Sunday, August 24, 2014

Idiots' Delight

Just when I thought I was going to stick with a semi-annual format, these four dingbats come along and screw up my plans. Sorry, but this just couldn't wait till December and when you read it, I'm sure you'll wholeheartedly agree. I'd say they have the inside track for the top dibs in the annual idiots' delight award, but the sad truth is they'll probably have a lot of competition given this year's field.

So, without further ado.

Rush Limbaugh for his tasteless comments on the death of Robin Williams. For more than 25 years this clown prince of hate radio has uttered just about every offensive and crude comment known to man. From his "slut" remarks on Sandra Fluke to his commentary on Michelle Obama's weight (a scream given he's about one happy meal away from a heart attack) to his recent foray into American history, the man has spent his entire career shitting all over the country.

Well now, not content with merely going after politicians he doesn't approve of, he's ventured out of the comfort zone of his private sandbox to go after, of all people, Robin Williams.  On a recent broadcast, Limbaugh had the following to say about the passing of the legendary comedian.

He (Williams) had everything, everything that you would think would make you happy.  But it didn't.  Now, what is the left's worldview in general?  What is it? If you had to attach not a philosophy but an attitude to a leftist worldview, it's one of pessimism and darkness, sadness.  They're never happy, are they?  They're always angry about something. No matter what they get, they're always angry.

He had it all, but he had nothing.  He made everybody else laugh but was miserable inside.  I mean, it fits a certain picture, or a certain image that the left has. . .Well, that is a constant measurement that is made by political leftists in judging the country.  It's outcome-based education: 2 + 2 = 5.  That's fine until the student learns it's 4.  We're not gonna humiliate the student by pointing out that he's wrong.  If he figures it out, cool.  We're gonna take the fast learners and we're gonna slow them down so that they don't humiliate the kids that don't learn as fast as they do.  It's just not fair.

Leaving aside the obvious Left bad / Right good twisted logic that is now firmly imbedded within the whole conservative movement, the sheer gall of going after someone who had just taken his own life hours earlier was beneath contempt, even for someone as depraved as Limbaugh.

Sadly, there's never a rope around when you need one most. 

Steve King for his equally offensive remarks concerning the violence in Ferguson, Missouri. For several years, it's been a horse race as to who was the dumbest person in Congress: Michele Bachmann, Louie Gohmert or Steve King. As far as I was concerned, they were the Three Stooges of the House of Representatives. The only question was who was Moe, Larry and Curly?

Well guess who just took a giant leap forward to claim the inside track? Commenting on the violence in Ferguson, King had this to say:

This idea of no racial profiling, I've seen the video. It looks to me like you don't need to bother with that particular factor because they all appear to be of a single, you know, of a single origin, I should say, a continental origin might be the way to phrase that. 

People like King remind me of the episode on All in the Family, where Archie is casting aspersions on a certain type of law firm by saying, "I know that tribe." The reason there's no need to to talk about racial profiling is because everyone is the same race; everyone that is except the cop who shot Michael Brown and the cops who threw tear gas at the "single continental origin" crowd and the right-wing media who lumped the few looters in with the thousands of peaceful protesters that took to the streets to demand justice. But then they don't count. They're just good old ordinary white folk - you know, the good guys.

I'd call his remarks ignorant, but that would be an insult to millions of ignorant people throughout the country. The ignorant can be educated; Neanderthals like King are just waiting around for the next ice age to put them out of their misery.

Supporters of Darren Wilson. I knew it wouldn't take long for the "oppressed" white peoples' contingent to come out and express their indignation over the way one of their own is being vilified in the main-stream press. The leader of this self-justified bunch is a woman sporting a baseball cap who says they won't hide or live in fear, yet refuses to identify herself.

It seems she's terribly concerned that the cop who put six bullets into Michael Brown might not get the justice he is owed. Of course the fact that a young black man is lying in the ground, courtesy of that same cop, isn't all that important to her.

I keep hearing this drivel over and over from the white community. We're the ones who are the targets, we're the ones being discriminated against, the only racism that exists in America is reverse racism. Blah, blah, blah.

The simple and undeniable fact is that minorities are far more likely to be shot by cops than whites. That's according to a report by the FBI, which concludes in pertinent part, "The concentration of death among young black and Hispanic men, meanwhile, is in part a demonstration that those are the people most likely to encounter police officers. They're the ones most likely to be arrested, and most likely to be living in the neighborhoods where police most frequently patrol."

So, you see, it really wasn't Darren Wilson's fault. Michael Brown just happened to be living in a neighborhood with a lot of cops patrolling it. What did he expect? A Valentine's Day candy gram?

It must be tough being a white man these days. So tough, I'm actually thinking of becoming a black, Hispanic woman just so I can live without fear.

Dinish D'Souza for comparing the protesters in Ferguson to ISIS. Naturally, because, as we all know, people protesting in the street are the same as terrorists who behead journalists. It's bad enough this moron made two movies - one about Obama and the other one apparently about an alternative U.S. history where manifest destiny and slavery are somehow okay and all liberals hate America -  he's actually lumping together one of the worst threats to the entire Middle East with a few thousand protesters in a small Missouri town.

I'm sure it makes perfect sense to simpletons like D'Souza. As Olivia Nuzzi sarcastically quipped in The Daily Beast, "Beheading, looting - basically the same thing. Just ask anyone who has been both beheaded and looted. You may not get a response, but go ahead and ask."

I'm kind of glad this convicted felon didn't go to prison. Think of how much stupidity we would've been deprived of had he been locked up and, even better, how much more we'll undoubtedly get to see in the years ahead. I hear he's busy working on a new movie on Hillary Clinton. Let me see if I can guess the plot: Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi.

