Thursday, July 31, 2014

The House postpones its summer vacation

The House is too scared to recess for August vacation. Why? Because they haven't passed an emergency immigration bill in response to the immigration emergency.

In some ways, it surprises me that they didn't just walk away. It's not exactly their crisis since they put the blame on Obama's unilateral (executive) decision to end deportations of illegal immigrant minors. The GOP could say "you broke it, you fix it" to Obama.

They haven't done it because of a little lawsuit they've started which complains that the president is overreaching his authority beyond what is legal. It's hard to make that argument stick when Congress won't address issues and pass laws, which inevitably leaves the president to sort through the mess as well as he can. This will entail making unilateral decisions, seeing as the Congress hadn't passed the laws he'd need  as the guide. So it's important for appearances for the House to pass something.

There's no certainty that the House can pass any sort of emergency immigration bill. They can afford only about a dozen defectors, and there are at least that many angry Tea Partyers or assorted nutjobs. So it's going to be tight for the GOP leadership. I don't think they're going to succeed, even though it hands Democrats a talking point about the disorganized House that can't provide leadership even in a crisis.

A leopard can't change its spots, and the House can't pass anything controversial unless absolutely necessary. If it's not a necessary budget bill, it's not going to happen. Maybe I should start my August vacation by chortling at Congress while I lounge poolside with a martini. Yes, that's the ticket.

The House sorts it out and goes on vacation... soon... maybe...

Update 8/1/14. I was wrrrooonnggg! The House GOP got it together and passed a bill. If the House can become functional, the Dems better watch out in 2016.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Short: What do we owe to the British empire?

Answer: Almost everything about our political system.

Don't be scared off by the polemical title of this fascinating article. After reading it, you'll think a little differently about the connotations of the word 'empire' and you'll be grateful for the British empire too.

The thesis, briefly, is that the British empire gave us Americans a lot of breathing space to develop good governance. Besides that, the British also developed a form of government that was influenced by and conducive to trade and commercial wealth. This benefited lots of people, including us Americans. Since WWII, it's been our turn to provide the general peace that is the foundation for a decent life and prosperity.

These ideas aren't new to me. My first separation from liberal orthodoxy was over the role of the military in our country and the world. I had to admit that US military power seemed to be generally a boon to the world rather than a murdering, bludgeoning curse. (Generally, not always.)

This article draws the clear connection between the British empire and liberal democracy. Most liberals wouldn't even consider that there is a connection, but there is. Take that, you pinko liberals.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Paul Ryan is confusing me

I'm very confused. Paul Ryan has just released an overhaul plan for federal programs that help the poor. Why has he done this? This is the same guy who was the only Republican (almost) to put together a budget, and that budget slashed poverty abatement programs. And now he's for giving the poor a lot more help than his budget envisioned? I'm trying to make sense of this.

  • Perhaps Ryan wants to have a better poverty plan than "cut, cut, cut" prior to announcing his intention to run for president. That would make sense. Let's call this Option 1.
  • Maybe Ryan always cared about the poor, but he got so wrapped up in being the budget guru that he forgot about it. Let's call this Option 2.
  • Maybe Ryan is seeing others in the GOP, such as Mike Lee, taking a lead in poverty issues, and he doesn't want to lose his status as the top idea man. Let's call this Option 3.
  • Maybe Ryan is just a juggernaut when it comes to policy. He sees a vacuum, and he's driven to do something about it. Let's call this Option 4.

Does this have anything to do with the midterm elections? Maybe, but I don't see how. A major overhaul of federal poverty programs isn't on the agenda of either party. That is part of what confused me--this doesn't seem to be connected to the upcoming elections.

I hate this sense of not knowing the strategy behind this proposal. Maybe it will become clearer. What's more likely is that the plan will fizzle, sort of like the Ryan budget did.

Oh, I just realized one additional option, which we'll call Option 5. Paul Ryan is incoherent in his thinking and ideas.

