Stormy Monday, 8/11/14

StormyMondayHostilities intensified over the weekend as assorted anti-American theocrats, terrorists and heavily armed extremists – Republicans, in other words – ratcheted up their rhetoric against President Obama’s latest efforts to help Iraq’s faltering government defeat Islamic State insurgents. If you opted not to spend part of Sunday watching foreign policy luminaries like John McCain and Peter King tell the nearest TV camera just what a mess the President has made of Iraq, you probably won’t be shocked to learn that they believe it’s a terrible mess indeed. Really terrible. Very terrible. Terribly terrible. What a refreshing change from the Bush era, when Republicans strenuously insisted that criticism of the Commander-in-Chief during wartime is inappropriate; nowadays they deem it inappropriate not to be screeching about every decision and announcement emanating from the Oval Office.

Reports began circulating Sunday evening of a coup attempt against Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki, who stated over the weekend that he will pursue a third term.

If that’s not quite ominous enough for you, there’s this: Laura Ingraham, of all people, is urging restraint in assessing the President’s handling of the situation in Iraq. “I don’t think you can judge how he did right now,” she said on Fox News Sunday. While there have been no other harbingers yet of imminent apocalypse, political commentators, theologians and Ingraham groupies are fretfully monitoring the situation.

The Obama family has begun a two-week vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. The President will, however, take a break from his break with a return to Washington next Sunday for what has been cryptically described as “meetings,” before returning to the Vineyard the following Tuesday. Expect Congressional Republicans, currently enjoying their own five-week recess, to hit the airwaves Sunday to complain that the president can’t even vacation competently. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 8/11/14

Stormy Monday, 3/17/14

StormyMondayEven before yesterday’s secession “referendum” in Crimea, Washington and the European Union had declared that the process didn’t pass the smell test. Sure as dammit, there was an off-putting spoor to exit polls suggesting 93% support for breaking away from Ukraine and joining Russia. European foreign ministers gather today in Brussels to discuss freezing Russian assets, with a Thursday conclave of EU leaders also scheduled.

Stateside, John Kerry has been spending a lot of time on the phone with Russian foreign minister Lavrov, much as Secretary Kerry’s boss has been chatting a lot with Lavrov’s. In Congress, bipartisan pressure continues to build for sanctions against Russia; the Senate Foreign Relations Committee cleared a sanctions bill last week that also guarantees $1 billion in loans to Ukraine. Just back from a meaningless but self-aggrandizing Ukraine junket, and ever the bilge – er, bridge over troubled water, John McCain yesterday unhelpfully described Russia as “a gas station masquerading as a country.” Hmm. What with “that one” in the White House for a second term, poor Senator McCain is running out of wars. Shill, baby, shill.

Fred Phelps, former capo of the Westboro Baptist church, reportedly begins the week “close to death.” Which would be a shame, except that he’s Fred Phelps.

Cyberspace could be in for a rude shock this week if Republicans make good on their excited bleating about deploying some spanking new “.gop” websites. Wow! Talk about seismic shifts: same stale, dim, destructive ideas, totally new domain!

The search continues for Malaysia Airlines’ Flight 370, amid new suspicions that the plane’s disappearance was linked to a 9/11-style plot to attack India. Michael McCaul, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Peter King, one of his fellow Republican doofuses thereon, continue to insist that a terrorism connection is unlikely, which leads me to suspect that it’s very likely. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 3/17/14

Take Five (Way Stranger than Fiction edition)

Take-FiveIf those present at the March on Washington imagined anything about the national conversation on race half a century hence, they might well have assumed it would at least be an adult conversation, because of course they had no way of knowing that the Republicans of the new millennium would so decisively abandon any pretense of maturity, emotional or intellectual.

The GOP Dog-Whistle Philharmonic haughtily eschewed the high-profile 50th-anniversary celebrations of the March, opting instead to stage a series of energetic but stridently off-key recitals by its few minority soloists, like Bobby Jindal and Ted Cruz.

