Saturday, May 30, 2015

Chris Christie's Brilliant Politcal Maneuver: Drop Common Core by Giving It a New Name!

The Christie public-policy shell game: behind the curtain, nothing.

NJ Governator Chris Christie has found a new way to assert his leadership(!) by moving to drop the Common Core standards he so recently embraced. What's especially rich about this new maneuver is that there's no there there. As in, is he actually doing something? explains that, beyond burnishing his conservative credentials, he quite likely isn't doing anything:
"You keep the car. You just change the color of the paint," said Christopher Tienken, an associate professor of education at Seton Hall University.
The theory is based on the details of what Christie announced Thursday, including his continued support on Thursday of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams, which are aligned to Common Core standards, educators said.
One way that Common Core could stay is with minor tweaks and a new name, said Patricia Wright, executive director of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association.
To design the new standards, Christie called for creating a group of parents and educators to review prior state standards and a make a recommendation. Because the state associations representing teachers, principals and superintendents all endorse Common Core, it's likely they would arrive at similar standards again, Wright said.
As long as PARCC carries on so will the teaching aligned with Common Core, Teinken predicted. Regardless of what new standards are designed and implemented teachers are likely to teach to PARCC, which counts toward their performance evaluations, he said.
Nice job, Christie. Maybe you can call the non-new, new standards the "Are you stupid?" standards.

Josh Duggars and Denny Hastert: The Hypocrisy of the Heartland

Hey Ted, you can't buy bad press like this. (He'll blame it on Obama, no doubt.)

Paul Krugman reminds us that much of the family values the religious right touted as making the conservative view morally superior to the Satan-led coastal liberal depravity was based on an always rather mythical American Heartland where the real Americans lived and prospered.

Let's look at this supposed Disneyland of highfalutin moral supremacy:

Empty storefronts in Cary, Miss. Family values can't replace a vanishing economy.

There is no pleasure taken in the slow collapse of rural America. When I was a child -- growing up in small towns in Georgia, Colorado, and California -- a significant majority of Americans lived in the supposed heartland. Now most Americans live in cities and the surrounding suburbia. But a question remains: What set of values is preserving what? If family values and moral and religious superiority were best represented by the life away from liberal, corrupt, union-loving coastal Sodom and Gomorrah, what's bringing on the slow-motion destruction of rural town after rural town?

There is an answer or two. One, economic reality -- the abandonment of the family farm in favor of omnivorous agribusiness mega-farms is shredding the fabric of rural life, and, two, there never was any moral superiority or special set of values that underpinned the heartland in the first place.

Back to Josh Duggar and Denny Hastert. These two cases -- among the many, many that have preceded them -- are yet more examples of the thin tissue that separates the phony face of moralism from its soft underbelly of human corruption, revealing that no such moral superiority ever existed.

To be completely clear, this doesn't make political and cultural conservatives more corrupt than their liberal counterparts, but it does put the lie to any particular moral superiority the conservatives ever claimed.

Mirages are wrinkles of heat-disturbed air, as insubstantial as the world Sarah Palin, for one, trumpets without respite. Saying it doesn't make it so. But that doesn't lead, naturally, to a world where we won't have to listen to the blather. The cracks in the foundation of religious conservative faux-superiority may indeed be spreading fast. But we don't have any mainstream media that is willing to abandon one of their favorite narratives. So 2016 will echo with the crackles of the oh-so-slowly-ebbing and oh-so-annoying nonsense that is the right-to-life, oh-noes!-so-much-gay-kryptonite-wrecking-America, guns-will-fix-it!, death-penalty-forever, let's-invade-Iraq-again Republican position. It won't stop partly because beyond that moralizing, they got nuthin'.

Dennis Hastert: the liar in winter?

We don't need to take back our country from the liberals, we need to take back our country from the moral superiority that never was. We can do it. It starts with busting the myths.

Friday, May 29, 2015

What's a Surge, Anyway? Oh Yeah, It's a Battle You Lose Eventually.

...and after you spend a gazillion dollars you supposedly couldn't possibly give to the poor because, you know, they're so irresponsible.

Troops on the move during Iraq "surge." Sources say we won the "surge." What's
winning? I don't know, ask ISIS. Their answer would be I got your "surge" right here.

Daily Kos flagged a Politico story on a potential new "surge" in Iraq against ISIS.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a 2016 candidate for president, recently called for sending 10,000 troops to Iraq. Fellow GOP presidential hopefuls Rick Perry, Scott Walker and George Pataki say they’re open to the idea. Last week, two key architects of George W. Bush’s 2007 troop surge told the Senate that up to 20,000 additional U.S. troops are needed to defeat the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. They’ve found an ally in Sen. John McCain, a longtime Republican hawk.
And even though President Barack Obama has ruled out the idea of a ground combat force — which is also a nonstarter for congressional Democrats — polls show growing public support for the idea.
Aside from the fact that the usual suspects are calling for war, war, war as the only way to deal with the ISIS threat, the real question, other than WTF?, is what in hell do you expect to accomplish by sending 10,000 or even 20,000 troops to fight ISIS on the ground?

I suggest one possible accomplishment: the biggest ISIS recruitment video in the history of ISIS recruitment videos. Sending 10,000 Americans to Iraq is one way of getting 50,000 new volunteers for ISIS.

Mind you, we'd blew people and stuff up really well for a while. And maybe, as we did in the last surge, we'd pay off some Sunnis to act all un-ISIS-like. Then we'd leave and the Middle East would go back to being the Middle East, with the Sunnis and Shia hating each other and both of them hating the Jews while chanting Death to America.

Or -- and that's a big OR -- we could let them sort it out and tell them that, when the smoke clears, we're going to be buying even less oil from them because we've decided the best way to win this war was through diplomacy, when feasible, and innovation in new energy sources and methods, where possible.

I've driven across Germany in the past year or so, and this is what it looks like.

