Friday, December 20, 2013

The Trouble With Phil

Let's start with what was actually said.  Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson, in a series of unscripted interviews with GQ, said the following, igniting a storm of controversy, accusation, and cultimating in his eventual suspension from his show on A&E.

Phil On Growing Up in Pre-Civil-Rights-Era Louisiana
“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field.... They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

On sin and sinfulness
Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right

Almost overnight, Robertson has gone from a pop-culture star to a cause celeb on the American Right with the likes of Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin wading into the media waters to defend him.  Most of those defenses echo the same "free speech" refrain -- Robertson was only speaking his mind and he has a first amendment right to do so.

And he does have a right to do that -- the trouble with it as a defense is that no one is taking that right away from him.  Robertson's not in prison and no one is threatening him with anything like it.  Invoking the 1st Amendment in Robertson's defense amounts to an endorsement of some kind of government regulation prohibiting businesses from firing people for things they say to the media.  It's hard to imagine that Palin and Jindal would actually back such a measure.

Ultimately the problem with Robertson's comments isn't the faith behind them; it's the politics they inform.  Suggesting that pre-civil-rights black people in Louisiana were happy and godly and that post-civil-rights black people aren't suggests that the systematic racism and oppression which characterized the Jim Crow south was somehow good for African Americans.  That line of argument picks up the patronizing notion of a "white man's burden" lumps it together with an implied racial component to entitlement and welfare, and flings the whole sordid mess at the feat of the people who fought for equal rights.

Likewise, Robertson's judgments on sin -- ignoring the patent absurdity of placing homosexuality at the center of some kind of hierarchy of sinfulness -- has repercussions in the world of politics.  While Robertson does condemn adulterers, idolaters, and prostitutes as well as drunkards, slanderers, and swindlers in the same breath, those people do not find themselves in the unenviable position of having their government judge them ineligible for participation in civil institutions by virtue of their sins.  While Roberson's defenders point to an apparent lack of concern for his identification of drunks as sinners, the fact is that drunks are not out fighting for their right to sit by a loved one's deathbed and comfort him in his final hours.

Homosexuals are.

Robertson's comments could thus be understood more succinctly to mean "ya'll don't need rights; you need Jesus."

For those fighting and sacrificing for those rights such a sentiment is deeply offensive.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Get Ready For Stupid

Unless something very significant changes in Washington in the next 12 hours or so the US government is going to start shutting down in in the early hours of Tuesday morning in a last-ditch attempt to keep from defaulting on its debts.  To be clear, the entire mess is avoidable; the budget line-items covered by a debt increase amount to expenditures which Congress has already signed off on and the only thing standing between the House and a budget that would sail through the Senate and across the President's desk is political grandstanding over an issue on which they've already held more than 40 votes.

What's happening in Washington right now amounts to the Republican Party threatening to wreck the nation and its economy if they don't get their way.  It's government by hostage taking.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

False Religion

The hits just keep on coming from the Republican Party, both in Washington DC and, apparently, in Richmond.  Virginia plays host to the only competitive Governor's race this year and as things heat up national attention is focused in on the race between Ken Cuccinelli (R) and Terry McAuliffe (D).

As weird as that race is shaping up to be -- Cuccinelli is actively under investigation by the FBI and McAuliffe is featured in almost every Cuccinelli doing what looks like a shot -- it's nothing compared to the race for Lieutenant Governor featuring Republican E.W. Jackson and Democrat Ralph Northam, who's name I actually had to look up because he's so irrelevant to the race.

Northam is an unmemorable candidate and his presence or absence in the race will likely not move the polls one point in either direction.  Jackson, on the other hand, is a loose cannon, espousing all manner of highly controversial, almost theocratic, views on a wide range of social issues.  The most recent, though far from the most outrageous, of these was given voice in a sermon he gave at the Restoration Fellowship Church in Strasburg, VA in which he described non-christians as "engaged in some sort of false religion."

