Skip to content

Safe for another year, what a relief

It’s hard to convey the inexpressible sense of relief that swept over me when I learned that we had avoided, first for a week, but now a blessed year, a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security. Like everyone else, I was shaking in my boots at the prospect of losing the agency’s protection, even for a minute. Ever since 2001, I’ve felt secure, knowing it was there, sort of like a Big Brother, someone I could count on to provide protection from the terrorists that I feel sure would have gotten me by now, if not for its omnipresence and omniscience. Shame on the Republicans for holding it hostage to their demand that we treat immigrants like sub-human trash; shame on the Democrats for not giving in to those demands. After all, they always have before. All hail Netanyahu, for providing the cover John Boehner needed to allow rationality to prevail in the House, if only for a minute.

Perhaps it’s churlish to point out that in this country reason only prevails when the continued existence of something we may not really need is on the line. The Department of Homeland Security was given its Orwellian name (along with its companion tribute to Orwell, the Patriot Act) in part to aid in keeping Americans in a constant state of terror, the better to keep them distracted while their rights and livelihoods are steadily stripped away. Boehner would feel no pressure at all to step back from the brink if, say, the continued existence of food stamps was on the line. Were I a Republican crazy, the lesson I would take from this is that I picked the wrong target. I would attach the immigration rider to the next food stamp authorization bill, or the next bill funding education. Boehner would back me to the hilt, and Democrats would be forced to “compromise” because they would have none of the leverage they had on Homeland Security funding; that leverage being in the form of a media that, for the most part, (Fox News excepted) pretty much presumed that a DHS shutdown would be a threat to the Republic. That same media would consider starving little kids a mere political issue, with both sides equally to blame, a situation which always seems to call for Democratic surrender.

A brief history of time

Posting has been sparse lately.

You’re welcome.

As an added bonus, I must share this, which I found while wandering in Jerry Coyne’s blog, Why Evolution is True.

Unfortunately, Philomena Cunk does not appear to have her own channel, so you must search by name at youtube to find her videos. She is the host of Moments of Wonder. Here’s Episode 1, in which we learn all about time:

I’ve also learned all kinds of things I didn’t know about money and Winston Churchill. And no, I do not think I have a weird sense of humor.

No surprises here: O’Reilly’s lies no problem for the folks at Fox

Yesterday, I argued that Bill O'Reilly would survive his exposure as a liar in the Brian Williams tradition. I take great pleasure in pointing out when I am right, so I am doing that now. The rules are different for Folks at Fox. O'Reilly's bosses are standing behind him, for exactly the reasons that I speculated they would:

Fox News is sticking by its boy even as a parade of Bill O'Reilly's former CBS colleagues come forward to say that his accounts of “war zone” and “combat situation” reporting are false. The tally of O'Reilly's embellishments keeps growing; in fact, one 2008 interview prompted one of O'Reilly's former CBS colleagues to complain at the time that O'Reilly's version of the story didn't match with reality

But for true believers, this is all just evidence that liberals are out to get O'Reilly, and his angry denials are The Truth. Seven of his former colleagues and contemporary press reports are lying, O'Reilly is to be trust. With Fox News executives sticking by him, this shouldn't damage O'Reilly much in the fictional world where he spends most of his time.

via Dailly Kos

According to the New York Times, which has now gotten around to covering the story:

Mr. O’Reilly said he would settle the dispute on his show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” on Monday. He also has invited former CBS News employees to appear on his show to discuss the controversy.

Now, you may think that O'Reilly is deviating from the script I wrote, for I suggested that the denials should be non-stop, but that in no case should one subject oneself to questioning. Surely, he runs a substantial risk by inviting CBS News employees to appear on his show. Don't believe it. He will either a) find former CBS employees, who now work at Fox; b) invite people on to his show who have no direct knowledge; or c) not let them get a word in edgewise once they're on the air.

In the end, he'll survive, with his reputation burnished among the faithful. In his position, all he need do is stick to his story, show up for work, and wait until the story grows old. As I said, there are different rules for folks on the right. They never have to take responsibility for their own actions, they never have to admit they were wrong, and they are allowed to be as hypocritical as they please.

