Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Last Call

Gotta love Dan Riehl, a guy who lays into people for not "fact-checking" the Bachmann migraine story and calling The Hill out on Bachmann missing a campaign appearance due to migraine with Sen. Roy Blount of Missouri (she did arrange to join him by Skype), but with a straight face quotes verbatim the press release of the film company behind Sarah Palin's movie The Undefeated and declares a movie that made $65,000 (yes, you read that right, sixty-five thousand, not million) its opening weekend as "successful".

Best part?  Boy, if you're a conservative that disagrees that The Undefeated is a smash hit (like The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf), well them's fightin' words to Danny here.

This is why I always say he's such a weak thinker. He is - here, not even realizing that his big close doesn't work in the given context. It actually works against him, not his critics. But he thinks he actually scored a point, somehow. Wow! What a genius! He's comparing his seeing The Undefeated to Conservatives seeing a Moore film. There's no comparison to be made unless he explicitly went there as a liberal to do a hit piece. The doofus just convicted himself. And let's not forget, no self-respecting serious journalist would undertake such a thing unless it were a well advertised premier expected to draw a crowd. And that doesn't even take into account the competing Harry Potter opening. Good grief, the boy is dense beyond words.

To recap, thinking that a movie that played at a total of ten theaters might not be a country-wide smash makes you a "weak thinker", a "doofus", "dense beyond words" and of course a dreaded "liberal".

But hey, don't let facts get in the way.

Chow Down, America

The latest restaurant chain with food cost problems?  Chipotle.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (CMG), the burrito chain whose share price has more than doubled in the past year, reported second-quarter profit that trailed analysts’ estimates as food costs gained.

Net income rose to $50.7 million, or $1.59 a share, from $46.5 million, or $1.46, a year earlier, the Denver-based company said in a statement today. The average of 21 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg was for profit of $1.67.

Co-Chief Executive Officers Steve Ells and Montgomery Moran have raised menu prices to help offset higher ingredient costs. The Department of Agriculture expects U.S. meat prices to climb as much as 7 percent in 2011. Chipotle said its restaurants’ operating margin narrowed to 25.8 percent in the quarter from 26.9 percent a year earlier.

Chipotle fell $17.29, or 5.2 percent, to $316.42 at 4:05 p.m. in trading after the close of the New York Stock Exchange. The shares had risen 57 percent this year through the close of regular trading today.

The company says it will be raising menu prices at 80% of its stores by the end of the year.  Commodities prices, especially for meat and cheese, are really doing a number on the big restaurant chains this year.  Growth is coming from markets outside the US at this point.  In the US, numbers are down as more and more people are cutting back on eating out.

Despite being a Wall Street darling, Chipotle badly missed numbers for the quarter and will be raising prices.  How much?  Well, let's just say I don't see too many Americans chowing down on $7 burritos in the future.

Crossing The Rubicon (Then Dumping Gas On It And Lighting It)

Now, I'm not the biggest fan of Debbie Wasserman Schultz by a long shot. She's a good Congresswoman and fundraiser, but her votes are borderline Blue Dog (especially on abortion) and she keeps supporting anti-choice Dems like Heath Shuler.  I have policy disagreements with her as DNC chair.

But House Republican Allen West shows why I'll defend her against a GOP slimeball like himself any day of the goddamn week.

Maybe it's the stress of the debt ceiling debate or maybe it's his well-documented short fuse, but Rep. Allen West (R-FL) appeared to cross any number of lines in an email sent to DNC chair and fellow Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz Tuesday.

The message, which was obtained by Politico's Ben Smith and confirmed to TPM by a Wasserman Schultz aide, was sent to Wasserman Schultz, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and West's Chief of Staff.

West's tirade against Wasserman Schultz came after she chastised him on the House floor for supporting the Cut, Cap and Balance debt ceiling deal favored by the House GOP. Wasserman Schultz called out West -- not by name -- for supporting a plan she said would "increase costs for Medicare beneficiaries," which she said was "unbelievable from a Member from South Florida."

West took that personally enough to respond with this nonsense:

Look, Debbie, I understand that after I departed the House floor you directed your floor speech comments directly towards me. Let me make myself perfectly clear, you want a personal fight, I am happy to oblige. You are the most vile, unprofessional ,and despicable member of the US House of Representatives. If you have something to say to me, stop being a coward and say it to my face, otherwise, shut the heck up. Focus on your own congressional district!

I am bringing your actions today to our Majority Leader and Majority Whip and from this time forward, understand that I shall defend myself forthright against your heinous characterless behavior......which dates back to the disgusting protest you ordered at my campaign hqs, October 2010 in Deerfield Beach.