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Good luck defunding Obamacare

It is rare that this blog, leftist as it is, agrees with much of anything that Karl Rove has to say but before being Leftist I strive to be a Pragmatist and in this I have to give Karl a tip of the hat.  His editorial in the Wall Street Journal is spot on.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Understanding Chemical Weapons In 10 Easy Lessons

This post on PolicyMic is the dumbest thing I've ever seen. There are many, many good reasons for the United States to avoid involvement in the Syria situation, not the least of which is that the people we would be aiding - the rebels - have had their movement largely co-opted by more or less the exact same folks we've spent the better part of the last decade fighting in Afghanistan.

Wesley Messamore, however, thinks that we lack "moral authority" to intervene in Syria because of "10 chemical weapons attacks Washington doesn't want you to talk about."

Let's run down Mr Messamore's list, shall we?

Friday, August 30, 2013


There is something profoundly unsettling about the raft of political pundits and play-callers who seem absolutely sure of themselves as to what the Obama administration and the US Government more broadly should do about Syria.  Polls show that the American people, by and large, do not support military intervention in Syria and that a large majority want Obama to seek the approval of Congress before undertaking any use of force.

At least that latter point is one that we can all agree upon.  The recent leaks about the US intelligence apparatus in conjunction with the lingering memories of the Bush Administration's fabrication of a casus belli for the Iraq war have left Americans justifiably skittish of a hawkish President.  

So Obama should go before Congress... and then what?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Of course the NSA used taxpayer dollars to cover PRISM costs

Apparently the new revelation in the ongoing NSA spying story is that the agency used taxpayer dollars to pay for the participation of US communications companies.

Well of course they did.  The NSA story is perhaps the most important political story since Watergate but that doesn't change that this is a fairly obvious point.

The NSA is a government agency. It has a taxpayer funded budget and expecting private corporations to pick up the tab for its operations in time of war or peace is arguably a great deal worse than using tax dollars to fund the latest NSA outrage.
Also, if the NSA were forcing private companies to cough up for its quasi military intelligence operations there would be a fair case for some 3rd Amendment violations on top of the trampling of the 4th and 5th.

It's not news when it's obvious and it's certainly not scandalous.

Monday, August 19, 2013

What's Lacking In The Tea Party: Basic Human Decency

I post this video both infuriated and frustrated.  The fury I feel is for the brave little girl who stood up and asked a difficult and personally painful question in a public form.  She deserved empathy and understanding form her Congressman, regardless of the politics surrounding the immigration issue.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Hispanic, Republican Obama?

Apparently it's never too early to start running for President because Rasmussen has an interesting poll out detailing who Republicans most and least want to see as their party's nominee for the 2016 Presidential race. For a company that's built its reputation on data and polling, Rasmussen is stingy with the numbers so I'll break them out for you here.

The survey asked "Suppose the 2016 Republican Presidential Primary were held in your state today. If you had a choice between Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker or Paul Ryan, for whom would you vote?"  The results break down as follows:

Chris Christie: 21%
Marco Rubio: 18%
Jeb Bush: 16%
Rand Paul: 15%
Paul Ryan: 13%
Scott Walker: 6%
Other: 3%
Undecided: 8%

These numbers show little movement from the results of a McCaltchy poll conducted last month which also showed Christie, Rubio, Bush, and Paul in close contention but there is, of course, much more to a primary than the numbers.  The American primary system pits the candidates in a marathon like race across numerous states.  It's about money, endurance, and not a small bit of quirky luck.  Remember that in the run-up to the 2012 race the GOP primary saw moments where Perry, Cain, Gingrich, and Santorum all lead the polls.

Nonetheless, my money is on Rubio.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How would you like it if Congress took away your health benefit?

