Monday, November 30, 2015

GOP Dodging the Colorado PP Clinic Shooting Is an Understatement

"Transgendered leftist activist." Ted, is that all you got?

When you're the party of crazy, it may be that crazy is all you've got. Ted Cruz just broke the mold for the dodgiest answer in the history of "You thought you got me but look over there!"

Here's TPM:
During a press conference in Iowa, Cruz slammed "vicious rhetoric on the left blaming those who are pro-life" for the shooting, the Texas Tribune reported.
"The media promptly wants to blame him on the pro-life movement when at this point there’s very little evidence to indicate that," Cruz said, according to the Texas Tribune.
A reporter told Cruz that reports indicate that the suspected shooter, Robert Lewis Dear, mentioned "baby parts" to law enforcement after he was arrested.
"It’s also been reported that he was registered as an independent and a woman and a transgendered leftist activist," Cruz hit back, referencing a voter registration form that allegedly lists Dear as a woman. "If that’s what he is, I don’t think it’s fair to blame on the rhetoric on the left. This is a murderer."
When asked by the New York Times which reports Cruz was referring to when he said Dear was registered as a woman, spokeswoman Catherine Frazier pointed to a post on The Right Scoop.
The link to The Right Scoop leads to speculation apparently based on Robert Lewis Dear's being listed as "female" on a voter registration. The Scoop author, soopermexican, suggests Dear might be transgendered based on this report before admitting he doesn't look transgendered. Could he be right?

Hey, Ted, I don't think hormone therapy can turn a woman into this, but nice try.

To call Ted Cruz's dodge disgraceful is an understatement and an insult to the world disgraceful.

Ted Cruz for leader of the Free World? That's horrifying.

Afterthought: Though Carly Fiorina tried the "turn it around on the other side" technique with her remarks on the shooting, she couldn't reach the dodgy heights of Ted Cruz.
“This is so typical of the left to immediately demonize the messenger, because they don’t agree with the message,” she said. “What I would say to anyone who tries to link this terrible tragedy to anyone who opposes abortion or opposes the sale of body parts is, this is typical left-wing tactics.”
Of Course, the message, that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue for profit, was fabricated and driven loudly in the public sphere by none other than Carly Fiorina. What a despicable tool.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Colorado Planned Parenthood Tragedy: Carly Fiorina Shares the Blame

Fiorina lied about the Planned Parenthood "video." She lied as loud as she could.

I was going to say she has blood on her hands, but based on my friends' reaction when I said that, I softened the title of my post. It is true she shares the blame. She does, however, own a lion's share of the blame because of her strident, callous lies about "body parts" in several national venues, including two GOP debates.

Today's Washington Post has a story of the role Carly Fiorina and others played in this tragedy.

Abortions are legal. Some fetal tissue has been, legally, donated by women who had abortions, generally at their own request. Planned Parenthood assisted in these donations and collected modest fees to help pay for the various costs, such as transportation, etc. This donated tissue helps in research, which may lead to cures for disease and longer, healthier lives for countless people.

That would be the end of the story if not for some highly distorted, mightily edited videos shot by people with a clear anti-abortion agenda. As deceptive as these videos were -- pictures of stillborn babies not associated with Planned Parenthood, for example -- they were used, prominently by Fiorina, as tools to fight abortion. Even Republican members of Congress have declared they would shut down the federal government if Planned Parenthood isn't "defunded" as a result of these faked videos. (Planned Parenthood isn't federally "funded." It's simply eligible to receive payments by those using Medicaid for its non-abortion health services. A very minor amount of funding also comes via the Title X program to serve low-income families with family planning and birth control.)

Unfortunately, Planned Parenthood has stopped these fetal tissue donations because of the uproar created by these deceptions foisted on an ignorant world by some crafty anti-abortionists. It's an embarrassment that so many Americans can become tools of such craftiness.

And now the chickens come home to roost in the form of dead people in Colorado at the hands of a loner declaring "no more baby parts."

And I'd be wrong to say Carly Fiorina, among others, has blood on her hands? I'm sorry, but she and the rest of the candidates do. Shame on them, and shame on America for the extent to which we have held up a portrait of an ignorant, savage, violent Neanderthal country for all the world to see. These GOP candidates and congresspeople have acted disgracefully, and we are right to condemn them. I hope many people do.

Check the comments on the above linked WaPo story. Many people agree with me. We can only hope this slows down the momentum the anti-abortion crowd had gained at the expense of American women and the truth.

Here's how Carly Fiorina regards the "truth:"

Reaction keeps coming in. Yahoo Politics points to the uncomfortable spot the GOP candidates find themselves in post-Colorado Springs.

An early Daily Caller article decrying the early condemnation of Republicans for the attack only succeeds in offering links to commentators who were too fast to assess blame, but who nonetheless appear prescient as word comes in that, indeed, the killer's motives were likely inspired by false body-part rhetoric by Fiorina and others.

Here's an article shedding light on the shooter's motives that revolve around his statement of "no more baby parts."

