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Happy Thanksgiving

Posts may be a bit spotty for the next week or so. Enjoy your Thanksgiving and take a break from politics (especially from talking about politics at the Thanksgiving table)!

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Why the 2014 Midterms Were Bad News for Republicans

Wait a minute, didn’t the Republicans just sweep the midterm elections in their largest wave in modern history? Didn’t they increase their majority in the House and take over the Senate? Isn’t the GOP now boasting that the American people repudiated the entire Democratic agenda? Isn’t Obama so unpopular that even Democratic candidates were distancing themselves from him and his achievements?

Maybe so, but none of that matters. In reality, the midterm elections were very bad news for the GOP. Let’s look at the facts, starting with why this election doesn’t really matter:

  • This was a midterm election, when voter turnout is traditionally low. And in fact, this election had the lowest turnout of any election cycle since World War II. That favors the Republicans, just like it did the last time we had a midterm election.
  • The Republicans successfully used voter suppression tactics to keep Democrats away from the polls, but that won’t last. The Republicans might have gained an advantage for a couple of elections, but they have also permanently angered minority voters (our fastest growing demographic). The Democratic party will improve their formidable get-out-the-vote machine and help voters with the documentation they need to meet the ridiculous and confusing new voting requirements.
  • In this midterm the Democrats were defending 13 Senate seats in states that are red or purple. Republicans only had to win six (less than half) of them to take over the Senate.
  • The Republicans themselves have changed the Senate so that it takes a filibuster-proof 60 votes to get much of anything through it. They may have a majority now, but by their own hand a majority doesn’t mean so much anymore.
  • Besides, what has a majority in both houses of Congress given the GOP? Open warfare inside their own party about what to do about immigration reform.
  • What are we seeing from our new Republican legislative leaders? Lawsuits, calls for impeachment and government shutdowns, climate denial, theocracy, thinly veiled racism, paranoia, and even more Benghazi hearings.

But wait, there is even worse news for Republicans from the midterm elections:

  • Republican candidates might have won, but Republican issues lost. Big time. Every major Democratic ballot initiative was successful. And remember this was in an election largely attended by Republicans. Who would have believed that solidly Red states would raise the minimum wage? But they did. And legalizing marijuana did well too.
  • Republican initiatives lost. Every last “personhood” amendment failed. Remember when Republicans were the party promising to preserve the sanctity of heterosexual marriage? They failed at that too. Gay marriage is now legal in 35 states and 9 more are in the process of legalizing it.
  • Democrats won the Senate race in Virginia, which was supposed to be a Red state in an election that strongly favored Republicans, and without even doing much campaigning. Virginia has crossed the tipping point in its move to the left. The Republicans also lost Georgia as a solidly Red state in this election. Those are two southern states (albeit increasingly urban ones) – the heart of the GOP.
  • Republicans failed to pick up any Senate seats in blue states. So while two red states went blue in this election, no blue states went red. The only GOP Senator from a Blue state after this election is Susan Collins of Maine, who is the party’s last moderate (a dying breed).
  • There are some new Republican governors, but none of them ran on social issues, Obama, or opposition to the ACA. Their main advantage came from Citizens United opening up the floodgates of soft money. This was the most expensive election in history (even more expensive than the 2012 election, which included a presidential election). But the money situation might be changing.
  • Democrats have consolidated their power in states that generate almost all of America’s wealth – with the exception of the energy industry, which is controlled by Texas. Texas alone accounts for 10% of the GOP majority in the House. Ironically, Texas has had the lowest voter turnout in the country for decades.
  • In addition, the Texas economy is based almost entirely on oil. Texas weathered the economic collapse because it is largely disconnected from the US economy. But with oil prices falling and non-fossil-fuel energy surging, look for their economy to wane (the same way it has in every economy limited to a single resource). As happened in the rust belt, their population will decline except for minorities, and then Texas too will become a Blue state (like Virginia and Georgia).

