Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Limbaughization Of The Republican Party-- The Increasing Ugliness of CPAC


Oops... a no show for the NutFest

No one wouldn't expect the ideological extreme malcontents at the Republican CPAC in Washington to fit right in with Rush Limbaugh and his prayers for President Obama's failure. Nor should it surprise anyone that fanatic fringe wingnuts like former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and defeated former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum espouse the same "I hate Americans" kind of attitude. But this leaves us to wonder about the so-called mainstream Republican officials who are participating in this extremist gathering. What about Mitt Romney, John Cornyn, Joe Scarborough and Chris Smith? They were all speakers. Do they embrace the dangerous fringe ideas being espoused on every stage and in every conference room?

Limbaugh says "We all agree I'm not an idiot." We do? Count me out of that "we." And what about the millions of people who read and loved that best selling book by now-Senator Al Franken? Limbaugh blathers on, with what is at least partially true-- certainly true of the treasonous crowd of rats at CPAC: "The dirty little secret... is that every Republican in this country wants Obama to fail, but none of them have the guts to say so." That's ugly-- but is it true? Well, some Republicans-- maybe not many Inside-the-Beltway-- do put country first and party second. They don't want the president to fail.

Some people see the huge problems facing this country-- almost entirely brought on by an ignorant, shallow and venal president and a shamelessly rubber stamp Republican Congress following wrong-headed right-wing dogma-- and would like our president to lead us out of the quagmire. Others, like Limbaugh and the CPAC crowd, see it as an opportunity to espouse the partisan extremism that has marginalized the Republican Party. We heard very conservative South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford denounce Limbaugh for... for what? The sentiment he expressed? Or for expressing it out loud for all the world to hear? Limbaugh thinks Sanford wants Obama to fail too but that he's just too much of a coward to say it out loud.

What about mainstream conservatives who are trying to not be identified with the CPAC extremists? Sure the fringe loons like CPAC favorites Ann Coulter, Jim DeMint (R-SC), Bill Bennett, John Bolton, Mike Pence (R-IN), Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Bob Corker (R-TN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Shadegg (R-AZ) and Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) behave like trained seals and will say anything-- no matter how treasonous-- to get applause from the extremists but what about John McCain? What about Lamar Alexander? What about Lisa Murkowski, Richard Lugar, John Thune, Kay Bailey Hutchison? And how about the few relatively mainstream House members left in the GOP caucus, folks like Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Jim Gerlach (PA), Mike Castle (DE), Tim Johnson (IL), Mark Kirk (IL), Vernon Ehlers (MI), Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ), Judy Biggert (IL)... These are supposed to be adults who claim to put country first. Are they on Limbaugh's and the radicals' side or are they still for America?

The extremist wingnuts at CPAC voted among Republican politicians looking to take on President Obama in 2012. Mitt Romney got the most votes, 20%. Palin was fourth (13%, basically tied with Ron Paul).

Mitt Romney - 20%
Bobby Jindal - 14%
Ron Paul -13%
Sarah Palin - 13%
Newt Gingrich -10%
Mike Huckabee - 7%
Mark Sanford - 4%
Rudy Guiliani - 3%
Tim Pawlenty - 2%
Charlie Crist - 1%
Undecided - 9%

No votes for Joe the Plumber, Michele Bachmann or Rick Santelli? I want a recount. I wonder if Romney paid the little pimply-faced armchair capitalists to vote for him again this year like he did in 2008.

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Down With Tyranny Commends A Louisiana Bankster: Meet Daryl Byrd


DWT hasn't had much anything nice to say about banksters lately. We even created the infamous YouTube clip for Mojo Nixon's "I Hate Banks" (see below) and we've been pushing for nationalization and for accountability for banksters engaged in the kinds of sleazy activities that have devastated the economy-- and millions of families in our country and around the world. Banksters shouldn't get away with it. But today we want to hold a bankster up for praise and admiration, not for scorn. Daryl Byrd, CEO of IberiaBank in Lafayette, Louisiana is not just a bankster; he's also a fanatic Republican who has donated thousands of dollars to a smarmy array of GOP hack politicians including crackpots David Diapers Vitter and Charles Boustany. So why are we sending Byrd love this afternoon?

CNN reported this morning that Byrd has decided to return $90 million of TARP funds to the taxpayers (plus $575,000 in accrued dividends). With thieving criminal banksters stealing the TARP funds in the form of bonuses, frivolous spending sprees, lobbying against working families... anything but what it was meant for (unfreezing the credit crunch), it is exuberantly refreshing that at least one bankster has given back the money.

So why did he? Well, under Bush there were no restrictions. It was just free money, so how could any avaricious money-grubbing bankster resist? It's in their DNA. But now that President Obama and Democrats in Congress are asking for accountability for how the money is used, it looks decidedly less attractive. To Republicans-- including Byrd, of course-- accountability means socialism. So keep your freaking money. OK.
Earlier this week several congressmen, including Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., expressed outrage at Chicago-based Northern Trust, a relatively unscathed bank which received $1.6 billion through the TARP program in November, for throwing a lavish party for clients at a golf tournament.

"Absolutely, some banks regret taking TARP. The enormous amount of mistrust the government has created in banks is something we've never seen," Chris Kelly, head of capital markets at law firm Jones Day [and a Ron Paul donor], told when discussing Northern Trust earlier this week.

Since TARP was enacted in October, 442 regional institutions in 48 states and Puerto Rico have received nearly $200 billion.

Byrd clearly had buyers remorse and he did the right thing in returning the taxpayers' money. "We believe recent actions, interpretations, and commentary regarding various aspects of the program places our company at an unacceptable competitive disadvantage," he said. Hopefully he'll be the first of many.

After Louisiana Governor "Bobby" Jindal's creepy performance earlier in the week, when he showed the nation what kind of an alternative the Republican Party has in mind for the country instead of Obama, people have been scratching their heads and wondering what the hell us going on down in the Bayou State, with one senator running around paying prostitutes to spank him for soiling his diapers while a congressman tells his constituents he'll break ranks with the GOP to vote for the Stimulus Bill because it would help them and then, the next day, votes against it so that the Republican Party can say "see, we are all-- 100% of us-- obstructionists regardless of the impact on any damn constituents! In fact, it always gets weirder and weirder in Louisiana, where a porn star, Stormy Daniels, has just about pulled even in GOP primary polling against David Diaper Vitter and where yesterday the Times-Picayune reported that "Louisiana's transportation department plans to request federal dollars for a New Orleans to Baton Rouge passenger rail service from the same pot of railroad money in the president's economic stimulus package that Gov. Bobby Jindal criticized as unnecessary pork on national television Tuesday night." Now Jindal wants $110 million for the high-speed rail line, $20 million more than bankster Byrd is returning to the taxpayers. Jindal, who has become a bit of a laughing stock for claiming to be able to do exorcisms and cure cancer with his bare hands, disparagingly called a similar project between Las Vegas and Orange County a "magnetic levitation line" and has threatened to reject federal assistance for unemployed workers. Jindal hasn't commented on the request for funds to build the railroad since he has been busy trying-- unsuccessfully-- to dig himself out of the mess he created by lying on national television about his purported role in a Katrina rescue operation. Short version: the story he told about being with Sheriff Harry Lee in his weird speech was fictitious and now his office is working overtime to try to rescue Jindal's character. They're not getting anywhere.

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Is There A Message For Obama In Swat?


When I ventured into Mingora in Pakistan's Swat Valley in 1969 it had just gone from being a princely state to just a normal administrative district of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, east of Afghanistan. More recently it has been more or less ceded to the Taliban. Until recently it was still a tourist and honeymooners' destination. That's over. It was Pakistan's most fabled skiing resort. The Taliban burned that down-- along with every school that teaches girls. Once it was a relatively prosperous and well-educated part of Pakistan. Now it's a Taliban hellhole, abandoned by a faltering federal government and under the sway of Shari'a law. Although it's only 100 miles from Islamabad, the Pakistani military has been unable to dislodge the Taliban-- who have killed hundreds of their opponents-- and Pakistan announced a cease fire last week leaving a psychotic local religious leader, Maulana Fazlullah in charge. It would be as if the U.S. government allowed Fred Phelps to run Topeka or James Dobson to take over Colorado Springs. In the Swat Valley, all girls' schools were ordered to close down and when a few refused, they were blown up.

