturday with a cheery analysis of the deal’s probability of failure. Guess I’ll keep the duct tape handy. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 9/16/13

Stormy Monday, 7/15/13

Will Harry Reid go nuclear to stop Senate filibusters of executive branch nominees? We’ll probably find out Tuesday, when a series of votes will be held to end debate on Richard Cordray (for CFPB chief), Thomas Perez (for Secretary of Labor), and five other stalled nominees. Unsurprisingly, Reid and Mitch McConnell have been rattling their sabers about this for days now; I’d love to see Reid do it because it’s the right thing to do, but the very best part would be seeing McConnell’s apoplectic reaction. Here’s hoping.

The House, meanwhile, continues to do what it does best, which is to struggle mightily to avoid actually doing much of anything. In keeping with that theme, Majority Leader Eric Cantor has announced pointless votes this week to repeal both the employer and individual mandates of Obamacare, and possible consideration of a bill that would revisit No Child Left Behind.

And the uselessness continues on the micro level as well as the macro; House committees will also spend the week spinning their wheels and flapping their gums. The Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on – wait for it – Benghazi, while Darrell Issa and his Oversight & Government Reform Committee compadres will throw a little bash they’re calling “The IRS’ Systematic Delay and Scrutiny of Tea Party Applications.” Good times.

Will the Justice Department consider a civil rights case against George Zimmerman following Saturday’s infuriating verdict? The NAACP, Harry Reid and others are urging it to do just that. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 7/15/13

What Do You Believe?

What do you believe? Who do you believe? And what is the foundation for your beliefs? Those questions were overwhelmed in the noise but were underlined by the rage in the public square this week, on issues from sequestration to the Onion’s infamous tweet during the Academy Awards.

Defended as free speech and satire, whose firestorm of response by many was evidence of its success, the Onion’s 140-character post was never covered by the cover it claimed, of being the occasional moment in a society that cherishes free speech, when a good intent to poke fun goes awry.

It was, instead, the perfect example of irresponsible speech, an imitated form of liar’s rage, a flawed imitation of the disdain that has marked the political language of Republicans, especially, and dominates the airwaves and the internet. This mock and real rage is often packed with lies, to avoid responsibility and to deny its purpose by claiming: look, it’s absurd. This liar’s rage is engaged in; denigrating the President and others, often not for their views, but simply because hate is seen as a constitutionally protected act. The Onion poster falls into using liar’s rage as a mock model. So it’s okay to call a nine-year old a sexually explicit name. No different than other daily online fare. As long as it’s just words, and they are not used to incite, the Bill of Rights says speech is free, and restrictions can’t be imposed.

The folk who make that argument miss the point: the outrage about the Onion post wasn’t over a narrow legal view of whether it violated free speech or whether it was misinterpreted, or as I suggest, it’s evidence of a cultural faux pas, or whether the rest of us didn’t get it. The reaction was a collective, strong-willed assertion that the comment was wrong. Not all free speech is right, and the right to speak or tweet freely doesn’t guarantee that what is said will have an equal place in the public square, which also has the right to shout it down.

The short tweet combined the worst of Rush Limbaugh and Mitt Romney with Donald Trump. It was uncomfortably sexually explicit without the redemption or condemnation found in the best satire. It applied a smear with the full force of scatological misogyny. My daughter tells me it’s a frat boy word. Mis-gauging its impact channels Romney, who repeatedly put forth a worldview that took away the humanity of others. Its crudeness and bullying attack was pure La Donald.

By closer reading, the poster was also a male. (Read it, you’ll agree.) As it was defended, it revealed a large subculture who skip the who and cite their belief in the what; in this case, free speech, its foundation in the constitution.

I agree that the post didn’t “cross the line.” It was wrong. Murder doesn’t “cross the line.” It’s wrong. A country can’t maintain a dual morality, one for crimes of property and persons, and another that says if legal penalties aren’t at stake, anything goes. Gun owners are now citing the right to “constitutional carry,” without restriction or concealment permits (repeal!). A constitutional right doesn’t guarantee approval of every position (guns or free speech) that attempts to be derived from that right. The constitution also guarantees the equal right to be wrong under its authority.

