Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Monday, September 15, 2014

Last Call For Alison's Firing Line

Alison Lundergan Grimes's newest ad doesn't pull any punches as the sheet-shooting candidate takes potshots at Barack Obama and Mitch McConnell.  Joe Arnold:

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes fires a shotgun six times in a new television ad, each shot aiming to poke a hole in the campaign of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell. 
Most significantly, Grimes leaves no room for interpretation that she disagrees with McConnell's assertion that a vote for her is a vote to further the agenda of the Obama administration. 
"Mitch McConnell wants you to think I'm Barack Obama," Grimes' voice is heard as she fires a shotgun to begin the ad. 
"I'm not Barack Obama," Grimes says later. "I disagree with him on guns, coal and the EPA," Grimes says, turning toward the camera after firing the shotgun, her safety glasses and ear plugs intact. 

It's not like Mitch has left her much of a choice.  This is Kentucky, as I keep saying, and the only way Grimes is going to win is to run against Obama as much as she is running against Mitch.  His latest ad ends with the tagline "Obama needs Grimes, Kentucky needs Mitch."  But Grimes takes her shots at ol' Turtle Face too.

Grimes also uses the shotgun blasts to target a mix of McConnell campaign flubs and arguments against her. 
"This is the same guy who thought Duke basketball players were U-K," Grimes says, referring to a flub by McConnell's ad maker in a March web video which showed Duke University players celebrating the 2010 NCAA basketball championship rather than an intended University of Kentucky highlight. The clip lasts less than one second, but has become frequent fodder for Grimes. 
"... or who's attacking me on coal," Grimes continues, " after doing nothing while we've lost thousands of coal jobs." 
"He even said it's not his job to bring jobs to Kentucky," Grimes intones, repeating a quote McConnell insists was taken out of context but a Beattyville newspaper editor says was reported accurately.

The end of the ad seeks to undermine what the McConnell campaign has used as imagery in its favor, McConnell holding a shotgun over his head at the Conservative Political Action Conference before presenting it to Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn (R).
"And, Mitch," Grimes laughs, "That's not how you hold a gun."

Chuckle all you want.  That works in the Bluegrass State.  It's a good ad, for a bad situation, to get rid of an awful incumbent.  If this gets Mitch out of the Senate, Grimes can disagree with President Obama on some issues.  Better than trying to actively block him on all issues.

Hillary: And It Begins

If there somehow was a remaining shred of doubt that Hillary Clinton was somehow not going to run for President in 2016, that doubt was flambeed, chopped, crushed, mangled, and the ashes ground into a fine powder and sprinkled all over the state of Iowa this weekend.

Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin said Sunday Hillary Clinton’s “fingerprints are all over” Obamacare. The Iowa senator was introducing Clinton to speak at his 37th annual Steak Fry.

“One of the things she always worked on was advancing this concept, this idea that health care should be a right and not a privilege in this country,” Harkin said. “So, Hillary was not there when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, she was of course secretary of state, but I want you all to know that her fingerprints are all over that legislation. It would not have happened without her strenuous advocacy in that committee all those years.”

Speaking at high-profile event, headlined this year by former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is often seen as a sign of laying the foundation for a presidential run.

Sen. Tom Harkin is giving Hillary Clinton credit for Obamacare.  This is a really, really important clue, you think?

Look for more of this.  A lot more of this, in fact, in the months to come.  I'm glad that Hillary is playing up Obamacare, but she has to be careful not to make it look like she's trying to take credit for passing Hillarycare in 2010, otherwise she's going to alienate a lot of Democratic primary voters.

We'll see.

Snowden, Germany, And Putin's Retaliation

Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed retaliation against Friday's US/EU sanctions against Moscow, targeting Russia's big oil players like Gazprom.  Shifty ol' Vlad, the former GRU intelligence chief, has followed up on this threat and played the card he's gone back to time and time again on Monday: Edward Snowden's hoard of NSA documents.

Deutsche Telekom said it had found no indication that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain's GCHQ had obtained access to its computer network, but said it was investigating the matter following a report in Sunday's Der Spiegel magazine.

