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a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
- Shakey

Rand Paul commandeered the Senate flour on Wednesday to deliver a 10 hour long protest against the renewal of the Patriot Act. Meanwhile, his campaign team were sending out fundraising appeals to capitalize on the attention he was garnering.

And then?

Paul voluntarily stepped aside just before the clock struck midnight. Which means he had no meaningful affect on the Senate schedule, and he did nothing to block the Patriot Act from moving forward.

I'm sure the first then Paul did upon leaving the floor - after having a wee - was to call his manager and ask how much money they took in.

He's as big a fraud as his father.

Update: Amusing commentary from Alexandra Petri in WaPo:

Filibuster. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

...it doesn’t count as a boycott if you refuse to eat in a restaurant during the hours when it isn’t open. It’s nice that Cruz and Paul have such strong feelings and want to share them at such length, but they need to use another word for these speeches — “pointless harangues,” maybe? “Transparent publicity grabs?” “Rambles?” (I know those don’t have quite the heroic ring that filibuster does, but it’s important to be precise.)

...But we need another word for what is going on. Right now, it is just Rand Paul talking at length about a subject that interests him. He can talk straight through until 1 p.m. tomorrow and it still won’t be a filibuster. It will just be a speech that does not cause the Senate to function any worse than usual. (Granted, this is not hard.) Until he actually starts holding up Senate business, this is just a — fauxlibuster? Bit of Rand-standing? Whatever it is, a filibuster it ain’t, and we need to stop calling it one.

Discuss

The one* potentially not ludicrous contender for the 2016 Republican nomination has ruled himself out. TPM:

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) will not run for president in 2016, according to the Indiana Republican Party chairman on Monday.

Indiana GOP chairman Jeff Cardwell said on the party's website that Pence would seek re-election in 2016 and not run for president. Cardwell said Pence would formally announce his plans at the Indiana GOP's Spring Dinner in June, according to the Indianapolis Star.

What's left? A row of human pinatas, waiting for the big stick of the general election.
*Jeb Bush - destroyed his chances last week by making his brother look like the smart one.
*Chris Christie - an unpleasant person who was been fatally wounded by the Bridgegate confessions in the last few weeks.
*Scott Walker - will be eviscerated in the general by the data about the actual performance of the Wisconsin economy under his watch.
*Rand Paul - overgrown frat boy.
*Ted Cruz - is Ted Cruz.
*Half a dozen other clowns not worth discussing.

Even after the recent "discriminating against gays in the name of religious freedom" mess in Indiana, Pence was more formidable than any of these, because he had the dog whistles to excite the crazed Republican base but also a track record of economic management in Indiana that would appeal to a casually-informed voter.

Very glad to see him out of the running.

*Kasich still remains, I suppose. However, he's got no money and even Republicans don't know who he is. Cincy Inquirer:

Two New Hampshire polls late last month included Kasich. In one poll, 1 percent of the 429 GOP likely primary voters chose Kasich, and 41 percent of poll respondents didn't even recognize his name. In the other, which had 500 participants, not a single person picked Kasich as their first choice – not even the undecided voters, when they were pressed to pick a favorite.
If he does get some traction, the other primary candidates will rip him apart for being an "Obamacare lover" and feed him to the base.
Discuss

You've heard the news - there was a biker riot in Texas yesterday, that left 9 dead and at least 165 in jail.

It is time that we had the moral courage to criticize that culture for its lack of moral fiber.

Recall the number of people who have correctly identified that the wearing of hoodies is meant to make the person look like a thug and so inevitably leads to consequences such as being shot by a citizen neighborhood watch.

Well, what do you expect will happen when you go out in public dressed like the leading forces in the gun running and crystal meth trade?





Its like these people WANT to destroy our country.

I have the right to stand my ground. The next time I see someone in leathers I'm going to exercise it. If it turns out afterward that the was an accountant engaging in a sad fantasy, that is his fault.

Discuss

What is going on with Jeb Bush?

Kossaks should all know the answer: he is playing eleven dimensional chess.

You see, Jeb Bush doesn't want to president, he doesn't even want to be the nominee. At one time 16 ears ago he did and thought he had a legitimate shot. But then along came his idiot brother who screwed that pooch. So now all that is left for Jeb is the possibility of a heady mixture of revenge served cold, and a pile of filthy lucre.