In an op-ed supposedly penned to commemorate Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech, Jindal, stunningly, used the occasion to criticize – wait for it – minorities:

Jindal accused minorities of placing “far too much emphasis on our ‘separateness,’ our heritage, ethnic background, skin color, etc. We live in the age of hyphenated Americans…

“Here’s an idea: How about just ‘Americans?’ That has a nice ring to it, if you ask me. Placing undue emphasis on our ‘separateness’ is a step backward. Bring back the melting pot,” the governor opined.

Jindal underscored that waste of electrons with an appearance on Meet the Press last week that included a jaw-dropping rationalization for the tidal wave of bigotry to which the nation’s first not-entirely-white President has been subjected:

David Gregory asked Gov. Jindal about Colin Powell’s opinion that there is a dark vein of intolerance within the Republican Party. Jindal answered by comparing the Republicans’ Obama racism to Democratic treatment of George W. Bush.

The same day Jindal was pitching that idiocy, Senator Ted Cruz, touted, toasted, hyper-hyped Cuban-Canadian-American Demagogue Extraordinaire, appeared on CNN and claimed that his party’s vigorous efforts to destroy Obamacare are based in part on trying to help Hispanics and African Americans:

“… it’s not working and it’s hurting Americans,” Cruz insisted. “And by the way, the people that it’s hurting the most are the most vulnerable among us… The people who are losing their jobs are young people, are Hispanics, are African-Americans, are single moms. I don’t think that’s fair, I don’t think that’s right.”

Sure you don’t, Senator. Your party is all about minorities, after all. Case in point, the government’s figures for 2012 show African Americans at 13.1% as a percentage of total population, and Hispanic Americans at 16.9%, while a 2012 Pew study found that 31% of African Americans and 22% of Hispanic Americans have received SNAP benefits at some time in their lives. Yet, strangely, the party you and your doughy cohort of sophists insist is on the side of minorities has yet to reinstate food assistance funding after summarily stripping it out of the Farm Bill, the legislation through which SNAP money has traditionally been disbursed.

If it’s no longer mind-boggling that the stubbornly self-congratulatory “Party of Lincoln” is so utterly, offensively worthless on race and every other issue of minority rights, it’s only because everybody got used to it ages ago. And not a single po-faced minority conservative mouthing glib clichés in the direction of the nearest TV camera is going to do anything but make it worse.

TWO: Crass from the Past

Leave it to Republicans to keep their presidential campaigns in the news long after the campaigns have ended. You might remember a fellow by the name of McCain who ran against Barack Obama back in 2008. You know, the mavericky guy? Thought his long-suffering wife would be a fabulous “Miss Buffalo Chip”? Recklessly chose a running mate who had never heard of the Bush Doctrine and couldn’t name a single newspaper she read? A POW in Vietnam, although his campaign only ever mentioned it on days of the week with names ending in “y”?

Five years on, the FEC has managed to reach a “conciliation agreement” with “Five-Plane” McCain’s campaign for taking excessive campaign contributions and sundry other violations, all of which would have been easily avoided if anyone working on the campaign had cared enough to care. The agreement stipulates $80,000 in fines. Chump change in the grand scheme of things? Sure. And it certainly won’t be coming from the spouse-subsidized pockets of Senator “Keating Five” himself, but it’s a mildly gratifying little story nonetheless.

You might also recall that while the 2008 Obama campaign was running an impressively web-savvy operation (modeled on but expanding greatly on the blueprint of Joe Trippi’s groundbreaking work for Howard Dean in 2004), the hapless John McCain was reduced to admitting he relied on his wife and aides to get online, with the almost pathetically hopeful postscript:

“I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself…”

Well, times sure have changed. McCain’s just a regular old cybernaut nowadays, as he proved Tuesday at a Senate hearing on Syria. As his colleagues mulled over matters of life, death, international law, and scruffy old domestic politics, Senator McCain was photographed by the Washington Post‘s Melina Mara playing online poker on his iPhone.

There are three possible takeaways here, as I see it. One is that McCain is so fixated on the idea of raining explosive ordnance on Syria that he doesn’t give a nickel-plated crap what he might hear at a hearing intended to furnish him with the sort of information important decision-makers supposedly need to make their decisions. The second is that McCain is a goldbricking charlatan who owes his state and the nation a formal apology and his immediate resignation. The third is he’s both.

