Thursday, February 27, 2014

Change We Can Believe In

++Jan Brewer's veto of the anti-gay law in Arizona has led Ohio to shelve their own "religious liberty" bill,Mississippi to strip out its anti-gay language, and other states to put the bills on hold. Basically, I would say that these states have stalled their anti-gay laws so as not to screw up the 2014 elections for Republicans. 

++Andrew Sullivan, writing as a Christian gay, at The Dish has a conciliatory message "The Morning After" and warns gays that they must be understanding of an older generation who can not absorb this amount of change so quickly. This is his Churchillian graciousness in victory mode. 

++The losers were not so gracious. Pat Buchanan tested "How Freedom Dies". Bryon York said that the Brewer Veto shows that poorly informed hysteria works.

++One Facebook entry says," The Obama Nazi Party has told all 50 states to ignore any laws on their books discriminating against homosexuals."

++Judson Phillips, President of TeaParty Nation, said this was "Tyranny on the march making businesses "slaves to the great liberal state"aided by "French Republicans " like Brewer. He warned that Christians would be forced to bake Penis Cakes for gay weddings.

++It should be pointed out that all Republicans in the Senate and the Assembly voted for the bill because it "would bring the caucus together". Jennifer Rubin, writing in the Amazon Post, said Jan Brewer saved the Republican Party but that still doesn't excuse the wave of anti-gay legislation, which is only being sought by state Republicans, no one else.

++The Public Religion Research Institute released its findings on attitudes toward same sex marriage among religiously affiliated. 

**73% of religiously unaffiliated are for same sex marriage.
**83% of Jewish-Americans are for
**62% of mainline Protestants are for
**58% of white Catholics are for
**56% of Hispanic Catholics are for

**69% of millenials are for
**53% of all Americans are for. You can see the differential is caused by fundamentalists.

++Remember the Pew Poll I mentioned the other day.20% of Americans now say they are unaffiliated. 18% say they are evangelicals,which is not exclusively fundamentalists.

++Anti-gay ballot initiatives were used by Republicans in 2000 and 2004 as wedge issues. It will be interesting to see whether Republicans still believe they will be. The disturbing part of these laws for the right to discriminate is that they represent a fusion of libertarians and fundamentalism--a combination no one thought logical or possible.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Gov. Brewer Vetoes Arizona Bill

++After holding secret meetings and receiving complaints from the Chamber of Commerce and being threatening with losing the Super Bowl, Jan Brewer vetoed the anti-gay bill because it was "too broadly worded" , did not deal with any problem relating to religious freedom, and would have unintended consequences.

++Still, the rash of anti-gay bills under the rubric of religious liberty continues with efforts in Missouri,Oklahoma,Hawaii,Mississippi,Ohio, Nevada,Utah,Oregon,and Tennessee. 

++In 2000 and then in 2004, Republicans also had a rash of anti-same sex marriage initiatives to mobilize their base. The question is whether the same holds this year or are the Republicans too divided on the issue of gay rights?

Today In The Strange

++ Odd Fact--The GOP has only won presidential elections since 1928 if Richard Nixon or a Bush was on the ticket.

++A NYTimes poll shows that a plurality of Republicans do not want Chris Christie to run for President. 41% no--31% yes. Jeb Bush and Rand Paul are tied at 40% yes. Among Democrats 80% want Hillary Clinton to run.

++Maine's Le Page, Pennsylvania's Corbett and Florida's Scott are the most endangered governors this year.

++Chris Matthews says that Democrats might lose up to 10 seats in the Senate this year. 

++The Issa investigations into the IRS have cost $14 million.

++Rush Limbaugh says that liberals who protest against the Arizona Law are only interested in protecting the rights of Muslims or those who practice Muslimism.

++Louie Gohlmert, the leader of American conservatism, says that the Arizona law is needed in the fight against the "religion of secularism".

++Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has an idea to cut health care costs. He suggests passing a law to allow Emergency Rooms from turning away the ill.

++The House GOP proposes to tweek Obamacare. The CBO says it will throw 1 million off employer plans and add 500,000 to the uninsured and cost the USG $85 billion.

++The House GOP tax reform bill is dead before arrival as Mitch McConnell says the GOP doesn't have time this year for tax reform. He is banking on the GOP taking over the Senate.

++Ohio has restricted early voting ,particularly in areas of the state where African Americans turn out.

++In answering my own question of yesterday about how corporations could be religious. The Arizona Law, in fact, declares that corporations, endowments,and other entities can discriminate because of religious beliefs. So I guess like Hobby Land just declare you are religious.

++Attorney-General Eric Holder told State Attorney-Generals they needn't bother defending bans on same sex marriage. Today, we know why. A Federal judge just overturned Texas' ban on same sex marriage.

