Friday, November 30, 2012

Last Call

A very cool cryptography story to end the week with, as the nearly 450-year old coded writings of Rhode Island co-founder and 17th century theologian Roger Williams have finally been cracked by a Brown University team.

Historians call the now-readable writings the most significant addition to Williams scholarship in a generation or more. Williams is Rhode Island's founder and best known as the first figure to argue for the principle of the separation of church and state that would later be enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

His coded writings are in the form of notes in the margins of a book at the university's John Carter Brown Library. The nearly 250-page volume, "An Essay Towards the Reconciling of Differences Among Christians," was donated in the 1800s and included a handwritten note identifying Williams as the notes' author — though even that was uncertain at first.

A group including former library director Edward Widmer, Williams scholar and Rhode Island College history professor emeritus J. Stanley Lemons and others at Brown started trying to unravel the so-called "Mystery Book" a few years ago. But the most intense work began earlier this year after the university opened up the challenge to undergraduates, several of whom launched an independent project.

"No one had ever looked at it systematically like this in generations," said Widmer. "I think people probably looked at it and shrugged."

And once again math for the win.

Senior math major Lucas Mason-Brown, who has done the majority of the decoding, said his first instinct was to develop a statistical tool. The 21-year-old from Belmont, Mass., used frequency analysis, which looks at the frequency of letters or groups of letters in a text, but initially didn't get far.

He picked up critical clues after learning Williams had been trained in shorthand as a court stenographer in London, and built his own proprietary shorthand off an existing system. Lucas-Brown refined his analysis and came up with a rough key.

Williams' system consisted of 28 symbols that stand for a combination of English letters or sounds. How they're arranged is key to their meaning; arrange them one way and you get one word, arrange them another, you get something different. One major complication, according to Mason-Brown: Williams often improvised.

From there, Mason-Brown was able to translate scattered fragments, and the students determined there were three separate sections of notes. Two are Williams' writings on other books, a 17th century historical geography and a medical text. The third — and most intriguing — is 20 pages of Williams' original thoughts on one of the major theological issues of the day: infant baptism.

Some of the most famous minds in history kept their notes in coded fashion like this, precisely to keep knowledge and discussions of controversial topics out of the hands of people who would, you know, stone you or behead you for talking about things like "separation of church and state".  It's gratifying to know that centuries later, one American historical figure has a wealth of new knowledge to pass to us.

Now that deserves a round.

Peace Through Superior Building Power

Israel's response to Thursday's UN recognition vote granting Palestine "observer" status:  Kinda hard for you guys to have a country if we put our houses all over it.

Israel plans to build thousands of new homes for its settlers in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, an Israeli official said on Friday, defying a U.N. vote that implicitly recognized Palestinian statehood there.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's conservative government had authorized the construction of 3,000 housing units and ordered "preliminary zoning and planning work for thousands" more.

The official would not elaborate. But Israeli media said the government sought to hammer home its rejection of Thursday's upgrade, by the U.N. General Assembly, of the Palestinians to "non-member observer state" from "entity".

Hammer, nails, brick, mortar, drywall, concrete, bulldoze and shingle home that rejection, too.   Let's not forget the US has asked Israel before to chill with the settlement expansion in the West Bank, and that went nowhere fast as Netanyahu told President Obama to stick a 2 x 4 where the sun don't shine and Obama backed off.

Now after voting against the recognition of Palestine yesterday, it's not like the Obama administration can say a damn thing about this new and massive round of expansion, and the collective punishment of Palestinians continues unabated.

It's getting tiresome.

Opening Salvos From The Slope

President Obama's opening fiscal cliff slope offer, made through Tim Geithner, was a dose of cold, hard reality for the Republicans.  Naturally they're in full panic mode and screaming to the "liberal media" to punish the President for daring to make such an offer.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday rejected a White House offer to avoid the "fiscal cliff" that would include $1.6 trillion in tax increases, $400 billion in spending cuts and a more permanent increase in the debt ceiling, Republican aides said.

Aides said the offer was made by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Rob Nabors, a top White House adviser, during their meeting with Republican leaders in the Capitol.

While the Obama administration described the offer as reducing the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years, Republicans told The Hill its tax increases amount to $600 billion more than what the Democratic-led Senate passed earlier this year when it approved legislation that would allow tax rates on top earners to rise.

“We’ve offered a balanced approach to deal with the fiscal cliff: raising revenue in a way that protects jobs while cutting spending,” said a Republican congressional aide familiar with the proposal. “But, after two weeks of discussions, the offer the White House made today is completely unbalanced and unreasonable, and amounts to little more than reiterating the president’s budget request — which failed to get a single vote in the House or Senate.”

As BooMan suggests, the Republicans are more than a little stunned by the boldness of the offer.  This is what President Obama's second term mandate means for them, and they don't like it a bit. They now know the President isn't bluffing.

The administration is threatening to weaken their ability to obstruct in the Senate or to blow up the economy by holding the debt ceiling hostage, while also demanding their tax hikes on the rich and refusing to offer anything remotely satisfactory (from the Republicans' point of view) in spending cuts.

Give the president what he wants or over the cliff we go. And the GOP gets the blame no matter what happens. Maybe you shouldn't have fucked with the president so much. 

Indeed, GOP meatheads like Newt Gingrich and El Rushbo are already saying the Republicans need to announce they are walking away from the table and that they don't care if the country burns if they go over the cliff slope.

Briar patch.  Just like it's been for the last four years.  Advantage:  Obama.  You can tell he's winning because the usual Village suspects are having a collective heart attack. 

Watch the fun begin.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Last Call

The first casualty of any Arab Spring war is truth.  The second casualty is apparently reliable internet service, as Syria's civil war moves into its final phases with the capital of Damascus now under rebel attack.

ste.traces.outage.pngA blog post on Renesys, a U.S. company which tracks Internet traffic worldwide, said that at 12:26 p.m. in Damascus, Syria's international Internet connectivity shut down completely.

Syria's minister of information said "terrorists" were responsible, a pro-government TV station said.

The past two weeks have seen rebels overrunning army bases across Syria, exposing Assad's loss of control in northern and eastern regions despite the devastating air power that he has used to bombard opposition strongholds.

Rebels and activists said the fighting along the road to Damascus airport, southeast of the capital, was heavier in that area than at any other time in the conflict.

"No one can come in or out of the airport," said Abu Omar.

Airport and internet down?  Yeah, the al-Assad regime is not long for this earth, I believe.   Whichever side knocked out the net in Syria, it was a smart move tactically and strategically...which goes to show you just how important the internet is as part of a nation's infrastructure.

Something we should consider investing in more ourselves.

Blowing It Up At The Austerity Bomb Range

Oh, this isn’t going to go over well with the usual suspects, but it’s going to be everywhere anyhow today.

