Saturday, August 31, 2013

On the Hustings

(New York Times): "GOP senators fail to head off primary challenges"

(Los Angeles Times): "Matt Romney, Mitt's son , decides not to run for mayor of San Diego"

(Charleston Daily Mail): "Natalie Tennant could tighten U.S. Senate race (in W. Virginia)"

(Bloomberg): "Christie runs up vote, faces partisan pivot others missed"

(The Hill): "Sister of Liz Cheney says she is 'dead wrong' in opposition to gay marriage"

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Chris Matthews never saw a war he wouldn't cheerlead for

I've been really busy this week, so I haven't been doing much cooking. And cooking is the only time I watch television. But tonight, I had to cook because I had some Spanish rice and corn tortillas that really needed to be used or they were going to go bad. So I found myself in the kitchen trying to make something like taquitos. I failed miserably, but the result was still delicious. But mostly, I got to watch All In, which was all about the coming Syrian attack. Even though I seem to agree with Chris Hayes on the issue, most of the guest were there cheer leading for war.

I was hoping for something more from The Rachel Maddow Show. The truth is that I'm really depressed about what's going on. It really does seem that Obama has painted himself into a corner with all that talk of "red lines." And now he thinks he will look weak if he doesn't bomb Syria. It's sad, because to me, he does look weak. He looks weak the same way that bullies always look weak. He looks weak because he cares more about saving face than doing what's right. So I was hoping that Maddow would make me feel better, even though I thought the odds were long.

Alas. Rachel Maddow was off. In fact, the whole The Rachel Maddow Show was off. Instead, there was a special edition of Hardball with Chris "War Monger" Matthews. But I continued to watch. After all, my pseudo-taquitos were not ready to go into the over. (I know, I know: they are fried, not baked!) Anyway, how bad could Chris Matthews be? Surely he had learned something from being so painfully, so aggressively wrong about the Iraq War. Right? Right?! Right?!!

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Liz Cheney is a piece of work

By Richard K. Barry

Liz Cheney is running for the Republican senate nomination in Wyoming against incumbent Mike Enzi. The GOP establishment seem to be backing Enzi, but Liz wants what she wants. Anyway, it's a democracy so, fine, she can run.

Recently, Cheney issued a press release accusing Enzi of conducting a push poll which implied that Cheney was pro-abortion and supported gay marriage. A push poll, if you don't know, is a poll that asks questions which never clearly state that your opponent holds an unpopular view or is guilty of some terrible thing, but suggests as much. For example, one such question might be: "If you knew candidate X kicked puppies for fun, would it make you more or less likely to vote for him?"  The question never states clearly that candidate X has done such a thing, but those so polled walk away thinking it's true. Carl Rove is a master at this.

Cheney accused Enzi of putting a poll in the field that asked, "Are you aware that Liz Cheney supports abortion and aggressively promotes gay marriage." You might say, "What a dirty trick on the part of Enzi because the question doesn't state these things as fact, only asks if a respondent is "aware" of these positions on the part of Cheney." 

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A.M. Headlines

(New York Times): "Kerry becomes chief advocate for U.S. attack"

(The Hill): "Some see Syria as edge for Obama in fiscal showdown"

(Washington Post): "Conservative activists heckle Marco Rubio"

(Daily Kos): Obama praises value of stable, prosperous working class in weekly address"

(Politico): "Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg to officiate at same-sex wedding"


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Friday, August 30, 2013

On the Hustings

(Sabato's Crystal Ball): "Virgina Governor: A favorite emerges - McAuliffe leads race going into Labor Day"

(New York Times): "Leading Democrats, de Blasio has broad support as primary nears"

(Charlie Cook): "The GOP shouldn't run a fools errand"

(The Hill): "Poll: W. Virginia secretary of state would make senate race competitive"

(Roll Call): "Liz Cheney accuses NRSC of push poll against her #WYSEN"


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Saying something nice about W.

By Richard K. Barry

As one who probably never said anything nice about George W. Bush during his disastrous tenure as president, I don't mind throwing the man a bone now that he is far from the levers of power. In this case, W. was asked by Fox News to comment on whether or not Obama should intervene militarily in Syria, to which he responded, "the president has to make a tough call," adding that he "was not a fan of Mr. Assad." He also said some things about President Obama having the best armed forces in the world at his disposal should he choose to act, and other such platitudes. 