For clarification, here's an article about how Planned Parenthood doesn't use federal funds to provide abortions, and here's an article that explains that Planned Parenthood never sold fetal tissue for profit. I was taken by this quote from the article:
The donation of aborted human fetal tissue may come as a shock to a public unfamiliar with the practice but it is, in fact, a longstanding one. According to the American Society for Cell Biology, scientists have been researching human fetal tissue since the 1930s, with aborted tissue playing a part in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s development of the rubella and varicella vaccines in the 1960s. Ronald Reagan put a hold on using fetal tissue for transplants in 1988 while other forms of fetal tissue research continued and Bill Clinton subsequently lifted Reagan’s moratorium in 1993.
Good to know.

"No more baby parts." Pretty clear what motivated him and who stirred this up.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

State-by-State Education Rankings: It's (Almost) All About the Spending

Reading this article in the NYTimes on Massachusetts' dropping out of the Common Core testing regime made me wonder how different states compared in student performance. The NYTimes' article placed Massachusetts at the top, even outpacing all other countries except Singapore in science. Them's some pretty hot numbers.

The best comparison I found was published in Education Week using 2013 numbers. the statistics were essentially unsurprising and established pretty clear differences. Massachusetts indeed placed first. The graphic above provides quite a picture.

What does Massachusetts do right? Just about everything, including high levels of spending. The list of higher-learning institutions, such as Harvard, M.I.T., Amherst, Holy Cross, Tufts, Williams, Brandeis, and Boston College is quite impressive. The state is highly educated and ranks high in all categories.

The best performing states are clustered in the Northeast. It appears likely that the presence of fine private schools and colleges -- including the Ivy League schools and more -- leads to better school performance. In fact, all of the original thirteen colonies are in the top fifteen performing states -- with the glaring exception of three Southern states, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

The cluster from Virginia north all the way to Maine speaks to the long history of education reaching back 300 years. The poor performance of the three Southern states can be partly explained by spending. Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina all received Fs for overall spending.

The high-performing exceptions, Wyoming and Minnesota, seem to break the mold. Wyoming spends a lot of money for good results, surprising for an essentially rural state with only one four-year college. Two important indicators for Wyoming are high rankings in the categories of Early Foundations and Adult Outcomes, which indicates that the state may have fewer English Language Learners dragging down test scores, plus a stable and well-educated workforce. Who knew?

Minnesota, on the other hand, has much lower spending for good results. Minnesota is near the top in Early Foundations and even higher than Wyoming in Adult Outcomes.

By and large, though, spending equals outcomes among the vast majority of states, especially when comparing top performing and low performing states. You get what you pay for. My state, California, used to be an educational juggernaut. Now it's in the bottom grouping. What's telling about California is its very low spending (gets an F) and its low scores for Early Foundations and Adult Outcomes. Since I spent part of my career as an English Language Learner teacher, I'm aware of the challenges California faces because of its large immigrant population. In fact, toward the end of my career, my school district in Napa had a majority Hispanic population (it takes a lot of Mexicans to tend all those vineyards).

A state, like California, can look bad in the ratings because of its challenges but actually be doing a pretty good job in light of those challenges. So beware of the "failing schools" narrative. California is barely doing okay with barely enough money in teaching a very challenging population leading to barely okay Adult Outcomes. No surprise there. What would the outcomes be in a less diverse population, like Minnesota?

By the way, under Governor Jerry Brown, spending on education has begun to rise dramatically in recent years, with a $3,000 per pupil jump since 2012. Still, school spending lags in my state.

But again, my rule in judging school performance remains: Follow the money. This Jill Tucker article in the SF Chronicle tells a very enduring tale of affluent communities wildly out-performing impoverished ones, something I noted in my column in the Napa Valley Register back in 1998 when the first student test scores came online.

No matter what money is spent, poverty is the leading cause of low test scores.

If you were wondering whether educational accomplishment was good for you, check the above graph.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Colbert Retains His Comic Genius and Goes Off on Easy Marks, the Fraidy Cat GOP!

Sure, the Republicans in full riot gear over the Paris attacks can be pretty easy marks, but let's get a pro on it to see if he can milk it properly:

Oh yes, he's still got it, although the true joke would be if one of the GOPers pissing their pants actually got elected. Oh myyy! Those saying na ga happen, see Bush, George W.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

It's Time to Ban White Males from the U.S. They're Responsible for 63% of Mass Murders.

Why are white males so dangerous? Hard to say, but Hispanics rarely do this. Weird.

I'm so proud of our Republican Congress. It was really brave of them to ban guns in order to stop the 30,000 or so who die by the bullet each year. Real guts.

Wait, that was some other movie, you know the one that makes sense, not the one where Marco Rubio says that “You can have a thousand people come in and 999 of them are just poor people fleeing oppression and violence. But one of them is an Isis fighter – if that’s the case, you have a problem."

But in real life 63 percent of mass murderers are white males. The weapon of choice is a gun.

So which is it, America? Will we ban white men or guns or neither? Okay, let's just go with neither. Progress!

We're screwed. So great, so brave, so stupid.

Wait, this guy's not Syrian!

Reminder: The vast majority of terrorist attacks in this country are perpetrated by white male citizens. Just so you know.

All You Need to Know: Only 1% of Fox News Viewers Is Black

Typical Fox News viewers.

