Lazy Saturday Reads: Two Republican Candidates in Trouble

 Rick Perry readsGood Afternoon!!

Poor Rick Perry. He just can’t seem to catch a break. First there was his indictment on two felony charges. Then he had to face the further indignity that being indicted on felony charges means he can no longer swagger around with a concealed weapon on his person. According to the Washington Times,

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s indictment on felony corruption charges means he can no longer carry a concealed weapon under state law.

Federal law also prohibits him from being able to buy more guns or ammunition, as long as the indictment is pending, Reuters reported.

I wonder if he knows that? Because when he was in New Hampshire last week, he told voter he didn’t understand the charges against him. From ABC News last Friday, Aug. 22:

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – Texas Gov. Rick Perry returned to New Hampshire Friday for the first time since 2012, as he tries to rehab his political image after a failed presidential bid.

Speaking to a group of business leaders here, Perry tried to focus on substance, talking about issues like economic development and the border crisis, but his recent indictment on two felony charges was hard to ignore.

Asked about his indictment during a question-and-answer session with business leaders, Perry was a little unclear when explaining what felony charges were issued against him.

“I’ve been indicted by that same body now for I think two counts, one of bribery, which I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t really understand the details here,” Perry said of the grand jury that indicted him.

A grand jury indicted Perry last week on two felony counts – abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public official – over a 2013 veto threat.

Texas Governor Perry

At The Wire, Arit John has a funny post in which he describes Perry’s confusion as just one step in the grief process over the indictment, Rick Perry Enters the Final Stage of Indictment Grief: Confusion.

Maybe Rick Perry should have read up on his indictment charges before he started using them as a campaign talking point. During a speech last week, the Texas governor said he was being indicted for bribery, which isn’t actually true.

“I’ve been indicted by that same body now for I think two counts, one of bribery, which I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t really understand the details here,” he said,according to the Houston Chronicle. But Perry is actually being indicted for abuse of power and coercing a public official, after he threatened to veto District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s budget if she refused to resign after her drunk driving conviction.

This is another oops moment for Perry, but it also signaled his transition into the 5th and, likely for him, final stage of indictment related grief: confusion. After grinning mugshot denial, angry ads “setting the record straight,” bargaining over who should pay the lawyers and depression over a loss of Second Amendment privileges, all that’s left for Perry is to be slightly unsure of what, exactly, people are accusing him of doing.

Read the details at the link.

Rick Perry gun3

Then there are the embarrassing stories about how Perry hasn’t paid the National Guard troops that he sent to guard the Texas-Mexico border. From Gawker:

When Texas Gov. Rick Perry sent National Guard soldiers to the Mexico border to much fanfare earlier this summer, he couldn’t say how long they’d be there. It turns out he also couldn’t pay them: At least 50 soldiers haven’t seen a paycheck and are getting sustenance and vehicle fuel from a local food bank.

Via KGBT News, the sudden call-up took those weekend warriors away from their day jobs and deposited them in the Rio Grande valley, but the service hasn’t covered their losses yet….

Perry—who’s busy being indicted for criminal abuse of power—and the National Guard didn’t respond to reporter queries earlier this week, but the pay lag could be related to the governor’s refusal to fund the mobilization he ordered, and his insistence that the federal government cover it. (In the meantime, Perry was supposedly attempting to finance the deployment “by diverting $38 million in public safety funds earmarked for emergency radio infrastructure,” the L.A. Times has reported.)

Yesterday afternoon, the Austin Statement reported that unnamed “National Guard officials” were claiming the stories about hungry troops were exaggerated, but it sounds like they may be just trying to clean up Perry’s mess.

The Guard said it had identified 50 service members who, because of their early August start date, weren’t going to be paid until Sept. 5.

None of those 50 troops have notified leaders that they had used the food bank, officials said.

According to the Guard, troops receive one meal while on duty, plus a $32 per diem food reimbursement that is included in their paychecks.

According to Omar Ramirez, Food Bank RGV’s manager of communications and advocacy, the food bank made extra preparations after being contacted by someone from the Texas National Guard Support Foundation, but that he wasn’t aware of any troops being served.

“Maybe they come in and they just don’t tell us they’re National Guard,” he said.

OK, but if the $32 dollars is included in their paychecks, then that means the troops have to front the money for two meals a day until Sept. 5, right? Read the rest at the link.

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Finally, yesterday Perry learned that his latest anti-abortion bill–the one that Wendy Davis filibustered–has been struck down by a federal judge. From AP:

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel sided with clinics that sued over one of the most disputed measures of a sweeping anti-abortion bill signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry in 2013. The ruling stops new restrictions that would have left seven abortion facilities in Texas come Monday. There are currently 19 abortion providers in the state, according to groups challenging the law.

“The overall effect of the provisions is to create an impermissible obstacle as applied to all women seeking a previability abortion,” Yeakel wrote in his 21-page ruling.

The trial in Texas was the latest battle over tough new abortion restrictions sweeping across the U.S.

The law would have required clinics “to meet the building, equipment and staffing standards of hospital-style surgery centers,” according to The New York Times.

Adopted as part of a sweeping anti-abortion measure last year, the rule would have forced the closing of more than a dozen of Texas’ remaining abortion clinics because they were unable to afford to renovate or to open new facilities that met the standards for such things as hallway width, ceiling height, advanced ventilation equipment, staffing and even parking spaces.

The closings would have left Texas, the second-biggest state by population and by size, with seven or eight abortion clinics, all in major cities like Houston and Dallas. Women in El Paso in West Texas and in the Rio Grande Valley in the south would have lived more than 150 miles — a distance ruled constitutional by a federal appeals court — from the closest clinic in the state, in San Antonio.

Fortunately for Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, her opponent Greg Abbott plans to appeal the decision.

Mitch McDonnell at Morris' Deli in Louisville, KY

Mitch McDonnell at Morris’ Deli in Louisville, KY

Mitch McConnell is also experiencing some difficulties in his Senate reelection campaign in Kentucky. He has been in a close race with Democratic challenger Allison Lundergan Grimes–they’ve been running neck-and-neck for a long time now. And recently McConnell has had a couple of setbacks. First there was the secretly recorded audiotape released by The Undercurrent Youtube channel, of McConnell’s remarks at a “meeting for millionaire and billionaire donors hosted by the Koch brothers,” in which he promised to continue blocking Obama proposals and emphasized his opposition to raising the minimum wage. The contents of the tape were first reported in The Nation.

Last week, in an interview with Politico, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) outlined his plan to shut down President Obama’s legislative agenda by placing riders on appropriations bills. Should Republicans take control of the Senate in the 2014 elections, McConnell intends to pass spending bills that “have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy.”

What McConnell didn’t tell Politico was that two months ago, he made the same promise to a secret strategy conference of conservative millionaire and billionaire donors hosted by the Koch brothers. The Nation and The Undercurrent obtained an audio recording of McConnell’s remarks to the gathering, called “American Courage: Our Commitment to a Free Society.” In the question-and-answer period following his June 15 session titled “Free Speech: Defending First Amendment Rights,” McConnell says:

“So in the House and Senate, we own the budget. So what does that mean? That means that we can pass the spending bill. And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board [inaudible]. All across the federal government, we’re going to go after it.”

Mitch McConnell gun

The article notes that the McConnell campaign has received $41,800 from Koch Industries in addition to outside groups who get funding from the Kochs.

“And we’re not going to be debating all these gosh darn proposals. That’s all we do in the Senate is vote on things like raising the minimum wage [inaudible]—cost the country 500,000 new jobs; extending unemployment—that’s a great message for retirees; uh, the student loan package the other day, that’s just going to make things worse, uh. These people believe in all the wrong things.”