Listen to top Democrats and Republicans talk on camera, and it sounds like they could not be further apart on a year-end tax-and-spending deal – a down payment on a $4 trillion grand bargain. 
But behind the scenes, top officials who have been involved in the talks for many months say the contours of a deal – including the size of tax hikes and spending cuts it will likely contain — are starting to take shape.
Cut through the fog, and here’s what to expect: Taxes will go up just shy of $1.2 trillion — the middle ground of what President Barack Obama wants and what Republicans say they could stomach. Entitlement programs, mainly Medicare, will be cut by no less than $400 billion – and perhaps a lot more, to get Republicans to swallow those tax hikes. There will be at least $1.2 trillion in spending cuts and “war savings.” And any final deal will come not by a group effort but in a private deal between two men: Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). The two men had what one insider described as a short, curt conversation Wednesday night — but the private lines of communications remain very much open.

The tax hikes on the rich are immediate.  The Medicare stuff is 10-20 years away, as far as Politico can tell.  That right there should tell you who’s winning this fight (and that’s if you believe this particular crew of Village Idiots, which is dubious at best) but I’m sure there’s going to be a holiday rush on scourges and flensing knives for the folks on the left anyhow.

So before you reach for that HE SOLD US OUT special, remember it’s Politico, in the Billiards Room, trying to Win The Morning™, and try to keep the blood off the floor.

Hoosier Daddies, Indiana?

Add Indiana to the list of states where Republicans now have a supermajority in the state legislature and a Republican governor, in this case Mike Pence.  They can pass whatever they want, and Democrats are 100% irrelevant in the state, but for now State House Speaker Brian Bosma is invoking the legacy of his father Charles in the spirit of bipartisan cooperation, which ought to last until January 7th when Indiana goes full Tea Party whacko.

House Speaker Brian Bosma used the ceremonial opening of Indiana’s legislative session Tuesday to call for bipartisanship, even though Republicans now enjoy a supermajority that largely allows them to circumvent Democrats to push through their agenda.

The GOP speaker cited his father, Charles Bosma, working across the aisle with Democratic U.S. Rep. Andre Carson’s grandmother, Julia Carson, and delivering services for the disabled when they served together in the state Senate in the late 1970s and 1980s. Those two were known as the “odd couple,” and Bosma said he’d like to see that concept revived in the current session.

He then ticked off a list of priorities, including funding early childhood education, approving performance-based pay for teachers and schools, and training more science and math teachers.

“Where is the odd couple in this room that will set political differences aside, and concentrate on giving Hoosier families that want early childhood education but can’t afford it, the opportunity that most of us in this room enjoy?” he asked the group.

Lawmakers took care of some official business during the informal opening known as “organization day,” although the major work won’t begin until they return on Jan. 7. The Legislature must draw up a new biennial budget, ponder options with the federal health care law, adjust to a new governor for the first time in eight years and balance all other issues ranging from education to gay marriage.

The notion that Indiana Republicans aren't completely bonkers is ignoring the state's history and that of lunatic Mike Pence, particularly his War on Women.  Pence is responsible for starting the national GOP push to destroy Planned Parenthood. With Pence now Governor and the GOP in total control, you can kiss women's rights goodbye in the state.  He's already declined health insurance exchanges as well as Medicaid expansion, assuring Indiana's working poor will get zero help from the party of You're On Your Own, and both Bosma and Pence are cooking up dramatic tax cuts for the rich, planning to slash corporate, inheritance, and property tax rates in the state, as well as wanting to cut income taxes leaving the state even more dependent on a regressive 7% sales tax, one of highest state rates in the country.

Bosma may talk a cute game about bipartisan cooperation, but I assure you Gov. Pence will make sure nothing of the sort will happen.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Last Call

Republicans have now fully declared war on Susan Rice's nomination as Secretary of State.  But it's not about Rice, Benghazi, or even President's about John Kerry.

In just two quick meetings on Capitol Hill, Susan Rice may have blown up any goodwill she had with the very senators she’ll need for confirmation if she’s ever tapped as the next secretary of state.

Over the past two days, four key Republican senators have emerged from private meetings to blast the United Nations ambassador’s explanation about what happened during and after the deadly attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

It’s not clear what Rice said behind closed doors to anger all these senators, but it’s obvious the meetings went badly and this was hardly a nominee-in-waiting charm offensive.

Even Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, just the type of moderate Republican who might help break a filibuster on a nomination, said there were still too many questions about why Rice incorrectly characterized the Sept. 11 assault in five Sunday talk show interviews as the result of spontaneous protests at the same time the Libyan president was calling it a terrorist attack.

“I don’t understand why she would not at least qualify her response to that question,” Collins told reporters after emerging from a 75-minute, closed-door meeting with Rice.

At this point, a number of GOP Senators are all but promising to block Rice's nomination permanently.  But Senator Collins gave away the game today:

Collins and other Republicans have made the case that Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, would be more qualified than Rice to be secretary of state.

But Obama may be reluctant to tap the Massachusetts Democrat since it would create a vacancy in the Senate — and an opportunity for defeated GOP Sen. Scott Brown to return to the chamber. Kerry has also been floated as a potential nominee for defense secretary.

 “I think John Kerry would be an excellent appointment and would be easily confirmed by his colleagues,” Collins said

The game is clear.  The 2014 Senate elections are now underway.   Republicans feel they'll have a better chance in 2014 of taking the Senate if they can get Scott Brown back into the Senate through a low turnout special election, plus with Kerry out of the Senate picture, that's one less vote for Democratic legislation in the upper chamber.

Kerry's seat was the most likely target of the assault on Rice's character and obvious qualifications, but Collins made it official this afternoon.

We'll see how the President reacts.  I'm betting he calls the GOP's bluff, and he should.

Mitt's Naked Lunch

After President Obama took Mitt Romney's lunch money, President Obama and unemployed guy Mitt Romney are going to have lunch.

President Barack Obama and his former rival Mitt Romney will meet Thursday for their first get-together since the November 6 election, according to a statement from White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

"On Thursday, Governor Romney will have a private lunch at the White House with President Obama in the Private Dining Room," Carney wrote. "It will be the first opportunity they have had to visit since the election. There will be no press coverage of the meeting."

White House chefs have a recipe for crow and humble pie?  Mitt could use a seven-course meal of that.  However, it is rather gracious of the President to do so.  I can't remember the last time another losing candidate got lunch at the White House.

Then again, Mitt does have an awful lot of time on his hands these days.  Bon Appetit!

The Natural Habitat Of The Nevada Honey Badger

Senate Democratic majority leader Harry Reid looks to be getting his full "don't care" on in the next Senate session as he tees up the filibuster to get fili-busted.  Greg Sargent gets the plan of attack:

So here’s what is likely to happen, according to a senior Senate Democratic leadership aide. Dems will likely pass reforms that include ending the filibuster on the motion to proceed and on on motions to move to conference; and forcing “talking filibusters,” which would require a much more public role for filibustering.

Dems may not change the rules on the first day of the session. Rather, the aide says, they are likely to do a rules change, almost certainly in January, via what’s known as overruling the chair. Democrats ask the chair for a ruling on whether it is within the rules to, say, filibuster the motion to proceed. When the chair says Yes, Dems overrule it by a simple majority vote. And so on with the other provisions.

It will be very hard to determine whether these reforms will be effective without seeing their final language. But in the end, the minority will still be able to filibuster on the move to end debate — which is to say the Senate will remain a supermajority institution. Will the reforms discourage filibustering? That we’ll have to find out.