People, over time, tend to self-select. It's not always easy to pick where you live -- born in Detroit, die in Detroit, how'ya gonna get out -- or your job, which sucks but you gotta eat.

Eventually, people sort things out. Get a better job in Houston, and you're gone. Some things are easier to select, like the news you watch on the tube. If you're black, for example, you can only take so much Hannity and O'Reilly before you figure out they're not talking to you. So you move on.

On the other hand, if you're an alienated white who sees "the other" squeezing you in, why, Hannity and O'Reilly just make sense!

So 1 percent of Fox News' primetime viewers are black and 92 percent are white. It's no accident.

Now, what's the mix of voters? About 90 percent of the Republican Party are white, and less than 5 percent are black.

So, how does a news channel become the overwhelming choice of white people? Have you watched Fox News?

Oh, that's how it works.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Indiana's Mike Pence Becomes the First GOP Governor to Refuse Entry to Actual Syrian Refugees

What the GOP is afraid of.

I learn at Daily Kos that Mike Pence of Indiana is the first to refuse entry to specific Syrian refugees.
One of the families has been has been waiting in Jordan for three years before getting approval to move to the U.S., according to the New York Times. The family of three will be resettled in New Haven, Conn., the Times reports.
Waiting for three years. I think they might have been vetted, don't you? In any case, it's entirely established that these refugees are not dangerous, making it so obvious that Pence is doing this for political reasons, not for the safety of Indianans. Disgraceful.

The lines are drawn: Red states are xenophobic, blue states are welcoming.

But, as Atrios at Eschaton points out, today's America may be ready for this kind of bullshit. Sounds ridiculous until you remember that George W. Bush was re-elected after considerable failure in Iraq and Afghanistan and just after the unveiling of the Abu Ghraib horror in 2004.

Abu Ghraib: the Bush years writ large.

Post-Paris: ISIS 1, GOP 0

House Speaker Paul Ryan, getting ready to take on ISIS.

Watching all the unhelpful mish-mash of cowardly, un-American offerings by Republicans up and down the food chain, it's hard to assess them without coming to the conclusion that ISIS, in essence, has them pissing their pants.

Dana Milbank of WaPo has a brilliant exposé this morning of what government-by-cliché looks like.

What has emerged in the past couple of days is an ever-clearer image of Republican fraidy cats who want to close our borders to the very people who have been displaced by George W. Bush's misguided war of choice in Iraq. Yes, the Bush/Cheney cabal destroyed the balance of power in Iraq, alienating the Sunnis -- already the branch of Islam from whence al Qaeda came -- and driving the creation of al Qaeda in Iraq in Anbar province that has since morphed into ISIS.

And yes, the civil war in Syria was the result of Bashir al-Assad's violent reaction to the peaceful protests generated by the Arab Spring, which lies at the feet of no one in particular, other than an embrace across the Arab world of the peaceful transition to democracy in Tunisia inspired by the suicide of one brave soul. There was hope that the movement might spawn more good outcomes, but Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria put an end to that.

ISIS is only a part of why there is a mass exit from Syria. Most of those fleeing are running from the violent cruelty of Assad. But the Republicans' xenophobic reaction is primarily spawned by ISIS's actions in Paris. The rest is conflation on an unparalleled scale.

The actions of the Republican Party, from its state governors' refusal of refugees on to the pronouncements of its 2016 presidential candidates and its congressional leadership, has left me feeling more embarrassed and disgusted to be an American at any time since I was a college student protesting the Vietnam War.

That was almost fifty years ago. Is the span of my life going to encompass yet more American warmongering? Are we such a weak people that we need to turn our country into one giant bunker?

That, my friends, is what the current Republican Party thinks is the correct response to terrorism.

ISIS 1, GOP 0.

Update. As a stark rebuke to GOP cowardice, President Hollande of France has just announced that the French won't cancel plans to admit 30,000 Syrian refugees:
While American politicians compete in the wake of the Paris terror attacks to see who can most hysterically denounce the possibility of accepting Syrian refugees, French president François Hollande said today that his country will follow through on its pre-attack commitment to take in 30,000 Syrians fleeing that country's conflict.
Yep, them's some real freedom fries, don't you think?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

After Paris, Republicans Are Openly Disgraceful on Syria: Bombing, Yes, Refugees, No!

Senator and GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz: the face of intolerance.

There's no question that the Paris terrorist attacks incite fear. That's their central purpose. But if that central purpose serves to incite intolerance and a craving for a violent and deadly response, the Republican Party has risen -- or fallen -- to the occasion.

Shred the Constitution by creating a religious test for obtaining refugee status. Sure.

Want to bomb the crap out of Syria? Sure. Want to refuse any and all Syrian refugees? Sure.

Will this be politically expedient? Maybe. Does it invite condemnation? It has.

(Reminder: Some pages, at paywall sites like the Washington Post, can be viewed by opening in a private or incognito window, using a right click on the link.)

In any event, I appreciate how fear can awaken some of our worst instincts. But the way the Republicans are reacting is utterly contemptible and should openly condemned. Among other considerations, it is utterly un-American.

Or is it?

For shame.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Rational Reaction to Paris: Should We Bomb the Bombers, Kill the Killers?

