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Monday, February 08, 2016

Dispatch from Wingnut nation

by digby

In case you were wondering, here's what the Cruz loving movement conservatives are saying about New Hampshire:

Theodoric Mayer of Politico reports, “Trump commands 30 percent support from likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire, the poll found. John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz were virtually tied for second place, with 14 percent support for Kasich, 13 percent each for Rubio and Bush and 12 percent for Cruz.

“Other candidates were far behind. Chris Christie had 6 percent support, Carly Fiorina had 5 percent and Ben Carson had 4 percent.”

The margin of error for the poll was plus or minus 4.4 points, so there’s little doubt that any of the second place contenders could actually be holding down that coveted position, especially since most of the interviews for the survey were conducted prior to Saturday night’s debate.

Further, only about half of likely GOP voters indicated they were set on their candidate of choice.

There appears to be plenty of room for some last minute surprises, all of which makes the ground game of paramount importance in New Hampshire.

And just like in Iowa, the Cruz GOTV operation is in full swing. Kerry Pickett of the Daily Caller reports, “Former New Hampshire Republican Sen. Bob Smith, a Cruz campaign ally, expressed full confidence about the campaign’s ground game overcoming present poll expectations.

“’I’m not knocking polls. They were wrong in my case in 1996, when they said that I lost. I think what we’ve been doing is knocking on doors,’ Smith told The Daily Caller. ‘We’ve been ID’ing voters who are leaners, people who are not sure, and we’ve been knocking on thousands and thousands of doors for literally months and I’ll tell you it feels good out there.’”

Pickett’s article also details the data operation fueling the Cruz effort where the campaign micro-targets individual voters based on information gathered from extensive telephone and in-person interviews.

Most of the campaigns would probably claim they’re doing similar things, but Cruz has already demonstrated that his operation is capable of squeezing every possible vote out of a state.

For his part, Donald Trump also appears to have ditched the “big rally” strategy he unsuccessfully used in Iowa in favor of smaller, more retail-politics type events in The Granite State.

But some are skeptical of Trump’s motives for the switch to more intimate rallies. New Hampshire native Steve Berman of The Resurgent explains, “Could the smaller venues be a result of falling attendance at his super-rallies? Trump claimed 11,500 in Little Rock, but the embarrassing tale of the tape pegs the number in the more dismal neighborhood of 4,000 or less. What’s clear is that the Trump band is no longer as new and shiny as it was a few months ago. Now, he’s just another candidate…

“Trump’s failure to invest in technology and shoe leather, along with his missed targets in Iowa lead me to believe, along with people on the ground in New Hampshire, that Trump will underperform his polls there. By how much? We don’t know yet, but it’s likely Ted Cruz knows.”

Berman’s article was written before Saturday night’s Rubio crash-and-burn, so his conclusions may have changed some over the weekend. But the gist is he believes Trump will underperform and Cruz will do better – perhaps significantly so – than his poll numbers would suggest.

There’s even more evidence that this may be the case. Just because Trump is holding smaller campaign events doesn’t mean his ground game is new and improved. Reid J. Epstein and Heather Haddon of the Wall Street Journal write, “Rival campaigns have spent months identifying supporters and persuadable voters to target and turn out in the closing days before the primary. Mr. Trump’s volunteers spent the weekend working from a list of all registered Republicans…

“At the same time, a group working against the billionaire businessman’s candidacy, Our Principles PAC, is targeting specific New Hampshire audiences in trying to depress the Trump numbers.”

Epstein’s and Haddon’s story prominently notes not only does Trump fail to employ a serious data-driven ground game, he’s not sending out mail either.

The Donald certainly continues to excel in the polls, but there’s also a strong inference he’s going to have a much harder time getting his people to actually vote.

Factoring in Marco Rubio’s debate blunders and Trump’s disappointing second place showing in Iowa without a professional ground game, I’m still predicting Trump will win in New Hampshire. But I’m also thinking the margin of victory will be much smaller than that reflected in the polls -- and other candidates, such as Ted Cruz, will do better than most people think.

