Monday, February 25, 2013







Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Weird Week Ahead

++The Nationals lost their first Spring training game as Stephen Strasburg gave up a homer. This should set the stage for another wacky week in the Beltway.

++John "Sunday" McCain said today that Chuck Hagel wasn't qualified to be Secretary of Defense. Friday saw 15 Republican Senators request Obama withdraw the nomination. The White House said Stick it in your ear. His vote should come up Tuesday and as of today he has enough votes.

++John McCain will be meeting with President Obama tomorrow on immigration reform. I expect that privately they will agree on the basic measures but will do a dance in public before the details get into legislation. 

++The bipartisan group of Senators have all but agreed to increased background checks for gun owners. The Gun Supporters of America (GSA) announced on radio that President Obama has a secret plan to exterminate all whites by gun control measures.

++Bishop Willard and his lovely wife Ann are back in town for the CPAC convention. Young Wallace will be interviewing the couple this afternoon on FOX.

++House Democrats are going to introduce a bill this week end to arm the Syrian opposition ,especially now that "moderates" have gained the upper hand in attacks on Aleppo and Damascus.

++North Korea has promised big destruction if the US carries out its annual military maneuver in South Korea. Can we have a reality show where you vote off a nation from Planet Earth? They are getting tedious.

++Sequestration really, truly, looks like it is going through. The question will be whether it really does have the the devastating effects everyone projects. Oh and by the way it probably will not affect the debt at all.

++Bob Woodward is blaming President Obama and Richard Lew for the sequestration, even though in his prior book he made it clear that Obama only agreed to it when the GOP wanted to pull another stunt with the debt ceiling. 

++Have we had enough of self-created apocalypses? When is the next one? The Budget crisis?

++Wayne La Pierre has revved up the NRA's ads again accusing Obama of being an elitist and caring more about his children than ours. 

++Right now the polls have Paul Ryan as the "most moderate" Republican who has ambitions in 2016. Marco Rubio, fresh from his trip to Israel, and Rand Paul manage to outpoll Ryan on the Right.

++The Pope did or did not resign because of a.) a letter from a European Government charging him with crimes against humanity because of the sexual abuse of children the Church has covered up for decades; or b.) gay priests in the Vatican were being blackmailed by male prostitutes in Rome? Or Both?

++In an unrelated matter, President Obama filed a brief with the Supreme Court urging that DOMA be ruled unconstitutional. The brief was pithy and destroyed the Act but reason doesn't always triumph. Ted Olson's brief on Prop 8 was his usual excellent dismantling of that Act. It would be historic if the Supreme Court actually ruled to uphold gay and lesbian rights.

++Because there is no more racism in this country, the Supreme Court looks like it will over-rule Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. President Obama has been meeting with minority groups this past week,trying to convince them their votes will not be taken away. Want to bet.

++The Supreme Court looks like it will double down on Citizens United by eliminating all campaign restrictions on individuals. Axelrod says this might not be a bad thing in the long run.

++A Republican in Montana has introduced a bill allowing corporations to actually vote in local elections if they have a presence in that jurisdiction. Does that mean companies can vote in more than one local election if they have different branches across the state?

++Since the Supreme Court rulings will go against most Americans, I predict DOMA will be overturned--since two Reagan-appointed judges already have--and Ted Olson will win on Prop 8 but in a narrow decision based on California only and not for the nation as a whole.

Oscar Night

++If you want all the skinny on the Oscars,read the L.A. Times.

++Since I always get the Oscars wrong, here are my picks:

Best Picture: Lincoln

Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence "Silver Linings"

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis "Lincoln"

Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway" Le Mis", but my personal choice is Helen Hunt "The Sessions"

Best Supporting Actor: Robert DeNiro "Silver Linings",probable winner Tommy Lee Jones "Lincoln"

Best Director: My choice Michael Haneke for "Amour",probable pick Steven Spielberg for Lincoln

Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino "Django Unchained"

Adapted Screenplay: Tony Kushner "Lincoln"

Foreign Language Film: Austria "Amour"

Original Song: Adele "Skyfall"

If it turns out that it is not a big Lincoln night, then look for a lot of scatter shot choices. "Silver Linings " has come on as the sleeper because of excellent performances and the present zeitgeist is bipolar.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sandy Koufax is Back in the Park

++After a decade exile from the Dodgers, Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax is back at spring training as a pitching coach. The LA Times printed a spread of Dodgers at spring training showing the still fit 70-year old engulfed by autograph seeking fans.

