Saturday, December 20, 2014

"New York, New York, it's a helluva town"


In June 1992, lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green narrated a famous London concert performance of On the Town at the Barbican Centre with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. (An audio recording made at the same time is still available, but there doesn't seem to be a DVD issue of the concert.) Here Comden and Green introduce the opening number, as our three sailors, let loose for a single day on the city, sing "New York, New York," with Thomas Hampson as Gabey, Kurt Ollman as Chip, and David Garrison as Ozzie.

"On the Town was a landmark, the first show by a bunch of bright upstarts -- [Leonard] Bernstein, [Betty] Comden and [Adolph] Green, and Jerome Robbins, all still in their 20s -- who would go on, together and apart, to help shape the cultural landscape of the 20th century."
-- Adam Green, in "Innocents on Broadway,"
in the November issue of Vanity Fair

by Ken

After a six-year stint at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, he headed out into the world with this inspiring send-off from a teacher who had seen him perform in the class show he had written and directed: "I hope you've got enough talent to make a living at that, because otherwise you're in big trouble."

We have no way of knowing how many people in similar circumstances we never hear more about, either because they just weren't good enough or, more poignantly, because they just never found a way to impress their talents on a big, uncaring world. In this case, though, "he" was Adolph Green, and not only he but a tight circle of his intimates were headed for great things, which came into focus for a number of them when On the Town opened on Broadway on December 28, 1944.

Green's son, Adam, has written a really wonderful piece for Vanity Fair about the history that culminated in that historic night, with both Adolph Green and Betty Comden, who had written the lyrics and who would go on to enjoy a 60-year partnership, in the cast (in roles they had sensibly written for themselves), and with music by Adoph's best friend, Leonard Bernstein. It's such a good story that I want to offer a closer glimpse of it tomorrow, but for tonight I thought we'd hear a musical preview.


including a number of members of the original cast, among them Betty and Adolph -- for a studio recording of On the Town with the composer conducting. I thought we'd hear the opening number from that classic recording.

Adolph Green and Leonard Bernstein at the recording session, with producer Goddard Lieberson in the background

BERNSTEIN, COMDEN, and GREEN: On the Town: Introduction (including "New York, New York")

John Reardon, Gabey; Cris Alexander, Chip; Adolph Green, Ozzie; 1960 studio cast recording, Leonard Bernstein, cond. Columbia-CBS-Sony


Will "Twerp" Stick To Marco Rubio Forever?



Marco Rubio was born in the U.S. Like many Americans, his parents were economic refugees from Cuba, looking for better opportunities for their family. Rubio has stopped, but he used to routinely lie and tell people they were political refugees fleeing Castro. Eventually someone pointed out that when they arrived, the political refugees were fleeing the U.S.-backed right-wing dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, whose fascist regime wasn't toppled by Castro until 1959, years after the Rubios were settled in America.

Since President Obama's announcement of a very popular new path forward between the U.S. and Cuba, Rubio has tried to make himself-- even more than Ted Cruz-- the spokesperson of old-line opposition. He isn't persuading anyone that he has any worthwhile ideas about U.S.-Cuba relations. And he's coming across to a public that has largely barely heard of him as an hysterical, unhinged, nasty-minded twerp. When Rand Paul announced that he supports Obama's policy on Cuba, Rubio came unglued.
Rubio isn’t mincing words when it comes to his Republican colleague Sen. Rand Paul’s support for the U.S.’s new Cuba policy.

"Like many people who have been opining, he has no idea what he’s talking about," Rubio said Thursday on Fox News’ The Kelly Report.

..."The 50-year embargo just hasn’t worked, if the goal was regime change, it sure doesn’t seem to be working," Paul, Kentucky’s junior senator, said during an interview this week. "Probably, it punishes the people more than the regime because the regime can blame the embargo for hardship."

But Rubio pushed back on Paul’s claim, saying, "I would expect that people would understand that if they just took a moment to analyze that, they would realize that the embargo is not what’s hurting the Cuban people, it’s the lack of freedom and the lack of competent leaders."
Polling shows that a broad spectrum of Americans want to move forward on Cuba-- even among Cuban-Americans in Florida!
A Florida International University poll of Cuban-Americans from June found that a strong majority-- 68 percent-- favors reestablishing diplomatic relations with the island country, and 69 percent favor lifting travel restrictions.

The same poll from 2004 found that only 39 percent of Cuban-Americans favored reestablishing diplomatic ties with Cuba, with 52 percent in opposition. In 1993, the same poll found that 80 percent favored the policy of no diplomatic ties with Cuba.

In addition, 52 percent of Cuban-Americans now oppose the U.S. trade embargo, with 71 percent saying it hasn’t worked. The same poll from 2004 found that strong majority-- 59 percent-- in favor of continuing the trade restrictions. In 1993, 85 percent favored tightening the embargo.

The trends among Cuban-Americans in Florida mirror how voters nationally view U.S. policy toward Cuba.
It certainly helps with U.S. foreign relations in the rest of Latin America, where Obama's move is being widely cheered. Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil: "We never thought we would see this moment... a moment which marks a change in civilization." Even Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro was impressed: "We have to recognize the gesture of President Barack Obama, a brave gesture and historically necessary, perhaps the most important step of his presidency."

Rubio, meanwhile, comes across as angry and wedded to outdated, failed policies and special interests that conflict with American national interests. "I don’t care," he hissed, "if the polls say that 99 percent of people believe we should normalize relations in Cuba." Rubio has turned himself into a national joke, representing the perspective primarily of elderly-- pretty much much over retirement age-- right-wing Cubans and of the U.S. sugar producers, who fear open markets, who have helped finance his career.

Of course, Rubio isn't alone here. Many South Florida Republican politicians have used the Cuba issue as the basis for their entire careers and, like Rubio, have been financed by the Fanjul brothers, the sugar barons who know their empire will collapse if less expensive Cuban sugar is sold in the U.S. (This is also why crooked Democrats like Fanjul-pawn Debbie Wasserman Schultz is, once again, standing with the GOP against progress. Her Florida House colleagues from across the aisle are coming across as crazy and, frankly, unAmerican, as Rubio. Foolishly, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart are sticking with Rubio.
Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart said the Republican Congress would seek to maintain economic sanctions.

“There are a lot of questions about the legality of what he says,” Ros-Lehtinen said of Obama’s action.

She added that she finds it “ironic” that the Cuban revolution was premised on saving the island from the rich. She argued that corporations are poised to benefit most from the opening of economic activity with the U.S.

“We are saying to the Yankee imperialist pigs, come and own a piece of Cuba, we are for sale, and those who have money, come on over because it’s a fire sale,” Ros-Lehtinen said.

...Diaz-Balart accused the Obama administration, including former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, of lying about their negotiations with Cuba.

“Yesterday they did exactly what they claimed they would never do,” re-establish ties without significant concessions toward democracy including a free press, Diaz-Balart said.

“It shows a deep level of cynicism to then claim he is doing this to help the Cuban people,” he said.
Diaz-Balart has a relatively safe seat. The only thing safe about Ros-Lehtinen's is the protection she's gotten from Wasserman Schultz and Steve Israel. She is one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the House, sitting in district where Obama beat Romney 130,020 (53%) to 114,096 (47%). It was the bluest district in the country Steve Israel and his corrupt DCCC refused to contest in 2014. With Wasserman Schultz having lost political clout within the Democratic Party, there's no reason to think she can continue preventing the DCCC from taking out Ros-Lehtinen. Now would be a great time to start recruiting. I wonder if Annette Taddeo would be willing to try again.

