You will recall -- thinking all the way back to yesterday -- that I wrote about Republican Congressman Tim Huelskamp from Kansas having a crazed meltdown after the State of the Union Address on Twitter, and then on MSNBC being interviewed by Rachel Maddow, accusing President Obama of a range of maniacal abuse of power illegalities, while shredding his oath of office and the Constitution. All because of Mr. Obama saying he would make some executive orders.
As is the case in Republican politics these days, this was the Day’s Memo, and it became the over-the-lunatic-edge talking point about many Republican leaders, right-wing talk radio and the far-right blogosphere. The president, the mantra went, is evil because he is abusing his office and legal responsibilities because of his mad-crazed, illegal, unconstitutional executive orders.
Here are just some examples. As New York magazine reported, "Kentucky senator Rand Paul has accused Obama of acting 'like a king or a monarch.' South Carolina congressman Jeff Duncan declared last week, 'We live in a republic, not a dictatorship.' Mike Huckabee proclaimed that the White House has 'nothing but contempt for the Constitution' and seeks to 'trump ... the checks and balances of power in which no branch could act unilaterally.' Texas congressman Steve Stockman has already threatened impeachment."
That over-the-lunatic edge.
But it's worse than it lunatically appears.
On her show last night, Rachel Maddow showed a chart from New York magazine of all the presidents for the last 115 years and comparing their per-day average of executives. And as you'll see --
President Barack Obama is...last. Last. The fewest executive orders per day by a president in 115 years. And not just the fewest, but the least by a massive amount compared to those at the top.
This is the sort of thing that isn't opinion, but that pesky detail known as "fact." It's numerical. You can check it out and do the math. That is if you care to check it out and actually be honest. And also if believe in science and can do math.
I understand that there will be conservatives on the far-right who don't like this. But that's the tough things about facts. They're...facts. It's the reality. And there's no way to twist it, other than saying, "Oops, we were wrong." The reality is that 0.1 is lower than 0.8, and it always will be. It always has to be. And further, if there's nothing lower than 0.1, then it's the lowest.
Also in my posting yesterday, I mentioned how MSNBC host Chris Hayes interrupted the panel discussion following Rep. Huelskamp's crazed meltdown with Ms. Maddow, and a bit agitated said something along the lines of, "There in a nutshell we have the past five years of politics in Washington. The president makes a speech about raising the minimum wage, saying we should get business leaders together, and how wonderful America is, and the Republican response is, 'What about all the people killed at Benghazi??!!!'"
And that's the point here, too. The numerical, factual proof of what he was saying. In a "nutshell," that chart points to the the past five years of politics, as well.
There are two possibilities with the crazed, lunatic Republic charges against the president after the State of the Union Address -- 1) They were too ignorant to know their own business and not even check to see -- before making their scurrilous charges -- that, rather than being a dictator, Mr. Obama actually had the fewest executive orders per day of any president in 115 years, or 2) they knew and were too craven to care, only wanting instead to score shameless, despicable, gut-wrenching points with their base.
And "base" is the proper word for this.
There are no other explanations that I can see.
And yes, as Chris Hayes noted, there in a nutshell we have the past five years in Washington.
Y'know, as I wrote here, even Glenn Beck of all people admitted regret only last week for being more divisive than he should have been and that "I wish I could go back and be more uniting in my language, I think I played a role, unfortunately, in helping tear the country apart and it's not who we are.”
I never thought I'd write these words, but -- if only the far-right Republicans could learn even a morsel of dignity from Glenn Beck and not keep playing a part in helping tear the country apart.
Not that this will matter, of course. When you're crazed, you're crazed. When you're a racist, you're a racist. When you don't care about the truth, you just don't freaking care.
But a guy can dream...
The Spill-over Factor
Trying to unionize might have its added benefits on the whole school.
Northwestern has had one of the worst basketball teams in college history. That's not hyperbole -- in the history of the NCAA, the only A-level school never to make the post-season tournament (never) is Northwestern. This year, they are 11-11.
Tonight, they just beat #14-ranked Wisconsin, 65-56...! At Wisconsin, which had been 17-3.
Solidarity can be a good thing...Hubba!
More What's My Line?
This isn't exactly a Mystery Guest, which is in part what makes it fun. It's Jacques Cousteau, long before his series of renowned TV specials, so the panelists aren't blind-folded, but he's known well-enough that his name is kept hidden. As a result of all this, the panelists have a challenging and interesting time trying to figure it out.
Fun, too, is that one of the panelists is a young, baseball great Hall of Famer, Phil Rizzuto, shortstop of the New York Yankees. Great as he was on the ball field, he's a bit out of depth here. But he tires, and it's a treat to see him.
Today's Piano Puzzler
The contestant here is Dustin Suits, from Loami, Illinois. When trying to guess the composer style, it came down to two possibilities for me, and I guessed wrong. Though I guess right on my second guess... As for the hidden song, it's tough. The nice thing about Piano Puzzlers, though, is even if you don't have a clue, the musical pieces by Bruce Adolphe are entertaining to listen to. This is no exception.