Are we bombing the bombers, killing the killers, or blowing up their children? if we
kill (some of) the right people, are collateral kids okay? Parents might say no.

When a terrorist attack happens -- as bad as Paris is, these attacks are rare -- even the rational and the humane have thoughts of retribution, revenge, retaliation. On a human basis, such thoughts are cruel, crude, even if justified.

But rationally speaking -- avoiding the moral considerations -- are such reactions effective? Can we reduce terrorism by inflicting terror and death in response? A Daily Kos diary, reacting to the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris last January, was republished in light of the latest Paris attacks that cut to the heart of the matter:
(1) Well, in the wake of a terror attack, Step One is to forget about "the score" completely ...
Whenever some notorious rapist is caught, exactly 100 percent of the conversations or Internet comment sections about the subject will say, 'I hope he gets raped in prison!'

See, because that would “even the score.” But even five seconds' consideration demonstrates how monstrous that idea is: “rape is awesome, as long as it's targeted toward people who deserve it!” No, the cruel reality is that if that guy gets raped, the score isn't: Rapist 1, Society 1.

It's: Rape 2, Society 0 ...
That math is stark but to the point. Extend it to the children -- common collateral victims in this "war" on terror -- and the math doesn't get more acceptable:
So the next time you turn on the news and see that terrorists have blown up 10 children with a car bomb, that's the first step: Realize that the scoreboard lies. It will tell you that winning the game means dropping bombs that you know full well will splatter ten times as many children as collateral damage. The score — the real score — would then be:
Violence Against Children 110, Humanity 0
But we have to do something! We're not hippies, peaceniks, we're Americans! But...
Our knee-jerk, bomb-dropping reflex is our weakness. They are trying to exploit it, because retaliation bombings are how they recruit more terrorists to their side. And please note that when I talk about their “side,” I'm not talking about Islam, or even Islamic terrorism. Their “side” is what I'm going to henceforth call Team Violence ... The bully doesn't fight because he wants to win; he fights because he wants a world in which everything is resolved by fighting (note: The bully himself doesn't realize this). It doesn't matter if he loses — the moment you chose to fight, his side already won, and the world becomes more like the world he wants to live in ...

In other words, “We can't beat them, unless we become more like them.” It's like a doctor telling you he's going to get rid of your tumor by growing a bigger, meaner tumor next to it. Even if it works, Team Cancer wins, and you just fell for a scam that has been tripping up humanity for 200,000 years or so.
Which team do you want to be part of? Do you say, "I'm humane, a person of peace, but this time they've gone too far. I have no choice but to support the bombing, the killing. We have to stop them." I've been swayed over the years by favorite blogger Atrios, who coined the term DFH -- dirty fucking hippies -- that opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning (and many other wars like Vietnam). Here's Atrios responding to Paris:

What Would You Do, Hippies?

I've seen some version of this question around the internet a few times over the last couple of days, mostly from conservatives but also from "hawkish liberals." As always the point is that there are bad and violent people out there in the world, so if we're not going to blow them up and arm everybody who might be inclined to blow them up, also, too, then you got nothing, do you, hippie?

No simple cause and effect with these things, ever, but we've been blowing people up and arming other people to blow people up and toppling governments and siding with the "moderate rebels" and then siding with the new moderate rebels and then the new new moderate rebels and then sometimes reconsidering and siding with the people the new new moderate rebels were attacking because those moderate rebels suddenly didn't seem too moderate anymore. Hey, where did all of those weapons go? Better send some more! Also, too, more training.

It's horrible when a lot of people get killed. Sometimes we see that, sometimes we don't.

As for what the hippies would do? Probably not quite so much blowing up. Might not work, but the blowing up isn't working too well either.
Yes, the blowing up isn't working too well either. I suppose that's called understatement.

Finally, I go back to Daily Kos and something that Marcos Moulitsas -- the "Kos" of Daily Kos -- said quite awhile back when responding to hate email from self-professed Christians whose Christianity was highly suspect, to say the least. I can't find a link to his commentary, but it came down to this: It's hard to recognize the Jesus many American Christians seem to follow. Kos called this the "bad-ass Jesus."

Sorry, but there's no bad-ass Jesus, no matter how much vengeance you wish to see rained down on the world. There's only Jesus, the one who says to turn the other cheek.

Yes, I'm a humanist who doesn't need a god or a messiah to guide my journey through this world. But for my conventional Christian friends -- who make up much of the West, also known as the "Free World" -- I offer that bombing the bombers and killing the killers doesn't help anything beyond soothing our angry souls. But the violence remains.

Yes, find the killers, go for justice, as a police action. But all-out war on the bad guys? That's the blockbuster, comic-book, fuck-yeah! approach to solving the world. Don't for a minute think that it's really solving anything, as hard as restraint can be in the face of such mindless violence as we saw in Paris. Let the police do their work and go out for a café au lait or glass of wine on a Friday night, just as the Parisians are wont to do.

Live. And remember that what we should be killing, what we should be blowing up, is despair, alienation, poverty. Killing terrorists breeds terrorists (Who doesn't know that by now?!). Killing despair breeds hope, so let's do that.

