Friday, March 27, 2015

On the Hustings

The Washington Post: "Harry Reid will not run for reelection in 2016" (Paul Kane)

National Journal: "Reid exit turns Nevada race into wild card" (Alex Roarty)

Roll Call: "Reid, Durbin endorse Schumer as next Leader" (Niels Lesniewski)

The Hill: "Warren fundraises off Wall Street's threats" (Kevin Cirilli)

New York Times: "For G.O.P., support for Israel becomes new litmus test" (Peter Baker)


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Rand Paul shifts shamelessly on defense spending to appease bloodthirsty Republicans

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Oh, those lofty presidential ambitions. Oh, the need to appeal to the bloodthirsty, warmongering Republican base.

Oh, the shame of it all:

Just weeks before announcing his 2016 presidential bid, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is completing an about-face on a longstanding pledge to curb the growth in defense spending.

In an olive branch to defense hawks hell-bent on curtailing his White House ambitions, the libertarian Senator introduced a budget amendment late Wednesday calling for a nearly $190 billion infusion to the defense budget over the next two years -- a roughly 16 percent increase.

But... but... he's a principled libertarian! He's not like the others! He actually believes in things other than some incoherent combination of plutocracy and fundamentalist moralism.

You know, except on abortion, and same-sex marriage, and now on the military, and, well, let's face it, on any other issue where those presidential ambitions require him to put aside his principles and embrace the must-have Republican position, or else.

As BooMan says, this about-face renders Paul "basically worthless." Because basically he's just like any other mainstream Republican.

"I already mock anyone who presents Rand Paul as a desirable leader or serious voice," he adds, "but from now on my abuse is going to be deafening."

Which is precisely what Paul deserves. From all of us.

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Indiana formally joins up with the forces of ignorance and bigotry

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Yes, Wingnut Gov. Mike Pence and the other defenders of this odious law can say whatever they want. Religious "freedom" is really just Christianist bigotry in disguise, and not a very good one:

The nation's latest legislative battle over religious freedom and gay rights came to a close Thursday when Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a controversial "religious freedom" bill into law.

His action followed two days of intense pressure from opponents — including technology company executives and convention organizers — who fear the measure could allow discrimination, particularly against gays and lesbians.

Pence and leaders of the Republican-controlled General Assembly called those concerns a "misunderstanding."

"This bill is not about discrimination," Pence said, "and if I thought it legalized discrimination I would have vetoed it."

Bull. Shit. That's exactly what it does.

It allows bigots to hide behind "freedom," to justify their bigotry with appeals to "freedom," which of course is really just a vicious assault on freedom, on the very principles and ideals of any genuinely free society.

Feel free to boycott the hell out of Indiana. And feel free to discriminate at the polls against these bigots and enablers thereof, most of whom, of course, are Republican.

What else is new?

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It must be hard being Joe Biden right now

By Richard K. Barry 

Joe Biden will not be the president of the United States, nor will he be his party's nominee for the office. And that's got to hurt a little. But politics sucks and everybody knows it. Besides that, Joe Biden is simply not the guy.

As Alex Seitz-Wald at MSNBC writes:

Interviews with more than a dozen people close to the vice president paint a picture of a politician torn between a decades-long aspiration for the presidency, a deep commitment his family and a recognition of a political reality tilted against him.

For reasons both bigger and smaller than Hillary Clinton, Biden will not achieve the dream to which he’s now come so close. But he refuses to rule himself out completely and will keep a presidential pilot light burning as long as possible. If nothing else, the fiercely loyal Biden will use these next two years to defend the legacy of the Obama administration and his role in it.

While Biden has been largely left out of Washington chatter about 2016, he has forced himself into the conversation whenever possible. He recently made a series of visits to promote the White House agenda to early voting states including Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Biden frequently appears in the same city the same week as Clinton does. And he readily tells interviewers he’s taking a serious look at a run.

It's hard to say how someone with such a stellar resume, and in such an historically important position for succession, ends up so far away from serious consideration. Though if there was no Hillary Clinton, he almost certainly would have taken his shot. 

It may be true that the vice presidency isn't worth a warm bucket of piss, as John Nance Garner famously said. But it does provide a certain profile in this media age of ours, which can be a good thing or a bad thing. For Biden, it's been mostly a bad thing. 

Truth be told, if he hadn't so often seemed like a fool, like an embarrassing uncle in his execution of the duties of the office, we would be having a different conversation.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

It's a conspiracy!

By Capt. Fogg

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you or me
Says I, "But Joe, you're ten years dead,"
"I never died," says he.
"I never died," says he.

