Showing posts with label Policy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Policy. Show all posts

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Joe Manchin and Democracy

It doesn't sound like Senator Joe Manchin really understands democracy:

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Thursday he was disappointed that the White House threatened to veto his legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline, arguing the president’s move was “not the way a democracy works.”

The West Virginia lawmaker said he was upset Obama did not reserve judgment on the bill until it went through the committee and amendment process in an interview with Fox News’s “America’s Newsroom.”

“I just couldn't believe that out of the gate, two hours after [Sen.] John Hoeven [R-N.D.] and I announced that were introducing the bill, that they would come out from the White House and the president would make a statement that he's going to veto it,” Manchin said.

The Democrat said he had been hopeful the president’s history serving in the Senate would have led him to hold off on a veto threat.

“I would have thought the president would say, ‘Listen, being a former legislator, I'm going to wait until this process unfolds. And at the end of the day, I'll tell you, do I like what they came up with, or do I not like what they came out with, and this is my reason for veto,’ ” Manchin said. “[He] never even gave it a chance, never even gave it a chance. Now, that's just not the way you do legislation. It's not the way a democracy works. And it's not the way the ... three branches of government should work.”

 Here's how George W. Bush handled that whole democracy thing "after the process had unfolded":

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday she is "praying" that President Bush has a change of heart and does not veto a bipartisan children's health insurance bill that he has labeled an unwarranted expansion of government-run health insurance.

"I think I have to pray a little harder, but I will not give up," Pelosi said."The tide is going a different way than a presidential veto would reflect," Pelosi, a California Democrat, said. "It was with great friendship that I reached out to the president this morning to say that I was still praying that he would have a change of heart and sign this legislation."

Pelosi's comments came a day after the Senate voted 67-29 for the measure, which would expand the State Children's Health Insurance program by up to 4 million children.

It sounds like Manchin is mad that President Obama, a former legislator who watched Bush's second term chew democracy up like a cheap thing and spew it into the gutter, is trying to save him some precious time and effort. He should thank the President for taking a stand against the Keystone XL Pipeline and not question if he knows what a democracy is all about.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Of Course She's the Problem

Senator Elizabeth Warren is keeping a lot of Senators from feeling good about being bought and paid for. Senator Lindsey Graham mansplains for us:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), responding to Sen. Elizabeth's Warren (D-Mass.) criticism of the $1.1 trillion government spending bill's provision that allows banks to take more risk with taxpayer money, on Friday evening went after Warren and other Democrats who sided against the bill.

"If you follow the lead of the senator of Massachusetts and bring this bill down … people are not going to believe you are mature enough to run the place,” Graham said on the Senate floor. “Don’t follow her lead. She’s the problem."

Graham said Democrats not supporting legislation that would fund the government through September 2015 were asking for another government shutdown. "Welcome to democracy," Graham said, arguing that lawmakers shouldn't expect to get everything they want.

"I'm sure on MSNBC you're going to be well thought of, and on the liberal version of talk radio you'll have your moment with that crowd," Graham said, chiding Warren and other Democrats who deplored what has been called a Wall Street giveaway.

On MSNBC, no one is going to see you so, you know. There's that. What liberal version of talk radio? And why does Graham sound like he's about to make a medical diagnosis and talk at length about how important it is to give every woman a transvaginal ultrasound because shut up, that's why?

Graham has mastered the art of mansplaining the need to institutionalize graft and corruption. But what really strikes me about Graham's self-serving nonsense is that he is dangerously close to admitting that he's been bought and paid for and he is upset that Warren knows it and isn't afraid to talk about it.

It's dangerous to point out just how bought and paid for Graham really is because we're not supposed to be informed. We're not supposed to know that, in the words of Warren, the game is rigged.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Chuck Hagel Just Got Fired

Chuck Hagel is gone:

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down amid criticism of the president’s national security team on a series of global issues, including the threat posed by the militant group known as ISIS.

Senior defense officials confirmed to NBC News Monday that Hagel was forced to resign.

The officials say the White House has lost confidence in Hagel to carry out his role at the Pentagon. According to one senior official, “He wasn’t up to the job.”

Another senior administration official said that Hagel has been discussing a departure from the White House "for several weeks."

It will be fun to watch the confirmation hearings for whoever the Obama team convinces to accept the job. I can't think of any candidates for the job, other than former senator James Webb, who would be about as difficult as Hagel to predict or manage.

