An outside-the-Beltway perspective on current events, politics, media, and the arts. We are proud to be part of the Reality-Based Community.

Contact Us


Recommended Diversions










Monday :: Mar 30, 2015

Jeb Endorses Anti-Gay Discrimination


by Deacon Blues

Indiana’s governor has discredited himself and all residents of Indiana by signing into law a measure intentionally designed to discriminate against gays and lesbians while hiding behind alleged freedom of religion. And given the chance to express his opposition to such discrimination, Mike Pence refused.

The bigger story however is that Jeb Bush just threw away any hope of attracting the middle by being fully on board with such discrimination.

"I think Governor Pence has done the right thing," Bush said, according to the New York Times. "I think once the facts are established, people aren't going to see this as discriminatory at all.

Such a statement by Bush runs so contrary to the supporters' clear intent behind the legislation that he is either stupid or clearly pandering.

"There are many cases where people acting on their conscience have been castigated by the government," Bush said, according to the newspaper. "This is really an important value for our country, in a diverse country, where you can be tolerant of people's lifestyles but allow people of faith to exercise theirs."

When a for-profit business obtains a license from government, and is allowed to discriminate under that license, that is state-sanctioned discrimination no matter how you slice it Jeb. And you just pandered and showed you are no different than Mitt Romney after all.

Deacon Blues @ 8:16 PM :: Link :: Comments (4) :: TrackBack (0) :: Spotlight :: Digg It! ::


Sunday :: Mar 29, 2015

Iran Does Obama, and Democrats a Favor


by Deacon Blues

On a day when the Arab nations finally banded together in a military alliance against Iranian aggression, that country blundered their way into perhaps killing the pending nuclear deal.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab states took steps today to form their own multinational military force to counter Iranian destabilization efforts, and did so with the assumption that they can no longer count on the United States to fully counter Tehran.

Yet at the same time, after months of willingness to have their nuclear fuel sent to Russia to verify no military usage, Iran reversed course today and said they were no longer willing to do so, which only allows the deal's critics to say "we told you so", and calls into question Iranian claims that they do not want nuclear weapons.

In the end, what Tehran wanted was to stop continued multinational sanctions. But their cleverness will backfire, as the move will kill any chance that Obama can get any real support for any deal among wavering Democrats. America's foreign policy will now resume its anti-Iran trajectory, especially with the Arab states stepping forward to confront Tehran.

And Hillary Clinton's 2016 foreign policy practically writes itself now: support for Israel and the Arab states against Iranian destabilization and Sunni extremism.

Deacon Blues @ 9:08 PM :: Link :: Comments (1) :: TrackBack (0) :: Spotlight :: Digg It! ::
Friday :: Mar 27, 2015

Reid Not Running for Re-Election


by Deacon Blues

I’m not surprised at the news that Democratic (now) Minority Leader Harry Reid is not running for reelection in 2016. His recent injury and age were enough of a reason to take stock in life and think about the attractiveness of perhaps another six years in the minority, even though the conventional wisdom is that the Democrats have a good chance at taking back the majority in 2017.

Having Chuck Schumer as the Democratic leader has advantages. He is better on TV and is a better advocate than Reid, and the fundraising would be better. It’s not at all certain that Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin would remain the Democratic Whip and Number Two under Schumer, because it’s likely that Schumer will want a woman to be in the very visible spot rather than Durbin. Unfortunately, the early word is that Patty Murray may be the choice, yet Claire McCaskill should be getting the consideration for the party’s second highest post in the Senate.

With Reid's departure, the Koch Brothers will have one less target for their millions in attack money, so that will be a plus.

Deacon Blues @ 11:12 AM :: Link :: Comments (2) :: TrackBack (0) :: Spotlight :: Digg It! ::
Thursday :: Mar 26, 2015

Rubio: Give the Pentagon a Blank Check


by Deacon Blues

This is one reason why the GOP contest for president in 2016 will be so much fun to watch: the opportunity to see competing Senate Republicans trash each other on fiscal austerity and defense spending. Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, and Ted Cruz all agree that we should spend whatever is needed to jack up the defense budget while Rand Paul wants any increased defense spending to be offset by corresponding cuts elsewhere.

If it were up to Cruz, Graham, and Rubio, they would take the easy way out and hide behind the bloody shirt of terrorism to scare everyone into another decade of Pentagon blank checks while slashing spending at home and calling for tax cuts. Paul at least wants some degree of integrity and transparency, and demands that his opponents have the guts to pay for their budget busting. Instead, the large majority of his caucus, including the GOP's current Churchill Tom Cotton insist on ignoring their Tea Party roots and demand a "spend first, ask questions later" foreign policy.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Lightweights like Rubio, Graham, and Cruz want to "man-up" through spending, while empty soldiers like Cotton hide behind their service. This GOP Congress doesn't even have the guts to vote on an updated war resolution, yet their 2016 pretenders want to spend without any plan or strategy. Haven't we been here before?