We can look like Germany, too, a country that began producing 74% of its energy needs from renewable resources over a year ago.

Or -- and that's a really predictable OR -- we could go back to preferring SUVs to Priuses and war to peace. Which do you think it will be?

We are so fucked.

What's in this pic? 43 Toyota trucks we gave to Syrian rebels. Now they're
in the hands of ISIS. Didn't work out like we planned. Rarely does.

What's in this pic? Some of the $15 billion in cash sent to Iraq -- on pallets! --
but now generally listed as unaccounted for or "improperly" accounted for.

We're really good at nation building. We should do more of it! Maybe Lindsey Graham and John McCain can pass the hat. (The real way our wars were paid for is called "off the books.")

Thank God fiscal conservatives are against this sort of thing.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

This Is Huge. FIFA Comeuppance at Hand?

FIFA sticks it to countries hosting World Cups. Is the exploitation over??

In the past, I've read with horror the exploitative ways of FIFA, which has lorded over international soccer since forever. Countries that vie for a chance to host the World Cup, for example, found themselves boxed out of most of the profit-making opportunities. To see the executives of FIFA swept up in corruption charges by the U.S. Department of Justice is satisfying on so many levels.

But it begs the question: Why did it take the U.S. DOJ to do this? Where was the EU? Latin America? I don't know enough about international soccer -- despite being a huge fan -- to know.

But CNN does. Whoa:
When FIFA cleared itself of wrongdoing, the FBI wasn't ready to do the same.
It wanted to know whether any of the allegations of bribe-taking and kickbacks by FIFA officials took place on American soil.
And it knew it was on the right track, especially after it secured the cooperation of a former top FIFA official -- and an American -- named Chuck Blazer.
Blazer had found himself in a bind. He hadn't paid his taxes for many, many years and was looking at serious prison time. So he became an informant, who provided documents and recordings of meetings with FIFA colleagues that hinted at not-so-kosher dealings, law enforcement officials said.
Shit works that way. Read the CNN story. It's like a crime novel.

It gets better as seven of the indicted were arrested in a Swiss hotel.

FIFA bosses arrested in surprise raid on a Zurich hotel. Who's got the movie rights?

Here's the Justice report on the indictments. Who knows where it goes from here, but it seems four have already pleaded guilty and rats are ratting and all that. FIFA certainly had this coming, and I hope the sport will be the better for it.

Slate offers a good report of the festivities, pointing out the Swiss involvement in capturing the seven at the FIFA annual meeting, and that Swiss officials have grabbed documents at FIFA headquarters. It also seems that the Swiss -- who must have been in close touch with both the DOJ and the FBI -- are starting their own investigation, focusing on the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids, won, incomprehensibly, by Russia and Qatar, respectively.

Of note is the fact that FIFA president Sepp Blatter -- sounds like a name out of Blade Runner -- wasn't included in the indictments. He must be sweating bullets now, wondering which rat will act ratly.

A final thought: Loretta Lynch has only recently been confirmed and installed as Attorney General. James Comey has not been in charge of the FBI all that long. Both had worked on this case in their previous roles as U.S. attorneys. But just as a recent case against the banks in the exchange-rate scandal led to fines with an admission of guilt, a rarity before now, it appears that the Obama administration is building a legacy for justice after squandering opportunities in past years. Better late than never.

Here's to a reformed -- or remade -- FIFA in the very near future, sans corruption.

Keeping Up with the Duggars: Wacky and Women-Hating but Beloved of the Republican Right

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar: closer to God or creepy as all get out?

(updated below)

I never watched "19 Kids and Counting," but the concept of both the family and the show -- and the apparent devotion of the Christian fans of the show and the political hard right -- is, for a humanist like me, decidedly creepy.

Yet politicians flock to defend them, with Mike Huckabee soiling his brand in pursuit of what?

Amanda Marcotte of Slate offers an eye-opening look at the Duggar tribe and their cult-like lives, along with a savage takedown of their near-total (what am I saying? Total.) control over the lives of their women. Ouch, but oh so true.

I am reminded of this famous passage in the Bible telling how unclean women are compared to men. Leviticus 12-5 speaks of a women who gives birth. She is unclean twice as long if she gives birth to a girl child than if she gives birth to a boy child. Hard to spin that, don't you think?

I suspect I don't need to mention that what blew this TLC show up was the revelation that Josh Duggar -- an executive director with the Christian evangelical group, the Family Research Council -- had in his teenage years molested girls, among them his sisters. It was covered up until now. CNN shares the status of the scandal and its impact on the TV show.

Gawker speaks to the cult-like homeschooling program called Advanced Training Institute to which the Duggar family adhered.

At the heart of this brand of fundamentalism is Biblical, or Christian, patriarchy, where men have complete dominance over women. How this leads to molestation of women, I wouldn't know (just kidding). This authoritarian patriachal model is favored by the religious right, about which George Lakoff has often written. Lakoff contrasts this with the nurturing parent model favored by liberals (and me).

I guess makin' babies is real Christian-like. Onward Demographic Soldiers?

As for the Duggars and the fate of the show, let's leave that up to the great whatever. But let's remember that we've seen this movie before, countless times, as religious zealot after religious zealot is outed as the hypocrite they often are. Fundamentalist Christians love to lean on the "we're all sinners" defense at times like this, while I like to quote favorite blogger Atrios at Eschaton with his celebrated line "shit is fucked up and bullshit." Gets to the heart of it.

For fun and games, check out the Duggar family Facebook and the bitch-slapping they're taking in the comments threads (holy shit!). How long they can leave that up is anyone's guess. Check out this devoted fan blog. Check out how the Family Research Council and FRC Action -- which Josh Duggar headed until last week -- are supporting poor Josh. Lastly, check out this WaPo rundown of the position the Republican clown-car occupants find themselves in after the Duggar family molestation flap. Yikes! (See sample tweets below.)