++From the sublime to the ridiculous,Bill Kristol says the problems in Syria and the Ukraine are because the United States is in retreat. Andrew Sullivan at The Dish has a response to this. I would just add to Andrew's fine response that when you have 57% of your discretionary budget allocated to defense and you have 800 overseas bases-compared to Russia's 1, and involved in over 100 "hot" conflict areas,this can not be seen as a retreat.

++I guess the GOP wants to get on the scoreboard with the Iran sanctions bill sponsored by AIPAC. Even AIPAC backed away,saying now is not the time. Some of us remember how the GOP has a mischievous history of sabotaging negotiations--Nixon sabotaged LBJ's Vietnam Peace Plan and Reagan undercut Carter's negotiations with Iran over the hostages. So why stop now?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

More White People Rioting

++CPAC revoked permission for American Atheists to have a booth at their convention.

++Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Texas,Chriss Mapp said that "wetbacks" should be shot on sight.

++Bryan Fisher and pastor Scott Lively hailed Putin and said he would beat the United States. They credited Putin with going back to the traditions of Tsarist Russia where Christian values were part of everyday life.

++South Dakota has introduced another anti-abortion law which would prohibit abortion by sex selection. The reason is that Asians do this.

++Jack Burkman, a GOP lobbyist,is floating a bill to ban gay players in the NFL.

++Georgia is going for a total abortion ban with the heartbeat bill.

++The Koch Brothers are using Republican activists and low-level officials in their anti-Obamacare ads.

++Dick Cheney on Hannity slams President Obama for wanting to fund foodstamps while cutting the defense budget. Of course,it is Secretary Hegel who forwarded the new military budget, which happens to be larger than the Paul Ryan defense budget that was just passed.

++Counterintuitively the Southern Poverty Law Center says Hate groups have gone down since President Obama's re-election. 

++Today Virginia pubic safety workers are in classes being taught by a former FBI agent who believes John Brennen covered to Islam in Saudi Arabia and that the Obama Administration is infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood.

++A Virginia state delegate in pushing another anti-abortion law called women "hosts" for the embryo. I wondered why he didn't say Hostess. But then that might make the woman sound human.

++Republican Georgian said that if the United States doesn't back Israel in anything it wants, God will curse us.

++Girl Scouts ,after discovering that selling cookies in front of pot stores in Colorado was a great marketing idea, were banned from doing so.

++"Honorary" White man Bobby Jindal graciously left the White House dinner for the governors to say that President Obama waved "the white flag" on the economy and that only by delaying Obamacare mandates and drilling for oil can we make any economic recovery. This said by a man whose state is one of the poorest,has near the lowest job creation and worse healthcare systems in the country.

++Judge Napolitano on Fox News bemoaned Lincoln's Birthday. He said the civil war could have been avoided because slavery was naturally dying out. Although South Carolina,Georgia and Mississippi seceded on the grounds that slavery was important to the world.

++Even Ted Nugent is thinking about this whiteness stuff. He declared that he was a "black guitarist from Detroit" which gives him the street cred to say whatever he wants against President Obama.

++The FBI arrested several members of the Georgia militia who were plotting to attack the AFT,government infrastructure, and assassinate government officials to provoke an uprising.

++Christian radio stations warned today that the government is likely to shut them down for their anti-gay message.

++In the last week I have received multiple e-mails from conservatives warning me about Obama's socialist agenda and the inevitable rise of the Left. It seems it can't come too soon as the Dow is up 21/2 times where it was under W.

++But I do call on all followers of Enver Hoxha in the Obama Administration to resign. 

Who's George Takei to tell Arizona What to Do?

++Pat Robertson said it was un-American not to have the Arizona law go into effect. Other Christian radio broadcasters are saying that if Jan Brewer vetoes, then Christian will become second-class citizens. So I guess it's better to legalize the LBGT community as second-class citizens. 

++Pat Buchanan has an even better idea. Eliminate all civil rights laws and get rid of all bureaucrats who have to enforce them.

++Since Ted Nugent says the Obama Administration acts like Nazis, Phyllis Schafly has another solution Americans should revolt like the Ukrainians.

++These people bring shame on white people.

I Was Wondering

++As we wait to see whether Jan Brewer will veto another Arizona atrocity enshrining discrimination in law, I have been wondering and a poster Jank 212 at the Daily Kos had the same question.

++How do you enforce anti-gay laws based on "sincere religious belief"?  Now Georgia is going to pass a law so gays can't eat in diners. Sounds awfully familiar,hey? (P.S. I really would like a good diner around me.)

++This is a similar to a question I have about how Hobbyland, a corporation can be a religious institution.