Deacon Blues @ 4:08 PM :: Link :: Comments (0) :: TrackBack (0) :: Spotlight :: Digg It! ::
Wednesday :: Mar 25, 2015

Killing The Planet Out Of Ignorance


by Deacon Blues

There's been a little buzz in the media today about a just-released Gallup poll on the public's views regarding the environment. Gallup's spin on their poll was that the public is less concerned about air pollution, water pollution, and climate change in 2015 than they were in previous years. This same Gallup poll found that all Americans are more positive about the environment than at any time since 2001.

Gallup notes that part of this is due to political polarization:

A final factor is the politicization of environmental issues. This is exemplified by the sharp political polarization in views of global warming. And although concern about environmental issues is lower among both Republicans and Democrats since 2000, it is down more among Republicans. Across the six issues measured in 2000 and 2015, the percentage of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who worry "a great deal" is down an average of 20 percentage points, compared with an average 10-point decline for Democrats and Democratic leaners.
Democrats worry more than Republicans about all of the issues. Notably, Democrats are more worried about global warming now than they were in 2000, perhaps reflecting the shift in the focus of the environmental agenda toward this issue.

For those who follow the media coverage of the environment, there's probably little surprise at these poll results. Although it may sound counter-intuitive that the public thinks the environment is getting better, several factors may be in play. First, since this is a Gallup poll, it could simply be a crappy poll. As McClatchy noted in their story,

(D)espite increased media coverage over the last several years, concern for climate change remains nearly identical to the poll's March 2013 and 2014 results - 32 percent of Americans say they care a great deal about it, and another 23 percent say they care a fair amount. At the same time, it's worth paying attention to what questions a poll is asking. A January 2015 Pew Research poll asked what issues should be a top priority for President Barack Obama in 2015. Thirty-eight percent of Americans said global warming, a rise of 9 percentage points from the previous year. By that measure, concern over climate change is still on the rise. Pew interviewed 1,504 people over the phone from Jan. 7-11, 2015. the survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

For the record, the Pew poll has a smaller MOE than the Gallup poll.

Second, with most of the GOP and Tea Party getting their news from Fox News, and with Fox News' demonstrated lies and untruthfulness in their coverage of the environment, it isn't surprising that seniors and Republicans are less and less concerned about the environment and more and more doubtful about climate change. Besides, when Fox spends the whole day trashing the government, why wouldn't half the electorate distrust official and scientific information?

But bashing Fox News is too easy and only a part of the story. The media itself insists on covering environmental issues, especially climate change with "balance", allowing anti-science climate deniers equal standing with the 93% of scientists who agree about climate change. News consumers themselves are woefully uninformed and admittedly so about climate change. And the news media itself doesn't help matters with how it covers environmental issues. Aside from the media's refusal to call out climate change deniers as the cranks they really are, the way the media covers environmental issues contributes to public apathy:

Whatever the environmental problem or source of information, news coverage is often criticized for failing to provide causes, context and “mobilizing information” that empower citizens to act. (Researchers noted) that descriptions and frames used in media coverage are “highly selective” (and) lamented nearly four decades ago that the public may develop knowledge of environmental problems but lack a vision of how to solve them, creating a sense of “well-informed futility” among the general public. In other words, some media coverage is simply less useful to people than other coverage because it does not discuss any likelihood that problems can be solved, and promotes apathy by failing to connect problems with nonprofit or government organizations, and potential individual action.
(Other researchers) analyzed press coverage of global warming, noting that its “apocalyptic framing” depicts a process “outside the purview of human agency.” A sense of subjective knowledge and personal efficacy, which could be strengthened by information provided by the media if it is useful and told in a “coherent” way, may be the missing link between news coverage of environmental problems and an individual's perceived ability to act regarding environmental risks.

So yes, a Gallup poll wants us to believe that the public is less and less concerned about the environment, even though other (more credible) polls tell us otherwise. Yet at a time when the objective evidence right in front of us every day tells us that our weather is getting more extreme and our time has run out, the conservative corporate media over the last four decades has ensured that half the electorate, the older and whiter part of the electorate, doesn't give a damn.

You know, the part of the electorate that always votes. That's why the Earth is a goner. And you can thank the corporate conservative media and the elites.

Deacon Blues @ 2:57 PM :: Link :: Comments (2) :: TrackBack (0) :: Spotlight :: Digg It! ::
Monday :: Mar 23, 2015

Dangerous True Believers


by Deacon Blues

It would be fun to criticize the chutzpah of a first-term United States senator who thinks they are presidential material after only being in Washington a couple of years. It would be easy to criticize those same senators for thinking they were God’s gift to democracy and the tonic to what ails the country, when their constituents just months earlier thought they were sending a representative of their state to the Beltway who reflected their views. But then the rest of us commoners don’t live in the world of delusion that many ambitious politicians live in, many of whom know before they even run for governor or Member of Congress that they in their minds are the next great president, regardless of having no record of accomplishment or judgment to warrant such certainty.