Uh-oh uh-oh.

Creepy is the right word here.

Update. For a trip down the rabbit hole of Christian hypocrisy, read this blog post by Josh Duggar's younger sister's father-in-law. Not only is in eye-opening -- as a look at "modern" Christianity -- but it essentially says Josh repented and he's okay, and his parents' handling of it was okay because he was a teenager. And the judge was right in ordering the police report destroyed because victims. And do, please do, read the comments. Jeebus.

Also, please note that a strain in this blog post -- as pointed out by Talking Points Memo -- is that we should not be surprised that this molestation took place in a Christian household because we are all sinners. In other words, hey, shit happens. Double jeebus.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

There Never Was Authorization for the NSA Data Grab, and Yet... gets weird from there. A court has declared a portion of the Patriot Act as never legally capable of authorizing NSA's huge data grab. Yet that isn't stopping the Congress from attempting to renew the Patriot Act so that the illegal data grab can continue. Only in America? Probably not, but we do look a bit like a banana republic:
In the wee hours of Saturday morning, the U.S. Senate played host to a moment that took mass surveillance on the phone records of Americans from outrage to farce.
The NSA’s phone dragnet had already been declared illegal.
Earlier this month, a federal appeals court ruled that while the surveillance agency has long claimed to be acting in accordance with Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the text of that law in fact authorizes no such program. The Obama Administration has been executing a policy that the legislature never passed into being.
But the law that doesn’t even authorize the program is set to expire at the end of the month. And so the court reasoned that Congress could let it expire or vote to change it. For this reason, the court declined to issue an order shutting the program down.
Read the whole send-up from Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf. Will the Obama administration press Congress to re-authorize the act that never allowed them to do what they never stopped doing? Will the Senate take on the House, which has renewed the bill without the offensive portion that never allowed the surveillance in the first place? Will the American people even notice, or even care?

Because to keep us free, it's important to take away our freedom. Or something. Also, will the NSA just keep doing it anyway?

Fun fact: We'd never even know about this without Edward Snowden...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tea-Party Effect: Jeb Bush Has to Deny Climate Change

An "intellectually arrogant" polar bear.

We knew this was coming, and Jeb Bush didn't disappoint.
"I don't think the science is clear of what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural. It's convoluted," the former Florida governor said at an event in Bedford, New Hampshire.
"For the people to say the science is decided on this is really arrogant, to be honest with you," he said, according to CNN. "It's this intellectual arrogance that now you can't have a conversation about it, even. The climate is changing. We need to adapt to that reality."
What the hell does that even mean? We do know what the result will be: no action on global warming, pure and simple. That's the Republican Party line, full stop.

Tea Partiers will not let a single candidate budge on this issue, again, full stop. So vote for Republicans if you want NO ACTION on climate change or reduction of fossil-fuel use or increase in support for alternative energy sources. Vote Democratic if you want a chance that we can stop our headlong rush over the cliff to oblivion.

Also, thanks Koch brothers! You have signaled that anyone who acknowledges the legitimacy of the science concerning global warming will not get a damned dime of your money. Thanks a lot.

This isn't a Jeb Bush thing. This is a GOP thing exacerbated by Koch money.

Bottom line is if Jeb Bush -- the "reasonable" GOP candidate -- can't risk supporting the science of climate change, then no GOP candidate this cycle can risk it, especially during the primary. And, of course, it calls into question just how "reasonable" Jeb Bush ever was.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Marijuana a Gateway Drug? Pah!

Offered without comment:

David Brooks Roundly Condemned for Blatantly False "Lessons Learned" Iraq Column

Hey Brooks: This is what the Iraq War looked like,
just on our side. Thanks for cheerleading it.

David Brooks, failed philosopher and serial apologist for the Iraq War, opened his yap yet again and got a mouthful or five of condemnation but quick. Why? The Iraq War was based on lies, and Brooks offers up more lies to make it look like a "Who could have known?" affair rather than the fiasco that it was.

This is what a Bush lapdog looks like.
Here's a rundown of articles and blog posts condemning Brooks and the Republican attempts to
whitewash the war:
It goes on and on. If Brooks thinks rewriting history is easy, he should think again. There is an army of critics -- rightfully so! -- out there ready to call him on it when he leaves facts behind.

The reason it matters is that no one with access to a microphone like Brooks has should be allowed to write and push false narratives, something that is Brooks stock-in-trade.

Hey Brooks: These are the war criminals you enabled.
Accessory before the fact.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Bush -- and Christian Conservatives -- Have No Respect for the Constitution

Defining himself to the Christian right: I'm with you, bigots.

This isn't taking as long as it took to get to Jeb's views on Iraq. Jeb Bush opens mouth, and we know where he stands. The two new clarifications?
  1. Christian business owners, based on their religious beliefs, should be able to discriminate against gays.
  2. There is no constitutional right to same-sex marriages. In fact, it doesn't matter what the Supreme Court says in its ruling in June, people who don't support same-sex marriages should be "stalwart supporters of traditional marriage."
Bush is pretty clear here, and it's a typical stance of Christian conservatives. Regardless of the First Amendment -- or the 14th -- the Constitution protects, or should protect, the right to discriminate based on religious beliefs.

This would be our president's belief if Jeb, or frankly any of the Republican candidates, should be elected. Pretty clear.

Marco Rubio Can Actually Fill Jeb Bush's Boots: He Can Flub the Answer on Iraq, Too!

It's been suggested that Marco Rubio benefits from Jeb Bush's implosion of the past week. But based on his Fox News Sunday appearance, Rubio's not ready for primetime on such issues, either.

Also please notice how Rubio's justification -- that based on false intelligence, he would have invaded Iraq, too -- relies on the false premise that Bush had "faulty intelligence." Assuming, as I'm willing to do, that Rubio isn't stupid, then he's purposely presenting that false premise in order to justify his view that he would have invaded Iraq and that in any event the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in charge of Iraq.

