Monday, December 22, 2014

Last Call For No Longer Whistling Past Dixie

Looks like the GOP's southern state base wants the deciding word on who will be the Republican nominee in 2016, and they're changing the primary game in order to do it.

Officials in five Southern states — Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas — are coordinating to hold their primary on March 1, 2016. Texas and Florida are considering also holding a primary the same day but may wait until later in the month. Either way, March 1 would be a Southern Super Tuesday, voting en masse on the heels of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

The joint primary, which appears increasingly likely to happen, would present a crucial early test for Republican White House hopefuls among the party’s most conservative voters. It could, in theory, boost a conservative alternative to a Republican who has emerged as the establishment favorite from the four states that kick off the nominating process. But one risk is that the deep-red complexion of the Southern states’ primary electorates would empower a candidate who can’t win in general election battlegrounds like Ohio and Colorado. 
Republicans from the South say their states make up the heart of the GOP and that it’s only fitting the region should have commensurate say over whom the party puts forward to compete for the White House. Proponents are already dubbing March 1 the “SEC primary,” after the NCAA’s powerhouse Southeastern Conference.

Especially if Texas and Florida join this little party, it's entirely possible that the GOP will have a presumptive nominee by St. Patrick's Day in 2016.  That makes me think more than ever that we'll get a far-right Tea Party nutter out of the GOP in sixteen months, although it could mean Jeb Bush's Florida and Texas connections could vault him into the lead.

Either way, it looks like the Republicans aren't going to repeat their mistake of too many debates and late primaries.  They want a nominee early so they can stop fighting amongst themselves and start attacking Hillary.

Time For Torture Trials

The NY Times on Sunday called for the investigation and if necessary, prosecution of former Vice President Dick Cheney and his crew of merry inquisitors over the CIA's torture program.

The question everyone will want answered, of course, is: Who should be held accountable? That will depend on what an investigation finds, and as hard as it is to imagine Mr. Obama having the political courage to order a new investigation, it is harder to imagine a criminal probe of the actions of a former president.

But any credible investigation should include former Vice President Dick Cheney; Mr. Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington; the former C.I.A. director George Tenet; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, the Office of Legal Counsel lawyers who drafted what became known as the torture memos. There are many more names that could be considered, including Jose Rodriguez Jr., the C.I.A. official who ordered the destruction of the videotapes; the psychologists who devised the torture regimen; and the C.I.A. employees who carried out that regimen.

One would expect Republicans who have gone hoarse braying about Mr. Obama’s executive overreach to be the first to demand accountability, but with one notable exception, Senator John McCain, they have either fallen silent or actively defended the indefensible. They cannot even point to any results: Contrary to repeated claims by the C.I.A., the report concluded that “at no time” did any of these techniques yield intelligence that averted a terror attack. And at least 26 detainees were later determined to have been “wrongfully held.”

Starting a criminal investigation is not about payback; it is about ensuring that this never happens again and regaining the moral credibility to rebuke torture by other governments. Because of the Senate’s report, we now know the distance officials in the executive branch went to rationalize, and conceal, the crimes they wanted to commit. The question is whether the nation will stand by and allow the perpetrators of torture to have perpetual immunity for their actions.

Sadly, the American people are perfectly fine with torture and see it as an American value.  Hell, a majority of Americans say the torture report should have never seen the light of day.  And no, nobody will ever be held accountable for this.  As long as the CIA can bleat "We saved American lives" then we don't care and we don't want to know what Cheney and his ghouls did in order to "get actionable intelligence".

The Times is shouting into a hurricane.

Like A Kansas Tornado, Con't

Meanwhile, the noxious dumpster fire that is the Kansas economy continues to burn with no end in sight as GOP Gov. Sam Brownback's awesome austerity plan is now killing thousands of jobs a month.

The new Kansas jobs numbers were released Friday morning, bringing horrible news to state taxpayers and Gov. Sam Brownback.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the total number of nonfarm jobs in Kansas fell by 4,100 in November.

