Saturday, March 21, 2015

Senator Bernie Sanders: Too sane for American politics

By Richard K. Barry

Political Wire notes that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has "relaunched his campaign website in a way that makes it look like he’s going to be running a national campaign."

A quote on the site attributed to Sanders is that “nobody who works 40 hours a week should be living in poverty."

I want so badly for Sanders to run for the Democratic presidential nomination if only to see how the national media laugh him off the stage for holding views we all ought to consider quite sensible.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Pulling together the fractured GOP

By Richard K. Barry

Amy Walter at the Cook Political Report addresses the fact that Senator Marco Rubio is underperformaning in the GOP presidential nomination sweepstakes so far.

While many talk of the GOP race as a battle between the establishment and non-establishment forces, the winner of the nomination is ultimately the one who can prove to be acceptable to the four or five significant factions of the party: establishment, Tea Party/Libertarian, social conservative and internationalist/defense hawk. The winner is the “uniter,” not the divider.

Jeb Bush is the strongest in the establishment space, while Rand Paul dominates the Libertarian column. The Tea Party, social conservative and internationalist slots are pretty crowded and lack an obvious frontrunner. However, only Rubio and Scott Walker start out as suitable to the entire spectrum. Among the twelve GOP “constituencies” identified by the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, Walker and Rubio are the only candidates who rank high in all twelve. Walker ranks first among men, conservatives, Tea Party and Gun Rights voters. Rubio, meanwhile, comes in first among women, very conservative voters, independent/Dems, and those who supported Romney in 2012.

And yet, as she writes, Rubio is stuck in low single digits while Walker is touted as the co-leader with Bush.

So, what's the problem?

Not sure, but I don't think it matters at this point. Marco will get his chance to impress.

The truly interesting observation in this analysis is the identification of GOP constituencies and how any one candidate appeals to a significant enough portion of each of them to be successful. Or might it be possible to write off some constituencies in the hope of securing a larger part of others? You can see how complex this can become.

This is what politics is all about and it will be fascinating to see who has the particular variant of the right stuff to pull it off.

On this score I think we already know who has the wrong stuff.

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Could this be the end for Governor Christie?

By Richard K. Barry

Is there any way New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's political career can survive his natural inclination to engage in Soprano-esque gamesmanship? Likely not.

The latest is this, reported by The Wall Street Journal:
Federal prosecutors issued a new subpoena to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey this week seeking possible evidence of claims New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s administration retaliated against the Democratic mayor of Jersey City.

The subpoena seeks records from a broad range of former authority officials regarding their interactions with Jersey City, according to a person familiar with the matter, including two Christie allies who resigned from the authority amid the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal, David Wildstein and Bill Baroni.

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop has said that the Christie administration punished him when he failed to endorse the governor’s reelection in 2013.

In politics, "enemies" get frozen out all the time. Political retaliation is hardly new. But intentionally inconveniencing or endangering citizens to make a political foe look bad is at a different level. It's simply Nixonian, and we've seen all together enough of that, thank you very much.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Donald Trump demands our attention once again

By Richard K. Barry

Donald Trump won't be a candidate for anything when the truly important decisions are made by voters. Everyone knows that. He knows that. But some in the media report his comings and goings as if they are relevant to the political process.

So, here we go, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported yesterday that Trump is launching an "exploratory committee."

And what's more, the paper breathlessly reports:
Trump will not be renewing his contract with NBC for the reality television “Apprentice” series.

Combined with staff hires, Trump’s announcement that he will form an exploratory committee for the first time is a sign the billionaire is seriously considering running for the Republican nomination.

In truth, the only thing Trump is seriously considering is how to get his face in front of the maximum number of people as a way to increase the value of his personal brand.

There is no law against it, nor should there be. Still, at some level, it's sad that while many serious people are trying to express serious views about the future of the nation, we give this guy any oxygen at all.

And though there is obvious irony in me writing about him after writing that, I am certain that ignoring him does no good. Perhaps actively ridiculing him will help in some small way.

I don't know if this is true elsewhere in the world, but many Americans seem to think that anyone capable of making himself or herself a lot of money must know everything about everything and therefore would make a fine president. 

