Saturday, January 25, 2014

Idiots' Delight

Well, so much for the semi-annual format I used last year. Not only wasn't it more efficient, turns out there were far too many worthy nincompoops who slipped by my net. While it's more work reverting back to a monthly installment, I find it far more refreshing than having to wait six months and hope my memory - not to mention my stomach - holds up.

This month's winners - all four of them - probably would've made a semi-annual cut, but why take the chance, especially when it's fresh in my mind. Nothing like getting while the getting's good, I say.

So, without further ado, the envelope please:

Mike (Uncle Sugar) Huckabee for his remarks on women's libidos. Well, so much for the rebranding effort. Seems old Huck is taking a page out of the vaunted annals of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. Last Thursday he made some comments about women that, let's just say, didn't go over too well. 

"If Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without 'Uncle Sugar' coming in and for providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or reproductive system without the help of the government - then so be it."

No matter how many times they tout the "progress" they've made to with respect to their "tone," it seems Republicans just can't help themselves when it comes to social issues. Like a drug addict, they can't resist the urge to light up and get high on their ignorance.

The good news about Huckabee's faux pas is that his chances of winning a national election in 2016 just went from slim to none; the bad news is that his prospects for winning the Republican primary improved considerably. Move over Rick Santorum; you've got some competition for the GOP's biggest jackass award.

The Republican Party for allowing (insisting) on three responses to the President's State of the Union Address: Remember the good old days when the GOP wasn't insane?  I know it's hard, but try. Seriously, THREE responses? As strange as it may seem, the GOP is really going forward with this charade, according to the Daily Kos and Mediaite.

The first response will be the "official" one and it will be given by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, I suppose in a desperate attempt to try and convince as many gullible people as possible that there are still some women left in the GOP. The second one will be given by Tea Party senator Mike Lee, who I can only surmise is trying his best not to be seen as Ted Cruz's lackey. And rounding out the field will be Rand Paul, because, well, he's Rand Paul and he's "special." With a name like Paul, you know it's going to be "out there." 

All three will be white and as non-ethnic looking as possible. No Herman Cain's or Marco Rubio's to muddy up the tainted water. You know, when they write the history of the GOP's collapse, I fully expect this night to get its own chapter.

Sandy Rios, for insisting that black racism is the cause of white racism. File this under blaming the victim for getting in the way of the bullet. In the rankest form of self-justified bigotry, Rios not only dismissed white racism as being a thing of the past, because in her words, the nation "elected Barack Obama twice," she insisted that the "bitterness and rage" of black people are responsible for any lingering white racism.

Oh, okay. So, to sum up Rios' demented view: white racism doesn't exist, but just in case it does, then it's the fault of angry black people like Obama and Eric Holder. If you're looking for a better definition of convoluted logic, stop looking. You won't find a better one. This sort of drivel comes straight out the KKK manual. It's been used time and time again to try and justify a national problem; one that not only isn't a thing of the past, but is alive and well and thriving among us today.

Yes, it's those angry (and let's just get it out of the way and say it, ungrateful) Negroes who keep provoking us innocent and benevolent white folk into fits of racism. Yes, George Zimmerman was just minding his business when Trayvon Martin crossed his path. He didn't want to kill him; it was the hoody that made him do it.

And what do blacks have to be angry about anyway? It's not like their right to vote is being threatened or that the unemployment rate for them isn't twice that of whites. And just look at those wonderful neighborhoods they live in, complete with burnt out tenements and dilapidated schools.  And just for kicks, the local authorities even take the time to stop and pat them down just to make sure they don't pose a threat to all the other Negroes or, God forbid, any innocent and obviously lost white bystanders. No, nothing to see here. Move along now.

MSNBC for switching from a genuine news story to cover Justin Bieber. I had to see this with my own eyes to believe it. MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell was in the middle of an interview about the NSA, which, unless you've been living in a cave somewhere, has been one of the top news stories over the last year or so, when she suddenly interrupted her guest, former Congresswoman Jane Harman, for "breaking news out of Miami."

