Nel's New Day

September 8, 2018

More Pieces from DDT’s 85th Week

While Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) creates chaos to stop people from noticing reasons for his indictment, the news keeps churning.

Twitter, who tried to claim its lack of bias in not banning conspiracy-theorist Alex Jones and his InfoWars website when other social media did, has “permanently suspended” Jones and his website for violating policies against abuse, including attacks on a reporter outside Kavanaugh’s congressional hearing.

DDT tweeted in mid-August that he was revoking the clearance for John Brennan, but Brennan hasn’t received any notice about the loss of his clearance. This lack of follow-through seems to be a pattern:

  • June: DDT said he “instructed” officials “not to endorse” an official G-7 communique negotiated by member nations diplomats. Nothing happened.
  • April: DDT tweeted that Russia should “get ready” for his military offensive in Syria. Nothing happened.
  • February: DDT asked Defense Secretary James Mattis for military options for Iran. Mattis “refused.”
  • Last summer: DDT tweeted that transgender people were banned from military service. The Joint Chiefs ignored him.

Benjamin Wittes, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and editor in chief of the blog Lawfare, noted that unlike all other administrations, saying, “there is an almost total disconnect between what the president says in public and the actions of the executive branch.” Or maybe his aides really are taking papers off his desk.

With a prediction of a “blue wave,” Republicans have gone beyond their usual fraudulent efforts to win the election such as restrictive voter ID laws, gerrymandering, false statements about candidates, and maneuvers to put someone on the ballot to benefit themselves, and lying about their credentials. Now they’ve moved on to stolen materials, as in the example of Abigail Spanberger, candidate for Virginia’s 7th House district, who is running against Rep. Dave Brat, who replaced House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.  Brat is as unpopular as Cantor was , and the district is considered a toss-up between the two parties.

A GOP SuperPAC connected to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) released all the private information from a job application completed by Spanberger, including her Social Security number. The Postal Service said that it released Spanberger’s application in error and asked that it be returned, yet the GOP PAC spun the information into lies about Spanberger.

A polling company asked voters if they would be less likely to support the Democratic candidate “if she knew that the candidate had taught at a school funded by the Saudi royal family that had ‘numerous students arrested for terrorism,’” and the GOP put this information into a “news release.” Spanberger substituted at a prep school for a wealthy school after she finished her MA with no record of any students connected to terrorism in any way. The problems cited by the GOP occurred long after Spanberger left the school. Then someone put up fake posters claiming that Spanberger promises to impeach DDT, open the U.S. borders, and abolish ICE—issues when Spanberger opposes.

In Texas, Democrat Rep. Beto O’Rourke is even in the polls with Sen. Ted Cruz for the general election. Now about 1,000 of O’Rourke’s supporters are receiving false texts that he is “in search of volunteers to help transport undocumented immigrants to polling booths so that they will be able to vote.” The messages came from his campaign by a first-time volunteer who signed up under a false name and were not authorized.

Racist robocalls sent from Idaho went to Florida residents where Andrew Gillum, a black man, is the Democratic candidate for governor against Trumper Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). The message starts with “I is Andrew Gillum” in a minstrel performer voice to background sounds of drums and monkeys before the voice rambles on about mud huts and unfair policing. The recording claims to be provided by the Road to Power, a website with white supremacist and anti-Semitic content.

Other GOP attacks are against veterans—ridiculing tattoos on a Maine candidate who served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, claiming that a Colorado candidate who was an Army Ranger and Bronze Star recipient was responsible for VA problems, and saying that a Kentucky ex-fighter pilot deals in “execution” instead of “ideas.”

With no accomplishments or positive plans for the future, the GOP has devolved into the Party of Trump. It had hoped to run on their tax cuts, but the Pennsylvania special election proved that a failure. All they have are smear campaigns. This past week, congressional Republicans refused to negotiate on a pact banning both parties from using hacked or stolen materials in campaigning. Republicans said that Democrats had violated an agreement not to publicly talk about the negotiations.

The speeches from DDT and President Obama this past week show the serious difference between the two parties. One speaker introduced and praised candidates with personal anecdotes and plans for what they can accomplish if they are elected. The other one barely mentioned a candidate’s name, instead talking about himself and how people must vote for members of his party to keep him from being impeached. DDT tried to play down any concern about president Obama’s speech, but insiders says that it added to his paranoia.

