Tuesday, January 28, 2014

P.S. Got Another Story Submission Accepted!

Mystery & Horror LLC accepted a short story for their upcoming Mardi Gras Murder anthology!

Bring me the finest cheeses and non-alcoholic beverages in the land!


What does it tell you when the opposition party plans not one but THREE separate presentations against the President's annual State of the Union (AKA the one where no President is crazy enough to tell the truth and always says, ALWAYS SAYS, "The state of the Union is STRONG" like the White House doesn't have access to a freaking THESAURUS, I mean damn use a new word people!)?

What does it say that the modern GOP is so divided between the establishment wing, the Tea Party wing, and the ego-minded "lemme get my name out there for 2016" wing that they're going to give three boring reprisal spiels to follow up Obama's boring checklist for 2014?

From Salon.com:

...That’s right: It’s almost time for the annual State of the Union address and its rapidly multiplying responses...following the president’s address, Americans will also (if they choose to) hear from three separate elected Republicans. Because if there’s anything Americans love more than lengthy speeches from politicians, it’s three successive lengthy speeches from politicians...

There's the response from the establishment wing by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers (highest ranking female Republican in the House), then the response from the Tea Party faction by Senator Mike Lee, and also a response via personal YouTube channel by Senator (and 2016 campaigner) Rand Paul.

...When Michele Bachmann delivered her “Tea Party” response to the State of the Union in 2011, it seemed unlikely to become a tradition. But the next year, presidential candidate and pizza magnate Herman Cain delivered his own Tea Party response. Then came Paul, who apparently enjoyed it so much that he decided to deliver his own totally unaffiliated response speech Tuesday, to be posted on YouTube and sent out directly to his followers and fans via his email list...
...Rand Paul’s response won’t be on the networks, because Rand Paul’s audience isn’t everyone, and his intention isn’t necessarily to persuade the median voter. He will sit for cable news interviews after the speech, and hit up the Sunday show circuit a few days later, because he’s still campaigning for 2016 and needs as much free media as possible, but a YouTube response sent directly to people who already support Paul is mainly about energizing and expanding his list.
And that’s sort of the problem the Republican Party faces right now: For Paul, there’s not really any reason not to distract from the “official” party response with a nakedly self-serving bit of early campaigning. There’s nothing stopping whomever wants to declare themselves “the Tea Party” from delivering a response too, because part of identifying with the Tea Party is rejecting the “Washington” leadership of the GOP... but the responses are multiplying for the same reason phony talking filibusters suddenly caught on among Senate Republicans last year: because the GOP is effectively leaderless and acting like a rebel insurgent is the only way to win over grass-roots conservative voters...

The leaderless issue stems from how Speaker Boehner - technically the highest ranking Republican in government - seems unable to control the various conservative factions within his own party, something previous Speakers were supposed to do with a level of finesse and back-room bullying.  (Part of this "lawlessness" within the House has been the blocking of pork-barrel spending and committee patronage: Speakers no longer have a carrot to help keep party factions in line)  But there are other reasons why the GOP is leaderless: The most obvious is that there are too many splits within the furthest wing of the political spectrum: there's too many Far Right groups struggling for control without any moderate faction to balance them (or force them to unite against intra-party rivals).

The current schisms seem to be between the ones most wanting to prove themselves the heirs to Reagan (the Establishment), the ones most wanting to prove themselves the heirs to Reagan and Ayn Rand (the Libertarian), and the ones most wanting to prove themselves the heirs to Reagan no wait Richard Nixon well not really oh hey yeah Strom Thurmond and Jerry Falwell (the Tea Party).  The ones most wanting to prove themselves the heirs to Teddy Roosevelt and Ike have pretty much been forced to sit in the hall outside the principal's office (RINOs).

Despite the similarities these factions share with each other - a hatred of hippie libruls and hating on Obama for simply existing - they're all jockeying for dominance within the GOP itself because there are still slight differences.  The Establishment types are for basic deregs and no tax hikes, talking the game but amenable (without admitting to it) to making deals on issues like immigration.  The Libertarians are fully small government (total deregulation) to the point of hating government, but not too keen on social issues like the drug war or abortion.  The Tea Partiers say they're all for fighting taxes, but they've really organized over social (anti-immigration, anti-Obamacare) and religious (abortion) issues and protecting their own interests (Medicare and Social Security, but only for themselves).