"We are looking into every indication of possible manipulations but have not yet found any hint of that in our investigations so far," a Telekom spokesman said in a statement on Sunday. "We're working closely with IT specialists and have also contacted German security authorities.

"It would be completely unacceptable if a foreign intelligence agency were to gain access to our network," the spokesman added.

Der Spiegel said it had seen information suggesting the NSA and GCHQ had gained access to the networks of Deutsche Telekom and smaller German provider Netcologne.

That Der Speigel report credits Snowden's latest "revelation" that the NSA is working with its counterparts in the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to "map all devices on the internet".

When it comes to choosing code names for their secret operations, American and British agents demonstrate a flare for creativity. Sometimes they borrow from Mother Nature, with monikers such as "Evil Olive" and "Egoistic Giraffe." Other times, they would seem to take their guidance from Hollywood. A program called Treasure Map even has its own logo, a skull superimposed onto a compass, the eye holes glowing in demonic red, reminiscent of a movie poster for the popular "Pirates of the Caribbean" series, starring Johnny Depp. Treasure Map is anything but harmless entertainment. Rather, it is the mandate for a massive raid on the digital world. It aims to map the Internet, and not just the large traffic channels, such as telecommunications cables. It also seeks to identify the devices across which our data flows, so-called routers.

Furthermore, every single end device that is connected to the Internet somewhere in the world -- every smartphone, tablet and computer -- is to be made visible. Such a map doesn't just reveal one treasure. There are millions of them.

The breathtaking mission is described in a Treasure Map presentation from the documents of the former intelligence service employee Edward Snowden which SPIEGEL has seen. It instructs analysts to "map the entire Internet -- Any device, anywhere, all the time."

Treasure Map allows for the creation of an "interactive map of the global Internet" in "near real-time," the document notes. Employees of the so-called "FiveEyes" intelligence agencies from Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which cooperate closely with the American agency NSA, can install and use the program on their own computers. One can imagine it as a kind of Google Earth for global data traffic, a bird's eye view of the planet's digital arteries.

If you wanted to drive a huge wedge between the US and the EU, this is exactly how to do it: a breathless report that states that Germany's biggest telecom has been hacked by the US and UK to MAP EVERY SINGLE DEVICE ON THE INTERNET EVER.  The Germans, I'm sure, are pissed.  What better way to break up sanctions than by getting the countries leveling them against you to turn on each other?  There doesn't have to be proof of course, but anyone who thinks this report dropping now is a coincidence doesn't know how this game is played at all.

I have to hand it to Putin, when the man promises retaliation, he follows through...and just a few days before the Scottish independence vote in the UK, too.

Well played in return, Mr. Putin.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Last Call For Freedom Of Screech

Conservatives should be smarter than this, but then again they're being paid good money by the corporate interests that own them to howl about Democrats wanting campaign finance reform and calling it "repealing the First Amendment".

Free speech just won an important victory in a federal courtroom, though it is shameful that the case ever even had to go to court. Ohio had enacted a plainly unconstitutional law that empowered a government panel to determine whether criticisms offered in political advertisements were sufficiently true to be permitted in the public discourse. Those who have followed the IRS scandal, the Travis County, Texas, prosecutorial scandals, or Harry Reid’s recent effort to repeal the First Amendment will not be surprised that this measure was used as a political weapon against a conservative group, in this case the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List. SBA List criticized a Democratic House member for having voted for the so-called Affordable Care Act (ACA), noting that the law will implicate American taxpayers in the funding of abortions, an entanglement previously minimized through measures such as the Hyde Amendment. Despite the fact that the ACA regime would, among other things, permit federal subsidies for abortion-funding insurance plans, the Ohio Inquisition ruled the ad impermissible, and banned it.So much for free speech.

Fortunately, an Obama appointee whose ability to read the letter of the law had not been utterly drummed out of him ruled that the Ohio Inquisition obviously violated longstanding free-speech protections, the First Amendment notable among them. Last week, a similar case in Minnesota came to a similar conclusion.