It’s easy to make fun of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul for thinking that they are presidential material within their first terms in the Senate, but then there’s Barack Obama, who probably made that 2004 DNC speech in Boston already knowing he was going to run for president just four years later. And for all of the praise people can lavish upon Obama if they choose, it’s also true that he came to Washington with no executive experience and demonstrated record of effectiveness in a legislative body. Like Cruz and Paul, he came to Washington thinking he himself was the change that the country needed. Obama’s confidence in himself as just what the country needed was matched only by his naiveté in dealing with an opposition dedicated to his destruction from the night of his inauguration.

One big difference between Obama and these two new “saviors” of democracy is that at least Obama came to Washington willing and wanting to work with an opposition towards common goals; he just hadn’t demonstrated the savvy or chops to do so. Obama has finally evolved into someone who knows what Karl Rove has known since Newt Gingrich poisoned American democracy twenty years ago: all power and effectiveness comes from an energized base. Ted Cruz already knows this, and wants the presidency not for all the people, but just for his people. It’s hard to get a read on Rand Paul, because he shifts as he needs to, but his past does not demonstrate inclusiveness, he's only showing signs of it lately. Yet both Cruz and Paul come at the presidency with a disregard for facts and science, and without Obama's commitment for inclusive government.

For Democrats, there should be no snickering about the likes of Cruz or Paul thinking they are ready for the presidency already because we’ve already been there ourselves. It's just that the country, and the world cannot afford four more years of toxicity inside the Beltway even worse than it is now.

Deacon Blues @ 10:15 AM :: Link :: Comments (2) :: TrackBack (0) :: Spotlight :: Digg It! ::
Friday :: Mar 20, 2015

Friday Quick Hits: Dealing with Israel and Lynch’s Nomination


by Deacon Blues

Backtracking Bibi
So Bibi tried yesterday to walk back his pathetic pre-election comments about Arab Israeli voters and rejecting a two-state solution, as if he can now say “never mind.” Well, f*ck him and the Likud leadership. The White House is correct to send messages to Netanyahu and Likud that we’re reassessing our relationship and strategic priorities. I’m hopeful that Obama said as much to Bibi in their call yesterday, that in light of Likud’s public comments towards Arab voters and the two-state solution the United States can no longer maintain blanket support for Israel given the fact that our publicly-stated priorities no longer align. Plus, no matter how much ass-kissing John Boehner does to Bibi, American Jews have had enough of Netanyahu's cowboy BS.

We’re not at the point of recalling ambassadors or anything like that, and of course the GOP will attack Obama for holding Netanyahu and Likud accountable for their actions. But perhaps it’s time for the United States to demonstrate the divergence by stating our desire to work more closely with others in the region that share our goals, like Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey. That should get the message across really well.

Lynch's Vote and Race
John McCain growled in anger at Democratic Senator Dick Durbin’s assertion earlier this week that the Senate Republican hold on Loretta Lynch’s confirmation vote for Attorney General was based on racial bias, when the same Senate Republican leadership pushed through Ashton Carter’s confirmation as Defense Secretary even though he was nominated after Lynch. Too bad.

Get over it John; the GOP’s stalling is partly based on race and partly because Senate Democrats botched the handling of the human trafficking bill earlier this year by approving the bill in committee with anti-abortion language in it, allowing Mitch McConnell to logroll Harry Reid right now. Democrats lost this battle with self-inflicted wounds and should let the human trafficking bill come to a vote. When it passes, Democrats should insist that Lynch’s vote come immediately right after. And if it doesn’t, Durbin should again go onto the floor of the Senate with a picture of Lynch and a picture of Carter, and ask what’s different about the two. Let McCain blow another gasket, but tag the GOP for what’s really going on here.

Deacon Blues @ 10:28 AM :: Link :: Comments (0) :: TrackBack (0) :: Spotlight :: Digg It! ::
Thursday :: Mar 19, 2015

MSNBC About To Be Gutted


by Deacon Blues

According to a piece from Politico today, MSNBC is about to undergo a shake-up. This is good, because the personality-driven approach installed by MSNBC president Phil Griffin over the last five years has failed. But rather than retooling MSNBC into an actual center-left news and opinion alternative to Fox, NBCUniversal’s corporate parent Comcast is about to eviscerate any chance at keeping the network as a real center-left news and opinion alternative.

