Nel's New Day

April 12, 2018

Washington Legislators, Officials Flee

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 12:14 AM
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Just when I think that the GOP world cannot get more bizarre, something happens to amaze me more. Today was one of those days. No, it wasn’t House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) announcement that he’ll stay home with the kids who haven’t had this attention for over a decade. My astonishment came from an earlier GOP House Speaker—John Boehner. Seven years ago, he said that he was “unalterably opposed” to legalizing marijuana. Boehner altered when he joined the board of advisers of Acreage Holdings, the cannabis corporation operating in 11 states. He tweeted:

“I’m convinced de-scheduling the drug is needed so we can do research, help our veterans, and reverse the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities.”

Over 60 percent of people in the United States want legalized cannabis, and over 90 percent support legalized cannabis for medical use. Watching Boehner joining these percentages at a time when the DOJ wants to clamp down on cannabis and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) wants to kill all the drug dealers—presumably also those selling cannabis—is nothing short of mind-boggling.

But yes, Paul Ryan finally admitted that he won’t be running for re-election in 2018. He leaves a legacy of close to a $1 trillion deficit this coming year and exceeding $1 trillion every year after that for the next decade. In Ryan’s announcement of his departure, he called the tax cuts, causing much of the deficit, one of his proudest achievements. Abandoning past conservative fiscal policy, he decided that tax cuts and spending increases are good for electing Republicans. Ryan’s current competition in the primary is an anti-Semite white supremacist.

Satirist Andy Borowitz wrote that the Koch brothers—who actually gave Ryan’s campaign $500,000 in exchange for his tax cuts—have put Ryan up for sale on eBay with a $500 asking price. The humorist pointed out that Ryan’ “current high bid [is] seventeen dollars.” Borowitz wrote:

“The eBay listing suggested several possible uses for the former House Speaker, including as a Halloween ornament or garden gnome.”

The fight for his job is on, with Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Steve Scalise (R-LA) currently in the forefront while others bolt. One hour after Ryan’s departure announcement, Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) said he won’t run for re-election. Retirements in the House are already far above normal, and the general election isn’t for almost seven months. One resignation, Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA), was made after the deadline to register for candidacy.

DJ Gribbin, DDT’s infrastructure policy adviser, left the White House after Congress largely ignored his plans for private and public partnerships. DDT has also told the GOP that these partnerships for infrastructure funding projects won’t work.

DDT claims that former VA Secretary David Shulkin resigned, but Shulkin disagrees, saying, “I did not resign.” Much was made earlier about his taking his wife with him on a business trip to Europe and his inability to get along with his staff. Yet that one trip was a drop in the bucket compared to other costs by other cabinet members; his conflict came from DDT staff hires who fought to privatize the VA health care. Replacement Ronny Jackson, the fawning doctor who gave DDT his physical examination, had said that he could live 200 years and had “incredibly good genes.” (DDT’s father died of dementia.) The biggest problem with Jackson, however, is his total lack of experience. If confirmed, Jackson will administer 360,000 employees, a $186 billion budget, and health care for nine million veterans. Fortunately for him, Shulkin had already stabilized the VA system of hospitals and health clinics, but Jackson’s sycophantic personality may cause him to dismantle everything. Veterans are coming out en masse in opposition to the privatization of health care that Jackson will rubber stamp for DDT and the Koch brothers.

John Bolton, appointed for National Security Adviser, may not be a shoe-in because of earlier political activity. He supposedly ended political activity with his PACs and stepped down as chair of his anti-Muslim Foundation for American Security and Freedom, but the PACs won’t be dissolved. He may also have a problem in his connection with Cambridge Analytica in electing Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) whose campaign may have been orchestrated by foreign workers. Bolton also appeared in a 2013 video for a Russian gun rights organization.

At least 3,000 Russia-linked ads from Cambridge Analytica reached over 126 million people during the 2016 U.S. election. HuffPo’s profile of white nationalist ”Ricky Vaughn”—28-year-old Douglass Mackey from Waterbury (VT)—shows how influential a few ads can be. C.A. also helped vicious Philippine dictator Roderigo Duterte win his election and participated in elections in Nigeria, Kenya, Trinidad & Tobago, and Latvia by creating ethnic tensions online by creating fear and misinformation online and entrapping political opponents with videos of sex workers.

The arrival of Bolton has led to at least three resignations/firings from the national security council. Tom Bossert may not be a great loss: the day before his firing, Bossert touted the movement of National Guard troops to the Mexico border and said that rape is the “price of entry” for women crossing the border.Michael Anton was known for writing DDT-supporting “American First” blog posts and essays under the pseudonym of Publius Decius Mus. Nadia Schadlow, trusted confidante of the fired H.R. McMaster who helped write DDT’s national security strategy, lasted only a few months after she replaced Dina Powell in January. Her mistake is believing in diplomacy. Here’s a list of people leaving DDT prior to that of Schadlow.

Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R) announced his resignation as of May 1 after an FBI inquiry into his spending and travel, including a trip to London with payday lending industry representatives. He finds his actions “ethical and lawful” but left as soon as the suggestion came from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R).

Dan Scavino, DDT’s former caddy turned into White House social media director, has replaced Hope Hicks as White House Communications Director. He is the last remaining staffer from DDT’s campaign launch.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, appointed almost a year ago, will stay because she claims that following “sincerely held religious beliefs” don’t break the law. She exonerated Col. Leland Bohannon for his refusal to sign a certificate of spousal appreciation for a retiring gay subordinate because because someone else signed the certificate that recognizes sacrifices of military spouses. Bohannon signs certificates for only heterosexual spouses. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is against policy. Wilson’s history of LGBTQ discrimination as a senatorial candidate includes opposition to a bill reducing anti-LGBTQ bullying.

DDT’s problematic appointments may be directly connected to the Presidential Personnel Office (PPO), DDT’s office to recruit and vet over 4,000 political appointees. In 62 weeks, it has found 309 candidates for 343 Cabinet agency positions requiring Senate approval. Of 1,200 positions requiring confirmation, only 387 from DDT have been approved, compared to 548 for President Obama and 615 for George W. Bush. Several DDT appointees have resigned after problems with comments, backgrounds, and qualifications. DDT’s PPO has a small staff of only 30—less than one-third of previous ones—and a serious lack of experience, mostly young people who worked on DDT’s campaign. They commonly have “happy hours” and held a frat drinking game called “Icing.”

During DDT’s transition, 100 researchers and lawyers under the supervision of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie prepared a list of candidates and hundreds of pages establishing a framework. DDT fired their leader, discarded all the information, and hired political operative John DeStefano as headhunter who required only loyalty to DDT as a job requirement. Even before DeStefano was hired, the database had only 87,000 applicants, compared to President Obama’s 300,000.

One of the most successful member of PPO is 75-year-old Katja Bullock. Her son became deputy assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development, his wife is White House liaison at the Office of Personnel Management, and their sons are “confidential assistant” at the Social Security Administration and “staff assistant” at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. foreign aid agency that works to end global poverty.

Scott Pruitt is still clinging to his position as EPA Secretary, but his departure could leave Andrew Wheeler in charge if the Senate confirms him for the second-highest-ranking person in the agency. As a coal lobbyist, Wheeler is well known to the GOP senators, especially former boss Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK).  His climate denying is so carefully phrased that Democrats haven’t really objected to his positions. Daniel Best, a former pharma insider, will be HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s pick to lower drug prices.

The media has paid little attention to either one of these people. Instead we focus on DDT’s promises to fire missiles at Syria while telling Russia that they can’t stop them. DDT seems to be having a spat with Vladimir Putin that can drive the United States into a war with the Middle East.

February 28, 2017

Whither Health Care?

Filed under: Health Care — trp2011 @ 8:29 PM
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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) swears that he has unity among the GOP Congress and executive branch for the proposed health care plan, but reality shows a different picture. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) said that he will have his own plan in two weeks although tonight’s speech gave the feeling that he agreed in someways with the GOP program. GOP Sens. Rand Paul (KY), Ted Cruz (TX), and Mike Lee (UT) want only a full repeal of Obamacare, and Paul called GOP plans “Obamacare lite.” The three senators met with House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker (R-NC) who also vigorously opposed colleagues’ plans, especially on the tax credits. Members of Freedom Caucus and the Republican Study Committee had met with the far-right Heritage Foundation in early February and agreed that the solution was the 2015 repeal bill without any replacement plans. Meadows and Walker announced that they could not recommend votes for the proposed bill without “substantial changes.”

