Saturday, February 01, 2014

Chris Christie lashes out in response to the latest George Washington Bridge allegations

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So how does scandal-ridden New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, bullying blowhard extraordinaire, respond to new allegations he knew full well about those lane closings on the George Washington Bridge?

Why, by going on the attack, of course, verbally assaulting the man who dared come forth against him, as well as the newspaper that dared report something other than pro-Christie spin:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, after a low-key initial response to Friday's explosive allegations about his involvement in a bridge-closing scandal, mounted an aggressive defense late Saturday afternoon, attacking The New York Times and a former political ally in an email to friends and allies obtained by POLITICO.

"Bottom line — David Wildstein will do and say anything to save David Wildstein," the email from the governor's office says, referring to the former appointee who reignited the controversy.


The subject line of the 700-word email from the governor's office is: "5 Things You Should Know About The Bombshell That's Not A Bombshell." It offers a harshly negative portrayal of Wildstein's character and judgment.

Oh, but Chris Christie won't do and say anything to save Christie? The man's a massive egomaniac, and he's now watching his presidential ambitions slip away in slow motion.

And of course you knew it was going to be a vicious ad hominem attack like this. Surely you did, if you know Christie at all.

He's like this normally, but with his credibility already shot it would now appear that desperation is settling in.

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A.M. Headlines

(New York Daily News): "Gov. Chris Christie knew about George Washington Bridge lane closures during shutdown: aide"

(Newark Star Ledger): "Chris Christie should resign if bombshell proves true: Editorial"

(Molly Ball): "Will immigration reform finally happen?"

(The Hill): "What now for Pelosi?"

(Roll Call): "Report builds pressure on Obama to allow Keystone Pipeline"


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Amplifier: "Where the River Goes" (and my favorite albums of 2013)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Amplifier's 2013 album Echo Street doesn't have quite the adventurous grandeur of the band's previous studio effort, 2011's The Octopus, but it's a remarkable album nonetheless. Where the latter is a double-sized album of mind-altering intensity that requires multiple listens to uncover its esoteric space-rock complexity, the former is a more accessible journey into old-fashioned yet still solidly fresh prog rock.

Indeed, were it not for Steven Wilson's glorious The Raven that Refused to Sing (and Other Stories), Echo Street might very well have been my favorite studio album of 2013. (If we're including live / concert albums as well, it's Wilson's Raven and Anathema's incredible Universal. I'd also add Vienna Teng's Aims, God is an Astronaut's Origins, Sarah Jarosz's Build Me Up From Bones, and Patty Griffin's Silver Bells (recorded in 2000 but finally released last year) to the list of my favorites of 2013. Yes, I really like prog rock and Americana / folk / roots. What can I say?)

If you don't know the U.K.-based Amplifier -- they're certainly not widely known on this side of the Atlantic, but they deserve much wider attention than they're getting in Europe -- I strongly encourage you to check them out, especially if, like me, you're a fan of the sort of "post-progressive" sound that finds its outlet through the great Kscope label (home to Amplifier along with Wilson and Porcupine Tree, Anathema, Gazpacho, North Atlantic Oscillation, The Pineapple Thief, and other great artists).

I'll post more from Amplifier in future, but for now here's probably my favorite song off Echo Street (just ahead of "Matmos" and "Extra Vehicular"), "Where the River Goes." (This version was recorded live in Barcelona on May 10, 2013.) Enjoy!


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Friday, January 31, 2014

Things just keep getting worse for egomaniacal bully Chris Christie

By Michael J.W. Stickings 

We'll have to see if there is anything to this, if there is in fact the evidence to back it up, but one of New Jersey's governor's old pals and allies, the man at the center of the George Washington Bridge scandal, appears to be on the verge of taking Christie down:

The former Port Authority official who personally oversaw the lane closings at the George Washington Bridge, central to the scandal now swirling around Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, said on Friday that "evidence exists" that the governor knew about the closings when they were happening.

A lawyer for the former official, David Wildstein, wrote a letter describing the move to shut the lanes as "the Christie administration's order" and said "evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference" three weeks ago. 