++Only moments ago, Yankee great Mariano Rivera threw 25 pitches at batting practice and promised himself satisfied after his knee injury that cost him most of last year.

++This is all to say we have something to look forward to with spring training. Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant promises that the Lakers will make the playoffs and he doesn't fear any of the other teams going in. But making the playoffs comes first.

++Since I was a teenager, I bought every J. Ballard book that came out as it hit the bookstands or the Doubleday Science Fiction book club. Sadly,I have bought my last with "Miracles of Life: Shanghai to Shepperton,An Autobiography."(Liveright,2013). If you want to know the real details of "Empire of the Sun", the first part of the book describes Ballard's youth growing up in Shanghai before and after the Japanese occupation. Later, Ballard, a middle-aged suburbanite, outrages the literary world with the Atrocity Exhibition and his novel Crash that was made into a film. Ballard describes how he created an art exhibit of auto wrecks and filmed responses to it as inspirations for these two books. Fittingly, Ballard describes his time in medical school and his desire to become a psychiatrist,a profession which had not gained legitimacy in England at the time. In 2006, he found that he suffered from advanced prostate cancer, which had moved to his spine. With his doctor's help, he summoned up the energy to write this last book. We are glad he did and reading it I miss his vision even more.

++Forbes' most miserable city is Detroit, the Motor City. Former New York Times reporter and Detroit News reporter Charlie LeDuff chronicles his move from Los Angeles back to his hometown of Detroit. LeDuff's "Detroit:An American Autopsy" (Penguin,2013) reads like it is written by a Midwestern Jimmy Breslin. The street and the people are in every word. A great read about a city that has been abandoned.

++It is Sequestration time next week and Rush says that he is ashamed of his country for the first time.He laments that everyone believes the Democrats about how horrible it will be even though the cuts are  a miniscule part of our budget. Paul Krugman has been writing up a storm of how this is all insane and unnecessary. Rachel Maddow raised the real question why ,if Congress hates it, don't they just repeal it . Even Ezra Klein couldn't give her a straight answer about this because it was too logical a question.

++The reason my posts have gotten so sporadic is because I refuse to be held hostage to manufacturer crises, which this is one among a series. The problem is that in all likelihood it will trigger a new recession. Howard Dean looks at this more optimistically saying that the recession would be short and it will be the first time and probably the only time one can get cuts in defense spending. But President Obama who again had to dive into the breech proposed another smaller deal with about a week left. 

++The re-branding of the Republican Party doesn't seem to be working. John Boehner tried to tie Obama to sequestration even though Talkingpointsmemo nailed his Power Point presentation arguing for it in 2011. Polls show that over 50% of Americans hold the GOP responsible. 

++Whether it is Pew or Bloomberg, President Obama's approval rating is between 51-55%, the highest in three years. Pew showed that Americans favor Obama's approach to key issues all across the board. Only 22% of Americans now identify with the Republican Party and the approval of Congress is about 18%. Another poll of several thousand Americans showed that calling someone a Republican is now considered an insult.

++I remember that we had an election in November. You would never know it in Washington. The slight moves we have are in the area of immigration reform with Marco Rubio and pro-reform Republicans pretending to throw a snit fit over the Obama plan leaked to USATODAY. The Miami Herald pulled Rubio down a peg by showing how his plan matched President Obama's in every key point. While it looks like the Senate will pass a comprehensive reform package, it is not all that clear the House can or will. House Republicans are emphatically saying that there can be no road to citizenship, a key element needed to solve the problem. Down the street the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO came to an agreement over mechanisms for migrant workers and visas for technology workers.

++The gun debate continues with Joe Biden urging people to buy double-barreled shotguns and not automatic weapons. Joltin' Joe has taken the wind out of the sails of the NRA by neutralizing the idea that Obama is coming after peoples' guns. Wayne La Pierre has gone bonkers urging Americans to buy guns to prevent debt riots and hurricanes. Louie Golmert of Texas says that the 2nd Amendment prevents the imposition of Sharia Law.

++The new and kinder GOP has been closing down Planned Parenthood clinics around the country and introducing more restrictive anti-abortion legislation at the State level.

++The good news is that Mississippi finally ratified the 13th Amendment of the Constitution abolishing slavery.

++The Not so Good News is that the Supreme Court is poised to gut the Voting Rights Act,which would have a devastating result on minority voting rights.