It’s still possible that the simple majority rules change may not come to pass — if Republicans agree to a compromise package of filibuster reforms. But aides say that as of now, no negotiating is taking place.

Either way, what happened today is that Reid, in effect, put his finger on the nuke button. It’s hard to see how he pulls back now.

Republicans are almost certainly going to try to cut a deal now.  We'll see what happens, but it's clear at this point Reid has the 51 votes to go ahead in January if the GOP won't play ball.  My money's on Reid having to go that route, because any deal the GOP makes will almost certainly involve something stupid.

But Honey Badger don't give a you know what.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Last Call

Been saying for years now that GOP voter ID laws are all about suppressing the vote among Democrats, particularly poor and minority voters, the elderly, and college students.  Former Florida Republicans Jim Greer and Charlie Crist confirmed this to reporters this week in what would be a bombshell story to anyone who has had their head encased in cement for the last two years.  You know, your average FOX News viewer.

Jim Greer, the former head of the Florida Republican Party, told The Palm Beach Post that a new law shortening the early voting period in the state was intended to prevent Democrats from voting. Greer said that since at least 2009, GOP staff and consultants had discussed limiting early voting hours, which they believed helped Democratic candidates. He described current talk of eliminating voter fraud as a “marketing ploy.

Former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida confirmed that GOP officials had sought to limit early voting in an effort to suppress Democrat turnout. He told the Post that the effort seemed to be aimed at ethnic minorities, a key demographic for Democrats.

“The sad thing about that is yes, there is prejudice and racism in the party but the real prevailing thought is that they don’t think minorities will ever vote Republican,” Greer said. “It’s not really a broad-based racist issue. It’s simply that the Republican Party gave up a long time ago ever believing that anything they did would get minorities to vote for them.”

The racism is a feature, not a bug, people.  If you think anyone in the Republican party truly gives a damn about anyone who isn't white, you deserve your fate with these idiots.  Hell, if you're white and make less than six figures, the same applies.

“I am appalled but sadly not surprised by these officials’ admissions that their goal was purely to suppress the African American vote,” Elder Lee Harris, the pastor of Mt. Olive Primitive Baptist Church in Jacksonville, said in a statement. “Even while cloaked in the dubious language of ‘voter fraud,’ the real reason for these measures was always clear. African Americans in Florida knew that, and we fought back – by voting.”

Damn right we will.

Once again, if your stated goal is to reduce the number of people who are allowed to vote in a representative democracy, you are perverting the most basic freedom in our country.  If it's the only way you feel you can win, through systematic disenfranchisement of tens of millions of citizens, then your party deserves to be cast into the black hole of history.

A Canadian Ford Recall

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who can generously be called "controversial" given the country's own growing Tea Party style backlash against social programs and health care (yet another instance where I feel the need to apologize to our northern neighbors) has run into a bit of a problem:  Canada actually gives a damn about things like conflict of interest, and it's cost Ford his job.

A court ordered the mayor of Toronto, Canada’s largest city, to be removed from office for violating conflict of interest rules when soliciting donations for his football charity.

Mayor Rob Ford got into legal trouble when he spoke out at a city council vote in February against a $3,150 fine he was ordered to pay over the ethics breach.

A Toronto resident took him to court for violating the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, which at trial Ford said he had not read.

Ford said he will appeal the ruling, and if he fails to have the decision overturned will run again for mayor in a by-election.

“I will fight tooth and nail to hold onto my job,” he told reporters, blaming “leftwing politics” for the court action that led to the ruling.

Compare Ford to say, Mike Bloomberg in New York City.  If Bloomberg was held to the same legal standard as Ford, he'd have been out on his ass within a year instead of on his third term as Mayor (itself in violation of the city's laws until he changed them.)  Ford vows to be back however, and he's counting on winning his appeal and running again for Mayor on the "Evil liberals stole my job" ticket.

How Ford ended up mayor of Toronto in the first place?  Well, I've got no room to complain considering Michele Bachmann still has a job in Congress that doesn't involve emptying trash cans.

Benghazi Been-Gotcha

FOX News should really just stop talking to actual journalists and experts, because whenever they try to force their propaganda past sane people, stuff like this invariably happens.

Thomas E. Ricks, the veteran defense reporter and author, said he expected his Monday morning appearance on Fox News to last about three minutes. It ended, in fact, after 90 seconds — his last sentence was a description of the network as “a wing of the Republican Party.”

After the interview, a Fox News staffer told Mr. Ricks that he had been rude.

The strange and unusually short interview segment quickly gained the attention of media critics, because criticism of Fox News is rarely aired on Fox News. Mr. Ricks said in an e-mail message afterward that he did not think he was being rude. “I thought I was being honest,” he said. “They asked my opinion, and I gave it.”

The topic was the attack on the United States’s diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. Before being thanked and sent on his way, Mr. Ricks said he thought the controversy around the attack was “hyped, by this network especially.”

So, Tom Ricks won't be back on FOX ever again.  Which is sad, because tens of millions of FOX viewers desperately need to see the view outside the network's anti-Obama propaganda bubble.  That won't happen anytime soon either.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Last Call

What a surprise!  Adam Davidson's article on the so-called "skills gap", that employers are unable to find enough people to fill highly skilled manufacturing positions, has found a very definite reason behind it:  near minimum-wage pay rates.

Eric Isbister, the C.E.O. of GenMet, a metal-fabricating manufacturer outside Milwaukee, told me that he would hire as many skilled workers as show up at his door. Last year, he received 1,051 applications and found only 25 people who were qualified. He hired all of them, but soon had to fire 15. Part of Isbister’s pickiness, he says, comes from an avoidance of workers with experience in a “union-type job.” Isbister, after all, doesn’t abide by strict work rules and $30-an-hour salaries. At GenMet, the starting pay is $10 an hour. Those with an associate degree can make $15, which can rise to $18 an hour after several years of good performance. From what I understand, a new shift manager at a nearby McDonald’s can earn around $14 an hour

The secret behind this skills gap is that it’s not a skills gap at all. I spoke to several other factory managers who also confessed that they had a hard time recruiting in-demand workers for $10-an-hour jobs. “It’s hard not to break out laughing,” says Mark Price, a labor economist at the Keystone Research Center, referring to manufacturers complaining about the shortage of skilled workers. “If there’s a skill shortage, there has to be rises in wages,” he says. “It’s basic economics.” After all, according to supply and demand, a shortage of workers with valuable skills should push wages up. Yet according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of skilled jobs has fallen and so have their wages. 

To recap, manufacturing jobs in 2012 consist of people with engineering and computer programming skills with 2-year college degrees who end up making about thirty, thirty-five grand a year.  McDonald's pays more and you don't need a degree.  Think about that.

Now tell yourself the problem is unions and that manufacturing jobs pay too much, and if only those awful unions were gone, America could be more "competitive" by paying workers even less.  And indeed, as a result, wages for manufacturing jobs are going down, not up.

College or trade school educated workers are making $15 an hour, and that's too much money in 2012.  But let's cut taxes on the rich.  That'll solve the problem, right?

One Barak Who Won't Be Back

Former Israeli PM and current Defense Minister Ehud Barak is calling it quits, saying he won't seek another ministerial position after January's elections.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced his resignation Monday, saying he will quit politics in January to spend more time with his family.