The Taliban and their Chechyan and Arab allies have terrorized the region and, in effect, beaten the Pakistani military, a military the U.S. has poured billions and billions of dollars into. The last free elections saw overwhelming support in Swat for the secular Awami National Party, which sent the Taliban on a murderous rampage, leading to several hundred thousand residents packing up and leaving.
Many Pakistanis greeted the terms of the truce with skepticism. One newspaper, Dawn, said the deal sent a "disastrous signal: fight the state militarily and it will give you what you want and get nothing in return."

Legal experts in Pakistan said the deal would set a precedent for militants to campaign for and win the imposition of Islamic courts elsewhere in Pakistan. The United States, which supports the civilian government of Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, was cautious in its early reaction.

It's Saturday. I hope you have 12 spare minutes to watch this important new documentary from BraveNewFilms that delves into the catastrophe unfolding in than Pathan homeland (eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan).

Joseph Galloway suggests we dig out some old Rudyard Kipling verses to help focus our attention on the well-worn road to doom Obama is dragging us down in Afghanistan:

When wounded and left on Afghanistan's plain,
And the women come out to cut up your remains,
Roll to your rifle and blow out your brains,
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.

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Buck McKeon Squealing Like A Stuck Pig As Obama Education Reforms Ax Costly Middlemen From Student Lending Process-- McKeon's Campaign Donors


In yesterday's NY Times Kate Zernike highlighted how the financial crisis is endangering higher education-- both on an individual and macro level. Her premise is that college will cut back on anything except student aid to avoid losing enrollment. Margins are so tight for many schools that they need full enrollment to get by. So their budget cuts will lay off personnel before cutting back on financial aid.
Ithaca College, in upstate New York, is laying off faculty and cutting its 401(k) contributions as part of $4.2 million in budget cuts, but it is also offering increased tuition discounts that will make up the largest financial aid budget in its history. The college, which relies on tuition for more than 90 percent of its budget, saw the dangers of losing students last fall, when it had 240 fewer than anticipated, resulting in a $5 million decline in revenue.

“The good news is that we haven’t taken as much of a hit in our budget as some institutions that rely very heavily on their endowments,” said Dave Maley, a spokesman for Ithaca, which has 6,000 undergraduate students. “The alternative is, since we rely heavily on enrollment, any loss in student numbers hits us harder.”

In a survey of 372 institutions in December, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities found that 93 percent said they were moderately or greatly concerned about preventing enrollment declines. Only 8 percent said they would cut financial aid, compared with 50 percent that said they had stopped hiring, 49 percent that had delayed construction or renovation and 22 percent that were freezing salaries.

...The colleges are also trying to hold down tuition increases. But increases in financial aid are not without consequence. At Ithaca, officials project that tuition discounts will result in a net revenue decline of $2.66 million and force the college to carry a $2.5 million deficit, its first since the 1950s.

For the sake of the country's future, President Obama has stepped up to the plate with billions of dollars in student loan money. 85 billion to be precise-- per year! Sounds like a lot, right? But that actually saves the taxpayers $4 billion a year. I'll explain in a moment. Predictably, California reactionary Buck McKeon, who represents an ill-educated district in the high desert northeast of L.A., is screaming bloody murder. Why McKeon? As we learned when we tried helping Robert Rodriguez oust this venal fossil in 2006, McKeon, as ranking Republican (then Chairman) of the House Education Committee, is in the pockets of the corrupt student loans industry. He's snorted up legalized bribes from Finance companies, lobbyists and the Education industry totaling over $550,000 and is widely considered one of the most corrupt California members of Congress, nearly on a Jerry Lewis/Ken Calvert level. So it was highly predictable that he would rant and rave when Obama's generosity towards students would anachronize his patrons. Friday's Washington Post explained it beautifully, pointing out that by directly giving the student loans to students and cutting out the greedy middlemen (i.e.- McKeon's "contributors") Obama saves the taxpayers $47.5 billion over the next ten years and, at the same time, helps far more students-- two factors that aren't exactly McKeon goals. Since the government assumes all the default risk, there is no reason at all to involve the finance companies.
Last year, dozens of lenders stopped issuing federally guaranteed loans, prompting concerns about whether students would get the money they needed for college. The Bush administration took several steps to shore up student lenders.

Yesterday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan signaled a shift from that approach, saying the program that subsidizes private lenders is "on life support."

"Rather than continuing to subsidize banks, we want to help dramatically more students get more access to more aid," Duncan said in a conference call with reporters. "Big picture... We're going to save about $24 billion dollars over the next five years, and we want to actively invest that money in our students."

Education-oriented congressmembers, like the new Education Committee chairman, George Miller (D-CA), "who has been a vocal critic of what he has called 'corrupt practices' in the student loan industry, said the proposal was a 'a solid plan to make federal student loans more reliable while saving taxpayers billions of dollars.'" McKeon, sensing a cutoff in campaign donations and bribes, is furious-- and pushing back, screaming "socialism." (Keep in mind, Republicans only approve of socializing downside, so that losses go to taxpayers. When profits are available, as long as they get a cut, it all needs to go to private enterprise, even if the enterprise is meaningless or even detrimental to the task at hand-- as it has been in this case.) Ole Buck calls the shift a "government takeover of the private-sector-based student loan program, taking away options and benefits from students while adding tens of billions" of dollars to the deficit. Not only is he either so misinformed that he's obviously way over his head-- even for a Republican-- or he's just distorting the facts to make political points with Rush Limbaugh listeners. In either case, he certainly didn't mention how detrimental Obama's reforms would be for his campaign fundraising. To me it sounds like a model of how to deal with the mortgage banksters as well.

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Bunning May Be Senile But He's Ready To Take His Revenge On Miss McConnell In A Big Way


Bunning shows us how much he hates Cornyn and Miss McConnell

As you have probably guessed, the Republicans will do anything to prevemt a filibuster-proof Senate. They have been encouraging Norm Coleman to keep suing and fighting a tawdry battle over every single ballot that wasn't cast for him to keep Al Franken out of the Senate for as long as possible. Now that Reid has said that the Senate will seat Franken on April 1 despite Coleman's frivolous challenges and appeals, the Republican obstructionists are gnashing their collective teeth or, in some cases flapping their collective gums, worried that between the two Maine senators and a very independent-minded Arlen Specter, they can be in for a rocky road. The RNC's new jive-talking chairman, Michael Steele, made a major blunder when he threatened to fund primaries against Specter, Collins and Snowe, any of whom could guarantee re-election for themselves by shedding their Republican patinas and joining the Democratic Party (although Collins has no reason to do so, not having another election to face until 2014, long after Michael Steele will just be an embarrassing footnote in the history of the GOP).

But Specter is known as a vindictive and ornery character and if Steele and other extremists push him, he's certainly capable of saving himself the misery of tough primary and general election campaigns by rediscovering his Democratic roots. And Specter is hardly the only one with a grudge and a vindictive streak.

Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn have been pushing Jim Bunning to retire. Bunning may be suffering from severe dementia but he's hardly the first senator afflicted with that and it hasn't, at least in his own opinion, hampered his performance for the last 6 years. He doesn't want to retire and he really doesn't want to be pushed around by McConnell, who he has an old fashioned idea is only "half a man" anyway. McConnell and Cornyn seemed to have cooked up a scheme to starve Bunning of institutional Republican funds, making it impossible for him to run. They've also been encouraging primary opponents-- namely Secretary of State Trey Grayson (who McConnell is rumored to have a thing for) and KY state Senate president David Williams-- to rattle Bunning's nerves.

Well, they have certainly succeeded in getting on Bunning's nerves and yesterday he struck back with a threat that probably caused Miss McConnell to ask David Vitter if he could borrow some diapers. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Bunning is ready to give the Democrats their 60th member!
Already in conflict with his party’s leaders, Sen. Jim Bunning has reportedly said privately that if he is hindered in raising money for his re-election campaign he is ready with a response that would be politically devastating for Senate Republicans: his resignation.

The Kentucky Republican suggested that possible scenario at a campaign fundraiser for him on Capitol Hill earlier this week, according to three sources who asked not to be identified because of the politically sensitive nature of Bunning’s remarks.

The implication, they said, was that Bunning would allow Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, to appoint his replacement-- a move that could give Democrats the 60 votes they need to block Republican filibusters in the Senate.