++Let's start with "sincere religious belief". How can we tell? Because you have been baptized, confirmed, take communion, or Tithe? Does a different religion count? Can Jews invoking Leviticus refuse to serve gays? Or even gentiles? Dan Savage pointed out that the way the Arizona law is written a Satanist could discriminate against Christians. Do you have to prove that you are a member of an organized religion or can you say you are a Pastafarian? Does the expert witness have to come from a theology school that has the same prejudice you have? Does your pastor testify that you come to church every Sunday and never miss?

++The Law like Kansas and Georgia have terrible precedents in American history. The Southern Baptists fought the civil war on the grounds that the Bible approved of slavery. Under the present Arizona law a Mormon could discriminate against blacks because they are the people of Ham.

++Then we come to the issue of how does the "religious one" know the people he is discriminating against "gay". Do they have a divine Gaydar? Must a gay person or couple explicitly say they are? 

++Andrew Sullivan wanted to be tolerant of this homophobia considering that it dealt with those who might cater or bake for same sex weddings and that let them be because the market will take care of itself.  To be fair,Andrew did object to codifying this in law because it would be unconstitutional. 

++But these measures speak at a deeper illness. The Concerned Women of America said that the Enlightenment caused the Holocaust and we were better off before the Enlightenment like in the Middle Ages. Let's forget that the United States wouldn't exist except for the Age of Reason. This strange line of thinking is found in Tom Delay's recent statement that the Constitution came from God. And Vishnu Jindal,a 2016 presidential aspirant,declared this past week that there is a war on Christianity in this country.

++If you laugh at this, this only proves their point they claim. Is there any difference between these anti-gay laws and the Westboro Baptist Church?

++The Young Turks on a totally separate subject,reviewed recent polls on religious beliefs in this country. From the days when only 5% were religious unaffiliated, we have gone to 20%. 24% of men and 16% of women were unaffiliated. 40% of liberals and only 9% of conservatives. A whopping one-third of those under 30% have no religion. This news has evangelical denominations freaking out. The main critique of religions in this poll was that they want money and power and are too involved in politics. 

++And you wonder why the young aren't religious. 

++But if Arizona's bill is signed,No Super Bowl for you.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Amazing fact

**As a note,Stoogeland kept numbers of gun deaths in the United States since Newtown and found they exceeded American deaths in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Some blogger at Daily Kos came up with this goody. Mark Shields on Judy Woodruff's PBS show in 2012 claimed that Americans who died from guns,whether suicide, homicide or gun accidents,outnumbered Americans who were killed in all the wars in our history combined. 

Politifact decided to fact check the claim and found it true. In American wars by 2012, some 1,171,177 were killed. In the United States,1,384,171 had been killed. Shields was right. 

Let me repeat this--We are talking about domestic gun deaths since 1968 versus all the wars in our entire history. Houston, we have a big problem. This year marks the first time more teenagers will die from guns than automobile accidents.

It's Rignarok--The World Ends Today

++The Norse apocalypse is an epic battle among the Gods--Thor,Loki,Odin,Freyr,and Hermoor. Odin gets killed and creation ends. The good news is that life will begin again with two humans.

++Since this blog started, the end of the world has come two times--maybe three is the charm. 

++General Boynkin says the apocalypse will come with Jesus returning carrying an AR-15. Jesus is the one behind the Second Amendment.

++It's not only General Boynkin who thinks this. Tom Delay says we have all lost our way because we forgot God created the constitution and as a consequence the Bill of Rights.

++It's not been a good day for Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, the head of the Sinaloa drug king. He was arrested yesterday.

++President Yanukovich vamoosed after signing an agreement with the opposition in the Ukraine. No one knows where he is.

++President Madura hopes to hang on in Venezuela by challenging President Obama to a debate. But the base of the Chavez Revolution,the urban poor has now joined with the students in demanding the government quit.

++Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil, thinks the end is near. He is suing against fracking because a water tower would spoil his view.

++Boardwalk Empire continues in New Jersey. Chris Christie has been using the governor's residence as the venue to entertain the big money people of the GOP. Naturally state funds were used to refurbish the old home.

++PTA Chairman Samson has been retroactively recusing himself from decisions that benefited his legal clients. The Newark Star-Ledger have called for him to resign.

++Governor Walker of Wisconsin has been caught out with the release of over 20,000 e-mails in the John Doe 1 investigation. It seems the Milwaukee Counter employees were working on his campaign while on the public payroll. Despite aides going to jail, the DA said he didn't have enough to bring charges against Walker. The mantra for GOP 2016 presidential candidates will be "If the glove don't fit, you must acquit." 

++President Obama urged Democrats to run hard in state races in 2014. Democrats are aiming at the governor races in Florida,Ohio,Maine,Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to set the table for 2016. 

