Saturday, October 19, 2013

Is Reille's apology sincere ?? Sorry, I'm too cynical to buy that

Notorious from tabloid headlines, John Edwards' one-time mistress, Reille Hunter, now has a new book to promote.   It's her apology for her "bad behavior" and for the hurt she caused others.

All the right words are there . . . "I behaved badly. . . .  I hurt people. . . .  I hurt Elizabeth Edwards. . . .  I am sincerely sorry. . . .   It was not my intention [to hurt anyone]."

Her explanation:   she grew up in a family where both parents cheated on each other.   "I didn't realize how damaged I was."   Then she fell in love and was blinded by love.

Well, OK.   I guess it's better to say the words than not to say them.  But here's why I am cynical.   This apologia arose as an idea for a new book.  Here's the crucial paragraph:
My publisher came up with the idea of me going through my [previous] book and annotating all of my regrets and mistakes. I liked that idea. I thought it was innovative and interesting, but of course the actual execution of that idea turned out to be excruciating. Owning your past mistakes is no day at the beach but I do believe it is an important endeavor to undertake.
Let's hope Reille gained some self-understanding through the process.  I personally would find that more believable if her public statements of apology weren't linked to promotion of her new book.  In fact, the reason for the apology seems to be selling another book.


I haven't read the book and am relying on excerpts from reviewers.   What I would also want to see is whether she has grasped the damage her actions could have caused for the entire country, in addition to the Edwards family and especially to his dying wife.    If John Edwards had won the Democratic nomination for president -- and at one point it seemed he had a chance -- the scandal would have come out during the general election and almost surely would have thrown the election to the Republicans.

More signs of the unhinged right wing nuts

Are we approaching a new merger of words?   "Right wing" and "unhinged," as in "right-wing/unhinged" for example.   Here are a couple of the latest absurdities:

1.  Rick Scarborough, founder of the Tea Party Unity, said he wanted to enter a class action lawsuit "against homosexuality."    O-O-K . . . . and whom should the sheriff serve with the papers in this lawsuit?

2.  Glenn Beak said on air:   "I am personally going to impeach the President of the United States."  He said he would also impeach John McCain.

What's so whacko about both of the comments is the utter impossibility, completely unhinged from reality.   How do you "sue homosexuality"?     How does a private individual impeach the president?  That's left up to Congress.

And that doesn't begin to address Sarah Palin's whacko ramble on Fox News that obviously left Megan Kelly perplexed.    She wandered so far off into la-la land, reciting her grievances against President Obama and never even came close to addressing the question, which was to give her reaction to the GOP's drop in polls since the government shutdown.  Instead she sounded like one of those old-fashioned talking dolls, where you pull the string, and a recorded voice spouts drivel.

The thing is, they don't even seem to know they're out to lunch -- but the American people, at large, do know it.   Look at the polls, which Palin wouldn't even address.  They're playing to a small, vehement base that loves this red-meat appetizer;  but they can't deliver the meal.    Just ask Ted Cruz.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Marriage equality begins in New Jersey

A lower court in New Jersey had ruled a few weeks ago that same-sex marriage must be allowed beginning Monday.    Gov. Christie's administration had appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court.

Christie also asked the higher court to halt the beginning until the appeal has been heard.  Today, a judge from the higher court ruled against that delay.   Marriages can begin now in New Jersey, making it the 15th state, plus the District of Columbia where gay people can marry.    

The challenged laws are on appeal in two of them, New Mexico and New Jersey.   It seems likely that both will ultimately be overturned.


It's all Newt's fault

On MSNBC last night, Rachel Maddow had an interesting take on the debt ceiling battle and the U. S. history of default.

In 1997, when Jimmy Carter was president and the Democrats controlled both houses of congress, the Republican minority was holding the government hostage by refusing to raise the debt ceiling as much as the administration wanted.

Just like last night, it all got fixed at the last minute.   But somehow in the frenzy of what happened at the Treasury the next day, some of the bond debts that were due didn't get paid on time.  And the U. S. government actually went into default temporarily.

Ted Cruz and his ilk were claiming that it wouldn't be a big deal.  Actually it was a big deal in 1979, even though it is largely forgotten now.  Because the bond debts were not actually paid on time, the interest rate on their renewal was increased.  And over the ensuing time since then it has cost taxpayers an additioal $12 billion in interest payments.