Finally let’s look at the 2016 election:

  • It is a presidential election so turnout will be much higher, which favors the Democrats.
  • The Democrats firmly control 257 electoral votes. The Republicans firmly control 149 electoral votes. It only takes 270 votes to win the presidential election. You do the math.
  • And that’s not even counting Virginia, which is considered a blue state now. If the Dems take only Virginia, they win 270 electoral votes and win the presidential election.
  • In order for Republicans to win the presidential election, they will have to win every single state that is considered competitive, and they will also have to flip one firmly Democratic state. And, of course, they will have to find a candidate who can make it through the Republican primary and then appeal to mainstream voters. Good luck with that.
  • Things are just as bad in the Congressional elections, where Republicans will be defending 24 senate seats (almost a quarter of the Senate) and 18 of them look to be competitive. The chance of the GOP holding on to the Senate is precisely zero.

The bottom line is that because they (think they) won the 2014 election, there is no reason for the right wing-nuts to change, and there is no reason for the Republican party to change. The 2014 election was a perfect storm, full of sound and fury but signifying nothing. By every measure, the Republican party is still going down, and they are gaining speed.

After all, a freak snowstorm doesn’t mean that long-term climate change isn’t happening. And the GOP doesn’t seem to understand that either.

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Late Night Political Humor

“The heroic New York doctor who caught Ebola has been declared Ebola free. President Obama called the doctor to thank him for his selflessness and compassion. Then to be safe, Obama threw his phone in a trash can and lit it on fire.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Once you’re president, you can’t go anywhere without causing trouble. President Obama shows up in China, he’s chewing gum, they go crazy. A big stink because the president’s chewing gum. And you think, the Chinese are so easygoing about human rights. What’s the problem?” – David Letterman

“People in China criticized President Obama for chewing gum while entering the economic summit in Beijing. They’re saying he looked like a rapper. Then again, to be fair, in China I look like a rapper.” – Conan O’Brien

“Child labor, not a problem. Censorship, not a problem. Torture, not a problem. Chewing gum in China — oh, my God! You better not be over here chewing gum.” – David Letterman

“At the economic summit in China, Vladimir Putin is being accused of flirting with the first lady of China. Then again, Putin does have a history of not respecting boundaries. ” – Conan O’Brien

“Stocks are at an all-time high today. I don’t have any money in the stock market. I don’t have the stomach for the ups and downs. So about 20 years ago I put all of my money and liquid assets into videotape rewind machines.” – David Letterman

“The European Space Agency landed a probe on a comet 317 million miles from Earth. When you get discouraged by how much attention people pay to Kim Kardashian’s buttocks, remember that there are also people out there that know how to land a spacecraft on a moving comet 317 million miles away. They’re out there.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“According to a new report, Detroit, Michigan, is the most dangerous city in the country with Oakland, California, coming in second. And the third most dangerous was somehow Detroit again.” – Seth Meyers

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Long Live Benghazi!

The GOP-led investigation by the House Intelligence Committee took two years to study the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi. It was not the first Congressional investigation to look into it (in fact, it was the seventh), but Republicans promised that it would be the authoritative one. Well, like all the investigations before it, this one found no wrongdoing and no cover-up. In other words, there is no there there.

But of course, that will not stop the investigations. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham has already condemned the report from his own political party, calling it “full of crap“. Graham says there will be another investigation (this is the eighth one) and the new one will be carried out by a House Select Committee.

Graham promises that the new investigation will be “more successful”. Which I guess means that it will find someone, anyone, to blame. Graham says “I’m not going to stop until someone is held accountable for allowing it to be a death trap, somebody be fired for not coming to the aid of these people for nine-and-a-half-hours.”

After that, can we have an investigation into Graham for wasting our time and money?

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Toothless Dog

The list of crimes committed by large banks is long: money laundering for terrorists and drug cartels, manipulation of interest rates to defraud investors, rigging commodities markets to raise the prices you pay, mortgage fraud (including breaking state and federal laws when kicking people out of their homes and foreclosing on them), and manipulating municipal debt markets. And these are just the ones we know about.

Yet no bankers have actually gone to jail for these crimes. No wonder people believe the system is rigged — it is!