Adding to the craziness is the need to grandstand - much like Paul doing his own counter-speech to the counter-speeches already lined up - in order for each official to claim the banner of "flag-carrier" for whichever movement they seek to front.  It's a kind of Catch-22: the Republicans appear leaderless, so individual Republicans present themselves as the leader except for the fact there's 10 to 50 other Republicans doing the same thing, forcing them to fight each other and perpetuating the view that the Republicans are leaderless...

So you've got them - the individual grandstanders, the three major wingnut factions - pulling the party apart. Primarily because the other option - forming their own political party - is too much work and not guaranteed to succeed.  Our electoral system is geared to two parties: third parties do not last long, as history bore out.  Owning the Republican Party outright is the smart move.  And the ones who do own the Republican Party - the deep pocket uber-billionaires like the Koch Brothers - honestly don't care which faction is at the controls as long as their pet projects - tax cuts and deregulation - stay safe.

The other problem with the GOP being leaderless is that the real leaders - the aforementioned deep pocket billionaires, the media elite types like Rush Limbaugh and Fox Not-News manager Roger Ailes - are not in positions of accountability within the party itself.  None of them hold offices either within the party nor elected positions in a federal or state government.  They are talking heads standing on the sidelines, caustic critics throwing bombs at foe and friend alike, refusing to answer to anyone and forcing the actual elected officials to kow-tow to them.  It'd be up to them other normal circumstances to broker deals in the back rooms to get one faction favored over another... but favoring one to the exclusion of the others is bound to piss those factions off to commit acts of sabotage (say, refusing any deals to resolve a government shutdown).  And the factions are relatively weak because none of them - Libertarian, Tea Partier, even the Establishment faction - appeal outside of their Far Right base.  None of them have members that appeal to the populism of a Reagan or even Bush the Lesser (none of the potential leaders are Passive-Positive personalities).

As long as there's been opposition replies to a State of the Union (since 1966), there's never been a divided series of replies like this.  Letting the Tea Party faction in 2011 do their own didn't help the Republicans, and now they're up to three separate replies with no guarantee any of them will stay "on message" to help with the 2014 mid-terms.  Who's to say by 2016 the Republicans are going to have twenty, most of them by desperate primary-running Presidential candidates, half of them spewing craziness that wins over primary voters but scares off the moderate, mainstream voters that are needed to win general elections?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Trying To Rank Scandals, Phase Three: Separating Schadenfreude From Serious Scandal

The scandal of the last two weeks - the ongoing BridgeGate matter of Chris Christie, which is becoming more like BullyGate well heck BullyGate's taken by the Dolphins, what are we gonna call the blocking of relief funds to Hoboken - has a parallel scandal erupting in another state (Virginia) as I write tonight: the ongoing federal corruption probe into former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife has led to 14 counts of corruption handed down by the grand jury investigation.

McDonnell addressed media hours after a federal grand jury delivered a 14-count indictment against the governor and his wife, Maureen. The charges stem from state and federal inquiries into the couple's relationship with a prominent donor, Jonnie R. Williams, the head of a dietary supplements manufacturer. Williams showered the McDonnells and their family with gifts and favorable loans, but the former governor insisted all have been repaid and none of the gifts were meant as a way to curry favor.

Based on the previous article I wrote, these is seriously damaging to McDonnell's political career: Corruption scandals hurt more than any of the others (Financial, Sexual, Political).

The charges represent a stunning fall from grace for McDonnell, the Republican governor from a swing state that doubles as a political seat of power. Mitt Romney considered the governor as a potential running mate in 2012, before the 2013 trial of a former executive chef for McDonnell on unrelated charges unearthed details about the governor's relationship with Williams.

McDonnell's early response to this has been to avoid blame by pointing out he never did favors in exchange for all these gifts, and arguing that if what he did was truly criminal the federal prosecutors would have to arrest every other politician from Obama on down.  I'm slightly surprised he didn't outright blame his political opponents or any "vast liberal conspiracy".

Because, let's be fair, the ones most likely to push any criminal or corruption investigation would be your political opponents.

This is THE problem with creating an honest-to-goodness ranking system for political scandals: It's that there is a bias one way or another over each and every scandal (and inflated non-scandal) when they erupt.  Even when there is a legitimate crime taking place, like covering up illegal wiretapping, or selling arms to Iran and then using that money to fund rebel forces in Central America, or outing a covert CIA operative as political payback: there is a bias to the force that pushes those investigations into the open.

