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“Dire Consequences And Denial”: With Their Jobs Secure, Republicans Could Less About The Rest Of America

The sequester’s automatic, across-the-board spending cuts are set to go into effect on Friday, and there is no plan as yet to stop it.

America, this is your feeble government at its most ineffective and self-destructive.

The White House favors a balanced plan that would include spending cuts and some tax increases for the wealthy. Republicans reject any solution that includes tax increases.

These are two fundamentally different perspectives, only one of which is supported by a majority of Americans.

A Pew Research Center/USA Today survey released Thursday found that only 19 percent of Americans believe that the focus of deficit reduction should be only on spending cuts. Seventy-six percent want a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, with more emphasis on the former than the latter.

But the impasse could have dire consequences. A study last year by Stephen S. Fuller, a professor at George Mason University, estimates that the sequester could cost 2.14 million jobs and add 1.5 percentage points to the unemployment rate. Fuller’s analysis was cited in a Congressional Research Service report prepared for members of Congress.

What’s more, the sequester would reduce military spending by $42.7 billion; nonmilitary discretionary spending would drop $28.7 billion, in addition to a mandatory $9.9 billion reduction in Medicare, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

In anticipation of the very real possibility that the sequester could come to pass, some Republicans are leaning on the shoulder of an old friend: denial.

This week on CNN, Senator Rand Paul pronounced the $85 billion in mandated cuts a “pittance” and a “yawn” that is “just really nibbling at the edges.” He also called President Obama’s warnings about the sequester’s impact “histrionics,” “ridiculousness” and “emotionalism.”

What a perfect segue to Rush Limbaugh, who took to the air this week to denounce predictions about the sequester’s effects as a “manufactured” crisis, saying that “for the first time in my life, I am ashamed of my country.”

Limbaugh continued:

“In truth, we’re gonna spend more this year than we spent last year. We’re just not gonna spend as much as was projected. It’s all baseline budgeting. There is no real cut below a baseline of zero. There just isn’t. Yet here they come, sucking us in, roping us in. Panic here, fear there: Crisis, destruction, no meat inspection, no cops, no teachers, no firefighters, no air traffic control. I’m sorry, my days of getting roped into all this are over.”

Those not denying the crisis are hoping to exploit it.

Karl Rove, writing in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, called the president “a once-in-a-generation demagogue with a compliant press corps” who will subject the American people in the short term to a “slew of presidential photo-ops with those whom he claims will lose jobs.” Mr. Rove advised House Republicans to “pass a continuing resolution next week to fund the government for the balance of the fiscal year at the lower level dictated by the sequester — with language granting the executive branch the flexibility to move funds from less vital activities to more important ones.”

Rove supports the steep cuts but wants to allow the president “flexibility” in applying them. That Rove is as slick as an eel. In other words, he wants to force the president to rob Peter to pay Paul and take the flak for making all the tough choices.

Another Pew Research Poll released this week found that although many Americans favor cutting government spending in the abstract, most don’t agree with cuts to specific programs. “For 18 of 19 programs tested, majorities want either to increase spending or maintain it at current levels,” Pew found. “The only exception is assistance for needy people around the world.”

Ah, foreign aid, the tired old whipping horse that would do virtually nothing to reduce the deficit, as it accounts for a paltry 1 percent of the federal budget.

Rove’s plan to shift to the president the burden of choosing where to bring down the ax is Rove’s way of getting Republicans “to win public opinion to their side.” That is a roundabout way of acknowledging that right now they’re losing. A Bloomberg poll released this week found the president’s job-approval rating at its highest level and the Republican Party’s favorable rating at its lowest since September 2009.

Furthermore, the Pew/USA Today survey found that if a deal isn’t reached in time, about half the public will blame Congressional Republicans while fewer than a third will blame the president.

And if the sequester happens, we’ll all lose. It will be a disaster for the job market and the economy. But no one can accuse these politicians and pundits of caring about such things as long as their own jobs are secure.