Long before appeals to law, a society decides in dynamic ways its limits and order, its boundaries of behavior, its conscience and sense of embarrassment and shame, its priorities and patterns of care. The Constitution should not be cited to excuse bad taste at best, to conceal honest error, or to be the enabling document for the erosion of the full humanity of others who are diverse and different.

I see the post as a thoughtless and harmful example of how the decency of words has degenerated into a culture that sets no limits on impropriety, including using a sexually explicit, denigrating word against a prepubescence girl in the harsh light on the internet’s public square. Retreating to free speech was something that even the Onion CEO didn’t do. He says in a Facebook the post was “crude and offensive—not to mention inconsistent with The Onion’s commitment to parody and satire, No person should be subjected to such a senseless, humorless comment masquerading as satire.”

It should remind us that such an ill-advised attack is not by “rights” exempt from being wrong, and by its irresponsibility undermines the protections it cites.

It wasn’t that the rest of us “were afraid to say it.” We knew better. Continue reading What Do You Believe?

Sunday Talks, 11/4/12

ABC’s “This Week” will feature White House senior adviser David Plouffe and Romney campaign senior adviser Ed Gillespie in a discussion of the final days of the race, as well as the latest ABC poll numbers. The . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 11/4/12

BREAKING: Boehner, Cantor in Standoff with Capitol Police

Unconfirmed reports indicate that Capitol police have called for a hostage negotiator to respond to an ongoing situation in the Capitol building in which House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor have barricaded themselves in a conference room, demanding that they be joined there by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell along with President Obama and the Obama family dog Bo. Authorities have confirmed that the eight Republican House members appointed by the ‘Cincinnati Cinnamon Stick’ to the conference committee which he was expecting to negotiate the pending tax holiday legislation with Senate Democrats are with the Speaker and Majority Leader, but it is not certain if they are there voluntarily or have been taken hostage like the rest of the country.

The standoff began early this afternoon when Boehner returned to the Capitol shortly after extricating himself from the bus Sen. McConnell had just thrown him under. First he summoned Cantor and the others into the conference room, and shortly after all were assembled he and Cantor began contacting various press outlets and communicating their demands.

Newton Toomey, a Capitol police official familiar with the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that as a precaution, authorities are acting based on the assumption that the top two ranking House Republicans are armed. Toomey also indicated there is a suspicion among many at the scene that ‘The Bronze Clod’ may be suffering from a condition he described as “tanning booth stroke” which might be impairing his judgment. “With him you can’t always tell,” he noted. Continue reading BREAKING: Boehner, Cantor in Standoff with Capitol Police

Scores of Protestors Sickened by Godfather’s Pizza

New York (DBI) – As if their depiction by GOP Presidential hopeful Herman Cain wasn’t already hard enough to swallow, scores of ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protestors were rushed to area hospitals today after falling ill from what sources believe was a tainted delivery — ironically, it is presumed, —  from Godfather’s Pizza, Cain’s former company.

“When we arrived at the scene, we observed perhaps a hundred or more people in various stages of gastrointestinal distress,” EMS Captain Christopher Toomey told reporters.  “We were able to confirm that most of them had consumed various food items that had been delivered earlier in the day.  But I must say, there were several really queasy looking ones I spoke with personally who had not eaten at all, but did report they had been watching YouTube videos of Mr. Cain’s weekend television appearances.”

Toomey added that none of the cases appeared to be life threatening.

When told of the incident – and its positive prognosis — Mr. Cain is reported to have responded to an aide, “Of course it’s not life threatening – none of those a******s have lives.”

Federal authorities promised a full investigation.  They have jurisdiction as the alleged tainted delivery came into New York from New Jersey because in recent years, Famous Famiglia (Donald Trump’s cheese pie of choice) has managed to muscle Godfather’s completely out of the City’s five boroughs, though rumors persist that a lone holdout Godfather’s franchise is still secretly operating somewhere on Staten Island.