As you might expect, Christie continues to deny, deny, deny, but the state's leading paper, the Star-Ledger, emphasizes the importance of this new revelation:

Forget about the White House in 2016. The question now is whether Gov. Chris Christie can survive as governor.


If this charge proves true, then the governor must resign or be impeached. Because that would leave him so drained of credibility that he could not possibly govern effectively. He would owe it to the people of New Jersey to stop the bleeding and quit. And if he should refuse, then the Legislature should open impeachment hearings.

There are any number of reasons why Christie should resign, or face impeachment, or at the very least be held in contempt, but obviously the GWB scandal and Christie's repeated denials of any wrongdoing are at the center of his corrupt administration.

Christie has proven himself to be an egomaniacal bully who abuses his power for personal and political gain. It is long past time for him to be held accountable.

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What would President Gore have done after 9/11?

By Marc McDonald 

I've often wondered: if Al Gore had been allowed to assume the presidency that he won in the 2000 election, how would he have responded after the 9/11 attacks? Actually, I think it's pretty likely 9/11 would never have happened in the first place under President Gore.

Gore was (and is) a reader and a scholar, you see. One of those dreaded "liberal book learners." Unlike Bush, Gore didn't make decisions "based on his gut." Gore read about and studied the issues. He listened to experts. Oh, the horror!

And on Aug. 6, 2001, when the CIA hand-delivered a Presidential Daily Brief to President Gore, he would have actually read the goddamn thing (particularly after glancing at the alarming headline, "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in U.S.")

Unlike Bush, Gore wasn't fond of endless five-week vacations on the taxpayer's dime. So it is entirely possible that Gore wouldn't have been on vacation at the time. I'm think it's also highly likely that if Gore had been on vacation, he'd have cut it short to deal with the PDB.

What's important, though, is that President Gore would have taken action. For example, it's a virtual certainty that he would have called a meeting of his top security people. (Maybe such a high-level security meeting would have brought attention to issues like the FBI's July 2001 reporting about suspicious Middle Eastern men who were learning to fly passenger airliners at U.S. aviation schools.)

I also suspect that President Gore would have ordered possible terror targets like airports to step up security a notch.

Sadly, none of this actually happened. Of course, that's because in the previous year, a blatantly pro-GOP Supreme Court in 2000 awarded Bush a presidency in an election that Gore won by over half a million votes.

And so when Aug. 6, 2001 rolled around, Bush was handed the fateful Bin Laden PDB and took no action, as he continued to enjoy his 5 week vacation.

And so 3,000 Americans died on 9/11. And later, hundreds of thousands of civilians were slaughtered in the trillion-dollar fiasco called the Iraq War.

Read more »

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

On the Hustings

(Politico): "Democrats: Cede the House to save the Senate"

(Washington Post): "For 2016, Hillary Clinton has commanding lead over Democrats, GOP race wide open"

(CBS Miami): "Jeb Bush still undecided on 2016 presidential run"

(National Journal): "Obama's state approval ratings spell trouble for Senate Democrats"

(Politico): "Dustup could hurt Michael Grimm’s reelection"


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Grimm prospects

By Carl

By now, you’ve read about or seen the assault on NY1 reporter Michael Scotto by Staten Island Congressman Michael Grimm. As it turns out, it was all anybody talked about in the aftermath of the State of the Union address Tuesday night, and as such, forced the GOP to go off message to defend one of their own.

They can’t be happy about that in an election year.

Grimm, a former Marine and FBI agent, was asked for face time on camera to comment about the President’s address. Scotto, seizing an opportunity as any good reporter would, switched gears and tried to get Grimm to comment on camera about allegations that his first Congressional campaign was based in large part on campaign contributions that were made illegally (to-wit, from foreign sources and some domestic sources that contributed more than the legal maximum through some shady deals with third parties.) Grimm was genuinely surprised by the question, since his initial reaction, to walk away, was probably the best reflex he could have had, but his “second thought” was what got him in trouble, assaulting the reporter by physically looming over him and threatening to “throw you off the fucking balcony” of the Capitol building.

Not content with thuggishly menacing a man half his size, Grimm then walked away muttering that he’d break him in half, like the boy that he is.