We need to get out of the nation building business and get into a leaner and meaner version of what we have now, with an emphasis on people, not miracle weapons. My suspicion is that we are going to go the other way and Hagel may have been actively trying to pursue an agenda that came into conflict with the idea that everyone in the world wants to be just like us.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Puritans Still Rule America

No surprise here. This is the lesson that people in politics never seem to learn--it's not the crime, it's the cover-up. Everything you think had gone away will always come back around and bite you in the ass. And anything that involves sex will be exposed because the American appetite for naughty news is insatiable:

As nearly two dozen Secret Service agents and members of the military were punished or fired following a 2012 prostitution scandal in Colombia, Obama administration officials repeatedly denied that anyone from the White House was involved.

But new details drawn from government documents and interviews show that senior White House aides were given information at the time suggesting that a prostitute was an overnight guest in the hotel room of a presidential advance-team member — yet that information was never thoroughly investigated or publicly acknowledged.

The information that the Secret Service shared with the White House included hotel records and firsthand accounts — the same types of evidence the agency and military relied on to determine who in their ranks was involved.

Jack Lew was the White House Chief of Staff when this happened. Covering up the involvement of the White House in this scandal probably went through him. If it did not, then you can plainly see why he did not hold the job for very long.

The Secret Service and the White House are locked in a struggle against one another. No one is well served by this and no one should mistake the impact this will have going forward. The rest of President Obama's turn in office will resemble siege warfare, and, in my opinion, the leaks that will involve this kind of activity will increase.

There is also an undercurrent of a cultural clash here. When you send Americans abroad, no matter how sophisticated they pretend to be, there is simply no way they can handle the customs and the practices found in other countries. We are still a Puritanical society and we bear the imprint made by a long-dead religious sect that flourished in New England on American customs and morals. This is why the Old West shocked people back east--it resembled the way the world still works in many places, with sex between adults treated like a retail transaction and with little regard for what made preachers uneasy.

The direct link to Puritanical values can be found when you laugh at the idea that the actor, Stephen Collins, should be the face of conservative family values. He once had the gall to criticize Jessica Biel for trying to have a viable career in Hollywood. He will likely never work again and the media elements at the level of TMZ will attempt to make the same buck that the Colombian prostitutes made when it was known that they were able to use the law to embarrass the government of the United States.

Everything can be traced back to hypocrisy and Puritan values that are outdated. No wonder the French still laugh at us.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The 4.5 Million Jobs No One Talks About

This is a great encapsulation of what I've been saying for years:

Do you have any idea how many more jobs Obama has created than Bush did? You don’t, because liberals are less likely than conservatives to cheerlead.

The terrific June jobs report may be the signal we’ve been waiting for that we’re finally turning the psychic corner. The overall jobs number was great at 288,000, and the unemployment rate was down to 6.1 percent. But the most important number was that the employment-to-population ratio, which many economists think of as the truest measure of the jobs market, was up a bit to 59 percent, a high for the recovery, indicating that maybe more people are finally out looking for work than staying home.

Republicans will tell you that cutting off unemployment benefits and making welfare a shameful state of affairs have helped to move these numbers, but, really, that's all bullshit. Shame doesn't motivate companies to hire people because corporations, being most emphatically not people to be begin with, don't care about shame. They care about profits. And if companies are hiring, it must mean that they can no longer function without more people or their profits will dry up.

The phony logic of "both sides do it" and the need for some sort of mythic "bipartisanship" has driven the narrative in America. Democrats did not shut down the government; Republican extremists did that. Democrats would love to pass a jobs bill; Republicans intentionally kill job creation legislation and get away with it, year after year after year. The economic misery of America is laid at the feet of a president who can't get anything out of an insane, extremist-driven Congress. Obstructionism killed the middle class, not Obamacare. How do you work with people who get away with everything and are accountable for nothing because the working media is committed to being fair when they should be fired for ignoring the destruction wrought by a Republican Party led by fools?

Good God--here's Patient Zero for all of this--courtesy of Charles Pierce. The Republican Party of the State of Texas wants to nullify Federal laws, pull out of the United Nations, and bring back spanking.


I'm not holding my breath for an accountability moment where hundreds of Republicans are thrown out of office. It won't happen--we have an incumbent protection racket that will not change the makeup of Congress in a substantive manner. We have a disconnect, driven by money for influence, that prevents the accountability moment from happening. 

Oh well. President Ted Cruz will have to lead us to the Promised Land, I guess, because that's exactly what America wants and what America is going to get, and sooner than you think.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Open Carry and Nervous Cops

What you see above is the partial transcript of a confrontation between local law enforcement and a belligerent open carry advocate on a city street in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

The statement "I can threaten you if I want to" is central to the fallacy of gun advocates and open carry fanatics--no, you cannot threaten people. You cannot issue terroristic threats and threaten to shoot people. You simply cannot engage in this behavior.