So it comes as little surprise when during testimony in front of Congress, one of the top bank regulators admits that not only have they been afraid to prosecute bankers for fear that doing so would cause damage to the financial system, but in fact they don’t even think that it is their job to do so. William Dudley, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said that he didn’t think that the focus of bank regulators was to act like a cops or to investigate banks. Instead, their primary focus is “ensuring that the bank is safe and sound, that it’s run well”.

I guess Dudley just guaranteed himself a high paying job at a big bank when he leaves the Fed.

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Late Night Political Humor

“President Obama is in China now for an economic summit in Beijing. The president wore a traditional purple silk shirt along with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin. That’s after they taught Putin how to put a shirt ON.” – Jimmy Fallon

“President Obama is in China. Also in China is evil Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. They’re both in China at the same time. It’s like running into your ex-girlfriend on vacation.” – David Letterman

“It is Veterans Day, when we honor everyone who served in all of the campaigns. We honor them with dignity and respect, and of course mattress sales and tire discounts.” – Craig Ferguson

“Today is Veterans Day. It’s a day we honor those who serve and have served in our armed forces. So thank you for your service to our country and the sacrifices that you made. I’m talking about actual veterans. Playing ‘Call of Duty’ does not count. I don’t care how many missions you’ve completed.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Today is Veterans Day. Thank you to all our men and women who have served the United States armed forces. In honor of Veterans Day we are marching out a few jokes that have already served.” – David Letterman

“After President Obama announced his support for net neutrality yesterday, Texas Senator Ted Cruz tweeted that ‘Net neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet.’ While Ted Cruz continues to be the Taylor Swift of not getting over Obamacare.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Here in New York City you can now walk around smoking weed and all they will do if they see you is write you a ticket. Unfortunately, the ticket will be to a Jets game.” – David Letterman

“You’ve got to be careful smoking weed. It causes memory loss. And also, it causes memory loss.” – David Letterman

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Late Night Political Humor

“Both President Obama and former President George W. Bush were interviewed on ‘Face the Nation’ over the weekend. President Bush said there’s a 50 percent chance his brother Jeb will run for president in 2016. Then he said, ‘But there’s an 80 percent chance he won’t.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“This weekend George W. Bush said it’s a toss-up whether his brother Jeb will run for president in 2016. Bush said there’s a 40-40 chance.” – Seth Meyers

“It was the 60th anniversary of ‘Face the Nation.’ During his interview, President Obama said, ‘Our country doesn’t fear the future. We grab it.’ Nothing says you grab the future like going on a 60-year-old show hosted by a 77-year-old-man to speak to a 90-year-old audience.” – Jimmy Fallon

“President Obama and Vladimir Putin are both in China attending the same economic summit. Obama saw Putin and said, ‘After those midterms, it’s nice to finally see a friendly face.'” – Conan O’Brien

“Obama took a tour of the Great Wall of China and said, ‘We need one of these things around the White House.'” – David Letterman

“President Obama is in China. Today he visited the kids who make our cellphones.” – David Letterman

“A pastor at a controversial church in Harlem said last week that Starbucks is ground zero for Ebola. Unless ‘Ebola’ is a new Norah Jones CD, I’m betting he’s wrong.” – Seth Meyers

“Pepsi has a new Doritos-flavored Mountain Dew. No, we don’t have an Ebola vaccine, but we do have the Doritos-flavored Mountain Dew.” – David Letterman

“You know Kim Jong Un, the evil dictator of North Korea? Apparently, a guy in his inner circle used his ashtray while smoking and Kim Jong Un had him executed. I remember the same thing happened when a guy used Martha Stewart’s personal lemon zester.” – David Letterman

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Preemptive Attack

The GOP is promising to “swiftly counter Obama’s immigration moves“. Senator Mitch McConnell even gave a speech today and declared that Obama would regret ignoring the wishes of the American people.

McConnell said “We’re considering a variety of options”, which is a reference to shutting down the government or impeaching Obama.

