Saturday, May 17, 2014

Just don't get in the way

Al Gore's famous quip (probably not original with him, but he's my source for it) . . . 
"When your opponent is in the process of shooting himself in the foot, try not to get in his way." 
. . . is one of my favorite political aphorisms.   It seems particularly apt right now for the fight going on within the Republican party.

In a Huffington Post article titled "Far Right Plots Comeback," Robert Costa  describes a gathering of the more conservative Republicans on Thursday to "try to regain control of the conservative Republican agenda." 

The attempt, with some success, of the more "establishment Republicans" to broaden the appeal of the party has alarmed the more conservative crowd.   Michael Needham, CEO of Heritage Action, said:   "I'm terrified that Republicans will blow this election if they are not going to stand for something."

What's happening is that you have a divided party.   One half is terrified that extreme right wing issues -- defined in a document from this gathering as " strict opposition to illegal immigration, same-sex marriage and abortion" -- will alienate more moderate and independent votersand they will lose.

The other half is terrified that, if they don't stand up for those issues, they will lose.

Many of the primaries have already been held and will require a run-off in the summer,  further extending the time of unrest and cross-fighting within the party.

So . . . this seems a good time to listen to Al Gore.    Democrats, just try not to get in the way of this intra-party fight.


This and that

1.   This week marks the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education that overturned the "separate-but-equal" dodge in school desegregation.  

2.  Today is also the 10th anniversary of the first legal same-sex marriages in the U. S., after it became legal in Massachusetts.   Since then, 16 more states and the District of Columbia have settled law mandating marriage equality.   In 7 more states, a court decision has overturned the bans, which are all now in an appeal process.

3.  A non-partisan study group has calculated that, since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, $445 million has been spent on political TV ads that mention the law.  The cost ratio of negative to positive ads is 15 to 1.

4.  Progressive firebrand Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL) has volunteered to serve on the Select Committee created by House Republicans to investigate Benghazi.   The Democratic leadership has not yet decided whether to participate or to boycott the ill-conceived and unnecessary investigation.    If they do put anyone on it, Grayson would certainly be an aggressive and challenging liberal voice.

5.  They just had an important election in India in which half a billion people cast ballots.   That is mind-boggling -- almost four times the number who voted in our 2012 presidential election.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Senate votes 96-3 on WHAT?

I don't get it.   The senate has voted 96 to 3 on something.  That in itself is pretty amazing.  But what they were in such agreement on is dumbfounding.   With conservatives so adamant about reducing the deficit and liberals so determined to reinforce the safety net for the needy, why did either side vote for this bill?  And why was it so nearly unanimous?

Here's what the bill does:  it extends all kinds of tax credits, mostly to the benefit of corporate interests, without any corresponding cuts to pay for them.    Here's the kind of things that will get tax breaks:  allowing multinational companies to avoid paying U. S. tax on income earned abroad;  deferred tax payments on royalty income;  construction costs for NASCAR speedways;   owners of race horses.

Supposedly to get liberal support for the bill, they gave a few crumbs, like write-offs for research and development costs, teachers purchases of school supplies, and homeowners who sell at a loss.

But take a look at the estimated budgetary costs, compared to some other things they wouldn't agree to:

Tax breaks for corporations reduces budget by $85.3 billion.

Food stamp extensions would have cost only $8.7 billion.

Unemployment extension for 3 months would cost $6.4 billion.

I don't understand why Democrats agreed to this.   The three votes against the bill were all cast by conservative senators.

Please explain this to me.


Almost as amazing as the avalanche of courts overturning gay marriage bans

As amazing as the crumbling of state laws banning same-sex marriage is what's beginning to happen in major league sports -- finally.   Long regarded as the last bastion of homophobia, the response to those who have come out is wonderful.   Of course there has been lots of ugly stuff on the social media;  I'm talking about other players, primarily, as well as many sports writers.

Here's what New York Giant quarterback and superstar Eli Manning said when asked how his teammates would have responded if openly gay player Michael Sam had been picked for the Giants instead of the St. Louis Rams.
"We have a great locker room, and I think the most important thing ... you're drafted a football player. That's all we care about in the locker room . . . . what you do outside in your personal life is up to you."
He added:
"I was excited for [Sam]. This is a gentleman who's been through a lot ... I'm wishing Michael all the best in having a successful career."
I am not a pro football fan.  But this is real class -- from one warm human being toward another.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Avalanche, picking up Idaho

The rate of state bans on gay marriage being overturned in courts has gone from a momentum to an avalanche.

Since the June 2013 Windsor decision by the U. S. Supreme Court that declared the federal Defense of Marriage act unconstitutional, seven more states have had their laws overturned and two additional ones have been ordered to recognize legal marriages performed in other states.

Most, if not all, of these seven will be appealed.    But bear this in mind.   The score is 7 to 0.  In not a single one of the cases filed since Windsor has a ban been upheld.   Those seven are:  Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Texas, Michigan, Arkansas, and Idaho.  Ohio and Kentucky are the ones ordered to recognize other-state marriages.

Just four days ago, I wrote about the new decision in the Arkansas case and said "maybe Georgia will be next," because a case had recently been filed in courts here.   But then last night the Idaho decision came down.

Those seven, if upheld on appeal, join 17 other states and the District of Columbia as marriage equality states.  One more, and it will be half the states.  


A puzzling political cartoon -- supposedly "from the right," but . . . read on

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonist, Mike Lukovich, is definitely liberal.    A few years ago, the paper began reprinting cartoons from other papers to "balance" the viewpoint.    So we can generally assume that outside cartoons are going to have a conservative slant -- often more like an anti-Obama sledge hammer.

