Thursday, November 12, 2015

Trevor Noah Covers the GOP Debate


Why was Ted Cruz's performance like a Greek tragedy? Trevor Noah has it here (scroll to the bottom and sit through the ads; it's worth it).

Welcome to Sempringham, Trevor.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Is There a Difference Between Republicans and Democrats?


[W]hile Democrats were participating in a candidates forum, Republicans Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal and Ted Cruz were guests at "religious freedom" event led by a pastor who preaches that homosexuality should be punished with death.

Rachel Maddow has the story here.

P.S. Whatever you do, don't start making comparisons with Nazis, as that is a sign that you are not a serious person.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Don't Worry, Carson Will Never Get the Nomination


And it's not just because of his peculiar approach to history.

From Laura:



Immigration Reform II


Well, I never thought I'd ever say anything remotely like this, but if you want to see the best argument I've ever seen for deporting illegal aliens, it's right here. [Warning: This will be rough on the ears and eyes of most Sempringham readers, who don't talk like this.]

Note that this professionally prepared video was created by a political PAC. I doubt many minds were changed favorably to immigration reform by it.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Jeb Bush is Now the Rodney Dangerfield Candidate


Jeb! Bush decided that exclamation points weren't helping him get traction, so he revamped his campaign with a new slogan: "Jeb Can Fix It!"

How's that working? Well, Politico reports that at one of those famous New Hampshire town hall meetings this week, three separate people stood up and asked him for help fixing their septic systems.

[Oops! This post was originally called Jeb the Henny Youngman candidate. Youngman was "Take My Wife, Please!" Rodney Dangerfield was "I get no respect around here!" It's always a good idea to fact-check BEFORE you click that "Publish" button.]

Monday, November 02, 2015

The Wisdom of Napoleon


Oh, Vlad!!!


As we wait to find out if the terrible crash of a civilian Russian airliner in the Sinai was the result of an ISIS missle, let us remember the famous maxim attributed to Napoleon: "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."

That was essentially the advice of Tom Friedman in late September, when Vlad Putin sent his troops into Syria:
[T]oday’s reigning cliché is that the wily fox, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, has once again outmaneuvered the flat-footed Americans, by deploying some troops, planes and tanks to Syria to buttress the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and to fight the Islamic State forces threatening him. If only we had a president who was so daring, so tough, so smart.
Really? Well think about this: Let’s say the U.S. did nothing right now, and just let Putin start bombing ISIS and bolstering Assad. How long before every Sunni Muslim in the Middle East, not to mention every jihadist, has Putin’s picture in a bull’s eye on his cellphone?
The Sunni Muslims are the vast majority in Syria. They are the dominant sect in the Arab world. Putin and Russia would be seen as going all-in to protect Assad, a pro-Iranian, Alawite/Shiite genocidal war criminal. Putin would alienate the entire Sunni Muslim world, including Russian Muslims.

[snip]

Putin stupidly went into Syria looking for a cheap sugar high to show his people that Russia is still a world power. Well, now he’s up a tree. Obama and John Kerry should just leave him up there for a month — him and Assad, fighting ISIS alone — and watch him become public enemy No. 1 in the Sunni Muslim world. “Yo, Vladimir, how’s that working for you?”
Oh, how the GOP (and face it: the mainstream press) drooled over the manly Vlad!

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Immigration Reform


Paul Ryan says there will be no immigration reform during the Obama Presidency:
Newly elected Speaker Paul Ryan said Sunday he’s willing to work across the aisle with Democrats but won’t do immigration reform with President Obama in his final 14 months in office.
“The president has proven himself untrustworthy on this issue, because he tried to unilaterally rewrite the law himself. Presidents don’t write laws. Congress does,” the Wisconsin Republican said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” referring to Obama’s executive actions this year to ease immigration policies. “The president’s proven himself to be untrustworthy on this issue.”
Oh, yes, it's all Obama's fault. This is, of course, pablum for the party faithful.

And David Atkins at Political Animal will have nothing to do with it:
It’s perfectly obvious that of all the battles in the GOP civil war between the establishment and the base, immigration is by far the most toxic. Immigration is the main reason Donald Trump is where he is in the polls, Jeb Bush seems to have one foot in the campaign grave, and media/establishment darling “winner of every debate” Marco Rubio can’t seem to climb higher than 10% in the national numbers.
Any attempt to even consider bring a legislative proposal on immigration in the House would destroy what little is left of Republican Party unity, and make the presidential race an even bigger clown show than it is now. That downside risk is far scarier to most Republicans than whatever upside gains might be made with Hispanics come November as a result of actually trying to be responsible legislators.
Quite right. The only immigration reform package this GOP Congress could put on Obama's desk is one that deports 11 million people in boxcars. And yet, that appeals to a large section of the Republican Party.



That Damn Feral Gummint


New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the last Republican Debate:
I mean, let me be honest with the people who are watching at home. The government has lied to you and they have stolen from you. They told you that your Social Security money is in a trust fund. All that’s in that trust fund is a pile of IOUs for money they spent on something else a long time ago.And they’ve stolen from you because now they know they cannot pay these benefits and Social Security is going to be insolvent in seven to eight years.

[Snip]

If somebody’s already stolen money from you, are you going to give them more? Or, are you going to deal with the problem by saying, I’m going to give people who’ve done well in this country less benefit on the backend.
 Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee responds:
First of all, yes, we’ve stolen. Yes, we’ve lied to the American people about Social Security, and Medicare. ...
Christie again:
They stole it. It got stolen from them. It’s not theirs anymore. The government stole it, and spent it a long time ago.
Compare and contrast.

For some background, check out The Looting of Social Security.