And that news? Justin Bieber had been arrested. For what? Who gives a shit?

If you're looking for proof positive that main-stream journalism in this country is dead, here it is, in living color. I personally don't care whether it was Mitchell's decision to break away from the NSA story to cover this nonsense, or whether the decision was made by her "superiors." The point is if you feel obliged to report on a trivial event, then at least have the decency to wait until you've finished with the important one. The goal of a cable news channel ought to be to report news, not out scoop the E channel.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

All Gates Are Not Equal

Well it didn't take long for the wingnuts on the Right to start in with their false equivalency arguments over Chris Christie. Fox News barely mentioned the controversy surrounding him, instead calling it a distraction. To sum up, the main-stream media is paying way too much attention to what they basically say is nothing more than a traffic snarl while, naturally, ignoring far more sinister scandals like Benghazi and the I.R.S. Yes, the bubble people are all up in arms because emperor in chief, Barack Obama, has gotten a free pass while the governor of New Jersey is under the microscope.

I can't imagine what it must be like living in such an alternate universe where up is down, down is up, fantasy is reality and reality is dismissed as nothing more than the machinations of a liberal-elite media.  My God, even paranoid people aren't that far out. But the bubble people, they remain defiant and resolute.

For the record, the Benghazi and the I.R.S. "scandals" are not the equivalent of what has now been called Bridgegate. For one thing, we now know, thanks to The New York Times, that the attack in Benghazi was indeed triggered by the movie Innocence of Muslims and that the attackers had no direct connection to Al-Qaeda. While mistakes were made, there was no conspiracy and certainly no cover-up.

As far as the I.R.S. is concerned, records prove conclusively that both conservative and progressive groups were targeted. In fact, the only group denied 501 c status was a liberal group. Not one conservative group was denied. There was never any attempt to go after anyone for political purposes. The only reason these "scandals" are still alive is because the Right refuses to let them die.

By contrast, the growing scandal involving the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge is quite real and, might well have led, however indirectly, to a fatality. Laws were broken and the cover-up may well bring down a sitting governor. The analogy to Watergate is striking.

Whether conservatives like it or not, not all Gates are equal, or, for that matter, real.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

What did Chris Christie know and when? Those appear to be the pressing questions for the New Jersey governor concerning what is now being called "Bridge-Gate."  Michael Tomasky is right. There are three possibilities: 1. He knew nothing; 2. He knew from the beginning, maybe even planned it; or 3. He learned about it afterwards and covered it up. Where I part company with Tomasky is that I'm not yet ready to admit that Christie is involved. Until we know all the details - and we probably won't until the Spring -  I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt here.

Yes, I know what that means. Chris Christie, control freak extraordinaire, was so completely out of the loop that he either was unaware that people in his administration were responsible for a stunt so sophomoric it might well have indirectly lead to a 91 year-old woman's death, or worse, he didn't want to know and chose to turn a deaf ear and blind eye to it. That's not much of a choice, I agree, but it's pretty much the only way Christie survives this.

Because anything other than willful ignorance or detached apathy pretty much ends not only his bid for the White House, but ostensibly his whole tenure as governor of New Jersey. Basically, it's out to lunch or shit out of luck. Pick your poison.

But there's more riding here than just the possible end of a political career. The GOP's hope of winning the presidency in 2016 rests on finding a candidate who can appeal to moderate and independent voters. Despite his dickishness, there is a certain charm about the guy that appeals to an awful lot of voters. His convincing reelection last year could be a harbinger of things to come for his party, providing a road map for electoral success. All that goes out the window if Christie goes up in flames. Forget Marco Rubio; he's damaged goods; Jeb Bush? No way in hell the country elects another Bush, even if he is the smart one in the family.

Christie's demise would consign the Republican Party to yet another parade of clowns like Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, etc...The Tea Party can boast all it wants about its principles, there is no electoral math for them that leads to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Barring a yet as unforeseen scandal for the Dems (and, no, Benghazi will most definitely not be a scandal), whoever wins the nomination in 2016 will be the clear favorite. If it's Hillary, it could be a landslide.

