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

“Let’s Destroy The Village”: Four Years Later, Paul Ryan Wants More Of The Same

Just when I thought that the National Review Institute demonstrated that Republicans are ready to compromise, Paul Ryan outlined a somewhat apocalyptic vision of budget negotiations there on Saturday.

According to POLITICO, Ryan said “that the nation will face ‘tepid growth and deficits’ under President Barack Obama and Republicans must prudently ‘buy time’ and ‘keep the bond markets at bay — for the sake of our people.'” Like a third-rate objectivist action hero, he is.

Ryan continued:

“Unfortunately, the Democrats are unlikely to accept our proposals. They refuse to consider real reform. But we will lay the groundwork for future endeavors. So when reform is possible, we will be ready.

“The president will bait us. He’ll portray us as cruel and unyielding,” Ryan said. “Look, it’s the same trick he plays every time: Fight a straw man. Avoid honest debate. Win the argument by default.

But neither the President nor any other Democrats need to portray Ryan as “cruel and unyielding” because his policies do a fantastic job of that on their own.

Ryan has time and time again demonstrated that he isn’t interested in paying down the national debt or in “reforms to protect and strengthen Medicare and Medicaid,” as he claimed on Saturday. He’s interested in turning Medicare into a voucher program and in slashing Medicaid’s budget by over a trillion dollars — his logic reminiscent of that infamous Vietnam era talking point “destroying the village in order to save it.” And speaking of bombs, Ryan has repeatedly refused to consider cutting one of the most draining and unnecessarily large parts of the budget: defense spending. He also refuses to consider forcing those with mountains of idle or otherwise unproductive cash to pay for these programs, and isn’t content with Democratic compromises thus far, refusing to appreciate the $2.2 trillion in cuts agreed to during the 112th Congress, because he’s cranky about the $620 billion in tax increases.

Moreover, he isn’t even right about the one thing that libertarian types are supposed to be intimately familiar with — the bond market. As I pointed out a few weeks ago, interest rates are about as low as they can be and aren’t expect to rise, and demand for U.S. Treasury bonds is robust. This suggests that the market has confidence in the U.S. government’s ability to honor its debts, and that federal borrowing isn’t “crowding out” private sector investment.

Who’s avoiding honest debate, Congressman Ryan?

POLITICO also reported that Ryan’s outlook contrasts sharply with Speaker Boehner’s. The latter is attempting to compromise with Democrats by forcing the Senate to pass a budget so that the two houses can find some middle ground. But if Ryan uses his budget committee chair to turn this into another fiscal knock-down drag-out fight — something that makes virtually no sense in light of his party’s November drubbing, and Congress’ low approval rating — the ensuing conference committee might make the super committee look like serious adults.

So much for learning from the past four years.


By: Samuel Knight, Washington Monthly Political Animal, January 26, 2013

January 27, 2013 Posted by | Budget, Economy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rig The Vote”: Deep Inside The Evil Lair Of The Republican Party

If you can’t win by playing fair, cheat.

That seems to be the plan of Republican lawmakers in several battleground states that stubbornly keep going for Democrats during presidential elections. Thanks in part to gerrymandering, many states already have — and will continue to have in the near future — Republican-controlled legislatures.

Republican lawmakers in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin are considering whether to abandon the winner-take-all approach to awarding Electoral College votes and replace it with a proportional allocation.

That change would heavily favor Republican presidential candidates — tilting the voting power away from cities and toward rural areas — and make it more likely that the candidate with the fewest votes over all would win a larger share of electoral votes.

One day I will have to visit the evil lair where they come up with these schemes. They pump them out like a factory. Voter suppression didn’t work in November, and it may even have backfired in some states, so they just devised another devilish plan.

Pete Lund, a Republican state representative in Michigan, “plans to reintroduce legislation that would award all but two of Michigan’s 16 Electoral College votes according to congressional district results,” said an article Friday in The Detroit News.

The paper continued, “The remaining two would go to the candidate winning the statewide majority.”

Lund, who proposed a similar bill in 2012, made Republicans’ intentions completely clear, saying, according to the article: “It got no traction last year. There were people convinced Romney was going to win and this might take (electoral) votes from him.”

These bills are a brazen attempt to alter electoral outcomes and chip away at the very idea of democracy, to the benefit of Republican candidates.

The Detroit News also reported that, according to an analysis by Mark Brewer, the state Democratic Party chairman: “Romney would have gotten nine of Michigan’s electoral votes and Obama would have received seven in 2012 under Lund’s proposal. Instead, Obama garnered all 16 Michigan electoral votes en route to his national tally of 332.”

