Browsing the blog archives for February, 2015.


Neocons Attempting Another Con

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Obama Administration, Terrorism, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

They don’t quit. The neocons at National Review — including Stephen Hayes, who will insist on his deathbed that before 9/11 Mohamed Atta did too meet with agents of Saddam Hussein in Prague — now are flogging documents that “reveal” Osama bin Laden had secret ties to Iran.

Yes, and I’m Shirley Temple’s zombie.

If you keep reading the articles, it turns out that these documents say nothing about secret ties to the Iranian government, just that a small number of al Qaeda operatives had been in Iran, somewhere, doing something, including “training.” But for all we know their long-term plans were to set off bombs in Tehran, not attend parties with the ayatollahs.

The documents were among those recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound and were introduced in court in the trial of “a terrorism suspect.” I believe they are referring to Faruq Khalil Muhammad ‘Isa, a Canadian national currently on trial in Brooklyn for murdering five U.S. servicemen in Iraq in 2009. However, for some reason, the National Review propagandists are not calling this suspect by name or imagining he has secret ties to Iran. I guess they have no beef with Canada. Yet.

The thrust of all of the National Review‘s articles on this new “evidence” is that the Obama Administration didn’t take the continued threat of Osama bin Laden seriously.

The files do not support the view, promoted by some in the Obama administration, that bin Laden was in “comfortable retirement,” “sidelined,” or “a lion in winter” in the months leading up to his death. On the contrary, bin Laden is asked to give his order on a host of issues, ranging from the handling of money to the movement of terrorist operatives.

Hmm, let’s see — which President was it who declared that Osama bin Laden had been marginalized back in 2002?

And, let’s see, which President actually got the guy? Hmm, it’ll come to me …

Seriously, does the crew at NR assume we all have Alzheimer’s?

From what I saw, at no point in any of this coverage does NR use the words Sunni or Shia. Al Qaeda is a radical Sunni sect opposed to all heretics, which in their minds would include Shia. The government of Iran is controlled by a bunch of strict Shia who consider Sunni militants to be their sworn enemies. The odds that these two are working together now are about the same as the odds that the GOP will throw the 2016 presidential election in favor of Bernie Sanders. Larry Johnson says that about 20 years ago there was a brief movement toward rapprochement between Osama bin Laden and the Shia in Tehran, but that those days are long over, and the two groups are more radically opposed to each other than ever.

Obviously, the neocon crew at NR are up to their old tricks and trying to stampede us into a war with Iran, which men of extended military experience like Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes (cough) think will be just the thing to fix all that misbehavior in the Middle East. They don’t quit. And they don’t learn.

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House Temper Tantrum

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Obama Administration

The House failed to pass a measure that would have kept the Department of Homeland Security open for three more weeks, so unless the congress critters have a passing fit of sanity the DHS shuts down tomorrow at midnight.

This was a conscience vote about trying to uphold the Constitution,” Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), one of the “no” votes, told TPM. “If you’re supposed to cave in because you don’t want 30,000 people to lose their paychecks — how do you make a stand if you don’t take a stand? … It’s the only option we have.”

The only function of the DHS is to issue paychecks to 30,000 people? Who knew?

The bill voted down was only a three-week “patch” so that the House could keep fighting awhile longer.  Republican leadership wanted the three-week bill. House Dems voted no; they’re holding out for a full funding bill. Apparently the GOP “no” voters were confused about what they were voting “no” on. Now they think they’ll get a resolution to fund the DHS for one week.

They may come back to the drawing board and offer a one-week [CR],”said Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., who voted against the three-week bill. “That’s what I heard.”

However, that’s not likely to pass any more muster with Democrats, who want long-term funding for the critical agency — nor will it solve the bigger issue of thwarting Obama’s immigration actions, say Republicans who voted in favor of the three-week bill.

After the failed vote, House GOP allies of leadership fumed at their 50 colleagues who broke ranks in hopes of forcing a better deal that isn’t like to materialize anytime soon, with the White House threatening vetoes and Senate Democrats capable of sustaining filibusters.