War hero O’Reilly shows Brian Williams how it’s done

If you are not a devoted blogaholic you may not even know that Bill O'Reilly is facing criticism for having lied about his journalistic combat experience. His lies rivaled if not surpassed Brian Williams wildest fantasies, claiming, for instance, that while covering the Falklands War hundreds of miles away from the Falklands someone pointed an M16 at his head. . And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Needless to say, none of it is true. It isn't even truthy.

But the world is different for Fox news types, or, I should say, for right wingers generally. Right wing politicians are all deeply religious, which, for some reason, means they can keep their offices after getting caught with their pants down and diapers on with prostitutes, while Democrats like Eliot Spitzer have no choice but to resign. The mainstream media hasn't totally ignored the story, but if it's been in the Times, for instance, it hasn't exactly commanded the space they devoted to Brian Williams.

But, who knows, had Brian Williams followed the O'Reilly playbook, he might not be sitting out a suspension. There are only two rules. First, never admit that you lied, regardless of the evidence. Simply repeat over and over that everything you said was true. A corollary to this is to avoid talking to anyone who will actually follow up and confront you with the facts. Second, attack your attackers. Now, this playbook is a little easier to follow if your audience consists of Fox viewers, who are more than ready to believe that they are being victimized by the same forces of liberalism that O'Reilly is attacking. But it is an effective strategy even when you don't have the benefit of a brain dead base. Williams should have at least tried it.

So you heard it here first, or maybe first. O'Reilly will sail through this. And if he doesn't then I never said he would and anyone who says different is a right wing ideologue bent on destroying all that is good in the world.

Republican woman breaks into mostly male winners circle

A rarity: a woman beats the odds, and appears to qualify for more than honorable mention at the Darwin Awards. Not surprisingly, she's a Republican:

A low-level Republican official in Michigan was adjusting a gun in her bra holster last month when she accidentally shot herself to death, local newspapers reported.

Christina Bond, 55, shot herself in the eye in St. Joseph, Mich., on New Year's Day, the Kalamazoo Gazette newspaper reported in January. Although investigators at the time said the death was accidental, it wasn't until Wednesday that the St. Joseph Public Safety Department explained to the Gazette how the event unfolded.

Bond “was having trouble adjusting her bra holster, couldn't get it to fit the way she wanted it to,” St. Joseph Public Safety Director Mark Clapp told the newspaper. “She was looking down at it and accidentally discharged the weapon.”

Given her age, she probably couldn't have done much harm to the gene pool going forward, but you never know.

Rubes waking up?

On a number of occasions (too lazy to provide links) I've given thanks to the scores of grifters who divert right wing funds from their intended use (subverting the Republic) into their own undeserving pockets. It’s dirty work, but thank God someone's doing it. Newt, Sarah, Ben and their lesser known direct mail kindred deserve our thanks and our scorn. (Do I contradict myself? Take it up with Walt Whitman)

Sadly, it appears that some on the right have suddenly realized that maybe the grifters are not pulling their political weight:

But there are signs that some of the most rigidly conservative rightwing writers out there are getting sick of it and are ready to speak out. On Tuesday, Jonah Goldberg of the National Review highlighted a report from John Hawkins of Right Wing News that exposed how many of the Tea Party-style PACs are basically taking money gullible donors think is going to elect conservative politicians and using it for basically anything but that. Ten of the 17 PACs examined by Hawkins took in more than $50 million and only spent about $3.6 million of it on campaigns. SarahPAC, run by Sarah Palin, was a typical offender, spending only $205,000 of their $3 million, or about 7 percent of the funds.

via Talking Points Memo

Thing is, Jonah's not really upset about it, he's just jealous. Still, it's unsettling that the right is noticing what was obvious to the rest of us. It's marginally possible they'll be able to do something about it, and divert some of the money shelled out by the rubes to actually influencing elections. And don't fool yourself into thinking that the rubes we're talking about are only the yahoos living in trailers watching Fox News. Even the Koch Brothers and their ilk have thrown money at more highly placed con artists, like Karl Rove. The only thing keeping the Republic on life support is the fact that these people waste so much of the money they spend to influence elections. If they ever get their act together, the country will truly be toast.

Don’t play that card!