Meanwhile, Obama beat Romney in the state by a margin of nearly 450,000 votes.

Virginia’s bill is further along than Michigan’s. It’s already being debated.

For reference, although Obama won the state of Virginia and all of its electoral votes last year, as he did in 2008, according to The Roanoke Times on Friday, “If the system had been in effect for the 2012 election, Republican Mitt Romney would have won nine of Virginia’s 13 electoral votes, and President Barack Obama would have won four.” Keep in mind that in November, Obama won the state by almost 150,000 votes.

Republicans in Virginia are just as forthright about their intention to tilt the electoral playing field in their favor.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that the sponsor of Virginia bill’s, Charles W. Carrico Sr., a Republican, “said he wants to give smaller communities a bigger voice.” Carrico told The Post, “The last election, constituents were concerned that it didn’t matter what they did, that more densely populated areas were going to outvote them.”

Yes, you read that right: he wants to make the votes cast for the candidate receiving the fewest votes matter more than those cast for the candidate receiving the most. In Republican Bizarro World, where the “integrity of the vote” is a phrase used to diminish urban votes and in which democracy is only sacrosanct if Republicans are winning, this statement actually makes sense.

David Weigel of Slate explained the point of the Virginia plan this way: “Make the rural vote matter more and make the metro vote count less.”

Luckily, as the Roanoke paper noted Friday, Ralph Smith, the powerful Republican Virginia state senator, isn’t on board:

“Smith said this morning that he opposes the legislation, calling it ‘a bad idea.’ Smith sits on the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, which will hear the bill next week. Without Smith’s support, it’s unlikely the bill could get to the Senate floor.”

Paul Bibeau, who writes “a blog of dark humor” from Virginia, points out a numerical oddity about the effects of the Virginia law that turns out, upon reflection, to be more stinging than funny: “This bill counts an Obama voter as 3/5 of a person.”

That is because, as Talking Points Memo says, “Obama voters would have received almost exactly 3/5 of the electoral vote compared to their actual population — 30.7 percent of the electoral vote over 51 percent of the popular vote.”

This is not where we should be in 2013, debating whether to pass bills to reduce urban voters to a fraction of the value of other voters and hoping that someone with the power to stop it thinks it’s a “bad idea.”

By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, January 25, 2013

January 27, 2013 Posted by | Democracy, Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Two Different America’s”: Fighting Firearms With Firearms

On Saturday, just a few days after President Obama put forth 23 executive actions to curb gun violence, approximately 1,000 gun-rights activists gathered at the Texas state Capitol to show their opposition. The protest was one of 49 organized around the country by pro-gun group Guns Across America, but the one in Texas was among the biggest. Signs pronounced assault weapons “the modern musket” and quoted the Second Amendment. Speakers including Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and state Representative Steve Toth argued that gun control had no place in America. “The Second Amendment was an enumeration of a right that I already had received from God,” speaker Ralph Patterson, the McLennan County Republican Party chair, told the crowd. “God gave me the right to defend myself.”

Three days after the rally, on Tuesday, Texas was in the national headlines when a shooting occurred at a Houston community college. After the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut, Aurora, Colorado, and Oak Creek, Wisconsin, some feared the worst. Instead, it turned out the case was a dispute between two men, at least one of whom was armed. Three people were wounded; fortunately, none died.

To gun-control advocates, the incident in Houston was yet another reason why federal and state governments need to tamp down on gun availability. But in Texas, lawmakers were arguing just the opposite. For many of them, there’s only one answer to gun violence: more guns. That night, after the shooting, state Senator Dan Patrick, a powerful figure on the state’s far right, went on Anderson Cooper 360 and pushed for a proposed bill to let those 21 and older get concealed handgun licenses to carry guns on campuses. “I don’t think a lot of people in the mainstream media and maybe back east understand Texas,” he said. According to Patrick, the shooting “only re-emphasizes the issue that people must have a right to defend themselves.”

Nationally, the mass shootings in 2012, ending with the particularly horrifying death toll at Sandy Hook Elementary School, sparked a renewed push for gun control. The president’s proposals include beefing up requirements for buying guns, reinstating a federal assault weapons ban, and banning certain types of ammunition. Meanwhile, lawmakers in a number of states are proposing their own measures; New York has already passed a law expanding a ban on assault weapons and reducing the allowable size of gun magazines to seven rounds.