++Hillary Clinton has sunk to a 59% approval rating. Rinse Penis at the RNC claims that all the Clinton era so-called scandals will be fair game. Car Thief Darryl Issa weighed in this week by saying that Hillary Clinton gave an order to Leon Panetta for troops to stand down from rescuing the ambassador and the Special Forces from Benghazi. Of course,none of this is true. John McCain said this week that if the election were held today Hillary would win.

++Steven King said it really was "literally true" that the Dream Kids were drug mules with calves the shape of cantaloupes.

++Anti-gay legislation has broken out around the nation. Arizona passed a bill that would allow people to discriminate against gays in any walk of life. This was passed under the rubric of Religious Freedom. 

++Ted Nugent and Texas GOP candidate Abbott got into problems with calling" Obama a mongrel". Yesterday's Ted's wife tweeted how wonderful it was to meet 4 adult children from Ted's former affairs. No one asked whether there were any mixed races among the brood.

++President Obama is awarding two dozen Medals of Honor to people who were discriminated against--Jews,Blacks, Hispanics. The Medals of Honor cover actions in WWII,the Korean War, Vietnam, and Iraq. One of the awardees is Lenny Kravitz' grandfather,who fought in WWII.

++Pat Buchanan urges the GOP to model their immigration policies after the far-right parties in Europe. He even provides the service of listing each of the parties to inspire the House.

++With that,I am reading a superb book,The Pope and Mussolini,the Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe, by David Kertzer (Random House ,2014). It should be a cautionary tale of the threat posed by a Christianist, Corporate alliance here in the States. Needless to say, Pope Pius XI was against liberal democracy and formed a strategic alliance with Mussolini at the expense of Catholic parties. It is also useful as a history of the anti-semiticism of the Catholic Church and its real world consequences.

++Baseball great Sandy Koufax was hit by a fastball in batting practice at the Dodgers spring training. Rumors are he is OK but we still have to wait whether he can pitch again.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

It's Spring Training!!!

++That's one of the only good things in the news. My lapse at posting is due to the Tsunami of awful things both domestically and internationally. Sometimes for my mental health, it's best to stop and read good books.

++Rassmussen has Obama at 50% approval and Democrats with a 4 percent lead in the generic poll.

++California has surpassed their 2014 Obamacare enrollments. In fact,most blue states have. 

++If your Jewish friends say they're always waiting for the Kossacks to arrive, now you know what they mean as Kossacks literally whipped Pussy Riot members at the Olympics.

++The only downside of Spring Training for me is that now I have to read the Washington Post baseball writers.

++Bummer news in future posts.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Discharge Petitions

++House Democrats at their winter retreat happened on a device to bring the minimum wage and immigration reform to the floor. They want to use a discharge petition, where 218 votes are needed to bring a bill to the floor. John Boehner's spokesman claims that the "scheme" will not work. 

++George Will in a rare moment of sobriety writes today in the Amazon Post about why immigration reform is vital to the future of both the country and his party. Last week Charles Schumer tried a compromise where the House could vote on immigration and wait for the bill to take in effect after President Obama leaves office. In a raw vote count,the bill would pass the House now with full Democratic support, which is what happened with the debt ceiling.

++George Will made the excellent point that immigration from Mexico is now zero and that 9-11 unleashed the funds to secure the border and allow President Obama to deport an obscene about of people--2 million and counting.

++The NYTimes weighs in on ACA, saying 80% of enrollees have paid for it--the rightwing spin is that few are paying for it. ACA has surpassed its target for January, the first time that happened. The Right truly believe like in 2010 Obamacare is the ticket to ride to victory. 

++It was South Dakota who wants to jail doctors for life. North Dakota allowed doctors to use hospitals.

++Kansas is passing a Gay segregation bill, which would allow anyone with "genuine religious conditions" to discriminate against gays in employment,providing services or even benefits. They should just add in African-Americans to make the law clear as to its origins.

++Missouri is backing a bill against teaching evolution. Next they will make it illegal to teach any history after the 19th Century.

++Acela Joe Biden happened to speak the truth today at the Democratic conference that the GOP doesn't exist and that by wide margins the American people back the Democratic Party on the issues from raising the minimum wage to gun checks. He urged the Democrats to remain united for 2014.

Judge Rejects Virginia's Anti-Gay Marriage Ban

**Judge Arenda Wright,an Obama appointee,rejected the arguments for Virginia's anti-gay marriage ban saying that the bias of an older generation should not apply to a newer one. She cited the Loving case on mixed racial marriage and wrote a lengthy rebuttal about all the religious objections to same sex marriage. As in other cases, she ruled pending an appeal. In this case, Virginia's Attorney General Herring will not appeal.

++So let's just wage war on women and their doctors. In North Dakota,they are contemplating a law against abortion providers, which will result in life in prison. That's a rather neat trick--go to prison for something that is legal. I suppose that's where we are heading.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snow Storm--Original

++DC is closed down today because of the first wave of snow, which will be followed later today with another batch.