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Crackpot Utopia: The Year in Republican Crazy, Part 2


• Repugs wonder why normal people call them racists
• Sean Hannity wants to self-deport
• And the First Annual Mr. Burns Award

Crazyspeak of the Year nominee No. 2 --
the Rockin' Racist, Ted Nugent

Crackpot Utopia: A dream world as envisioned by republicans; a manifestation or expression of the deranged, warped alternate universe inhabited by republicans, at least in their minds. See also: Bachmannism, Boehneresque.

by Noah

1. And Republicans claim to wonder why normal people call them racists (featuring Crazyspeak of the Year nominee No. 2: the Rockin' Racist, Ted Nugent)

I always tell them that the best way to stop being thought a racist is to stop saying and doing racist things.

As promised in Part 1, here's the Rockin' Racist, Ted Nugent, vying for his Republican Crazyspeak of the Year Award. Ted is a very commercially successful recording artist, and, like most successful recording artists, he has a way of expressing the thoughts of his constituency; in this case, his fellow republicans. There's a reason why he's a star on FOX. Even Anderson Cooper, on FOX-Lite CNN, enjoys having him on as a guest from time to time.
I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame, enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community-organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America.
Nugent was just warming up.
A lotta people call that inflammatory speech. Well, I would call it inflammatory speech when it's your job to protect Americans and you actually look into the television camera saying what difference does it make that I failed in my job to provide security and we have four dead Americans. What difference does that make? Not to a chimpanzee or, a, to Hillary Clinton. I guess it doesn't matter.
Yep. "Subhuman," "mongrel," "chimpanzee." When republicans talk like this about our first African-American president, they are still, no doubt, seething with frustration that they can't just scream out the N-word from the rooftops. A couple of years ago I posted a list of 30 or so words that republicans use because they can't scream the N-word. I hadn't thought of "subhuman mongrel" or "chimpanzee." Maybe those were just too old-fashioned to make the list.

I also missed out on "thug," but so did Ted. "Thug" is the new N-word. It's become the latest buzzword on FOX. If viewers were watching FOX and playing a drinking game where one took a shot of booze every time some cretin on FOX spat out the word "thug," they'd be dead of alcohol poisoning in no time. Note to repugs: Please play the drinking game!

The Rockin' Racist even managed to mention ACORN and the other new FOX buzzword of the year, "Benghazi." Never mind that the real Benghazi cover-up is the fact that it was the Republican Congress that stripped away the money ($79 million) for our embassy security, thus enabling the murder of those four Americans in Benghazi. It's all about the misdirection game.

One wonders where Nugent and his fellow FOX vermin were when 6o Americans died in 12 similar attacks under Bush's watch. Not much calling for hearings then, eh? Gee, Ted. You also forgot "secret Muslim."

Yeah, we've all met republicans that claim to not be racists, that they know some African-Americans, etc. I've heard people say that Sean Hannity isn't a racist because he sometimes has black people on his show. But that's like the KKK saying it isn't racist because they once booked the great Solomon Burke to provide the entertainment at one of their famous twilight picnics. That, however, was accidental. They had thought he was white, but they had him sing anyway, as all the guests arrived in full KKK garb. How nice of them. They even paid him. See, no racism!

When they were somehow hired by the KKK, Solomon Burke and his band played "Down in the Valley" (as they do here at Norway's Notodden Blues Festival in 2005) for "at least 45 minutes," wondering, "Are we gonna get out of here alive?"

2. Sean Hannity wants to self-deport

From The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Jon and the gang pulled out all the stops to implore Sean H to "Stay, Mr. Hannity, Stay."

Almost a year ago now, Sean Hannity went on a semi-literate rant about how he didn't like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He finished up by threatening to self-deport to Florida or Texas.

Hey, I don't like Andrew Cuomo either. He's cut from the Conservadem cloth and has tried his best to ruin New York's famous drinking water by letting his Big Gas buddies frack all over the state. Eventually, he got the message, after New Yorkers managed to tell him where he can stick the idea, no matter how much was being paid in "campaign contributions" to push it.

Hannity's problem with Cuomo? He doesn't like paying state taxes. Like any republican, he'd rather be a freeloader. Hence, the proposed move to the "taker" state of his choice. Go ahead, make our day, you whining, crap-stirring buffoon! In Texas they don't have state taxes, but what they do have is an ever-growing mountainous shortfall that's so serious, they are literally letting many of their paved roads revert to dirt roads.

I suggest Sean choose Florida. May he be gobbled up by a sinkhole or one of the state's huge constrictor snakes. If he chooses Texas, someone should get him high, dress him up as a stereotype Mexican mariachi musician and leave him along the highway to play frogger with a bunch of bigoted Texas truck drivers bearing down on him. Benghazi that, moron!

3. The First Annual Mr. Burns Award

An award given not just for being an insensitive assclown -- the winner must also exhibit extreme callousness, a dangerously low IQ, and, a measure of contempt for humanity that, at the, borders on psychopathy. At this time, I would like to nominate one Kevin O'Leary, one of the "sharks" of ABC's Shark Tank.

When told, on the CBC's Lang and O'Leary Exchange (which he cohosted with Amanda Lang from 2009 until his departure this past August), that the wealth of the world's 85 richest people was equal to the wealth of 3½ billion of the world's poorest people, venture capitalist O'Leary revealed his insanity, his Romneyesque contempt for others, and his downright psychopathic tendencies by stating:
It's fantastic! And this is a great thing because it inspires everybody, gets some motivation to look up to the 1 percent and say, "I want to be one of those people. I'm going to fight hard to get up to the top." This is fantastic news, and of course I applaud it.
Knowing he wasn't being very convincing, he paused while viewers and on-air partner Amanda Lang cringed, then added:
What could be wrong with this?
I'm surprised he didn't say the poor should kiss his feet too. This is why I should have a button on my remote that inflicts instant migraines or dumps buckets of blood à la Carrie on such "people" when they appear on my TV. How long can this world tolerate not having a fair and legal remedy for people like Kevin O'Leary? I'd put this assclown on one of those big rotating wooden wheels that circus knife-throwers use. Then, after fastening him securely, I would declare it "Amateur Night" and invite throwers from the studio audience to come on up to the stage.

TOMORROW IN PART 3: Using fear, loathing, and paranoia to sell stuff; Arizona legalizes crack!; and the next Crazyspeak of the Year nominee (an old reliable)

Crackpot Utopia: The Year in Republican Crazy

Part 1: Princess Liz Cheney -- 2014's Smoothie of the Year?; "Miss Beck regrets" -- Crazyspeak of the Year nominee No. 1, Glenn Beck; and the Crackpot Party reacts to President Obama's SOTU [Friday]

Part 2: Repugs wonder why normal people call them racists (featuring Crazyspeak of the Year nominee No. 2, the Rockin' Racist, Ted Nugent); Sean Hannity wants to self-deport; and the First Annual Mr. Burns Award [Saturday]

Part 3: Using fear, loathing, and paranoia to sell stuff; Arizona legalizes crack!; Crazyspeak of the Year nominee No. 3: Bill O’Reilly [Sunday]

A Prayer to the Janitor of Lunacy

For listings and links, see Part 1 of this year's series.