In late April, Senate Republicans, led by McConnell, successfully filibustered a bill to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, a widely popular measure that would increase wages for at least 16.5 million Americans. Earlier in the year, McConnell also led a filibuster of a three-month extension of unemployment insurance to some 1.7 million Americans. At one point in the negotiations, he offered a deal to extend unemployment only if Democrats agreed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, even though the ACA does not add to the federal deficit.

More from The New York Times:

The [Undercurrent] channel released audio of three other Republicans in tough Senate races — Representative Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Representative Cory Gardner of Colorado and Joni Ernst, a state senator in Iowa — all of whom praised Charles G. and David H. Koch and the millions of dollars they have provided to help Republican candidates….

Republicans said the recordings were insignificant. Josh Holmes, a senior McConnell campaign aide, said the senator was in no way suggesting a strategy to shut down the government unless Mr. Obama capitulates.

Nonetheless, the audio recordings are likely to become fodder for the campaigns in Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa and Kentucky. Democrats, most notably Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, have tried to demonize contributions by the Koch brothers as corruptive to the political system.

In Arkansas, especially, the audio could touch a nerve. Mr. Cotton, a freshman House member, skipped a popular political event in his state, the Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival, to attend the Koch brothers’ meeting in California. According to the audio, he was repaid with praise for his willingness to hew to the most conservative line, even if it meant voting against legislation popular in his state.

o-MITCH-MCCONNELL-JESSE-BENTON-facebook

Then yesterday, McConnell’s campaign manager Jesse Benton was forced to resign because of a scandal involving his work for the Ron Paul campaign in Iowa in 2012. From CBS News:

Benton’s resignation, effective Saturday, comes barely two months before Kentucky voters choose between McConnell, a five-term incumbent and the top-ranking Senate Republican, and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes.

In Iowa this week, former state Sen. Kent Sorenson pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from his switch of support from one Republican presidential candidate to another before the 2012 Iowa caucuses. He received thousands of dollars in “under the table payments” before switching loyalties from candidate Michele Bachmann, whose Iowa campaign he headed, to candidate Ron Paul, then lied to federal investigators about the money, the Justice Department said.

Prosecutors refused to say which campaign paid Sorenson. A representative for Bachmann didn’t immediately return voice and email messages seeking comment Friday. A phone message for Paul also wasn’t immediately returned.

Benton, a tea party insider, worked as a top aide to Paul. On Friday he said that he has been the target of “inaccurate press accounts and unsubstantiated media rumors” about his role in past campaigns that are “politically motivated, unfair and, most importantly, untrue.”

Benton had been hired to help McConnell appeal to Tea Party extremists in Kentucky. Is it possible McConnell misjudged his constituents? I sincerely hope so.

So I’ve ended up focusing this post on just two struggling Republicans–but there are plenty of others I could write about. I don’t think we should give up on Democrats holding the Senate yet. I know there is plenty of other news, but I thought I’d shift the focus to electoral politics today. What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a great Labor Day weekend!!

 

 


Friday Reads: The Good, The Bad, and The Silly

Bart simpson reading

Good Morning!!

There’s plenty of bad news to wallow in today, but I’m determined not to let it get to me. I’m going to begin this post with a story that made me smile and a couple more that made me laugh. After that, I’ll take a look at the dark side of current events.

Last night about 8:00, a “toddler” managed to White House security alert when he “squeezed through the White House gate” and ran onto the lawn, where he was finally intercepted by heavily armed Secret Security agents. At the time, President Obama was about to make a statement on the situation in Iraq. The Washington Post reports:

The brief kerfuffle as agents scrambled to intercept the pint-sized intruder confirms what most people know: toddlers are sneaky, and fast. This one was promptly returned to his parents.

The little guy didn’t get in any trouble — at least, not with the feds. And he was unavailable for comment — to anyone — for at least a few more months.

“We were going to wait until he learned to talk to question him,” Secret Service Agent Edwin Donovan said in a statement, “but in lieu of that he got a timeout and was sent on way with parents.”

I sooooo wish there was a video of the action! I suspect we’ll eventually learn the identity of the boy. If nothing else, he’ll have a great story to tell his friends when he grows up.

simpsons policeman

Here’s another silly story. A small-town New Jersey police officer got into an argument with a resident with a grudge against the local animal shelter who was “seen taking pictures” inside a public building. The cop began ranting about President Obama, and the whole thing was caught on tape. From Helmetta, NJ:

Special Police Officer Richard Recine now is the subject of an internal affairs investigation after the video was posted online and was seen by Police Director Robert Manney, who called the comments an “embarrassment.”

In the video, taken Monday at the borough municipal building, resident Steve Wronko gets into a verbal confrontation with Recine, who was called to the building because Wronko was seen taking pictures inside.

After Wronko insists he has a constitutional right to record in a public place, Recine responds.

“Obama has decimated the friggin’ constitution, so I don’t give a damn,” says Recine, a retired Franklin cop. “Because if he doesn’t follow the Constitution we don’t have to.”

Wronko then turns to the person recording the camera to make sure that was recorded. Recine repeats himself.

“Our president has decimated the constitution, then we don’t have to.”

Wronko and his wife have been getting on local officials’ nerves for awhile now. They say they are

campaigning for reform at the borough animal shelter, which they said gave them an underage and sick puppy that caused them thousands of dollars in veterinarian bills.

“We wanted them to pay for the medical bills. Now it’s way past the money,” Collene Freda-Wronko said. “Now it’s about getting animals out of that shelter and getting people into that shelter who could run that facility better.”

She said police have ordered her husband to stop videorecording at the animal shelter during two previous incidents.

Here’s the viral video of officer Recine expressing his opinions about his right to ignore the Constitution.

chiefwiggum_3943

Recine, a retired Franklin, N.J. police officer who is collecting a pension of around $76,000, and was working in Helmetta for an hourly wage, has now resigned. Oddly, he is registered Democrat.

“I don’t want to give a black eye to law enforcement,” Recine, 59, said Thursday in an exclusive interview with MyCentralJersey.com. “People are saying some really nasty stuff about cops. I don’t want all officers painted with the same brush.”

Borough Administrator Herbert Massa said the resignation was accepted by Police Director Robert Manney, who had called Recine’s comments an “embarrassment.”

The video first was reported Wednesday by MyCentralJersey.com and the story quickly went viral. The story was picked up by the Drudge Report and was the top story Thursday morning on the online community news website Reddit. Many readers were upset that Recine’s comments were dismissive of civil liberties.

Recine claims that when he made the remarks about Obama, he was just being “sarcastic.”

“It was just a stupid statement on my part. He got me riled and I said it,” he explained. “I don’t believe that at all. I’m the most patriotic person in the world. I believe in God, the flag, country, the Constitution.” ….

“I tried to explain to him that since 9/11 you just can’t walk into a place and take videos,” Recine said Thursday. “All he kept on doing was saying he had civil rights, and the Constitution, and he didn’t have to give me information. And I kind of like lost my temper.”

No one asked Recine why terrorists would target a public building in Helmetta, NJ, population 2,200.

The-Simpsons-Tapped-Out-Rev.-Lovejoy

This next story isn’t exactly funny–well, as my dad used to say, “it’s not funny ha ha; it’s funny peculiar.” From Raw Story, CEO of Baptist center fired after arrest for arranging dog sex encounter on Craigslist.

Jerald “Jerry” Hill, 56, of Camden County [Missouri] was arrested on  Aug. 5th after setting up a meeting with an undercover officer for the purpose of  having sex with a dog, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune.