Imagine that you're a white collar employee.  You went to college, got good grades, applied to competitive internships.  You snagged a much sought-after position in a competitive field, go to work every day, go "above and beyond" at your job to make sure that the enormous workload of a confusing and arcane subject matter gets handled responsibly -- people's lives could be on the line -- and you go home exhausted and drained at the end of the day.  You make a decent wage but one of the real perks of the job is the benefits - your employer kicks in a tidy 75% of your health insurance premium.

Now imagine that the US Congress took that away.  Imagine how upset you'd be, how betrayed you'd feel.  Now stop imagining because Congress did that as part of the PPACA -- the so-called "Obamacare" law.

Outrageous, right?  We should repeal that part immediately, right?  Surely the Republicans on the Hill have your back on this one!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Shot for Teacher

Imagine that your kids go to a school where a number of the teachers are armed and trained to respond with deadly force in the event of a school shooting.  I don't mean that they carry concealed handguns; we're talking about a week and a half's worth of training, shoot-or-don't-shoot scenarios, the whole bit.  They're even licensed as security guards by the state.

Would you want your kids there?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Decisions Are Made By People Who Show Up

If I am overly fond of quoting NBC's The West Wing when it comes to American politics it is only because it is a cache of among the best one-liners and summations of the realities of the entire field.  This post's title comes from something White House Press Secretary CJ Craig says at a Rock the Vote rally.  She is exhorting the youth to turn out and vote because for Democrats, the involvement of low-commitment voters is what makes or breaks an election cycle.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Stand Your Ground

With the George Zimmerman trial concluded an an innocent verdict handed down -- a result which should surprise absolutely no one, by the way -- I find myself at once in sympathy and odds with the many people around the country who feel he should have been found guilty.

As the facts of the case stand, George Zimmerman is not guilty but neither is he innocent and the reason for this distinction is Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, a law which absolves those who carry concealed weapons from the responsibility to avoid conflict.

Friday, June 21, 2013

It's The Infrastructure, Stupid

I think I may be one of something like 11 people in the country who are happy with their cable company.  That said, my cable company doesn't sell me cable; they sell me internet service.  When I bought cable service from them it was terrible and then there were 10 people in the country who were happy with their cable providers.

But I am pretty happy with my cable internet service.  It's fairly reliable and I can get 15 MB/s service from them for a reasonable price.

But if Google Fiber showed up in my neighborhood tomorrow?  Sorry Shentel, "don't let the door hit you," as the saying goes.  

Google Fiber's roll-out into the Kansas City area has been nothing short of breathtaking.  Delivering speeds almost two orders of magnitude faster than anything else you can get in most of the country at prices comparable to far inferior services, Google Fiber has spurred, as CNET puts it, a "startup renaissance" in the  region and it's all down to infrastructure.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

We Are Monsters

I was catching up on the news from E3 while I wait for some bread to rise.  The trailer for Destiny is particularly good but it presents a view of humanity which is, well, more than a little bit naive.  The premise of the game is that humanity has been driven back from a sprawling interplanetary empire to a final hold-out city on Earth and that we must marshal a heroic push to "reclaim what is ours."  What follows is a bunch of classic sci-fi battle scenes with psyonic powers and lasers and fantasy styled infantry.


I get that stuff like that sells games.  I get that we'd like to believe ourselves a race of heroes and champions of honor but we're neither of those things.  We're monsters.  We're perfectly prepared to do the unthinkable to each other if the political stakes are high enough.  Look at Syria right now - facing a serious military challenge from a rebellion, the government has turned to the use of nerve gas (if the Obama administration is to be believed).

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

This is how you deal with sexual abuse in the military

No "nudge nudge wink wink."  This guy will personally kill the next person who steps out of line and by the end of the video there's no possible way to doubt that.

This is the kind of attitude we need in this country when we confront sexual abuse in the military.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Closing Your Digital Blinds

Pragmatic Left is hosted on Blogger which is a Google property.  With news breaking today that Google is among the (numerous) participants in a massive NSA data mining and intelligence gathering operation known as PRISM I'd just like to take a moment to give a shout-out to all my readers over at Fort Meade.

