Stormy Monday, 4/21/14

StormyMondayAmong other heightened security precautions, helicopter flyovers were conducted over Boston as law enforcement officials scanned for signs of excessive radiation in advance of today’s marathon. If all goes well and the roughly 36,000 expected participants and many thousands of spectators remain safe, an added bonus is that Big Papi won’t have occasion to utter the F-word to a sold-out Fenway this year. Unless it’s regarding the inability of the Sox to play .500 ball through their first 19 games, of course.

Deadbeat Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy continues to host dozens of heavily armed nimrods who apparently believe the Bill of Rights somehow guarantees freedom from grazing fees, or something. Compounding the nimrod factor, Nevada Senator Dean Heller, a – surprise! – Republican, recently described Bundy’s flea-bitten mob of sycophants as “patriots” and is now demanding a Senate hearing into the brouhaha.

The President heads to Asia on Tuesday for an eight-day junket including stops in Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and the Philippines. He’ll likely tout the supposed benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the sprawling, dubious multilateral trade deal whose negotiations the Administration has admitted are currently at an impasse over a variety of issues. The trip was originally scheduled for last fall, but was postponed when Republicans decided to stamp their collective feet, hold their collective breath, and shut down the government.

Conveniently, perhaps too conveniently, the rescheduled trip comes on the heels of the Administration’s shocking refusal to respond to an online petition to deport Justin Bieber, a petition which garnered almost three times the signatures officially required to trigger a response. Really, Mr. President? Really? Continue reading Stormy Monday, 4/21/14

Stormy Monday, 4/14/14

StormyMondayYou’re no doubt delighted that your hardworking Congressional representatives have begun their desperately needed two-week break to recharge their batteries, get a little spring sun on their overwhelmingly white and male faces, and mull over “new” legislative ideas that haven’t a prayer of becoming law (which of course is, mostly, a good thing). On the brighter side, Virginia Democrat Jim Moran’s notion of adding a new housing stipend to Congressional remuneration appears to be a non-starter, so at least they’ll be lollygagging at their existing undeserved rate of pay.

Meanwhile, 2.4 million unemployed Americans will spend the same two weeks tearing their hair out over unpaid bills, wondering how they’re going to feed their kids, and continuing not to matter worth a damn to Republicans.

John Boehner kicked off his spring break today with a surprise visit to Afghanistan, accompanied by seven senior House Republicans. He’s expected to hug anyone in uniform he sees, lurch aimlessly around the streets of Kabul in search of happy hour, and top off the junket with a tear-stained tribute to whatever the hell it is American troops are supposed to be accomplishing there.

Following the Bureau of Land Management’s weekend return of 400 confiscated head of cattle back to deadbeat Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, the ludicrous confrontation between the government and Bundy’s creepy nitwit militia buddies appears to be over, at least until the BLM attempts to pursue other remedies against the scofflaw and the nitwits get all riled up again. Stay tuned.

Today and tomorrow in New York, China and the United States will hold talks on dealing with North Korea, followed by a third session in Washington on Thursday. While I have no expertise in international relations, it seems to me the two nations could do worse than shipping 400 head of cattle Kim Jong-un’s way for starters. It might at least buy a little time. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 4/14/14

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, 12/9/13

StormyMondayThe President and First Lady will attend a national memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg Tuesday, but other details of the trip are still unannounced. Mandela’s state funeral will be held Sunday.

In the Obamas’ absence, Vice President and Dr. Biden will fill in today and tomorrow as hosts of the White House Congressional Holiday Balls. Presumably the Bidens have been warned to watch for untoward events like Michele Bachmann stealing silverware or Rand Paul peeing behind a potted palm.

The Bidens signed a condolence book at the South African Embassy, which has been hosting candlelight prayer vigils. The Vice President will speak at a National Cathedral memorial service on Wednesday morning, ending a week of mourning in Washington.

Others traveling to South Africa this week to honor Mandela’s memory include Presidents Carter, Clinton and Bush the Lesser, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the prime ministers of the UK, Spain, Canada and Australia, the presidents of  France, Brazil and India, and, from the non-political world, Pope Francis, Prince Charles, Peter Gabriel, Oprah and Bono.

The United States will also be represented by members of the Westboro Baptist Church, who have announced their intention to mar the week by “protesting” outside various events, while South Africans look on and marvel at how a nation could tolerate such hatemongering.

Phil Schiliro, former chief congressional liaison for the Obama White House, returns to Washington this week to help with implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Described as a “short-term appointment,” the gig will keep Schiliro busy coordinating with various government departments and with Congress. Naturally, Republicans will impugn his moral fiber, condemn him as out of step with mainstream values, and accuse him of murdering Jimmy Hoffa, Vince Foster and Jesus. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 12/9/13

Stormy Monday, 12/2/13

StormyMondayAccompanied by his son Hunter and granddaughter Finnegan, Vice President Biden begins a week-long Asian junket on Monday with a stop in Tokyo. His itinerary includes meetings with Japanese, Chinese and South Korean leaders, and the mooted Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and regional security concerns are expected to top the agenda. The Veep’s trip comes at a time when China and Japan are engaging in a Falklands-style dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

David Cameron is also in China this week, desperate to kiss some State Council butt after his meeting with the Dalai Lama in May of last year got them all riled up. For good measure, the British PM brought along scores of business people, all eager to be the first and biggest (and perhaps only) recipients of what Cameron recently termed “real rewards for our peoples.”