“You can’t say you want to fight and not understand tactically how to fight,” said Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif. “If you can’t give three more weeks to keep doing this, it’s a real problem. The 50 people who voted ‘no’ are not only reckless, they’re in favor of Obama’s amnesty. Until you can add the 218 votes, it’s going to continue to be this way. That’s the bottom line.”

Pass the popcorn, folks.

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Leonard Nimoy, 1931-2015

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blogging

Life and death are illogical.

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But Can He See Russia From His House?

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Wingnuts Being Wingnuts, Wisconsin

It’s CPAC time, boys and girls!

And the fun has begun! Scott Walker actually said this:

“I want a commander-in-chief who will do everything in their power to ensure that the threat from radical Islamic terrorists do not wash up on American soil. We will have someone who leads and ultimately will send a message not only that we will protect American soil but do not take this upon freedom-loving people anywhere else in the world,” he responded. “We need a leader with that kind of confidence. If I can take on a 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.”

Because a crowd of unarmed and peacefully if loudly protesting teachers and farmers is just like ISIS. That was so stupid even the National Review called him on it.

[Apparently Walker has made noises in the past tying unions to Communism (see Steve M). This actually echoes some very old history involving Wisconsin. Way back when Wisconsin’s infamous Senator Joe McCarthy first won a seat in the Senate, but before his infamous “I have in my hand” speech that gained him national attention for his witch hunt seeking Communists in the State Department, his signature issue was unions. He was the anti-union senator, ceaselessly arguing that labor unions were Communist fronts. (This is documented in a book by historian David Oshinsky titled Senator Joe McCarthy and the American Labor Movement [University of Missouri Press, 197-something].) As with his later fruitless witch hunts none of the people he targeted were ever found guilty of anything, but wingnuts insist up and down that McCarthy  was “right” about Communism and that the Venona papers  prove it. However, none of the people McCarthy targeted are mentioned in the Venona papers. So he remains zero-for-whatever in uncovering actual Communists.]

[Also, too, today a New York Times editorial complains that “Republicans’ support for anti-union legislation is at odds with their professed commitments to helping the middle class.” Ya think?]

By all accounts Walker wowed the crowd at CPAC, who gave him a standing ovation. But Walker never struck me as someone who could get traction in a national campaign, unless perhaps he put himself in the hands of a Lee Atwater/Karl Rove sort of handler who could craft the impression that Walker has a personality. Rove himself seems to have passed his sell-by date, however, and I don’t see anyone else on the Right ready to step into the void. As we saw in 2012, it’s not that hard to become the Darling of the Right for 15 minutes or so with a masterful tossing of anti-Obama red meat, but that act doesn’t play so well outside of the Rightie Bubble.

Jeb Bush is supposed to speak at CPAC today, and there’s a move afoot among the more rabid teabaggers to walk out of the speech. Pass the popcorn.

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Petards, and Being Hoisted Thereon

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Obama Administration

So Republicans in Congress have been trying to hold the Department of Homeland Security hostage in order to pass a provision to block the President’s executive actions to shield certain illegal immigrants from deportation. They attached the block to a bill funding DHS and dared the Dems to not pass it. Now we’re three days away from a DHS shutdown, and yesterday Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blinked, offering a “clean” funding bill separate from the immigration bill.

Naturally McConnell is being slammed from the Right for caving on immigration, like the little matter of shutting down Homeland Security is just an afterthought. There’s no ongoing terrorist threat or anything, you know.

Some of the crazier elements in the Senate (Cruz and Sessions) are still talking about blocking the bill, but what I’m picking up from most reporting is that Senate Republicans are pretty much resigned that they’ve lost this one. A number of polls show that most Americans would blame the GOP for a DHS shutdown. Polls also show that people think a DHS shutdown would actually be a big deal. Republicans think otherwise, possibly not understanding that DHS actually has a lot to do with border security and monitoring terrorist threats and stuff like that. Government is so confusing.

What the House will do is anybody’s guess.

