Stormy Monday, 3/9/15

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StormyMondayMonday, the Department of Justice will begin notifying approximately a million federal workers of their eligibility to join a class action suit against the government for being forced to work without pay during the Republican-engineered shutdown in October 2013. Eligible employees will have 105 days to sign on; voters will have 610 days until the 2016 election to decide that throwing Republicans out of all federal offices is an urgent priority for the health of the nation.

By next weekend, or so, the United States will have again exhausted its ability to borrow money. Fear not, though. Mitch “Old Lightnin'” McConnell promised Face the Nation Sunday that “the debt ceiling will be handled over a period of months.” He added that “hopefully, it might carry some other important legislation that we can agree on in connection with it,” which, on Planet Mitch, presumably means the repeal of Obamacare or the gutting of Social Security. The White House has meanwhile implemented “emergency cash measures” to forestall a possible collision with the debt ceiling.

Speaking of dysfunctionality and debt, the Eurogroup convenes in Brussels tomorrow to “discuss next steps” related to debt assistance for Greece. Tensions ratcheted up considerably today with the threat by Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis that Greece could hold an election or a referendum over what those “next steps” might entail.

Too bad Senator Inhofe won’t be in Fairbanks tomorrow for the competitive start of this year’s Iditarod. If he were, he’d learn that 350 dump-trucks’ worth of snow were needed to facilitate Saturday’s ceremonial start in Anchorage, where daytime temperatures flirted with 40 and the only thing falling from the late-winter sky was a thin rain.

Fires are still not totally extinguished following Thursday’s derailment of a crude-carrying BNSF train near Galena, Illinois. Ten more derailed cars remain to be cleared via a new temporary “haul road.” The railway says it anticipates the mainline to be back in operation Monday, which would clear the way – whew! – for the week’s usual 40 or 50 oil trains to run through the area. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 3/9/15

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Stormy Monday, 1/12/15

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StormyMondayNew Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – man, it makes me queasy to type that – will try to move authorization of the Keystone XL pipeline forward today after last week’s House vote to approve it.

Tuesday, Chris Christie takes a time-out from mourning his beloved Dallas Cowboys to deliver his State of the State address. Spoiler alert: the state of the state is rife with corruption, with the worst of it centered around 354 Stockton Street in Princeton. Governor Christie will likely avoid that topic, though, to concentrate on lying and blustering, the two things he does best.

Senate Democrats will be in Baltimore Wednesday and Thursday for their annual policy retreat (and no, I will not go for a cheap laugh here). They’ll be doing so without Minority Leader Harry Reid, who’s still recovering from his recent injuries and remains in Washington on doctors’ orders. House and Senate Republicans, meanwhile, will gather in Hershey, Pennsylvania for a joint two-day retreat, presumably to synch up their respective ideas for destroying the country as efficiently as possible.

Wednesday at noon, the Londonderry Fish and Game Club in Litchfield, New Hampshire hosts a one-hour “conversation” on the Second Amendment with crackpot Senator Rand Paul, followed by a Q&A session where it’s pretty much guaranteed Senator Paul will not be asked pertinent questions like “Why the hell do you think you’re qualified to be President?” and “Where’d you get that hair?”

The President kicks off his week with a visit to the Federal Trade Commission on Monday, followed by a Tuesday bipartisan confab with Congressional leaders to discuss what Reuters laughably describes as “common goals,” and a visit to the DHS National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center. Wednesday he heads to Iowa for a speech about expanding broadband access for more Americans. He’s also expected to drop by the Democrats’ Baltimore get-together on Thursday. Thursday evening, he dines with British PM David Cameron; the two will confer at the White House on Friday. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 1/12/15

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Stormy Monday, 7/15/13

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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

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Stormy Monday, 5/27/13

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If this week brings some blessed relief from IRS-gate, AP-gate and Benghazi-gate, it will probably be because  Salute-gate has crowded them out of the headlines. Republicans have presumably been availing themselves of the long weekend to decide whether the “incident” is proof that the President hates: a) the Marines, b) white people, c) America, or d) all of the above.

After a weekend visit to tornado-ravaged Oklahoma, the President will tour the Jersey Shore Tuesday to survey the progress of post-Sandy recovery measures with frenemy Chris Christie. It’s a fitting way to underscore National Hurricane Preparedness Week. Then he returns to a disaster area of a different sort, Washington DC, to confront whatever set of talking points the GOP will have settled on to express their dismay, disappointment, disgust and derision that the President went and spoiled the whole doggone War on Terror TM.

Who knew that the namby-pamby filibuster “reforms” the Senate implemented back in January wouldn’t change a damned thing? Everybody except Harry Reid, who last week suggested that he’s considering scrapping the cloture requirement entirely in order to speed up Senate confirmation of nominees. Fresh from a Memorial Day weekend filled with barbecue and regret, Reid and Mitch McConnell resume yelling at each other about the issue on Tuesday.