Postscript: I hope I'm not being cryptic about this. In a democracy, the government is not they, it is we. Everything that was done with Social Security trust funds was done the knowledge and consent of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Job Creation Under Bush and Obama


Paul Krugman shared this graph on his blog.

Like Moynihan said, you're entitled to your own opinion, but you're not entitled to your own facts.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Looking for a Fool and His Money



You read it here first, although it was very obvious: Jim Webb has an op-ed in today's Washington Post that says he is "in the process of deciding" whether to mount an independent campaign for President. Webb is certainly a different kind of Democrat, but the party is big enough to include him. He essentially failed to make his case in the debates.

In the op-ed he gives his rationale for considering a third-party run. What he doesn't do is paint a picture of how he could actually win.

Addendum:

Using Webb's campaign button in no way implies support or an endorsement. And to prove it, here:


Friday, October 30, 2015

Fantasy GOP Team


In the last post we talked about Fantasy GOP©, the exciting new game where contestants select five GOP debate participants after each debate, trying to build a team that will have the highest cumulative polling increase. We haven't seen any polls yet (and still have to decide which poll will be the "Official Fantasy GOP©" poll) but here are our choices:

Kasich - Make sure you see Uncle Ted's comment on Kasich at the end of the last post. I agree that Kasich will not get the nomination, but we're talking about temporary polling increases, and sane Republicans have nowhere else to go.

Rubio - Duh!

Huckabee - Protected the old people's Social Security.

Cruz - Scariest guy up there, but he'll get a boost (mostly mostly from Trump's people, who are bored already) for attacking mainstream media.

Graham - A sentimental favorite (always a bad move in a contest). He was on the undercard with Pataki, Jindal, and Santorum (sheesh!) so nobody saw him, but Lindsay, who has never seen a problem that couldn't be bombed or invaded, had the best one-liner: "Make me commander-in-chief and this crap stops!"

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Last Night's Republican Debate


Once again, we didn't see the whole thing. You can watch that kind of nonsense for just so long.

Talking Points Memo reports that:
Carly Fiorina, who is barely in the running, got more time than anyone else. Jeb Bush got the least by a significant margin - less than Rand Paul, Huckabee, Christie, people who aren't even really in the race.
The debate was sponsored by CNBC, a right-wing, wacked-out network for day traders. Josh Marshall found it to be just as weird as I did:
[A] big reason the debate was so weird was that so many of the questions were based on obscurantist and myopic CNBC nonsense - which is not only far-right and identified with great wealth but specifically owned by the bubble of Wall Street. That led to a lot of odd questions - like Jim Cramer's saying why aren't GM execs going to jail, Santelli's wild questions or that question about fantasy football. Lots of people are into fantasy football. But whether it's betting and whether it should be regulated, that's a Wall Streeter question - in the same way huge amounts of the money that gets pushed through political betting sites comes off Wall Street. It's hard for Republicans to say this. But I think this is a significant reason why the debate seemed so odd. And it made it kind of odd to hear anti-liberal bias attacks on the moderators when they were asking questions like shouldn't the Fed be forced to take us back to the gold standard. [My italics]
I mean: really, what a bunch of fruit cakes.

Which all helped make John Kasich sound like the only sane man person up there. Will he see a significant bump in the polls? Are there still enough sane Republicans to make a difference? In a sane world, yes. But I hereby declare a copyright on the concept of Fantasy GOP.  Using your "skill", choose your team of wackadoodles, and I'll choose mine. Five to a team. Whosever team gets the highest cumulative bump in the post-debate polling wins. And don't forget the undercard.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Republican Amnesia


As far as we know, Bernie Sanders was the first to talk about "Republican Amnesia", the inability of Republicans to remember the mess they created. It was only 7 years ago.

Looks like Hillary has picked up on it.



Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Webb and Chaffee


We have to admit being surprised at how poorly former Virginia Senator Jim Webb has done in the Democratic campaign. A former Republican, he seemed perfectly poised to collect the votes of the so-called "Reagan Democrats".  Upon withdrawing, he said, "I fully accept that my views on many issues are not compatible with the power structure and the nominating base of the Democratic Party."

Dissect that, and what you've got is an appeal to folks who are part of neither the party power structure nor its nominating base – those Reagan Democrats. But it looks like Reagan Democrats have joined the Students for a Democratic Society under the heading, "Do They Even Exist Anymore?" No doubt many of them can be found in the Tea Party.

If you're planning on running for President, make sure your ego is big and your skin is thick. One certainly gets the impression that Jim Webb makes it in the ego department. He, at least, takes himself very seriously and is obviously dreaming of a third party candidacy at this point. I suspect he'll find one or two dim bulbs with the money to enable his fantasy for a while. We'll see.

Now, what to say about Lincoln Chaffee? He seems like a very nice person.

Colbert skewers them both (via Crooks & Liars):



Sunday, October 25, 2015

Bernie Sanders Gets It Right


This is a clip of Bernie Sanders' speech at the Jefferson Jackson dinner in Des Moines last night. From about 0:30 to about 2:30, Sanders articulates a theme that we have heard hardly at all, but I think has a powerful punch: Republican Amnesia.



Sanders starts painting the picture of how bad things were when Obama took office in 2009, but kept it short. Things were much, much worse. And there is a lot more to be said about how much better things are, despite the constant lack of patriotic cooperation from the Congressional Republicans.

Take, for instance, job growth:


Like the graph says, the economy has added 13.2 million private sector jobs in the last 67 months. There has never been a period of uninterrupted job growth as long as this.

Hillary, on the other hand, was back to her irritating self:
Mrs. Clinton also offered an oblique criticism of Mr. Sanders over his record on guns. 
“I’ve been told to stop shouting to end gun violence,” she said, repeating a line she has begun using since Mr. Sanders said in the debate that “all the shouting in the world” would not keep guns out of the wrong hands. “I haven’t been shouting, but sometimes when a woman speaks out, some people think it’s shouting.”
And of me she would say, "Sometimes when a woman speaks out, some people think it's irritating."