“I would get the last laugh. Don’t forget Kentucky has a Democrat governor,” one of the sources quoted Bunning as saying.

“The only logical extension of that comment is, ‘(Make me mad) … enough and I’ll resign, and then you’ve got 60 Democrats,’ ” said another source who was present at the event.

That was the clear message Bunning was sending, said a third source who heard the senator’s remarks at the fundraiser, which attracted about 15 people.

...“Why would he say that?” attendees asked each other, according to the source.

One source said he contacted a Bunning campaign official and warned, “This is going to get out-- there were 15 to 20 people who heard this and it’s newsworthy.”

“It’s not because he’s old and senile-- he’s always been like that. He’ll tell you what he thinks,” the source said.

But Bunning’s resistance to retirement is “sad to see,” the source said.

Bunning was denying he ever said it yesterday-- but there were 15-20 witnesses... and the message was sent. It is likely that McConnell will shut up now and tend to his knitting and allow Bunning to lose the seat to a Democrat in 2010 the old fashioned way: through an election.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

A homage to "Climaticide Johnny Rook": This may be the best, and most important, and most moving thing you've read in, well, in a while


A Siegel, as I've mentioned a number of times, is my online go-to guy on energy and environmental matters. Today he passed a post of his on to colleagues with a note that I'm trusting he won't mind my passing on. -- Ken

I don't know how many of you ever read his work, but "Johnny Rook" has been an increasingly powerful (on multiple levels) voice in the blogosphere discussion of climate issues. His illness is (I'm told) nearing his end. I believe that people merit attention and to hear what you think of them while they are alive rather than in an obituary.

His voice has been strengthening since he began blogging, becoming someone quite worth listening to.

It is rare for me to blog with tears in my eyes ...

He will be missed ... I will miss him ... even as I hope for a miraculous recovery.

Here's the post, just as he passed it on: (Slightly better version at DKos

Homage to a hero: Climaticide Johnny Rook

February 27th, 2009 · No Comments

The reality of the web: anyone with access to a computer and a web link can become a near universally available resource. In many, even most, cases that click can end up being a waste of ones time. And, sometimes that click can end up eating up a tremendous amount of one’s time due to the strength and value of the discoveries that that click brings.

This is a challenge and a benefit of the web, but that benefit opens new horizons, creates new communities, and helps friendships / acquaintances that might (no, would) not have occurred otherwise.

For me, one of those clicks ended up with Johnny Rook’s Climaticide. In a variety of blogging environments, Johnny Rook has become an increasingly powerful voice in the domain of global warming moving from science to policy to, well, impressive passion about the issues and challenges we face.

What raises Johnny Rook to an even higher level, one that puts in a pantheon of heroes for me, is his personal circumstances. One might call his passion a death bed conversion as he was already ill with terminal cancer when he begin his voyage of discovery and writing on climate-change issues.

Several weeks ago, Johnny put out My doctor doesn’t think I’m going to die today–Updated (see comments here). From that discussion

Before I came down with [my illness] I’d never been in a hospital except to visit ill family members and friends. I spent hours in the gym working out, went on long hikes in the mountains and desert, bicycled and kayaked and ate a mostly organic, vegetarian diet. To say that I was surprised to discover that I had cancer would be the grossest of understatements.

My initial response to learning that my life was likely to be shorter than I had expected was, not surprisingly, rather selfish. I thought about the time that I would lose with my family and friends, of the traveling that I would not get to do, of the books that I would not get to read.

But something else happened too: the world became more poignant to me. I’d always thought of myself as a caring, empathetic, compassionate person, but now I found suffering, cruelty, and abuse to be intolerable regardless of the form it took. Debeaked hens crammed into tiny cages and stacked in factory-farm warehouses, infants shaken to death by their parents because they wouldn’t stop crying, genocide in Darfur, my countrymen in Appalachia and on the Gulf Coast treated as if they lived in a Third World Country, Iraqis bombed by us and by Al Qaeda… It was all too much. I was feeling the world’s pain.

And I realized, pardon my presumption here, that I didn’t want to die with the world in such terrible shape, which, finally, brings me to global warming. Of all the insanities that bedevil human beings on this planet none is greater than global warming. Only all out nuclear war poses as grave a danger to the planet and human civilization. Ironically, the former, if we fail to check it, may lead to the latter–a two-for-one sale at the Armageddon store, if you like.

I’m not confident that we are going to survive this. I’m positive that we won’t survive unscathed because the harm has already begun and we still haven’t done anything to reduce CO2 emissions. And here’s the question that keeps haunting me: If we won’t stop genocide in Darfur or provide universal health coverage in the United States, two horrible but much simpler cruelties, why should any one think that we will deal adequately with global warming?

I hear from mutual friends that Johnny Rook’s doctor might not think this today … that he might not survive the weekend.

Johnny Rook had wanted to be in Washington, DC, for Powershift 2009, to see the power of 10,000+ young people impassioned about helping bring about change in American (and global) policies on Global Warming. He has been thrilled to see that there is political change, that the Obama Administration is filling with people filled with understanding of global warming science and the need to act seriously even as he has serious concerns that President Obama will not (be able to) do enough to turn the tide on Global Warming’s rising seas. And, Johnny Rook had hoped to go to the Capitol Climate Action, to participate in a mass civil disobedience to end Congress’ use of coal to power itself. (Johnny, take a small solace, Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi ordered yesterday that the plant be shifted to natural gas ASAP.) Johnny Rook will not be there … while it is going on, rather than being buoyed by the passion of 10,000 around him, he might quite literally be on his dying bed. His teenage son will be in Washington, DC, in honor of his father who asked him to go, losing the opportunity for any last precious minutes with him but strengthened by knowing his son cares about humanity’s future as well.

Johnny Rook has become my friend and an inspiration. We will never meet in person but we have met through the web. He is a person well worth knowing. To honor him, to honor his passion, to honor his commitment, take a few moments to click to Climaticide Chronicles … Perhaps to begin with his first post at this site that he started just last June: Why call it climaticide? The power of calling things by their true names.

I use the term Climaticide because it is the true name of the crisis that threatens us. As the poet Thich Nhat Hanh has shown, calling things by their true names makes us aware of their complexity and wary of simplistic solutions.

NOTE: Johnny Rook: Apologies if this embarrasses you my friend. I much prefer, even at this last moment, to write a homage rather than obituary. And, as you wish, I would much prefer the honor of be able to use your real name rather than pseudonym.


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John Cornyn's Sad, Hopeless Task


Cornyn thinks GOP needs a new... image

Though most of America was either repulsed or nonplused by "Bobby" Jindal's creepy rebuttal to President Obama's speech this week, Republican politicians are using it to appeal to their dwindling base for donations. Fellow obstructionist wingnuts and governors-- especially those who say they will turn down unemployment money for their states, extremists like Haley Barbour (MS) and Mark Sanford (SC)-- are particularly enthusiastic. The head of their party's efforts to get back in the game in the Senate, Texas obstructionist John Cornyn, says the time has come-- on this very day when the full scope of George Bush's good-bye gift to America has become clear-- for the Republicans to start recruiting mainstream candidates and not just extreme right-wing fanatics (like himself).

He spoke at the GOP's NutFest today and warned the drooling loons and neo-fascists gathered there and waiting for some red meat to be tossed their way that they may be in for a disappointment if they're expecting more Republican candidates who espouse the ideals set forth by Hitler, Coulter and Mussolini. He "warned the gathered conservatives, in town for their annual three-day pilgrimage to hear from Republican luminaries, that not all of the candidates the party recruits will adhere to conservative orthodoxy all the time, a message at odds with other speakers at the conference who urged a return to Reaganite roots."
"Not all of these candidates are going to hold conservative positions on every issue," Cornyn said. "It's critical that our candidates fit their states if they're going to win.

"I understand when people are occasionally frustrated with the way some of my colleagues vote. I am too. But a circular firing squad within our party is no solution," Cornyn said. "We must broaden our party and increase our appeal among groups that share our values but don’t necessarily identify as conservatives or vote consistently as Republicans."

Cornyn acknowledged the "thumpin' " Republicans took in the last election, though he said the movement is "regrouping, reorganizing and renewing itself."