++I am taking a wait and see on the cases on DOMA and Prop.8. President Obama is thinking of weighing in on the cases and an ad campaign has started with Colin Powell and Dick Cheney urging same sex marriage. 

++The latest right-wing conspiracy theory is that President Obama through executive action will get the  Psychiatric profession to rule Christianity is a mental disorder.

++Senator Hagel looks like he will limp to the finish line. Yesterday he picked up support from Senator Shelby. It seems the right's campaign to say Senator Hagel was a member of the group "Friends of Hamas" didn't pan out since it became clear that no such group exists.

++The Log Cabin Republicans, who endorsed homophobic Mitt Romney, can't get love because they were excluded from the CPAC convention.

++Meanwhile, the "Good" Mormon Jon Huntsman came out for same sex marriage yesterday.

++And I'll leave this post with the return of Nate the Great Silver to political punditry. Nate has the Democrats retaining the Senate in 2014 and gaining a few seats in the House but coming short of a takeover because of gerrymandering.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


The Senate Republicans in the first time in living memory filibustered a cabinet appointee. By a vote of 59 to 39 with Orrin Hatch voting present, Senator Hagel's nomination was held up another ten days. President Obama in a Google forum talked about how rare filibusters had been in the United States and how the Republican strategy has affected the nominations of judges as well as cabinet nominees. The problem President Obama said was that it was getting difficult to get people to agree to serve in government. The Hagel filibuster was unique because no nominee for Defense Secretary had ever faced such a situation, particularly when the country is at war and the Defense Department faces the cuts of sequestration.

Happy Valentine's Day

++Without dwelling on it, President Obama basically hit it out of the park with his State of the Union address. "They deserve a vote" lit up the House and provided the emotion high point of the speech. It was strange to see the Tan Man not give the 101-year old black woman who waited for hours to vote a standing ovation. The substantive ovation was the bipartisan standing ovation on comprehensive immigration reform. Of the initiatives by the President ,expect action of that, some movement on gun regulation, and not a lot on reforming the electoral system. 

++The pivot to the economy was the biggest surprise for me. President Obama started the speech with his form of geekiness by talking up alternative energy sources, new manufacturing centers and his fixing the infrastructure. Some of this we have seen before. His pitch for strengthening the now debilitated middle class was his form of the Fair Deal. The pseudo-progressive rhetoric pleased the Democrats in the Chamber but alienated the GOP. The speech was framed before and after by pundits on the whole debt question, which Obama artfully handled but not to the austerity hawks pleasure.

++It was sort of a hoot to see him refer to John McCain on climate change and Mitt Romney about raising the federal minimum wage, one idea which got blasted by Republicans afterward. Whether President Obama can do anything about climate change is an open question. He promises Executive actions to curb carbon emissions and noted progress in this area because of fuel economy in cars.

++The most subdued piece of the speech was foreign affairs. It should be noted this is the first State of the Union address in over 10 years that omitted the word "Iraq". The President promised bringing troops home from Afghanistan and leaving a residual force to train the Afghan army and provide anti-terrorist actions. He also had one line about Israel and mentioned his commitment to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. But the main thrust of foreign policy, while understated, was his pivot to the Pacific and his commitment to negotiate an Asian FreeMarket deal and cope with North Korea, which has now exploded a smaller nuclear device. The nod to Western Europe was the promise to begin negotiating a free market deal with the European Union.

++In all, President Obama unapologetically laid out an aggressive second-term agenda. Like his first term, with the exception of health care reform, the positive accomplishments will be in the small, incremental changes he makes. Much of the first part of the speech escaped his audience and sounded mundane. But parsing it out, these little things add up and are complimentary. Overall, I thought he did much better than I had expected. The State of the Union usually gets dull and drones on.

++Marco Rubio did not equip himself well. His great YouTube moment of gulping Poland Springs water lit up Twitterland. In fact, that was perhaps his high point. Otherwise,he was Romney lite and answered a State of the Union President Obama never gave. Rubio failed to convey a single idea for governing, which is precisely the GOP's problem. His boast of living in a working class neighborhood in West Miami was debunked yesterday when it was revealed he was selling his home for $675,000. The Miami papers poured it on about how he wracked up $1 million in debt and got rich through his political friends. It was not an auspicious opening for his 2016 campaign. He only had a slightly better presentation than Bobby Jindal who brought on hoots of derision for his answer to the State of the Union. The one big clunker was when Rubio advocated a 4% growth rate of the economy as the cure for our problems. Problem--it happened only rarely in post-WWII America.