If the final numbers are close it will be interesting to see how the networks spin this one. Pundits were gushing in praise for Rubio’s third-place finish in Iowa. Would they be as outwardly giddy about a surprisingly strong Cruz second place showing in New Hampshire?

I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.

I wouldn't bet anything on it.

This is the kind of thing partisans tell each other the night before the New Hampshire primary. Anything's possible. Polling in primaries is not much more reliable than going to a fortune teller. And the Republicans really are in a big pile up for second so maybe field will make the difference there especially since Rubio has probably stalled out from his hilariously weird debate performance.

Still, it's now in the "what would I do if I won the lottery" phase where everyone's indulging in a little fantasy since it's really out of their hands. Human nature.


The most potent solidarity

by digby

Ta-Nehisi Coates' response to one of his critics, Cedric Johnson, on the issue of reparations is excellent. Johnson sees the world through a Marxist lens (as we all do to some extent, even conservatives) and attributes all problems of race, indeed, every sort of social marginalization, as an effect of economics. Coates believes otherwise, and is very persuasive. This gets to the nub of it. He quotes Johnson writing this:

Social exclusion and labor exploitation are different problems, but they are never disconnected under capitalism. And both processes work to the advantage of capital. Segmented labor markets, ethnic rivalry, racism, sexism, xenophobia, and informalization all work against solidarity. Whether we are talking about antebellum slaves, immigrant strikebreakers, or undocumented migrant workers, it is clear that exclusion is often deployed to advance exploitation on terms that are most favorable to investor class interests.
Coates points out, correctly, in my view, that this is a cramped view of solidarity that neglects perhaps the most important aspect of social organization:
No. Social exclusion works for solidarity, as often as it works against it. Sexism is not merely, or even primarily, a means of conferring benefits to the investor class. It is also a means of forging solidarity among “men,” much as xenophobia forges solidarity among “citizens,” and homophobia makes for solidarity among “heterosexuals.” What one is is often as important as what one is not, and so strong is the negative act of defining community that one wonders if all of these definitions—man, heterosexual, white—would evaporate in absence of negative definition.

That question is beyond my purview (for now). But what is obvious is that the systemic issues that allowed men as different as Bill Cosby and Daniel Holtzclaw to perpetuate their crimes, the systemic issues which long denied gay people, no matter how wealthy, to marry and protect their families, can not be crudely reduced to the mad plottings of plutocrats. In America, solidarity among laborers is not the only kind of solidarity. In America, it isn’t even the most potent kind.

Coates goes to great lengths to explain his own progressive philosophy which includes all the great political prescriptions of the American left and which I also endorse wholeheartedly. This is not an argument which requires one choose between policies like reparations and universal health care. It's really just addressing an age old question about what motivates human beings to do what they do and how societies organize themselves. Some of it is class, to be sure. But it's too easy to leave it there. As Coates points out with ample evidence, even accounting for class, African Americans are far more economically disadvantaged than whites over a vast period of time. Sexism and homophobia are not functions of class at all and yet one must recognize that they exist.

For me it's simple. My time on this planet has shown me that people are motivated by many things, only one of which is economics. And there is no doubt that economic solidarity (in both the positive and negative sense) are powerful forces. But it's not everything and never has been. And this country, with its history and at this crossroads, what Coates refers to as "intersectional radicalism" is the natural direction for the left to take.

Read Coates' piece if you're interested in this subject. His prose is beautiful as always and he makes the point much better than I ever could.


Rubio drives into the ditch, while Trump goes full barbarian. This is your GOP

by digby

I wrote about the GOP debate for Salon today. Of course.