According to Boone County sheriff’s Detective Tracy Perkins, her office  received a tip that someone was seeking sex with a dog or other type of animal — which she did not specify — on Craigslist. An undercover officer exchanged emails with Hill offering a dog for sex. Subsequently, Hill was taken into custody in Columbia, MO., when he arrived anticipating a sexual tryst.

Hill’s employer is concerned for his “well-being.” Continuing from Raw Story:

Hill is currently listed as the president and CEO of the Windermere Baptist Conference Center, located in Roach, Missouri, whichissued a statement saying that they were supportive and grateful for his work, but were worried about how the impact of his arrest would reflect on the center.

“We are concerned for the well-being of Jerry…and we are also concerned with the well-being of Windermere,” Chairman Arthur Mallory said. “Windermere will continue to function in a good way…. It is a significant piece of God’s kingdom’s work.”

Some Serious but Positive News

I actually managed to find some positive stories in the serious news today, so I’ll begin with that. From Politico: IRS notches legal win over lost tea party emails.

The IRS won what might be Round One in a series of contests pitting tea party groups against the agency, with a federal judge rejecting a conservative group’s bid for a court-appointed forensics expert to hunt for ex-official Lois Lerner’s lost emails.

Judge Reggie Walton of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia said True the Vote’s lawsuit against the IRS failed to show “irreparable harm” in its injunction relief request and that “the public interest weighs strongly against the type of injunctive relief the plaintiff seeks.”

“Despite the general distrust of the defendants expressed by the plaintiff, the Court has no factual basis to concur with that distrust … and therefore concludes that the issuance of an injunction will not further aid in the recovery of the emails, if such recovery is possible, but will rather only duplicate and potentially interfere with ongoing investigative activities,” he wrote in a court memorandum posted Wednesday afternoon.

simpsons reading

Walton found further fault with True the Vote’s legal arguments.

True the Vote says it is one of the conservative groups that were discriminated against by the IRS in the scandal that erupted last year. The controversy again hit a boiling point this summer when the IRS said a 2011 computer crash erased Lerner emails that congressional Republicans say are vital to its investigation of the matter.
But Walton found a number of problems with True the Vote’s legal demands.

He said the group must establish that it would suffer “irreparable harm” in the absence of the injunction, along with a handful of other requirements such as whether it’s in the public interest.

More details at the link.

I’ve written a few times about the Dozier School for Boys in Florida and the University of South Florida’s archaeological dig a the site of the former reform school. From Reuters, via Raw Story: First remains identified among 55 bodies found at notorious FL reform school.

George Owen Smith, a 14-year-old caught with an older boy in a stolen car, was sent in 1940 to a reform school in the Florida Panhandle, never to be seen again by his family.

His remains became the first to be identified among 55 bodies dug up from unmarked graves last year on the campus of the Dozier School for Boys, the University of South Florida announced on Thursday….

“It feels pretty good, really after 73 years. It’s a feeling of relief,” Ovell Krell, 85, Smith’s younger sister, told Reuters on receiving confirmation of his whereabouts.

Erin Kimmerle, the lead researcher and associate professor of anthropology at USF, said in a statement: “We may never know the full circumstances of what happened to Owen or why his case was handled the way it was.

“But we do know that he now will be buried under his own name and beside family members who longed for answers.”

Video from CBS News:

The Rest of the News, Headlines Only

Homer Simpson news

AP via Bloomberg Businessweek, Iraqi and Kurdish officials welcome US airdrops.

New York Daily News, U.S. military launches first airstrikes on Islamic fighters: Pentagon

Global Post, US launches strikes on Islamic State in Iraq (LIVE BLOG).

Via WaPo, AP Analysis: Iraq upheaval threatens Obama legacy.

Slate, What You Need to Know About the Likely New American Intervention in Iraq.

The Guardian, Against the war: the movement that dare not speak its name in Israel.

AP via Daily Mail, WHO: Ebola outbreak is a public health emergency.

BBC News, Russia arrests Ukrainian officers for ‘war crimes’

New York Times, Russia Responds to Western Sanctions With Import Bans of Its Own

Raw Story, Oklahoma GOP fundraising flier so crudely racist, Democrats at first suspected a hoax.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a fabulous Friday!!


Monday Reads

woman-reading-porch

Good Morning!

Another day, another shooting spree. The gun nuts don’t even take Sunday off. In Las Vegas, a married couple in their late 20s killed two police officers, Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo, and a civilian before killing themselves.
From the Las Vegas Review-Journal: Shooters in Metro ambush that left five dead spoke of white supremacy and a desire to kill police.

Two Las Vegas police officers were killed Sunday in what appears to be a politically motivated ambush in a pizza restaurant that spilled over to a nearby Wal-Mart, where the two shooters committed suicide after killing a woman in the store….

A law enforcement official who has been briefed on the incident said an officer — unconfirmed reports indicate it was Soldo — was refilling a soft drink when the female shooter approached him from behind and shot him in the head, killing him instantly.

The woman then shot the other officer several times as he drew his pistol. Gillespie said the officer was able to return fire but it was unclear if he hit anyone….

Witnesses told police one of the shooters yelled “This is the start of a revolution” before shooting the officers. Gillespie later said he could not confirm that.

The shooters then stripped the officers of their weapons and ammunition and badges, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation. They then covered the officers with something that featured the Gadsden flag, a yellow banner with a coiled snake above the words, “Don’t tread on Me.”

Gee, you mean these terrorists weren’t muslims or Obama supporters? After shooting the two police officers the couple went across the street to a Walmart where they shot and killed a yet unidentified woman near the entrance. The woman then shot and wounded her partner and shot herself, and the man finished himself off. The two were carrying large duffle bags, and the bomb squad was called to the scene as well as to the couple’s apartment a few miles away. Now get this (emphasis added):

Several neighbors identified the man as Jared, while one called the woman Amanda.

Like many of the neighbors contacted, Krista Koch said she didn’t know the couple’s last names. She described them as “militant.” They talked about planning to kill police officers, “going underground” and not coming out until the time was right to kill.

Brandon Monroe, 22, has lived in the complex for about two weeks. He said the man who lived in the apartment that was being searched often rambled about conspiracy theories. He often wore camouflage or dressed as Peter Pan to work as a Fremont Street Experience street performer. A woman lived with him, Monroe said, but he didn’t see her as often.

They were weird people, Monroe said, adding that he thought the couple used methamphetamine.

“The man told Monroe he had been kicked off Cliven Bundy’s ranch 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas while people from throughout the U.S. gathered there in protest of a Bureau of Land Management roundup of Bundy’s cattle.” Jessica Anderson, 27, said. She lived next door.

There is still more detail at the article link.

Owl reading

Updates on the Bergdahl story:

From the Wall Street Journal, Official: Bowe Bergdahl has declined to speak to family.

While he spent five years in captivity after being captured by Afghan insurgents in 2009, Bergdahl doesn’t yet want to talk to his family on the phone, the official said.

Bergdahl has likely been shielded from most of the backlash his release has generated in the U.S. Some former platoon soldiers have accused him of deserting his post and lawmakers from both parties have questioned the decision to trade America’s lone prisoner of war in Afghanistan for five Talibanofficials held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Local authorities canceled a homecoming celebration in his Idaho hometown because of the backlash. The celebration was canceled specifically because of threats made against the family, officials said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed that it was investigating threats made against Bergdahl’s parents.

From The New York Times: Bergdahl Was in Unit Known for Its Troubles.

The platoon was, an American military official would assert years later, “raggedy.”