Aw shucks, that was too easy.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

What Keeps Me Up Nights

While the Right laments the loss of their individual liberty and the continued impurification of their precious bodily fluids, I thought I would list some of the things that actually keep me up nights.

Believe it or not, I don't think the government is the boogie man. Stupid, slow, corrupt, all of the above, yes, but hardly menacing. The idea that requiring people to purchase a product constitutes tyranny is absurd. You want to see what tyranny looks like, take a flight to North Korea. Send me a postcard when you get there, assuming you can. A word of caution: better have your affairs in order before you go.

I'm also not into conspiracies. If I wanted to be paranoid, I'd start smoking pot. Nobody likes the I.R.S., I get it. That doesn't mean they're out to get conservatives. Benghazi was a terrible tragedy, nothing more, nothing less. For God's sake, I'm begging you, move on. You're wearing me out. And, for the last time, the government's not taking away your guns.

So what am I afraid of? Glad you asked.

I'll tell you what frightens the living shit out of me. I worry about the continuing polarization that has gripped this nation. America has developed a reputation over the years as a melting pot. I strongly disagree. A melting pot implies a heterogeneous society transforming into a homogeneous one. There's nothing in our history that even remotely suggests we have the capacity to be homogeneous. The more I think about it, America looks more like a pressure cooker: a lot of different and diverse ingredients under constant pressure. Well, don't look now, but that pressure cooker is about to explode.

Not since the days of the Reconstruction has the country been so bitterly divided. We've always had regions that were more conservative than others, but over the last few years the country has all but split in two. It's as though we fought the Civil War all over again, only this time the Confederacy won.

Like Lincoln before him, the election of Barack Obama has triggered a wave of rage and resentment unlike any I've ever witnessed. It's as though a pestilence was suddenly unleashed and set loose upon the land. Once covert expressions of racism have given way to far more overt ones. Some are so disgustingly flagrant, it's enough to turn your stomach.

For the life of me I cannot understand the level of vitriol this president has had to endure. Some of the charges levied at him would be almost laughable if they weren't so pitiful. I look at Barack Obama and I see a fairly competent, if somewhat flawed, president who inherited an economy on the brink of depression and who did the best he could to avert what would've been a catastrophe. He's made some mistakes, not the least of which was believing he could reason with people who were unreasonable. But in his almost six years in office, I have seen nothing that warrants the constant barrage of disrespect he is shown on an almost daily basis. Not even George Bush during his darkest days in office was treated this badly.

Keep in mind, I am NOT talking about honest disagreements over policy. Those are fair game. Politicians have had to contend with such things since the founding of the Republic. But, let's face it, we're not talking about policy disagreements here. Just look at the evidence. The birther movement, the placards showing Obama with a bone through his nose, the hissy fits many threw when he put his feet up on the Oval Office desk and later when he had a Marine hold an umbrella for him in the Rose Garden, the recent law suit filed against him for delaying a provision in a law his opponents repeatedly tried to repeal and finally the calls for impeachment for his "excessive" use of executive orders (a practice many past presidents did far more frequently). It was as if he didn't know his rightful place. How dare he be so disrespectful (i.e. uppity). Who does he think he is, the president or something? Well, yeah, he is. And that, for many, is the crux of the problem.

I've said this before and I'll say it again: white America has a problem with racism. It's always had. It gleefully cheers its black athletes when they win games, but once those black athletes dare attempt to climb up the corporate ladder, they are blocked at virtually every turn. This idea that anyone can make it in America if they try hard has always been a canard. Despite all the lofty fairy tales that were fed to us as kids, the simple truth is that some are born with two strikes against them from the very start. No matter how hard they try, they will never make it to the top of that ladder.

Barack Obama turned that paradigm on its head. His ascendancy to the presidency of the United States upset the power structure in a profound way. For the first time in its history, a black man was calling the shots for the entire country. For some this was the dawning of a new and bold chapter in the American story; for others, though, it meant the end of their universe. The pushback was as predictable as it was ugly.

How we get out of this, I'm not sure. What I am sure of is this: The scars of these last six years, and the two that will follow, will take a long time to heal. The next black or future Hispanic president (and let's just get it out of the way and say it: there will be an Hispanic in the Oval Office one day) will owe this president a huge debt of gratitude. He was and is, in his own way, the Jackie Robinson of his day.

Next up on the list of things that go bump in the night for me is the flood of corporate money into American politics. The wingnuts on the Right decry government intrusion into the private sector. Actually, it's the other way around. The private sector, for all intents and purposes, has put a vice grip on the government. It is now firmly in charge of the political process in this country.

In 2012 alone, approximately $7 billion was spent attempting to elect candidates in both parties. More than $2.1 billion of it came via soft money, which, thanks to the Supreme Court, now has no limits. Not only are corporations considered people, they are apparently jolly green giants. They have unfettered access to practically every level of government from Congress to state houses to local municipalities.

In 1981 the number of registered lobbyists in Washington was approximately 7,000. Today that number stands at over 14,000. But more alarming than the number of lobbyists is the amount they spend: $3.5 billion in 2009, compared with $200 million in 1983. According to a paper by Lee Drutman, "lobbying has been expanding at increasing rates. Controlling for inflation, between 1998 and 2008 lobbying expenditures increased faster than various measures of government size and activity." The ratio was 77% to 38% respectively.

Of the 535 total members of Congress, 245 are millionaires; 66 in the Senate and 179 in the House. That comes out to 46% or more than 45 times the national average. And these buffoons wonder why their approval ratings are so dismal. It's a little hard representing people you can't possibly relate to or apparently care about.

