Saturday, March 14, 2015

Franklin Graham is an idiot

By Richard K. Barry

Nothing brings my blood to a boil quicker than so-called "men of God" peddling hatred. 

As Right Wing Watch reports:
Franklin Graham was a guest on the Family Research Council's "Washington Watch" radio program  . . . where he asserted that President Obama is refusing to fight ISIS because he wants to protect Islam since even his mother was a Muslim.

Ignoring the fact that Obama's father was an atheist and his mother agnostic, Graham told FRC head Tony Perkins that "one of the problems we have [is that Obama's] father was a Muslim, and his step-father was a Muslim. [He] lived in Indonesia and went to Muslim schools. His mother must have been a Muslim — we don't know that, but she married two Muslim men, so there must have been something there. And the framework that the president has growing up, his influences in his life was that of Islam."

"My influences growing up, as many in this country, were under the Christian influence and the biblical influence," he continued. "But our president did not have that, it was Islam and many feel that he's protecting Islam. I don't know that, but it certainly seems that way":

Forgetting for a moment that the facts of the matter are of no interest to Graham, the suggestion that the only way one can possibly act in a moral manner is if one uses Christian and biblical influences as a guide is nauseating. 


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The other reason

By Carl

In the history of the United States, only three Presidents have ever been elected to the office of President of the United States directly out of the US Senate.

Of those, only Barack Obama failed to complete his first term (ironically, the other two, Warren Harding and John Kennedy, were elected as their first term in the Senate was ending.)

As I was writing my most recent post about the frustrations and difficulties either Elizabeth Warren or Rand Paul would face in getting elected (and I mentioned the difficulties Barack Obama had in governing), this post sort of popped up and started coalescing.

It's easy to blame racism for the reaction Republicans have had to Barack Obama. It is undeniable that the Republican and conservative base is racist and they pressure their leaders to conform to their thinking. It is also undeniable that the Congress is, taken as the whole, a white legislation. In particular, the Republican contingent, which if memory serves has precisely three black members.

I mean, it's hard to understand a people if you never ever meet one, except in an elevator or deli. Obama has a lot working against him on the skin color front, to be sure.

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Hoping Sen. Bernie Sanders steps up

By Richard K. Barry

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders calls himself a democratic socialist, which is why he is, hands down, my favourite American politician.

Sadly, Sen. Sanders, who has been contemplating a run for the Democratic presidential nomination, has been hedging his bets recently.
Bernie Sanders hasn’t made any big hires for a potential presidential run. He doesn’t have the money he needs for a campaign and isn’t sure he can raise it. And he’s already sick of hearing about Hillary Clinton.

As Jonathan Topaz at Politico writes, "this is not a guy who's ready for 2016." And that's too bad because having someone on stage, both literally and figuratively, pushing Hillary to the left, or forcing her to admit that she is not on the left, would be helpful for the progressive cause in America.

I'm quite tired of settling for Democrats who demand our vote because their brand of status quo, establishment politics isn't quite as conservative as the GOP brand.

If I run it has to be done well,” Sanders said in an interview with POLITICO this week. “And if it’s done well, and I run a winning campaign or a strong campaign, it is a real boon to the progressive community, because I believe that the issues I talk about are issues that millions and millions of people believe in. On the other hand, if one were to run a poor campaign, didn’t have a well-funded campaign, didn’t have a good organization, did not do well, because of your own limitations, then that would be a setback for the progressive community.

No, Sanders won't win anything, but just having him in the race would do the country some good.

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Reality in politics

By Carl

I love me some Paultards.

Some of what I'm going to say applies to another candidate's supporters, but I want to draw a very careful distinction between the believers in Rand Paul and the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party and liberals outside the party.

Rand Paul is cuckoo. Rand Paul will never be President, even if he somehow manages to survive the primaries. His dad, Ron, made a great if futile run and so paved some paths for Rand, but Ron didn't have the same personal baggage that Rand has. Ron had some racist and crackpot newsletters, but they were published twenty years earlier, to be sure.