If anyone wants to know why front runners duck debate, just ask Marco Rubio. He may not have been leading the pack yet but he was cruising at 80 miles per hour in the establishment lane, got sideswiped by a Mack truck and drove right into the ditchon Saturday night. Depending on what happens Tuesday, we may find out that he actually fell over a cliff and exploded in a ball of fire. His debate performance was one for the history books:
Repeating those talking points verbatim as if he was having some kind of brain freeze was striking. I actually wondered if I’d accidentally hit rewind. Each time he said it was equally unresponsive to the moment and was delivered in exactly the same cadence and even repeating the same wrong word:
Let’s dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing.
Bizarre is the only word to properly describe it.
It’s fair to wonder what was going on with him. That was a very odd thing to do. Did he actually think inanely repeating his soundbites when getting hammered for inanely repeating soundbites was a good tactic? His appearance on “This Week” yesterday indicates that is what his campaign decided to go with. He essentially repeated the same talking points again, with only slightly different wording.
It may be that Rubio has some issues when he’s under stress. There have been articles written about his odd behavior with his drinking water, which was the original Rubio gaffe back when he did the televised rebuttal to the State of the Union and weirdly reached for his water bottle in the middle of it. This article in Politico examined the problem:
“Marco does have a water thing,” said one longtime Rubio associate who has been affiliated with his past campaigns. “I don’t know what it is. He says he just gets thirsty, but it’s clear it’s just a nervous tic. It’s something he just has to have around, like a security blanket or something.”
When Rubio addressed CPAC in 2012, event staffers failed to stock the podium with fresh water for his speech. At an early applause line, Rubio — who had been visibly struggling with dry mouth and licking the inside of his mouth and his lips, as he often does during speeches — reached down for his water with his right hand, and coming up empty bent his knees and peered under the podium but did not find what he was looking for.
“I remember standing backstage and cursing out loud because there was nothing we could do,” said a person staffing the event. “It caused him some awkward pauses throughout the speech.” Halting his speech again for another applause line several minutes later, Rubio brought his empty right hand up to his nose, lowered it, brought it up again to his lips and rubbed them.
A nervous tic. That might be what happened in the debate as well. He was aggressively confronted by Chris Christie who went right up in his face and Rubio’s stump speech became a sort of nervous tic that he momentarily could not control. It’s doubtful this means anything important about him except that he’s not ready for the presidency which is, to say the least, a nerve wracking job.
Rubio unexpectedly came close to knocking of Trump for second place in Iowa and was on the rise in New Hampshire. Establishment endorsers were coming out of he woodwork assuming they’d finally found their standard bearer. But his performance on Saturday night is now infamous and not in a good way. Mistakes like that are lethal. Think of James Stockdale saying, “Who am I? Why am I here?” Or Dan Quayle being zinged by Lloyd Bentsen for comparing himself to JFK. This may be worse than those. We’ll soon find out.
Meanwhile, the rest of the debate was notable for its return to enthusiastic bloodlust and torture. The real GOP frontrunner, Donald Trump, went for it. When asked about waterboarding he eagerly endorsed it, and more:
MUIR: … Mr. Trump, you said not only does it work, but that you’d bring it back.
TRUMP: Well, I’ll tell you what. In the Middle East, we have people chopping the heads off Christians, we have people chopping the heads off many other people. We have things that we have never seen before — as a group, we have never seen before, what’s happening right now.
The medieval times — I mean, we studied medieval times — not since medieval times have people seen what’s going on. I would bring back waterboarding and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.
This was greeted with ecstatic applause from the audience.
When asked about it further the next morning he was more explicit:
STEPHANOPOULOS: The issue of waterboarding front and center last night as (INAUDIBLE). You said, I would bring back waterboarding and I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.
What did you have in mind?
TRUMP: Well, George, you’re not talking about what I said before that. I said we’re living in a world where, in the Middle East, they’re cutting people’s heads off. They’re chopping a Christian’s head off. And many of them, we talk about Foley, James Foley, and you know, what a wonderful young man. Boom, they’re chopping heads.
So then I went into this. I said, yes, I would bring back waterboarding. And I would make it a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.
What did you have in mind?
TRUMP: I had in mind going worse than waterboarding. It’s enough. We have right now a country that’s under siege. It’s under siege from a people, from — we’re like living in medieval times. If I have it to do and if it’s up to me, I would absolutely bring back waterboarding. And if it’s going to be tougher than waterboarding, I would bring that back, too.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As president, you would authorize torture?
TRUMP: I would absolutely authorize something beyond waterboarding. And believe me, it will be effective. If we need information, George, you have our enemy cutting heads off of Christians and plenty of others, by the hundreds, by the thousands.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do we win by being more like them?
TRUMP: Yes. I’m sorry. You have to do it that way. And I’m not sure everybody agrees with me. I guess a lot of people don’t. We are living in a time that’s as evil as any time that there has ever been. You know, when I was a young man, I studied Medieval times. That’s what they did, they chopped off heads. That’s what we have…
STEPHANOPOULOS: So we’re going to chop off heads…
TRUMP: We’re going to do things beyond waterboarding perhaps, if that happens to come.
“That’s what they did, they chopped off heads. That’s what we have … [to do]
The Republican front runner for president of the United States appears to be endorsing chopping off people’s heads.
When asked what he would do about the fact that it’s illegal, he says you’d “have to have it reclassified, you reclassify and you’ll see what happens.” No, I don’t know what he’s talking about either unless he thinks you can just do things in secret when it’s illegal if you’re president. Which is very likely what he believes. He wouldn’t be the first.
Sadly, the others who were asked about this were not much better. They didn’t suggest we should bring back the guillotine (although Trump was talking medieval times so I’m guessing he would not want to use that method which was invented to make the practice of beheading more humane.)