But before everyone freaks out about the NSA spying on their Gmail accounts and their Microsoft cloud services I'd like to ask a provocative question: what's the big deal?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

We Are All Journalists

Among the things Congress is presently squabbling over is a new media shield law which would serve to help protect journalists and their ability to conceal sources from government.  Of course, "journalist" is a term that's up for grabs these days.  As Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) put it "Who is a journalist is a question we need to ask ourselves.  Is any blogger out there saying anything—do they deserve First Amendment protection? These are the issues of our times."

I'll spot Graham the short-hand on the First Amendment.  Obviously Bloggers are entitled to the free exercise of religion and the right to peaceably speak and assemble.  What Graham is speaking to specifically is the question of what defines "the press."  Are bloggers "press" or just malcontents with keyboards?  Where -- or even can -- we draw a line between speech and journalism in our modern world?

Those who try to do so are missing the point.

A Legacy That Costs Lives

I simply can not imagine that the GOP's resistance to the Obamacare Medicaid expansion won't cost them dearly.  In very short order we'll see major difference in the cost of care between the states that implemented the expansion and those that resisted it.  This is a Republican legacy that's going to cost lives.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

The Republican Party needs to do something about immigration reform.  By "needs to do something" I mean that if the GOP fails to make meaningful progress on issues of importance to the Latino community it is never going to win another Presidential election again.


So Democrats have to got to be thrilled beyond measure to hear that not only is the GOP unable to find a middle ground on the issue that they can live with but that the sticking point is, as someone familiar with the recent history of the party might expect, predictably insane.  From ABC News:
The stumbling block is GOP insistence that newly legalized workers now working in the shadows have no access to government-sponsored health care during their 15-year pathway to citizenship, according to two sources with access to the secret house “Gang of 8″ meetings.
Yep.  Obamacare.  It's the political gift that keeps on giving.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


I have been struggling with what to say about the Boston Marathon Bombings for the last couple days.  For most Americans the bombings came on "Tax Day," though, if you're a Bostonian you might have thought of Monday as "Patriot's Day," the annual observation of the Battle of Lexington and Concord.

But I am not a Bostonian; I live in the New River Valley and for me April 15th will forever be "the day before the anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings."  When those shootings happened in 2007 I was writing for Newsvine and I provided a moment by moment account of what we were learning as we learned it: I camped onto every local news station in the area; listened to police scanner feeds; called friends who were on campus; checked little known web-cameras; and basically did everything within my power (from within my locked-down office building) to work out, for people scattered all over the country, many of whom were trying to figure out if their sons and daughters were alive, what was going on.

I did my best to verify things before posting them but even as close to the events as I was the media echo chamber distorted a lot of what I was hearing and I was, eventually, forced to retract several things I'd previously asserted as true.

That was in 2007; things move much faster now.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

There Are No Accidental Racists

As a college educated liberal raised by two liberal midwestern professors, I have a confession to make: I rather like Brad Paisley. His music is twangy and rockabilly and kind of terrible but in an oddly afable way that seems to go well with warm summer nights here in south western Virginia.

But his latest album's big track, "Accidental Racist" is just rage-inducingly awful.  Paisley's balad in the key of "whining about being a white guy" tells the tale of him walking into a Starbucks with a Confederate Flag t-shirt and how he's bitter that everyone treats him like a bigot.  It also features L.L. Cool J rapping over-top of the latter half of the song in an attempt to validate Paisley's complaint which, while laiden with its own cringe-worthy lyrics and false equivalencies, at least serves to make the track sound a little more like a Confederate apologists' wet dream and a little less like a Klan anthem.

But back to that confederate flag t-shirt.