Now, if you want to march around with your rifle on a sling--and this story goes on to say that the poor old man with the unloaded carbine who decided to engage in a game of suicide by cop (without succeeding) did express a wish for a sling for his weapon. It's a sad day in America when a man can't get his life together and find four feet of canvas belt, but still.

This story centers around two things though. One, there are a lot of people who do not have their shit together. This man's life has a high degree of quality in it if his idea of fun is to walk around with a rifle in public and scare people. That's entirely outside of the realm of responsible gun ownership and enters a zone that warrants examination. How messed up are you if that's your life? What chemical dependency issues inspire such a thing? You're not in a good place when you're threatening the family of a police officer and stumbling around, bumping into things while other people call 911 because you can't find a sling for your weapon.

Two, the police aren't there to die for your rights. How it came to be that they didn't just shoot this man after his first threat is a testament to how cautious they were and how professional they were in terms of handing the situation. They were well within their rights to deliver a beating or worse when the man failed to follow their public safety commands. And yet, because the laws are so messed up, they knew that they had to hold back and do nothing because of the lunacy of open carry laws.

When you say to a cop, "I can threaten you if I want to," you're asking for the successful conclusion of a suicide by cop scenario. We are not done with this insanity. We have not seen the end of this kind of advocacy. Someone somewhere got it into their head that they could shoot cops and walk away unscathed and it didn't come from Obamacare or anything like that.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Armed and Armed Some More

The militarization of the police continues unabated:

During the Obama administration, according to Pentagon data, police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.

The equipment has been added to the armories of police departments that already look and act like military units. Police SWAT teams are now deployed tens of thousands of times each year, increasingly for routine jobs.Masked, heavily armed police officers in Louisiana raided a nightclub in 2006 as part of a liquor inspection. In Florida in 2010, officers in SWAT gear and with guns drawn carried out raids on barbershops that mostly led only to charges of “barbering without a license.”

What was high satire thirty years ago with Lt. Hunter getting a tank to use against criminals on Hill Street Blues has become commonplace reality for podunk police departments all across the land. At some point, the police will be as well armed as any military unit. At some point, we will not see police but a de facto military presence everywhere and we're seeing it more and more. There's no rolling back on this--once you give the police military equipment, you have to keep giving it to them because that's what they will train with and that's what they will respond with. 

Guns drawn while carrying out raids on establishments that are barbering without a license? What the hell is that but a complete and utter militarization of the police gone horribly wrong. Policing is about a measured response to crime that serves the needs of the community. Body armor is something I completely understand but tanks and drones and SWAT teams converging on permit violators? Come on.

Camouflage, by the way? Really? I thought you had to announce the presence of law enforcement. I thought that a police officer had to identify themselves. Apparently not if they're wearing military grade camouflage.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Joe Scarborough, Meet Ted Yoho

Dumbassery abounds:

Speaking at a town hall meeting earlier this month, Florida Republican congressman Ted Yoho promised that he would support possible birther legislation floated by Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), telling the audience that after learning about a potential birther bill from Stockman while attending a Tea Party meeting, he called the congressman and agreed to back it.

Yoho also seemed to embrace the right-wing claim that Obamacare is “racist” because it taxes tanning beds, explaining that if he goes tanning then he will be “disenfranchised because I got taxed because of the color of my skin.”

I had a little fun with [John] Boehner and told him about the sun tanning tax. He goes, ‘I didn’t know it was in there,’ and I said, ‘Yes, it’s a ten percent tax.’ He goes, ‘Well, that’s not that big of a deal.’ I said, ‘It’s a racist tax.’ He goes, ‘You know what, it is.’ I had an Indian doctor in our office the other day, very dark skin, with two non-dark skin people, and I asked this to him, I said, ‘Have you ever been to a tanning booth?’ and he goes, ‘No, no need.’ So therefore it’s a racist tax and I thought I might need to get to a sun tanning booth so I can come out and say I’ve been disenfranchised because I got taxed because of the color of my skin. As crazy as that sounds, that’s what the left does right. By God, if it works for them, it’ll work for us [inaudible].

Seriously. The Brass Balls on these people...

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Next Generation of Revolutionaries in Iran

You can't be young and Iranian and not engage the popular culture:

Apparently, dancing to a song about happiness in Iran can get you arrested.

Six Iranians are behind bars after they appeared in a fan video set to Pharrell Williams' "Happy," the American hit song that has sold millions of downloads worldwide.

Tehran Police Chief Hossein Sajedinia ordered the arrests of the three men and three women because they helped make an "obscene video clip that offended the public morals and was released in cyberspace," the Iranian Student News Agency reported Wednesday.

