Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Lat Call For Shutdown Countdown, Con't

With only hours to spare on the last day of the fiscal year, Congress approved a temporary spending measure to avert a shutdown and keep the federal government operating through Dec. 11.

In the House, the measure was approved only because of strong support by Democrats — a sign of just how angry rank-and-file Republicans remain over their powerlessness to force policy changes on the Obama administration.

In one last display of their fury, House Republicans on Tuesday adopted another resolution to cut off government financing to Planned Parenthood. The resolution was to be sent to the Senate, where Democrats were certain to block it.

Ultimately, the internal Republican fight over the bill and how strongly to confront the White House cost John A. Boehner his job as speaker. Mr. Boehner’s resignation announcement last week essentially assured Democratic support for the measure. But the temporary spending bill does nothing to resolve the core disputes between Republicans and the White House, setting up even bigger battles in the months ahead.

Congressional Democrats and Obama administration officials said they were eager to begin negotiations with Republicans on a longer-term spending measure. It is far from clear, however, that any deal can be reached soon, given the upheaval in the House.

So for now a shutdown has been avoided.  How much will get done between now and December 11th, who knows. Kevin McCarthy will be under big pressure to prove he's not John Boehner and if he can't, the GOP mob will run him out of town on a rail too.  Will than mean a shutdown right before Christmas?

I'm still very much betting on it.

Dirty Red Ed Is Out

John Boehner isn't the only tri-state area Republican retiring from the House when the GOP has the largest margin of control in 90 years.  KY-01 Republican Ed Whitfield is packing it in too, and facing a major ethics scandal to boot.

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that he will not seek reelection in 2016. 
Whitfield is the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation regarding allegations that he improperly used his office to help his wife lobby Congress for the Humane Society. 
But the Kentucky Republican made no mention of the ethics investigation while announcing his retirement.

“Representing the people of the 1st District for 21 years has been an honor,” Whitfield said in a statement. “While many Americans are frustrated with the institution of Congress, I still believe that politics is a worthy vocation and I know many men and women of character will always be willing to serve.” 
House rules prohibit lawmakers’ spouses from lobbying their offices. Whitfield’s wife, Constance, is a registered lobbyist for the Humane Society Legislative Fund. 
The House Ethics Committee announced in March that it had opened an investigation following a report from the Office of Congressional Ethics alleging that Whitfield’s wife lobbied for multiple bills her husband supported regarding animal welfare. Whitfield has denied the allegations, maintaining that he introduced the legislation of his own volition.

I mean granted, there are a lot worse ethics violations than "my wife lobbied for the Humane Society" but Ed's been running his Paducah/Murray district since he was swept into power during the Contract With America election in 1994.

More importantly, Ed Whitfield runs the House Energy Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Power, which means he's been a one-man wrecking crew against global warming legislation and of course denies climate change is even a problem.

Frankly that's one less jackass Republican in the House to muck things up.  We'll see who the Kentucky Democrats can get to run against him.

Fahrveg-Nuked, Con't

It's hard to overstate just how much trouble Volkwagen is in right now over their diesel emissions cheating scandal, and Germany has now put the automaker on the clock in a big, big way.

Germany is coming down hard on its biggest carmaker over the diesel-emissions crisis, giving Volkswagen just over a week to come up with a fix to a problem eight years in the making. 
Yesterday, VW received a letter from Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority, signed by transport minister Alexander Dobrindt, demanding that it deliver a binding plan and schedule to fix the 11 million “cheat code” diesel cars by October 7. 
If Volkswagen can’t present a viable solution by then, according to Dobrindt, the German government would have no choice but to ban the 2.8 million affected cars from driving on that country’s roads. Switzerland has already banned affected cars from being sold, new or used, and other countries continue to investigate their options; the U.S. arm of VW issued a stop-sale order on new diesel VWs last week. 
Volkswagen plans to present its solution within days to repair the affected cars, a spokesman said, and will notify customers and regulatory authorities around the world in writing. That’s not the only issue for VW, though, with German prosecutors opening up a criminal investigation of former Volkswagen Group CEO Martin Winterkorn over his role in what it is calling a “fraud scandal” that has shattered public confidence in the world’s biggest carmaker. The U.S. Department of Justice also has opened a criminal investigation.

So Volkswagen has a week to present a plan to come clean on millions of diesel cars, or they're sunk. They still might be sunk, frankly.  It will take a long time for the world's largest automaker to recover from this, and they won't be number one for much longer.

We'll see where this goes.  I only wish the US was as serious as Germany when it came to punishing bad corporate actors like this.  And again, who knows which other diesel engine manufacturers are guilty?  I don't think Volkswagen is alone in this, do you?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Last Call For Turtle, Shelled?

First Orange Julius got squeezed, now will Mitch the Turtle get shell shocked?  Probably not, but it should be fun to watch him squirm.

Now that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has announced that he will step down, some conservatives in the Republican party are turning their attention to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Roger Villere, the chairman of the Louisiana GOP, urged McConnell to resign in a Saturday Facebook post.

In an interview with the Washington Times published on Sunday, Villere said that McConnell is hurting the Republican party.

"Mitch is a good and honorable guy, but the base is leaving our party," Villere said. "I’m out in the field all the time and we have all our elections this year for state offices, and it’s hurting us tremendously with our elections."

He said that the majority leader should have pushed harder against President Obama's agenda while leading the Senate.

"Mr. McConnell could have suspended consideration of confirmations for all presidential appointees, except for those who are essential to national security, until the president rescinded his unconstitutional executive action on amnesty," he said.

Villere suggested that McConnell did not fight hard enough to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood. He said that McConnell's support for a temporary funding bill that provides funding for Planned Parenthood will hurt the Republican party.

"If we lose the battle, we will never win the presidency again in my lifetime," he said. "I've worked for 12 years as chairman to build this party, and I just don’t want to see it all go down the drain because they aren’t willing to fight for what we believe in. Our base is demanding we do something or they’re going to leave us."

Well, here's hoping you're right, Roger.  I certainly don't want to see another Republican president in my lifetime. Amusing then that the Senate easily passed a funding bill on Monday to avoid a government shutdown Wednesday night, and the presumed new Speaker following Boehner also wants to surrender (and is sadly trying to pretend that the Democrats are the ones shutting the government down when the Republicans control both chambers of Congress.)

Nope.  Tea Party Republicans are about to lose again.  You got Boehner's head for your wall, but once again you've accomplished nothing.

Bevin Blowing It?

WVXU political reporter Howard Wilkinson sees the 2015 Kentucky Governor's race as very close if not favoring Republican Matt Bevin.

It’s rather amazing, really, since over the past 44 years only one Republican, Ernie Fletcher, has held the governor’s office in Kentucky; and Fletcher, whose administration was plagued with scandal, was knocked off by the incumbent Democrat Steve Beshear, who is term-limited out this year.

And Bevin, who ran for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination against Sen. Mitch McConnell and was squashed like a bug, barely squeaked out of this year’s four-candidate GOP gubernatorial primary with an 83-vote win over James Comer, out of about 214,000 votes cast.