Friday, October 23, 2015

Trey Gowdy's Benghazi Committee


I couldn't watch as much of the Benghazi hearings as I had hoped to, but what I saw made me shudder. It is unbelievable that the Republican Party would allow a bunch of intellectual lightweights like they have on this committee to represent them on national television. I've never been a particular fan of Hillary's, but she came out of this looking like a person to be taken seriously – more than you can say about the Republicans.

Hillary says it all here:


video

Friday, October 09, 2015

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Trump


Hitting where it hurts, Nicholas Kristoff writes of Donald Trump:
Back in 1976, Trump said he was worth “more than $200 million.” If he had simply put $200 million in an index fund and reinvested dividends, he would be worth $12 billion today, notes Max Ehrenfreund of The Washington Post. In fact, he’s worth $4.5 billion, according to Forbes.

In other words, Trump’s business acumen seems less than half as impressive as that of an ordinary Joe who parks his savings in an index fund.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Carly


Frank Bruni covers her pretty well. An excerpt:
The Washington Post just published a humiliating account of her sluggishness to pay bills from that 2010 campaign. That she stiffed several vendors until January 2015 wasn’t really the damning part: That’s sadly common in politics.

But The Post reported that one of the people stiffed was the widow of the pollster Joe Shumate, who dropped dead of a heart attack, “surrounded by sheets of polling data” for Fiorina, shortly before Election Day in 2010. Fiorina mourned him as “the heart and soul” of her operation, then neglected for years to fork over at least $30,000 that she owed him.

Martin Wilson, who managed that campaign, told The Post that he occasionally implored her to settle up. “She just wouldn’t,” he said.

It’s striking that he’d tattle like that on Fiorina. She apparently doesn’t leave much love in her wake. Reuters interviewed about 30 people who worked for her in 2010, 12 of whom said: Never again. “I’d rather go to Iraq,” one unidentified campaign aide groused.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

What's This?


It's the new Zumwalt class destroyer.



"The 610-foot-long ship comes equipped with new technologies including radar reflecting angles, a striking inward-sloping tumblehome hull, an all-electric integrated power system, and an advanced gun system."

At 610 feet, it's longer than the battleship USS Nevada.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Oh, Great!


Turns out the sheriff in charge of the shooting investigation at Umpqua Community College in Oregon is what's known as a "Sandy Hook Truther", someone who believes the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 students and 6 adults were murdered, never actually happened. From Talking Points Memo:
Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin posted a link to a YouTube video called "The Sandy Hook Shooting - Fully Exposed," which summarized conspiracy theories surrounding the shooting and quickly racked up millions of views, about a month after the massacre took place. The post was deleted or made private sometime after 2:30 p.m. Friday. [Oct. 2, 2015]
"This makes me wonder who we can trust anymore..." Hanlin wrote. "Watch, listen, and keep an open mind."
The video opens with text that reads: "In this video I will prove to you there has been a lot of deception surrounding the Sandy Hook shooting. This is a simple, logical video. No aliens, holigrams (sic), rituals or anything like that, just facts." It then intersperses news clips from the time with text raising questions about the "official story" presented in the media, including whether there was more than one shooter and whether grieving parents were actually so-called "crisis actors."
Can't help but wonder what his investigation will reveal.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Vatican Chicanery?


Charles P. Pierce at Esquire asks, "Was Pope Francis Actually Swindled into Meeting Kim Davis?"

Villain: Papal Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Vigano.

Perhaps "tricked" would be a better word than "swindled" here, but it's an interesting story, with insights into the "sanctified r*****ing" that has been part of the Vatican for centuries.

Update

The Vatican has issued a statement:
The brief meeting between Mrs. Kim Davis and Pope Francis at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, DC has continued to provoke comments and discussion. In order to contribute to anobjective understanding of what transpired I am able to clarify the following points:
Pope Francis met with several dozen persons who had been invited by the Nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City.
Translation:

Archbishop Carlo Vigano put that pile of poo there, and let the Pope step in it.

So I owe the Pope an apology. The deceitful coward turned out to be someone else.

Syria Again


I rarely watch CNN or Faux, so I don't get the constant drumbeat of how manly Putin is, and how he's making us look weak.

But if you're concerned about Russia's move in Syria, may I recommend this and this?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I So Want This Not To Be True


There are stories flying everywhere that Pope Francis met secretly with Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk that refuses to issue marriage licenses to gay people, while he was in the United States.

Words that come to mind are "deceit" and "cowardice".

Syria


Tom Friedman gives some perspective on Putin's move in Syria:
[T]oday’s reigning cliché is that the wily fox, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, has once again outmaneuvered the flat-footed Americans, by deploying some troops, planes and tanks to Syria to buttress the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and to fight the Islamic State forces threatening him. If only we had a president who was so daring, so tough, so smart.
Really? Well think about this: Let’s say the U.S. did nothing right now, and just let Putin start bombing ISIS and bolstering Assad. How long before every Sunni Muslim in the Middle East, not to mention every jihadist, has Putin’s picture in a bull’s eye on his cellphone?
The Sunni Muslims are the vast majority in Syria. They are the dominant sect in the Arab world. Putin and Russia would be seen as going all-in to protect Assad, a pro-Iranian, Alawite/Shiite genocidal war criminal. Putin would alienate the entire Sunni Muslim world, including Russian Muslims.
Moreover, let’s say by some miracle the Russians defeat ISIS. The only way to keep them defeated is by replacing them with moderate Sunnis. Which moderate Sunnis are going to align with Russia while Putin is seen as the prime defender of the barrel-bombing murderer of more Sunnis than anyone on the planet, Bashar al-Assad?
Putin stupidly went into Syria looking for a cheap sugar high to show his people that Russia is still a world power. Well, now he’s up a tree. Obama and John Kerry should just leave him up there for a month — him and Assad, fighting ISIS alone — and watch him become public enemy No. 1 in the Sunni Muslim world. “Yo, Vladimir, how’s that working for you?”