++Rand Paul gave one of the more honest, stripped down answers for the Tea Party. He channeled his inner Ayn Rand when he urged that sequestration did not go far enough and that we should cut $4 trillion from the government. His bright spot was his endorsement of comprehensive immigration reform. Otherwise, you saw the raw libertarian wing of the GOP.

++Today on Valentine's Day, not to be outdone is Wayne La Pierre to deliver the State of the Union response for the NRA, which gets more bizarre everyday. Today, he published an op-ed urging Americans to buy more guns because of hurricanes,drug gangs, criminals, terrorists and all sorts of natural disasters. The man is losing it.

++Naturally, as we know from the history of this Administration, over 60% back the President's various proposals, focus groups,even Frank Luntz' on Fox News,viewed the President's speech favorably. The viewers did believe him that the economy was improving. But we all know that means little given the obstructionism of the Congress.

++The President took the economic part of his message down to North Carolina yesterday and will eventually take his gun part to Chicago. He plans to stay on the road selling his plan. Unfortunately,this failed during the first administration with his Jobs Plan, which would have eased anxiety in the country.

++But the last two days have brought us down to earth. The GOP has filibustered Chuck Hagel, the first presidential nominee for the cabinet ever filibustered. Jack Lew, who has real problems with his Cayman Islands investments, is being grilled on Benghazi, the Republican fixation. Lindsey Graham and others are trying to out a hold on Jack Brennen's nomination to the CIA over Benghazi, the Drone policy and other things--but not the torture policy under Bush.

++Both Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have said the sequestration will go ahead. The House GOP are trying to wiggle out of the defense cuts through loopholes and other maneuvers. The COB has projected that this might trigger a recession. To whose benefit, it is not clear. In the 2014 elections, early betting has the Democrats keeping the Senate and the Republicans keeping the house but losing a few more seats. Is the whole exercise to bring back the GOP policies of the past? Will the country have forgotten by 2016? That looks like the bet right now.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Hagel Out Of Committee

++Senator Hagel was voted out of committee by a vote of 14 to 11. It is still a rough road ahead.

Before the State of the Union

++The Senate voted again today to pass the Violence Against Women Act with 22 Republican male Senators voting "no". John Cornyn of Texas said the act didn't afford rapists due process before Indian courts.

++In about a minute, the Senate committee is supposed to vote out the Hagel nomination. Senator Imhofe said earlier that that Hagel will be held to the 60 vote standard in the full Senate vote.

++Senator McConnell said he wasn't interested in dealing with Joe Biden to avoid sequestration. The Defense Department faces a $85 billion cut and domestic programs will be gutted.

++President Obama is supposed to announce the withdrawal of 34,000 troops from Afghanistan this year. He is also supposed to talk more about the economy, a subject he avoided in his inauguration speech. The country needs Lift and he should provide it unless he gets bogged down in details.

++Ted Nugent, who said he would either be dead or in jail if Obama won a second term,will be attending the State of the Union address at the invitation of the Republicans.

++Marco Rubio this week was hailed as the Savior of the Republican Party ,which has a big gender gap problem. Today, Rubio voted against the Violence Against Women Act. That should help.

++The North Koreans have tested another nuclear device, which now goes along with its missiles. Maybe we will have to pay them attention.

++Pakistan, which already has nuclear capability, has tested missiles for launching nuclear weapons.

++President Obama is supposed to announce further cuts in our nuclear arsenal.

++Bibi Netanyahu is positively giddy that President Obama is going to visit Israel in March. The agenda includes Iran, Syria, and the negotiations with the Palestinians.

++The Syrian opposition has now seized major airfoils, a dam and now threatens the capital.

++The Treasury has announced that the U.S. actually had a surplus last month because of the increase in social security taxes.

++Thom Hartmann had an excellent show on how the austerity programs in Europe are encouraging the rise of fascist parties again.

++Paul Krugman continues his lonely campaign against austerity in the United States. The Beltway continues its discussion of the deficit, even though this year will be the first time since 2008 that the deficit dipped below $1 trillion. 

++Out of sight, several GOP governors are signing on to the Medicaid elements of Obamacare, even though they opposed it. It happens to be a good deal for states.

++Sam Tannehaus had a long article in the New Republic on how the GOP will remain the white party and how it has embraced the politics of John Calhoun and his vision of nullification.

