Browsing the archives for the Obama Administration category.

Rotating Men of the Hour

Obama Administration

I hope you won’t mind a little horse race commentary. According to a poll taken April 19-21 by Fox News, here are the current rankings of the Republican wannabees among likely Republican primary voters. The number represents the percentage of responders who said they supported the candidate.

Marco Rubio 13
Scott Walker 12
Rand Paul 10
Jeb Bush 9
Mike Huckabee 9
Ted Cruz 8
Ben Carson 6
Chris Christie 6
Donald Trump 5
John Kasich 2
Rick Perry 2
Bobby Jindal 1
Lindsey Graham 1
George Pataki 1
Rick Santorum 1
Carly Fiorina 1
Other (vol.) 1
None of the above (vol.) 3
Unsure 9

Just looking at the first ten, of this crew the ones who have picked up support from a month ago are Rubio, Paul, Christie, Trump and Kasich. Walker, Bush, Huckabee, Cruz and Carson have dropped.

Jamelle Bouie writes at Slate that Jeb is breaking fundraising records. He’s telling people that his super PAC, Right to Rise, has raised more money in its first 100 days than “any other Republican operation in modern history.” Yet this is not discouraging other potential candidates from running.

There are more candidates now then there were when Jeb announced his “shock and awe” fundraising offensive at the beginning of the year, which is to say that Bush has neither shocked nor awed his competition. Despite his fame and name recognition, he’s not a titan like his brother or a leviathan like the present-day Hillary Clinton, or even a minor member of the political pantheon like Clinton in 2007; instead, he’s one hopeful among many. And while he has loads of cash, his chances aren’t appreciably better than his competitors’. Indeed, they’re probably worse: If Jeb stands out from the pack, it’s because he’s a Bush. And the Bush name is unpopular. Dismally, terribly unpopular.

A few days ago Scott Walker appeared to be the GOP’s fair-haired boy, but inexplicably (to me, anyway) now the buzz is about Rubio.  The theory is that Rubio is the guy who could attract the Latino vote without alienating the teabaggers. Just two years ago Rubio’s political ambitions were supposed to be over, because he promoted and then backtracked on immigration reform and gulped water during the response to the 2013 SOTU. Now that seems forgotten.

We’ll see. I suspect we’ll be playing rotating front runner for awhile.

For all his thrashing around to get attention, Booby Jindal clearly is not going anywhere. And Rick Santorum clearly has missed his moment, if he ever had a moment.

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Anger Translations

Obama Administration

This is brilliant. Luther the anger translator (Keegan Michael-Key) appeared with President Obama at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner last night.


Here’s My Sincerely Held Religious Belief, Booby

Obama Administration

Bobby Jindal’s op ed in today’s New York Times is worth a careful read, if only to appreciate how truly demented it is.

Jindal apparently has decided to position himself as the Christian Right candidate for President, and he’s not above selling out the state of Louisiana to do so. Along with the usual doublespeak that uses “sincerely held religious belief” to mean “ignorant bigotry,” Jindal is actually threatening the business community with dire consequences if they don’t stop “bullying” people with “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

I liked this part:

A pluralistic and diverse society like ours can exist only if we all tolerate people who disagree with us.

Kinda takes your breath away, huh? Jindal continues,

That’s why religious freedom laws matter — and why it is critical for conservatives and business leaders to unite in this debate.

If we, as conservatives, are to succeed in advancing the cause of freedom and free enterprise, the business community must stand shoulder to shoulder with those fighting for religious liberty. The left-wing ideologues who oppose religious freedom are the same ones who seek to tax and regulate businesses out of existence. The same people who think that profit making is vulgar believe that religiosity is folly. The fight against this misguided, government-dictating ideology is one fight, not two. Conservative leaders cannot sit idly by and allow large corporations to rip our coalition in half.

Since I became governor in 2008, Louisiana has become one of the best places to do business in America. I made it a priority to cut taxes, reform our ethics laws, invigorate our schools with bold merit-based changes and parental choice, and completely revamp work-force training to better suit businesses.