But, in fact, it’s the only really competitive gubernatorial race in the country, in a year when most of the political junkies around the country are deeply fixated on the 2016 presidential election.

There really hasn’t been much polling in the race lately. At the end of July, the Bluegrass Poll, conducted for Kentucky’s two largest newspapers and two prominent TV stations, showed Conway up by a slim three percentage points. On June 23, Public Policy Polling, a North Carolina firm, had Bevin up by two percentage points.

But some time ago, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a weekly politics newsletter published by Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, moved the Kentucky governor’s race from the “toss-up” category to “leans Republican.”

“Both national party committees see Kentucky as a winnable race,’’ said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst who is managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

Bevin, Kondik said, “is not really a great candidate; and it may be a question of how much of his own money he is willing to spend on this.

“But President Obama is extremely unpopular in Kentucky; and you have the Trump phenomenon going on in the Republican presidential race,’’ Kondik said “It’s a sign of how nationalized politics has gotten even in state races.

So this move by the Republican Governor's Association makes no sense whatsoever.

The Republican Governor's Association has stopped running TV ads for Matt Bevin with a little more than a month to go in Kentucky's competitive governor's race.

The association has spent $3 million on six ads for Bevin, mostly attacking his Democratic opponent, Jack Conway, for supporting the policies of Democratic President Barack Obama. But with two other governor's races this fall RGA spokesman Jon Thompson said the group is "re-evaluating what is best for us to do."

"We continually re-evaluate what role the RGA plays of how helpful we can be," Thompson said, adding the decision does not mean the group has lost faith in Bevin's chances of winning. He said the group could go back on the air before November.

The move is a big blow for Bevin, who has aired just one TV ad of his own after spending more than $1 million of his personal fortune to win a four-way Republican primary in May. And it comes one week after Conway began airing a series of TV ads titled "In his own words" that splice together clips of Bevin contradicting himself on issues including education, agriculture, taxes and health care.

Whenever Conway aired a new ad over the summer, the RGA would usually respond. But not this time. Thompson said the move is normal given "multiple governor's races" the group has to plan for. But the only other races on the calendar this year are in Mississippi and Louisiana. The association has not spent money in those states yet, although Thompson said the group is likely to begin airing ads in the Louisiana governor's race.

If Bevin's winning, or this race is close, why not put Conway away?  There's only 2 other governor's races on the ballot this year, Mississippi and Louisiana.  Bobby Jindal is term limited and the real race for Louisiana won't be until late November as there's a runoff expected, and Phil Bryant isn't in any danger of losing in Mississippi.  The RGA hasn't spent a dime in those states, and after the GOP picked up governor's seats in states like Maryland (Larry Hogan) and Illinois (Bruce Rauner) in 2014, the RGA is pretty powerful. Plus, getting a win in Kentucky would be a massive boost, all but assuring that the GOP could shut down the most successful state insurance exchange and Medicaid expansion in the country.

So it makes no sense to stop now unless Bevin is leading massively, or he's losing.  If he's winning, why not release your numbers showing him winning handily?

No, something's badly wrong in Bevintown.  Maybe Conway can pull this out after all.

So why leave Bevin high and dry now, six weeks before the election?

Read more here:

Snap Judgment In North Carolina

Since GOP Gov. Pat McCrory took over North Carolina in January 2013 and Republicans gained complete control of the government, the NC GOP has cut jobless benefits back so far that the state no longer qualifies for federal unemployment dollars, they have eliminated the state's earned income tax credit for the poor, they have purged the state's regulatory commissions and filled them with McCrory cronies, they have ended medical school programs that taught abortion procedures, they have wrecked the state's public education budget, and implemented a regressive tax on repair and maintenance services.

At every turn, NC Republicans are continuing their crusade to smash the state's poor population and give as much money as possible to the wealthiest. And now, their hatred of the poor in the state is so all-consuming, that they are kicking people off SNAP benefits after three months even though the program is 100% funded by federal dollars and the state won't save a dime by doing it.

North Carolina Republican state Senator Norman Sanderson argued last week that reducing food assistance would force people to get a job or pursue higher education. 
A bill to ban so-called sanctuary cities offered by state House Republicans last week also aimed to cap food stamp benefits at three months for most unemployed adults without children. Even though the Supplemental Assistance Program (SNAP) is paid for with federal dollars, state Republicans argued that people in counties with double-digit unemployment should no longer be eligible to receive assistance after the initial three month period. 
Democratic state Sen. Angela Bryant offered an amendment on Thursday to overturn the food stamp cuts, saying that there are not enough jobs to go around in rural counties.
“Over several sessions here were have reduced funding for job training and education,” Bryant pointed out during floor debate. “So we are basically relegating them, I guess, to steal for food.” 
Bryant asserted that there were better ways to police the abuse of SNAP benefits, but her amendment was dead in the GOP-controlled Senate. 
“I think that everybody in this chamber would agree that one of the best things we can do for anyone who has found themselves caught up in the — whether it’s the SNAP program or unemployment or any other of the program that we offer to people who are in emergency situations — one of the best things that we can do is to help them find a job,” Sanderson said. 
The senator added: “And I think that we will be amazed that when this goes into effect, and I don’t know the exact number of people that this can ultimately effect, but I think you are going to see a lot of them either go and get that 20-hour a week job or they’re going to enroll in some kind of higher education to improve their job skills. And that’s exactly what we’re trying to get here.”

Quick math here: 20 hours a week times 50 weeks times $7.25 an hour is $7,250, for one person that's well below the 2015 poverty level of $11,770.  For a family of four, the poverty level is $24,250.  Even a full time job at $10 an hour is well under this level.  People at this point in their lives would easily qualify for SNAP benefits federally, but NC Republicans are literally turning down federal tax dollars just to hurt the poor.

And they're going to go to college?  With what money, exactly?  They're still going to be poor, and these clowns know it.

No, this is just outright punishment of the poor,  It's what Republicans do.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Last Call For Glencore's Core Meltdown

You're probably not familiar with Swiss mining conglomerate Glencore, but China's economic slowdown is a disaster for the commodity giant, and it's tanking big time.

Anglo–Swiss commodity and mining behemoth Glencore saw its shares slip another 26 percent on Monday with analysts stressing that the weakness is likely to be felt across the entire sector.

London-listed shares of Glencore briefly hit 69 pence in morning trade Monday. It was on course for its worst intraday move on record with shares tumbling 75 percent year-to-date and 85 percent since its flotation in 2011. The U.K. FTSE 350 mining index hit its lowest level since 2008 on the back of Glencore's fall.

Weaker commodity prices and softening Chinese demand have put the brakes on the formerly formidable rise the sector enjoyed over the last decade, but analysts have highlighted that Glencore's main problem is actually its debt load.

"Mining companies gorged themselves on cheap debt in a race to grow production following the Chinese stimulus that occurred in the wake of the (global financial crash)," a team of Investec analysts, led by Hunter Hillcoat, said in a note on Monday morning.

"The consequences are only now coming home to roost, as mines take a long time to build."