More at the link...

They are CRAZY.

We the People own it; they want it

by Tom Sullivan

Even if it is nailed down, the Midas Cult will try to take it. Or privatize it where it sits. It's never about serving the public. It's always about the money. During Saturday's Republican debate, they argued about eminent domain because in New England they haven't forgotten the Kelo decision: eminent domain used to further private profits.

The #FlintWaterCrisis originated in Detroit in 2014, I believe, when Gov. Rick Snyder's emergency manager proposed putting the publicly owned water and sewer systems either up for sale or transferring control of it to a for-profit company:

Orr said last week at the Detroit Regional Chamber's annual policy conference that he's in talks with at least two of the largest U.S. private companies that operate water systems and has taken bids from them to manage Detroit's sprawling water and sewer system that serves more than 4 million people in southeast Michigan.
Messing with Flint's water and poisoning residents came later. Elsewhere there were the parking meters, highways ... hell, they'll even buy a bridge in Manhattan and sell it back to us. As I wrote before that:

Privatizing water supplies is a growth industry. Whether it's American Water, Aqua America, Suez, Veolia Water, or Nestle, private water companies are competing to lock up water resources and public water systems. If not for you, for the fracking industry. As with charter schools and vouchers in public education, public-private partnerships are one of business' favorite tactics for getting this particular camel's nose under the tent.

The latest privatizing gambit around the country is "Lexus lanes" (turning HOV lanes into toll lanes). The I-77 toll lane contract with Spain-based Cintra Infraestructures has been controversial in North Carolina and was an issue in Thom Tillis' 2014 run for the U.S. Senate. In 2015, supporting it cost several county politicians their jobs. Opponents charged that tolling I-77 is just the beginning. A Republican former legislator now primarying Gov. Pat McCrory confirms we were right:

Brawley says he started looking into the issue of tolling as a means to pay for the state's transportation needs after the DOT told him about plans for tolls along I-77, near Charlotte.

"I sat down with (then) DOT Secretary Tony Tata and three lawyers. I was informed that I really needed to support the tolls on I-77 because that was the beginning of tolling every interstate corridor in North Carolina," Brawley told the I-Team.


A spokesperson for the DOT says there are no plans to toll every interstate in North Carolina and wouldn't comment on Brawley's allegations that he was told that by the former Secretary of Transportation.

Because there is a primary, this is news, I guess. But it's not as if they've made a secret of their plans. If I-77 is any indication, instead of keeping all the revenue in state, the GOP-led legislature will export running the tolling operation to a foreign for-profit instead of keeping the money in-state. Because the state running it is big gummint. From the Midas Cult's perspective, publicly owned assets are waiting to be mined like minerals. Say, what's your interstate doing under our toll road?

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Fox News' debate counter-programming

by digby

During last night's debate, the question of women in the military came up and several of the candidates came out for women being required to join the selective service and be subject to the draft. I happened to flip over to Fox after that exchange when they went to commercial. This is what they were saying:

There was lots of guffawing and joking about women in general.The following was just a small part of the "comedy":

On a Saturday broadcast of The Greg Gutfeld Show, [men's rights activist] McInnes griped about the idea of including women in the draft for military service.

