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“A Befuddled Old Man”: John McCain Attempts To Publish A Column In A Communist Newspaper From The Distant Past

Sen. John McCain, a man of his word, published his editorial — a stirring defense of the rights to free speech, dissent and political expression — in Russia’s Pravda, just like he said he would.

One small problem: As people are now finally pointing out, this isn’t the famous Pravda. After the Soviet Union was made to collapse, its official propaganda organ was sold off and eventually closed. There is no more “Pravda,” omnipresent national newspaper in which the Kremlin disseminates the party line to the oppressed masses. There is now Pravda, the struggling, thrice-weekly organ of the remains of the Communist Party, and, a sensationalistic online-only news site few people in Russia take seriously.

So, after Vladimir Putin published a provocative column in America’s most prominent and trusted newspaper, John McCain basically submitted his response to the Russian equivalent of the Daily Blaze. After you read his impassioned words, you can scroll down to Pravda’s enlightening “photos of celebrities” section. Or why not check out Lady Pravda for your love and beauty tips? McCain really couldn’t have found a better way to illustrate that he’s a befuddled Cold War relic with no idea whatsoever what Russia is like in 2013.

Sen. McCain was goaded into this by Foreign Policy’s John Hudson, and some, like Dave Weigel, did point out earlier that McCain was effectively being pranked into submitting his serious editorial to a conspiracy site capitalizing on a famous name.

But there’s no one McCain can blame but himself. A few minutes of research — or any working knowledge of modern Russia, I guess — would’ve saved McCain some embarrassment. He almost got it right, sort of. One of Russia’s bigger newspapers is Komsomolskaya Pravda, or Komsomol Truth — not to be confused with plain “Truth” — and today Komsomol Truth is straight-up mocking McCain. Here is the very bad Google translation:

Iron man, U.S. Senator John McCain. He promised to write a column in the “truth” and did. True, “Pravda.Ru”, but this is small. You could have a “spark” to write “, but did not find, I guess. Or did not know what was, and a newspaper.

(“Spark” was the pre-revolution socialist newspaper run by Lenin and his allies. It ceased publishing in 1905.)

If McCain had wanted to write in a Soviet-era paper for the symbolism, he could’ve picked one of the ones that are still publishing. Pravda was the official paper of the party, but the USSR had lots of newspapers, and not all of them are now defunct. The Soviet Union’s actual “paper of record,” Izvestia, is still around, and today it has a fun interview with the chairman of “” in which it repeatedly asks him how and why McCain published an Op-Ed at his website instead of at an actual newspaper, like Izvestia.

Even if he’d picked an actual newspaper, McCain’s central conceit would still have been wrong. “A Russian citizen could not publish a testament like the one I just offered,” he wrote in his editorial after some boilerplate about the importance of self-determination. That is not remotely true. Russia has hundreds of daily newspapers representing a broad array of viewpoints. There are pro-Kremlin papers and pro-opposition papers. Russia has, in Novaya Gazeta, an award-winning investigative newspaper. Russians have access to anti-Putin journalism if they want it. The state, as I understand it, recognized long ago that controlling television is more useful than censoring newspapers. McCain could’ve easily placed his column in an actual newspaper that prints actual copies that actual Russians read, and I can’t imagine why any paper would’ve been scared to print it. (It’s far too ridiculous.)

If McCain’s mission was to prove that the United States is run by solipsistic buffoons who don’t even try to understand anything about the rest of the world before they go blundering out shouting hypocritical nonsense about freedom, well, mission accomplished. Way to make Putin look like a wise and prudent statesman, Senator.


By: Alex Pareene, Salon, September 20, 2013

September 20, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Crazy Party”: The GOP Has Made Its Transition From Being Just The Stupid Party

Early this year, Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, made headlines by telling his fellow Republicans that they needed to stop being the “stupid party.” Unfortunately, Mr. Jindal failed to offer any constructive suggestions about how they might do that. And, in the months that followed, he himself proceeded to say and do a number of things that were, shall we say, not especially smart.