Which is why Harry Reid wants to repeal the First Amendment.

Democrats pushing the measure to repeal free speech pretend that it is a campaign-finance measure, but the only criteria it establishes for Congress to ban an advertisement — or a book, or a film, or a television show, or a magazine — is that money is expended in an attempt to influence a political outcome. Under those rules, the Ohio Inquisition’s successful move to ban billboards critical of an embattled Democratic congressman would have been totally acceptable under the provisions of a gutted First Amendment.

To recap here, an amendment to the Constitution that would enshrine limits on endless corporate cash used to buy our elections and our politicians is somehow an assault on free speech, because conservatives realize that without hundreds of billions used to buy voters, they'd lose every single election, state, local, and national.

These guys are all in on the Constitution somehow giving you the right to spend as much money buying an election's outcome as you have, as if that somehow was what the drafters meant 235 plus years ago.

So we get long, sputtering diatribes like this from Kevin Williamson and his buddy Assrocket who with a straight face says this:

Why have the Democrats pushed the Udall amendment, knowing that it can’t possibly pass? They are playing a long game, I think. Historically, the idea of repealing the First Amendment would have been unthinkable. The purpose of the Udall amendment, I believe, is to mainstream what has always, until now, been inconceivable. The public is being accustomed to the idea that the First Amendment might be repealed–not flag burning and nude dancing, but the innermost core of the amendment, supporting and opposing candidates in elections–and if the Democrats ever have the votes, it will be.

It's funny that the first thing these clown come up with is using legislation to destroy the opposing political party.  If you want to know what Republicans are planning the next time they get into power, look what they are accusing the Democrats of doing next.

By the way, this is what an assault on free speech and silencing of dissent actually looks like, just in case you're confused.

Hitting Putin Where It Hurts

The newest US economic sanctions against Russia are ones that Vladimir Putin is finally going to notice, as they directly target the Russian oil and gas industry.

New U.S. sanctions handed down on Friday are designed to effectively "shut off" Russian oil conglomerates from oil exploration projects, U.S. officials said, in a move aimed squarely at Russia's $425 billion-a-year petroleum industry.

The measures are "designed to effectively shut down this type of oil exploration and production activity by depriving these Russian companies of the goods, technology, and services that they need to do this work," a senior Obama administration official said Friday.

The official added the intention of the new sanctions was to ensure that "we have effectively shut off the capacity" of Russian oil companies to draw on U.S. expertise for deepwater, Arctic offshore, and/or shale oil exploration projects. The official stressed this was an important step because Russia's companies did not possess the kind of technology needed to undertake the operations.

The new sanctions prohibit U.S. companies from exporting goods, services, or technology to support five Russian energy companies in exploration or production for Russian deepwater, Arctic offshore, or shale projects that have the potential to produce oil. The U.S. Treasury Department said companies have until Sept. 26 to wind down existing transactions affected by the new sanctions.

The Russian energy companies hit by the sanctions include Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, Lukoil, Surgutneftegas, and Rosneft. European companies will have similar prohibitions, under mirroring sanctions handed down by the European Union.

Let's stop and think.  US companies can no longer partner with Russia for oil exploration in the Arctic and offshore.  But I thought Obama was in the pocket of Big Energy?

Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and an expert on previous sanctions leveled against countries like Iran, told Business Insider it was a smart escalation in sanctions.

"The new sanctions are smart and targeted and will impact Russia's access to Western technology and services that are needed to develop Moscow's medium to long-term oil exploration and production capacity," Dubowitz said.

"There will be winners and losers, including companies like Exxon and BP, but Western companies will adjust as they have to past energy sanctions against countries like Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and others. The real pain will be borne by Moscow, for whom energy is their economic lifeblood."

 It's going to hurt Moscow, definitely.  But it's going to hurt the big US oil giants too.  I'm all for that, frankly.

Well played, Mr. Obama.

The Enemy Of My Enemy Is What Again, Exactly?

