One glorious June afternoon in 1990, I was thrilled to be part of a huge crowd assembled outdoors to hear Nelson Mandela speak about freedom and justice, just four months after his release from what was then called Victor Verster Prison. His condition is currently described as “serious but stable” as he fights a lung infection. Please join me in sending good vibes to a very great human being.
A vote is expected early this week on S.954, the Senate’s farm bill, which will cut SNAP benefits by $400 million a year, a reduction already approved by 28 members of the Democratic majority. The Republican House majority is pressing for even larger cuts.
After weathering some asinine posturing by House Republicans on Thursday and some transparently timed bleating from Senators Cornyn and Rubio on Friday, the comprehensive immigration bill crafted by the bipartisan so-called Gang of Eight is expected to move to the Senate floor this week. Over the rest of the month, 100 eager contestants – including New Jersey Republican Jeffrey Chiesa, newly appointed by Chris Christie as a placeholder for the seat of the late Frank Lautenberg until an October special election – will each whip up a rhetorical soufflé from equal parts high-minded boilerplate and stale constituent catnip. Tasty!
Friday, Vermont’s Patrick Leahy, a good man who seems strangely unaware that stalling is what Republicans reflexively do whenever Democrats are in the majority, urged Republicans to stop stalling the bill. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 6/10/13
ONE: “Please run for president. Please run for president.”
They nominated an entitled, anti-charismatic corporate raider whose positions change with the tides and whose religion is considered by much of the party’s base to be a cult, and they still can’t seem to shake off their amazement that they failed to regain the White House. Nevertheless, Republicans are already desperately rummaging around for their next presidential contender, and they might want to be careful what they wish for.
Donald Trump has apparently spent about a million bucks on “electoral research” in advance of a possible 2016 run. Although he routinely overstates his net worth, this kind of money is no big deal to Trump, and of course we’ve all seen this reality show before, when he hinted and flirted and teased about thwarting a second Obama term before finally endorsing Romney, so perhaps there’s nothing to this beyond typical Trumpian hot air. Or maybe this is how he gets revenge for being dumped from the program at the Republican National Convention. Or maybe he’s serious, in which case it’ll be a groove watching the party scramble to cut him off at the knees.
With no apparent awareness of the irony, Trump recently told a gathering of the Oakland County Republicans in Michigan:
“Everybody tells me, ‘Please run for president. Please run for president.’ I would be much happier if a great and competent person came along.”
TWO: Ventura Biway
But what if an even more egregiously self-aggrandizing blowhard came along instead? Former Minnesota Governor and inveterate clod Jesse Ventura was in Saint Paul last Friday to honor a retiring State Patrol sergeant, and mused about an independent run in 2016:
“… 2016 is an opportune moment because there’ll be no incumbent,” he told reporters after the reception. “I believe one issue that would carry me to victory … I would give the people of America to their first opportunity to elect a president who doesn’t belong to either party, since George Washington.”
Or at least their first opportunity since 2012, when the last spate of deluded independents threw their hats in the ring to no avail. If a Ventura candidacy might worry The Donald at all, the Star Tribune has some reassuring words for him:
The fact that [Ventura] lives in Mexico much of the year and that he would want shock-jock Howard Stern as his running mate suggest that this seed might never germinate.
And if it ever does, Candidate Trump could just tap Gary Busey for his running mate, and the balance of kitschy weirdness would be instantly restored.
THREE: Yawn Top of the World
As for that entitled, anti-charismatic corporate raider I mentioned above, he and his arrogant, peevish, spectacularly insincere spouse are back in the news, because… well, frankly, I have no idea why. Perhaps they’re already tired of playing with their car elevator.
Mitt is currently hosting a two-day something-or-other in Park City, Utah, attended by Chris Christie and Paul Ryan, among others. Ann, meanwhile, recently talked to CBS, vaguely, about possible ’16 nominees:
“There are some great candidates out there and, you know, I think Mitt and I are always very, very partial to Paul Ryan but, you know, we don’t even know if he’s going to run… but there are some good candidates.”