Rand? Well... let's just say "Google 'Rand Paul Aqua Buddha'" and go from there. Or "disabilities". Or the "Civil Rights Act". Or "Israel". Or...

He doesn't stand a chance. Even his political organizers have pretty much given up on him and we're a year out from the first primaries.

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What's happening to journalism?

Bloomberg Business reported recently that Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism is reducing its class size and eliminating six positions from its staff.

Columbia and journalism have long gone together as the school administers Pulitzer Prizes and is the only Ivy League school to grant a graduate journalism degree, a program founded by Joseph Pulitzer in 1912.

Bloomberg places this in the context of the retrenchment of the news business. Love that word retrenchment. Sounds so innocuous.
The school will gradually reduce enrollment over several years and has already stopped filling some vacant faculty positions, Steve Coll, dean of the school since 2013, said in an e-mail to students, faculty and staff today.

News organizations around the world are cutting staff and budgets as advertisers and readers have fled traditional media for free online sources and social media sites, such as Twitter. While graduate student applications rose sharply after the recession that began in 2008, the school’s class size is headed back to a lower “historical norm,” Coll said.

I've always felt somewhat conflicted over the tension between traditional journalism and free on-line sources and social media, being a perveyor of the latter. 

It reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend who works in the music business. He was giving me shit for taking gigs in local bars, which I do as someone with a non-musical day job. His argument was that I was pushing people out who are trying to make a living on scarce opportunites.

Another friend who was part of the conversation raised the issue of a weekend "amatuer" painter selling his or her art.

Do people have the right to seek recognition for doing what they enjoy doing, even getting paid for it, if it's not how they make their living, recognizing as we must that it adversely impacts those who really need the work?

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Senate Republicans will be playing a lot of defence in 2016

Of the 34 U.S. Senators up for reelection in 2016, 10 are Democrats and 24 are Republicans, which will provide a great opportunity for Democrats to take back the Senate.

One race worth considering in the early stages is Republican Ron Johnson's Wisconsin Senate seat, which Public Policy Polling finds to be very competitive should Russ Feingold jump in for the Democrats. PPP has Feingold at 50% to Johnson's 41% at this point in a hypothetical rematch of their 2010 contest.
Johnson hasn't proven to be very popular during his first term in the Senate. Only 32% of voters approve of the job he's doing to 40% who disapprove. 28% of voters with no opinion about him also suggests he hasn't made a terribly strong impression on people over the last 4 years. Meanwhile Feingold is still relatively popular despite his 2010 loss. 46% of voters see him favorably to 35% with an unfavorable opinion. That makes him more popular than any other politician in the state who we looked at on this poll.

After the disaster in 2014, it will be great fun to watch a bunch of Republican sweat it out. 

Early days, but I'm looking forward to it.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Presidential campaign theme songs: "We Take Care of Our Own" - Bruce Springsteen for Obama 2012

By Richard K. Barry

I'm not sure I knew this, but it seems to be the case that Springsteen's "We Take Care of Our Own" was played throughout Barack Obama's 2012 reelection campaign.

It was the first single from his album Wrecking Ball, debuted live on February 12, 2012 at the 54th Grammy Awards and was nominated for two Grammy Awards for Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song.

Though it is a rather odd choice for a campaign song, as this comments from Songfacts suggests:
Much of the song's lyrical content appears to contradict its title. For instance Springsteen explicitly references America's lack of care for the Hurricane Katrina casualties. ("From the shotgun shack to the Super Dome/There ain't no help, the cavalry stayed home"). Springsteen clarified the song's message, during the unveiling of Wrecking Ball to the world's media at Sony Records' Paris headquarters. "The song asks the question that the rest of the record tries to answer which is, 'Do we?' - we often don't," he said.

I guess no one was listening to the lyrics all that closely.  As long as it's an up-tempo rocker and "The Boss" is singing it.


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Republicans really should stop apologizing for America

I thought conservatism was all about history and tradition. Guess not.

On the reprehensible actions of 47 Republican senators signing a letter to Iran, McClatchy writes this:

The U.S. Senate Historian’s Office has so far been unable to find another example in the chamber’s history where one political party openly tried to deal with a foreign power against a presidential policy, as Republicans have attempted in their open letter to Iran this week.