"They want equality for everything fun," said. "How about you're equal in sanitation, how about you have to go down into the sewers and remove rats from blocked pipes? How about you go to war and die?"

"If we're going to do that, we'll have to talk to President Hitler," McInnes opined. "Because if women were soldiers for the last hundred years, we would have lost World War II."

Gutfeld remarked that "women want total equality and this is total equality."

"By every metric, men have it worse off," McInnes replied. "We're more likely to get raped if you include prison, we're more likely to be assaulted, we're more likely to die, we're more likely to commit suicide."

"And you're not as smart," former White House National Security Council staffer Gillian Turner interrupted.

"If you want to come over to our side then get ready for some rough times," McInnes quipped.

Again, you have to listen to the whole thing to get the full gist of the conversation.

That's your flagship GOP news network.

Jeb's albatross

by digby

That's it. He cannot escape his brother. It's just too soon.

Maybe George P can reclaim the family honor in a decade or so.

Sunday Funnies

by digby


Your Republican frontrunner

by digby

Would he be kind enough to use the guillotine?

STEPHANOPOULOS: The issue of waterboarding front and center last night as (INAUDIBLE). You said, I would bring back waterboarding and I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.

What did you have in mind?

TRUMP: Well, George, you're not talking about what I said before that. I said we're living in a world where, in the Middle East, they're cutting people's heads off. They're chopping a Christian's head off. And many of them, we talk about Foley, James Foley, and you know, what a wonderful young man. Boom, they're chopping heads.

So then I went into this. I said, yes, I would bring back waterboarding. And I would make it a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.


What did you have in mind?

TRUMP: I had in mind going worse than waterboarding. It's enough. We have right now a country that's under siege. It's under siege from a people, from -- we're like living in medieval times. If I have it to do and if it's up to me, I would absolutely bring back waterboarding. And if it's going to be tougher than waterboarding, I would bring that back, too.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As president, you would authorize torture?

TRUMP: I would absolutely authorize something beyond waterboarding. And believe me, it will be effective. If we need information, George, you have our enemy cutting heads off of Christians and plenty of others, by the hundreds, by the thousands.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do we win by being more like them?

TRUMP: Yes. I'm sorry. You have to do it that way. And I'm not sure everybody agrees with me. I guess a lot of people don't. We are living in a time that's as evil as any time that there has ever been. You know, when I was a young man, I studied Medieval times. That's what they did, they chopped off heads. That's what we have...

STEPHANOPOULOS: So we're going to chop off heads...

TRUMP: We're going to do things beyond waterboarding perhaps, if that happens to come.
The question was asked. I thought Ted's answer was very tentative, Ted Cruz. He gave a very tentative answer. If we have to, we're going to have to do more.

But when you have conditions like that, I would say absolutely, I would approve waterboarding and if you go beyond it, I'm OK with that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So let me just clarify this. Right now, the law says they have to follow the Army "Field Manual," which prohibits...

TRUMP: Right.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- waterboarding. You would try to overturn the law (INAUDIBLE)...

TRUMP: Well, no, you had to have it reclassified. You reclassify and you'll see what happens.

But I would certainly approve waterboarding. They laugh at us. Our enemies laugh at us, George. They say waterboarding, they don't even think it's a form -- you know, they don't even view that as real torture.

But they say waterboarding and they chop off heads. They think we are so stupid, you have no idea. The enemy that we are fighting -- and no wonder they're doing so well, because with this kind of thinking, that's why they're doing so well.

He sure sounded like he was open to using beheading.

I don't know why he thinks "reclassifying" torture means anything. But then he's not really conversant in the legal restrictions on the presidency. He clearly does not think there are any.

He did it again

by digby

Rubio is so programmed that he came right back this morning and repeated his mistake. I would assume his programmers told him the only way out was to double down but it didn't help him at all. I'm not sure what would have though. This was an epic, campaign stalling gaffe.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio defended repeating an attack he made against President Obama during Saturday's Republican presidential debate, in which he said on four separate occasions that he wanted to dispel the notion the president doesn't know what he's doing.