By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, February 22, 2013

February 24, 2013 Posted by | Republicans, Sequester | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Just Too Many Guns”: The Terrorist Next Door To Me

Well, not quite next door. This fellow lives about three miles west of me in Rockland County, straight out Route 59 in the strip mall paradise of Nanuet, New York. A local news outlet charted his arrest, essentially on domestic terrorism charges, after making threats against various Democrats (Cuomo and Pelosi and Reid and Schumer and members of the Black Caucus, of course) and saying followers of Obama are traitors and should die.

This fine specimen of a human American, one Lawrence Mulqueen, is a follower of the right-wing Sovereign nation. He’s a veteran drunk driver with felonies in several locales, but still managed to illegally assemble an arsenal (see below). On his Facebook page he reportedly wrote, “I cannot wait to start killing the scum.… I want these scumbags DEAD!!!…. Death to them all.” Them being only Democrats and Obama fans.

When Mulqueen was taken into custody, with FBI and Secret Service help, the raid on the home found body armor, weapons and ammunition including (in the local news outlet’s list):

1 10.62×54 Bolt Action Rifle
1 Remington 35 Pump Action Rifle loaded with 6 rounds
1 Bulletproof Body Armor
Approximately 100 rounds of Ammunition, including 27 rounds of .50 caliber armor piercing bullets (tank buster)
2 Rifle bayonets
1 Rifle Scope
1 Sword
1 Metal Knuckle Knife

And the Sovereign Citizens Movement means business. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) estimates that approximately 100,000 Americans are “hard-core sovereign believers” with another 200,000 “just starting out by testing sovereign techniques for resisting everything from speeding tickets to drug charges.” The National Security Law Brief points out: “Both Terry Nichols, a co-conspirator in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and Joe Stack, who in 2010 flew his plane into an IRS office in Austin, Texas, identified with the movement.”

Now, how have other media outlets covered it? From a CBS local site:

“I think what may have particularly gotten his ire in the past month or two were the various legislation enacted with respect to the rights to possess a firearm. I think that was particularly upsetting to him,” Sgt. Cummings told 1010 WINS. “One posting which was posted about a month ago said that if anybody ever came to take the arms, they would suffer the consequences.”

So far, no national media have picked this up, but they should: Mulqueen is a poster child not only for the rise of militia-like groups, right-wing paranoia and racism, but also the ease with which crazies and felons can not only get and keep their hands on one gun, but assemble a collection, along with deadly ammo.


By: Greg Mitchell, The Nation, February 22, 2013

February 24, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mississippi North”: That Zombie Republican Electoral College Rigging Scam — It lives!

Bobby Kennedy once allegedly said of Pennsylvania that it is “Philadelphia on one end, Pittsburgh on the other, and Mississippi in the middle.” These days, Republican elected officials in the Keystone State are hard at work doing everything human possible to eliminate the Philly and Pittsburgh bits.

ThinkProgress is reporting that an exceedingly dodgy scam designed to deliver the state’s electoral college votes to the G.O.P. is alive and well. Thirteen Republican members of Pennsylvania’s state senate are sponsoring a bill that would allot electoral college votes on the basis of Congressional districts. Due to shameless gerrymandering, in many states (Pennsylvania included) a disproportionate number of Congressional districts are solidly Republican, even though the state as a whole leans Democratic. So the national G.O.P. has been strongly advocating that these states institute schemes that discriminate against Democrats by apportioning electoral college votes by House district, rather than the majority vote in the state as a whole.

Earlier this year, similar schemes were defeated in a number of states, including Virginia and Michigan. But it looks as though the latest incarnation of this scam might have a decent shot in Pennsylvania. All the plan needs is for one more state senator to sign on, in addition to the 13 who are already sponsoring the bill. According to a state representative mentioned in the ThinkProgress piece, Republicans “could conceivably ram [the bill] through both houses of the state legislature and have it on [Republican Governor] Corbett’s desk in just four days.” Awesome!