Andy Barr from Politico reported on Cornyn's NutFest chat earlier today and got right to the heart of the GOP dilemma: "The GOP may need to recruit fewer conservative candidates in order to win in 2010" and he clearly differentiated himself from Michael Steele, who is willing to ostracize and even finance campaigns against Republican incumbents who are not 100% obstructionist.
"To be a national party we have to put blue and purple states in play," the Texas senator told an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference. "I would rather have a Republican that would vote with me 80 percent of the time than a liberal Democrat voting with me 0 percent of the time."

He told the gathered conservatives that attacking moderates in the GOP who have voted with President Barack Obama is counterproductive to the party's goals. He added that a "circular firing squad" will not help Republicans regain the majority.

Cluelessly, he told the audience that the party controlled by virulent racists and stark raving mad xenophobes needs to cater to Hispanics to win in the future. Now that is some stretch! He said Republicans will have to venture out of their country clubs and gated communities to meet Hispanics above and beyond the ones who work for them as gardeners and housekeepers.

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Is There Any Truth In What The Republicans And Their Media Mouthpieces Say About The Employee Free Choice Act?


It always surprises me when some self-professed dittohead or admitted O'Reilly fan wanders over to DWT and spews out some Republican Party talking points in the comments section. More often than not I just leave them up as entertainment (unless there's too much of that old fashioned GOP racism and bigotry). Well, since the GOP's top talking points these days are all about the Employee Free Choice Act, we figured we'd try to put together some of the antidotes to Limbaugh's and his congressional followers' lies about unions-- a kind of public service to wingnuts and people who have to put up with wingnut brothers-in-law.

First, in the way of context, let me point you to my friend Eric's blog in Missouri, where he's just posted a satirical look at union-busting.
Unite Here has been trying to organize its employees into a union. It's rough for the casino owners, because by last November 20th, almost eighty percent of the workers had signed cards saying they wanted a union. Whoa! At least, thank god, that damn card check silliness isn't law yet, so Lumiere had a solid three months to put off the election, which takes place today, the 27th. Knowing how much a union would hurt the workers--not to mention its own bottom line--the company has used every tool at its disposal to try to make its employees see sense.

Or to fire them if they wouldn't.

In case you don't have the time for satire or for links. Here's the short version: 80% of workers at the casino where the employees are trying to unionize are in favor of being represented by a union. It may be more than 80; but 80% have already said that that's what they want. Most of the 20% are too scared of the boss to say anything. But since 80% is still a pretty big number, the casino owner chose a "secret ballot" election. That gave him plenty of time-- all the time he needed-- to begin firing and suspending known union sympathizers. You see what Limbaugh and Hannity and DeMint and Coulter don't ever mention while they're shedding crocodile tears for "secret ballots," is that when union organizers ask people to sign a card supporting unionization, it's called intimidation, but when an employer fires someone because they support unionization, it's called preserving civil rights and the sanctity of elections.

And, as the anti-working family members of Congress full well know, even before passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, majority sign-up has been happening. More than 500,000 workers have joined unions in the last 5 years through majority signup. In more than 90% of cases where workers want to form a union immediately, they sign cards and try to get their boss to voluntarily recognize the union. More often than not, employees who want a union work hard to get around two-thirds of their co-workers to sign the cards before they submit the request to management. The ones who want a union sign and anyone who doesn't want a union doesn't sign. So what changes when the Employee Free Choice Act is signed by President Obama? At the point where most of the workers sign the cards, management has to recognize the union and start bargaining. That's why the right-wing is freaking out. They just hate unions; they do not care about secret ballots; they do care about working men and women bargaining collectively. It's the bane of their existence. Even the ones who have accepted they just cannot have slavery, are loathe to accept that they have to treat workers as equals. That's why we have a government to even out the playing field a little for the betterment of society as a whole, a concept that the right rejects entirely.

Media Matters has done a bang-up job in calling out the corporate media and Republican propaganda organizations for distorted reporting, like yesterday's lies from USAToday that the Employee Free Choice Act introduces sign up into the process for the first time. As we just explained above, "the suggestion that an NLRB secret ballot election is currently required before obtaining union representation at a workplace is false. Under current law, a union that shows it has the support of a majority of workers can represent the workers if their employer voluntarily agrees to recognize the union."

What the Employee Free Choice Act will do-- and what completely infuriates rightists-- is to allow workers to form unions on the spot and without a long drawn out and costly organizing drive that gives them the opportunity-- an opportunity they make ample use of-- to threaten, harass and fire workers who want a union. Right now If 30% of workers at a worksite say they want a union, they can get a secret ballot election; that won't change after the Employee Free Choice Act becomes law. At that point, if 50% want a union, they can have the choice of majority signup or secret ballot. What the union-haters like DeMint, Bunning, Vitter, Coburn and that lot do understand is that in almost half the cases where workers ask for secret ballot elections they never get a chance to vote-- and that's exactly how these fake defenders of "the secret ballot" want it to remain.

The secret Big Business and their Republican allies don't want you to know:

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Dixiecan Governors Use Code To Avoid Charges Of Racism As They Reject Money For The Unemployed


Soon to be ex-Governor Rick Perry (KKK-TX)

Franklin Roosevelt had some problems with the KKK and their elected representatives when he started introducing aspects of the New Deal to pull America out of the Republican Depression. These Democratic politicians were worried that the programs would not just help white people-- something they backed-- but would also help African-Americans, what they called, when they were in a polite frame of mind, negroes. Well, guess what-- the political descendants of these racist politicians are mostly Republicans now and they haven't changed one bit.

Today's NY Times has a piece by Michael Luo that never mentions Roosevelt or racism but, in effect, is an update of the same story. Working families in the South are boiling mad that the KKK governors of South Carolina, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee (the one so-called "Democrat in the plot), Texas, Alabama, and Georgia (plus Alaska and Idaho) are threatening to reject millions of dollars in federal stimulus money for increased unemployment insurance.
The stimulus bill recently passed by Congress includes incentives to states to expand benefits to many more jobless people, including part-time workers and those who have cycled in and out of the work force, who are not covered in many states.

Rick Perry (R-TX), who recent polls show badly trailing his Republican primary challenger in his re-election bid, is one of the governors who says he's going to reject the money. He wrote to President Obama last week saying that he opposes "using these funds to expand existing government programs, burdening the state with ongoing expenditures long after the funding has dried up." Perry and the other KKK governors would never say-- publicly-- that they don't want to help African-Americans. Instead the use more updated right-wing dogma to mask their virulent racism.
The governors contend that once the federal money ran out, they would have to continue providing the new benefits, which they say would force them to raise taxes on businesses. The federal money will end in two or three years in some states, or much later in others, depending on the size of the state allocation.

Proponents say that nothing would prevent states from changing the laws back at that time... [M]any laid-off workers across the South have been fretting over precisely what they might lose out on, even as they express astonishment that they might not receive the help that jobless people in other states will get.

They need to think about that the next time they go to the polls and are asked to vote for rightist, reptilian politicians like Jim DeMint and Mark Sanford in South Carolina, David Diapers Vitter and Bobby Jindal in Louisiana, Bob Corker and Phil Bredesen in Tennessee, Haley Barbour and Roger Wicker in Mississippi. Elections, as they say, have consequences. And if you missed this video yesterday, please watch it today:

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Reid And Pelosi Give Obama The Finger-- Bow Down To The NRA


Oh, yeah-- that worked

The NRA will be happy to know that bullying Democrats-- even when they control both houses of Congress and the presidency-- works. Earlier today Nancy Pelosi told Eric Holder that a reinstating a ban on automatic weapons will take a better man than her. Yep, while John Bolton was being applauded wildly for telling the American neo-fascist movement at their CPAC NutFest in DC that Chicago should be nuked, Speaker Pelosi was closing the door on Holder's request to stem the tide of senseless violence here and in Mexico by banning automatic weapons.

And, just in case Holder didn't get the message, 22 Democrats joined the Republicans yesterday to vote for compulsory gun worship in Washington, DC-- Max Baucus (MT), Evan Bayh (IN), Mark Begich (AK), Michael Bennet (CO), Robert Byrd (WV), Bob Casey (PA), Kent Conrad (ND), Byron Dorgan (ND), Russ Feingold (WI), Kay Hagan (NC), Tim Johnson (SD), Mary Landrieu (LA), Blanche Lincoln (AR), Claire McCaskill (MO), Ben Nelson (NE), Mark Pryor (AR), Harry Reid (NV), John Tester (MT), both Udalls (NM & CO), Mark Warner (VA) and Jim Webb (VA). It would be so ironic if a dozen or so of them learned the problems associated with that that first hand... even if just for a fleeting few last moments.

