Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Ringing lines from Obama last night– but the Republicans just scowled, sneered, frowned and flinched

Barack Obama gave the nation – and future historians – many great lines to remember last night.  I reached for a pen and a pad to jot down some of the best of them.

I can’t guarantee every one of these quotes is to-the-letter verbatim, because the president spoke faster than I can write, but I think these are pretty accurate. Each one speaks to a problem or policy the President wants to deal with over the intransigence of Republicans. 
• “Those at the top have never done better but average wages have never budged.”

• “First class jobs gravitate to first class infrastructure.”

• “The nation that goes all in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow.”

• “It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a ‘Mad Men’ episode.”

• “It should be the power of our votes, not the size of our bank accounts that governs our democracy.”

• “We counter terrorism not just through intelligence and our military actions, but through our ideas.”

• “If JFK and Ronald Regan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely the United States can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today.”
Unfortunately, the president’s ringing language inspired little enthusiasm among the negativist Republicans who rarely applauded and seemed displeased that the President spoke the truth to the power of their nay-saying.

When Mr. Obama spoke about “the rancorous argument over the proper size of the Federal Government,” a CBS camera caught Republican Senator Mitch McConnel scowling.

When the President spoke about the possibility that prosperity could be “widely shared,” Republican House Speaker John Boehner, sitting behind him, visibly flinched.

These Neanderthals are going to stick to their greed and their guns and their miserly refusal to parcel out wealth on behalf of the future, even if it sends us back to the Stone Age.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Counterfeit police badges. A persecuted prosecutor. Employee loyalty oaths. A sleazy foreign government? Nah, just another Christie scandal.

A few years from now, people may think
this is a photograph of Chris Christie
saying farewell to his troops.

There's an old rule of thumb in the pest control business: If you find a cockroach in the kitchen, guaranteed you have more than one cockroach in the kitchen.

And it's starting to turn out that if you have a scandal involving Chris Christie, guaranteed you have....well, maybe the governor's official residence, one of those mansions so pretentious it has a pretentious name – Drumthwacket – needs to be sprayed. 

First there was the George Washington Bridge scandal to screw the mayor of Fort Lee. Then a shutoff of Hurricane Sandy aid to screw the mayor of Hoboken. And now we're beginning to learn about a county prosecutor getting screwed for trying to do his job – which in this case involved prosecuting a Christie cronie.

I found the latest brewing scandal – actually it may be the oldest scandal, suppressed until now – at Crooks and Liars, which in turn lifted its info from the Newark Star-Ledger. Please do drop in  at Crooks and Liars and treat yourself to all the juicy details.

However, for you very busy folks who are pressed at the moment, here's an executive summary lifted from Crooks and Liars (boldfacing my own to enhance your delectation):

And now, we are reminded of the accusations of Ben Barlyn, a former Hunterdon County prosecutor who says he was fired because he refused to drop a case against a Christie ally. For the past year, he’s been striving to prove his story, paying through the nose for a civil lawsuit against the state while telling it to anyone who will listen. 
Barlyn says that after he secured an indictment in 2010 against Hunterdon County Sheriff Deborah Trout, a Republican with political ties to Christie, he was fired and the case hastily killed by Christie’s appointed attorney general at the time, Paula Dow. The real story isn’t the mundane crimes that were alleged: hiring without proper background checks, making employees sign loyalty oaths, threatening critics and producing fake police badges for a prominent Christie donor. It’s the possible abuse of power by the administration’s head prosecutor.

I'm beginning to wonder if the real question about Christie should be not whether he's done as a presidential candidate, but whether he's going to prison. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Uh oh! And I do mean UH OH!

Call me a Luddite but something tells me, Toto, that all the rest of us will be out of work in a year or two, too:
Introducing a “Wikipedia for robots”, which “allows the knowledge created for one robot to be shared with another robot, anywhere else in the world, via a web-accessible database. When one robot in Germany learns what a toaster is and how it works, it can upload that information into the network. A robot in Japan which has never used a toaster before can log in and learn how to recognise one” 
We are so screwed!

(Thanks, if a bit grudgingly considering the news, to Underbelly for the link that led me to this latest sleep-rattling development.)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Governor Christie clearly focuses on one thing and one thing only. And that thing is…..