The county GOP is trying to get behind Grimm while distancing themselves from him, but here’s the most interesting reaction:

Not everyone agrees that the incident will seriously undermine the congressman’s reelection bid. Coming nearly nine months ahead of the election, they argue, few voters will remember it by the time they head to the polls. And some Republicans say Grimm’s tough-guy image could be an asset in a New York City district where voters are more likely to reward brashness.

“I don’t think [voters] would take a lot of umbrage over him roughing it up with a reporter a little bit,” said David Catalfamo, a former top aide to onetime GOP Gov. George Pataki.

“Boys will be boys!” seems to be the reaction from the Pataki machine, one of the more formidable elements of a completely emasculated New York GOP. For instance, Grimm is the only Republican representing New York City in Congress.

Catalfamo was a member of Pataki’s administration, which means he has ties to Senator Alphonse D’Amato, the former kingmaker of New York politics. Indeed, Catafalmo now works under D’Amato…and there’s a nauseating image.

Here’s the problem: Yes, New Yorkers like their politics with bare knuckles, to be sure – hell, D’Amato often took a plurality of liberal votes from Long Island – and yes, Grimm was elected because a) he had a flood of campaign money come in that no one had counted on, and b) the residents of his district skew more conservative than the rest of the city, but note that last throw away line he puts out there: “No, no, you're not man enough, you're not man enough. I'll break you in half. Like a boy.”

In other words, Grimm acknowledges that he bullied a little boy. I don’t see how that message gets smoothed over, even in Staten Island.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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A.M. Headlines

(Washington Post): "Republicans make overtures to middle class in effort to counter Obama, Democrats"

(Wall Street Journal): "GOP has choices – none easy – on debt ceiling"

(Bloomberg): "Senate to vote next week to revive jobless aid, Reid says"

(Politico): "Harry Reid rejects President Obama’s trade push"

(USA Today): "Freak Southern storm blamed for at least 13 deaths"


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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The schaden, It freezes

By Carl

Y’know, I should be smirking gently over the things happening in the South.

After all, whenever it gets up over a hundred here in NYC and things start to pop and break, inevitably there’s a story from down theyarrrr about how sissypanties New Yorkers are, and how Suthners can handle the heat.

So video of people being stuck in traffic for hours, even days, because of a dusting of snow should be enough for me to take a little snarky moment or two, right?

The problem is, of course, that for the grace of God go I. Much of the trouble is because cities and counties don’t buy salt because, you know, why would you? And they don’t have plows because who needs them?

And then I think: we’re just one real budget crisis – and one really bad winter – away from losing our plows and our salt supply. It could happen. Not likely, but it could. Already in the north, we’re seeing shortages of propane to rural communities because of the difficulty of getting trucks around in the terrible snowstorms and deeply frigid temperatures of the last month or so, doubly so as the frigid temperatures have thermostats working overtime. And all it took was one bus to have engine problems on a bridge to shut down an entire borough. It took hours, literally, to travel less than a mile over water.

It’s not fair for me to mock folks for panicking over an amount of snow that is about as high as the pile of confectioner’s sugar on a donut.

But it’s hard not to!

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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On the Hustings

(Politico): "John Warner endorses Mark Warner"

(Washington Post): "Don’t be surprised if your TV soon seems to know everything about your politics"

(Providence Journal): "Clay Pell to run for governor, sparking three-way primary"

(Atlanta Journal Constitution): "Jack Kingston throws down $1.2 million for crunch time TV"

(Real Clear Politics): "Governor election polls"


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A.M. Headlines

(Washington Post): "Obama prepared to avoid Congress, go it alone on carrying out modest initiatives"

(ABC News): "In State of the Union 2014, President Obama pushes for year of action on economic opportunity"

(Politico): "Mike Lee Tea Party response: Barack Obama at fault for inequality"

(The Hill): "Graham says world ‘literally about to blow up’"

(The Hill): "Boehner warns Obama not to go around Congress with orders"


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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Only the good die young

By Carl

And for Pete Seeger, 94 was too young:

Pete Seeger, a 20th-century troubadour who inspired and led a renaissance of folk music in the United States with his trademark five-string banjo and songs of love, peace, brotherhood, work and protest, died Monday night after being hospitalized in New York for six days. He was 94.