Hurricane Florence, due to hit the East Coast by the end of next week, can bring disaster back to the United States, but not everyone has forgotten DDT’s inability to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria’s destruction of Puerto Rico. Last Thursday, House Democrats accused GOP members of failing to investigate DDT’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in order to protect DDT. Even after the report that 2,965 people died because of the hurricane, almost triple those in Hurricane Katrina, DDT said that he did a “fantastic job.” Republicans held only one hearing on Maria, compared to the nine that they had about federal response to Katrina. They also asked for no records from the White House although they obtained over 500,000 documents from George W. Bush and within five months prepared 569 pages about the government’s failures and suggestions for improvement.

DDT blames Puerto Rico for the deadliest U.S. disaster in almost 100 years despite the refusal of the United States to support its territory. He called its power plant “dead” before the hurricane although it was still functioning and said that delivering aid was difficult because Puerto Rico is an island. The death rate could be as high as 4,645 because emergency responders didn’t provide help in many areas for days. DHS failed to immediately waive the Jones Act for Puerto Rico which prevented the island from getting aid and supplies from non-U.S.-flagged ships out of the U.S., and a hospital ship didn’t arrive for nine days. The assistance to Puerto Rico was minimal compared to mainland assistant, $6.2 million on the island and $141.2 million for Texas. Under pressure from U.S. officials, Puerto Rico hired a two-employee company in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s hometown that had once employed his son to repair its electrical grid. The company overcharged for its services before it failed, and much of Puerto Rico was without power for several months. In short, DDT and the U.S. failed Puerto Rico.

Even Israeli military hardliners object to DDT’s removal of funds for Palestinian refugees’ healthcare and schooling plus $200 million in economic aid as they far greater conflict instead of peace. DDT’s new level of hostility toward Palestinian was symbolized last May when Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the UN, walked out of a Security Council meeting to avoid hearing a speech by the Palestinian envoy, going beyond appointing David Friedman, funder of the illegal West Bank settlements, as ambassador to Israel. Christian evangelicals and donors such as Sheldon Adelson want the elimination of Palestinians, but DDT is creating a backlash from a people who have nothing to lose.

A neuroscientist suggests that DDT may be suffering from “narcissistic injury” because of his growing loss of power and control. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders explains that “criticism may haunt these individuals [suffering from this disorder] and may leave them feeling humiliated, degraded, hollow, and empty.” The reaction is to angrily blame others, as DDT is against Bruce Ohr, Jeff Sessions, John Brennan, etc. “Narcissistic rage” causes much higher levels of bully, threats, and erratic behavior with the sole intent of punishing others.

Just 36% say they approve of the job President Trump is doing, a 5-point drop from last month, according to the latest IBD/TIPP poll. Fifty-six percent disapprove of Trump’s job performance, up from 53% the month before.  Good photo  The broader IBD/TIPP Presidential Leadership Index plunged 11.6% to 40.4. That’s one of the biggest monthly drops since IBD started tracking this index in January 2000. Trump is also net negative among male voters for the first time in 2018, and has no advantage among voters over 65 for the first time since the election.

August 1, 2013

GOP: ‘Stop Government’

Yesterday was a landmark day: the Senate approved, for the first time, a director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Until seven years ago, the agency had a real director—not just an acting one—but the NRA persuaded Congress to put an amendment into the PATRIOT Act requiring Senate confirmation for that position. Since that time—seven years—the Senate has refused to confirm any nominees.

Seven months ago, President Obama nominated B. Todd Jones, the most recent person proposed for the position, but Senate GOP members held up the confirmation through filibustering until Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Harry Reid (D-NV) made a deal to stop the filibuster for seven other presidential nominees. The 60-40 vote to end the filibuster was not effortless: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) had to fly back from North Dakota after being ill, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) had to be persuaded to vote with the Democrats and the other GOP senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and John McCain (R-AZ).

George W. Bush nominated U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan for director, but the NRA accused Sullivan of “overly restrictive legal interpretations” and “overly zealous enforcement activities.” Sens. David Vitter (R-LA), Larry Craig (R-ID) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) threatened to filibuster Sullivan, and he was never confirmed. President Obama’s nominee in 2010, Andrew Traver, lost to the NRA because he supported a ban on .50 caliber rifles.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the man who called Edward Snowden a criminal, refused to support Jones who he accused of “retaliating against a whistle-blower.” One case has been closed because of a technical review of the complaint document, and the other has been moved to mediation.