Kansas’ disturbing experience was at odds with how much of the rest of the country did. A total of 37 other states gained in employment in November, while only 13 others, including Kansas, dropped.

Missouri boosted employment by 4,500 in November, for instance, while Oklahoma gained 3,400 jobs. Two other neighbors, Nebraska and Colorado, were among the job losers, though not close to the number shredded in Kansas.

What’s this all mean?

The figures show it’s going to be even tougher for Brownback — after pushing through excessive income tax cuts — to make up for the hundreds of millions of dollars in lost tax revenues from those reductions. They took effect in 2013.

Brownback has promised 2,000 new private sector jobs a month.  So far in 2014 he's at less than half that, and things are only getting worse.

Read more here:

By the way, Kentucky gained 5,300 jobs last month and 37,700 jobs in the last 12 months, a 2.1% gain for the year.  You know, job-killing Obamacare and stuff.  Go figure.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Last Call For A Firing Offense

Just a reminder that racism is still a problem in America, racism among young people is a problem (in case you subscribed to the theory that old racists will just die off or something, it wasn't true 50 years ago, it's not true now) and that racism among cops is a problem.  This from Cleveland:

Aaron McNamara is a young auxiliary officer at the Fairview Park police department [Update: "was" an auxiliary officer with Fairview police; he resigned less than an hour after this story was posted], climbing up the law enforcement ladder as he finishes his college degree this semester with dreams of becoming a federal agent, he says. On social media, he says he's gone through training with the Ohio State Highway Patrol, and this June he tweeted he was "Officially sworn in with the Fairview Park Police Department. Wow, this feels good. #DreamChasing."

He also has many thoughts about African Americans.

Over the past two years, McNamara has been commenting on YouTube videos — mostly about black people and law enforcement — regularly dropping racial and gay slurs, unambiguously expressing hatred towards minorities and anyone who dare not comply with what police say. He calls black people in videos "jungle monkeys," "spooks," and worse. He commented on a video of a young black child swearing, saying "This is how cop killers are raised my friends." He's also a fan of when police officers shoot and rough up non-compliant civilians.

Among Aaron McNamara's pearls of wisdom?

"Abolishing slavery was the worst thing we could have done. These people should be exterminated.. Unbelievable."

Reminder, this guy is in college (so educated enough to finish high school and pursue a degree), he wasn't in the South (Cleveland), is a Millennial in his twenties (so not from the 1950's or anything) and of course training to become a cop.

A cop who believes people like me should be "exterminated".

Raise your hand if you believe he is alone in meeting this criteria in America as we head into 2015.

Sunday Long Read: As Good As It Gets For Liberals

American Interest curmudgeon Walter Russell Mead makes the case that liberals in the US have no idea how good they had it under Obama, because the near-permanent rightward shift of America is imminent.

Shell-shocked liberals are beginning to grasp some inconvenient truths. No gun massacre is horrible enough to change Americans’ ideas about gun control. No UN Climate Report will get a climate treaty through the U.S. Senate. No combination of anecdotal and statistical evidence will persuade Americans to end their longtime practice of giving police officers extremely wide discretion in the use of force. No “name and shame” report, however graphic, from the Senate Intelligence Committee staff will change the minds of the consistent majority of Americans who tell pollsters that they believe that torture is justifiable under at least some circumstances. No feminist campaign will convince enough voters that the presumption of innocence should not apply to those accused of rape.

These are not the only issues in which, from a left Democratic point of view, the country is overrun with zombies and vampires: policy ideas that Democrats thought had been killed but still restlessly roam the earth. The finale of the George W. Bush presidency was, for many Democrats, conclusive evidence that conservative ideas just don’t work. The post 9/11 Bush foreign policy led to two long and unhappy wars. America had lost the trust of its allies without defeating its enemies. At home, the Bush tax cuts led to an exploding deficit, and the orgy of deregulation (admittedly, much of it dating from the Clinton years) led to the greatest financial crash since World War II and the most serious economic downturn since the Great Depression.

