Saturday, April 05, 2014

Listening to Now: Maria Muldaur - "Squeeze Me"

By Richard K. Barry

Maria Muldaur has been around a long time and is still working. Many people know her best for her 
1974 hit “Midnight at the Oasis.” Even before then she was performing with the likes of John Sebastian, David Grisman, and Stefan Grossman and as a part of the early 1960s folk revival.

Her first solo album, Maria Muldaur, was released in 1973. From that album “Midnight at the Oasis” reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974. Later in 1974 she put out the album Waitress in a Donut Shop, which included the Leiber and Stoller song “I’m a Women.” Though the song is more commonly associated with Peggy Lee, it was also a hit for Muldaur, her last.

Also on the album is “Squeeze Me,” a 1925 jazz standard by Fat Walter.

According to

The music for “Squeeze Me” was written by Thomas “Fats” Waller, based on an old bawdy blues number entitled “The Boy in the Boat.” Waller’s talent as a pianist and accompanist had been recognized by music publisher Clarence Williams (generally credited as the lyricist for the song), and Williams encouraged the young man to try his hand at composing. “Squeeze Me” was only his second published piece but his first real success.

Nice version here.


 (Cross-posted at Listening to Now.)

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

On the Hustings

(New York Times): "Ruling spurs rush for cash in both parties"

(New York Times): "Ruling’s breadth hints that more campaign finance dominoes may fall"

(Star Tribune): "Partisan poll finds Franken has only slim leads on GOP rivals, 'potentially vulnerable'"

(Los Angeles Times): "Democrats target Republican ties to Koch brothers"

(Real Clear Politics): "AP/GfK Poll: Election indicators suggest Republican edge"


Bookmark and Share

How much slime is too much slime, politically speaking?

By Richard K. Barry

Even though the internal report commissioned by Gov. Christie’s office blamed the entire Bridgegate mess on two former aides, while absolving Christie, anyone paying even scant attention dismissed it as self-serving nonsense. Still, a lot of people don't even pay scant attention, so it might have done Christie some good. I can almost hear low-information voters parroting the results of the report without realizing its origins.

I would, however, like to believe former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell who recently said that “[n]ot only can Chris Christie not win, I think he may have trouble finishing out his term ... There’s absolutely no chance that he didn’t know this was going on if he didn’t order it or OK it. So I think he’s not a factor.”

The more general question is how low a politician has to go before he or she is unelectable. I should, by the way, mention that I live in Toronto (and that's all I'm going to say about that). In any case, I was somewhat heartened to see, as the New York Daily news reported, "Muriel Bowser win the District of Columbia’s Democratic mayoral primary Tuesday, defeating incumbent Vincent Gray in a race defined by a scandal involving Gray’s campaign four years ago."

Bowser tapped into an electorate that tired of the allegations surrounding Gray. Five people who worked on the mayor’s 2010 campaign have pleaded guilty to felonies, and Bowser said the city needed to move away from a mayor who faces potential criminal charges.

So, we know there might be a limit.

In Christie's case, it is not credible that he didn't know about the circumstances surrounding the bridge closure, which means that the only interesting question remaining is whether his actions will dissuade voters from supporting a Christie presidential candidacy.

I was taken by a poll conducted recently finding that "Americans say 75 percent of politicians are corrupted, 70 percent use political power to hurt enemies."

Having lived through the Watergate era, when it was fashionable for some to claim Nixon only got caught doing what they all do, I don't know what to believe. Gov. Rendell is a smart guy; maybe Christie is toxic. I'm not so sure. 

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Behind the Ad: Kingston, get a new campaign team!

By Richard K. Barry

Who: The Jack Kingston U.S. Senate campaign

Where: Georgia

What's going on: Kingston is an 11-term member of the U.S. House. He is running to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA). In this absolutely terrible ad, Kingston has hired an Obama impersonator to give him a fake phone call.
“Kingston, this is the president. You’ve got to back off Obamacare,” the fake Obama says as images of the president on the telephone flash on the screen. “Kingston, let me be clear: I do not want you in the Senate. Call me back, Kingston, please.”

After the fake Obama foolishness, Kingston comes on screen to say he would “never answer” a call to stop opposing Obamacare.

It could be a tight race for the GOP nomination in Georgia with businessman David Perdue currently leading Kingston, Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey and former Georgia secretary of State Karen Handel.