This will be the last action before Congress heads home to campaign for five weeks, supposedly listening to what their constituents say. They declared this week “Stop Government Abuse,” which would be better described “Stop Government.” Instead of using this last week to clean up bills languishing in the House for months, that chamber considered ways to control government workers and give people the right to record their conversations. The new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, just nine days of House meetings away. They have eight out of 12 appropriation bills left to determine, including the farm bill. For weeks, conservative GOP representatives have been threatening to close down the government if Obamacare is not overturned. And we know how well that worked two years ago!

Conservative scholar Norm Ornstein calls the GOP behavior “irresponsible.” He asserted that the GOP has five different parties: a House party, a Senate party, a presidential party with Southern and a non-Southern one. According to Ornstein, the dominant parties are the House and the Southern one, and they are wreaking disaster on the nation:

“You could say it’s a do-nothing Congress but that doesn’t do justice to it. These guys are doing something, which is to destroy the economic fabric of the country by holding the functions of government hostage to a non-negotiable demand to eliminate Obamacare.”

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) warned his House colleagues that aiming toward the shutdown of the government would be a “suicidal political tactic.” He compared their position to that the Pickett’s unsuccessful attack during the Battle of Gettysburg leading to Confederate retreat.

The polls agree with Cole and Ornstein. Republican pollster Whit Ayers, president of North Star Opinion Research, found that respondents opposed the shutdown strategy by a 64-29 percent margin.

But the GOP plods along with its “stop government” tactics. With Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’s leadership, 43 GOP senators blocked the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill. Although 19 GOP senators wanted to bring the bill to the floor in June, McConnell managed to whip his caucus into a “stop government” position. House Republican leaders also pulled their THUD bill from the floor because there weren’t enough Republicans to vote in favor of the bill.

The House “stop government” focus this week was on bills with such titles as “Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act” and “Stop Playing on Citizen’s Cash Act.” The STOP IRS Act, STOP standing for “Stop Targeting Our Politics,” would let the IRS to fire employees “who take official actions for political purposes.” As some of the people in Congress are already leaving for their nice five-week vacation, House GOP leaders plan the 40th vote against Obamacare, its efforts to bar the IRS from implementing or enforcing any piece of the 2010 health-care law.

When lawmakers come back in September, however, playtime is over, especially if constituents tell GOP legislators that they shouldn’t close down the country. By now, the effects of the sequester is far more evident, and people without jobs are angry.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) showed his piece of “stop government” when he was asked about is the mis-named “Hastert Rule” that supposedly requires a majority of Republicans to approve a House bill before the House votes on the bill. He tried to dispel the myth in this way: “It is not, ‘they don’t come to the floor unless we have a majority of the majority,’ because we don’t know if we have a majority until we vote on it.”

At face value, this statement seems to give the impression that Ryan thinks the Hastert Rule should be ignored. That’s a good idea because, as McCain frequently claims these days, bills deserve to see the light of day and receive an honest debate. A spokesman clarified Ryan’s language when he told Ryan’s constituent, “The House will consider only those immigration reforms that garner a majority of House Republicans.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is already practicing the lies that he will tell his constituents. Yesterday morning, when asked about the president’s recent series about the economy and the middle class, Boehner said, “If I had poll numbers as low as his, I’d probably be out doing the same thing, if I were him.” Poll numbers are something that Boehner really shouldn’t touch.

The latest NBC/WSJ poll showed Obama with a 48% favorability rating; the same poll showed Boehner with an 18% favorability rating. The president’s approval rating, depending on which poll you like, is somewhere between 45% and 50%, while Boehner’s Congress’ approval rating is between 11% and 19%.

popularity

In other polls:

  • 55 percent of people think that Edward Snowden is a whistleblower, not a traitor, in contrast to Congressional opposition toward Snowden’s actions.
  • 78 percent of the people want a path to citizenship for undocumented people in the U.S.; the House refuses to even consider the possibility.
  • only 21 percent of the people think that abortion should not be allowed.
  • 68 percent of the people think that Republicans are doing too little to compromise with President Obama.
  • only 33 percent of the people that the distribution of wealth in the nation is fair, and a majority of the people believe that the government should do something about this.
  • 55 percent of the people think that marriage equality should be legalized, up from 46 percent less than nine months ago.

Boehner should check out the polls. He might find them enlightening.

June 15, 2013

GOP Legislators Won’t Do Their Job

All month the media has bombarded people with sound bites about the National Security Agency surveillance. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) tried to make citizens aware of this for two years; Edward Snowden managed to do it in two minutes. Quick to blame President Obama—again—several GOP legislators in Congress have bitterly complained about being left out of the loop.