To prevent that happening again, they changed the House rules.   Instead of having two votes -- one to to authorize a spending budget and one to raise the money to pay for it (i.e. raising the debt ceiling) -- the new Gephardt Rule combined them into one vote.    The House would vote to incur debt and borrow the money to pay for it in the same vote.

That worked fine for 16 years, and there were no more fights about raising the debt ceiling -- until 1995 when House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his band of radicals over-turned the Gephardt Rule.  So we can thank Newt for this government shutdown -- along with Ted Cruz.

Ever since, we've been back to fighting over raising the debt ceiling.   Until Wednesday night, maybe.    The one good thing that may come out of this is that at least the rational members of Congress don't want this to happen again,  Mitch McConnell himself said "We will not do this again."

Actually the Gephardt Rule is very sensible.   The debt ceiling is all about borrowing the money to pay for spending that Congress has approved.  What the Ted Cruz crowd wanted to do was say "we're not going to pay the debts we have honestly incurred."   Why not arrange the financing at the same time you incur the debt?   That's what you do when you buy a house or a car.

Could it be reinstated?   Rep. Louise Slaughter, a member of the House Budget Committee, says it could;  but it would require a change in the House rules, which can be done on the first day of a new session.


PS:   I may have to revise my scathing criticism of the good senator from Kentucky.   Still don't like his politics, but he's not the minority leader for no good reason.   He's a smart and crafty politician.   But I'm still rooting for Alison Lundergan Grimes to beat him in 2014.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Government back in business

In an eleventh hour deal, Senate Democrats, with some Republican help, passed a clean bill to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling.

The Senate passed it by 81-18, and the House followed suit by 285-144.   So it was a not-even-close bipartisan decision.

Estimates are that this two week debacle caused by the Tea Party Republicans, led by Ted Cruz, has cost the taxpayers $24 billion.   And for absolutely nothing.

Except perhaps that we had the showdown that has been threatening. and President Obama and the Democrats stood firm.   And proved that this kind of hostage taking by a small minority will no longer work.


"It's Over" -- Daily Intelligentsia

That headline, "It's Over," heads the online article by Jonathan Chait in The Daily Intelligentsia.   It's a good, brief summary of what the current events in Washington mean.
If you’re reading the newspapers just now to get caught up on the debt-ceiling crisis, you may have the impression that events are now spinning utterly out of control. “A day that was supposed to bring Washington to the edge of resolving the fiscal showdown instead seemed to bring chaos and retrenching,” reports the New York Times.  “A campaign to persuade House Republicans to lift the federal debt limit collapsed in humiliating failure Tuesday, leaving Washington careering toward a critical deadline just two days away, with no clear plan for avoiding a government default,” warns the Washington Post.

This is the opposite of what is going on. In fact, the events of yesterday amounted to utter success. The debt ceiling will be lifted, the crisis is over, and so, too, may be the larger Constitutional struggle it unleashed.

The mistaken impression of chaos and collapse was left by the collapse of the House Republican plan. But the House Republicans are the hostage-takers. It’s good that their plan collapsed. Their plan was to insist on winning at least some concession from President Obama, testing his resolve not to be extorted, and, at least, pushing the crisis until the last moment.

The House bill failed because it relied entirely on Republican votes, which requires near-unanimity from the Republican caucus. A small number of Republicans so fanatical they refuse to even work within existing political constraints, and therefore regularly undermine the right’s leverage, refused to support any bill. Having spent the day trying to cobble together even a tiny ransom demand, House GOP leaders simply gave up. “It’s all over. We’ll take the Senate deal,” a senior Republican aide told National Review's Jonathan Strong.
That the way I understand it too.   John Boehner never wanted to have a default, but he chose to push as far as possible so he could say to the Tea Party he did everything he could to get what they wanted.

So now the Republicans have to acknowledge the fact that they lost this battle.  The only problem is that it is only a temporary respite.   We'll have the same thing to go through in January. 


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Countdown: two days til disaster

We are now two days from the United States defaulting on its debts, if Congress does not pass some debt ceiling increase that the president can sign.

At the end of the day, it seemed things were at an impasse.   The House Republicans tried once again to craft a bill that would give them a little something that they could claim had made all this government shutdown worthwhile.    And they didn't even have enough votes to pass that, because Ted Cruz and Jim DeMint, from his perch at the Heritage Foundation, told conservative House members not to support it.

Reportedly Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell are close to an agreement that can pass the Senate.   Supposedly it will contain some token change in Obamacare to give Republicans a little face-saving but otherwise be meaningless in changing the program itself.