Imagine that. No precedent, which pretty much contravenes the whole idea of conservatism.

But I guess what we are all really thinking is this, expressed very well by Sen Chris Murphy, D-Conn. in an interview with National Journal:
I can't even imagine the uproar if Democratic senators [had been] writing to Saddam Hussein in the lead up to the Iraq War.

Oh, I can imagine.

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Republican #47Traitors changing their tune on Iran letter

By Michael J.W. Stickings

First there was defiance (based in cynicism, ideological righteousness, and warmongering gusto):

Angry Democrats on Tuesday excoriated the open letter sent to Iran's leadership warning about a nuclear agreement with President Obama, but the 47 Republicans who signed it remained defiant and unapologetic, saying the president should have seen their opposition coming.

(Yes, that is a problem. Basically, you -- especially if you're the president -- should always assume that Republicans will try to block everything you do, that what is basically the opposition party will really be the party of obstructionism and disloyalty. It's been like that since the beginning. President Obama knows that. At the same time, I'm not sure you can anticipate that Republican opposition will actually be, or at least border on, treason. Then again, maybe you can, and should.)

Then, facing widespread criticism (you know, because treason), there was lots and lots of backpedaling:

Behind the scenes, Republicans are wondering if sending an open letter to Iran's leaders was the best strategy to keep a bad nuclear deal from being negotiated...

[E]ven among Republicans whose offices have signed the letter, there is some trepidation that the Iran letter injects partisanship into the Iran negotiations, shifting the narrative from the content of the deal to whether Republicans are unfairly trying to undercut the president.

And then there were the excuses, specifically this one:

Republican aides were taken aback by what they thought was a light-hearted attempt to signal to Iran and the public that Congress should have a role in the ongoing nuclear discussions. Two GOP aides separately described their letter as a "cheeky" reminder of the Congressional branch's prerogatives.

"The administration has no sense of humor when it comes to how weakly they have been handling these negotiations," said a top GOP Senate aide.

Ha, so cheeky! Undermining the president of the United States in one of the most important foreign policy matters of our time. Basically trying to sabotage negotiations that could finally resolve the long-standing Iranian nuclear issue. (And I'm not letting anti-deal Democrats off the hook either. Their Republican-lite opposition is similarly counter-productive.)

So... fucking... hilarious.

Actually, these are going on simultaneously. The public message is defiance, but the pathetic excuses are coming out as well, like trial balloons, to try to defuse what has become a disastrous episode for Republicans.

Because, you know, treason. Fucking treason.

Which isn't funny. Not funny at all.

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Another day, another white-on-black police murder

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The article at the website of WXIA, an Atlanta NBC affiliate, isn't clear. "A DeKalb County police officer shot and killed a naked, unarmed man at an apartment complex Monday afternoon." The guy was "acting deranged," said the police chief. "When the male saw the officer, he charged, running at the officer. The officer called to him to stop, while stepping backward. He then drew his weapon and fired two shots."

And that was that. No taser, no pepper spray, nothing else. The officer used his gun, shot twice, and killed the naked man running amok.

There will be an investigation. And, more than likely, it will be concluded that the officer did what he had to do, that the shooting, that the killing, was justified.

You know how it works.

But is that the whole story? And will that be the end of it?

Because the WXIA article leaves out a couple of rather essential details, particularly given what has happened across the country, time and again, to much public attention lately. And for those details we need to look elsewhere, for example to the Times:

Naked Black Man Fatally Shot by White Police Officer in Georgia

Ah. Of course.

I wonder if that had anything to do with it.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ready, set, Hillary

The Guardian is reporting that Hillary Clinton is steaming towards April 1st as the date to officially launch her presidential campaign. This, they say, is according to "multiple sources with knowledge of Clinton's growing operation Iowa."
With plans to hire as many as 40 staffers in the battleground state around the beginning of April, the sources said, there is essentially no turning back on Clinton campaign expenditures – nor on the starting gun for the 2016 election.

I wish there was someone else strong enough to beat whichever Republican is left standing. I simply don't know who that would be.