++But for all those waiting to know how the Donald is doing against Cuomo, the first poll is in. Andrew Cuomo leads the Donald 62 to 28.

++President Obama did sign an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal employees and federal contractors to $10.10. 

++Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball claims there will be now wave election in the House this year and the gains for either party will be minimal. The GOP has resolved not to offend anymore people with lunatic actions and are trying to hide their nuttiest members.

++The Koch Brothers are pouring in millions to win back the Senate for the GOP. They have been running millions of negative ads against Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Kay Hagen in North Carolina and David Pryor in Arkansas. The ads have had an effect. Mary Landrieu started the year with a large lead over her GOP opponent but it had dwindled down to 


++Since I have already lost a post today because of Wi-Fi issues,of all the items I wrote about,these are bullets:

**Andrew Cuomo tops Donald Trump in the Quinnapiac poll 62-28.
**Rand Paul muffs class action suit against the NSA by stealing Bruce Fein's brief and getting the Cooch on board.
**President Obama signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal workers to $10.10.
**The German Foreign Ministry claims Karzai will sign the security pact with the United States after all.
**Same sex marriage decisions around the states explode--almost all in favor.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Senate Passes Clean Debt Ceiling

++We don't have to worry about more hijinks on the debt ceiling until March 15th of 2015. The Senate voted for cloture by 67 to 31 and for the bill 55 to 41.

++The great Sid Caesar is dead at the age of 91. One of the great comic geniuses in the Golden Age on television,Caesar went into obscurity due to his alcoholism and drug use, eventually writing a memoir about his twenty years where he didn't know what he was doing. His comic partner was Imogen Coca.

++As this blog predicted, Yankee great Derek Jeter announced he would retire after the 2014 season.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Clean Debt Ceiling Passes

++The House passed a clean debt ceiling 221-201. Only 28 Republicans voted yes.

++But don't cheer yet. Carnival Cruz vows to filibuster it in the Senate making passage a 60 vote production.

++The Club of Growth, Americans for Prosperity have made sounds like they want to topple Boehner for putting the clean debt bill on the floor. Boehner had said ," If you don't have 218 votes, you have nothing."

The Morning Blat

++The House GOP will bring a clean debt ceiling bill up today because they couldn't get agreement on the ransom demand.

++Janet Yallin makes her first public appearance as FED chair and will say that the jobs recovery hasn't been enough.

++The Obama Administration has altered its stand on leaving Afghanistan. They now want to wait until Karzai is out of office. Afghan troops are now restless for a security agreement, which Karzai has refused to sign.

++President Obama has set a dubious record--deporting 2 million people, which is greater than all the Presidents from the late 19th century through l999 combined.

++Chuck Schumer this weekend proposed that the House GOP pass an immigration reform bill and make it applicable when President Obama leaves office since they claim they do not trust President Obama to enforce the law. I guess 2 million people doesn't convince them. Carnival Crux said today that he wants to discuss immigration in 2015.

++Dana Millbank today reports in the Washington Post that the Heritage Foundation's latest conference on new policy ideas had none.

++The South Dakota GOP stopped Medicaid expansion in that state.

++Efforts by conservatives to prevent Arizona from expanding Medicaid failed.

++Chris Christie continues to be beleaguered by the subpoenas over Bridgegate.

++His money tour for GOP candidates isn't panning out as Texas and Illinois Republicans are avoiding him.

++Iran has agreed to share information on their experiments with triggers with the international atomic energy commission. Iran successfully tested a long-range missile and has two ships to get near US waters. 

++After a stall, more Syrian chemical weapons left the country.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Miss William Gibson?

++We're living in the tyranny of algorithms. Your credit rating,your health insurance prior to Obamacare, and on-line shopping are all controlled by algorithms applied to give your access or deny you  services. This may be the last triumph of the Western mind. A total control system based on mathematics and completely invisible.

++This is the world pioneered in literature by William Gibson and his forerunner Philip Dick. This brave new world has many positive but eerie sides. For instance, Amazon knows with close to 100% certainty I will buy  Henning Mankell's next book. So they have a program to ship the book to a warehouse nearest me for the moment I order it. Sort of cool except that a computer program has figured out my reading tastes. Any order out of my routine usually triggers a wave of bizarre Amazon recommendations that indicates I have introduced chaos into their system. Another innovative approach of this applied technology is surgery performed cross boundaries through computer generated image and instructions from on-line doctors many time-zones away from the patient.