Monday's cartoon, labelled "From the right" by Glenn Foden (King Features), was a little puzzling.  At first glance, it seemed garden variety conservative, this time anti-Hillary.   It shows a rifle-toting Hillary and several quaking hunting dogs perched up in the limbs of a big tree named "Benghazi."   At the base of the tree is a snarling skunk, labeled Trey Gowdy, who is the newly appointed chairman of the Select Committee to investigate the government's handling of the Benghazi attack.

The first impression is that it's simply depicting the current situation -- Gowdy and his committee going after Hillary.

But why a skunk?   They are not attack animals, nor do they track hiding prey, like bloodhounds.   They simply emit a terrible odor to repel everybody else.   To double down on the point:   skunks don't uncover a stink made by someone else;   the bad smell comes from them.

If that is what the cartoonist is saying, why did the AJC staff label it "From the right"?   Because what it seems to be saying -- and I totally agree -- is that the investigation does not pose any real danger to Hillary;   but the investigation is likely to really make the whole place smell bad.

Either it was a badly chosen metaphor;   or else the cartoonist is a bit subversive with his right wing audience.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014


At least some news venues are not going crazy over the upcoming House Special Committee investigation of Benghazi.    This morning on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," correspondent Chuck Todd said:

"I’ll hear from Republicans that say, ‘But there are unanswered questions!’ Well, no, all the questions have been answeredThere’s just some people that don’t like the answers, that wish the answers were somehow more conspiratorial, I guess."
Todd acknowledged that there are issues of policy and the U. S. response to the Arab Spring that are still worth debating.   But that's not what gets the Republicans excited.   They're still going after the Sunday morning talking points, who wrote them, who changed them, was there a conspiracy to cover up the truth?  He continued:
"But to sit here and investigate talking points seems to be totally missing the larger point here.  It’s like investigating who cut down one tree in a forest that’s been burned down."
Perhaps the best strategy for Democrats is ridicule. 


Oops !!! Oh well, let's go with Benghazi, then.

 Last week the Republican-controlled House Committee on Energy and Commerce conducted a hearing on what they were touting as a failure of Obamacare, namely their claim that, of the 8 million touted as Affordable Care Act registrants, only 67% had actually paid their premiums.    

So, eager to find anything to tear down the increasingly successful program, they thought they were going to expose the false claims.    Officials from major insurance companies were called to testify about the low rate of actual purchasing of policies -- Republicans expecting that they would expose the Obama administration for making misleading, if not outright false, claims.

Spoiler Alert !!!    It was the Republicans who wound up shrinking away and hoping the news didn't get out.

Instead of exposing the Democrats, it was the Republican Committee that had goofed.  They had previously asked insurers for a report on how many had paid their premiums by April 15th.   And then they put out a press release saying only 67% had actually paid -- Big Scandal . . . oooh, bad, bad Obamacare.

The problem with this is that, on many of these policies, payment was not due until after April 15th.    So by the time of the hearings, on May 7th, the number who paid was now 83% for one company and 90% for another, as the executives so testified in the hearing.

As Rick Perry would say:   "Oops!"

Don't these people have staff to check on things like that?   When you have politicians who don't want to know facts, but only want to score points against opponents, they would rather not know.   In fact, two of the insurance executives have said that they warned the committee that these were not final figures.

It's really pathetic to watch this debacle unfold.  Republican's sold people on the idea that "Obamacare" is evil -- but failed to convince them that the benefits of the actual plan are bad.  Republicans are now reaping the harvest of false, manipulative advertising.   

Not to worry.   They have another plan for winning the election.   It's called:    Benghazi !!!!


Monday, May 12, 2014

Tentative good news for Democrats in the South

Recent polls are showing that senate races in three southern states are competitive:   Arkansas, Kentucky, and Georgia.

In Arkansas, Sen. David Pryor has been thought to be the most vulnerable of incumbent senators seeking re-election.   However, he is currently leading his likely Republican opponent by about 10%.    He is running against a Tea Party favorite, and the trend is against such extremists that lost seats for the Republicans in 2012.

Georgia's is an open seat left by retiring Saxby Chambliss.    There is a crowded Republican primary field, but Democrat Michelle Nunn polls ahead of all but one, and is tied with him, in some polls.   As the daughter of former senator Sam Nunn, she has name recognition and access to big donors;   in addition she has led the largest volunteer organization in the country, an outgrowth of her own founded Volunteer Atlanta and former President George H. W. Bush's Points of Light.

Kentucky would be a WOW pickup, because it would get rid of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.    Alison Lundergren Grimes, herself from an important Kentucky Democratic political family, is running even or slightly ahead of McConnell in polls.   For a powerful, long-time incumbent, that is bad news.    McConnell is a wily politician with tricks up his sleeve, but he is also on the wrong side of Obamacare in a state that has the most successful state-run insurance exchange.

Another southern race may be about to tip to the Democratic incumbent:   Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) had been another of the "most vulnerable" incumbents;   but the increasing success of the Affordable Care Act is playing to her advantage.   Her opponent, Speaker of the N. C. House, has been advertising that he "single-handedly" blocked expansion of Medicaid in the state.    Now Hagan has come out with a full-throated endorsement of the expansion. 

In fact, support for the ACA may become the best campaign tool for all of these Democrats.   Republicans have lost on one campaign strategy after another -- gay marriage, Obamacare -- and now they're having to fall back on what might turn out to be the biggest circus of all:   the Select Committee investigating ONCE AGAIN, BENGHAZI.    Watch for this to turn out to be a huge mistake for Republicans.

So -- losing the senate is beginning to seem less likely.   But it will all come down to whose supporters actually vote.    Republicans know this;   why else are they so intent on passing obstructive voting laws?   Democrats know it too;  but will they be energized enough without a presidential race to excite their voters?