08/07/2015 archive

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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New York Times Editorial Board: The Real Voter Fraud Is Texas’ ID Law

For years, voter identification laws have been sold as a sensible antidote to fraud at the polls. Many people, including Supreme Court justices, have bought that fallacious line, even though in-person fraud is essentially nonexistent.

Now, slowly but surely, such laws are being revealed for the racially discriminatory, anti-voter schemes that they are.

On Wednesday, a federal appeals court panel unanimously agreed that Texas’ voter ID law had a discriminatory effect on black and Latino voters, and therefore violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It was the first time a federal appeals court had ruled against such a law. It was also a sign that the Voting Rights Act remains functional, despite the 2013 Supreme Court decision that cut out a key provision requiring federal oversight of jurisdictions, like Texas, with histories of racial discrimination.

Paul Krugman: From Trump on Down, the Republicans Can’t Be Serious

This was, according to many commentators, going to be the election cycle Republicans got to show off their “deep bench.” The race for the nomination would include experienced governors like Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, fresh thinkers like Rand Paul, and attractive new players like Marco Rubio. Instead, however, Donald Trump leads the field by a wide margin. What happened?

The answer, according to many of those who didn’t see it coming, is gullibility: People can’t tell the difference between someone who sounds as if he knows what he’s talking about and someone who is actually serious about the issues. And for sure there’s a lot of gullibility out there. But if you ask me, the pundits have been at least as gullible as the public, and still are.

For while it’s true that Mr. Trump is, fundamentally, an absurd figure, so are his rivals. If you pay attention to what any one of them is actually saying, as opposed to how he says it, you discover incoherence and extremism every bit as bad as anything Mr. Trump has to offer. And that’s not an accident: Talking nonsense is what you have to do to get anywhere in today’s Republican Party.

Jeb Lund: Who will challenge Trump and his ilk now that Jon Stewart is gone?

Flipping over to the Daily Show following any political event has become something like American ritual for over a decade now, especially for those of us needing some kind of antidote to the wreckage lying before us on Fox News.

On Thursday night, as the first Republican presidential debate ended and Jon Stewart’s show began – only to disappear from our screens, for ever – things were no different, ritualistically. Next time, though, Fox’s friends will be onscreen unchallenged, and they won’t even have to try.

Stewart and Co couldn’t respond to the first official Republican party debate of course – the show was taped, and is no more – but it offered a fitting commentary anyway.

David Sirota: Hillary sucks up to the middle class: What her TPP flip-flop is really about

In her quest for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton has lately promoted herself as a populist defender of the middle class. To that end, she attempted to distance herself last week from a controversial 12-nation trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would set the rules of commerce for roughly 40 percent of the world’s economy.

As with similar business-backed trade pacts, labor unions, environmental groups and public health organizations are warning that the deal could result in job losses, reduced environmental standards, higher prices for medicine and more power for corporations looking to overturn public interest laws. And so, in her quest for Democratic primary votes, Clinton is suddenly trying to cast herself as a critic of the initiative.

“I did not work on TPP,” she said after a meeting with leaders of labor unions who oppose the pact. “I advocated for a multinational trade agreement that would ‘be the gold standard.’ But that was the responsibility of the United States Trade Representative.”

The trouble, of course, is that Clinton’s declaration does not square with the facts

Heather Digby Parton: Fear & loathing at the GOP debates: Behold the the autocratic, xenophobic, war-hungry spectacle of the modern Republican Party

When I woke up yesterday morning I was excited and energized by the prospect of watching the first Republican primary debate. As I wrote here, they’re usually a fun cause for some celebration among political junkies of all stripes, particularly those who fall on the left side of the dial. These particular promised to be especially entertaining, due to the large number of debaters as well as the fact that it was going to feature a Reality TV Star in his first major appearance on the debate stage. Unfortunately, I woke up this morning with a hangover of epic proportions and the feeling that I’d been abducted by aliens and taken to a foreign planet. Let’s just say that spending three hours with Republican politicians and Fox News pundits and anchors wasn’t nearly as much fun as I thought it would be. [..]

These Republicans are running on fear and anger and nothing more. Even their various ways of saying “let’s make America great again” are demoralizing. It’s understandable. They know they are unlikely to win the presidency as long as their angry, fearful, conservative white base insists on insulting everyone who doesn’t look like them but they have no choice but to roll with it.

And the most depressing thing about that, brought home in living color tonight, is that the rest of us won’t have Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to help us through it.

