Tuesday, September 2, 2014


Monday, September 1, 2014

Last Call For NATO On The Move

It finally looks like Europe has reached the point where a military response to Russia's annexation of the Crimea and other parts of the Ukraine is not only possible, but virtually assured under the banner of NATO.

NATO members meeting this week in Wales are expected to create "a very high-readiness force" to deal with Russian aggression in Ukraine and other international conflicts, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Monday.

In a speech on the NATO website, Rasmussen said the fighting force will be part of an overall Readiness Action Plan that "responds to Russia's aggressive behavior -- but it equips the alliance to respond to all security challenges, wherever they may arise."

He said this "spearhead" force would be able to "travel light, but strike hard if needed."

NATO will look at possible upgrades to infrastructure that could include airfields and ports, he said.

New bases will be set up and equipment pre-positioned at bases, a NATO diplomatic source said.

"We are also facing crises to the southeast and south," said a senior NATO official. The plan "needs to be able to deal with all crises that we might be facing in the future from wherever they might come."

Rasmussen said President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine will attend the summit and NATO will "make clear our support for Ukraine."

Also on Monday, UK Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament that the presence of Russian soldiers on Ukraine soil is completely unjustified and unacceptable.

"Russia appears to be trying to force to Ukraine to abandon its democratic choices through the barrel of a gun," he said.

Cameron said new sanctions measures will be drawn up by the EU within a week.

If NATO and Europe are finally getting serious about a unified effort to oppose Russian aggression, then I'm all for it.  It's not the US's job to police the world unilaterally, but that's what a treaty group like NATO is supposed to be used for.

Maybe this will finally get Russia's attention.

Your Bonus Annual Labor Daze Post

Kevin Williamson of the National Review spends about 2,500 words trying to convince people that raising the minimum wage and giving workers more collective bargaining power to raise wages won't actually raise wages and give workers power to collectively raise wages in today's other example of conservatives being utterly clueless about economic issues.

The Left sees inequality as a cause of economic facts, not an effect of them. As EPI sees things, inequality is an independent actor, a motive force in world affairs: It is not only a “determinant” of economic conditions but “by far the most important determinant”; it has, under its own steam, “blocked living standards growth for the vast majority”; and it is “the key driver behind stagnant wages for workers at the bottom.” This is a deeply weird view of how the world actually works: The Left thinks that inequality is not a mere measure of relative incomes or wealth but something that does things in the world, something that acts — and not only acts but acts decisively, determining Americans’ economic prospects. This sort of flatly preposterous analysis is the unfortunate effect of mistaking the map for the territory and the model for the thing modeled, the kind of magical thinking that causes people to believe that Superman could turn back time by reversing the rotation of the Earth.

That leads to the sort of silly writing exemplified above, but it also leads to bad policy ideas. EPI is about as respectable an economic-policy outfit as the Left has to offer, but its preferred policy responses to wage stagnation are basically primitive: raising minimum wages, as though long-term prosperity could be brought about by congressional fiat; passing paid-sick-leave laws; and changing corporate governance and financial regulation in ways that would impede or discourage income growth among corporate managers and financial professionals, who along with the occasional professional athlete and movie star make up the top 1 percent. There is more magical thinking in that, too: There is no big bucket of “national income,” and $100,000 in forgone pay for a CEO or private-equity investors does not mean that there is an extra $100,000 sitting around available to be used as income for somebody else. We talk about the “distribution” of income, but that is a purely statistical idea. There is no distributor of income, and income cannot simply be moved from one pocket to another like wampum.

Similar magical thinking infects the Left’s ideas about unions. Unions are in decline practically everywhere in the private sector, in no small part because the thuggish, corrupt, rapacious leadership of U.S. industrial unions helped to diminish or outright destroy the industries they once were associated with. Unions live on mainly in government work. But that is good enough for EPI to conclude that a renaissance of unionization is desirable: “This policy choice is clear when one looks at the evidence. . . . Unionization has held up much better in the public sector, where employers have less ability to fight organizing drives.” What else might distinguish public-sector employers from, say, General Motors? The main thing is a complete lack of competitors and, most important, the ability to command revenue from the public at gunpoint via taxation. This is not true of, say, McDonald’s.