The Republicans are slow walking the confirmation hearings for Eric Holder's replacement. According to reputed moderate Chuck Grassley, she must show that she is not Eric Holder. This is a curious thing, because if not for the fact that he is Obama's attorney general and/or that he is black, Holder is a guy that ordinarily the Republicans should love. Just as two examples, he has deported more people than anyone before him, and he has brought more cases against whistle blowers than all of his predecessors combined. This makes things a bit difficult for both the Republicans and Loretta Lynch, the nominee, because she must prove that she is not that part of Eric Holder that the Republicans don't like, while at the same time proving she is that part of Eric Holder that the Republicans like.

The problem is that it would appear that she can't help but being one big part of the part of Eric Holder the Republicans don't like, unless she gets skin color change surgery, which I'm not sure exists.

There are still people alive who remember the Clarence Thomas hearings, but apparently none of the Democrats on the Judiciary committee are among them. Not that they weren't alive then; some of them were already old at the time. Apparently, they simply choose not to remember.

What I remember is that there was resistance mounting to the hypocritical disaster that is Clarence Thomas, which he and the Republicans stopped in its tracks by accusing the Democrats of being racists. Despite Anita Thomas, despite his manifest distaste for those who shared his skin color, the Democrats shut their traps and, by and large, voted for one of the worst Supreme Court justices of all times. (At least up to that point)

Now we have a situation in which only race can explain the actions of the Republicans; not just distaste for the candidate because of her race, but the ever present bitterness that a person of her race (Obama's white half, of course, counts for nothing—one drop and all that) has twice been elected president. Yet, despite the fact that this is the only logical explanation for what the Republicans have done to Obama and are doing to Lynch, not a word to that effect will the Democrats breathe. Should they do so, they will be accused of playing the “race card”, and that's a card (like the “class warfare card) that only Republicans can play.

Sinners casting stones

When I saw this article's (White House to File Case Against China at W.T.O. Over Subsidies for Exports) title in this morning's Times, I immediately smelled a rat. The stench grew stronger as I read. I could tell by the title that this “case” was a PR move intended to smooth the way for the Trans Pacific Partnership corporate protection treaty. And, indeed, my suspicions were confirmed:

The Obama administration accused China on Wednesday of providing illegal export subsidies to critical industries, flexing its muscle on trade as it presses Congress to expand President Obama’s authority to secure major trade accords.

The administration wants Congress to give it the power to negotiate a Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is intended to lower trade barriers while adding a range of measures that protect patents and other forms of intellectual property across a dozen Pacific nations. Crucially, it is pressing Congress to accept, as it has for past trade deals, that any agreement be subject to a yes-or-no vote with no amendments allowed.

If you've been following this debate at all, you know that the TPP is primarily designed to give corporations a free hand to exploit the rest of us, soak up whatever income remains to us, exempt transnational corporations from domestic law, and destroy the environment. You can read one of Dean Baker's many treatments of the subject here. It is a mystery why a Democratic administration is trying to do this. Well, it's actually not a mystery; Obama has handed economic policy to Wall Street, and this is of a piece with that.

But, you may say, it's still all to the good if Obama is going after those nefarious Chinese. They must be doing something horrible.

Well, of what does their crime consist?

The administration accused China of providing almost $1 billion in illegal subsidies over three years by offering so-called common service platforms to help exporters. The administration is also contending that China set up 179 “demonstration bases” for exporters in these industries, providing at least $635,000 apiece at some of the bases.

An objection immediately popped to my mind, and a few paragraphs later, I see it has occurred to others:

The administration’s case might be tricky, though. Mr. Froman said that by receiving free or discounted back-office services, Chinese export companies were able to lower their cost of doing business, thus helping reduce what they charge foreign customers for their goods. But the W.T.O. could see such indirect subsidies as widely used, even in the United States. (Emphasis added)

Ya think? Subsidies can take many forms. For instance, here in Groton, when the Town Council gives a business a tax break, it is effectively subsidizing that business by “lower[ing its] cost of doing business”. Cities and states across this great nation are competing with each other to lower the cost of doing business for every swine with enough muscle to get to the trough. Maybe China is being more transparent about the subsidy, but there's no functional difference-it is shifting the cost of doing business from the businesses involved to Chinese taxpayers, just as our federal government, states, cities and towns have been doing for years with various tax breaks, not to mention actually building stadiums for professional sports teams (and letting the NFL avoid taxes as a non-profit) and bailing out criminal enterprises known as banks, which certainly lowered their costs of doing business.