In the other America, however, the mass shootings have only exacerbated an ongoing effort to make guns more prevalent and accessible—particularly in schools. Texas lawmakers have been among the most visible, staking out a position far to the right of the national conversation. For the third session in a row, pro-gun lawmakers like Patrick will push a measure to allow concealed handguns on college campuses, a measure Texas Governor Rick Perry has also supported. Another proposal would designate school employees with special training to be armed; it’s modeled on the federal air-marshal program, in which a plain-clothed air marshal may be riding a plane armed. The lieutenant governor is pushing for the state to fund gun-training sessions for teachers and school employees. There’s also a bill that bars state officials from enforcing federal gun-control laws. The law may not carry much practical weight—federal laws trump state ones—but it gets the point across.

Texas has a legendary affinity for guns. But it’s hardly unique. Eight states already allow concealed handguns on college campuses and, like Texas, Indiana and Arkansas are considering similar legislation this year. Arkansas and North Dakota have proposals to allow people to carry concealed handguns into churches. Seven states—Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, North Dakota, Iowa, Wyoming, and even Arizona, the same state where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot along with 18 others two years ago—have proposals similar to Texas’s to ban enforcement of federal gun laws. Arizona is also one of six states where lawmakers have proposed measures to exempt guns produced in-state from federal restrictions.

In most of these gun-crazy states, there’s little to no discussion of measures that would regulate gun ownership or restrict the types of guns and ammunition available. That, the logic goes, would only leave the “good guys” defenseless and vulnerable since criminals will access weapons regardless of the law. Instead, the answer to gun violence is almost always more guns. That way, individuals can take charge of the situation, protect themselves and maybe even take down the shooter. People are considered less likely to attack someone if that someone might be carrying a concealed weapon. Among those further on the fringe, the “protection” rhetoric gets even more intense: Without unfettered access to guns, they say (or yell), people cannot protect themselves from evil forces, including the government.

If you want to see evidence of polarization in the country, just look at gun laws. In one America, mass shootings lead to new restrictions; in the other America, the same shootings lead to fewer restrictions. After years of gun policy drifting further to the right, any move to move the law back toward the center (or further left) is immediately branded as extreme, if not unthinkable.

Ronald Reagan championed the assault-weapons ban that Obama is proposing to reinstate and expand. But these days, the pro-gun lobby is far more absolutist. For those who believe gun violence will decrease as the number of guns decreases, the situation is bleak unless there’s a federal action. So long as states like Texas and Arizona continue to make automatic weapons and military-grade ammunition available, those firearms being manufactured can easily find their way to states like New York, in spite of their stricter gun laws.

The striking number of mass shootings in 2012—coupled with concerns about the general level of gun violence in the country—has left many open to more gun restrictions. But while the number of true NRA believers may have dwindled (it’s hard to say for sure), those that remain are just as hardcore as ever. In Illinois and Wisconsin, where legislators were considering some limits to gun ownership, the NRA flexed its muscle, as members flooded the state capitols with calls and emails opposing the measures. In both cases, the lawmakers backed off.

On Tuesday—the same day of the shooting in Houston—three Texas lawmakers announced a different kind of proposal to make schools safer. The Texas School District Safety Act would create special taxing districts to pay for additional security, including guards and metal detectors. This might pass for middle ground; it allows school districts to make the decisions and would at least offer money to pay for armed professionals, rather than the cheaper option of arming teachers. But don’t think for a minute that metal detectors will automatically keep out guns.

After all, when the Texas Capitol building put metal detectors at entryways in 2011, there was one caveat: Those with a concealed handgun permits could skip the security line and the search and enter armed. In this America, guns are the only guarantee of safefy; it’s only the lack of guns that make people unsafe. It will take a lot more than Newtown, or many more Newtowns, to change that mentality.


By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, January 25, 2013

January 27, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Rewarding Failure”: Reince Priebus Re-elected To Lead The Republican National Committee

Reince Priebus was re-elected chairman of the Republican National Committee on Friday, overcoming divisions and tensions in the party as he pledged to remake and restore the Republican brand before the Congressional elections next year and the 2016 presidential race.

He was elected with near unanimity to serve a second term at the helm of the Republican Party. He allayed concerns from some party officials and activists about the outcome of last year’s elections and sought re-election without serious opposition.

“We can stand by our timeless principles and articulate them in ways that are modern and relevant to our time and relatable to the majority of voters,” Mr. Priebus said in his speech. “And that, I believe, is how we’ll achieve a Republican renewal. That’s how we’ll grow. That’s how we’ll win.”

The election here on Friday during the annual winter meeting of the committee unfolded without the drama and dissent of two years ago when Mr. Priebus was elected after surviving seven contentious rounds of balloting to overtake Michael Steele, the embattled party chairman.