Investec said that Glencore had a "higher debt base" than its peers and a "lower-margin asset base," adding that its debt levels would still be above its rivals despite an intense period of restructuring over the next five years.

In other words, Glencore bet the company on commodity prices going up.  The opposite happened in oil and then in metals and everything else and went deep into debt doing so, playing the Too Big To Fail Casino.  But in the end, the house always wins, and now the question is what happens to the commodities market should Glencore go belly up.

A lot of banks gave Glencore a lot of money to invest in mining.  If these banks don't get paid back, well, we're looking at the kind of counter-party mess the banks got into in 2007.

Keep an eye on this one, folks.  It has the potential to really get ugly.

Elizabeth Warren Understands BLM

The junior senator from Massachussetts is one of the few high profile Democrat who actually seems to understand the Black Lives Matter movement, as Wesley Lowrey points out.

In a Sunday speech on racial inequality, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called for broad policing reform — including de-escalation training and body cameras for all police officers — and likened the current Black Lives Matter movement to the civil rights movement that won black Americans the right to vote in the 1960s. 
"None of us can ignore what is happening in this country. Not when our black friends, family, neighbors literally fear dying in the streets." Warren said. "This is the reality all of us must confront, as uncomfortable and ugly as that reality may be. It comes to us to once again affirm that black lives matter, that black citizens matter, that black families matter." 
In the address, a copy of which was provided to The Washington Post prior to her delivery, Warren draws direct parallels between the civil rights movement and the current anti-police-brutality movement, and it sought to link issues on economic inequality with systemic racism. She traces racial economic inequality, citing inequities in the housing system, as well as decrying restrictions to voting rights. 
"Economic justice is not — and has never been — sufficient to ensure racial justice. Owning a home won’t stop someone from burning a cross on the front lawn. Admission to a school won’t prevent a beating on the sidewalk outside," Warren declared. "The tools of oppression were woven together, and the civil rights struggle was fought against that oppression wherever it was found — against violence, against the denial of voting rights and against economic injustice." 
Warren's address, delivered at the Edward Kennedy Institute in Boston, was perhaps the most full-throated endorsement to date by a federal lawmaker for the ongoing protest movement, and it drew immediate praise from some of the most visible activists. 
"Senator Warren's speech clearly and powerfully calls into question America's commitment to black lives by highlighting the role that structural racism has played and continues to play with regard to housing discrimination and voting rights," said DeRay Mckesson, a prominent activist who said he hopes to meet with Warren to further discuss racial injustice. "And Warren, better than any political leader I've yet heard, understands the protests as a matter of life or death — that the American dream has been sustained by an intentional violence and that the uprisings have been the result of years of lived trauma."

Born out of the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., after the police shooting of Michael Brown last summer, the current protest movement has upended the efforts of Democratic presidential candidates to reach out to black voters. The three candidates have faced protests and interruptions at some of their campaign events. Both former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have met with some of the most visible activists, and former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mckesson have agreed to meet soon.
The activists have called for a host of police reform measures, including body cameras, de-escalation training, special prosecutors in cases of police killings and a review of police union contracts. 
"It is a tragedy when any American cannot trust those who have sworn to protect and serve," Warren said. "This pervasive and persistent distrust isn’t based on myths. It is grounded in the reality of unjustified violence."

This is exactly what we needed to hear from Hillary, Bernie and O'Malley, and haven't so far: somebody in the Democratic Party finally admitting full stop that police violence against black lives is part and parcel of America's continuing structural racism, racism designed to denigrate those lives as something less than American, less than human, somebody finally saying police are the problem, and not blaming the victims of this deadly brutality.

The most important part of Warren's speech was separating economic justice from racial justice. Hillary Clinton and especially Bernie Sanders still refuse to separate the two, still buying into the proven fallacies of black respectability politics, that black people have to "act a certain way" in order to somehow avoid structural racism that exists all around us, that we have to be "one of the good ones" or we somehow deserve getting shot and killed by police, and that if we "behave" that we'll somehow not be singled out for summary execution.

If Senator Warren finally forces the Democratic candidates to confront this fantasy head on and put the blame on the nation's police departments, to start national police reform, that will be a start. She at least understands this and more importantly isn't afraid to say it.  There need to be more white voices saying this.

If she announced her candidacy, of the Democrats running I'd be very inclined to support her.

Bush, Whacked?

A brutal story this morning in the Washington Post about Jeb Bush indicates that his donors are threatening to jump ship unless he turns things around in October.

Jeb Bush is entering a critical phase of his Republican presidential campaign, with top donors warning that the former Florida governor needs to demonstrate growth in the polls over the next month or face serious defections among supporters.

The warnings, expressed by numerous senior GOP fund­raisers in recent days, come as Bush and an allied super PAC are in the early stages of an aggressive television ad campaign they say will help erase doubts about his viability.

But Bush continues to battle against a steady decline in the polls, sinking to fifth place at just 7 percent in a national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday and similarly languishing in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

The warnings from top donors come as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s exit from the race re­focused the battle within the GOP’s establishment wing as one between Bush and his former protege, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Right now, the momentum appears to be behind Rubio, who has jumped ahead of Bush in most polls. At least a third of the bundlers who signed up to raise money for Walker have switched their allegiance to Rubio, while a smaller number have gone with Bush, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Bush also is facing fresh scrutiny for comments that critics say bear echoes of remarks Mitt Romney made during his 2012 GOP presidential bid, part of a pattern of awkward statements that Bush or his campaign have had to clarify.

The real problem is that last part.  Republicans clearly are backing political outsiders, and there's just no way that Jebby here can portray himself as anything other than the establishment's top candidate, a living reminder of the failures of the last two Bushes in Iraq and with the economy.  The Tea Party views him with nothing but contempt.  The smarter money is shifting to Rubio on the establishment side, and while Rubio is trailing Trump, Carson, and Fiorina, at least he's not, you know, Jeb Bush.

And let's face it, Jeb's political instincts are even worse than Romney's.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) says Americans will miss outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

I admire John Boehner greatly, he’s a great public servant,” the GOP presidential candidate said on “Fox News Sunday.” 
“He left at the apex of his time in service to the country with the pope speaking in Congress. I think people are going to miss him in the long run because he’s a person that is focused on solving problems.”

That may be true, but backing Orange Julius, the least popular Speaker of the House in my lifetime, probably isn't a good idea.

Even among Republicans, Boehner's image tilted negative. While 37 percent reported favorable impressions of him, 42 percent were unfavorable. Those mixed reviews reflect the divisions within the Republican Party he led in Congress, as strident conservative factions regularly voiced distrust of party leadership. In late 2013, Pew Research surveys found Boehner with far more negative ratings among Republicans identifying with the tea party movement than non-tea party Republicans.

Still, Jeb has more money than anyone else so you can't count him finished (John McCain after all came back from the dead.)  The problem is that money isn't helping him.

We'll see how long that money sticks around.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Last Call For Podcast Versus The Stupid

With all that went on this week with Orange Julius and Pope Francis, we had to do a show.  Give a listen to this week's episode, Orange Julius And The Miracles.