And with the daughter of former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn Michelle Nunn as the presumptive Democratic nominee, no matter who the GOP picks, this one is likely to be in play.

Grade: This is ad is so stupid. It reminds me of a bunch of frat boys making prank phone calls late at night. You know, "do you have Prince Albert in a can?" Even Kingston's appearance at the end looks like he is oh-so-satisfied at this totally clever joke. And that line from the fake Obama saying "I do not want you in the Senate," is to make me weep. OMG. I'd give it a flat out F but for the fact that at least some Obama haters must have thought it was hilarious. D-

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

A.M. Headlines

(ABC News): "ABC News exclusive: Grand jury convened in christie bridge scandal probe"

(Mashable): "Stephen Colbert is CBS' top choice to succeed Letterman, and he's into it"

(Washington Post): "Bush family’s return to the spotlight may benefit Jeb"

(New York Times): "Hiring rises, but number of jobless stays high"

(Roll Call): "With an eye on the party’s image, House GOP puts women front and centre"


Bookmark and Share

Friday, April 04, 2014

On the Hustings

( "Americans say 75 percent of politicians are corrupted, 70 percent use political power to hurt enemies"

(KAGS): "New Jersey isn't buying Christie probe, poll finds"

(MSNBC): "The rise of the political ultra-rich"

(DC Decoder): "Election 2014: Mississippi Senate race is tea party’s best shot at victory"

(Wall Street Journal): "Democrats bank on minimum-wage fight to drive voter turnout"


Bookmark and Share

Can't anybody here play this game?

By Richard K. Barry

Last week I wrote about a clip of Rep. Bruce Braley, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Iowa, making disparaging comments about farmers. Just for fun I dug up a statistic provided by Iowa State University finding that "more than 20,000 people make their living each year as full-time employees on Iowa farms." Another fun fact is that farms make up 92 of Iowa's land.

You get the point.

Enter Georgia Republican Senate candidate David Perdue who thought it might be helpful to belittle the education level of his Democratic opponent.
"There's a high school graduate in this race, OK?" he said at one of his campaign headquarters. "I'm sorry, but these issues are so much broader, so complex."

The problem, as Matt Vasilogambos points out, is that he might have checked the state's education profile before he did that.
According to census statistics, only 27.8 percent of Georgians over age 25 hold a bachelor's degree or higher, while 84.4 percent have a high school diploma. For the 72.2 percent of Georgians without that college degree, Perdue's boast may tell them they're not smart enough for higher office.

The comment is certainly dickish, as was Braley's, but it's politically moronic.  Like I said (and Jimmy Breslin said first), can't anybody here play this game.

Here's a clip of Perdue's comment, if you haven't yet had a chance to cringe today.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Behind the Ad: The Koch brothers care about the health care of ordinary Americans (stop laughing)

By Richard K. Barry

Who: Americans for Prosperity (political advocacy group back by the Koch brothers)

Where: Arkansas

What's going on: Sen. Mark Pryor (D) is the incumbent up for reelection. He is in a very tough battle with Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). In the ad, a trucker by the name of Jerry says that Obamacare led to his health insurance policy being canceled.

He continues:
It's like living in a haze — you don't know whether you're going to have insurance or whether you're going to afford your insurance,

Mark Pryor voted for this law. He hasn't been that responsive to the issue now, you think he'll be responsive four years from now, or two years from now?

In an increasingly red state in which President Obama is particularly unpopular, going after Obamacare is a no-brainer. According to polling done in December, Obama's favourable/unfavourable rating was 31/61 percent. Romney got 60.6 percent of the vote in 2012 to Obama's 36.9.  And money is already pouring into the state and more will follow.

Pryor is in a difficult spot, and could easily go down. 

Grade: In my totally unscientific assessment of political ads, I'm most interested in how effective the ad is likely to be,  not whether I think it's fair or true or whatever, or whether I'm sickened by the presumption that the Koch brothers give a damn that anyone has health insurance. But that's not the point. As Dave Weigel writes about his particular ad:
Jerry's problem is not that his plan has been canceled, per se. It's that the fate of the plan is lost in confusion. "It was taken away from us, or it was given back to us, or it was taken," he says, exasperated. These AFP ads are designed to have long tails, as liberals criticize them and smear the humans who appear in them. A guy who's confused about Obamacare? That could be me!