Mitt had his own interview with the Wall Street Journal, and talked, vaguely, about his personal life, which sounds a little like a Habitrail: Continue reading Take Five (Party Down edition)
This week marked the tenth anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq, illegal as in fraudulently undertaken, thereby invalidating any supposed sanction previously conferred either by Congress or the United Nations, and also incomprehensibly immoral, like all crimes against humanity.
There should be no surcease, ever, of denunciation of the criminal horror unleashed on Iraq by the Bush administration and those who helped enable it, the latter largely for shamefully political reasons. In a nation with such a bounteous supply of prisons, there’s plenty of room to house the guilty for the rest of their lamentably natural lives, and their accomplices for some fraction thereof.
I have no hope that either will ever happen.
This week, fifteen months after the last combat troops were withdrawn from Iraq, the anniversary was marked in George Bush’s “beacon of democracy in the Middle East” with a wave of lethal violence, tersely quantified by the New York Times:
… 57 dead and nearly 190 wounded in separate attacks that included 17 car bombs, 2 adhesive bombs stuck to cars, and a killing with a silenced gun.
This week, Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies released the results of a study conducted by its Cost of War Project. The study found:
The U.S. war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans, expenses that could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades counting interest…
The war has killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians and may have contributed to the deaths of as many as four times that number…
When security forces, insurgents, journalists and humanitarian workers were included, the war’s death toll rose to an estimated 176,000 to 189,000, the study said.
Yes, effecting mass death, destruction and chaos is more efficient than ever, yet it still doesn’t come cheap. Of course, that’s not how the Bush junta made its sales pitch. In the run-up to The Decider’s trigger finger getting intolerably itchy, Mitch Daniels, his OMB director, nudged up the saturation on the administration’s already over-saturated blue skies, to obscure what it would really cost in borrowed cash to dust off Saddam Hussein as one would a garden pest and install a compliant regime straight out of whatever remained of Dick Cheney’s wet dreams:
Mr. Daniels would not provide specific costs for either a long or a short military campaign against Saddam Hussein. But he said that the administration was budgeting for both, and that earlier estimates of $100 billion to $200 billion in Iraq war costs by Lawrence B. Lindsey, Mr. Bush’s former chief economic adviser, were too high.
And then he added a scabrous little grace note:
Mr. Daniels cautioned that his budget projections did not mean a war with Iraq was imminent, and that it was impossible to know what any military campaign against Iraq would ultimately cost.
The viciously, deliberately dishonest math behind all this has long been known, although it has constantly been revised upwards. Contrasts were drawn between prediction and reality almost from the outset, despite the best efforts of White House propagandists, supine but incessantly talkative members of Congress, and the jitterbugging marionettes of the mainstream media. The immense gap between the predicted and actual numbers probably still provokes gales of rheumy cackling whenever the old gang gathers around the fireplace for a snifter of brandy or human blood in whatever dank privy the original PNAC signatories still hold their unholy soirées.
TWO: With Fiends Like These…
Over and above the rancor they directed at Democrats, progressives and various other favorite scapegoats for the deleterious effects of their own wretched ideas, participants at CPAC ‘s 40th anniversary shindig last week were also remarkably splenetic toward each other.
Rick Perry brought a McCain/Romney dartboard:
“Now, the popular media narrative is that this country has shifted away from conservative ideals, as evidenced by the last two presidential elections… That is what they say. That might be true if Republicans had actually nominated conservative candidates in 2008 and 2012…”
Rand Paul was even more bluntly insolent to his elders:
“The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered… I don’t think we need to name any names here, do we?”
