"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“We Are Not A Deadbeat Nation”: Do Your Duty Congress, Or We’ll All Suffer The Consequences

By the time the president was making his case for the fourth time, the responses started getting a little repetitious, but Obama’s line didn’t change: we’ve already made enormous progress on debt reduction, he’s willing to do more, but a hostage strategy based on the debt ceiling isn’t acceptable.

In fact, the president spent a fair amount of time trying to explain to the public what some reporters occasionally overlook:

“The debt ceiling is not a question of authorizing more spending. Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize more spending. It simply allows the country to pay for spending that Congress has already committed to.

“These are bills that have already been racked up, and we need to pay them. So while I’m willing to compromise and find common ground over how to reduce our deficits, America cannot afford another debate with this Congress about whether or not they should pay the bills they’ve already racked up. […]

“So to even entertain the idea of this happening, of the United States of America not paying its bills, is irresponsible. It’s absurd…. And Republicans in Congress have two choices here: They can act responsibly and pay America’s bills or they can act irresponsibly and put America through another economic crisis. But they will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy. The financial well-being of the American people is not leverage to be used. The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip.”

It doesn’t sound like he’s ready to cave. On the contrary, it sounds like the president is issuing a not-so-subtle challenge to congressional Republicans: do your duty or we’ll all suffer the consequences.

The president went on to say:

“[T]he issue here is whether or not America pays its bills. We are not a deadbeat nation. And so there’s a very simple solution to this. Congress authorizes us to pay our bills.

“Now if the House and the Senate want to give me the authority so that they don’t have to take these tough votes, if they want to put the responsibility on me to raise the debt ceiling, I’m happy to take it. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, had a proposal like that last year, and I’m happy to accept it.

“But if they want to keep this responsibility, then they need to go ahead and get it done. And you know, there are no magic tricks here. There are no loopholes. There are no, you know, easy outs. This is a matter of Congress authorizes spending. They order me to spend. They tell me: You need to fund our Defense Department at such-and-such a level. You need to send Social Security checks. You need to make sure that you are paying to care for our veterans.

“They lay all this out for me, and — because they have the spending power. And so I am required by law to go ahead and pay these bills.

“Separately, they also have to authorize a raising of the debt ceiling in order to make sure that those bills are paid. And so what Congress can’t do is tell me to spend X and then say, but we’re not going to give you the authority to go ahead and pay the bills.”

Obama added that he’s ready to negotiate on debt reduction, and he’s even open to entitlement changes, but he doesn’t intend to reward Congress for doing what it must do anyway.

What’s more, of particular interest was the president highlighting Republicans’ philosophical goals, which have less to do with debt reduction, and more to do with undermining public institutions.

“[I]t seems as if what’s motivating and propelling at this point some of the House Republicans is more than simply deficit reduction. They have a particular vision about what government should and should not do. So they are suspicious about government’s commitments, for example, to make sure that seniors have decent health care as they get older. They have suspicions about Social Security. They have suspicions about whether government should make sure that kids in poverty are getting enough to eat or whether we should be spending money on medical research. So they’ve got a particular view of what government should do and should be.

“And that view was rejected by the American people when it was debated during the presidential campaign. I think every poll that’s out there indicates that the American people actually think our commitment to Medicare or to education is really important, and that’s something that we should look at as a last resort in terms of reducing the deficit, and it makes a lot more sense for us to close, for example, corporate loopholes before we go to putting a bigger burden on students or seniors.”

I’m glad Obama reminded the political world of this basic truth; I get the sense folks sometimes forget what the driving motivations are behind many of our ongoing partisan fights.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 14, 2013

January 15, 2013 Posted by | Congress, Debt Ceiling | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Crazies Just Get Crazier”: Bring Me Your Angry, Your Paranoid, Your Masses Huddled In Their Bunkers…

Independence is the new media thing. Andrew Sullivan is doing it. Trey Parker and Matt Stone are doing it. And Glenn Beck, who did it already when he got booted from Fox News and created his own internet TV … um … thing in response, is taking it even farther. Inspired by “Galt’s Gulch,” the place in Atlas Shrugged where the Randian übermenschen retreated, Beck is unveiling plans for an entire city he will build, a city to embody all that is right and good and libertarian about America, a true refuge where those who have proven their mettle by watching hundreds of hours of his programs can come and live just as the Founders intended. It’ll be called, naturally, Independence, U.S.A. Behold:

You’ll notice how right at the beginning Beck says, “You will have to literally wipe us off the face of the earth and wipe us off the map before you can erase the truth that is America.” Presumably in the regular America, the sinister forces can just come for us one by one, and before you know it America is gone, but it’ll be a lot harder if the True America is all concentrated in one city. Seems a little backward to me, but OK.