Monday, April 1, 2013

No Bad Ruling

Now that the Supreme Court has listened to the arguments over not one but two same-sex-marriage cases it'll be a few weeks before it delivers a ruling. When the Court does so it can essentially deliver one of three verdicts and while a lot of folks are going to be in pins and needles until the Court makes its decision, there is really no decision this Court can make which will mean anything bad for either marriage proponents or the left writ-large.  In broad strokes, the Court can do one of three things.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Missing The Point

The internet and social media in particular is a lot like Who's Line Is It Anyway: everything is made up and the points don't matter.  Nonetheless, with the Supreme Court hearing oral arguments on Proposition 8 and DOMA this week, the pro-gay-marriage folks have taken to the virtual streets in force and you can't swing a flamboyantly homosexual cat on Facebook without tripping over someone with a red equals sign as their profile picture.

The anti-gay-rights folks, who are apparently just now realizing that it's inadvisable in this digital age to pick a PR fight with a group of people who are stereotypically young, technology savvy, pop-culture literate, and willing to endure derision for the sake of what they believe, have managed to marshal an image commissioned from the only anti-LGBTQ graphic designer in the country and are making an anemic effort to mount some kind of counter-attack.  

It's sad, really.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Friend Zone

Amanda Marcotte writes in Slate that "the friend zone is mostly a straight-male phenomenon based on the widespread sexist belief that straight men can never truly be friends with women without having an ulterior motive. "

She writes this in response to the phrase's inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary, which itself catches some sarcastic flak from her for deigning to give legitimacy to the term. Marcotte's objection is that the phrase "friend zone" implies, in her view, some kind of obligation on the part of a woman that, to quote her, "shifts the locus of responsibility from the subject to the object of the crush. It implies that, as the object is at fault for "putting" her admirer into the friend zone, it is her duty to do something to remove him from it, preferably by getting naked. "

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"Real Men Don't Rape" Is Stupid

PoliticsUSA has an article up today that attacks Fox News viewers for lobbing racist taunts and rape threats at Zerlina Maxwell for her comments during an appearance on the network. Ms. Maxwell was invited onto Fox News to discuss women arming themselves to prevent rape in light of a column she wrote in Ebony which suggests that more of the onus for reducing rape needs to fall on men.  

In light of that view, Maxwell rejected the idea that women should have to arm themselves or alter their behavior in any way to prevent rape, drawing, unfortunately, the predictable tidal wave of vitriol, hate, and racial epithets from the right.

Those threats and epithets are unacceptable and universally so and while it is tempting to use them to highlight yet again everything that is wrong with the American social conservative movement, that horse has been beaten about to death.  It is, instead, the folks presently bludgeoning the horse that warrant some attention: Maxwell's hangers on, for lack of a better term.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


The #StandWithRand hash-tag has been trending on Twitter recently in response to Rand Paul's 13 hour Mr-Smith-Goes-To-Washington-style filibuster of the nomination of John Brennan to be the Director of Central Intelligence.  Senator Paul wanted more information on the Obama administration's assertion that it could use deadly force on US soil without warrant or due process and so he went to the Senate floor.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

If Benedict XVI Were Gay That'd Be Ok (but he's probably not)

I'll be the first to admit that Andrew Sullivan's "gaydar" is probably far more developed than mine. I'll likewise be the first to admit that the ex-Pontiff's personal secretary -- a guy named Monsignor Georg Gänswein - is a good deal better looking than I am. I'm not sure I'd go so far as Colm Toibin did, characterizing the man as "remarkably handsome, a cross between George Clooney and Hugh Grant, but, in a way, more beautiful than either," but then again that's not really my thing.

Sulivan describes Gänswein's relationship with the Pontiff as "intense" and takes particular note of the fact that Gänswein regularly takes two meals with Benedict XIV and accompanies him on a walk around the Vatican grounds.  That and the emeritus Pope's habit of wearing red Prada shoes with his Papal robes, leads Sullivan to hint, not at all subtly, that Benedict XIV might be gay and somehow involved with his secretary.  Sullivan goes so far as to verbosely state that Gänswein is "in some kind of love" with his boss.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Off The Rails

Ezra Klein over at the Washington Post writes that he doesn't "understand the Republican position on the sequester."  Klein notes that Republicans have five goals in the budget talks and that Obama has basically given them four of them.