According to the NY Times a steady stream of Republicans are condemning Obama for what they expect him to announce. Senator John Cornyn accused the president of “provoking a constitutional crisis” that would be “deeply harmful to the future of our democracy”. Rep Steve King said that Obama was “throwing this nation into a crisis”. And Senator Tom Coburn warned of “violent reactions” from people who disagree with Obama, saying “the country’s going to go nuts” and we could see “instances of anarchy [and] violence”. Is he talking about a lynching?

They don’t even know exactly what he is going to announce, but whatever it will be, they condemn it and will act quickly to reverse it, most likely by threatening to shut down the government. And if that doesn’t work, by impeaching Obama.

They can’t even wait for him to make the announcement, they are practically salivating.

UPDATE: What I find truly ironic about this whole thing is that the reason why the two big examples of executive action to allow illegal immigrants to stay here were done by Reagan and Bush I is that big business wanted cheap labor. Republicans were behind most efforts at immigration reform. Democrats were traditionally against this because labor unions didn’t want cheap illegal labor undercutting wages. Now things have flipped entirely.

UPDATE 2: Breitbart and soon to be former Rep Michele Bachmann are screaming that the Republican leadership has decided to not do anything to fight Obama’s executive action on immigration. The funniest part is that Bachmann is asking for people to “melt the phone lines” of Congress, asking them to “defund executive amnesty”. No word yet on how you defund an executive action that doesn’t prosecute or deport people. How do you defund something that not only doesn’t cost anything, but actually saves money?

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Impeach President Obama

[excerpted from an article by Leonard Pitts Jr. in the Miami Herald]

Dear Republican Party:

Impeach President Obama.

Go ahead, you know you want to do it. The very thought makes you warm and gooey inside.

You have already floated many rationales for doing so. You’ve wanted to impeach him both for things he’s done and for things you only think he’s done: failing to protect the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi; trading Taliban fighters for a captured American soldier; passing legislation — the Affordable Care Act — you dislike; making unconstitutional appointments to executive branch offices. You’ve also wanted to impeach him for things he’s only been reported to be thinking about: sending troops to Syria or using executive orders to change the immigration system.

Pick one of those. Or just impeach him for being from Kenya. At this point, does the rationale even matter? Impeach President Obama.

Do it for America.

The U.S. electorate, after all, has a short memory and shorter attention span. It periodically needs what you have periodically provided and what impeachment proceedings would provide yet again: a reminder that something has gone awry in the Grand Old Party. It is no longer the party of Eisenhower or Reagan, nor the party of Bush the elder nor even the party of Bob Dole, your 1996 standard bearer who said in April, “I thought I was a conservative, but we’ve got some in Congress now who are so far right they’re about to fall out of the Capitol.”

The ever-blunt Dole was only saying what other GOP elders and other concerned observers have been saying for years: You have become an outlier, a haven of cranks and extremists. And you are driven by hatred — the word is not too strong — of the 44th president.

You’ve refused to accept the legitimacy of his presidency, though he was twice elected without Supreme Court help. You’ve supported false theories of foreign birth. You’ve damaged the nation’s credit rating rather than pass a routine authorization. You’ve killed your own legislation when you learned that he supported it. You’ve made compromise a curse word. You’ve raised obstruction to high art and made getting nothing done a badge of perverse honor.

Yet, you haven’t managed to get rid of him. What’s left except the ultimate sanction? So for yourself and for the rest of us, please put up or shut up:

Impeach President Obama.

Show America what you’re made of. Yet again.

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Racist Rebrand

Matt Bors
© Matt Bors

You gotta admire the irony of a country of immigrants that hates immigrants.

AnonymousMeanwhile, the Klan has threatened to use lethal force against protestors in Ferguson, Missouri.

In retaliation the hactivist group Anonymous hacked into the Klan’s twitter account and started posting messages, including an image of a unicorn complete with rainbow sunset (see image at right).