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Kerry Bentivolio Kicked Out Of The GOP Cult-- And Forced To Sell All His Reindeer


"This is what happens," groused Kerry Bentivolio, "when a regular guy gets an opportunity to come to Congress." He's feeling pretty aggrieved all around. Not many Republicans lost their seats this year. But Bentivolio did-- and he lost ugly to Michigan's foreclosure king, who unleashed a torrent of cash-- over $4,000,000, including $3,623,402 from his own bank account-- to smear him mercilessly from Canton, Livonia and Novi to Auburn Hills and Washington, DC. In the end Trott and his Establishment allies beat him 138,229 (56.1%) to 100,665 (40.8%). Bentivolio calls himself a "a regular guy," but that's a bit of a stretch. He's an unconventional guy with a typical Tea Party sense of victimhood and way to independent-minded to fit in with garden variety, button-downed Republicans. He never really fit in anywhere in DC and, as disgusting as everyone acknowledges Trott is, not many are going to cry in their beers over the premature end of Bentivolio's accidental ascension to Congress.

Some Republican thugs are going in the opposite direction-- trying to wipe out the memory that he ever existed! Trott sent out word that he wouldn't be interested in any Bentivolio staffers and that he wouldn't look favorably on anyone else who hired any of them.

Bentivolio had hired a martial arts trainer from Ann Arbor, Robert Dindoffer, as his senior advisor and then gave him the job of campaign manager, firing him 7 months later. Dindoffer is widely considered a real scumbag and he's one of the leading forces behind Michigan Republicans' efforts to steal electoral votes by changing the way the state apportions them between candidates. When Bentivolio fired him-- basically for submitting false expenses and stealing from the campaign-- Dindoffier sued over some weird contract with a typically Republican type scam to extract more money from the campaign than is normal. Republicans always do this to each other.

Although he isn't willing to talk about it, Bentivolio has made it clear that Dindoffer wasn't just scamming the cash-strapped campaign for money but was also disloyal and looking out for himself, not his boss. This week a local judge ruled that Bentivolio has to pay Dindoffer $120,000.
Dindoffer’s attorney said on Wednesday both sides had reached a confidential settlement agreement this summer and Bentivolio had made some but not all payments as required by a Nov. 30 deadline, which prompted the Dec. 15 consent judgment by Oakland Circuit Judge James Alexander.

“It was confidential until he (Bentivolio) stopped making payments,” said Dindoffer’s attorney Kevin J. Stoops.

Bentivolio, 63, will leave office next month. He was defeated in the Republican primary and then ran unsuccessfully as a write-in candidate.

The judgment is against Bentivolio, and two of his campaign committees, Kerry Bentivolio for US Congress and Bentivolio for Congress. The judgment, which represents 1.5 times the amount due and owed to Dindoffer, resolves the last pending claim and closes the case, Alexander said in his ruling.

In an interview off the House floor last week, Bentivolio told the Detroit News that he was facing financial troubles in the face of the significant judgment. He criticized the conduct of his former campaign manager and questioned the bills and his loyalty.

But he acknowledged agreeing to settle the case earlier this year to reduce possible additional losses and said he had not been able to make payments.

“What can I do? I’m in the middle of a campaign. I’ve got all these people telling me to settle,” Bentivolio said last week, saying he was looking to reduce additional losses.

Bentivolio, a former school teacher who drew attention for being a part-time reindeer farmer, said he sold his reindeer earlier this year to pay bills and fund his campaign along with borrowing from his retirement fund. He said he has been “beat up” by establishment Republicans and the media.

“This is what happens when a regular guy gets an opportunity to come to Congress,” he said.

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Truth In Settlements Act


In the video above, Elizabeth Warren explains why she introduced the Truth in Settlements Act (S.1898) as soon as Congress got back to work last January. She also explains why it was never sent to President Obama's desk to be signed. It would help just about anyone understand why there is so much grassroots support for electing a president like Warren instead of just another tired political hack like Clinton or Bush who doesn't stand for anything that means squat for the well-being of the 99%.

She introduced the bill, co-sponsored by "Senator No"-- AKA-Tom Coburn (R-OK)-- and what it does is require "federal agencies to publicly disclose certain basic information about the major settlements they enter into with corporations. Information like whether a settlement is going to be tax deductible or whether it lets companies claim [financial] credit for things they're already doing... The idea behind the bill is straight-forward: if the government is going to cut deals on behalf of the American people, the American people are entitled to know what kind of a deal they're getting. That's the only way that the public can hold agencies accountable."

When the bill came before the Homeland Securities and Governmental Affairs Committee in July, it was approved unanimously. She asked unanimous consent for the Senate to vote on it. If you listen to the tape you will hear one dissenting voice-- and it's former derivatives trade and egregiously corrupt Wall Street whore Pat Toomey (R-PA), objecting on behalf of himself and, Cornyn (R-TX). and the Chamber of Commerce. So it died, at least for 2014. Senator Warren vows to keep introducing it until it passes.

Thursday supporters of Warren were out in force, both in DC and in New York, where they gathered at the midtown headquarters of Citigroup, the firm took the most in TARP bailout funds (over $45 billion) and that wrote and paid for the derivatives deregulation that passed last week as part of the CRomnibus. Later they took the show to Lazard at Rockefeller Center, the office of Obama's wretched Wall Street shill Antonio Weiss who he is trying to get confirmed as a Treasury Undersecretary. "Enough is enough with Wall Street insiders getting key position after key position and the kind of cronyism that we have seen in the executive branch," said Warren on the Senate floor.
"If I had a Warren, I’d end too big to fail," a circle of protesters sang to the tune of Pete Seeger’s "If I Had a Hammer." "I’d strengthen Volcker, bring back Glass-Steagall too! Use those laws to help my brothers and sisters all over this land."

...The firms also enjoy too many ties to the government, the protesters said. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew worked for Citigroup, his Washington predecessor Robert Rubin was paid more than $100 million when he worked there, and Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer was a Citigroup vice chairman.

Mitt Romney faced criticism of his Wall Street ties during his 2012 presidential run, and Hillary Clinton, a presumptive frontrunner for 2016, has been faulted by both Republicans and some fellow Democrats for being too close to the financial elite. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who has said he may run, will give up his senior adviser role at Barclays Plc at the end of the year, a person with knowledge of the move said today.

“Ask Hillary Clinton,” [Zephyr] Teachout said. “Ask Jeb Bush. Where do you stand on The Citigroup Question?”

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Let's see how quickly Dwight has a submission picked for the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest


by Ken

"Got this e-mail the other day," writes New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff, adding, "It’s not the first of its kind."
This reader is completely non-plussed by the premature deadlines for your cartoon contest, in that they are dated one day before the cover publication date of the magazine, which in my case is often not delivered in the mail until too late to enter.

What exactly is the point of this kind of discouragement to your enthusiastic subscribers? I hope and pray you will not ignore this complaint in an all too common post-modern electronic game of passive aggression.

Dwight (last name not given, because I forgot it)
Wouldn't you like to see our Mr. Bob wriggle his way out of this one? The contest deadline "one day before the cover publication date of the magazine"! Well, it turns out that he doesn't so much wriggle his way out of this one as wriggle his way around it.