“Could a set of political ideas be more discredited?” liberals ask. The foreign policy failures of the Bush years, they believe, should have killed conservative ideology about America’s role in the world, and the financial crisis, they are certain, should have driven a stake through the heart of conservative economic doctrine. Yet: Here we are, six years into the Age of Obama, and the Tea Party is alive and Occupy is dead. The Republicans swept the midterm elections both nationally and at the state level—and Hillary Clinton appears more interested in conciliating Wall Street than in fighting it, and more interested in building bridges to conservative foreign policy thinkers than in continuing the Obama foreign policy. (And with even Jimmy Carter lambasting Obama’s Middle East policy as too weak, and the President committing to new troop deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s not clear that even President Obama wants to stay the course.)

Mead goes on to say that it's over for the left for good, that the Right will dominate, and if you thought Obama wasn't good enough, Hillary will be worse.

So just jump off a cliff now, libtards, right?

Not so fast.  The problem with the right is that you can always count on them overplaying their position and destroying themselves (and the country) in the process.  So yes, I think we are going to make a major shift to the right, and it's going to wreck the country again.  People have bet on the "permanent Republican majority" before and lost.

Maybe when the smoke clears next time, we'll have learned something.

The Morning After Brooklyn

The aftermath of last night's shooting of two NYPD beat cops is a grisly affair, with Republicans blaming Mayor de Blasio, AG Eric Holder, and of course, President Obama by proxy.  Former GOP Gov George Pataki made an ass of himself.

Pataki cast disdain at the mayor and the attorney general in a post on Twitter.

"Sickened by these barbaric acts, which sadly are a predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric of Eric Holder and Mayor de Blasio," he tweeted.

He was referring to de Blasio's and Holder's support for peaceful protesters decrying alleged police brutality after the killing of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, two unarmed black men who died in confrontations with officers this year.

Protesters have taken to streets nationwide to demand an end to killings of unarmed people by police officers.

Hours before Saturday's attack, Brinsley appeared to make statements on social media implying he planned to kill officers and expressing outrage over the deaths of Garner and Brown.

Pat Lynch, the head of New York's Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, has vehemently attacked the mayor before and did so again the day of the shooting.

"There's blood on many hands tonight," Lynch said before making reference to the mayor's office.

De Blasio did not respond to the denunciations against him, but he condemned the killing of the officers as an "assassination" while Holder described it as a "cowardly attack."

And of course, it's all the fault of those people.

Not to be outdone, social media users joined the fray. Others objected to the finger pointing.

Some turned to hashtags #BlackLivesMatter for Garner and Brown -- and #BlueLivesMatter for police officers -- to share their opinions.

"Everyone who turned Michael Brown into a saint, the assassination of those cops is on you," username @mattcale52 tweeted.

This is an awful tragedy, but let's be real here.  It's going to get a lot uglier.  You couldn't pay me to be in NYC right now.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Last Call For New York's Finest

Two New York City police officers were shot and killed ambush-style Saturday as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn, according to two law enforcement sources. 
Both officers were shot in the head, one of the sources said. Few other details were available. 
They had been rushed to a hospital in critical condition, said police spokesman Sgt. Lee Jones. 
The families of the fallen officers arrived at Woodhull Medical Center on Saturday afternoon, as dozens of police officers gathered in a show of support. 
The alleged shooter was found dead in a nearby subway station from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to a law enforcement official. 
The shooting occurred near Myrtle and Tompkins avenues in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

As I said on Twitter today, no, those NYPD cops didn't deserve to die. Neither did Eric Garner or Tamir Rice. It's 100% possible to have this view.  But none of that will matter now.  Two dead cops in NYC killed by a black man is all people will see.

The Foul Fix In Ferguson, Con't

So it turns out that St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch knew his witnesses were lying, and had them testify in the Darren Wilson grand jury proceeding anyway.

McCulloch: Well, early on, I decided that anyone who claimed to have witnessed anything was going to be presented to the grand jury.

And I knew that no matter how I handled it, there would be criticism of it. So if I didn’t put those witnesses on, then we’d be discussing now why I didn’t put those witnesses on. Even though their statements were not accurate.

So my determination was to put everybody on and let the grand jurors assess their credibility, which they did. This grand jury poured their hearts and souls into this. It was a very emotional few months for them. It took a lot of them.

I wanted to put everything on there.

I thought it was much more important to present everything and everybody, and some that, yes, clearly were not telling the truth. No question about it.

Bonus points:  He can't charge these witnesses with false statements because he just admitted publicly that he knew they were lying and if he does, he perjures himself in the process.

McCulloch: That issue has been raised, and it’s a legitimate issue. But, in the situation again, in the manner in which we did it, we’re not going to file perjury charges against anyone.

There were people who came in and, yes, absolutely lied under oath.Some lied to the FBI. Even though they’re not under oath, that’s another potential offense — a federal offense.

 So yes, this is obscene.  The witnesses lied to the grand jury, and because of that, the jury proceedings are bogus at best and an outright attempt to swing the jury's verdict under false pretenses at worst.

But Darren Wilson continues to go free.

The fix was always in.

A Couple Of Cuban Hams

Seems Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio are no longer buddies, as they are now on opposite sides of Obama's Cuba normalization policy heading into 2015, and it's starting to get...personal.

The disagreement between Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rand Paul (R-KY) over America's changing relationship with Cuba is escalating quickly.

Rubio was among the loudest opponents to President Barack Obama's announcement that the United States would begin normalizing relations with its Caribbean neighbor. After Paul said he supported the change, Rubio lashed out, saying Paul "has no idea what he's talking about."

Rand's response?

Rand Paul accusing somebody of being an isolationist.  Rand Paul.  And being correct about it.

The clown car slapfights are starting to get amusing.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Last Call For Last Man Out, Turn Off The Lights

President Obama's end-of-year press conference for 2014 was one for the ages.

President Obama did something remarkable on Friday. He held his last press conference of the year, and the only people in the entire press corps who were called on to ask questions were women. Yes, this was on purpose; it had to be.

It was amazing.

The first woman ever to cover a president was the late Helen Thomas and she had been a fixture in the first row of the briefing room and at presidential news conferences for decades beginning with John F. Kennedy's presidency. 
And, for the record, here are the eight reporters -- all of them print reporters, it should be noted -- who got called on. 
  • Carrie Budoff Brown, Politico
  • Cheryl Bolen, Bloomberg
  • Julie Pace, Associated Press
  • Lesley Clark, McClatchy
  • Roberta Rampton, Reuters
  • Colleen M. Nelson, Wall Street Journal
  • Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post
  • April Ryan, American Urban Radio 
The eighth was a bonus question. As is custom, when reporters thought Obama was heading for the exits, they shouted one last question at him. A male reporter asked Obama about his New Year's resolution. 
Obama ignored it and called on Ryan instead.

I'm still chuckling over this.  Obama Trolling level: Pallas Athena.

Credit Where Credit Is Blatantly Appropriated

Over at Bloomberg News, Josh Rogin has apparently gotten into the special egg nog a little early.

Although President Barack Obama is taking the credit for Wednesday’s historic deal to reverse decades of U.S. policy toward Cuba, when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, she was the main architect of the new policy and pushed far harder for a deal than the Obama White House
From 2009 until her departure in early 2013, Clinton and her top aides took the lead on the sometimes public, often private interactions with the Cuban government. According to current and former White House and State Department officials and several Cuba policy experts who were involved in the discussions, Clinton was also the top advocate inside the government for ending travel and trade restrictions on Cuba and reversing 50 years of U.S. policy to isolate the Communist island nation. Repeatedly, she pressed the White House to move faster and faced opposition from cautious high-ranking White House officials. 
After Obama announced the deal Wednesday, which included the release of aid contractor Alan Gross, Clinton issued a supportive statement distributed by the National Security Council press team. “As Secretary of State, I pushed for his release, stayed in touch with Alan’s wife Judy and their daughters, and called for a new direction in Cuba," she said. "Despite good intentions, our decades-long policy of isolation has only strengthened the Castro regime's grip on power.” 
Yet Clinton played down her own role in the issue, which will surely become important if she decides to run for president. Top prospective Republican candidates, including Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have all come out against the president’s policy shift. 
Clinton’s advocacy on behalf of opening a new relationship with Cuba began almost as soon as she came into office. Obama had campaigned on a promise to engage enemies, but the White House initially was slow to make good on that pledge, and on the Cuba front enacted only a modest relaxation of travel rules. From the start, Clinton pushed to hold Obama to his promise with regard to Cuba. 
Hillary Clinton played a very large role,” said Steve Clemons, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation who advocated for changes to U.S.-Cuba policy. “The president, when he ran for office and when he came in, thought that doing something on Cuba front would be smart. But as soon as he got into office, though, every other priority hit him.”

If there was any doubt that President Obama's move on Cuba is a massive foreign policy legacy point for the history books that will stand the test of time, please note the blinding speed at which the credit for the deal is being given to someone else.

Also, if there was ever any doubt that Hillary Clinton was not going to have trouble earning the trust of Obama 2008 primary voters, well, please note the same goddamn thing. The false modesty angle actually made me laugh aloud while reading it, as if this wasn't the perfect example of That Awesome Co-Worker Taking Credit.

It's one thing to say "Secretary Clinton had a role in this" and another thing completely to say she was the "main architect" of a diplomatic coup that happened 2 years after she left Foggy Bottom. Maybe I'd be a little less angry if this was the first time people were trying to "Aww shucks" their way into giving her credit for something President Obama accomplished, and again I'm sure she did play a part.

But in the end, a Secretary of State is implementing the foreign policy of a President. Period. Deal with it.

Alison's Split Decision

As you may have heard, my hairpiece of a junior senator Rand Paul may be playing for the White House in 2016. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Oval Office for ol’ Rand. Kentucky law says that a candidate’s name can’t appear twice on the same ballot for different races, so Rand either has to run for Senator or for President, but not both. Rand and the KY GOP want to change that law or even go around it. But any election law business has to go through Kentucky’s current Secretary of State.

Six weeks after she lost her own bid for the U-S Senate, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (R-Kentucky) tells WHAS11 if U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) tries to appear on the same ballot for both Senate and President in 2016, she will challenge him in court. 
“The law is clear,” Grimes said. “You can’t be on the ballot twice for two offices.” 
Kentucky Democrats are not cooperating as Paul considers mounting simultaneous campaigns for Senate and President. Democrats maintained control of the Kentucky House in last month’s election, a roadblock to legislation favored by the Republican Senate to remove the prohibition. House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) declined to consider a Senate bill to that effect earlier this year. 
Paul may challenge the law in court as the Republican Party of Kentucky also discusses whether to hold a presidential caucus rather than a primary, which would allow Paul to follow the letter of the law by not appearing on the primary ballot, twice. 
“We haven’t made a final decision one way or another,” Paul told WHAS11 last month, “other than I have decided I am going to run for reelection for the US Senate.” 
Grimes was asked about the potential battle after a meeting at Kentucky’s Board of Elections on Tuesday. 
“I will not be bullied,” Grimes said. “I think hopefully the people of Kentucky understand that over the course of this past year, and I will not hesitate to seek help and assistance in the opinion of a court.” 
Pressed whether she would also seek an opinion from Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway (D), who lost to Paul in the 2010 Senate race, Grimes reiterated that she would rely on the courts. 
“We’ll look to the court for any guidance that is needed,” Grimes said. “And at the end of the day, we’re not going to be bullied. I’ve done my job as Secretary of State for the people of Kentucky and I’ll continue to do that.”

Some background on politics here:

Republicans control Kentucky’s state Senate, Democrats control Kentucky’s state House. Odds are good there’s going to be a Senate bill reversing the law, but it will have to get past the House and Kentucky’s ambitious House Speaker, Greg Stumbo. If it does, Kentucky’s gubernatorial election becomes key in 2015, when Democrat “Dinosaur” Steve Beshear (he of the tax credits for the Ark Encounter park, recently reversed) hangs it up after his second term. (Kentucky’s off-off year election for Governor is how state officials get around the election law locally when running for that office, the other state offices are during presidential election years.) Beshear’s running mate Jerry Abramson recently left the Lt. Governor’s office to be the Obama administration’s point man on local governments. Beshear called informer State Auditor Crit Luallen to finish up Abramson’s term, but she’s not going to run for Governor. Republican and current Ag Commissioner James Comer is already in for the GOP, versus Democrat and current Attorney General Jack Conway and it’s possible that if Comer wins, he can push to overturn the law in time for Rand to run in 2016. If Conway wins, he can veto it if needed.


So, having said all that, I’m thinking that all this theater may be Alison’s opening act, but not for a run at Frankfort. Sticking it to Rand is a good way to get noticed by the Village, after all. And if Rand jumps in the clown carpool and the law still stands, suddenly his Senate seat is a open race in 2016. Conway, Grimes, maybe even Luallen might take a shot at it. On the GOP side, if Comer loses in 2015 I’m betting he’d be in, and lurking around the corner is Libertarian spoiler David Patterson, who got 3% in November’s race.

Either way, next year should be pretty exciting around the Bluegrass State.

Um, we apologize in advance for how this will probably find a way to mess up America in the process. Sorry.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Last Call For Vermont's Single Payer Plan

Looks like Vermont won't be implementing single payer healthcare anytime soon, as Dem Gov. Peter Shumlin, who barely survived re-election in November, is quietly dropping the attempt as unworkable.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin on Wednesday dropped his plan to enact a single-payer health care system in his state — a plan that had won praise from liberals but never really got much past the framework stage. 
“This is not the right time” for enacting single payer, Shumlin said in a statement, citing the big tax increases that would be required to pay for it.

Shumlin faced deep skepticism that lawmakers could agree on a way to pay for his ambitious goal and that the feds would agree to everything he needed to create the first state-based single-payer system in 2017. 
And that was all before Shumlin, a Democrat, almost lost reelection last month in one of the country’s most liberal states. And it was before MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, the now notorious Obamacare consultant who also advised Vermont until his $400,000 contract was killed amid the controversy, became political poison.

Gruber nonsense aside, the real problem was the money.

Shumlin had missed two earlier financing deadlines but finally released his proposal. But he immediately cast it as “detrimental to Vermonters.” The model called for businesses to take on a double-digit payroll tax, while individuals would face up to a 9.5 percent premium assessment. Big businesses, in particular, didn’t want to pay for Shumlin’s plan while maintaining their own employee health plans. 
“These are simply not tax rates that I can responsibly support or urge the Legislature to pass,” the governor said. “In my judgment, the potential economic disruption and risks would be too great to small businesses, working families and the state’s economy.” 
And that was for a plan that would not be truly single payer. Large companies with self-insured plans regulated by ERISA would have been exempt. And Medicare also would have operated separately, unless the state got a waiver, which was a long shot. 
Shumlin added that federal funds available for the transition were $150 million less than expected.

So, big business payroll tax hikes, a 9.5% tax on individual plans, and large businesses wanted exemptions, and that's all before Medicare and the fact the federal bucks weren't there.  The plan was a non-starter, and I don't know why our side made single-payer such a huge deal, when it would have meant serious tax hikes on people and businesses and the rich would have walked away with "exemptions" anyway.

As much as I'd like to see single payer, it has to be everybody at once.  One state doing it without federal support (and let's face it, a GOP Congress will kill any federal money for this because they're perfectly fine letting poor blue state voters die) isn't going to work.

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