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.