Elsewhere in the Far East, the tense situation in Thailand shows no signs of easing. Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of the anti-government faction, claims he told Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in a secret meeting on Sunday that she and her government have two days to step down and turn control of the county “over to the people.” Violent, sometimes deadly protests continue, but it’s unclear what will happen should Yingluck fail to heed the dissidents’ ultimatum.

Although acknowledging that more remediation is needed, the White House claimed Sunday that HealthCare.gov is now largely fixed and capable of handling 50,000 visitors at a time, meeting the President’s self-imposed repair timeline. Watch for renewed efforts this week to undermine or sabotage the site, if enough Republican hackers can figure out how to turn on their computers. And if that effort fails, they’ll always have Benghazi.

The House will be back in session this week, with a light schedule befitting its inability to actually get anything accomplished. The Senate is out until next week, though efforts continue behind the scenes to prepare new sanctions in case current State Department and international efforts at rapprochement with Iran falter. Both chambers are “working” against a December 13 deadline to agree on a budget deal, and short of that will have to come up with another continuing resolution in January to keep the government open past the 15th. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 12/2/13

Stormy Monday, 10/28/13

StormyMondayWill HHS Secretary Sebelius fall on her sword? Will Websitegate force Barack Obama from office? Will Republicans ever shut their damn mouths and concentrate, for once, on doing something positive, rather than devoting all their time and tons of public money to futile attempts at de-legitimizing this President? No, no, and hell no.

After initial refusals, followed by scheduling issues, it now appears that Secretary Sebelius will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday. Expect majority members on the Committee to grandstand vigorously, hoping to compile some tasty video clips they can use for next year’s reelection efforts when they try to convince their constituents to save them from having to go and earn an honest living for another two years.

Wednesday morning, the 29-member Conference Committee holds its first meeting on the budget. Can Democrats and Republicans agree on a way forward? Can anything actually get done? Well, one thing that might get done this week is the passage of a House resolution formally giving the President a wag of the finger for having the colossal temerity to suspend the debt ceiling until February 7.  Laissez les bipartisan temps rouler! Continue reading Stormy Monday, 10/28/13

Stormy Monday, 6/17/13

This year’s G8 summit kicks off Monday at Northern Ireland’s posh Lough Erne resort. Agenda items include trade advancement, international action on tax evasion, and transparency standards. Further to that last item, the White House confirmed Friday that President Obama will discuss NSA surveillance with his G8 counterparts.

Following the summit, the President will head to Germany for talks with Angela Merkel, and will speak to an invitation-only crowd at the Brandenburg Gate, a venue he was denied permission to use in his Berlin visit during the 2008 campaign.

This week, the House of Representatives gets its grubby hands on the Farm Bill, hoping to scrap the shameful SNAP cuts approved in the Senate and replace them with shameful SNAP cuts five times worse. And on Tuesday, the House is expected to waste its time and the public’s money with a ridiculous bill called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, sponsored by the reliably pain-inducing Trent Franks (R-AZ). The bill seeks to ban abortions after 22 weeks, with a few grudging exceptions belatedly added by the House Rules Committee in a desperate attempt to make Franks and his fellow Republicans seem like rational adults.

Wednesday, a statue of Frederick Douglass donated by the District of Columbia will be unveiled at the Capitol Visitors Center. In return, a grateful Congress will continue to deny DC any meaningful political representation.

Monday marks the deadline for Democrats to file a motion with New Jersey’s Supreme Court opposing Governor Chris Christie’s plan for an October 16 special election to fill Frank Lautenberg’s Senate seat. The court agreed Friday to hear the case, which was previously decided in Christie’s favor by a lower court. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 6/17/13

Stormy Monday, 4/8/13

Senate bills on immigration reform and gun control originally anticipated this week will likely be delayed. The former is being drafted by a “bipartisan” group of eight senators, who apparently have yet to reach agreement on a guest-worker program, among other details. Despite optimistic noises from New York’s Charles Schumer, an anonymous “member of the business community” quoted by the Washington Post claims the eight have “substantial disagreements on almost all the major parts.”

As to gun legislation, “Senate staffers say a bipartisan agreement has yet to be reached on universal background checks.” The NRA has, um, targeted various lawmakers for heavy lobbying efforts, including Virginia’s Mark Warner. Also lobbying this week are the President, who will speak on gun control at the University of Hartford on Monday, Vice President Biden, who hosts a gathering of law enforcement officials at the White House on Tuesday, and Michelle Obama, who will address the subject of gun violence at a Wednesday appearance in Chicago.