So sorry, but this is what bombing does.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Who's Responsible for ISIS? Bush, Cheney et al, That's Who.

Yep, these fuckers.

It's a deeply held belief in many quarters that one of the worst decisions in the post-9/11 era was the so-called de-Ba'athification of Iraq after our Iraq invasion and conquest. It's been also postulated that victims of this de-Ba'athification, the civil servants and military officers of the Saddam era, backed al Qaeda in Iraq, which morphed into ISIS as the Syrian civil war proceeded.

It's commonly understood that these former Iraq Ba-athists are deeply supportive of and entrenched in ISIS.

Also understood is that the loss of Iraq's professional class -- all of them Ba'athists -- destabilized post-war Iraq because the talent pool for running the country was made so thin. This left non-Ba'athist Shiites to badger and persecute Sunnis, further alienating and inciting Sunnis to rebellion. Although Sunnis relented during their so-called "Sunni Awakening," these Sunnis pivoted back to AQ and ISIS because of continuing persecution by the al-Maliki regime.

Who was responsible for de-Ba'athification? It's clear that Bush approved it and that the decision to implement it lay at Dick Cheney's feet.
When challenged at the time, Bremmer insisted that his orders came from the White House and the Defense Department. We found some ambiguity on who issued those orders. De-Ba’athification has come to be seen in many quarters as such a pivotal error, no one has leaped forward to take credit.
In addition to the inspector general’s report, there are two other assessments written by analysts with high-level access to insiders. One, from U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, reported that Bremmer was handed his instructions by an undersecretary of defense, Douglas Feith.
"President Bush had previously given Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld managerial control of the occupation, so it is possible that Feith spoke for Rumsfeld who spoke for Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney," the institute report said.
A report from the Rand Corporation, the grand-daddy of the private defense policy think tanks, said the National Security Council, "with President Bush in the chair," learned of the de-Ba’athfication order the day before it was implemented. "No one raised objections," the report said. However, the inspector general’s report finds that the move caught both the CIA and the State Department off guard.
A body of information ties Cheney to this decision. Cheney played a key role on the National Security Council and in all decisions surrounding the war. His chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby recruited Bremmer for his post in Iraq. Press reports at the time and analyses afterward put Cheney in a group of hard-liners within the White House and the Defense Department who sought to remake Iraq from the ground up.
While Cheney might not have drafted the de-Ba’athification order himself, we can safely say he supported it.
Yes, we can safely say that. As an astounding aside, the Poltifact article excepted above was purposed to analyze Chris Matthews' proposition that one could lay the ISIS debacle at Cheney's feet. After essentially proving Matthews correct, at the end of the article Politifact declared Matthews' statement as "mostly false," when my reading -- and I suspect yours -- shows the statement to be "mostly true." Go figure.

In any event, I'd put serious money that Dick Cheney, along with other members of his cabal, will blame Paris on Barack Obama because he's "weak" on Syria. It'll be like clockwork.

As for the "truth" of who's most responsible for ISIS, just google "isis bush cheney" for a serious history lesson. Here's the link.

Speaking of history, I found this passage in Wikipedia in an article entitled, "Sons of Iraq."
Following the 2010 re-election of Nouri al-Maliki, the Islamic State began a campaign of assassination of Sunni tribal leaders and the remnants of the Awakening movement in Iraq’s Al-Anbar province. The drive-by shootings and point-blank assassinations were documented in an Islamic State video called “The Clanging of the Swords.” Between 2009 and 2013, 1,345 Awakening members were killed. In one town, Jurf al-Sakhar south of Baghdad, 46 Awakening members were killed in 27 incidents.
That's just the way ISIS rolls, I guess.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Can Dark PAC Money Harm the Conservative Republican Cause?

Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson: His big money should help the GOP. But
out-of-control super PACs could be siphoning money from actual campaigns.

(Updated below)

Ever since the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, many people on the left could only assume that dark, soft money would flow at such unprecedented rates to candidates on the right that for liberals it would literally spell game over. Period. I was one who feared that.

I recently wrote about a negative "Fox News Effect," in which the epistemic closure and confirmation bias among their listeners would create not a monster horde of freedom fighters that could roll over Washington at will but instead corral a 30-percent cohort of radical rightists who, for all their froth and frenzy, are too batshit crazy and uninformed to do anything but eat their young.