I understand that President Obama feels he is taking the least awful option in Iraq and Syria for dealing with ISIS.  But as the NY Times editorial board points out, arming one side of a civil war (the "moderate" Syrian rebels) to defeat two different sides that we're against (ISIS and the Asaad regime) is not exactly a foolproof plan.

During the three-year-long Syrian civil war, Mr. Obama has been rightly reluctant to provide significant weapons and military assistance to the Syrian rebels. From the beginning, it was nearly impossible to determine the makeup and character of the rebel groups, of which there are about 1,500, according to James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence.

Groups identified by Western intelligence agencies as the moderate opposition — those that might support democracy and respect human rights — have been weak, divided and without coherent plans or sustained command structures capable of toppling the Assad regime. Today, those so-called moderates are even weaker and more divided; in some cases, their best fighters are hard-line Islamists.

In ruling out sending American combat troops into yet another Muslim country, Mr. Obama’s plan relies on these rebels to serve as ground forces to defend and seize territory after American airstrikes in Syria, for which he needs to seek congressional approval. But training and equipping them will be complicated and risky, and will take months, if not longer. ISIS, which the C.I.A. said Thursday has as many as 31,500 fighters in Iraq and Syria, is already well-equipped and has proved to be stunningly skillful at waging war and seizing territory in both Iraq and Syria.

Despite efforts by the United States and others to persuade the insurgent groups to unify under a common political and military command structure, there is still no shared leadership. In fact, these groups may be close to defeat in Aleppo, where they are fighting both the Assad forces and ISIS.

And let's be honest here:  we're getting involved in Syria's civil war and the Sunni/Shi'a divide at the same time.  ISIS is hardcore, extremist Sunni, and the reason they've been able to take territory in Iraq and Syria is because both governments have been oppressing Sunni minorities for the last several years.  Sunnis in Iraq and Syria are happily helping ISIS, in fact many of ISIS's top military commanders are ex-Iraqi and Syria military who were relieved of their jobs by Asaad's secular government and Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'a-backed government.

Iraq has a new government now led by Haider al-Abadi that's literally about a week old, but he's Shi'a as well and nobody knows if they will start going after Sunnis again.  Certainly after all these years the Sunnis in the area don't trust the Iraqi government.  Why should they they trust the Shi'a?

And of course the biggest Shi'a player on the board is Iran.  And hey, let's remind ourselves that arming Middle East rebels has not exactly been the greatest idea in US military history over the long-term.

Look, I support President Obama and always will, but if this is the best choice we have, the situation in Iraq and Syria is pretty much a stone's throw from totally screwed.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Last Call For Brutal Bait

Not content with drawing the US into a bloody war in Syria, ISIS has now beheaded a British aid worker, bringing vows of "justice" from PM David Cameron.

British aid worker David Haines has been executed by ISIS militants, according to a video posted Saturday to a website associated with the group, making him the third Western captive to be killed by the Islamist extremist group in recent weeks.

The ISIS video post showing Haines' beheading called his execution "a message to the allies of America."

It is produced very similarly to the videos that showed the executions of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, the last of which included Haines and the threat that he'd be killed next.

The new video pictures a masked ISIS militant placing his hand on another captive, whom he identified as Alan Henning, a British citizen.

In a tweet, British Prime Minister David Cameron called "the murder of David Haines" an "act of pure evil." 
Cameron added, "We will do everything in our power to hunt down these murderers and ensure they face justice, however long it takes."

I wonder now if Cameron will decide to join the US coalition.  Of course, that's the entire point.  The more, the merrier as far as ISIS is concerned.

Six Californias, Zero Chance

Remember "Six Californias", the ridiculous plan of glibertarian Silicon Valley billionaire Tim Draper to split the state into six smaller ones (while creating both the richest and poorest states in America as part of the process) and how he declared back in July that he had the signatures needed to get the issue on the November 2016 ballot?

Looks like Timmy came up short.

A quixotic proposal to split California into six states failed to qualify for the November 2016 ballot, officials announced Friday.