The point is that in an overheated partisan environment, the former president has kept his head down while others in his administration, notably Dick Cheney, have been obnoxious in the extreme. I am not suggesting that former presidents can't or shouldn't be partisan. They continue to be members of a political party once they leave office, and have every right to support whatever and whomever they like. But, and I'll be a bit of a traditionalist here, once having held the highest office, I think they have an obligation to dignify the experience by keeping their partisan comments respectful of the efforts of those who currently lead. You know, the old "disagreeing without being disagreeable" thing. 

For my money, George W. Bush has done well on that score since going back to Texas. Yes, if we occasionally praise respectful dialogue, we might actually see more of it. And now you can tell me that Bush is the last person to deserve our respect given the fact that he lied so easily to justify invading Iraq where so many have died as a result, which would be another way of saying that there never will be a good time to be respectful in politics. Too bad. 

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De facto cannabis legalization

By Frank Moraes

There was amazing news out of Washington yesterday. The Huffington Post reported that the Justice Department is going to stop prosecuting cannabis laws in Colorado and Washington, at least for now. There are, of course, exceptions big enough to drive a SWAT team through. But this is amazing because it is unquestionably a move in the right direction.

It wasn't until 1914 with the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act that we had any federal drug laws. Truly, if drug use is an issue, it is a local issue. But at least that was a tax act—a proper form of federal government law, even if it was just a pretense. Since then, even pretense has gone and we've been left with more and more laws and harsher and harsher penalties for the sole purpose of allowing politicians to appear "tough on crime" to their constituencies.

What we really need is to repeal the federal drug laws. It isn't like the states don't have all of the same laws anyway. It's not like repealing these laws would create a free for all. And the feds could concentration of the transportation of drugs into the country and across state lines. Again: these are perfectly justified uses of federal power. And here's the thing: conservatives should love this. After all, the states are supposedly the laboratories of democracy. Will legalizing cannabis destroy society? Well, Colorado and Washington will let us know!

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A.M. Headlines

(New York Times): "Obama set for limited strike on Syria as British vote no"

(Politico): "The lonely president"

(First Read): "Nearly 80 percent want congressional approval on Syria"

(Buzzfeed): "Federal judge strikes down law barring same-sex couples from receiving veterans' benefits"

(The White House): "Fact Sheet: New Executive actions to reduce gun violence"


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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hillary Watch 2016: Ducks and rows

By Richard K. Barry

The Washington Post reported today that Priorites USA Action, a pro-Obama super-PAC, is
quietly positioning itself to become the main independent group funding a media campaign for Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2016 presidential race, according to Democrats familiar with the plans.

The story also says that having Priorities in Hillary's corner would "introduce a heavyweight player into the rapidly intensifying effort by super-PACs to shape the 2016 landscape." 

You'll recall from the 2012 campaign that Priorities did a masterful job of painting Mitt Romney as a rich d-bag, not that he needed the help. They raised nearly $80 million dollars and established themselves as a serious player in the last cycle.
The people familiar with the plans said Priorities is developing a different mission than Ready for Hillary, a group started this year by ardent Clinton supporters and now backed by longtime Clinton associates. While Ready for Hillary is focused on grass-roots organizing, Priorities is planning to become what one of the Democrats called “the big money vehicle” that would produce and air expensive television advertisements.

That's all very interesting, and I suppose it has to lead other potential Democratic contenders to ask if any smart Democratic money is going to line up behind anyone but Clinton.

When everyone realizes that the answer is no, the next question has to be: In what universe is it conceivable that a political animal such as Hillary Rodham Clinton is not running for the most powerful political job in the world when all the ducks are lining up so nicely?

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Syria intelligence: "Undeniable," but not "slam dunk?"

This morning, the Associated Press reported, Intelligence on Weapons No Slam Dunk. And it's first sentence is a doozy, "The intelligence linking Syrian President Bashar Assad or his inner circle to an alleged chemical weapons attack is no 'slam dunk,' with questions remaining about who actually controls some of Syria's chemical weapons stores and doubts about whether Assad himself ordered the strike, U.S. intelligence officials say." Now I don't want to get all metaphysical here, but that sure doesn't go along with Secretary of State John Kerry's claim that the intelligence was "undeniable."