Good, Now I'm not confused anymore. I can always fall back on this option. Phew, that's a relief.


Extras. A post containing an interesting graph showing how benefits phase out as income rises. A post about how we have only 3% chronically poor. Is Ryan's plan a big program for a small number? Some good points there, but I have lingering questions about all the non-chronically poor, such as the poor children, poor elders, and poor disabled that are also mentioned in passing. That sounds like it adds up to loads more than 3%.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Last outpost of crazy: Dictatorial movie reviewers

Watch this movie and it will lead to nuclear holocaust! That's one way, or maybe the only way, to get me interested in a movie.

The weird leader of North Korea is upset over a major Hollywood movie. Two comic actors, who previously starred together in a stoner movie, now have a movie where they're assigned to assassinate said weird leader.

Kim Jong Un is threatening "merciless retaliation." He's killed people before. He or one of his predecessors have shot missiles without provocation, kidnapped people from Japan, but not managed to start a war recently. I hope he doesn't kill or maim over this movie, but it's on him if he does.


Same Day Update. Oops, the concerns are a big exaggeration. Never mind

Short: Arrested for a parenting decision

At a time when we have stressed parents trying to make ends meet, I don't think we should add to the burden by questioning non-dangerous parenting decisions. Here's a story. A mother had a shift at work, the 9-year-old daughter was bored sitting at the workplace and wanted to stay at the park instead. Mom said yes, and gave her a cellphone. On the third day of this arrangement, a budinsky parent called the cops or child services. Was the child incapable of looking after herself? There's no evidence of that. So why should the kid be whisked into foster care, and the mother arrested and charged?

Yes, there was the potential of danger, but children do transition from needing full-time adult supervision (minus bathroom breaks and sanity breaks) to being responsible for their own safety. Our laws are wrong if they represent the expectation that a 9-year-old needs the same supervision as a 9-month-old or as a 15-year-old. Please, let's not make it harder on our parents and our kids. Give them more leeway than was shown in this incident.

This is most likely the park. Looks nice.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

No emergency money without concessions

It makes plenty of sense to me that the GOP, with their strength in the House and Senate, should attach some strings to the money for the immigration crisis. People don't usually open the wallet and get nothing in return. However, Dems think they aren't bound by this.

The Republicans want a change in a 2008 law so that central American immigrant minors can be sent home as readily as Mexican minors can. Immigrant groups are flexing their muscles, and have gotten Nancy Pelosi to oppose this change. But without the change, no extra money.

What will the Obama administration do? They can divert funding, which is probably not legal or they wouldn't be asking for the money in the first place. They can use their emergency authority under the 2008 law to send the minors back quickly, thus saving some money. Or they can make the deal with the Republicans. I don't know how badly they need the money, though it does seem that extraordinary measures are taking place--minors transported to lots of different facilities, warehouses and other buildings being converted for temporary use as detention centers. That sounds expensive.

I don't think the administration can continue to slow-ball the handling of this surge of young immigrants. These refugees aren't going to get the drawn out hearings that have been customary. Instead, the process will have to be expedited, much to the disappointment of immigrant and Hispanic groups. If Obama really does need the money, he has little choice but to agree to the concessions.


On second thought: It's going to be hard for Obama to put together a deal. Some Republicans are definitely going to vote against it, so Obama needs some House Democrats. If Pelosi is signaling to her pawns how to vote, will there be enough votes for whatever deal is negotiated? That will be close.

I have to wonder what is worse: the current configuration of power in Washington, and whatever the next stage will be. I'm fed up with them, but I'm terrified should any group gain a lock on power with House, Senate, and presidency. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Tea Party gears up to strike out, yet again

The Tea Party really, REALLY wants to crucify Obama, but they'll settle for impeachment. Boehner is trying to buy them off with a pansy-waist lawsuit, but some of them aren't taking it. Erick Erickson is howling for Congress to man up on impeachment. So is Sarah Palin.
Oddly, one day after Palin's rallying cry for impeachment, Erickson decided that impeachment won't work. He's sticking with his assessment that a lawsuit is a stunt, so that leaves the power of the purse--the shutdown and default strategy that didn't work last time.