First he stalls:
Actually, a postmodern electronic game of passive aggression is now available as an app. You can try to download it, but it takes an endless amount of time to load, flashing you the message “I’m loading. Give me a minute, or, if you can’t wait, cancel it if you want—I won’t be mad. Really.”
Hey there, Mr. Bob, focus! Remember? The contest deadline "one day before the cover publication date of the magazine"? Mailed copy of magazine delivered too late to enter? Sound familiar? Huh?

Okay, here goes. "Look," he says, "the short answer to this problem is that there is no problem."
You can enter the Cartoon Caption Contest online (which is the only way you can enter it) at the stroke of midnight Eastern Standard Time. You don’t have to wait for it to appear in your mailbox.
Note that what he means by "you don’t have to wait for it to appear in your mailbox" is: You're a damn fool if you wait for it to appear in your mailbox, and there isn't a damn thing I can do for you. Actually go back to where he says, "You can enter the Cartoon Caption Contest online," and then immediately adds parenthetically what he really means: that you have to it online, there's no other damn way of doing it. Viewed this way, Mr. Bob isn't so much helping Dwight as taunting him. I suppose it's fair to note that Dwight posed his question via e-mail, and so if he can do that, presumably he can check out the Cartoon Contest online and enter it online -- again remembering that he has to enter it online.

At this point, claiming that "I really do want to help," Mr. Bob goes into a "step-by-step guide for all the Dwights out there. The first two steps are fairly straightforward, at least once Dwight accepts if he waits for his mailed subscription copy of the magazine, he's cooked.
1. Go to

2. Look at the cartoon there, and come up with an ingenious caption.
An alert observer might point out that going to the Contest page might not be as automatic as Mr. Bob is suggesting, if Dwight has used up his month's worth of free articles. In theory, of course, as a subscriber Dwight has unlimited access to the website, but as I've pointed out, this isn't necessarily the case. I (to pick a random example) am unable to sign in to my account in Safari or Firefox, and while I have the word of Sharon in Customer Care (I think it was Sharon; I'll be damned if I'm going to dig out the e-mails to rub my own nose in the futility) that work is proceeding on a fix for the Safari problem, a fat lot of good that does me while work on this massive project proceed.

Okay, even though one might assume that a higher percentage of New Yorker subscribers than of other demographic groups use Macs and are trying to connect via Safari or Firefox, let's assume that Dwight has snuck around this hurdle and can actually get onto the contest page. Presumably, he at least thinks he's got No. 2 covered as well. If he didn't think he could come up with an ingenious caption, he wouldn't have gotten involved with this whole problem.

(In which connection I might point out that, at least in the judgment of the judges, Dwight is very likely kidding himself about the ingenuity of his putative caption submissions. Just think of all the enterers who go thousands of contests without getting a peep out of the judges. Remember the experience of the late Roger Ebert? It could be that Dwight's logistical obstacle to entering the contest has spared him countless hours of heartache.)

If Dwight gets through No. 2, No. 3 is a virtual gimme:
3. Write the caption in the box provided—just one, please. Multiple entries are not permitted, and fray our nerves.
After No. 3, however, the steps get trickier -- mostly having to do with either having or having to establish a contest-entering account -- that entail not only Nos. 4, 4a, and 4b, but a whole bunch of other things that don't have numbers, and include a section of "Potential problems," and in the extreme case we seem to wind up on "the password-reset page."

At this point, says Mr. Bob, "If all this doesn’t work, contact Dwight. He’s got it down pat by now." Maybe, maybe not. It seems to me entirely possible that by now Dwight has given up and is spending his time playing online poker.

Okay, it's possible that I sound a bit bitter. This could be because I am a bit bitter. I hope Dwight is making out better than I am.

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Ringing sleighbells and roasting chestnuts tell us it's that time of year: Be afraid for the holidays


by Ken

It's Friday, and I realize many of you were probably in such a hurry to get wherever you were going for the weekend -- and possibly beyond, with those two skeletal work weeks coming up surrounding the holidays -- that you missed this news. So as a public service, DWT wants to be sure you've heard the latest from your State Dept., courtesy of the Washington Post "In the Loop" team:
State Department warns travelers about worldwide terror threat

By Colby Itkowitz | December 19 at 5:30 PM

It’s the Friday before Christmas, but the State Department is not spreading holiday cheer.

The agency sent a downright dreary travel advisory warning Americans that the threat of terrorism is everywhere.

In light of the “lone wolf attack” at a cafe in Sydney, Australia this week, State said Americans need to be “extra cautious.”

“An analysis of past attacks and threat reporting strongly suggests a focus by terrorists not only on the targeting of U.S. government facilities but also on hotels, shopping areas, places of worship and schools, among other targets during or coinciding with this holiday period,” State warns. “U.S. citizens abroad should be mindful that terrorists groups and those inspired by them can pose unpredictable threats in public venues.”

So be alert for “signs of danger,” State says.

Well, happy holidays.


The caption from the website "Totally Looks Alike" reads: "Charles Krauthammer / Leprechaun (movie monster)." But I think that that's backwards, that the really hideous and terrifying image on the right is the real Chucky "The Hammer." (Anyone know for sure?)

As if the events themselves weren't horrible enough, we have to listen now to media bloviators digest them for us. And I can't think of many things creepier than the Washington Post's own "Mr. Crazy," aka "Dr. Evil," Chucky "The Hammer" Krauthammer, sounding off on "How to fight the lone wolf." I don't know about you, but I've always figured that if Chucky hadn't figured out how to make such a posh career out of spreading The Crazy, he'd be a prime candidate to turn up in a tower or a school library armed to the teeth with automatic weapons.

No, I haven't read the piece. Isn't it enough that I've provided you with a link if you feel you must? I will tell you, though, that the basic premise is: "There are two kinds of lone wolves -- the crazy and the evil -- and the distinction is important." I suppose you could argue that if anybody knows about the crazy and the evil, it's "Mr. Crazy," aka "Dr. Evil." On the whole, though, I'd rather be having the State Dept. scaring the stuffing out of me.

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Crackpot Utopia: The Year in Republican Crazy, Part 1


• Princess Liz Cheney -- 2014's Smoothie of the Year?
• "Miss Beck regrets" -- Crazyspeak of the Year nominee No. 1
• And the Crackpot Party reacts to President Obama's SOTU

The Curious Case of the Princess and the Senator (see No. 1)

Crackpot Utopia: A dream world as envisioned by republicans; a manifestation or expression of the deranged, warped alternate universe inhabited by republicans, at least in their minds. See also: Bachmannism, Boehneresque.

by Noah

1. Princess Liz Cheney tries for the Smoothie of the Year Award

Since we're talkin' about crazy crackpot folks, why not start back in early January with the Cheney Princess, Liz, and her surprising -- and then surprisingly brief -- candidacy for the office of U.S. senator from Wyoming, the old home state of her Dr. Strangelovean Daddy Dick. Liz coulda been a contenda, or at least she thought so . . . at least for a while.

First, for purposes of frame of reference, here's a sample of Princess Liz speaking the crazy via Twitter:
Rarely do I disagree with best VP ever* but @SarahPalinUSA is more qualified than Obama and Biden combined. Huge respect 4 all she's done 4 GOP.
-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -
* "Best VP ever" = Daddy Dick -- Ed.
You see, incumbent republican Sen. Mike Enzi (there are only republicans in Wyoming) was thinking of retirement. All Dark Princess Liz had to do was be gracious, courteous, and professional, or even just one of those three, and go ask him if the rumors were true and say that, if so, she would like to run for his seat. If he said that yes, he wanted to retire, she could ask for his blessing which those in the know say would have come.