In a state becoming increasingly red, where they don't like Obama anyway, this could work. Whatever else may be true, Jerry is a powerful spokesman. B

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

A.M. Headlines

(Birmingham News): "Alabama House resolution calls for US Constitution same-sex marriage ban, but did anyone read it?"

(Washington Post): "Senate panel votes to release CIA interrogation report"

(New York Times): "Soldier’s attack at base echoed rampage in 2009"

(Washington Post): "With Israeli-Palestinian peace talks faltering, Kerry must decide how to proceed"

(Daily News): "David Letterman announces he will retire from 'Late Show' in 2015"


Bookmark and Share

Thursday, April 03, 2014

On the Hustings

(ABC News): "Supreme Court strikes down overall limits on campaign contributions"

(Gail Collins): "Surprise! The rich won one"

(Reuters): "Rubio to decide on 2016 White House run 'around this time next year'"

(Washington Post): "Democrats target unmarried female voters"

(The Hill): "Michigan Dems welcome Obama with open arms"


Bookmark and Share

Behind the Ad: Michelle Nunn is the devil, apparently

By Richard K. Barry

Who: The End-Spending-Action-Fund (a GOP-affiliated Super PAC).

Where: Georgia

What's going on: Georgia is a very red state: the governorship; both chambers of the state legislature; both U.S. Senate seats; and 8 of 13 congressional districts are held by Republicans. It seems,  though, that they are not feeling as confident as you might think about holding the U.S. Senate seat Saxby Chambliss (R) will be vacating when he retires this year.

Exhibit A is the first attack ad aimed at the presumptive Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn, which, no great surprise, accuses her of supporting ObamaCare and higher taxes. Ho-hum.

As The Hill writes:
Nunn has been posting huge fundraising totals so far and has been neck-and-neck with her potential GOP rivals in the polls. Republicans are worried a crowded primary field could produce a flawed candidate, giving her a better chance to win in the GOP-leaning state.

Because it's a crowded field for the GOP nomination, the thinking is that a tough primary could damage the ultimate Republican nominee, or that a nominee could emerge for the general election way too conservative for the state.

With that in mind, Charlie Cook is calling it a toss-up and a potential good-news story for Democrats.

Grade: This ad is so boring and the claim that the big bad IRS is going to get you if they don't like what you choose to do with your health care is confusing at best. Maybe the point is just to put the IRS, higher taxes, and Obamacare in the same sentence.  I suppose it's a marker of sorts for later on, but I doubt it will have much of an impact. C-

Labels: , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

A.M. Headlines

(TPM): ""Republicans rage against the dying of their favorite Obamacare memes"

(New York Times): "Criminal inquiry said to be opened on Citigroup"

(BloombergBusinessweek): "U.S. government said unaware of GM faulty switches in bailout"

(CBS News): "Fort Hood shooting: gunman among 4 dead"

(Voice of America): "Kerry: Mideast peace talks at 'critical moment'"


Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The rise of American oligarchy: SCOTUS hands the rich even more control over "democracy"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Another day at the Roberts Court, another massive setback for American democracy:

The Supreme Court on Wednesday continued its abolition of limits on election spending, striking down a decades-old cap on the total amount any individual can contribute to federal candidates in a two-year election cycle.

The ruling, issued near the start of a campaign season, will very likely increase the role money plays in American politics.

The 5-to-4 decision, with the court’s more conservative members in the majority, echoed Citizens United, the 2010 decision that struck down limits on independent campaign spending by corporations and unions.

More money, more control, less actual democracy.

As I tweeted earlier today:

The Founders, however skeptical of democracy some of them may have been, would be appalled. So much for "We the People."

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Never in doubt

By Carl

President Barack Obama took a victory lap around the Rose Garden yesterday, as the Affordable Care Act hit the point of no return:
WASHINGTON — The sharp partisan debate over the merits of President Obama's signature health care law isn't about to end.

But with the president's announcement on Tuesday that more than 7.1 million Americans have signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, he has managed a remarkable comeback that not so long ago looked implausible.

In the process, he may also have stiffened the resolve of fellow Democrats up for re-election who have been continuously battered by Republicans over the law's implementation.