The biggest American mistakes in Iran center around ignoring the importance of culture and tradition and then not understanding that the young people in Iran hate their own regime. But, a funny thing happens when the older generation dies off--there is a slow burn for revolution.

In the United States, the power of old white men is eroding steadily and they can't figure out how to have a reverse revolution and stop their decline. In Iran, the clerics are dying off and the revolutionaries of 1979 are getting on in age. Everything that we are doing to Iran should center around the isolation of the regime and the connection that their young people have to the popular culture (see Vaclav Havel).

The iPod and iPad should be freely distributed in Iran. Smuggle them in. Do whatever it takes to connect to this generation.

Monday, May 19, 2014

John Fund is a Serial Liar

Have you had enough insanity already for one week? Well, get ready for more.

John Fund has decided to weigh in on the Veteran's Administration scandal, and he uses this opportunity to rail against single-payer health care as opposed to the stupidity of actually creating many more Veterans than can be taken care of or treated. He wants you to know that single payer is the devil and ignore the fact that the VA has struggled because of the inability of Congress to fund the government and that is has been cut by repeated Republican Party efforts to stop providing benefits to the American people.

I mean, full stop--these are the people who shut down the government. That's what they care about--destroying the infrastructure that would normally provide health care to Veterans. Their ideology trumps giving the VA the resources it needs. And now a resource-starved VA has been exposed as a den of bonus-giving thieves, which probably justifies the Republicans but, really--what we have needed for years is more oversight and accountability. Kind of hard to have that when we're holding our eighth round of hearings about Benghazi.

These are the people who have denied funding bills and improvements in the VA health care system. These are the people who have no problems starting wars and creating millions of Veterans and then abandoning them while wearing an American flag lapel pin.

John Fund is doing a cartwheel here. The VA has a problem, and that problem is entirely because we havea single payer health care system in America. What kind of nonsense is that? Well, it's the kind peddled by serial liars in order to keep people from getting access to health care.

You see, the problems with the VA are apparent to everyone--there are too many Veterans and the people who are charged with taking care of them are incompetent. The VA's problems have nothing to do with single payer health insurance because the VA is a benefit, not an option. It has to be provided to Veterans. Thus, it has to be rationed because we're not charging Veterans for their health care costs.

Eric Shinseki's incompetence is why he should be fired. He's a good man who has had a difficult job. But the problems with the VA's information architecture and the ballsy bonuses paid to far too many inept and corrupt administrators means that the system has to be flushed of flunkies and useless people. The hallways of the VA are actually full of them--I have seen them myself. If you don't believe me, go see for yourself. Oh, wait. You can't unless you have a special visitor pass and access to the facility. But, if you can get one, go see haplessness in action.

The intellectually honest argument is thus--there are too many Veterans and we need a more efficient system of taking care of them. The John Fund argument--driven by decades of stupidity and lies--is this:

The veterans’ hospital scandals now in the news in the United States show just how bad things can get when the pressure of patient demand and waiting lists affects bureaucratic behavior. As many as 40 veterans reportedly died at a Phoenix veterans’ facility because they couldn’t get the care they needed. VA administrators there and at other hospitals apparently covered it up by establishing secret waiting lists and falsifying reports.

No one is suggesting that such scandals are widespread in the general health-care system. But they should serve as a warning sign of what could happen as the pressure to ration, inherent in all government-managed health care, is applied to the general population.

Never mind how funny it is for a conservative who bemoans government spending to launch a rant about rationing health care, what Fund really has a problem with is the distant history of Barack Obama:

This is the record of many single-payer health-care systems, and both Obama and the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, have said that establishing a single-payer system is their long-term goal. In 2003, Obama, then an Illinois state senator, toldan AFL-CIO conference: “I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal health-care program. . . . But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately.” Similarly, Majority Leader Reid told a PBS interview show in Nevada, in October 2013: “What we’ve done with Obamacare is have a step in the right direction, but we’re far from having something that’s going to work forever.” When he was asked by a panelist whether he meant that ultimately the country would need a health-care system that abandoned insurance as the means of accessing it, Reid said: “Yes, yes. Absolutely yes.”

There you have it--when he was the State Senator from Illinois, he was already scheming to destroy the Veteran's health care system. Except, of course, when he was opposing the Iraq War.

I mean, come on. WTF? If you don't want to have to pay all that money to take care of Veterans, stop starting wars and creating millions of them. If you're John Fund and if you supported the War in Iraq, you don't get to bemoan the costs of the VA because, as Colin Powell says, you went into Pottery Barn and shit the bed, son.

Fund has long been an unethical serial liar:

January 31, 2003 Friday

MATTHEWS: John Fund, do you know what turned him [Colin Powell] around from a man who is perceived by the public to be dovish to a man who is the hard line fellow, very much like his fellow Cabinet members, Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney?