Check Out Blogs Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Zandar Versus The Stupid on BlogTalkRadio

Sunday Long Read: Climate Of Change

Jeff Goodell's piece on President Obama's trip to Alaska and his climate change legacy heading into his final years as President is an excellent read.

Obama's trip to Alaska marked the beginning of what may be the last big push of his presidency — to build momentum for a meaningful deal at the international climate talks in Paris later this year. "The president is entirely focused on this goal," one of his aides told me in Alaska. For Obama, who has secured his legacy on his two top priorities, health care and the economy, as well as on important issues like gay marriage and immigration, a breakthrough in Paris would be a sweet final victory before his presidency drowns in the noise of the 2016 election. "If you think about who has been in the forefront of pushing global climate action forward, nobody is in Obama's league," says John Podesta, a former special adviser to Obama who is now chairing Hil-lary Clinton's presidential campaign. (One recent visitor to the Oval Office recalled Obama saying, "I'm dragging the world behind me to Paris.")

Policywise, the president didn't have much to offer in Alaska. He restored the original Alaska Native name to the highest mountain in North America (Denali), accelerated the construction of a new U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker, doled out a few million bucks to help Alaska Native villages move to higher ground — largely symbolic gestures that didn't do much to help Alaskans deal with the fact that their state is melting like a popsicle on a summer sidewalk. In the end, the trip was mostly a calculated and well-crafted presidential publicity stunt. And it raised the question: If the American people see the president of the United States standing atop a melting glacier and telling them the world is in trouble, will they care?

"Part of the reason why I wanted to take this trip was to start making it a little more visceral and to highlight for people that this is not a distant problem that we can keep putting off," the president told me. "This is something that we have to tackle right now."

Obama could not have picked a better place to make his point than Alaska. Climatewise, it is the dark heart of the fossil-fuel beast. On one hand, temperatures in the state are rising twice as fast as the national average, and glaciers are retreating so quickly that even the pilot of my Delta flight into Anchorage told passengers to "look out the window at the glaciers on the left side of the aircraft — they won't be there for long!" The very week of Obama's visit, 35,000 walruses huddled on the beach in northern Alaska because the sea ice they used as resting spots while hunting had melted away; in the Gulf of Alaska, scientists were tracking the effects of a zone of anomalously warm water that stretches down to Baja California and which has been named, appropriately enough, "the blob." On the other hand, the state is almost entirely dependent on revenues from fossil-fuel production, which, thanks to the low price of oil and exhausted oil and gas wells on the North Slope, are in free fall — the state is grappling with a $3.7 billion budget shortage this year. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker had flown from Washington, D.C., to Anchorage with the president at the beginning of his trip; according to one of the president's aides, Walker asked the president to open more federal lands to oil and gas drilling to boost state revenues. "Alaska is a banana republic," says Bob Shavelson, executive director of Cook Inletkeeper, an environmental group in Alaska. "The state has to pump oil or die."

Truly winning the battle for climate change in the US, in order for the country to get past the obfuscation and the lies from the corporate right, absolutely has to start in Alaska. President Obama knows it.

Whether or not the rest of the 49 states care, the answer will remain no.  That's not Obama's fault, and he's trying to fix it.  His reasons for allowing arctic drilling for gas, that we can't completely prevent exploration, is not exactly the best reason, but it's something that is a start.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Last Call For The Ref Works Back

Washington Post political "journalist" Chris Cillizza sure as hell doesn't like getting called out by those grubby plebes at Media Matters, and tries to defend the four dozen plus articles he's written attacking Hillary Clinton for her e-mail "scandal".  Instead, all he does is peel back the curtain on the Village's long knives out for her, 2015 Edition.

I didn't check Media Matters's math, but I'm sure it's either right or close to right. I have written lots and lots of blog posts about Hillary Clinton's e-mail issues since the story came to light in March. And I stand by every one.

Here's why:

1. Hillary Clinton began this race as the biggest non-incumbent front-runner for a party's presidential nomination in the post-World War II era. The job she held just prior to running for president was as secretary of state. The best way to understand how she handles everything from the mundane day-to-day activities of governance to the crises that present themselves from time to time is by studying not just her public actions at the State Department but the thinking behind those decisions. Her e-mails provide a written record of how she thinks, who she relies on and how she navigates sticky situations. Her e-mails are essential to who she is. And, therefore, very much worth looking into -- and writing about.

So Cillizza is saying that her emails themselves are newsworthy, no matter what she actually said in them.  I don't recall Cillizza applying the same logic to Mitt Romney's emails from his time as Governor of Massachusetts, or to Barack Obama's emails as Senator from Illinois or John McCain's emails as Senator from Arizona.  What about the emails of Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio or Lindsey Graham? Aren't those "essential to who they are" as candidates too?  What about Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, or Donald Trump?

Or does that only apply to Clinton in Cilizza's world?

2. No secretary of state has ever used a private e-mail server exclusively. For all of Clinton's insistence that this was standard operating procedure for government officials, it wasn't. Yes, lots and lots of government officials have used both a government e-mail address and a private e-mail address. None before Clinton had used only a private server. That makes what she did anomalous -- and worth paying attention to.

Again, the issue is "how much attention is that anomaly actually worth", especially since there are multiple candidates running with no government service whatsoever and who have used private email servers too.  That's anomalous but not illegal in any way. Singling out Clinton for this treatment is ridiculous, especially when you consistently imply wrongdoing.

3. The story about the e-mail server has changed. Repeatedly. When Clinton acknowledged the existence of the server back in March -- following a New York Times report revealing it -- she insisted that the private server need not be examined by a third party. She (finally) turned it over last month. She said that the handing over of the e-mails was a procedure that all former and current secretaries of state were undergoing at the same time. But, as reporting from The Post this week showed, the State Department specifically requested Clinton's e-mails after they realized she had used private e-mail exclusively. It wasn't until months later that requests for documents was made of other former secretaries of state. A story that keeps changing like that bears further analysis and investigation.

Again, the response to that is the same for point #2:  That's anomalous but not illegal in any way. Singling out Clinton for this treatment is ridiculous, especially when you consistently imply wrongdoing.  Enforcement of that is on the Obama administration and not Clinton.  It's not worth 50 articles attacking her for it.

4. I write a blog. I write a lot of posts. On Friday, for example, I wrote three blog posts and did a live online chat. This is not to brag (quantity doesn't always mean quality). It is to say that 50 posts that mention "Hillary Clinton" and "e-mails" between March and mid-September sound like a ton, but they're really not. I guarantee you that I have written more than 50 posts about Donald Trump in that time.
I understand that organizations like Media Matters exist to work the referees. And, I also understand that plenty of people who are sympathetic to Clinton -- and maybe even some who are not -- think the e-mail server is a non-issue. But, I would ask you to think of this: If this controversy -- with the exact same circumstances -- was centered on a former Republican secretary of state who was the frontrunner for the GOP's nod, would you still think it was unfair?