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, organized briefings to better inform the senators. The most recent was last Thursday afternoon with NSA Director Keith Alexander, the FBI, Justice Department, FISA Court, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who denied in a Senate committee hearing only three months ago that there was no surveillance of the U.S. people. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) recessed the Senate for an hour so that everyone could attend this important briefing. Over half the senators left early on Thursday to catch their planes home. Only 47 of them attended the briefing.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) claimed that the administration is abusing the law through the NSA surveillance activities and expressed surprise at the extent of the surveillance, probably because he failed to attend any of the hearings during the last three years about NSA’s activities. Even more hypocritical, he has called himself the “author of the PATRIOT Act,” the law that makes all this surveillance legal and helped renew it in 2011.

Section 215 of his PATRIOT Act approves an FBI request for NSA to view millions of records from Verizon customers. It also allows the FBI to obtain any records from libraries without court orders. In a Connecticut case, FBI agents demanded “any and all subscriber information, billing information and access logs of any person or entity” that had used computers between 4 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. on February 15, 2005, in any of the 27 libraries whose computer systems were managed by the Library Connection, a nonprofit co-op of library databases. If the librarian told anyone about the letter that the FBI gave him, he could go to jail for five years. No court order was necessary.

Because he discussed the letter with three other librarians, all four of them were bound by the gag order, according to their attorney. They challenged the letter’s constitutionality and the gag order but couldn’t even attend the hearings because government lawyers declared that their presence posed a threat to national security. A year later when the PATRIOT Act was renewed, a federal court ruled that the letter was indeed unconstitutional, but the government appealed the ruling.

Congressional legislators have also decided that it’s not their job to answer questions about Obamacare. They respond to such concerns from their constituents as Medicare, Social Security, and immigration, but they don’t like Obamacare so they won’t bother to provide any assistance. Some said they would flat-out refuse to give any answers while others, such as Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) said he would refer them to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said, “We know how to forward a phone call.”

House leaders have organized a group known as HOAP—the House ObamaCare Accountability Project—to organize a messaging strategy against the law that will trickle down to constituents. August recess will probably provide the kick-off for this sabotage when some Congressional members may hold town halls.

A recent poll about Obamacare found “a majority [54 percent] of Americans still oppose the nation’s new health care measure, three years after it became law.” Sound bites ignore the section of the poll showing that more than one-fourth of those who oppose think it doesn’t go far enough. Adding the 44 percent of those who support the law and the 16 percent of those who think it doesn’t go far enough means that people against it are actually in the minority of 35 percent. Half the people polled are unfamiliar with the law. All they know is what far-right conservatives and media have told them.

In looking at polls about the unpopularity of Congress, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) claims that Congress has always been unpopular. He’s wrong. Forty years ago, confidence in Congress was 42 percent, a far cry from today’s 10 percent.

confidence in congress

 

Steve Benen wrote, “I tend to think 10% confidence is a little on the high end. Indeed, I’m wondering what those satisfied folks are thinking.” The 112th Congress was the worst seen since the 1700s, and the GOP obstructionism is making the 113th Congress just as bad only six months into its two-year session. It can become much worse as the GOP threatens to intentionally crash the economy this fall in the next debt-ceiling crisis.

The solution to improving the Congress would be for the GOP to pass the immigration reform bill, stop the deliberately harmful sequester, reduce gun violence ever so slightly, perhaps debate a bill or two that could create jobs, and rein in Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) from his incessant manufactured “scandals.”

Conservatives, however, are sure to follow this recent advice from the Heritage Foundation, formerly a think tank and now a policy-making group:

“We urge you to avoid bringing any legislation to the House Floor that could expose or highlight major schisms within the conference. Legislation such as the Internet sales tax or the farm bill which contains nearly $800 billion in food stamp spending, would give the press a reason to shift their attention away from the failures of the Obama administration.”

[Note: The $800 billion covers ten years; using that amount makes it look much larger.]

Charlie Cook followed that up with a National Journal piece late Thursday:

“Republicans would be much wiser to pursue a third option: Dig up as much damaging information as they can about the Obama administration and leak it to reporters they know will write tough stories that won’t be traced back to the source. That way, the public won’t see the GOP as being obsessed with attacking the other side and playing gotcha at the expense of the big issues facing the country—the ones voters really care about.

“Meanwhile, everyone in Washington will watch polls for signs of blood in the water, indications that the controversies or scandals—depending upon your perspective—are taking a political toll on Obama’s job-approval numbers.”