Most reports assume that over $100 million has gone into Jeb's campaign accounts already. There are many Republican advisors from previous campaigns who can be hired to reveal all the tricks whereby campaign donations can be funneled into the candidate's own accounts, or into the accounts of "consultants" who will then happily channel a substantial "commission" into an off-shore account of the candidate's choosing.

And of course Jeb is making a point of running without actually declaring that he is running, which means his finances are subjected to an even more pitifully low level of scrutiny.

That's the filthy lucre part. The revenge part of the scheme only became apparent this week when Jeb started tying himself as closely as possible to his idiot brother's legacy.  What better way to humiliate W than to demonstrate to him that everyone in the country - even, god forbid, Republicans - understand that his administration was a complete disaster?

I admire his cleverness. Jeb will have trousered his illegal millions and will be back on the golf course in a few weeks, and can, until the day he dies, insist that it was W's fault for being such a shitty president.

Discuss

Labour got a lot of things dreadfully wrong in the UK election, but there was one thing they did right: they ruled out cooperation with the SNP on the principle that you can't have a secessionist movement involved in governing the country they want to destroy.

Lots and lots of people scoffed at that stance, saying that post-referendum the SNP were no longer a secessionist threat; instead they were a progressive force.

I have detailed elsewhere the facts demonstrating that the SNP's record is, in fact, anything but progressive.

And now today brings the completely unsurprising news that the secessionist genie isn't going back into the bottle:

Alex Salmond hails ‘staging post to independence’

The SNP’s landslide of Scottish seats in the UK general election is a “staging post” on the road to independence, Alex Salmond said yesterday.

http://www.scotsman.com/...

Of course Salmond is the EX leader of the party. However, he, and his enthusiasm for secession, are going to be leading the new SNP cohort in Westminster, while Sturgeon is safely far away in Holyrood. Not that there is a huge amount of difference between them on this point, anyway: Sturgeon began talking about rerunning that "once in a generation" referendum almost immediately upon taking up her new office.
Discuss

Many Kossacks seem very excited about the rise of the Scottish National Party (the SNP) in the UK. The little guy! democracy! FREEEEDOOMM!!!! (cue bagpipes).

If a similar party were claiming the mantle of "progressivism" in the United States, you would be appalled. I'm going to walk through specific SNP policies to demonstrate my point. Instead of judging the SNP on what they say, or what other people say about them, let's look at what they do.

A few quick pieces of background information:

[1] Scotland has its own parliament - its metonym is "Holyrood" the way that "Westminster" is the metonym for the UK government as a whole. Holyrood has powers over many matters within the Scottish borders. It gained/gains these power by statutory grant from Westminster, so they are said to be "devolved".

[2] The primary source of funding for Holyrood is a block grant from Westminster. The Scottish Government is free to spend this however they see fit. Somewhere between 2/3s and 3/4s of all the government spending in Scotland comes from this pot. The rest comes from Westminster, spending on matters that are "reserved" i.e. haven't been devolved to Holyrood.

[3] There is this thing in the UK called the "Barnett formula". It says that via the block grant Scotland automatically gets more spending per head than does England, by around 20%.

[4] The SNP have been in charge at Holyrood since 2007.

[5] UK parties don't run on "platforms", they run on "manifestos".

Without further ado, to illustrate what the SNP really stand for, let's look at their record.

1) Education.

The 2007 SNP Manifesto - the one that got them into power - promised maximum class sizes of 18 in Primaries 1-3 and to increase teacher numbers. They have completely failed to deliver on both counts. Average class size is 29% higher and rising every year while teacher numbers are falling.

The SNP also made a manifesto commitment to wipe out student debt. They have completely failed to deliver on this as well: Scottish student borrowing is soaring and the SNP actually cut the grants students could receive by 40%. The burden is falling most heavily on the least able to bear it:

Official figures show total student borrowing jumped by 69% for the last academic year up to £430m, the highest level ever, as Scottish ministers championed their policy of providing free university tuition.

The heaviest burden is being carried by the poorest students after ministers cut overall spending on grants for living costs from £89.4m to £53m last year, and introduced far less generous funding bands which penalised low income applications.