And if that vote wasn't clear enough for Holder that the Democrats are too scared to tackle gun control, Harry Reid left no room for doubt last night that he's as scared of the Republican front groups as Pelosi is.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will join Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in opposing any effort to revive the 1994 assault weapons ban, putting them on the opposite side of the Obama administration.

Reid spokesman Jim Manley said the Nevada Democrat will preserve his traditional pro-gun rights voting record.

"Senator Reid would oppose an effort (to) reinstate the ban if the Senate were to vote on it in the future," Manley told The Hill in an e-mail late Thursday night.

It was not immediately clear whether Reid would block the bill from the Senate, but his opposition casts serious doubt on its chances. Also, Manley noted that Reid voted against the ban in 1994 and again when it expired in 2004.

Imagine if Reid had shown that kind of backbone when Bush and Cheney were shredding the Constitution over the last eight years! Now it will be interesting to see how the Senate's most junior member, Kirsten Gillibrand, reacts to this schism. Will she represent her pals at the NRA or the Democratic base that will determine who wins her first statewide primary?

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Almost All The Cowardly Senate Democrats Join The GOP In Bolstering Hate Talk Radio And Banning Gun Control


All but 11 Democrats join Repugs in validating Hate Talk Radio

The headline at The Hill this afternoon was well-chosen: Senate Tunes Out Fairness Doctrine, 87-11. In the run-up to this afternoon's vote on granting representation to Washington, DC's residents, the spineless, craven almost-as-bad-as-Republicans Democrats couldn't throw enough compromises the GOP's way. I'm surprised the Republicans didn't get them to seat Norm Coleman. What they did do-- after stopping the de facto filibuster of 34 obstructions on Tuesday-- went a lot further than just throwing the Republicans an extra vote by creating another Mormon seat. Today they dealt with 3 ugly amendments to S. 160-- the 2 of which passed will hopefully be stripped out by the House in conference. The first was something by Geert Wilder's host Jon Kyl (R-AZ) asking that the District of Columbia be absorbed by Maryland; anything rather than create a Hose seat for another African-American! Neither the residents of DC nor Maryland want this and the Senate, sanely, rejected it 67-30, every single Klan Republican, except Jeff Sessions (R-AL) voting for it, joined, disgracefully by Tim Johnson (D-SD) who may have been suffering a relapse. Corker hid in the men's room so he wouldn't have to vote. After Kyl's silliness was defeated Dick Durban offered an amendment encouraging "diversity in communication media ownership, and to ensure that the public airwaves are used in the public interest." Sounds good, right? It was just so much hot air with little meaning and just some cover for what was to happen next. Durbin's airy-fairy amendment passed 57-41 (party-line). Twenty minutes later they voted on Jim DeMint's "We Love Limbaugh" amendment which seeks to prevent the FCC from promulgating the fairness doctrine. Only 11 Democrats-- and obviously no Republicans-- voted for fairness. Isn't it great that the Democrats have such an overwhelming majority in Congress? Imagine if they could pass a spine around. There were 87 votes against fairness, all the Republicans and a sickening list of Democrats that went way beyond the Landrieux and Nelsons and Pryors. Here's the list of the only members of the Senate with the right to call themselves Democrats today:
Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
Kent Conrad (D-ND)
Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Tim Johnson (D-SD), partially making up for the KKK support earlier
John Kerry (D-MA)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

The Democrats were almost as pathetic in their response to John Ensign's guns, guns, guns amendment, which would strip DC of it's gun control laws. It passed 62-36, every Republican but Dick Lugar (IN) being joined by Max Baucus (MT), Evan Bayh (IN), Mark Begich (AK), Michael Bennet (CO), Robert Byrd (WV), Bob Casey (PA), Kent Conrad (ND), Byron Dorgan (ND), Russ Feingold (WI), Kay Hagan (NC), Tim Johnson (SD), Mary Landrieu (LA), Blanche Lincoln (AR), Claire McCaskill (MO), Ben Nelson (NE), Mark Pryor (AR), Harry Reid (NV), John Tester (MT), both Udalls (NM & CO), Mark Warner (VA) and Jim Webb (VA).

You know, no one is asking them to ban guns in their own gun-lovin' states. This was about the citizens of Washington, DC, where the only thing to hunt walks upright on two legs, wanting sane gun control laws and these pompous assholes voting against their rights of self governance. It's what I would expect of Johnny Isakson and Richard Burr, but not Russ Feingold and Tom Udall. (Feingold, usually one of my favorite senators, requested an endorsement from Blue America this week. Remind me of this vote if you see him appear on our endorsement list anytime in 2009.)

In the end, all that compromising with the Devil passed the bill, 61-37, almost all the Republicans voting against it anyway, including, of course, the two who got their unconstitutional amendments passed, Ensign and DeMint. All the Dems but Baucus voted yes and they were joined by Collins, Hatch, Lugar, Snowe, Specter and Voinovich. In effect they didn't gain a single wingnut vote after playing footsie with them all day. Yecchhh. I need a hot shower.

Wrong time for Senate Democrats to sign on to the Republican agenda for failure:

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Will Blue Dog-GOP Alliance Sabotage Democrats' Plans For Mortgage Write Downs?


More of these will be arriving, courtesy of the GOP & their pet Blue Dogs

The House started voting on the procedural legislation for a bill by Barney Frank and John Conyers, HR 1106, that would allow bankruptcy judges to write down the principal and interest payments on mortgages for primary residences. Two passed-- against 100% Republican opposition and with loads of Blue Dogs crossing the aisle. The second of the two votes was uncomfortably close, 224-198.

All 172 House Republicans, voted against bringing it up. They were joined-- in the two procedural votes-- by a gaggle of mostly reactionary anti-working families Democrats, regular suspects and Chamber of Commerce sellouts like Jason Altmire (PA), John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA), Marion Berry (Blue Dog-AR), Travis Childers (Blue Dog-MS), Joe Donnelly (Blue Dog-IN), Baron Hill (Blue Dog-IN), Mike Ross (AR), Gene Taylor (Blue Dog-MS), Harry Teague (NM), Leonard Boswell (Blue Dog-IA), Bobby Bright (Blue Dog-AL), Ben Chandler (KY), Brad Ellsworth (Blue Dog-IN), Gabby Giffords (Blue Dog-AZ), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ), Frank Kratovil (Blue Dog-MD), Heath Shuler (Blue Dog-NC), Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT), Walt Minnick (ID), Mike Michaud (Blue Dog-ME), Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN), etc.

With the Blue Dogs yowling and barking and corrupt Democrats like Ellen Tauscher threatening a revolt on behalf of the banksters and Rick Santelli, the leadership decided to postpone voting on the bill until next week. Banksters who lured millions of unsuspecting homebuyers into this untenable loans are up in arms, reminding Blue Dogs and Republicans about the millions of dollars they've poured into their political careers. President Obama is backing the approach but the Blue Dogs and Republicans refuse to go against their campaign contributors, no matter how badly it hurts homeowners and the economy. It will be even tougher in the more corrupt and more conservative Senate when they take it up next week.
The banking industry has lobbied hard against the measure, mounting a successful multimillion-dollar effort last year to kill it.

This year, mortgage industry players who are scrambling to narrow the scope of the measure to reduce its potential cost for banks have won some key concessions. House Democrats agreed to limit the measure to existing loans made before the bill is enacted and to borrowers who can show they tried other ways of modifying their home loans before resorting to bankruptcy, among other changes.

But banks want to go much further, restricting the bill only to subprime or other exotic loans.

There are too many Democrats in Congress who are either frightened, bought off and corrupt or who just plain think like Republicans. I hope these folks are keeping score.

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Corruption-- The One Thing In Politics That Really Is Bipartisan


Today's Chicago Sun Times broke a story about Illinois corruption that looks, on the surface, pretty dire for Roland Burris and his ill-conceived bid to cling to the Senate seat then-Governor Rod Blogojevich appointed him to fill. It's more disigenuousness from our despicable and corrupt political class, the most bipartisan thing about American politics.
The son of embattled Sen. Roland Burris is a federal tax deadbeat who landed a $75,000-a-year state job under former Gov. Rod Blagojevich five months ago, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Blagojevich's administration hired Roland W. Burris II as a senior counsel for the state's housing authority Sept. 10-- about six weeks after the Internal Revenue Service slapped a $34,163 tax lien on Burris II and three weeks after a mortgage company filed a foreclosure suit on his South Side house.