The notion that income inequality in America has gotten so awful (especially among African-Americans and Latinos) that it's actually damaging our economy rather than being a symptom of a damaged one is debateable.  The notion that US corporations are making record profits despite the "highest corporate tax rate in the developed world" is not.  It's an economic fact, because the effective tax rate is far lower than 35%, and it's because many of the largest US corporations do not pay any corporate taxes at all.

Somehow, the corporate profits that McDonald's makes can never be re-invested in worker wages.  But remember, raising the minimum wage, paid sick leave like every other developed country has, and limiting CEO pay is "magical thinking" while lowering corporate taxes that corporations don't actually pay is "serious economic reform".

Happy Labor Day, indeed.

The Annual Labor Daze Post

No Labor Day would be complete without an annual example of conservatives missing the entire point of the holiday, and who had to sacrifice for it: union workers and the people who bled for them, only to be casually destroyed by global conglomerates.

According to the Seattle Times, business backed conservative think tank the Freedom Foundation plans to protest the national holiday by refusing to take Monday off and having a “work-in” all day instead.

“I can’t think of a problem in society that can’t be traced in some way back to the abuses of organized labor, so it would be hypocritical of us to take a day off on its behalf,” said the Freedom Foundation’s CEO Tom McCabe.

Times columnist Danny Westneat pointed out that if McCabe really wants to protest union-led reforms in the workplace, then he should work every Saturday, as well.

“What’s odd about it, though,” Westneat wrote, “is that only 12 percent of American workers even belong to unions anymore. Yet we — I say ‘we’ because I’m in that 12 percent — somehow retain an almost supernatural mind-meld authority over the oppressed and hapless other 88 percent.”

Freedom Foundation materials call public labor unions a “disease” that is “running rampant” in Washington state.

Sure.  The real problem are the people that think workers should be empowered to stand up to their employers, that they should have rights and the ability to bargain as a group when real wages have been stagnant for nearly 40 years while corporate profits have tripled in the last 14 years.

But go ahead and tell yourself the problem is "greedy unions" while you wonder why you can't afford to send your kids to college.

StupidiNews, Labor Day Edition!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Last Call For Breaking Through In Iraq

It looks like President Obama's program of limited, targeted airstrikes against ISIS is working to loosen their grip on territory in Iraq.

Iraqi troops and militias aided by U.S. airstrikes broke through a two-month siege of the town of Amerli on Sunday, opening up a humanitarian corridor to thousands of Shiite Turkmen who had been trapped by Sunni militants and deprived of food, water, and medicine.

“Amerli has been liberated,” said Mahdi Taqi, a local official who spoke by phone from inside the town after the army had entered. “There is so much joy and people are cheering in the streets.”

Sunni militants from the Islamic State group, which seized much of northern Iraq in June, had surrounded Amerli, cutting off access to supplies and electricity.

Residents struggled to fight off the militants, but were beginning to die of hunger and disease.

The United Nations Special Representative to Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, last week warned of an impending “massacre” should Islamic State fighters breach the town. 
But a short series of U.S. air strikes on Saturday night appeared to quickly tilt the balance in favor of Iraqi government forces.

The three strikes were accompanied by humanitarian aid drops by American, British, French and Australian aircraft, the Pentagon said in a statement.

“These operations will be limited in their scope and duration as necessary to address this emerging humanitarian crisis and protect the civilians trapped in Amirli,” the Pentagon said.

A thoughtful, measured response is starting to turn the corner, and we're doing it without putting in tens of thousands of troops back in Iraq.  It's funny how everyone is screaming that President Obama's foreign policy is a "failure" and yet A) it's not failing and B) nobody seems to have any better ideas. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Last Call For The Main Event

Labor Day weekend marks the beginning of the heart of campaign season, and with 9 1/2 weeks to go until Election Day, the latest WHAS-TV/Courier-Journal poll here in Kentucky finds Mitch the Turtle up 4 points on Alison Grimes, 46-42%.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Nine weeks until election day, Kentucky's U.S. Senate race remains close, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has improved his lead over Alison Lundergan Grimes in the latest WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll, from a two point lead one month ago to a four point lead today.

WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll
  • 46% McConnell (R)
  • 42% Lundergan Grimes (D)
  • 5% Patterson (L)
  • 8% Undecided
  • 569 likely voters
  • Margin of error = ± 4.2%

Libertarian David Patterson is down two points since the last poll, now with five percent support.

"It's still close to the margin of error," Democratic strategist Bob Gunnell said. "(Grimes) still has very much a shot to win, and money will still continue to flow into her campaign."

"I think the McConnell people are going to be very excited about these numbers," said Republican strategist Les Fugate. "It continues the trend that we've seen in a lot of other polls, both polls for the campaigns and other independent polls. His momentum has slowly picked up since January and moved, once he consolidated the vote after the primary, and he continues to build off of that."

Neither Gunnell or Fugate are affiliated with the campaigns.

The crosstabs are pretty interesting as well.  Kentucky remains Clinton Country, as Big Dog was in town stumping for Grimes earlier this month.  His approval rating is better than anyone else in the poll at 53%.  That same four point lead favors Republicans when it comes to which party voters think should control the Senate (47-43%).

As far as issues go, Grimes has a commanding lead on women's issues, 21 points (52-31%) but McConnell has a similar lead on which candidate would better represent the interests of King Coal (44-22%).  McConnell also has a big lead on foreign policy (43-28%) and a smaller lead on immigration (40-32%), but voters are split on which candidate is better for the state's economy overall, McConnell at 40% to Grimes's 38%.

Meanwhile, voters here continue to hate Barack Obama.  His approval rating in the Bluegrass State is down to 29%, with his approval rating among Democrats down to 49%.  Obamacare, Kynect, or not, Kentuckians are pretty upset at the President.

This poll was taken before Friday's revelations that Mitch McConnell's campaign director was involved in taking bribes during Ron Paul's 2012 run, so we'll see how that plays out.

Mass, In Carson Nation

Because there aren't apparently enough completely bonkers Republicans vying for 2016 yet, we have Dr. Ben Carson happily courting the "Obama and liberals are Nazis" section of the GOP's big tent (which admittedly is pretty large and full of insane Republicans who are inexplicably still allowed to vote.)

Conservative Ben Carson isn't backing down from his previous statements likening progressives and Obama supporters to Nazi sympathizers.

The topic was broached and reported on in a profile of Carson in The Washington Post.
"You can't dance around it," Carson told The Washington Post's Ben Terris. "If people look at what I said and were not political about it, they'd have to agree. Most people in Germany didn't agree with what Hitler was doing…Exactly the same thing can happen in this country if we are not willing to stand up for what we believe in." 
In February Carson suggested that liberals could turn the country into Nazi Germany.
"There comes a time when people with values simply have to stand up," he said according to The Huffington Post. "Think about Nazi Germany. Most of those people did not believe in what Hitler was doing. But what did they speak up? Did they stand up for what they believe in/ They did not, and you saw what happened." 
A month later, Carson went there again, saying that American society today is very similar to Nazi Germany. 
"I mean, [our society is] very much like Nazi Germany," the retired neurosurgeon said in aninterview with Breitbart News. "And I know you're not supposed to say 'Nazi Germany,' but I don't care about political correctness. You know, you had a government using its tools to intimidate the population. We now live in a society where people are afraid to say what they actually believe."

Which is funny, because of Dr. Carson was even remotely correct, he wouldn't actually be able to say what he's been saying for the last several months.  Nobody's stifling his free speech.  He's allowed to freely make his incendiary claims without the US government arresting him.  He's practicing the very freedom he claims to not have, which shows his horrendous lack of understanding about the First Amendment.

But that's only one of the many reasons why he'll never be President.

StupidiNews, Blogiversary Edition!