Palin called for impeachment on July 8, and by July 9, she had that sinking ship pretty much to herself. On July 13, William Kristol declared that "No responsible Republican has called  for impeachment." I could say Palin had been hung out to dry, except that she's a gutless, witless, second-string toady who doesn't even realize how lame and stupid she is. She hangs herself out to dry just by opening her mouth and letting stale conservative talking points crawl out. Then, she doubles-down on her own stupidity, as in this insipid column on all the non-specific wrongs Obama has committed.

Today there's a poll showing that 35% of the country want Obama impeached. I'm betting on a far different number within six months, if there's any poll at all. The impeachment mania has peaked, and now it's going downhill. Should someone like Ted Cruz push for impeachment, they will get slapped in the face with a dead fish. They won't get ushered into the driver's seat, as happened last year.

I wonder how long before the majority of Tea Partyers realize this. How long before Palin realizes? What will they do when they do realize it? That might be interesting to observe. Usually, however, bad ideas end with a whimper, not a bang. That's probably what will happen here.

To be completely honest, I didn't realize how dead impeachment was when I started this post. But I figured it out, and much faster than Palin will.

Boehner's nuts ... or Palin's marbles?
Image: oops, lost the reference

Extras. Impeachment was so last February. A humorous summary of Palin's complaint.

Update 7/16/14. More Republicans say impeachment is unworkable. I guess Sarah missed the memo.

Update 1/2/16. Not much on the impeachment front in all of 2015. Some deluded people in a red state. A comical twist with the delusion here. Waves of mixed messages here.

Boehner spinning those wheels

Congress is deadlocked, and therefore has nothing to do (well, close to nothing). Boehner wants to present the semblance of activity and gravity, so he's decided to sue the president. He's got to do something, and it's better than some of the alternatives, like letting a committee research impeachment issues. What a circus that would be. So a lawsuit provides the veneer of activity and gravity, but it moves ever so slowly.

I thought I heard that the lawsuit was already filed! That would be huge news, but I was mistaken. No, Boehner has announced that it will center on one issue--just one! That's better than the kitchen sink approach, and it definitely prevents some jerk from throwing in questions about Obama's nationality. But it also feels like weak sauce.

Boehner still has to get the draft of the lawsuit done. I predict he'll stretch that out for a while. He's also going to offer a resolution for the House to vote on that directs the House to make the suit. That adds another gating device to slow things down a bit.

The House was supposed to have hearings on Benghazi, but I haven't heard anything else about them. I thought it was supposed to be this summer. Is that not going to happen after all? It's hard to tell. Maybe Boehner thinks it's a vote-getter, so he's saving it for the fall campaign season. Or maybe he thinks it's a loser, so it's been quietly buried. I can't tell, but I'd put better odds on the burial.

The Democrats in Congress don't have anything to do either, but they're quieter in that mode. Republicans should learn the lesson.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Outpost of hope: Carleigh in New Jersey

I don't post heart-warming stories often enough, but maybe this is a start. A teenager in New Jersey was bullied about her body. Someone even wrote some graffiti about her on a local beach. She refuses to be shamed, and she definitely turned the tables. Here's the graffiti, her, her mom's facebook post, and a great story of rising above. Enjoy!

Image: Carleigh O'Connell via

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Ayn Rand is Nietzsche

Nietzsche is commonly credited with offering an alternative morality, where the supermen didn't have to follow the same rules as the sheep the rest of mankind. I haven't read much Nietzsche, so this may be a misrepresentation, but let's pretend it's accurate.

Ayn Rand thought that the bureaucrats and leeches were holding back the greatness of society. This is somewhat a tenet of libertarianism, that we all need to be free to soar as high as possible, free from the regulations that would tether us to mediocrity. Those tethers include anything beyond minimal taxes, gun restrictions, licensing for professions, FDA drug testing, regulations, and paperwork showing compliance with vast numbers of government rules, etc. They also include the social safety net. I'm going to focus on the safety net.