His resignation comes at a highly delicate time for Israel, which is observing a fragile cease-fire with the militant Palestinian group Hamas after an eight-day conflict that killed more than 160 people -- the overwhelming majority of them Palestinians in Gaza.

The Palestinians are not exactly sad to see the guy go, either.  And speculation that Barak would try to revive the center-left Kadima coalition, well that's right out too.

Some Israeli political commentators had speculated ahead of the announcement that Barak was planning to quit the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new center-left party.

But Barak told reporters that new faces in leadership roles would benefit Israel.

"I feel it is important that other people should take leading positions in Israel. Changes in the position of power are a good thing. There are many ways to contribute to the society and the country, and not necessarily through politics," he said.

Barak served as defense minister under former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert between 2007 and 2009, and retained the post under Netanyahu from 2009 until the present. He also held the title of deputy prime minister for both administrations.

I'm thinking anyone who ends up in the post after Barak at this point is most likely not going to be less militant or less "blow up Palestinians every couple of years to make a point".  We'll see where this goes.  Barak will stay on through January, but he's out after that.  Considering we're back into "Iran is only months away from a nuke" mode, whoever does replace him will have a pretty full plate, especially if Netanyahu retains his office as I expect he will.

The Exchange Of Makers And Takers

When the conversation next turns to "makers versus takers" again, keep track of the states who have simply refused to implement health insurance exchanges, keeping their own citizens uninsured longer and forcing the federal government to set up the exchanges for them at federal taxpayer expense.

Since different states have different insurance markets and different eligibility requirements for Medicaid, Obama’s Health and Human Services Department can’t simply take a system off the shelf as a one-size-fits all failsafe.

"You can't simply deploy one federal exchange across the board," said Jennifer Tolbert, director of state health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

"Each state is different — their eligibility systems are different, their insurance markets are different. [HHS is] going to have to build these exchanges to fit into the context of each state."

Every state must have an exchange by Jan. 1, 2014, meaning HHS doesn’t have a lot of time to do a massive amount of work. The department could quickly run through a $1 billion fund designated for implementing the exchanges.

Experts have predicted that the department will soon have to tap budgets from its other programs to cover exchange costs. Other have said it might charge fees on the insurance purchased in its exchanges once they are launched. 

So yes, Republican governors (and even a couple Democrats, looking at you, Missouri's Jay Nixon) are trying to do everything they can to break the system.  The same people saying "Give us control of Medicaid because states can do things more efficiently" are trying to make state insurance exchanges as inefficient as possible in order to harm as many people as possible, believing they will then rise up and demand an end to Obamacare.

Sure worked for Mitt Romney, huh guys.  And let's not forget there are actual lives at stake here, too.  It doesn't seem to bother these governors much, either...and with blue states where federal taxpayers foot the bill like California, New York, and Illinois, it's interesting to note that it's the poorer red states who are expecting federal handouts here to build their exchanges for them.

Which side has a problem with "takers" now?


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Last Call

Texas wanting to secede from the United States may be a running joke, but in Spain, nobody's laughing as that country's Catalonia region seems quite serious about declaring independence from the Spanish government.

Separatists in Spain's Catalonia won regional elections on Sunday but failed to get the resounding mandate they need to push convincingly for a referendum on independence.

Catalan President Artur Mas, who has implemented unpopular spending cuts in an economic crisis, had called an early election to test support for his new drive for independence for Catalonia, a wealthy region in northeastern Spain.

Voters handed almost two thirds of the 135-seat local parliament to four different Catalan separatist parties that all want to hold a referendum on secession from Spain.

But they punished the main separatist group, Mas's Convergence and Union alliance, or CiU, cutting back its seats to 50 from 62. That will make it difficult for Mas to lead a united drive to hold a referendum in defiance of the constitution and the central government in Madrid.

"Mas clearly made a mistake. He promoted a separatist agenda and the people have told him they want other people to carry out his agenda," said Jose Ignacio Torreblanca, head of the European Council on Foreign Relations' Madrid office.

For now, much like Quebec and Canada, the only thing keeping Catalonia in Spain is the fact the separatist parties have yet to unite the region under one party and leader.  Should that change, it would be the economic equivalent of not Texas, but California leaving the union here, a massive blow to Spain's already moribund economy.

We'll see how Spain reacts now that Mas and the separatists are, well, still separate.

They Still Have Learned Nothing

Nearly three weeks after the election, and it's still Benghazi, all the time, with the right.  No better example of this than Col. Mustard, who knows all about racism and will tell you exactly how it works.

I know I sound like a broken record.

Everytime I think the Democratic race card players could not get more vile, more deranged, more patronizingly demeaning to blacks, someone manages to defy even my vivid imagination.

This time, it is the Editorial Board of The Washington Post, which issued a truly amazing screed (h/t Gabriel Malor) claiming that critics of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice are motivated by race and sex, as demonstrated by the facts that most are male and a significant percentage come from former confederate states.

Let me clue you in, Bill.  Nothing is more patronizing or demeaning to minorities like myself, particularly African-Americans like myself, than a middle-aged white guy deciding what should be patronizing and demeaning to blacks because you have decided that people like me are simply too ignorant to see your shining truth.

And yes, when a group of white GOP men in Congress, from mostly former Confederate states, decide that a high school valedictorian who is Rhodes Scholar with degrees in International Relations, a Phi Beta Kappa member, a National Security Council member under Clinton, and UN Ambassador under Obama is somehow both incompetent and unqualified to serve as Secretary of State, one has to ask the same questions as the Washington Post's editorial board as to why this is.

You might actually learn something if you choose to truly explore why you're in the wrong, but that level of soul searching is far too difficult.  It's better then to insult anyone asking those questions as "vile and deranged" and somehow pretend that Susan Rice's nomination to the office of Secretary of State is a personal grievance that must be rectified by no less than the President himself, because after all, you're just that important.

You keep on believe that, and we'll keep winning elections.  That seems fair.

Not Too Wild About Harry

The GOP campaign to somehow appeal to Village Centrists and nervous Dems to dump Harry Reid as Senate majority leader is now underway in earnest.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) infuriated Republicans during the campaign with his harsh partisan attacks and now faces the delicate task of mending his relationship with the GOP.

Some Republicans say Reid poisoned his relationship with their party by waging controversial attacks against GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. They were most angered by Reid’s charge that Romney had not paid taxes in ten years, attributing the information to an anonymous source.

"I do think he lost more credibility with Republicans because of his aggressive comments during the campaign,” said Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist and former leadership aide who served in the Senate and House.

“The make-up of the Senate is almost the same and I think Sen. Reid is likely to produce the same type of gridlock he did before because of his unusually partisan stance," Bonjean added.

Well if a GOP strategist says Harry Reid is causing too many bad feelings, then surely Senate Democrats should drive him out of office in shame.  While they're at it, I'm sure Bonjean is upset that Democrats haven't all jumped party and become 98 Republicans and 2 independents, too.

Somewhere, Harry Reid is laughing his ass off.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Last Call

Jonah Goldberg has some whitesplaning to do dammit, and no holiday weekend will stay him from his appointed rounds.