Republicans want to cut the deficit, cut entitlements, protect defense spending, simplify the tax code, and lower tax rates.  The White House proposal as it stands does the first four of those things and yet Republicans seem willing to leave it on the table because it doesn't accomplish the fifth.  

From a "getting what you want" standpoint, Klein is right.  The GOP isn't in power and it's very rare that a party out of power gets 80% of what it wants from the party in power but this isn't about "the party" because the Republican Party isn't the unified block it was just a few years ago.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The CPAC Failure Continues

Oh please oh please oh please...
The Republican Party's doomed effort to re-brand itself as something other than the party of vapid stupidity fell rather flat when it was announced that Sarah Palin would be addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference -- the major annual hobnobbing event for right-wing big-wigs.

Now its effort to re-brand itself as something other than the party of the obscenely wealthy looks ready to keel over as well.  None other than Mr 47% Himself, Mitt Romney, will be addressing the conference.

Maybe they'll rustle up George W. Bush to complete the trifecta.


If you feel like losing all faith in humanity or, at the very last, the Republican Party, do a search for "LiberalTips2AvoidRape" on Twitter.  I think it goes without saying that the results of that search are not suitable for children.

What started out as a method of satirizing the positions of Joe Salazar, a Democratic legislator from Colorado, rapidly turned into a way for Republicans to swap rape jokes online.

The Blame Game

So as the sequestration fight comes down to the wire a lot of folks in Washington are casting about for someone to blame. The Republican Party and John Boehner, in a move that surprises no one, is blaming President Obama because President Obama apparently came up with the idea of sequestration in the first place.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Grim Arithmetic

Imagine that you're walking alone, at night, through a college campus.  Maybe you're tipsy, tired, or stressed out about exams or maybe you're fully alert and just making your way back from a late class.  You notice a figure behind you and then, several turns later, notice that he's still there.  You walk faster.  He walks faster.  You look around but there's no one else there.  The windows of academic buildings look down on you, dark and deserted this time of night and you hear his footsteps getting closer.  

And so you pull a gun from your purse, turn, and level it at him.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Palin to Headline at CPAC

So despite all that talk about how the GOP was going to re-brand itself as a kinder, gentler, marginally less insane party following the drubbing it took in 2012, it looks like the folks over at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) didn't get the memo.

Or if they did, they're ignoring it. CPAC announced that the veritable incarnation of everything that's wrong with Republicanism -- Sarah Palin -- will be addressing the event. The Hill quoted Palin taking up a stance that is clearly in opposition to Karl Rove's Conservative Victory Project; Palin told The Hill:
“It’s going to be like 2010, but this time around we need to shake up the GOP machine that tries to orchestrate away too much of the will of constitutional conservatives who don’t give a hoot how they do it in D.C.,” Palin said.

You've Gotta Hand It To Marco Rubio

So while President Obama laid out an inspiring domestic policy agenda in his State Of the Union address and while Americans got to hear not one but two rebuttals from the Right detailing their vision for the country, the highlight of the evening was clearly, obviously, and unambiguously Marco Rubio's hydration break.  Rubio's lunge for a bottle of water was this years's "Michelle Bachmann Doesn't Understand Video Cameras" moment and became an overnight viral sensation.  MSNBC even had the clip playing in a loop at the bottom of the screen throughout a 13 minute segment of the Rachel Maddow show.

Moments like that can, for stupid reasons, destroy a political career -- just ask Howard Dean.

Friday, February 15, 2013

They'll Even Filibuster A Republican

Chuck Hagel
President Obama's nomination for the post of Secretary of Defense now faces a Republican filibuster in the Senate.  The catch? Chuck Hagel was a Republican Senator himself.