Kudos to the President for dragging the nation, parts kicking and screaming, into the mid-20th Century. That many employers are falling all over themselves in support of this action, including many very large health insurance companies, speaks to the wisdom of doing anything to improve the old system. After all, what good is a health insurance plan that has major disincentives to sign up?

It’s not perfect, but it’s the best first step we could rationally expect to take given the idiotic intransigence of those among us who hate poor people and blame them for being poor.

For my part, I always assumed cooler heads would prevail and people would realize what a great deal it is to have health insurance. If anything, I felt 7 million might be shooting too low, not taking into account the massive opposition to the plan from morons and 26 Republican governors who really really hate that they have poor people inside their borders.

This is why I’m not President, however: I’m not cynical enough.

It’s interesting to note that progressive action, like Social Security and Medicare, or the War on Poverty, will meet with intense resistance but reactionary crap like tax cuts and defense spending – while protested strongly – always seem to get a pass in this country. I dream of a day when the opposite will be true, and people start taking responsibility for being a community, and not taking immunity.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

Bookmark and Share

On the Hustings

(National Politics): "Which senators lost — or could lose — their jobs due to Obamacare?"

(Charlie Cook): "Majority status in the Senate could swerve back and forth over the next few elections"

(Slate): "Why a Jeb Bush presidential run would be hard on the GOP"

(Washington Post): "Republicans have a better than 80 percent chance of winning the Senate"

(National Journal): "Senate Democratic campaign arm to go after Paul Ryan's 'Koch Budget'"


Bookmark and Share

Jeb buzz

By Mustang Bobby

It’s never really gotten much traction; neither has it gone away:
The big political buzz over the weekend—reinforced by the related story of the“Sheldon Primary” going on in Las Vegas—involved reports that an effort to “draft” (a technical term meaning “provide the requisite money commitments”) Jeb Bush for a 2016 presidential campaign was gaining real momentum among the Republican donor class. According to WaPo’s Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, there are signs Bush might be coming around after an alleged lack of interest in following his father and brother into the White House. Apparently no one even remotely comes close to Bush as the favorite of former Romney donors. Despite all sorts of awkwardness on the immigration issue, he’s presumed to have unique appeal among Hispanics as a Spanish-speaker married to a Mexican-American, and a big general election advantage in Florida.

Another Bush candidacy would shake up the GOP primary and not in a good way for them. It would immediately make Marco Rubio’s chances problematic — two candidates running from Florida? — and it would knock off Chris Christie’s chances even if they hadn’t already gotten stuck in traffic.

Weirder things have happened, but it would be a stretch for Jeb Bush to burst forth as the frontrunner. The Republicans have abandoned both the politics and the style of the party that Jeb Bush belonged to when he was governor of Florida ten years ago. Back then he got along with Democrats, he didn’t say strange things about God, gays, and women, and he came across as a reasonable person on TV. In today’s GOP, that stuff closes out of town.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)


Bookmark and Share

Behind the Ad: Sen. Thad Cochran is a very conservative fellow. In case you didn't know

By Richard K. Barry

Who: The Sen. Thad Cochran (R) reelection campaign

Where: Mississippi

What's going on: Well, Sen. Cochran seems to have himself in a knock down drag out fight for the GOP Senate nomination in Mississippi. Despite a very conservative recored, he is, as The Hill describes him, "seen as the most vulnerable incumbent facing a primary challenge."
State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) swept the endorsements of national conservative groups early on in his race. They’re hopeful that Cochran’s long tenure and rustiness on the campaign trail, coupled with a career built on bringing federal money back to the state, will cause him to fall in the June primary.

The narrator in the ad says, however, that "there’s 'only one candidate for U.S. Senate' who’s been endorsed by the NRA, and voted 'against ObamaCare 100 times,' been endorsed by Gov. Phil Bryant (R) and has a 100 percent pro-life voting record, according to the National Right to Life Committee."

That candidate is Sen. Thad Cochran, though, apparently that may not make him conservative enough in Mississippi.

McDaniel, running with the support of the Tea Party establishment, is using the Washington insider tag against Cochran, much as Mitch Bevin is doing against Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. 

While McConnell is unlikely to lose the nomination, Cochran may, which could make things interesting for the Democrats, who have tapped former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers.

That doesn't mean it would be a walk in the park for Democrats to go up against McDaniel, only that they might have a shot if not running against an incumbent first elected in 1978. 