Some people need the social safety net. That's why we have it. Before governments got into that business, there were churches and charities that tried to handle the load but were often overwhelmed. I assume charities were overwhelmed. Perhaps they weren't and it was just a trick some liberal busybodies dreamed up in order to make jobs for themselves. But I bet charities were frequently overwhelmed.

So we've had and needed a social safety net. Yet Ayn Rand was against that net. I can understand if she thinks it's better never to use the safety net, but why should it not even exist? It exists because people have needed it in the past, some need it now, and other will need it in the future. But other people's needs are unimportant to the Ayn Rand archetype. The Ayn Rand hero will never be that needy person. The superman doesn't need the safety net, and the world should be for the supermen, not for the sheep. So, no safety nets for you sheep either.

In the Ayn Rand view, it's too bad that the sheep of Europe even pushed for these safety nets starting back in the 1800's. The sheep of America followed. That's a problem, having these sheep make decisions about what government is going to do. They make sheep-like decisions. The sheep become more sheep-like and dependent, and the supermen are weighed down. Government should be limited so the sheep can't decide what's to be done. [By the way, doesn't this sound suspiciously feudal? The nobility should make the decisions, and the peasants should shut up and be good mules.]


I hope I've shown a strong similarity between the philosophy of Ayn Rand and Neitzsche. Perhaps I'm overreaching here, but I don't think so. I wondered for a long time why people are so adamantly against Social Security, a program that has such broad appeal. Why isn't it good enough for anti-SS folks that large numbers of people want the program? Isn't that democracy?

No, democracy isn't a good enough reason. First and foremost, the country should be as free as possible. That's what libertarians strive for. Nothing, not the wishes of the majority for a social safety net, should overrule the primary guiding principle of the country.

On one hand I can see the logic in this. On the other hand, in practice the people of this country (as in "we, the people") took the country in the direction it has gone. This country wasn't invaded and hijacked by Russians who changed our government by fiat. WE changed it. And there was a logic to the changes that we made.

So the libertarians aren't the only ones who have a logical, reasonable view of how our government should work. They have lots of competition, and they've been losing. We, the People, don't want the Ayn Rand or Nietzsche philosophy. The elections tell us that.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Another bizarro Fox News world

Here's a Fox News opinion piece where they beat up Obama for not doing more for immigrants using executive means. Here's one where Murdoch is paraphrased as supporting citizenship for immigrants, because, well, he was one too. Here's a  Fox news piece where Boehner says he won't do anything about immigration, but then it's all on Obama. Here's a Fox News piece where readers are reminded that it may be dangerous to upset minorities.

Where are we? Not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.

Meanwhile, in the normal universe, Obama is sure to infuriate the GOP by acting alone as president on immigration issues. Immigrants are released to your neighborhood instead of being detained. Bug-infested children are transferred by charter plane or bus--one that you might enter next week.

How can these all be Fox News posts?

Because the first group is from Fox News Latino. Here's a piece:
"The question becomes, why does the President need the rest of the summer to determine what actions he may take that are constitutionally permissible? ... The answer to me is clear: President Obama is delaying the expansion of prosecutorial discretion initiatives to time their announcement as close to the midterm elections as possible to maximize their political impact. In the meantime, while we wait for the President’s next Rose Garden press conference, tens of thousands of immigrants that could potentially benefit will be deported." 
It's comforting to know that in all Fox News universes, Obama is still the problem. 


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

How dare blacks vote!

Chris McDaniel is planning to sue for a new run-off election for the Senate nomination in Mississippi. He, a Tea Party candidate, lost his run-off primary against Thad Cochran, an old GOP establishment type. Cochran was a long shot at winning until he used a clever, and legal, plan to get blacks to vote for him in the run-off. The plan worked.