Of course this will never happen, but you can’t fault him for a lack of ambition. It isn’t enough to pay to be a member of Glenn’s web site and listen to his radio show and buy his books. He wants you to come live in a city he designed! And what’s the end point of this? Perhaps an “Eternal Glenn” program, where after your loved one dies, you mail to Beck a small vial containing some of old grandad’s blood (harvested while he was alive, of course), and in a brief but solemn ceremony, Glenn will join the blood with that of other Beck fans in a beautiful cauldron (mini-replicas available for only $39.95), merging their essences into a powerful liquid spirit, each drop a concentrated reduction of Paranoid Cranky Old White Man, bursting with America-ness and used for anointing in secret ceremonies deep within the underground temple at Independence, U.S.A. Don’t be surprised.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, January 14, 2013

January 15, 2013 Posted by | Right Wing | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Conservative Paranoid Fantasies”: The Return Of Right-Wing Insurrectionism, This Time Featuring Hitler

What is it about President Obama’s inaugurations that bring out the craziest of the right-wing crazies?

Four years ago, Obama’s historic swearing-in sparked months’ worth of teeth-chattering paranoia, trumpeted by the conservative media, about how the new Democratic president posed a mortal threat to America and that drastic action might need to be taken.

In 2009, a far-right Newsmax columnist determined that a “military coup “to resolve the ‘Obama problem'” was not “unrealistic.” That’s about the same time Glenn Beck used his then-new program on Fox News to game out bloody scenarios for the coming civil war against the Obama-led tyranny. Note that the armed rebellion rhetoric was uncorked just weeks after Obama’s first cabinet had been confirmed.

Now, four years later as Obama’s second swearing-in approaches, the same misguided insurrectionist pageantry is back on display. (The fringe John Birch Society is probing the likelihood of “armed resistance” against the government — “an unlikely prospect, for now at least.”) And this time, Adolf Hitler stars in a leading role.

In fact, there’s a disturbing collision now underway featuring two signature, conservative paranoid fantasies. One holds that Obama is like Hitler; that he’s a tyrant ready to undo democracy at home. The other is that Americans need access to an unregulated supply of assault weapons in order to fight their looming insurrectionist war with the government.

In the last week we’ve heard more and more conservatives try to tie the two wild tales together: Obama’s allegedly pending gun grab will prove he’s just like Hitler, which will demonstrate the need for citizens to declare war on the government.

Ignoring nearly 250 years of our democratic history, conservative voices across the media landscape have been nodding their heads in agreement suggesting it’s only a matter of time before the United States resembles a tyrannical dictatorship that will be either fascistic or Stalinist in nature (or both, if the rhetorician feels no obligation to historical accuracy).

So much for the notion of American exceptionalism — “the conviction that our country holds a unique place and role in human history” — that conservatives love to preach.

The latest round of right-wing Obama panic was prompted by the Newtown, CT, school massacre. In its wake, Obama is reportedly ready to initiate efforts to curb gun violence, including possibly using executive orders. Simply the idea of instituting common sense gun reform, among other public policy issues, has sparked violent rhetoric about war and sedition early in the new year.

Fox’s Todd Starnes warned there would “a revolution” if the government tries to “confiscate our guns.” Fox News contributor Arthur Herman declared the U.S. is “one step closer” to a looming “civil war,” while fellow contributor Pat Caddell claimed the country was in a “pre-revolutionary condition,” and “on the verge of an explosion.”

And on his syndicated radio show last week, Sean Hannity speculated that states will move to secede should the “radicalized, abusive federal government” continue on its current path, and that they’d be justified in doing so.

Who’s to blame? Obama and Hilter.

Fox News’ Dr. Keith Ablow insisted history‘s filled with examples of leaders who confiscated guns as a precursor to “catastrophic abuses” of power: “One need look no further than Nazi Germany.” Fox’s Judge Andrew Napolitano made the same connection, while a Kentucky radio host compared firearm regulations to Nazi “yellow star” laws.

That’s the hook for the latest insurrectionist rants: If Obama’s going to act like Hitler, then of course right-wing gun owners are going to wage war.

Appearing on Piers Morgan Tonight last week, and after admitting he didn’t know that Ronald Reagan had supported an assault weapons ban, editor Ben Shapiro stuck to his claim that the gun debate in this country is really about “the left and the right” because the right understands Americans have to arm themselves with assault weapons to defend against the United States government [emphasis added]:

SHAPIRO: I told you, why the general population of America, law-abiding citizens, need AR-15s.
MORGAN: Why do they need those weapons?