The average loans taken out by students from the lowest income families averaged out at £5,610 a year, compared to £4,340 for students from better off homes, said Lucy Blackburn Hunter, a former civil servant who specialises in higher education policy.

Blackburn Hunter said that the cumulative impact of those policies meant that Scottish students doing a typical four year Scottish university course would end up owing more than £20,000, while the poorest faced the heaviest debts.

The average debt per student was £5,020, while the cuts in grant funding would continue for the foreseeable future.

The education policy the SNP are most well-known for is free university places for all - a policy they have delivered. And it sounds nice, doesn't it? But lets examine the actual consequences. Americans use "college" and "university" interchangeably, but in the UK they have distinct meanings. In the UK, a college usually means a place offering vocational training. People studying for an academic degree go to a university.  You will find a higher proportion of children from working class backgrounds who want "college" as a route to the future, and more from upper class backgrounds who want "university" as their route.

The free university places are not means tested. Therefore, they are a huge benefit to wealthy parents who send their kids to £25,000 a year private schools and then pay nothing for university. The need to pay for those free university places has led to the Scottish government slashing funding for colleges to the bone, especially in part-time programs, making it very difficult for working-class Scots to further their education whilst holding down a job. Student and staff numbers at Scottish colleges have plummeted to the lowest level on record.

In short: the one education policy the SNP did carry through on has gifted the well-off a tax-payer funded benefit that they do not need, and paid for it by cutting vital services to the less well-off.

BTW, none of this can be blamed on "austerity" or Westminster. The SNP is choosing to underfund education, particularly for the working classes.  Spending on schools in Scotland fell by 5 per cent in real terms from 2010 to 2013 - the most recent year for which there is an audited report - while it rose, in real terms, in England. As a share of its budget, Scotland now spends less than England on education.

And that is by choice, the result of decisions made by the SNP.

2) Health

Like education, health is a "fully devolved matter". And remember the Barnett formula: Scotland gets substantially more money per head than does England.

Since 2009 government spending on health in England has is up a few percentage points - despite the "austerity" regime that has seen an overall decrease of 13% in English departmental spending. But spending on the NHS in Scotland - a matter which is in the hands of the SNP - has fallen by 1%. And in the 7 years before that - years of plenty for public services rather than cuts – real-terms health spending per person grew by 29% in Scotland compared with a 43% increase across the UK as a whole. This was despite overall public service spending per person growing by a very similar amount in Scotland (26%) and the UK as a whole (28%).

This is proof that the SNP consistently places less priority on funding the NHS in Scotland than governments in Westminster do for England.

3) The Environment

There is quite a lot of renewable energy activity in the Scotland. However, this is almost entirely down to the UK taxpayers, who provide upwards of £560m per year in subsidy. The Scottish renewable industry breathed a huge sigh of relief when the referendum was defeated, because they knew that independence would be the end of them.

To their credit, the SNP do grant planning permission for windfarms; however, it costs them nothing to do so. Things that do actually require the SNP to produce funds, like the once-ballyhooed Scottish wave energy industry, have been abandoned.

The "green" credentials of the SNP don't stand up to scrutiny. Yes, they once said the whole country would be powered by renewables by 2020. However, they aren't actually doing what needs to be done to actually make that happen - substantially reengineer the grid so that the electricity from remote windfarms can be utilized.  Meanwhile, they remain fully committed to seeing that every last drop of oil is extracted from the North Sea. Furthermore, they are full-on committed to getting more off-shore drilling started - this time on the West Coast.  

And their environmental hostility doesn't stop there. Nicola Sturgeon has made it clear that the price that any party in Westminster will have to pay to get SNP cooperation in the event of a hung parliament is keeping the coal-fired plant at Longannet in Fife open. Longannet is filthy - it is the worst polluter in the UK, and one of the worst in the whole of Europe. It is also uneconomical, which is why it is being closed. However, Sturgeon is demanding that the UK provide £40m per year in subsidy to keep it open so that it can continue to belch greenhouse gasses into the air.

4) Governance.

The SNP in Holyrood was pronounced centralizing tendencies. The examples of this are legion. I'll limit myself to the two most obvious ones: In 2013 Scotlands eight local polices forces were replaced by a single entity, Police Scotland.