And it's not exactly wrong for an opposition party or faction to be obsessed with finding fault with the person or party in charge.  Just look to those nations with one-party or authoritarian regimes (cough China cough): without an outside faction with some legitimacy and ability to investigate, corrupt forces within that one party will remain unchecked until serious disaster happens. And by then - with hundreds if not thousands dead, or with a government bank bled dry - it'd be too late.  This is the one advantage democratic institutions have: opposition parties help keep the other parties (relatively) honest, or at least give the disgruntled suffering masses another banner to rally to.

The problem with a partisan investigation is the schadenfreude that propels it, the malicious joy the opposition forces are feeling whenever their hated rival(s) are stewing in a hell of his/her/their own making.  That schadenfreude - that desire to humiliate the suspected wrong-doer not only for the crime committed but for merely existing - may drive the investigation into improper actions all its own.

What happened to Bill Clinton is a perfect example.  By 1992 there were legitimate questions into Bill and Hillary's financial dealings in land developments, well enough that by 1993 a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate.  The original investigator had been appointed by Clinton's AG (Janet Reno), but the courts determined there was a conflict of interest and so appointed Ken Starr, who was scrupulous enough to have served as a judge but was partisan (conservative Republican).  Driven and supported by anti-Clinton factions both in private and in Congress, Starr dug into every rumor and every misdeed in an attempt to get "something" on Clinton, even when it didn't relate to Whitewater (or to the Vincent Foster suicide, which was included in Starr's investigation).  In the end, all Starr could turn up was a college-age intern named Lewinsky who had an adulterous affair with the married President.  That was pretty much all Starr and the Republicans had on Clinton when Congress pushed for impeachment.  All it did was make the Republicans look like idiots and haters to the majority of Americans, and Clinton left office unimpeached and (still) popular.  All because Clinton's attackers overreached.

To a lesser extent, the investigation into the Valerie Plame reveal has a partisan edge as well.  A serious security breach occurred when one (or more) White House officials leaked to various columnists that the wife of Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador who criticized Bush the Lesser's assertions that Saddam Hussein had secured weapons-grade uranium, was working for the CIA (implying that Wilson was siding with the CIA, which opposed Bush and Cheney's assertions about Iraqi WMD efforts, because of who his wife was).  Problem is, revealing a covert agent (No Official Cover, or NOC) is a serious federal felony (doing so has gotten people killed).  The investigations got as high up the chain of command as Karl Rove and "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's Chief of Staff.  The far left - which opposed the Iraqi invasion, and was horrified by Bush the Lesser's entire administration - openly pined for the grand jury probe headed by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to line up every possible suspect - from Cheney to Rove to even Bush himself - for indictment.  Just Google (tm) search the word "Fitzmas": there was literally a high level of giddiness among the liberal columnists that the Plame investigation would bring an end to the Bush/Cheney regime.  It ended up indicting just one person - Libby - while letting Rove (who was caught lying multiple times to the FBI) and Richard Armitage (revealed to be the one who DID leak Plame's employment) and Cheney (whose office benefited most from destroying the CIA's credibility) off the hook.  The best that could be said about Fitzgerald's efforts is that he didn't let the schadenfreude get the better of his investigation: but it was there, at least in the media coverage.

What's going on right now with Obama's administration is another example.  There's been an obsession by the GOP House - alongside their far right media supporters - to investigate (almost) every little thing that has happened and is happening.  Rep. Darrell Issa, head of the Congressional Oversight committee, has been pursuing a handful of "scandals" - an IRS regional office investigating partisan superPACs like Tea Party organizations, the failure of security at the Benghazi embassy that left four dead, a gun-smuggling operation involving ATF that got out of control - that most observers (both Right and Left) deem as attempts to get impeachment proceedings established.  But Issa's investigations, even after months (now years) of digging, have led nowhere: official investigations into all three haven't turned up the "holy grail" of evidence that Obama had a hand in any of them, or even that Obama's major allies (Hillary Clinton (again), AG Holder) were complicit or committed crimes.  What's driving Issa's investigations is the hatred the Far Right have for Obama, to the point where the Republicans are convinced that Obama is guilty of all of these things regardless of the uncovered facts and that all they need is the flimsiest thread (my Shoelace Hypothesis) they can find to stop him.  That partisan need is blinding the Far Right, making them cry Wolf every hour of every day.