Wednesday sees the unveiling of President Obama’s considerably overdue budget proposal, which will reportedly call for the adoption of chained CPI in exchange for closing some tax loopholes. The budget is also expected to include a proposal for reforming federal employees’ retirement benefits, supposedly saving $35 billion by upping employee pension contributions for newer workers.

No word yet on whether the President’s budget will include new Obamacare provisions to cover all the hair that’s been set on fire as rumors have circulated for weeks. Senator Lindsey Graham has already offered up tentative praise, which is never a good sign. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 4/8/13

FOUR MORE YEARS!

Official White House photograph by Pete Souza

Take Five (Push, Push Sweet Charlotte edition)

ONE: Consider the Barn Burned

One of many sharp contrasts between the Republican and Democratic conventions was how the parties treated their former favorite sons. George W. Bush, a fellow you might remember from his demolition of the economy, his demolition of Iraq and/or his demolition of Republican claims to seriousness as a political party, appeared briefly on video, albeit with his daddy functioning as a sort of fig leaf of supposed respectability.

Bill Clinton, on the other hand, appeared live in Charlotte, and delivered a speech as good as any he’s ever given, meaning it was utterly masterful. For those too young too remember the Clinton years, now you know. President Clinton, though, had plenty of company. Deval Patrick, Tammy Duckworth, John Kerry, Julián Castro, Jennifer Granholm, Elizabeth Warren, James Clyburn and many, many others roused and inspired. It was the polar opposite of the sorry spectacle in Tampa the week before, the “highlight” of which was a cranky old man chatting with a chair.

Michelle Obama’s star turn on Tuesday night cut through four years of right wing crap attempting to portray her husband as aloof, out of touch, out of his depth and out of step with that absurd construct Republicans like to describe as “mainstream American values.”

Gabrielle Giffords led the Pledge of Allegiance on the final night, and if you didn’t have tears in your eyes watching it, well, you’re either a Republican or you need to consult an ophthalmologist.

Vice President Biden, as always, came across as that rarest of creatures, a politician I actually do want to have a beer with. Make that a few. And if he feels like cracking open a bottle of Jameson to cap off the evening, hell, yes, I’m in.

And Barack Obama? He did great, but I thought he sounded bone tired. And how could he not be? This election cycle he has the White House to carry on his back as he works the stump, and of course he can’t even play a round of golf without catcalls from the jerks, puds and phonies across the aisle. He’s spent four years pulling the country out of a deep hole, and for his extraordinary efforts he gets called a commie, a foreigner, an imposter, uppity, angry, lazy, a fraud. Why he wants the job again, I don’t know, but I’m damned grateful that he does, and it’s going to be no less gratifying voting for him again than it was the first time.

TWO: Matthew 25:35, with a Side of Orzo

While the late change of venue for President Obama’s Thursday night acceptance speech provided the usual conservative media suspects with plenty of food for thought – and by “thought” I mean “risibly baseless speculation” – it also provided 8,000 pounds of actual food to folks in need in Charlotte.

Bank of America Stadium’s “VIP suites and club rooms” were to have teemed with hungry Democrats on the convention’s final evening, and stadium chef Jon Morey and his staff worked feverishly to prepare a mountain of upscale eats in anticipation. Instead, the Carolina Panthers and the stadium’s food services company Delaware North Inc., with logistical support from US Foods, ended up distributing tons of “pecan-fried chicken, baked orzo, fresh crudités, three bean bake, fresh cut fruit and something called short rib cobbler” to Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina, and thence to local soup kitchens, daycare centers and homeless shelters. Food was also donated to local non-profits A Better World and the Harvest Center of Charlotte.

While it’s not known whether any leftover food from the Republican National Convention got to the truly hungry, a convoy of refrigerator trucks was rumored to have made the 200-mile trek from the Tampa Bay Times Forum to 1295 North Ocean Boulevard in Palm Beach. I know this because I just originated the rumor.

THREE:  Unfair and Unbalanced

Speaking of Palm Beach, one of the newest residents of its county jail is David A. Kappheim, who earned his stay by allegedly committing domestic battery, aggravated assault and criminal mischief. Why? His girlfriend is a liberal, and he tried to strangle her.

When Kappheim was approached by the arresting deputy, he said “he was very conservative and (his girlfriend) was a liberal.” He also told the deputy that “he felt that he was going to have to kill her,” the report said.

Kappheim also admitted to trying to kill his girlfriend three times, the deputy said. When he was placed in handcuffs, he allegedly had a panic attack and kicked the sheriff’s car’s rear door so hard it was knocked out of its alignment.

While inside of the woman’s apartment, the deputy said he found documents that made him believe Kappheim is obsessed with Fox News and the Republican Party, and that he may be a danger to others.

Rick Scott had barely arrived in Tallahassee in 2011 when he ordered a purge of felons from Florida’s voter rolls. Just this once, perhaps that worked out for the best. Continue reading Take Five (Push, Push Sweet Charlotte edition)