Griffin admitted several years back that his post-Olbermann approach was built upon establishing a following of MSNBC personalities among primarily younger viewers, as if the 45-and-over news consumer didn't matter. The assumption was that even if younger viewers wouldn't care about the actual news, they'd tune in every day to see Chris Hayes and Rachel, and the cool kids on "The Cycle". But what Griffin produced was a daily regurgitation of issues and storylines across all shows, helmed by different hosts with their own weaknesses.

Rather than covering a broad cross-section of daily domestic and international news, MSNBC has followed the sensational and shallow repeatedly into the ground. You could be certain that stories about race, gay rights, ISIS beheadings, and marijuana legalization would be covered by all their shows, starting with Sharpton’s all the way through O’Donnell’s “Last Word”. But God help you if wanted to hear about actual international and national news of the day from an informed center-left perspective. (You'll recall that Olbermann's "Countdown" covered five stories of the day every day). And now Comcast is about to make sure that in the guise of returning MSNBC to a news-oriented focus, several “personality-first, news-second” center-left hosts will be tossed aside to make way for safe, corporate news shows.

And that misses the point of what’s wrong with the network, and ignores the main difference between the MSNBC viewer and the Fox viewer. Unlike the average Fox viewer, who willingly listens and watches hours of content designed to tell conservatives what they want to hear, that they are all victims in a “us versus them” world, center-left viewers have no desire to chain themselves to their seats for hours at a time for content that drones on and on attacking people. Center-left viewers will take their news quickly, with an edge that cuts through spin and with some humor if possible (see “The Daily Show”). So now Comcast is about to give us NBC News and the Beltway view on a cable channel, thinking that being more like CNN will get them viewers that used to be with MSNBC in the Olbermann glory days.

What they need is Olbermann, or a new version of him, to anchor the nighttime line-up with an actual news show that appeals to center-left viewers. But Comcast would never go there, because this is not about holding onto center-left viewers, this is all about making MSNBC safe for the boardrooms and airports.

Deacon Blues @ 1:09 PM :: Link :: Comments (3) :: TrackBack (0) :: Spotlight :: Digg It! ::
Wednesday :: Mar 18, 2015

Hillary Still Beats GOP By Double-Digits


by Deacon Blues

I hate to burst the bubble of the Hillary haters at MSNBC and elsewhere, but four weeks of bad news and press coverage on Hillary's mistake with her official emails while at Foggy Bottom have hurt her so much that she . . . . beats all Republican challengers by double-digits.

The general election numbers are equally rosy for Clinton. Her slimmest lead over a Republican is 11 points over Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. She leads former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the two men considered the party's most likely nominees, by 15 points. She has a 13 point edge over Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

This latest CNN poll of over a thousand Americans shows that despite slippage in her favorability ratings since she was Secretary of State, her actual head-to-head numbers against real GOP challengers haven't been affected. If anything, this poll is bad news for Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, who already lose to Clinton by double-digits and already have large unfavorability and small undecided numbers. The poll has slightly better news for Scott Walker, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio because large numbers of voters don't know them yet so there is room for improvement.

But for those Beltway haters and others who get their attention hyperventilating about Hillary, get your meds.

Deacon Blues @ 3:50 PM :: Link :: Comments (2) :: TrackBack (0) :: Spotlight :: Digg It! ::
Tuesday :: Mar 17, 2015

Usual GOP Behavior


by Deacon Blues
Graphic courtesy of PollingReport.com

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The GOP "Budget"
Of course the House Republicans offered a make-believe budget today that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Wait until the GOP has to identify the actual cuts to discretionary domestic programs they want to make in order to increase the defense budget, and then sit back and watch the fun. The moment Congressional Democrats start yelling that Republicans want to gut family health care and food stamps to pay for their next war with Iran, things will really get interesting.

Bibi's "Rally"
As for Bibi and his magical last-minute surge in the Israeli elections, given the common backers between our GOP and Likud, I’m sure the same people who steal elections here did their magic in Israel.

Hillary on the Offensive
Hillary should spend her time going on offense against the GOP generally, and preemptively gutting her Republican critics by saying “Oh that’s right; my personal emails are more important than sending our sons and daughters into a new war with Iran, or Republicans taking food stamps and health care from millions of American families.”

Make no mistake: Hillary did a stupid thing in going private with her official emails, and then compounded it with her lame and late explanations so far. What Clinton should do to neuter this “scandal” is turn her server over to the State Department Inspector General for review. Yet even now, fifty-seven percent (57%) of those polled would still be proud to have her as president.

As for Steve Kornacki and the other Hillary haters at MSNBC, shut up and take a walk around the block. Kornacki was pathetic today on “Hardball”. It's clear the MSNBC personalities want Elizabeth Warren to run; we get it. But she isn't, so stop the hating and hyperventilating.

Deacon Blues @ 4:13 PM :: Link :: Comments (0) :: TrackBack (0) :: Spotlight :: Digg It! ::
« Link to Previous Entry