So the big question: how can we separate schadenfreude - worse, partisan anger - from what's deemed scandalous?  How can we establish a truthful measurement of a scandal and its importance that's not blinded by political opposition?  What can we agree on is a true scandal and not a witch-hunt?

I'll save that for Phase Four...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Trying to Rank Scandals, Phase Two: The Preliminary Chart

As from the first post, my project for this year seems to be coming up with a ranking / grading system for scandals.  I've got a basic understanding that financial scandals rank higher than sexual scandals: however, there are other types of scandals that need configuring into the scale.

Thompson had located a study that broke the scandals into three types: Corruption (bribery, extortion, etc), Financial and Sexual (most likely referring to Personal bad behavior, more on that in a second), and Political (involving electoral or procedural misconduct).  And they scale in that order by level of outrage / loss of voter support.

Personally, I'd shift Financial scandals over to Corruption as they both cover the same things: greed, greed, misuse of funds, greed, and more greed.  Personal financial misdeeds like tax evasion or questionable spending habits tends to bleed into things like taking bribes or selling favors anyway.  The only time Sexual misconduct carries over into financial matters if there's payoffs or hiring of call-girls (most sexual misconduct either goes into extra-marital affairs or underage partners).

Just to be safe, I'll put Financial scandals separate from Corruption and Sexual, so that gets us four categories to work with.


But Thompson also points out that there can be a difference in type of scandal that affects durability, or longevity of scandal: those that are substantive rather than salacious.  The word substantive has a few meanings, but the one relevant to politics would be "relating to an essential legal principle administered by the courts."  That it has real-world legal impact.  Salacious is "obscene" or "indecent", but in this application would be outside of legal implications (that is, something that didn't implicitly break a law).

I'm just wondering, can "substantive" apply to sexual scandal as much as "salacious" would apply to it?  Can a corruption scandal be "salacious"?  Political scandal, I'm pretty sure, can be both... could I draw up a chart like this as a basic scandal go-to chart?

Substantive Scandal?
Salacious Scandal?




This might not work in the long-term.  There's more to this, obviously.  Gonna need to break this down some more.

Any suggestions from the seven people reading this blog would be nice...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Trying To Rank Scandals, Phase One

(UPDATE below)
Like I asked earlier trying to differentiate between BridgeGate and Benghazi, we need to come up with a ranking system so we can firmly establish the proper level of outrage to shocking (and non-shocking) revelations.

I saw on The Atlantic per Derek Thompson that some people are trying to track such things already, albeit in the form of current news and public interest:

A Pew poll from this week found the public paid little attention to Christie's BridgeGate — less than the polar vortex (which was, after all, truly nation-wide) or even the Washington debate over unemployment benefits and the jobless rate. Meanwhile, national opinion of the governor has barely budged...

Now it may be that this is still the early stages of BridgeGate - with the lack of solid details and the fact this is more a regional scandal than a national one - so the severity of public interest may change - especially if more salacious and criminal misdeeds are established, and after all it took months for WaterGate, ABSCAM, Iran-Contra, and the Lewinsky Affair to gel.

And personally, I'm kinda glad most Americans were more focused on the economy and on jobs/unemployment benefits than a scandal.  Good for you, America!

Meanwhile, Thompson digs deeper into what political scientists were trying to gauge with scandals: just how damaging are they to a political career, and how damaging are they to someone's Presidential aspirations?

...Scandals come in many flavors, and different scandals tend to enact different penalties. Corruption scandals (i.e.: bribery or obstruction of justice) cost incumbents about eight percentage points, on average. Next, financial and sex scandals shave off five points. And political scandals? They don’t appear to matter at allaccording to a study last year by political scientist Scott Basinger.
Although sex scandals clearly make for the easiest headlines, a 2013 study found that the most durable scandals are substantive rather than salacious. Political science has already shown that half of American legislators have been implicated, somehow, in scandals; that politicians involved in scandals are viewed less favorably; that they attract higher-quality opponents and lose votes in the following election.
But researchers David Doherty, Conor M. Dowling, and Michael G. Miller wanted to know what sort of scandals "stick." So they administered two online surveys, creating fake representatives undergoing a sex scandal or a tax scandal. Some participants would read that the scandals (e.g. sleeping with a staffer, or income-tax evasion) were recent. Others would read they happened decades ago. The results were fairly striking: Not only did people care much more about the tax scandal overall, but also they discounted the sex scandal dramatically when it happened years in the past. As for income-tax evasion, it didn't seem to matter if the news was new or old: It hurt favorability about the same.