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Late Night Political Humor

“The Democrats were crushed in the midterm elections. The Republican juggernaut pounded the Democrats, and the pundits say they will not really know what happened to the Democrats until they find the black box.” – David Letterman

“It is a great day for the great state of Texas. The last person being tested for Ebola has come back clean. So Texas is now Ebola free. This was a big week for them. They’re now free of Ebola – and Democrats.” – Craig Ferguson

“Here’s the plot of ‘Interstellar.’ Refugees – they’re known as Democrats – they’re looking for a new planet.” – David Letterman

“Democrats in state legislatures are at their lowest level since the 1920s. President Obama has a can’t-miss strategy to save the party in 2016. He’s leaving.” – Craig Ferguson

“New York City has 2 million rats. We used to have 8 million rats. Now we’re down to 2 million. You know what that means? We lose four electoral votes.” – David Letterman

“Director Oliver Stone says he’s going to make a movie about Vladimir Putin. I can’t believe anyone would want to work with that insane communist. And Putin is a little crazy as well.” – Craig Ferguson

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GOP Irony

So in the aftermath of the midterm election, some emboldened Republicans are making plans. For example, Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX) has said that impeachment “would be a consideration” if Obama moves forward with executive action to solve our immigration problems. In addition, Republicans have said that they will force the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, which Obama has delayed pending resolution of a court case in Nebraska over the pipeline.

Now here is where it gets ironic. Since June, the price of oil has decreased by 28%. Tar sands oil, which is what Keystone will be carrying, costs between $85 to $110 per barrel to produce. But crude oil is currently selling for $77 a barrel, so the tar sands oil would have to be sold at a loss. Even if we allow the Keystone pipeline to be built, it would go unused unless the price of crude oil goes up dramatically.

And about that impeachment thing. Obama has repeatedly said that if the Republicans would send him a bill he would not take executive action, but if they don’t, then somebody needs to do something to solve the immigration crisis. So Obama has said that he will take executive action to avoid breaking up families by deporting people who are illegal immigrants, but are married to US citizens.

Where were the protests when Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush both did the same thing? They extended amnesty to family members by executive action and there was barely a peep out of anyone. I guess if St. Ronnie does it, it is ok, but if Obama does it, it is grounds for impeachment.

Once again, the Republicans are against anything Obama does.

Steve Sack
© Steve Sack

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Late Night Political Humor

“Now that the midterm elections are over, President Obama has invited congressional leaders from both parties to a meeting at the White House tomorrow. When asked if he’s nervous, Obama said, ‘Oh, I’m not going to be there. I just invited them over. They can figure it out themselves.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“How about that election night? Here’s the breakdown. The Republicans won the popular vote. The Democrats won the unpopular vote.” – David Letterman

“On Tuesday, Utah Candidate Mia Love became the first black Republican woman elected to Congress. She’s also a Mormon. Yeah, a black female Republican Mormon. Even unicorns are saying, ‘Not buyin’ it.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“After Michael Jordan recently criticized President Obama’s golf game, Obama responded by saying that Jordan should spend more time thinking about his basketball team, the Charlotte Hornets. Then Jordan said, ‘Do you really want to talk about whose team got crushed this week?'” – Jimmy Fallon

“What a day. It’s 53 and gloomy — like President Obama.” – David Letterman

“President Obama has two years left as president. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets to appoint two new Kardashian husbands.” – David Letterman

“It’s been announced that a Union soldier who fought at the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War will be awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama over 151 years after his death. Even better, he finally got an appointment at the VA hospital.” – Seth Meyers

“A new study shows that despite previous estimates there are only 2 million rats living in New York City. I guess the other 10 million are commuting from New Jersey.” – Seth Meyers

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Merger Mania

What, are we crazy? After all the “too big to fail” failures, why do we keep letting mega-companies merge and eliminate competition? After all, competition is the fuel that drives free market capitalism.

The New Yorker has a fascinating article that is poorly titled “Why I Left United Airlines“. Not that there isn’t enough to write about United Airlines and their rapid decline after their merger with Continental.

Like how the newly combined airlines raised prices by as much at 57% on routes that were newly uncompetitive. And that United now has the worst quality rankings in the nation, even worse than discount airlines. And that they have more consumer complaints than any major airline. The only winner in that merger seems to be the now ex-CEO of United, who pocketed $17 million.