Many of these Senators and Representatives will eventually go on to become lobbyists themselves. There are currently 416 former members of Congress who work for lobbying firms. Among the more notable are Dick Armey, Jim DeMint, Chris Dodd, Bob Kerrey, Joe Lieberman and Newt Gingrich.  All of them are raking in the dough and lining the pockets of current members of Congress who vote the way they want them to.

The decision by Mike Rogers, Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, to not seek reelection and instead become a "broadcast pundit" - whatever that means - is an excellent example of the rot that has set in. As powerful and as influential as Rogers is, he will become even more powerful and considerably richer once he leaves Congress. This is the sad state of politics in America. It is now nothing more than a stepping stone to the pot of gold that awaits many at the end of the rainbow. K Street has now overtaken Pennsylvania Avenue as the center of power in Washington.

Mark Twain once said that we had "the best government money can buy." If that was true during Twain's lifetime, just imagine how much worse the situation is today. The cancer that started to grow more than a century ago, has now fully metastasized into a massive tumor. Unless drastic measures are taken soon, the patient (i.e., the government) will perish, if it hasn't already.

The next thing that sends shivers down my spine is the growing conflagration of guns in America. Over the last couple of years, certain parts of the country more closely resemble the OK Corral than they do a 21st century nation. The only thing missing is the theme song to the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Funny though it may seem to some, it's really quite tragic to see a supposedly grown adult walking into a Chipotle sporting a semi-automatic rifle. The terror these numbskulls inflict on the general population by their mere presence is beyond belief.  How in the world did this country allow itself to become the punch line to some sick joke?

You'd think a series of senseless murders of children and adults in schools, movie theaters, shopping malls, military installations and universities would be enough for this country to finally take the necessary action to enact meaningful gun regulation. You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. If anything, the opponents of gun regulation have doubled down on their efforts to resist even the mention of regulation. One of the most perverse byproducts of this movement is a book titled, "My Parents Open Carry." The cover depicts a little girl surrounded by her parents, both of whom are packing handguns. Why is this perverse? Since Newtown, 127 children have been killed by guns in their own homes. Not only have they not been made safer by the presence of guns in the home, they are far more likely to be shot by those very same guns.

Thirty-five states now permit the open carry of handguns without a permit. Thirty-four states have what are called "stand your ground" laws which permit the use of deadly force if a person feels they are being threatened in public. It was just such a law that allowed George Zimmerman to get away with murdering Trayvon Martin back in 2012.

A recent study revealed that the United States has 88 guns per 100 people and 10 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people, by far the most of any developed country in the world. Conversely, Japan had just .6 guns per 100 people and .06 gun-related deaths per 100,000, the fewest among developed countries. This is not a coincidence, nor is it rocket science. More guns equal more gun deaths. It's just simple math.

How much more innocent blood will be spilled over a warped interpretation of the Second Amendment? It's time responsible people got together, put their foot down and told the gun nuts where to go. Their freedom to own a gun shouldn't come at the expense of the United States being turned into a shooting gallery. It is possible to enact common-sense regulation that puts reasonable limits on the types of guns that can be purchased. If you need an AR-15 to kill a dear, you're a pretty lousy hunter. Either that or you're a sadist.

You want to stop a bad man with a gun? How about making sure he doesn't get a hold of one in the first place.

And now we come to the last, but hardly least, thing that gives me nightmares: the dumbing down of America. The recent wave of anti-intellectualism sweeping the United States poses perhaps the greatest threat to its future. I'm not quite sure exactly when being stupid became a fashion statement, but many in the country are wearing it like a badge of honor.

Now to be fair, ignorance didn't just spring up overnight; it's always existed to some extent. But it's recent emergence as a dominant political force in this country is most disturbing, given the potential consequences.

From the global-warming deniers who call it a hoax to the creationists who insist that the universe is 6,000 years old to the American revisionists who are attempting to rewrite history books to reflect a kinder, gentler take on manifest destiny and slavery (hint, they weren't really that bad), there seems to be no shortage of gullible people willing and able to swallow their propaganda.

And while the gullible drink in the lies, the proponents of those lies are glorified by right-wing media outlets and let off the hook by a mass media that is incapable of doing the job it was called to do. Deliberate distortions and fabrications are passed off as merely the flip side of the same coin. In an attempt to be seen as "fair and balanced," both sides of an argument are given equal consideration.

Despite the fact that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that global warming is real and that man is responsible for it, the 3 percenters, as I prefer to call them, are allowed to peddle their opinion as fact. David Gregory, the soon-to-be ex-moderator of Meet the Press, recently pitted Bill Nye (a scientist) against Marsha Blackburn (a political hack) to "discuss" climate change. That would be like a Ph.D. discussing physics with a four-year old. Small wonder there are so many misinformed people in the country.

How serious is this problem? The Pentagon now says climate change poses a serious threat to our national security. With the planet's future at stake and the fate of millions of people hanging in the balance, the "vaunted" fourth estate has treated this most grave and important matter with all the triviality of two boys debating who was the best ballplayer of all time. 

There is a profound difference between fact and opinion. One may prefer vanilla ice cream over chocolate. That's an opinion that can be debated until the cows come home. There's no right or wrong answer. Jumping out of a 20-story building will result in death due to deceleration trauma. That's not an opinion, it's a fact. Facts are not open to debate; that's why they're called facts.

But the poet laureate of the fiction as fact club is Ken Ham, director of the Creation Museum, who takes the book of Genesis literally and claims that the universe is only 6,000 years old. Ham has gone out of his way to attempt to discredit evolution and has fought to have creationism taught in public schools alongside traditional science. In Ham's alternate universe, dinosaurs and humans lived together; they even shared the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve (I wonder what tree they ate from, seeing as how big they were).