JOHN FUND, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”: Complete frustration Chris. He basically decided that Saddam Hussein was never going to come clean, that the process was completely flawed.

You know the same people who believe that global warming is absolutely proven and they’re not going to listen to anything else are the same people who will accept absolutely no evidence that Saddam Hussein is hiding something and including weapons of mass destruction. Colin Powell basically finally threw up his hands and said we have to act because the alternative is to let Saddam Hussein win the game, set and match, and the world cannot be blackmailed that way. ‘

How can anybody read anything by this man and not wonder how it is that he still has any presence at all in the media, conservative or otherwise? How is it that he did not slink away in shame and go peddle apples on skid row after 2006?

John Fund. Wrong about everything and not afraid to lie about it some more.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Only Sarah Palin Can Save America From Obamacare

Someone has to save us from Obamacare because it's working:

“Evan knows Obamacare is a mess,” said an ad from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which blamed the law for lost jobs, dropped coverage and high premiums. An ad from the group Americans for Prosperity, backed by the conservative billionaires David H. and Charles G. Koch, denounced Mr. Rahall for supporting the law, saying it was “going to hurt a lot of people.”

Many professionals here dispute such claims. “It’s working, and you can show it’s working,” Dr. Becker said.

He and other health care advocates call West Virginia a national success story in terms of the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid to more of the working poor. While 24 states have refused to expand Medicaid to those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or $23,850 for a family of four, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, decided over Republican objections that the state — with a population older and sicker than the national average — would do so.

Nationwide, more people have signed up for private plans than for Medicaid, but the results are the opposite in West Virginia, where about 15 percent of residents — 270,000 of 1.8 million — lacked insurance when the law took effect. Initial sign-ups for Medicaid, about 115,000 since Oct. 1, are nearly double what actuaries projected, and roughly five times the number of people believed to have bought private plans from the one insurer in West Virginia’s marketplace, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. An estimated 20,000 to 25,000 people enrolled in private coverage, fewer than predicted.

When she's not baptizing terrorists, perhaps President Palin can end Obamacare and make it so the American people can be free. It is worth noting (nothing?) that John McCain and Palin won West Virginia by 13 points in 2008. At this rate, West Virginia will vote for a Democrat when Hell's frozen over, thanks to the efforts of Republicans who cannot help but to trash each and every government program that is actually a success.

This thing called Affordable Care Act cannot be allowed to succeed. This represents a massive shift in public policy that won't be undone, ever, because it will eliminate the conservative argument against carrying out complex reforms that help the American people. Sarah Palin is the only person dumb enough to win the Presidency and then convince people to stop Obamacare. When she wins in 2016, all your futures will belong to her and so will your healthcare exchange card.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Conservative Agenda Dominates American Politics

Before the day is out, Matt Grossmann's bullshit will be eviscerated eight ways to Sunday. Here's what I carved out of his delusional piece:

Conservatives in Congress are the prime suspects in Washington’s dysfunction. Veteran congressional watchdogs Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann called the previous session the “worst Congress ever,” and they did not hold back in assigning blame: “The Republicans are the problem,” they said. After a fruitless government shutdown last fall, even House Speaker John Boehner lashed out at conservative groups and passed bills over the opposition of his caucus.

In response, conservatives make two simple claims: Most policies under debate are liberal, and Republican leaders sacrifice conservative principles when they compromise. History shows they are right on both counts.

Ornstein and Mann have simply identified the tactic of obstructionism; this is how Republicans drive the agenda. They obstruct when they cannot simply destroy something, like the labor movement or the regulatory agencies of the American government. 

The idea that U.S. policy has "gone the liberals' way" is laughable. The agenda that runs American politics is almost entirely a conservative one; liberal ideas are often non-starters.There are--as of yesterday--efforts underway by an anything-but-liberal President who wants to undertake the radical idea of closing gender pay gaps, something that would have been accomplished decades ago if liberals controlled the agenda. We are watching the destruction of voting rights in this country and conservatives are driving this agenda. We have a bloated defense budget and cannot establish a foreign policy initiative in this country without hearing John McCain scream for more war. There are no jobs bills alive anywhere and, hence, there is no initiative within the Federal government that has a chance of passing that would do anything to put people back to work. The oligarchs are in charge, and they are not liberals.

Obamacare? A liberal idea pushed by liberals on a conservative country? Oh my God--give me a break. We need single payer insurance for anyone to be convinced that the "liberals" have won this debate. We're lucky to have anything, period.