I was directed to the article by "bloody good war" proponent Jonathan Chait who is now a bit concerned about the whole thing, Obama Better Have the Goods on Syria. His caution is understandable. Even if Syria used chemical weapons on its people, the United States doesn't have a great justification for bombing them:

The clearest justifications for military action don't apply. This is not a case of self-defense, or defense of an ally, or the prevention of genocide. There is an international treaty banning the use of chemical weapons against civilians, but Syria didn't sign it, perhaps correctly calculating that it would one day need to use such weapons. We would be enforcing an informal norm against the use of chemical weapons against civilians. 

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Lest you think NYC is immune to the derp...

By Carl

Here’s an excerpt from last night’s Republican primary debate for the candidates seeking to be the next mayor (because, THANK GOD!, Bloomberg has to leave.) [video at the link]

Asked at the start how they'd react to one of their children getting questioned by police, none of the candidates -- whose families are white -- said they'd necessarily have a problem with it.

A federal judge ruled this summer that New York's stop-and-frisk policy was unconstitutional.

"I'd say to him, 'What did you do to provoke it?'" billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis said of his son, John Jr.

Joseph Lhota, the former MTA chairman and Giuliani administration official, said he'd remind his daughter, Kathryn, of the legal history that allowed police to interrogate suspects, and try to determine whether the officers crossed the line.
Doe Fund founder George McDonald stumbled over the question, but gathered his thoughts and said his child didn't live in a high-crime neighborhood. "My son, John, isn't going to get stopped — and that's the whole point."

Read more »

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A.M. Headlines

(Roll Call): "Yellen plays down chance of getting top Fed post"

(PBS Newshour): "President Obama: 'I have not made decision' on Syria"

(New York Times): "The most dangerous negro"

(Washington Post): "States find new ways to resist health care law"

(Associated Press): "Obama offers new gun control steps"

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Into the lion's den - not

By Richard K. Barry

Roll Call noted today that a number of high profile Republicans were invited to speak at the 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights march on Washington, but declined. Prominent on the list of those who apparently had something better to do were Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

That wasn’t a wise choice, said Julian Bond, a renowned civil rights activist, in an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday afternoon.

“What’s really telling, I think, is the podium behind me, just count at the end of the day how many Republicans will be there,” Bond told news anchor Alex Wagner. “They asked senior President Bush to come, he was ill. They asked junior Bush, he said he had to stay with his father.

“They asked a long list of Republicans to come,” Bond continued, “and to a man and woman they said ‘no.’ And that they would turn their backs on this event was telling of them, and the fact that they seem to want to get black votes, they’re not gonna get ‘em this way.”

The best and smartest politicians seem to have no fear of the lion's den. As a politician, if you are not comfortable there, you're in the wrong job.  If Republicans truly feel they have nothing to say to those who believe in the importance of civil right, they really are in trouble. And, if demographic trends hold, shady redistricting practices aren't going to work forever.

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The wisdom of prior commitments and the complexity of politics

By Richard K. Barry

Just kidding about politics being complicated. It's simple really. There are just a few basic rules, one of which is that politicians shouldn't draw undue attention to measures they support that are highly unpopular with their constituents. See? Simple.

"Embattled" Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) gets that, which is why he is making himself scarce when Bill Clinton comes to Arkansas to talk about how great ObamaCare is. Pryor's press aide is saying that the senator has a prior commitment so won't be able to attend. Yes, he has a very important meeting with political prudence, which will keep him out of town.

Fact is that Pryor voted for the Affordable Care Act and he certainly loves him some "Big Dog," who has been generous with his time in helping Sen. Pryor raise money in what will be a tough reelection bid in this very red state. But ObamaCare is not popular in Arkansas and there is just no upside to reminding prospective voters that you are offside on the signature piece of legislation of the man they love to hate - the Kenyan socialist.

It's not like Republicans are going to let Arkansans forget Pryor's position on ObamaCare. It's just that visuals matter - another of those basic political rules. That voters might recall you hold a position they don't like is one thing, having pictures of you supporting that position is another. And with Mr. Clinton there, the cameras will be in abundance.

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MSNBC still losing the war

Steve Benen is something of a legend as a blogger. And now he pretty much single-handedly writes Maddow Blog. He is really good, but I often have problems with him. They are usually the same problems I have with Rachel Maddow and the whole of the MSNBC nighttime lineup. First, they are too actively partisan. Second, they are not very effective in their partisanship. I think of them very much the way I think of Obama: in a perfect world, we largely agree. But given political constraints, their priorities are very often not mine.