Several years back, before a Dodgers broadcast when Los Angeles was playing the Cubs in Chicago, the announcer Jerry Doggett was interviewing a former Dodgers pitcher, Jim Brewer, who was then pitching coach of the Northwestern University baseball team. Doggett made a bit of a snide quip about how not many Northwestern players were likely to make the major leagues, and Brewer quickly came back (with a little edge in his voice, along with a smile), "Maybe not, but they'll probably own the teams."
My beloved Northwestern Wildcats have not had great success in athletics (well...men's athletics. Their women's Lacrosse team is a powerhouse, though, and their softball team has done very well, too), though they've at least done better in recent years. But still, Northwestern and athletics don't tend to get a lot of attention.
So, it was quite attention-getting on Tuesday when Northwestern made the lead story on many sports pages around the country, and was the lead story on ESPN's show, Pardon the Interruption. That's because, "for the first time in the history of college sports," as the ESPN.com story starts out, "athletes are asking to be represented by a labor union." And those athletes are the football team of Northwestern University. The players took official steps to start the process of recognition with the National Labor Relations Board.
At hand is the reality that universities across the country make upwards of $5 billion off the work of student-athletes, and whether those athletes should be considered employees and be able to share in the revenue. But the players insist that money is not the sole issue, or even the central one. “A lot of people will think this is all about money; it’s not,” quarterback Kain Colter told the Chicago Tribune. “We’re asking for a seat at the table to get our voice heard.” Among those other areas of concern are "financial coverage for sports-related medical expenses, placing independent concussion experts on the sidelines during games, establishing an educational trust fund to help former players graduate and 'due process' before a coach could strip a player of his scholarship for a rules violation."
One of the reasons that Northwestern athletes were the first to take this step is because the school is a private university, and therefore governed by the NLRB. Public schools are governed by state laws.The big sticking point, of course, is whether the players are "employees" and therefore have standing to form a union. It seems unlikely, though it certainly is an interesting situation. Also a major challenge facing the team is that not only does the attempt go against current law disallowing students pursuing an education to organize, but such a case would probably take years, at which point, many (if not most) of the players involved will have graduated.
Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips released a statement where he actually supported some of the goals the students have put forth, however he drew the line at how the students were addressing the situation.
“Northwestern teaches our students to be leaders and independent thinkers who will make a positive impact,” he said. “(This) action demonstrates that they are doing so.
“We agree that the health and academic issues being raised by our student-athletes and others are important ones that deserve further consideration. (But) Northwestern believes that our student-athletes are not employees and collective bargaining is therefore not the appropriate method to address these concerns.”
Though the NCAA has come out against the action, the coach of the Northwestern football team, Pat Fitzgerald, has surprisingly, but impressively sent out a Tweet in support of his players.
The 39-year-old Fitzgerald is himself a former Northwestern football player, playing middle linebacker. He’s a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, and the only two-time winner of the Bronco Nagurkski Trophy, given to college’s best defensive player.
It's certainly a major effort in a discussion that has been building over the recent years. And if nothing else comes from it -- hey, Northwestern athletics made the top story!
And if this story goes further, in at least some way -- and it certainly is opening the door for that -- the school may have established its place in college sports in a way that victories on the field never could.
And perhaps stage the first-ever, real Wildcat strike.
Maddow v. Huelskamp
Opinions about the president's State of the Union speech will no doubt vary. I thought it was thoughtful, positive and generally pretty good, with enough specifics (something totally missing in the official Republican response by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers -- though we did learn about her kids and being in 4H) to be satisfying. But I suspect it will close to unanimous that the most entertaining part of the evening came during MSNBC's post-speech coverage. That's when Rachel Maddow interviewed Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KA) who had posted several incendiary Tweets after the speech.
No doubt fans of Rep. Huelskamp will be applauding his combative appearance, though they will likely be alone. Even the wonderful Steve Schmidt (former senior adviser to the McCain-Palin campaign) had a hard time keeping a straight face afterwards when the panel was discussing it. Schmidt even noted that one of the panelist's use of the word "nutshell" was particularly appropriate.
Maddow does an interesting job for one of these interviews -- rather than give Mr. Huelskamp just a platform to vent, she refuses to let his most hyperbolic statements go without challenge, and keeps trying to get him to be specific, and she is as blunt, though polite, as I've seen an interviewer. And at times her reaction ranges from anger to wanting to burst out laughing from bemusement.
I was watching the interview live, and unfortunately this video is the interview alone, not the discussion after. Half the fun of that discussion was seeing the reaction of the other panelists, seemingly pleased that they hadn't had to handle the interview themselves, and understanding the trapeze act Ms. Maddow had had to go through live. The best reaction came, however, from Chris Hayes, who had sat quietly during the others' comments, and then suddenly just interrupted, ready to burst, unable to hold his almost-sputtering reaction. To paraphrase him, he said, struggling to stay seated, "There in a nutshell we have the past five years of politics in Washington. The president makes a speech about raising the minimum wage, saying we should get business leaders together, and how wonderful America is, and the Republican response is, 'What about all the people killed at Benghazi??!!!'"!!!!!
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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