The same day, 115,000 employees at the IRS, HUD, OMB and the EPA return to work after an extended long weekend resulting from Friday’s sequester-related furlough, which applied to roughly five percent of the federal workforce. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 5/27/13

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Stormy Monday, 4/15/13

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After the President rolled out a 244-page budget last week that I’m told consists solely of the words “chained CPI,” I doubt the coming week will offer up comparable oddities, but I’ve been wrong before.

At least a little oddly, it seems the Senate might produce some bipartisan gun legislation yet. Illinois’ Mark Kirk and Maine’s Susan Collins have signaled support for the Toomey/Manchin compromise bill expanding background checks to internet and gun show purchases, albeit with a “personal transfer” exemption that rolls out a plush red carpet for the tragic headlines of tomorrow. Debate on the bill will move ahead after a filibuster was averted by a 68-31 vote on Thursday. While this all sounds encouraging, any Senate gun bill will likely be shot dead by the House.

The full Senate might also be presented with a proposal that would provide a defined path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who entered the United States on or before December 31, 2011 (and renewed fear of deportation for those who arrived a day or more later). A new guest worker program for farm workers has reportedly attained bipartisan consensus in the eight-senator group trying to hammer out a comprehensive immigration bill. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 4/15/13

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How Come Big News Is Seldom About Big Ideas?

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Have you noticed how we now log our tragedies by their dates?

We have killed more of our own citizens with guns than have died in all the wars the US fought since the Revolution (212,000+).

Robbing Peter to pay Paul, it’s March, time to take advantage of the wind energy from the GOP check-kiting plan to use empty Treasury coffers to pay government debt in lieu of their first choice of default.

When is the time ninety percent of Americans agreed on anything? Astounding, across the hills and vales of the majestic plains below the purple mountains, ninety percent of America agrees on purchasers of guns being reviewed by background checks. 

Old Westerns had heroic characters famed for the use of guns, who often worked indirectly on-screen to prevent the ownership and use of guns for self-defense or to settle disputes, due to the lessons learned from their own personal, on-screen (or back story) experience (fictionally!). As famed gun users in a violent era, no Western movie hero argued on-screen for increasing the ownership of guns. Those who assembled armies of guns were labeled bad guys. Of course, the NRA would now call good guys trying to limit guns a fantasy. The NRA position is now the one endorsed by Hollywood’s worst outlaws. (I call their view a curse. And at least thirteen senators want America to become the OK Corral.)

Maybe the two or three members of Congress from Florida who are calling the shots for a full congressional investigation of Jay-Z and Beyoncé visiting a children’s dance troupe, an arts school, and an elderly, well known Cuban singer, and Jay-Z being photographed with a Cuban cigar and the two eating in privately-owned restaurants while visiting Havana will come in time to see such a call as a demand for government to grossly intrude in the lives of citizens (a position the Congress members profess to abhor!), and more importantly, a spurious, non-productive use of government resources, a waste of money for political frivolity that represents the excesses that give government a bad name (and negate the fervent claim of fiscal fidelity put forth by these same Congress members who are suddenly eager to practice a violation of their core campaign, party, and personal principles!).

The couple had the proper license for cultural exchanges that meet US guidelines for travel to Cuba. To call the famous couple’s trip “tourism” is another example of the petty insignificance associated with outsized, politically faked outrage (their indignation targeted at wealthy minority celebrities who didn’t stay up late in South Beach clubs). The Cuban people themselves seem to disagree with the American Congress members; they cheered wildly, smiled, clapped, and were excited everywhere the couple went. (Was this a state demonstration ordered by Raul Castro?)

The Congress members manufactured a non-issue to stoke anger and resentment. Do you believe there is a patriotic cause to be served by closing cultural contacts with Cuba—and leaving open the pipeline to Mitt Romney’s Grand Cayman accounts?

In fact, what has the boycott of Cuba proven other than we can boycott Cuba? Did it improve the lives of Cubans? Bring them closer to full liberty? Topple the regime? End human rights violations? Or comfort an old anger?

Both Virginia and Florida have new state educational standards that differ for children based on their ethnicity and race. In Florida, the tax dollars of a black parent buy fifty percent of the standard that the tax dollars of a white parent do. When vouchers are created, vouchers for black parents will buy fifty percent less education than those of whites—but both meet state-approved standards. Suddenly, black children will be successful in charter schools—achieving an official, approved state standard fifty percent lower than the one set for whites.

Who thinks of these things?

How come big news is never any longer about big ideas?

GOP Senator Mitch McConnell, the Minority Leader of the Senate, brought up a big name this week, a seminal event in America’s history, Watergate. In his description of the leak of a strategic meeting for his re-election, he conveniently compared it to the famous Watergate break-in (done by operatives working for a Republican Presidential campaign effort!) and re-wrote the history of political taping: he suggested the tapes were obtained by bugs placed in his office!

He ignored the rich irony that the content of the tapes brought the presidency of Richard Nixon down. Nixon’s tapes revealed and documented acts illegal and unethical. McConnell’s tapes called for focusing on an opponent’s mental health issues. McConnell’s own mental health and morals should be questioned and come under inspection. He lies. He is delusional (by any standard). He utterly lacks standards of social behavior. He violates community ethics. He is unable to accept responsibility. He is devoid of honesty or fair play. Will the same personal flaws that once got Richard Nixon impeached get Mitch McConnell reelected?

