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“Warped Childlike Minds”: An Abrupt End To Another GOP Conspiracy Theory

During a recent trip to Europe, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton contracted a stomach virus, and two weeks ago, her ailments left her dehydrated. It reached the point at which Clinton fainted, struck her head, and suffered a minor concussion.

Except, many on the right refused to believe it. For Fox News and many other Republicans, Clinton was pulling a Ferris Bueller — pretending to have health trouble in order to avoid testifying on Capitol Hill about the September attack in Benghazi.

As Josh Rogin reports, Clinton is returning to work, and in the process, knocking down yet another silly GOP conspiracy theory.

Clinton’s ongoing recovery will still prevent her from flying abroad, but will allow plans to move forward for her to testify in open hearing on the Sept. 11 attack on Benghazi, testimony that she was unable to give — as per her doctor’s orders — on Dec. 20. Her return to a public schedule could also end the weeks of conspiracy theorizing and wild speculation about whether or not she was faking or misrepresenting her illness to avoid testifying.

“The secretary continues to recuperate at home. She had long planned to take this holiday week off, so she had no work schedule. She looks forward to getting back to the office next week and resuming her schedule,” Clinton aide Philippe Reines told The Cable.

And as part of that resumed schedule, Clinton has pledged to appear before both House and Senate foreign relations committees in January.

Referencing Rogin’s fine list, it’s unclear whether the New York Post, the Daily Caller, hosts on Fox News’s evening shows, Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), the conservative website Pajamas Media, the Investors’ Business Daily website, conservative blogger Lucianne Goldberg, and others are prepared to apologize for spreading the so-called “concussiongate” nonsense.

As for the larger context, we can also add this absurdity to the lengthy list of Obama administration conspiracy theories that the right took seriously but which never panned out.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 28, 2012

December 29, 2012 Posted by | Politics, State Department | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“What Gives?”: Public Policy Polling Found Wide Majority In Favor Of Assault Weapons Ban, Gallup A Majority Against

Ten days ago, Daily Kos commissioned Public Policy Polling to field a poll on a variety of topics related to guns. One of the simplest questions we asked—just eight words long—was this:

Would you support or oppose banning assault weapons?

Even though our survey oversampled gun owners considerably, respondents said they favored such a ban by a broad 63-32 margin. Now, you might wonder if the people we polled know what exactly an assault weapon is, what a ban might cover, and whether such a ban would even be effective.

Those are all legitimate questions, but regardless of how well-informed our respondents might be, they stated a preference in response to a simple, clear question—and as we move forward, the public debate on this question will indeed generally be referred to, by politicians and the press, as “a ban on assault weapons.” In other words, we framed our question to reflect the rubric people will hear when they tune into the news.

Contrast our approach with Gallup’s, which also released some new data on gun issues. Here’s their assault weapons question:

Are you for or against a law which would make it illegal to manufacture, sell or possess semiautomatic guns known as assault rifles?

By a 51-44 spread, Gallup’s respondents oppose such a ban—which is actually a little tighter than the 53-43 against they found the last time they asked this question (in Oct. of 2011). No matter what, though, that’s wildly different from the huge numbers PPP sees in favor of such a ban. So what gives?

Well, frankly, Gallup’s question sucks. It’s too long, too wordy, and too confusing. As I noted above, for decades, this public policy issue has been described—by supporters and opponents alike—as an assault weapons ban. Everyone knows what the word “ban” means. So why complicate things with legalistic phrasing like “illegal to manufacture, sell or possess”? Normal people don’t talk that way. Hell, even abnormal people like Beltway pundits don’t talk that way.

The final part of the question is problematic, too. Gallup wants the phrase “semiautomatic guns known as assault rifles” to be interpreted as “the sub-set of semiautomatic guns that encompasses assault rifles.” That alone is too verbose and requires too much mental processing. Does it really help anyone to give this extended definition? Put another way: I can think of no good reason to not just say “assault rifles” and eliminate the part about “semiautomatic guns.”

But it would also be all too easy for someone to come away with the impression that Gallup is saying “semiautomatic guns, which are also known as assault rifles.” In response to that, you might think, “Hell no! ‘Assault rifle’ is not a synonym for ‘semiautomatic gun!'” Or you might think, “Hmm. This proposal sounds way too broad. Now we’re calling all semiautomatic guns ‘assault rifles?'”

Oh, and one more thing: Why assault rifles? Again, it’s always been referred to as an assault weapons ban. No one’s ever talked about banning rifles or other long guns used for hunting, so if your mind happened to focus on the word “rifle” instead of “assault,” you might think the questioner was asking whether hunting weapons should be made illegal.

Even if you think all these various chains of thought are ridiculous or stupid, well, it’s just very easy for one human to misunderstand another—especially a stranger calling on the phone who’s trying to get through an interview as quickly as possible. That’s why pollsters should always strive for maximal simplicity when they ask questions. That’s not always possible—sometimes you can’t get useful data without first offering a bit of explanation—but even then, there are better ways to do so on this topic than the way Gallup did.

But I don’t think extra verbiage is necessary at all here—as demonstrated by the fact that a mere five percent of respondents to PPP’s question said they were undecided. “Assault weapons” is a phrase people have heard (and, lately, have heard all too often). And whether people have a perfect understanding of the matter or not, citizens are allowed to express their opinions. You could try to craft a question which offered more background on what an assault weapons ban might mean, but Gallup certainly didn’t do that.

What they did, instead, is cloud the issue with a confusingly-worded question. If they’d adopted the phrasing we instructed PPP to use, I bet they’d find similar numbers to what we saw. And that’s a broad majority in favor of a ban on assault weapons.