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The Hoped-for Twilight of Bill-O

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News Media

Some of Bill O’Reilly’s former colleagues at CBS News are ganging up on him to dispute his accounts of his Falkland War experiences and his short association with CBS News generally. O’Reilly sees himself as a brilliant and even heroic reporter who was held back by some pernicious good-old-boys system; his colleagues remember a callow hot dog who couldn’t follow direction.

See, for example, “How Bill O’Reilly imploded at CBS following his Falklands War ‘combat’ reporting.” By O’Reilly’s account, his career at CBS was blocked because he wouldn’t play their “games.” But his manager at CBS remembers him as the rookie who showed up at pro training camp for the first time with his scrapbook of press clippings. He was incensed because he wasn’t allowed to present his footage of an alleged riot himself on the nightly news, but instead the footage was spliced in with other footage and presented by Bob Schieffer. Worse, he disregarded instructions to keep camera lights off so as not to draw attention to the filming, putting his camera crew in danger.

In other words, he was oblivious to the deeper meaning of “new hire.” And because he obviously was too much of a prima donna — and more trouble than he was worth — he was quickly let go by CBS, and he is still pissed off about it.

This was all touched off last week when David Corn and Daniel Schulman wrote for Mother Jones that O’Reilly’s accounts of his “combat reporting” in the Falklands War simply didn’t past the smell test. Over the weekend one of Bill-O’s former colleagues at CBS came forward to corroborate what Corn and Schulman wrote. Crooks and Liars has a great video.

Unfortunately, it’s doubtful this revelation will end O’Reilly’s career. The first time I saw O’Reilly on television he struck me as being such an obviously narcissistic and witless gasbag I marveled he made it to national media at all. But Bill-O’s followers love him. They even read his books, such as his book on the Lincoln Assassination that is so riddled with errors that the National Park Service won’t carry it in souvenir shops. O’Reilly has defended himself by saying its hard to know what really happened after all this time, but in fact there is little about the Lincoln assassination that wasn’t documented and preserved down to fine detail. Victorian-era people were hoarders and record-keepers to a fault, and by now more than a century of excellent scholarship has sorted through it all. The truth is that Bill O is a sloppy researcher who didn’t bother to distinguish between good and bad source material. But you can’t tell that to his fans.

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The Twilight of Guiliani

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Obama Administration

Those of us who have lived in the NYC area going back to his tenure knew Rudy Giuliani to be a petty, controlling narcissist all along, but when put on the spot to do so he could behave himself, as he did after 9/11 when the television cameras of the world were upon him. But lately he’s been letting his True Rudy flag fly.

His recent comment that he doesn’t know if the President loves America has brought on a lot of commentary about Giuliani’s sad self-destruction, It’s been a long time coming; he pretty much lost his post-9/11 glow among New Yorkers during the 2004 Republican convention. Rudy is erratic; even as mayor, he could be the soul of good sense one minute and a racist, bomb-throwing ferret-hating loon the next. He had a good run as “America’s Mayor,” but Rudy being Rudy, it wasn’t going to last forever.

The best commentary I’ve seen so far on Rudy’s latest episode of yelling at clouds is by Matt Taibbi. It begins:

Rudy Giuliani is giving me Soviet flashbacks.

With his bizarre foot-in-mouth rants about how Barack Obama doesn’t love “America” the way “we” do, Rudy — and other “They hate us!” exceptionalist ‘Muricans like Eric Erickson and Steve Forbes — are starting to remind me of the frightened, denial-sick communist die-hards I knew as a student in Russia.

Taibbi goes on to say that in 1990 he went to Leningrad to study, and so watched the Soviet Union in its death throes.  He observes that the Soviets had a strong sense of exceptionalism that clashed with, um, reality.

But the problem with exceptionalism is that it can turn unintentionally comic with the drop of a hat. You’re made to believe you’re at the center of an envious universe, but then the world changes just enough and suddenly you’re a punchline clinging to a lot of incoherent emotions. I watched this happen with my own eyes to a lot of people in the former Soviet Union.

And I feel like it’s happening here now, with Rudy and the rest of the exceptionalist die-hards. They’re hanging on to a conception of us that doesn’t really exist anymore, not realizing that “America” is now a deeply varied, rapidly-changing place, one incidentally that they spend a lot of their public lives declaring they can’t stand.