Our reforms worked because they were driven by our belief in freedom. We know that a nation in which individuals, and companies, are protected from the onerous impulses of government is one that will thrive and grow.

“From January 2011 through January 2015, Louisiana under Jindal ranked 32nd in job creation with 5.4 percent growth over four years.  … This compares with a national average of 8.21 percent.” [source]

That’s the intellectual underpinning of America, and in Louisiana we defend it relentlessly.

Intellectual underpinning?

Liberals have decided that if they can’t win at the ballot box, they will win in the boardroom. It’s a deliberate strategy. And it’s time for corporate America to make a decision.

Those who believe in freedom must stick together: If it’s not freedom for all, it’s not freedom at all. This strategy requires populist social conservatives to ally with the business community on economic matters and corporate titans to side with social conservatives on cultural matters. This is the grand bargain that makes freedom’s defense possible.

Because, you know, those civil liberties-loving liberals just hate liberty, or something. But let’s go back to an earlier part of the op ed, in which Jindal says,

Some corporations have already contacted me and asked me to oppose this law. I am certain that other companies, under pressure from radical liberals, will do the same. They are free to voice their opinions, but they will not deter me.

I’d like to know what sort of leverage “radical liberals” have on corporate America that we could pressure business to do anything business doesn’t want to do? The fact is, business doesn’t give a hoo-haw what “radical liberals” think. Business is just looking out for business. And Jindal is threatening business if it doesn’t stop acting in support of its own interests and does what Governor Jindal says. Because freedom.

 Ed Kilgore writes,

So Jindal’s willing to sacrifice some convention business—kinda important to New Orleans, a gay-friendly, tourism-dependent city Bobby’s willing to completely betray—and maybe the kind of corporate “investment” decisions Republican governors normally think of as the sum total of “economic development” on the altar of his commitment to those who would carve out a separate little paradise for themselves where laws contradicting “biblical principles” as understood by cultural conservatives need not be acknowledged. But he’s implicitly going beyond that selfish cost-benefit calculation and threatening job-creators that they’re going to lose the support of The Faithful for their own interests if they consort with secular-socialists on the Christian Right’s agenda.

As in other states with hard-Right governors, Jindal’s tax cutting has put Louisiana in a revenue bind. LSU is drafting an “academic bankruptcy” plan as a result of budget cuts; this news story says “the viability of the entire institution is threatened. … Louisiana’s higher education community is facing an 82 percent funding cut if no extra state money is found.”

John Cole comments,

That would basically be the death of public universities in Louisiana, because no one in their right mind would apply to go and fewer would apply to work there. So in the long run, it may not be just the fact that Louisiana is a haven for bigots driving business out of the state, but the fact that there are no Research 1 institutions working in union with business (see what the morons in the NC legislature are trying to do to university system and the impact it will have on the Research Triangle there), but also because there will be no educated workers in the state to handle the jobs businesses will have. And qualified personnel aren’t going to relocate to some remote bigoted outpost.

So yeah, Jindal. Have at it. Enjoy the complimentary education you’re about to get from the free market, you backwoods hick.

But, y’know, it’ll be worth it to Bobby Jindal as long as Billy Bob Baker can toss customers planning a same-sex wedding out of his bakery. Because nothing says freedom like the privilege to discriminate.

See also Human Rights Campaign Took A Red Pen To Jindal’s Religious Freedom Op-ed.


The Kings Koch

Obama Administration

This headline — Koch brothers will offer audition to Jeb Bush — says a lot about our current state of political affairs. Their lordships seem to think politicians are just hirelings to be auditioned. Maybe they’re right. And, anyway, a multitude of sources say they’re going to support their boy Scott Walker. See David Koch Signals a Favorite: Scott Walker and David Koch: Scott Walker Would Defeat Hillary Clinton ‘by a Major Margin’. I guess all those years of being the Koch’s loyal poodle are paying off for ol’ Scottie.