Donald Trump’s post-speech press conference featured another of the oafish magnate’s swipes at Karl Rove:
“This is the same mind that spent $400 million and didn’t win a race. He’s the most overrated person in politics…”
Louie Gohmert discharged a lot of indiscriminate buckshot, some of which winged the Nixon administration:
“Vietnam was winnable, but people in Washington decided we should not win it.”
Sarah Palin continued her lupercalian vendetta against sort-of-Republican Mike Bloomberg:
“Bloomberg’s not around,” Palin joked as she slurped on a giant soda, “our Big Gulps are safe.”
Brent Bozell dragged in a whole sack of grudges. Against, for example, Paul Ryan:
“… your proposed budget that has the federal government spending $41 TRILLION over the next ten years, with more and more and more spending increases every single year, and assumes all the oppressive Obamacare taxes. Congressman, that’s what liberal Democrats do, not us.
“This is not conservatism. It is, literally, Democrat Lite…”
Against Haley Barbour:
“… my friend, when you call for unity and on conservatives to ‘sing from the same hymnal’ and then publicly trash good conservative groups like Club for Growth for supporting good conservatives, you’re out of tune, and you’re out of line…”
Against the House leadership:
“John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Kevin McCarthy… you, like virtually every single other Republican elected to Congress solemnly vowed to rid us of Obamacare, which you can do simply by refusing to fund it. Why haven’t you done so?
“You’ve done nothing for over two years but give us excuses and more commitments that tomorrow, yes tomorrow, you’ll honor your promises. Gentlemen, where promises are concerned, you are not what you promised to be.”
With all the heated infighting, it’s a good thing attendees could buy a Marco Rubio water bottle in the exhibit hall.
THREE: Minority Report I
Desperate to garner votes from minority groups they mostly would prefer not to have anything to do with, Republicans still don’t seem to understand the difference between genuine outreach and simple smash-and-grab.
Take the CPAC breakout session called “Trump The Race Card: Are You Sick And Tired Of Being Called A Racist When You Know You’re Not One?” chaired by K. Carl Smith, an African-American conservative. What could go wrong? Lots: Continue reading Take Five (Really, Really, Really Fuzzy Math edition)
ONE: Brainy Nights in Georgia
In the wake of the Newtown massacre and other recent mass gun murders, the NRA helpfully busied itself with supporting secession for Wisconsin, decrying the “vicious, violent videogames” that they insist provoke (conveniently well-armed) people to indulge in vicious violence, and, um, rolling out their new videogame.
In vivid contrast, Georgia legislator Paul Battles, being a pragmatic guy, thought and thought and thought about how best to protect children, and after all that thinking came up with House Bill 35:
The Georgia House of Representatives Rules Committee will consider a bill this week that would let school systems arm their staff members. House Bill 35 allows school systems to designate administrators, teachers, or other staff members to carry concealed weapons.
Now, before you go making any mistaken assumptions about Battles, a – surprise! – Republican, he emphatically rejects the suggestion that he’s, you know, a gun nut or something:
“From the very beginning, I’ve said this is a school security piece of legislation,” said Battles. “It’s not about guns. It’s about securing our schools.”
House Bill 35 immediately made me think of Mrs. Hale, my 6th grade teacher, who had a pronounced esotropic strabismus. Forgive me, Mrs. Hale, but I’m very glad you were never packing in our placid Savannah classroom. That I know of, anyway.
The bill passed out of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee last week. And Rep. Battles says that was the biggest hurdle, adding, “I’m sure we’ll have a lively debate on the floor, but I feel like it has great momentum.”
Oh. Great, then.
But inane legislation in Georgia is often a bipartisan thing. State Rep. Earnest Smith, a – crap! – Democrat, is all riled up about Photoshop, especially when it’s used to make fun of Earnest Smith:
… Smith pointed, as proof of the problem, to a picture of his head that was recently edited onto a porn star’s body. That image was created by a blogger who used the image to mock Smith.