Augustine, as far back as 415AD, ripped such "nonsense" to shreds, calling it "embarrassing and reckless."

For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”

But, despite the words of Augustine, Ham and people like him have not been deterred from spreading their lies to promote their narrow agenda. If anything it has only emboldened them to press on. A recent "debate" between Bill Nye and Ham, hosted by CNN at the Creation Museum (yes, you can see where this is going), proved to be the perfect venue for Ham.

The moment he took the stage alongside Nye, Ham immediately gained the foothold he needed. Once more, the old point/counterpoint false narrative was exhumed. Ham was allowed to reframe the whole debate around two equal, but opposing, viewpoints. Nye was doomed from the start.

In an 1996 interview with Charlie Rose, the late Carl Sagan addressed this problem.

"We’ve arranged a society based on science and technology, in which nobody understands anything about science and technology. And this combustible mixture of ignorance and power, sooner or later, is going to blow up in our faces. Who is running the science and technology in a democracy if the people don’t know anything about it?"

Who knew that those words would prove to be a harbinger of things to come? Sagan's ghost is crying out from his grave but few are listening to it. Of all the threats to our Republic (racism, corruption, violence), none are more dangerous than ignorance. You can convict the heart of a racist, imprison corrupt officials, even reduce the number of deadly weapons that are available for purchase. But ignorance is almost impossible to cure.

The reason for this should be self evident. People, for the most part, eschew the complex for the simple. A long time ago, I learned that the secret to being a successful salesman was to keep it simple. Don't overburden customers with trivial things like facts. I have to confess, I wasn't all that comfortable with that strategy, but others were. Some of the most successful people I ever worked with were little better than snake-oil salesmen. And the worst part was that the customers never caught on to what they were doing. Stupid is as stupid gets.

So there you have it, my fab four list of things that keep me up nights. By no means is this a complete list. But it does represent the worst of the worst.

Sweet dreams.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Jeff Greenfield Scratches His Six-Year Itch

While reading Jeff Greenfield's latest piece on the upcoming midterm elections - spoiler alert, Greenfield doesn't think it's going to go well for Democrats - I couldn't help but wonder just what planet he's been living on for the last few months.

Yes, Greenfield correctly points out that most two-term presidents lose seats in their sixth year. In fact, the only president to actually gain seats over the last five decades was Bill Clinton, a fact Greenfield mentions but then glosses over like some footnote. More on the Clinton exception later. For now, let's concentrate on Greenfield.

Most of the piece focuses on two central themes: 1. Contrasting Obama's approval ratings with that of Ronald Reagan's in 1986; and 2. Something about the public mood being grim.

Going into his second midterm, Reagan's approval numbers were indeed high, much higher than Obama's, yet Republicans still managed to lose five House seats and seven Senate seats. Conclusion? Democrats are going to get pummeled in November.

There's of course just one little teensy problem with Greenfield's analysis. Actually there are two. The first is that Obama's poll numbers are far more affected by geography than Reagan's. In the South, for example, Obama is far less popular than he is in either the northern or western part of the country. Not coincidentally, those are the areas where incumbent Democrats are having the hardest time defending their seats. Both Mary Landrieu in Louisiana and Mark Pryor in Arkansas are trailing their respective Republican challengers, though Landrieu is managing to hold her own. Conversely, the three states Greenfield cites as being in danger of flipping - North Carolina, Michigan and Colorado - are actually projected by RCP to remain in the Blue column this fall. If you're going to take the time to sound the warning bell, Jeff, the very least you can do is get your states right.

But Greenfield's second problem is far more egregious and ironically it concerns this whole public mood theme. As low as Obama's approval rating may be, the GOP's is considerably worse. In states like Florida and Pennsylvania, the incumbent Republican governors are trailing their Democratic opponents. The race is so lopsided in Pennsylvania, RCP has now put it in the "Likely Democrat" column. In Wisconsin, Scott Walker is holding on by his finger nails. The public may not be in love with Obama, but they certainly have no love loss for the GOP.

And that brings us back to Bill Clinton and 1998. Republicans, if you recall, impeached Clinton over the Monica Lewinski scandal. While it is true that the actual impeachment vote took place after the midterms, the issue was front and center in the minds of many voters way before November. The results did not bode well for the GOP. Overplaying their hand backfired terribly on them.

The recent party-line vote in the House of Representatives to sue Obama over delaying implementation of the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act - a law that very same chamber tried to repeal more than 50 times! - smacks of déjà vu all over again. Once more, Republicans are mollifying their base and badly overplaying their hand. And, once more, it appears to be backfiring on them. Democrats have now been given a wedge issue to use against the GOP this fall that they would not have had otherwise. Can you imagine the fallout if Republicans actually go ahead and impeach Obama? Talk about the political equivalent of a wet dream.

While it is still too early to tell whether the GOP will once more snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, this much is certain. Sloppy journalists like Jeff Greenfield will continue to pontificate and espouse their opinions like they were gospel, only to have their ignorance exposed in the end.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Two Broke Girls

Now that I've all but preordained Hillary Clinton as the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, I thought I would give equal treatment to the other side of the political aisle. I'm nothing if fair and balanced. Alright, stop laughing, I'm trying to be serious. Okay, now I'm laughing.

So who would I tab as the 2016 Republican presidential nominee? Unlike the Democrats, the GOP field is wide open. Let's take a gander at the potential candidates, shall we. You've got Rand Paul and Ted Cruz for the far, far right mob; Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal, for the not so far right, but still out there crowd; Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum for the self-righteous and self-anointed Jesus freaks; Rick Perry, because, well, oops; and rounding out the field, Jeb - I'm not my brother - Bush and Chris - EZ Pass - Christie, for those who long to return to the Nixon years.