See also Elias Isquith:

A subsequent report from Politico cast some doubt on whether David Koch’s claim that Walker should be the GOP’s nominee was as ironclad as the Times indicated. But that doesn’t matter, really. What matters is that because Kennedy illogically and unnecessarilyclaimed in the Court’s Citizens United opinion that “independent expenditures … do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption,” a cryptic remark from one wingnut billionaire can have major implications for a country of more than 300 million.

Despite how farcical such a state of affairs is already, it’s only going to get worse. One of the crucial assumptions Kennedy used to justify Citizens United, for example, was that a big-spending independent group could be barred from coordinating with a candidate. Kennedy reasoned that if a political nonprofit wants to pay for ads attacking Politician X, there won’t be corruption — or even its appearance — unless the nonprofit worked directly with X’s opponent. If the nonprofit were run by X’s allies, it would make no difference.

Opponents of the ruling thought the hypothetical was patently ridiculous. They figured that any wall built between a candidate and her allies would be highly permeable at best. But another recent development from the GOP primary, this time involving former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, suggests the pretense of non-coordination is falling apart even more rapidly than expected, and that we may be about to witness the birth of a whole new kind of presidential campaign.

Technically, Bush is not yet a candidate for president. But he’s fundraising indefatigablyfor his Right to Rise super PAC, which he can “coordinate” with so long as his campaign remains undeclared. That’ll be money well-saved, too, according to the Associated Press: Bush is planning to be the first serious candidate ever to “outsource” to the super PAC much of the work usually done by the official campaign. Thanks to Justice Kennedy, the super PAC won’t be constrained by fundraising limits.

So there we are.. But there is one faint ray of hope from Montana,  of all places. The Koch worked very hard to get Medicaid expansion blocked (why?) in Montana, but they failed. For all their money, they can be ham-handed oafs in politcs:

For the Medicaid battle the Kochs tried a new strategy, one that never works in the West. They flew in a bunch of high-priced young politicos from Washington to get the job done. These held “town meetings” in rural communities at which they showed up in slim-fit suits and pointy shoes, looking like they were heading to a nightclub, lecturing farmers and ranches on politics and the dangers of “more Obamacare” and publicly threatening moderate Republicans. It didn’t take long for them to get booed off the stage by their own partisans.

See, for example, Koch Brothers Group Shouted Down By Irate Citizens During Montana Town Hall Meeting.

Progressives played it smart:

They teamed up with hospital executives, doctors and business leaders. These are Republican-leaning types who wanted Medicaid expansion in 2013 but were let down by their own high-priced conservative lobbyists who failed to deliver Republican votes. This time, the progressives took care of business and pressured one in five Republicans to vote for it. Kim Abbott of Montana Human Rights Network, who coordinated the effort, says they banked a record 10,000 calls to legislators. They found citizens with life-ending illnesses who could not afford treatment, who are not eligible for Medicaid nor an ACA-subsidized plan, and paired them with hospital leaders for media appearances and to testify at hearings at the Capitol. The Kochs’ crew, meanwhile, testified at the same hearings that Americans “will no longer have an incentive to work hard” if Medicaid is expanded. …

… At the height of the debate two months ago, former Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a rancher, wrote a letter to his local newspaper pointing out that Koch Industries owns a ranch in Montana that has taken $12 million in public grazing subsidies while spending their fortune to prevent someone who makes $11,000 a year from getting public help for medical care. The Koch team leader reacted by penning an angry opinion piece, attacking Schweitzer but leaving his accusation unanswered, thus spreading the bad news. It was a serious blow.

Maybe if the Kochs weren’t getting all those free goodies from the government they would have to work harder. Maybe they’d have less time to play politics.

The best part was that the Montana Americans for Prosperity chapter released a statement saying  that “the voices of millions of Montanans” didn’t want to expand Medicaid through Obamacare. Millions? The entire population of Montana is 1,023,579, according to the Census Bureau. There’s no such thing as “millions of Montanans.” Someone from Montana would know that, I suspect.