Republicans from the DDT on down have consistently promised the people of the United States a better deal for health care than the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and after years of meaningless repeals, the rubber is hitting the road. What are their plans? Drop coverage, raise prices, and take out every advantage of the health insurance now on the books. And drop all the taxes the raise funds for the ACA.

The replacement as of late February:

Replace subsidies with tax credits based on age instead of income. Under age 30, the credit would be $2,000 and double for those over 60. Wealthy elders, such as Bill Gates worth $83 billion, would get twice as much as poor young people. The ACA tax credit was adjusted by income, age, and the average price of insurance in a person’s market. An example of the importance of the ACA system is Alaska, where people receive double the tax credits as those in the rest of the country because of its scarcity of coverage in a frontier population. Other problematic areas are the rural counties and states in the interior and western frontier, DDT land.

Replace the existing Medicaid expansion in 2020 with capped state payments based on the number of Medicaid enrollees. The current plan provides for eligibility expansion for people who make up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line. The elimination of federal funds would damage the abilities of states to cope with populations in health crises, such as coal miners in Kentucky and West Virginia; deal with natural catastrophes and outbreaks such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina; and combat human-caused disasters such as the HIV outbreak in southern Indiana after Republicans, including then Gov. Mike Pence refused a clean needle exchange. The GOP plan would also jeopardize coverage for 11 million people who have gained it under the ACA.

Democratic governors and the GOP governors who accepted the expansion are opposed to this measure. The Republican governors who didn’t take the expansion are afraid they’ll get less under the plan than the states that did—and they may be right. At any rate, the plan will cost states billions of dollars that they don’t have.

Provide $100 billion in “state innovation grants” for extremely expensive enrollees. The intent is to cover some of the “pre-existing condition” population without the protections as in the Affordable Care Act.

Leave decisions about mandatory or essential benefits to the states. They could eliminate insurance for such health needs as mental health services, annual exams, prenatal and maternity care, pediatric care, and birth control.

Cap the tax exemption for employer sponsored insurance at the 90th percentile of current premiums and tax amounts above that benefit. This sounds like a good idea until you figure that employees will just pass their costs on to their employees without giving them a wage increase.

Allow insurers to charge older customers up to five times as much as their younger counterparts, an increase from the existing three times as much in premiums.

Assess penalties for people who let their coverage lapse and then decide to enroll with a 30-percent boost in premiums for a year. People who cannot afford to keep paying premiums if they suffer sudden hardship would be punished by this part of the bill. This would also allow people to not buy health insurance and then have no money for health care no matter what happens.

Defund Planned Parenthood to make more women get pregnant.

Allow people to decide if they want health insurance.

On Last Week Tonight, comedian John Oliver broke down an explanation of the GOP plan into four categories: refundable tax credits, high risk pools, block grants, and health savings accounts. None of these ideas will actually work, Oliver argues, breaking them down in financial terms—they all share the same “thong problem.” His view of the GOP’s plan—and pitfalls—is well worth watching.

Missing from the Republican plan is the provision that health care insurance remain “affordable.” The plan benefits people with good health and wealth as well as penalizing areas with disasters or emerging health problems. Rural areas would suffer more because this population relies more heavily on public insurance than people in cities.

Former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) doubts that the GOP can manage a full repeal and replace of Obamacare. He predicts a few fixes to the existing ACA, not a bad idea if the fixes help people:

“In the 25 years that I served in the United States Congress, Republicans never, ever, one time agreed on what a health care proposal should look like. Not once. And all this happy talk that went on in November and December and January about repeal, repeal, repeal—yeah, we’ll do replace, replace—I started laughing, because if you pass repeal without replace, first, anything that happens is your fault. You broke it.”

Basically, “GOPcare” supports the “coastal elites” over Middle America that voted for Dictator Donald Trump. Until faced with reality, DDT claimed that his health care would be far better than the existing program. His meeting with governors and insurance CEOs provided insight into his confusion. “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.” Actually almost everyone except the current president understood the complexity of health care.

DDT’s current solution is to allow Obamacare to “implode” and then blame the Democrats and President Obama. As DDT continues to declare the ACA a “failed disaster,” popularity for the program is steadily increasing. A poll in mid-February shows that 54 percent of people surveyed approve of the law while only 43 percent disapprove. And of those who disapprove of the ACA, one-fourth of them want the current law to be changed while only 17 percent want to completely get rid of ACA.

A common Republican claim is that “Obamacare” shackles people to government, and repeal of the health care plan will make them free. Almost 242 years ago, Patrick Henry said some version of “Give me liberty or give me death.” That is the choice that Republicans are pushing onto many people into the United States. The “freedom” of no health care will definitely give many of them death—but legislators aren’t talking about their own death. They’re the ones who already have health care and are wealthy enough that they always have. Almost 30 million people count on the ACA, and that doesn’t include the young people under 26 on their parents’ policies and the people on Medicare who have some benefits from the ACA. These are the people who will suffer from the congressional decision to give them “freedom.”

October 13, 2015

House Members Search for a Speaker

When House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced his resignation, Republicans went into a tizzy, trying to figure out who would replace him. That tizzy moved into chaos last week when the House Freedom Caucus revolted against House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), inept heir apparent to the top job. McCarthy claims that he took himself out of the running because he wanted more than the obligatory 218 votes, but rumors allege that he has been having a long-term affair with a colleague, perhaps Rep.Renee Ellmers (R-NC). Before McCarthy took himself out of the running, the 40 Tea Party “Freedom” voters had promised to vote in a block for Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL). The loss of 40 votes means that the “establishment” GOP would have only 207 votes unless Democrats decide to join them in selecting someone other than Webster.

The Freedom Caucus says that they want “democracy” in the House, but a “questionnaire” from the group shows what its expectations for the next speaker. Freedom’s Speaker must tie any increase in the debt ceiling to cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The debt limit arrives on November 5; without an increase, the U.S. could default on its obligations, sending both the country’s and the world’s economy into a tailspin. When the Tea Party contemplated not raising the debt ceiling in 2013, the Treasury Department reported that “default could result in recession comparable to or worse than 2008 financial crisis.”

Another requirement for a new speaker, according to the Freedom Caucus, is to not fund the government without an agreement to defund “Planned Parenthood, unconstitutional amnesty, the Iran deal, and Obamacare.” December 11 is the deadline to pass a budget to keep the government from shutting down. The Freedom Caucus also requires the next speaker to oppose any “omnibus” bill and instead fund the government by separate bills.

Joan Walsh explained the background for the House GOP chaos following Boehner’s decision not to lead the motley crew that state gerrymandering has sent to Washington. After wealthy billionaires led Tea Party members in their position of hating government, governing, and compromise, the GOP establishment decided that these people would be useful. To keep their leadership, Boehner and his sidekicks offered the possibility of repealing the Affordable Health Care Act, hold the debt ceiling hostage, defund Planned Parenthood, stop the Iran deal, and other radically extremist views. Along with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the GOP leaders even recruited the extremists through their “Young Guns” program.

Every failure for Boehner sent him to Democrats for a bailout from disaster, leading the angry Freedom Caucus to feel a greater and greater sense of power. Unfortunately, Boehner didn’t look for bipartisanship often enough. If he had involved Demcrats business such as voting on the Senate’s immigration bill and other measures, he could have shown the extremists that they were not in charge of the House while doing the nation’s business.

Highly conservative, Webster presided over both chambers in Florida’s legislature when it overrode a veto restricting “partial birth” abortions, created “Choose Life” license plates, and required doctors to notify parents of minors seeking abortions. The legislature also passed bills mandating pre-marriage and pre-divorce counseling. Webster supported legalization of homeschooling to spare children in evangelical families from a “Godless” public education.

Webster’s alignment with the Religious Right puts him in alignment with groups and people who want to apply biblical law to law, including wives submitting to their husbands. His history with Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) shows his belief that God has made sure that he got elected. Gothard’s teachings with their emphasis on a culture of fear and extreme patriarchialism influenced the home education of the Duggars (19 Kids and Counting), and, like the oldest Duggar son, Gothard has been accused of multiple sexual harassment and abuse.

In the U.S. House, Webster has had little effect, introducing only 18 bills. Of these only two had co-sponsors, and none passed. He will most likely not be reelected to the house because of the likely dismantling of his Orlando district, but Webster is counting on God’s help. In the past, he said that he prayed for anyone considering a run in his district to “lose interest,” saying “that hedge of thorns has protected me all these years.”

Another person with “some support” from Freedom voters is Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who headed up the Planned Parenthood hearing debacle where Cecile Richards was grilled for five hours and interrupted 51 times—ten times each hour—with sexist remarks and character attacks. In his bid for Speaker, Chaffetz promised to default on the debt and shut down the government if the GOP didn’t get what they wanted.  He also demanded that the White House appoint a special prosecutor to open up “a criminal probe” investigating his claim that the Secret Service leaked his personal information to intimidate him. The issue was a leak to media outlets about Chaffetz’s rejected application for a Secret Service job in 2003 and the particulars surrounding the decision.