Meanwhile, 70 GOP representatives, led by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), have set out to lower Congress’s popularity, and the Tea Party is cheering them on. Their goal is to make Boehner follow the “Hastert rule”: only bills with majority GOP support are allowed on the House floor.

There actually is no “Hastert Rule.” Its author, GOP strategist John Feehery, said that it is “situational advice, never a hard-and-fast rule.” He sees insistence on this “rule” as counterproductive for conservatives, encouraging ideological rigidity and eliminating any compromise with Democrats, meaning that Boehner must work with the opposing political party to pass any bills other than renaming post offices.

After Issa’s letter to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), scolding him for demanding the release of full transcripts of the IRS investigation, the Democrats on Issa’s House Oversight Committee responded. They set Monday as the deadline for Isssa to explain why he refuses to release these transcripts of witness testimony or they will release the transcripts themselves. Issa’s problem is that the transcripts will most likely indicate no evidence of White House involvement in the process of selecting IRS audits.

Issa is most likely looking forward to the August town hall meetings where he has total control. Recess will make little difference in the Congressional level of activity; it just means that they cannot do any harm.

February 21, 2013

Whither the Sequester, Part 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:12 PM
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In an interview with Rev. Al Sharpton, President Obama said,

“My sense is [the GOP] basic view is that nothing is important enough to raise taxes on wealthy individuals or corporations, and they would prefer to see these kind of cuts that could slow down our recovery over closing tax loopholes. And that’s the thing that binds their party together at this point.”

The president was talking about the sequester, set to take place on March 1 because the Republicans have refused to negotiate. Today he phoned House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Earlier this week, he called several Republican senators, including John McCain (AZ), Marco Rubio (FL), and Lindsey Graham (SC), after they criticized him for not talking to them about immigration reform.

To stop the sequester through the end of this year, the Democrats have a $110 million plan that provides an equal division between revenues and spending cuts. Implementing the Buffett Rule, it would phase in a 30-percent effective rate for incomes between $1 million and $2 million. Additional revenues would come from changing tax treatment of oil extraction from oil sands and end current tax breaks to companies who move jobs overseas.

The $55 billion in spending cuts, evenly divided between defense and non-defense programs, would save $27.5 billion by eliminating agricultural subsidies and another $27.5 billion though defense cuts. Defense cuts would not start until a $3 billion cut in 2015, after the end of the Afghanistan war, and be slowly phased in until 2021 with a $5 billion reduction. In opposition, some Democrats pointed out that Congress has already cut $1.7 trillion in spending while raising only $700 billion in taxes since 2010, 2-to-1 cuts over revenue.

Of course, they haven’t presented the plans to Congress because it hasn’t been in session for the last week. They’ll show up for a couple of days next week, not enough time to take care of the sequester before March 1.

Most of the people in the United States know that the Republicans are responsible for this manufactured crisis, despite the GOP insistence that the president is at fault, but all of us are helpless to do anything about it. With its goal of showing the weakness of the opposing party to gain seats in 2014, the GOP wastes time. They are not trying to help the economy grow or reduce joblessness because that might give a more positive view toward the Democrats. The Republicans want these “meat cleaver” cuts, and they don’t care if their actions will destroy the country.

In a last-ditch attempt to show that he is not at fault, Boehner has a 900-word op-ed in the Wall Street Journal trying to point a finger away from himself. Boehner’s words and the translation:

“During the summer of 2011, as Washington worked toward a plan to reduce the deficit” means he and the GOP held the nation hostage while the president offered him a 9-to-1, cuts to revenue.

“The president scuttled this bipartisan, bicameral agreement. His solution? A sequester” means that the president accepted over $1.2 trillion in spending cuts with no revenue which Boehner found inadequate and then agreed to give policy makers more time—typical Boehner “kick-the-can-down-the-road” approach.

“Ultimately, the super committee failed to find an agreement, despite Republicans offering a balanced mix of spending cuts and new revenue through tax reform” means that the GOP offered the possibility of tax breaks—some day.

“The president’s sequester is now imminent” means that the GOP voted for it and then spent months bragging about its own sequester.

“Unfortunately, [the president] has put forth no detailed plan that can pass Congress” means that President Obama provided a detailed plan that Boehner doesn’t like.

“By contrast, House Republicans have twice passed plans to replace the sequester with common-sense cuts and reforms that protect national security” means that they did it during the 112th Congress and the plan doesn’t carry over to 2013.