++But the flip side appears in the revelations of the NSA's data-mining. If you have been waiting for the latest William Gibson cyber-punk novel,turn to the non-fiction offering by Luke Harding called The Snowden Files. Vintage Press,$14.95, February, 2014. The book is about Edward Snowden, the 29-year old computer geek who managed to download all the key NSA files onto pen-drives and distribute them to the world. It is a very peculiar read and is perhaps the first book in awhile that makes me feel old.

++The "triggers" for Edward Snowden's actions are varied, eccentric and downright quirky. He is a supporter on Ron Paul,gets alienated by Barack Obama's desire to outlaw assault weapons,finally makes a commitment to expose NSA's operation after Clapper lied before the Senate about not collecting data on Americans. As laudable as his idealism may be, there is an underlying naiveté about the various institutions he chose to affiliate with. After 9/11 fueled by his patriotism,he attempts to enlist in the Special Forces. Physically he couldn't make the grade and got turned off by the recruits who just wanted to kill Muslims. He then takes his computer prowess to the CIA and has a cushy job, ending up in Geneva, Switzerland. There he got turned off by the CIA's entrapment of a Swiss banker, which he thought was amoral. Fast forward to being the web manager of Anime cartoons in Japan and then to his final destination as a Booz-Allen contractor in Hawaii. During this time, he became intimately aware of the US' cyberwarfare against Chinese targets. The private saga of his growing consciousness of the implications and scope of the NSA's activities is fascinating and worth the read.

++Raised by a father who was an officer in the Coast Guard and living as a teenager near the NSA headquarters in Meade, Maryland,it strike me as bizarre that Edward Snowden would go into his line of work and not understand what both the CIA and NSA do. As someone who has been under periodic surveillance by our government since the 1970s,I have been conditioned to think that our government monitors both the activities of foreigners and politically involved Americans. The history of this fills whole libraries. Freedom of Information requests have yielded the constant surveillance of civil rights heroes such as Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King, Jr. and anti-Vietnam war dissidents. The scale and technology today may be different but none of this is secret anymore. 

++A day after 9/11, Michael Hayden got the demand from George Tenet and Dick Cheney to unleash the NSA and pull out all the stops in fighting terrorism. The initial hours after 9/11 set the table for what followed and the rapid advances in computer technology afterwards accelerated the NSA's reach and capability.

++Harding's book is really about the NSA's invisible empire and Edward Snowden trying to expose its global reach.

++You know you are in another country with the description of Glenn Greenwald traveling to Hong Kong to finally meet his new source, Snowden. Greenwald thought he was going to meet a grey-haired intelligence chief but instead met a slight, pale young man holding a Rubrik cube as a sign of identification. You know you are in a new bizarre world that even John Le Carre couldn't describe adequately.

++The Guardian, which played a pivotal role in printing the NSA documents,also demonstrates a certain naiveté in the spy game. Fueled by a groundbreaking story,initially they appear as if the cooperation between the NSA and our allies is somehow unique or unusual. The story leads to the bizarre episode of editors watching as the British authorities destroyed their hard drives. 

++I got the sense that Edward Snowden, despite wanting to serve in the CIA and NSA,believed the old adage "Gentlemen don't read others' mail." I still not convinced that Snowden knows the consequences of his actions. He is keenly sensitive to the risks to his own self but to no one else.

++Like millions of Americans,I enjoyed Wikileaks exposure of the State Department's cables. First, I appreciated how well our diplomats could write. But then I read cables that exposed people by name in an African country who briefed our diplomats on the crisis in their country.A day later I received calls that their lives were endangered by these revelations and they had to go into hiding. It was their perspective we needed to make accurate policy judgments, not the communications intercepts.

++For your further reading pleasure, Glenn Greenwald has initiated his new blog Intercept. William Gibson's reality is now here. I'm not sure I like it.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Economy Continues To Sputter Along

++ Non Farm jobs added in January were 113,000, leaving the unemployment rate at 6.6%. If the Jobs program and infrastructure bills had been passed last year,we would be at 5.1% and aiming to full employment. And we still don't known the total cost of the government shutdown. Paul Krugman reminds us today that if it weren't for the President and the Democrats, we would have embarked on full austerity and been like Europe where unemployment is double the United States.

++In other news,right before 42 Senate Republicans sent a letter to Harry Reid to bring the Iran sanctions bill to a vote,AIPAC issued a statement that the time wasn't right and basically flew the flag of surrender.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

GOP Triumphalism

++The House GOP believes they can expand their field this year because of Obamacare and Obama's "sagging popularity".

++The GOP certainly showed their hand today. They defeated the extended unemployment insurance not once but twice. Before they would vote for it,they demanded it be paid for--a first for this type of vote, which they routinely approved under George W. Bush. Harry Reid provided them with a payment, they promptly voted it down. Harry Reid offered a straight bill but it too was voted down by the GOP. All Democrats voted for the bill-both times.