From a MSN News story on January 17:
Christie himself, meanwhile, gave a speech at an event outside those at the State House for the first time in more than a week, telling people in a community devastated by Superstorm Sandy in 2012 that storm recovery remains his top priority. 
"I am focused as completely this morning as I was when I woke up on the morning of Oct. 30, 2012, and nothing will distract me from getting the job done," he said. "Nothing."
And from a New York Times article by Kate Zernike that appeared the previous day:
As the New Jersey Assembly voted unanimously on Thursday to authorize an investigation into abuses of power by Gov. Chris Christie’s administration, Mr. Christie seemed to be maneuvering against the inquiry, hiring a high-powered defense lawyer and resisting questions about whether he would cooperate with the Legislature’s efforts.
When a man lawyers up, you can be pretty sure he isn't focusing on the ants in his picnic basket. Or, to futz with an old saying, nothing focuses a man’s mind so much as the prospect of his own indictment.  Trust this cranky commentator, that prospect of indictment is stronger than the storm.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Next move for the Florida legislature: a “Stand Your Movie Seat” Law

To be fair, people who sit texting in movie theaters can be annoying. I don’t much like them even if they text just during the trailers. It’s an irritant. They can text before they come to the theater. Or when they leave it. Or if it’s truly urgent, they can go back to the lobby and text away. But they don’t, and they make me mad as hell.

But when a retired police captain, 71 year old Curtis Reeves, pulls out his gat and shoots and kills the guy in the next movie seat for texting, also shooting the victim’s wife through the hand in the process, I do think we can fairly say either that movie seat rage has gone too far, or that Florida’s so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws haven’t gone far enough.

How could they go any further? I’d be surprised if the NRA hasn’t already done the groundwork. Just as badly as people need a Stand Your Ground law, we need a Stand Your Seat Law. That law would give moviegoers the right to take the life of anybody who threatens to interfere with them sitting in a movie theater and watching the ads for the local ice cream parlor and next month’s action movies.

In fact, we Americans need lots of other legalized reasons to shoot one another. How about a Hold Your Parking Place law, so that if you’re trying to back into a parking spot just as somebody comes along behind you and tries to push his car’s nose into the same spot, you can blow his head off?

In New York, we need a Hold Your Cab law, so that nobody can snatch a taxi away from me by climbing into the rear left hand seat, just as I’ve reached for the door handle to get in on the rear right hand seat. Especially not during rush hour. And most especially not during rush hour when it’s raining. You steal my cab? I shoot you between the eyes.

Of course we need a Hold Your Place In Lane law, and another Hold Your Place In Line law, one to help you and me prevent automobiles from cutting in front of our cars, the other to prevent people from cutting into line at sporting events and yes, movie theaters again. This would assure all of us that, after shooting the person who tries to take our place in line, we can shoot somebody else for texting, in the warmth and comfort of the theater.

In fact, wouldn’t it be helpful if we had a Hold Your Anything and Everything From Anyone and Everybody law, which would allow anybody to shoot anybody for any reason at all? Or for no reason at all?

I think that’s where the NRA is heading with this. Everybody will be armed, not only with a gun, but also with the philosophy that nobody on the planet will be safe until everybody’s dead.

The problem is, while I’m kidding about this, the NRA isn’t. They don’t seem at all moved by a woman who has been widowed and her three year old child who has been half orphaned by “a good guy with a gun,” who happened to be a retired police captain in a bad mood who went to the movies. Nor do I expect any NRA outcry of emotion over the New Mexico school shooting that came in over the Internet just as I sat down to write this piece.

The trail of tragedy, of innocent people mowed down by stupid people with guns, is getting to the point where it’ll stretch from here to the moon and back.

Remember, the only thing that stops a good guy in an ugly mood is another good guy in an equally ugly mood, especially when both of them are armed.

Meanwhile, for the delectation of some of us, here’s why people who own guns should at least be required to pass a basic intelligence test, Second Amendment or no Second Amendment.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Squish, squish, squash! Chris Christie throws his own people under the bus, drives it over them, then backs up and keeps squashing them until they’re flat.

Sounding like an angelic and contrite choir boy who’d been caught by his priest pilfering from the collection plate, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie revealed today that there are really two Governor Christies.