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Why Does Fox Still Have a License to Broadcast?


They've done it again. The Ministry of Propaganda ... er, I mean, Fox News ... has phonied up a video to tell lies.

They were caught lying once or twice before, weren't they?

John Oliver has it here: https://youtu.be/umqvYhb3wf4?t=1m50s.

How many times do these guys get to do this?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Boehner


Gail Collins covers Boehner's announcement the best:

Farewell, John Boehner, farewell.
These departures are a little wearying. It was not long ago that we said adieu to Rick Perry. And then Scott Walker. And of course we are gearing up for the moment when the political world says goodbye forever to Donald Trump.
Good times, all.
Boehner’s leave-taking is a bit more of a mixed bag. The surprise announcement came the day after he sat proudly in the background while Pope Francis gave his address to Congress. You will not be stunned to hear that crying occurred, none of it involving Francis.
And there was a private meeting, in which reliable sources said the pope admired Boehner’s tie. But there is no indication he grabbed the speaker by the shoulders and cried: “You’re surrounded by crazy people! Get out while you can, my son!”
Not that it couldn’t have happened. The pope is infallible.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ben Carson


Face it: the Republican Party is never going to nominate a Ben Carson for president in 2016, just like they're never going to nominate Donald Trump. Both men will have their time in the polls, but remember last primary season, when Michele Bachmann, Herb Cain, and "Oops!" each had the polling lead for a while?  None of the three holds political office in 2015.

Carson and Trump have been leading the polls because big chunks of the GOP are stark, raving mad: Anti-Muslim, anti-Black, climate change deniers, libertarians, evolution deniers, "birthers", anti-immigrant, etc. Is there an end to it? Although all the chunks together might make a majority, many of those chunks will have nothing to do with some of the others.

Dr. Carson's chunk is the Christian right. They love what he says, even though they're very uneasy about the black thing. They will turn off completely, though, when they learn he is a Seventh Day Adventist. That's just the way they are. So he'll get support for a while, but it will fade away as we get closer to next year's election. Like, maybe, next month.

And do we need to say that there is a huge chunk of the Republican Party that wouldn't vote for a black man under any circumstances?

While we watch the air go out of his balloon, here's a sample, via BuzzFeed, of Dr. Carson's thinking:
“Now what about the big bang theory,” said Carson at speech to fellow Seventh-day Adventists titled “Celebration of Creation,” about the theory for the origin of the universe.
“I find the big bang, really quite fascinating. I mean, here you have all these highfalutin scientists and they’re saying it was this gigantic explosion and everything came into perfect order. Now these are the same scientists that go around touting the second law of thermodynamics, which is entropy, which says that things move toward a state of disorganization.
“So now you’re gonna have this big explosion and everything becomes perfectly organized and when you ask them about it they say, ‘Well we can explain this, based on probability theory because if there’s enough big explosions, over a long period of time, billions and billions of years, one of them will be the perfect explosion,” continued Carson. “So I say what you’re telling me is if I blow a hurricane through a junkyard enough times over billions and billions of years, eventually after one of those hurricanes there will be a 747 fully loaded and ready to fly.”
Carson added that he believed the big bang was “even more ridiculous” because there is order to the universe.
“Well, I mean, it’s even more ridiculous than that ‘cause our solar system, not to mention the universe outside of that, is extraordinarily well organized, to the point where we can predict 70 years away when a comet is coming,” he said. “Now that type of organization to just come out of an explosion? I mean, you want to talk about fairy tales, that is amazing.”
Later, Carson said he personally believed Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution was encouraged by the devil.
“I personally believe that this theory that Darwin came up with was something that was encouraged by the adversary, and it has become what is scientifically, politically correct,” said Carson.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Too Depressing


I'm only writing about these items in case I'm the butterfly that needs to flap its wings in order to put this world back in order. I just don't have the energy or time to deal with these people. And they depress me to no end. I sure hope Hillary, Joe, and Bernie go after them.

First, there's this story about a twit hedge fund manager who raises the prices of life-saving prescription drugs because he can. Most recently, he raised the price of a drug that's been on the market for 62 years, from $13.50 to $750 a tablet.

Then there's the Volkswagen story, wherein the company admitted that for many years it had installed software in its diesel cars that was designed to cheat on emissions tests. The company is putting aside huge sums for correcting the problem and for civil damages.  It is getting battered in the stock market. Sadly for the thousands of innocent people whose livelihoods depend on Volkswagen, the company may not survive this. I don't see how company management can or should stay out of prison. Really sad.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Perspective on Guns


From the Daily Kos:

Since the end of the Reagan administration, more Americans have been killed by guns than have died in battle while serving in the U.S. military in the entirety of U.S. history. It isn't close. In fact, the time scale of the U.S. military deaths begins at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, which was actually before the United States was officially founded.



 The chart comes from a report (pdf) by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, titled:

Right of Reagan How the Extremism of Today’s Republican Presidential Candidates Sets Them Apart from Their Conservative Idol
The report contains a wealth of important and disturbing information, and this is just one example. Reagan once was considered on the far right fringe, and although he did usually side with the NRA he also supported the Brady Bill, and explicitly supported background checks and an assault weapons ban. Compared to the modern Republican Party, he was a hippie liberal.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

You Want Trump? I'll Give You Trump.




This was Thursday, September 17, 2015. 