++I can't help but think that the GOP thinks 2014 will be a replay of 2010. But what if voters rebel against the tea baggers now that they hold power in the House? 

++The GOP money machine is aiming at the Senate big-time. Karl Rove was given the franchise twice to take back the Senate but failed. This time the anti-establishment right has the money. They just want to avoid the horrible candidates.

++Democrats should not sit easy ,just because the GOP might win in 2014 they reason that the stars are aligning for 2016 when more GOP seats will be up. The country can't afford the last two years of the Obama Administration with a Republican Senate given the nature of the GOP today.

++John Boehner tried to wiggle around on immigration reform again this afternoon, blaming Obama because members don't trust him to enforce any of America's laws. The problem with this diseased way of thinking is that immigration reform would not begin in earnest until he leaves office.

++Why Republicans will not suffer from their government shutdown is beyond me. I don't think the snafus with the healthcare website neutralizes the shutdown but I was wrong in 2010 so I should stay out of it.


++One fact that tells a lot about the United States. 
     68 million Americans do not have checking or savings accounts.

++This fact emerged in the discussion of Senator Warren's proposal that the Post Office provide paycheck cashing and same day loans to Americans. It is estimated that poorer Americans spend over $2,200 on checking cashing privileges and interest on same day loans per year. Her proposal would put a huge dent in the usury business.

++Elizabeth Warren's idea dates back to Theodore Roosevelt's view of the function of the Post Office.

++Meanwhile,for the strict constitutional Teabag crowd, if you really want smaller government, why not wait until 2017 when one third of Federal employees are eligible for retirement. They are demoralized as of now.

++John Boehner said this morning the United States will not default. If he let the whole house vote, they would pass a clean debt ceiling bill. I doubt it.

++The Speaker of the House also announced the House was creating a new website and releasing all the documents on Benghazi--since this will be an issue in the 2014 election for the right-wingers.

++Unlike the Washington Post and commentators on the Left,I support Obama signing the Farm Bill because a veto would plunge Congress into a morass. The Bill actually took 3 years to do.

++Dana Millbank has a column in the Post about his attending the House hearings on Obamacare and another on the IRS. He says the GOP are still devoid of reality.

++But that doesn't seem to matter much. The Koch Brothers' created Americans for Prosperity have already spent $20 million in ads against vulnerable Democrats.

++James Carville has now signed up as a Fox News Contributor. 

++kos of the Daily Kos beat the drum again today that the Democratic base outnumbers the GOP and should vote this year. It is actually true and Democrats really become fatalistic on off-year elections. But Virginia should feel them that a mini-Obama coalition can be organized in an off-year and win.

++Harry Reid wants President Obama to sign an executive order to end discrimination in federal hiring. Unfortunately he can't override restrictions in the majority of the States.

++In Georgia,the big rumor is that the federal government created the snowstorms that hit Atlanta.

++The Great Dictator Obama has signed the fewest executive orders of any President since FDR, who was the King of executive orders.

"Paranoia is Having All The Facts"--Bill Burroughs

++Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of Bill Burroughs' birth. For the event we have the publication of the definitive biography Call Me Burroughs--A Life, by Barry Miles. Miles, who has written about Burroughs several times before, has done a magnificent job in researching the wild times of Bill Burroughs and his effect on the so-called Beat Generation and later the punk movement. It is a good, but long read, weighing in at 700 pages. But it is worth it.

++It is an appropriate book for the political times we live in. I'm sure you read that the deficit has shrunk larger than anticipated and will shrink even further next year. The American people actually believe Obama has enlarged the deficit.

++The OMB report on Obamacare managed to receive very warped news coverage that claimed it would cost 2 million jobs. E.G. Dionne's column in the Amazon Post this morning showed how this was willful ignorance on the part of the media and the GOP to hide the fact that premiums weren't going up the way critics projected, but more importantly that an unintended consequence of the law was that Americans are freer to retire earlier,embark on their own careers and retreat from the job market if they want to stay home and have kids because they aren't tied to health insurance. The OMB director appeared yesterday at a House hearing to assert that Obamacare will add jobs. The whole idea is that the demand for labor will actually increase wages. Don't expect anyone to figure this out anytime soon.

++In the early days of this blog, I opined that we may have moved beyond the point where we could adopt sophisticated policies to deal with our most crushing issues. Even the GOP disinformation on health care runs against what would seem to be the interest of their core financial base--the corporations. The health insurance industry, which spent almost a billion dollars against Obamacare has now realized they have a larger market and will profit from it. The Koch Brothers will not because they have to pay an additional 3.6% on their capital gains and during the Obama Administration they have made billions in capital gains. They just want to keep all of it.