Hard to know. But this Amanda Marcotte article in Salon spells out the danger of over-relying on the scads of free money that could potentially flow to the right because of Citizens United.
But has the rush of unlimited funding been the great boon to the Republicans that everyone, likely on both sides of the aisle, thought it would be? There’s an increasing number of reasons to suspect the Republicans might just be regretting this financial free-for-all. As an investigative report from Politico demonstrates, this new flood of money, while helpful for winning elections, comes with alarming strings attached. Republican candidates might have more money than ever, but the party is losing its independence and being quietly bought out by the biggest bidders.
The piece, written by Kenneth P. Vogel, focuses largely on the infamous Koch brothers, two oil billionaires named Charles and David Koch who have extreme libertarian views and an apparent willingness to spend as much money as it takes to turn the United States into a dystopia out of Ayn Rand’s wet dreams. That the Koch brothers, and many other billionaires, spend lavish amounts of money in our era of deregulated campaign law is not a surprise, of course, but Politico discovered that they are spending even more money than most political watchers had assumed.
But the money isn’t just going to help Republicans win more elections. Instead, and this is what is worrying many Republican insiders, the brothers are trying to reshape the Republican Party in their own image and take the already hard-right party even further to the right. “The Kochs and their allies are investing in a pipeline to identify, cultivate and finance business-oriented candidates from the local school board all the way to the White House,” Vogel writes, “and Koch operatives are already looking for opportunities to challenge GOP incumbents deemed insufficiently hard-line in their opposition to government spending and corporate subsidies.”
Here's the problem: If Koch money reshapes the party in their interests, does it become so far out of the mainstream that its candidates have become Frankensteins too bizarre for the average Joe? A good example of that was Alan West, who on paper looked like the perfect candidate for the right -- an African-American, Iraq-veteran ultra-conservative that cruised to victory with the tea party, only to be so distasteful as to get tossed out the very next election.

That's a while back and the GOP has had an epidemic of radical rightists forcing moderate Republicans out by beating them in the primaries. Is it a Pyrrhic victory?

What's more, the grifters have been circling the new laws and have found fertile ground for all kinds of scams, sucking up lots of loose dollars and preventing them from getting to the campaigns they purport to support.
For instance, Citizens United has made it easier for grifters, who notoriously prefer conservative marks for their apparent gullibility, to line their own pockets with political donations siphoned away from legitimate candidates. As Vogel explained in Politico earlier this year, there’s been an explosion of super PACs that promise donors to help conservative candidates win, but who actually spend the money on pretty much anything but the intended goal. “Combining sophisticated targeting techniques with fundraising appeals that resonate deeply among grass-roots activists, they collect large piles of small checks that, taken together, add up to enough money to potentially sway a Senate race,” he wrote. “But the PACs plow most of their cash back into payments to consulting firms for additional fundraising efforts.”
It’s hard to say how much of that money would have gone directly to campaigns that would have spent it on actual campaigning rather than self-enrichment, if it hadn’t gone to super PACs instead. But the amount is likely not insignificant, especially since these groups rely so heavily on small donors. But in an unregulated environment, there’s nothing to stop shady dealers from fleecing Grandma for her political donations and then walking away without spending any real money on the candidates.
The problem has grown so out of control that it seems to be hurting prominent presidential candidates. There are four huge super PACs set up ostensibly to support Ted Cruz’s run, and so far, they have barely spent any money actually supporting their supposed candidate. How many of the donors would have given to Cruz directly if they knew that this was happening? Some, surely, but that’s just money that’s going into PAC consultant pockets instead of into campaigning.
 A sane political world -- with a functioning legislative branch -- would have already started cleaning up this mess. But in these days with Republican dominated legislatures, the crazy-money party just can't help itself. To its own dismay -- as with Fox News and talk radio roping in the crazies and driving them into a frenzy of kooky ideas (no compromise on anything, ever, ever!!) that makes for impossible governance -- this wild-west money game may turn into its own feeding frenzy.

Good for a little while, but the long run? Hard to say.

Note. Kudos to Amanda Marcotte's great commentary in her several sites she writes for, including Salon and Slate. Google her and read her often.

A new breed of savvy political analysts, Amanda Marcotte being a good example,
though she would remind us she's been around for years...

Update. Here's an interesting article about super PAC scams. Good example of what Citizens United has spawned.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

34% of Marco Rubio's Tax Cuts Go to the Top 1%. That's Governing?

If tax cutting is all we've got -- besides social-values bluster and
warmongering -- then tax cutting we will do (but always for the rich).

Since we have to keep cutting taxes -- it's what Republicans do! -- then we must keep cutting taxes, even if there's a point where the exercise goes beyond absurd:
Last week, Citizens for Tax Justice, a liberal think tank that uses mainstream economic tax modeling, analyzed Marco Rubio’s tax-cut plan. Thirty-four percent of the benefits of the plan would go to the highest-earning one percent of Americans (who, by the way, earn about 21 percent of all income). Rubio’s proposal deliberately provides some benefits to Americans of modest income, which means that its enormous tax cuts for the very rich come alongside some pretty decent-size tax cuts for the rest of us. All told, Rubio’s plan would reduce federal revenue by $11.8 trillion over the next decade. The entire Bush tax cuts cost about $3.4 trillion over a decade, making the Rubio tax cuts more than three times as costly.
Since Rubio has promised to raise defense spending and not impact today's seniors as far as Social Security and Medicare goes, even if he doesn't raise defense spending, after his tax cuts he'll run into a wall of a $600 billion deficit just taking care of those parts of the budget. There's nothing left. Nothing. Nothing for the IRS, FEMA, running Congress, all the different cabinets, the FBI, Medicaid, the VA, national parks, you name it, nothing. Border security? Nothing. Education? Nothing. NASA? Nothing. Nothing.

So, either the essential framework of the federal government collapses or the budget is full of red ink as far as the eye can see. And since Marco Rubio also demands a balanced budget amendment, no deficits, no red ink!

