Wonkblog

A Quote: Kansas Cluck

Great Seal of Kansas (detail)

“The KFC bucket came with a side of Republican panic.”

Hunter Woodall and Bryan Lowry

It takes two, or perhaps some occasions simply beg a hook in lieu of a lede, but still, Woodall and Lowry do eventually get around to such niceties ‘twixt cluckin’ buckets:

Anxiety over the GOP’s weakened grasp on Kansas’ 2nd congressional district, which includes Topeka and Lawrence, was on full display during last month’s state party convention.

Kansas Congressional candidate Paul Davis [D-02]. (Photo: Associated Press)GOP Rep. Lynn Jenkins is retiring. Republicans lack a clear front runner in the race to replace her, while Democrats have coalesced around Paul Davis, a former state lawmaker who won the district during his unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2014.

“If the election were held today, (there’s) a 70 percent chance Davis gets elected,” Mike Stieben, co-chair of Kansans For Life’s political action committee, told the crowd at a convention prayer breakfast.

He passed an empty KFC bucket around the room, urging people to drop in donations so his anti-abortion group could start campaigning in the district.

“We cannot elect Paul Davis,” Stieben said. “And he’s ahead. Wake up. We need your help.”

There is a great moment in which we might toss coins or play some obscure dice game to decide between “now more than ever”α, and why not pitch for one’s own anti-abortion group. This is, after all, Kansas.   (more…)

How We Do It (Freedom Forfeit Fried)

United States Department of Justice

So, you know, irony doesn’t really do any good for the people who have been hurt―

The Department of Justice announced this week that it’s suspending a controversial program that allows local police departments to keep a large portion of assets seized from citizens under federal law and funnel it into their own coffers.

The “equitable-sharing” program gives police the option of prosecuting asset forfeiture cases under federal instead of state law. Federal forfeiture policies are more permissive than many state policies, allowing police to keep up to 80 percent of assets they seize―even if the people they took from are never charged with a crime.

The DOJ is suspending payments under this program due to budget cuts included in the recent spending bill.

(Ingraham)

―but for the rest of us, that’s gotta be worth something. There are some days when we take what we can get, and if budget constraints will accomplish what justice cannot, well, what else do we expect? This is your federal government. These are your United States of America.

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Ingraham, Christopher. “The Justice Department just shut down a huge asset forfeiture program”. The Washington Post. 23 December 2015.

The Ben Carson Show (America)

Ben Carson and the United States of America: Composite sources ― Ben Carson Campaign/Twitter via Washington Post; Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

While not everything wrong with Ben Carson’s presidential campaign can be pinned directly on the good doctor, his own inability to communicate with others while respecting reasonable bounds of reality has left many questioning whether or not the man who believes so many absurd notions about history, science, and humanity is smart enough to be president of anything. And in that context, no, the latest failure of his campaign staff just doesn’t help.

Happy Geography Awareness Week! Recognizing that “too many young Americans are unable to make effective decisions, understand geo-spatial issues, or even recognize their impacts as global citizens,” National Geographic created this annual observance to “raise awareness to this dangerous deficiency in American education.”

Ben Carson’s presidential campaign inadvertently underscored this point Tuesday night, when it took to social media to share a map of the United States in which five New England states were placed in the wrong location. The campaign deleted the Twitter and Facebook posts Wednesday morning after media outlets and social media users pointed out the error.

(Ingraham)

Dr. Carson doesn’t help his assertion of Christian virtue with bigotry and cruelty toward war refugees; he certainly doesn’t help his assertion of presidential competence by losing track of New England.

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Image note: Composite sources ― Ben Carson Campaign/Twitter via Washington Post; Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

Ingraham, Christopher. “Ben Carson’s campaign made a U.S. map and put a bunch of states in the wrong place”. The Washington Post. 18 November 2015.

Your House of Republican Chaos

Speaker Boehner announced his resignation 25 September 2015.

Follow the bouncing something, as the spectacle inside the House GOP seems a performance for the ages. As the factions line up, Speaker Boehner’s allies are scorching the insurgency:

GOP lawmakers who’ve stood by Boehner’s side throughout his rocky five-year tenure as Speaker bitterly blamed the right flank for forcing a contested leadership race less than a year after the party won control of Congress in the 2014 midterm elections.

A fired-up House Ethics Committee Chairman Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), speaking not long after Boehner dropped the bombshell at a Friday conference meeting that he’ll leave Congress at the end of next month, ripped into hard-line conservatives.

He accused them of opposing Boehner at every turn, and noted they have “never had a horse of their own.”

“Any jackass can kick down a barn door. It takes a carpenter to hang one. We need a few more carpenters around here. Everybody knows it,” Dent said off the House floor.

Leadership allies are frustrated by what they see as a repeated exercise in futility.