Today, Benen took an opportunity to go after Rand Paul. That's all fine. Paul is an idiot. But the framing was all wrong. Benen compared Chris Christie's "practical conservatism" with Paul's "ideological conservatism." Then he argues that there isn't even much to Paul's ideological thinking. But he leaves the impression that Christie somehow is practical and therefore, at least somewhat reasonable.

There is a reason that Paul claims the "ideologically purity" throne and Christie claims the "get stuff done" throne. Paul is a United States Senator. Chris Christie is a governor. It is the nature of their jobs. Christie is no less ideologically rigid than Paul. In fact, if you look at the men's last battle, it was Christie talking about how Rand Paul should shut up regarding NSA surveillance because Christie has to look in the faces of the widows. It was pure politics of the lowest common denominator—absolutely vile, disgusting stuff.

In addition to that, Rand Paul's position is the liberal position in that fight. I'm sure that Steve Benen has no trouble understanding that regardless of how effective "stop and frisk" may be (it isn't), if it isn't constitutional, it's still wrong. But he's more than willing to give a shout out to Christie in his political campaign for the surveillance state.

Christie isn't just a vile man on this and most other issues. He is also running for office. Rand Paul isn't running for another four years. If you're going to be a partisan, be an effective one. Christie will likely win his re-election bid with lots of help from liberals who just don't know what they are voting for. And here is MSNBC portraying him as the anti-Rand Paul, even though Christie is actually worse on the issues than Paul. Brilliant!

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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The dream is dying

By Carl

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. August 28, 1963:

"But one hundred [ed.note: and fifty] years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition."

(NB: Dr. King had the full text copyrighted, so I can’t use much more, but in truth, I really don’t have to.)

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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A.M. Headlines

(New York Times): "President, not preacher, but speaking more on race"

(The Hill): "McCain scolds Obama for 'crazy' leaks on Syria air strikes"

(Washington Post): "Here's why Obama is giving up the element of surprise in Syria"

(Kaiser Family Foundation): "Majority against defunding ObamaCare"

(Politico): Immigration reform no. 1 enemy: Time"


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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hillary Watch 2016: Gaming the rules

By Richard K. Barry

Okay, this is what passes for political news in the dog days of August. The New York Times is quasi-breathlessly reporting that Clintonite Harold Ickes has managed to get himself on the Rules and Bylaws Committee of the Democratic Party. As you may recall from the 2008 campaign, rules are very important and Mr. Ickes intends to be there to ensure that Hillary, should she run for president, has her ducks in a row, rules-wise.

Does it mean she will definitely run? Of course not. Does it mean she wants to be well positioned should she choose to run? Yes. Yes it does.

Between now and 2016 I will say at least a thousand times that Hillary Clinton is far from the most progressive candidate likely to run for the  Democratic nomination for president, but she is the Democrat most likely to win the general election. In this political climate, that's good enough for me.

No, the revolution is not coming.

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Aston Kutcher works hard for the money

My colleague Richard Barry here at The Reaction brought my attention to a little speech that Ashton Kutcher gave last week at the Teen Choice Awards. He told the teens (and all of us, really, because Kutcher is just that kind of a guy), "I've never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. And every job I had was a steppingstone to my next job, and I never quit my job until I had my next job." I'm so inspired that I want to drop an anvil on my foot.

Richard brings up the speech because the conservative media are all a twitter that Kutcher is making a "conservative" statement. As he notes, it is anything but. Hard work is not a partisan issue. But I would go further than that. If anything, hard work is a liberal issue. The conservative movement may talk the talk but it doesn't walk the walk. It is all about depriving opportunity from the poor and giving huge handouts to the rich who are never allowed to fail. See, for example, TARP.

But I see Kutcher's statement in a less positive light. He had advantages that many others do not—and I'm not even talking about his boyish good looks. He was brought up in a middle class household when that meant something. It certainly wasn't a perfect childhood, but I suspect that Kutcher has put the most negative light on it. His brother did have health problems and his parents did finally divorce when he was in his late teens. But it wasn't a dysfunctional household by any means. What's more, he did not suffer economically.

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Syria's moonlight

By Carl

One kind of wonders why both China and Russia are making trouble with the world on Syria:
Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich has called on the international community to show "prudence" over the crisis and observe international law.