One desperate method of selecting a speaker came from Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) for a “bipartisan coalition,” again asking the Democrats for a bailout by expecting Democrats to vote for a Republican House Speaker. Before they go that far, however, the less extreme—but still conservative—Republicans are literally begging Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to take the position.

Thus far, Ryan has largely ignored the suggestion, obviously knowing that to do so would end his career for any other political position. In New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait  wrote, “No other figure within the party combines Ryan’s philosophical radicalism and tactical pragmatism” and called him “the president of Republican America.” If Chait is right, “America” is in big trouble.

Ryan came into power with a strong opposition to abortion and Todd Akin-like comments about rape that kept the Missouri candidate out of Washington. He then advocated Social Security privatization and the Iraq War. His horrific budget blueprint brought criticism from Catholic leaders because of its harshness toward the poor, who he describes as “lazy.” Ryan was a big part of Mitt Romney’s failure with his campaign of huge tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy compared with austerity for the poor. The Ryan/Romney ticket couldn’t even win Ryan’s home district.

Ryan held his celebration, after he won his congressional race, at The Cottonpicker in Burlington (WI) highlighting his exploitation of racial divisions, union collapse, and economic anxiety. His Ayn Rand view of economics focuses on “makers and takers” that appeals to angry white people. Ryan talks about the “catch and release” of Mexican immigrants, derides “anchor babies,” and makes other insensitive and inflammatory remarks in his town hall meetings and campaign appearances.

And the Tea Party members call him too “left-wing” to represent them!

In an effort to wield the Tea Party power, the Freedom chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), said that his caucus would “look favorably” on Ryan for speaker if he does what they want. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) said that the Freedom caucus won’t drop support for Webster for an undeclared candidate. The Tea Party demands a Speaker who will never compromise—on anything! They want a “leader” who will shut down the government until they get what they want.

Only 22 percent of people in the U.S. agreed with the Tea Party agenda, according to last month’s CBS News/New York Times poll. Chris Christie, GOP presidential candidate, claims that “nobody cares” who the House speaker is. “What they want is a Congress who is actually going to do something,” he said. To Christie, doing anything—even if it’s wrong—is better than doing nothing. Right now, the House is doing nothing because they’ve left Washington for a ten-day recess. Upon their return, they have two weeks to avert a government default on its debts.

Speaker Nathaniel Prentice Banks, 1855-1857, required 133 ballots to get accepted at a time when the House could not agree on slavery. If the current House follows this pattern, Boehner may decide to remain. If he doesn’t, or if he’s thrown out in a coup, Boehner can select a person to be Speaker pro tempore.  Right now at least 21 House members have said that they want to be Speaker, four of them from Texas. Will all but one back down with consensus for the last man standing? Or will it be a free-for-all? We won’t know for at least a week because the GOP House members want a vacation this week.

September 29, 2015

What John Boehner Hath Wrought

Filed under: Congress — trp2011 @ 7:43 PM
Tags: , ,

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will disappear from controlling every law in the United States at Halloween, and representatives will select another person to determine what bills are permitted on the floor of the House. Millions of paper reams and billions of Internets bits have assessed the reason for his disappearance, but the best may be Paul Krugman’s column about what Boehner has done to the U.S. for almost five years. The only definite conclusion is that the situation in the country can—and most likely will—get worse.

150925_POL_BoehnerPope.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2

From Paul Krugman:

John Boehner was a terrible, very bad, no good speaker of the House. Under his leadership, Republicans pursued an unprecedented strategy of scorched-earth obstructionism, which did immense damage to the economy and undermined America’s credibility around the world.

Still, things could have been worse. And under his successor they almost surely will be worse. Bad as Mr. Boehner was, he was just a symptom of the underlying malady, the madness that has consumed his party.

For me, Mr. Boehner’s defining moment remains what he said and did as House minority leader in early 2009, when a newly inaugurated President Obama was trying to cope with the disastrous recession that began under his predecessor.

There was and is a strong consensus among economists that a temporary period of deficit spending can help mitigate an economic slump. In 2008 a stimulus plan passed Congress with bipartisan support, and the case for a further stimulus in 2009 was overwhelming. But with a Democrat in the White House, Mr. Boehner demanded that policy go in the opposite direction, declaring that “American families are tightening their belts. But they don’t see government tightening its belt.” And he called for government to “go on a diet.”

This was know-nothing economics, and incredibly irresponsible at a time of crisis; not long ago it would have been hard to imagine a major political figure making such a statement. Did Mr. Boehner actually believe what he was saying? Was he just against anything Mr. Obama was for? Or was he engaged in deliberate sabotage, trying to block measures that would help the economy because a bad economy would be good for Republican electoral prospects?

We’ll probably never know for sure, but those remarks set the tone for everything that followed. The Boehner era has been one in which Republicans have accepted no responsibility for helping to govern the country, in which they have opposed anything and everything the president proposes.

What’s more, it has been an era of budget blackmail, in which threats that Republicans will shut down the government or push it into default unless they get their way have become standard operating procedure.

All in all, Republicans during the Boehner era fully justified the characterization offered by the political analysts Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, in their book “It’s Even Worse Than You Think.” Yes, the G.O.P. has become an “insurgent outlier” that is “ideologically extreme” and “unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science.” And Mr. Boehner did nothing to fight these tendencies. On the contrary, he catered to and fed the extremism.

So why is he out? Basically because the obstructionism failed.

Republicans did manage to put a severe crimp on federal spending, which has grown much more slowly under Mr. Obama than it did under George W. Bush, or for that matter Ronald Reagan. The weakness of spending has, in turn, been a major headwind delaying recovery, probably the single biggest reason it has taken so long to bounce back from the 2007-2009 recession.

But the economy nonetheless did well enough for Mr. Obama to win re-election with a solid majority in 2012, and his victory ensured that his signature policy initiative, health-care reform — enacted before Republicans took control of the House — went into effect on schedule, despite the dozens of votes Mr. Boehner held calling for its repeal. Furthermore, Obamacare is working: the number of uninsured Americans has dropped sharply even as health-care costs seem to have come under control.

In other words, despite all Mr. Boehner’s efforts to bring him down, Mr. Obama is looking more and more like a highly successful president. For the base, which has never considered Mr. Obama legitimate — polling suggests that many Republicans believe that he wasn’t even born here — this is a nightmare. And all too many ambitious Republican politicians are willing to tell the base that it’s Mr. Boehner’s fault, that he just didn’t try blackmail hard enough.

This is nonsense, of course. In fact, the controversy over Planned Parenthood that probably triggered the Boehner exit — shut down the government in response to obviously doctored videos? — might have been custom-designed to illustrate just how crazy the G.O.P.’s extremists have become, how unrealistic they are about what confrontational politics can accomplish.

But Republican leaders who have encouraged the base to believe all kinds of untrue things are in no position to start preaching political rationality.

Mr. Boehner is quitting because he found himself caught between the limits of the politically possible and a base that lives in its own reality. But don’t cry for (or with) Mr. Boehner; cry for America, which must find a way to live with a G.O.P. gone mad.

Comment from Scott: When I look at the current version of the Tea Party faction of the GOP, the parallels to ISIL are simply astounding: The absolute unwillingness to compromise, the subjugation of women, the willingness to watch innocents suffer, the desire to destroy the system and rebuild under a theocratic regime that they, alone, will decide.

Comment from John Townsend: The GOP’s presidential candidate in the 2012 election (Romney) won 24 states:

– 9 of the 11 Confederate states

– 8 of the 10 states with the lowest population density

– 0 of the 10 best educated states (based on percent of population with a college degree, median household income and percent of population below the federal poverty line)

– 9 of the 10 least educated states

– 1 of the 10 healthiest states

– 9 of the 10 least healthy states

– 10 of the 10 weakest gun control states

– 0 of the 10 strongest gun control states

– 9 of the 10 largest net recipients (“takers”) of federal money states.

In a piece for The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin addresses Boehner’s cowardice while Speaker. Despite the knowledge that Hispanic voters are vital to the success of the GOP, “dedicated party man” Boehner appeased extremists in the House to keep his position and therefore refused to take the Senate immigration reform bill to the House floor for a vote. Allowing himself to be bullied, he suffered more bullying and kept the popular infrastructure bill off the floor. His adoption of the mis-named Hastert rule, named for the Speaker who is under indictment for blackmail payments and requiring a majority of GOP voters for a bill to reach the floor, made more problems for Boehner because he allowed 50 Tea Party members to control the House.