Odd thought.


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When polling validates the obvious

By Richard K. Barry

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll tells us basically what we already knew, which is that GOP primary voters in 2016 “will be much more conservative than the populace in general, as they were in 2012, and far more conservative than Democratic primary voters are liberal.”

"The Republican candidates may therefore have to walk a finer line than Democrats to win over conservatives in the primaries without putting off moderates ahead of the general election.”

Put in a different way, a relatively moderate Republican presidential nominee would have the best chance of winning the general election, but a more difficult time actually securing the nomination.

Hillary, on the other hand, has no incentive or need to move to the left as Democratic primary voters are generally speaking fairly moderate, as is the electorate more generally.

Given that all candidates understand this dynamic, the only interesting question left is how each navigates the course, how true each remains to a winning formula.

Elections, of course, are never without surprises.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

I loathe Dick Cheney

By Richard K. Barry

Oh, isn't that special, and utterly surprising that Dick Cheney thinks Barack Obama the "worst president" ever, or at least since little Dick first slithered onto the planet.

Said Dick in a new Playboy interview:

I look at Barack Obama and I see the worst president of my lifetime, without question. I used to have significant criticism of Jimmy Carter, but compared to Barack Obama and the damage he is doing to the nation — it’s a tragedy.


The way Obama is functioning now, he’s crippling the capacity of future presidents to deal with future crises.

I don't generally speak in terms of pure evil, but Cheney's existence does suggest the possibility.


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Benjamin Netanyahu is basically a fascist

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Either that or he's just really good at impersonating one, but the implications are pretty much the same regardless. And with his electoral career on the verge of coming to a screeching halt, with voters possibly about to turf him out of office, he's proving it once more, in extremis:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that if he were to be reelected, a Palestinian state would not be created, in a definite disavowal of his 2009 speech, in which he had voiced support for the principle of two states for two peoples.

Netanyahu's remarks in an interview with the NRG website -- which is owned by casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and tied with the settler newspaper Makor Rishon -- were a last-minute attempt to pull right-wing voters away from Habayit Hayehudi.

"I think that anyone who moves to establish a Palestinian state and evacuate territory gives territory away to radical Islamist attacks against Israel," Netanyahu said. "The left has buried its head in the sand time and after time and ignores this, but we are realistic and understand." 

Oh, what a pile of horseshit. Creating a Palestinian state would basically mean caving in to ISIS or al Qaeda or whatever? Seriously. Nonsense. I would say the reverse is true. Creating a Palestinian state would encourage the rapid development of more moderate forms of political Islam. It would show the Muslim world that Israel, the United States, and others are serious about solving the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It would be the ultimate expression of respect, the ultimate olive branch.

I have said this many times before and I'll say it again now: I'm pro-Israel. But what that means for me is that I'm also pro-Palestine. Indeed, it's because I'm pro-Israel that I'm anti-Netanyahu, anti the Israeli right generally (and anti Israel's right-wing supporters in the U.S., like Adelson, the neocons, and the #47Traitors). The fact is, for the sake of Israel's present and future security and prosperity, it is essential that there be peace, that there be an accord between Israel and moderate elements in the Muslim Middle East. That can't and won't happen with Netanyahu and the right in control in Israel.

I realize that Netanyahu is desperate, and that he's doing what he thinks he needs to do to hold onto power. Faced with such desperation, politicians do and say stupid things. But this isn't just that. This isn't just desperation. This is the real Netanyahu, a man who doesn't want peace because he doesn't believe in peace, a man who doesn't want what is ultimately in Israel's own best interests, a man who is actually a threat to Israel's present and future security and prosperity.

And it's time to kick him to the electoral curb for good. Hopefully the people of Israel have had their fill of him.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Behind the Ad: Chuck Norris stumps for Bibi Netanyahu (no kidding)

By Richard K. Barry

I have no idea if this sort of thing will help, but the man from "Walker Texas Rangers," Mr. Chuck Norris, appeared in a YouTube video on Monday for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

It appears that Mr. Netanyahu's reelection is anything but certain, so I guess some degree of creativity is called for.

Gotta love the directness of the ad, which is entitled "Please vote for Prime Minister Netanyahu!"