One, the old familiar one, is mean, sharp tongued, and nasty:

The other Governor Christie is sweet and innocent-sounding, “heartbroken” “incredibly disappointed” and about to burst out into “the anguish stage” of grief – over at least two of his aides. He has a developed a late-blooming curiosity over matters that were in the headlines for weeks. What his press conference on the topic boiled down to was, "Who, me? I'm an innocent dupe."

Christie's aides royally screwed thousands of innocent commuters and were probably responsible for the death of at least one occupant of an ambulance that couldn’t get a heart patient to the hospital on time because the aides deliberately jammed up traffic on and around the George Washington Bridge.

At the same time, Christie demonstrated that if you work for him and he feels he needs to save his own hide, he can and will squash your career and your reputation with all the tender regard of an exterminator stomping on a cockroach. He’ll throw you under the bus and drive back and forth over you several times, until you’re as flat as five-day-old road kill.

Not that his aides deserve much sympathy for what they’ve done. But it appears they were almost certainly “taking a bullet” for him. And he may have been speaking sweetly, but he was squeezing the trigger himself, with the the compassion of a pit viper.

Christie not only had “accepted” the resignation of David Wildstein as a Port Authority of New York administrator, but suddenly denied that he had ever been Wildstein’s friend, contradicting months and months of reporting that they had been high school buddies, reports the governor never denied before.

As for his own Deputy Chief of Staff, Bridget Kelly, Christie piously told the world, “I’ve terminated her employment because she lied to me.”

The lie, said Christie, was that she knew nothing about any traffic jams when, in fact, she had called up Wildstein and ordered it.

He is also, as you can see in the second video above, vowing to find out what happened. But according to news reports, he is going to appoint Bridget Kelley's boss, his own Chief of Staff Kevin O'Dowd as the next state Attorney General. That means, in effect, that the Christie administration will be investigating itself – a nifty way to control the evidence and deep-six the damning stuff.

Does the governor think
you’re an idiot, too?

The Governor is clearly asking the world to believe that despite weeks of headlines in the news about the traffic jam, he lacked the intellectual curiosity until his televised act of contrition to find out what was going on, or why suddenly everything was gridlocked on the bridge and adjacent Fort Lee, New Jersey.

He is also asking the world to believe that a member of his staff called for a traffic jam on her own say-so, working not as a public servant but as a self-appointed political operator for Christie.

The only reasons she possibly could have done that would have either been to curry Christie’s favor or more likely, to follow an order from Christie or her boss, the self-investigating Kevin O'Dowd. Yet Christie wants us to believe she denied any knowledge of the situation to him.

In order to believe her, Christie would have to be the sort of “stupid” “idiot” he accuses other people of being– from teachers to reporters.

Umm, sorry, that pointer-out of idiots would be Governor Christie’s double super secret evil twin brother masquerading as the angelic governor.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Suddenly everybody’s reading Hitler. But who are those readers? And why are they reading him?

This is not your grandmother's
brand of conservative – but now
he's hot in e-bookstores

I wish this were merely a sendup, a la Mel Brooks’ Broadway and screen masterpiece, “The Producers.”

Alas, no such luck.

An online publishing trade journal called Book Business reports that “Mein Kampf Rises in E-book Rankings.”

Rises? It shoots through the roof, according to the information Book Business offers: 
For a year now, his magnum manifesto has loomed large over current best-sellers on iTunes, where at the time of this writing two different digital versions of Mein Kampf rank 12th and 15th on the Politics & Current Events chart alongside books by modern conservative powerhouses like Sarah Palin, Charles Krauthammer and Glenn Beck. 
Where are the market research people 
 now that we need them?

I wish we knew who’s suddenly in the market for the little racist psychopath’s horrid excuse for a nation building manifesto. Why are they buying it? What do they think of it? How does it fit into their views of politics?

But Book Business offers us no information beyond the titles of books in the political arena that are selling at similar levels (maybe market research people have better things to analyze than Hitler’s book sales.) And a longer article on a website called, from which the Book Business article was derived, also offers no clear explanation. So I’ll have to take my clues where I can find them.