But the article is actually far more interesting, talking about mergers in general, saying: “The sinkhole effect — which is not confined to airlines — means that we need to take a much closer look at mega-mergers in the essential industries whose services are hard to avoid and which have a disproportionate effect on quality of life.”

Did you know that multiple studies (including by the FTC) have confirmed that when hospital chains merge, two things inevitably happen: prices increase, and more dead patients. Oh, and there is one more result: increased profits for the chain (at the expense of your wallet and possibly your life). That sounds like the archetypal bad merger. After all, the FTC is supposed to stop mergers that are bad for consumers. How much worse can you get?

Bottom line is, why are we even thinking of allowing cable and Internet giants Comcast and Time Warner to merge? Seriously, are we crazy?

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Late Night Political Humor

“The big news is the midterm elections. Last night Republicans picked up a dozen seats in the House to give them their biggest majority since World War II. Or as they put it, ‘Time to party like it’s 1939!'” – Jimmy Fallon

“Yesterday was Election Day. If we have any Democrats in the audience, I’m sorry but you’re going to have to give up your seats.” – David Letterman

“Republicans also took control of the Senate after gaining another seven seats. I haven’t seen the GOP get this many seats since Chris Christie made an airline reservation.” – Jimmy Fallon

“The Republican Party had a big day in yesterday’s midterm elections and now controls the House and Senate. And don’t ask me how this happened, but the Republican Party also gained control of three seats in our show’s band.” – Conan O’Brien

“Republicans now have a majority in the Senate and House of Representatives for the first time in eight years. I guess when it was all said and done, the Republicans just had the better lawn signs.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Republicans won enough seats to gain a majority in the Senate and increase their majority in the House. For those Democratic candidates who wanted to distance yourselves from Obama, congratulations. You did.” – Seth Meyers

“Yesterday was Election Day. Republicans picked up a lot of seats and won control of both chambers of Congress. That’s key because whoever controls Congress controls the lunch menu at the cafeteria.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Was the election a drubbing or was it a shellacking? That’s my only question. It’s embarrassing. Even the Washington Redskins are demanding that the Democrats change their name.” – David Letterman

“Thank heaven Election Day is over. No more campaign ads, no more mud-slinging, no more candidates pretending they’re straight. It’s over! ” – Craig Ferguson

“Republican Scott Brown lost his bid for Senate in New Hampshire last night, two years after he was voted out as Senator in Massachusetts. When asked what he was planning to do next, he said, ‘Are they still looking for a mayor in Toronto?'” – Jimmy Fallon

“For the first time ever, a black Republican woman has been elected to Congress. President Obama told her, ‘You are all set. This country never turns against a black anything.'” – Conan O’Brien

“According to data from yesterday’s midterms, only 13 percent of voters were under 30 years old. So America didn’t rock the vote so much as we soft-rocked the vote.” – Seth Meyers

“A lot of issues were on the ballots. In New York City there was Proposition 14. That would put a ceiling on the number of late-night talk shows. And California passed Proposition 21. That would change guacamole officially to ‘guac’.” – David Letterman

“You know what happened today? When is this going to stop? There was another fence jumper at the White House. This time it was Obama trying to get out.” – David Letterman

“For the first time in history, Congress has 100 women in it. Congratulations. Welcome to modern times, America. It’s great having 100 women in Congress. Unless you’re in line for the congressional bathroom.” – Craig Ferguson

“Washington, D.C., voted to legalize recreational marijuana. Vice President Joe Biden celebrated quietly at home, contemplating the infinite nature of the universe.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Imagine Washington, D.C. If you thought Congress didn’t get a lot of work done before, just wait until they get legal pot.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“It’s fantastic that Congress has an increasing number of women. Experts call an increasingly female presence in a previously male space ‘the Bruce Jenner effect’.” – Craig Ferguson

“Clay Aiken ran for Congress in North Carolina. But he didn’t make it. Clay Aiken is famous for coming in second in a TV popularity contest that most people got fed up with years ago. He also lost on ‘American Idol’.” – Craig Ferguson

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