I'm not going to enjoy this. 


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Classical vs. Jazz: A race to the bottom (and jazz is winning)

By Richard K. Barry

Sad news for longhairs and hep cats:
According to Nielsen’s 2014 Year-End Report, jazz is continuing to fall out of favor with American listeners and has tied with Classical as the least-consumed musical genre in the U.S.

Both genres represent just 1.4% of total U.S. music consumption a piece; however, Classical album sales were higher for 2014, putting Jazz at the bottom of the barrel.
This continues an alarming trend that has seen more and more listeners move away from jazz every year.

Album sales have long been a key measure of the popularity of individual genres, and in 2011 a total of 11 million jazz albums were sold, according to BusinessWeek. This represents 2.8% of all music sold in that year. However, just a year later, in 2012, that percentage fell to 2.2%. It rose slightly to 2.3% in 2013 before falling once again to just 2% in 2014.

That 2% represents just 5.2 million albums sold by all jazz artists in 2014. In comparison, the best-selling artist of 2014, Taylor Swift, sold 3.7 million copies of her latest album ‘1989’ in the last 2 months of 2014 alone.

It's not that we're surprised, but the numbers are jarring.

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Monday, March 09, 2015

Take a deep breath, Mark Halperin

By Richard K. Barry 

Big name political prognosticator Mark Halperin thinks Hillary Clinton has really done it now. Yes, he thinks this e-mail thing is going to make it impossible, sort of, for her to become president.

Speaking on This Week Sunday morning he said this:
What she’s doing here in terms of lack of response, lack of a sense of what people think of her, combined with what I thought was an extraordinarily weak performance at the Emily’s List speech the other day — her husband can get through this because he’s the politician of a lifetime. She cannot. If this is the way she’s going to run her operation, if this is her mindset, I don’t think she’s going to be president.

Of course Halperin didn't exactly say the e-mails would be her downfall, only that if her response to this is indicative of how she intends to run her campaign, she could be in trouble.

Not a particularly specific or interesting comment as far as I'm concerned, but pundits don't get paid for keeping their mouths shut.

Sure, if the e-mails yield new and damaging information, it'll be a problem. Otherwise, not so much. 

By the way, SNL pretty well nailed it.

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Sunday, March 08, 2015

Why Rand Paul will never be president

If you are only a casual observer of Republican politics in America, or no observer at all, you may not understand what has become a truism for electoral success amongst conservatives. David Ludwig at The Atlantic explains the dynamic succinctly, using same-sex marriage as a salient case-in-point.
Threading the needle by appeasing the conservative base—which tends to supply the majority of primary voters—without coming across as too extreme for moderates is a challenge for any presidential candidate, but it has been especially difficult for Republicans since the rise of the Tea Party in 2010. With the 2016 primaries fast approaching, nowhere is this challenge clearer than on the issue of same-sex marriage, where popular opinion has shifted dramatically in its favour, while the Republican right remains overwhelmingly opposed.

According to a May, 2014 Gallup poll, support for gay marriage doubled between 1996 and 2014, from 27 percent support to 55 percent support. Much of the shift appears to have been generational, with 78 percent of 18-29 year olds now supporting gay marriage as opposed to just 42 percent of those over the age of 65. Meanwhile, support among Independents is at 58 percent, with self-described moderates polling slightly higher at 63 percent. Republican support hovers around 30 percent.

So, when likely GOP presidential hopeful Rand Paul tells Fox News' Bret Baier that he is personally "offended" by gay marriage, that's a problem for Republicans.

It's a problem because many swing voters don't particularly expect Republicans to change long held positions on things like gay marriage, reproductive rights, and immigration reform.  What they listen for, however, is the bile Republican candidates exhibit in expressing those positions. 

As Ludwig correctly asserts, threading the needle means saying the things that need to be said to attract activist conservatives, without the spitting anger and ugliness that will turn off more mainstream Americans. 

It's a cute trick, and I've seen it work. Rand Paul didn't get the memo. Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee wouldn't understand it if they got it, which is why none of these people will ever be president of the United States. 

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