SHAPIRO: They need them for the prospective possibility for the resistance of tyranny. Which is not a concern today, it may not be a concern tomorrow.

MORGAN: Where do you expect tyranny to come from?

SHAPIRO: It could come from the United States, because governments have gone tyrannical before, Piers.

MORGAN: So the reason we cannot remove assault weapons is because of the threat of your own government turning on you in a tyrannical way.


The right is stockpiling weapons because the U.S. government might go Nazi and declare war on a portion of its own people. And when the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines unleash their unmatched firepower on citizens, “the right” intends to be fully armed with AR-15s to fight a war within the U.S. borders.

That is the reason the Second Amendment exists? It’s not for everyday self-defense, or to protect the rights of hunters and gun enthusiasts, but to enable citizens to go to war with the U.S. government? To fend off a “tyrannical” turn at home. At least according to Shapiro’s keen take on history.

That’s what was “debated” on CNN last week. Not once but twice.

From conspiracy professional Alex Jones and his CNN harangue on January 7:

Hitler took the guns, Stalin took the guns, Mao took the guns, Fidel Castro took the guns, Hugo Chavez took the guns!” Jones ranted. “And I am here to tell you, 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms!

We already knew from 2009 that far-right voices were fretting about the need for a citizen’s militia to stop Obama’s destructive ways. Now four years later, with gun control initiatives pending, the frantic rants have escalated and Obama’s fiercest critics are rationalizing their insurrectionist chants by comparing the presidents actions to those of Hitler. The comparison isn’t just offensive, it’s also inaccurate: the Nazis actually loosened restrictions on private gun ownership (except for Jews and other persecuted groups).

That kind of ugliness not only pollutes our public dialogue, it also gives comfort to gun radicals who embrace the rhetoric. In early 2009, fearing what a friend described as “the Obama gun ban that’s on the way,” conspiracy nut (and Alex Jones fan) Richard Poplawski lured three Pittsburgh policemen to his apartment, then shot and killed them at his front door.

All the right-wing chatter today about how Obama’s following Hitler’s lead by allegedly voiding the Second Amendment only adds fuel to an unwanted fire.

By: Eric Boehlert, The Huffington Post, January 14, 2013

January 15, 2013 Posted by | Guns, Right Wing | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Teaparty Tipping Point”: Michele Bachmann Returns To The House Intelligence Committee

The Tea Party ain’t over. Case in point: last week, former presidential candidate and unflagging conspiracy theorist Michele Bachmann announced that, despite the understandable outcry, she has been assigned yet again to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in the new congressional term.

Today, People For the American Way delivered 178,000 petitions to House Speaker John Boehner urging him to remove Bachmann from the Intelligence Committee. Members of the House Intelligence Committee are entrusted with classified information that affects the safety and security of all Americans,” the petition reads. “That information should not be in the hands of anyone with such a disregard for honesty, misunderstanding of national security, and lack of respect for his or her fellow public servants.” Boehner should take these concerns seriously. Instead, he has rewarded Bachmann’s reckless extremism with continued access to classified information and another term on a powerful committee.

This didn’t need to happen and it certainly shouldn’t have. More than a few comedians have pointed out the irony of Michele Bachmann being appointed to the “Intelligence” Committee in the first place. But on the Intelligence Committee the Minnesota congresswoman is no joke. Last year, Bachmann went too far, even by her own low standards, when she urged the Defense and Justice Departments to investigate what she alleged were Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, claiming that the Islamist group had achieved Manchurian Candidate-style “deep penetration” into the U.S. government. Her allegations were supported only by her delusionary distrust of Muslim-Americans and by the rantings of anti-Islam activist Frank Gaffney. Meanwhile, she was rebuked by many of her fellow Republicans, including Sen. John McCain, who called the accusations “an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable woman, a dedicated American and a loyal public servant,” and Boehner, who said the claims were “pretty dangerous.” Even her own former campaign manager Ed Rollins called her attacks “downright vicious” and compared her unhinged witch hunt to that of the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

Since then, despite having no evidence, she’s hasn’t moderated her rhetoric. At September’s Values Voter Summit, she claimed that a decision by the FBI to stop using flawed anti-Muslim training materials amounted to President Obama enforcing “Islamic speech codes.” In subsequent radio interviews, she claimed that the president wanted to impose Sharia law at home and abroad.