We aren't, by the way. Think ISIS, for heaven's sake. Rubio is just another lying rube, which we don't need. He may end up the "establishment" candidate, but it won't be because he can handle these questions better than Bush. Okay, marginally better, but still... Sheesh.

The Drumbeat Goes On: Cheney and Dubya Lied Us into War (and Worse), and Jeb Is Screwed

This is how we rolled in Iraq. Jeb thinks we've forgotten.
His base? Maybe. His rivals? Not on your life.

I rarely read Maureen Dowd anymore since her obsession with trashing Hillary Clinton has, in my view, wrecked her brand as a columnist, which used to be a well-crafted acerbic wit. Well, she put the old voice to work on Jeb Bush, and here I am linking to her.

Dowd lays it on thick with poor Jebbie, who has it coming after his disastrous That Was The Week That Was. But what got my attention was her insistence that we remember that Cheney and Dubya lied us into an unnecessary war that haunts us to this day.

So, too bad, Jeb, if it haunts you, too. Pithy part of Dowd piece:
And consider this: Jeb hasn’t even been asked any questions yet about W.’s dark contributions on waterboarding, the deficit and the near-total collapse of the American economy.
Indeed. You asked for this, Jeb Bush. If you're not ready for prime time -- which you apparently aren't -- then get the hell out of the race that you're not in yet. Or wait for the rest of the dogs to be unleashed. Because they will be. You can count on that.

Abu Ghraib: Ready to defend this, Jeb?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Truth about Why We Invaded Iraq: Lies, Lies, Lies.

There's a reason why, when you search Google Images for
"iraq war criminals", this is the second picture, because, uh, you know...

Paul Krugman has a searing post -- with links and nods to Atrios, Josh Marshall, and Greg Sargent -- reminding us that, while the GOP field has repudiated the Iraq War in response to Jeb Bush's fumbling disaster of a week "clarifying" his position on the war, we shouldn't allow these Republicans to recast Iraq as a war caused by faulty intelligence. It wasn't.

Whitewashing history is an obsession with the message-control-crazy right -- after all, at least two GOP controlled states have tried to erase AP U.S. History classes and tests from state curricula because of "too-negative" views of certain events in our American past -- and the Iraq War is a good case in point.

We were -- those of us who fell for the elite Washington party line, I'm talking especially to you, media -- hoodwinked and bamboozled into the Iraq War, with manufactured "intelligence" of WMDs when the best efforts of UN and American teams could find fuck-all evidence. When the UN was on the verge of rejecting the U.S.-led attempt to get a resolution for war through the Security Council, Bush pulled the plug on the whole charade and invaded without international cover.

So let's call the GOP surrender on Iraq -- calling the war a mistake without placing the blame where it belongs, on the Bush war criminals above and the subservient press -- for what it is: an attempt to whitewash history in order to safely get past the issue without offending the party base.

It's bullshit, and anyone who lived through the rush to war in 2002-2003 with eyes open knows it.

ISIS at play in the fields of Allah: Bush's war planted the seeds of this horror.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Betwixt and Between: David Brooks and Paul Krugman on Twitter

You go to war with the columnist you're with, not the one you wish you were with.

Okay. Paul Krugman has 1.35M followers on Twitter. David Brooks has 51K. I don't claim to know what that means, other than the obvious fact that Krugman is vastly more popular than Brooks as a writer and pundit.

But there's also that other thing: Krugman speaks to the needs of a wider swath of the American intelligentsia, if the New York Times readership should be called that. Brooks, on the other hand, has narrowed his focus in recent days and months. He's turned quasi-philosophic in tone, speaking more to the moral structure of conservative beliefs rather than the political ramifications of that structure.

In fact, a strange turn of style, if you will, seems to be playing out: Krugman, the longtime Princeton professor, should be the one who appears to deliver his message from the lectern, and it's true that he underpins his points with ample data and graphs. He comes to his topics with more than enough ammunition to carry the day. The comments on his writings show that his burgeoning cadre of readers are buying into what he says.

Brooks, however, is the one who now lectures his readers, explaining over and over again how America's moral standards are under assault, even decline. It's not a pleasant message, and his readers, based on the comments on his columns, let him know in no uncertain terms that they find his work increasingly fatuous, overblown, and wrong-headed.

The Times is considered a more liberal paper than, say, the Washington Post, but that slant doesn't explain the distaste the Times' readership displays toward Brooks' moralizing, which can be summed up easily: The poor and lower classes are moral weaklings who don't deserve free stuff because they won't take responsibility for themselves, especially the blacks, who don't have enough fathers, despite having too many babies. The predicament of the poor is the result of their own moral failings, especially now. In a finer and fairer past, Americaville was a kinder, gentler place with higher moral standards. Here comes the subtext that permeates Brooks' tomes, which is that his tribe, the highly educated, elite whites from the finer sections of town are the upholders of the values of yesteryear and have a rightful claim to the higher moral ground.

Krugman has as much claim to an elitist pose as Brooks. So why is Krugman so much more popular? In this era of income inequality, Krugman -- a man clearly as successful or more so than Brooks -- speaks for the 99% while Brooks speaks for the elite 1%.

I don't see this changing anytime soon. Krugman has his set of beliefs, Brooks has his. There is no confusion here. But Krugman has 1.35M twitter followers, and Brooks has 51K. Somehow I don't think it's because Krugman appeals to the rabble and Brooks to the elite. There's a simple truth here: Krugman's ideas are very popular and Brooks' not so much. I'd be surprised, though, that Brooks' job is in jeopardy. Someone's got to moralize and rail against the corrupt lower classes, and I admit Brooks has found his voice there. Some people must like it. Maybe just about 51K.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Jeb Bush Still Tongue-Wagging on Iraq (Hourly Report?) amid More Nonsense

"Don't worry Jebbie. Someday this whole mess will be all yours."