The collateral damage of a Christie resignation will have long-lasting and profound implications for a good many people. Not since 1974 has a major elected official been embroiled in a such a quagmire. Only time will tell if he becomes the next Richard Nixon.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Grand Dreams for the Grand Old Party?

Yet another prediction, this one by Larry Sabato in Politico, about the 2014 midterms and this one has Republicans possibly retaking the Senate and adding to their House majority. While the piece lists several reasons behind this prediction, I want to focus on two: the unpopularity of Obamacare and the curse of second-term presidents.

While it is true that polls show that Obamacare is unpopular, most of that can be attributed to the problems with the website (most of which have been fixed) and the row over the canceled policies. The total number of people who will be affected by the latter is probably no more than five million. Not an insignificant number, but hardly fatal, given the total population of the country. Since the overwhelming majority of people get their health insurance from their employers, this issue isn't likely to have the negative impact some are suggesting. And if enrollment numbers continue climb, as appears to be the case, it's entirely possible that by next fall, the ACA could be a net positive for Democrats. The next few months will be critical.

But now we get to the real reason for GOP hope this year.  Put succinctly, the history of second midterm elections does not bode well for the party that occupies the White House. Going back to Eisenhower, every two-term president, save one, has lost seats in his second term. Only Bill Clinton - 1996 - avoided that fate. To be honest, this is a pretty grim fact for Democrats.

I have maintained over the last few months that Democrats were concentrating way too much on retaking the House when their control of the Senate is far more tenuous. Presently the Dems hold a 55-45 majority and will be defending 21 of 35 seats this year. When you factor in that six of those seats are in red states and one is in a purple state, you start to see the problem. If the GOP sweeps all seven, they will flip the Senate.

Of course, the odds of a clean sweep are highly improbable. Sabato puts the over / under for Republican gains at 3.5. And then there's the 800 pound gorilla in the room: the Tea Party. Even if the GOP does sweep all the vulnerable Democratic seats, they will likely lose a couple of seats of their own. While Mitch McConnell will probably win his primary in Kentucky, his Tea Party challenger will force him so far to the right that Alison Grimes, the Democrat, might actually win the general. The same holds true in states like South Carolina, where there are two seats up for grabs, and Georgia, where Saxby Chambliss has decided not to seek reelection. If 2012 was any indicator, you can count on the Tea Party throwing a monkey wrench into the works once again.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Like earlier Democratic dreams of retaking the House, it is way too early to make predictions about the midterms. There are way too many variables to consider and way too much time between now and November. If the economy continues to improve, Democrats could ride that to the finish line.

The point is, we probably won't be able to get an accurate read on where these elections are going until the summer. Pontificating on them now is pointless.


Monday, January 6, 2014

Three Up, Three Down

What the fuck has happened to 60 Minutes?

Over the last few weeks, the once venerable news program has aired three stories that border on the bizarre. The first was Lara Logan's piece on Benghazi, which has already been debunked by a New York Times piece and was so embarrassing to CBS that Logan was forced to take a leave of absence. The second piece on the NSA by John Miller looked more like an infomercial than a news story. And now this latest piece by Leslie Stahl on the clean energy sector that is so misleading it could've been a feature story on Fox News.

You know I was starting to feel a little guilty about my last piece in which I ostensibly blasted the main-stream media, and then, last Sunday, 60 Minutes puts this nonsense on the air. So much for remorse. Kudos to the Daily Kos for exposing it to the light of day.

Just in case you didn't get the chance to see the Stahl piece, called "Cleantech Crash," maybe, like me, you were too busy watching the 49ers - Packers playoff game, I'll recap it for you. The government wasted billions of taxpayer dollars investing in clean energy companies that eventually went bust. One of those companies was...wait for it...Solyndra. The favorite whipping boy of the Republican Party took center stage in Stahl's piece. But, as the Daily Kos pointed out, the number of companies that failed totaled about 3 percent. Stahl simply ignored the breakthroughs in the industry.

I don't know what's going on at the offices of CBS lately, but its signature news magazine, the one that for decades has been a stalwart of broadcast journalism, appears to have taken a considerable slide into mediocrity, along with a rather obvious and definitive turn to the right.

It's one thing to be sloppy; it's quite another to be in the tank.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Even-Steven Syndrome

Unless you live under a rock, by now you've heard of the infamous "one of these things doesn't belong" incident that occurred on Melissa Harris-Perry's show involving Mitt Romney's adopted grandchild, who just happens to be African American. The segment featured a picture of the Romney family with the grandchild on Romney's lap. Most of the comments were, to be honest, off color, no pun intended, and probably belonged more in the decorum of a late-night comedy club than on a political talk show. Harris-Perry and most of her guests have all issued public apologies.

As you might expect, it didn't take long for the far Right to go bat-shit crazy. Within hours the conservative blogosphere was all a twitter with the usual fake outrage. I won't bore you by posting them here - you're free to peruse for yourself. Suffice to say, the same mob that went to the mat for Phil Robertson's right to be a homophobic racist was denouncing every liberal from here to Oshkosh for statements that were considerably more innocuous.

It's the same nonsense from them. Every time an off-color remark is uttered by the Left it immediately becomes the moral equivalent of every offensive remark uttered by the Right. They have misogynist, racist homophobes in their ranks, we have "baby bullies." I'm not making that up; that's an actual quote from one of the more unhinged twitter heads.

For the record, no one on the show was in anyway bullying a baby. Take away the tactlessness and the argument that they were making had nothing to do with the adoption of a black baby. It was about the Republican Party's lack of diversity; it's continued inability to attract minorities into its ranks remains its biggest challenge on a national level. Though inartfully put, the segment was an indictment of the GOP's image; an image, I might add, that is well deserved.

As you might expect, it didn't take long for our vaunted main-stream media to wade in on this issue. CNN, where news goes to die, "courageously" lead the way with Fredricka Whitfield reporting that “some are calling for Melissa Harris-Perry to be fired." Of course that "some" were a few twitter postings by the usual suspects. Not that Whitfield bothered to mention that fact; or, more to the point, that CNN was shamelessly looking to exploit the situation by painting itself as "non-partisan" and therefore a "trusted" source of information. Based on the ratings and their own track record (see, the Boston bombing), I would say they have some work to do.

Whitfield and others like her continue to fall for the same, worn-out false equivalency argument, or as I prefer to call it, the Even-Steven Syndrome. It's important to make one thing perfectly clear. Both sides are NOT equally to blame here. There are no left-wing equivalents of Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Michele Bachmann, Ted Cruz, Steve King, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Dana Loesch and Michael Savage. That isn't to say they don't have their fair share of flamboyant personalities who occasionally push the envelope, but none of them come even remotely close to what the above do on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis.

The difference, as I see, comes down to accountability. When the Left screws up and says something inappropriate, there are consequences. When Ed Schultz called Laura Ingraham a "right-wing slut," he was suspended by MSNBC, and deservedly so. When Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut all that happened was that he lost a few advertisers. There was no disciplinary action taken against him by his employers. Clearly, there are different standards for both sides.

But even allowing for the difference in standards, the number of incidents on each side is not even remotely equitable. Limbaugh, for most of his twenty-five years in broadcasting, has made numerous offensive remarks concerning gays, Hispanics and blacks, none of which he has been called to task for. Like reality, the rules of decency do not seem to apply to the Right. They are free to spew whatever garbage pops into their craniums knowing full well that the moment the other side has so much as a brain fart they can claim both sides are just as bad.

This sort of convoluted logic is akin to the bully who justifies pulverizing another boy by saying "he pushed me." If I hit you in the chest with my fist and you come at me with a club, both of us are guilty of assault. One of us will have his feelings hurt; the other will likely spend a week or two in the hospital. How is that even remotely even?