Where have we seen Tea Party candidates knock off Republican incumbents only to trip over the own tongues in the general election? Let me think. 

Grade: Not much to see here. It's a strangely necessary ad considering that the incumbent is being painted as not conservative enough. A necessary nothing burger, if you will. Gets a job done, I suppose. C+

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

A.M. Headlines

(Washington Post): "More than 7 million have enrolled under Affordable Care Act, White House say"

(The Hill): "GOP gets O-Care angst"

(Washington Post): "Bobby Jindal, with an eye on 2016, to unveil plan to replace Obama health-care law"

(New York Times): "Panel’s warning on climate risk: Worst is yet to come"

(Buzz Feed): "Mississippi approves religious freedom bill, Governor expected to sign it into law"


Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Paul Ryan loves the poor so much he wants to put them out of their misery

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Paul Ryan claims he cares about the poor. He claims he wants to deal with poverty in a serious and meaningful way. But of course he's a combination of Ayn Rand devotee and Christianist ideologue, an anti-government extremist who departs from Rand in adding a cover of religious moralizing, and so what he really wants to give the poor, as he pursues his far-right "free"-market agenda benefitting the rich before all others, is more Jesus and less everything they actually need.

And so it's hardly surprising that in fact he's really not all that interested in tackling poverty beyond rhetoric designed to put a compassionate spin on what is essentially an agenda of brutality, and that's reflected in his "budget":

Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin on Tuesday will lay out a tough, election-year budget that he says will come into balance by 2024, in large part through steep cuts to Medicaid and food stamps and the full repeal of President Obama’s health care law, just as millions begin to see its benefits.

But even with those cuts, Mr. Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, is counting on a boost of economic growth to balance the budget, a boost he says will be gained by reducing the deficit. Many economists believe such dramatic spending cuts — especially those affecting the poor — would have the opposite effect, slowing the economy and lowering tax receipts.

Not that Ryan, who speaks for the bulk of his party on fiscal matters, has ever let something like the obviousness of reality get in the way of his ideological pursuits. As Jon Chait explains

The disintegration of Ryan's promise [to tackle poverty] reveals something very deep. It's not that he needs a little more time and a few all-nighters, or some more help getting fellow Republicans in line. His policy vision is fundamentally impossible.

Ryan and his party are committed to the following beliefs:
  1. America faces an impending debt crisis, somewhere, which requires a balanced budget within the next decade;
  2. Social Security and Medicare benefits for current and near-retirees amount to a sacred pact that cannot be violated;
  3. Barack Obama has hollowed out the military, requiring defense spending to rise (as Ryan proposes), or at minimum not to drop;
  4. Taxes can never, ever, ever rise at all, even as part of a trade for other desirable policy changes.
The only possible way to reconcile this combination of policy commitments is to impose staggering cuts to programs for the poor, which Ryan's most recent budget proposal does. Every previous version of the Ryan budget is, basically, a plan to cut benefits for the poor. At least two thirds of the cuts in last year's Ryan plan come from programs for poor people.

Paul Ryan is a Catholic, but essentially, beyond the basic trappings of their faith, he's the opposite of Pope Francis. His God is the "free" market (which is really just the Hobbesian state of nature, a state in which life is nasty, brutish, and short except for those who are strong enough (that is, rich enough) to survive by constructing their own Leviathan of the 1%), his savior is Ayn Rand (along with other fundamentalists like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman), and the disciples he places alongside her include Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp (who was just a bit more serious about helping the poor than he is). 

And here, as always, he intends to crush the poor, and pretty much the entirety of the 99%, as well as to stop the American economy in its tracks (however much his ideology might tell him otherwise), in order to enrich the already rich, empower the already powerful, and create the right-wing dystopia of his crazed imaginings.

Labels: , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

On the Hustings

(The Illinois Observer): "Poll: Toni Preckwinkle leads Rahm Emanuel by 8 points in 2015 mayor’s race"

(Politico): "Dave Camp won’t seek reelection"

(Huffington Post): "Obama endorses Brian Schatz in Hawaii's heated Senate Democratic primary"

(Wall Street Journal): "GOP sees a new path for Senate through Iowa"

(Roll Call): "Bernie Sanders endorses in crowded Pennsylvania House primary"


Bookmark and Share

Getting to like it

By Mustang Bobby

A Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that Americans are getting to like Obamacare.
Support among Democrats jumped from 65 percent in January to 76 percent in the new poll. Independents (44 percent support; 54 percent oppose; and Republicans (20 percent support; 78 percent) was more stable, according to the poll. Surprisingly, the poll found a significant shift in support for the law among conservatives, with 36 percent of them backing it now compared to 17 percent in November.