Hagel isn't a Republican from Massachusetts or some other state where the GOP is just happy to have someone on which to slap its party label, much less someone who might manage to avoid an embarrassing defeat; Hagel is from Nebraska.  Not only is he from Nebraska, he's a war hero from Nebraska.  Hagel served in Vietnam, receiving the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, two Purple Hearts, the Army Commendation Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

Ronald Reagan tapped Hagel to serve as the deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration.

The purpose of this article is not to recount Hagel's qualifications but they do serve to illustrate exactly the sort of man that the Republican Party has chosen to filibuster in order to deny the President his choice for Secretary of Defense.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Doing The Math On Gun Violence

Source: The Atlantic
There's a great article over on the Atlantic about the geography of gun violence but where there are certainly some trends that leap out from the map that headlines the article, the most impressive portion of the piece is this graph plotting correlations between gun deaths per 100,000 people and other statistical measures.

The author offers a note of worthwhile explanation for the most correlative measure, the McCain vote share in 2008:
What about politics? It's hard to quantify political rhetoric, but we can distinguish blue from red states. Taking the voting patterns from the 2008 presidential election, we found a striking pattern: Firearm-related deaths were positively associated with states that voted for McCain (.66) and negatively associated with states that voted for Obama (-.66). Though this association is likely to infuriate many people, the statistics are unmistakable. Partisan affiliations alone cannot explain them; most likely they stem from two broader, underlying factors - the economic and employment makeup of the states and their policies toward guns and gun ownership.
I think we're going to see this graph a lot in the upcoming gun control debate.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Obama Effect

A Washington Post poll dramatically illustrates a point that was argued on this column earlier this week: namely that President Obama can use knee-jerk Republican opposition to anything he supports to drive a wedge between Republicans and the Tea Party.

The Washington Post's poll measured how support for certain policies increased or decreased when then President's name was associated with those policies.  For example, Democrats were more likely to support "Obama's Assault Weapons Ban" than "An Assault Weapons Ban" and Republicans were more likely to oppose "the Obama Administrations' attempts to address climate change" than "attempts to address climate change."

A House Divided

What's the likelihood this guy is going to be a split-ticket voter?
Ever since Karl Rove launched his "Conservative Victory Project" there's been a lot of talk about a Civil War in the Republican Party.  Rove's project is essentially a SuperPac which is going to funnel money towards candidates who face primary challenges from hair-on-fire Tea Party lunatics so that the eventual Republican candidate has a snowball's chance in hell in the general election

As you might expect, the Tea Party folks aren't happy about that.  There's a lot of talk right now that if Rove manages to succeed and torpedo more extreme Tea Party candidates, the Tea Party will either boycott the general election or run their own candidates as a third party.

This already sounds like a pretty bad situation for the Republican establishment, but it gets worse.

Arms Control

It's not yet 10:00 in the morning on the East Coast and most of the beltway elite who aren't actually on call for something are probably sleeping in so they don't nod off during the State of the Union tonight. In a few hours a lot of Congressmen and Senators are going to find out that North Korea set off a small nuclear device last night and that's going to ruin their whole day.

Democrats are going to have the worst of it.  They've got to find some way to incorporate North Korea and its nuclear program into all of the things they were planning on talking about in anticipation of or reaction to the State of the Union address.

Republicans have a much easier challenge.  They'll just point to North Korea's test as evidence of some failure of the Obama administration, as if the already crippling sanctions causing mass human starvation in North Korea aren't harsh enough or as if the President should have ordered airstrikes on the closest thing to a paranoid skitzophrenic in the international system.

At least the left and the right can agree on one thing: we all think North Korea shouldn't have a nuclear weapon.

Or should it?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Called It

Screen capture of the TEA Party website... in 2002
The most recent addition to the Tea Party's heap of political infamy is the confirmation published on the DeSmogBlog of the group's origins as the brainchild of the Koch brothers back in 2002.

At this point it appears that the only thing keeping the Tea Party from becoming the most absurd idea in American political history is that the "No Nothing Party" clearly didn't think through all possible implications of their name choice.