By: David Nir, Daily Kos, December 28, 2012

December 29, 2012 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Not A Pox On Both Houses, Just The GOP’s”: Republicans Are Responsible For The Fiscal Cliff And Washington Gridlock

The public is furious at Congress. The business community is furious at Congress. The president is furious at Congress. Heck, the Congress is furious at Congress!

The “Plan B” debacle has further eroded House Speaker John Boehner’s standing in his own caucus. It hasn’t helped much out in the countryside either, telegraphing an image of inaction and disorganization.

All that seems to be left to come out of the Republicans is finger pointing and petty politics. Democrats are so mad that they aren’t far behind either.

But it is the Republicans who have been boxed in by their own extremism. We are to a point where the leadership of the congressional Republicans may be constitutionally (I don’t mean capital “C”) incapable of achieving a deal on almost anything controversial that comes before them. They are so far out of the mainstream, and they answer to their most extreme members, that it is nearly impossible for them to deliver on legislation, without jeopardizing their jobs.

Right now it is the fiscal cliff, next it will be the debt ceiling, then immigration, then climate change, then confirmation of presidential appointments and judges. And somehow Republicans still believe that paralysis will allow them to win elections. They are so caught up in the politics and strapped into their own ideological straight jackets that the word compromise does not leave their lips.

Forget that such intransigence is bad for the country. Forget that the public overwhelmingly supports President Obama’s positions. Forget that the vitriol directed at Congress is at an all time high and only climbing.

Sure, the Republicans now represent more extreme districts politically. Sure, many of them could get beat in a primary if they acted responsibly. Sure, the interest groups headed by the likes of Grover Norquist or now Jim DeMint will come down their throats. But, really, you don’t have the backbone, the spine, the courage to sign on to a compromise that helps the nation? Even when the public has shown in poll after poll that is what they want? Why did you run for Congress in the first place?

The notion of legislators taking on the tough problems and solving them is almost a relic with this crop of Republicans. They don’t see how important it is to work across the aisle and actually accomplish something. Think about it: Would Ronald Reagan tolerate this nonsense? How about George H.W. Bush? How about Dwight Eisenhower? Or Everett Dirksen? Or Howard Baker?

The time for Tea Party extremism is over. Real Republicans should recognize that.


By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, December 28, 2012

December 29, 2012 Posted by | Budget | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Shuffling The Deck Chairs On The Titanic”: Are Right Wing Republicans Plotting A Coup Against John Boehner?

Right-wing Republicans are reportedly organizing a coup against House Speaker John Boehner — and if they get their way, Paul Ryan could end up holding the speaker’s gavel.

Speaker Boehner — who is currently the least popular leader in Congress — has long struggled to control the right-wing flank of his party, but his disastrous failure to pass his “Plan B” budget deal crystallized the problem in a highly public way.

In response, some on the right are mobilizing to replace Boehner with a House speaker who drops Boehner’s pretense of being willing to negotiate with the White House, and who sticks more purely to extreme conservative dogma.

According to Matthew Boyle of the far-right website Breitbart News, conservative House Republicans have already laid the groundwork to do just that. Boyle reports that several members and staffers are quietly circulating a multi-step plan to oust Boehner as speaker on January 3rd. The first step of the plan would be to change House rules to elect the speaker by secret ballot instead of by a public roll-call vote; this would protect the congressmen who vote against Boehner from retribution.

The plotters are confident that such a measure would succeed, because Boehner himself has passionately argued in favor of secret ballots in the past. While opposing the Employee Free Choice Act — ironically, a favorite target of the right wing that now has Boehner in its sights — the speaker wrote a 2009 op-ed stressing that secret ballots protect against “coercion” and “intimidation.” In a document laying out the plan to oust Boehner (which can be viewed on, the anonymous staffers behind the planned coup note that Boehner would be in the “impossible position of opposing secret ballot or being confronted on the Floor with his own, indicting op-ed.”

If the move to vote via secret balloting is successful, then House Republicans would be able to anonymously vote until a Republican gains the 218 votes necessary for election as speaker. According to Boyle, House Republicans are confident that Boehner would not survive a secret ballot — but that another, still-anonymous congressman, “will unite the party and take the speakership.”

Could that congressman be Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan? Right-wing pundit Laura Ingraham said on Wednesday that “a well-placed conservative voice on the Hill” told her that there were “rumblings” that Ryan could replace Boehner. Although the former vice-presidential nominee is a member of Boehner’s “fiscal cliff” negotiating team (and supported Boehner’s ill-fated “Plan B”), he has the support of prominent right-wing voices such as Red State’s Erick Erickson, and his Tea Party bona fides have been well established over the past four years. If any congressional Republican could unite Boehner’s supporters and the Tea Party-backed base of the party, it would probably be Ryan.

That said, were Ryan to be elected as sSpeaker, there’s no reason to believe that he’d prove any more successful in the role than Boehner has. House Republicans — most of whom come from extremely safe districts where their only electoral concern would be a conservative primary challenge — seem wholly unconcerned with the political realities facing their party, and the fiscal realities facing the country. It doesn’t matter if Boehner, or Ryan, or even an outsider like Jon Huntsman becomes speaker (as American Enterprise Institute scholar Norman Ornstein recently suggested in a Hall of Fame example of how inside-the-Beltway consensus loses touch with reality).

Until the Republican Party listens to the American people and compromises on its extremely right-wing (and extremely unpopular) positions, changing its leadership will amount to little more than shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic.


By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, December 27, 2012

December 29, 2012 Posted by | Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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