Either this is an after-affect of the Clinton impeachment effort where a majority of Americans ended up not caring about the President's affair with a college intern - as long as it didn't affect national security or forced people to break the law, most sided with Clinton and didn't want him impeached over it - or else a lot of Americans were always blase about sex scandals (mind, Grover Cleveland in the 1880s admitted to an out-of-wedlock child... and still won the White House) despite the moral outrage of prominent media figures/other politicians.

Meanwhile, financial scandals such as tax evasion seem to hit harder.  It is that people view any financial misdeeds as a serious breach of public trust (especially since politicians are involved with taxpayers' money)?  It'd be nice if the scientists gauged other money-related scandals such as bribery, abuse of funds, hiring friends for no-show jobs, etc.

Because while the bridge-closing-for-retaliation plotline has some juiciness to it, Christie's facing additional charges about misusing Sandy relief funds... hmmm...

So, if anything, when we get around to measuring which scandals are worse than others, we can be certain to put sex scandals low and financial scandals high.  Got it.

Update: I've made this one of my projects for the year (the other project being GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT), so here's a link to Phase Two where I start drawing up a chart...

Differences Between BridgeGate and Benghazi

Because, as sure as sunrises and sunsets, the Far Right's primary defense of Chris Christie's involvement in shutting down an interstate bridge is "but what about BENGHAZI?"

(also, they're screaming about the IRS office in Cincinnati investigating Tea Party PAC groups, but "Benghazi Benghazi Benghazi" is easier to roll off the tongue during the shouting matches, and also because the investigations revealed progressive groups were targeted as well, muddying the outrage)

If the Far Right Noise Machine really thinks they can equate "BridgeGate" ("A Bridge Too Far Right" is too wordy) to "Benghazi," then they've got more problems than they realize.

For starters, what happened in Benghazi where our ambassador to Libya and other staffers were killed is pure tragedy.  What's happening in New Jersey where Chris Christie's staff used a bridge shutdown as political retaliation (against whom, the investigations are still trying to narrow down) is pure farce.

Four people died and various wounded in the Benghazi attacks.  One elderly woman needing medical help was stuck in that trapped bridge traffic and later died, and there were most likely a lot of people suffering stress and minor health issues as well.  The bridge shutdown also interfered with a missing child search (the girl was later found).

The causes behind the Benghazi attacks are not 100 percent clear, either a part of mass rioting going on throughout the Middle East over a really bad anti-Muslim film trailer making the rounds, or a coordinated attack by militia groups in recently liberated Libya influenced by Al-Qaeda.  The causes behind the bridge shutdown are not 100 percent clear, either a retaliation against the Fort Lee mayor who refused to endorse Christie for the governor re-election campaign, or a retaliation against the state Senate majority leader from that district who's leading efforts to block Christie's state judicial nominations.

The Benghazi scandalmongers are convinced the matter goes all the way up to the White House (Obama!) or at least the Secretary of State (Hillary!) in that there was a cover-up after the incident to "hide damaging evidence" that the State Department failed to adequately defend our embassy and consular offices in a war-zone.  The critics - mostly the Far Right as well as much of the Congressional GOP - also accused Obama of not taking the matter seriously and failing to call it an "act of terror."  However, despite all the screaming and more than a year of congressional investigating, most of those accusations have yet to be proven.  And Obama DID call the Benghazi attacks an "act of terror" the day after.

The BridgeGate scandalmongers are convinced the matter of the bridge shutdown being political retaliation point to the fact that the cover story - a "traffic study" - makes no sense (Traffic studies don't work that way, and if there was a traffic study there would have been public notices and meetings beforehand).  They also believe that the order for the retaliation goes all the way into the Governor's office, and can prove it because Christie's deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly was caught sending an email to a Christie-appointed official David Wildstein that "it was time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."  And while Christie himself has been firing staffers like Kelly as quick as possible and claiming "I didn't know," Christie's own public persona as a "hands-on" leader (as well as professional bully) makes his Sgt. Schultz-esque "I know notthink" excuse fall flat.  Meanwhile, the bridge closings has opened up a slew of investigations at the state AND federal levels (because closing an interstate bridge is a federal matter) with all affected parties - New Jersey, New York City and State, the U.S. - digging in.