(Marcos)

And the hardliners posture:

A co-founder of the conservative Freedom Caucus has a warning for any Republican hoping to replace outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio): No one will get the promotion without our blessing.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), a sharp critic of Boehner, said Friday that there are roughly 40 members of the group — and another 20 conservatives outside of it — who won’t back any new Speaker who fails their litmus test for conservative purity. And the group’s leadership endorsements, he warned, will be “a collective, corporate decision.”

“We have enough votes in the House Freedom Caucus to prevent anybody from being Speaker. We will be a voting bloc,” Huelskamp said.

“We’re looking for someone who, number one, has conservative principles and actually can articulate them, but also … follows through on John Boehner’s [2011] promise … [to] open up this House and let conservatives have a shot at things,” he added. “And at the end of the day, the Democrats had more shot at amendments than conservatives. So we’ve gotta talk about process as well.”

(Lillis)

And Rep. Daniel Webster (FL-10) pretends his gavel ambitions have a chance of success, while other House players scramble to fall up the ladder.

This is the point at which we are supposed to make some sort of joke about things either starting or ceasing to make sense, and it is our shame to disappoint you; there is no baseline by which the idea of making sense makes any sense.

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A Coffee Conundrum

Chart of American coffee sales via Wonkblog, based on data from Euromonitor.

Living deep in the heart of the Starbucks Territory, we might suggest Roberto A. Ferdman’s entry for Wonkblog brings no surprise:

With upscale artisanal coffee brewers dotting city streets across the country, America might fancy itself a nation of high-end coffee drinkers.

But just the opposite is true: People in this country, on the whole, are actually drinking worse coffee today than they have in the past. And the reason appears to be that they value cheapness over quality — and convenience over everything. “A lot of people in America would take a sip of single origin high-end coffee and not appreciate the taste,” said Howard Telford, an industry analyst at market research firm Euromonitor.

We should at least take the moment to guard against misinterpretation. Ferdman notes―

Even as Starbucks continues to plant coffee shops around the country, other artisanal coffee businesses — chained or not — continue to grow in cities like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles (think Blue Bottle, Stumptown and the like).

―which, in turn, might offer some the impression that Starbucks’ coffee is good. It is not.

Think of it this way: There is a reason McDonald’s is trying to compete with Starbucks with their “McCafe” branding and advertising. Starbucks is the McDonald’s of coffee.

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Ferdman, Roberto A. “It’s true: Americans like to drink bad coffee”. The Washington Post. 24 February 2015.

Eighteen Thousand

President Barack Obama, delivers his State of the Union speech at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 12, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

“Add it all up, and Obama’s radicalism has killed the Dow to the tune of a 171 percent return since Boskin’s op-ed.”

Matt O’Brien

It seems something of a petty reward, occasionally witnessing the press undergoing a market value correction. Matt O’Brien recalls a 2009 op-ed, and those who recall the narrative of our American economy over the coure of the last several years might find some sort of comfort in knowing that, having passed Obama’s final electoral test, we can all admit that the tales we spun over the course of his presidency have been so much excrement.

Oh, come on. How many people are willing to admit it, now that we’re through the year-six midterm? All of that equivocation in order to pretend there really was some sort of debate to be had about not so much whether or not the wild-eyed tales of Republican horror were true or false, but just how true we were supposed to believe they were.

Admit it. Even when you were trying to be “fair”, nodding and winking at the talk over the corner table at the tavern, you knew it was all a fertilizer manufactory.

We have tried, over recent years, to redefine everything in order to keep up the appearance of a fair fight.

Ask yourself this: What do you want a President to do? And if he really does it, will you turn around and complain?

The economy is doing fine, and has been for a while. What isn’t doing fine is our business sector; was a time when civic and business leaders were often one and the same. These days, business leaders are the antithesis of anything civic save for dissolution.

It’s okay to admit you were wrong. It’s even okay to wonder why you were so determined to be wrong.

But let us face the real fact: This president was never the problem.

____________________

O’Brien, Matt. “Now that the Dow has hit 18,000, let us remember the worst op-ed in history”. The Washington Post. 23 December 2014.

The Republican Jobs Agenda

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH8)

“That’s the cruel irony in Boehner’s tweet. It would be funny, but it represents the massive economic damage that the Republican Party has unnecessarily inflicted on the country the past six years. And that’s not funny at all.”

Danny Vinik

It is easy enough to enjoy something that sounds like refreshing honesty from Speaker Boehner (R-OH8), an admission that the GOP does not have a jobs plan nearly four years after employment and economic concerns won Republicans a majority in the House of Representatives.