The only bills reaching the floor under Boehner’s rule were instant failures, such as repealing the Affordable Care Act or defunding Planned Parenthood, because the president would veto them. In his departure speech, Boehner could only brag that he kept the government open (despite the 16-day closure in 2013), a very low bar for success. Boehner caved in to the Tea Party on everything and still lost his job. That is his legacy.

September 27, 2015

GOP in More Trouble

Less than a year ago, the conservatives were crowing about being in the catbird seat after taking over Congress: the GOP majority was the largest in 84 years. They planned to wipe out all advances during President Obama’s six years and take the country back a century ago before human rights in the United States.

The first 100 days of the 114th Congress, however, did not go well. John Boehner (R-OH) was re-elected speaker but only after the biggest revolt in 150 years. The House argued about deporting children and threatened to close the Department of Homeland Security. They couldn’t even pass an anti-abortion bill and almost failed to pass a bill against human trafficking. Their priorities were passing an oil pipeline that created 35 permanent jobs, again trying to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, and pushing the usual tax breaks only for multi-millionaires and billionaires. Most of the few successful bills were supported by Democrats, and the chamber refused to discuss taking action against ISIS while it address—again—the Benghazi deaths. Within the first 100 days, two newly elected representatives resigned in disgrace.

A prime embarrassment for the GOP-led Senate was its delay in confirming Loretta Lynch as Attorney General in the longest wait for any recent AG nominee. They all agreed that she was eminently qualified, and the GOP was eager to get rid of Eric Holder in that position. Yet the GOP-led Senate stalled for 165 days, including the entire first 100 days of the 114th Congress.

The Senate decided to take over the job of determining foreign policy from the president by sending a letter to Iran, declaring that the U.S. wouldn’t live up to its agreements. Boehner invited Israel Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress in an effort to override President Obama’s Iran negotiations and started another lawsuit against the president for his executive orders. By the end of the 100 days, President Obama’s approval rating rose ten points to 50, its best level since 2013.

As disastrous as those first 100 days, they could not begin to match the debacle for Republicans during the past week. Three huge, intersecting events created more problems for the rigidly conservative GOP agenda: Pope Francis’s speech to Congress; China’s decision to create a cap-and-trade policy that the U.S. GOP has rejected; and Speaker Boehner’s unexpected resignation the House of Representatives at the end of October.

As was expected, the pope’s positions made conservatives squirm. His defense of “human life at every stage of its development” was followed by advocating “for abolition of the death penalty,” a blow to conservatives who love the idea of killing people. GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz didn’t go quietly in his response to the pope: he called the use of capital punishment a “recognition of the preciousness of human life.”

The pope spoke against “deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society” and added that the money gained from these sales were “drenched in blood, often innocent blood.” By far the largest arms supplier in the world, U.S. domestic manufacturers sold more than $23.7 billion in weapons to almost 100 countries during just 2014—weapons that included cluster bombs and other munitions used to destroy densely populated areas, schools, and even a Yemen camp for displaced people.  U.S. taxpayers subsidized a large piece of these sales, especially to Israel and Egypt. Members of Congress make $150 million a year from the arms industry.

The pope pushed for the support of immigration by saying that we are all immigrants:

“Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.”

Environmentalism has been high on the pope’s list, so much so that far-right pundit George Will wrote that “Americans cannot simultaneously honor [the pope] and celebrate their nation’s premises.” Pope Francis urged Congress and corporations to “redirect our steps” to address “environmental degradation caused by human activity.” Jeb Bush accused the pope, who has a degree in chemistry, of being wrong about climate change because “he’s not a scientist.” [Jeb Bush is definitely not a scientist.]

In rejecting unfettered capitalism, the pope chose Dorothy Day as one of his four examples because of “her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed.” Her Catholic Worker Movement was a model of community organization that helped lift thousands out of poverty. Basically, Day was known as a radical social activist, a pacifist, feminist, socialist, and union supporter—all hated by Republicans.

Throughout his speech, Pope Francis expressed his concern for the poor and his dismay at growing income inequality. Like Day, he supports a just distribution of income and a “modern, inclusive and sustainable” economy. His message for lawmakers urged them to pay attention especially to “those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk.” According to Francis, “the fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts.”

Last February, conservatives were livid about President Obama’s statement at the National Prayer Breakfast that while many faith communities around the world are “inspiring people to lift up one another,” we also see “faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge – or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon.” The same listeners heard the same message from the pope when he said, “We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism.”

Conservatives, who claim to support religious freedom, failed to support a House resolution honoring the Pope “for his inspirational statements and actions” as well as his goals to ameliorate inequality and promote solidarity. Only 19 of the 221 co-sponsors are Republicans.

The announcement from Chinese President Xi Jinping about his country adopting a program to curtail emissions erases the argument that the GOP uses against the a cap-and-trade program in the U.S. Whenever the program has been suggested, conservatives say that it will do no good because China doesn’t have the program. Xi also pledged aid for low-income nations, a request that President Obama made to Congress for the international Green Climate Fund. During the first 100 days of the new Congress, 81 of the 144 Senate bills proposed increasing pollution.

The biggest shocker to the nation last week, however, was Boehner’s resignation.  He claimed that it was to meliorate the turmoil, but there is no doubt that his action will heat up the firestorm between Tea Party and more establishment Republicans. A bill to pass the budget may avert a government shutdown on October 1—just four days away—but the issue will arise in late November because the bill is good for only two months. A new speaker may actually support a government shutdown at that time.

The question now is who will be selected to be two heartbeats from being President of the United States. Josh Israel has named four likely suspects:

Kevin McCarthy (R-CA): The House Republican Majority Leader would be the obvious choice in saner times despite his lack of political ability. Although he seemed more moderate toward immigration, his opposition to fight climate change gives him some cred among Tea Party members. McCarthy is notable for being the least experienced person of all time for the position that he holds. During the almost decade he’s spent in Congress, McCarthy has managed to pass only two bills that he sponsored, both of them renaming places in his district.

Steve Scalise (R-LA): The third-ranking Republican in the House spoke at a white supremacist rally in 2002 and was one of a few legislators to oppose making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a Louisiana holiday in 2004. He claims that immigration reform would “actually force” non-citizens who did not want to become citizens “onto an amnesty track.” This fan of debt-ceiling crises has refused to deny he wants to impeach President Obama.

Jim Jordan (R-OH): A major supporter of defunding the Department of Homeland Security also pushed to overturn DC’s same-gender marriage law and stated that the country’s founders wanted to prohibit abortion. Jordan is fully committed to defunding Planned Parenthood even if it shuts down the government.

Jeb Hensarling (R-TX): The defender of recessions as “a part of freedom” also denounces Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security as “cruel Ponzi schemes.” In the House since 2003, he has the longest tenure of these four representatives. His opposition to raising the debt ceiling could also lead to more government shutdowns. As co-chair of the failed 2011 “supercommittee,” he promised to oppose “any penny of increased static revenue.”

Tea Partiers don’t want any of these possibilities, but they haven’t found anyone with enough votes to overcome the above “less radical” candidates above. Many of the crazies want the position; time will tell. While the House is in chaos, GOP presidential candidate Bobby Jindal, supported by other ultra-conservatives, called for Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to step down as Senate Majority Leader. The congressional Republicans are in for a rocky fall season.

March 23, 2015

Happy Birthday, ‘Obamacare’

Today is the Affordable Care Act’s fifth birthday. For five years, most of the GOP legislators have been making predictions about the law’s leading the entire country to wrack and ruin. The following dozen failed predictions show how all these people have been wrong:

happy birthday Failed Prediction #1 – Americans won’t enroll in the ACA: The demand was so great that the website sometimes crashed from the heavy usage. About 8 million people signed up for private insurance coverage in 2014, and the number rose to 11.4 million in 2015. While it was hard to sign up for health care on the exchanges last year, it was harder to be uninsured or underinsured.

Failed Prediction #2 – The ACA won’t meet its enrollment goals: In its first two years, enrollment totals exceeded preliminary projections.

Failed Prediction #3 – Insurers will want no part of the ACA system: Many insurers see the ACA as a major growth opportunity that lets them expand in the individual market.