This is despite the glitches, the labored roll-out, and the natural hesitancy of the American public to like anything new. Oh, and this is also in spite of the relentless attacks from the GOP and their mouthpiece Fox News.

Count on them to tell us that the polls are skewed, that the books have been cooked on the numbers, and that John Boehner will announce that the American people don’t want it. Blather, rinse, repeat.

So why the shift? Well, I’m no pollster but I would think it has something to do with the fact that people can now afford to get health insurance when they couldn’t before because of not being employed full-time, having a pre-existing condition, or just couldn’t afford it. They like that, and that’s a lot of people.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Behind the Ad: Did you hear the one about Mitch McConnell being too liberal?

By Richard K. Barry

Who: The Mitch Bevin U.S. Senate campaign

Where: Kentucky (statewide on cable)

What's going on: Mitch Bevin is running to the right of Sen. Mitch McConnell for the GOP Senate nomination in Kentucky.

In this ad, Bevin, speaking directly into the camera, attacks Sen. McConnell for having "caved yet again to President Obama on the debt ceiling." The narrator goes on to say that "thirty years is enough," and that Sen. McConnell has been 'too liberal" for "too long."

Sen. McConnell is still heavily favoured to win the nomination, and all of the polling backs that up, so the ad is not particularly interesting in the context of impacting the outcome of the race. What is interesting is that the radical right is still trying to claim that anyone who has been in Washington for any period of time and, by virtue of that fact, been implicated in getting almost anything done, is too liberal.

In this particular case, the argument seems not to be working as McConnell's lead among self-described Tea Party supporters is also strong.

Beating Bevin is not going to be the hard part. Beating his Democratic challenger Allison Lundergan Grimes will be the real task, perhaps ending up, as Charlie Cook says, as the closest Senate race in the country.

Grade: To the extent that some Republicans believe voting "with Obama on the debt ceiling" is a really bad thing, dumb as that is, the ad works. And, not being from Kentucky, I have to giggle at the thought that Mitch McConnell is too liberal. Still, the ad is pitched to the converted, and even they're not moved. What does that say? C-


Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

A.M. Headlines

(Roll Call): "Obamacare’s 7 million target in sight"

(Washington Post): "Democrats’ support for Obamacare surges"

(Washington Post): "Democrats, Republicans prepare for new round of battles over health-care law"

(New York Times): "Yellen says Fed is determined to improve the labor market"

(BloombergBusinessweek): "Australia says search for MH370 can 'drag on'"


Bookmark and Share

Monday, March 31, 2014

Happy Cesar Chavez Day!

By Frank Moraes

Here is California today, it is Cesar Chavez Day. And it also happens to be his birthday, which is tidy. But just like Martin Luther King Jr, we celebrate the mythic Chavez rather than the man. And that's just fine. But the man deserves to be remembered. He was a curious fellow. For example, he was a vegan and he seems to have been against the notion of money. Although I don't agree with him on either issue, I greatly respect the beliefs and I think it speaks well of any many to have principled beliefs that counter the social norms.

His life story is also right out of The Grapes of Wrath, too. His father lost the family farm during the Great Depression. He cleared 80 acres of land in exchange for the deed to the farm. But the deal was broken so the family moved to California and became migrant workers. Chavez quit school after the 7th grade to work in the fields. Other than two years in the Navy, he was a farm worker for ten years before getting into organizing. The rest, as they say, is literally history.

Some people find it ironic that Chavez and Dolores Huerta and their organization were very much for restricting immigration. But this is to misunderstand what the United Farm Workers (UFW) was doing. Unions are not like churches, going around trying to make the world a better place. Unions exist to represent their workers and balance the power of management. Then as today, the business community tacitly encourages illegal immigration. They want an over-supply of labor so they can pay as little as possible. Immigrants (Especially undocumented!) are in effect scabs that undermine the bargaining power of unions.