Then there’s Rick Santorum, whose granitic façade of moral rectitude has long been suspected of masking an inner sleazeball. Well, suspected by me, at least, but also by electoral watchdog groups Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, who recently filed a formal complaint with the FEC alleging that Santorum directed a $1 million donation to the Red White and Blue Fund, a Super PAC, in violation of federal election law.

If true, it’s disgusting behavior for any politician, let alone one who wants the world to believe he invented ethics, but the most disturbing allegation is that Bill Doré, the Louisiana businessman whose donation is at the heart of the complaint, actually thought it was sensible to cough up a million bucks to try and get Rick Santorum elected President of the United States.

Last, and almost certainly least, there’s Michele Bachmann, whose ill-fated 2012 campaign has already resulted in a probe by the House Ethics Committee for possible financial violations, a lawsuit over an allegedly stolen mailing list, and an active investigation into Kent Sorenson, a state senator who chaired her campaign in Iowa and may have received improper payments for so doing, in addition to more recent allegations that he solicited money from the Ron Paul campaign in exchange for switching his support.

The newest Bachmann scandal-in-waiting revolves around possible illegal coordination between her campaign and the National Fiscal Conservative PAC, coordination that might have involved her husband Marcus Bachmann. The Justice Department subpoenaed financial and other records from the Super PAC last week. It seems Bachmann’s imminent retirement from Congress could prove fortuitous, freeing her to spend more time with her attorneys.

THREE: The Mire Next Time

And then there are the horrors and hilarity of Republican presidential campaigns yet to come. If you thought ’08 and ’12 were grotesque spectacles of dank depravity, untrammeled ugliness and anti-intellectual pandering to the scummiest side of human nature, you were right, but ’16 is going to be much worse. Or better, depending on how entertaining you find all this stuff.

Former centerfold model and temp Senator Scott Brown, having nothing much else to do these days, recently went to the Iowa State Fair, and explained to the Boston Herald why. He wants to find out if the country is collectively deranged enough to consider putting him in the White House:

“I want to get an indication of whether there’s even an interest, in Massachusetts and throughout the country, if there’s room for a bi-partisan problem solver… It’s 2013, I think it’s premature, but I am curious. There’s a lot of good name recognition in the Dakotas and here – that’s pretty good.”

Yeah, real good. Hey, maybe Cosmo can do a sort of “where are they now?” follow-up shoot, with a naked President Brown stretched out on an Oval Office couch, a copy of the Constitution barely preserving his modesty.

As I noted here a couple of weeks ago, Congressman Peter King of New York is on a jihad to neutralize what he calls the “Rand Paul isolationist wing” of his party, and if that means he has to get elected President to do so, well, so be it. At least he wouldn’t do any nude modeling, or so we can hope.

Ted Cruz, of course, has been running all over the country, most recently to New Hampshire, South Carolina and Iowa, pretending that a presidential run is the last thing on his mind, while hurriedly initiating the process to divest himself of the Canadian citizenship he pretends he didn’t know he had. If it were up to Texas Teabagger Christine Katok (a woman on record as doubting President Obama’s eligibility) Cruz wouldn’t need to bother:

“As far as I’m concerned, Canada is not really foreign soil…”

With no Democratic incumbent to face in ’16, Republicans, theoretically, have a shot at retaking the White House, but these early stirrings already hint at their determination to ensure it won’t happen. Continue reading Take Five (Way Stranger than Fiction edition)

Take Five (Summertime Blues and Reds edition)

Take-FiveONE: The Original Kings of Comedy

With Stewart and Colbert in reruns, Congress in recess until September, and the phony hysterics over this summer’s White House pseudo-scandals losing their already dubious entertainment value through tiresome repetition, it’s been pretty damned tough to find a laugh recently.

Tough but not impossible: perhaps sensing a ready audience, the two obnoxious House Republicans who share the surname “King” have been competing in what amounts to an impromptu comedy slam. Iowa’s Steve King got out to an early lead about a month ago in a Newsmax TV interview with his now-viral comments about undocumented immigrants:

“Some of them are valedictorians — and their parents brought them in. It wasn’t their fault. It’s true in some cases, but they aren’t all valedictorians. They weren’t all brought in by their parents.