Nothin' funny about Trump.

A New Blog!


My nephew Jared, who is a smart high school kid, has started a blog that I can recommend to you.  In his second post, he discusses a video that has become viral and some of the questions it raises, links to a Jimmy Kimmel satire of YouTube gaming videos (do you even know what they are?), and introduces a YouTube couple whose private lives are now grist for the YouTube mill.
None of these things are from my world, and I appreciate being introduced to them.

Jared's blog is at http://jared-may.weebly.com/.

Just Sayin' ...


I watched as much of the Republican loony show last night as I could (social obligations made it impossible to watch it all).

It would be hard to trivialize it more than it managed to do itself, but Jake Tapper sure tried when he announced the debate as the "Main Event."

The NYTimes Editorial Board summed up the evening pretty well:  Crazy Talk at the Republican Debate.

Who's to Blame for the Republican Clown Car? You'll Never Guess!


Michael Barone was one of the original authors of the biannual Almanac of American Politics, which is every true political junkie's favorite reference book. I bought the first edition of it decades ago, and spent hours, no, DAYS!, buried in its pages. Sadly, it has long since priced itself off my bookshelf.

So even though he's a conservative, I've been very patient with the guy as he has tried so hard to make Reaganism sound like some brilliant philosophy.

But there are times when you just have to laugh, and this is one of these times.

In a recent column, Barone bemoans the fact that the Republican Presidential field is full of "challengers who would have been considered laughable in earlier years." Well, I'm with you so far, Michael!

So where does he place the blame for the GOP clown car? Why, right where all tightly reasoned conservative analysis places the blame for everything.

Obama!

My God. Tightly reasoned conservative analysis is so easy! I'd write more, but I'm laughing so hard I keep hitting the wrong keys.

The Spiders Among Us


Okay, I don't know who John Snow is, but Colbert is great in this one:



Tuesday, September 01, 2015

The Wisconsin Weasel




From Forbes:
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker wants taxpayers to help pay for a new $500 million arena for the Milwaukee Bucks that would serve as the linchpin for a $1 billion entertainment complex.
Back in January, Walker proposed a plan that would have the state sell $220 million general appropriation bonds (to be repaid by tax revenue from the Milwaukee Bucks and visiting NBA players) with $150 million from Bucks owners Wes Edens and Marc Lasry and $100 million from Herb Kohl, the previous owner of the team. Walker pitched the deal as a ”common-sense, fiscally conservative approach.”
Is it? Depends how you count.
The article continues here.

One of the owners is a developer named Jon Hammes, who also happens to be national finance co-chairman of Walker's presidential campaign, and a contributor of $150,000 to Walker's PAC.

And it just keeps getting worse.

Crooks & Liars has the best run-down.

Wackos Will Decide the Next GOP Nominee


According to Public Policy Polling:
Our new poll finds that Trump is benefiting from a GOP electorate that thinks Barack Obama is a Muslim and was born in another country, and that immigrant children should be deported. 66% of Trump's supporters believe that Obama is a Muslim to just 12% that grant he's a Christian. 61% think Obama was not born in the United States to only 21% who accept that he was. And 63% want to amend the Constitution to eliminate birthright citizenship, to only 20% who want to keep things the way they are.
Trump's beliefs represent the consensus among the GOP electorate. 51% overall want to eliminate birthright citizenship. 54% think President Obama is a Muslim. And only 29% grant that President Obama was born in the United States. That's less than the 40% who think Canadian born Ted Cruz was born in the United States.
Trump's supporters aren't alone in those attitudes though. Only among supporters of John Kasich (58/13), Jeb Bush (56/18), Chris Christie (59/33), and Marco Rubio (42/30) are there more people who think President Obama was born in the United States than that he wasn't. And when you look at whose supporters are more inclined to think that the President is a Christian than a Muslim the list shrinks to just Christie (55/29), Kasich (41/22), and Bush (29/22).
 There's more, but it's not for the faint of heart.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Politics in America

From the NY Times:
The influx of support has helped Mr. Sanders build a formidable war chest, with his campaign raising $15.2 million as of the most recent filings with the Federal Election Commission in July. Campaign officials say he has raised millions more since then and will far surpass that total this quarter. That still puts him far behind Mrs. Clinton’s fund-raising juggernaut, but Mr. Sanders said in an interview that he was unbowed.
“We will be greatly outspent, yes, but we will raise enough money to wage a winning campaign,” he said.
Democratic strategists are beginning to take notice.

[snip]

Even so, Mr. Sanders in the last quarter raised less than a third as much as Mrs. Clinton, whose campaign reported contributions of $47.5 million in the spring quarter.
But Mr. Sanders and his aides say they can blunt the effect of Mrs. Clinton’s financial advantage by running a more frugal campaign, even as they build campaign operations in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
So far, the more-with-less approach is holding up.
In his filings to the election commission, Mr. Sanders reported spending only about $3 million — or less than 20 percent of the money he had raised. Mrs. Clinton, in comparison, reported spending at about twice that rate, or about $18.7 million — nearly 39 percent of her contributions — on things like catering at fund-raisers and slick media productions. (Her campaign asked for approval from the election commission this month to allow donors to pay for their own food, drinks and valet parking at some events.)
Mr. Sanders was left with $12.1 million in cash on hand at the end of June, and Mrs. Clinton had $28.9 million.
 Also from the NY Times:
DUBUQUE, Iowa – A journalist for the Spanish-language network Univision who asked Donald J. Trump about immigration was mocked by the candidate, then escorted out of a news conference here on Tuesday evening.
Jorge Ramos, an anchor for Univision news shows based in Miami, stood and began asking a question just as Mr. Trump recognized another reporter. “Excuse me, sit down. You weren’t called,” Mr. Trump told him. “Sit down. Sit down.”
Mr. Ramos asked Mr. Trump about his call to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country and build a wall the length of the Mexican border.
“You haven’t been called, go back to Univision,” Mr. Trump said.
As security officers approached Mr. Ramos, a Mexican-American, he said: “I am a reporter. Don’t touch me. I have a right to ask the question.”
Mr. Trump was silent as Mr. Ramos, an Emmy-winning journalist who was on the cover of Time magazine’s World’s Most Influential People issue, was removed from the room.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Couldn't Resist


From KSDK television in Missouri, via Talking Points Memo, a woman in Missouri had the unsettling experience of opening her tub of butter and finding Donald Trump looking back at her.