So, with such a "diverse" field (I'm really having a hard time keeping a straight face here, guys), who am I putting my money on? Well, you can forget all the aforementioned candidates. Not one of them is fit to hold the door for my personal pick for Pres and VP.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you none other than Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann.

Yep, you heard right. America's two dumbest and bat-shit craziest women on the dream ticket of dream tickets. You can start printing those bumper stickers right now. In fact, all you have to do is cross out the "2012" part on the ones that are already out there and insert "2016" next to it.

Now, I know what many of you are thinking. Am I crazy? No, that's not it and, for the record, I'm not. My mother had me tested. Am I being facetious? Well, yes, but that's not it. Oh wait, I think I know what it is. How do I know who gets top billing on this dream ticket? Yes, that's it! I knew one of you'd get it sooner or later.

Well, to be honest, it wasn't easy deciding. I mean on the one hand, you have a half-term governor of a state nobody wants to visit save for three months out of the year, who, thanks to John McCain, hasn't shut up in six years and is a lock for a reality TV show of her own on A&E one of these days; on the other, you've got a soon-to-be former congresswoman who could substitute for nurse Ratched on One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and who excels at looking into the wrong camera while giving state of the union rebuttals. 

I mean, with so much talent, you really could just flip a coin. But I went with Palin primarily because I really miss Tina Fey (boy I sure hope she winks at me) and I'm not sure there's a woman out there brave enough to impersonate Bachmann, not to mention look that scary and deranged on purpose. Be honest, whenever you see Bachmann on TV don't you fear turning off the lights? I still haven't fully recovered from watching her interview on Meet the Press in 2011. It's the only time in my life I actually felt sorry for David Gregory.

Okay, I admit it; I really did flip a coin. Palin was heads and it was heads. Busted. But, come on, guys, does it really matter? They're interchangeable, aren't they?  That's what makes this dream ticket so special. While Palin is busy mangling the English language - and apparently Spanish from what I hear - in all those gotcha interviews, Bachmann can screw up all the American history she wants, like when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor. While Palin is accusing Hillary of being anti-American with "known" ties to terrorists, Bachmann can threaten her running mate with eternal damnation for being pro gay rights and rejecting creationism. I've got a crazy idea - yes even crazier than these two running in 2016. We could alternate them every other week. Palin one week, Bachmann the next. That way neither of their feelings would be hurt.

In the event they actually got elected (okay breath in, breath out), they would simply continue alternating in and out of the Oval office. Just think of the possibilities. One week Palin is calling Vladimir Putin a thug; the next Bachmann is leading a crusade to purge him of any evil spirits and demons.

I've already picked out a name for our dream team: the dynamic duo of stupid. Every late-night comic's ratings would go through the roof. Leno could have Conan O'Brien fired all over again. Hell, Letterman might even reconsider retiring. HBO could offer a pay per view feature to its subscribers. Buy ten episodes, get one free. Game of Thrones and Mad Men? Don't make me laugh. They couldn't hold a candle to tweedledee and tweedledumb.

Relax, people, I was just fuckin' with ya. Everyone knows it's going to be Jeb and Christie.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Could Georgia and Kentucky Cost the GOP Senate Control in November?

Have you been checking Real Clear Politics' Senate polling lately? Of course you haven't; you have a life. Fortunately I'm not burdened by such things, so let me give you the latest rundown.

RCP, at present, has the Senate at 46 Democrats and 46 Republicans with 8 tossups. That means that the GOP needs to win at least 5 of the tossups to become the majority party. Democrats would only have to win 4 to hold their majority, since they control the White House and the Vice President would cast the deciding vote in a 50-50 tie.

Now Republicans are all giddy because they lead in the polls in six of those tossups. If those leads hold, the GOP would have a 52-48 seat majority in January. However, there are two seats that the GOP holds at present which are in the tossup category and, if I were a Republican strategist, I would be sweating bullets right about now.

Georgia and Kentucky are within the margin of error. In Georgia, businessman David Purdue - who survived a primary runoff against Chamber of Congress-backed Jack Kingston - is ahead 1.7 points over his Democratic opponent, Michelle Nunn, Sam Nunn's daughter. But the last two polls show the race a tie (Rasmussen has Purdue up 6 and Landmark has Nunn ahead by 6). Both polls were taken within the last two weeks. Saxby Chambliss's decision not to run has put this seat in play for the first time since Max Cleland held it.

In Kentucky, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, is barely ahead of his Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes. The latest polling - from June, mind you - has old Mitch up a mere 1.5 points, prompting a Politico piece, titled, "What if Mitch McConnell loses."

Yes, what if, indeed. Imagine the GOP taking four seats away from Democrats and being this close to taking the ball into the end zone, only to fumble at the one (er, two) yard line. As strange as it may seem, Republicans could actually lose two of their own seats this November. And you thought Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock hurt.

But that might not be the only obstacle that stands in the way of the GOP taking the Senate. In Iowa, for example, a state that RCP puts in the GOP column for November, an NBC News/Marist poll taken only two weeks ago shows the race tied. Quinnipiac has Democrat Bruce Braley in front 6 points. Even Rasmussen shows Republican Joni Ernst holding a slim 1 point lead. This race is far from settled.

The same can be said for Alaska, Louisiana and Arkansas, where incumbent Democrats are trailing their Republican opponents but are all within the margins of error. In North Carolina, Kay Hagen has been ahead of her Republican challenger, Thom Tillis, for the last two months. Public Policy Polling has her ahead by 3 points.