The following video is remarkable. Chavez is talking about how boycotts work. But at the beginning, he says an amazingly insightful thing: that voting doesn't help the poor. That's interesting because recent political science research finds that the opinions of the poor (and to a large extent the middle class too) simply have no effect on how politicians vote. Just the same, Chavez was big on getting the poor to vote. He's just making a point that if you want to make change happen, the best way is to make the rich suffer by depriving them of money. That is the most direct way to make positive change.

I'm very pleased that today in Cesar Chavez Day in California. I wish it were a national holiday. We have a holiday for one of our richest presidents who kept slaves. We have a holiday celebrating our independence that kept slavery in existence. We have a holiday celebrating how native people kept early settlers from starving so those settlers could go on to wage a genocide against the native people. Even though Martin Luther King Jr was deeply concerned about workers' rights, that's not why we celebrate him. May Day is long gone and most Americans don't seem to know the difference between Labor Day and Memorial Day. We could use a holiday that celebrates the workers' struggle in an unambiguous way. Cesar Chavez Day should be a bigger deal. And in another decade, it probably will be.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

Bookmark and Share


By Carl

The day has arrived when Obamacare comes out of rehearsals and goes fully live, and guess what? It’s already outperformed expectations:
The first yearly sign-up period for Obamacare closes today, with early returns suggesting the administration may near a projection of 7 million enrollees made before the U.S. health exchange struggled at its startup.

The rollout has been under constant attack from Republican foes and faced a key U.S. Supreme Court (1000L:US) decision that allowed states to limit the Medicaid expansion that was an important part of the plan. It also suffered from myriad technical flaws in the website that made it unusable for more than a month.

The government last week said 6 million Americans had enrolled by March 27 and about 1 million people a day were visiting The sign-ups met a mark set by the Congressional Budget Office in February that was reduced from an initial 7 million estimate after the law’s troubled start in October. Republicans questioned the credibility of the numbers.

So not only has it outperformed the reduced expectations of the bipartisan controlled Congressional Budget Office, it has likely exceeded even the original estimates which were pegged as “too high” and too difficult to achieve!

Well, alright now!

Read more »


Bookmark and Share

Sunday, March 30, 2014

On the Hustings

(Politico): "2016ers woo Vegas donor crowd"

(Politico): "Chris Christie apologizes for ‘occupied territories’ remark"

(CNN Politics): "Scott Walker highlights executive experience to GOP donors"

(New York Times): "New G.O.P. bid to limit voting in swing states"

(The Hill): "Clinton tells Dems: Deal with ObamaCare drama"


Bookmark and Share

America: The land of milk and honey (if you already have milk and honey)

By Richard K. Barry

Jeb Bush's name was in the news last week as a potential GOP presidential nominee in 2016. On the one hand, he's seen by some as a "talented, credible, thinking leader." Though, as a recent Washington Post story argues, Jeb 
would have serious vulnerabilities as a candidate. Out of public office for seven years, he has struggled in some appearances and has had difficulty navigating the Republican Party’s fault lines on immigration and other issues. A Bush candidacy also would test whether the nation still has a hangover from the George W. Bush administration.

In any case, Jeb has said that he won't be making a decision any time soon, so we'll have time to debate the merits of his potential candidacy.

One comment by Jeb in the Post piece did, however, stand out for me. 
Last month, Bush spoke in Southern California about income inequality, arguing that the problem is a lack of mobility and not the gulf between rich and poor. “This nation is experiencing a crisis of opportunity,” he said, according to his prepared remarks.

If, as seems obvious, a great part for Romney's failure was due to the perception that he didn't care much about those who didn't happen to have millions of dollar socked away in offshore accounts, Bush's statement could be the antidote. 

Despite the fact that it's bullshit, it's marketable bullshit. The have-nots always want to believe that they have a shot at the brass ring, that the game is not rigged against them,  and will be drawn to those who make a seemingly credible case that such success stories are routinely possible. 

For so many reasons, Romney was not the guy to peddle that message. Jeb, or someone else picking up the theme, could be. 

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

A.M. Headlines

(Reuters): "Russia plays down impact of Western sanctions before talks with U.S."

(The Hill): ""Is Obama pivot to Asia on hold?"

(CBS News): "On eve of Obamacare deadline, law remains a work in progress"

(WSLS10): "Photos found at slide site; missing number drops"

(USA Today):  "NCAA tournament breakdown: Previewing Sunday's Elite Eight games"


Bookmark and Share