You have proven repeatedly that you are not a Lady, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me!

To her credit, her office's response was classic:

"I don't think that Congressman West is upset at the Congresswoman, but rather with the fact that she highlighted that he and other Republicans are once again trying to balance the budget on the backs of seniors, children and the middle class. As someone who lives in Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz's Congressional district, Congressman West knows that we have hundreds of thousands of seniors in South Florida who have paid into Medicare throughout their lives and now rely on this program to keep them healthy and active. The truth hurts."

On second thought, the DNC chair doesn't need anyone defending her.  She's more than capable of cutting a blustering fool like West to pieces with the precision of a neurosurgeon.  I may not agree with her voting record or some of her choices, but I greatly respect her (unlike West).  Then again, he thinks Obama supporters are a "threat to the gene pool" anyway, so it's not like his opinion should matter.  Sadly, as a member of Congress, his vote does.

Perhaps the people of South Florida should remedy that situation.

America Gets That Poll-Taxed Look

I've been talking about GOP voter suppression efforts at the state level that all but constitute a de facto poll tax for months now, in Ohio specifically and nationwide.  People are beginning to notice and you know it's got the GOP concerned because the noise machine screaming "The only racists in America are Democrats!" as loudly and in as farcical a manner as possible.

But now we're starting to see Democrats take notice and start fighting back.  It's fitting that the man leading the way on this is respected civil rights leader and long-time Congressman John Lewis of Georgia.

"Mr. Speaker, voting rights are under attack in America.  There's a deliberate and systematic attempt to prevent millions of elderly voters, young voters, students, minority and low-income voters from exercising their Constitutional right to engage in the democratic process.  Voter ID laws are becoming all too common, but make no mistake:  Voter ID laws are a poll tax.  People who struggle to pay for basic necessities cannot afford a voter ID.  The right to vote is precious and almost sacred, and one of the most important blessings of our democracy.  Today we must be strong in protecting that blessing."

Lewis, as usual, does not mince words.  Voter ID laws really cannot be seen as anything other than a deliberate effort to make voting as difficult as possible for the groups he mentioned:  the elderly, the young, students, low-income Americans, and minorities...groups that tend to vote Democratic.

Many, many more Democrats at the state and federal level need to take up this call going into 2012, and stop these laws that attempt to circumvent the right to vote.  It's a right, not a privlege.  Throwing up legal roadblocks to voting was abhorrent in America's past, and it's a critical mistake to ignore it again now just because these efforts are wearing the mask of "protecting your right to vote."

When there have only been 86 convictions of wrongful voter identification out of 196 million votes cast when the Bush Administration declared war on "widespread voter fraud" in America, the true reasons behind making it more difficult to vote in order to disenfranchise people becomes crystal clear.  Anyone who makes it harder to vote in order to reduce who can vote is trying to take your vote away from you, period.

Good for John Lewis to name the demon.

Lights Out For The Dark Tower

Well, damn.

It appears the Dark Tower movie is stalled.  Ron Howard has been wooing Universal Studios for some time now, and after they refused to commit to more than a single movie he took his ball to and went home.  That may seem like bad news for now, but it does show that Howard is committed to getting it right.  There is no way that anything less than three movies could begin to capture the story, and his refusal to accept less is as heartwarming as it is aggravating.

Out of Context Theatre: Overheard From A Stranger

"Seriously, if they don't believe in our God then they shouldn't even be in this country.  We just need to get someone who knows what is best for people to run this country.  If people don't know what's best for them then somebody needs to tell them."

I kid you not.  That's a quote seared into my memory from a complete stranger I overheard today.  I wasn't trying to listen, she broadcast her opinions quite loudly.  It's hard to comprehend that so little respect is given for people who think differently.  There is no understanding that government is meant to represent the people, not instruct them on how to live so that the righteous are pleased.  On a national scale there seems to be no respect for an intellectual exchange of opposing opinions anymore, and this woman seemed to capture exactly what bothers me so much about the current political climate.  It's about winning, not doing the right thing.  And when it comes to the future of millions of people, doing the right thing for the greater good has to come first.  Sure, that seems like an understatement but only because it's so fundamentally necessary for the political machine to work as intended.

What happens if our nation as a whole becomes so shallow that the elections become like the Academy Awards?  I'm looking at the circus of stupidity that is winning headlines while the country rots from the inside out and I want to scream.  We have a long way to dig ourselves out of this hole and we are still going in the wrong direction.  I'm really starting to worry.