Book Business notes that Sarah Palin, Charles Krauthammer and Glenn Beck are also top-of-chart sellers. Is there some significance to that? Are the right wing heavy readers congregating around Hitler as well as Krauthammer? Can we assume that the crazy Tea Party right is developing a new adoration for der Fuhrer? Is Sarah Palin about to go all Nazi on us – along with Kruathammer, Beck, and also, say, Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz?

Or is this even more ominous than that – say part of a behind-the-scenes push toward a Koch brothers putsch?

Stay tuned. Or, if a more cautious alternative seems to make more sense to you, flee the country and watch from afar.

P.S. On Friday,  January 10th, I ran across this. Could Google be off on a Hitler bender? And could they somehow be what's moving his hate lit? It's only a tongue-in-cheek question, of course. Or is it?

Friday, January 03, 2014

Right wing crazies go mad with rage as New York’s mayor starts effectively clearing streets, and shovels his own walk


It’s no secret that Bill de Blasio, – officially New York’s mayor for something less than 72 hours as I write this – is of a political stripe often labeled “progressive” and “liberal” or some combination of the two. He’s also, deep down, a pragmatist who will not be likely to sacrifice a safe, smoothly-running city for ideology.

But you’d never know it from some of the frothing-at-the-mouth crazies, quite a few from out-of-town,  issuing enraged rants about the city’s so-far uneventful reaction to a snow storm that hit us overnight.

I refer you to a few of the comments following an article in the New York Times that talks about the snow, discusses the mayor getting the streets cleared, and presents a photograph of the mayor shoveling his own front walk. 

From the right wing rage, you'd never know that's all there is to it. Put on your bullet-proof vest and your crash helmet, because here it comes:
…why is it snow needs to be cleared immediately? This unknown sense of urgency that we blindly follow is exactly why Mr. de Blasio and politicians get away with promise after promise and deliver NOTHING

Fulfilling his campaign promises, the new major is getting back at the rich on the east side. All the Sanitation Trucks have been moved to the People's Republic of Park Slope to serve the "People".
Mayor de Blasio twittered a picture of himself in front of his "regular guy" home doing a "regular guy" thing like shoveling his own snow. 

If clever photo ops, twitter, and spin worked for getting elected of course those skills are all that is necessary in an actual real life administration job as well. 

Apparently the key to being a good mayor is to use your valuable time to appear as regular guy as possible. 

My suggestion is that he should take this to it's natural Borges' like conclusion in which an ultimate mayor would spend his days doing absolutely nothing "mayor like" and only use every valuable minute for "regular guy" photo ops - especially on a day when he is clearly needed in office ASAP. 

That starts off things with the right message.
Interesting times for NY. Your new mayor has zero experience managing anything except his next campaign. I'm guessing, based on his political leanings that if everything isn't done in this snow storm to everyone's [His donor's] satisfaction, that the only solution will be a massive tax increase to hire thousands of new workers and float a bond issue or get a federal [temporary] grant to pay for it all. We'll see.
The comment above came from somebody in Tennessee who telling signed his letter "Gun Owner...?" Uh, Mr. Gun Owner? Mayor DeBlasio's "zero experience managing anything" included serving as a regional manager of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, successfully managing Hillary Clinton's Senatorial campaign in New York, and serving in the elected office of Public Advocate, one of the two highest after the mayor. Put that in your gun and suck on it.

Bill with a shovel, charming. This man, never having been an executive in charge of anything, has not the slightest idea of priorities. We all are in for some to tough 'sledding'.
Since the author of this comment signs himself off as a New Jersey resident, I assume that when he writes "We are all in for some tough 'sledding'" he's referring to the slippery situation in his home state under Governor Chris Christie.

Shovelling HIS sidewalk? He's the Mayor. Isn't he supposed to shovel everybody else's sidewalk?
This comment came from Walt in Wisconsin. Listen Walt, in New York the mayor gets the streets plowed but you're responsible for your own walk. That's why the mayor was shoveling his, while city snowplows cleared the streets. But if you'd like to come out here and help, grab the shovel you've been using for the horse manure you're shoveling at us, grab a flight to New York, and feel free to shovel my walk. Just scrape the dung off your shoes before you dirty my snow.

What you forget to mention is how more efficient and cost effective snow plowing would be if handled by the private sector.
That comment came from Iowa.