Nonetheless, Republicans did follow his advice. In recent months, the G.O.P. seems to have transitioned from being the stupid party to being the crazy party.

I know, I’m being shrill. But as it grows increasingly hard to see how, in the face of Republican hysteria over health reform, we can avoid a government shutdown — and maybe the even more frightening prospect of a debt default — the time for euphemism is past.

It helps, I think, to understand just how unprecedented today’s political climate really is.

Divided government in itself isn’t unusual and is, in fact, more common than not. Since World War II, there have been 35 Congresses, and in only 13 of those cases did the president’s party fully control the legislature.

Nonetheless, the United States government continued to function. Most of the time divided government led to compromise; sometimes to stalemate. Nobody even considered the possibility that a party might try to achieve its agenda, not through the constitutional process, but through blackmail — by threatening to bring the federal government, and maybe the whole economy, to its knees unless its demands were met.

True, there was the government shutdown of 1995. But this was widely recognized after the fact as both an outrage and a mistake. And that confrontation came just after a sweeping Republican victory in the midterm elections, allowing the G.O.P. to make the case that it had a popular mandate to challenge what it imagined to be a crippled, lame-duck president.

Today, by contrast, Republicans are coming off an election in which they failed to retake the presidency despite a weak economy, failed to retake the Senate even though far more Democratic than Republican seats were at risk, and held the House only through a combination of gerrymandering and the vagaries of districting. Democrats actually won the popular ballot for the House by 1.4 million votes. This is not a party that, by any conceivable standard of legitimacy, has the right to make extreme demands on the president.

Yet, at the moment, it seems highly likely that the Republican Party will refuse to fund the government, forcing a shutdown at the beginning of next month, unless President Obama dismantles the health reform that is the signature achievement of his presidency. Republican leaders realize that this is a bad idea, but, until recently, their notion of preaching moderation was to urge party radicals not to hold America hostage over the federal budget so they could wait a few weeks and hold it hostage over the debt ceiling instead. Now they’ve given up even on that delaying tactic. The latest news is that John Boehner, the speaker of the House, has abandoned his efforts to craft a face-saving climbdown on the budget, which means that we’re all set for shutdown, possibly followed by debt crisis.

How did we get here?

Some pundits insist, even now, that this is somehow Mr. Obama’s fault. Why can’t he sit down with Mr. Boehner the way Ronald Reagan used to sit down with Tip O’Neill? But O’Neill didn’t lead a party whose base demanded that he shut down the government unless Reagan revoked his tax cuts, and O’Neill didn’t face a caucus prepared to depose him as speaker at the first hint of compromise.

No, this story is all about the G.O.P. First came the southern strategy, in which the Republican elite cynically exploited racial backlash to promote economic goals, mainly low taxes for rich people and deregulation. Over time, this gradually morphed into what we might call the crazy strategy, in which the elite turned to exploiting the paranoia that has always been a factor in American politics — Hillary killed Vince Foster! Obama was born in Kenya! Death panels! — to promote the same goals.

But now we’re in a third stage, where the elite has lost control of the Frankenstein-like monster it created.

So now we get to witness the hilarious spectacle of Karl Rove in The Wall Street Journal, pleading with Republicans to recognize the reality that Obamacare can’t be defunded. Why hilarious? Because Mr. Rove and his colleagues have spent decades trying to ensure that the Republican base lives in an alternate reality defined by Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. Can we say “hoist with their own petard”?

Of course, the coming confrontations are likely to damage America as a whole, not just the Republican brand. But, you know, this political moment of truth was going to happen sooner or later. We might as well have it now.


By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, September 19, 2013

September 20, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Poison Of Ideology”: Republicans Have Even More Pain In Store For Their Base In Poor White Real America

Rick Santorum is right. Not far right, crazy right, piously right or, on most issues, never right. He is all of those things. But under the rubric that even a blind pig can find an acorn every now and then, the moral scourge of the Republican Party is on to something — a greater truth.