So there you have it, the differences between Benghazi and BridgeGate.

What this all means: we need a way to grade-scale our national scandals, because I'm sick and tired of every new scandal being labeled "Worse Than Watergate."

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Republican Leaders Have a Problem: Not the Message, But the Attitude

I was going to title this article "Republicans Are -ssholes," but realized that's 1) pretty rude, 2) pretty flippant, 3) covering the fact that there's a good number of honest and/or decent Republican voters out there whose only crime is that they've got a party leadership that IS full of -ssholes. (warning: the expletive-deleting will end with this paragraph.  Cursing is ahead)

Dominating the news right now is New Jersey Republican governor Chris Christie trying to deflate an ongoing scandal where members of his inner circle used their control of the state's transportation offices to shut down a major bridge between Jersey and New York... all to punish a Democratic town mayor who failed to perform fealty to Christie during his gubernatorial re-election campaign last year (even as Christie was cruising to a landslide win).

That level of petty revenge - hurting thousands and risking lives just to embarrass a mayor from the opposing party - bordering on criminal abuse of political authority is deservedly a scandal and a cause for concern.  Christie was positioning himself as a viable GOP candidate for the Presidency in 2016, partly because of being a Republican in a Blue State, mostly because his brash angry public persona was a hit with the cheerleader battalions of the Beltway media elite.  But that persona is not an act: Christie - and his inner circle of compatriots - really does act this way behind the office doors as well as in front of the cameras.  It's an attitude towards power - "my way or the highway," "sucks to be you," "it's my party and you'll cry when I want you to" - that echoes back to the worst traits of various Active-Negatives in the White House: Christie is practically Richard Nixon - he who brought us the legal term "ratfucking" - without the subtlety.

That Christie - this blustering bully - was ever seriously considered a Presidential candidate speaks volumes to a major problem the Republican Party has this 2014: their leadership is made up of self-serving clueless assholes.

Granted, there are individual Democrats at the federal, state and local levels who fit the asshole category... but the entire party is not beholden to those types the way the GOP is.

How else to explain the ongoing image problem the Republicans have of wanting to cut back on food stamps and unemployment benefits?  This public disdain for the poor and their children, this insistence the GOP leadership has that the long-term unemployed are lazy rather than realizing this is (still) a terrible job market?

We're getting reports now of Republican congresscritters are getting "coached" into how they should show empathy to the unemployed.  Like compassion and sympathy and empathy are things to fake before a camera crew, rather than a genuine expression from the heart.  Do the Republicans even have genuine expressions from the heart for those struggling to find good jobs at good wages?

Just had a sob story in The Atlantic about GOP pollster/campaigner Frank Luntz, weeping about how he doesn't get the electorate anymore, trying to come up with pretty, pretty ways to sell the Far Right platform to voters who refuse to buy it.  He's thinking about quitting his current profession and getting a job in Las Vegas or Hollywood, while he's moping about depressed in a Los Angeles mansion he owns.  Not to kick a guy when he's down or anything, but Luntz might want to realize that the electorate he's trying to bullshit sell to isn't going to relate to someone who thinks he can easily quit his current six-figure job to find a new six-figure job (most Americans are terrified of losing the jobs they've barely held onto), all the while moping about in a fucking L.A. mansion.  Empathy, like respects, works both ways: you gotta show it to earn it.

We're coming off a 2012 election where the winning Republican candidate out of the primaries was a rich guy who had no sympathy for what he viewed was 47 percent of the American population, and dismissed them as "takers" and moochers.  And in the primaries, dear God, the other candidates were worse.

The Republican voters - some of whom are genuinely nice in the real world, and hug puppies and feed unicorns whenever possible - have a problem: the Republican Party they're stuck with has the habit of talking and acting like assholes.  There's no other way to describe this behavior.  And this behavior has been and continues to be a major drag on party membership.  Gallup is just polling how Americans self-identify to party: a record high 42 percent of Americans identify as Independent compared to just 25 percent (a record low) identifying as Republican.  Democrats dropped a bit to 31 percent, but in a 3-way choice (33-33-33) that's within norms.

How can the American electorate respect or even like a Republican Party that shows no respect to others?  How can there be any empathy or compassion for a political party that isn't even doing a good enough job faking compassion, or any emotions other than spite and hate?

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Congress Still Not Getting It, Pt. DCCIV

that's the Roman numeral for Pt. 704, by the by, yeah I'm exaggerating but I'm trying to make a point here...