Rebooting The Machine

After three weeks of government shutdown, Minnesota lawmakers have reached a deal to restart the state government and get people back to work.

The end of the 20-day Minnesota state government shutdown was only hours away Wednesday morning, as lawmakers cast their final votes on the state’s budget and the bills were being prepared for Gov. Mark Dayton’s signature.

The special session concluded just before 3:45 a.m. Wednesday after a marathon of votes on nine budget bills and a $500 million bonding bill. There was little fanfare when the deal was done and lawmakers had erased a projected $5 billion deficit largely through one-time borrowing.

The dormant gears of Minnesota’s government will not start moving until Dayton signs the bills on Wednesday morning.

Republican leaders said after the final votes that they were satisfied with the final product.
“We were dealt a situation,” said House Speaker Kurt Zellers. “I think we dealt with it the best that we could.”

Asked whether her members would run on or against this budget in the next election, Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said they would stand behind it.

“We’re going run on this budget,” Koch said. “We’re going to talk about closing a $5 billion forecast deficit without raising taxes. That’s a big thing. And we’re going to talk about the major reforms in these bills.”

The "major reforms" in these bills are mostly spending cuts and one-time bond issues, leaving the state's school systems out in the cold as they took a $700 million hit from delayed payments and MinnesotaCare, the state's Medicaid system, took a similar hit as the 2% tax on health care providers to fund the program was eliminated by Republicans.  Meanwhile the budget get balanced because the state owes school some $2.1 billion now...and it's likely never to be repaid if Republicans have anything to say about it.  State Republicans can say they didn't raise taxes...but local school systems will now need to issue bonds or levies or have to make serious cuts in response.

The Republicans definitely won this time in Minnesota, and the results will be pretty ugly for the state for the rest of the decade.  I hope voters remember that come 2012.

No Dealing On The Debt Ceiling, Part 40

President Obama pulls the pin and praises the Gang of Six's Light Grenade debt ceiling plan and the GOP takes the bait.

“So here’s where we stand. We have a Democratic President and administration that is prepared to sign a tough package that includes both spending cuts, modifications to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare that would strengthen those systems and allow them to move forward, and would include a revenue component. We now have a bipartisan group of senators who agree with that balanced approach. And we’ve got the American people who agree with that balanced approach.”

Steve Benen has the right of it:

The president wasn’t speaking from prepared remarks, so it’s possible this came together by accident, but it sounded to me like Obama was intentionally boxing in House Republicans. The point wasn’t to endorse the Gang of Six, per se, so much as to use the Gang of Six to make a larger point: the White House wants a balanced approach, a bipartisan group in the Senate wants a balanced approach, and the American mainstream wants a balanced approach. Now all we need is for the House majority to wake up and smell reality.

That, of course, won’t happen, but the point is to place the burden where it belongs — on those who are being irresponsible.

It's like Obama knows what he's doing, folks.  And the GOP keeps picking up that Light Grenade, only it says "President Obama doesn't want you to pick this up" on it.  They can't resist.


Spoilers Ahead

More and more people are seeing that the Republican plan in 2012 is simple:  wreck the economy and blame Obama.  Kevin Drum catches the Wingnut noise machine in the act:

From conservative analyst Erick Erickson, explaining why Republicans should wreck the U.S. economy via default:
Obama has a legacy to worry about. Should the United States lose its bond rating, it will be called the “Obama Depression”. Congress does not get pinned with this stuff.
From Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, explaining why Republicans shouldn't wreck the U.S. economy via default:
It destroys your brand and would give the president an opportunity to blame Republicans for a bad economy. Look, he owns the economy. He has been in office almost three years now. And we refuse to let him entice us in to co-ownership of a bad economy.
From James Pethokoukis, tweeting excitedly last night about the brighter side of bad economic news:
Ouch!....Obama 2012 nightmare!....Alarms bells must be ringing loudly tonight across Obamaland....Panic at the WH?....GOP nomination very much worth having.

Luckily, Americans see right through the Republican efforts.

Americans are unimpressed with their political leaders' handling of the debt ceiling crisis, with a new CBS News poll showing a majority disapprove of all the involved parties' conduct, but Republicans in Congress fare the worst, with just 21 percent backing their resistance to raising taxes.

Some 71% of the CBS poll disapproved of the GOP's handling of the debt ceiling crisis, simply because there would be no debt ceiling crisis other than the fact they manufactured it with the goal of holding our economy hostage.   Obama gets a 43% rating here, not great, but that's still more than twice the GOP number.

Republicans are losing this battle badly.  Unfortunately, America itself stands to lose the most.


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