Earlier this summer, Santorum said Republicans look like the party of plutocrats, stiffing working people and the poor. The 2012 convention, he noted, was a parade of one-percenters, masters of the universe and company owners.

“But not a single — not a single — factory worker went out there,” he said. “Not a single janitor, waitress or person who worked in that company! We didn’t care about them.”

They still don’t care, and the darkening events of what looks to be an autumn of catastrophic failure by a Congress stuffed with extremists will prove Santorum’s point ever more.

Late Thursday, despite pleas from Catholic bishops and evangelicals, the Republican-dominated House passed a bill that would deprive 3.8 million people of assistance to buy food next year. By coincidence, this is almost the exact amount of people who have managed to remain just above the poverty line because of that very aid, the Census Bureau reported a few days ago.

A Republican majority that refuses to govern on other issues found the votes to shove nearly 4 million people back into poverty, joining 46.5 million at a desperation line that has failed to improve since the dawn of the Great Recession. It’s a heartless bill, aimed to hurt. Republicans don’t see it that way, of course. They think too many of their fellow citizens are cheats and loafers, dining out on lobster.

Certainly there are frauds among the one in seven Americans getting help from the program formerly known as food stamps. But who are the others, the easy-to-ignore millions who will feel real pain with these cuts? As it turns out, most of them live in Red State, Real People America. Among the 254 counties where food stamp use doubled during the economic collapse, Mitt Romney won 213 of them, Bloomberg News reported. Half of Owsley County, Ky., is receiving federal food aid. Half.

You can’t get any more Team Red than Owsley County; it is 98 percent white, 81 percent Republican, per the 2012 presidential election. And that hardscrabble region has the distinction of being the poorest in the nation, with the lowest household income of any county in the United States, the Census Bureau found in 2010.

Since nearly half of Owsley’s residents also live below the poverty line, it would seem logical that the congressman who represents the area, Hal Rogers, a Republican, would be interested in, say, boosting income for poor working folks. But Rogers joined every single Republican in the House earlier this year in voting down a plan to raise the minimum wage over the next two years to $10.10 an hour.

The argument holding back higher pay — a theory that Republicans accept without challenge — is that raising wages for the poorest workers would be bad for companies, and bad for hiring.

But experience debunks this convenient political shelter. Washington State has the highest state-mandated minimum wage in the country, $9.19 an hour, and an unemployment rate that has been running below the national average. It’s not all Starbucks, Amazon and Microsoft in Seattle, either. In the pine-forested sliver of eastern Washington, a high-wage state bumps right up against low-wage Idaho. Fast-food outlets flourish in Washington, the owners have said, because they can retain workers longer, while Idaho struggles to find qualified people to hold entry-level jobs.

Costco, they of the golf-cart-size containers of gummy bears, has long paid wages and benefits well above the industry average for big-box stores, and it hasn’t hurt the bottom line. The stock is up 79 percent over the last five years. Costco, to its credit, is urging Congress to raise the minimum wage. But that’s one big business Republicans will not listen to, because it breaks with the heartless credo of the new G.O.P.

The movement for higher minimum pay is raging through the states just now, with ballot initiatives and legislation plans. The people, in this case, will have to circumvent a Congress bent on actively trying to hurt the poor.

Republicans have more pain in store for their base in poor white America. Shutting down government, for one, will cause a ripple effect that will be hardest on those living paycheck-to-paycheck. The biggest obsession, the Moby-Dick of the right wing, is making sure millions of people do not have access to affordable health care. This week, Republicans drew the line for any doubters: they will wreck lives to blow up the health care law.