Okay. Just so we know what Marco Rubio calls governing. Knew he could do it! Oh, and as writer Jonathan Chait points out, Rubio is considered a moderate, a potential establishment candidate.

That's quite an establishment.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Epistemic Closure at Work: Trump Lied about Ford. So What?

Okay, you got me. So?

I was just talking about epistemic closure, in which the knowledge of a fact is muted, depending on whether you want to believe it or not. I noticed it was especially at work with Ben Carson. But now it surfaces that Donald Trump fans are quite often under its sway.
As with Trump, some of these outsiders’ most memorable debate moments have come when they uttered statements that turned out to be exaggerated or untrue. And, like Trump, they have played to a distrustful electorate by criticizing the fact-checkers and refusing to acknowledge that any facts were wrong.
So far, it’s working.
Trump, for instance, was wrong in his claim about Ford canceling its plant in Mexico. Ford itself said the deal was on.
But that matters only if you believe them and not him.
“Meh,” wrote a Trump supporter who runs the Twitter account @WomenForTrump. “What does Ford know about it . . .”
Sheesh. We're doomed.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Ben Carson: When Grifters Begin to Look Like the Liars They Are

Ben Carson: in the hot seat?

It was bound to happen. Ben Carson, leading in some polls for the GOP 2016 nomination, was caught in a pretty flagrant lie when he claimed in last week's debate that he had no relationship with a supplements firm, Mannatech, when he quite clearly was well connected.

Chalk up one for the liar side. But, uh-oh, there's more! Politico broke the story that the good doctor fabricated his offer of acceptance into West Point, with a full scholarship to boot.

It's only just another lie piled on to the on-air Mannatech one, but as with many grifters they can begin to add up. CNN is trying to chase down some of his more flamboyant claims of an early life as a violent renegade before turning to a life of Christ.

I can't claim to know where this is going, but people so obviously on the grift -- Carson has made millions during this run for the presidency -- do sometimes crash and burn. Many people, let's face it, have been waiting for Ben Carson's ship to sink in a storm of his own making.

I thought it would be his propensity for making wacky statements. I didn't anticipate it would be his membership in the lyin' liars club. Glad to be wrong, as Atrios would say!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

GOP Candidates Come Out Against Freedom of the Press, Only Nice Journalists Can Ask Questions, If the Questions Are Nice

My nice question for this guy is, seriously, what the fuck?

The GOP candidate field is, by all accounts, shooting itself in the foot over its problem with future debates because of the meanies at CNBC's debate in Boulder, Colorado. Apparently, the candidates don't realize they're acting like petty, little fraidy cats.

Petulant cowards these candidates are, as Yoda might put it.

Sadly, I expect the media to cave, when what they should do -- Fox News included -- is rise as one to say fuck off. But, oh well. Money! Ratings!

I hope I'm wrong. For now, we're treated to the commentariat telling the GOP candidates to grow a pair, including you, Carly. Read some decent snark here, here, here, and here. (Open up NYTimes and WaPo content in private (Firefox) or incognito (Chrome) windows to avoid paywall problems.)

General agreement is that this is a further Republican descent into chaos. Kinda looks that way. Love Barack Obama's take on this. (Hilarious video.)
"Every one of these candidates says, 'Obama's weak, Putin's kicking sand in his face. When I talk to Putin, he's going to straighten out,'" Obama said during a democratic fundraiser in New York City.
"And then it turns out, they can't handle a bunch of CNBC moderators," he said. "If you can't handle those guys, I don't think the Chinese and the Russians are going to be too worried about you."

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Political Divide and How Diversity Drives It

Two Pauls that personify the gulf between liberals and conservatives.

I was happy I caught a couple of Salon articles on related topics. One was a piece on how diversity is driving the nation toward more progressive policy solutions. What I hadn't considered was how the white backlash highlighted by Republican candidates' rhetoric was exacerbating the gulf:
Noting that “we’ve gone beyond the tipping point on the demographic changes taking place in the country,” Greenberg credited “ongoing, extraordinary, disruptive changes” with “producing a different kind of politics” that allows for a more robust progressive debate.
“That bigger story is what is creating our politics,” Greenberg explained. “There is a new American majority. It’s growing at an extraordinary rate driven by these revolutions.”
“A rural, white, married, evangelical, religious,” Republican Party, Greenberg argued, is waging a “furious counter-revolution” to blunt the rise of a more diverse, liberal populace, but is actually working to further marginalize itself.
“The Republican Party essentially exists — particularly in the last decade — to deny that new American majority the ability to govern based on its values.”
This effort has “alienated the Republican Party from the country,” according to Greenberg, who says a GOP “implosion” is already underway.
I'd been watching this growing white Christian male-driven backlash for a number of years now, unleashed in response to an African-American Democrat in the Oval Office. Though, to be sure, this gulf has been widening long before Obama. It may trace its roots all the way back to Reagan, even Carter, who may have been the last religious white southern Democratic president, certainly of a dying breed.