“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert…”

Ignoring (or maybe reveling in) the widespread derision these remarks earned, King sat down with Laura Ingraham a week later for an eerily Palinesque interview, and laid it on even thicker:

“That description comes from many days down on the border, riding and sitting with the border patrol and without them at night, no night vision, watching the shadows come across the border, picking people up personally with my hands, unloading illegal drugs out of a vehicle with a false bottom under the truck… I mean this is a personal experience and I sit there at night and border patrol agents would come to me one at a time in their civil clothes and talk to me clandestinely…This description is the description from that kind of experience.”

Uh-huh. Cool story, bro. King had another kind of experience last week when he addressed a “Stop Amnesty” rally in Richmond, Virginia, an experience best described as “a complete waste of time for the very few concerned.” Undaunted and seemingly unembarrassed by the meager attendance, King treated the rally’s listless little crowd of “60 or so” to a classic bit of sophistry straight from Chapter 1 of Xenophobia for Dummies:

If you bring people from a violent civilization into a less-violent civilization, you’re going to have more violence right? It’s like pouring hot water into cold water, does it raise the temperature or not?

Coincidentally, Steve had already had cold water poured on his hopes of winning the hilarity steeplechase the day before, when New York’s Peter King unexpectedly told The Hill that he, Peter, was “serious” about exploring a presidential run. Presumably as “serious” as he was when he opposed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, opposed the repeal of DADT, opposed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and claimed that 80 to 85% of mosques in America are “controlled by Islamic fundamentalists.” King is, after all, an all-round serious guy, but a presidential run? Really?

I definitely want to keep the party from going the route of what I call the ‘Rand Paul isolationist wing’ of the party… At the same time I’m testing the waters myself presidentially. It’s sort of like walking and chewing gum at the same time. I’m very serious about the issue but I’m also very serious about seeing what the possibilities are about running for president.”

Funny, funny stuff! But Steve King isn’t throwing in the towel. The Missouri rodeo clown with the Obama mask provided him with a perfect opportunity for some clownishness of his own. And what better venue for the Iowa King’s rudimentary thought processes than one that allows only 140 characters per post? Behold his tweet on the topic:

Mr. President: Invite the rodeo clown 2 the White House 4 a beer summit. Take the temperature down, have a laugh, relax. It’s not about race

Now, I don’t know if King believes any African American on the receiving end of racism should invite the racist over to sink some cool ones, or if the prescription only applies to the President, but I have a better idea in any case. How about a “jeer summit”? The President could host both Kings on the South Lawn, preferably fitted snugly into stocks or a pillory, and invite the public to mock them. Free admission for Muslims and Hispanics! Bring your own cantaloupes!

TWO: Baked on a Plane

Peter and Steve King only go so far, of course. Sometimes you have to make your own fun, and that’s just what an intrepid young man did recently in Cologne, Germany:

Germany’s security services are urgently investigating how a man was able to board Angela Merkel’s military jet where he partied alone for four hours wearing only underpants while high on drugs.

The man, a bodybuilder of Turkish descent named as Volkan T, 24, danced on a wing of the German chancellor’s aircraft, sprayed fire extinguisher foam around its luxury cabin and randomly pushed cockpit buttons, deploying an emergency evacuation slide…

Wow! So far, this all sounds sorta like my dream weekend, but Volkan T unfortunately managed to cut his good time short inadvertently:

The authorities were only alerted to the security breach, when he inadvertently triggered an alarm while playing with the cockpit buttons.

Adding to the embarrassment, it then took police, dogs, private security guards and soldiers three hours to get the intruder off the plane, including attempts to persuade him to give up shouted over a megaphone.

If only Chancellor Merkel’s security staff had shown that kind of determination when dealing with unwanted massages.

THREE: Heavy Medal

The White House recently announced the newest round of Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients. Established by JFK, the award celebrates its fiftieth birthday this year, with honorees including CT Vivian, Gloria Steinem, Loretta Lynn, Ernie Banks, Patricia Wald, Ben Bradlee, Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Arturo Sandoval, and posthumous honorees Bayard Rustin, Sally Ride and Daniel Inouye.