In the House, McConnell has a kindred spirit in Paul Ryan. In submitting his budget plan for marking, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) detailed the rules Paul Ryan and his staff specified “by which revenues and spending would evolve.”

Ryan told the CBO to assume his Medicare plan would hold costs to half a percent above GDP growth. He required the CBO to assume spending on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program would grow at the rate of inflation. He told the CBO to assume that federal spending, outside of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, will fall to 3.75 percent of GDP in 2050. He chairs the committee that oversees our national budget!

The President apologized to California’s Attorney General for saying she was America’s “best looking” state Attorney General. In a country whose largest media event, the Super Bowl, included Jay-Z’s wife in full breakdown mode, and after a CBS memo for the Oscars, the Onion’s Oscar night misstep that many called “free speech,” thousands of scatological posts about the President’s own sexuality (one asking the First Lady how it feels to be “a beard”) and scathing comments about the First Lady’s body image, none which rise to the level of a comment using the phrase “good looking,” why all the noise?

The point here (and for the whole piece!) is to point out that when an event or phrase is singled out and profiled, it is generally tied to a deeper cultural meaning that the media ignores, one hidden by the obvious and transparent political claims being made. And these deeper meanings must be reviewed and weighed not as tit and tat or good and bad or double evils or final reasons (or tennis returns! Go Serena!), but for the weight they add to or take away from the collective progress, peace, and love, and how they mark our path. 

The diet of Republican politics has a lot of fat and greasy palms and bad choices for America’s health. But the GOP has staked a claim on obscuring facts and proclaiming the end of the world.

Fact: No President in history has been as emotionally public and transparent as Barack Obama. (Try to imagine any GOP President or nominee saying to a crowd, “I love you back.”) His hugs of Michelle I sometimes feel should be private, so intimate do they appear. (I have written here of eagles locking talons!) But to my memory, his words should have been public; beauty is a gift and an aesthetic that we can appreciate, and should not be tied to the idea that its acknowledgement belittles others or crosses a conventional line of correctness—but more, in the complex of my own memory, I have waited for this day, because I am a Southerner and I remember the hoped-to-be pardoned Scottsboro Boys and I remember Emmett Till. Continue reading How Come Big News Is Seldom About Big Ideas?

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Sunday Talks, 7/8/12

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This fall’s elections and this summer’s legislative priorities lead the Sunday television talk shows, as Congress prepares to return from a week-long Fourth of July recess and President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney exchange . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 7/8/12

Sunday Talks, 5/20/12

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This Sunday’s television talk shows are packed with Congressional leaders, headlined by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on ABC’s “This Week.”

Paul Ryan stops by NBC’s “Meet the Press,” . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 5/20/12

Jesus Arrested after Capitol Melee

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What started out as an historic address by the most prominent religious leader ever to stand before a joint session of Congress descended into chaos yesterday as a visibly irate Jesus Christ, apparently responding to incessant hissing, booing, and heckling from the Republican side of the aisle, leapt from the podium and stormed the House chamber — screaming at the membership and throwing furniture indiscriminately.

Order was finally restored only after what appeared to be a legion of Capitol police finally subdued the religious scholar and philosopher viewed by many as their Lord and Savior.

One witness with perhaps the best vantage point was House Speaker John Boehner, with whom Mr. Christ, upon taking the podium, reportedly quipped, “By any chance are your people from Nubia?” According to The Bronze Clod, “I had a feeling it would be a long evening for our guest when, before he uttered a word, (Mississippi Republican) Gregg Harper objected to the Chair recognizing him, insisting that he first lower the hood of his robe in compliance with House rules regarding hats. I’m pretty sure there were also others whose suspicions were aroused when He appeared wearing a hoodie. Frankly, you’d think He would have known better.”

The evening only became more contentious after that.

In His prepared remarks, Jesus (as He told His audience He likes to be called) implored the members of Congress to allow the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire as scheduled at the end of the year, close tax loopholes for the wealthiest individuals and most successful corporations, and increase funding for social safety net programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, housing, welfare and unemployment insurance.

This proposal was greeted with boos and jeers from the Republican contingent, with audible comments emanating from their ranks which included, “That’s Socialism”, “Hippie”, and “Get a job — after you take a bath and get a haircut!”

Jesus responded to these outbursts by saying, “A little over 2000 years ago, I suggested to a rich young man that if he wanted to be perfect, he should go and sell what he had, and give to the poor, and he would have treasure in heaven; and he should come and follow me. Over the years, I have realized that nobody — especially nobody in this chamber — is perfect. But for Christ’s sake — and in this case, that would be Me — we’re only talking about a lousy 4%.”

Just moments earlier, His comment that, “… it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God” was greeted with the now familiar yell of “You lie!” from South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson. Continue reading Jesus Arrested after Capitol Melee

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Sunday Talks, 4/1/12

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It’s the April Fool’s Day edition of Sunday Talks! However – no fooling! – Joe Biden is going to be on Face the Nation. Not to worry, though. There are still plenty of fools hitting the . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 4/1/12