In other states, similar G.O.P. vote-riggning scams were quickly abandoned almost as soon as they saw the light of day, due to a loud public outcry. It is devoutly to be hoped that this is what will happen here. But as undemocratic and gross as these schemes are, there is one positive thing to be said about them, and that is that they reveal the utter craven desperation of the contemporary G.O.P. This is not a confident, proud, surging political party we’re looking at here. On the contrary, they are sweating bullets and seem to realize that their political message lacks popular appeal and that the only way they will be able to hold on to power is if they cheat. Ultimately, that’s a good sign for the forces of progress. But if the Repubs get away with this, the forces of progress will be ruthlessly crushed before they ever get to have a fighting chance at the polls.


By: Kathleen Geier, Washington Monthly Political Animal, February 23, 2013

February 24, 2013 Posted by | Democracy, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Red Menace Of Texas”: Ted Cruz’s McCarthyism And The Christian Right

The wonderful Jane Mayer recounts an Americans for Prosperity rally she covered in Texas two and half years ago, at which now-Texas Senator Ted Cruz “accused the Harvard Law School of harboring a dozen Communists on its faculty when he studied there” in the early 1990s. The revelation of these baseless, McCarthy-esque accusations sheds light on the origins of Cruz’s baseless, McCarthy-esque questioning of Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel. (The best part of Mayer’s piece is the bewilderment of Charles Fried, a Republican who served in the Reagan administration and later taught Cruz at Harvard, who diplomatically told Mayer that Cruz’s statement “lacks nuance.”)

Mayer adds:

[Cruz] then went on to assert that Obama, who attended Harvard Law School four years ahead of him, “would have made a perfect president of Harvard Law School.” The reason, said Cruz, was that, “There were fewer declared Republicans in the faculty when we were there than Communists! There was one Republican. But there were twelve who would say they were Marxists who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government.”

Cruz’s communist conspiracy theories pre-date his Tea Party associations; in 2009, he gave an interview to Marvin Olasky, editor of the evangelical WORLD magazine, and former provost of The King’s College in New York City. In the WORLD Q&A, Cruz made the same accusation about Obama and Harvard:

Q: Then on to Harvard Law School: What was that like? Understanding Harvard Law School is very important to understanding our president, Barack Obama. He is very much a creature of Harvard Law. To understand what that means you have to understand that there were more self-declared communists on the Harvard faculty than there were Republicans. Every single idea this president has proposed in the nine months he’s been in office has been orthodox wisdom in the Harvard faculty lounge.

Q: Why are they so far to the left? The communists on the Harvard faculty are generally not malevolent; they generally were raised in privilege, have never worked very hard in their lives, don’t understand where jobs and opportunity come from. If you asked the Harvard faculty to vote on whether this nation should become a socialist nation, 80 percent of the faculty would vote yes and 10 percent would think that was too conservative.

About a year later, in 2010, I heard Olasky interview David Noebel, one of the leading lights, as it were, of the Christian anti-communist movement and founder of the “Christian worldview” educational organization, Summit Ministries. Olasky hosted Noebel for an audience at The King’s College (the evangelical former home to the disgraced Obama conspiracy theorist Dinesh D’Souza). The pair recounted the Cruz comments about Harvard with noticeable glee, and Olasky was so admiring of Cruz that he predicted he’d be a “future president of the United States.” About Harvard Law School, Noebel added, Cruz “told you the truth about who’s involved there.”