Failed Prediction #4 – The ACA will cause the economy to suffer and kill jobs: In one press conference, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) used the phrase “job-killing” an average of every two minutes while talking about the ACA. Yet the U.S. has had 59 consecutive months of job growth since October 2010, the longest stretch of time in history.  National data also shows no indication of employers hiring people under 30 hours a week to avoid the ACA insurance mandate. The average length of the work-week, which dropped during the recession, recently matched pre-2010 levels. Using interviews with major U.S. employers, Bloomberg found that the law “is putting such a small dent in the profits of U.S. companies that many refer to its impact as “not material” or “not significant.” It decided that “the biggest entitlement legislation in a generation is causing barely a ripple in corporate America.”

Failed Prediction #5 – People who enrolled wouldn’t pay their premiums: Again the GOP was wrong. Five months into last year, over 91% of the 8 million consumers who enrolled through an ACA exchange marketplace paid their premiums.

Failed Prediction #6: People would see exorbitant premiums: Those who qualify for tax credits through the insurance exchange pay an average of $82 per month for premiums—one-fourth of the expenditure without financial help. More people who changed from individual insurance to exchanges have lower premiums.

Failed Prediction #7 – Premiums will shoot up next year: State-by-state information shows that more insurers coming to the market are pressuring prices to go down. In 2015, premiums for the ACA’s mid-level plans rose by an average of 2 percent. In 48 major cities, prices for these benchmark plans actually fell by 0.2 percent, compared to the 10-percent increases before the ACA.

Failed Prediction #8 – The ACA helps only those with coverage: Republicans are wrong.

Failed Prediction #9 – The ACA will lead to a “net loss” on overall coverage: Boehner argued that fewer people had health insurance after the health law’s insurance expansion than prior to it, but the uninsured rate has dropped by one-fourth. In Minnesota it’s gone down by 40 percent, and in some cities the number will shrink by 60 percent in cities with expanded Medicaid. People who would not get subsidies still got the same insurance plans by going to an insurance broker. Boehner also ignored the expansion of 9.1 million enrollees on Medicaid.

Failed Prediction #10 – The ACA will lead to higher deficits and a weaker fiscal footing for the nation: The GOP, the party that actually raises the deficit, told the country that “Obamacare” would “bankrupt” the country. In April 2014, the Congressional Budget Office reduced its budget forecast by $100 billion, less than it expected to spend during the first projection in January 2010. The CBO reduced its 10-year estimate of ACA cost by 20 percent and its Medicaid costs attributable to the law by 8 percent, partly because people with health insurance no longer rely on the emergency room for health care.

Failed Prediction #11 – Americans will end up hating the coverage they receive through the ACA: A new Gallup poll shows that 71 percent find their coverage through exchanges to be good or excellent, and another 19 percent said the coverage was fair. Only 9 percent gave it a poor rating.

Failed Prediction #12 – “Obamacare” will mostly sign up people who already have insurance:  A Kaiser Family Foundation survey finds that 57 percent of enrollees previously lacked insurance.

More failed projections: there is no “death spiral,” or “death panels,” or “rate shock.” Not one prediction has lived up to scrutiny. And not one prominent Republican is willing to admit the failed predictions or even explanations for these mistakes and misjudgments. Instead, they’re still busy trying to repeal the law.

Facts will not change the minds of many in opposition, as Jonathan Chait pointed out:

“Suppose you strongly objected to the idea that your city should own a bunch of buildings where people can go borrow books for free. (Some people do!) If you couldn’t persuade a majority of fellow citizens of your conceptual objections to libraries, you might try arguing that the library scheme was doomed to collapse in cost overruns, or that nobody would ever use them, or that shelves of heavy books would be routinely toppling over and killing small children. But the fact is that running buildings where people can check out books, and running exchanges where people can purchase basic health insurance packages, are both things that governments can do.”

One GOP complaint is that “Obamacare” helps only the poor. It is true that the poorest people get free Medicaid, and those up to an income of $94,000 a year for a family of four can get tax credits. People who receive insurance from their employees are having their coverage paid by “other people’s money.”

Employer-sponsored insurance get tax deductions, giving the largest benefits to those who earn the most money as compared to the ACA which gives the most to those who earn the least. For example, newly-announced presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) premiums, up to $40,000 for the year for his family, were paid by his wife’s employer, Goldman Sachs. Cruz will be shopping for health insurance because his wife has taken an unpaid leave while he runs for president.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) may have summarized the GOP complaints with this comment on the floor of the Senate: “It’s time for the White House to stop celebrating [the ACA] and start thinking about the people.” Huh?

What’s ahead for the Affordable Care Act?  After voting dozens of time to repeal the ACA, the GOP is trying to pass a budget that would double the uninsured rate and eliminate $1 trillion in tax revenue that pays for the law. Republicans have no plan to help the millions of families losing affordable medical care if they succeed. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has only one suggestion: he urged state lawmakers to stop state insurance exchanges if the Supreme Court rules that this as a requirement for the ACA. That’s what he told state legislators last week during a conference call organized by the conservative think tank Foundation for Government Accountability.

If the Supreme Court were to rule for mandated state exchanges, subsidies in the mostly blue states would continue while millions of consumers in GOP-run states would go without. Michigan and Ohio are intending to set up the exchanges that Ryan warns against because no one should do what the White House wants, even if it puts constituents in jeopardy.

Missouri is a prime example of problems with GOP legislators. GOP legislators have threatened to filibuster any Medicaid expansion bill and Bob Onder, a new state senator, has proposed a bill to keep an insurance company from selling policies in the state if it accepts federal subsidies sold on the federal health exchange. The state refuses to accept billions of federal dollars to offer Medicaid coverage to approximately 300,000 uninsured residents. Onder said, “To expand Medicaid would only put further stress on a system that’s already strained,” Onder said. A single mother with two children must make less than $3,700 to get Medicaid, and rural hospitals are facing either huge cutbacks or closure because the state refuses Medicaid expansion.

aca cowThe GOP-led legislature, however, has passed a bill to insure cows in the state. It would subsidize up to 70 percent of farmers’ premium payments for dairy insurance. The House passed it by 110 to 49, and the Senate did better at 31-2. Rep. Jeremy LaFaver (D-MO) called it the “Affordable Cow Act” because insurance subsidies for cows are fine but “not for people.”

Maybe some day, Republicans will figure out that “Obamacare” should be called “GOP Cares.”

Republican_Obamacare

March 6, 2015

Prosecute Boehner for Netanyahu Speech

The rapture could have arrived with the GOP reception to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s arrival before a joint meeting of Congress on March 3 because of a secret invitation from House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). During the speech, 23 standing ovations greeted his message that President Obama was failing the world in his diplomacy with Iran and that the victims of the Holocaust were weaklings. During Netanyahu’s 40-minute speech trying to destroy the emerging nuclear deal between the United States, Iran, and the major world powers, the prime minister was interrupted by applause approximately 50 times. Although he gave no alternatives to keep Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, he did indicate that Israel would protest a negotiated agreement by taking military action “alone.”

The United States, Iran, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany are close to an agreement guaranteeing strict inspections and controls on Iran’s uranium enrichment over several years in exchange for lifting sanctions against the country during the last five years. The strategy is to control Iran for a decade or longer until democratically-elected leaders can take power. Netanyahu insisted, however, that there be no negotiation until Iran stops “threatening to annihilate my country, Israel, the one and only Jewish state.” With no specific ideas he wants the U.S. to strike “a much better deal” that wipes out Iran’s entire nuclear infrastructure and maintains sanctions against the country “until Iran’s aggression ends.”

President George W. Bush’s similar policy of zero-enrichment allowed Iran’s centrifuges to grow from 164 in 2003 to approximately 19,000 centrifuges today, with Bush officials conceding during his presidency that “there was no way to reach a deal without Iran retaining at least a face-saving amount of enrichment capability.” The current negotiations started after an interim agreement with Iran that has frozen Iran’s nuclear program and rolled back its stockpiles of enriched uranium. Inspectors confirm that Iran is holding up the bargain. March 24 is the deadline for broad principles with technical details by June 30. Increasing sanctions has not stopped Iran, and losing the negotiation would allow Iran to accelerate its nuclear program with no oversight.

The five prominent newspapers from the LA Times to the New York Times failed to include some information about Netanyahu and his speech. Jim Naureckas of FAIR filled in pieces:

Israel owns nuclear weapons, an important piece of information when a foreign leader demands that the United States stop a rival state from getting nuclear weapons.

Iran consistently states that it has no interest in building a nuclear weapon, and the intelligence agencies of the United States doubt that Iran has an active nuclear weapons program.

Israel hasn’t signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty although both the United States and Iran have. This guarantees “the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”

Netanyahu has a decades-long record of making false nuclear predictions about Israel’s enemies and crying wolf. Almost two decades ago, he gave another speech to a joint session of Congress and warned:

“If Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, this could presage catastrophic consequences, not only for my country, and not only for the Middle East, but for all mankind…. The deadline for attaining this goal is getting extremely close.”