Last word to Andre Walker of Georgia Politics Unfiltered, the pixel surgeon responsible for the digital transplant:
“I cannot believe Rep. Earnest Smith thinks I’m insulting him by putting his head on the body of a well-built porn star.”
TWO: “Nothing has changed.”
Attendees at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference can expect to see the likes of Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Allen West and Marco Rubio whip up the sort of rank gumbo of exaggerations, distortions, outright falsehoods and nutrition-free bromides that has kept previous CPAC crowds in drooling thrall.
But wait, there’s more!
Someone named Mitt Romney, who apparently once ran for President, will speak, as will someone named Sarah Palin, who apparently once ran for Vice President.
Of course, I’m being facetious. While I really have no idea who Mitt Romney is, I do remember Sarah Palin. She’s the former mayor of Wasilla who burdened the town with astonishing municipal debt, before going on to become the former Alaska governor who resigned halfway through her term, after burning through many thousands of dollars of public money for no good reason. She did leave her successor a tanning bed, though.
Indications are that Alaska voters have put down their bongs and would now prefer Hillary Clinton over Palin by a 16-point margin in a hypothetical presidential election cage match. Even better, Public Policy Polling also asked respondents to choose their preference of Congress or Palin, and Congress, for all its legendary disapproval ratings, beat Palin 50% to 35%.
And wait, there’s less!
AMERICABlog pointedly notes that CPAC 2013 will again feature the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, a man determined to live the rest of his wretched life being less popular than gonorrhea, but the conclave has once again barred GOProud, a high-profile gay conservative organization.
“We got kicked out last year because we are gay,” tweeted GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia. “Nothing has changed. We won’t be at CPAC.”
However unintentionally, Mr. LaSalvia has just given CPAC a perfect new slogan. “Nothing has changed,” indeed.
THREE: Squawking Heads Redux
In light of recent news that Palin and Fox News have parted company, followed shortly after by the network axing Dick Morris (the World’s Wrongest ManTM), you might be concerned that Fox is going to suffer an acute stupidity deficit. Fear not. They’ve announced with great fanfare that both Herman Cain and Scott Brown have joined the Fox conservative commentator crew.
Proving that he has never actually watched the network, Cain enthused:
“I’m excited about joining the FOX family as a contributor because it is an opportunity to be one more voice for intelligent thinking in America.”
Cain hit the ground running, which is to say he ran aground, in his first appearance with Bill O’Reilly. When the discussion turned to President Obama’s popularity, Cain gave viewers this taste of his intelligent thinking:
“We have a severe ignorance problem with the people who are so mesmerized by his popularity that they are not looking at the facts…
“Martin Luther King Jr. said 50 years ago in 1963 something that is so appropriate to today… There is nothing more dangerous than serious ignorance, and that’s what we have and he gets away with it with the help of establishment media.”
Really? Cain’s new employer has spent more than a decade atop the cable news network heap, which strikes me as pretty much about as establishment as you can get, but maybe I just have a severe ignorance problem.
As to Brown, his first appearance was with Sean Hannity, who asked him why he didn’t want to run for John Kerry’s vacated Senate seat:
Brown… told Hannity that the pace of special elections would have put him in five campaigns in six years and that he might have had to raise another $30 to $50 million, only to “participate in a Congress that’s really dysfunctional and extremely partisan.” Instead, he said, “I felt I could make a difference being on this show…”
Mm-hmm. Far better to participate in a “news” network that’s really dysfunctional and extremely partisan than a Congress that is. Presumably, the Fox gig pays better. Continue reading Take Five (Busyness as Usual edition)
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, will be back in the spotlight after this week’s Democratic National Convention, appearing on three of Sunday’s television talk shows. (Wow, having Republicans on . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 9/9/12
Happy New Year, everyone! Unfortunately, the Sunday talks lineups haven’t had a miraculous change — it’s still Republicans, Republicans, Republicans. Well, there does seem to be one change — the shows have given up all pretense of . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 1/1/12