Zandar Versus The Stupid turned six this week.  I never thought I'd still be going strong after six years when I started making observations in August, 2008, but here we are.

Hopefully we'll keep on going for a while longer.  Still plenty of stupid to fight, you know.

And now your regularly scheduled StupidiNews...

Friday, August 29, 2014

Last Call For Uncle Jesse

Talk about your Labor Day weekend news dumps.

Mitch the Turtle's campaign manager, Jesse Benton, is resigning under a huge cloud of scandal.

Benton said he offered his resignation, effective Saturday, with a "heavy heart."

He maintained his innocence, faulting "inaccurate press accounts and unsubstantiated media rumors."

"This decision breaks my heart, but I know it is the right thing for Mitch, for Kentucky and for the country," Benton said.

Benton's name has surfaced in connection to a bribery scandal dating to his time as former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's political director during the 2012 presidential election.

On Wednesday, former Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson pleaded guilty to accepting $73,000 from Paul's campaign in exchange for his endorsement and to obstruction of justice for lying about his involvement.

Sorenson's guilty plea included two sealed documents, which could threaten to involve Benton.

In a statement provided first to the Herald-Leader, Benton said there "is no more important cause for both Kentucky, my new home I have come to love, and our country than electing Mitch McConnell Majority Leader of the United States Senate."

"I believe this deep in my bones, and I would never allow anything or anyone to get in the way," Benton wrote. "That includes myself."

Ron Paul's campaign was crooked as hell, and Benton ran that show in 2012.  Now it's caught up to him and everyone is wondering just how corrupt and rotten Benton's campaign for McConnell is.  And frankly, for all the "McConnell is too shrewd a political operator to lose to a neophyte like Grimes" conventional wisdom, hiring Benton turned out to be his biggest mistake so far of a campaign filled with missteps.

Oh, and let's not forget Benton started out running Rand Paul's campaign in 2010.  You have to wonder about just how many bodies Benton knows are buried.  Odds are he put them there.

Now McConnell has to spend the rest of the campaign explaining why his campaign manager was a crook, and why he hired him in the first place.  Hell, it might be enough to sink his campaign.

We'll see.  But I feel a lot better about Alison Grimes's chances now.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2014/08/29/3402571_mitch-mcconnells-campaign-manager.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

A Keystone Of Obamacare

We've finally reached the point where a GOP governor facing re-election is in such dire straits that he's doing what was once thought impossible just six months ago:  striking a deal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.  Greg Sargent:

In another sign that the politics of Obamacare continue to shift, the Medicaid expansion is now all but certain to come to another big state whose Republican governor had previously resisted it: Pennsylvania. 
The federal government has approved Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s application for the state’s own version of the Medicaid expansion, without a handful of the conditions Corbett had hoped to impose, Dem sources tell me. 
Corbett just announced that he will accept the expansion that has been offered, perhaps with some last-minute changes — expanding coverage and subsidies to as many as half a million people. 
This comes after months of jockeying between Corbett and the federal government. Corbett had pushed for a version of the expansion that would have imposed various conditions designed to make it more palatable to conservatives and to achieve political distance from Obamacare — while simultaneously taking all that federal money. Among them: Using the cash to pay for private coverage for the poor.
According to a Dem familiar with the deal, the version the feds signed off on does not give Corbett some of the things he wanted. In various ways, it is not a true “Private Option,” like the one in Arkansas. Corbett previously dropped the work requirement he’d sought, and did not get a weakening of consumer protections in Medicaid or a “lockout” provision that would have nixed coverage to those who miss a premium payment, the Dem confirms.

And Corbett is dying in the polls.  He's down by one measure by as much as 25 points right now.

The latest indignity: A new Franklin & Marshall College poll shows Corbett winning the support of just 24 percent of Pennsylvania voters. That's right, an incumbent … at 24 percent. That's just not something you see — like ever. 
Now, that actually sounds a little worse than it is. F&M polling routinely has many more undecided voters than most polls (about one-quarter in this poll), which means Corbett is at just 24 percent but only trails by 25 points (only!), 49-24. That's not quite the same as being down 70-24 or something like that. 
But that's still 25 points. And as we have written, it's pretty uncommon for a sitting governor to lose reelection, much less get swamped.