This was all on display this past week. Rudy’s bizarre, Internet-maelstrom-inspiring media tour began with remarks at a private dinner for Scott Walker. People focused on the insult to Obama, but just as interesting was the apostrophic address to a conspiratorial and exclusive you and me America of his imagination:

I do not believe — and I know this is a horrible thing to say — but I do not believe that the president loves America. . . He doesnt love you. And he doesnt love me. He wasnt brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.

Rudy was ripped by pretty much everyone to the left of James Dobson for these comments, with the White House snarkily commenting, “It was a horrible thing to say.”…

…Characteristically, and with a trial lawyer’s bravado, Rudy tried to talk his way out of the mess, rambling in self-defense to Bloomberg, CNN, Fox and anyone else who would listen. At each stop he doubled down on his remarks, concluding the tour with an incoherent rant to the New York Times in which he denied his comments about Obama were racist “since [Obama] was brought up by a white mother.”

God knows what that meant — reading this was like watching Mark Fuhrman undergo hypnosis therapy — but it was fascinating stuff.

This is my favorite part:

Conservative politicians like Rudy are a bizarre combination of constant, withering, redundant whining about Actual Current America, mixed with endless demands that we all stand up and profess our love for some other America, one that apparently doesn’t include a lot of the rest of us or the things about this country we like.

I feel sorry for Rudy that he can’t love this country the way it is. I love America even with assholes like him living in it. In fact, I’m immensely proud of our assholes; I think America has the best assholes in the world. I defy the Belgians or the Japanese to produce something like a Donald Trump. If that makes me an exceptionalist, I plead guilty.

You’ve got to admit he’s got a point about Donald Trump.

Update: Those coming here from Free Republic — haven’t heard from Freepers in awhile, I must say — please read the comment rules before commenting. I don’t approve comments that aren’t a lot more substantive than what any of you have produced so far. But since you’re Freepers you won’t read the post anyway so you won’t see this update. Anyway, long story short, please do hold your breath waiting for me to approve your comment. Seriously, please do. Please.

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The GOP Tryouts, Self-Absorption Edition

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Republican Party

Apparently Chris Christie thinks the world owes him a presidential nomination.

He does not return phone calls. He does not ask for support. He arrives late for meetings. And he acts as if he has all the time in the world.

The complaints have piled up for weeks, dismaying many longtime supporters of Gov.Chris Christie of New Jersey and sending others into the arms of his rivals for the presidential nomination, according to interviews with more than two dozen Republican donors and strategists. …

“He’s a very popular figure, but he’s made a mistake by not creating the necessary momentum for the kind of national organization you need to be successful,” said Anthony Scaramucci, a New York hedge fund manager who is now backing Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. “He’s not touching enough people. And I think this is a classic rookie mistake.”

Friends say Mr. Christie is both understaffed and too controlling. They also say he is convinced that his raw talent and charisma can overcome the political obstacles in his way. Thomas H. Kean, a former governor of New Jersey and Mr. Christie’s onetime mentor, with whom he mended fences after a public break, said Mr. Christie had “gotten in the habit of kind of doing everything himself.”

“You can’t do that in a presidential campaign,” Mr. Kean said.

Especially since Christie would be challenged to win his own state in a presidential general election, his overconfidence would be puzzling. Would be, that is, until you consider his competition.

According to a CNN/ORC Poll taken February 12-15, the Republican field currently ranks in this order, top to bottom: Mike Huckabee (seriously?), Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Ben Carson, Chris Christie or None (tie), Marco Rubio, and Someone Else. Then there’s a four-way tie among Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Unsure. Then comes John Kasich, and finally scraping the bottom at 1 percent each are Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham and Carly Fiorina. Note that Bush and Christie were numbers one and two a month ago. Make of that what you will.