My guess is we probably won't get a handle on where these races will end up until a month before the election. It's usually around that time that polling starts to makes sense. Even then, it wouldn't surprise me if we had a surprise or two in November. If House Republicans actually move forward with an impeachment proceeding against Barack Obama, that could have a devastating impact on GOP prospects for Senate control.

Then there's the real issue that nobody seems to be willing to talk about. Regardless of who prevails in November, will anything actually change come January? My guess is probably not. Think about it, if the GOP did actually gain a majority in the Senate, they still wouldn't be able to pass anything. That's because Democrats would filibuster any legislation they didn't like, just like Republicans are now doing as the minority party. And even if, by some small miracle, the GOP got a bill passed both Houses, all Obama would have to do is veto it. Republicans would not have the votes to override him.

So, in other words, we seem to be spending an awful lot of time focusing on what amounts to ostensibly bragging rights, if you could even call it bragging. Truth is no matter what happens this November, it will have little, if any, impact on what goes on in Washington for at least the next two years.

2016, anyone?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Idiots' Delight (the Semi-Annual Edition)

Due to unforeseen circumstances - the New York Rangers actually made it all the way to the finals for the first time in twenty years - last two months' Idiots' Delight features got, shall we say, waylaid. Fear not, kids. The nice thing about idiots is that there are always plenty of them around from which to choose. It's kind of like watching a soap opera. You can miss a month's worth of episodes and when you finally resume watching, Brad is still proposing to Laura, over the objections of her father.

Rather than combine May and June, I thought I would just cut to the chase and proceed to the semi-annual edition. That way, I figure, I can maximize the idiot to feature ratio. Who says progressives can't be efficient? 

Okay, buckle up, here we go. Envelope please.

The "experts" who got everything wrong about Iraq. You've got to have balls of steal to go on the air and criticize this president for his mistakes in Iraq, when just about every prediction you made about that country was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Let's start with the "brains" of the operation, Dick Cheney, AKA, Darth Vader. Cheney penned an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal in which he said of Obama's alleged failures, "Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many."

This coming from the man who said we would be greeted as liberators and that the insurgency was in its last throes. How embarrassing was Cheney? Fox News's own Megyn Kelly called him on the carpet in an interview saying, "But time and time again, history has proven that you got it wrong as well in Iraq, sir...Now with almost a trillion dollars spent there with 4,500 American lives lost there, what do you say to those who say, you were so wrong about so much at the expense of so many?"

Wow, I guess it's true that even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Next up on the poison food chain is Paul Bremer. This was the genius who thought de-Ba'athification of Iraq would be a good idea. Rather than strengthen Iraqi democracy, the policy exacerbated the growing unrest throughout the country that led to the proliferation of the types of insurgency groups that Cheney assumed were in their last throes. Thanks to Bremer, these groups now had the support of thousands of Ba'ath Party members who were all too eager to avenge their purge from the Iraqi government.

To this day, Bremer defends his decision and pins the blame on - guess who? - the U.S. military. If only they had listened to him, Iraq would be a democratic paradise today. Dogs have more shame when they shit on your rug.

Of course, no operation of this magnitude could've gotten off the ground without an inspirational leader. Which brings us to Paul Wolfowitz. The chief architect of the Bush Administration's policy in Iraq, it was Wolfowitz who first brought up the idea to invade the country shortly after the 9/11 attacks. He also predicted that the reconstruction costs would be paid for by the revenue from Iraqi oil. Wolfowitz, you might remember, served as Under Secretary of Defense to George H.W. Bush, who, like his son, also invaded Iraq. Though in that case, the elder Bush at least had the brains to stop before toppling the government.

Naturally, no team would be complete without its cheerleader. Enter Bill (I never met a war I didn't drool over) Kristol. Calling Kristol a neocon would be like calling the Atlantic ocean wet. It goes without saying. The editor of The Weekly Standard was famous for insisting that the war would last at most two months and that there was "almost no evidence ... at all that the Shia can't get along with the Sunni." If by two months he meant 104 months and if by no evidence he meant that there was plenty of evidence, then yes, I guess Kristol was right.

Once more, Kristol is beating the war drums. I guess spending $2 trillion on one unwarranted war that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians and thousands of our troops wasn't enough for Captain Killroy. Now he's setting his sites on Syria, calling for - surprise, surprise - military intervention.

Some people never know when to quit.

The media for allowing the aforementioned clowns back on stage.   It's one thing to be brazenly arrogant, not to mention profoundly wrong. It's quite another for that arrogance to be enabled by the alleged guardians of truth.

If you need any more evidence that the main-stream media in this country is lame, you need look no further than the shameless performances of the Sunday talk-show hosts. Not only did they allow these buffoons admission to their sets, they didn't even have the decency to challenge them on their own complicity in what has now become the most disgraceful chapter in American foreign policy.

Talking Head, and hopefully soon to be ex-Meet the Press moderator, David Gregory, actually asked Wolfowitz what he would do about the growing terror threat from ISIS.  Nothing like asking a pyromaniac what he would do with a couple of gallons of gasoline. Knowing Gregory's propensity for lapping up anything he's told, I'm surprised he didn't hump Wolfowitz' leg during the interview.

George Will for his rape column.  Over the last few years of his career, George Will has managed to stay clear of the insanity that has gripped the bulk of the conservative movement. Though frequently wrong on just about every topic imaginable, he was nonetheless respected by even his staunchest critics.

Well you can now kiss that baby goodbye. On June 6th, Will wrote an op-ed piece for The Washington Post, in which he said that, thanks to the recent trend of political correctness, being a victim of rape is now a "coveted status that confers privileges."