Republican governors in states that went for Obama in 2012 are in real trouble across the board (the exceptions being John Kasich in Ohio and Pat McCrory in NC).  Corbett in Pennsylvania, Rick Scott in Florida, Paul LePage in Maine, Rick Snyder in Michigan, and Scott Walker in Wisconsin are all in the fights of their political lives.  Republican governors in red states are hurting too.  Nikki Haley is facing a tough race in South Carolina, and so is Nathan Deal in neighboring Georgia.  Even Sam Brownback in Kansas is in trouble.

And all of these governors, with the exceptions of Corbett (and Kasich, who's still trying to split the middle), have come out against Medicaid expansion, costing millions of voters affordable healthcare.

Now even Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee wants to expand Medicaid.

In 2014 Republicans are going to talk about repeal, but it'll never happen.  And you'll see more and more red states throw in the towel and take the money.

Where Are The Women, Karl Rove Asked

Republicans are still trying to figure out why women hate the GOP, so Karl Rove and some of his buddies paid for a pretty detailed study as to why there's a massive gender gap that favors women voting for Democrats.  The results are pretty hysterical, frankly.

A detailed report commissioned by two major Republican groups — including one backed by Karl Rove — paints a dismal picture for Republicans, concluding female voters view the party as “intolerant,” “lacking in compassion” and “stuck in the past.”
Women are “barely receptive” to Republicans’ policies, and the party does “especially poorly” with women in the Northeast and Midwest, according to an internal Crossroads GPS and American Action Network report obtained by POLITICO. It was presented to a small number of senior aides this month on Capitol Hill, according to multiple sources involved.

I can't imagine why that would be, with Republicans vowing to eliminate affordable health care under the ACA, trying to shut down abortion clinics in dozens of states, refusing to raise the minimum wage and basically pretending that only married women with kids, living in the exurbs matter.

The report is blunt about the party’s problems. It says 49 percent of women view Republicans unfavorably, while just 39 percent view Democrats unfavorably.

It also found that Republicans “fail to speak to women in the different circumstances in which they live” — as breadwinners, for example. “This lack of understanding and acknowledgment closes many minds to Republican policy solutions,” the report says. The groups urge Republicans to embrace policies that “are not easily framed as driven by a desire to aid employers or ‘the rich.’”

Two policies former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor promoted as a way to make inroads with middle-class women and families — charter schools and flexible work schedules — were actually the least popular policies among female voters.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that every male Republican senator voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act every time it was brought up in the last six years, and that Republicans consider single women, especially working single women, to be immoral and dirty.  Maybe it has to do with Republicans happily embracing the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling that your boss gets to decide if they cover birth control because of religion, when the law says it gets covered.

I'm just spitballing here.

When female voters are asked who “wants to make health care more affordable,” Democrats have a 39 percent advantage, and a 40 percent advantage on who “looks out for the interests of women.” Democrats have a 39 percent advantage when it comes to who “is tolerant of other people’s lifestyles.”

Female voters who care about the top four issues — the economy, health care, education and jobs — vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Most striking, Democrats hold a 35-point advantage with female voters who care about jobs and a 26 percent advantage when asked which party is willing to compromise. House Republicans say jobs and the economy are their top priorities.

You don't say.  35, 40 point advantages for Democrats among women.  And what's the GOP response?

The groups suggest a three-pronged approach to turning around their relationship with women. First, they suggest the GOP “neutralize the Democrats’” attack that Republicans don’t support fairness for women. They suggest Republican lawmakers criticize Democrats for “growing government programs that encourage dependency rather than opportunities to get ahead.” That message tested better than explaining that the GOP supports a number of policies that could help fairness for women.