But nooo! The arrogance apple doesn't fall far from the tree. She just called Senator Enzi and let it be known that she was going to run against him in the republican primary. That didn't sit well with the senator, who went all "Nobody's gonna push me out -- screw you!" on Princess Liz's royal ass. Strike One!

Now, the citizens of Wyoming happen to like Old School things, such as respect for elders, class, and earning your stripes, so Liz's bull-in-a-china-shop approach just didn't play in her state, especially when it turned out that Wyoming wasn't even really "her" state. That became clear when she thought she'd put a veneer of "local" on herself and apply for a Wyoming fishing license. She also bought a $1.9 million mini-castle in Jackson Hole, a place that real Wyoming folks regard as Hollywood East. She even bought brand-new boots and squeaky brand-new blue jeans to "look the part," and claimed to be a resident, but it turned out that Beltway Liz hadn't lived in Wyoming enough to claim resident status. She got fined $220 for her untruthfulness (another family trait!). Nothin' like finding new ways to say "I'm a carpetbagger!" Oh well, at least she didn't go and shoot one of her friends in the face on a fake bird hunt.

Princess Liz did manage, however, to wish death upon the local media when they didn't bend to her will and ran with the fish story. Now, who works in the local media? Local voters, that's who. She later said that she was referring to the liberal national media. Strike Two!

Then there was the open-range dispute with her gay sister Mary over marriage equality. The battle flew all over social and cable media. The princess mouthed the usual "marriage is between one man and one woman" crapola. It got ugly, and if you turn on your own family, why should Wyoming voters think you'll always have their back? Strike Three!

Tanking polls! You're out! Even FOX "News," trying desperately to give her some sort of gravitas, could not save her. Mike Enzi is still senator. He ought to thank Liz for making him look good by comparison. Back to the Beltway, Princess Liz!

Next time, the Cheney family might want to consider running Princess Mary the Gay. She's actually less of a princess than Liz. She's a little better-adjusted, and maybe her party could make an exception and back an openly gay person for national office. Hey, I'm not sayin' this would be sometime in this decade, but maybe in 30 years or so. Her dad will still be around due to his 15th pacemaker, an artificial liver, plenty of Depends, a jet-propelled wheelchair, and a suit made of nicotine patches. Mary's campaign slogan could be: "Wyoming, I Just Can't Quit You!"

2. "Miss Beck regrets" --
Crazyspeak of the Year nominee No. 1: Glenn Beck

Also back in January, eternal misanthrope and conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck put on a faux hairshirt and went on Faux News to confess to Mistress Megyn Kelly about his role in polarizing the United States Of America better than Tokyo Rose ever dreamed.
I remember it as an awful lot of fun and that I made an awful lot of mistakes, and I wish I could go back and be more uniting in my language. . . . I think I played a role, unfortunately, in helping tear the country apart and it's not who we are.
I'm moved, I tell ya. I'm moved! Why, this is almost like little Idi Amin saying he's sorry he ate all those people!

Will Beck be giving back some of the millions he's made in the service of evil? What's next? Charlie Manson says he regrets that hot August night at Sharon Tate's? Too harsh? OK, maybe Beck was just trying to chat up Mistress Megyn by showing a "sensitive side."

3. The Crackpot Party reacts to President Obama's State of the Union speech

On January 28th, President Obama gave the annual State of the Union speech. Several republican voices, including foaming-at-the-mouth talk-radio wacko Mark Levin and Judicial Watch's Tom Fitton had encouraged republican senators and representatives to boycott the speech over such issues as "amnesty," the president's "luxurious travels," and of course (say the magic word!) Benghazi. Feeling that a boycott of the speech was appropriate, Fitton said:
Imagine if half the chamber is empty.
Well, for one thing, no goofballs would be mouthing: "You lie!"

The medication-free Mark Levin went even further over the top:
Since these men and women will not use the U.S. Constitution to defend this nation, since they will not use the Constitution to confront a lawless President, worse yet, since they're funding his activities with these omnibus bills filled with all kinds of crap, what the Republicans should do is boycott the State of the Union . . . so half of the House floor, because that's where they meet, is empty.
The immensely reality-challenged Levin rambled on semi-coherently with phrases like "threatens the Republic" and "liberty and tyranny" -- all the usual republican insanity.

Seems to me that if President Obama were half the tyrant these people think he is, they wouldn't have their radio shows, columns, etc. But hey, playing the victim card can rile up the critical-thinking-challenged disciples and rake in piles of money.

In the end, just about everybody,other than far right "Supreme" Court Justices Alito, Thomas, and Scalia showed up, but republican Rep. Steve Stockman did indulge in his version of Crackpot Theater when he got up and walked out halfway through the speech, saying he did it over the usual perceived abuses of the Constitution, Obama's not mentioning Benghazi, Obama's alleged "wholesale violation of his oath," "failed policies," blah, blah, blah. He's from Texas, so say no more -- except, well, he did bring the rockin' racist Ted Nugent as his date. (More on Ted in the next installment of "Crackpot Utopia.")

Another one of Texas's finest, Rep. Randy Weber, tweeted out something about Obama being the Kommandant-in-Chef. Chef? There go those Texas schoolbooks again. But who ever said you needed to know how to spell in order to go into politics? As outgoing Gov. Rick Perry says, it's not an IQ test.

The media reactions were just as bad. FOX's Erick Erickson blanched at the thought of equal pay for women in a tweet during the speech, while Bush's brain Karl Rove reached all the way back to 2005 to find something to whine about on his Twit account.
The man who threatened the full faith and credit of US now lectures congress on the issue.
The biggest media farce, though, occurred the very next day on FOX-Lite CNN, where republican shill Wolf Blitzer was seen tossing soft and fluffy questions to one of his most favorite guests, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), who had given one of the not-the-historically-usual-one-or-even-two-but-three SOTU rebuttals that the laughably called "liberal media" had afforded their republican friends. On his day-after show, Wolfboy asked Cathy if she supported "equal pay for equal work."

"Absolutely!" came the response. She blathered on and on about how the GOP supports pay equality for women in the workplace, etc., etc., blah-blah-blah. Did Wolfie the bearded wonder shill then ask her why she has voted against equal pay four times? Nope, but hey, that's not what he's there to do. He just plays a journalist on TV.

I wonder if McMorris Rodgers handed her interviewer a bag o'cash after the show. "Keep up the good work, Wolfie! Reince loves you! Kiss, kiss!"

•     •     •

Well, that's it for Part 1 of "Crackpot Utopia." And I'm not even done with January yet.