And here's the heart of the issue.  Cillizza complains that Media Matters is "working the refs" and that he is an impartial journalist, while admitting that he's a pundit that analyzes the news and gives his opinions on what is important enough to report.

You cannot have it both ways, Chris.  And you especially cannot claim impartiality after your years in your position at the Washington Post.

And The Last One Could Fall

Things are looking very grim for Greater Cincinnati as a million women are going to be without abortion services thanks to John Kasich.

State officials today moved to close down two more abortion clinics, including the last one in the Cincinnati area.

The Ohio Department of Health rejected variance requests for the Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio clinic in the Mount Auburn neighborhood of Cincinnati and the Women’s Med Center of Dayton. The variances were denied by health Director Richard Hodges because they do not have “written transfer agreements” for patients in case of emergency.

The clinics have 30 days to appeal or face closure.

Closure of both clinics would reduce the number of abortion providers in Ohio to seven; eight have closed in the past five years.

The health department said in a statement that state law requires abortion providers to have a written transfer agreement with a hospital “to assist when emergencies arise. ODH is denying the variances to protect the health of patients in the facilities. The proposed variances would not provide for adequate clinical coverage to protect patients during an emergency situation.”

The agency determined that variances requested by the clinics “did not meet or exceed the level of patient protection that is essential.”

The facilities will be allowed to continue operating during the appeal process.

As I've said before, Cincinnati would be the largest metropolitan area in the the country without a single abortion provider if these closures are finalized.  So unless the federal courts step in here, by the end of the year you may not be able to get an abortion in a metro area of 2.1 million people.

And you can thank the "moderate" John Kasich and his War on Women for that.

The NC GOP Car-Go Cult

North Carolina Republicans have gotten their budget passed into law by GOP Gov. Pat McCrory, and the big news is a new massive tax increase on auto and home repairs and maintenance on those who can afford it the least, tax money that will go to NC's mostly Republican rural counties and won't raise a dime for urban counties like where I grew up in Catawba County.

Next spring when a single mother in Newton takes her old car in for an oil change, she will be in for quite a surprise. It is going to cost her 6.75 percent more thanks to the budget passed by the House and Senate and endorsed by Gov. Pat McCrory that for the first time imposes a sales tax on car repairs and services. 
If she returns home to find that her washing machine isn’t working, it’s going to cost her more to have it fixed. The budget applies the sales tax to appliance repairs, too. 
If she somehow scrapes the money together to buy a new washer instead, she better pick it up herself as it will cost her more to have it delivered. The budget adds the sales tax to deliveries. 
And she may also be surprised to learn that none of the extra money she will have to pay to fix her car or washing machine will stay in her county to help her daughter’s school or improve the local roads. 
Instead, it will go to another county as part of a scheme inserted into the final budget agreement that expands the sales tax to a host of commonly used services with the proceeds directed to a special fund that benefits 79 counties, while 21 mostly urban and tourist counties receive nothing
So not only will folks in Newton in Catawba County pay higher taxes and see none of the benefits, so will folks in places like Brunswick County and Cabarrus County as well as Durham and Winston-Salem and Charlotte. 
Everyone in the state will pay more the next time they have their shoes resoled or their flat tire fixed. And the majority of the people who pay the extra tax will not see it go to improve their local communities.

And guess what these 21 counties having their tax money taken all have in common?  If you said "A significantly higher percentage of black and Hispanic residents and college students" then you win!

So yes, it's literally tax money taken from the poorest people in my home state's largest Democratic stronghold cities to give to whiter, more Republican counties by state law, all for the purpose of giving the wealthiest one percent in North Carolina a huge income tax cut.

This is what Republicans do, folks.  And the people back home keep voting for them.

Read more here:

The Plan For Planned Parenthood

Hillary Clinton gets a lot of crap over "campaign by focus group politics" and I don't honestly think that fair when that happens, but one issue that nobody can accuse her of wavering on is her unflinching support of Planned Parenthood. Clinton went on offense this week against Republicans trying to shut down the government over funding for the organization in a big way. Greg Sargent:

Clinton has defended Planned Parenthood before, but in the portion of the Des Moines Register interview in which she discussed the group, she telegraphed a more detailed response. Asked about the fetal tissue videos, Clinton immediately brushed off that part of the question, noting that fact-checkers had debunked claims (those made by Carly Fiorina) about the videos’ contents, suggesting that Republicans are “trying to inflame their base” against the group. She added:

“I will continue to defend Planned Parenthood, because services that Planned Parenthood provides are broad, and necessary for millions of American women. Five hundred thousand breast screening exams. A lot of other screening programs that are carried out. Family planning and contraceptive testing for HIV AIDS. 
“The Republicans have made it clear in recent years that they are not only opposed to abortion, which they have been for quite some time. They’re increasingly opposed to family planning and contraception. This is a direct assault on a woman’s right to choose health care. Forget about abortion, which is something that a limited number of Planned Parenthood facilities perform, with not a penny of federal money. 
“The money they want to cut off…is money that goes to health services. That is why it’s important that we continue to try to educate the public and draw a very clear line in defense of Planned Parenthood.” 
The Clinton camp appears to have calculated that an immediate pivot away from the videos and the controversial topic of abortion, and to the group’s role in providing a range of health services to women, is not hard to pull off. And that the politics of this battle are worse for Republicans over the long term, particularly for a general election.

This is absolutely the correct counter-attack Democrats should be making, and Clinton isn't the only one doing it of course, but she's arguably the most visible advocate for women right now for the Democrats, and she's doing the right thing.

Democrats need to make this argument, it's not about abortion or fetal tissue, it's about women, choices in their health care, and their bodies.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Last Call For Republicans Are Awful, Con't

At some point you really have to question the intelligence of Republican lawmakers when they get publicly saying idiotic stuff like this.

A white Florida Republican suggested knocking a black, longtime Democratic congresswoman out of her seat by gerrymandering more prisoners into her district, according to audio obtained by Politico and published on Wednesday.

Politico reported that state Rep. Janet Adkins (R) made the suggestion regarding U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown's (D) district in a closed-door meeting of the North Florida Republican caucus. 
“It's a perfect storm," Adkins said on the audio recording. "You draw it in such a fashion so perhaps, a majority, or maybe not a majority, but a number of them will live in the prisons, thereby not being able to vote." 
Adkins made sure there were no reporters in the room before she made her comments, according to the report. 
Brown, who is black, has filed a lawsuit to challenge the proposed redrawing of her district. She also told the Florida Senate Redistricting Committee that she was concerned that redrawing her district to include more prisons would lower its black voting population from 50 to 45 percent, according to Politico.

One, this is why Republicans don't want felons to be able to vote. Only two states do, Vermont and Maine, and when it comes to ex-felons, Florida in particular makes it nearly impossible to ever get the right to vote back.  (For those playing at home, if you are convicted of a felony, you can never vote in Kentucky, period.)

And that brings us to point two, that African-Americans in particular are far more likely to be convicted of felony level crimes, and therefore lose the right to vote.  This is not by accident, folks. Combined, you are much more likely to be disenfranchised when black.