No sooner does something happen in this world, but that it didn't and in a strange quantum physical way, nothing itself is reason to believe something. The bomb wasn't a bomb, the flight never flew, Saudi terrorists didn't hijack those airplanes and neither Jesus nor Mohammad's nephew nor Elvis nor Joe Hill actually died. There are many reasons for it, but Humans being creatures for whom faith is always tempting, need something to anchor it, a substrate to mount it upon like a plaque on the wall. Every article of faith, every statement of belief requires a denial.

The anguish of grief, the horror of circumstances, the shock of sudden change; these things cause us to deny, at least for a time that the beloved leader and voice of God has been murdered and his mission has come to nothing. We see them in our dreams, even when we're awake. But as with any human weakness, the inability to accept invites explanations of why reality isn't real for the purposes of exploitation. We want your support so Joe hill lives on in spirit. Jesus came to Jerusalem to restore the divine dynasty and throw out Rome, he was about mystical forgiveness of sin. The Hidden Imam is just around the corner and will come back to bring justice, or was that Jesus or was that Tammuz? Denial is power, but power over us by someone else.

Read more »

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PACs, unlimited money, and the end of democracy

By Richard K. Barry

In the most recent edition of Time, Alex Altman describes how PACs are now doing the work traditional campaigns use to do and why that's a problem.
In 2012 super PACs were used as blunt instruments of destruction: the group backing Mitt Romney devoted about 90% of the $142 million it spent overall to TV attack ads. But in the 2016 presidential race, these organizations are poised to play a much bigger role, taking over more-traditional campaign duties ranging from field organizing and voter turnout to direct mail and digital microtargeting. “They are becoming de facto campaigns,” says Fred Davis, a Republican media consultant who ran former Utah governor Jon Huntsman’s presidential super PAC in 2012.

And the concern:
Such efforts are the latest way to game the traditional campaign-finance system, which limits the amount of money individuals can give to candidates and forbids direct donations from corporations. The Cruz super PAC, for instance, is barred from directly coordinating campaign spending or strategy with Cruz, but it is able to raise and spend unlimited sums on the candidate’s behalf while collecting money from just about anyone.

Thank God money is the same as free speech, so everything's cool.

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Ted Cruz seeks to be the anti-Galileo of our time

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Ted Cruz is a hyper-partisan ideological extremist with deep-rooted cynicism. He's also a fucking idiot.

Because if he actually believes this, if this is more than just pandering to the ignorant Republican base, he basically disqualifies himself from reality:

Speaking to the Texas Tribune on Tuesday, Cruz said that contemporary "global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat-Earthers."

"You know it used to be it is accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier," he said.

In Cruz's opinion, when it comes to climate change, his denier position places him alongside 17th Century scientist Galileo Galilei, who was also considered to be denying the mainstream knowledge of his day. According to Cruz's logic, he is taking the minority view that human-caused climate change is not happening, just as Galileo took the minority view that the scientific method should be trusted over the Catholic Church.

That's right, Galileo was a scientist. And, contra Cruz, what Galileo was denying was not the "accepted scientific wisdom" of the day but the prevailing religion-based ignorance of the day. Galileo was a scientist challenging anti-science. Cruz is an anti-scientist challenging science. If anything, Cruz is the anti-Galileo, exactly the opposite of his ridiculous claim.

But in related news -- and I kid you not, this is true! -- when Cruz fell out of bed the other night, having wet his shorts with the liquid poop he shits through his urethra, he floated up to the ceiling and remained there suspended in a state of trance-like hyper-sleep, his anus pulsating as it pulled sulfur out of the atmosphere to feed his enraptured body, his nose emitting oxygen waste, until sea creatures pulled the sun back from its resting place across the eternal waters of bliss and he slipped back down between the sodden sheets, finally awaking to the sound of trumpets played with Miles Davis-level intensity by a band of Norwegian sheep living in his bathtub.

It's science! Fuck you.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Despite long odds, Chris Christie staffs up for a presidential run

The Hill reported today that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is staffing up for a presumed Republican presidential run. One of his political action committees has just hired a digital firm to implement a "comprehensive digital presence" for the candidate, including website development, online fundraising and email marketing. 

The Wall Street Journal reported that Leadership Matters for America (one of Christie's PACs) hired Upstream Communications for the job. 

As the Hill states:
Christie’s PACs will provide a momentum boost should he decide to officially launch a bid for the presidency, helping his potential campaign solicit major donors for repeated, large-money contributions.

Both PACs could allow Christie a chance to gauge early fundraising support among donors and build operatives for an eventual campaign apparatus.

This might mean that if the support is not there he could go away quietly, although we've never seen this man do anything quietly. 

For those keeping track, Christie will be entering one of the most crowded GOP presidential fields ever should he run, with at least 19 other Republicans having expressed an interest. 