Milwaukee Dentist Safety Alert


Another lion-like animal spotted in Milwaukee metro area

Brendan O’Brien

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) – Another large mountain-lion type of an animal has been spotted in metro Milwaukee, where similar reported animal sightings have captivated residents in recent weeks, authorities said on Thursday.

A large wild cat, similar to a mountain lion or cougar, was spotted on Wednesday afternoon in the Town of Grafton, about 20 miles (30 km) north of the north-side Milwaukee neighborhood where similar sightings where reported more than two weeks ago, the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Office said on its Facebook page.

Deputies went to the area but were unable to confirm the sighting. State wildlife officials have been contacted, the sheriff’s department said.

“If you see the animal, stay away, and contact your local police jurisdiction,” the department warned.

Milwaukeeans have been fascinated by the possibility that a lion is roaming their city since July 20, when a woman reported seeing a lion in her neighborhood.

Since then, police have responded to dozens of calls from residents who say they have seen a lion-like cat, while the reported sightings have dominated local news, water-cooler talk and social media.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

More Odds or Onions

Can you pick The Onion without hovering your mouse over the links.

I know I know, not much of a challenge.

But these are fun for me and you still have a 50 / 50 shot of being wrong.

Bernie Sanders Clearly In Pocket Of High-Rolling Teacher Who Donated $300 To His Campaign

BURLINGTON, VT-After accepting a check sent to his campaign office by a local elementary school teacher, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was roundly criticized Monday as being firmly in the pocket of the high-rolling educator who had donated $300.

“He might have the reputation of being the people’s candidate, but when your candidacy is effectively bankrolled by the multi-hundred-dollar donation of a fourth-grade teacher, it’s clear who’s really pulling the strings,” said political analyst Peter Mathews, who noted that when a check arrives with a handwritten note that says “Behind you 100 percent, Bernie!” it comes with certain expectations.

“He’s already spouting off talking points about supporting unions and increasing funding for education. Where do you think he got those ideas? He might think he’s not influenced by that money, but when someone has deep enough pockets to drop $300, you pick up the phone when they call.”

Mathews went on to say he wouldn’t be surprised if Sanders’ strong support for a living wage could be directly traced to the fat $20 contribution he got from a fast-food worker.

Michigan township draws more people to meeting with hot dogs

VICTORY TOWNSHIP, MI – Here’s a way to boost interest in local government: potato salad.

A township board in northern Michigan held a lakeside picnic Monday before its regular meeting. After an hour of hot dogs and side dishes, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited and the Victory Township board meeting was officially in order.

The Ludington Daily News says about two dozen people attended the picnic and meeting at Upper Hamlin Lake in Mason County. Only three people attended the June meeting at the township hall.

There were reports from law enforcement and a lake preservation group. The board also discussed a junk ordinance.

The Breakfast Club (Baby, We Were Born to Run)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

U.S. embassies bombed in E. Africa; Congress OKs powers to expand the Vietnam War; The Battle of Guadalcanal begins; Kon-Tiki ends its journey; Comedy icon Oliver Hardy and news anchor Peter Jennings die.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

I say to you, friends, the best defense against bullshit is vigilance. So if you smell something, say something.

Jon Stewart

On This Day In History August 7

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

August 7 is the 219th day of the year (220th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 146 days remaining until the end of the year.

The Northern Hemisphere is considered to be halfway through its summer and the Southern Hemisphere half way through its winter on this day.

On this day in 1947, Kon-Tiki, a balsa wood raft captained by Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl, completes a 4,300-mile, 101-day journey from Peru to Raroia in the Tuamotu Archipelago, near Tahiti. Heyerdahl wanted to prove his theory that prehistoric South Americans could have colonized the Polynesian islands by drifting on ocean currents.

Heyerdahl and his five-person crew set sail from Callao, Peru, on the 40-square-foot Kon-Tiki on April 28, 1947. The Kon-Tiki, named for a mythical white chieftain, was made of indigenous materials and designed to resemble rafts of early South American Indians. While crossing the Pacific, the sailors encountered storms, sharks and whales, before finally washing ashore at Raroia. Heyerdahl, born in Larvik, Norway, on October 6, 1914, believed that Polynesia’s earliest inhabitants had come from South America, a theory that conflicted with popular scholarly opinion that the original settlers arrived from Asia. Even after his successful voyage, anthropologists and historians continued to discredit Heyerdahl’s belief. However, his journey captivated the public and he wrote a book about the experience that became an international bestseller and was translated into 65 languages. Heyerdahl also produced a documentary about the trip that won an Academy Award in 1951.