Howls from the Tea Party, and even from their supporters in the UK. The loudest complaint is that the GOTV messages for black voters were "tinged" with racism. As though there aren't any tinges of racism in Tea Party campaigns. Nothing like black votes are bought with goodies from social programs, that they're happy to suck on the teat of government, that they're stupid voters, that they support Obama just because he's black, that Obama is not an American and actually hates America. There's nothing racial there.

What's so ironic is to label this statement as out of bounds:
"Say ... no to their disrespectful treatment of the first African-American president" 
Yet Tea Party supporters routinely say things like this:
"You know Barry, ... most people don't like you because you are a narcissistic, idiotic, anti-American moron."
The Tea Party treatment of Obama has been extremely disrespectful. People can argue about whether it's infrequently racially motivated or not, but it's clearly disrespectful. The TP is extremely disrespectful to lots of people, or they might get a better reputation.

If the black voters were already familiar with the Tea Party and knew it was a calm, level-headed, polite group, the ads against the Tea Party would have been ineffective and clearly seen as lies. However, the sense that the Tea Party has been disrespectful of the president correlates highly with real-life experience. That's what we usually call 'truth.' (By the way, it's also clear that tons of Dems are extremely disrespectful to conservatives, too. The crap doesn't flow just one way.)

The worst exaggeration (from a radio ad) was this:
"If the Tea Party, with their racist ideas win, we'll be set back to the 50's and 60's... Say no to the racist agenda of Chris McDaniel and the Tea Party."
That's on a par with typical Tea Party tripe about Obama/Dems hating America, and wanting to drive the country into the ground. I'm pretty sure I've heard that a million times.

However, the ads and robocall didn't stick only to racial issues. It tried to convince listeners with other relevant concerns like obstruction, cuts to public education, food programs, disaster relief, etc. That, like the comments about disrespect, sounds pretty accurate too.

Maybe instead of griping, the Tea Party should start inoculating itself against racial charges by: 1) being explicitly non-racist, and 2) caring about black people's concerns.


Extras. Listen to the robocall and the radio ads that ran on black-centered stations. The Tea Party not only hates Obama, they often hate everyone who voted for him or other 'liberals.' That's a lot of hate. According to this TP group, it's anti-American to say anything good about Islam. For a bit of balance, here is a potty-mouthed anti-TP organization.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Short: We ran out of money, again

This isn't a new story, since the US government has been borrowing money for decades (with a few exceptional years without borrowing). What's a little different is that we don't have a bipartisan budget deal to borrow more this time, so we may actually stop spending. It's too bad that it's confined to one area, which is the federal highway trust fund.

Under the GOP no-tax-increases-ever regimen, the gasoline excise tax has been frozen, and the revenue has declined as people drove more economically. No one made the necessary adjustments to spending or revenue, so now the trust fund is just about dry.

Congress is finally paying attention, or a few of them are. This budget negotiation will be worth watching. Will they raise taxes? Will they cut spending? Will they punt and borrow, raising the deficit? What will the proposals be, and how much will be obfuscation, grandstanding, or some variation on not dealing with the problem? Stay tuned. I'll report back.


Extra. Here's another issue to watch. The Export-Import Bank needs some sort of vote (maybe a re-authorization). Crony capitalist watchdogs are opposed. What will happen?

Short: Hillary's approval ratings drop like a stone

This article (oops, can't find link) points out that Hillary's high approval ratings, which made her look so good as a potential nominee, were artificially high. While she was Secretary of State, she was out of the domestic disputes between Dems and GOP, and the conservative press didn't bother attacking her ... until Benghazi. With largely good press, her ratings went quite high.

Now she's back as a figure to attack and humble. Attacks are way up. She's made a few blunders of her own. Consequently, her ratings are steeply down: currently 44% favorable to 37% unfavorable. Plenty of reports, and maybe some Hillary interviews, have reminded us that we don't like Hillary all that much. Oh, we fickle Americans!