The initiative, the brainchild of Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper, did not have enough valid petition signatures, according to the California secretary of state's office.

Draper argued for his proposal by saying California is too large to have a properly functioning government. He called the initiative an "opportunity to reboot and refresh our state government."

Opponents said the plan was an embarrassing distraction that would cause political chaos and greater inequity.

“Six Californias was a solution in search of a problem that didn’t address any of our state’s challenges," said a statement from Fabian Nuñez, a former Assembly speaker.

The plan never really had a chance, but it's interesting to see that Draper's such a jackass that he couldn't even find enough people to sign up correctly.  I won't miss it either, it would have been a disaster politically for Democrats...and that was the point.

The Mask Slips Again...

...and Republicans once again remind everyone that they are the party of almost cartoonish levels of evil (only it's not even darkly funny).

The recalled Arizona senate president who proposed the state’s controversial anti-immigration law said he could fix public assistance programs by forcibly sterilizing women who receive aid and by requiring drug tests for all recipients. 
You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I’d do is get Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations,” said Russell Pearce on his weekly talk radio program. "Then we’ll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job.” 
He suggested drastic cuts to food assistance for needy families, reported Phoenix New Times, and he urged strict limits items that could be purchased what little help was available.

“No cash for Ding Dongs and Ho Hos, you’d only get money for 15-pound bags of rice and beans, blocks of cheese and powdered milk – all the powdered milk you can haul away,” Pearce said. “If you want a steak or frozen pizza, then you’d have to get a job.” 
He also suggested Spartan accommodations and strict rules for anyone who received government housing assistance. 
Ever live in a military barracks?” he said. “You’ll maintain your property in a clean, good state of repair, and your home will be subjected to an inspection at any time, possessions will be inventoried. If you want a plasma TV or an X-Box 360, then get a job.”

So Pearce effectively wants to round up the unemployed and stick them and camps.  You know, after drug testing them, feeding them nothing but rice and beans and powdered milk, subjecting them to inspections like boot camp recruits and oh yeah sterilizing the women.

That's compassionate conservatism, right there.  Hey, while you're at it, why don't you force them to pick cotton there to earn their keep, man?  Let's do it old school.

You can laugh at Pearce, but if the Tea Party gets control of this country, you'd better believe stuff like this is going to start happening.  The poor and unemployed are vermin to be exterminated to people like Pearce.

Always remember that.  America, you're one lost job away from being sub-human chattel to them.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Last Call For The Ground Pounders

Daily Banter White House reporter Tommy Christopher makes a great catch: not that it should surprise anyone, but the White House has not ruled out special forces troops in Syria.  CBS's Major Garrett and White House press secretary Josh Earnest had this exchange:

GARRETT: Just to follow up, one last one on Juliet’s question about Special Operations. Is that a permanent declaration — the president will not introduce Special Operations forces either into Iraq or Syria? Or just this particular recommendation was rejected and others can be proffered in the future
JOSH EARNEST: Well, Major, you know that it has been publicly reported that earlier this summer there was an operation in Syria – 
GARRETT: Sure, yes. We already know that. I’m talking about going forward
EARNEST: Well, I think what that is an indication of is that the line the president is drawing is about a sustained combat operation — a ground war, if you will — in Iraq and Syria. The president will not allow the United States to be dragged back into a ground war. And that is why the president is not contemplating deploying additional combat troops on the ground in either Iraq or Syria. 
GARRETT: But he remains open to mission-specific applications — Special Operations forces if the need arises
EARNEST: I’m not willing to broadly take anything — to broadly take anything off the table.

Kind of ludicrous not to think that special operations troops: (Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Raiders and Air Force SOW guys, what have you) wouldn't be involved in the future in any anti-ISIS operations in Syria and Iraq.  They're almost certainly involved now.  Those 475 "support troops" we're sending in?  Yeah, most certainly consisting of these "tip of the spear" guys.

And yeah, I forsee more of them going in.  As much emphasis as the White House is putting on not sending in regular ground troops and not being dragged into another ground war, the dirty work is going to go to these guys.  It's what they're trained for.