The one name on the list that got my hackles up was Richard Lugar, less for his being a Republican (although there is that) than for his being a Republican who was apparently sound asleep while his party was being hijacked by its worst elements, finally waking up and noticing what was going on only when Teabagger extremists successfully primaried him with the grotesque Richard Mourdock. Maybe he’s being honored for retiring from politics immediately after that debacle.

Lugar aside, this year continues what has become another quiet Obama achievement: giving the Presidential Medal of Freedom to people who (mostly) actually deserve it. So far, the list during his tenure includes names like Bob Dylan, Harvey Milk, Yo-Yo Ma, Billie Jean King, Stan Musial, John Glenn, Stephen Hawking, Desmond Tutu, John Lewis, Jasper Johns, Ted Kennedy and Toni Morrison.

All a remarkable contrast to the three people honored on December 14, 2004 by George Walker Bush. It was at the time and still remains nearly impossible to come up with three less deserving people than Tommy Franks, Paul Bremer and George Tenet. The closest I can think of would be Irving Kristol, the America-hating “godfather of neoconservatism” honored in 2002, and Bush’s fellow war criminals Tony Blair and John Howard, who received awards in 2009 a mere seven days before Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Notwithstanding all that, Bush’s two illegitimate terms also resulted in awards to Julia Child, Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron, Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, Aretha Franklin, Harper Lee and Carol Burnett, and George HW Bush was, unfortunately, an Obama honoree in 2011. Which proves, I guess, that the Presidential Medal of Freedom is an unreliable barometer for an administration’s ideological leanings, but remains an intriguing spectator sport. Continue reading Take Five (Summertime Blues and Reds edition)

Sunday Talks, 11/18/12

“This Week” on ABC will feature House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, on to discuss the “fiscal cliff.” House Homeland Security Committee Chair Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., will discuss the . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 11/18/12

Sunday Talks, 6/10/12

Looks like Walker is taking his victory lap this Sunday, so watch if you dare!

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the conservative Republican who survived Tuesday’s recall election, headlines this Sunday’s television talk shows with an appearance on . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 6/10/12

Sunday Talks, 5/13/12

The debate over gay marriage spills into this Sunday’s television talk shows, with leading advocates on both sides of the issue making the rounds in the wake of President Barack Obama’s newly announced support for same-sex unions.

. . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 5/13/12

Sunday Talks, 4/22/12

The Secret Service scandal in Colombia dominates this Sunday’s television talk shows, as the Republican presidential race turns to the field of possible running mates for the likely nominee, Mitt Romney.

“Fox News Sunday” and CBS’s “Face . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 4/22/12

IOKIYAR *

* “IT’S OK IF YOU’RE A REPUBLICAN”

The Republicans are up in arms about President Obama supposedly saying Americans are lazy. How DARE he? Harrumph!

Of course President Obama didn’t say Americans are lazy. This is what he said:

“But we’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We’ve kind of taken for granted — well, people will want to come here and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America”, Obama said.

But hey, Republicans never let the truth get in the way of their lies and vapors. (Get the smellin’ salts, Martha! I’m gonna faint!)

Now listen to them talk about the Occupy Wall Street participants. They are druggies, dirty, filthy, oh, and rapists.

Here’s Rep. Peter King (R-CooCoo Bird):

“First of all, you try to listen to them and they make almost no sense,” King said. “These are people who were living in dirt, these were people who were involved with drugs, there was violence, there was rape. You’re talking about a small number of people — you could probably get more people in a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Sunday than you’ve got in Zuccotti Park.”

Living in dirt? Involved with drugs? Rape?? Are you f-ing kidding me? Yeah, ‘cause rape only happens at commie-pinko-socialist-dirty places like the Occupy Wall Street camps.

Here’s Rick Perry (R-Good Hair Doesn’t Make You a Good Candidate):

“Liberals are now pointing the finger of blame at successful employers under the guise of fairness, but when they utter phrases like ‘fair share’ you just know, heh, they’re once again playing fast and furious with the truth.”

Playing fast and furious with the truth, huh? Um, no, that was you and your reaction to the President’s “Lazy” remark:

Republicans are still trying to pass themselves off as the only truth-telling, righteous, upstanding and viable people in the country. Call them on their lies, their distortions, their uber-ugly talk, and out come the smelling salts. The indignation. The “How dare you?” reactions. Continue reading IOKIYAR *