The Daily/Nightly Show (New Beginnings)

Fox News is half-right about Jon Stewart: How the brilliant satirist of the Bush years has been undone by his BFF in the White House

by Andrew O’Hehir, Salon

Thursday, Aug 6, 2015 07:00 PM EST

Stewart gradually evolved into the principal media mouthpiece or channel – the two things are not quite the same – for what might be called common-sense liberalism, the self-appointed pathway of Enlightenment reason. He has called himself a moderate and admitted voting for George H.W. Bush in 1988, and while you shouldn’t hold a person’s youthful indiscretions against him, I think that fact is important to the Stewart brand. He is disappointed, disillusioned and sometimes outraged by the evil and idiocy found on the Republican right and the thoroughgoing corruption of the political system. But he is not unreasonable, not an ideologue, not a “leftist.” He believes in comity and compromise, and yearns for the kinder, gentler days when a 25-year-old Jewish standup comedian in New York could vote for Ronald Reagan’s vice president without consciously self-identifying with a party of bigotry, warmongering and paranoia.

Was that a low blow? I’m honestly not sure. I come to bury Jon Stewart, not to praise him – except, wait, maybe it’s the other way around. First of all, let’s note that Stewart isn’t dead, so I’m under no obligation to say nice stuff about him just because he is leaving a television program after 16 years. Furthermore, there’s a reason most people get that Shakespeare quotation backwards: The speaker of that famous monologue, Marc Antony, repeatedly challenges his audience to perceive that what he says is not what he means: “Brutus is an honorable man,” and all that. He is using irony, in its old-fashioned Socratic sense (not the debased modern sense of easy mockery, or just a bad attitude), which is a mode that Jon Stewart has never mastered and largely avoids.

Stephen Colbert’s long-running satirical portrayal of a jingoistic Fox-style commentator, first on Stewart’s show and then on his own, had a random, hit-and-miss quality and often descended to cheap gags. (On balance, Stewart probably provides more laffs per minute.) But in his best moments, Colbert has employed the ironic mode to reality-altering effect, and never more so than in his infamous performance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2006, when he mocked the empty, photo-op presidency of George W. Bush to the president’s face and derided the Washington press corps for its stenographic compliance: “Over the last five years you people were so good, over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn’t want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out.”

Stewart would make the same joke on his show, pretty much, but he would immediately walk it back to the mode of earnestness and be super clear about what he meant: CNN et al. had behaved like a bag of dicks and that was really a shame. Colbert, on the other hand, vividly demonstrated Socrates’ principle that the destabilizing and disorienting effect of irony depends upon the “aneiron,” the person who doesn’t get the joke. In this case, everyone at that dinner understood that Colbert meant the opposite of what he said, which is why none of them were laughing. What they had not understood, because it seemed inconceivable, was that a TV comic’s joke persona contained a radical critique of the nature of politics and the news media, and that Colbert was not going to observe the cozy, chummy conventions of a Beltway event whose sole purpose is to make the subservient Washington press corps feel like special snowflakes.

Stewart is not comfortable in that mode, and has never pursued that kind of confrontation. His on-air rhetoric slid perceptibly leftward over the course of the Bush administration, as he vigorously went after the bankers, the Iraq war apologists and the torture defenders. But even after his show hit a demographic sweet spot somewhere around the Democratic center-left – the position of the 2008 Obama voter – he struggled to avoid the impression of pure partisanship. As recently as 2010, although it feels like a lifetime ago, Stewart was calling for an end to partisan vitriol with his Rally to Restore Sanity on the National Mall. Even he must have thought the immediate aftermath was pretty funny: A few days later, Tea Party Republicans swept to victory from coast to coast in the midterm election that pretty much paralyzed Obama’s presidency. So that was the end of that.

Salon columnist Bill Curry has suggested that Stewart belongs to the Pragmatist tradition of Oliver Wendell Holmes, and seeks to draw a distinction between Stewart’s faith in reason and usefulness and Obama’s penchant for back-room political compromise. It’s a fascinating argument, but that might be an overly fine way to parse a TV comedian – often a very funny one, with a delightful ability to mock others and mock himself in the same moment – who has insisted on walking the narrow plank of reasonableness in times of rampant unreason, and now finds himself alone at the end of the plank above an ocean of hungry sharks.