If the GOP wants to win more black votes, it will need to get a lot more “racist.”
The scare quotes are necessary because I don’t think the Republican Party is racist now (and, historically, has a lot less to answer for than the Democratic Party does).
But that hasn’t stopped people from slandering Republicans as racist for one reason or another.

Wow, that’s a pitch roughly the size of Utah over the plate.  I’m going to step out of the batter’s box for a second so that I can get a running start at this thing, it’s not moving that fast.  Clearly Jonah here is full, nay, gravid with excellent advice.  Besides, GOP can’t be racist because Colin Powell!
Just consider some recent examples from over the summer. When Mitt Romney visited Michigan, he joked about not needing a birth certificate to prove he was from there. 
Not very funny? OK, sure. Poor taste? Eh, maybe, I guess. “The basest and the most despicable bigotry we might be able to imagine”? Errr, no. And yet that’s what one respected “expert” on race, Michael Eric Dyson, called it on MSNBC.

I have to admit “noted race relations expert Jonah Goldberg” does have a nice ring to it, it’s a little much to fit on the business card along with the multi-cultural and multicolored stick figures, but you know, that privilege ain’t gonna assume itself.  Sometimes a white guy just has to lay out what racism is to us black folk:

Now, the cynical motivations behind this relentless slander are too numerous to count. Such moral bullying makes white liberals feel better about themselves. It scares moderates and centrists away from the Republican Party, and it no doubt helps dissuade wavering blacks from even thinking about giving the GOP an honest look. 
It also does wonders to stifle journalists terrified of having their racial bona fides questioned in any way. And it helps a feckless left-wing black political class explain away its own failures. Racial slander is like duct tape: There’s no limit to what you can do with it.

Wow.  I had no idea being a black person was so simple.  All this time if I ever wanted to get ahead in life, I could just use “racial slander” to put white America in its place.  Truly we live in an age of post-racial America where I had no idea being white was so bloody difficult, laced with traps and pitfalls whenever you tried to explain to the brown horde that your policies were necessary medicine they needed.  Somebody always comes along and racial slanders it.  You guys, Jonah’s trying really hard here!

But can you imagine how much worse it will get if Republicans actually do reach out to black community (as they should)?
One of the points of racial slander is to signal that only liberal policies are guaranteed to be non-racist (even when such policies were forged with racist intent, like the Davis-Bacon Act). This is why the Congressional Black Caucus insists on calling itself the “conscience of the Congress.”
That’s why policies like school choice are routinely denounced as racist, even though they’re largely aimed at improving the lives of inner-city blacks trapped in bad schools. Teachers unions don’t like school choice, ergo, it’s racist.

It’s hard out there for a white guy, dedicated to trying to explain to the stupid, largely ignorant black masses that your policy is good for them dammit and they need to shut up and accept it.  Why don’t they listen to Jonah?  He’s got the business card and everything!

Any serious attempt by the GOP to win black votes won’t involve Republicans copycatting liberal policies. It will require going over the heads of black and white liberal slanderers to offer a sincere alternative to failed liberal policies on schools, poverty, crime, etc. The more effective that effort, the more the GOP will be called racist. 
When Romney, whose father marched with Martin Luther King Jr., spoke to the NAACP, Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast dubbed him a “race-mongering pyromaniac,” primarily for using the term “ObamaCare” — a term Barack Obama used himself.
Just imagine the attacks in store for a more effective Republican.

If only black people like myself were smart enough to see through the racial slander…gosh they just might have that outreach they need here.  Surely somebody should appoint Jonah in charge of it.  Immediately.

How To Secede At Business Without Really Trying

Texas?  You have another Lone Star State-sized problem on your hands over this "secede from the union" nonsense.

In Texas, talk of secession in recent years has steadily shifted to the center from the fringe right. It has emerged as an echo of the state Republican leadership’s anti-Washington, pro-Texas-sovereignty mantra on a variety of issues, including health care and environmental regulations. For some Texans, the renewed interest in the subject serves simply as comic relief after a crushing election defeat. 

But for other proponents of secession and its sister ideology, Texas nationalism — a focus of the Texas Nationalist Movement and other groups that want the state to become an independent nation, as it was in the 1830s and 1840s — it is a far more serious matter. 

The official in East Texas, Peter Morrison, the treasurer of the Hardin County Republican Party, said in a statement that he had received overwhelming support from conservative Texans and overwhelming opposition from liberals outside the state in response to his comments in his newsletter. He said that it may take time for “people to appreciate that the fundamental cultural differences between Texas and other parts of the United States may be best addressed by an amicable divorce, a peaceful separation.” 

The online petitions — created on the We the People platform at — are required to receive 25,000 signatures in 30 days for the White House to respond. The Texas petition, created Nov. 9 by a man identified as Micah H. of Arlington, had received more than 116,000 signatures by Friday. It asks the Obama administration to “peacefully grant” the withdrawal of Texas, and describes doing so as “practically feasible,” given the state’s large economy. 

Last I checked this problem was settled about 1865 or so, and frankly this whole thing is getting silly.  Republicans lost an election, not a war.  If 116,000 Texans want to be shown the door over losing an election, well good luck to you.

Which side hates America now, huh?

Treat The Disease, Not The Symptoms

As I mentioned earlier this week, Sen. Marco Rubio's mealy-mouthed dodge on the age of the Earth is indicitive of a much, much larger problem among the anti-science, anti-fact, anti-reality GOP.  Paul Krugman agrees.

By the way, that question didn’t come out of the blue. As speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Mr. Rubio provided powerful aid to creationists trying to water down science education. In one interview, he compared the teaching of evolution to Communist indoctrination tactics — although he graciously added that “I’m not equating the evolution people with Fidel Castro.” Gee, thanks. 

What was Mr. Rubio’s complaint about science teaching? That it might undermine children’s faith in what their parents told them to believe. And right there you have the modern G.O.P.’s attitude, not just toward biology, but toward everything: If evidence seems to contradict faith, suppress the evidence

And this is the crux of the problem.  It's because of this awful rejection of anything they don't want to believe, to the point of forcing the rest of the country to go along, that is doing irreparable harm to America and the planet.

The most obvious example other than evolution is man-made climate change. As the evidence for a warming planet becomes ever stronger — and ever scarier — the G.O.P. has buried deeper into denial, into assertions that the whole thing is a hoax concocted by a vast conspiracy of scientists. And this denial has been accompanied by frantic efforts to silence and punish anyone reporting the inconvenient facts. 

But the same phenomenon is visible in many other fields. The most recent demonstration came in the matter of election polls. Coming into the recent election, state-level polling clearly pointed to an Obama victory — yet more or less the whole Republican Party refused to acknowledge this reality. Instead, pundits and politicians alike fiercely denied the numbers and personally attacked anyone pointing out the obvious; the demonizing of The Times’s Nate Silver, in particular, was remarkable to behold. 

What accounts for this pattern of denial? Earlier this year, the science writer Chris Mooney published “The Republican Brain,” which was not, as you might think, a partisan screed. It was, instead, a survey of the now-extensive research linking political views to personality types. As Mr. Mooney showed, modern American conservatism is highly correlated with authoritarian inclinations — and authoritarians are strongly inclined to reject any evidence contradicting their prior beliefs. Today’s Republicans cocoon themselves in an alternate reality defined by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, and only on rare occasions — like on election night — encounter any hint that what they believe might not be true. 