I think I'll pass on breakfast, thanks.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Bernie Sanders


Talking Points Memo says this is a video that sums up the Bernie Sanders candidacy, and I agree.



Sunday, August 16, 2015

Julian Bond




I was surprised and saddened to see that Julian Bond passed away last night.

I had the pleasure of meeting Julian Bond when he gave a talk at Coe College. We were on our way to becoming BFF's, but sadly lost touch shortly after the handshake.

One memory that the NY Times' obituary doesn't mention is that Bond was, as far as I know, the first black man whose name was put into nomination at the convention of a major political party. At the the raucous 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, Bond was a member of an alternate (to the all-white, racist) delegation from Georgia. An earlier Barack Obama, he wowed the crowd with his oratory, and his name was put into nomination as Hubert Humphrey's Vice President on the ticket.

Bond, who was 28 years old at the time, thanked the crowd but declined the nomination because the Constitution requires the Vice President to be 35.

Bond had a solid, honorable career. He was a founder of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), served 20 years in the Georgia state legislature, was chairman of the NAACP for 12 years, and on and on.

Yet, I always had the feeling he was an underachiever. I should be such an underachiever.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Obama's Reading List


From Tracy Mumford at MPR News, here's Obama's summer reading list:

• "All That Is" by James Salter
• "All The Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr
"The Sixth Extinction" by Elizabeth Kolbert • "The Lowland" by Jhumpa Lahiri
"Between The World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates • "Washington: A Life" by Ron Chernow

Thursday, August 06, 2015

The Looting of Social Security


A year and a half ago I promised to review a book called The Looting of Social Security, by Allen W. Smith. I encourage you to re-read (I say presumptuously) that post before reading further on this one.

According to the book’s “About the Author” blurb, Smith taught economics at Eastern Illinois University for 30 years before embarking on a career as a full-time writer. The Looting of Social Security, first published in 2004, is one of his efforts, and I have to say it is not the best-written book that has come into my hands. The subject is very complex, and the good man needs an editor. But rather than dwell on that, here’s my version of what he’s so upset about (and he’s right to be upset).

Smith writes, “The Social Security Amendments of 1983 laid the foundation for the worst fiscal fraud in the nation’s history….”  The 1983 Amendments were based on recommendations of a special Presidential Commission on Social Security (popularly called the Greenspan Commission) charged with finding a solution to projected Social Security trust fund shortfalls expected with the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation. What the amendments did was gradually increase the Social Security tax base and tax rates in order to build up a surplus in the retirement and survivors’ trust fund sufficient to pay the Baby Boomers’ benefits when they retired.

In effect, the Baby Boomers, whose Social Security taxes were already paying the retirement benefits of their parents, increased their Social Security taxes in order to build up the trust fund for their own retirement, although you will rarely see it painted that way by financial writers (and never by politicians). According to Smith, “[t]he 1983 legislation generated a Social Security surplus of $9.4 billion in 1985 with increasingly larger annual surpluses thereafter. The Social Security surplus was $38.8 billion in 1988, $56.6 billion in 1990, and $99.2 billion in 1998.”

Why Allen says this resulted in “worst fiscal fraud in the nation’s history” is connected what happened to all those billions.

Lawmakers have always had three choices for what to do with the accumulating trust funds. They could invest them directly in the American economy by buying stocks and bonds, but that would make the government a major – no, THE major – stockholder in the market. [I don't need to explain to my intelligent readers that that's a bad idea.] They could just hold them (put them “in a sock under a mattress”), but that would take trillions of dollars out of the economy and cause an economic collapse. Or, they could invest them in Treasury securities, with  repayment scheduled as funds were needed for benefits.

The last option describes how Social Security trust funds have operated for nearly 80 years. However, prior to 1983 Social Security was a pay-as-you go system, with accumulated funds sufficient only to pay benefits for one year, should no additional income be received. After 1983, the trust funds became much larger, and the temptation to use them as general operating funds greater. And that’s what happened. With burgeoning Social Security trust funds to put to use, Congress used them to fund the everyday workings of government, making it possible to cut other taxes, especially for those in the very highest tax bracket. Reagan did it, Bush I did it, Clinton did it (and even claimed to be running a budget surplus, with Social Security trust fund income included), and Bush II did it.

The result was that American workers who raised their taxes to fund their retirement benefits instead funded tax cuts to the wealthiest. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was so disgusted by the turn of events that he proposed going back to pay-as-you-go. But now, as the Baby Boomers reach retirement age, and some scenarios project trust fund shortfalls, the only option that seems to be completely off the table is raising taxes on the people who benefited most from the shell game.

What else could Congress have done with the trust fund surpluses? By law, the only option for the trust funds is investment in Treasury securities. But laws can be changed.

Smith argues, “Every dollar of Social Security revenue, in excess of what is required to pay current benefits, would be better used in paying down the gigantic national debt. Doing so would have the equivalent effect of putting the money into a separate bank account that is off limits to politicians who are tempted to borrow the funds to pay for general government operations or to fund tax cuts. Using Social Security surplus funds to pay down the national debt between now ( i.e., 2004) and 2018, and then borrowing those dollars back during the years in which Social Security deficits will occur … would be the fiscally responsible thing to do.”