What few policies end up being delivered by the government are watered-down to the point where they almost inevitably betray the liberal agenda. I mean, there is no coherent energy policy, a liberal idea and agenda item if there ever was one. There is no way a progressive with a desire to protect the environment or the American worker is ever going to be elected to national office. And what? Go out and try to deliver jobless benefits, and stimulate business hiring in order to deal with our crippling unemployment?

The conservatives have successfully driven abortion providers into hiding in this country if they're even available at all. Despite things like actual democracy and voting--elections, Supreme Court decisions, constitutional amendments--the conservative agenda is one that subjects Americans to relentless attack. They hide behind bringing freedom because going out and actively saying, "we're here to force things into your vagina" only play in certain rural areas.They don't care about privacy, and what little they do pretend to care about will vanish as soon as a Republican wins the White House. 

Grossmann wants you to think the liberal agenda is one of handouts. It is not. The liberal agenda evens the playing field for working people. Ask your local oligarch how that's working out for him.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

You Can Now Buy and Sell the Politician of Your Choice

Good government is no longer possible in the United States of America:

The Supreme Court has struck down limits in federal law on the overall campaign contributions the biggest individual donors may make to candidates, political parties and political action committees.

The justices said in a 5-4 vote Wednesday that Americans have a right to give the legal maximum to candidates for Congress and president, as well as to parties and PACs, without worrying that they will violate the law when they bump up against a limit on all contributions, set at $123,200 for 2013 and 2014. That includes a separate $48,600 cap on contributions to candidates.

The case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, did not call into question the maximum amount an individual can donate to a single candidate or political party in a two-year election cycle -- those limits are $2,600 to a candidate, $32,400 to a national political party and $5,000 to a political committee.

Welcome to the future of American politics. Your politicians can now be bought and the gap between rich and poor is not going to be shrunk through policy or reform any time soon.

The day after Charles Keating dies, the very scandal that ruined him is now rendered moot because all he would have had to have done under this new law is buy off the Senate and he would have gotten what he wanted in return. Amazing. 

Good government is for suckers anyway, right?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

This is a Stretch

In case you didn't think that the President's critics weren't capable of going too far, here's William Voegeli reaching back as far as possible in order to make a convoluted point about nothing:

Such resigned cynicism is, of course, exactly what Barack Obama was supposed to deliver us from. “Hope and Change” meant hoping for that change. At the Iowa Democratic party’s Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner in November 2007, Obama gave a speech so well received it propelled him to victory in the Iowa caucuses, then to winning the presidential nomination and election. The candidate declared, “Telling the American people what we think they want to hear, instead of telling the American people what they need to hear, just won’t do.” Democrats, he said, have “always made the biggest difference in the lives of the American people . . . when we summoned the entire nation to a common purpose — a higher purpose.”

I sit here every single goddamned day, pissed off that what President Obama said in 2007 before the Iowa caucuses didn't exactly pan out, too. I have a well-worn printed copy of Obama's speech, and it has been hi-lited and thumbed through and memorized and cried over. There are stains on the pages--my tears of rage. I am so, so bummed.

The Barack Obama of 2007 didn't see the insanity of the modern Republican Party coming--no one did. No one could have predicted that a Tea Party takeover of the GOP would result in people like Ted Cruz being placed in charge of things. If you saw Ted Cruz coming in 2007, good for you. No one else did.

The thing about Obamacare is this--the hand was extended across the table. The process was opened up. And then the Republicans lost their minds and allowed their paranoia about someone inconveniencing their millionaire patrons and sent their phony grass roots people to townhall meetings and everything went south. The process of negotiating the details was excruciating. A lot of good ideas, like single payer insurance, were thrown out in order to appease Republicans. Compromises were made and the law was watered down.

And yet, none of the Republicans voted for it. They can't take any credit for the success so their obsession with speeches from 2007 looks as pathetic as it really is. This is the end of an intellectual argument that they were ill-equipped to have in the first place. This is their sunset and they know it.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Good Guys and Bad Guys

Glenn Lieberman, scammer

The fact that there were scammers who used 9/11 to falsely claim disability should not come as a shock to anyone. You cannot expect complex organizations to be completely free of unethical employees. Each and every public service organization probably has a case or more of employees being caught claiming injuries that don't exist. Workman's compensation is riddled with such cases as well.

No, what's shocking is how stupid these people were:

On either side of Bratton and the other officials were two blown-up photos set upon easels. One was of retired cop Glenn Lieberman, who had received $175,758.40 from Social Security in addition to his NYPD pension after allegedly fraudulently attesting that he had been so traumatized by 9/11 that he was barely functional, unable to drive or shop or handle money. The picture shows him on a jet ski, flashing a big smile and giving the finger with both hands.