Or as Stephen Colbert famously said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."   As long as the unreality party continues to hold power, America will never be allowed to do more than token action on climate change, education, and science.

And that's a shame, because by most measures, it's already too late:  the time for action was 20 years ago.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Last Call

The 2012-13 NHL season is rapidly falling apart, as the All-Star Game and a third of the season is now in the garbage.

The National Hockey League lost another showcase event to its ongoing lockout on Friday, announcing the cancellation of the 2013 All-Star game along with another fortnight of regular-season contests.

With games now cancelled through December 14, the lockout has now cost the NHL 422 regular-season games, 34.3 percent of the scheduled season.

The All-Star Game, which was to have been in Columbus, Ohio, on January 27, is the second marquee event to go, after the January 1 Winter Classic outdoor game.

“The reality of losing more regular-season games as well as the 2013 NHL All-Star Weekend in Columbus is extremely disappointing,” said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly.

“We feel badly for NHL fans and particularly those in Columbus, and we intend to work closely with the Blue Jackets organization to return the NHL All-Star events to Columbus and their fans as quickly as possible.”

Would have been nice to see the All-Star Game here in Ohio too.  But at this rate there may not be any hockey for a long, long time.  The fans don't seem to be particularly bothered by a lockout they way they were baseball 18 years ago, hell, there's less concern than there was with the NBA lockout last year.  I think the NHL might be in serious and permanent trouble here, which is a damn shame.  And speaking of the MLB lockout...

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr came out of Wednesday’s talks sounding similarly pesssimistic.

“On the big things there was as of today no reciprocity in any meaningful sense, no movement on the players’ share, no movement on salary-arbitration eligibility, no movement on free agency eligibility, no agreement on a pension plan,” Fehr said.

And I'll be damned if Don Fehr isn't involved again in a lockout.  What is it with this guy and destroying professional sports seasons?

More Dems Versus Better Dems

There are two schools of thought on how to recover the Speaker of the House position for the Democrats:  one says that we need to have the numbers first and then get real liberal legislation passed as a result of mass, the other says we have to have true liberals in the House first to build a power base and then the numbers will flow from there.  The first has the advantage of short term gains that can lead to longer ones but at the risk of a GOP backlash, the latter means a longer time in control but requires more time to come to power, and perhaps never coming to power until the Republicans have made it impossible to do so.

One of the key House Dems in the "More Dems versus Better Dems" argument right now is Patrick Murphy, the Florida businessman who beat out the repugnant Allen West.  Howie Klein over at Down With Tyranny reminds us that Patrick Murphy is at best a Blue Dog, and at worst, a full-blown Republican.  Coming from Kentucky (where our last Congressional Democrat, Blue Dog Ben Chandler, was roundly defeated) I can certainly relate:

I was more than a little shocked when Keith Ellison, one of the most progressive stalwarts in the House, endorsed Patrick Murphy. Murphy, a rich spoiled brat, a Romney donor, and a lifelong Republican who just switched parties, had exactly one thing going for him (aside from his father's personal attack PAC): he ran against hated war criminal Allen West. Many Members of Congress were especially eager to see West defeated-- and not just because he's a loudmouthed teabagger. Alan Grayson argued that there was no one else in the House like West because West is a war criminal. His presence brought a sense of infamy on the whole joint. Most progressives agree with Grayson on that one but they didn't rush to endorse Murphy. New Dems and other corrupt conservatives with blue t-shirts did. Ellison, of course, had an even more personal grudge against West, who isn't just a raving McCarthyite but is also a vicious Islamophobe who hate personally baited Ellison. I had never talked with Ellison when he called me to tell me his thoughts on why he had endorsed Murphy; that was also our last conversation (at least so far).

One thing Ellison said that I liked-- and liked a lot-- was an indication that he would take Murphy under his wing and help him understand the progressive prospective. It's a shame he can't time travel back to when Murphy was 5 or 6 years old... but it's worth a try. And he needs to get started quickly. Yesterday MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell asked Murphy a typically loaded Villager kind of question: "How much are you willing to cut entitlements if you get the tax increases you want?" Could you imagine anything like that coming out of Rachel Maddow's mouth? And Murphy's response-- well just the exact New Dem line: "Everything should be on the table." Boehner's gonna love this boy! And Ellison better get busy.

Democrats retook the House in 2006 because of Blue Dogs.  The response 4 years later was the Tea Party, and now in 2012, the Blue Dogs have almost all been replaced with Tea Party whackaloons.  The problem is with district gerrymandered they way they are, the choices for a lot of liberals who live in red districts are Allen West vs Patrick Murphy, Tea Party vs Blue Dog.

Is one really better than the other?  I'd rather have a dozen Patrick Murphys than any Allen Wests...but voters certainly didn't think so in 2010.

We'll see.  Keep an eye on Patrick.

Handel With Caution

The GOP will certainly want to take the Senate back in 2014, and to do so they'll have to defend their own seats, something they didn't do well in 2012.  The GOP primaried out more moderate candidates in the name of Tea Party purity and ended up with unelectable millstones around their necks, just ask Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock.

One of those seats in 2014 where that could happen again is Saxby Chambliss in Georgia, and the possible millstone in this case is Karen Handel.  If the name sounds familiar, you're recalling that she was the disgraced former Komen Foundation executive who pushed for the breast cancer awareness organization to defund Planned Parenthood, including cutting support for mammograms and preventative breast cancer screening that Planned Parenthood provides for low-income women.  Handel is now considering running for Chambliss's seat in the US Senate.

Karen Handel, the former Susan G. Komen for the Cure executive who spearheaded the group’s effort to cut all funding to Planned Parenthood, is weighing whether or not to run for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia, according to the Weekly Standard.

A former aide to Handel who worked on her failed 2010 gubernatorial bid told the magazine that she was considering challenging Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) to a primary contest in 2014. Kay Godwin, a co-chair of Georgia Conservatives in Action, said she was hearing similar noise about a possible primary challenge, according to the Standard.

Handel fell 2,500 votes shy of winning the Republican gubernatorial primary in 2010, losing a runoff to then-Rep. Nathan Deal, who went on to win the general election. That primary drew wide national attention from party heavyweights, with prominent names like Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee backing Deal, and Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney endorsing Handel.

Handel ran on a staunchly anti-abortion platform in 2010; Palin said she offered her endorsement in part because Handel would “walk the walk” on curbing abortion.

So yeah, the odds of her saying something moronically misogynist about rape that will cost her 20 points in the race are most likely lower than that of Akin or Mourdock.  It will be interesting to see if she makes it past Chambliss, who has grown increasingly unpopular among Georgia Republicans...or at least, that's what Beltway Republicans want you to think.  Steve Benen:

By any sane standard, Chambliss is not a moderate. He's not even close to what anyone in the American mainstream would characterize as "the center." According to the most up-to-date information, Chambliss has a lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union of 92.5, putting him well to the right of most of his Republican colleagues. The Georgian's most recent VoteView score puts him at number 80 -- with 0 being the most liberal and 100 the most conservative -- to the right of prominent conservative senators like Mitch McConnell, John Thune, and Orrin Hatch.