Then again, to be fair, the Tea Party started out referring to themselves as Tea Baggers, so there's that.

Ted Nugent Is A Metaphor For The Republican Party

Steve Stockman (R-TX) has announced that Ted Nugent will be his guest at the State Of The Union address and "will be available to speak to the media before and after the Address."

A Golden Bridge

When the folks over at Politico asked Obama speechwriters "how Obama is approaching the speech compared with his previous State of the Union addresses" they received an enigmatic, 2,500-year-old quotation from the Chinese military philosopher Sun Tzu:
"Built your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across."


Somehow not the same as a gun shop
Americans don't think you should be able to buy a gun without passing a background check.  More specifically, 9 out of 10 Americans believe that; even Congress will find it hard to ignore that kind of political consensus.

The trouble is, implementing a universal background check is going to be very difficult.  Right now background checks are only required for people purchasing firearms from a dealer.  That's the so-called "gun-show loophole;" since you can buy a firearm from a private citizen without passing a background check and since lots of private citizens sell firearms at gunshows, you can fairly easily purchase a firearm from a complete stranger without passing a background check by just going to a gun show.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Dick Cheney Is Still A Thing

Mr Popular

Apparently Dick Cheney managed to wind up his clock-work heart enough to deliver a few remarks to a Republican Committee fundraising dinner.  Cheney used the opportunity to lay into President Obama's cabinet nominees as "second-rate."

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Liberals Are Partisans Too

File:AGM-114 Hellfire hung on a Predator drone.JPEG
A Hellfire missile hangs from a Predator Drone
 A lot of folks on the left - myself included - like to mock Republicans, and particularly the Fox News brand of Republicans, for their uncritical and knee-jerk responses to things.  "Good" in their eyes is defined as anything the Republican leadership says or does and "Bad" is a synonym for "Obama."

But Republicans aren't the only ones who do this.

Friday, February 8, 2013

You guys are so white

Racial and Ethnic Composition of U.S., by Party ID, 2012Gallup, which apparently gets paid a lot of money to state, or at least quantify the obvious, notes that Republicans are extremely white.

89% -- nearly 9 in 10 Republicans -- are "Non-Hispanic white" and indeed white people are the only ethnic group Gallup tracks which identifies itself as more Republican than Democratic.

$5.7 Billion Reasons Obamacare Is Repeal-proof

Has anyone noticed how the Republican party has fallen almost entirely silent on the issue of repealing healthcare reform?  USA Today notes that the ACA -- Obamacare -- has saved seniors $5.7 Billion on prescription drugs since it went into effect.  The following paragraph does a great job of pointing out why this is important [emphasis added].
In 2012, seniors saved $2.5 billion on prescriptions, compared to $2.3 billion in 2011, according to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services. That's an average of $706 per person in 2012.
$706 per person.  For seniors on a fixed income, $706 is pretty significant but ignore the feel-good aspect of helping old people with their medicine for a moment and look at this politically.

The Reagan That Really Was

Apparently today is Ronald Reagan's birthday which means that it's more or less a national holiday for everyone who's still angry about the Presidential Election.

Fox Claims Solar Won't Work In America Because It's Not Sunny Like Germany

If you've ever spent any time in Germany you know it's far from a sunny summer paradise.  In fact, as Slate (hat tip for the story, by the way) points out, as far as solar is concerned, The US has better potential than Spain and Germany is a lot more like Alaska.

Yea.  Alaska.

A Rude Awakening

You might remember that, in the final hours of 2012, the United States Congress finally got around to passing some kind of spending and debt bill which temporarily resolved the whole "fiscal cliff" insanity which was threatening to send the US government into default and the economy back into recession.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Texas Doubling Down On Gun Crazy

Today's example of taking a bad thing and making it worse comes from the great state of Texas which is seriously considering allowing students on its various college and university campuses to carry concealed weapons.