It's bad enough that conservative media outlets like Fox News and A.M. radio push this drivel; the main-stream media can't help but go along for the ride. All it takes is a little fake outrage by the wingnuts and CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, like lapdogs, suddenly start in with their point / counter point "discussions" like the moral arbiters of justice they view themselves as being.

The analogy is like watching a hockey game. The instigator provokes a player on the other side to retaliate; then when he does, he ends up getting penalized. It's sheer brilliance on the part of the instigator; the referee ends up getting played.

Except there's one difference. The referee in a hockey game can't go back and look at the genesis of the infraction. You'd think a good journalist would be able to see through this canard. You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. That's because broadcast journalism for the most part in this country has been in a steady state of decline for the last couple of decades. In a word, the industry has become lazy. It's failure to call out the GOP's Benghazi conspiracy nonsense borders on malpractice. And where were these paragons of journalistic integrity when George Bush was lying the nation into a war that ended up costing trillions of dollars, resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and badly destabilized an entire region? Missing in action, that's where.

The saddest part of all this is that most of the general public is at best apathetic. They simply don't have the patience or inclination to sift through all the sordid details.  Indeed, the average attention span of much of the electorate leaves a lot to be desired. Left to their own devices, and with no one to parse out the true facts, there's a tendency for them to go with the flow and adopt a "pox on both your houses" mindset.

Proof of this came during and after the government shutdown. As you will recall, the media hammered the GOP and, not coincidentally, virtually all the polls showed the public falling in line. One month later, as the federal government website continued to have its problems, the media was all over the Administration. Guess which way the polls went? You guessed it; they practically did a 180.  If you think the main-stream media is rudderless, the public might as well be up a creek without a paddle. In the absence of an interested populace, the least the fourth estate could do is its job.

But that seems unlikely to happen. The truth is both Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite have been gone for quite some time. Frankly, the majority of what passes for journalism in this country is one or two steps above the trolls who wind up writing for such publications as Entertainment Weekly and The National Enquirer.

At a time when the nation desperately needs them the most, a once great profession has abdicated its responsibility and has hung out a sign which reads, "Out to lunch."


Friday, January 3, 2014

The Godfather of Hate Radio Finally Kicks the Bucket

Bob Grant died on December 31 at the age of 84. Who was Bob Grant, you ask?  Before there was a Rush Limbaugh, before there was a Sean Hannity, or Mark Levin or Michael Savage, there was Bob Grant. Since 1970, Grant had been polluting the airwaves with his unique brand of contemptible diatribe. He was, for all intents and purposes, the Godfather of hate radio.

His list of enemies included liberals, gays, minorities, feminists, welfare recipients and just about any one who disagreed with him. His friends included loathsome creatures like white supremacist David Duke, who was a frequent guest on his program, and Bernie Goetz, the vigilante who shot and wounded four black teenagers in the subway. Grant bemoaned during his interview with Goetz that he should've "finished the job by killing them all." He once referred to Martin Luther King, Jr. as a "slime ball" and "phony" and former New York mayor David Dinkins as a "men's room attendant."

His low point, assuming there ever was one, occurred in 1996. After a plane crash killed 35 people, Grant openly hoped that Bill Clinton's commerce secretary Ron Brown, who was on the flight, was among the dead. That comment got him fired from WABC. Sadly, he was back on the air two weeks later at another radio station.

He eventually came back to WABC and, for the last three years of his career, hosted a Sunday show. Though considerably older and crankier, Grant nonetheless remained as crude and obnoxious as ever, hanging up on callers he disagreed with and attacking anyone on the Left who infuriated him. He finally retired his white hood in 2012, but his legacy, sadly, still lives on.

So the next time you tune into Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, remember it was Grant who opened the gates of hell for them to walk through.  Like Andrew Breitbart before him, there will be no tears in heaven over Grant's passing. The damage he did to talk radio was as reprehensible as it was irreparable.

Good riddance, I say.