A "Republican policy adviser" suggested that "If you're talking about Iraq, you're losing." Apparently Jeb Bush hasn't heard that advice yet, considering he's wagging his tongue again and not in a good way.
Reporter: "What’s the way forward in Iraq, sir?"
Bush: “I think we need to re-engage, and do it in a more forceful way than—the president is very reluctant for whatever reason to make a clear commitment that we should have kept, you know, 5,000, 10,000 troops there. There's been success since we reengaged.”
Jeb, oh Jeb. First, you almost made a clean getaway by dragging the vast majority of the GOP field toward not liking on the Iraq War, and you coulda just blended in! Now you want to re-engage, forcefully. Holy unforced error, Batman! Then you add the nonsense about how we should have kept 10,000 troops in Iraq, thinking that people should or would blame Obama for that. Nice try, and it might work. People are often easily hoodwinked. The neocons protest on a regular basis that Obama showed his weakness by not leaving 10,000 troops in Iraq. Say it often enough, bla bla bla.

But the truth is that brother Georgie failed to get a Status of Forces agreement with al-Maliki before he left office. Why? Because al-Maliki insisted that troops be subject to Iraqi law and courts and thus he couldn't guarantee their safety. When Obama came to power, al-Maliki didn't change his position.

So, first it was brother Georgie who couldn't do it, and then it was Obama for whom nothing changed. It wasn't going to happen, and everyone from Dick Cheney to Lindsey Graham and John McCain know this, no matter how they wag their tongues. Now you're doing it.

What remains is your ass in jeopardy. In a sort of Iraq soup, if you will. Well done!

Things Moving Fast on Iraq War for GOP Candidates: Watershed Moment?

George had those decider eyes, even then. Jeb not so
much. Older Jeb, same as the younger Jeb? Maybe so.

Josh Marshall is onto something:
It was one thing when John Kasich and Chris Christie said they would not have invaded Iraq - guys who would run as relative moderates and either aren't running or don't realize they're not running for president. (Rand Paul said the same but that's no surprise.) But now we have Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz saying they would not have either. Rubio is the big tell here since he among all the 2016 contenders is angling for the support of the neoconservative foreign policy intelligentsia. If he can say categorically that it was a mistake, the debate is probably really finally over.
In the end, Jeb may have solved his own problem. By getting mainstream Republicans -- and even hawkish tea-partiers -- to land on the negative side of judging the Iraq War, Jeb blends in with conventional wisdom. Republicans still view by a slim margin that the Iraq War was the right thing to do (52%), but this is fading fast. This time next year, and even Republicans may abandon the War.

Josh Marshall's TPM also did some reporting on this in January.

So, after passing this watershed moment, Jeb Bush may not be distinguishable from the rest of the GOP field on the issue of the Iraq War, that pesky legacy from his big brother. And that might be a blessing for the harried candidate. Blending in -- on this one issue -- gets Jeb past a big hurdle.

Next up: immigration. Uh-oh.

Chris Christie About Jeb Bush's Iraq War Quagmire: What Are You, Stupid??

Chris Christie figured out what Jeb Bush needed. He needed to be direct. Jeb should have told Megyn Kelly that the Iraq War was stupid!

He wouldn't have equivocated, not Christie. He would have cornered the question and then bullied the crap out of it because he's got that presidential thing down. He's a decider!

Gonna be a long year...

Finally! Jeb Bush Says No, He Wouldn't Have Supported Dubya's War, Knowing What He Already Knew Four Days Ago...

Oh, you mean that war. Why didn't you say so?

See, that wasn't so hard, was it?

Now let's practice.

"No, I would have handled Katrina..."

"No, I would have tried to privatize Social Security by..."

"No, I wouldn't have pushed 'The Ownership Society" during an incipient housing bubble with out-of-control price surges. I'd have..."

"No, I wouldn't have fired all the Sunni army officers and Sunni politicians and technocrats while turning the government over to Shiites aligned with Iran, resulting in the Sunni uprising that continues today with ISIS. I would have..."

"No, I wouldn't have gotten half-baked law professors to write mind-numbingly wrong opinions allowing torture and then tortured the crap out of anybody unlucky enough to get nabbed -- or turned in by people with private grudges -- in Iraq and Afghanistan. I would have..."

"No, I wouldn't have authorized massive collections of American citizens' private data in spite of all constitutional evidence that it was illegal and then lied repeatedly ad nauseum that we didn't do it. I would have..."

"No, I wouldn't have signed a law refusing to allow Terri Schiavo's husband to let her die with dignity because she was brain-dead. I would have... No, wait that was me. Yeah, I guess I did that. My bad."

You should hope voters forget about the Schiavo affair. Except for your base, of course.

Update. Jeb is, apparently, not ashamed of his Schiavo moves. Of course, he said it would have been better if she had a signed advance directive. He didn't mention that her husband had the right to terminate her suffering without the advance directive, and eventually did, after Bush's law was found unconstitutional. Sooooo, adding it all together, Jeb Bush was proud he signed an unconstitutional law that was unnecessary and illegal. Go figure. Good presidential material!

(Maybe we should give him four days to clarify his position on Schiavo. That's how he rolls, right?)

Iraq War Haunting Jeb Bush. Who'da Thunk?

Family fun, pre-Georgie's wars. The fun is over, Jeb.

Jeb Bush went on Fox News with Megyn Kelly and opened up a can of holy shit! The "guess I must have misheard the question" is not going over well, either. You like the Iraq War and then you don't. Real smart, Jebbie.

Then you proceed to try to campaign some more, and you get walloped with you own petard or something over and over. It's getting pretty chilly out there.

WaPo thinks about it here. Short version: Jeb stumbles.

NYTimes thinks about it here. Between Iraq and a hard place.

The time article points out that the problem is that Republican base voters -- Jeb needs them in the primary -- love dear brother's wars. The rest of the world, not so much. Paul Krugman gives the facts on that here, while providing a British perspective and giving advice to Democratic candidates: The Bush legacy sucks, so don't let people rewrite it. Stand firm and say: Dubya blew it, and everybody remembers it.

WaPo runs an anti-Hillary hit job from revisionist historian Robert Kagan. Typical Fred Hiatt tripe (Fred could have written it). Short version: We hate what Hillary doesn't say, and the world is better off when America blows stuff up. Memo to Kagan: Uh, no the world is not. Just ask Jeb.

Finally, the GOP clown car fractures as the clowns try to jump on Jeb -- some love war, some hate it, but war, war, war because the base loves it -- with opinions all over the Middle East map. Except Rand Paul, who does the Kentucky two-step to say he hates war, especially "Hillary's war in Libya." Huh? Talk about revisionist history.

Politico throws more fuel on the fire.

A "Republican policy adviser" put it best, saying, "If you're talking about Iraq, you're losing." Somebody's losing, and it ain't Hillary right now, despite Robert Kagan's remarks. She's practicing the old political wisdom of shutting up while your opponents are self-destructing.

Hillary has a lot of oppo researchers combing YouTube as we speak. Clown-car passengers, prepare for your videoed yaps all over the TV during the general election, where people who don't like the Iraq War also get to vote.

Let's let TPM sum up the trials of Jeb Bush in the past four days.
By Wednesday afternoon, it was clear that this topic was not going away any time soon. CNN's political director David Chalian attended an event in Nevada where a voter asked Bush about his multiple answers on the Iraq question throughout the week.
This time, Bush had a new response ready.
"If we are going to get into hypotheticals, I think it does a lot of disservice for a lot of people who sacrificed a lot," Bush told the voter, according Chalian.
"Going back in time, does a disservice for them," he added.
Perfect answer! We can't talk about the Iraq War because, you know, all the dead American soldiers.

Change the subject, dude. Quick. If you can...

Your American flag lapel pin too small to hide behind? Looks like it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Jeb Bush: His Ass from a Hole in the Ground? Maybe. The War in Iraq? No Way.

I love commanders-in-chief who don't know what you're
talking about, or what he is, for that matter.

Jeb Bush spoke quite clearly when answering Megan Kelly yesterday on Fox News, when he said he loves his brother and the Iraq War. Now it seems he wasn't speaking quite clearly because, I don't know, today is Monday, and it's as good a day as any to explain that he didn't know what he was talking about.

Walk-back Monday, anyone?
"I interpreted the question wrong, I guess. I was talking about given what people knew then, would you have done it? Rather than knowing what we know now. And knowing what we know now, clearly there were mistakes as it related to faulty intelligence in the lead up to the war and the lack of focus on security," Bush told Hannity. "My brother's admitted this. And we have to learn from that."
Bush then pivoted to praise his brother's troop surge in Iraq saying it brought "stability and security to Iraq which was missing during the early days of the United States engagement there."

Yep, stability, security, and all that. Dubya blew up the Middle East, and even Republicans largely believe that. Nice stability you got there, Bushies.

I'm glad that Jeb stabilized his answer.

Carly Fiorina, Fiscal, er, Deadbeat!

Why is she running? Oh, right, book tour...

Inquiring minds want to know why -- other than hubris, book tour, other grifting opportunities -- Carly Fiorina is even running for president. It can't be because she thinks she's such a great administrator.

Item 1 in the "I can't believe she's not better!" department: She failed to pay her consultants, et al, for her 2010 campaign, until, er, right before she jumped into the race just a week or so ago. Can't have unfinished business if you're running for the highest office in the land!
Carly Fiorina, the Republican presidential candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO, is marketing herself as a pragmatic, fiscally responsible businesswoman—the only GOP candidate who knows, as she says, "how the economy actually works." Yet during her unsuccessful US Senate bid in 2010, her opponents slammed her record at HP. When she led the firm, it laid off 18,000 workers, and its stock declined by 41 percent. Eventually, she was forced out of the company but departed with a $21 million golden parachute. Now she may need to answer for another managerial blunder. For more than four years, she was a deadbeat and didn't pay the bills she owed for her Senate campaign. She only settled these outstanding debts just before she jumped into the 2016 race.
Until late last year, Fiorina was close to $500,000 in debt from her 2010 run, nearly all of it in unpaid compensation to campaign staffers and outside consultants, according to Federal Election Commission filings. In 2013, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Fiorina owed serious cash to former campaign operatives, several of whom were unsure about when they would be paid for their work. And they complained they were not getting clear information from Fiorina about when she would get them their money. At that time, she owed $60,000 to her 2010 campaign manager, Marty Wilson; $20,500 to Beth Miller, a consultant and former aide to California Gov. Pete Wilson; and $30,000 to the firm of veteran GOP political consultant Joe Shumate.
Good grief!

(h/t Atrios)

800,000 Floridians Could Get Health Care. GOP Says No.

Florida Legislature wants people to suffer and die. Literally.

When people can't get health coverage, they suffer, and some die. It's what happens. Florida Republicans don't care.

That sucks large. And it messes up their own priorities. Sucks larger. Except that they can't do their tax cuts either. I like that.

Friday, May 8, 2015

How to Solve the Homeless Problem? Give Them a Home

There are dozens of blocks of homeless folks like this in downtown Los Angeles.

I've advocated for a guaranteed basic income to alleviate poverty for quite a while now. It suffers from lack of support because it's counter-intuitive, with many people believing that giving free money will mean the poor will spend it and still be poor. That's not true, but what are you going to do?

Possibly you could learn from this man, Tom Tsembaris, who simply figured out that giving free homes to the homeless -- without preconditions, like being clean from drugs -- was a simple and more cost-effective way of getting people off the street and into counseling, rehab, healthcare, and the like.