...Burris II's hiring, however, raises more questions about Sen. Burris' interactions with Blagojevich and his inner circle at a time when the governor was soliciting Sen. Burris for campaign contributions and Burris was angling to have Blagojevich appoint him to the Senate seat once held by President Obama.

Despite the efforts of the good guys-- Tom Geoghegan has just filed suit to have Burriss removed from the Senate--sometimes it looks like the Democrats are working like mad to catch up with the Tom DeLays, Denny Hasterts, Duke Cunninghams, Roy Blunts, and Jerry Lewises of the world. That will be hard because the GOP will always be one step ahead of them when it comes to corruption, something that they actually believe in as an ideological good-- stealing from the "damn government" and the law of the jungle, both part of the GOP Ten Commandments.

Just a few hours ago the NY Times reported another major Republican indictment, one that should sear McCain, Giuliani, the whole Florida Republican establishment, and a gaggle of wingnut politicians all over the country, from Richard Burr in North Carolina and Richard Shelby in Alabama to NRSC chair John Cornyn of Texas. Yesterday federal prosecutors got an indictment against a sleazy Jordanian "businessman," Ala'a al-Ali, who has been funneling large amounts of money to Republican Party politicians through one of the most corrupt Republican Party fundraisers in the country, Harry Sargeant III. Until recently Sargeant, who has-- along with his immediate family (people living and working at the same addresses as him)-- given hundreds of thousands of dollars to a roster of right wing crooks, from shady characters like the Diaz-Balart Brothers, Connie Mack, Tom Rooney, Richard Burr and Cass Ballenger to nationally prominent Republicans like John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Charlie Crist. Sargeant pumped more than half a million dollars into McCain's failed campaign last year, funneled tens of thousands of dollars into Giuliani's campaign, most of it illegally and was recently forced to resign as the treasurer of the scandal plagued Florida Republican Party.

Sargeant was the go-between for corrupt Arabs trying to buy influence from McCain and other right-wing leaders. And although there were small amounts that were given to Democrats as well, the vast majority of the money that went through Sargeant and al-Ali went to Republicans, usually extreme right wing ones. Richard Burr and Richard Shelby, two blowhard obstructionist Republicans who took tens of thousands of dollars from Sargeant, are refusing to return the money.


AP broke the story today about how Gregg and his brother stand to make a bundle based on one of his earmarks. The sleazy Republican hypocrite "personally has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in Cyrus Gregg's office projects at the Pease International Tradeport, a Portsmouth business park built at the defunct Pease Air Force Base, once home to nuclear bombers. Judd Gregg has collected at least $240,017 to $651,801 from his investments there, Senate records show, while helping arrange at least $66 million in federal aid for the former base."

He says he didn't break any laws. They always say that; think back to Duke Cunningham, William Jefferson, Bob Ney and Tom DeLay. After all, they write the laws and the loopholes and know how to steal taxpayer money without putting themselves in jeopardy. It does now appear that this is the reason why he "decided" to withdraw his name as a Cabinet appointee.

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Guns, Pot And National Security-- In The U.S. And Mexico


Time to legalize pot and outlaw heavy weapons

I don't know anyone else who ever went to Afghanistan to kick drugs. But after a few months there in the late 60s I was ready. One day I woke up in Jalalabad, in the back of the VW van that was my home for 3 years, and said shúker and Da khoday-pe-aman to a country I had grown to love and to a drug lifestyle that had defined the last 5 years of my life... and headed for the Khyber Pass. I was off to India. But first stop after the historic Pass was Peshawar, charming city, kind of a wild west town with far more horses and buggies-- horses with red plumes on their heads-- than cars. I had always thought it remarkable that every single man in Afghanistan-- and remember, this was in 1969, before the Taliban and before the Russian invasion, before the disintegration of Afghan society-- carried a gun, usually a big one. In Peshawar I saw where they came from. It was the biggest gun market I had ever seen in my life-- the whole town. Guns everywhere, and every type imaginable. Other weapons too. Watch this clip on the biggest illegal gun market in the world.

This morning I woke up and I heard a DEA agent talking about how the U.S. Mexican border is a problem because of drugs and guns being smuggled into the U.S. She missed a much bigger problem-- guns being smuggled into Mexico, enough guns to destabilize the entire country. This morning's NY Times actually got it right: U.S. Is Arms Bazaar for Mexican Cartels. You probably heard about the big crackdown the U.S. and Mexico are coordinating this week against the murderous Sinaloa Drug Cartel. Last year alone over 6,000 Mexicans have been gunned down by this outfit. And the guns almost all come from one place: the U.S.A. "Drug gangs seek out guns in the United States because the gun-control laws are far tougher in Mexico. Mexican civilians must get approval from the military to buy guns and they cannot own large-caliber rifles or high-powered pistols, which are considered military weapons... Mexican authorities have long complained that American gun dealers are arming the cartels."
[T]he sheer volume of licensed dealers-- more than 6,600 along the border alone, many of them operating out of their houses-- makes policing them a tall order. Currently the A.T.F. has about 200 agents assigned to the task.

Smugglers routinely enlist Americans with clean criminal records to buy two or three rifles at a time, often from different shops, then transport them across the border in cars and trucks, often secreting them in door panels or under the hood, law enforcement officials here say. Some of the smuggled weapons are also bought from private individuals at gun shows, and the law requires no notification of the authorities in those cases.

...The Mexican government began to clamp down on drug cartels in late 2006, unleashing a war that daily deposits dozens of bodies-- often gruesomely tortured-- on Mexico’s streets. President Felipe Calderón has characterized the stream of smuggled weapons as one of the most significant threats to security in his country. The Mexican authorities say they seized 20,000 weapons from drug gangs in 2008, the majority bought in the United States.

The authorities in the United States say they do not know how many firearms are transported across the border each year, in part because the federal government does not track gun sales and traces only weapons used in crimes. But A.T.F. officials estimate 90 percent of the weapons recovered in Mexico come from dealers north of the border.

In Peshawar the gun merchants care as little about Afghans killing each other as Americans gun merchants care about Mexicans killing each other. And in this country, where gun worship is practically recognized as a religion, the government-- at least for the last 8 years-- has done virtually nothing about it, despite the volcanic situation brewing just south of our border. (Just yesterday an irresponsible gaggle of cowardly, right-wing senators tried forcing the District of Columbia to abolish its gun control laws to satisfy campaign contributors in the gun industry and the lunatic fringe of their ideological base.) Yesterday Attorney General Holder called the Mexican drug cartels "a national security threat." He's right-- and President Obama seems determined to ban the kinds of assault weapons that have been causing mayhem on both sides of the border. The context was a coordinated assault on the cartel's operations on both sides of the border. As many as 1,000 people have been arrested so far-- the raids are ongoing-- in California, Maryland and Minnesota. Watch this report from MSNBC about the nexus between the Mexican drug cartel, national security and archaic American gun worship:

That said, more Americans realize that it isn't drug use that is the threat as it is the criminal gangs capitalizing on anti-drug regulations. Recent polling shows that over 40% of Americans now favor marijuana legalisation. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX) proposed legalizing marijuana last year. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Pete Stark (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), William Clay (D-MO) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), were the only members of Congress mature enough to sign on as co-sponsors. The bill died. This year On Obama's Web site asked the public to submit policy ideas for his transition team to look at. The most popular idea, by a landslide was legalizing marijuana use. California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has introduced a bill in the Golden State to legalize and tax pot. There are a lot of reasons to do it-- striking a blow against the Mexican drug cartels being one-- but the $1.3 billion in annual tax receipts for the hard-pressed California state government is definitely one.