The other photo is of retired cop Richie Cosentino, who received $207,639.70 from Social Security under the same pretext, using nearly identical language. This picture was posted on his Facebook page and it shows him triumphantly holding a big sailfish fish he has just caught.

“It was an awesome day off the coast of Costa Rica,” he wrote.

He had better hope that the prosecutors do not take note of the date of the posting.
“September 11, 2012.”

On the 11th anniversary of 9/11, Cosentino clearly did not imagine that this photo would be shown at a press conference with him, not the fish, on display as the captured one.
As Bratton explained it, the investigation had commenced after Social Security investigators noticed that a considerable number of retired cops who had secured psychiatric disability awards had also applied for pistol permits.

“So we had a discrepancy,” Bratton said.

A discrepancy born of dumbassery, it would seem. Did this happen because the men involved in scamming the NYPD believed that they were above being shamed by malingering or claiming a phony disability? Did the ease with which it is possible to make money doing nothing entice far too many of them? Who knows?

You would think that a police officer claiming disability because he was traumatized by 9/11 would have marked the anniversary at home, quietly, and without drawing attention to himself. Instead, he went fishing in Costa Rica and put a picture up on Facebook. I guess going back to work is in order, huh?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Which Police State Do You Live In?

Do you remember voting for this? 

Each and every time you voted since 2001, did you vote specifically for a candidate who would dismantle the Patriot Act? Did you vote in your local elections for a city or county government dedicated to controlling the militarization of the police? Did you sign up for Facebook years ago and forget to read the fine print? Too late now.

The police state arrived while no one was paying attention. Each and every time one of us steps into the world, we are under surveillance. We are being watched on our phones, our computers, and when we drive a car with a GPS device in it. We are being watched by cameras and readers and when we drive into urban areas, we are being watched at an unprecedented rate. When we buy things, we're being tallied and sold off to third party advertisers. Everything we do is under the watchful eye of a cop or a seller or a bureaucrat. So, you can crap yourself and stop living your life or go have a blast and say fuck it all anyway. 

Live weird. Confuse them. Buy things you throw away. Eat crap. Sing and dance like no one is recording. Breathe and enjoy this life.

You see, all is well.

A federal judge ruled Monday that the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records violates the Constitution's ban on unreasonable searches, but put his decision on hold pending a near-certain government appeal. 

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon granted a preliminary injunction sought by plaintiffs Larry Klayman and Charles Strange, concluding they were likely to prevail in their constitutional challenge. 

Leon, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, ruled Monday that the two men are likely to be able to show that their privacy interests outweigh the government's interest in collecting the data. Leon says that means that massive collection program is an unreasonable search under the Constitution's Fourth Amendment.

You don't have anything to worry about.

The Metropolitan Police Department is collecting images of license plates by the millions and storing them in a massive database with no regard to whether or not that person is under suspicion of anything, according to WAMU. 

WAMU's Martin Austermuhle reports that D.C. police cars which are equipped with Automatic License Plate Readers have collected more than 150 million images of license plates through this past September. 

They're generally used to match up the license plates with a list of vehicles that are known to be stolen and keeping tabs on high-crime areas, police officials tell WAMU, but civil liberties advocates believe that they can be used to track people who have done no wrong.

As described in "How we use the information we receive" we also put together data from the information we already have about you, your friends, and others, so we can offer and suggest a variety of services and features. For example, we may make friend suggestions, pick stories for your News Feed, or suggest people to tag in photos. We may put together your current city with GPS and other location information we have about you to, for example, tell you and your friends about people or events nearby, or offer deals to you in which you might be interested. We may also put together data about you to serve you ads or other content that might be more relevant to you. 

When we get your GPS location, we put it together with other location information we have about you (like your current city). But we only keep it until it is no longer useful to provide you services, like keeping your last GPS coordinates to send you relevant notifications. 

We only provide data to our advertising partners or customers after we have removed your name and any other personally identifying information from it, or have combined it with other people's data in a way that it no longer personally identifies you.

We are already living in a surveillance state that is driven by paranoia and marketing. The only real difference here is that the Federal agency, which is part of the Department of Defense, that everyone is scared of is actually under far more rigorous oversight than your local cop shop or Facebook. But don't let that get in the way of being terrified. Everyone needs a bogeyman, and now that Osama is dead, why not use whatever is left over?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The RINOs Saved the Economy

The bleatings and the complaints of the defeated are to be expected. The anti-government crowd was sold out and sent packing. At no point in American history have so many powerful men seen their Waterloo quite like this one. Factions have always existed, but this particular faction has run the table of American politics for almost three years. Yesterday, their table was upended and their fancy dinners were thrown back in their faces. They have been invited to play the part of the old hound dog that can't quite hunt anymore and they have been told to lay under the porch all day and suck on unacceptable eggs.