TOMORROW IN PART 2: Republicans wonder why normal people call them racists; Sean Hannity wants to self-deport; and the First Annual Mr. Burns Award

Crackpot Utopia: The Year in Republican Crazy

Part 1: Princess Liz Cheney -- 2014's Smoothie of the Year?; "Miss Beck regrets" -- Crazyspeak of the Year nominee No. 1, Glenn Beck; and the Crackpot Party reacts to President Obama's SOTU [Friday]

Part 2: Repugs wonder why normal people call them racists (featuring Crazyspeak of the Year nominee No. 2, the Rockin' Racist, Ted Nugent); Sean Hannity wants to self-deport; and the First Annual Mr. Burns Award [Saturday]

Part 3: Using fear, loathing, and paranoia to sell stuff; Arizona legalizes crack!; Crazyspeak of the Year nominee No. 3: Bill O’Reilly [Sunday]

A Prayer to the Janitor of Lunacy*

Part 1: Take a bow, Repugs! (*including Nico's "Janitor of Lunacy") [12/30/2013]

Part 2: Remember when Reagan cut funds for insane asylums? (Storms, guns, bombs, free stuff, and the secret gay life of Obma: Some top Republican lies of 2013) [12/31/2013]

Part 3: No Cruz control (Rafael "Ted" Cruz in his own words) [1/1/2014]

Part 4: A great anniversary approaches! (plus more "Quote of the Year nominees") [1/2/2014]

Part 5: Everyone's a critic, including me -- Some people really try my patience (Bill-O, Howie Kurtz, E. W. Jackson, et al.) [1/3/2014]

Part 6 (and last): In the words of Dan Quayle, "What a waste it is to lose one's mind" (Exploiting tragedy for a buck; Miss America's not American?; "Quote of the Year" winner) [1/4/2014]

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Why Are Voters So Unenthusiastic About Reelecting Run Of The Mill, Garden Variety Democrats?


You mean Crowley rocking out with Huckabee doesn't get Queens & Bronx voters out to the polls?

Turnout for the midterms in California was a dismal 42% this year. Barbara Lee (CA-13- Oakland) didn't have a real race, but her constituents turned out for her in greater numbers than any other congressional candidate in the whole state, more than any other Democrat and more than any Republican. 166,182 went to the polls to voice their gratitude for a congresswoman who stands up for working families. (In 2012 she was reelected with 250,436 votes and Obama won the district with 268,093 in 2012 and 283,183 in 2008.)

The upper Midwest seems like an especially civic-minded area and Minnesota and Wisconsin always get good turnout. In Minnesota, for example, all the Democratic incumbents scored over 100,000 votes-- a very different story than in most of the country. Keith Ellison led the way with 167,076 votes,a nice healthy midterm vote-- although he had won reelection in 2012 with 262,102 votes. Similar story in Wisconsin, The Democratic incumbents all scored over 100,000, with Mark Pocan leading the way with 224,548, the biggest turnout anywhere in the whole country for any Democrat running for the House. His level of support was hardly down at all from 2012 when he won with 265,422 votes.

What do these three Democrats have in common aside from loyal constituents? Pocan has the single most progressive voting record in the entire Congress. Ellison and Lee are two courageous, stalwart progressives who never hesitate to stand up loud and clear on behalf of the ordinary people who don't hire lobbyists. These are their ProgressivePunch lifetime crucial vote scores:
Mark Pocan 98.71
Keith Ellison 95.49
Barbara Lee 94.87
At least as important is their willingness to lead on tough issues that send other Members of Congress fleeing under the bed. And Democratic and independent voters appreciate it. Compare their resulting to results in two other states' Democratic delegations, Texas and New York. Voters were competency uninspired and stayed away from the election in droves, catastrophic in New York swing districts and most just embarrassing in Texas' obscenely gerrymandered Democratic ghettos districts. Keep in mind, all districts have approximately the same number of people.
TX-09- Al Green- 77,979
TX-15- Rubén Hinojosa- 48,561
TX-16- Beto O'Rourke- 49,257
TX-18- Sheila Jackson Lee- 75,963
TX-20- Joaquin Castro- 66,538
TX-23- Pete Gallego- 55,436 (lost the seat to a CIA agent)
TX-28- Henry Cuellar- 62,471
TX-29- Gene Green- 41,229
TX-30- Eddie Bernice Johnson- 92,971
TX-33- Mark Veasey- 43,729
TX-34- Filemon Vela- 47,457
TX-35- Lloyd Doggett- 60,027
Don't get me wrong; some of these Democratic incumbents won with stupendous margins-- Mark Veasey with 86.5%, Gene Green with 89.5%, Al Green with 90.8%... but that's because of gerrymandering, not because these legislators are inspiring anyone to get out and work for them and vote for them the way Barbara Lee, Keith Ellison and Mark Pocan do. And New York is in even worse shape than Texas. Texas Democrats lost one mangey, worthless Blue Dog, Pete Gallego. New York Democrats crashed and burned:
NY-01- Tim Bishop- 73,860 (lost the seat to a teabagger)
NY-03- Steve Israel- 85,310 (likely GOP target in 2016)
NY-04- Kathleen Rice- 85,294
NY-05- Gregory Meeks- 72,454
NY-07- Nydia Velázquez- 53,283
NY-08- Hakeem Jeffries- 71,280
NY-09- Yvette Clarke- 78,157
NY-10- Jerry Nadler- 82,880
NY-12- Carolyn Maloney- 83,870
NY-13- Charlie Rangel- 64,142
NY-14- Joe Crowley- 47,370
NY-15- Jose Serrano- 51,665
NY-17- Nita Lowey- 93,001
NY-18- Sean Patrick Maloney- 93,001
NY-20- Paul Tonko- 118,993
NY-24- Dan Maffei- 75,690 (lost the seat... again)
NY-25- Louise Slaughter- 93,053
NY-26- Brian Higgins- 79,344
Again, there were some huge wins by percentage but no voter enthusiasm whatsoever. Take Joe Crowley for example, the Queens County Democratic Party boss and a member of the House Leadership with millions of Wall Street dollars in his campaign kitty. He won with a gigantic 88.2%... but with a disgraceful 47,370 votes. He didn't even try too engage the voters, neither on policy nor even in a competent get out the vote effort.

Is there not a problem when Democratic congressmen can't inspire the people back home to get out and vote for them. Why can Mark Pocan get 224,548 voters while Joe Crowley only gets 47,370? And why is Joe Crowley on a leadership track? Isn't that exactly what is wrong with the Beltweay Democratic Party?

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Can Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders And Sherrod Brown Stop The TPP?


Fox Business host Melissa Francis yesterday: "Without question, Elizabeth Warren is the devil"

Last week we looked at the growing opposition within the Democratic Party to the corporate trade policies-- particularly the Trans Pacific Partnership-- Obama is teaming up with McConnell and Boehner to ram through the Republican-controlled Congress next year. Alan Grayson called the TPP "the final nail in the coffin of the middle class in this country." Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), whose husband worked to pass NAFTA and whose tenant-- Rahm Emanuel-- is credited with getting it through the House, said "Enough is enough: no more offshoring, no more NAFTA-style trade deals."

As we explained last week, the TPP represents a tradition of trade deals that are organized to wreck the bargaining power of ordinary Americans versus the bargaining power of Wall Street predators. Other deals like this include the Columbia free trade deal, which was paired with a commitment by the Columbia government to stop the killing of unionists (which has not stopped), and the deal with Panama, which was paired with a commitment by the Panamanian government to stop being a tax haven for anonymous flows of cash (which they have not).

The administration knows all of this. But for them, the TPP is not really about economics, but geopolitics. The administration wants to use the TPP as leverage against China. Though China is a real threat to the U.S., and it picks off our industrial base strategically, the TPP is a dumb counter to China's growing power in the Pacific (and in the U.S.). NAFTA-style deals that prioritize a low cost and risky supply chain at the expense of genuine stability of our industrial systems cannot work to make the world safer. They are designed to do the opposite. If the government wanted to stop China, it could start by stopping the Chinese from supplying electronic components to U.S. military subcontractors. But that's not happening. Instead you have the TPP.