Bachmann of course promotes a wide range of conspiracy theories — including the theory that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation and that people who fill out the census will end up in concentration camps. But her wild claims about anti-Americanism in the halls of government have a direct bearing on her position on the Intelligence Committee and they’re where we should draw the line. Bachmann’s often laughable crackpot theories are no longer funny when they involve our national security.

Apparently Speaker Boehner disagrees. While he made headlines last year for condemning Bachmann’s dangerous crusade, he has yet to take any action to stop it. Bachmann and the Tea Party have proven time and again that they don’t take the business of governing seriously. Boehner and his fellow Republican leaders should stop pretending like they do.


By: Michael B. Keegan, The Huffington Post, January 14, 2013

January 15, 2013 Posted by | Congress, Teaparty | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Their Cause Is Nonsense”: “No Labels”, A Rich Moderate Group Vows To Focus On Actual Reform Proposals, However Nonsensical

For two years, the nonprofit group “No Labels” has brought together some of the most respected and influential members of the New York and Washington political and business elite to publicly fight for a set of vague goals related to “civility” and “problem-solving.” They have, so far, failed to advance their cause, because their cause is nonsense. But they keep trying, bless their hearts. Their newest rerelaunch is underway, with some sort of conference in New York today, and their new mascots are figures hated by everyone besides people who reflexively think angering your own party is self-evidently virtuous: Former Utah Gov. John Huntsman and current Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va.

So, we have a conservative Republican whom Republicans hate and a conservative Democrat whom Democrats hate. Classic No Labels!

But No Labels says they’ve heard your complaints. They claim they’re finished with promoting “centrism.” Instead of imagining themselves the arbiters of the imaginary “middle,” they will fight for real reforms that will end congressional dysfunction.

“We started off thinking there was a broad group in the middle, but quickly realized that wasn’t productive. People have very different notions of what the middle is,” said Mark McKinnon, a longtime adviser to former President George W. Bush and a No Labels founder. “So we grew beyond that, and now have strong conservative and strong liberal partisans who want to participate.”

That perspective is shared by the group’s new co-chairs — West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and former Republican Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who gave their first joint interview to Yahoo News since taking their new roles.

“It’s not about centrism, it’s about a new attitude toward the realities we face. It’s about finding Democrats and Republicans who will check their egos at the door,” said Huntsman, whose decidedly centrist run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination flamed out early in the primary process.

That is actually refreshing to hear, from these people. No Labels is learning! I have argued before that rich self-declared “moderates” should focus on specific procedural reforms instead of spending all their time crying about Tip O’Neill and begging for civility. Of course, instead of starting big money-wasting nonprofits, they could contribute to the various existing nonpartisan think tanks and advocacy organizations already fighting for electoral and congressional reform — whoo, FairVote! — but I guess there is always room at the party.

So what’s first on the agenda? Nonpartisan redistricting? An end to the secret hold? Oh, no, it’s this gimmicky budget thing again:

Both lawmakers acknowledged that the Problem Solvers’ group wasn’t ready to bridge the partisan divide over looming crises like the coming battle over raising the nation’s debt ceiling, not to mention longer-term challenges like the solvency of Medicare and Social Security.

But they’ve coalesced around issues pertaining to the way Congress functions, like “No Budget, No Pay” legislation pushed by No Labels that would bar lawmakers from receiving a salary without passing a federal budget.

This proposal to cut off congressional pay if they don’t pass a budget has long been a cornerstone of the No Labels policy agenda. It neatly illustrates the ignorance that drives the entire campaign. “Passing a budget” is the goal, not “passing a good budget.” A budget that increased military spending while cutting anti-poverty programs would, then, be preferable to a continuing resolution maintaining current spending levels. Furthermore, the penalty is mostly symbolic and arguably destructive: Congress is full of very rich people, and cutting off their salaries only harms the members of Congress with net worths closer to those of the average Americans they ostensibly represent. This is the sort of “reform” proposal that sounds very good when a caller proposes it on talk radio, until you think about it for 10 additional minutes.

No Labels simply can’t bring themselves to end their love affair with deeply silly symbolic proposals that have nothing to do with the forces preventing Congress from “solving” real “problems.” They are pushing for filibuster reform and straight up-and-down votes on appointments — good! — but they pair those goals with incredibly silly proposals like mandatory bipartisan seating. As long as the people who can command media attention waste their time on gimmicks, actually constructive reform campaigns will continue to be sidelined and dismissed.


By: Alex Pareene, Salon, January 14, 2013

January 15, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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