What I hadn't grasped was that this "furious counter-revolution" was highly counter-productive, as the staunchly conservative base of the GOP was only further marginalizing themselves. Hence we get Trump and Carson with matching 26% in the primary race. Trump represents the hysterical whites who fear the brown and the black; Carson, in spite of his blackness, represents the evangelical in the party. Together, the unlikely alliance holds 52% of the GOP vote. I'd say go figure, except it's not hard to figure: The angry GOP base is highly religious in a dual way: They express a secular religiosity in as much as they embrace discredited laissez-faire, free market economics and a real religiosity in finding in Jesus Christ a contempt for the poor that is nowhere to be found in the Gospels. That does indeed elicit a go figure.

Kos -- Marcos Moulitsas of Daily Kos -- once referred to this conservative Christian belief structure as the "bad-ass Jesus," a messiah that would embrace both free markets and the Second Amendment and the death penalty to boot. Bad-ass fer sure.

That's pretty mental and explains why Trump and Carson have gotten so far in these still-early days of the 2016 race. They may crash and burn -- the establishment expects them to -- but what Republican Party do they leave in their wake? A bunch of furious white people ready to embrace Marco Rubio, who once embraced immigration reform with a path to citizenship for 12 million brown people?

I wonder.

If indeed this disadvantages the Republicans and their disjointed conservative base, we may be headed for wiser heads to prevail on taxes and the economy. That's where a second article at Salon makes a good primer on the future, penned by Paul Rosenburg and built around a new study, by Mark Zandi and Alan Binder, of how we got out of the Great Recession:
On this second [economic] front, the GOP blame-shifting centers on Obama, in order to virtually erase the epic market failure from history. Just as Bush is supposed to get a pass for 9/11, while getting credit for “keeping us safe” afterwards, he’s also given a pass for the housing bubble and the financial crisis which gave us the Great Recession, so that all blame can be focused on Obama, who supposedly made things worse with his “job-killing” policies.
In the real world, empirically-based economists know this is ridiculous. In the third quarter of 2010, for example, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the stimulus bill “increased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.6 million.” This was typical of CBO reporting of the impact the stimulus had, but the totality of policy responses was much broader than that, and a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities by economists Alan Binder of Princeton and Mark Zandi of Moody Analytics updates their earlier work in 2010 to first provide a comprehensive overview and then draw lessons for the future.
The article goes on to be a good discussion of how we got out of the Great Recession and how the three major tools -- TARP, the ARA stimulus act, and the Fed's quantitative easing programs -- worked together to save our economic bacon. A major message is that we can use a number of tools, including clean-energy spending and other forms of fiscal and monetary moves, to get out of the inevitable next crisis.

None of these economic remedies are favored in the slightest by any of the GOP candidates, which is why Rosenberg's article is called, "Paul Krugman has taught them nothing: Republicans would tank the economy again, given the chance."


No! My tax cuts are totally bigger than yours!

 Yes, there is a stark divide even as some progressives say there's not a dime's worth of difference between the parties. Republicans want to hand yet more money to the rich to trickle down; the Democrats want to give more money to the middle and lower classes, paying for it with tax increases on the wealthy. There's also laissez-faire policies driving the GOP -- free markets will fix recessions! -- with Keynesian stimulus and activist monetary policy preferred by Democrats.

Obama, who was more centrist that most Democrats care to admit, nonetheless went with policies that got us out of the economic ditch. No amount of GOP clown-car blathering will be able to erase that reality. And Americans -- a growing number of them -- believe it.

Republican Tax Plans: Puppies and Rainbows Indeed

Unclear on the concept: We want taxes lower on the rich for when it's our turn. Right.

Josh Barro wrote a bit in the NYTimes that presaged last Wednesday's GOP primary debate, which was followed by scads of articles debunking the various candidates' tax plans. Barro crafted a good description of them:
In March, Senator Marco Rubio announced a tax plan that I called the “Puppies and Rainbows” plan because it’s full of things almost every Republican likes. Mr. Rubio, as laid out in a proposal he developed with Senator Mike Lee of Utah, wants big tax cuts on capital income that are supposed to encourage investment, including a tax rate of zero on capital gains. He also seeks big tax cuts for middle-income families, most notably an increase in the child tax credit to $2,500 from $1,000.
That is, you can think of “puppies” and “rainbows” as shorthand for two of the policy aims of tax cutting. One aim is to return money to ordinary families to raise their standards of living — for example, by making it possible to afford to have nice things, like a puppy.
The other aim is economic growth, which Republicans hope to create when lower tax rates encourage people to work harder or invest more money. Unfortunately, tax cuts have not necessarily led to growth when we’ve tried them before. But negative past experience will not always stop people from chasing pots of gold at the end of rainbows.
The prize is pots of gold, which is what the rich are supposed to acquire from Republican tax plans. As for puppies for everyone, at least there will always be dog food if the rich continue to be so tight with their money. Trickle-down, my ass.

Quite clear on the concept: Some people's second home.

Note on the Democrats. Just for contrast, the Dems would raise taxes on the rich alongside tax cuts for the middle and lower classes. Bernie probably more than Hillary. Is that the opposite of puppies and rainbows? I suppose so. No, wait. The middle and lower classes might still get their puppies, it's just the rich that will have to forego (part of) their rainbows. Still pots of gold, just not so much.

Where is this bad for the American people? (The browns and blacks might get some free money. Oh noes!!)