Thailand “Shallow News in Depth” Tries to Lance the Boil of Conflict

Nice article by Thomas Fuller in Bangkok, in the NY Times, about a new YouTube distributed show in the Jon Stewart Daily Show style, taking on the ironies and dangers of Thailand’s current problems.

“If you take seriously everything happening in Thai society, you will go mad,” said Winyu Wongsurawat, the co-host of the show.

Irony is in plentiful supply in Thailand today: A billionaire tycoon is praised as the champion of the poor. A scandal-tainted politician leads a mass movement against corruption. Protesters declare that they need to block elections to save democracy.

Good for them — and we all hope oppositional forces can find a way to answers that don’t involve the suffering of thousands.


San Diego Voting Tuesday

San Diego, my home town in the tumultuous years of 1968-1969, and of close cousins their whole growing up years, always gets more than my passing glance when it’s in the news.  Today it’s about the elections on Tuesday to put a fully elected mayor in, to replace the temporary one, Todd Gloria, who replaced the serial harasser Filner last summer.

The candidates are big-business backed city councilor Kevin Faulconer and David Alvarez, also a city councilor, who counts labor unions among his backers. After  Filner, the first Democrat  mayor in decades, stepped down to deal with the torrent of accusations about his unwanted sexual demonstrativeness, his voters seemed in disarray. Hope had been high that he would be an antidote to the corruption and budgetary malfeasance San Diego had suffered under for years, earning it the nickname of Enron-By-The-Sea.

His behavior and leaving office were a double punch to the gut of his voters who at first seemed in disarray.  They seem to have recovered quickly with Alvarez as the standard bearer.  The vote count on Tuesday is expected to be close.

The NY Times, characterizing the race as one of sharp ideological divides, gives a good backgrounder, though for the life of me I don’t understand how ideology is a good characterization of what is going on.  There are almost twenty years of history to indicate the past effects of the policies Faulkner says he will continue to pursue.  There are thousands of people whose pensions were gutted during past Republican mayors who naturally, would prefer a leader who takes their loss, and the abrogated contracts and promises, seriously.

As usual, the winner will be decided not entirely on the merits of his ideas or actions but by the variable winds of voter enthusiasm, understanding of policy-to-pocketbook linkages and, unfortunately, fealty to myths, beliefs and ethnicity.

Whoever wins, perhaps the conversation will have been begun –using the minimum wage increases proposed by Alvarez as proxy–  over how any society determines what is needed for its citizens to produce enough in their working years to keep them alive and in dignity during the years they cannot work.

If, at the most abstract, one must earn enough in half a life to provide for a full life, how is that to be done?  If no surplus is created during the working, or is raked off by others, how is life to be secured for the years of no-work?   If during the working years, pensions can not be created, if the hope for living after the working years depends on the vagaries of a stock market — which can be sent soaring or falling by conditions in Brazil or Greece– do we have the basics of sound economies, and therefore livelihoods, even in place? It’s an enormous question which is never properly dealt with.

Tuesday’s San Diego election won’t answer the question but perhaps it will be formulated a bit more clearly and spoken more loudly.

Missing Waxman Already

“Following 40 years of sustained fighting on behalf of human health, the environment, and a livable climate, Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) announced on Thursday that he would retire from Congress after this year.

“In 1974, I announced my first campaign for Congress,” he said Thursday in a press release. “Today, I am announcing that I have run my last campaign. I will not seek reelection to the Congress and will leave after 40 years in office at the end of this year.”

Climate change stayed a national legislative priority. “To me, this is an issue more important than all the other things we’re spending time on,” he told the National Journal in 2013. “It’s more important than the budget, sequestration, the debt ceiling — 10 years, maybe five years from now, people aren’t going to say, ‘What did we do on those issues?’ They’re going to say, ‘What did Congress do on climate change?’”

For much else to thank him for see Think Progress

“I still feel youthful and energetic, but I recognize if I want to experience a life outside of Congress, I need to start soon. Public office is not the only way to serve, and I want to explore other avenues while I still can.”