Speaking of mutts, Charles Pierce comments on Scott Walker:

By his works shall ye know him, and by his budget shall ye know Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin, and current frontrunner in the Premature Nonsense Primary portion of the 2016 Republican nominating process. Where it is not actively hostile to the interests of anyone except his state’s plutocrats and out-of-state mining interests, there is in the budget a low-running contempt for the concept of the government’s obligation to do much of anything except protect the wealth of the wealthy and throw the right people in jail. His idea of “going big and bold” is to be petty and small-minded. His budget is a melange of childish vandalism, cut-rate empire building, and the construction of a Potemkin record for the consumption of oligarchical moneybags and hayshaking god-botherers in Iowa and elsewhere.

Pierce has the details.

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A Faith That Never Dies

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Obama Administration

Two posts by Ed Kilgore need to be read together. Here’s the first:

Yesterday WaPo’s Robert Costa told us that Scott Walker would be dining in New York with a select group of supply-side economics advocates in hopes of convincing them he shared the True Faith in tax cuts as the self-validating answer to every question.

The gathering, set for the upscale “21” Club in Manhattan, is the latest effort by the potential Republican presidential contender to bolster his relationships with the GOP’s anti-tax wing. It also reflects the interest business-friendly conservatives have in his possible candidacy, in spite of the recent ascent of former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

Economists Larry Kudlow, Arthur Laffer, and Stephen Moore will host Walker, according to several people with knowledge of the event.

For decades, that trio of friends — all associated with President Ronald Reagan’s economic policies — have been high-profile proponents of using tax cuts to boost economic growth….

Damn. That’s three of the four horses of the Apocalypse, isn’t it? Only one missing is Grover Norquist. Oh, wait….

John Catsimatidis, the billionaire supermarket owner and former Republican mayoral candidate in New York, is sponsoring the occasion, which will feature a roundtable discussion among Walker, the hosts, and a mix of wealthy financiers and political personalities.

Among those planning to appear: investment banker Lewis Lehrman, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, and philanthropist Jimmy Kemp, the son of Jack Kemp, the late New York congressman who ushered Reagan’s tax reforms through Congress.

And here’s post #2: Meanwhile, back in Wisconsin

Can you imagine how your average self-righteous conservative would react if one of those people treated a debt obligation (per Bloomberg Politics’ Tim Jones) in this way?

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, facing a $283 million deficit that needs to be closed by the end of June, will skip more than $100 million in debt payments to balance the books thrown into disarray by his tax cuts. The move comes as Walker, 47, mounts a 2016 bid for the Republican presidential nomination, and while his state is under stress from a projected shortfall that could exceed $2 billion in the two-year budget beginning in July.

Delaying the $108 million principal payment due in May on short-term debt would free funds.

“They need some cash,” said Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, a nonpartisan research group that examines taxes and government spending. “This is kicking the can down the road….”

Walker’s plan would increase debt-service bills by $545,000 in the next budget year, which starts July 1, and by $18.7 million in the one after that.

Where’s Rick Santelli when you need him?

It doesn’t matter how many times supply-side theory utterly fails in the real world. The faith never dies.

Update: Also, too, Walker proposes to stop using tax dollars to support state parks.

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Jeb Is His Own Man, Just Like His Bro

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Jeb

Jeb played at being Presidential Candidate yesterday and trotted out his foreign policy team. Some of these names sound familiar. Paul Wolfowitz? John Negroponte? James Baker? (I thought I remembered reading his obituary; maybe not.) Stephen Hadley? John Hannah? Michael Chertoff? Somehow they’ve missed Douglas Feith — must have been an oversight. There is also George Shultz, whom the Bushies apparently keep preserved in formaldehyde with James Baker.

Someone at Reuters wrote that “His list of advisers suggests a willingness to listen to a variety of views.”  Charles Pierce: 

Yes, drawn from the PNAC gallery, a “variety of views” from A to A. But the real treasure is the list of folks who will be advising Jeb (!) about foreign policy, on which he gave a Really Big Speech setting out his views, which are his views, and have nothing to do with what his half-dim older brother did while screwing up the entire world, so shut up and stop talking about it, and maybe he’s adopted anyway, and…

“I love my father and my brother. I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they had to make,” Bush said Wednesday in Chicago during the first major foreign policy speech of his prospective Republican presidential campaign. “But I am my own man.”

You can’t make this up.

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