Which sounds like a reasonable approach.

It’s a moot argument now, though. The money’s gone.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Wackadoodle Land


Back in the early 60's, one of the earliest NBC White Paper programs reported on an invasion of Georgia. Titled "Anatomy of a Rumor," it traced a paranoid, wacko story making the rounds among the chronically hysterical about how a military training operation that included small numbers of  foreign, allied troops was actually cover for an invasion of the state by "black Africans" under the auspices of the United Nations.

Who says history doesn't repeat itself?



Jeb Bush


Who in the world is this guy Jeb Bush? He was supposed to be the smart brother, the moderate brother, the brother the Bush family expected to be president after the father.

Was this all just wishful thinking? Was the rest of the GOP presidential field so bat-poo crazy that we were willing to just ignore contrary evidence (anti-gay rights, the nation's first so-called "stand-your-ground" legislation, 21 executions while he was governor, climate change "skeptic", Terri Schiavo) to keep things from getting too scary over there?

Is he something else? Maybe somebody with no core values at all, willing to do or say anything in order to be elected?

This week we got a strong whiff of something like that in his flip-flop-flip on our disastrous invasion of Iraq. It got Paul Krugman pretty mad:
Jeb Bush wants to stop talking about past controversies. And you can see why. He has a lot to stop talking about. But let’s not honor his wish. You can learn a lot by studying recent history, and you can learn even more by watching how politicians respond to that history.
The big “Let’s move on” story of the past few days involved Mr. Bush’s response when asked in an interview whether, knowing what he knows now, he would have supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He answered that yes, he would. No W.M.D.? No stability after all the lives and money expended? No problem.
Then he tried to walk it back. He “interpreted the question wrong,” and isn’t interested in engaging “hypotheticals.” Anyway, “going back in time” is a “disservice” to those who served in the war.
Take a moment to savor the cowardice and vileness of that last remark. And, no, that’s not hyperbole. Mr. Bush is trying to hide behind the troops, pretending that any criticism of political leaders — especially, of course, his brother, the commander in chief — is an attack on the courage and patriotism of those who paid the price for their superiors’ mistakes. That’s sinking very low, and it tells us a lot more about the candidate’s character than any number of up-close-and-personal interviews.
Indeed.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Global Warming


Woke up to snow this morning! A little late in the year, but it'll be gone by 9 a.m.*

Meanwhile, over at Bloomberg, they've put together an interesting animated chart showing "the Earth’s warming climate, recorded in monthly measurements from land and sea over more than 135 years. Temperatures are displayed in degrees above or below the 20th-century average. Thirteen of the 14 hottest years are in the 21st century, and 2015 is on track to break the heat record again."

It's pretty convincing. Take a look.

* It was gone by 7.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Burden of Southern History


As always, clicking on the picture will enlarge it.

I'm stealing the title of a first class book by a first class scholar of the American South (and Southerner), C. Vann Woodward, to just share a few words about something I've wanted to write about for a long time. I don't have the time to write it, so I'll just steal other people's words.

When querying friends and family about their understanding of the Reconstruction Era (I query because it rarely comes up in conversation), I've found that they, like I, were raised on the "Dunning School" description of that era. William H. Dunning (1857-1922) was a Columbia University historian who, with his PhD. students and others, created a mythology about Reconstruction which I would guess most Americans still think is accurate.

See if this sounds familiar:
... [A]fter the war, with Lincoln dead, a group of vengeful Republicans sought to take control of national politics.  Casting aside any notion of sectional reconciliation with former Confederates, they forged a patchwork alliance of ignorant blacks (and “ignorant” is the kindest portrayal of the freedpeople in these accounts), corrupt and conniving carpetbaggers (northern-born whites who had migrated south), and cowardly and sniveling scalawags (native white southerners), who together embarked on an orgy of corruption and exploitation the likes of which had never before been seen.  Gallant white southerners, pledged to restore law and social order, struggled against this catastrophe, and organized into patriotic groups to reclaim what was rightfully theirs (cue Birth of a Nation).  Such brave crusaders in their flowing white robes redeemed the South, ended corruption, ousted the adventurers, returned the blacks to their rightful place in southern society (because all white southerners asked for was to be left alone), and marked the triumph of good over evil.
If you're like me, the above description, by Professor Brooks D. Simpson of Arizona State University, might be a bit heavier on the racism of the argument than we remember, but we certainly remember those carpetbaggers and scalawags, don't we?

Here's a short remedy for our mis-education. From an online textbook called Digital History, published by the University of Houston, this is how scholars regard the Reconstruction era now:
Immediately following the war, all-white Southern legislatures passed black codes which denied blacks the right to purchase or rent land. These efforts to force former slaves to work on plantations led Congressional Republicans to seize control of Reconstruction from President Andrew Johnson, deny representatives from the former Confederate states their Congressional seats, and pass the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and draft the 14th Amendment, extending citizenship rights to African Americans and guaranteeing equal protection of the laws.
In 1870, the 15th Amendment gave voting rights to black men. The freedmen, in alliance with carpetbaggers and southern white Republicans known as scalawags, temporarily gained power in every former Confederate state except Virginia. The Reconstruction governments drew up democratic state constitutions, expanded women's rights, provided debt relief, and established the South's first state-funded schools. Internal divisions within the Southern Republican Party, white terror, and Northern apathy allowed white Southern Democrats known as Redeemers to return to power. During Reconstruction former slaves and many small white farmers became trapped in a new system of economic exploitation known as sharecropping.
That sure is a different way of looking at it, isn't it?  If you're interested enough to read more, here's a link to the online textbook's section on this.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

What's Your Hillary Temperature?