His death was confirmed to the Associated Press by his grandson, Kitama Cahill-Jackson.

For more than 50 years, Mr. Seeger roamed America, singing on street corners and in saloons, migrant labor camps, hobo jungles, union halls, schools, churches and concert auditoriums. He helped write, arrange or revive such perennial favorites as “If I Had a Hammer,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” and popularized the anthem of the civil rights movement, “We Shall Overcome.”
Tall and reed-thin, Mr. Seeger was a recognizable figure for generations of listeners. And with dozens of top-selling records and albums, he became one of the most enduring and best-loved folk singers of his generation. He also was one of the few remaining links to two of the 20th century’s early giants of American folk music: Huddie Ledbetter, the black ex-convict from Texas and Louisiana better known as Lead Belly, and Woody Guthrie, the minstrel songwriter from Oklahoma.

Few people had as large an impact on my youth as Pete Seeger. His songs were among the first I learned to play on guitar when I was 8, and while I outgrew pickin’ and strummin’, I never outgrew his music or his politics. To this day, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” plays in my head everytime we send young men – and now, young women – off to fight wars we never needed to fight. “We Shall Overcome” remains a mainstay at any rally where human rights are on display. His band, The Weavers, was played even on old-people’s music stations. Folk was acceptable, and groups like The Kingston Trio, and Peter, Paul and Mary, in addition to The Weavers, were in regular rotation.

As noted by WaPo, Seeger instroduced the nation to Leadbelly and Guthrie, and other folk tunes from other cultures. Notably included among these is “Wimoweh,” which you may know as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”.

Yea. You can blame Pete for that earworm.

He fought the good fight right up to the end, being passed over this weekend for a Grammy for his latest release, albeit a spoken word record. Perhaps the thought of losing to Stephen Colbert was too much for his body to handle.

Godspeed, Mr. Seeger.

Yo soy un hombre sincero
De donde crecen las palmas.
Yo soy un hombre sincero
De donde crecen las palmas.
Y antes de morir me quiero
Echar mis versos del alma.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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On the Hustings

(Politico): "Rand Paul: ‘50-50’ shot he’ll run for president"

(The Week): "Two attacks on Hillary Clinton that won't work"

(Real Clear Politics): "Trey Radel to resign House seat"

(Washington Post): "Christie road trip is sign of growing confidence in possible 2016 presidential bid"

(Washington Post): "Poll: Republicans seen as more extreme, Democrats as more bipartisan"


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This land is your land

Despite the continuing efforts of the Republicans 

By Capt. Fogg

I was never a big Pete Seeger fan, but my college years having coincided with the folk music revival, I certainly heard him a lot. I appreciated that he came from the time and conditions that produced Woody Guthrie and John Steinbeck and a lot of skepticism about how well our version of Capitalism served freedom and democracy. Those folks and many others weren't well received by the same sort of -- I hesitate to use the word bastards, but it fits -- who are still calling everything and everyone Communists for every spurious reason they can. Seeger has my respect, for his courage more than for his musicianship. He used his humor and his banjo against the union bashers and skull crackers, stood up to the Joe McCarthy thugs and the war mongers and spawned a generation of musical protest that seems strangely absent at a time when much of what he fought is metastasizing like a cancer. We still need to be reminded just who it is who owns this land, the Koch Brothers,

Roger Ailes, the Tea Party or the voters.

Pete Seeger died yesterday at the age of 94 after a very short illness. 4 days before he entered the hospital he was chopping wood, says his grandson. He died in the hospital 4 days before he could collect the Woody Guthrie Prize. So long Pete, it's been good to know ya but your conscience still sings to us.

(Cross posted from Human Voices.)

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A.M. Headlines

(Politico): "State of the Union 2014: How far will Obama go?