That was almost 20 years ago, and Netanyahu has returned with more dire predictions about an imminent Iranian nuclear weapon. In 1992, 23 years ago, Netanyahu said that Iran was “three to five years” away from reaching nuclear weapons capability, and that this threat had to be “uprooted by an international front headed by the U.S.” Netanyahu’s 1995 book, Fighting Terrorism, asserted that Iran would have a nuclear weapon in “three to five years.” In 2009, Netanyahu told a Congressional delegation that Iran was “probably one or two years away” from nuclear weapons capability. A year later he said, “You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs. That’s what is happening in Iran.” By 2012, Iran was just “a few months away” from nuclear capabilities, according to Netanyahu.

In the 1990s, he temporarily transferred his focus to Iraq’s nuclear threat, claiming that there was “no question” that it was “advancing towards to the development of nuclear weapons.” Again he spoke to Congress in 2002 to say that Iraq’s nonexistent nuclear program was so advanced that the country had “centrifuges the size of washing machines.” He was part of the reason that the U.S. made a preemptive strike against Iraq, and the U.S. is spending trillions to recover from those claims.

Mossad intelligence chief Meir Dagan disagreed with Netanyahu in 2011 and said that an Iranian nuclear weapon was not imminent. He added that any military action against the country could end up spurring the development of such a weapon. He called Netanyahu’s idea of an Israeli attack on Iran the “stupidest thing I have ever heard.” A year later, the Israeli intelligence agreed.

Netanyahu spoke to Congress because he wants the following:

The United States to declare war on Iran because Israel doesn’t have the military to do so.

An embarrassing experience for the U.S. president who won’t take orders from Netanyahu.

Recognition that his false perspectives of Iran’s capabilities is superior to U.S. intelligence and diplomatic capabilities.

American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) support to ensure a veto-proof majority in Congress for a bill to stop negotiations with Iran.

A re-election in Israel by taking on the U.S. president.

A firm alliance with the GOP and a threat of repercussions toward Democrats who oppose him.

A distraction with Iran from President Obama’s goal of a Palestinian state in the disputed territories and Gaza.

The United States has provided billions of dollars every year—an average of $8.6 million every day—to help Israel destroy Gaza and wipe out the Palestinians. Netanyahu expects this nation to provide even more funding to carry out his other wars.

Mark Karlin, editor of BuzzFlash, described Netanyahu as “the Dick Cheney of Israel.” Karlin wrote:

“If this unprecedented effort of a foreign leader to publicly destroy the delicate foreign policy negotiations of a sitting US president succeeds, it will be US soldiers who die and are injured. This particular war, with a military as advanced as Iran’s–which possesses long range missiles–could also ignite a Middle Eastern conflict of horrific proportions.”

The Republicans want war, but they’re making the same mistake that George W. Bush made in 2003. They can’t see beyond getting into a war; they have no idea how to get out.

 

Opposing Netanyahu is no more anti-Israeli than opposition to President Obama is anti-U.S. The 200 veterans of the Israeli security services, all with the rank of general and called Commanders for Israel’s Security, call Netanyahu a “danger” to Israel. They are not anti-Israel, and neither are the six former generals who held a press conference in Tel Aviv last Sunday, urging the prime minister to cancel his speech. General Amnon Reshef, a hero for his role in the 1973 war against Egypt and Syria, said, “Nothing good for Israel can come from humiliating the US president.”

Hawkish former military chief of staff Dan Halutz has said that senior commanders know that Netanyahu’s lack of diplomacy creates an untenable situation in policing occupied territories. He said, “They recognize that there is no military solution to Israel’s predicament with the Palestinians and that borders created by force are inherently fragile and insecure.” The current Mossad head, Tamir Pardo, has declared that the “biggest threat to Israel’s security is the conflict with the Palestinians and not Iran’s nuclear program.”

 

Considerations to take away from Netanyahu’s speech:

 

  • The United States has a single foreign policy—not a Republican one and a Democratic one: A disagreement should be taken to the president and the public, rather than letting a foreign leader use the United States foreign policy for his own politics.
  • Boehner and Netanyahu’s actions weaken America’s bipartisan support for Israel: Together these two men have the sole intent of undermining the President of the United States and force people to choose between a commitment to Israel and to their own country. Netanyahu deliberately refused to meet with Democrats as they requested, which damages the U.S.-Israel relationship.
  • U.S. negotiations with Iran are the best way to proceed: Absent a negotiated, verifiable agreement, there is no way to ensure that Iran will not get nuclear weapons.
  • Almost all Israel wars since the country’s formation in 1948 have been initiated by Israel’s pre-emptive strikes: Israel has the 12th-largest military in the world with over 400 nuclear weapons.

 

A petition on MoveOn.org calls for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to be prosecuted and removed from office for conspiring with a foreign leader to interfere in U.S. foreign policy matters. Boehner’s  purpose for the Netanyahu speech was to force the United States into war with Iran. By secretly inviting Netanyahu to speak at a joint session of Congress in an effort to undermine the U.S. President, Boehner violates the 1799 Logan Act which forbids unauthorized government officials from interfering in relations between the U.S. and foreign nations, a power only the president has.

March 3, 2015

GOP Goes Farther Right into Stupidity

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 6:50 PM
Tags: , , , ,

The more secure that both state and federal GOP legislators become, the dumber they look. For example, North Carolina’s “state ethics act” allows lobbyists to provide prostitutes to state legislators because it doesn’t constitute a “reportable expenditure” or “things of value.” These “relationships” also don’t trigger the “goodwill lobbying” registration requirements.

That’s a law. If the GOP has its way, there will be far more idiotic ones.

Kansas state Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook wants to put teachers who use approved materials in prison. Her bill would criminalize displaying “harmful” material to minors. Kansas already has a law protecting minors from “harmful” material, but this bill doubles down to include books such as Huckleberry Finn, anatomy lessons in biology, and art history classes. Previously, Pilcher-Cook had introduced a bill that would to criminalize surrogate parenting.

Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore (R) wants to loosen regulations for end-of-life medical care because she believes that cancer is a “fungus” and can be washed out by baking soda. She thinks that approving treatments like this for people with terminal illness will be “very inexpensive, cost-effective”  and by doing this, Nevada can become “the medical capital of the world.” She also asserted that “young, hot little girls on campus” need to be armed with guns to prevent themselves from being raped. Fiore was removed from her position as Republican Majority Leader because she might owe over $1 million in tax liens.

During a debate about abortion in the Idaho House, state Rep. Vito Barbieri asked a doctor if a woman could have a gynecological exam just as people can have an inspection of their colons by swallowing a small camera. Dr. Julie Madsen had to explain to him that swallowed items don’t go to the vagina. House members were discussing a ban on telemedicine abortion bans although no clinic in the state performs them.

After the Department of Homeland Security circulated an intelligence assessment focusing on “the domestic terror threat from right-wing sovereign citizen extremists,” Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) determined that it was referring to conservatives who disagreed with the president. He couldn’t grasp the definition of radical extremists and fringe anti-government groups. He ratcheted up his rhetoric by wanting a hearing for DHS officials to find out why the Obama administration is “more aggressive toward Americans, Republicans, conservatives, Christians, and concerned about them being threats to the country, which they’re not, than they are about the real threats to our country.”

Spinning off Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s accusation about “no-go zones” where people are supposedly afraid to visit because of large intimidating Muslim populations, Tennessee state Rep. Susan Lynn has introduced a bill to ask the state attorney general to report these “no-go zones” and work to eliminate them. The GOP wants to add laws about a made-up problems instead of existing issues.

About the death of Leonard Nimoy, who played Dr. Spock in Star Trek, Oregon state Rep. Bill Post (R) said on the state House floor that “the greatest Republican in the history of the galaxy, passed away. He was a legal alien who believed in prosperity.” What Post missed: the pro-science Star Trek was about a socialist big government in search of a utopian society with themes of equality, peace, and all basic needs, including health care, provided. One of Spock’s famous quotes:  “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Leonard Nimoy was also a lifelong Democrat.

From GOP members of the U.S. Congress:

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) proved to his personal satisfaction that climate warming doesn’t exist: he made a snowball from a snowfall in Washington, D.C. and threw it on the Senate floor. He added that it was very cold outside. The leading climate denier in Congress, he chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee.

One hundred GOP members of Congress have signed a letter to the Bureau of Alcohol and Firearms (BATF) Director Todd Jones protesting an executive order banning ammunition for “sporting and other legitimate purposes.” There is no executive order: BATF has proposed a reclassification of “green-tip” bullets, popular with AR-15 users, from “sporting purposes” to “armor piercing ammunition.” Because that’s what they do. Originally built for the U.S. Armed Services, AR-15s are used to fatally shoot police and military personnel wearing body armor.