Todd Starnes wants to be outraged, but he can't quite bring himself to understand one simple fact: everything that was passed yesterday could have been stopped by a disciplined caucus of solid Republicans. The media didn't prevent that from happening. The Democrats didn't prevent it. The Republicans are not united behind a single goal. The politics of their issues are all losers, one and all. To call the ones who wavered RINOs ignores the fact that if there was a solid party apparatus capable of keeping the caucus in line, this wouldn't have happened. The wheels keep turning, and this country is in fine shape compared to everyone else.

My invitation to these people is this--if you hate government and if you hate America that much, find an island somewhere and show us how you would do things. Go, and then tell us how your new society compares to your racist idea of utopia.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Time For a Third Party

I wish I had a better image of former Presidential candidate John Anderson. He was the Republican who originally tried to bring a degree of sanity to the party but the insanity swamped his boat and he was left with his pension and whatever else he had. In the fevered imagination of Erick Erickson, there are the beginnings of a third party movement that would do Anderson proud:

I’m being told by several sources that Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor are plotting to give up trying to either defund or delay Obamacare. 

This comes at the same time the Obama administration admits it will be months before their Obamacare website will be fixed and Kathleen Sebelius is saying if people want out of the mandate they can pay a fine. 

Nonetheless, Cantor, Boehner, and with them Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn are expected to cave in and fully fund, unimpeded, Obamacare. 


In doing so, they will sow the seeds of a real third party movement that will fully divide the Republican Party.

It is already divided. The Tea Party is the third political party in America, and it is an abject failure. Conservatives already command the agenda and the debate in this country; the next time you see someone being mean to a Republican, count how long it takes for the media to roll over and yell "both sides are to blame!" and then concede that the Daddy Party is in charge of things that matter.

If there is a split that widens the gulf between the Tea Party and the Republican Party, we will see a third party presence in the 2016 election. We will see talk of secession and nullification. The crazies will march and the thunder on the right will confuse our media elites so much that I don't think it would be possible for a Democrat to lose in 2016 even if they were incompetent or John Kerry or both.

This will all end in screaming, and it will either turn out like Ross Perot or like John Anderson; and who gets hurt will be the people who will have been enjoying their health care.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Tip O'Neill is Still Dead

Chris Matthews cannot stop trying to bring back Tip O'Neill so that he can have a relevant discussion about American politics. Here, he makes a fatal mistake:

It is often said that Reagan and O’Neill got things done because, at the end of the day, they could meet and get them done. The truth is a bit less fanciful. All that cordial time together “after 6” and all those friendly St. Patrick’s Days managed to keep open the lines between two tough men. As Kirk O’Donnell, chief counsel to the speaker, advised: “Always be able to talk.” 

That’s where the legislators came in. Before agreement was possible, a hard proposal had to be on the table. For that full credit goes to Bob Dole, the unsung hero of this city. 

The question in October 2013 is who will be today’s Dole and Rosty? I’m watching the chairmen and members of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees. They are the folks with the experience and staff to know where the deals lie.

Alcohol and insanity are the two things that come to mind. This group is still just as blitzed as they were thirty years ago. And there are no "Doles" or "Rostys" because there are simply no moderate Republicans in charge of anything and the Democrats have no power in the House of Representatives. Does Matthews think that Mitch 'filibuster' McConnell is the equivalent of Bob Dole? That Dave Camp, who is all but unknown in this country, is concerned with anything other than a repeal of Obamacare? These are the tail-chasing fools who are running things. You're going to have to wait for good government.

In the days of Reagan and O'Neill, there were a lot of drunks, but the drunks weren't as crazy as they are now. Everyone hates each other's guts for fucking ever now and no amount of backslapping will protect a Republican from a Tea Party primary meltdown.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Terrorists Everywhere, Some Wearing Suits

Today is one of those days where running a blog about current events and politics is akin to running something too stupid to believe. We are living in a thoroughly depressing time, full of madness and mayhem, and it is frustrating because the madness is not properly identified or explained.

The Republican Party is terrorizing the American people by shutting down the government.

What? You thought this was complicated? It ain't.

The Republican Party is terrorizing the American people by shutting down the government.

The Democratic Party is simply trying to govern this country. There have been times in our history where the two parties have not been able to reach an accord. When it comes to health care, that fight ended years ago. Everyone had their say, the law was passed, and it was signed into law. Now, you have the side that lost doing whatever it can to ruin this country in order to hew towards an insane philosophy of governance.

The Republican Party is terrorizing the American people by shutting down the government.

That's all you have to say. They have lost their minds.