I understand why it bothers Stewart that Fox News is depicting him, during his last days on the air, as a shameless Obama sock-puppet. He feels that it’s not quite fair and he feels more than a little vulnerable on that front. Both perceptions are justified. (Stewart himself said on the air that he has been much harder on Obama than Fox ever was on Bush, which is what you might call an invidious comparison.) But Stewart’s role as Obama’s stealth strategic defender, who has criticized the administration on several key issues while consistently seeking to channel progressive anger and disappointment toward the crazy and intransigent opposition, wouldn’t bother me at all if I felt convinced that it reflected underlying convictions. (I am not counting the nonideological relativism that drives the 21st-century Democratic Party as a conviction.)

As with Stewart’s pal in the White House, that question has only grown murkier over the years. All the contradictions of political satire in the Obama years would exhaust anyone, but Stewart’s performance of sincerity, the factor that gave his comedy its force and also limited its scope, has pretty much come unraveled. You can see that in his recent interview with Tom Cruise, which barely differed from a boot-licking celebrity appearance with Oprah or Ellen, and in which (as filmmaker Alex Gibney has observed), Stewart never mentioned Cruise’s central role in the noxious Church of Scientology. You see it in Stewart’s increasingly tedious feud with Bill O’Reilly, where they play the roles of media commentators with profound ideological differences and pretend to dislike each other, coming dangerously close to the kind of masturbatory media-insider banter Colbert mocked so mercilessly a decade ago.

Jon Stewart has had a great run as the host of a comedy show, the kind of longevity that has become nearly impossible in American pop culture. In political terms, his mission has either been fulfilled – if he was really sent here by Putin to bewilder us and destroy democracy – or was never possible in the first place. As I said earlier, we want to be permanently in on the joke and we want to believe in something. But what if the things we want to believe in are just a joke?

I believe I can see the future, ‘Cause I repeat the same routine

I think I used to have a purpose, Then again, that might have been a dream

I think I used to have a voice, Now I never make a sound

I just do what I’m been told

I really don’t want them to come around, oh no

I can feel their eyes are watching, In case I lose myself again

Sometimes I think I’m happy here

Sometimes, yet I still pretend

I can’t remember how this got started

But I can tell you exactly how it will end

I’m writing on a paper, I’m hoping someday I might find

Well I’ll hide it behind something, They won’t look behind

I am still inside, A little bit comes bleeding through

I wish this could’ve been any other way, But I just don’t know, I don’t know

What else I can do?

You may think this is the future, you may think that it’s the end.

I won’t give up the struggle.

Some times, sometimes you take a stand.

Every day is exactly the same.  Every day is exactly the same.  There is no love here and there is no pain.  Every day is exactly the same.

Future Directions

Jon Stewart is not dying.  The Daily Show is not dying.  The Sausage Grinder of Snark is not dying and neither am I (well, in the normal course of things.  I’m 120+ years old!).

I’ve been a huge supporter of Larry Wilmore ever since he took over from Stephen.  His Nightly Show has gotten better and better since it’s found its format (Daily Show + panel instead of interview, duh).  That will not change.

I’m totally willing to get behind Trevor and expect to feature his efforts at the helm as well.  I’ve watched a number of his comedy sets and he really is as bright and funny as Jon thinks he is.  He’s more international than anyone since Oliver so he gets the class thing and he’s also an expert on racism (South Africa?).


While Jon is retiring to raise bees in Sussex, Stephen is taking up the sword again on Late Night.  I will certainly give him a fair shot too.

So while it’s easy enough to track the guests (which I intend to do) I have a serious viewing overlap at 11:35 and frankly the repeats of Larry are easier to access (1:30 am ET) or tape (30 minutes) than Late Night (1 hour and who knows?).

Well, it’s something to think about instead of silently weeping.

Quickies from the Also-Rans

From the kiddie table:

From Heather at Crooks and Liars:

Lindsey Graham Turns War On Women Question Into Excuse To Beat The War Drums On ISIS

From Karoli at Crooks and Laira

Rick Santorum Says Abortion Is Just Like Slavery

From multiple contributors at Huffington Post:

Dick Cheney Was The Real Winner Of The First Republican Debate

Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s spirit is apparently as immortal as his earthly vessel.

At Thursday evening’s GOP candidate forum in Cleveland, Cheney’s foreign policy vision was very much alive as various presidential hopefuls vowed to re-invade Iraq, send troops to Syria, spy on mosques here in America and get tough with Iran by scrapping President Barack Obama’s diplomatic approach.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) explicitly promised — twice — to invade Iraq again. “If you’re running for president of the United States and you don’t understand that we need more American ground forces in Iraq and that America has to be part of a regional ground force that will go into Syria and destroy ISIL in Syria, then you’re not ready to be commander in chief,” Graham said, referring the Islamic State militant group, which is also known as ISIL or ISIS. “And you’re not serious about destroying ISIL.”