At his first town hall meeting, Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) told the audience that he doesn’t immunize his children and said, “They’re very healthy.” After chairing the state Senate Science and Technology committee, he moved up to chair the U.S. House Subcommittee on Oversight in the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Loudermilk is considering an investigation into “cover-up” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even GOP media strategist Rick Wilson called for his resignation.

Last week, the GOP proved that they are incapable of governing by failing to deal with funding for the Department of Homeland Security. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) couldn’t even get a GOP majority to support a clean bill to fund DHS for only three weeks; 52 ultra-conservatives stood their ground to shoot down the idea. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had to save him by persuading the Democrats to vote for a one-week extension.

The conservative media is disgusted. The conservative USA Today editorial board wrote that Congress is “carelessly using federal employees as pawns in their war with the president.” The editorial also “propose[s] that any time Congress deliberately shuts down the government and throws people out of work (or makes them work without paychecks), Congress should automatically lose its pay as well. There’s nothing like a little skin in the game to make members realize their cavalier gamesmanship has real costs.”

Even the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal smacked down House Republicans. Its editorial questions whether the GOP really wants to govern or just oppose compromise. (Easy question!) Conservative Republicans prefers to risk national security even after a delay in the president’s immigration executive orders, determined two weeks ago, by a ruling from a hand-picked right-wing judge in Texas.

The WSJ editorial also stated that the president “wanted to goad an overreaction that made the GOP look both anti-immigrant and intemperate enough to shut down the government.” Whether that’s what the president wanted, that’s what he got.

Today Boehner finally put out a clean bill to fund the DHS until September 30 with no immigration restrictions. It passed by a vote of 257-167 with the support of 75 Republicans. Boehner excused himself by saying that the situation would be better dealt with in the courts. The court decision did not declare the content of the president’s executive order was illegal; it just ruled that the process was flawed because the Administrative Procedure Act requires a longer notification and comment period before taking action.

As Scott Wong wrote for The Hill: “The opening weeks of the 114th Congress have been nothing short of a disaster for Republicans.” He called last Friday “the low point” when over 50 GOP members of the House revolted against the speaker. At least three times in the past two months, bills had to be pulled because of too few GOP votes, including the overhaul of No Child Left Behind. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said it best: “We’ve got to remember we weren’t hired because of our value set. We were hired because [the Democrats] got fired.”

After the 2012 presidential loss, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus claimed he would stop the “traveling circus” in 2016. He may be able to control the number of GOP debates, but he hasn’t been able to handle the stupidity coming out of the GOP, even after the GOP took over the majority of Congress. Is the president Christian? Should parents have their children vaccinated? How can GOP presidential wannabes go to England without saying something dumb? What can be done about a presidential candidate, in this case Ben Carson, who supports war crimes? And now, how can the GOP deal with the apparent vitriolic hatred for immigrants as demonstrated by a failure to continue funding for the DHS. Rational Republicans are increasingly disgusted.

February 16, 2015

GOP Supports Netanyahu Instead of U.S. President

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) declared yesterday on the Fox network that “we have every right to do what we did,” referring to inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a speech before Congress only two weeks before Israel’s election. Congress is on recess, and tomorrow Oregon’s Sen. Jeff Merkley and Rep. Kurt Schrader are appearing at a town hall on the coast of Oregon. Gilbert Schramm, has provided some background about Netanyahu for people who want to know more about the person who will be lobbying Congress to stop U.S. negotiations with Iran.

Fact checks of Netanyahu’s recent statements:

Iran: Speaking to the UN, Netanyahu claimed that Iran was only a year away from having a nuclear weapon. A top Israeli intelligence official admitted that Iran was 10 years away, and Israel doesn’t know if Iran will try to develop to develop one.

Syria: Netanyahu pushed the United States toward bombing Syria in 2013, and 200 lobbyists argued for a war that the U.S. people don’t want. Their claim that Syria would never divest itself of chemical weapons collapsed, leaving it the only major force opposing ISIL after the U.S.-created Iraqi army dissolved. Israel has not ratified the chemical weapons treaty and keeps its chemical weapons.

Missiles: Netanyahu’s story about “Syrian missiles bound for Gaza,” issued at the same time as U.S. negotiations with Iran, also blew up. The missiles were from Iran and headed to the Sudan. Iran’s peaceful nuclear program continues to be in compliance with the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty that Israel refuses to sign.

Gaza: Netanyahu claims to care deeply about “every single civilian in Gaza” while leveling whole neighborhoods with what he calls “precision strikes.” He also seals the borders of Gaza to keep everyone from escaping and then bemoans the Palestinian leadership “using human shields” and “placing its own people at risk.”

Threats: Hours after Netanyahu claimed that Israel was under a terrible existential threat, he told the FAA that U.S. tourists would be perfectly safe when they flew into Tel Aviv at the same time that flights had been forced to abort landings in the presence of rocket fire.

Two-state solution: For years, Netanyahu pretended that he would accept a two-state solution. Last month he admitted that he never would. He follows Ben Gurion’s 1947 argument to Zionists that they should accept the UN partition plan detailed in UN 181 and then ignore the parallel Palestinian state. A Palestinian state doesn’t exist 68 years later because Israeli has prevented its creation.

Celebrating murderers: In Israel, people debate the “permissibility” of genocide. Referring to six Israeli Jewish extremists burning a Palestinian boy alive, Netanyahu claimed that Israel punished murderers while Palestinians “celebrated murderers.” His claimed that Israelis never named streets or buildings after murderers, but streets and buildings throughout Israel are named after Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, both leaders of Jewish terrorist groups that committed awful atrocities. Places are also named for dozens of other Zionist killers. Palestine cannot do the same because they have no state and therefore cannot officially give names to streets.

Background: Benjamin Netanyahu won the election for prime minister in 1995 after his opponent, Yitzchak Rabin, was assassinated by an Israeli terrorist. In Politicide, Israeli historian Baruch Kimmerling wrote that Netanyahu was a key figure in incitements against Rabin. Past leaders of Netanyahu’s political party, Likud, had supported Mussolini in World War II and were Zionist/Jewish terrorists responsible, among over things, for the bombing of the King David Hotel, assassinations of the British High commissioner and Count Bernadotte (the very first UN peacemaker sent to Palestine), executions of British troops, and numerous attacks on Arab civilians. Previously, the founder of Irgun, Likud’s predecessor, wrote to Adolf Hitler, promising that a Jewish state would protect Germany’s position in the Middle East. (Kati Marton, A Death in Jerusalem, p.54)

Loss of power: Once prime minister, Netanyahu immediately appointed as his defense minister Ariel Sharon, previously thrown out of the government for massacres in Lebanon including Sabra and Shatila. Sharon then defeated Netanyahu and derailed the Oslo peace accords in 2001, followed by his vigorous encouragement that the U.S. invade Iraq two years later. Although Netanyahu lost by a small margin in 2008, he united the Likud party with other even more extreme Israeli settler parties.

Palestinian state: Likud’s party charter rejects any possibility of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan River; “their activity shall be limited in accordance with imperatives of Israel’s existence, security and national needs.” The goal of the Likud party, led by Netanyahu, is not peace but total “victory” by whatever means necessary and achieved through violence, if they wish.

[Gilbert Schramm is a peace activist and international educator who currently lives in Oregon. He has previously lived and worked extensively in the Middle East and has studied the region for almost 35 years.]

Netanyahu’s hawkish, right-wing lies start wars, and Israel wants the might of the United States military behind them for whatever the Israelis want. In his speech to Congress, Netanyahu will urge legislators to go above President Obama’s interests of peace to support the right-wing Israeli wish list. In recent weeks, Israeli intelligence agencies have directly reported to U.S. officials that increasing sanctions on Iran would derail the current delicate negotiations. Allowing Netanyahu to follow through with his plans would also insult the president of the United States and violate existing international diplomatic precedents.

The two most effective opponents of ISIL are Iran and Hezbollah. When UN peacekeepers were surrounded by ISIL rebels on the Israeli border, Netanyahu’s troops, a few yards away, did nothing while Syrian troops used artillery fire to help the peacekeepers escape.

Democrats, some of them leaders in the Jewish caucus and others long supporters of Israel, also condemn Netanyahu’s lobbying for war. Veterans of the civil rights movement also condemn Netanyahu for his apartheid policies in Israel. From left to right, the U.S. Jewish community, including Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, is outraged that Netanyahu pretends to speak for them.