“It's what I believe and it's what I'm going to continue to say, because it happens to be one of the main reasons why I am running,” Rubio said in an exclusive interview on ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos” the morning after the debate.
Shown a video of his repeated remarks produced by the Clinton super PAC "Correct the Record," Rubio said he “would pay them to keep running that clip."

“That’s what I believe passionately,” he said. “It's one of the reasons why I'm not running for re-election to the Senate and I'm running for president. This notion and this idea that somehow all this is an accident -- Obamacare was not an accident, Dodd Frank was not an accident, the deal with Iran was not an accident.”

Rubio added his campaign raised more money in the first hour of the debate than he has at previous debates.

He can try to say that he meant to emphasize "what he believes passionately" but nobody will believe him. It was weird. Really weird.

h/t to @Iddybud for the youtube


And then Twitter exploded

by Tom Sullivan

As Marco Rubio's campaign collapsed on live TV, a long ride home from a meeting kept us from watching the Republican debate, but the Twitter feed kept us in stitches. This in particular:

There was plenty of hilarity, but besides the self-inflicted wounds, Rubio was a punching bag last night.

That about sums it up.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

There’s a Red’s house over yonder: Hail, Caesar! ***

By Dennis Hartley

Not that Hollywood ever tires of making movies about Hollywood…but “they” really seem to be on a roll lately. Arriving on the heels of Jay Roach’s Trumbo (my review), which depicted the Red Scare-induced fear and paranoia that permeated the film industry in the 1950s through the eyes of a slightly fictionalized real-life participant, we now have the latest effort from co-writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen…which depicts the Red Scare-induced fear and paranoia that permeated the industry in the 1950s through the eyes of a slightly fictionalized real-life participant (although in this case, its funnier side).

In fact, the Coens have gone into full “screwball” mode for Hail, Caesar! – leaving no gag unturned (think The Hudsucker Proxy or O Brother, Where Art Thou? ). That said, it wouldn’t be a Coen Brothers film without its Conflicted Everyman Protagonist; for this outing it’s Hollywood “fixer” Eddie Mannix, (the ubiquitous Josh Brolin). Not unlike his (wholly fictional) contemporary counterpart “Ray Donovan” (who I wrote about recently) he’s a responsible family man on the one hand, yet earns his living in a twilight world where he is required to bend whatever rules he needs to (moral and/or legal) in order to clean up after his clients. Also like Donovan, Mannix is racked by Catholic guilt.

When Mannix isn’t in the confession box (which provides some the film’s more drolly amusing scenes) he’s busy putting out fires; like the one that involves the kidnapping of Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), one of Capitol Studio’s biggest stars. Whitlock has been snatched off the set of his latest picture (a sword-and-sandal epic bearing a striking resemblance to Spartacus ) by an enigmatic organization called The Future…whose true identity I’m sworn to protect, in the interest of remaining spoiler-free. In the meantime, Mannix has to stave off a pair of persistent gossip columnists (twin sisters played by Tilda Swinton, who through no fault of her own has to follow Helen Mirren’s recent bigger-than-life, Golden Globes and SAG-nominated turn as Hedda Hopper in Trumbo).

Truth be told, the narrative is actually a bit thin in this fluffier-than-usual Coen outing; it’s primarily a skeleton around which the brothers can construct a portmanteau of 50s movie parodies. 1950s musicals provide fodder for several set pieces; including an Esther Williams sendup (with Scarlett Johanssen poured into a mermaid suit), and a takeoff of On the Town, featuring a nimble-footed Channing Tatum firing up a barroom full of hunky sailors and leading them in a winking, cheerfully homoerotic song and dance. Singing westerns are parodied via Alden Ehrenreich’s character, a hick who hit the big time based not so much on his acting abilities (which are nominal), but  rather due to his looks and rodeo skills. And the main plot itself cleverly mirrors 1950s Red Scare films like Big Jim McLain and I Was a Communist for the FBI (I also found the kidnappers’ hideaway to be suspiciously reminiscent of the antagonists’ digs in North By Northwest ).