It took some doing, but the Senate passed a resolution today to get some benefit extensions to the long-term unemployed:

The move means that lawmakers are now wrangling about whether -- and how -- the cost of the $6.4 billion program should be offset.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters Tuesday afternoon that the White House has indicated it will "run the traps" on "reasonable" proposals to pay for the jobless aid extension but that Democrats believe the program should be extended without offsets. His Republican counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said "there may be a way forward here" if Democrats allow some GOP amendments to be considered.

The bad news: it's for just a measly three months.  We're talking about long-term unemployed who are having a difficult time finding work after six months no wait two years no even worse five years of getting overlooked by HR departments for being too old, too overqualified, too dusty.

The worse news: the House - oh yeah, them - still has to take up this issue.

If the final bill does pass the Senate, it's not clear that the GOP-led House will take it up. House Republican leaders have painted the current proposal as fiscally irresponsible.
In a statement, House Speaker John Boehner said that any extension of the program must be paid for and contain House-backed job creation plans.
"One month ago I personally told the White House that another extension of temporary emergency unemployment benefits should not only be paid for but include something to help put people back to work," he said. "To date, the president has offered no such plan."
By the by, the "House-back job creation plans?"  To ease regulations on onshore and offshore oil and gas drilling (with no guarantees it will create more jobs), to cut regulations overall, and cut taxes on small businesses that economists note won't do much to encourage any increase in hirings.

And when Boehner claims Obama isn't offering any jobs bill, just remember Boehner is lying through his ass.

The worser news: the most obvious way to pay for this - reforming the tax code to close tax loopholes for the uber-rich, or raising the tax rate on capital gains which most rich people live off of and which rates are lower than income tax rates - will be off the table because God Help Us the modern GOP will NEVER raise taxes as long as Grover Norquist and the Club for Greed crowd are around to throw their goddamn hissy fits.

There's a good amount of talk about how income inequality and GOP failure to take unemployment seriously is making the Republicans look bad.  That's not the issue.  The issue is that GODDAMMIT we need to make job creation a top priority in our nation, and that involves getting government (Congress, HELLO WAKE UP) to pass the economic programs we know create jobs: construction and bridge repair, to top the list.  But if we're stuck with a House GOP that refuses to do a damn thing to help the lower classes (this is including what's left of the middle class), then by all means let's make the Republicans look as bad as they deserve, so that when November 2014 rolls around we can get Americans to vote the bums out and vote in people who WILL do something about creating good jobs at good wages.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

It's 2014. Do You Know Where Your Mid-Term Elections Are?

January 1, 2014.

We've got mid-terms in this election cycle.  Voting for 1/3 of the U.S. Senate, all of the U.S. House seats, elections at the state level for legislatures of all 50 states and territories, and governorship elections in 36 states (including here in Florida).


Turnout for mid-terms has become abysmal, and yet these elections are no less important than the more attention-grabbing Presidential elections.

Because it's during these mid-terms when the low turnouts favor the partisans... because only the wingnut voters turn out no matter what, and they'll get the twisted soul-sucking candidates they want put in office.

It's also vitally important to pay attention to the two major parties dominating the electorate at the national and state levels.  Because one of the two major parties - Republicans - is currently the greatest threat to our functional federalist government in ages.

The modern Republican Party is made up of half-serious anti-government types who've taken the "Government is Bad for you" meme to the point that they're basically anarchists.  The modern GOP has staffed their ranks with elected officials and wannabes who want government to fail, who want government to stop aiding poor families and the unemployed under the excuse of "being cruel to be kind."  The current Far Right dominated Republicans want to recklessly cut taxes for the already uber-rich, deregulate everything to let our warehouses explode and our bridges collapse and our economy sink into toxic assets... and then have the majority of suckers us taxpayers bailout everyone to fix the damage they'd caused only for them to repeat the same damn mistakes again.

Say what you will about Democrats being weak-willed or divided, at least the party as a whole still believes in making government work.  At least the Democrats aren't stuck in a 1850s mindset like the GOP is.  At least the Democrats are the current party able to adapt and adjust and make sense.

The modern Republican Party is made up of con artists, fear-mongers, clueless Galtian wannabes.

For the Love of God get the vote out this year.

For the Love of God DO NOT VOTE REPUBLICAN.  For the Love of God Democrats DON'T SCREW THIS UP.