“The president has repeatedly called for even more tax revenue, but the American people don’t support trading spending cuts for higher taxes” means that he ignores “the American people” because they have supported closing tax loopholes.

“The president got his higher taxes — $600 billion from higher earners, with no spending cuts — at the end of 2012” means that Boehner forgot that he got his $1.2 trillion spending cuts with no new revenue in 2011.

“Republicans’ willingness to do what is necessary to save these [retirement-security] programs is well-known. But after four years, we haven’t seen the same type of courage from the president” means that Boehner hopes no one notices his and the GOP’s work to end Medicare and privatize Social Security into oblivion as well as the president’s willingness to “reform” these programs.

Part of the impending disaster comes from Boehner’s latest “new rule,” as ridiculous as those on Bill Maher’s show and equally created out of thin air: “The sequester will be in effect until there are cuts and reforms that put us on a path to balance the budget in the next 10 years.” Unfortunately for the Speaker, his own caucus is getting nervous about the most recent proclamation. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), responded,

“There could be a significant number of Republicans that say, ‘I’m not going there because it would be too dramatic.’ I have said to my constituents, nobody is talking about changing Social Security and Medicare if you’re 55 years or over.’ I’ve been selling it for three or four years that way. So have many other members. Well, to balance in 10, that 55 years is going to move up to 58, 59, 60. It makes us look like we’re going back on what we were telling people when we were trying to sell this.”

Even the plan from the 112th Congress, less draconian than Speaker’s recent idea but still horrifying, wouldn’t balance the federal budget for almost 30 years. The last plan was so disastrous that GOP members weren’t willing to give specifics on the numbers. Now Boehner thinks that cuts in areas outside defense of one-sixth to one-third without any revenue can solve the country’s deficit problem by 2023.

This is Boehner’s message, phrased by Rachel Maddow: “(1) the sequester would do real harm to the country; (2) Republicans will allow it to happen anyway; and (3) this is a political winner for the GOP.”

This week, the president’s approval rating is 55 percent, his highest in three years; the GOP approval rating is 35 percent. These figures are according to a Bloomberg poll from February 15-18, 2013.

A poll from USA Today and the Pew Research Center shows that 76 percent of people in the United States, including 56 percent of Republicans, want a combination of revenues and spending cuts. Only 19 percent favor Boehner’s and McConnell’s cuts-only approach. The same poll shows that people are more likely to blame the GOP for negative results if the sequester is allowed to go into effect.

Tomorrow: what the sequester cuts.

February 9, 2013

Desperate McConnell Lies about Background Checks

American Crossroads has fired the opening salvo in Kentucky over a possibility of Ashley Judd running for the Senate in 2014 when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s term is up. Judd hasn’t declared, but Karl Rove’s conservative super PAC has dropped $10,000 into a Web-only ad pointing out she lives in Tennessee, works as an actress, and—horrors—campaigned for President Obama.

McConnell is trying to look as if his campaign is separate from the attack ads. His campaign manager Jesse Benton said, “We’re just focused on building an elite campaign and talking to Kentucky voters about Senator McConnell’s tremendous leadership.” Yet the two are connected through the Crossroads’ president, Steven Law, who has also served as McConnell’s chief of staff. Law also managed McConnell’s first re-election campaign in 1990 and later served as executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, whose purpose is to get GOP senators elected and re-elected.

McConnell’s desperation shows up in his campaign’s fundraising email:

“There are almost too many schemes to list. But President Obama’s worst center around:… a thinly-veiled national gun registration scheme hidden under the guise of ‘background checks’ to ensure federal government minders gain every bureaucratic tool they need for full-scale confiscation…. It is almost hard to believe the sheer breadth and brazenness of this attempt to gut our Constitution.”

One can expect the NRA to make a statement like this. But coming from McConnell, it brought out the fact checkers who make the senator look pretty bad. Washington Post wrote that nothing in the president’s plan creates a national gun registration scheme; it simply extends the current Brady law rule on background checks to all firearm sales. In fact, current law specifically prohibits using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to create a federal firearms registry and requires that all records be destroyed within 24 hours.