Three Days In Time Out For Being A Woman

Missouri's overwhelmingly GOP legislature has, as promised, overridden Democrat Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of legislation that demands all women wait 72 hours after seeing a provider to get an abortion, because women are stupid and have to be put in the time out corner.

Missouri lawmakers on Wednesday passed a law requiring women to wait three days for an abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, according to the legislature’s websites — overriding an earlier veto from Governor Jay Nixon. 
In July, the Democratic governor vetoed the bill to extend the minimum waiting period before a woman could have an abortion after an initial visit to a doctor to 72 hours from 24 hours. 
Nixon said the bill showed a “callous disregard for women who find themselves in horrific circumstances.” 
The state’s Republican-controlled Senate and House of Representatives on Wednesday overrode that veto with strong majorities, according to both chambers’ websites.
The house passed the measure by 117 to 44 and the senate by 23 to 7. 
Another 48 hours could very well be the difference between a life saved and a life ended,” Sen. David Sater, who sponsored the bill, told the Star. “Knowing that a life is at stake, this is the least we can do for these children.”

And of course, soon 72 hours won't be enough, because lives have to be saved.  You know, unless they are born to poor black or Latino women, in case welfare babies probably need to have their SNAP benefits slashed so they will work a second job like they were meant to in order to afford day care, so that we can call social services on them for being bad, neglectful parents who work all the time and don't stay home with the kids.

Gentle reminder: Republicans are the party of liberty, unless you have a vagina, in which case shut up and take three days to think long an hard about your slutiness.  No exception for rape or incest by the way in the law, so enjoy your three days to agonize why you were dressed provocatively, right girls?

Waiting period for abortion in Missouri, 72 hours, mandatory in all cases because lives must be saved. Waiting period to buy a gun in Missouri, 0 hours because liberty and freedom.

Counting Chickens And Measuring Drapes

The Senate GOP already has its "first 100 days" mapped out when they take over in January, because of course that's inevitable because Democrats won't vote.

Republicans are putting together an agenda for the first 100 days of 2015 in case they win control of the Senate. 
Authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline, approving “fast-track” trade authority, wiping out proposed environmental regulations and repealing the medical device tax top their list.

“Those would all be positive things. You could come up with a list of very positive things and all of us are thinking about those,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who is poised to become chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee under a GOP takeover.

Other Republicans echoed Corker. 
“Those are four things that could happen that I believe would be great for the economy and enable us to move forward on a bipartisan basis,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said during a Thursday breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. 
GOP senators insist they are not “measuring the drapes” after six years in the minority.

But why wouldn't they be?  Hell, not only are Democrats going to stay home apparently, but they're so tuned out and so oblivious that they don't even know that the GOP is poised to take control of the Senate.  Greg Sargent:

What if a key part of the problem is that many of these voters simply don’t know that Democratic control of the Senate is at stake in this fall’s elections? 
That’s one of the conclusions veteran Dem pollster Celinda Lake reached after conducting new focus groups and polling for the liberal group MoveOn. Lake conducted two focus groups of people from Detroit and its suburbs. One was made up of single white women under 55 and married white women under 35 (millenials). The second was all African American women. These are the same voters who are expected to drop off in many red state Senate contests, too. 
“We were exploring what would motivate them to turn out to vote,” Lake tells me. “One of the things that came up is that these drop-off voters had no idea that control of the Senate was even up for grabs and were even very confused about who controlled it. These voters are very representative of drop-off voters in a lot of states.” 
Lake says the focus groups — and follow-up polling Lake conducted — determined that one message that motivates these voters is that the outcome of the Senate election in their state could decide Senate control. However, that alone isn’t enough to motivate these voters. They also need to be told why it should matter to them which party controls the Senate, Lake adds.

If it's the middle of September and Democrats still aren't even aware that we're going to lose the Senate unless they vote, then the failure of the party message machine is all but complete.  We've got seven weeks to turn this around, and we don't even know why we're fighting.

Jesus wept.
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