It's a good story. We should apply it to poverty, and don't be surprised if it would be cost-effective, as well.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Muskogee OK: The Power of Red-State Values? A Catastrophe Is More Like It

They didn't smoke marijuana in Muskogee in Merle Haggard's heyday. This
police photo tells a very different tale of Muskogee today. In a Nelson-Haggard
video, "It's All Going to Pot," it seems times have changed for Merle, too.

The Baltimore riots were latched onto by conservative pundits to demonstrate how Democratic policies have failed in big cities with majority-black populations, with their union-controlled public schools and out-of-wedlock black, single mothers living off welfare and Obama phones. With the likes of John Nolte and Laura Ingraham, we could expect no less.

Thomas B. Edsall, occasional NY Times commentator -- yes, generally from the left but always spot on with his well-researched insights into political and social issues -- quickly pointed out the fallacy at the heart of such conservative criticism:
Today Muskogee, Okla., a city of 38,863, has nine drug treatment centers and a court specifically devoted to drug offenders. A search for “methamphetamine arrest” on the website of the Muskogee Phoenix, the local newspaper, produces 316 hits.
In 2013 just under two-thirds of the births in the city of Muskogee, 62.6 percent, were to unwed mothers, including 48.3 percent of the births to white mothers. The teenage birthrate in Oklahoma was 47.3 per 1,000; in Muskogee, it’s 59.2, almost twice the national rate, which is 29.7.
Muskogee County voted decisively for Ronald Reagan in 1984 and for Republican presidential candidates in the last three elections. In 2012, Romney beat Obama 57.4 to 42.6.
In the Republican bastions of fly-over country -- or the "Heartland," if you prefer -- an equally unsettling catastrophe have been developing among its predominantly white population as they lose their grip on jobs, homes, and the so-called family values of red-state America.

Reagan country is now methamphetamine country, with an ample supply of unwed (white) mothers, as well. Who's telling that story? Not evangelical conservatives. If they honestly told it, what would we find?
Insofar as conservatives identify the erosion of the traditional family as a cause of civic disorder, the erosion is not limited to minority communities in Democratic cities. These trends are increasingly characteristic of white communities in red states.
The highest rates of white teenage pregnancy in the 30 states with available data are in red states. While the national white teenage pregnancy rate in 2010 was 38 per 1,000, white rates were at least 10 points higher in nine states: Oklahoma (59), West Virginia (64), Arkansas (63), South Carolina (51), Alabama (49), Mississippi (55), Tennessee (51), Kentucky (59) and Louisiana (51). Each of these states cast decisive majorities for Romney in 2012.
The high pregnancy and birthrates among white teenagers in states where the Christian right and Tea Party forces are strong reflect the inability of ideological doctrines stressing social conservatism to halt the gradual shift away from traditional family structures.
Red states, with their legislature-mandated abstinence-only sex education, have been plagued with higher teen pregnancy rates than more liberal-minded blue states. But you'd never hear about that in the echo chambers of conservative media. And don't forget, with the proliferation of laws impeding abortion availability in red states, an awful lot of unwed teen mothers are left to try to construct fatherless families with just as grim prospects as the black welfare moms conservatives rail against in their anti-liberal screeds.

Typical home in white rural America? Yeah, and a Muskogee meth house to boot.

Read the Edsall article with its charts and motherlode of information on the failure of family values in Palinville USA. The other failure is by American mainstream media, totally unable to penetrate the dominance of both network news and Fox-style dissembling.

Urban America has its problems, no doubt. But the rural midsection is, perhaps, a larger, far-flung Armageddon unfolding off the radar screen.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Bernie Sanders Is Good for Democratic Party Policy Debate

Socialist Bernie Sanders for president? Yes, why not?

The Democratic Party needs rising stars. It's one of the reasons Hillary Clinton is so far ahead in the race for the Democratic nominee in 2016: There simply are no other first-tier candidates. Enter Bernie Sanders.

I've never heard Senator Sanders utter a policy position that I disagreed with, but then I'm a fellow socialist. What does that mean, exactly? Currently the average American might think it means Bernie's a pinko whack job or at best a man who likes his politics European. Hell, his ideas might be French, for Pete's sake.

Not so. Scratch Bernie Sanders, and he bleeds popular American ideas. Jay Ackroyd spells it out in a guest post at a favorite political blog of mine, Hullabaloo:
[...] I really feel like we have an opportunity here. Not an opportunity to make Clinton say things she’d rather not say. Not an opportunity to raise a big huzzah because, finally, we have a candidate from the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.

What Sanders offers is the opportunity to change a narrative that has been beating on us for at least the last fifteen years—a narrative that excludes good, popular public policy from consideration. Raising the minimum wage to where it was in the 70s, adjusted for inflation, is good, popular public policy. Recognizing that the 401K experiment for replacing pensions has failed, and we need to increase social security benefits to make up for that failure is good, popular public policy. Making it possible for a student to graduate from college without a crushing debt burden is good, popular public policy. So is the adoption of trade and industrial policies that benefit everyone, not just the rentiers.

This stuff polls well. Really well. In the 70s, even the 80s. We don’t hear about it because the gatekeepers—the centrist media and the campaign funders--don’t want these issues on the table. These are unifying issues. How do you think 50 something white men in West Virginia feel about medical coverage in the years between the corporate job with health benefits and Medicare? How do you think they feel about their retirement security?
That line irked me, "We don't hear about it because the gatekeepers—the centrist media and the campaign funders--don’t want these issues on the table." Doesn't it irk you? It should because it speaks to a reality we've seen growing for some time now.

I used to love to watch Washington Week every Friday night because the guest journalists -- mostly good, solid liberal journalists who dominated the intellectual policy discussion in Washington -- were featured. It was a more open-ended discussion. Now it's become a Beltway echo-chamber production. Now it's more of an insider's "oh that's never gonna happen in today's DC, yuk yuk ha ha wink wink nudge nudge!" It's the same on This Week or in the pages of Politico.