Brolin plays it straight, Clooney plays it broad, Ehrenreich is endearing, Johanssen is, uh, gorgeous, and Tatum proves quite adept at comedy (who knew?). Ralph Fiennes hams it up as a finicky “prestige” director, and you can have fun playing “spot the cameo” with the likes of Frances McDormand, Jonah Hill, Clancy Brown, Christopher Lambert, and Dolph Lundgren. This is far from the Coen’s best work, but the film has just enough of their patented “little touches” (like a Communist who has named his dog “Engels”) that make it unmistakably Coen. Oh-and a character is repeatedly told to shut up; undoubtedly this is a callback to the catchphrase “Shut the fuck up, Donnie!” from The Big Lebowski .

Which is what I will do now.

Previous posts with related themes:

More reviews at Den of Cinema

--Dennis Hartley

Trump goes after Jebra with a new low

by digby

He's such a jerk:

He could have let it go. But he couldn't. Because he's a schoolyard bully, emphasis on the schoolyard.

Remember when we all thought George W. Bush was a juvenile fool? He was just the opening bid.
"Qu'ils mangent de la brioche"

by digby

You can't make this up: 
Heather Anne Leavitt, the cake designer and proprietress behind Ann Arbor's boutique cakery, Sweet Heather Anne, makes a lot of high-end, super-detailed cakes, so she didn't blink when a woman met with her to place an order for an expensive cake to be delivered to The West End Grill for a private party.

She didn't find out until she and her assistant delivered the cake to the upscale Ann Arbor restaurant that the cake was to be one of the centerpieces of a birthday celebration that Governor Rick Snyder was throwing for his wife, Sue.

"The weird thing about it is we didn't know it was for them," said Leavitt. "We worked with a really nice woman - I'm not sure if she was a planner or what her position is. With birthday cakes we don't normally meet the recipient. They came in with some pretty specific ideas of the things they wanted in the cake and then I designed it based on what they wanted."

The designs included a bag from Chanel, a box from Tiffany & Co., a diamond necklace and a box from Nordstrom, which Leavitt rendered in cake and fondant. The cake took 30 hours to design, bake and decorate.

"The way we price, we break it down to a per-serving fee and then a labor fee," explained Leavitt, who declined to reveal the price of the cake. "Even though it looked big, it wasn't that big of a cake in terms of servings. It was only 60 servings. So most of what they were charged was for the labor."

Leavitt said that though much of the work they do at Sweet Heather Anne's is for weddings, where designs run the gamut from simple buttercream frostings to intricate fondant cakes, they also do a lot of work for The University of Michigan, which orders cakes with a similar level of detail for donors.

Leavitt said though she had no idea that the governor and his wife were to be the recipients of this cake, she was grateful that they had chosen to work with a very small, local business.
This is the cake. I'm not kidding:

They'll stop at nothing

by digby

It's not enough that you have be prepared to take the LSATs in order to cast your vote these days. Now they're making sure that nobody can help people register either:

Republican lawmakers approved a measure Thursday that would make felons out of people who return the early ballots of others to the polls.

The 34-23 House vote, with every Democrat present opposed, was propelled by arguments that the current system is ripe for fraud. Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, also sided with foes

Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, cited testimony from Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne who spoke during a prior attempt to enact this provision. She told lawmakers there have been situations where individuals claiming to be county election workers have gone door-to-door trying to pick up ballots.

"This is a problem,'' he said.

Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, said allowing strangers to take someone's ballot would allow them to decide which ones to keep and which ones to throw away. In fact, he said someone might decide to throw away the ballots of all women.

By contrast, Rep. Debbie McCune Davis said the state should not be erecting barriers to voting.

HB 2023 makes it a Class 6 felony to handle anyone else's voted or unvoted ballot. There are exceptions for family members, those in the same household and professional caregivers.

"This bill criminalizes the act of assisting a person in casting a ballot unless they fit into a designated category,'' she said. "The practical impact of this legislation may be to suppress voting and should be examined.''

Rep. Lisa Otondo, D-Yuma, said it's not always easy for people to get their ballots back in the mail on time. She said there are many areas of the state where people have to go to the post office to get their mail.

And Rep. Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma, put a number on that, saying it would affect at least 10,000 people in her district, largely in the San Luis area.