On their tiny, remote base, in a restive sector of eastern Afghanistan at an increasingly violent time of the war, they were known to wear bandannas and cutoff T-shirts. Their crude observation post was inadequately secured, a military review later found. Their first platoon leader, and then their first platoon sergeant, were replaced relatively early in the deployment because of problems….

Indeed, an internal Army investigation into the episode concluded that the platoon suffered from lapses in discipline and security in the period before Sergeant Bergdahl — a private first class at the time who was promoted while in captivity — disappeared into Paktika Province, two officials briefed on the report said.

Bergdahl was not a peacenik.

Sergeant Bergdahl was viewed as standoffish or eccentric, smoking a pipe instead of spitting tobacco, as so many soldiers do, and reading voraciously when others napped or watched videos. But he was not isolated from his platoon mates, some said. And while he was, like other soldiers in the platoon, often disappointed or confused by their mission in Paktika, some of his peers also said that Sergeant Bergdahl seemed enthusiastic about fighting, particularly after the platoon was ambushed several weeks before his disappearance.

“He’d complain about not being able to go on the offensive, and being attacked and not being able to return fire,” said Gerald Sutton,who knew Sergeant Bergdahl from spending time together on their tiny outpost, Observation Post Mest Malak, near the village of Yahya Khel, about 50 miles west of the Pakistani border.

Read much more at the link.

From the LA Times: Most of 5 freed Taliban prisoners have less than hard-core pasts.

Obama critics have said the swap [of prisoners for Bergdahl] could endanger American lives, with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) calling the five Taliban members “the hardest and toughest of all.”

A closer look at the former prisoners, however, indicates that not all were hard-core militants. Three held political positions in the Taliban government that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 and were considered relative moderates. A fourth was a mid-level police official, experts say.

The fifth, however, has a darker past. Mohammed Fazl was chief of staff of the Taliban army and is accused of commanding forces that massacred hundreds of civilians in the final years of Taliban rule before the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. He was arrested in November 2001 after surrendering to U.S.-allied warlords in northern Afghanistan.

“Fazl is the only one of the five to face accusations of explicit war crimes and they are, indeed, extremely serious,” Kate Clark of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, a Kabul-based research group, wrote in a commentary published Wednesday.

The backgrounds of the prisoners, who are confined to the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar for one year under the terms of the exchange, indicate that they would have little utility on the battlefield after more than a decade in prison. They range in age from 43 to 47. In their absences, the Taliban movement they served has evolved into a complex and extremely violent insurgency that routinely kills civilians and has been decimated — although far from defeated — by years of U.S. counter-terrorism operations.

From the New York Times: Critics of P.O.W. Swap Question the Absence of a Wider Agreement.

When the heads of the two major intelligence committees criticized the Obama administration on Sunday for swapping Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five members of the Taliban, they homed in on one part of the deal that the White House has struggled for a week, unsuccessfully, to explain. The question is why the five were released without any commitments to a larger agreement, under which the Taliban would renounce international terrorism, and begin a process of reconciliation with the government of Afghanistan.

According the The Independent UK, a computer has for the first time convinced humans that it was a real person: Turing Test breakthrough as super-computer becomes first to convince us it’s human.

A programme that convinced humans that it was a 13-year-old boy has become the first computer ever to pass the Turing Test. The test — which requires that computers are indistinguishable from humans — is considered a landmark in the development of artificial intelligence, but academics have warned that the technology could be used for cybercrime.

Computing pioneer Alan Turing said that a computer could be understood to be thinking if it passed the test, which requires that a computer dupes 30 per cent of human interrogators in five-minute text conversations.

Eugene Goostman, a computer programme made by a team based in Russia, succeeded in a test conducted at the Royal Society in London. It convinced 33 per cent of the judges that it was human, said academics at the University of Reading, which organised the test.

It is thought to be the first computer to pass the iconic test. Though other programmes have claimed successes, those included set topics or questions in advance.

The Wall Street Journal reports on an airport attack in Pakistan that killed at least 28 people: Karachi Airport Attack: Pakistani Taliban Claim Responsibility.

KARACHI, Pakistan—Militants stormed Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport late Sunday, exchanging fire with security forces and leaving at least 28 people dead, officials said.

Separately, gunmen and suicide bombers attacked pilgrims from the minority Shiite sect of Islam in the west of Pakistan, killing at least 25 pilgrims.

The Pakistani Taliban, a group closely linked to al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the airport attack. The group, formally known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, said the attack was revenge for recent Pakistani military airstrikes against them, which followed a breakdown in peace talks with the militants in the last few weeks….

At the airport, the assault began at around 10:20 p.m. local time Sunday and lasted at least six hours, with gunfire, explosions and a raging fire. All flights at the airport were suspended late Sunday. By midday Monday, local time, security officials said the airport was clear of militants. Flights were expected to resume by late afternoon.

“They attacked the airport security personnel and then entered,” Adnan, a witness who only gave his first name, said.

The assault focused on the airport’s relatively less heavily guarded Terminal One, which is used for cargo and VIP flights. Two cargo bays appeared to have been destroyed, witnesses said.

cat reading paper

Hillary is about to begin her book tour, and the LA Times calls it a dry run for 2016.

e’s traveled the country mixing weighty policy pronouncements with joking references to her hair. She’s reflected on gender bias and offered career advice to young women, gushed about becoming a grandma and raked in a fortune in speaking fees on the lecture circuit.

After all that — and even having a shoe flung at her at a trash collectors’ convention in Las Vegas — Hillary Rodham Clinton takes her flirtation with the 2016 presidential race to a new level this week, beginning a minutely orchestrated book tour that will whisk her coast to coast for a mix of book signings and carefully calibrated television interviews.

Since stepping down as secretary of State 16 months ago, Clinton has managed to effectively freeze out any Democratic competition for the presidential nomination, no small feat in a party with a history of upstarts and upsets — especially for someone who has yet to say whether she even plans to run.

Throughout, she’s weathered a relentless degree of scrutiny, her daily travels exhaustively chronicled, her every utterance parsed for meaning. Even matters like her daughter Chelsea’s pregnancy are put to the will-or-won’t-she test.

The LA Times also reports that Hillary predicted the Bergdahl controversy, In new book, Clinton predicted furor over Taliban prisoner deal.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton acknowledged in her new book that negotiations with the Taliban were bound to be hotly controversial with Americans, but wrote that bringing home captive Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had to be a top priority.

Clinton writes in “Hard Choices” that “opening the door to negotiations with the Taliban would be hard to swallow for many Americans after so many years of war,” according to an account of excerpts published Thursday by CBS News. Yet in every contact with the Taliban, U.S. officials demanded the release of Bergdahl and made clear that “there would not be any agreement about prisoners without the sergeant coming home.”

Clinton’s book, due for release Tuesday, was written well before the swap of five top Taliban officials for Bergdahl last Saturday set off controversy in Washington. Her comments underscored, however, that the Obama administration was determined to complete the deal, despite its political risks.

That’s all the news I have for you today. What stories are you following? Please post your links in the comment thread.


Friday Nite Lite: Obamacare Galore

78e1119c82de939ad8091cd62175c810Good Evening

I don’t know about y’all, but here in Banjoville, the wind has been blowing cold…I love the fall.  What sucks is having a that yuk cold that seems to hit around this time of year.

As you can expect, the cartoonists have been busy with the Obamacare website roll-out. So here are the cartoons for tonight.

There are a couple of cartoons that are just out of bounds disgusting, from some asshole over at Investor Business Daily….but these below are the good ones.

Obamacare Rollout by Political Cartoonist Pat Bagley

139066 600 Obamacare Rollout cartoons

Obamacare website glitches by Political Cartoonist Patrick Chappatte

139254 600 Obamacare website glitches cartoons

Obamacare Plan

139077 600 Obamacare Plan cartoons

Obamacare Rollout by Political Cartoonist Mike Keefe

139231 600 Obamacare Rollout cartoons

Obamacare Down by Political Cartoonist Christopher Weyant

139263 600 Obamacare Down cartoons

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Bob Englehart, Hartford Courant – 10/23/2013

Cartoon by Bob Englehart -

Tea Party Heroes – Truthdig

Tea Party Halloween by Political Cartoonist Bob Englehart

139272 600 Tea Party Halloween cartoons

We’re NOT racists by Political Cartoonist Milt Priggee

138841 600 Were NOT racists cartoons

Thing Tea by Political Cartoonist Steve Sack

138862 600 Thing Tea cartoons

The Headless Horseman by Political Cartoonist Kevin Siers

139104 600 The Headless Horseman cartoons

Branches by Political Cartoonist Joe Heller

139124 600 Branches cartoons

SCORCHED EARTH – Political Cartoon by Deb Milbrath, Cartoon Movement – 10/24/2013

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - SCORCHED EARTH

MONSTERS AND POLITICS by Political Cartoonist Randy Bish

139266 600 MONSTERS AND POLITICS cartoons

10/23 Luckovich cartoon: Scootin’ | Mike Luckovich

102313-toon-luckovich-ed

Spy With My Eye by Political Cartoonist Pat Bagley

139225 600 Spy With My Eye cartoons

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Charlie Daniel, Knoxville News Sentinel – 10/24/2013

Cartoon by Charlie Daniel -

Its Snowdening by Political Cartoonist Martyn Turner

139299 600 Its Snowdening cartoons

This next one is from a cartoonist in Sweden: Obama satellite listening to Merkel by Political Cartoonist Riber Hansson

139249 600 Obama satellite listening to Merkel cartoons

I thought the use of ears was hilarious….

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Ted Rall, Universal Press Syndicate – 10/23/2013

Cartoon by Ted Rall -

Cheney’s Book – Political Cartoon by Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – 10/25/2013

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Cheney's Book

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Chan Lowe, Sun-Sentinel – 10/25/2013

Cartoon by Chan Lowe -

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Lisa Benson, Victor Valley Daily Press – 10/24/2013

Cartoon by Lisa Benson -

 

So which is your favorite?

This is an open thread.


Saturday: An Autumn Potpourri of Reads

Fall in New England

Fall in New England

Good Morning!!

Isn’t that a gorgeous photo? It was taken in New Hampshire near Mount Washington in October 2011.

A potpourri is “a combination of incongruous things.” Well that’s what I have for you this morning. We’ll begin at Sea-Tac airport in Seattle where Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell, 79, was arrested by TSA police for having a loaded gun in his carry-on bag. He was held for about half-an-hour and then released. He has a permit for the gun. Russell was on his way to Boston where a statue of him will be unveiled on November 1.

Did you hear about the morons in Utah who destroyed a 170-million-year-old rock formation and made a video of themselves doing it?  From the Deseret News:

Two men have come under scrutiny by the public and possibly by prosecutors after a video made the rounds online showing them pushing over an iconic rock formation.

The men were visiting Goblin Valley State Park last week when they said they noticed a precariously perched

boulder that was loose and worried it would fall on someone. The delicate “goblin” formation, also known as a “hoodoo,” is one of many that gives the park its name.

What followed was a video showing the men joking and laughing as Glenn Taylor, of Highland, topples the rock, narrated by cameraman Dave Hall, who says lives have been saved. A third man, identified as Taylor’s son, watches.

These two ignorant fools, who are Boy Scout leaders (!), thought the ancient rock formation was suddenly going to tip over and crush someone.

Utah State Parks spokesman Eugene Swalberg called the video disturbing. Possible criminal charges are being screened by the Emery County Attorney’s Office and the Utah Attorney General’s Office, he said….

The goblins date back more than 170 million years to the Jurassic Period, Swalberg said. The park, which gets more than 85,000 visitors per year, was dedicated in 1974 to protect the fragile formations, he said.

“There are some established trails in the park, but there are also areas where you can have self discovery and wander amongst the goblins,” Swalberg said. “That’s the beauty of Goblin Valley. It’s not meant to have people push over the goblins. It’s meant to enjoy.”

Check out the idiotic quotes from these guys in this Fox News story:

“This is about saving lives,” Dave Hall, who shot the video, told The Associated Press on Friday. “One rock at a time.”

The rock formation is about 170 million years old, Utah State Parks spokesman Eugene Swalberg said. The park in central Utah is dotted with thousands of the eerie, mushroom shaped sandstone formations.

In a video posted on Facebook, Glenn Taylor of Highland, Utah, can be seen last Friday wedging himself between one formation and a boulder to knock a large rock off the formation’s top. Taylor and his two companions can then be seen cheering, high-fiving and dancing….

“My conscience won’t let me walk away knowing that kids could die,” Hall said.

While safety was their motivation, Hall said, it was exciting to knock it over, and that’s why they reacted with high-fives and cheers in the video.

“You can’t have a rock the size of a car that you can push with one hand, and have it roll, and not have an adrenaline rush,” Hall said. “It was a crazy, exciting moment.”

What an asshole! If these fools don’t get criminally prosecuted, at least maybe the Boy Scouts will discipline them.

Boy Scouts of America spokesman Deron Smith confirmed the men are members of the organization, saying in a statement that the organization is “shocked and disappointed by this reprehensible behavior.”

Boy Scout troops spend countless hours in state and national parks, guided by the principle of leaving nature the way they find it, Smith said.

“The isolated actions of these individuals are absolutely counter to our beliefs and what we teach,” Smith said. “We are reviewing this matter and will take appropriate action.”

Moving on , , ,

NSA officials admit they put off installing the latest anti-leak software at the Hawaii facility where Edward Snowden stole thousands of top secret documents before fleeing the country and eventually accepting asylum in Russia.

Well before Snowden joined Booz Allen Hamilton last spring and was assigned to the NSA site as a systems administrator, other U.S. government facilities had begun to install software designed to spot attempts by unauthorized people to access or download data.

The purpose of the software, which in the NSA’s case is made by a division of Raytheon Co, is to block so-called “insider threats” – a response to an order by President Barack Obama to tighten up access controls for classified information in the wake of the leak of hundreds of thousands of Pentagon and State Department documents by an Army private to WikiLeaks website in 2010.

The main reason the software had not been installed at the NSA’s Hawaii facility by the time Snowden took up his assignment there was that it had insufficient bandwidth to comfortably install it and ensure its effective operation, according to one of the officials.

Due to the bandwidth issue, intelligence agencies in general moved more slowly than non-spy government units, including the Defence Department, to install anti-leak software, officials said.

In other related news,

Snowden told The New York Times in an interview that he turned all of his files over to Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras when the three met in Hong Kong last spring; he said he didn’t keep any of the files and therefore China and Russia could not have gotten access to them. From HuffPo:

Snowden said he did not retain copies of the documents and did not take them to Russia “because it wouldn’t serve the public interest,” the Times reported. He said his familiarity with China’s intelligence abilities allowed him to protect the documents from Chinese spies while he was in Hong Kong.

“There’s a zero percent chance the Russians or Chinese have received any documents,” he said….

The Times reported that in the interview, which it said took place over several days in the last week and involved encrypted online communications, Snowden asserted that he believed he was a whistle-blower who was acting in the nation’s best interests by revealing information about the NSA’s surveillance dragnet and huge collections of communications data.

The only problem with these claims is that Snowden actually gave copies of some of the stolen files to the Chinese government-supported newspaper The South China Morning Post in August, long after he supposedly turned everything over to Greewald and Poitras. So where did that data come from?

Whatever the truth is, we do know the files are in the possession of Greenwald, Poitras, Wikileaks, The Guardian, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and several other news organizations as well as the British security services which confiscated the files from Greenwald’s live-in partner David Miranda when he was passing through Heathrow airport. So we can be sure there’s no danger of unauthorized release of secret information. Right?

That was sarcasm, by the way, in case you didn’t pick up on it . . .

Bob Cesca had a good post yesterday on Ted Cruz and his future plans. He apparently feels emboldened by his success in shutting down the government for two weeks, and plans more destructive behavior next time. Cesca writes:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the chief architect of the tea party shutdown and subsequent debt ceiling brinksmanship, might have lost an endorsement from his home town newspaper, but he managed to raise $1.19 million during the third quarter — nearly three times the haul of the second quarter total. That period of time didn’t include the shutdown, but it included his filibuster, which, it turns out, had a very important purpose: the make money for Ted Cruz. He also beefed up his email database with a petition that gathered over two million names and addresses.

When asked who “won” the shutdown battle, Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL) told Politico the winners were “the people that managed to raise a lot of money off this.” Now, I don’t know if that means the tea party necessarily “won,” but Cruz and the Heritage Action group, which pulled in $330,000, didn’t walk away empty-handed.

While Cruz and the others cashed-in, the shutdown ended up costing the federal government $24 billion. Via TIME, here’s a breakdown of just a few of the losses:

-About $3.1 billion in lost government services, according to the research firm IHS
-$152 million per day in lost travel spending, according to the U.S. Travel Association
-$76 million per day lost because of National Parks being shut down, according to the National Park Service
-$217 million per day in lost federal and contractor wages in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area alone

And we’re supposed to continue buying the line that the tea party cares about government spending and the national debt? That’s rich.

Obviously, Cesca writes, they are going to do a repeat performance early next year. Read all about it at the link.

More wingnut news . . .

Via Kevin Drum, Eric Stern wrote at Salon about how he “fact-checked” Sean Hannity’s claims about Obamacare. Stern writes:

I happened to turn on the Hannity show on Fox News last Friday evening. “Average Americans are feeling the pain of Obamacare and the healthcare overhaul train wreck,” Hannity announced, “and six of them are here tonight to tell us their stories.”  Three married couples were neatly arranged in his studio, the wives seated and the men standing behind them, like game show contestants.

As Hannity called on each of them, the guests recounted their “Obamacare” horror stories: canceled policies, premium hikes, restrictions on the freedom to see a doctor of their choice, financial burdens upon their small businesses and so on.

“These are the stories that the media refuses to cover,” Hannity interjected.

But none of it smelled right to me. Nothing these folks were saying jibed with the basic facts of the Affordable Care Act as I understand them. I understand them fairly well; I have worked as a senior adviser to a governor and helped him deal with the new federal rules.

So Stern actually contacted three of these folks and it turns out they all lied. As Drum summarizes:

One of them was apparently just lying, and the other two hadn’t even checked the exchanges, where they would have found that they could get better coverage for considerably less than they’re paying now.

Unbelievable.

Did you hear the latest in the Ariel Castro story?

One of Castro’s neighbors has now been charged with rapes and murders. From the Guardian:

Increased scrutiny of missing person cases in a Cleveland neighbourhood following the arrest of kidnapper Ariel Castro led to charges against a neighbour for the murders of two women in the 1990s, the FBI said on Friday.

Elias Acevedo, 49, was charged late on Thursday with the kidnapping, rape and murder of his 30-year-old neighbour, Pamela Pemberton, found strangled in 1994, and another woman believed to be Christina Adkins, a pregnant 18-year-old who disappeared in 1995. He also is charged with the rape of two young girls.

“Because the public became more aware and investigators were determined and relentless, people were re-interviewed and there was an increased interest in these missing person cases,” FBI spokeswoman Vicki Anderson said.

Acevedo, who lived on the same block as Castro, was arrested in June at his Seymour Avenue residence after police questioned Castro’s neighbours and discovered that Acevedo was a convicted sex offender who had failed to report his current address.

Acevedo became a suspect in the Adkins and Pemberton murders after the FBI re-examined the disappearance of other missing women from the Seymour Avenue neighbourhood after Castro’s arrest, according to a statement from the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office.

Imagine if the Cleveland police had actually done their job years ago?

I’ll end with this wacky story from CBS Atlanta.

Bear climbs tree stand to meet hunter.

A video of a showdown between a hunter and a bear in Canada posted in May of this year is making the rounds on social media as of late.

The video, posted by Jeffrey Moffatt, shows a hunter in a tree stand with a bear at the bottom of the tree.

Much to the surprise of the hunter, the bear climbs the tree in about three seconds and comes face-to-face with the hunter.

The bear sniffs around and eventually decides the hunter wasn’t a threat and climbs down the tree.

Moffatt said on YouTube that he only had a bow and arrow – no firearm – and did not have any cell service in case the situation would have gotten worse.

You have to watch the video!

OK, those are my contributions for today. What stories are you following? Please post your comments and links in the thread below.


Tuesday Reads: Nightmare on Capitol Hill

Nightmare on Capitol Hill Dave Granlund

Good Morning!!

Yes, it’s real–too real. We’re approaching the deadline for raising the debt ceiling–it’s Thursday–and Congress is still dithering. But it looks like they may figure out a way to kick the can down the road again, as long as Ted Cruz doesn’t decide to have another tantrum.

According to the Hill this morning, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell are close to agreeing on “a deal” to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling for a few more months. The two Senate leaders huddled for hours yesterday trying to put together some kind of package that would satisfy House Republicans and convince them not to bring down the U.S. Government and the global economy.

An emerging deal to reopen the government and raise the nation’s debt ceiling until February gathered political momentum Monday evening after Senate Republicans signaled they would likely support it.

Lawmakers and aides said the legislation would fund the government until Jan. 15 and extend the nation’s borrowing authority until February but leave ObamaCare largely untouched.

The agreement would also set up another “supercommittee” to try to deal with the next round of automatic sequester cuts. The committee would have until December 13 to report to Congress. Anyone who thinks they’ll agree on anything, please raise your hand.

The big question is whether a package to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling can pass muster in the House.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was briefed on the deal Monday, and members of his conference were taking a wait and see attitude.

“When we see it, we’ll know what it is. Do you know what it is yet?” Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), chairman of the House Rules Committee, asked reporters as he left Boehner’s office.

“As soon as we see something in writing, then we can understand how we can thoughtfully understand what we’ll do with it,” Sessions said.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) wouldn’t comment on the emerging Senate deal, but he told reporters House Republicans will meet Tuesday morning “to discuss a way forward.” “Possible consideration of legislation related to the debt limit” was added to Cantor’s daily House schedule for Tuesday.

Ted Cruz Onward Michael Ramirez

Of course the biggest potential fly in the ointment is Texas junior Senator Ted Cruz and his gang of Tea Party House members. Cruz wouldn’t say whether he’s planning another fake filibuster or some other effort to kill the Affordable Care Act. However, Cruz did hold a secret meeting with House Republicans last night, according to Roll Call.

Sen. Ted Cruz met with roughly 15 to 20 House Republicans for around two hours late Monday night at the Capitol Hill watering hole Tortilla Coast.

The group appeared to be talking strategy about how they should respond to a tentative Senate deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling without addressing Obamacare in a substantive way, according to sources who witnessed the gathering. The Texas Republican senator and many of the House Republicans in attendance had insisted on including amendments aimed at dismantling Obamacare in the continuing resolution that was intended to avert the current shutdown.

Sources said the House Republicans meeting in the basement of Tortilla Coast with Cruz were some of the most conservative in the House: Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas, Steve King of Iowa, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho, Steve Southerland II of Florida, Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Justin Amash of Michigan.

The group is a collection of members who have often given leadership headaches in recent years by opposing both compromise measures as well as packages crafted by fellow Republicans….While the emerging deal to reopen the government and hike the debt ceiling increase may have been a hot topic, it was not immediately clear what the group actually discussed. But the fact that such a group met with Cruz at all could give House GOP leaders even more heartburn as they consider themselves what to do if the Senate passes the measure.

If Cruz and his buddies decide to cause more trouble, they could bring about a default by dragging the fight out until after Thursday. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew could probably keep the U.S. afloat for a few more days, but it would be touch and go. Joshua Green wrote yesterday at Bloomberg Businessweek that “Ted Cruz Could Force a Debt Default All by Himself.”

How could this happen? Because the Senate can move quickly when necessary, but only by unanimous consent. Let’s say Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) strike a deal today (that’s looking unlikely). Cruz surely won’t like it and has said repeatedly, “I will do everything necessary and anything possible to defund Obamacare.” If he’s true to his word, he could drag out the proceedings past Thursday and possibly well beyond. “If a determined band of nut jobs wants to take down the global economy, they could do it,” says Jim Manley, a former top staffer for Reid. “Under Senate rules, we are past the point of no return—there’s not anything Reid or McConnell could do about it.”

If Cruz is truly determined to block or delay any deal that does not touch Obamacare, here’s how he’d do it: The hypothetical Reid/McConnell bill would probably be introduced as an amendment to the “clean” debt-ceiling raise that Democrats introduced—and Republicans defeated—last week. Reid voted against cloture on the motion to proceed to that bill, a procedural tactic that allows him to reconsider the bill later on. Let’s say he does so by 5 p.m. Monday. There would need to be a cloture vote on the motion to proceed. Cruz would dissent, but he wouldn’t be able to round up 41 votes for a filibuster….

The real killer is that Senate rules stipulate there must be 30 hours of post-cloture debate, unless senators agree unanimously to waive it. Reid and McConnell would want unanimous consent to move quickly, but Cruz could refuse, thereby forcing 30 hours of debate. This would drag things out until Tuesday at 11:30 p.m. Then there would be a vote on the motion to proceed (requiring a simple majority), followed by an intervening day, assuming Cruz withheld his consent to vote earlier. So now we’re looking at a Thursday cloture vote on the bill itself, followed by another 30 hours of post-cloture debate that would blow right past the Treasury deadline.

Ted Cruz Jesus

Let’s hope even Cruz isn’t that delusional and foolhardy. Booman also points out that the Senate can change the rules and limit post-cloture debate for this one vote. That takes 67 votes.

At The Daily Beast, Lloyd Green calls what Cruz and other Tea Party Republicans are doing “backdoor impeachment.”

The dance over the debt ceiling and the fight over the government shutdown are nothing less than impeachment on the cheap: a chance to negate the will of the majority by ostensibly placating the letter of the law. Unable to win the last two presidential elections or to persuade a Supreme Court majority that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional, House Republicans have arrived at a point where default and closure are the next best things. This combustible brew of race, class, and economic anxieties bubbles all too closely to the surface.

These days, the GOP comes across as hating Obamacare more than loving their countrymen, and the nation is returning that ire (PDF). Less than a quarter of Americans view the Republicans favorably, and a majority dislikes them, three-in-10 intensely. The GOP’s goal of recapturing the Senate in 2014 is now looking more like a dream than a reality, as Republicans are “forced to explain why they are not to blame and why Americans should trust them to govern both houses of Congress when the one they do run is in such disarray.” Indeed.

Unfortunately, the calamity of a potential default has tempered neither judgment nor passion. On Saturday, Ted Cruz—the man who lit the match, won the Values Voters Straw Poll with 42 percent of the vote. Channeling her inner Glenn Beck, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) concluded that the President “committed impeachable offenses.” Bachmann also proclaimed that civil disobedience was a potential response to Obama’s “thuggery,” and compared the Obama presidency to Egypt’s deposed Muslim Brotherhood.

I hope you’ll read the rest at the link.

Ted Cruz is stealing the right wing nut show for now, but in the House Paul Ryan raised his ugly head over the weekend to complain about the ACA’s individual mandate and requirement that women have access to birth control. From HuffPo:

Sources told the Post that, in a private meeting with House Republicans, Ryan said that by kicking the can down the road, the GOP would lose “leverage” in their fight against Obamacare.

Ryan’s main concern appears to be delaying the health care law’s individual mandate, but ThinkProgress points out that Ryan also emphasized the need to give employers the ability to deny birth control coverage based on moral or religious reasons.

Meanwhile most people around the country and even on Wall Street don’t seem all that concerned about what’s happening in Washington DC. I guess that after multiple emergencies in which political leaders “cried wolf,” everyone just assumes that Congress will find some way to keep the country going. Still, is this any way to run a country? Shouldn’t citizens be up in arms? Will Durst has a wacky column about this at Cagle Post called “Fukushima Sushi.”

Which is harder to believe? The ludicrous shenanigans going down in Washington or the fact that nobody seems particularly interested in doing anything about them? Good neighbors — it looks like we got ourselves one heck of a bumper crop of official dysfunction this year. Near as high as Manute Bol’s eye.

You’d think with national parks closed, veteran’s benefits being withheld and a possible catastrophic debt ceiling crisis looming, folks would be atwitter like chicken inspectors on a rotisserie spit during a power surge. And you’d be as wrong as a Bergman film on Comedy Central.

What the country seems to be seeking here is a little something called political responsibility. Which, in these dark days, is a wee bit of a tad of a total and complete oxymoron. Real similar to saying Fukushima sushi. Or elegant squalor. Comfortable rock.

Driving the point home: Weird normality. Spherical edge. Iron kite. Freedom shackle. Fresh detritus. Flammable sleet. Placid hammer. Colossal shrimp. Diminutive giant. Formal jeans. Sensitive linebacker. Salable autonomy. Veteran rookie. Vegetarian butcher. Pork tartare. Reality TV.

Keeping it real: Precarious certainty. Serene devastation. Bitter honey. Catholic condom. Heaven’s basement. Gelatinous needle. Sadistic lover. Banker’s compassion. Macabre solace. Chaste indiscretion. Temporary tax. Restorative annihilation. Healthy fries. Unhungry shark.

Lots more oxymoron’s at the link. How he came up with so many, I’ll never know.

Now what stories are you focusing on today? Please share your links on any topic in the comments.


Blue Friday Reads

pablo_picasso_gallery_ii_71 Good Morning!

I’m going through my blue period.  It’s been going on for awhile.  I’m actually thinking that it’s contagious because the blues appear to be popping up everywhere these days with the exception of the deeply delusion right wing who thinks ruining our country is a good thing.

So, first off, I may be out of the loop again awhile.  Tropical Storm–maybe soon to be Hurricane–Karen has formed in the Gulf.  New Orleans is in the cone but appears to be on the weak side of the storm.  That means there’s a strong side and there’s some other folks in danger.

A hurricane watch is in effect for parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast after Tropical Storm Karen formed in the southeastern portion of the Gulf of Mexico, the National Hurricane Center said Thursday.

Track the storm

The watch covers the area from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to west of Destin, Florida. The center of the storm is forecast to be near the coast within that area Saturday.