Who knows, maybe the huge TPP cloud with have a slim silver lining. Maybe the administration's legal theory will be extended to its logical conclusion and our states, cities and towns will be barred from giving these subsidies. That would, at least, stop one race to the bottom.

This year’s grifter

Mike Huckabee has written a book, in which he proclaims the superiority of the Bubba, and he's getting some pushback. Jon Stewart pointed out the inconsistency between the Huckster's condemnation of Beyonce, given his own former role as a side guitar man for a performance of Cat Scratch Fever. Here, Huck is defending himself for his anti-dance views in his teenage years.

What interests me about all this is the fact that most members of the media either don't understand what Huckabee is doing, or prefer to make believe they don't understand. Not to put too fine a point in it: Huckabee is not running for president, he is grifting.

Gail Collins almost gets there, but she really doesn't get it, or she wouldn't have said:

While Mike Huckabee is almost certainly not going to be the Republican presidential nominee, he is a real candidate.

She's absolutely right in the first portion of that sentence, and absolutely wrong in the second, because Mike Huckabee, were he pumped full of truth serum, would admit what he knows perfectly well: that he is not a real candidate, as he has no hope of winning, nor does he desire to do so. Like Sarah, he knows that there's lots of money to be made out there on the hustings, and he's going to grab his share. What better way to grab a goodly share of the sucker's money than by playing to their sense of victimhood and assuring them that they are, in fact, better than all those people who are smarter than they are? But, contrariwise, what better way to assure you'll never be president than by systematically insulting a huge percentage of the population? Sure, Ted Cruz plays to the stupid Southerners, but he doesn't do it by openly bashing the rest of us. Like any politician that wants to get elected, he speaks in deniable code, so he can turn around and bash the media if anyone openly decodes what he says. Huckabee is not doing that, or, more accurately, he is making what he knows is an ineffectual Palin-like gesture in that direction. There can be no surer sign that he's joined Sarah as a grifter, milking the Republican base for every dollar he can get. Grifting is a multi-million dollar Republican industry, and Huckabee wouldn't have left Fox unless he'd concluded that he could make more money grifting than bloviating. That why he's happy to let Jon Stewart make him look like a fool in the eyes of the rational. He sells 10,000 books every time he (and by extension, all those “Bubbas”) get laughed at by Stewart's audience. No one actually reads those books, by the way.

We Democrats can take some pride in the fact that there is no Huckabee or Palin analog on the left. Long may that remain the case.

Schiavo redux

It has been great fun watching Republicans try to deal with the vaccination issue. The natural reaction of a Republican politician is to go with the crazy. If you are perceived as a moderate, like Chris Christie, you may literally embrace the chance to establish your insane bona fides, which is, of course, exactly what Christie did.

Now, normally, Republicans get a free pass on this sort of stuff. For instance, Republicans are allowed to question climate science, without much pushback, so they had every right to expect they could disregard medical science without any problems.

But in rare cases, it doesn't work. The disconnect between the words they emit and reality may be too great, or, and this is classically the case, they may emit ignorant noises about an issue that people viscerally understand. The firestorm they've faced (I mean poor Rand Paul had to take a needle) is similar in kind if not in degree to what took place after they decided to interfere in the Terry Schiavo case. They literally never saw that coming, though yours truly did (no link available to my old dead blog, but see here). Just as [almost]everyone can imagine themselves presented with a Schiavo situation, [almost] everyone can understand the need for vaccines. (Oh, by the way, aren't these the same folks who went into full panic mode about Ebola?) This has left the poor Republican presidential wannabes totally perplexed. They are caught in the middle between the bat-shit crazies, and an aroused rational mega-majority. What's a politician to do?

I'm not sure this would work, but they might want to borrow some irrationality from Senator Tillis. They could say that they are against requiring anyone to be vaccinated, but if you don't get vaccinated, you have to wear a sign that tells the world that you have not been vaccinated. I know it doesn't make any sense, but we are talking about Republicans here.