++On the day Galileo was born, Pope Benedict abdicated his position and will step down from the papacy at the end of the month. Being the first pope to abdicate for 800 years, his gesture is a one man reformation. 

++The drone wars are the new cause celeb in the Beltway. I write more on it as we go along.

++The Gun legislation is still mired by hype and lobbying by the NRA.

++The month long discussion of the GOP re-branding itself so far has yielded very little. If anything, the House GOP is more Tea Party than not. Karl Rove's new effort to stomp out the Tea Party is being met with ferocious reaction and establishment Republicans are getting gun shy.

++Today, as the GOP thought to bring up Benghazi again. The latest rumor is that Obama was selling arms from Libya to Syria and didn't tell the ambassador. This was laughed out by Hillary Clinton. But there is no stopping people who believe this is bigger than Watergate.

++Lindsey Graham has threatened to hold up Hagel and Brennen until he gets answers from Obama about Benghazi. Not to be outdone, Dick Cheney said that all of Obama's national security team were "second-raters". 

++President Obama has less than two years to accomplish anything else in his Presidency. Go for immigration reform.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Day Before The Superbowl

Today's trivia quiz: What do these people have in common?

Moon Unit Zappa

Dick Van Dyke

Danny DeVito

Tony Bennett

Art Garfunkel (and not Paul Simon)

Chaka Khan

Jack Nicholson


The Unitarian Universalist Church

**Maybe the second question in why. All those named are on the NRA's "enemies" list. Does this mean Paul Simon carries an AR-15? Dick Van Dyke as America's leading subversive? Even Richard Nixon could not come up with that one. How about Mary Tyler Moore?

**Correction: Beyonce admitted she did lip-sync the National Anthem at President Obama's inauguration. She sang it at the Superbowl rehearsal just to show everyone she could.

**Punxsutawney Phil came out of his hole at Gobbler's Knob, Pennsylvania, today to tell us Spring will come early. How does climate change affect a Groundhog? How can we rely on him anymore?

**Geraldo Rivera wants to run for Senate in New Jersey as a Republican because he likes the GOP of Jacob Javits.  Interesting idea.

**Right-wing talking heads question whether President Obama has ever shot a gun. President Obama said that he skeet shoots at Camp David. John Stewart mocked the idea, challenging the President to show a photo of a black man shooting. Today, skeet-gate was put to rest as the White House released a photo of President Obama shooting a rifle.

++By the count of his fans, Chuck Hagel muffed his hearing--all 8 hours of it. Supporters wanted him to be crisp and authoritative and humorous. The White House still expects he will be confirmed and the GOP will not filibuster his appointment. So far he has not lost a Democratic vote but he has managed only one GOP supporter--Thad Cochran of Mississippi. Frankly,I did find his testimony weak.

++Steve Erickson, the novelist and sic-fi writer, has a long article on John McCain's bitter farewell, where he reams John out for his increased crankiness.

++Filibuster Reform sure has turned out great. The GOP threatens to filibuster Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Protection Agency,which he now heads. Actually the CPA has done some good stuff--check out their website.

++Steven Chu has resigned as Secretary of Energy. One of my favorite cabinet members. He leaves with a blast a climate change deniers, a record of doubling renewal energy,and designing the cap for the BP oil spill. He wrote movingly of the human cost of weather disasters and concluded with an Indian saying that we are only borrowing the earth from our future generations. 

++Paul Krugman continues to wack away at the deficit hawks in the Beltway. America teeters on the edge of a recession again--but one created by Congress. With job creation numbers adequate,the Dow back at 2007 highs, manufacturing on the increase and housing back,all this might go whoosh with ham-fisted sequestration. Virginia government contractors are now circling their wagons as the state will face hundreds of thousands of job losses. 

++Meanwhile Jerry Brown's California has been responsible for the lion's share of jobs created and companies relocated from other states. It flies in the face of GOP governors pandering to business interests and right-to-work laws. Walker's Wisconsin continues to lose jobs, despite his claims. He even ordered a new way to calculate unemployment so he would look better. 

++The GOP is facing pushback from their base on immigration reform. Marco Rubio, once the darling of the Tea Party, is now seen as naive about immigration. Lindsey Graham seems to be getting skittish because he fears a primary challenge. Meanwhile, President Obama has set a dubious record as being the President who deported the most undocumented immigrants.