In other words, when making a list of conservatives who shouldn't have to worry about their far-right flank, Saxby Chambliss would be on it. And yet, here we are.

Why would the right be unsatisfied with Chambliss? For one thing, he's worked for over a year with Sen. Mark Warner, a moderate Virginia Democrat, on a debt-reduction plan that includes modest tax increases. For another, Chambliss seems inclined to pass comprehensive immigration reform, or at least something resembling it.

That, apparently, buys him a one-way ticket to Primary Town, his overall voting record notwithstanding.

So the Handel thing has nothing to do with Handel, and everything to do with threatening Chambliss with obliteration for daring to work with Democrats on taxes and immigration.  Republicans want to make sure that nothing happens for the next two year, just like that last two.

StupidiNews, Black Friday Edition!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Last Call

Meanwhile, some sobering perspective about the next four years.

A Jacksonville police officer has quit after admitting he told colleagues that he would volunteer to assassinate President Barack Obama.
Sam Koivisto told the Florida Times-Union on Wednesday that his comments had been blown out of proportion and that he'd planned to retire in five months anyway.

The 57-year-old retired earlier this month while facing an internal investigation into his comments to other officers after the election. He told them that if an order came to kill Obama, he "wouldn't mind being the guy."

So there's that.  You knows, because cops threatened to kill Dubya all the time.

A Big Orange Turkey

GOP House Speaker John Boehner takes to the friendly confines of the Cincy Enquirer to announce his theory on "compromise" for the fiscal cliff:  repealing Obamacare completely.

President Obama has won re-election, but his health care law is still driving up costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire workers. As was the case before the election, Obamacare has to go.

The tactics of our repeal efforts will have to change. But the strategic imperative remains the same. If we’re serious about getting our economy moving again, solving our debt and restoring prosperity for American families, we need to repeal Obamacare and enact common-sense, step-by-step reforms that start with lowering the cost of health care.

The president’s health care law adds a massive, expensive, unworkable government program at a time when our national debt already exceeds the size of our country’s entire economy. We can’t afford it, and we can’t afford to leave it intact. That’s why I’ve been clear that the law has to stay on the table as both parties discuss ways to solve our nation’s massive debt challenge.

Congress has a constitutional responsibility to conduct thorough oversight of the executive branch, and congressional oversight will play a critical role in repealing Obamacare going forward.

Surprise, absolutely nothing has changed about House GOP.  They're going to spend the next two years wasting America's time and trying to hold the country hostage in order get what they want.  Boehner's argument is also completely false:  Obamacare will lower the deficit, not raise it.

But that doesn't matter.  Another two years of hostage negotiations are ahead, folks. Don't expect anything to change in the least...even when the country's voters soundly rejected repealing the health care law.

The White House response?  As you probably expected.

The White House is shooting down House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) insistence that the Affordable Care Act must be on the chopping block in debt reduction talks.

A White House official told TPM on Wednesday afternoon that Obamacare will be off the table as leaders of the two parties negotiate a deal to avoid steep tax hikes and automatic spending cuts set to take effect in January.

So no, Boehner is wasting his time...but of course, that's the point.

StupidiNews, Thanksgiving Edition!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Last Call

Pressure from President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has convinced Israel to try Egypt's brokered cease fire with Hamas today.  Mike Kelley at Business Insider believes Hamas got the better end of the deal, at least publicly. (Emphasis his):

An Egypt-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was announced today with both sides claiming victory, but it appears Hamas may have gotten the better deal.

Here's the key part of the agreement: "Opening the crossings and facilitating the movement of people and transfer of goods and refraining from restricting residents' free movements and targeting residents in border areas."

If the agreement opens all border crossings with the Gaza Strip, including the key Rafah crossing with Egypt, that is a big victory for Hamas government and the people of Gaza.

Which immediately makes me think that Israel got something behind the scenes from President Obama in exchange for agreeing to Egypt's deal.  I have no idea what it is, but it's probably something substantial.  Cynical side of me believes it has something to do with Iran.  Most likely, it's a serious upgrade to Iron Dome, or perhaps some new Pentagon toys for the IDF to make the people of Gaza particularly miserable with.

Not honestly sure, but then again I'm not sure this cease fire will last through the weekend, either.

Big Blue Marble (Mouth)

Slate's Daniel Engber tries to compare Marco Rubio's pitiful "How old is the Earth?" dodge this week to an earlier Senator Barack Obama statement from 2008, and declares both parties are just as awful on science.  No, really.  Slate pitch ahoy!

I've no doubt that these critiques of Rubio are sound. But I'm hesitant to let the crown prince of the Tea Party be singled out for blame. His shameless dodge and pander on the matter of the Earth's creation don't mark him as a radical, nor even as a soldier in the war on science. They mark him only as a mainstream politician.

Beware, for thou that judgest doest the same things: Members of both parties have had to squiggle through elections by appealing to a hazy sense of geo-history. In fact, the Antichrist himself—Barack Obama—has had a tendency to get a little soft with science. 

Here's the Obama quote when he was asked what he would say to one of his daughters if they asked him if the Earth was really created in six days:

What I've said to them is that I believe that God created the universe and that the six days in the Bible may not be six days as we understand it … it may not be 24-hour days, and that's what I believe. I know there's always a debate between those who read the Bible literally and those who don't, and I think it's a legitimate debate within the Christian community of which I'm a part. My belief is that the story that the Bible tells about God creating this magnificent Earth on which we live—that is essentially true, that is fundamentally true. Now, whether it happened exactly as we might understand it reading the text of the Bible: That, I don't presume to know.

Please note that Barack Obama was asked a question about theology and specifically how he would respond to his young daughters.  Marco Rubio was asked a question about science and specifically what he himself believed about the age of the Earth.  Comparing the two are apples and allegories featuring talking foliage made of fire.

Here's what Obama said next:

Let me just make one last point on this. I do believe in evolution. I don't think that is incompatible with Christian faith, just as I don't think science generally is incompatible with Christian faith. I think that this is something that we get bogged down in. There are those who suggest that if you have a scientific bent of mind then somehow you should reject religion, and I fundamentally disagree with that. In fact, the more I learn about the world, the more I know about science, the more I am amazed about the mystery of this planet and this universe—and it strengthens my faith as opposed to weakens it.

Which is what a colossal number of Americans think.  Funny how that works.  The other major difference between the two men is Obama's second statement, an unapologetic and full-throated defense of evolution, which Marco Rubio won't give you either.

So no, not the same.  Go figure, Slate.

Snow White And Jon Huntsman

An interesting admission this week from Obama campaign head Jim Messina that while Mitt Romney was still formidable enough an opponent to really give Team O a run for their money up until the last week or so of the race, it was Jon Huntsman who Messina thought would have made a far more effective foe.

We were honest about our concerns about Huntsman,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said at a Politico breakfast event Tuesday. “I think Huntsman would have been a very tough candidate.”

As for the president, he liked Mr. Huntsman enough to appoint him ambassador to China in 2009. Mr. Messina, who was working in the White House at the time, said he helped Mr. Huntsman win Senate confirmation.