Not being satisfied with digging himself halfway to China, Will went on to expound further by calling the incidents of sexual assault a "supposed campus epidemic."

The main thrust of Will's argument rests on two points: the first being what he considers a discrepancy between the number of rapes that are actually committed on college campuses, which is 20 percent and the number that are actually reported, which is 12 percent. "Simple arithmetic demonstrates that if the 12 percent reporting rate is correct, the 20 percent assault rate is preposterous." Apparently, it has never dawned on Will that the difference may have something to do with the fact that there is still a great deal of shame associated with reporting a rape. Women not only have to contend with the actual trauma of the event but the stigma that somehow they must've done something to deserve it. Idiots like Will don't make it any easier.

Which brings us to Will's second point, a report in a Philadelphia magazine about a girl who had befriended a young man, who she assumed was not interested in a romantic relationship. When the man decided otherwise and proceeded to undress her, she initially said "no." But the man persisted and he eventually raped her. The woman "just kind of laid there and didn’t do anything." Six weeks later, she reported the incident.

It's the six weeks that's bugging Will out. Somehow the delay in reporting the assault means that it couldn't have been that traumatic. Again, Will fails to understand the huge shame and guilt that many women carry in these circumstances. This man was supposed to be a friend, she thought. He didn't just violate her body, he violated her trust.

Neanderthals like Will see the male as the true victim here. Thanks to what he calls "progressivism," these young men, who have had their reputations smeared, must now contend with "costly litigation" against these institutions that have denied them their "due process" to clear their names.

Apparently Will must've missed the lesson in English class where the teacher said "no" was a complete sentence. Thankfully, his ignorance did not go unpunished. Within a couple of days of the piece appearing, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which was carrying Will's syndicated column, dropped him, calling the piece "offensive and inaccurate."

The only question remaining is what is The Washington Post waiting for?

John Boehner suing President Obama. The day that John Boehner decides to hang up his gavel, give up politics and become a private citizen, he should immediately pursue a career in comedy. In a stunt that would make Lewis Black's day, the Speaker of the House is actually going to sue a sitting president.  You know, it's one thing to be delusional (as many in his party are) it's quite another to be flat out stupid.

And what is the basis for the suit? It seems the Speaker and the GOP are all up in arms over Obama's decision - last year, mind you - to delay the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Yep, you heard right. Republicans are pissed that Obama delayed implementation of part of a law they've tried to repeal more than 50 times. See what I mean about comedy?

Politics aside, this stunt is doomed to failure. As Bloomberg's Jonathan Bernstein correctly points out, "For the courts to consider a lawsuit, the person or group bringing the suit has to show they were harmed in some direct way. So, for example, in the recent recess appointment case, Noel Canning Corp. was able to show that it had directly been harmed by an action taken by members of the National Labor Relations Board who had been recess-appointed. Generally, the courts have ruled (Vox has a good explainer on this) that Congress isn’t eligible to sue the president just because it doesn't like what he’s done."

So why is Boehner proceeding with a suit? Two words: Tea Party. Nobody with any credibility thinks this will go anywhere. In fact, there are a number of pundits who've warned that Boehner's suit could potentially backfire on the GOP. But try telling that to the bubble people who are obsessed with this president and his use of executive orders. Never mind that past presidents have relied on executive orders far more than Obama; never mind that it is well within the purview of a president to take executive actions when he or she sees fit. The fact that this president has done it has driven them completely over the edge.

Here's the irony. If Boehner's suit were to be successful, the employer mandate that the GOP had demanded be stripped from the ACA during last year's government shutdown, would actually be reinstated. How's that for shooting yourself in the foot?

Spoiler alert. If this stunt actually ends up costing the GOP the Senate this year, look for Boehner to top the annual Idiots' Delight awards. In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, "What a maroon!"

President Obama for his handling of the border crisis. I have said this on more than one occasion. This president's greatest problem has been not his policies, but his perception. Simply put, the man doesn't know - or apparently isn't interested in - how to, as they say in show business, play to an audience. And that one glaring weakness has caused him a mountain of grief during his five plus years in the Oval Office.

The border crisis is yet another case in point. Yes, this problem has been growing steadily for well over two decades and, yes, the main obstacle, ironically enough, appears to be a law that George Bush signed in '08. That law prohibits the quick return of children from countries other than Mexico or Canada and affords them an immigration hearing with legal counsel. The Administration, to its credit, is asking for some "flexibility" regarding the law's implementation so it can take action. Again, good policy.

But, with all due respect, Mr. President, you can't say that the reason you didn't go down to visit the border was because you weren't interested in a photo op and then show up at a bar and shoot pool with voters in Denver. You can't have it both ways. Yes, we get it you are well briefed and on top of the situation. No one is doubting that (well at least no one who's sane). But for Christ's sake, would it have killed you to spend a couple of hours down there? You went all the way to New Jersey to shake Chris Christie's hand after Sandy. It's not like you don't have Air Force One at your disposal.

How bad was your faux pas? Rick Perry actually ended up looking good. Yes, Rick Perry! The guy who couldn't remember the third department he'd shut down if he got elected president. Mr. Oops, himself! There are only four things in the universe dumber than Rick Perry: Michele Bachman, Sarah Palin, Louie Gohmert and an amoeba.

Shame on you, sir, for ceding the stage to him and letting him look even remotely intelligent, not to mention giving the wing nuts a talking point on, of all things, immigration reform.

Ron Reagan, Jr's tasteless atheist commercial on Cosmos.  As someone who grew up with both an appreciation of science and faith, it annoyed me to no end when, on the season finale of Cosmos, this ad by Ron Reagan appeared.