Maybe Christie has to give it a shot because that's what politicians with massive egos do, but his chances of securing the nomination are certainly slim, as Nate Silver wrote back in early February.
Silver puts New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's chance of winning at just 5%. "I think Chris Christies chances are vastly overrated. In part because he has a lot of issues where he deviates from the Republican base and in part because he’s not a guy who’s seen as a team player." says Silver. Christie's New Jersey administration has been tainted in recent controversy. First Christie received heat over lane closings near the George Washington Bridge and is now under Federal investigation for firing an employee who objected to Christie dismissing indictments against his political allies.

Long, long, long shot. 


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Ted Cruz's America, and you better watch yourself

By Richard K. Barry

I know this has received a lot of play, but I have to weigh in.

In an interview Tuesday on “CBS This Morning,” Senator Ted Cruz said he “grew up listening to classic rock” but that his "music taste changed on 9/11."

“I actually intellectually find this very curious, but on 9/11, I didn’t like how rock music responded,” he said. “And country music, collectively, the way they responded, it resonated with me."

“I had an emotional reaction that said, ‘These are my people,’” Cruz said. “So ever since 2001, I listen to country music.”

I realize many people will ignore this as a meaningly issue, but is it? Is there anything this man won't say. And what, precisely,  did "rock music" do back then that was so awful? But we know the answer: if you weren't deemed patriotic enough by the arbiters of real American public opinion, you were "the enemy," you were "against us" and "with the terrorists," as W. famously said.

That's what Cruz really wants to signal. That's his America.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Peter King on a Ted Cruz presidency: "I hope that day never comes. I will jump off that bridge when we come to it."

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I really dislike Peter King -- the Rep. from NY, not so much the MMQB guy. Among other things, he's an avid supporter of terrorism (of the Irish kind) and an anti-Muslim bigot. (The other guy is a Roger Goodell apologist and mouthpiece for NFL speaking points, but also a good reporter despite some shallowness.)

But when he's right, he's right, and you have to give him credit when he is. Like, for example, about Ted Cruz:

Representative Peter King went on CNN to talk with Wolf Blitzer about Senator Ted Cruz's presidential announcement yesterday. His praise for his colleague was muted. Although Cruz "may be an intelligent person," King said, " ... he oversimplifies, he exaggerates ... he doesn't provide leadership and he has no real experience." He added, "To me, he's a guy with a big mouth and no results."

When asked to consider a future in which Cruz wins the nomination, King said, "I hope that day never comes. I will jump off that bridge when we come to it."

Of course, King is basically a northeastern conservative Republican, with views and an agenda very much in line with the party establishment that Cruz is so virulently opposed to, even if Cruz shares its views. Hence why King likes Chris Christie, Scott Walker, and Jeb Bush but not Cruz and Rand Paul, another thorn in the side of the GOP.

And of course King is also thinking of running for president himself, even if that seems unlikely and he wouldn't go far. (If a warmongering type gets in the race, it'll be someone like Lindsey Graham, not King, though most of the establishment, as well as Cruz, is pro-war, any war, all the time. Paul is one of the few exceptions among Republicans in this regard.)

So it's hardly surprising that he's taking aim at Cruz, who is widely despised among establishment Republicans.

But it sure is amusing. Welcome to the 2015-16 Republican Civil War.

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Trump goes all birther on Alberta-born Ted Cruz

By Richard K. Barry

In an interview on MyFoxNY, perennial blowhard Donald Trump said Ted Cruz's birthplace could rule him out as a presidential candidate.
Well he’s got, you know, a hurdle that nobody else seems to have at this moment," said Trump, who was born in Queens. "It’s a hurdle and somebody could certainly look at it very seriously. He was born in Canada … if you know … and when we all studied our history lessons … you’re supposed to be born in this country, so I just don’t know how the courts would rule on it. But it’s an additional hurdle that he has that no one else seems to have.

I cannot overemphasize how much I love this. Love it, love it, love it!

It will be so much fun watching tea partiers play defence after all the bullshit of the past. The fact is whatever else may be true of Cruz's eligibility, and whatever legal scholars may claim,  he really was born in Canada.

Lord knows what kind of radical views he might have picked up north of the border. It's even possible he was born in one of those socialist medicine hospitals.


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Monday, March 23, 2015

On the Hustings

Jonathan Martin: "What Ted Cruz Would Need To Win" (New York Times)

Marc Thiessen: "Clinton's Scandal and Warren's Opening" (Washinton Post)

Cameron Joseph: "Ready For Hillary Ready to Step Aside as She Prepares Her Campaign" (The Hill)

Adam Liptak: "Wisconsin Decides Not to Enforce Voter ID Law" (New York Times)

Alex Leary: "Rep. Alex Murphy Announces He's Running for Senate" (Tampa Bay Times)


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Ron Hynes: “The St. John’s Waltz” (1997)

By Richard K. Barry

Just returned from St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, one of may favourite places to spend time.