Which returns us to Florida state Rep. Adkins here, who knows damn well that felons count as population to be represented, but cannot vote.  Since the system is rigged to incarcerate a much higher percentage of the black population for felony crimes, state prisons equal automatically disenfranchised black votes.

So of course the plan is to redraw the district to unseat a powerful black Democratic lawmaker in the state to include undesirable, non-voting prisoners.  That's what Republicans do when given power.

And we keep giving it to them anyway.

Not Ridin' With Biden For This

I'm once again reminded why I haven't thrown my support behind Joe Biden, because whenever I start feeling like I should be doing so, he goes and says things like this.

Vice President Biden in an interview with a Jesuit publication says that he accepts Catholic doctrine that abortion is “always wrong.” 
Biden, who is publicly struggling with whether to run for the White House, is pro-abortion rights, and he said there’s a debate among Catholics over that issue. 
“Even – I don’t want to start a theological discussion, I’ll get in trouble, it’s above my pay grade, although it’s my avocation, but there’s, you know, there’s even been disagreement in our church, not that – abortion is always wrong, but there’s been debate, and so, there’s, for me, at a point where the church makes a judgment, as we Catholics call fide doctrine, said, this is what our doctrine is,” Biden said in an interview with America published on Monday. 
Biden also said that he believes life begins at conception. 
“I’m prepared to accept that at the moment of conception there’s human life and being, but I’m not prepared to say that to other God-fearing, non-God-fearing people that have a different view,” he said. 
He added that there is room in the Democratic Party for people who believe abortion should be illegal. 
“Absolutely, positively,” he said. “And that’s been my position for as long as I’ve been engaged.”

No, Joe.  There really isn't room in the Democratic Party of 2015 for people who think abortion should be illegal when it's been legal for 40 years now.  And I'm extremely disappointed that you accept that doctrine, when as President you should be accepting the law.

And yeah, reminder, Joe Biden is an old white guy from a small state that got his ass kicked in the 2008 election, but made a good VP with strong foreign policy chops.  As president I would take him in a heartbeat over any Republican.

But over any Democrat?

We've got to come to terms with the fact that precisely none of the folks running for 2016 will be Obama's third term, and it's a real toss-up as to which one is the closest because of how utterly far away from Obama all of these candidates are from the man.

And yeah, that includes Joey B.

BREAKING: Orange Julius Squeezed Out

John Boehner is out, folks. The NY Times:

Speaker John A. Boehner will resign from Congress and give up his House seat at the end of October, according to aides in his office. 
Mr. Boehner was under extreme pressure from the right wing of his conference over whether or not to defund Planned Parenthood in a bill to keep the government open.

Holy hell.

National Journal's Alex Rogers with this home run tweet:

Bwahahahaha.  And yeah, Imani is right, I've been waiting to write this headline for years.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Last Call For Pope On A Hope

Pope Francis's remarks to Congress were, quite frankly, a challenge to do and be better people than they are now.  Makes sense, it would after all take a miracle for Congress not to be filled with amoral, greedy sacks of crap.  

Here I think of the political history of the United States, where democracy is deeply rooted in the mind of the American people. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort. 
Here too I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his "dream" of full civil and political rights for African Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of "dreams." Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people. 
In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present. Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our "neighbors" and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mind-set of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this. 
Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." 
This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.

And the best part is a week from now, the federal government will be shut down because not a single frigging Republican actually listened to the man.

Welcome To Wakanda, Mr. Coates

You guys know I love comics, and I love Ta-Nehisi Coates's writing, so when you put the two together, things get incredible.

Ta-Nehisi Coates can be identified in many ways: as a national correspondent for The Atlantic, as an author and, as of this month, as a nominee for the National Book Award’s nonfiction prize. But Mr. Coates also has a not-so-secret identity, as evidenced by some of his Atlantic blog posts and his Twitter feed: Marvel Comics superfan. 
So it seems only natural that Marvel has asked Mr. Coates to take on a new Black Panther series set to begin next spring. Writing for that comics publisher is a childhood dream that, despite the seeming incongruity, came about thanks to his day job. “The Atlantic is a pretty diverse place in terms of interest, but there are no comics nerds,” besides himself, Mr. Coates said in an interview.
His passions intersected in May, during the magazine’s New York Ideas seminar, he interviewed Sana Amanat, a Marvel editor, about diversity and inclusion in comic books. Ms. Amanat led the creation of the new Ms. Marvel, a teenage Muslim girl living in Jersey City, based on some of her own childhood experiences. 
“It was a fruitful discussion,” he recalled. 
After that event, Marvel reached out, paired Mr. Coates with an editor, and discussions about the comic began. The renewed focus on Black Panther is no surprise. Created in 1966, he is the first black superhero and hails from Wakanda, a fictional African country. 
“He has the baddest costume in comics and is a dude who is smarter and better than everyone,” said Axel Alonso, the editor in chief of Marvel. The character not only adds to the diversity of Marvel’s comics; he will do it for their films too: Black Panther is set to make his big-screen debut next year in “Captain America: Civil War,” followed by a solo feature in 2018.

I will pre-order the hell out of this, and I cannot wait to get my hands on the series.  Congratulations to Coates and to Marvel as well.

Online And On Point

I know I've given Alison Lundergan Grimes a deservedly hard time for being a terrible Senate candidate and losing to Mitch the Turtle by 16 points, but she's still Secretary of State and in charge of running elections, and on-line voting registration for Kentucky is a big, big deal.

Kentuckians will be able to register to vote online, possibly in time for the next presidential election, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced Tuesday. 
Standing outside the League of Women Voters’ Louisville office, Grimes touted the “transformational change” as a way to generate more registered voters in the state. Grimes said funds for the project are available through the federal Help America Vote Act, and her office estimated the program’s cost at $45,000. 
Grimes said the initiative has support from past Kentucky secretaries of state, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration and the Republican National Lawyers Association. Twenty-three states currently offer online voter registration, and five others and the District of Columbia have passed such measures but have not yet implemented them, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

This is again, a big deal here and Grimes gets a lot of credit.  Easy, on-line voting registration will be too late to help for the state races this year, but could play a part in turnout for 2016's Presidential, Senate, and House contests here.

Kentucky’s move toward an online voter registration system comes after a similar measure, House Bill 214, failed to get a Senate committee vote in this year’s session. HB 214 cleared the House on a 92-3 vote. 
The Kentucky State Board of Elections, which Grimes chairs, crafted an administrative regulation enacting an online voter registration portal, which cleared the Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee on a 4-3 vote in July, according to a report by the Lexington Herald-Leader. 
“We actually made sure in the event our General Assembly stalled as sometimes they often do, we were prepared,” Grimes said. “This is an initiative that the voters of Kentucky are demanding, and it’s made its way through the administrative regulation process, now effective law. Kentucky can’t wait any longer. We’re finally entering the 21st century as it relates to election administration thanks to the diligence and hard work of my staff and the State Board of Elections.”

The one downside is that should Grimes lose to Republican Steve Knipper in November, I'm betting Knipper will immediately shelve the project.  Republicans don't want more people voting, ever.  They lose when that happens, and even Kentucky Republicans are smart enough to know that.