A tropical storm warning is in effect from Grand Isle to the mouth of the Pearl River.

“Karen is expected to be at or near hurricane strength late Friday and early Saturday,” read a hurricane center advisory.

The storm, which as of Thursday evening was about 360 miles south of the Mississippi River’s mouth, prompted the Federal Emergency Management Agency to recall some of its workers, furloughed during the government shutdown. The agency also reactivated its Hurricane Liaison Team at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. FEMA officials in the Atlanta and Denton, Texas, offices are monitoring Karen.

“At all times, FEMA maintains commodities, including millions of liters of water, millions of meals and hundreds of thousands of blankets, strategically located at distribution centers throughout the United States, including in the Gulf Coast region, that are available to state and local partners if needed and requested,” the agency said in a statement.

The hurricane center said it, too, would be unaffected by the government shutdown as Karen approaches.

“The National Hurricane Center is fully operational … and has all of its resources available to it,” spokesman Dennis Feltgen said in an e-mail. “The government shutdown will not inhibit NHC from providing its mission.”

The money folks that usually love the Republican party is getting a little pissed as the DJ and other stock exchanges and indices begin their negative responses to government shutdown and the upcoming debt ceiling bump.

On a Monday last month, Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, met with some top GOP donors for lunch at Le Cirque on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. The donors, a youngish collection of financial industry types and lawyers, had some questions for Walden, a mild-mannered lawmaker from eastern Oregon known for speaking his mind.

Why, they asked, did the GOP seem so in the thrall of its most extremist wing? The donors, banker types who occupy the upper reaches of Wall Street’s towers, couldn’t understand why the Republican Party—their party—seemed close to threatening the nation with a government shutdown, never mind a default if the debt ceiling isn’t raised later this month.

“Listen,” Walden said, according to several people present. “We have to do this because of the Tea Party. If we don’t, these guys are going to get primaried and they are going to lose their primary.”

Walden asked how many of those seated around the table were precinct captains. These were money men, though, not the types to spend night after night knocking on doors and slipping palm cards into mailboxes.“A lot of the people there didn’t even know what a precinct captain was,” said one attendee.“A lot of the people there didn’t even know what a precinct captain was,” said one attendee.

“A lot of the people there didn’t even know what a precinct captain was,” said one attendee.

Not a single hand went up.

“I hear this complaint all the time,” Walden said. “But no one gets involved at the local level. The Tea Party gets involved at the local level.”

the-chief-blue-meanieGuess that’s what you get when you think religious freaks and science deniers will do your dirty work for you without extracting a pound of flesh.

Wonder why we need a shut down?  Let some nice Tea Party Republican Congressman Mansplain it to you!

CNN’s Carol Costello confronted Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) over his party’s continued crusade against Obamacare Thursday morning, pushing him to admit that Republicans’ “divisive approach” is responsible for the prolonged government shutdown. Rokita dismissed Costello’s dogged questions by focusing on how young and beautiful he found the CNN host.

“I don’t know if you have children yet, I’m sure you don’t have grandchildren yet, you look much too young, but we’re fighting for them,” Rokita said. “Carol, do you have any idea how much this law is going to cost?”

Costello shot back, “Do you know how much it costs every day the government is partially shut down? You’re costing taxpayers millions and millions of dollars!”

Rokita insisted that Obamacare is “one of the most insidious laws ever developed by men” and will hurt the country “much more than any government shutdown.” Costello then pressed him on the upcoming dept ceiling fight, asking, “Obamacare hurts the country worse than [not] raising the debt ceiling? Because that’s not what a bunch of Wall Street bankers told the president yesterday.”

Rokita even dismissed the idea that defaulting on the nation’s debt would be more harmful than Obamacare. “I had a lot of CEOs in my office yesterday, and they didn’t share the same vision with me that some CEOs apparently shared with the president,” he said.

“I think most Americans would say fight that fight separate from the federal budget. Don’t partially shut down the federal government, don’t make things worse by fighting the same fight over and over,” Costello argued.

Rokita responded, “No, you’re part of the problem,” prompting Costello to roll her eyes and scoff, “Ugh, come on. That’s so easy.”

“Carol, you’re beautiful but you need to be honest as well,” Rokita finally said, eliciting an eyebrow raise from Costello.

Things can only get better?

Well, only if you live in a blue state.  It seems that those of us that have petulant Republican Governors are not going to get the kind of subsidies that other states will as they make their insurance choices through the exchanges.

Because they live in states largely controlled by Republicans that have declined to participate in a vast expansion of Medicaid, the medical insurance program for the poor, they are among the eight million Americans who are impoverished, uninsured and ineligible for help. The federal government will pay for the expansion through 2016 and no less than 90 percent of costs in later years.

Those excluded will be stranded without insurance, stuck between people with slightly higher incomes who will qualify for federal subsidies on the new health exchanges that went live this week, and those who are poor enough to qualify for Medicaid in its current form, which has income ceilings as low as $11 a day in some states.

People shopping for insurance on the health exchanges are already discovering this bitter twist.

“How can somebody in poverty not be eligible for subsidies?” an unemployed health care worker in Virginia asked through tears. The woman, who identified herself only as Robin L. because she does not want potential employers to know she is down on her luck, thought she had run into a computer problem when she went online Tuesday and learned she would not qualify.

I have to admit that as much as I love New Orleans, the greater Seattle area is looking better to me all the time.

Maybe some of those Republicans can explain why ObamaCare is being implemented and Walmart is returning to full time employees?  Isn’t that against their meme?

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest employer, announced Monday that 35,000 part-time employees will soon be moved to full-time status, entitling them to the full healthcare benefits that were scheduled to be denied them as a result of Wal-Mart’s efforts to avoid the requirements of Obamacare.

While some analysts believe that the move comes as Wal-Mart is attempting to deal with the negative view many Americans have of its worker benefits program, a closer look reveals the real reason for the shift—

Wal-Mart’s business is going south due to the company’s penchant for putting politics and the squeeze on Wal-Mart employees ahead of the kind of customer satisfaction that produces prosperity over the long-term.

For anyone who has not been following the Wal-Mart saga, sales have been sinking dramatically at the retailer as the company has turned to hiring mostly temporary workers (those who must reapply for a job every 180 days) to staff their stores while cutting full-time employees’ hours down to part-time status in order to avoid providing workers with healthcare benefits.

The result?

Empty shelves, ridiculously long check-out lines, helpless customers wandering through the electronics section and general disorganization at Wal-Mart store locations.

Wow!  It seems people expect customer service and inventory!  Imagine that!!

So what happens if we play the debt brinkmanship game in the middle of this mess?

Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury released a report on the potential macroeconomic effects of debt ceiling brinksmanship.  The report states that a default would be unprecedented and has the potential to be catastrophic: credit markets could freeze, the value of the dollar could plummet, and U.S. interest rates could skyrocket, potentially resulting in a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse.  By looking at the disruptions to financial markets that ensued in 2011, the report examines a variety of economic indicators – including consumer and small business confidence, stock price volatility, credit risk spreads, and mortgage spreads – through which a similar episode might harm the economic expansion. The report also notes that if the current government shutdown is protracted, it could make the U.S. economy even more susceptible to the adverse effects from a debt ceiling impasse than it was prior to the shutdown.

Image that!  Not every one thrives on the idea that it’s good to create chaos in an attempt to bring on some kind of end times?

So, I’ll just trudge along today while I try to grab my usual hurricane hunker-down supplies knowing that at least there’s a cool front coming if the electricity dies and that I won’t have to follow the news if the cable TV dies.  So, you’ll have to let me know what’s on your reading and blogging list today because I can still follow y’all on my cell phone.