Now, as of an hour ago, word is leaking out from House Republican staffers that Boehner is saying that they will bring whatever the Senate crafts to a House floor vote.

So maybe this will all be solved in time to avert the disaster.

But this has already hurt us pretty badly in the global economic circles.   Our dysfunctional government has shaken the world's confidence in our government and its responsibility to its creditors.

And, as Chris Hayes keeps asking:   "What has it all been for?"    We could have gotten this same agreement 2 weeks ago, if John Boehner had brought the first Senate bill to the House floor for a vote.   And we would have avoided the effects of the government shutdown and on our global reputation.

All because of a small band of people determined to dismantle our government.   And a weak Speaker of the House who wants to be able to say he did everything he could to battle Obamacare.

The truth is, he did;  and they lost.  They have lost big timeObamacare survives almost unscathed.    Republicans are already paying a huge price in the polls:   74% disapprove of their handling of this.


Monday, October 14, 2013


The Democrats keep losing battles because they are not suspicious enough of their opponents, and so they miss their chicanery.   Here's what happened that's just now coming out.

Behind the scenes, leading up to the September 30th shutdown of the government, the Republican members of the House Rules Committee concocted a scheme and quietly inserted it into Resolution 368, which was passed.

Under the standing rules of the House, any member could introduce a "clean" bill to re-open the government, but #368 restricts this right exclusively to the House Majority Leader (Erik Cantor).

This came to light when Rep. Christ Van Hollen (D-MD) tried to introduce a resolution to vote on the Senate bill.   Here's the exchange as reported by the Huffington Post:
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), presiding over the chamber, told Van Hollen that the rule he was asking to use had been "altered" and he did not have the privilege of bringing that vote to the floor. In the ensuing back and forth, Chaffetz said the recently passed House Resolution 368 trumped the standing rules. Where any member of the House previously could have brought the clean resolution to the floor under House Rule 22, House Resolution 368 -- passed on the eve of the shutdown -- gave that right exclusively to the House majority leader, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia.

The Rules Committee, under the rules of the House, changed the standing rules of the House to take away the right of any member to move to vote to open the government, and gave that right exclusively to the Republican Leader," said Van Hollen. "Is that right?"

"The House adopted that resolution," replied Chaffetz.

"I make my motion, Mr. Speaker," said Van Hollen. "I renew my motion that under the regular standing rules of the House... that the house take up the Senate amendments and open the government now."

"Under section 2 of H.R. 368, that motion may be offered only by the majority leader or his designee," Chaffetz said.

"Mr. Speaker, why were the rules rigged to keep the government shut down?" Van Hollen asked.

"The gentleman will suspend," Chaffetz interjected.

"Democracy has been suspended, Mr. Speaker."
This speaks multitudes of truth for itself.   Republicans can win only by lies, distortions, and chicanery.   Not much to be proud of, if you ask me.

But also not much credit to Democrats who fail to catch these things.  We need a few sociopathic staff aides to spot what these devious manipulators are up to.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

GOP beginning to face the truth . . .

John Judis, writing in The New Republic says that "There is a growing fear among Washington Republicans that the party . . . is headed for history's dustbin.  And I believe they are right to worry."

That latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showing people blame Republicans for the shutdown by 22% points more than they blame the president seems to have marked the tipping point.

And now the more moderate Republicans are trying to focus that blame on the Tea Party crowd -- most especially on Ted Cruz.   Grover Norquist says that John Boehner was forced into the more extreme strategy and never wanted to shut down the government.   "Boehner had a strategy, and Ted Cruz blew it up," Norquist said.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) predicts that Boehner now has the leverage he needs to bring a clean funding bill to the House floor, since the Tea Party's hold has been loosened by the public reaction.   King thinks that a bill will come to House floor and be resolved within the next few days.

Meanwhile, from the inter-party war, as opposed to the intra-party war,  the liberal group Americans United for Change has sent Ted Cruz a fruit basket with the following message:
Dear Ted, a Texas sized thank you!!! Thanks to you, Obamacare is more popular and the GOP is less so. Keep up the Good Work!!!
I don't believe we're going to have to worry about Ted Cruz in the 2016 presidential election.   I believe he has miscalculated whatever calculated strategy he was using.  Even if this is not the end of the Republican Party, the influence of the Tea Party and of Ted Cruz is definitely going to plummet.