Then Wednesday David Nakamura picked up the thread for the Washington Post by focussing on another source of opposition: Elizabeth Warren. And she was right in her wheelhouse, addressing fears that by bargaining away U.S. sovereignty the TPP "could erode U.S. financial safeguards designed to prevent future financial crises." Tammy Badwin (D-WI) and Ed Markey (D-MA), neither of whom tried to help her stop the derivatives deregulation in the CRomnibus last week, both signed on to Warren's letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. "We cannot afford," they wrote. "a trade deal that undermines the government’s ability to protect the American economy." 
In her letter, Warren raises concerns that the deal could include provisions that would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. policies before a judicial panel outside the domestic legal system, increasing exposure of American taxpayers to potential damages.

She also objects to potential provisions that she said would grant foreign companies access to U.S. markets without being subject to restrictions on “predatory or toxic financial products” and that would restrict the U.S. government’s ability to impose capital controls, such as transaction taxes, on international firms.
Here's the full letter Warren, Markey and Baldwin sent to Froman. But Obama and the Republicans teamed up against Warren in the CRomnibus battle-- and they beat her, bringing forth a horrendous conglomeration of devastating conservative ideas-- from dangerous Wall Street deregulation that puts the taxpayers at serious risk to goving college scholarship money to predatory lenders and to chopping off the legs of the EPA... and then there's the very bipartisan concept of given multimillionaires even more power over the electoral process than they had before. Wednesday, writing at Huff Po, Dave Johnson says Big Business/Wall Street forces and the politicians they own will use their CRomnibus game plan as a way to beat progressives on the TPP.
It is worth examining how the process was rigged to push that budget deal through Congress over the weekend that contained Citibank-written derivative deregulation and all kinds of other goodies for the rich and powerful. That's because the "cromnibus" formula will be formalized in the next big deal, in a process called "fast track."

Congress passed the "cromnibus" (continuing resolution for omnibus budget) right at the deadline for another government shutdown. (After they extended the deadline, actually.) The budget contained a Citibank-written provision that undoes some Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulations. It authorizes a cut in many people's pensions by up to 60 percent, severely cuts the IRS budget and its ability to collect taxes, dramatically expanded the ability of big money to influence elections, reduced the EPA's authority, and included many other provisions that could not have passed in the light of day. This budget "deal" was pushed through Congress using a rigged process that kept representative democracy from stopping it.

What lessons can we learn from the way the "Citibank" provisions in the budget deal were pushed through? How do these lessons apply to the next big fight?

Fast Track: The Next Big Fight

The next big fight in Congress will be about getting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) passed. TPP is a huge "trade" agreement that goes far, far beyond what most people understand as trade.

The TPP is currently being negotiated in secret, using a process designed from the start to end up with a corporate-favoring agreement. We know from leaks-- and from the results of other "NAFTA-style" agreements-- that the agreement elevates corporations above the laws of sovereign countries. TPP will prioritize the profits of giant, multinational corporations over the rule of law. For example, TPP will allow tobacco companies to sue governments for implementing anti-smoking initiatives-- and those suits will be heard in corporate courts, with corporate lawyers acting as the judges.

After the budget, Congress' will push to pass "fast track" legislation, to grease the skids for the TPP. Fast track trade promotion authority rigs the legislative process, essentially pre-approving "trade" deals like TPP before they are even finalized-- before members of Congress even know what is in the treaties.

Fast track is an extremely unusual legislative process that only applies to trade deals. With fast track, Congress agrees to set aside its constitutional duty to carefully review (and fix) trade deals. Among other things, Congress agrees not to amend the agreement, not to filibuster it and gives itself only 90 days after first seeing the agreement to approve the agreement. The argument for doing this is that it keeps Congress from "meddling" with the secretly negotiated agreement-- a process otherwise known as "democracy" and "transparency."

Fast Track Formalizes Rigged Process That Passed CRomnibus

Look at what happened with the budget. A massive, 1,600-page budget deal was negotiated in secret, and announced 51 hours before the shutdown deadline. The debate was about stopping a shutdown, instead of what was in the bill. (Democrats who voted for the Citibank Budget were held up as heroes for averting a shutdown.) Congress had to vote on it right away, or the government would shut down. There was no time for Congress to even read the 1,600-page agreement, let alone fix anything. There certainly was very little time to rally opposition to items in the agreement.

Here are the lessons learned about how to rig a legislative process:

● Control who is at the table. The deal was negotiated with Republican House and Senate Democrat leaders. It is significant that Minority Leader Pelosi was not at cromnibus negotiating table.

● Leave little time to analyze the consequences. The 1,600-page deal was "announced" at the last minute. By the time the public began to learn what was in it, Congress was all ready to vote.

● Make it about the deadline. The deal was announced only 51 hours before the shutdown deadline. The debate was about "Will they shut down the government?" instead of "Will they vote against the Citibank provisions?"

● Allow special interests served by the deal time to prepare push-through strategy in advance. Supporters will have their forces lined up before the opposition even knows what's coming. Every step of the way, pro-democracy forces faced an uphill battle, not even knowing there was a battle until almost the last second.

● Make it all or nothing. With the budget battle they couldn't take the Citibank and other bad provisions out without killing the entire "deal" and starting over.

The TPP process already rigs the negotiations by controlling who is at the negotiating table. With fast track, Congress actually agrees to make this rigged process into a formal legislative process that essentially pre-approves trade agreements. With fast track Congress agrees:

● To vote within 90 days of first seeing what is in the agreement. This means there is little time to read and analyze what is in the agreement. It gives opposition no time to reach the public, explain what is in the agreement and rally their forces. It makes the vote on the agreement about meeting the deadline, not about what is in the agreement.

● Not to amend or otherwise try to fix the resulting agreement in any way. Congress votes on whether to "make or break" the agreement, and not about what's in the agreement, or how to make it better.

● Not to filibuster the agreement. Even though there have been well over 400 filibusters since President Obama took office, with fast track Congress agrees in advance to surrender the filibuster. Senators who actually have time to read and understand the agreement will not be able to delay a vote, to buy time to get the word out to potential opposition.

The big corporations are gearing up right NOW to launch a massive PR campaign when TPP is ready. They are planning it NOW, and will spend millions to ramp up the pressure. It will be on the scale of the "run up" PR campaign to launch the Iraq war. But potential opponents will only see the treaty after it is done. Ninety days is not enough time to read it, evaluate it, analyze the potential consequences of obscure provisions, and then if necessary to get the word out to rally forces and build public pressure against it.

So passing fast track is really about pre-approving TPP, before they ever even see what is in TPP. Just like how we didn't know what was in the cromnibus until it was too late to do anything about it.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Do Voters Across The Spectrum Really Hate Their Elected Officials? Keith Ellison Threatens Primaries Against Democrats Allied With Banks Against Working Families


A new poll from Marist for McClatchy indicates that conservative mistrust for the Republican Party is very high-- as is progressive mistrust in the Democratic Party. Both party bases are fed up with their representatives in Congress. That's hardly newsworthy, since the two Party Establishments have been relatively successful in painting themselves as the essential lesser of two evils in a simplistic equation for voters.

By a 66-28% margin, U.S. voters disapprove of the job congressional Republicans are doing-- and when you take Democrats and independents out of the sample, approval among Republicans for Republicans goes up to 51-45%, although among self-identified conservatives disapproval is heavier, 53-41%.