You have to wonder where this animus for those in the economic basement comes from. It’s too easy to say Republicans hate the poor. Limousine liberals can seem just as insensitive. And if Republicans were offering some genuinely creative approaches to helping the 26 million Americans who self-identified as “lower class” in a recent survey, they would deserve a listen. Tax cuts, the party’s solution to everything, do nothing for people who pay no federal income tax.

What’s at work here is the poison of ideology. Underlying the food assistance fight is the idea that the poor are lazy, and deserve their fate — the Ayn Rand philosophy. You don’t see this same reasoning applied to those Red State agricultural-industrialists living high off farm subsidies, and that’s why Republicans have separated the two major recipient groups of federal food aid. Subsidized cotton growers cannot possibly be equated with someone trying to stretch macaroni into three meals.

But Republican House leaders do have some empathy — for themselves. National Review reported this week that Representative Phil Gingrey, a hard-right conservative who wants to be the next senator from Georgia, complained in a private meeting about being “stuck here making $172,000 a year.” To say the least, he doesn’t yet qualify for food assistance.


By: Timothy Egan, The New York Times, September 19, 2013

September 20, 2013 Posted by | Poverty, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“No Troops This Time”: At The University Of Alabama, A Renewed Stand for Integration

For this rendition of Stand in the Schoolhouse Door, there were no National Guard troops or presidential edicts.

But on Wednesday, several hundred University of Alabama students and faculty members invoked Gov. George Wallace’s 1963 attempt to block the enrollment of black students here as they demanded an end to segregation in the university’s fraternities and sororities. Together, the mostly white group marched within sight of the President’s Mansion, one of the only structures on the campus dating to before the Civil War.

Tracey Gholston, a black woman who is pursuing a doctorate in American literature at Alabama, said Mr. Wallace’s legacy continued to permeate the university, which has nearly 35,000 students, about 12 percent of them black, and 45 percent from out of state.

“It shows a thread. It’s not just something that was resolved 50 years ago,” said Ms. Gholston, who has a master’s degree from the university. “You can’t say, ‘We’re integrated. We’re fine.’ We’re not fine.”

The demonstration came one week after the campus newspaper, The Crimson White, published the account of a member of the university’s Alpha Gamma Delta chapter.

The student, Melanie Gotz, said the sorority had bowed to alumnae influence and considered race when it evaluated potential new members earlier this year. Other sorority members shared similar stories.

Racial biases in Alabama’s Greek system, which has a membership of nearly one-quarter of the university’s undergraduate enrollment, have been an open secret for decades.

It is not an issue unique to Alabama, and it is complicated by an era in which blacks and whites on many campuses often gravitate to fraternities and sororities that are segregated in practice, although many national Greek organizations say they have banned discrimination.

Still, many feel systemic discrimination has been tolerated at Alabama, and Ms. Gotz’s public revelations led to widespread demands for reform.

University officials repeatedly had said the responsibility for membership standards rested with the sororities and fraternities, which are private groups. But on Sunday night, the university’s president, Judy L. Bonner, summoned advisers of traditionally white sororities and told them she was ordering an extended admissions process.

And in a videotaped statement released on Tuesday, she acknowledged that the university’s “Greek system remains segregated,” which students and professors described as a historic admission.

But the demonstration, which Dr. Bonner greeted when it arrived at the Rose Administration Building, focused on a sweeping demand for the president and her lieutenants: don’t stop restructuring the campus.

“We are holding the administration accountable and hoping that they hold us accountable, as well, to improve it in a sustained way and not just in a Band-Aid approach,” said Khortlan Patterson, a sophomore. “This was a great success today, but it’s just one step in the process.”

Ms. Patterson, who has considered joining one of the campus’s predominantly black sororities, has plenty of allies. Protesters at the 7:15 a.m. rally included dozens of blue-shirted members of the Mallet Assembly, a residential program founded in 1961 with a history of urging social change at Alabama. (The only black president of Alabama’s student government, elected in 1976, was a member of the organization.)