It’s unclear who will step into his shoes to forcefully advocate for climate legislation, but the nearly three dozen other House members in the Safe Climate Caucus (such as Reps. Lois Capps, Donna Edwards, Keith Ellison, Tulsi Gabbard, Raul Grijalva, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Chris Van Hollen, and Peter Welch) could be a place to start.

Money out of Politics: Amend the Constitution

A coalition is demanding that the US Constitution be amended—a reform sufficient to prevent the High Court from transforming American democracy into a dollarocracy.

“I’ll grant that it’s not easy. Amending the Constitution should not be easy,” says Robert Weissman, the president of Public Citizen, which has been a key player in the movement. “But in just four years, we’ve brought what many deemed a pipe dream into the mainstream.”

People for the American Way president Michael Keegan agrees.

While there is no question that “the deeply misguided Citizens United ruling four years ago brought immeasurable harm to our democracy,” Keegan says, “it also inspired a re-energized national movement to get big money out of politics.”

That movement has accomplished more than all but the most optimistic reformers could have imagined on January 21, 2010.

Sixteen American states have formally demanded that Congress recognize that the Constitution must be amended in order to re-establish the basic American premise that “money is property and not speech, and [that] the Congress of the United States, state legislatures and local legislative bodies should have the authority to regulate political contributions and expenditures…”

Common Dreams

16 state demanding is a long way way from 34 states signing (2/3rds necessary) to amend the constitution.  It will take a tidal wave of popular sentiment — enough to unseat not only Tea Partiers but some of their lobbyist replacements– before any such think can happen.  But Trusts and Corporations were broken up and new legislation put in place in the early 1900s with the help of muckraking Ida Tarbell, William Allen White, Frank Norris and others.  It can be done again.

Going After the Anti Immigrants

“Last week, the Service Employees International Union spent $200,000 on a week-long, Spanish-language radio campaign in 10 congressional districts held by Republicans that have relatively large Latino populations (listen to the ads here). It was the latest in a multi-million dollar campaign supporting immigration reform.

Eliseo Medina, the SEIU’s secretary-treasurer, says the response to the ads from both constituents and lawmakers “makes us feel pretty good they’re going to be on the right side of this issue.” Medina points to two congressmen in California—Jeff Denham, whose district is 40 percent Latino, and David Valadao, whose parents immigrated from Portugal’s Azores Islands in 1969—as two Republicans he thinks were particularly responsive to the ads. Valadao already supports a path to citizenship, his office says, but most of his colleagues will be harder sells: His district is 72 percent Latino, which among Republicans is second only to that of Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Congress’s first Cuban American.

Last month, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee rolled out Spanish-language radio ads targeting House members who voted for an amendment authored by anti-immigrant hardliner Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) to deport undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children. They went after several of the same lawmakers as the SEIU, including Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), one of just 15 House Republicans representing a district that voted for Obama in 2012. “He’s been ‘Heck no,'” Medina says. “He’s going to be ‘Heck yes.'”

And finally!  Go after these guys…

“House Republicans Disappointing and Disgusting”

Nope, that wasn’t a left wing nut saying that.  It was Republican Governor Chris Christie, after the GOP contingent skedaddled before voting on emergency aid, as they had promised,  for New Jersey and New York hit by Hurricane Sandy.

“Last night the House of Representatives failed that most basic test of public service, and they did so with callous indifference to the suffering of the people of my state,” said Christie. “Sixty-six days and counting — shame on you. Shame on Congres

Of course one can be shocked at Christie’s shock.  This is what Republicans do these days. Stand by your beliefs and the hell with the world outside.


Peter King (R-NY), another shocked Republican, with even less reason to be shocked, was unhappy himself.

“I’m saying right now, anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to congressional Republicans is out of their minds,” he said in an interview on Fox News. “Because what they did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans. It was an absolute disgrace.”

Rep Michael Grimn from Staten Island (also GOP) will return the Boehner stab in the back with a stab in the front: no vote for Speakership.

Rep. Michael Grimm said he will not support Republican Speaker John Boehner for re-election because of the “personal betrayal” he feels over Boenher’s refusal to permit a vote on Sandy aid, after a divided House finally OK’d fiscal cliff legislation late New Year’s Day.