California Drought Caused by Jerry Brown’s Policies?

Obama Administration

Some guy named Joel Kotkin plumbs new depths of stupid. After acknowleding that California really is suffering an actual drought — although he won’t blame climate change — he writes this —

Like many Californians, [Brown] recoiled against the sometimes haphazard and even ugly form of development that plowed through much of the state. Cutting off water is arguably the most effective way to stop all development, and promote Brown’s stated goal of eliminating suburban “sprawl.” It is typical that his first target for cutbacks this year has been the “lawns” of the middle-class suburbanite, a species for which he has shown little interest or tolerance.

There are a lot of things that could have been done better, but let’s talk about the several years in which Republicans blocked California from doing anything but rot. I liked this part, too:

But it’s not just water that exemplifies the current “era of limits” psychology. Energy development has always been in green crosshairs and their harassment has all but succeeded in helping drive much of the oil and gas industry, including corporate headquarters, out of the state. Not building roads—arguably to be replaced by trains—has not exactly reduced traffic but given California the honor of having eight of the top 20 cities nationally with poor roads; the percentage of Los Angeles-area residents who take transit has, if anything, declined slightly since train-building began. All we are left with are impossible freeways, crumbling streets, and ever more difficulty doing anything that requires traveling.

Developing green technology doesn’t count as “developing,” apparently, and building rail doesn’t count as improving transportation infrastructure. We must not be allowed to diverge from fossil fuels and internal combustion engines. And I’m not sure how you can blame rail development for a decline in transit use if the rails haven’t been developed yet.

See David Atkins at Washington MonthlyDear Conservative Concern Trolls: California Will Be Just Fine, Thank You. 

Joel Kotkin over the The Daily Beast has a has scribbled out the millionth version of the “California is Dying” article—a genre of conservative wishful thinking that turns out to be hilariously wrong every time it is written. For years the story was that California would become the next Greece: hopelessly in debt, unable to pay its bills, with an exodus of taxpayers. That turned out to be bunk, of course: all the state needed to was a 2/3 Democratic supermajority and a Democratic governor, and the state’s fiscal situation was rectified almost immediately.

The new opportunity to concern-troll California with big business propaganda comes with the drought. The drought has become the platform from which the conservative complaint machine hits all its favorite targets: Silicon Valley and Hollywood elites, environmentalists, immigrants, and public works (especially transportation.) Republicans who wish they could turn California into Texas want the state to divert rail funding into building more freeways, drain the wetlands to support oil fracking and big agriculture, and close down the borders so that racist whites will feel a little less uncomfortable. They also want to build lots and lots of desalination plants, and blame progressive policy for the widening income inequality gap that sets the wealthy coast apart from the poorer interior.

The truth will out.


Martin O’Malley Wants It

Obama Administration

New Republic headline: Martin O’Malley Just Jumped to the Left of Elizabeth Warren. Your Move, Hillary.

Speaking at Harvard University on Thursday night, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley cranked up the pressure on Hillary Clinton by calling for a $15 an hour minimum wage and voicing his opposition to President Barack Obama’s massive trade deal, the Trans Pacific Partnership.

“As we gather here tonight,” he said, “wealth and economic power in the United States of America have now been concentrated in the hands of the very few as almost never before in the history of our country.” …

… O’Malley’s comments are a reminder that other Democratic candidates besides Warren can put pressure on Clinton. While few, if any, political analysts think the former Maryland governor has a real shot at the nomination, he can certainly force Clinton into difficult positions. That’s good. She should have to answer questions on the minimum wage, the TPP, and other controversial issues in the Democratic Party.

IMO the only reason O’Malley or other potential candidates don’t have a “real shot” is that the media won’t cover them, because the media have collectively decided Hillary Clinton has it in the bag. And if she has it in the bag, it’s because the media have decided she does. Argh.