Mr. Priebus, 40, a former chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, delivered a blunt message to the party during his acceptance speech. He said that the Republican Party needed to rebuild across the country and not simply focus on the same battleground states that are at the center of every presidential election.

“There is one clear, overriding lesson from November: We didn’t have enough voters,” Mr. Priebus said. “We have to find more supporters. We have to go places we haven’t been and we have to invite new people to join us.”

In his remarks, Mr. Priebus reported to members of the committee that he had led the party out of the debt that he inherited when he took over two years ago. He said the party still needed to make strides to compete with the Democratic Party.

Mr. Priebus secured the support of the party’s major donors and state officials, even as he appealed to the Libertarian strains of the party that are represented by supporters of Ron Paul. He fought back the possibility of a challenge from Mark Willis, a committee member from Maine, who supported Mr. Paul in last year’s presidential campaign.

Mr. Willis did not receive enough support on Friday to have his name placed into nomination. Party officials who gathered here said Republicans needed to be unified if they were going to successfully rebuild after losing the race for the White House and seats in the House and Senate last year.

In his remarks on Friday, Mr. Priebus said the party needed to improve its technology to compete with Democrats, but also focus on returning to the basics of building a strong get-out-the-vote operation. He did not talk specifically about the divisions inside the party over fiscal and social issues, but he urged Republican officials to be driven by their overarching goal: winning elections.

“Growing the party to be more welcoming and more inclusive does not require abandoning our principles,” Mr. Priebus said. “It means renewing those principles because only they can offer the solutions to the liberal-induced problems of our time.”

By: Jef Zeleny, The New York Times, January 25, 2013

January 27, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Looney Tunes”: The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre Is Back, And As Crazy As Ever

Well, NRA crackpot Wayne LaPierre is back. He’s been laying low for a month, after his crackpot performances immediately after the Newtown mass murder, but the NRA apparently decided that (1) Obama’s inaugural speech was all about them, and (2) they needed, really, the biggest goddamn crackpot they could find to go up and “rebut” the mean things the president said. So here’s Wayne!

“Obama wants to turn the idea of absolutism into a dirty word,” LaPierre said. “Just another word for extremism. He wants you, all of you, and Americans throughout all of this country, to accept the idea of principles as he sees fit. It’s a way of redefining words so that common sense is turned upside down and that nobody knows the difference.” […]

It’s just like that guy once said, after all. [Absolutism] in defense of [any random citizen’s right to mow down classrooms full of elementary school children] is no vice—and how dare you attack the NRA for thinking so. LaPierre then, apparently, rejected all of his own past statements about how maybe we should enforce laws and make lists of batshit crazy people, asserting instead that Obama wants to make a national list of gun owners in order to, ya know, oppress them later. So now he’s against background checks.

“He wants to put every private, personal firearms transaction right under the thumb of the federal government,” LaPierre said. “He wants to keep all of those names in a massive federal registry. There’s only two reasons for a federal list on gun owners: to either tax ‘em or take ‘em. That’s the only reasons. And anyone who says that’s excessive, President Obama says that’s an absolutist.”

You see there? Last month Citizen Wayne here wanted us to make a list of all the people with dangerous mental problems in the country. Now he’s pissed off that someone’s suggesting maybe we use a list like that to make sure dangerous people don’t get guns, because that’d be just too infringing. Apparently that earlier list of dangerous, unbalanced Americans LaPierre suggested we create was merely supposed to be a list the NRA could use for their next membership drive.

If anyone was wondering whether the murder of 20 children would result in a moment of reflection by the off-the-rails NRA and other members of the gun lobby, I think we have our answer. There was a delay of, what, a week or so while LaPierre and others pondered how best to tell us that the murders were just fine, because trying to do something about them would be far worse. Then they stood up in front of the TV cameras and told America to go right to hell, because there was nothing, at least nothing that didn’t involve buying and using more guns, that they were going to “allow” us to do about it. No change in gun safety regulations; no change in who can buy guns, and how specifically those guns can be designed for the sole purpose of killing large numbers of people quickly; no nothing. If our communities want to afford themselves a little more safety, LaPierre explicitly says, the only way the fetishists are going to allow it is if it involves more people shooting at each other, not fewer.

We may be at the point where we can safely write these people off. We were at the point a while ago, of course, but if Wayne here keeps talking, we may be at the point where the thoroughly pistol-whipped Congress figures that out as well. We can hope, anyway.


By: Hunter, The Daily Kos, January 26, 2013

January 27, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


%d bloggers like this: