It’s true that public opinion surveys are not showing any 2010-style GOP “wave,” but Democrats are rightly nervous that when polls begin identifying likely voters closer to November, superior Republican “base enthusiasm” could put a thumb on the scales in their favor.
The Krewe of Chewbacchus rolled through my neighborhood Saturday night. I decided to post some of the photos I took of the participants to liven up the thread today. The parade is a celebration of Fantasy and SF books, movies, games, and TV series. More professional pictures can be found here. See if you can recognize them! I only wish the celebration of fantasy was limited to movies and books. Unfortunately, it isn’t and the Koch Brothers fantasy economics plans are ruining states around the country.
I keep having conversations with people who are either politically active or politically knowledgeable about finding a way out of our current mess. There are several key problems that seem out of the hands of voters to solve. At least, those voters that actually vote.
Things have been on the down slope since the Reagan administration but have really picked up steam with the final fifth vote locked into the Supreme Court. The Citizen’s United Decision is throttling American Democracy which is why we really need to bring back the Fairness Doctrine among other things. It seems odd that Brian Williams can be hounded out of journalism for one mistaken memory when at least 60%–if not more–of what Fox broadcasts daily is an out and out lie. Is Facism on the rise in America and what can we do to stop it?
As the American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is: “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.”
Well, it it may well on our doorstep. And the oligarchs are plotting their final takeover by using their economic dominance to capture governmental power – specifically, the governmental power which sets the rules for the very marketplace that provides the oligarchs with such massive wealth.
Once the American corporate barons own the institutions that are meant to regulate them, it’s game-over for both rational capitalism (including competition) and for democracy.
Last week, at David and Charles Koch’s annual winter meeting near Palm Springs, California, it was announced that the Koch Brothers’ political organization would spend close to $900 million on the 2016 election. If this goal is met, the group of corporate leaders will spend far more than the Republican Party and its congressional campaign committees spent, combined, in the 2012 campaign.
Once upon a time, it would have been illegal for the Koch Brothers and their fellow oligarchs to buy an election. Of course, that time was before the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.
In 2010, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, presented the best opportunity for the Roberts Court to use its five vote majority to totally re-write the face of politics in America, rolling us back to the pre-1907 era of the Robber Barons.
As Jeffrey Toobin wrote in The New Yorker (“No More Mr. Nice Guy”): “In every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff.
You can see the influence of the Koch Brothers money in the states that have Republican Governors. It is especially true of those Republican Governors with presidential aspirations who want the promised $1 billion the Kochs have pledged for the next campaign cycle. I want to cover Bobby Jindal, Louisiana, and the horrible budget problems that we have from Jindal’s campaign to please the Kochs. But first, I’d like to tell you what Scott Walker is doing to one of the nation’s premier public universities.
One of the major things the Kochs hate is people that aren’t miseducated or trained to be working zombies. This fits right in with their agenda.This is similar to what’s going on with the destruction of public education and universities in Louisiana and similar issues in Kansas, both of which have Koch sucking Governors.
More than 35,000 public employees would be removed from state government rolls if Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal stays intact through the legislative process.
Walker’s 2015-17 budget proposal, which was introduced Tuesday, makes major changes to the operation of the state’s University of Wisconsin System. The second-term governor’s plan would split off the system into its own public entity.
By creating a separate authority for the University of Wisconsin System, it would no longer be under the direct management of the state.
According to Walker, University of Wisconsin System supporters have been asking for more autonomy for years, claiming it would help cut costs and better serve students. The Republican governor’s plan also includes a $150 million funding cut in each year of his biennial budget in exchange for the greater autonomy.
The annual reduction is equivalent to a 2.5 percent cut in total public funding. Opponents of Walker’s reform have claimed aid is being cut by 13 percent. That, however, only takes into consideration general fund spending from the state.
You might think that changing the mission of a flagship public university would be an issue put up for public discussion. Not in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker submitted a budget proposal that included language that would have changed the century-old mission of the University of Wisconsin system — known as the Wisconsin Idea and embedded in the state code — by removing words that commanded the university to “search for truth” and “improve the human condition” and replacing them with “meet the state’s workforce needs.”
Walker, in a budget speech given earlier this week, didn’t bother to mention the change, which is more than a simple issue of semantics. There is a national debate about what the role of colleges and universities should be. One group, including Walker, see higher education in big part as a training ground for workers in the American workplace; another sees college education as a way to broaden the minds of young people and teach them how to be active, productive citizens of the country.
He earlier tried to tell University faculty and staff that they needed to work harder and not include “service” in their list of duties. This is all part of the privatization craze that attempts to put union workers and public servants into the parasite category. However, when privatized, the same workers suddenly are doing something valuable with lower compensation so that management and stockholders can skim profits from the actual work being done.
Governor Scott Walker–whom Charlie Pierce refers to as “the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to run their Midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin”–plans to unveil a budget on Tuesday evening that will reportedly “slash hundreds of millions of dollars from the state’s public universities over the next two years.” Alice Ollstein of ThinkProgress said that students, professors and state lawmakers “are already blasting the plan — the deepest cut in state history…” They told ThinkProgress that they are “organizing to block its passage.”
Even a Gannet owned newspaper complained about the cuts and the entire attitude towards faculty and higher education in general. Oh, and he’s calling for nearly $500 million tax dollars for a new stadium for the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Gannett Central Wisconsin Media Editorial Board thinks that Walker’s proposed cuts to the university go too deep. With regard to economics, the board wrote “the more educated our workforce, the higher our state’s overall standard of living will be. And in all sorts of intangible ways the university system improves our quality of life — injecting culture into communities, offering broad-based liberal education, helping define our sense of Badger identity.” The board added that “Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed Draconian cuts to the system will undermine those values and hobble future economic growth.”
Gannett Central Wisconsin Media Editorial Board:
Walker compounded the sense that cuts are driven by political animus when, on Wednesday, he told a conservative radio host that faculty and staff should simply increase their workload to make up the difference. It was a condescending, somewhat nasty thing to say, and it was not based in fact. UW-Madison professors, a February study showed, work on average 63 hours a week; we see no reason to assume profs on stretched-thin regional campuses work less…
Taking a chainsaw to the UW budget now is no way to make smart, lasting reforms. Insulting UW faculty is no way to demonstrate an interest in positive reform.
And $300 million in new cuts is too much to swallow.
In a commentary published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Friday, members of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Faculty Senate Executive Committee said that news reports had confirmed that the “UW System campuses are slated to take a combined $150 million base budget cut (over two years, so $300 million total) in his upcoming 2015-’17 biennial budget proposal.” The Journal Sentinel claimed that the numbers were “staggering.” This will reportedly be “the largest cut in the 45-year history of the system.
Well, Wisconson, welcome to the world of Governors owned by the Koch Brothers. Here’s our reality down here in Lousyana. We’re on our 8th of year the same kind of BS. We’re sending tax dollars to Chinese corporations, Arkansas Corporations, and Hollywood, but taking money away from every school but the religious madrassas and for-profits preferred by Jindal and the Kochs.
Widespread layoffs, hundreds of classes eliminated, academic programs jettisoned and a flagship university that can’t compete with its peers around the nation — those are among the grim scenarios LSU leaders outlined in internal documents as the threat of budget cuts loom.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration is considering deep budget slashing to higher education for the fiscal year that begins July 1 to help close a $1.6 billion shortfall.
LSU campuses from Shreveport to New Orleans were asked to explain how a reduction between 35 percent and 40 percent in state financing — about $141.5 million to the university system — would affect their operations. The documents, compiled for LSU System President F. King Alexander, were obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request.
The potential implications of such hefty cuts were summed up in stark terms: 1,433 faculty and staff jobs eliminated; 1,572 courses cut; 28 academic programs shut down across campuses; and 6 institutions declaring some form of financial emergency.
At the system’s flagship university in Baton Rouge, the documents say 27 percent of faculty positions would have to be cut, along with 1,400 classes, jeopardizing the accreditation of the engineering and business colleges. Some campus buildings would be closed.
“These severe cuts would change LSU’s mission as a public research and land-grant university. It will no longer be capable of competing with America’s significant public universities and will find itself dramatically behind the rest of the nation,” the documents say.
One of the first things these folks want to do is to dumb up the population and get rid of faculty and schools that won’t teach the crap they want to continue to force their economic fairy tale. No amount of peer review is ever going to make the trickle down economics crap do anything but float in septic tanks. But, they’re sure doing a great job of forcing it into things by owning politicians. Both Kansas and Louisiana are in freaking budget nightmares.
The country is full of examples illustrating the failure of Republican economic policies. Scott Walker’s Wisconsin and Sam Brownback’s Kansas have become poster children for the job killing, budget busting, folly of pursuing supply side economics. Were it not for the damage that right-wing policies inflict upon working families, the Laffer curve would be simply laughable.
Yet, Grover Norquist’s army of tax-hating Governors continues to run roughshod over red state budgets promising a fiscal utopia. The fact that the utopia never materializes apparently doesn’t matter. Red state voters re-elect them anyway. The words “tax cut”, like an elixir, cures their fears, even if the people whose taxes are being cut are not the ordinary voters, but rather the ultra wealthy.
Joining Brownback and Walker on the list of Governor’s facing serious budget problems, is Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. On Friday, The New York Times reported that Louisiana is anticipating a 1.6 billion dollar budget shortfall for next year, and that the deficit will remain in that range for years to come. When Jindal took office in 2008, the state had a 900 million dollar surplus, and the unemployment rate was just 3.8 percent. Now, in addition to having a gaping budget shortfall, Louisiana’s unemployment rate is at 6.7 percent, above the national average.Despite the state’s budget woes, Jindal has continued to resist any tax increases. He has depleted the state’s reserve funds to fill budget holes and is still coming up short on the needed revenue. Louisiana has one of the lowest tax burdens in the nation, and as a consequence, the state ranks near dead last in quality of education and health care. Nevertheless, the supply side dogmatism of Governor Jindal virtually guarantees that the state will continue on its current path to economic perdition.
Jindal is often mentioned as a possible Republican candidate for President. However, Jindal’s fiscal mismanagement has made him deeply unpopular even in his own state. A November 2014 Public Policy Polling survey found that only a third of Louisiana voters approved of the Governor’s job performance while 56 percent disapproved. Supply side economics has been a nightmare to the residents of Louisiana.
Notice the similar policies? Kill the Universities or warp them into places to train the zombie drone workers of the future? Anyway, I really hope that the 2016 voters change some of this. I can’t wait for Hillary to tackle the Republican that tries to mainstream this crap.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Yesterday, Dakinikat wrote a very good post about the right wing’s hysterical response to President Obama’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast about violence in the name of religion. And predictably, her nemesis Gov. Bobby Jindal released a statement chiding the President later in the day.
Here’s what Jindal had to say, from the WaPo:
“It was nice of the President to give us a history lesson at the Prayer breakfast,” Jindal said. “Today, however, the issue right in front of his nose, in the here and now, is the terrorism of Radical Islam, the assassination of journalists, the beheading and burning alive of captives. We will be happy to keep an eye out for runaway Christians, but it would be nice if he would face the reality of the situation today. The Medieval Christian threat is under control, Mr. President. Please deal with the Radical Islamic threat today.”
If Jindal really wants to “keep an eye out for runaway Christians,” maybe he ought to take a look in the mirror. I could go on and and on about modern right wing Christian terrorism, but I won’t–I’ll just give you a few examples below.
Apparently Jindal and the rest of his fellow “conservative” whiners have managed to ignore the Ku Klux Klan–a self-proclaimed [Protestant] Christian organization that is still active today–along with the Christian Identity Movement; abortion clinic bombings and murders of abortion doctors by “God-fearing” Christians; and mass-murders by self-proclaimed Christians like Andres Brevik and Timothy McVeigh, (a Catholic). Again, I could go on and on, but I’ll just offer this top-ten list from Raw Story: America’s 10 worst terror attacks by Christian fundamentalists and far-right extremists.
From Fox News to the Weekly Standard, neoconservatives have tried to paint terrorism as a largely or exclusively Islamic phenomenon. Their message of Islamophobia has been repeated many times since the George W. Bush era: Islam is inherently violent, Christianity is inherently peaceful, and there is no such thing as a Christian terrorist or a white male terrorist. But the facts don’t bear that out. Far-right white male radicals and extreme Christianists are every bit as capable of acts of terrorism as radical Islamists, and to pretend that such terrorists don’t exist does the public a huge disservice. Dzhokhar Anzorovich Tsarnaev and the late Tamerlan Anzorovich Tsarnaev (the Chechen brothers suspected in the Boston Marathon bombing of April 15, 2013) are both considered white and appear to have been motivated in part by radical Islam. And many terrorist attacks in the United States have been carried out by people who were neither Muslims nor dark-skinned.
When white males of the far right carry out violent attacks, neocons and Republicans typically describe them as lone-wolf extremists rather than people who are part of terrorist networks or well-organized terrorist movements. Yet many of the terrorist attacks in the United States have been carried out by people who had long histories of networking with other terrorists. In fact, most of the terrorist activity occurring in the United States in recent years has not come from Muslims, but from a combination of radical Christianists, white supremacists and far-right militia groups.
I’ll just list the incidents listed in the article, and you can read more about them at the link.
1. Wisconsin Sikh Temple massacre, Aug. 5, 2012.
2. The murder of Dr. George Tiller, May 31, 2009.
3. Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church shooting, July 27, 2008.
4. The murder of Dr. John Britton, July 29, 1994.
5. The Centennial Olympic Park bombing, July 27, 1996.
6. The murder of Barnett Slepian by James Charles Kopp, Oct. 23, 1998.
7. Planned Parenthood bombing, Brookline, Massachusetts, 1994.
8. Suicide attack on IRS building in Austin, Texas, Feb. 18, 2010.
9. The murder of Alan Berg, June 18, 1984.
10. Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing, April 19, 1995.
Can anyone make a similar list of atheist terrorist attacks?
Read more below the fold . . .
I absolutely cannot believe the hatred coming out of the Republican Party and its christianist grass roots these days. It’s downright embarrassing that my Governor is leading the charge. There are so many of these stories at the moment that they certainly need the light of day given that we’ve just recognized the 70th anniversary of NAZI concentration camps designed for the Jewish, the homosexual, the intellectual, and others considered outcasts of their society.
This first disturbing piece comes from Texas where Texas Muslims gathered peacefully to recognize democracy and to teach their children about how we do things in this country. Unfortunately, many haters gave them the wrong lesson.
They came out by the hundreds from Dallas, San Antonio and Houston, mostly women and children, girls with silver-bowed shoes and pink owl backpacks. They sang the national anthem and prayed.
But less than 20 feet from where the group of Texas Muslims gathered on the steps of the state Capitol in Austin, a small handful of protesters told them exactly how they felt about their visit.
“We don’t want you here!” shouted one. Others yelled, “Go home,” “ISIS will gladly take you” and “remember 9/11.”
“You don’t have to dress that way! Take it off!” came from a woman holding an Israeli flag. “Islam is the war on women!”
Earlier in the morning, Rep. Molly White, R-Belton, commented on the gathering.
“I did leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws. We will see how long they stay in my office,” she wrote on Facebook.
Thursday marked the seventh annual Texas Muslim Capitol Day in Austin, when hundreds of adherents of Islam visit the Capitol to meet with lawmakers and learn about the democratic process. This year, however, is the first that’s been marked by virulent anti-Islam protests, said Ruth Nasrullah, a prominent Muslim blogger from Houston who also hosted the event.
Christine Weick, who said she was originally from Michigan but now is “on the road,” at one point stormed the succession of speakers, grabbing the microphone and yelling, “Islam will not dominate the United States, and by the grace of God, it will not dominate Texas.”
She was carted back to her spot with the other 12 to 15 protesters holding vigil behind a wall of law enforcement officers. “Muhammad is dead!” she and other chanted, referring to the Muslim prophet.
As the group of Muslims continued the event by singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the interruptions persisted, with the protesters yelling, “Islam is a lie!” and “No Sharia here!”
Mustafaa Carroll, the executive director of the Houston chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, called the behavior “very frustrating.” Carroll said this was the first year protesters showed up since Muslim Capitol Day began.
“I’m more concerned with state leaders and what they say than I am about anybody else because they are the lawmakers,” he said.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has sent a letter to House Speaker Joe Straus asking whether White had violated ethics rules by instructing her staff to ask Muslim visitors to her office to declare their allegiance to the United States.
“Our ethics question is: Has Rep. White violated any House rules in creating such an internal office policy that is selectively being enforced to discriminate against certain religious minorities trying to meet with her or her staff?” the letter asks. “Are House members prohibited from making constituents take oaths before meeting with their elected representatives or House staff?”
In a statement, Straus said: “Legislators have a responsibility to treat all visitors just as we expect to be treated — with dignity and respect. Anything else reflects poorly on the entire body and distracts from the very important work in front of us.” His statement did not address the ethics complaint.
As of mid-morning, the Israeli flag was still on the desk in White’s office. By noon, she had released a follow-up Facebook post that added: “I do not apologize for my comments. … If you love America, obey our laws and condemn Islamic terrorism, then I embrace you as a fellow American. If not, then I do not.”
But at 3 p.m., White released a new statement saying she welcomed “all of my constituents who would like to come and visit our office in the Texas State Capitol.”
“As law-abiding American citizens, we all have the privilege and the right to freedom of speech granted to us by the First Amendment,” she wrote. “… As a proud Texan and American I fully denounce all terrorist groups or organizations who’s [sic] intent is to hurt and destroy the great state of Texas and our nation.”
This was not the first time White has aired her concerns about Muslims on Facebook.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s bigotry has been over the top recently. He called for “cultural assimilation” suggesting that if every one acted white, everything would be just fine. However, he fails to look around the country to find there are many examples of non-Muslim people of faith who are not assimilated to the culturally white WASP majority. Peter Weber-writing for the Week–suggested Jindal take a look at Brooklyn where there are ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jews that live and dress as their European ancestors have for many years.
“There is a way of thinking by many on the Left in America, which disturbs me greatly,” Jindal says: “The notion that assimilation is not necessary or even preferable.” Liberals, he adds, “think it is unenlightened, discriminatory, and even racist to expect immigrants to endorse and assimilate into the culture in their new country. This is complete rubbish.”
Jindal says he believes that religious and ethnic groups make America stronger when they come to embrace America’s culture and values. But not every group qualifies:
Are they coming to be set apart, are they unwilling to assimilate, do they have their own laws they want to establish, do they fundamentally disagree with your political culture? Therein lies the difference between immigration and invasion….
To be clear — I am not suggesting for one second that people should be shy or embarrassed about their ethnic heritage. But I am explicitly saying that it is completely reasonable for nations to discriminate between allowing people into their country who want to embrace their culture, or allowing people into their country who want to destroy their culture, or establish a separate culture within. [Jindal]
Well, off the top of my head, I can think of a couple of groups in the United States that have established “a separate culture within” America, probably “fundamentally disagree” with America’s “political culture,” and are still an integral part of America’s rich cultural and religious tapestry.
The Amish communities in Pennsylvania and Ohio, for example, don’t drive cars, use smartphones, or allow their members to wear synthetic fabrics. Jehovah’s Witnesses consider themselves a global movement and don’t serve in the U.S. armed forces or salute or pledge allegiance to the American flag; they also don’t accept blood transfusions, or celebrate Christmas or birthdays. And is Jindal really going to tell the Cajun and Creole communities in his home state to stop speaking Louisiana French?
If Jindal is serious about his idea, though, I have a challenge for him: Go to Brooklyn.
In Williamsburg, in Crown Heights, in Borough Park, there are sizable and growing insular communities, or “courts,” of ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jews. They have their own customs, language (Yiddish), 19th-century style of dress, political and religious leaders, and, in some instances, laws. Women typically don’t have the same rights as men. The Hasidic communities of Brooklyn and elsewhere in New York and New Jersey have not assimilated to American culture.
Peter Beinart writes that Jindal “wants Christians to stand apart from secular society, but condemns Muslims who do the same.”
In London, Jindal said “non-assimilationist Muslims” threaten the West not merely because they support acts of violence, and not merely because they adhere to Islamic rather than national law. Most fundamentally, they pose a threat because they refuse to embrace the cultures of the countries to which they immigrate. Denouncing the left’s claim that “it is unenlightened, discriminatory, and even racist to expect immigrants to endorse and assimilate into the culture in their new country,” Jindal insisted that “it is completely reasonable for nations to discriminate between allowing people into their country who want to embrace their culture, or allowing people into their country who want to destroy their culture, or establish a separate culture within.”
In his London speech, Jindal made little effort to define American or European culture except to associate it with “freedom.” So it’s hard to know exactly which aspects of it he believes Muslims refuse to embrace. But in his speeches last year on religion, Jindal discussed American culture at greater length. And his verdict was surprisingly harsh. “American culture,” he told students at Liberty University, “has in many ways become a secular culture.” Many churches, he declared, now espouse “views on sin [that] are in direct conflict with the culture.” In case students hadn’t gotten the message, Jindal repeated himself: “our culture has taken a secular turn.”
Then he asked a rhetorical question: “What do we do about it?” His answer: resist. People of faith, he argued, must recognize that they are fighting a “silent war” against the secular, liberal elite. And they must keep waging that war no matter how much of a cultural minority they become. “Our religious liberty,” he insisted, “must in no way ever be linked to the ever-changing opinions of the public.
So let’s imagine a scenario. A devout Christian emigrates from Nigeria to a progressive American college town, where she takes up work as a pharmacist. She quickly finds herself at odds with the dominant culture around her. Co-workers mock her modest dress and her insistence on interrupting work to pray. When she calls homosexuality a sin, they denounce her as a bigot. Ultimately, her employer fires her for refusing to dispense contraception.
Based on his speeches at Liberty University and the Reagan Library, Jindal’s advice to this woman would be clear: Wage “silent war” against the culture that oppresses you, even if you’re a minority of one. If necessary, “establish a separate culture within” the dominant one so you can raise children who fear and obey God.
Now imagine that our devout Nigerian is a Muslim. Suddenly her resistance to the dominant culture makes her not a hero but a menace. Jindal supporters might resist the analogy. Christians, they might argue, don’t kill cartoonists or establish their own separate legal systems. But Jindal’s point in London was that the problems with Muslim immigrants go beyond issues of violence and law. The core danger, he insisted, is their refusal to assimilate into the culture of the countries to which they immigrate. And since Jindal has already declared that American (let alone European) culture is secular, any immigrant who refuses to assimilate into it is, by his definition, a threat. Our Nigerian pharmacist should never been given a visa.
Why point out the contradiction between Jindal’s heroic portrayal of Christian non-assimilators and his demonization of Muslim ones? Because it exposes his lofty talk about culture and identity to be an elaborate ruse. The only principle he’s really defending is anti-Muslim bigotry.
It’s amazing to me that 70 years after the scapegoating of European Jews led to the “ultimate solution” we could still be living with this kind of hatred propagated by elected officials. It is odd that the same people waving flags of Israel understand so little about the history that led to the demand for a Jewish state. Of course, they are only thinking that the fruition of their end times dreams comes only with building of a temple on what is now a holy Islamic site.
I only hope that people of good will speak out against this bigotry.
What is on your reading and blogging list today?
One of the most appalling things I’ve been witnessing the last few years is how costly it is for the taxpayers to fund Republican witch hunts, theocratic laws pandering to christianists that wind up being declared unconstitutional over and over again, lawsuits defending crooked Republican governors or prosecuting crooked Republican politicians, and then the tax breaks they immediately give to their donors and cronies that don’t do anything except cost everyone money and jobs. So, welcome to socializing Republican graft, crime, and cronyism in the USA!
New Jersey taxpayers are on the hook for more than $6.5 million to the law firm Gov. Chris Christie hired to represent his office in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal.
The state attorney general’s office released recent bills from Gibson Dunn & Crutcher on Friday.
The law firm represents Christie’s office in the state and federal investigations into last September’s lane closures. It published a 350-page report in March that found Christie and his top staffers were not involved in the lane closures ordered by a former Christie aide, apparently as political retribution.
The report has been criticized by some as a whitewash.
Gibson Dunn earlier this year agreed to reduce its rate from the original agreement of $650 per hour to $350.
Wisconsin is another state where the Governor has instituted every possible failed Republican economic policy offered up by the Koch Brothers. Get a load of these huge tax cuts that went to a business for being a job creator while they laid off 1900 people. Ashley Furniture got a $6 million dollar tax cut for that lovely set of job creation.
The board overseeing the state’s flagship job-creation agency has quietly approved a $6 million tax credit for Ashley Furniture Industries with a condition allowing the company to eliminate half of its state workforce.
As approved by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. board, the award would allow the Arcadia-based global furniture maker to move ahead with a $35 million expansion of its headquarters and keep 1,924 jobs in the state.
But it wouldn’t require Ashley to create any new jobs, instead granting the company license to lay off half of its current 3,848 Wisconsin-based workers in exchange for an enterprise zone tax credit, one of the most valuable and coveted state subsidies.
The board’s decision has not been made public because a contract with the company has not been finalized. But in a statement Friday, in response to questions from the State Journal, Ashley Furniture confirmed it is seeking state subsidies that include terms allowing for job reductions.
The company said it injected $394 million into the Wisconsin economy in 2013, including supporting 610 Wisconsin businesses.
“It is more expensive for Ashley to manufacture in Arcadia than it is to do so closer to its major markets,” the company said. “The loss of Ashley’s contributions to the regional economy of west-central Wisconsin would be catastrophic.”
WEDC spokesman Mark Maley said the agency doesn’t comment on pending or possible WEDC awards.
“Obviously, WEDC is very interested in working with one of the largest employers in northwestern Wisconsin to find ways to help ensure that the company can continue to flourish here in our state,” Maley said. “WEDC is committed to doing whatever it can to work with the company and preserve those jobs.”
Maley declined comment on whether WEDC had provided any other awards conditioned on retaining a percentage of jobs, as opposed to creating jobs.
When Bobby Jindal isn’t busy trying to prove his pet laws aren’t really unconstitutional or campaigning for President, his appointees are busy ripping off the state by taking advantage of retiree early payoffs. The deal is, however, they retire from one job, take a huge cash bonus, then get another job with another agency. So far, we’ve had two of his top folks double dip and slice a bonus from us. So, that’s one way to get away from Jindal’s hiring freeze and salary freeze and spending freeze on everything except his campaign travel. How can this be legal let alone moral?
On April 23 of that year, DPS Deputy Undersecretary Jill Boudreaux sent an email to all personnel informing them that the Department of Civil Service and the Louisiana State Police Commission had approved the retirement incentive as a “Layoff Avoidance Plan.”
In legal-speak, under the incentive eligible applicants would receive a payment of 50 percent of the savings realized by DPS for one year from the effective date of the employee’s retirement.
In simpler language, the incentive was simply 50 percent of the employee’s annual salary. If an employee making $50,000 per year, for example, was approved for the incentive, he or she would walk away with $25,000 in up-front payments, plus his or her regular retirement and the agency would save $25,000 over the course of the next year. The higher the salary, the higher the potential savings.
The program, offered to the first 20 DPS employees to sign up via an internet link on a specific date, was designed to save the state many times that amount over the long haul. If, for example, 20 employees, each making $50,000 a year, took advantage of the incentive, DPS theoretically would realize a savings of $500,000 the first year and $1 million per year thereafter.
That formula, repeated in multiple agencies, could produce a savings of several million—not that much in terms of a $25 billion state budget, but a savings nonetheless.
The policy did come with one major caveat from the Department of Civil Service, however. Agencies were cautioned not to circumvent the program through the state’s obscure retire-rehire policy whereby several administrative personnel, the most notable being former Secretary of Higher Education Sally Clausen, have “retired,” only to be “rehired” a day or so later in order to reap a monetary windfall.
“We strongly recommend that agencies exercise caution in re-hiring an employee who has received a retirement incentive payment within the same budget unit until it can be clearly demonstrated that the projected savings have been realized,” the Civil Service communique said.
And, to again quote our favorite redneck playwright from Denham on Amite, Billy Wayne Shakespeare from his greatest play, Hamlet Bob, “Aye, that’s the rub.” (often misquoted as “Therein lies the rub.”)
Basically, to realize a savings under the early retirement incentive payout, an agency would have had to wait at least a year before rehiring an employee who had retired under the program.
Boudreaux, by what many in DPS feel was more than mere happenstance, managed to be the first person to sign up on the date the internet link opened up for applications.
In Boudreaux’s case, her incentive payment was based on an annual salary of about $92,000 so her incentive payment was around $46,000. In addition, she was also entitled to payment of up to 300 hours of unused annual leave which came to another $13,000 or so for a total of about $59,000 in walk-around money.
Her retirement date was April 28 but the day before, on April 27, she double encumbered herself into the classified (Civil Service) Deputy Undersecretary position because another employee was promoted into her old position on April 26.
A double incumbency is when an employee is appointed to a position that is already occupied by an incumbent, in this case, Boudreaux’s successor. Double incumbencies are mostly used for smooth succession planning initiatives when the incumbent of a position (Boudreaux, in this case) is planning to retire, according to the Louisiana Department of Civil Service.
Here’s an example of how much the state is paying for one bad law after another. Jindal’s voucher experience is not only sending students to segregated and underperforming schools with no accountability, but attorneys are racking up fees trying to defend it. Imagine spending this kind of money to have a court throw out these failed laws?
The price tag for defending Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education policies against legal challenges is growing.
The Department of Education is boosting its contracts for outside lawyers by $750,000, to represent the department in lawsuits against Jindal’s voucher program that uses tax dollars to send children to private schools.
A majority of members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education agreed Tuesday to the legal spending.
The education department’s contract with Washington-based law firm Cooper & Kirk is growing from $150,000 to $650,000. The agency’s contract with the Louisiana-based Faircloth Law Group – the law firm of Jindal’s former executive counsel, Jimmy Faircloth – is rising from $20,000 to as much as $270,000.
“I regret that there is this litigation,” said Superintendent of Education John White. But he added, “We have to defend our priorities in court.”
Lee Barrios, a retired St. Tammany Parish teacher and critic of the voucher program, told BESE that the legal expense was a waste of taxpayer money.
Lawsuits were filed by two teacher unions and the state’s school board association objecting to the voucher program’s financing and by the U.S. Department of Justice challenging the program’s compliance with federal desegregation orders.
The unions and school boards association won their lawsuit, with the Louisiana Supreme Court declaring the use of the public school formula to pay for vouchers unconstitutional. Jindal and lawmakers continue to fund vouchers, now outside of the public school formula.
The Justice Department lawsuit still is pending in federal court in New Orleans.
It’s unclear how much the education department has spent defending itself and the Jindal administration against lawsuits since the governor pushed through the Legislature a series of sweeping education law changes in 2012. The department didn’t immediately respond Tuesday to a request for a full tally of its legal costs.
Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office also has a separate contract with Faircloth’s law firm worth up to $410,000 to represent the state in lawsuits seeking to throw out Jindal’s education policies, including the governor’s revamp of teacher tenure law.
Here’s a 2012 Jezebel article outlining how much it’s costing red states to defend those horrible anti-abortion and birth control trap laws. This is fiscal conservatism? Perhaps the only thing the do nothing US House is doing at all is throwing millions of federal dollars into the witch hunt that is Benghazi.
The House could spend up to $3.3 million in taxpayer dollars over seven months on a special committee to investigate the Sep. 2011 attacks against the American diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, more than lawmakers have appropriated for committees dedicated to investigating ethics and helping American veterans over an entire 12 month period.
A ThinkProgress analysis of House spending on its 20 permanent committees from Jan. 3, 2013 to Jan. 3, 2014 finds that since Benghazi committee’s full-year equivalent budget would be an estimated $5,657,142, its investigation will cost more than the budgets of nine other House committees:
Committee on Rules: $2,857,408
Committee on Small Business: $2,992,688
Committee on Ethics: $3,020,459
Committee on Veterans’ Affairs: $3,048,546
Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence: $4,389,758
Committee on House Administration: $4,600,560
Committee on Agriculture: $5,036,187
Committee on the Budget: $5,138,824
Committee on Science, Space, and Technology: $5,282,755
House Benghazi Panel: $5,657,142
Committee on Natural Resources: $6,555,829
Committee on Armed Services: $6,563,535
Committee on Education and the Workforce: $6,952,763
Committee on Homeland Security: $7,033,588
Committee on the Judiciary: $7,077,016
Committee on Foreign Affairs: $7,388,112
Committee on Financial Services: $7,394,482
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure: $8,182,307
Committee on Ways and Means: $8,423,411
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: $8,940,437
Committee on Energy and Commerce: $9,520,516
The seven House Republicans will receive a bigger share of the committee budget, $2.2 million, more than the five Democrats, who will see “just over $1 million.” Funding for the committee “comes from already-appropriated legislative branch funds” a GOP spokesperson told USA Today, and does not represent a new expenditure. The spokesperson also claimed that the $3.3 million figure represents “the high end estimate,” though the investigation is likely to bleed into 2015.
Both Louisiana and Sam Brownback’s Kansas are experiencing lower than average growth in their economies and their employment due to the bad policies they enacted to keep donors like Club for Growth and the Kochs happy. Brownback’s economic policies have been a complete disaster for the state.
On Friday, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics released the latest employment figures for all 50 states — the same ones the Brownback administration uses repeatedly for its “we’re getting better” press releases.
Overall, the number of private sector jobs added since 2011 in Kansas crept up to 55,100. However, that statistic loses a lot of shine once you factor in the 8,300 jobs lost in local and state government ranks since 2011. Those are people who may no longer have steady income to pay the rent, buy food, pay taxes and contribute to the Kansas economy.
Fact is, Kansas has actually gained only 46,800 total jobs since early 2011.
So how does that more realistic figure — which the Brownback team does not promote — compare to the rest of the country?
Using the federal agency’s data, The Star compiled percentages of seasonally adjusted, nonfarm total job growth for Kansas, its four bordering states, a few other Midwestern states, Texas (no income tax), New York (extremely high income tax), and the U.S. average from January 2011 through June 30, 2014.
Texas, 10.5 percent
Colorado, 9.2 percent
Oklahoma, 6.5 percent
U.S. average, 6.1 percent
Iowa, 5.0 percent
New York, 4.8 percent
Missouri, 4.1 percent
Nebraska, 3.8 percent
Kansas, 3.5 percent
Arkansas, 1.9 percent
Kansas has had one of the nation’s poorest rates of employment growth during Brownback’s time in office, including since the first tax cuts took effect in 2013.
It just amazes me that Republicans can cobble together enough voters anywhere who don’t see these porkfests and poor economies as a sham. The only voters they are holding together are the number of whacko churches and businesses that are benefiting from being the sole enterprises to get government dollars these days. The other seems to be very frightened white people who believe every bad thing they’ve ever been sold on any kind of minority. It seems if you want the Republicans to throw money at you, you should start and equip a war, spout some crazy religious belief and sell votes for subsidies, or be a lawyer that has to sort it all out.
What a shit load of pricey #FAIL.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I’ve spent the past week or so reading escapist literature and watching old TV shows in an effort to anesthetize myself against the overload of bad news we’ve been hit with lately. Yesterday I was feeling a lot better–my escapism seemed to be working to improve my overall mood.
Then last night as I was surfing around in search of interesting reads for this morning’s post, I came across something that jumpstarted me right through Alice’s looking glass.
You’ve probably heard about it too. Lois Lerner, who used to work for the IRS and who is at the center of one of the GOP’s crazy efforts to create a scandal that will bring down President Obama used the word “crazies” in a private e-mail to a colleague who was complaining about right wing radio hosts. Here’s the text of e-mail as quoted in The Washington Post yesterday.
During the exchange, Lerner says she is traveling in Great Britain. The name of the person she is emailing with was blacked out.
Lerner: “I’m ready. Overheard some ladies talking about American today. According to them we’ve bankrupted ourselves and at through. We’ll never be able to pay off our debt and are going down the tubes. They don’t seem to see that they can’t afford to keep up their welfare state either. Strange.”
Other person: “Well, you should hear the whacko wing of the GOP. The US is through; too many foreigners sucking the teat; time to hunker down, buy ammo and food, and prepare for the end. The right wing radio shows are scary to listen to.”Lerner: “Great. Maybe we are through if there are that many assholes.”
Other person: “And I’m talking about the hosts of the shows. The callers are rabid.”
Lerner: “So we don’t need to worry about alien teRrorists. It’s our own crazies that will take us down.”
My initial response was the same as that of Mark NC at News Corpse (a site that makes fun of Fox News), So F**king What? Former IRS Official Says That GOP Crazies Are…CRAZY!
Republicans and their friends at Fox News have mastered the art of building mountains of bullshit from the lowliest troll-hills. It’s one of their favorite tactics to malign Democrats. Just grab a sentence fragment from a long speech and pretend that it is the whole of the comment from which it was extracted. Then feign outrage that such an awful remark could have been uttered.
The latest example of this rhetorical deceit was demonstrated when the GOP chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Dave Camp, unscrupulously and selectively released some emails purported to be from Lois Lerner, the former IRS official who has been hounded by malevolent cretins like Rep. Darrell Issa in an attempt to fabricate ammunition to use against President Obama. Despite hundreds of wasted hours (costing millions of taxpayer dollars) engaged in hyper-partisan investigations, the Republican Inquisition has produced nothing implicating the President in any untoward activity.
The emails that Camp is now crowing about are just as meaningless as all of the other bogus “smoking guns” that these wingnuts have claimed would topple the administration. The headline that Camp has wrenched from the documents is that Lerner may have referred to certain individuals as “crazies” or “a-holes.” And, of course, this would only be an atrocity if those individuals were Republicans. Suffice to say that Camp wouldn’t give a Fig Newton if they were Democrats.
As Camp characterized this affair, Lerner was allegedly caught red-handed expressing her disgust for Republicans. And as the person at the center of the controversy over whether the IRS improperly subjected Tea Party groups to extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status, Camp believes that these emails prove that she was biased. Consequently, Camp regards the emails as justification for appointing a special prosecutor and escalating the legal assault on Lerner and, ultimately, the White House.
There’s just one problem. The emails don’t don’t say what Camp alleges they say. And even if they did it wouldn’t mean anything. Most people in government have personal opinions and allegiances. There isn’t anything wrong with that, so long as it doesn’t interfere with the fair execution of their duties. And the evidence shows that Lerner’s department scrutinized applications of all political persuasions. The only organization that was denied tax-exempt status during the time in question was a liberal group.
Please read the rest at the link.
So this humorous site agrees with me, but more mainstream sites are seemingly going along with the Camp’s notion that this e-mail is evidence of a major scandal. For example, Dave Wiegel characterized it as a “bombshell,” although he does point out that Lerner’s anonymous “e-mail partner” was talking about talk radio hosts, not Republicans in general. Huffington Post reported that Lerner had made “two disparaging remarks about members of the GOP.” Both HuffPo and Politico write that in one e-mail Lerner referred to Republicans as “a–holes,” but they sidestep the fact the context was a discussion of right wing talk show hosts.
As we approach the midterm elections, I can’t help but feel that most of the mainstream media is cheering for a Republican takeover. Am I the crazy one?
Here’s another example from self-described libertarian Nate Silver, Democrats Are Way More Obsessed With Impeachment Than Republicans.
House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday that Republicans have no plans to impeach President Obama, and that all the impeachment talk was driven by Democrats hoping to stir up their base.
Boehner’s statement isn’t literally true: There have been mentions of impeachment around the edges of the GOP and by some Republican members of Congress. But on the whole, Democrats are spending a lot more time talking about impeachment than Republicans.
Consider, for example, the Sunlight Foundation’s Capitol Words database, which tracks words spoken in the House and Senate. So far in July, there have been 10 mentions of the term “impeachment” in Congress and four others of the term “impeach.” Eleven of the 14 mentions have been made by Democratic rather than Republican members of Congress, however.
Impeachment chatter has also become common on cable news. On Fox News this month, Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor, called for Obama’s impeachment, for instance. But for every mention of impeachment on Fox News in July, there have been five on liberal-leaning MSNBC.
OK, so that’s this month. And this proves what? Democrats are throwing around the word “impeachment” in hopes of calling attention to what Republicans have been saying for years! So f$%king what?!
Again, I must resort to News Corpse for a sensible interpretation of the impeachment talk, CONSPIRACY: President Obama Is Trying To Impeach Himself.
Ever since the first inauguration of President Obama, right-wingers have been trying to undo the people’s decision to make him America’s chief executive. They declared that their top legislative objective was to make Obama a one-term president. In pursuit of that goal they have blocked most of his policy initiatives, judges, and government reforms. At the same time they have been hyper investigatory on everything from Fast and Furious, to the IRS, to ObamaCare, to his birthplace. All of this was squarely aimed at crippling or revoking his presidency.
This year Obama’s critics came out of the impeachment closet and began openly advocating for that legal nuclear option despite not having any legal basis for it. While many Tea-Publican whack jobs were earlier to the gate, Sarah Palin burst onto the scene a couple weeks ago with her own demand that Congress do their duty and trump up some phony articles of impeachment. It got so absurdly intense that Obama addressed it himself with fitting mockery.
So of course the next shoe to drop in this melodrama is that, along with everything else in the world, Obama is to blame for this too. In fact, according to some in the rightist crackpot community, it was all part of his nefarious plot to embarrass the GOP. Here is what Texas Republican Steve Stockman had to say about it when interviewed by the ultra-fringe rightists at WorldNetDaily:
“President Obama is begging to be impeached. […] He wants us to impeach him now, before the midterm election because his senior advisers believe that is the only chance the Democratic Party has to avoid a major electoral defeat. Evidently Obama believes impeachment could motivate the Democratic Party base to come out and vote.”
There you have it. The evil genius in the White House orchestrated the whole Obama-hate campaign from its earliest days in 2008 just so that he would be able to use impeachment, which is every president’s dream, as an election strategy six years into his presidency.
Earth to Nate Silver and the rest of the mainstream media: Steve Stockman, although insane, is an actual member of the House of Representatives, not some fringe character with no influence. And he has plenty of company in the House and even in the Senate (Ted Cruz anyone?). These people are crazy and they are in positions of awesome power.
Here’s one more example of mainstream acceptance of GOP insanity before I end this post and run screaming into the street while pulling my hair out in handfuls. From John Dickerson of Slate (via CBS News), Why the GOP’s class of 2016 hopefuls may be the best in generations.
What if they held a presidential campaign and a think tank broke out? House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, who is considering running for president, offered his thoughts on poverty last week. Sen. Marco Rubio has been giving regular policy speeches on poverty, college loans, and helping the middle class. Former senator and GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum is promoting a book of policy proposals on education, family, and revitalizing American manufacturing. Sen. Rand Paul is offering ideas on criminal justice and will give a big foreign policy speech in the fall. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has given speeches on health care and education aimed at a national audience. His staff recently sent an email titled “policy leader” that linked to a Time piece about how he is preparing to be the candidate of ideas in 2016.
What the f&cking f&ck? Rich Santorum? Bobby Jindal? Marco Rubio? Paul motherf&&cking Ryan?! These are “candidates of ideas?” Dickerson continues,
Who isn’t trying to be the ideas candidate in the 2016 campaign? Texas Gov. Rick Perry is working to overcome his 2012 debate aphasia, so he’s trying to show some policy chops. Though former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush holds controversial ideas on Common Core education standards and immigration, those close to him say he won’t run unless he can promote those ideas with gusto.
It isn’t usually this policy-thick in the GOP presidential field. In primaries, there is sometimes one conservative candidate who tries to position himself through the creativity of his proposals, but mostly candidates engage in displays of strength on questions of orthodoxy–how much they want to cut taxes, shrink regulation, and lock up the borders. Now the Republican candidates are not only seeking to distinguish themselves from each other with the quality and originality of their ideas, but they are making the case that unless the party promotes new ideas, it will not prevail.
The class of candidates for 2016 has the potential to be the most robust in almost 40 years–perhaps in modern Republican history. It depends on who finally decides to run, of course, but six governors and four senators are thinking seriously about it.
I’m sorry. Dickerson thinks these morons are competing with each other on “quality and originality of…ideas?” Am I nuts? Am I hallucinating this crap? Surely Dickerson can’t really believe this sh#t.
Here’s a little sanity from Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly, Can the Big Brains of the GOP Survive the Primaries? and Damon Linker of The Week, Why GOP reformers are bound to fail. But even Kilgore seems to believe that Republicans will take over the Senate. From Talking Points Memo:
At least Kilgore thinks that catering to the base could hurt Republicans in the 2016 presidential election.
Why? Why would anyone vote for these insane right-wingers? And why is the media rooting for them? I just don’t get it. Am I crazy or what?
Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? Share your thoughts and links in the comment thread.
I’ve been looking at some of the elections coming up for the midterm season as well as reading the scuttlebutt about the presidential campaigns likely to gear up at the same time. There’s still some worry that the Republicans may have the momentum going into the midterms and that the Democratic Party may lose its majority in the Senate. I figured I’d start looking towards fall with my own vulnerable senator and overtly ambitious governor.
The Koch Brothers’ money is hot and heavy in most of the races that are seen as potential switches including my one sane–albeit owned by the oil & gas industry–Senator Mary Landrieu. I’ve been getting really sick of the same stupid Obama-care based attack ad on her that plays endlessly on TV. The Democratic party is evidently trying some new strategies to run the Koch Brothers express off the tracks. Here’s the new response to that ad that’s been bugging the living daylights out of me for months now. The analysis comes from Greg Sargent.
A Dem source tells me the spot is backed by a $200,000 buy. Script:
Out of state billionaires spending millions to rig the system and elect Bill Cassidy. Their goal: Another politician bought and paid for. Their agenda: Protect tax cuts for companies that ship our jobs overseas. Cut Social Security and end Medicare as we know it. They even tried to kill relief for hurricane victims. Cassidy’s billion dollar backers: They’ve got a plan for him. It’s not good for Louisiana.
As I noted the other day, this is all about creating a framework within which voters can be made to understand the actual policy agenda Republicans are campaigning on. This is what the Bain attacks on Mitt Romney were all about: Dem focus groups showed voters simply didn’t believe Romney would cut entitlements (per the Paul Ryan plan) whilecutting taxes on the rich. The Bain narrative made Romney’s actual priorities more comprehensible.
The Koch attacks are designed to do something similar. They aren’t really about the Kochs. They are a proxy for the one percent, a means through which to tap into a general sense that the economy remains rigged in favor of the very wealthy. Placed into this frame, GOP policies – opposition to raising the minimum wage; the Paul Ryan fiscal blueprint, which would redistribute wealth upwards; opposition to the Medicaid expansion, which AFP is fighting in multiple states – become more comprehensible as part of a broader storyline. In that narrative, Republican candidates are trying to maintain or even exacerbate an economic status quo that’s stacked against ordinary Americans, while Dems are offering solutions to boost economic mobility and reduce inequality, which are increasingly pressing public concerns.
In many ways this strategy is born of necessity. The 2014 fundamentals are stacked heavily against Democrats, who are defending seven Senate seats in states carried by Mitt Romney in 2012 that are older, whiter, and redder than the diversifying national electorate. This is made even worse by the midterm electorate, in which core Dem groups are less likely to turn out.
GOP attacks on the health law in red states are not just about Obamacare. They are, more broadly, about casting Senate Dems as willing enablers of the hated president and blaming the sputtering recovery on #Obummer Big Gummint, to channel people’s economic anxieties into a vote to oust Dem incumbents.
Mary Landrieu, meanwhile, is out front and center trying to force through the Keystone Pipeline. This is likely to bring a few jobs to Louisiana and make her oil company donors quite happy.
Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana intensified the pressure on Secretary of State John Kerry, a former Senate colleague, to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
During a hearing on the State Department’s 2015 budget, Ms. Landrieu, a Democrat who has been a strong pipeline proponent and faces a tough re-election fight this year, pressed Mr. Kerry to approve the project, which would carry crude from Canada’s oil sands and from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale Formation to Gulf Coast refineries.
Ms. Landrieu, the new chairwoman of the Senate Energy Committee, said, “Canada is our closest, strongest trading partner,” and “a majority of American people” support Keystone. “It is hard for me to understand why there are still questions about whether building this pipeline is in our national interest,” she said.
Actually, it really isn’t in the national interest since most of the Canadian tar sands oil will be sold on the open market and the danger of polluting the major source of fresh water for five states in the center of the country remains. However, Landrieu always moves to the right during the election cycle. I am certainly not going to vote for Bill Cassidy who could be worse . He still rings all the usual right wing bells albeit not with much charisma as some of his Texas compadres in congress.
Leading Republicans figured Cassidy to be her perfect foil, as a physician (treating the poor in public hospitals) with only eight years in elected office (experience but not a career in politics). He’s not especially charismatic, but he is intelligent and trustworthy. In the recent government shutdown/debt crisis, he voted along with conservatives but, in his rhetoric, he did not get wild-eyed about it.
And that’s a problem. Though U.S. Sen. David Vitter has run interference, Cassidy has been unable to close the deal on the right. For Republicans running for Congress these days, it is not enough to be conservative. If you are not ultra-conservative, then you’re moderate, which is just a slippery slope away from closet liberal. This nagging distrust about his conservatism has created an opening on the right, into which have stepped two other Republican candidates, Rep. Paul Hollis of Covington and Rob Maness of Madisonville.
Maness, with tea party connections, lumps Cassidy together with Landrieu as compromised establishment politicians. Hollis assured Vitter that he would not criticize Cassidy but keep his aim on Landrieu. Yet in his first TV ads, standing under an oak tree, he distinguishes himself as unspoiled by the partisan politics of Washington. His bid for home boy status — “lifelong Louisiana,” he describes himself — is a sly dig at both Maness, an Air Force brat, and Cassidy, whose family moved here when he was 6 years old. His underlying message is: I’m one of us, and they are not.
A more direct slap at the GOP anointed one comes from Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana legislator, who recently told The Hill newspaper that Cassidy can’t beat the incumbent because he’s not conservative enough.
Perkins has his eye on a seat some where right now so he’s hardly an objective on the candidate. Of course, the Republican Party and the Koch ads are hammering away at “Obamacare”. This is an interesting tactic in a state like Louisiana where the needs of so many go unserved and the governor is taking heat for turning down the Medicaid expansion from every paper in the state. Then, there are these numbers. Ted Cruz’s fears have come true. It’s getting popular and most of the recent advertised scare stories used in the political ads are being successfully debunked,
President Barack Obama’s health-care law is becoming more entrenched, with 64 percent of Americans now supporting it outright or backing small changes.
Even so, the fervor of the opposition shows no sign of abating, posing a challenge for Obama’s Democrats during congressional races this year, as a Republican victory in a special Florida election this week showed. In addition, 54 percent of Americans say they’re unhappy with the president’s handling of the issue, according to a Bloomberg National Poll.
That’s an improvement since the last poll, in December, when Obama’s public standing on health care hit a low of 60 percent disapproval after the botched rollout of the insurance exchanges, according to the March 7-10 poll of 1,001 adults.
So, this Louisiana race may be one to watch if you want to see what could happen in the fall. The other thing is that it’s pretty certain that Governor Bobby Jindal is not giving up his presidential dreams no matter how badly he shows in all the polls. He’s on the campaign trail and introducing legislation that’s been written by the Koch machine. Oh, and he’s in New Hampshire.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal launched a new political action committee (PAC) on Thursday (March 13) to assist conservative candidates in the 2014 midterm elections, just before heading off to New Hampshire for a series of events.
Jindal’s PAC, dubbed “Stand Up to Washington,” will feature former Mitt Romney campaign manager Jill Neunaber in its leadership role. Neunaber is getting to be a familiar name around Louisiana, as the head of Jindal’s PAC and also his recently-formed nonprofit “America Next,” which is aimed primarily at national issues and supporting Republican candidates in this year’s gubernatorial races.
“Obviously, my main focus is still going to be continuing to help governors win their races and candidates to win gubernatorial races,” Jindal told POLITICO in a reported 18-minute phone interview about the new PAC.
“But I also get a ton of requests to go and speak and help federal candidates in the Senate and the House. So we just thought this was a logical thing to do.”
Soon after announcing the PAC, Jindal will head off to the battleground state of New Hampshire for a series of events. He will keynote the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference on Friday; The Nashua Telegraph also reports he will appear at the Wild Irish Breakfast that morning.
Nothing says candidate like Pancake breakfasts and parades. Oh, and appearing on comedy and talk shows. Did you know that Texas Governor Rick Perry got booed during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel live?
Texas Gov. Rick Perry was booed when he took the stage at ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ on Tuesday night at the South by Southwest conference in Austin.
“We do know how to get it stirred up,” the Republican said as he sat down, presumably referring to Texans.
The booing continued throughout the interview, until Perry mentioned decriminalizing marijuana – that prompted the crowd to cheer.
When asked if he’d ever smoked marijuana himself, Perry responded, “No, thank God!”
Kimmel also asked Perry whether he planned to run for president in 2016, after an unsuccessful attempt in 2012.
“This is not the crowd that I want to make this announcement to,” Perry said.
I have to think that most of the folks in Austin will be really glad to get rid of the man, but then you probably should ask Ralph about that since he would know more than me.
I might as well follow up on my post last Friday since this post seems to have taken on a Louisianan flavor anyway. There have been a few more folks–recent transplants and visitors–writing articles on the state still. I’m thinking it must have something to do with True Detective but maybe not. I don’t feel like I can be the outstanding transmitter of what’s special and frustrating about this state as well as a native because frankly, after 20 years, the place still can make me dizzy in both good and bad ways. So, I’m going to quote Lamar White here. See, Lamar, I not only attribute and cite you but I put your name right here. Too bad I’m not any one that matters, but hey, you’re out there making some waves and that’s good.
On Tuesday, Dave Thier, a freelance writer based in New Orleans, published a piece in Esquire titled “Sorry, Louisiana Is Not Actually Made Of Magic.” I really wanted to like Mr. Thier’s piece, because I thought the headline was provocative. But the article was absurdly patronizing and completely disconnected. Mr. Thier is a Yale graduate who has lived in New Orleans for only three years. While we should all celebrate smart, young, educated professionals who move to Louisiana, it is unwise, arrogant, and misguided for a self-described “transplant” to hold himself out, to a national audience, as a curator of Louisiana culture, particularly when he implies that his understanding of his newly-adopted home has been informed by Hollywood.
Indeed, that seems to be the point of his article: Hollywood has lied about Louisiana being magical, which he can prove by way of juxtaposing the banalities of his own life. He watches Netflix and plays video games and prefers Thai take-out over the native cuisine of his adopted Louisiana. And this, I think, may bolster Mr. Thier’s argument that he’s just an ordinary American in his late twenties. But it completely destroys his credibility when it comes to opining on the culture and, yes, the magic of Louisiana.
The same group of Louisiana Bloggers, Twitterati, and Facebookers had it out re: Thier’s article in Esquire, harkened back to Kalegate and the NYT, and then hashed over if we should even be paying these folks some never mind anyway. I personally wonder why these recent transplants get the paid gigs on what is and isn’t New Orleans or Louisiana instead of folks that have either been born here or at least lived here long enough to have decoded some of the unique charms and frustration. Here’s another take in Salon that’s called True Detective goth Southern porn characterizing Louisiana poverty as stemming from a stereotyped swampbilly culture.
As someone who studies southern Appalachia in popular culture, I have become occasionally numb to the portrayal of other parts of the southern United States, viewing their representation/stereotypes as being less severe. Louisiana in particular.
Louisiana gets heaps of praise. “True Blood” made it sexy and campy. “Treme” showed its heart. The last season of “Top Chef” showcased its deliciousness.
There’s another side, though. A bit darker. “Duck Dynasty,” “Gator Boys,” “Cajun Pawn Stars,” “Swamp People,” etc. All reality television series that showcase people living off the land or trying to get by, often downplaying the intelligence of its stars. It paints the state as a different country, with different rules.
But those rules are not as far-flung as “True Detective” might have you believe. Creator Nic Pizzolatto, who grew up in the Lake Charles, La., depicts his hometown as a post-apocalyptic landscape in which the rapes and murders of women and children are covered up by kin connections. He follows what I have deemed the three rules of a Southern horror story: Close Family Relationships, Weird Sex and Malicious Rednecks.
Important note: The more overlap between the above three elements, the better.
Essentially Lake Charles received its own “Deliverance” through the episodes of “True Detective.” Has ever a show depicted such a large number of beaten and bruised female prostitutes? As far as the series reveals, there’s no reason that Marty’s elementary-school-aged daughter draws graphic pictures of people having sex or sets up her toys to depict a doll getting gang-banged. It’s just one of those things kids in rural Louisiana do.
By the way, Lake Charles was not really the center of the series or the filming location or the plot, but then I quibble. I’m not exactly certain why the writers of establishment media have decided to put every one in Louisiana on the couch, but it appears there’s some kind’ve creepy fascination that’s playing out in the press right now. Yes, there is unique culture down here. This area has given the world a lot of musical forms, food, and reasons to party. The landscape can be breathtaking in both its lushness and its austerity. You can see any and all of it play out just by visiting here and taking note. But, really, does that mean you can decode it for the rest of the world to earn a few bucks?
Here’s the Cajun version of Mardi Gras that shows you there is plenty of unique culture to celebrate, to learn about, and to appreciate. Thier should take some time away from his video games and Thai take out food to chase some of this down. The last thing I did when I first moved here was to sit at home with all things mundane. I just participated. This part of the country will amaze and capture your attention. The problem that I have with these accidental tourists and transplants is they really haven’t taken the time to let their gumbo simmer. But, when has Hollywood or the New York/Washington DC -centric press ever put any place in any kind of real light? I frankly remember growing up watching TV where every hayseed that became the butt of a sitcom joke haled from Nebraska. (It’s actually a subtheme of The Big Bang Theory right now.) It would absolutely make me even more embarrassed of having to grow up in the place knowing that the rest of the country had a worse opinion of the place than me and mine was pretty darn low.
What I’m more worried though about is this kind of thing : U.S. Agrees to Allow BP Back Into Gulf Waters to Seek Oil. Since corporations are people my friend–at least that’s what Citizen’s United declared–then I say we ought not let a mass murderer out to kill again. But, that’s not the kind of story that’s likely to create any human interest. Well, not yet. So, what should we be more worried about? It does no one a great service to characterize a culture, but at least that doesn’t have the power to take down the culture itself. What’s gotten me to start writing about my adopted home has been my experiences with Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil spill because having lived here 20 years, I know exactly what’s at stake if the country would lose it. There are things down here both human and natural that are awesome. It’s worth appreciating, experiencing and protecting.
What’s on your blogging and reading list today?