Even former New York Gov. George Pataki, generally viewed as one of the most moderate candidates among the GOP pack, appeared to commit to sending more U.S. troops to the Middle East, saying that it was “necessary” to put American lives at risk to “destroy ISIS.”Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s spirit is apparently as immortal as his earthly vessel.

Get the picture? This is a preview of tonight’s main event. See you at 9 PM EDT

Live Blog: GOP Presidential Candidate Debate – The Rest of the Clowns

The 10 leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination take the stage at 9 PM EDT for a two hour debate at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. It will air exclusively on the Fox News Channel. I doubt this event will have any effect on who the eventual nominee will be. Despite the cast of characters and their recent antics, it may well be incredibly boring but we’ll do our best to entertain. I just regret that we will no longer have Jon Stewart’s wit to help get through this cycle.

As hard as it may be for those of us in the reality based world to take any of these individuals seriously, we should, as author Larry Beinhart notes, we should “beware the clowns” because the more clownish and unrealistic they are about the issues, the more likely they are to sit in the Oval Office. Just look at the last 30 years.

In 1980 the very witty Gore Vidal said, “[Ronald] Reagan has no chance of being elected president. It is true that the United States is turning into Paraguay but not at that speed.”

Reagan was elected twice.

By 1988, it was time for a change. The stock market crashed in 1987, “Black Monday,” the largest one day decline, still, in Wall Street history. The savings and loan crisis, the biggest set of bank failures since the Great Depression, was underway. Reagan’s tax cuts were supposed to generate more government revenue, even with the lower rates. Instead, the deficit tripled.

Also, there was Iran-Contra.

Imagine if Barack Obama had been secretly selling missiles to Iran. The evidence against Reagan mounted until he had to go on television and say, “A few months ago, I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and evidence tell me it is not.”

That’s astonishing. The president admitted not merely that he preferred to live in his imaginary world but also that he was capable of doing so.

The money from selling arms to Iran was used for another illegal purpose: funding right-wing paramilitaries in Nicaragua.

Pat Moynihan, the highly esteemed Democratic senator from New York, took a look at the contenders for the GOP nomination and said, “If we can’t beat these guys, we need to find another country.”

Yet the Republican, George H.W. Bush, won. [..]

After eight years of peace and prosperity, Clinton’s vice president, Al Gore, should have coasted to victory. Ronald Reagan’s son Ron Reagan summed up Gore’s opponent, George W. Bush, this way: “He’s probably the least qualified person ever to be nominated by a major party … What is his accomplishment? That he’s no longer an obnoxious drunk?”

Yet Bush won and then won re-election.

Whenever to GOP candidate was sane, sober and respectable like Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney the Republican base loses interest and the presidency goes to the Democrats. The proof of Mr. Beinharts’ theory is George H. W. Bush:

George H.W. Bush is the proof of the pudding, because he ran as two different characters. In order to win the nomination in1988, he had to prove that he wasn’t a “wimp.” He did so by walking out of a TV interview. This may seem a strange way for a guy who won the Distinguished Flying Cross and flew 58 combat missions in World War II to prove his manhood to the electorate, but it is credited with having done the trick. To win the election, he attacked the Democrat as being soft on crime, specifically black criminals, and it carried him to victory.

As president, George H.W. Bush proved remarkably sane and sensible. He made sure his Gulf War was legal. He managed to have Arab states align against another Arab state to get the Israelis to keep their mouths shut, to stop when Iraq was kicked out of Kuwait and, to top it all off, got other countries to pay for it. The economic policies he inherited from Reagan continued to increase the deficit and had driven the country into a recession, so Bush raised taxes. At which point the economy reversed direction.

That lost the support of his base and, as a consequence, cost him re-election.

Why does this happen? It makes no sense. Mr. Beinhart’s conclusion:

We get a hint from Reagan’s Iran-Contra confession. True Republicans – not RINOs but the base, the enthusiasts, the foot soldiers – can be truly enthused only by reality deniers. When they get even a whiff that their guy recognizes facts and might act on them (such as that tax cuts don’t work, that torture doesn’t work, that compromise is necessary, that government has useful functions, that contraception prevents abortion, that climate change is scientific fact), they lose their enthusiasm. Then their candidate loses.

The next question is: who in that car is respectable and sane? Bet your popcorn futures the show continues for the next fifteen months.

For your amusement, below the fold we have Esquire‘s Charles Pierce’s questions for the candidates and Matt Taibbi’s drinking game. Please drink responsibly.