Some People Are Easily Terrorized

Obama Administration

Whoa, folks, Miss Lindsey Graham thinks our Doug should have been shot out of the sky (glad you weren’t, Doug) because he could be mentally ill (unlike most everyone else on Capitol Hill?). Or radically Islamic. Miss Lindsey must have been frightened right out of his crinoline.


Senate Dems Wimp Out Again

Obama Administration

The bill approved unanimously by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday may be “watered down,” but it still puts limits on President Obama’s ability to reach an agreement with Iran. And Iran didn’t waste any time griping about it.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday dismissed pressure from the U.S. Congress over a preliminary deal on the Islamic Republic’s contested nuclear program, saying that Tehran is dealing with world powers — not American lawmakers.

In a speech to tens of thousands of Iranians in the northern city of Rasht, Rouhani said his nation is pursuing a “dignified” agreement with the six-member group, which includes the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

I found an article that said “Executive agreements have been used for more than two centuries. According to a February report from the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. has concluded more than 18,500 executive agreements since 1789.” What makes this executive agreement special? Wait, it’ll come to me …

Some people, including Meteor Blades at Daily Kos, are calling the bill a “clear White House victory.” But I still think it stinks. The New York Times editorial board thinks so, too.

With a unanimous vote on Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a bill that would require Congress to review, and then vote on, the final text of a nuclear deal. It would also prohibit Mr. Obama from waiving economic sanctions on Iran — the crucial element of any agreement under which Iran rolls back its nuclear program — for at least 30 days, and up to 52 days, after signing an agreement so Congress has time to weigh in.

The full Senate and the House will have to approve the bill. But the committee’s action gives momentum to those who have bitterly criticized Mr. Obama for negotiating with Iran, though they offer no credible alternative to the preliminary deal on the table. Republicans who control Congress have largely been the driving force behind the legislation, but this bill was passed overwhelmingly by the Senate committee thanks to Democratic support. …

… The nuclear deal is the product of a multinational negotiation with Iran conducted by the United States, France, Britain, China, Germany and Russia. In no other country has a legislative body demanded the right to block the agreement. Even if Congress barred Mr. Obama from waiving American sanctions, the European Union and the United Nations Security Council could lift the sanctions they imposed, thus undercutting the American decision.

Does anyone here think that Senate Republicans would give any deal — I repeat, any deal — a fair hearing? That they won’t try to obstruct it just because? That Cruz, Cotton et al. plus the Faux News crew won’t demagogue the thing to death and make blocking it a litmus test of True Conservatism?

Senator Barbara Boxer said that while she believed the original proposal would “disrupt and upend” the negotiations, “I believe this new bill will not do that.”

I don’t see why the hell not. The original bill was unworkable, but this one still leaves room for plenty of mischief.


The Wonder Weenies and Sharia Law

Obama Administration

Cities across the United States have been taken over by Islamic extremists and have enacted Sharia law! Never mind the phantom no-go zones in Europe, we have phantom no-go zones here, too! Or at least that’s what a speaker said at the apparently ongoing NRA convention in Nashville.

Dearborn, Michigan is completely lost, of course.

The street signs suddenly went from English to Arabic. There wasn’t a single English word on any shop or any street sign. And in fact, these little yellow signs were posted all along the edges. Jeremy said to me, ‘this is it. We don’t go past this line.’ And I said to Jeremy, ‘what do you mean? You guys are Detroit Metro. You’re the SWAT team. You can go anywhere you want. What if you get a call over there?’ He said ‘this is it, it’s hazardous for our team if we go past this line.’

I have seen it with my own eyes, witnessed it in the backseat of a car and it is for real. No-go zones exist in the United States.

Dearborn, Michigan is not the only place that these settlements exist. They are spread out over the country in various cities. There’s an estimate of over 5,000 known terrorist cells in the United States.

There’s an estimate of over 5,000 known terrorist cells? If they are “known,” why do they have to be estimated? Or is this a government secret? Reminds me of —

“I have here in my hand a list of 205 [State Department employees] that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department.”