Well, first off, Ron, it's NOT freedom from religion, it's freedom of religion. Let's get our prepositions straight. Secondly, and most importantly, your commercial, while I'm sure it was important to you personally, could not have been more ill timed or ill advised.

Okay, you're an atheist who doesn't believe in heaven or hell. Good for you. I'm sure you're a credit to atheists everywhere. I'll even bet Bill Maher got a woody when he saw your ad.

Here's the problem. While it's true that an overwhelming majority of Cosmos' viewers would probably agree with your stance, some don't. Like me, they don't think that believing in God means that the universe has to be six thousand years old. They see science not as an impediment to their faith in God, but as proof of his wonder and glory. They don't believe in fairytales, but they also don't believe in a random universe.

Without quite realizing it, you took a giant shit on those people and, in so doing, aided and abetted the Christian Right, which has been looking for every opportunity to exploit this situation to their advantage.

This is one of the reasons why I detest the Left almost as much as I do the Right. While the Right is myopic and backward thinking, the Left is often arrogant. There is a smugness that tends to rub people the wrong way. And it's that smugness that often costs them votes in close elections. Voters who might otherwise be sympathetic to their positions are often dissed and made to feel unwelcome, hence they vote for the other candidate, often against their own interests.

Ron Reagan may not want to admit it, but the majority of the country believes in God. The goal of the Left shouldn't be pissing off that majority, but, rather, finding a way to lure many of them over from the dark side.

Votes are hard enough to come by even in good years. No one should flippantly toss any aside.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Supply-Side Economics: The Great Political Shell Game

There's an old saying. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Well, when it comes to the "theory" of supply-side or trickle-down economics, it appears there are no limits on how many times people allow themselves to be fooled. It's like watching a shell game, only at least in a typical shell game - you know, the one where someone hides a ball under one of three cups and you're supposed to guess where it is - the cost is a few lousy dollars. With supply-side economics the cost has been considerably higher; to the tune of trillions of dollars.

The shell game goes something like this. First you promise to lower everyone's taxes. That's an important first step, because who doesn't want their taxes lowered. Next you claim that the tax breaks will pay for themselves because everyone will have more money to spend, including the "job creators," who, you know, create jobs. With more people working, there will be more money coming into the treasury and, with all that extra capital out there, the economy will grow by leaps and bounds and the deficit and debt will shrink as the great engine of capitalism purrs along in 5th gear.

It sounds great doesn't it? And I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that those of you who played that other shell game swore that the ball was under that third cup. But it wasn't, was it? It always ended up being under the cup you didn't choose. That's why it's called a shell game. The house rigged the contest; the player never stood a chance.

Over the last 34 years, the United States has had two front-row seats to view the ultimate shell game: supply-side economics. The results have been as consistent as they've been predictable. The economy did not grow by leaps and bounds; in fact, growth was no more than average at best. The job creators didn't create those extra jobs; for the most part they lined their corporate pockets. And while the rich got richer, the poor got poorer and the middle class got squeezed. But, worst of all, the debt exploded.

When Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, the debt stood at $930 billion; when he left in 1989, the debt stood at $2.7 trillion. In short, Reagan almost tripled the debt in his eight years as president. George W. Bush's eight years in office proved no better. When he took office, the debt was $5.7 trillion; when he left in 2009, the debt was $10.7 trillion. That's almost double if you're keeping track. Worse for Bush is the fact that he inherited a $300 billion surplus from Bill Clinton, which he quickly squandered by starting two huge land wars, passing two huge tax cuts and expanding Medicare.

You'd think that the American people, after getting burned twice, would've figured out the con and come to the realization that supply-side economics simply doesn't work. You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. And the reason is quite simple. No matter how many times they get burned, Americans love it when you tell them something they want to hear. And everyone loves hearing they're getting something for nothing. Think about it. Who doesn't want a few extra bucks in their pockets to spend?

Of course those few extra bucks come with a huge price tag. For every dollar the typical middle-class taxpayer receives, the ultra rich get hundreds, if not thousands. And that extra money floating around hardly ever ends up back in the treasury. That's because people who were barely getting by in the first place are not likely to spend that extra cash. What they're far more likely to do is hold onto it for a rainy day. Ironically, Bush found that out when he did his own little stimulus in early '08 when the economy began to tank. Bush thought he could prevent a recession by naively believing that American consumers would go on a spending binge. It backfired. Instead of spending the extra money, they horded it.

Corporate America pretty much did the same thing. One of the cruelest hoaxes perpetrated on the public is that the reason the job creators haven't created enough jobs is because they are over regulated and over taxed.


In 2011, as the economy was beginning its long, slow recovery, America's largest corporations were sitting on roughly $2 trillion. That's right. At a time when unemployment was over 9%, our vaunted job creators were sitting on the sidelines propping up their balance sheets and making their investors rich and happy. The idea that giving these blood suckers another trillion dollars more in tax "incentives," is obscene.

Obscene or not, the proponents are persistent in their claims. More tax cuts and less government regulation equal more jobs and greater prosperity for all. The fact that Clinton grew the economy more with higher marginal tax rates and the same regulations, all while balancing the budget, or that Eisenhower presided over the longest stretch of prosperity the nation had seen in a century - with even higher marginal tax rates and more regulations - is irrelevant. Tell a lie often enough and gullible people will swallow it.

Once more the gullible are lining up to play the shell game. The deficit is shrinking and the economy is growing at its highest rate in six years. But that hasn't deterred the supply-siders. They're determined to rewrite history once more.  Trust us, they say. This time the ball really will be under the third cup.

Don't believe them, Amercia. The ball isn't going to be under the third cup this time. In fact there IS no ball. There never was one. And no matter how many times you play the game, you'll never win. The house will see to it.