Police Scotland is led by Chief Constable Sir Stephen House, the former chief constable of Strathclyde police. The “Strathclydisation” of Scotland’s police force has meant the use elsewhere of tactics popular in Glasgow, such as armed police officers.
Dr Kath Murray of the University of Edinburgh has documented how “stop and search” policies pioneered by Strathclyde have been appropriated by the single force. Rates are four times as high in Scotland as in England and Wales and most are “without reasonable suspicion or legal authority”.
The other well-known SNP policy is the "council tax freeze", which means they have, for eight years now, prohibited local governments in Scotland from raising tax rates. Who benefits? Poor people don't pay council tax. Once again, it is the better-off classes who get all the gain, and the less-well-off who suffer all the pain. Professor Arthur Midwinter:
The result has been 40,000 job loses, cuts in services and increased charges. In addition, the Scottish Government transferred a number of high-profile anti-poverty grants into council overall spending – meaning that they can spend it on what they like. These included the Community Regeneration Fund of £113m, the Supporting People Fund of £384m and the Fairer Scotland Fund of £145m. There have also been cuts in the housing and regeneration budget of £307m and Education Maintenance Allowance of £15m. The result is that about £1bn of targeted spend on poverty has disappeared. Despite the Deputy First Minister claiming in 2008 that her government would “address the root causes of poverty once and for all”, poverty levels have increased since then.
In short: the SNP have gutted the anti-poverty program in Scotland to subsidize well-off property owners.

Of course, SNP politicians tour the country blaming "Westminster" for "austerity". While having their own "austerity" program going on at home, in the name of protecting the pocketbooks of the well-off.

Does this confuse you? Do you look at all the people supporting the SNP and think "well surely they must be doing something right?"

Let me put it this way:
*Mitt Romney carried 24 states;
*Sam Brownback was just re-elected;
*John Boehner is Speaker of the House and Nancy Pelosi is not.

People frequently vote stupidly. The Scots today are doing it today with knobs on.

Discuss

There is a diary on the rec list that unjustly castigates the Baltimore Sun as a co-collaborator with the Baltimore Police Department in bringing about the violence on Monday.

Here's the thing: there really were stories circulating on social media BEFORE the violence started - just as the Sun reported.

See here: https://twitter.com/...
Time stamp: 11:31AM at 27 April

So, please: can we focus our ire on the real villain in this piece - the Baltimore Police Department?

They obviously mishandled this situation in every way shape and form and were obviously either incompetent or were maliciously trying to create a situation.

But don't blame the Baltimore Sun for reporting what was actually being said and done on the ground.

Discuss

TPM has someone in the courthouse in Newark relaying the events.

Link if you want the news straight from them.

The headline item: David Wildstein is pleading guilty to and factual claims he is making as part of his plea include the decision to shut down the lanes to the bridge was done to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for his failure to endorse Gov. Christie's reelection campaign, and the first day of school was chosen as the day to begin the lane closures specifically to maximize the pain on city residents and thus on Sokolich as part of a scheme of political payback.

Wildstein also admitted to conspiring with two other Christie allies, Bill Baroni at the Port Authority and Bridget Kelly, who was Christie's deputy chief of staff.

In other words: the scandal now goes right into Christie's office.

Discuss

This should surprise no one:

Ted Cruz came to Washington two-and-a-half years ago pledging to be the anti-senator. But he’s been more like the no-show senator.

The Texas Republican seriously lags most of his colleagues in attending hearings and casting votes in what has been a Senate career long on rhetoric and short on Senate business.

He’s skipped the vast majority of Armed Services Committee hearings, is below-average in attendance on his other major committees and ranks 97th during the first three months of this year in showing up for roll call votes on the Senate floor.