McConnell knows this because he first served on the committee that wrote the law and then was one of only 17 GOP senators to vote for the law. More than that, he signed a letter about the firearms database prohibition, saying it should be made permanent rather than lasting for just one year as most language in appropriations bills does.  Thus The Washington Post gives McConnell four Pinocchios, the award for biggest lie regarding gun background checks.

pinocchio_4

Republicans are fond of using Ronald Reagan as an example for good government in the 21st century. They should heed his op-ed piece from March 29, 1991, explaining the importance of the Brady Bill:

“While there has been a Federal law on the books for more than 20 years that prohibits the sale of firearms to felons, fugitives, drug addicts and the mentally ill, it has no enforcement mechanism and basically works on the honor system, with the purchaser filling out a statement that the gun dealer sticks in a drawer.

“The Brady bill would require the handgun dealer to provide a copy of the prospective purchaser’s sworn statement to local law enforcement authorities so that background checks could be made. Based upon the evidence in states that already have handgun purchase waiting periods, this bill–on a nationwide scale–can’t help but stop thousands of illegal handgun purchases.

“And, since many handguns are acquired in the heat of passion (to settle a quarrel, for example) or at times of depression brought on by potential suicide, the Brady bill would provide a cooling-off period that would certainly have the effect of reducing the number of handgun deaths.

“Critics claim that “waiting period” legislation in the states that have it doesn’t work, that criminals just go to nearby states that lack such laws to buy their weapons. True enough, and all the more reason to have a Federal law that fills the gaps. While the Brady bill would not apply to states that already have waiting periods of at least seven days or that already require background checks, it would automatically cover the states that don’t. The effect would be a uniform standard across the country.

“Even with the current gaps among states, those that have waiting periods report some success. California, which has a 15-day waiting period that I supported and signed into law while Governor, stopped nearly 1,800 prohibited handgun sales in 1989. New Jersey has had a permit-to-purchase system for more than two decades. During that time, according to the state police, more than 10,000 convicted felons have been caught trying to buy handguns.”

The NRA leaders and the “no gun laws” proponents repeat, ad nauseum, that all the government needs to do is enforce current laws. Yet our laws allow websites, the largest being Armslist, to advertise guns for sale with no checks. Investigators discovered that 54 percent of these sellers were openly willing to sell firearms to people who admitted that they couldn’t pass a background check.

New York City’s 2011 investigation found more than 25,000 weapons for sale on just 10 websites.  Jon Lowy, director of the legal action project of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said, “The last figure we have is 40 percent of gun sales take place without a background check. That figure is probably low, because it dates from before the advent of the thriving internet market.”

According to John Feinblatt, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s chief policy adviser, the number of guns offered on these ten websites sites grew 68 percent from 2011 to 2012. “Just as gun shows have been a problem because criminals know they can buy guns without detection, the internet is a place where criminals, felons, and other prohibited purchasers can find a weapon,” he noted.

Feinblatt said that states without the private sale loophole and with background checks for private gun sales have 38 percent fewer women killed with guns by intimate partners than states without these safeguards. Without universal background checks even for internet sales, “we’re basically giving a free pass to criminals,” he said.

Even people at gun shows think that mandatory background checks are a good idea. An NRA volunteer from Colorado Springs summed it up: “It tends to keep the bad guys away

If Mitch McConnell wants to get re-elected, he might want to take note of the following statistics. At the end of January, 92 percent of people in the United States—and 97 percent of all women—supported universal background checks for gun purchases, according to a CBS News poll. Quinnipiac found that 92 to 95 percent of voters in Virginia, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania backed expanded background checks, including those on people purchasing their weapons at gun shows. A poll from Women’s Donor Network shows that 90 percent of women are very concerned about gun violence.

In early December, Public Policy Polling, the group that most accurately predicted the presidential election last November, found that only 37 percent of Kentucky voters approved of McConnell, the lowest approval rating among all the U.S. Senators. He was so upset about the PPP survey showing him just a few points above Ashley Judd that he paid for his own survey—and found the same percentage.

Although the GOP doesn’t provide government tracking of gun deaths in the United States, informal reports show over 1686 deaths by guns since the Newtown (CT) massacre.

October 1, 2012

Republicans Face Obstacles

Election Day is five weeks from tomorrow, and the Republicans are growing more and more desperate. From ridiculous statements to voter registration fraud, the GOP leaders are making fools of themselves.

The latest loopy Republican is Mitt Romney surrogate John Sununu. In an interview with the New York Times, he claimed President Obama didn’t deserve credit for killing Osama bin Laden because he could have done it sooner.

Paul Ryan has also been infected by the mania to hide facts. In assuring Chris Wallace (Fox News) during an interview yesterday that Romney’s tax plan would give tax cuts to everyone, he said it would take too long to explain. “But let me say it this way, you can lower tax rates 20 percent across the board by closing loopholes and still have preferences for the middle class for things like charitable deductions, home purchases, for health care,” he explained. Ryan stuck to his classic “trust me” approach today when he said that he just didn’t want people “change the channel.”

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been a member of both major political parties as well as an independent in the last decade, has a reason for racial prejudice. When the NAACP filed a complaint about the racial bias against blacks and Hispanics in the admissions test for entering the city’s top public high schools, Bloomberg had an answer. “Life isn’t always fair,” he said.

If anything on Fox News can be believed, the big money donors are switching their cash from Mitt Romney to Republican Congressional candidates.

Since even the Fox polls shows that President Obama is polling ahead of Romney, the Republicans have this theory that all the polls are rigged—except the Rasmussen poll that shows the two men almost equal. First, Nate Silver, who predicted the electoral results for president in 49 out of the 50 states, has said that the polls are probably close to accurate. But second, the methodology for the Rasmussen polls lead to skewed results. They employ Pulse Opinion Research, a pay-to-poll agency which uses automated polling, a process that calls up a land line and allows anyone who answers to provide the answers despite age or eligibility.

The New York Times has published an article, buried on the bottom of page 13 last Friday, stating that Romney’s national security team recommends that he should rescind President Obama’s executive order barring torture. In all likelihood, he would do this because he is on record as saying that waterboarding is not torture. He has also said that he would approve “techniques” not allowed by the Army manual.

Fox News has trained one Millennial very well. In an interview with Fox, Steven Crowder said that he’s against “free” healthcare and “free” Social Security unlike other Millennials who just want “free” stuff. The interview doesn’t mention that Crowder grew up in Canada where he received “free” healthcare until he moved to Los Angeles. He did, however, use the typical Republican catchphrases such as “free birth control” and “Obama phones,” a program that started under Ronald Reagan.

More and more cases of Republican voter registration frauds are appearing across the country after Strategic Allied Consulting, an RNC-employed company, turned in registration forms to at least ten Florida counties with names of people who had died.

A complaint in California occurred after a surge of 35,000 registered Republicans in Riverside, a notorious blue area. Democrats presented affidavits from 133 Democratic voters who said that they had been re-registered as Republicans without their consent after signing petitions, including one that purported to lower the price of gasoline.  Others said they were offered free cigarettes or a “job at the polls” if they signed some paperwork. Re-registering Democrats as Republicans interferes with Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts because the party won’t contact a voter who is listed as a Republican. Petition voters said they were being paid $7 per signature.

In Colorado, the same company, paid $466,643 or half its total budget by the Colorado Republican Party, was fired at the recommendation of the Republican National Committee but not soon enough. On video, a young woman told someone that she was working for the county clerk’s office. She said, “I’m actually trying to register people for a particular party because we’re out here in support of Romney, actually.” No one knows how many people the company registered for the Democratic party and then discarded.  Colorado is one of five swing states that have stopped voter registration efforts because they had all employed the fraudulent company.

Also in Clay County (FL), a female volunteer calling for the Republican Party said that President Obama is a socialist and Muslim and that he’s going to take away Medicare. In addition, she gave instructions to watch Fox News and the propaganda “documentary” 2016: Obama’s America. None of these things is true—including the information in the film. There’s proof that the volunteer said these things because she left a message on an answering machine.

The icing on the cake for today, however, is last Friday’s ruling from Judge Carol Jackson, a George H.W. Bush appointee to a federal court in Missouri, that rejected a Catholic business owner’s challenge to the Obama Administration’s rules requiring employer health plans to cover birth control. The decision stated that salaries and health insurance can be used to buy birth control, so if religious employers really object to enabling their employees to buy birth control, they would have to not pay them money in addition to denying them comprehensive health insurance.

According to the ruling, an employer cannot assert a religious objection to how their employees choose to use their own benefits or their own money because religious freedom is not a license to “force one’s religious practices upon others.” Jackson not only rejected the plaintiffs’ claim that the birth control rules violate the Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause but also rejected the plaintiffs’ much stronger claim that the rules violate a federal law known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). RFRA gives religious objectors significant, although not entirely insurmountable, rights against laws they do not wish to follow for religious reasons. So Jackson’s opinion rejects the strongest possible legal argument against the Obama Administration’s contraception rules.

As shown below, the Romney campaign can’t even find enough women to get out and support Mitt Romney in Missouri.

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