Netanyahu had hoped to use his speech before Congress as part of his re-election campaign, but Israel’s election chief Salim Joubran announced that the broadcast in Israel would have a five-minute delay, allowing editors to cut partisan statements. Several parties in Israel have condemned Netanyahu for his actions, along with Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. and five former Israeli ambassadors. Even right-wing allies fear that the speech will put the prime minister’s ties to the GOP ahead of the relationship between Israel and the United States.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said that he opposes “shallow” campaign tactics, adding that speaking about threats and dangers should be “in Hebrew to our citizens at home.”

A recent poll shows that people think that Boehner’s invitation was inappropriate  by 47 percent to 30 percent. All demographics show a majority of opposition to the invitation except for Republicans. In Israel, the opposition to Netanyahu speaking to Congress, 52 percent to 36 percent, is relatively the same as in the U.S.

After Netanyahu faced opposition in the United States for his planned speech, one of his officials, Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, accused Boehner of telling them that support for the speech was bipartisan. Hanegbi did not disagree with an interviewer who asked if Netanyahu had been “misled.” Nevertheless, Netanyahu plans to make the speech on March 3 because, Hanegbi said, it could help secure the two-thirds vote necessary to override a presidential veto on new sanctions in Iran.

Boehner told Fox’s Chris Wallace that he had asked Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., not to tell the White House about Congress’s meeting with Netanyahu “to make sure that there was no interference.” Boehner also complained about the “animosity” that the White House had shown Netanyahu. When Wallace asked if “the relationship between the U.S. and Israel be outside of politics,” Boehner dodged the question, saying that he looked forward to hearing what Netanyahu had to say.

Netanyahu said to Dan Shapiro, U.S. Ambassador to Israel, that the Obama administration was “not to ever second-guess me again.” No other foreign leader could get away with this tone and this message. Yet United States taxpayers send over $8 million a day in U.S. aid to Israel.

The leader of the U.S. House of Representatives has secretly partnered with a foreign government to undermine the foreign policy of the United States. Boehner admitted that he put the prime minister of Israel above the President of the United States, and Boehner did this after he lied about giving the White House sufficient warning regarding the invitation to Netanyahu.

The Republicans have been salivating for an opportunity to govern in Washington, D.C. This debacle, only two months into the 114th Congress, may be only an early one that leads the GOP toward failure in the 2016 election.

January 5, 2015

Steve Scalise Scandal, White Supremacy

Fox network is well-known its unfair and unbalanced view of events, lying to protect conservatives and excoriate everyone else. A rare exception to this channel policy came from Greta Van Susteran when she criticized Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) for lacking the “moral courage” to resign from his third-place leadership position as Majority Whip in the U.S. House. Debates have swirled throughout the country for the past week after it was revealed that Scalise was the keynote speaker at a convention of the white supremacist, hate group European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) in 2002, invited by the efforts of KKK Grand Wizard David Duke.

Scalise’s excuse for his speech was that he had no idea about the beliefs of EURO and didn’t know that Duke was connected to the organization. His talk, however, was targeted to a specific audience because it focused on how government programs favor minorities over white people. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said that Scalise could keep the position as Majority Whip because he had apologized (in the usual, “it was a mistake I regret”) and because the event was 12 years ago. Evidently, that is the statute of limitations for wrong-doing from one Republican to another.

Van Susteran pointed out that the support for the KKK by the third most powerful GOP member of the House sent a bad message to everyone except the conservative white voters:

“I don’t know if it’s fair to Scalise or not fair to Scalise, but associating with David Duke is grossly unwise. Everyone knows who David Duke is. I realized this was 12 years ago. But if you want to send a message to the American people, the Republicans and Democrats, this would have been the opportunity to say he should step aside, whether it’s fair or not, and send a message that we’re not going to have this distraction, we really do want to have everybody on board.”

Trying to protect Scalise, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) compared Scalise to Jesus because of the congressman’s nobility in sitting down with these evil-doers, just as Jesus would have done. Scalise’s actions were very positive, according to King, because he was helping “the sick,” something that King actually fiercely opposes through his policies against Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.

In 1999, while considering a run for U.S. representative from Louisiana, Scalise said that he “embraces many” of Duke’s “conservative” views. Being the keynote speaker for a racist group is not Scalise’s only openness about his opposition to civil rights. He voted against the Martin Luther King holiday twice. In 1999, Scalise was one of just three “no” votes on a Martin Luther King holiday measure, and five years later, he was one of just six Louisiana legislators who opposed King holiday legislation, versus 90 state House members who supported it. Other GOP leaders have also voted against the holiday, but recanted. Former Vice President Dick Cheney (R) changed his mind in 1983 and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in 1999. Scalise clung to his opposition into the 21st century.

As a state legislator elected from the same precincts where Duke was once strong, Scalise voted against legislation to establish protections for victims of hate crimes based on race. He is also connected to the Family Research Council, another hate group.

The GOP has struggled with bigotry among its members. Trent Lott lost his position as Senate Majority Leader after his 2002 praise for Strom Thurmond’s 1948 segregationist platform. Boehner called King an “a**hole” for the Iowan’s racial views on Latino immigrants. Last year, the GOP establishment rejected Chris McDaniel during his Senate campaign in Mississippi because of the candidate’s role at a neo-Confederate and pro-secessionist conference.

Scalise is also not Boehner’s first struggle with wrong-doing by GOP House members. Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), left in 2010 after an affair with a staffer, and the next year Boehner told Rep. Chris Lee (R-NY) to leave after trying to meet women through the Craigslist personals. Last year, after Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA) was filmed kissing a married staffer, not his own wife, then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) called for McAllister’s resignation. The most recent departure came last week following Boehner’s meeting with newly-elected Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) after he pleaded guilty in December 2014 to a felony tax evasion.

The standards for being forced out of the House seem fuzzy, but evidently adultery, not illegal, is unethical, but speaking with radical racist groups is acceptable for the GOP leadership. Hitting on women online ends a career, but friendly relationships with neo-Nazis works in a person’s favor.

David Duke, who Scalise once praised for his political views, is unhappy about the possibility that Scalise could lose his new position. Livid that the “Zionist” media and the GOP are concerned about Scalise’s speech, Duke threatens to reveal names of other politicians who have secret ties with Duke if the GOP turns on Scalise. Duke has called Scalise “a fine family man” with whom he often agrees. According to Duke, Scalise gave his speech at the convention via a teleconference in Russia and discussed his conspiracy theory about how “Israeli treachery” was involved in the 9/11 attacks.

A political advisor to David Duke, Kenny Knight, claimed that Scalise spoke to a civil group, not EURO and denied any involvement with Duke’s organization. Yet public records showed that Knight was an officer in EURO at one time.

Scalise is now the pick of the House GOP caucus to lead them in their new role in the 114th Congress totally controlled by Republicans. If he stays in that position, he represents the GOP party. It also might be a party that is afraid of Duke’s revelations, meaning that Duke is partly in control of the GOP.

Whites will be the minority in the United States in the year 2042. Steve Scalise is 49 years and could see his race become a minority during his lifetime. That’s something that Republicans might want to think about in picking leaders connected to white supremacists.

Republican leaders had hoped that silence will make the Scalise scandal blow over, but continuing publicity is damaging the congressman’s reputation. Other GOP legislators are forced to defend his actions, and the toxicity is growing, with doubts about fundraising for GOP candidates who support his past behavior. Editorials in hometown newspapers of these legislators aer calling for Scalise to step down. Another question is whether Scalise can be successful in persuading lawmakers to support the House GOP agenda, especially in the growing divisiveness of the GOP members of the House. Conservative activists like Mark Levin, Erick Erickson, and Sarah Palin want him out of GOP leadership.

His continued part of the leadership leaves the GOP open to criticism as shown by the White House’s press secretary, Josh Earnest when he said that it “says a lot about what the [GOP] Conference’s priorities and values are” that Scalise has remained in leadership. Earnest twice repeated a Scalise quote from before he was in Congress that he is like former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke “without the baggage.”

Senior Democratic officials think that the Scalise scandal could be worth millions of dollars in donations from their own supporters and sent out a press release to 30 GOP-held districts asking whether that member will “stand behind Scalise despite Scalise’s past rallying voters at white supremacists rallies?”

At this time, Boehner is sticking to his guns, and Scalise is maintaining silence, refusing almost all interview requests and no longer lobbying colleagues for support. Boehner actually benefits from Scalise’s problems because the Louisiana representative might have defeated Boehner for House Speaker.

The 114th Congress starts tomorrow, and a Majority Whip cannot continue to avoid the media. If Scalise keeps the position, protests will weaken, but the message will always be present.

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