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Blue Dogs Bare Their Fangs Over Budget-- Fail


Jane's nemisis Jim Cooper prefers this photo to one of his mug

Yesterday afternoon David Obey presented the Omnibus Appropriations bill for the fiscal year ending September, 2009, H.R. 1105 and it passed 245-178, with 20 Democrats crossing the aisle to vote with the Republicans while 16 Republicans crossed in the other direction, essentially canceling out the Blue Dog "show of force." All the Democrats voting "no," except Jackie Speier, were either Blue Dogs or fellow travelers, a lame gaggle of conservative grandstanders:

Melissa Bean (Blue Dog-IL)
Dennis Cardoza (Blue Dog-CA)
Travis Childers (Blue Dog-MS)
Jim Cooper (Blue Dog-TN)
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)
Joe Donnelly (Blue Dog-IN)
Steve Driehaus (OH)
Gabby Giffords (Blue Dog-AZ)
Baron Hill (Blue Dog-IN)
Ron Kind (WI)
Frank Kratovil (Blue Dog-MD)
Jim Marshall (Blue Dog-GA)
Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT)
Walt Minnick (ID)
Harry Mitchell (Blue Dog-AZ)
Glenn Nye (Blue Dog-VA)
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)
John Tanner (TN)
Gene Taylor (Blue Dog-MS)

One of Congress' most reactionary kooks and reflexive obstructionists is Arizona wingnut Jeff Flake. But that doesn't mean that Flake is always wrong on everything. Yesterday he moved to help put a real end to corruption by abolishing lobbyists #1 tool, the earmark. Sure some earmarks are used for good things... absolutely. Proponents should bring them up in the House and have them voted on. On the other hand, billions of dollars in taxpayer funds are stolen and the entire political class is corrupted by lobbyists seeking earmarks for their clients. Flake's motion was worthy of support but it died when only 17 Democrats would get behind it. Among the ones who did-- going up against the smarmy Democratic leadership-- were many scummy Blue Dogs and some progressive good government types who care about the difference between right and wrong, such as Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Paul Hodes (D-NH), Dave Loebsack (D-IA), Larry Kissell (D-NC), and Jim Himes (D-CT) and with Peter Welch (D-VT), Kathy Castor (D-FL) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) abstaining.

Pathetically, Democrats are defending earmarks by pointing out Republicans-- who American voters already detest for being corrupt-- do it too. Yes, they do; and that's part of why they were kicked out of office. Disgracefully, Hoyer distributed a handout yesterday claiming “You can’t spell ‘earmark’ without an ‘R,’” which stated that 40% of the earmark dollars included in the omnibus spending bill were put there by Republicans.

As part of yesterday's proceeding Jim McGovern (D-MA) offered an amendment to freeze the congressional pay raise for 2010. It passed 393-25. Only 7 Democrats and 18 Republicans voted no.
Republicans, in an unusual move, mostly voted for the Democratic rule governing debate, because they didn’t want to be targeted by campaign ads that they voted in favor of raising their pay.

The rule on debate contained the amendment freezing 2010’s pay increase, and Republicans said Democrats trapped them into voting for the rule by attaching the pay-freezing measure.

“It was kind of a manipulative thing to do,” said a Republican aide. “It was unusual that we supported the rule, especially one on a bill that we have so many problems with, but because of what they did with the pay increase, they could have used that vote against us.”

...The Senate has not made a final decision on its 2010 salaries, though members of the upper chamber are not expected to get a raise next year.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) has offered legislation that would stop lawmakers from getting an automatic pay increase in 2011.

The members voting against the amendment were mostly far right members of their respective caucuses, like Dan Boren, Walt Minnick, Collin Peterson and Gene Taylor among the Democrats and Paul Broun (R-GA), Nathan Deal (R-GA), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Steve King (R-IA), Doug Lamborn (R-CO) Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Lynn Westmoreland and Don Young (R-AK) among the Repugs.

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Jindal Won't Do Much For The GOP But His Shockingly Inept Speech Has Made A Star Out Of Kenneth The Page


Do you see a president hiding here?

Yesterday our Ken, who, unlike me, watches TV and knows about popular shows like 30 Rock and has opinions on characters like Kenneth the Page, was mortified that people were comparing the page to Jindal. (I'm friends with Stephen Page of Barenaked Ladies-- but I had never heard of Kenneth the Page until Gov. Jindal did his dumbed down impersonation of him after Obama's speech Tuesday night.) This morning I was reading both the NY Times' critique of Jindal's Mr. Rogersish speech and the L.A. Times' report on how mortified the Republican Party was over Jindal's atrocious performance:
The reviews were swift and scathing: Off-putting. Amateurish. Disastrous.

And those were fellow Republicans reacting to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who delivered the nationally broadcast follow-up to President Obama's speech to Congress on Tuesday night. (Not surprisingly, Democrats echoed the criticism.)

...Fellow conservatives criticized Jindal's mannerisms, his sing-song delivery, the backdrop for his 10-minute speech (a spiral staircase in the governor's mansion in Baton Rouge).

"You can't go on TV and counter Obama with that," said radio host Laura Ingraham.

Philip Klein of the American Spectator said Jindal seemed more like a high school student delivering his valedictory speech than a prospective new GOP leader.

Aside from Tom DeLay (still not in prison), Rush Limbaugh, who is apparently back to mainlining Oxycontin, was Jindal's one defender. Threatening other wingnuts who criticized the GOP's one hope to make sure Sarah Palin isn't their party's future, Limbaugh babbled incoherently on Wednesday morning on his Hate Talk Radio program, "I love Bobby Jindal, and that did not change after last night... Because if you think — people on our side I’m talking to you — those of you who think Jindal was horrible, you think — in fact, I don’t ever want to hear from you ever again. … I’ve spoken to him numerous times, he’s brilliant. He’s the real deal." Other wingers, including South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and Republican Party spokesperson Amanda Carpenter, are questioning Limbaugh's sanity. Now does anyone care about any of this or what any of these people have to say? Well... viewers of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon-- another TV thing I had never heard about until today-- were treated to Kenneth the Page, or at least Jack McBrayer, the actor who plays him. Take a look at how he responded to Jindal's unauthorized impersonation and career suicide:

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

7 Senate Republicans Caught Running Around In Their KKK Sheets


Yesterday we saw the Senate shut down the Obstruction Republican de facto filibuster that will give Washington, DC a congressional seat. Most Republicans were placated by the awarding of an extra seat to the reddest state in the Union, the backward, reactionary Mormon theocracy, a sure vote for the GOP. Most but not all. Remember, Washington is overwhelmingly Africa-American and the worst and most blatant racists in the Senate, coincidentally, all die-hard obstructionists and extremists, tried getting around it by offering to exempt all DC residents from paying federal income tax. That would get rid of the "no taxation without representation" embarrassment.

Oklahoma's KKK-oriented kook, Tom Coburn introduced the amendment this evening and it failed 7-91. So who were the seven died-hards who are proud to admit their KKK connections. Easy to guess:

Jim Bunning (R-KY)
Richard Burr (R-NC)
Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Jim DeMint (R-SC)
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
Roger Wicker (R-MS)

What happened to Vitter?

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When Will Norm Coleman And Tim Pawlenty Allow Minnesota To Have The Same Representation In Washington As Every Other State?


No shame, no dignity, no sense of duty to Minnesota

After Norm Coleman was defeated by Al Franken in November he lost his Senate office and his right to vote, of course. The 3-way race was very close, Franken barely ahead (by 225 votes), 1,212,431 to Coleman's 1,212,206. The third party candidate had 437,404 votes (15%). As a point of reference, Minnesota voters picked Obama over McCain, 1,573,354 (54%) to 1,275,409 (44%). The 5 Democratic congressional incumbents won re-electon by huge margins-- between 63%-72%-- and 3 red seats were all competitive, Michele Bachmann hanging on with only 46%.

Since then, Coleman has suffered an uninterrupted series of setbacks as he has tried to overturn the election results through the courts. His strategy is basically to challenge every ballot that wasn't cast for him. His latest setback came today as the 3-judge court shot down his latest shenanigan for stealing the election.
In rebuffing Coleman, the panel noted that he and Franken had agreed three weeks ago to allow the secretary of state to redact information identifying 933 absentee ballots approved by the state Canvassing Board on Jan. 5. Both campaigns had accepted those ballots, but Coleman last week said about 100 are invalid under the panel's recent rulings.

The judges said the secretary of state had already begun the process of redacting the information, using a black marker to obliterate identifying numbers. Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann said about half were redacted before he halted the process Friday when Coleman sought a temporary injunction.