But Rep. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, had no sympathy.

He noted the issue involves early ballots which voters specifically request be delivered to their homes as an alternative to going to the polls. Borrelli said there is plenty of time for people to review the ballots, fill them out and get them back in the mail.

And he rejected the contention that it's too difficult to mail it back. He said these same people have to find ways to get other things to the post office.

"I don't understand how you pay your bills out there,'' Borrelli said.

The measure now goes to the Senate.

Make it as cumbersome as possible to vote. That's the American way.

And keep in mind, that this all to prevent systemic voter fraud which is non-existent.

The Kochs vs Trump

by digby

Apparently, the Koch brothers and their pals are in a dither over Trump.  He's more of a lunatic than even they can stomach and that's saying something.This piece is by Daniel Schulman, one of the foremost chroniclers of the Koch brothers:

If Trump performs poorly in New Hampshire, the Koch network may be able to avoid a damaging showdown. But if he wins, it may already be too late to halt the runaway Trump train, especially if there's no Trump-targeting campaign in the can. So what happens if Trump seizes the nomination? Here's where things get very interesting.

If Trump becomes the nominee and he faces self-declared socialist Bernie Sanders in November, the senior Koch official explains, members of the donor network are likely to hold their noses and back Trump's candidacy. But there's another scenario that could prove far more controversial and possibly damaging for the network: a Trump-versus-Clinton matchup. There is absolutely no love between the Clintons and the Kochs, whose company experienced one of the most traumatic periods in its history as it fought off regulators during Bill Clinton's presidency. But, so strong is the dislike for Trump within Koch network, that a Clinton-Trump race is a tough call. "I could see the network not participating in the presidential election at all," says the senior Koch official.

This doesn't mean the Koch network would stand down in 2016 entirely. Under this scenario, donors would instead channel their resources into other races. If this were to occur—and it's a very big if—that would be a stunning development for a network of donors that has been amassing such a huge warchest for the presidential race.

Who knows if they'd actually do that? Trump would probably kiss their rings and pledge fealty to their agenda and they'd reluctantly support him. They do come from the same social cast of entitled heirs to their fathers' fortunes. They all know the secret handshake.

Still, it's fun to see the Big Money Boyz in such a quandary. They have spent decades and hundreds of millions to buy the GOP and they still can't control the outcome of hese elections. If only they could get those pesky voters out of the equation.


ICYMI: Cruz's most astonishing quirk

by digby

Why would he allow anyone to know this? He's supposed to be a Texas Republican. They go out to the back forty and kill something when they feel a little stressed.  (Or at least clear a little brush.)That is if they feel stress at all, which no real man does.
Ted Cruz seems to appreciate at least one New York value.

For at least the second time in recent days, the Texas senator’s wife, Heidi, has described his method of relieving tension during anxious campaign moments: show tunes.

“He’ll call me and just sing me a Broadway tune,” Mrs. Cruz told a crowd here on Tuesday.

It can happen without warning, “right before one of these debates” or “in a stressful moment in a state,” she said.

It is usually well received — “he never ceases to defuse a stressful moment with a moment of levity,” Mrs. Cruz said — but not always.

“I’m thinking, ‘I’m on a finance call right now,’ ” Mrs. Cruz recalled. “Do you really need to be doing this?”

On Tuesday, Mrs. Cruz detailed neither the quality of her husband’s performances nor his favored song choices.

A spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a message seeking Mr. Cruz’s theatrical preferences.

I think Mrs Cruz has gone off the reservations with that one. First of all, it makes him sound like one of those florists who is happy to provide flower arrangements for a gay wedding, if you know what I mean. The second is that she sounds like quite the uppity little lady with her "I'm on a finance call right now" as if her fancy career is important or something.

Cruz is a harcore conservative down to his bones. I even believe that he's sincerely evangelical. But perhaps one of the things that people find off-putting about him is that he's a total phony about his affiliation with southern, cultural conservatism. Obviously, he's a city boy with city boy tastes and habits. If he were as crude and disgusting as Trump maybe he could get away with it.  But it just doesn't track for a Texas evangelical conservative to sing showtunes. It just doesn't.


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