Something that makes it easier to vote?  No way.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Last Call For Shutdown Countdown, Con't.

With just over a week left before October 1, Forbes's Stan Collender upped his odds over the weekend of a GOP government shutdown to 75% as Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have all but completely lost control of the Republican rank and file.

In the face of the House and Senate leadership’s effort to come up with a compromise, many primarily Republican anti-abortion groups intensified their demand for a shutdown aimed at defunding Planned Parenthood, even if it ultimately won’t be successful. 
House GOP leaders offered to provide ways other than through a continuing resolution for members to demonstrate their opposition to Planned Parenthood, but the Freedom Caucus and its supporters rejected those options as meaningless gestures. The prospect of voting on these alternatives (one of the votes happened in the House last Friday) didn’t stop the shutdown talk and may have further infuriated those opposing funding for Planned Parenthood. 
Meanwhile, the threat to John Boehner continuing as speaker became so real that senior members of the House Republican caucus began to campaign to move up in the leadership ranks if there’s an election. The three top members of the GOP House leadership after Boehner – Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and House Republican Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) – reportedly were all openly jockeying for position. 
The campaigning then pushed McCarthy and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) to announce that they supported Boehner even though having to make such an announcement demonstrated the true weakness of the speaker’s position. 
Adding to the forces working against a CR, Texas Senator and GOP presidential contender Ted Cruz vocally and vociferously supported a shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding during last week’s Republican presidential debate while the three other Republican senators also running for president – Lindsay Graham (SC), Marco Rubio (FL) and Rand Paul (KY) – either said nothing or were far less strident about it. Cruz’s position put significant added pressure on the other three either to support a shutdown or cede ground in the GOP presidential nomination with a key group of Republican voters. If, as is likely because of Cruz, all four oppose a CR, McConnell’s position on the issue will become untenable.

Now, House Republicans trying to depose Boehner has been a loser bet for years because literally nobody else wants the job, and the mess the GOP is in, a mess of their own creation, is exactly why. But the Planned Parenthood garbage, getting completely beaten on the Iran nuclear deal, and 2016 primaries being right around the corner makes it far more likely that the GOP in the House or Senate will do something monstrously stupid and shut down the government for a while, and as Collender says, Boehner's position is too weak to stop it.  Nancy Pelosi's price to bail his ass out will rightfully be high and she'll win.

The wild card remains the Senate.  Cruz already shut the place down once before.  Voters refused to punish this behavior and effectively rewarded the Republicans with more House seats and the Senate as a result.  Marco Rubio may still try to be the voice of "moderate "reason, but Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Lindsey Graham are running in the low single digits and have to do something to stay in the 2016 race, and that "something" is likely going to make for a very long October for America.

Even Collender admits that the 75% prediction is optimistic.  I think the odds at this point are close to 95% if not 99%.

But as Greg Sargent points out, it's a massive con job by the GOP.

Their argument that Democrats will take the blame for a shutdown isn’t actually about somehow spooking Dems into fearing this fight or persuading GOP leaders to adopt this shutdown strategy and stick to it. They know GOP leaders won’t actually do that. Rather, their argument is targeted to conservatives voters: it’s designed to keep alive the illusion that there was indeed a way to win the battle if only GOP leaders had the stomach to see it through to the end.

Enhancing the hall of mirrors effect in play here, this is exactly what makes it possible to simply repeat the same argument two years later. The fact that Republicans lost previous government shutdown fights, which should ideally cast doubt on that argument and strategy, is — poof! — easily transformed into more fodder for the idea that Republicans only lose these fights due to a failure of will. Republican Congressional leaders have become the preferred pummeling dummies for presidential candidates who want to persuade conservative primary voters that they have cracked the code that has tormented them for years: Why can’t the GOP succeed in rolling back the Obama agenda?

Shutdowns cannot fail, they can only be failed by "weak Republican leaders" who aren't strong like the Republican senators running for the White House.  So yes, absolutely expect a repeat from 2013 starting next week.

The Papal Chase

Pope Francis's speech this morning greeting President Obama and members of Congress and guests was relatively short, but powerful, as he challenged America to act on climate change directly in front of members of the legislative body the least likely on Earth to do so.

Mr President, 
I am deeply grateful for your welcome in the name of all Americans. As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families. I look forward to these days of encounter and dialogue, in which I hope to listen to, and share, many of the hopes and dreams of the American people. 
During my visit I will have the honor of addressing Congress, where I hope, as a brother of this country, to offer words of encouragement to those called to guide the nation’s political future in fidelity to its founding principles. I will also travel to Philadelphia for the Eighth World Meeting of Families, to celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family at this, a critical moment in the history of our civilization. 
Mr. President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty. That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it. 
Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our “common home”, we are living at a critical moment of history. We still have time to make the changes needed to bring about “a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change” (Laudato Si’, 13). Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them. Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies. To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it. 
We know by faith that “the Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home” (Laudato Si’, 13). As Christians inspired by this certainty, we wish to commit ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home. 
The efforts which were recently made to mend broken relationships and to open new doors to cooperation within our human family represent positive steps along the path of reconciliation, justice and freedom. I would like all men and women of good will in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development, so that our brothers and sisters everywhere may know the blessings of peace and prosperity which God wills for all his children. 
Mr President, once again I thank you for your welcome, and I look forward to these days in your country. God bless America!

We'll see how that goes with his address of Congress, tomorrow, but if this is any indication, Republicans are not going to like what's coming.

And that's fine with me.

So Who's Next Out Of The Clown Car?

Good question.  The Washington Post's Philip Bump crunches the numbers in the aftermath of Scott Walker's disastrous run:

Walker, like many other candidates, saw a bump in the polls shortly after he announced. But the top of that bump wasn't as high as his poll numbers had reached earlier on either nationally or in Iowa, where he was consistently the front-runner for months. He announced, he got the bump -- and then it vanished. 
The vanishing, it's worth noting, happened shortly after the first debate, in which Walker offered an unimpressive performance. 
That sort of erosion isn't as common as it seems. Rick Perry saw it in 2012. Rudy Giuliani saw it when the bottom fell out in 2008. Usually, fade-outs are less steep and more extended. Walker plummeted.

Specifically, Bump found the high point of Walker's national polling since announcing and measured the change in that number, then did that for the rest of the GOP field.

Walker and Perry had the worst drops in national polling averages since announcing.  They are both now out.

The lowest-performing candidate left is now Rand Paul, but the continual zero candidates (Gilmore, Graham, Pataki, Jindal) are still at zero too.  There's not too much pressure on people who started with nothing to leave, they can only go up (case in point, Fiorina.)  However, these guys are to the point of desperation now, needing attention and donors, and are willing to say whatever they need to in order to get both.

Also, both candidates out have been governors who couldn't catch on nationally.  That means Santorum or Christie.

I think Rand Paul will stick around.  He's already invested a lot of cash in his Kentucky GOP caucus scheme in order to be able to run for both offices, dropping out before the caucus and he loses his investment (and he's got his dad's network to fall back on.)  Besides, like the other sitting GOP senators in the race, he's still got his cards to play during the upcoming Shutdown Season, something Perry and Walker didn't have.