“It’s not just me, I am speaking on behalf of all of New York and New Jersey,” said Grimm, who described himself as “extremely angry.”

David Brooks to Teach Humility at Yale. Really.

I lost my appetite for reading David Brooks twenty-two apologies for Republican extremism ago.  Still, like the curious fellow I am, I stop by his column from time to time and scan quickly — like I used to do at the 10¢ book bins outside bargain bookstores.  Maybe something will pop up.  Today what popped was not Brooks himself, but his nemesis Matt Taibbi, who fastened his teeth into the seat of Brooks pretensions some time ago and won’t unlock his jaws.  Today ran as follows:

New York Times columnist David Brooks may be scheduled to teach a class called “Humility” at Yale, but that doesn’t make him humble, according to Matt Taibbi.

“Assuming this is all real, though, this has to make pretty much any list of the most pretentious moments ever,” Taibbi wrote on his Rolling Stone blog on Wednesday.

Taibbi added that Brooks is a “class-obsessed” “aristocrat-apologist,” and that “this move might formalize his status as the biggest windbag in the Western hemisphere.”

Ashley Judd for Senate!

Wouldn’t this be a gas!

Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) unpopularity in his home state might leave him susceptible to a 2014 challenge, including a potential Senate bid by actressAshley Judd, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling.

Although Kentucky remains deeply Republican, McConnell’s low approval ratings — the worst of any senator nationally, according to PPP — could make him vulnerable. Just 37 percent of Kentucky voters approve of his performance, while 55 percent disapprove.

Whither the GOP in CA?

Carla Marinucci, the SF Chronicle’s indefatigable political reporter does a quick survey of Repub and Demo opinion on the future of California Republicans.

Conservatives have long dismissed California, the nation’s most-populous state and the world’s ninth-largest economy, as the Left Coast, Wackyville and La-La Land.

But after Tuesday’s election, there is one thing that Republicans across the nation can no longer do – ignore it.

The GOP failed to take the White House and lost an opportunity to reclaim control of the U.S. Senate, while trends that began in California – the burgeoning numbers of Latino, Asian American and young voters – are harbingers of what’s ahead for Republican fortunes, Democratic consultant Garry South said.

“They can denigrate this state all they want,” South said. “But the future of America is what you’re seeing right now, laid out in California.”

My favorite quotes were from Tony Quinn, longtime Republican consultant.  Here is the blog from which she quoted.  Interesting inside-politics assertions therein.

The good news for Republicans is that they are no longer a dying party.  The bad news is that they are dead, and the final dagger into the corpse was the huge turnout of young voters on Tuesday – the exit polls show that 18 to 29 years olds made up 28 percent of the 2012 electorate.  This turnout was vastly different than the Field poll and other analysts anticipated, and it was driven by Proposition 30.

…Two conclusions emerge: there is no state Republican Party left and its numbers in the legislature make it irrelevant, but individuals do matter.  Charles Munger, Jr. put significant dollars into some Republican on Republican legislative and congressional races, and he won.  If he remains involved, he can fund pragmatic and electable Republicans in competitive districts and in 2014 the GOP might be able to rise above one third in the Senate and the Assembly.

Second, it is time to let Howard Jarvis rest in peace and stop pretending we are still in the world of Proposition 13.  On Tuesday 85 of 106 school bond measures passed, according to the League of California Cities.  Californians clearly want more public resources; the question now is whether that money is spent wisely.  That is where the Republican and business focus should be.

For years, the anti-tax zealots have been a tail wagging the old flea bitten Republican dog.  Well, now there is no dog; only fleas.



Jon Stewart with Bill O’Reilly

On Saturday night, Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly spent 90 minutes discussing the news and media in an uncensored debate on the Internet. You can watch the whole thing here, but we’ve picked out a few of our favorite lines Jon said throughout the night.

  • Opening statement, after O’Reilly slams Sandra Fluke: “My friend Bill O’Reilly is completely full of shit. A good portion of this country has created an alternate universe in which the issues we face revolve around a woman from Georgetown.”
  • “I’m here to plead to the mayor of Bullshit Mountain. Talk to your people!”

From Huff Po  read for many more…