Coleman argued that he would be irreparably harmed without the injunction because the panel would be unable to determine which ballot was illegally cast without the identifying marks.
"The court does not accept this argument," the panel wrote. It cited, in part, "the fundamental right to secrecy of a voter's ballot"

Coleman is suing Franken for beating him. And he's being cheered on by Obstructionist Republicans in Washington who know full well that Franken won and will eventually be seated; they just don't want him voting for Obama's programs for as long as this can be drawn out. That's almost understandable from the perspective of neo-Confederate fanatics and extremists like Jim DeMint, David Diapers Vitter, John Cornyn, Tom Coburn, Richard Burr, Jim Bunning and that lot. But Tim Pawlenty? He's in cahoots with a bad bunch who couldn't care less if Minnesota has representation in the Senate or not. Pawlenty should know better. In fact, national Republicans have agreed to fund an appeal process that could prevent Franken-- if Pawlenty participates in the plot-- from taking his seat for years! As Joe Sudbay pointed out at AmericaBlog Monday, Coleman can't win; all he can do is drag his feet and keep Franken from being seated. And he can do that for as long as Pawlenty puts his party before his state and before his country. I thought the Republican Party opposed frivolous lawsuits? It's a shame no one starts a recall petition against Pawlenty.

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I can't believe Goobernor Booby's performance either, but the thing I want to say is that he's not our Kenneth from 30 Rock

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A taste of everyone's favorite NBC page, including such gems as: "I was pretty addicted to coke back in my Wall Street days" and, stretcher-bound, "If I die, will you take care of my birds?" Our Kenneth is not the Goobernator, uh-uh, no way.

by Ken

Really, we should be talking about the president's speech today, not the stupefying spectacle that followed it.

Now, I make it a policy, or thought I did, not to watch presidential speeches. I mean, really, what do you learn? But I watched last night's, and wow! Talk about a guy showing real understanding of the fix we've gotten ourselves into -- not least that it goes way beyond the housing debacle -- with real determination and vision, not just for getting us out of this fix, but for using it as an opportunity to seriously change the course we're on for a better future.

That was some kind of speech.

Actually, though, I'm not sure there's much more to say about it right now. It all depends on the follow-through. If the speech turns out to be the starting point for the kind of re-creation of our economy and society it envisioned, it may go down as one of the great, seminal speeches in the country's history. If not, well, it will be (barely) remembered as just another spell of gum-flapping.

We need to see the details unfold. I'm not complaining about the amount of detail included, which seemed to quite right for a State of the Union-equivalent speech, where the purpose is to set forth the president's goals and try to rally support for them. In this regard, the president offered plenty of detail -- I'd say a breathtaking amount. If he can now back that up with concrete programs intelligently designed to bring us closer to the vision, I think he did a splendid job of rallying political support.

If the president can maintain this level of commitment and inspiration, I think he's going to have so much of the country behind him (there will, apparently, always be that other 30 percent) that the Republican pols are going to face the choice of working with him or becoming simply irrelevant politically, their only available game plan being the one they're using in Congress now to sit on the sidelines whining, hoping and praying that it all fails and they get to come in and pick up the pieces. This is, I think, a wildly risky strategy, and one that many Americans will have great trouble either accepting or forgetting.

Meanwhile, there's the grotesque spectacle poor Bobby Jindal made of himself, and while I hate to pile on, and think it may be all the more redundant considering that the goobernor may just have ended his political career outside Louisiana, it's kind of hard not to talk about that one of the saddest, lamest performances I've seen in my decades of watching American political theater.

But the thing that moves me to write is the evocations I'm hearing of 30 Rock's beloved super-weird super-page Kenneth. As I've written, not only love do I 30 Rock, but I especially love Kenneth (Jack McBrayer), as I suspect all viewers of the show do. As I wrote, he and Alec Baldwin's Jack Donaghy have been one of the elements of the show that always worked, back to the pilot episode, even while the other elements needed (how shall I say?) "seasoning."

But Kenneth is not Bobby Jindal. Kenneth is very weird, yes. Hardly an episode goes by when we don't find out that the depths of his weirdness lie even deeper than we thought. But Kenneth is not Bobby Jindal. Everybody loves Kenneth. Bobby Jindal, as far as I can tell from my mercifully limited explosure, and certainly off last night's fiasco, is just a creep. I mean, anyone who could start such a speech with that creepy telling of his life story, which ought to have some inspirational value, and instead make it sound utterly pointless, cheesy, embarrassing, and, yes, kind of creepy comes off as, you know, a creep.

Viewers may love Kenneth, but it would never occur to us to have him hold public office. Being an NBC page -- this is Kenneth's life work, and he's doing it, living his dream! Now, if Goobernor Booby has any interest in joining the NBC page program, I'll bet Tina Fey and Lorne Michaels know people they could talk to.

Normally I would never use the phrase "allowing for the right-wing spin" with Michael Gerson, since normally with MG if you take away the right-wing spin there's nothing left. But while I doubt that any of us would be much taken with the Bobby J he's touting in his Washington Post column today -- printed, alas, a day too late for our Michael's credibility -- this is apparently what his admirers see, or saw, in him. Is it necessary to say that none of this was on view last night, unless you count the unbearably mawkish litany of his personal background with which he opened, a subject that he's supposed to prefer to downplay! (Does he perhaps like to downplay it the way Young Johnny McCranky just hated talking about his POW experience, which he nevertheless seemed to do at every opportunity?)

All I can think is that someone (it can't possibly have been the governor's own idea) decided that the country would love him if he could just give them the old Sarah Palin dumbth. (That's a Steve Allen word, "dumbth." He thought there needed to be a word for, well, dumbth. You know, the way that something that's warm has the quality of warmth.) And it's really only a second consideration that only Sarah Palin can do Sarah Palin dumbth. The first consideration about Sarah Palin, always, is that zowie, she's hot! She shows up, and all those limp-dicked,beer-bellied limp-dicked Republican guys get a groin tingle, thinking, "Wow! 40-whatever, five kids, and still -- wow! man, could I make music on those bazongas!"

Is there anyone out there who wants to make anything with Goobernor Booby's bazongas?

The interesting thing is that, assuming Gerson is right about whatever appeal Booby is supposed to have for people for whom he has appeal, last night he did a 180 and -- I think -- destroyed his political career. More than anything now I'll be curious to learn the dirt, I mean the back story of that speech. Who exactly was involved in the strategizing and the implementation? Did somebody make Booby do it? Or did he really think it was a good idea?

I just couldn't believe that the clown had nothing of substance to say except, eventually, a few bromides. ("Tax cuts!") I mean, he -- and whoever -- must have been provided in advance with at least some form of the president's speech, and of course then they had the opportunity to watch it. Did it really not occur to any of them that the response they apparently had in mind had been rendered irrelevant? A speech this filled with determination and vision, this skillfully executed, would have been tough to respond to under the best circumstances, but who thought it would be smart to counter with a guy who's clearly not a dope in real life but chose, or was chosen, to play a village idiot on TV?

Of course, on the whole I'm grateful for the ineptitude of the production. In the old days, Karl Rove would have had his crack team of obfuscators and spinners lying in wait, armed with all their focus-tested buzzwords for an orgy of obfuscation and a breathless round of spin-the-media. This, this was simply hopeless. It's hard to believe that anyone with, say, a fourth-grade education could have been involved in writing that speech. And I believe if you'd plucked anybody off any high school Debate Club or Public Speaking Club in the country, he/she would have done a better job than Goobernor Booby did of making it sound like he was talking about something.

I'm sure Rush and Sean and Billo and the others will find a way to spin the two speeches, but I tell you, this time out, the kids are really going to have to work to earn their blood money.


I found this lovely deleted scene ("embedding disabled by request") between Kenneth and Jenna (Jane Krakowski), after he's demolished his page jacket and, since it was her fault (we actually saw this happen in the above compilation clip), she offers to buy him a new one, or at least talk to someone, and in horror at the prospect of her talking to that singularly august personage the head page, he warns her:

"The page world is a political rat's nest. It's sort of like the U.N. except we're still relevant in the modern world."

No, this isn't the deleted "U.N." scene. This is from the episode where Jenna got really fat, and TGS viewers loved it, so it became Kenneth's job to spoon-feed her to keep her fat in order to maintain those great show ratings. (He's playing "airplane hangar" with her here.)

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