"The St. John's Waltz" was written and performed by Ron Hynes, one of the best known singer-songwriters in Atlantic Canada, and across the country.

He's known by many for having written "Sonny's Dream," but that's only one of many gems he's created.

"The St. John's Waltz" is from Hynes 1997 album Face to the Gale.


(Cross-posted at Listening to Now.)

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Ted Cruz: Sound and fury, signifying nothing

By Richard K. Barry

Some observations in today's New York Times by Nate Cohn about Ted Cruz's candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination:

Political scientists argue that the single most important determinant of the outcome of the nomination is support from party elites: those operatives who can staff a winning campaign; the donors who fund it; the elected officials and interest group leaders who bestow the credibility necessary to persuade voters and affect media coverage.

The candidate with the most support from party elites doesn’t always win the nomination, but support from elites is probably a prerequisite for victory.

“A candidate without substantial party support has never won the nomination,” said John Zaller, a political-science professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and one of four authors of “The Party Decides,” an influential work on the role of parties in the nominating process.

Mr. Cruz has done nothing to endear himself to the elites. He won the party’s nomination for the Senate by defeating David Dewhurst, an establishment favorite and the sitting lieutenant governor of Texas. He led congressional Republicans to shut down the government to prevent the inevitable enactment of the Affordable Care Act.

Does that make Cruz a longshot? Uh, yes, yes it does. It doesn't mean Cruz won't make a lot of noise, but politics, at least at the national level, is still an establishment game.  

So smirk your ass off Ted, you'll still be the junior United States Senator from Texas when 2016 is all over.

(Cross-posted at Phantom Public.)


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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Yes, Elizabeth Warren should run

By Richard K. Barry

Anna Galland has an opinion piece in today's Boston Globe in which she argues that Senator Elizabeth Warren should run for president.
Less than three years into her Senate term, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has established herself as the country’s leading advocate for working and middle-class families. The Democrat has proven equally adept behind the scenes and in the media spotlight, and has stood up to Wall Street banks and other powerful interests to win changes that are improving millions of Americans’ lives. Already, more than one observer has compared her to Massachusetts’ first “liberal lion” in the US Senate, Ted Kennedy.

[. . .]

Warren should run. Our country will be better off if she does. She would be a strong candidate — one who injects valuable ideas into the conversation and ensures the kind of debate our country needs. And she could win.

[. . .]

Put simply, this moment was made for Elizabeth Warren. With income inequality at its highest level on record, and corporations and lobbyists wielding enormous power in Washington and state capitals around the country, we need a president who is firmly grounded in making government work for regular people. Senator Warren has spent her career taking on corporate interests and winning historic financial protections for workers and small businesses.

Perhaps Warren is concerned that her candidacy would only anger Hillary Clinton, the person most likely to win the whole thing in November of 2016. But what Warren needs to realize is that the Clintons respond to only one thing, and that is power. 

A Warren candidacy would give the Massacusetts Senator that power and an even larger base from which to be the voice of real progressive politics in America. Should Clinton win the presidency, Warren will be in a better position to make demands of the White House instead of approaching a President Clinton with cap in hand.

And, who knows, if Warren ran and did better than expected, it wouldn't be the first time an upstart Senator gave the Clintons a run for their money.

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Ted Cruz is ready to make it official

By Richard K. Barry

The Houston Chronicle reported yesterday that Senator Ted Cruz will announce on Monday he will run for president of the United States. The Chronicle characterizes the move as "accelerating his already rapid three-year rise from a tea party insurgent in Texas into a divisive political force in Washington."

The question though is whether such a polarizing figure can be competitive.

"I don't consider him a mainstream candidate, and usually to win you've got to be inside the 45-yard lines," said Greg Valliere, a political adviser to Wall Street firms who believes that if Cruz did earn the nomination, he would not win more than a dozen states in the general election. "The enthusiasm for him will be tremendous in maybe a third of the party, but another third of the party will be strongly opposed and another third of the party will be wary.

Many were no doubt assuming Cruz would run, so this isn't a particularly surprising development. What may be interesting though is the likelihood that Cruz, unlike so many pretenders before, will be able to articulate a clear and coherent tea party vision for the country. This will give us, as Valliere suggests, a better sense of exactly how popular such a view is.

I think Valliere is being too generous to Cruz, who may be brighter than the average mouthbreather in his clan, but is too ugly a politician to make a huge impact on the national scene.

My guess is that the only thing Cruz's candidacy will do is push more viable Republicans to the hard right, which can only be a good thing for Democrats.

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