Noebel would know about how to make wild accusations about the “red menace” in the halls of power; in his book, You Can Still Trust the Communists To be Communists (Socialists and Progressives too), a 2010 reissue of the 1960 edition by the Christian anti-communist Fred Schwarz, who died in 2009, Noebel extensively quotes the Cruz WORLD interview to explain how Obama “has been swimming in radical, shark-infested Socialist waters for much of his life.” Noebel also insists that “most Americans are totally unaware that the US House of Representatives crawls with a large, well-organized assembly of Socialist organizations,” and that these organizations “quite literally comprise a Socialist Red Army within the very contours of the House of Representatives.” This is all owing to members of Congress not adhering to Noebel’s “Christian worldview,” which he claims is locked in a cosmic conflict with other “worldviews,” specifically Islam, secular humanism, Marxism-Leninism, cosmic humanism, and post-modernism.

In the WORLD interview, Cruz took care to point out that he “was raised a Christian and came to Christ at Clay Road Baptist Church in Houston. In terms of political views, I’m a plain and simple conservative: I’m a fiscal conservative, I’m a social conservative. I think there are absolute truths about what is right and about what works.”

In the postscript of his book, Noebel asserts that Schwarz “greatly influenced the newly rising conservative movement that ultimately produced leaders” including Ronald Reagan, James Dobson, Olasky, Tim LaHaye, Phyllis Schlafly, Bill Buckley, Jerry Falwell, and others. Perhaps he can now add Cruz to that list.


By: Sarah Posner, Religion Dispatches, February 22, 2013

February 24, 2013 Posted by | Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Influence Of Money”: The Road To Total Political Domination By The Wealthy

The United States Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear the case that opens the door to the final destruction of the campaign finance laws that place a limit on how much money an individual can contribute directly to a federal candidate or national political party.

Now that the infamous Citizens United case, decided in 2010, has removed limits on how much a corporation, union and individual can contribute to groups that are ‘unaffiliated’ with candidates and political parties—leading to the creation and domination of the Super PAC—the Court, by agreeing to hear yet another challenge to campaign finance laws, is poised to take the next step toward finishing off all campaign limits by freeing individuals to give candidates and their political parties unlimited sums of money.

As the law currently stands for calendar years 2013-14, individual donors are limited to giving contributions to candidates for federal offices up to a maximum of $123,200 during an election cycle (two years) with a limit of $2,600 to an individual candidate, $32,400 to a national political party, $10,000 to a state political party and $5,000 to any other political committee affiliated with a candidate or political party.

However, an Alabama political donor—joined by the Republican National Committee—believes that the limitation of $123,200 placed on an individual donor during an election cycle is ‘unconstitutionally low’ and wants the highest court in the land to remove the cap.

The case now set to come before the Supreme Court will challenge only the total contribution cap and does not go after the limits placed on money given to individual candidates and political parties. However, based on the Court’s ruling in Citizens United, it is widely anticipated that were the Supreme Court to side with the plaintiffs in this matter and end the limits on the total contribution amount, the Court will have telegraphed its intention to do away with limitations of any kind or nature—making it only a matter of time until limits on individual contributions to candidates and political parties are also tossed into the dustbin of history.

While ending the existing limitation would put political parties on an even keel with the Super PACs in the race for big money, it would also mean the latest evisceration of the campaign finance limits put in place during the 1970’s when Congress reacted to the growing influence of money in politics—money that placed wealthy, individual donors in a position of undue influence over the nation’s elected officials.

The case that will now be heard by SCOTUS was argued last year in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit where a three judge panel ruled that the challenged campaign limit laws were, indeed, constitutional. In issuing the Circuit Court ruling, Judge Janice Rogers Brown noted that the Supreme Court had previously held that limiting an individual’s political contributions had only a marginal effect on that person’s freedom of speech and that it was within Congress’ authority to place such limits on individual contributions.

Judge Brown added, “Although we acknowledge the constitutional line between political speech and political contributions grows increasingly difficult to discern, we decline plaintiffs’ invitation to anticipate the Supreme Court’s agenda.”

The Supreme Court has now accepted that invitation, leading many experts to worry that the latest blow to campaign finance laws in about to descend.


By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, February 20, 2013

February 24, 2013 Posted by | Campaign Financing, SCOTUS | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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