“I watched Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech before Congress, and I saw a man who loves his country with all his heart and soul," Norris said in the video.

The actor and martial arts enthusiast stressed that only Netanyahu's Likud Party could bring Israel peace and security.

“I have done three movies in Israel, Delta Force being my favourite, and I formed many friendships while there," he went on. "You have an incredible country, and we want to keep it that way.”

TPM also writes that over the past few days "Netanyahu has made a last-minute appeal to right-wing voters in Israel as centre-left parties nudged ahead of Likud in the polls."
Norris said that Americans needed a leader like Netayanhu just as much as Israelis, in order to ward off "evil forces" in the Middle East and throughout the world.

Can't help wondering if a bad American actor pontificating about Israeli politics could possibly have an impact of any sort. Maybe someone could enlighten me. 

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

When it comes to Hillary, Republicans just can't help themselves

By Michael J.W. Stickings

"Emailgate," or whatever the fuck it's being called, is a creation of Republicans desperate to bring Hillary Clinton down (a sub-group of Republicans who just make shit up, which is pretty much all Republicans), the right-wing noise machine (of which Fox News is the most prominent polluter of bullshit), and a Beltway media establishment that internalizes Republican propaganda and spews it out like a huge massive fart masquerading as "mainstream news."

Sorry, am I being too harsh?

You all know this is how it works. And if you don't, you're part of the problem.

And while I'm actually not a huge Hillary fan (I much preferred Edwards, and then Obama, in '08), and so no Hillary apologist, and while I've been somewhat critical of her slow and often unhelpful response to this e-mail nonsense, there's no doubt that, as Frank Rich put it the other day, "the right's response... shows that her antagonists haven't learned anything either since the first Clinton era" and "already Clinton's foes are overreaching just as they did in the frenzy that led to her husband's impeachment."

For example:

House Speaker John Boehner is expected to announce this week a new investigation into Hillary Clinton's email practices as Secretary of State, including her admission that more than 31,000 emails were destroyed because she determined them to be personal, top House Republicans told ABC News today. 

Yes, another Republican investigation, again from the mob in the House (but this time promoted by Boehner himself instead of a crackier crackpot like Darrell Issa).

I'm not saying there aren't legitimate questions here. It's problematic when any senior official in the government, Hillary or anyone, uses personal rather than official communications channels, and this is especially the case at a time when speculation of wrongdoing by officials runs rampant, justifiably or not. I suspect that Hillary did nothing wrong, and that those personal e-mails were really just that, personal, but perception is a different matter, and these days one must err on the side of caution. She may have been acting cautiously (as well as out of convenience) in using personal e-mail, but her use of personal e-mail has handed her opponents a scandal, however faux, whether she understood that as a risk or not.

But while it's fair to ask questions, launching a full-blown investigation of the kind Republicans have been using against Democrats throughout the Obama years is ridiculous. Republicans small blood, of course, but whether they see this purely as a PR campaign with which they can weaken Hillary (and score cheap political points) or whether they actually think there's a smoking gun hidden somewhere in her e-mails (as if she authorized some Benghazi conspiracy), they'll come up empty, and, just like the #47Traitors, they'll end up looking really bad.

Because look, Colin Powell did it too. And Jeb Bush has his e-mail problems as well, including using personal e-mail to discuss security matters and taking his own sweet time to release his e-mails.

So remind me again why Hillary should be subjected to the crazed ravings of Republicans?

Oh right, because she's Hillary, and because Republicans will stop at nothing, including making shit up, to bring her down.

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Jimmy Greenspoon, Three Dog Night keyboardist, dies at 67

By Richard K. Barry

Three Dog Night had three No. 1 singles between 1969 and 1972: “Mama Told Me (Not to Come),” “Joy to the World,” and “Black and White,” a song about racial equality written in 1954.

In all, the group had 21 singles making it to the Billboard Top 40.

Jimmy Greenspoon played keys, an essential part of the sound for Three Dog Night. He died of cancer last week, according to his agent, Chris Burke.

Let's listen to the group's song about racial equality, written in 1954 (by David I. Arkin and Earl Robinson), made a hit in 1972, and as relevant as ever today.


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