Politico

Here are the details:

*attended just 17 of 50 public Armed Services Committee hearings for which there are transcripts — the second-to-worst attendance record on the 26-member panel. *attended four of the 12 Judiciary Committee hearings during the previous 113th Congress
*participated in just three of the 25 full Commerce Committee hearings during the 113th Congress
*missed 21 of 135 roll call votes during the first three months of this year, the third-worst record among all senators

Cruz’s communications director, Amanda Carpenter, attributed the missed votes during the 113th Congress to Cruz’s trip to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral and a Fort Hood memorial in Texas, along with delayed flights and other reasons.
You know what? He is such a gigantic asshole that it would not surprise me if his fellow Republicans don't tell him when meetings and votes are being held so they don't have to suffer his insufferable presence.
Discuss

Mon Apr 06, 2015 at 07:04 AM PDT

Why is it always Republicans?

by SantaFeMarie

A top aide for Sen. Kelly Ayotte has resigned after being arrested and charged with solicitation of prostitution. Politico:

David Wihby, the state director for the New Hampshire Republican , was arrested Friday night in Nashua, New Hampshire, on a misdemeanor charge for soliciting a prostitute, Ayotte’s office said. In a statement, Ayotte said she was “shocked and deeply saddened” by the arrest of Wihby, whom she called a “friend for many years.”

“David obviously cannot continue his duties, and I have accepted his resignation. This is a very difficult time, and my thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved,” Ayotte said.

Wihby was hired by Ayotte in March 2014, according to congressional database LegiStorm. He was paid $60,000 for the period of April through September, the most recent data available.

The 62-year-old Wihby also serves on the Manchester, New Hampshire, school board. Previously, he served as a Manchester alderman for 18 years, according to a Manchester Union-Leader editorial endorsing him for school board.

Discuss

Politco:

Ted Cruz thunders about what he calls a “fundamentally unserious” U.S. defense policy, but when he had a chance to weigh in during Senate Armed Services Committee hearings, he rarely showed up.

Cruz, who announced last week he’s running for president, has the committee’s worst attendance record — by far.

The Texas Republican attended just three of the panel’s 16 public hearings so far this year, according to a POLITICO review of transcripts from full committee hearings. The average committee member attended 13 of the 16 hearings, and Cruz is the only one of the panel’s 26 members with an attendance rate below 50 percent.

I imagine his objection is the presence of other people who are also allowed to speak, and the absence of a full-length mirror right in front of his chair.

His official excuse?:

"When you’re putting together a campaign for president, like I’ve been, that entails a lot of time," Cruz said in an interview with radio host Dana Loesch. “It's not like I've been at the beach sipping a piña colada.”
Got that? He's got "other priorities", as Dick Cheney once said.
Discuss

Tue Mar 31, 2015 at 08:11 AM PDT

Pence the coward goes to ground

by SantaFeMarie

Pence the coward has gone to ground...which, in this case, is the editorial page of the WSJ: Politico: Pence Reaps the Whirlwind:

Pence defended the law in a rocky appearance on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, saying that the outrage was based on “misinformation and misunderstanding.” Grilled by host George Stephanopoulos, he argued that the legislation is no different than the federal bill passed under President Bill Clinton in 1993 and the bill Barack Obama helped pass while serving in the Illinois Legislature. All told, Pence dodged five pointed yes-or-no questions about the bill’s implications and another few about whether he would support a statewide anti-discrimination law for LGBT citizens, retreating to platitudes about Indiana’s “Hoosier hospitality.”

By late Monday, a number of potential 2016 candidates such as Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson were lining up behind Pence and providing political cover.

But their support did little to take the heat off. Pence canceled two public appearances for Monday and Tuesday, choosing the friendlier confines of The Wall Street Journal op-ed page, where he reiterated that he “abhor[s] discrimination.”

They aren't even bothering to pretend that it was "pressing state business" that was the cause. WISH TV:
Governor Mike Pence has cancelled his appearance on Tuesday at the Lincoln Day Dinner in Bloomington.

GOP Party Chairman for Monroe County Steve Hogan confirmed to 24-Hour News 8 that Pence will no longer appear at the dinner. Instead Greg Zoeller will attend the dinner.

Hogan said the planned protests at the event were part of the reason for the cancellation.

A protest was organized via Facebook to take place during the dinner that is scheduled to start at 5 p.m.

Question for Pence: if you haven't got the courage to attend your own party's events in your own state, how can you hope to run the country?

PS: Very funny intro to that Politico piece:

A priest, a rabbi and half a dozen nuns walked into the Indiana Statehouse last Thursday. The punch line: Mike Pence.
Discuss
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