But while the New York City FBI office claims they are already looking into the matter, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has vowed to block any form of Federal probe until House Democrats agree to spending cuts that will offset the cost of any investigation to taxpayers. Continue reading Scores of Protestors Sickened by Godfather’s Pizza

Cantor Strikes Deal on Cuts to Allow Emergency Spending

No Virginia, there is no Santa Claus.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor prides himself on being consistent.  Before all of the missing had been found earlier this year after a category five tornado ravaged Joplin, Missouri, the Virginia Republican announced that he would not support funding for emergency aid without concurrent cuts elsewhere in the budget.

Again, earlier this week, while some were still missing and none of the dead yet buried in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, Cantor appeared on Fox News to reiterate the same position, telling anchor Martha MacCallum that Congress “will find the money” but “like any family with a sick loved one” will have to decide what otherwise planned spending will have to be cut first.  While Democrats as well as some Republicans take the position that, “… a family with credit won’t hesitate, in an emergency, to charge the expenses immediately and rework their budget after the crisis has passed…” many fear that Cantor’s insistence on cuts being agreed upon before emergency aid is appropriated could have catastrophic and perhaps life-threatening consequences.

But while the current Congress inevitably will fail to reach an accord in time to help many of Irene’s victims, Cantor nonetheless proudly announced yesterday that an agreement on cuts to allow for emergency relief had been reached regarding a matter which is much more personal to him.

Upon learning of college tuition increases affecting his two oldest children – an unexpected misfortune which followed closely on the heels of his youngest child’s well-publicized Xbox tragedy – the six-term conservative and former Minority Whip called a family meeting and announced that the extra tuition could not be paid nor the Xbox replaced without spending cuts elsewhere to offset the expense. Continue reading Cantor Strikes Deal on Cuts to Allow Emergency Spending

Bungled Burglary May Signal Shift in GOP Tax Policy

Two weeks ago, it seemed like a routine crime.

On the evening of June 17, an alert security guard notified Cleveland police when he realized someone had used duct tape to obscure two security cameras in the North Pointe Apartments office occupied by the conservative lobbying organization ‘Americans for Tax Reform’.  Police responding to the scene arrested five men attempting to flee the scene, two of whom were carrying boxes containing documents.

But while the men were detained in a local jail, police discovered that the identifications they carried that night were fake.  Fingerprint records indicated that all five live in the Los Angeles area. All have ties to the CIA and two are Venezuelan nationals connected with anti-Chavez organizations.  The individual authorities believe was the ring-leader was once a high level intelligence operative rumored to have been involved in the failed 2002 coup attempt against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.  He is currently a real estate broker in Los Angeles who, according to business records, employs the other four men.

And according to Newton Toomey, an anonymous source who was present during the interrogations, the alleged ring-leader — identified as Venezuelan-born  Leonard B. Larker, 55 — indicated that those responsible for planning the break-in may have connections that reach to “the very top” of the Republican party.

“The suspect indicated that he was hired to retrieve documents bearing the signatures of various individuals who are experiencing misgivings about having signed them,” Toomey told a reporter from Locksmith’s Weekly magazine.  “Ironically, these weren’t the most gifted of burglars – the boxes they were absconding with contained no signed documents whatsoever. All we found in them was a bunch of blank Kenyan birth certificates.”

Tea Party activist Wilford Dumfuq expressed a view shared by many on the right when he told anyone who would listen about his belief that, “sinister forces are at work in the Republican party,” explaining, “All but 14 Republican members of Congress have signed a pledge written by ATR founder Grover Norquist in which they promise the voters that they will never, under any circumstances, vote for any tax increase.  If someone is now attempting to steal signed documents from those offices, it’s logical to assume that they are about renege on that pledge.” Continue reading Bungled Burglary May Signal Shift in GOP Tax Policy