Which is why Bernie Sanders is good for the 2016 policy debate. Again, what does Jay Ackroyd highlight in Sanders' policy bag?
  • Raise the minimum wage to what it was in the 70s, adjusted for inflation.
  • Admit the 401(k) is a failure as a replacement for defined benefit pension packages -- that aren't coming back, by the way.
  • Offer an expanded Social Security to recover some retirement security for millions of Americans.
  • Find a way to provide health care to the economically dispossessed.
  • Make public education affordable to drive down or eliminate massive student debt (debt I barely acquired in my own college days).
This stuff polls well. It's popular. It's good for you, for all of us. People want it, and Bernie Sanders brings it to the table. Yes, Elizabeth Warren might be a better mouthpiece, but we don't get her this cycle. I'm glad we've got Bernie. Let's hope Hillary -- and the gatekeeper press -- listen.

Can Martin O'Malley embrace this? Can Jim Webb? Can they get into the arena with Bernie and Hillary and talk it up? I hope so, even if it only makes Hillary Clinton a better candidate with better ideas. Democratic Party ideas, for heaven's sake.

Bernie, welcome to the show.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Anatomy of a Clinton Attack: Loud and Harsh and Nothing There

Don't inhale these people.

Yes, I'm a socialist and Bernie's my man, with Elizabeth Warren a close second if not a first, yada yada yada. But Hillary's going to be the candidate, so all the this-and-that and if-only's are only that.

Having said that, the problem with the latest attack on Hillary and Bill -- it was meant as a Clinton family broadside -- is that there's no there there, and the book's not even out yet. Even the author admits he couldn't connect the dots, so he asked the Washington Post, the New York Times, et al, to connect them for him, and they haven't yet.

Read Jamelle Bouie's piece in Slate for a concurring viewpoint.
Overall, Clinton Cash is best described as an exercise in question begging, in which you assume your conclusion in the premise of your argument. Schweizer believes that the Clintons are corrupt influence peddlers who have enriched themselves at the expense of America’s interests, and he’s written a book to justify himself. What he hasn’t done is written a book that proves his claims. Instead, all he has is a compendium of bad decisions and gross behavior that a more sober-minded writer could have used to make a real hit on the Clintons. As it stands, they will brush this off like they have most attacks from the right.
Indeed, there’s a sense in which Schweizer knows that he hasn’t done anything to hurt his intended targets. “I realize how shocking these allegations may appear,” he writes at the beginning of the book. “Are these activities illegal? That’s not for me to say. I’m not a lawyer.”
The author as much as admits he doesn't know what he's talking about. Not impressive. It relies on how you feel about the Clintons. If you like them and think this is just so much more Whitewater-style nonsense, then nothing changes for you. If you dislike the Clintons, you shout "What bastards, I knew it!" to the wall, with nobody but yourself listening.

Okay, I'm a socialist and as cynical as the next political observer, but this is just another WTF moment in a line of embarrassing attempts by the, yes, vast right-wing conspiracy to smear the Clinton name. It won't be the last. But I wonder if, each time, they get less effective, until nobody will listen. A good strategy? You tell me.

2016 GOP Clown Car Got Bigger? Yes, But Emphasis On Clown

Why do they run? It's hard to say. But take note: Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, and Mike Huckabee aren't in it to win it. So why do they run?

Money is a pretty obvious motivator. Carly's releasing a book timed with the announcement of her campaign. Also, uh, ego?

Ben Carson has been raising money all along, even if an a serial political grifter formed a super PAC and raised millions before people figured out little or none of the money was going to Carson. Oops! But it appears Carson's doing all right.

Mike Huckabee's the only politician of the three, but raising money through "running" for president has been almost as lucrative as pushing biblical cancer cures.

Here's a good rundown from Political Animal's Ed Kilgore.

A thing to keep in mind as the size of the Republican 2016 field grows larger is what effect it has on the issues, the narrative, and the push-and-pull as candidates jockey for position and their own slice of the GOP electorate. But one thing is clear: With Huck, Carly, and Ben, things didn't get more serious. They got seriously more hilarious. You can bet they didn't get nicer! And that can't be good for the GOP debates. No wonder they cut down the number of debates way ahead of time. Anticipate much? (Ha...)

Hmm, I wonder who's going to be this year's Rick Perry. Oops. Maybe Rick Perry?

Friday, May 1, 2015

Want a Preview of a Republican USA? Have a Look at Kansas

The trickle-down experiment in Kansas of Governor Sam Brownback has been an eye-opener. As Catherine Rampell explains in today's Washington Post, Republicans have claimed for years that tax cuts for the wealthy would lead to an economic boom so profound that economic growth would explode. They've never really got to try it nationally. So, let's let Kansas be our stand-in. Ooops.
The consequences in Kansas, after all, are a result of fulfilling the great Laffer Curve dream that has Republican presidential hopefuls such as Marco Rubio, Scott Walker and Chris Christie all salivating: dramatic tax cuts, concentrated among those at the top, coupled with the promise that such action will, through trickle-down voodoo, increase tax revenue and boost economic growth.
In the real world, politicians rarely get to carry out that budget plan in a big way. Then Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) came along and, with a Republican legislature on his side, passed sweeping tax cuts in 2012. Despite faith-based forecasts promising bountiful revenue, tax receipts have come in, again and again, hundreds of million dollars below projections. The latest estimates leave the state with a $422 million shortfall for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
But rather than acknowledging that this tax “experiment,” as it’s been white-washed, has failed and needs to be reversed, Brownback and Republican legislators have mostly doubled down. To make up for the shortfalls, the state has hacked away at core services, from roads to welfare.
School districts across the state are closing schools early to account for the shortfall and making plans to shorten the school year next year to try to close the gap.

Is it plain yet that GOP ideas don't work, unless of course you're among the top 1% for whom tax cuts are just ducky?