“As someone who helped manage his confirmation for Chinese ambassador, he’s a good guy,” Mr. Messina said. “We looked at his profile in a general election and thought he would have been” a formidable candidate.  Politico’s video of the remarks is here.

Mr. Huntsman’s candidacy never caught on. In 2011, he sent out a tweet affirming that he believed in evolution and trusted “scientists on global warming.”

“Call me crazy,” Mr. Huntsman said at the time.

But I don't think Huntsman would have fared any better.  Remember, Mitt Romney's problem (or one of them) was that evangelical whites stayed home.  Huntsman would have had the same problem, plus unlike Romney, he went out of his way to antagonize the base in order to get the middle.  And in a moment of rare clarity, even Katrina Trinko at the National Review admits Huntsman was even less of a moderate than Mitt pretended to be:

It fits into the whole tea-party narrative to depict Huntsman as a moderate who was banished by the wild GOP. But that ignores that Huntsman was in some ways to the right of Mitt Romney (Utah’s health-care system relied on exchanges, not an individual mandate, and Huntsman came out for the Ryan plan, as I recall, long before Romney did).

Particularly on economic issues, Huntsman is a Paul Ryan Austerian.  He would have had as hard a time capturing the center as Romney did, plus he would have come up even shorter on support from the base considering his stint as President Obama's Ambassador to China.

If anything, he has even less of a chance in 2016.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Last Call

Hey Republican big money donors?  Feel free to waste as much cash on Rand Paul's 2016 run as you want.  He doesn't have a chance in hell.

“I’m not going to deny that I’m interested” in a 2016 presidential run, the Republican told ABC News. “I am different than some in that I’m not going to deny that I’m interested. I’m not going to deny that I think we have to go a different direction because we’re not winning.”

The tea party favorite said the GOP can turn around its 2012 losing streak if it focuses on localizing issues to state governments instead of focusing of federal responses.

“I think we have to go a different direction because we’re just not winning and we have to think about some different ideas,” Paul said. “States should be allowed to make a lot of these decisions. I want things to be decided more at a local basis, with more compassion. I think it would make us as Republicans different.”

And this is why he's screwed.  He thinks taking programs away from the federal government and giving them to the states is "compassionate", programs like Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid.  His idea of "compassion" is to throw people in the deep end and see if they can swim.

That of course is completely different than Mitt Romney's "you're on your own" approach that help him lose earlier this month.  Rand Paul should evince a completely different result, yes?

Go for it, Rand.

Last Days Of The Wild Wild West

Allen West, the last guy in America to figure out that Allen West lost his bid for reelection, has finally admitted that he lost his bid for reelection.

After two weeks of battle with St. Lucie County elections officials — and a recount of early votes that wound up extending Murphy’s lead — West acknowledged that he couldn’t surmount his 1,904-vote, or 0.58 percent, deficit. That difference was just outside the 0.5 percent threshold to automatically trigger a recount of all votes.

So the brash conservative opted to bow out rather than wage a long and costly court battle he was unlikely to win.

“For two weeks since Election Day, we have been working to ensure every vote is counted accurately and fairly. We have made progress towards that goal, thanks to the dedication of our supporters and their unrelenting efforts to protect the integrity of the democratic process,” West said in a statement to POLITICO. “While many questions remain unanswered, today I am announcing that I will take no further action to contest the outcome of this election.”

West congratulated Murphy, saying, “I pray he will serve his constituents with honor and integrity, and put the interests of our nation before his own.”

Oh, I fully expect Allen West to be the first person to sign up for Murphy's job in 2014.  He's not done, folks, not by a long shot...just ask Alan Grayson what it means to be an unapologetic partisan House member from Florida voted out of a job, only to come roaring back two years later.

We'll see, but for now, I expect West to end up on FOX or some other wingnut welfare operation until he can get back to running to make Florida safe from socialist Kenyan Muslim Marxist everythings, or whatever he does.

Something tells me I'm going to continue to get use out of the tag as I will Grayson's (which is still true, guy has a spine, he paid for it, he came back.)

Back Off Man, I'm Not A Scientist!

Sen. Marco Rubio fails at science.  I'm so shocked.  His latest interview with GQ:

GQ: How old do you think the Earth is? 
Marco Rubio: I'm not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that's a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I'm not a scientist. I don't think I'm qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I'm not sure we'll ever be able to answer that. It's one of the great mysteries.

And supposedly, this guy's running for President.  You think Marco sat out the 2012 Clown Car Invitational not because he expected Romney to blow it, but because he knew he himself had no chance?

This is today's Republican party, where "How old do you think the Earth is?" requires a 150 word dodge with about 4 caveats. Pathetic.

How is this guy going to handle our enemies and allies?


Monday, November 19, 2012

Last Call

I don't always agree with Chris Hayes, but he's dead right about NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo and why he's the last Democrat I would vote for in 2016.  Politicker:

Mr. Hayes blasted Mr. Cuomo’s “putative reason” for endorsing two Republican senators–their support for same sex marriage legislation–by asking why he declined to support a Democratic challenger in a race where the pro-gay marriage Republican had already been defeated in a primary. He also criticized the governor for not working to stop Democratic Senator-elect Simcha Felder from caucusing with the GOP, as Mr. Felder’s move may end up being decisive in helping the Republicans hold onto their majority, depending on one race that’s still too-close-to-call and more possible Democratic defections.

“Despite the fact that he’s the leader of the Democratic Party in the state, and wishes someday to be the Democratic nominee for President, Cuomo has refused to intervene with Felder, saying he won’t insert himself into the controversy,” My. Hayes argued. “Watching all this unfold, one can’t help but suspect Andrew Cuomo actually does not want a Democratic majority in the State Senate because a Republican majority gives him more of an opportunity to burnish his bipartisan compromiser bona fides before launching his presidential campaign. And much, much, much more insidiously, we suspect he doesn’t want a Democratic majority because said majority stands ready to pass a whole raft of incredibly important, ground-breaking progressive legislation, including public financing for elections, marijuana decriminalization and a minimum wage hike, among others. The governor says he favors all those policies, but in this case, he sure is not acting like it. We’re almost entirely sure that very soon Andrew Cuomo will be coming before many of the people watching this show, asking for your support in a Democratic primary race to be the next president. You should remember this remarkably cynical display when he does.

Now that's pretty damn hardcore for Chris Hayes, practically displaying bloody brass knuckles and a promise to get them even messier.  But he's absolutely right.  If New York state got serious about progressive legislation, particularly monitoring Wall Street, it would be a massive victory for liberalism as a whole int he United States.  Let's not forget, Cuomo as the state's Attorney General ran on a platform of doing just that.  When he was easily elected two years ago, he promised to get tough on Wall Street.  What happened was Cuomo finding himself saying "Oh well, sorry guys, Republicans are stopping me from getting this legislation" and then helicoptering off to the Hamptons.

Cuomo basically didn't lift a finger to help NY Senate Dems regain control of the state's upper chamber, because then he'd have to be the bad guy.  Chris Hayes has him pegged 100%.

So no, Andrew Cuomo is by no means a good guy.  Should he take a crack at 2016, he needs to be sent home unless he comes around.
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