++Marco Rubio wanted to eliminate the "risk corridors" for the health insurance industry arguing it was a "bailout" to the industry. Which is a strange position for Republicans, who always want industry bailed out. He testified before Darryl Issa's committee yesterday but Elijah Cummings was not allowed question him. His question was going to be why Rubio was against the extension of Medicaid in Florida.

++Rubio's plan for linking the "risk corridors" to the debt ceiling came undone when the CBO's study showed that in fact the health industry would be paying $8 billion into the government's coffers.

++The House's plan to seek ransom on the debt ceiling has gone bizarre. "Risk Corridors" are out and the next Keystone Pipeline approval looks like a loser. So John Boehner proposes restoring benefit cuts to veterans in the future as a plan. In other words,increase debt to raise the debt ceiling.

++Now the Senate GOP wants to force Harry Reid to have a vote on the new Iran Sanctions. I really can not understand this insanity. It's one thing to try and sabotage the Obama presidency by obstructing. There is another to sabotage the United States by setting in motion events that will lead to war. 

++Let me clear as someone who has been opposed to Iran my entire adult life, additional sanctions will trigger the defection of France,Russia and China from the sanction regime. John Kerry already warned France that sending a group of French businessmen to Iran was counter-productive. Any vote on additional sanctions will trigger a stampede and an end to the possibility of a negotiated settlement. So what do you propose? That America is exceptional and can go it alone in attacking Iran. We saw how that came out in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, even the GOP base views Iraq and Afghanistan as not worth the risk. Is it three times the charm with Iran? 

++Remember in the first term when President Obama negotiated the arms reduction treaty with Russia? The treaty logically continued the nuclear reduction treaty signed by Ronald Reagan and had the support of Dick Lugar and Sam Nunn. The GOP fought ratification of the treaty tooth and nail. What does this all say about the GOP?

++Meanwhile in the land of Bibi ,rabbis have promised that John Kerry will face the wrath of God if he won't allow the Israelis to pave over Palestine and erect Levittown settlements.

++The GOP has rejected any immigration reform until 2015 because they believe they will win the Senate and the bill will be different. Of course, they could pass it in a minute by abandoning the Hastert rule. The new excuse is that they don't trust Barack Obama to enforce any law. I guess 2 million deportations doesn't convince them.

++We are going into the Interzone, which only Bill Burroughs would appreciate.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Happy Year of the Horse!

++I guess it didn't start so well for the Broncos.

++My Superbowl Ad favorites:
     **Bob Dylan's Chrysler "America's Import"
     **Coca-Cola's "Beautiful" with its multilingual singing.
     **Doritos "Time Machine"

++Best Ad not shown--"Pride" by the American Indian Nations. 

++Chris Christie didn't get his Super Bowl box. More aides have resigned. The papers are beginning to pour in on Bridgegate. Christie's state trooper was arrested for shop-lifting in Pennsylvania. The New Jersey situation is now in meltdown. CPAC decided to invite Christie to their confab anyhow.

++Because readers complain about my bias,I took the celebrity personality test this weekend. The closest match for me using their Jungian categories was Ronald Reagan, which provoked howls from my former conservative friends.

++In case you missed it, the New York Times reports that all of Libya's chemical weapons have been destroyed in a secret program of the Obama Administration.

++Hillary Clinton answered Senator Levin's letter concerning additional sanctions against Iran. She wrote back that she opposed additional sanctions because the United States has the high ground and that this would be lost by passing such measures, which would fracture the international alliance.

++John Kerry warned Israel that if they don't move on the Palestinian talks the "divestment movement" would pick up steam. The ultra-right in Israel now say John Kerry is an anti-semite.

++Iran says it would negotiate with the EU on human rights. Howard Dean last week said that the nuke talks should be conditioned on human rights progress. I see the two as separate.

++President Obama gave about his 400th interview of his Presidency this time to Fox News. Donald Trump was outraged that the President didn't wear a tie.

++The Guttmacher Institute released a study that showed abortion rates in the United States are at the lowest since just after Roe v Wade. The reason is not the restriction by state's on abortion rights but rather the use of contraceptives.

++The Senate is going to vote on cloture for the Farm Bill today. Besides the foodstamp cuts, it is unique this year to prohibit the public from finding out  how much farm subsidies congressional members receive from the bill.

++Paul Ryan said yesterday that the Presidency was "lawless". He also said that immigration reform can't happen because the GOP doesn't trust Obama to reinforce it. He has only deported 2 million undocumented aliens during his Presidency. So how much border security do you need?

++Treasury Secretary Lew says time in running out on the debt ceiling. The House GOP has not decided what ransom they want.

++The House is preparing two more bills to repeal Obamacare. The two elements are to favor employers.

++Janet Yallin took her oath of office this morning and thereby became the most powerful woman in the world. 

++Miley Cyrus posed nude.