(1)(2)(3)(4)(5) #5pts4jobs→Speaker.gov/5pointsCertainly, there have been signs along the way, and many Democratic sympathizers have become familiar with the Maddowism, “Jobs, jobs, jobs, j’abortion”. But beyond the record number of reproductive health prohibition bills sponsored in the states since 2010, Republicans have managed to highlight their own dearth of ideas and actions on the employment front. Northeastern carpetbagger Senate candidate Scott Brown, formerly of Massachusetts and now seeking office in New Hampshire, recently explained his outlook: “Here’s the thing. People say, ‘What are you going to do to create jobs?’ I am not going to create one job, it is not my job to create jobs.” Supporters will certainly point to the rest of the quote, which is about keeping government out of the way because it’s an individual person’s job to create his or her own job. And while that is a tremendously unrealistic outlook in and of itself, a twist of rhetoric conservatives have used for years, Brown’s amateurish phrasing reminds of two things at least; first, the former Senator still isn’t ready for the office, and more importantly to our consideration at the moment, that unreadiness opened him to a Kinsley gaffe. Remember that to Republicans, child labor prohibitions, workplace safety regulations, anti-harassment rules, and the need to pay wages in general are all examples of government getting in the way. If only we would kick the kids out of school and send them to work in unsafe factories and mines where they are vulnerable to bullying, harassment, and exploitation by others, everything in the world would be great. Really, isn’t this the sort of argument we should have settled about our labor politics a generation ago? Except, of course, that some aren’t ready to let go of their hopes for such regal privilege in American society, so here we are amid a slow economic recovery from damage inflicted by related conservative economic policies, Republicans are doing everything they can to stall the recovery and inflict more damage against their society, and all so they can complain about the unemployment rate.

Can we at least stop pretending Republicans are decent people? Sure, say what you will on behalf of the rank and file voters, but this has been going on so long that if they wish to claim some sort of ignorant detachment from the actions of their chosen political representatives they are either lying or in need of psychiatric intervention.

(more…)

Nothing You Need To Worry About

The only confusion that comes out is that Cruz stood on the side and confused people about the fact that every Republican agrees. He said if you don’t agree with my tactic and with the specific structure of my idea, you’re bad. He said if the House would simply pass the bill with defunding he would force the Senate to act. He would lead this grass-roots movement that would get Democrats to change their mind. So the House passed it, it went to the Senate, and Ted Cruz said, oh, we don’t have the votes over here. And I can’t find the e-mails or ads targeting Democrats to support it. Cruz said he would deliver the votes and he didn’t deliver any Democratic votes. He pushed House Republicans into traffic and wandered away.

Grover Norquist

Grover Norquist sees all.

It’s just one of those things that seems to happen with each passing cycle of history, which is itself a very convenient thing to say since the cycles themselves are undefined, and known only by wit and aphorism; destined to repeat, accelerating cycles, the dialectic of neurosis, &c. Wit is often nothing more than a fool’s artful wisdom. Thus, it’s just one of those things ….

At any rate, when Grover Norquist comes out sounding like a reasonable conservative? There comes a point where we overlook the usual partisan barbs because it is the best we can get and one does not look a gift fish in the sphincter. But these are interesting times, there is no denying, and if Robert Costa can turn up on MSNBC talking to Alex Wagner and sounding perfectly reasonable like the conservatives we once knew and simply disagreed with, or something like that—he’s on Maddow’s show this evening. And who was it she talked to last night? Oh, yes. Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA02), who did, in fact, make a couple of lame attempts to cover the party line, but, really, if we let those slide as Maddow did, it really was a pretty good interview that touched on some actually important questions. And now here comes Ezra Klein, chatting pleasantly with Grover Norquist:

No, the leverage isn’t the debt ceiling. It’s not the CR. It’s the sequester. Democrats think this is desperate privation. It’s like the Kennedy kids with only one six-pack. They feel they’ve never been so mistreated. So there’s something they want. And there’s something Republicans want. So you could see a deal there. And the leverage was the sequester. That’s what struck me as what leadership was thinking about, and it made a great deal of sense.

No, the leverage isn’t the debt ceiling. It’s not the CR. It’s the sequester. Democrats think this is desperate privation. It’s like the Kennedy kids with only one six-pack. They feel they’ve never been so mistreated. So there’s something they want. And there’s something Republicans want. So you could see a deal there. And the leverage was the sequester. That’s what struck me as what leadership was thinking about, and it made a great deal of sense.

But that’s not what we did. Ted Cruz, from left field, said we have to defund Obamacare permanently in this CR. If they offered the Keystone pipeline and the privatization of Fannie and Freddie you couldn’t take that. We only want this, and we only want it on Tuesday—Wednesday is no good. The debt ceiling is no good. So that got locked in as a principle. And people went out on talk radio and said if you’re not for this you’re a coward, you’re a RINO.

It’s actually an even better point when read in its context as a contrast between methods of pushing the agenda. And, of course, it is easy to treat contempt with contempt; the sequester is doing real, human damage in our society that is worth a hell of a lot more than a Kennedy joke.

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