American voters disapprove of Democrats by around the same margin, 65-27% and, again, when you take Republicans and independents out of the mix, Democratic approval moves up to 55-33%. Among self-identified liberals, though, Democratic Party electeds are still underwater-- 48-45%.

After the big GOP wins in the midterms last month, only 35% of voters think the changes they will try to accomplish will be positive. Voters are very pessimistic across most issues, including their own family's finances. Main points from the poll:
Regardless of party, more than six in ten voters, 61%, think the Republicans in Congress will have more influence over the direction of the nation in 2015.  29% believe President Obama will be the driving force, and 2% report neither will be in command.

When it comes to who voters want to have more influence, 48% prefer the GOP to take the lead while 42% want Obama in charge. Looking at party, while 93% of Republicans want the GOP to have the most impact, 82% of Democrats look to President Obama to take the lead. 47% of independents turn to the GOP for leadership, and 40% put their stock in President Obama.

While 35% of voters think the Republican-controlled Congress will effect change for the better, a plurality, 40%, doesn’t expect to see any impact at all. One in five, 20%, reports GOP control will be change for the worse.

Seven in ten voters, 70%, think it is better for government officials to compromise to find solutions than stand on principle. Democrats, 82%, are more likely than Republicans, 59%, to choose to compromise. More than one-third of Republicans, 36%, value principle over compromise compared with 15% of Democrats who have this view.

Close to two-thirds of Americans, 64%, are pessimistic about the direction of the country. 31% say the nation is on track, and 6% are unsure. Earlier this fall, 61% of residents said the country was going in the wrong direction, and 35% reported it was moving in the right one.

The job approval rating of congressional Democrats is at its lowest point, 27%, since McClatchy-Marist began reporting this question. The previous low for Democrats was 28% and occurred in November of 2011. In October, 33% of voters approved of how the Democrats were doing their job.

The job approval rating of the Republicans in Congress, 28%, also falls short in voters’ eyes.  In October, 24% of registered voters approved of how the congressional GOP was doing its job.

43% of registered voters nationally approve of the job President Obama is doing in office while 52% disapprove. Obama’s approval rating stood at 46% in October. Mr. Obama’s favorable rating is also upside down. 44% have a favorable impression of him while a majority, 54%, does not. Voters divided on the president’s image, 48% to 49%, respectively, earlier this fall.

38% of the national electorate, down from 46% in October, approve of how the president is handling foreign policy. 52% disapprove, and 10% are unsure.

On his handling of the economy, 41% of voters approve of how the president is tackling the issue. This is unchanged from 41% in McClatchy-Marist’s previous survey. 55% currently disapprove of how President Obama is dealing with the economy.

More than six in ten registered voters nationally, 61%, want the Republicans in Congress to make changes to the 2010 health care law. This includes 23% who want the law repealed and 38% who favor modifications to the legislation. 34%, though, say the GOP should focus their efforts on other issues. While 53% of Democrats want the GOP to focus on other issues, and 48% of Republicans want to eliminate the law, 38% of Democrats and 35% of Republicans want changes to be made to the law. A plurality of independents, 43%, would like the health care law modified.

51% of Americans expect their personal family finances to stay about the same in the coming year. 32% think they will see an improvement, and 17% believe their family’s financial situation will get worse. In October, 54% reported their money matters would be status quo, 30% thought they would get better, and 17% believed they would get worse.
Could there be a better set-up for a Hillary Clinton-Jeb Bush presidential contest in two years? I mean a worse set-up? Wall Street wins no matter what voters do. And America gets screwed... again. And you look down on people who opt out and just don't vote? Or vote for someone like Ralph Nader?

Earlier tonight Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Keith Ellison spoke on a DFA call about the role of economic populism in the Democratic Party. He was eager, he said, to see Elizabeth Warren enter the presidential race-- even if just to make Clinton a better candidate. "Elizabeth Warren is one of the great, bright lights of our time," he said and worried that Hillary Clinton "could just walk into the general [election] without having committed to some important real, real economic populism."

He also warned the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- the Blue Dogs and New Dems ( what he called "our weak-kneed Democratic friends") that "we’re watching, and if they’re standing with the corporatocracy and the big banks, we’ll find some other people who will stand with the people."

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Science Watch: "Creatures That Have Sex in Your Coffee" -- and we've got the pix!


Plus: Coming tomorrow -- Part 1 of "Crackpot
Utopia," Noah's 2014 "Year in Republican Crazy"

"Females sometimes don't even wait around for males. In addition to their incestuous sex, they can also reproduce all on their own."
-- An image for the day (just try to forget it!)

by Ken

Anyone who thinks I could pass up a story pitched as above, as it was in a Discovery News e-mail today, clearly doesn't know who they're dealing with. Come on, creatures having sex in our coffee? You want to know all about it, don't you?

Creatures That Have Sex in Your Coffee: Photos
DEC 18, 2014 06:00 AM ET // BY JENNIFER VIEGAS

Kinky sex takes place in many coffee beans before they are roasted, suggests a new study on coffee berry borers, which are the most serious pests of coffee plants worldwide.

These small beetles, native to Africa, live much of their lives in coffee beans, according to the study, which is published in the Journal of Insect Behavior. It's little wonder that the fast-living beetles, Hypothenemus hampei, have the nickname "Ferrari."

Weliton Dias Silva of the University of São Paulo and his colleagues determined that females of this tiny beetle "have to be copulated by their sibling males before leaving the native coffee fruit to improve their chances of successful colonization."

Females are about .07 inches long, while males are only about .06 inches long.


Yessiree, you ain't seen nothin' yet! Are you strapped in?

Home for the coffee berry borer are the seeds of coffee fruit, which are commonly known as coffee beans. Dias Silva and his colleagues report that the insects find their coffee bean homes after sniffing out chemicals released by coffee plants. Like many gourmet coffee drinkers, they prefer beans of Coffea arabica.

Males are always much smaller than females, so they are referred to as "dwarves."

"After copulation with their few dwarf, flightless male sibs, H. hampei females often leave the coffee berry in which they developed," Dias Silva and his team share.

Females sometimes don't even wait around for males. In addition to their incestuous sex, they can also reproduce all on their own. This phenomenon, also seen in certain snakes, sharks and other animals, is known as parthenogenesis.

The telltale sign that a beetle has been in your coffee are minute holes that females bore into beans. Usually the beans will be eaten away by larvae, which hatch from eggs laid by the females.

Another clue is a coffee bean that seems hollow inside.

Worldwide, the coffee berry borer causes an estimated $500 million in losses among coffee growers, according to the USDA. The coffee industry has an economic value exceeding $70 billion annually, with over 20 million coffee-farming families producing coffee in more than 50 countries.

"The insect can cause coffee farmers to lose up to 20 percent of a crop and reduce the price by 30 to 40 percent," said Ted Lingle, executive director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

He continued, "Damage from the borer fruits hurts every coffee-producing country in the world."
Now aren't you glad you asked? Happy to be able to oblige.

The 2014 edition of Noah's "Year in Republican Crazy"

Crackpot Utopia: A dream world as envisioned by republicans; a manifestation or expression of the deranged, warped alternate universe inhabited by republicans, at least in their minds. See also: Bachmannism, Boehneresque.
Starting tomorrow at 5pm ET/2pm PT -- and continuing every day thereafter until Noah either walks out of his compound smiling or is carried out feet first.