"Attempts to bypass the Security Council, once again to create artificial groundless excuses for a military intervention in the region are fraught with new suffering in Syria and catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and North Africa," he said in a statement.

The official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, said Western powers were rushing to conclusions about who may have used chemical weapons in Syria before UN inspectors had completed their investigation.

Now, given our rather spotty track record when it comes to the possession of weapons of mass destruction, we might pay a little heed to the warnings both China and Russia have given. Prudence is clearly warranted and, besides, I really can’t stand being the police department to the world.

On the flip side, there’s no Scott Ritter or Hans Blik flapping their arms, trying to point out that, no, Syria does not have WMDs, and my mind wanders back to the 1990s, when we had a chance to prevent the death of 750,000 Rwandans at the hands of their own countrymen, and did nothing.

Syria as a strategic issue is a conundrum. Yes, they are a threat to Israel, particularly through their Lebanese surrogates, but it’s not like Israel hasn’t had bigger threats that they’ve faced down by themselves, with us standing behind them.

That Assad would use (assuming he has) chemical weapons against his own people means the likelihood of using them against Israel is even greater and while Israel has long expected this kind of attack, she’s never been tested the way she’d be tested by short-range missiles tipped with bioweaponry. By treaty, we’d be forced to retaliate, and by extension, so would NATO.

Sort of makes a case for Russia joining NATO but they seem content with offering some low-level assistance to that organization and nothing else.

One would hope for a better solution to be found in Syria, and that Kerry’s speechifying and Obama’s public pondering are merely a little sabre-rattling. Another war is the last thing this nation needs, and as tired as we all are right now, a major mistake is just a button-push away.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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A.M. Headlines

(Courier Journal): "Sen. Rand Paul's fundraising has picked up the pace"

(BloombergBusinessWeek): "The lucky break that could land Larry Summers at the Fed"

(Washington Post): "After Syria chemical allegations, Obama considering limited military strike"

(Reuters): "Haley announces reelection bid"

(New York Times): "Mayoral rivals in two-way fight for black vote"

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Those wacky conservatives

By Richard K. Barry

Here's a bit of an oddity as we approach the end of summer. It seems that a number of high profile conservatives think they have found a new hero in actor Ashton Kutcher for his recent comments on the virtues of hard work.

Speaking at the Teen Choice Awards Kutcher made statements such as, "I believe that opportunity looks a lot like hard work," and
I've never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. And every job I had was a steppingstone to my next job, and I never quit my job until I had my next job.

From my perspective these seem like entirely reasonable things to believe and say no matter your political persuasion. In fact, Mr. Kutcher is known to be a liberal having supported President Obama and Democrats generally last year.

What is interesting, however, is the assumption on the parts of Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, all of whom praised Kutcher's comments, that his remarks are indicative of a conservative political philosophy.  It's still about makers and takers for these people and if you aren't a card carrying Republican or aren't predisposed to vote for the GOP, you obviously have your hand out and wouldn't know a hard day's work if it bit you in the ass, etc., etc.

Couldn't possibly be a liberal or progressive unless you intend to coast on the hard work of others.

And all those people working three jobs to feed their families really are, or ought to be, Republicans, if only they knew their own best interests.

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Poor planning, sporadic blogging, much-needed resting

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A quick update, given that nothing new has appeared here in quite some time, an unusual thing for us...

Richard and I are both currently on vacation, and that includes a vacation from blogging -- and in my case even from paying much attention to what's going on in the world, including in the world of American politics (which just keeps getting sadder and stupider in many ways). I wrote a few things last week, but otherwise I'm enjoying the disconnection, and I know Richard is as well. Now, of course, we have several other co-bloggers here, but generally they've been taking late-summer breaks as well, and generally posts don't go up if at least one of Richard or me isn't around.

In any event, we'll have some new posts up soon, so stay tuned, and we expect to be back to our usual schedule on or just after Labo(u)r Day weekend. We're looking forward to a busy fall, with some interesting gubernatorial and mayoral races to follow, with attention turning more acutely to the '14 midterms, with Republicans constantly trying to outdo themselves on the crazy scale, and with perhaps a little less media obsession with such trivial matters as, say, the ups and downs of Anthony Weiner's Carlos Danger (but who are we kidding?).

Otherwise, enjoy the rest of the summer. Be safe, and be good to one another.

-- Michael

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