(NBC Politics): "NBC News poll: Pessimism defines the state of the union"

(Washington Post): "Obama to embark on four-city tour after State of the Union"

(New York Times): "Backing in G.O.P. for legal status for immigrants"

(New York Times): "Pete Seeger, songwriter and champion of folk music, dies at 94"


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Monday, January 27, 2014

On the Hustings

(Washington Post): "Hillary Clinton supporters get a head start organizing for 2016 Iowa caucuses"

(New York Times): "2014 elections likely to keep Capital’s split"

(New York Times): "Rand Paul’s mixed inheritance"

(Washington Post): "Poll finds little faith in nation’s leaders"

(Real Clear Politics): "New RNC rules move up 2016 convention"


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News Flash: President Clinton cheated on wife

By Mustang Bobby

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has some breaking news.
The Democrats, one of their big issues they have concocted says the Republicans are committing a war on women. One of the workplace laws and rules that I think are good is that bosses shouldn’t prey on young interns in their office. And I think really the media seems to be — have given President Clinton a pass on this.

He took advantage of a girl that was 20 years old and an intern in his office. There is no excuse for that. And that is predatory behavior, and it should, it should be something, we shouldn’t want to associate with people who would take advantage of a young girl in his office. This isn’t having an affair. I mean, this isn’t me saying, “Oh, he’s had an affair, we shouldn’t talk to him.” Someone who takes advantage of a young girl in their office, I mean, really, and then they have the gall to stand up and say Republicans are having a war on women? So yes, I think it’s a factor.

Wait a minute; Bill Clinton cheated on his wife with an intern? How come we’re just hearing about this now? Why didn’t the Republicans do something about it at the time?

Seriously, if the Republicans think they can win the war for women by attacking Hillary Clinton for her husband’s behavior, let them go forth and see how that works.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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A.M. Headlines

(New York Times): "Obama pursuing a modest agenda in State of Union"

(New York Times): "Some Republicans departing from response script"

(Face the Nation): "Transcript: Bob Schieffer's interview with Texas Senator Ted Cruz"

(CNN): "Rand Paul says 'women are winning' the war on women, blasts Bill Clinton as predator"

(The Hill): "Divided GOP preaches unity"


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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Republicans threaten economic armageddon. Again. Because they're Republicans.

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Republicans are at it again, threatening to refuse to agree to a debt ceiling increase, and therefore threatening economic catastrophe for the country (and globally), if they don't get what they want. They're not sure what they want, or rather what the ransom will be, they just know they're going to take hostages again. Here's how Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (in part sucking up to teabagging wingnuts for political self-interest) put it today on Fox News:

CHRIS WALLACE: So are you saying right here, "We are going to attach something to the debt ceiling"? And if so, what?

MCCONNELL: What I'm saying is we ought to attach something significant for the country to [President Obama's] request to increase the debt ceiling. That's been the pattern for 50 years, going back to the Eisenhower administration. I think it's the responsible thing to do for the country.


We're never going to default — the Speaker and I have made that clear. We've never done that. But, it's irresponsible not to use the discussion — the request of the President to raise the debt ceiling — to try to accomplish something for the country.

Talk about a ridiculous threat. We're not going to default, but we'll threaten to allow the country to go into default if we don't get what we want? Yeah, sure. There's no way the Republican Party's business backers will ever go along with default, so there's no way McConnell and John Boehner and the rest of the business-oriented leadership will let that happen. Which basically makes this an empty threat, and President Obama and the Democrats should treat it as such.

Otherwise, how is it "responsible" to threaten default? Actually, it's the exact opposite. Furthermore, holding the country hostage and trying to extract concessions from the party holding the White House hasn't been the "pattern" since Eisenhower, it's part of the new anti-Obama Republican obstructionism of which McConnell himself has been one of the most vocal champions.

Basically, the Republicans don't want to give Obama (or, presumably, any Democratic president, but it's worse with Obama given the rabid intensity of the anti-Obama right) anything that could be seen as a victory, and so they've basically turned themselves into the disloyal opposition that is apparently willing to do any amount of harm to the country to score political points.

Republicans may wrap themselves in patriotic rhetoric and symbolism, but their actions show their commitment to party and (extremist right-wing) ideology far more than country. This is just more of the same, as pathetic, and yet as dangerous, as ever.

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