Second, the groups suggest Republicans “deal honestly with any disagreement on abortion, then move to other issues.” And third, “pursue policy innovations that inspire women voters to give the GOP a ‘fresh look.’” The report suggests lawmakers and candidates inject “unexpected” GOP policy proposals into the debate as a way to sway female voters. Suggestions include ways to improve job-training programs, “strengthening enforcement against gender bias in the workplace” and “expanding home health care services by allowing more health care professionals to be paid by Medicare for home health services.”

Yes, because "fairness for women" apparently means "You don't want to be seen as a lazy whore on government programs, do you?"  The GOP plan is literally slut-shaming women into rejecting programs designed to help women and families.  This is their message.

And they wonder why they are overwhelmingly losing women to Democrats.

On the other hand, if Democrats don't vote in midterms and Republicans do, it doesn't matter how awful Republicans treat women, now does it?  They'll win anyway, and will never change.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Last Call For Domestic Disagreements

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, under blistering pressure for suspending Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice only two games for a domestic abuse charge against his wife (while Browns wideout Josh Gordon got a one year suspension for weed), has admitted that Rice got off way too easy, and that the league now has a real policy against domestic abuse.  Deadspin's Barry Petchesky:

In a memo sent to the owners today, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced massive new punishments for all NFL personnel—not just players—who commit domestic violence offenses. Offenders will be suspended six games for a first offense, and receive an indefinite ban for a second, with the ability to apply for reinstatement after one year. 
In the letter, Goodell specifically cited the league's actions regarding Ray Rice as the motivation behind these new rules.
"At times, however, and despite our best efforts, we fall short of our goals. We clearly did so in response to a recent incident of domestic violence. We allowed our standards to fall below where they should be and lost an important opportunity to emphasize our strong stance on a critical issue and the effective programs we have in place. My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values. I didn't get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will."

Pretty bold words and bold action from the notoriously conflict-averse and image-conscious Goodell. Apparently this is going in under the league's player conduct policy, meaning the NFL Players' Association can't really challenge it. Considering the league's long and ugly history involving players and domestic abuse towards NFL spouses and significant others (and the NFL is far from the only major league sport with a huge domestic violence issue) this is a long overdue move on Goodell's part.

Now he just has to fix the Josh Gordon problem.  A year for weed in a league where players are wracked by chronic pain and devastating brain and spine injuries?  Let's try addressing that first, Rog.

Not Even Common Core-tesy

Louisiana GOP governor and perennial punchline Bobby Jindal has decided that the state's failing educational standards have to be Obama's fault, so he's suing the federal government.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday accusing the U.S. Department of Education of illegally coercing states to adopt the Common Core academic standards by requiring states that want to compete for federal grants to embrace the national standards. 
Jindal, a potential candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, was once a strong supporter of the Common Core standards, but he has become increasingly critical as opposition to the standards has grown, particularly among conservative Republicans and tea party groups. 
Jindal has tried unsuccessfully to remove the Common Core from Louisiana but has been stymied by the state legislature, the state board of education and Jindal’s own state superintendent of education — all supporters of the Common Core. 
“The federal government has hijacked and destroyed the Common Core initiative,” Jindal said in a statement. “Common Core is the latest effort by big government disciples to strip away state rights and put Washington, D.C. in control of everything.” 
Before filing the lawsuit Wednesday, Jindal also tried unsuccessfully to sue his state board of education over the Common Core standards.

What makes this all laughable is that for the last two decades, Republicans have been screaming about how schools were not being held accountable, how there weren't national standards of performance, and how teachers and educators weren't graded on performance like their students were.  Common Core actually does all that and offers incentives to states for participating, and suddenly it's "we have to sue the government for this coercive federal overreach!"

What makes this all pathetically depressing is that Jindal is trying to dodge responsibility for Louisiana's educational disaster by blaming the President.  After all, Jindal's the one who wanted to make massive cuts to public schools by privatizing them through religious organizations and slashed spending so harshly that libraries closed across the state and the resulting plummet in the polls can't be his own fault, you know.

Jindal has been the worst governor in the state's history, and yet he's still making plays like he has some sort of chance in 2016.

Coming at the expense of state taxpayer, no less.  Typical.

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