Mine was 17, which Gail Collins says equates to "If you decide you want to put a Martin O’Malley sign on the lawn, your true friends will respect you for it."

Take the short quiz here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Happy Tax Day


John Oliver covers the IRS. Do stick around for the Michael Bolton song at the end. The whole program before that is just a lead-in to the song.



Thanks to Emily for making sure I watched this.

Friday, April 10, 2015

That's the Trouble with Horses


From the web site of a Los Angeles NBC affiliate:
The San Bernardino County Sheriff ordered an internal investigation Thursday into an arrest caught on camera by NBC Los Angeles' NewsChopper4 that showed deputies beating a suspect when they caught up to him following a wild desert chase on horseback.
Aerial footage showed the man falling off the horse he was suspected of stealing during the pursuit in San Bernardino County Thursday afternoon.
He then appeared to be stunned with a Taser by a sheriff's deputy and fall to the ground with his arms outstretched. Two deputies immediately descended on him and began punching him in the head and kneeing him in the groin, according to the footage.
The group surrounding the man grew to 11 sheriff's deputies.
In the two minutes after the man was stunned with a Taser, it appeared deputies kicked him 17 times, punched him 37 times and struck him with batons four times. Thirteen blows appeared to be to the head. The horse stood idly nearby.
That's the trouble with horses.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Harper Lee



When I first read that Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, was about to publish another novel about Scout and Atticus Finch, it sounded wonderful. As the news stories have it, the book, called Go Set a Watchman, was written before To Kill a Mockingbird but takes place 20 years after the events in the Pulitzer Prize winning novel.

And as the news stories have it, the 88-year-old author's comment on the new publication (due out in July) was:
I hadn't realized it had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. After much thought and hesitation I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.
But there are concerns that something else is going on here.

The Christian Science Monitor has more information here.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Something to Think About When You're Sleepless at 2 a.m.


From the February 2015 issue of National Geographic:
Several years ago I made a bet about face mites, animals that live in hair follicles. They are so small that a dozen of them could dance on the head of a pin. They are more likely, though, to dance on your face, which they do at night when they mate, before crawling back into your follicles by day to eat. In those caves mother mites give birth to a few relatively large mite-shaped eggs. The eggs hatch, and then, like all mites, the babies go through molts in which they shed their external skeleton and emerge slightly larger. Once they're full size, their entire adult life lasts only a few weeks. Death comes at the precise moment when the mites, lacking an anus, fill up with feces, die, and decompose on your head.
Read the rest if you dare. But if you don't, let me just give you one bit of advice: Politely decline an offering of Mimolette cheese.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Netanyahu Disaster


Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic has written the article I was going to write about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's scheduled speech to the U.S. Congress.

An excerpt:
Netanyahu, grappling with a fear that Obama will go wobbly on Iran, could have tried a long time ago to create a discreet, continuous, and respectful dialogue in advance of the conclusion of negotiations, in order to try to shape the president’s thinking, and—this is important—to work with Obama on issues that interest the United States (advancing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, for instance, by taking the initiative once in a blue moon) in order to make the American side understand that his government is interested in giving, not merely in taking.
Instead, Netanyahu chose to make a desperate-seeming end-run around the president and attempted to appeal directly to Congress to oppose a decision Obama has not yet made. In a plan concocted by Ron Dermer, who serves as Netanyahu’s ambassador to the U.S., the speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, invited Netanyahu to address Congress on the dangers of a nuclear deal and the need for tougher sanctions, without first informing the White House.
The flaws in this approach are many.
[snip]
Israel has been, for several decades, a bipartisan cause in Washington. Bipartisan support accounts for the ease with which Israeli prime ministers have historically been heard in Washington; it accounts for the generous aid packages Israel receives; and it also explains America’s commitment to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge.
 Netanyahu’s management of his relationship with Obama threatens the bipartisan nature of Israel’s American support. His Dermer-inspired, Boehner-enabled end-run has alienated three crucially important constituencies. First, the administration itself: Netanyahu's estrangement from the Obama White House now appears to be permanent. It will be very difficult for Netanyahu to make the White House hear his criticisms of whatever deal may one day be reached with Iran.It will be very difficult for Netanyahu to make the White House hear his criticisms of whatever deal may one day be reached with Iran.
Netanyahu has also alienated many elected Democrats, including Jewish Democrats on Capitol Hill. One Jewish member of Congress told me that he felt humiliated and angered by Netanyahu’s ploy to address Congress “behind the president’s back.” A non-Jewish Democratic elected official texted me over the weekend to say that the damage Netanyahu is doing to Israel’s relationship with the U.S. may be “irreparable.” 
A larger group that Netanyahu risks alienating is American Jewry, or at least the strong majority of American Jews that has voted for Obama twice. Netanyahu’s decision to pit U.S. political party against U.S. political party—because that is what his end-run does—puts American Jewish supporters of Israel in a messy, uncomfortable spot, and it is not in Israel's interest to place American Jews in a position in which they have to choose between their president and the leader of a Jewish state whose behavior is making them queasy.
 Read the whole article here.

Friday, January 02, 2015

An Antidote for Cynicism


It seems like every traffic light intersection in Chicago is patrolled by somebody with a paper cup and a sign written on a piece of cardboard, asking for money. My own reaction to this is usually annoyance. Sometimes I break down, especially if it's somebody I've met at the food pantry or the free Thanksgiving Dinner at church. But usually I look the other way. "It's a franchise," I mutter.

A young man named Josh Paler Lin likes to do videos for the "pranks" channel on You Tube. He decided he'd give a hundred-dollar bill to one of those franchisees, then follow him to see what he does with it. And sure enough, the guy goes straight to the nearest liquor store.

But wait ...