Since Dr. Bonner’s order, those sororities have opened hurried efforts to bring black women into their ranks by extending bids to an unknown number of minority students. It remains unclear whether any of those women will accept the offers.

The university’s fraternity system, founded in 1847, also remains largely segregated, and people here said they would like to see Alabama broaden its diversity initiative to include those organizations, one of which drew attention in 2009 for staging a parade with its members dressed in Confederate uniforms.

Most Greek organizations have barred their members from speaking to reporters, but Sam Creden, a demonstrator who is also a member of Delta Sigma Phi, said there was some unease about the ferment.

“A lot of my fraternity brothers are actually worried that this will be supporting sort of forced integration,” said Mr. Creden, a junior from Chicago.

Those who marched, he said, are hoping for a deeper, systemic change.

“We don’t want this to be the facade of integration,” Mr. Creden said. “We want people to truly accept people of all backgrounds and races.”

Caroline Bechtel, a member of Phi Mu, said Greeks were largely relieved by the events of recent days.

“The conversations have been happening, but there’s been no real action,” said Ms. Bechtel, a junior.

“Finally, it feels like something might change, and I think that is refreshing. We don’t have to be scared anymore to want a better community.”

By: Adam Blinder, The New York Times, September 18, 2013

September 20, 2013 Posted by | Racism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Overwhelmed With Madness”: House Republicans Beat John Boehner Into Submission

Following up on an earlier item, it’s not official — House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told his members at their weekly conference meeting that he’s prepared to abandon his own plans and try things their way. As such, with a government-shutdown deadline just 12 days away, the House will vote on a spending bill that defunds the Affordable Care Act, just like the far-right demands.

When reporters asked whether he had lost control of his conference, Boehner replied, “The key to any leadership job is to listen.” That’s a generous way of saying he’s being told what to do by those he ostensibly leads.

What’s more, the woefully weak Speaker seemed eager to punt the whole mess to the upper chamber, in the hopes that he won’t take all of the blame for the fiasco he and his caucus created: “[W]e’re going to send it over to the Senate, so our conservative allies over there can continue the fight. That’s where the fight is….. The fight over here has been won. It’s time for the Senate to have that fight.”

And when Boehner said the fight in the House “has been won,” the Speaker is referring to the victory of the extremists he hoped to lead in a more responsible direction, but who blew him off.

The Obama administration, meanwhile, doesn’t have a lot of choices, and can’t force congressional Republicans to be less foolish. It can, however, prepare for the worst.

The White House told federal agencies on Tuesday to prepare for a government shutdown.

President Obama’s budget director Sylvia Matthews Burwell in a memo to agencies said they should set their plans in case Congress fails to pass a funding measure by the end of the month. The government would shut down on Oct. 1 without action by Congress.

While there is time for Congress to act, Burwell wrote that “prudent management” requires agencies to prepare for a shutdown.

It’s tempting to think the White House would be scrambling to figure something out right now, but there’s just not much President Obama and his team can do. They can’t negotiate with Republican leaders because rank-and-file GOP lawmakers aren’t listening to their leaders anyway, and they can’t focus on common ground because Republican demands are too ridiculous.

So what happens now?

The House will almost certainly approve their stopgap spending measure this week, marking the 42nd time House Republicans have voted to gut the Affordable Care Act. The bill will then go to the Senate, which will swiftly reject it, before passing a bill of its own.

The House will then have to decide whether to approve the Senate bill or shut down the government. All of this will have to happen within the next 12 days.

Also keep in mind, the new House Republican strategy not only pushes Washington closer to a shutdown, but also raises the possibility that conservatives are acting against their own interests — if the Senate spending measure is to the left of Boehner’s original plan, the right may have to swallow a bill that’s friendlier to Democrats than the one they could have had just a week ago.

It would have been quite easy to avoid this showdown, if only Boehner were a more effective Speaker and his members weren’t so overwhelmed with madness.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 18, 2013

September 20, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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