— and sixty-five years later, no one have ever seen that list. That’s how devious the government is. Then the NRA speaker continued,

However our most persistent and significant threat, right now, to us here today this morning, is the homegrown violent extremists.

… including the speaker himself, I take it, and probably several members of the audience. But it turns out he wasn’t talking about those homegrown violent extremists.

Tarani also warned that the country’s “porous borders” are letting extremists and terrorists into the United States. “It’s possible that at least 20 percent of what comes over that border — that’s a big number, guys — is Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Ethiopian al shabaab, known gang members and supports of the cartel,” he said, warning people to arm themselves to respond to threats before law enforcement can.

Yeah, just what we need, mobs of armed yahoos shooting at everybody who crosses the border. What could go wrong?

(The Zen Center is right next to an actual Muslim neighborhood here in Brooklyn, btw. There are Islamic libraries and schools and prayer rooms. I know this because I walk past them on the way to the Target.)

You may laugh, but Serious People have learned there’s an ISIS training camp west of Ciudad Juárez, a few miles from El Paso. This is “according to Judicial Watch sources that include a Mexican Army field grade officer and a Mexican Federal Police Inspector.” Because Mexicans have no sense of humor and wouldn’t make up stories like that to ridicule some gringo whackjobs. Would they?

The Mexican Army field grade officer and Mexican Federal Police Inspector were later reported as “Mexican officials” who “confirmed” there’s an ISIS training camp across the border from Texas.

During the course of a joint operation last week, Mexican Army and federal law enforcement officials discovered documents in Arabic and Urdu, as well as “plans” of Fort Bliss – the sprawling military installation that houses the US Army’s 1st Armored Division. Muslim prayer rugs were recovered with the documents during the operation.

Oh, those naughty prayer rugs! They aren’t even bothering to disguise themselves as soccer jerseys this time.

Mexican intelligence sources report that ISIS intends to exploit the railways and airport facilities in the vicinity of Santa Teresa, NM (a US port-of-entry). The sources also say that ISIS has “spotters” located in the East Potrillo Mountains of New Mexico (largely managed by the Bureau of Land Management) to assist with terrorist border crossing operations. ISIS is conducting reconnaissance of regional universities; the White Sands Missile Range; government facilities in Alamogordo, NM; Ft. Bliss; and the electrical power facilities near Anapra and Chaparral, NM.

“Mexican intelligence sources” meaning some guy named Jesus who knows another guy named Jorge who swears his cousin heard it from some other guy, no doubt, all of whom were struggling to report these things with a straight face.

I wondered if Charles Pierce knew anything about this, and apparently not. However, it turns out that Sharia Law is threatening Idaho.

In brief, the state legislature there killed a measure that would have brought Idaho into compliance with federal law regarding federal support for child care, and for the enforcement of child-support agreements, and you are not going to believe why they did it.

The conflict started last week after a House committee narrowly rejected a bill that had sailed through the Senate. The vote came after state Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, a Cottonwood Republican, testified that federal regulations incorporated an international agreement regarding child support payments that would subject the state to Sharia law. None of the nearly 80 countries involved in the treaty — the Hague Convention on International Recovery of Child Support and Family Maintenance, which the U.S. entered in 2007 — is under Sharia law. But Nuxoll and other skeptics said some involved nations informally recognize Sharia courts. They added that Idaho wouldn’t have the authority to challenge another nation’s judgment.

I think you have to pass a stupid test to be a legislator at any level any more. Candidates are put out in the rain, and the ones who come in are disqualified.


The Road to Enlightenment Is Paved With Glitches

Obama Administration

The monastery internet conked out yesterday noonish, leaving me cut off from EVERYTHING. Seriously, I went into withdrawal. Talk about attachment. Fortunately I have a 4G phone and could check emails, but couldn’t get into the admin page here, for some reason.

So now I’m “working” in the Reinaissance Java Cafe on Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn. Anybody in the neighborhood, come on down. I may be here most of tomorrow. Fortunately they serve food.

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