Santorum on the other hand, well, let's just say the guy knows what losing looks like, because he's been there before, and he's there now.

I'd keep an eye on him being the next out, if I had to venture a guess.

Going in the other direction, well, it's Trump, Fiorina, and Carson, the three candidates who haven't held office.  Seeing Kasich and Cruz be the only two politicians in office who have improved their positions since announcing is notable.

Keep an eye on them, too.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Last Call For Worst Kasich Scenario, Con't

Yet another reminder that Ohio GOP Gov. John Kasich has a long record of being awful, and not just as the architect of Goerge W. Bush's tax cuts and Social Security privatization scheme as his budget director, but also a terrible record in Congress in the 90's.

In 1996, then-Congressman John Kasich cosponsored a welfare reform bill that, for the first time ever, put a time limit on recipients' access to food stamps. Healthy, childless adults would be able to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for no more than three months in any three-year period, unless they were employed or in a training program for at least 20 hours a week. When Congress balked at a rule that would cause an estimated 1 million people to lose food aid each month, Kasich added an exception that would allow states to seek time-limit waivers for areas with especially high unemployment. 
Twenty years later, in his second term as Ohio's governor, the GOP presidential hopeful is taking advantage of these waivers, as most governors have done. But Ohio civil rights groups and economic analysts say Kasich's administration is using the waivers unequally: It applies for waivers in some regions of the state but refuses them in others, in a pattern that has disproportionately protected white communities and hurt minority populations. 
"The Kasich administration could have addressed the racial inequity in 2016," says Wendy Patton, a senior project director at Policy Matters Ohio, an economic policy research nonprofit, who has written extensively on the state's recent food stamp waiver policy. "The Kasich administration chose not to. The state should broaden its request to encompass all places and regions where jobs are scarce and people are hungry." 
In 2014, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) had the option to waive time limits on food stamps for the entire state. Due to a struggling economy and high unemployment, Ohio had qualified for and accepted this statewide waiver from the US Department of Agriculture every year since 2007, including during most of Kasich's first term as governor. But this time, Kasich rejected the waiver for the next two years in most of the state's 88 counties. His administration did accept them for 16 counties in 2014 and for 17 counties in 2015. Most of these were rural counties with small and predominantly white populations. Urban counties and cities, most of which had high minority populations, did not get waivers.

And the results of Kasich gaming his own legislation that he wrote as a Congressman have been a disaster for Ohio's cities and especially for working poor people of color.

A USDA study released earlier this month ranked Ohio among the worst states in the nation for food security. The state has the highest rate of food insecurity in the Midwest and the sixth highest rate nationally. 
In the summer of 2014, several legal organizations, including Columbus Legal Aid, filed a civil complaintagainst Ohio with the USDA, formally alleging that the state's rejection of waivers across the state disproportionately hurt minority populations. "Without any compelling reason, this decision, and its approval by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)…has unfairly made access to nutrition assistance more difficult for many minority Ohioans," the organizations wrote in their letter. 
The ODJFS' waiver decision seemed to have little basis in math. Seventy-five percent of Ohio's minorities live in just eight of the state's 88 counties. None of those counties got a waiver, even though several of them have higher unemployment rates than counties that did get waivers, notes the civil complaint. "I've never seen the math that illustrates how they came up with these 16 to begin with," says McGarvey, one of the authors of the civil complaint. "When we looked at the data, what we saw was that if they were just cutting it off at the 16 highest unemployment counties, purely using a mathematical formula, those would not have been the 16."

In other words, Kasich kicked Ohio's poorest black and minority voters off food stamps, in urban counties that vote Democratic, and kept food stamps for rural mostly white counties with better unemployment rates that tend to vote Republican.  Counties like Hamilton, where the unemployment among black residents is 17% and one in three are on food stamps, and yet in the last two years thousands have been kicked off the rolls.

But hey, it's probably not intentional, right?

Probably won't find him bragging too much about this on his 2016 campaign website, I'm thinking. Can't imagine why not, he'd actually gain ground in the primaries if he did.  These are Republicans we're talking about, after all.

Ay, Carly Con't

As I pointed out yesterday, the Right Wing Outrage du Jour is hardcore Islamophobia, and Ben Carson and Donald Trump are sufficiently bigoted for the true GOP base.  But as Steve M. reminds me, Fiorina doesn't sufficiently hate Islam enough to be the GOP nominee.

Anyone who continues to think that the questioner at Trump's rally was a plant meant to embarrass Trump is nuts. Trump thinks this sort of talk wins him votes -- he's had a couple of days to revise and polish his message, so if he thought this was harmful to him, he'd back down, but he's not doing that. And Trump is almost certainly correct in his assessment of Republican voters. Carson also knows that Islamophobia sells to the GOP voter base, so that's what he's delivering.

I don't think Fiorina will be able to keep up.

You probably don't know this, but a lot of people on the right do: A few weeks after the 9/11 attacks, Fiorina made a speech that praised Islam.

It's a pretty rote speech in hindsight, filled with tech buzzwords and Silicon Valley white knight nonsense about how technology will save "emerging markets", but in the end she tells how Islam made great contributions to the sciences (which is true) and set the world stage for the era of technology we have today (which is also true).

It's possible that Fiorina is done for, certainly, but I doubt it.  If she can keep the subject on her imaginary video of Planned Parenthood dismembering live babies, then she might stay in this after all.

During last week’s Republican presidential debate, Fiorina had claimed that she saw undercover videos from a Planned Parenthood that showed “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”

However, fact checkers like and The Washington Post have said that there was no such scene included in the videos that were recently released by an anti-abortion group.

“Do you acknowledge what every fact checker has found?” Fox News host Chris Wallace asked the candidate on Sunday. “As horrific as the scene is, it was only described on the video by someone who claimed to have seen it. There is no actual footage of the incident you just mentioned.”

“No, I don’t accept that at all,” Fiorina shot back. “I’ve seen the footage. And I find it amazing, actually, that all these supposed fact checkers in the mainstream media claim this doesn’t exist, they’re trying to attack the authenticity of the videotape, I haven’t found anyone in the mainstream media who has ever watched these things.”

“I mean, they will claim that somebody watched it for them,” she continued. “I will continue to dare anyone who wants to continue to defund Planned Parenthood, watch the videotapes.”

And anyone who wants to challenge me first is going to have to prove to me that they watched it.

This is a perfect argument for her, because she can't lose it.  Anyone who challenges her on this, she will say "You didn't watch the videos, I did, you're lying."  She's basically calling the media liars, and that's a winning hand every time among the GOP faithful.  No Republican is going to challenge her position on this.  No media will challenge her on this.  As long as she can ride this, she stays in the game.

As long as she gets to frame Planned Parenthood as "who do you trust, me or the lamestream media?" she cannot lose, period.  I don't know if it's good enough to get her the nomination, but it's she's going to ride this train as long as she can.  Sarah Palin showed the way 7 years ago.

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