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

“A Bridge Too Far”: GOP Sees Background Checks As Too Much Paperwork

Before the Senate left for their spring recess, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) made clear what he and his party expect of legislation to reduce gun violence. While he said several key provisions are negotiable, “[I]n order to be effective, any bill that passes the Senate must include background checks.”

At least on the surface, it would seem to be the most difficult provision to oppose. Expanded background checks enjoy extraordinary levels of public support, even among gun owners, and there are no constitutional concerns to speak of. Critics of the idea have generally been reduced to making up nonsense and conspiracy theories, unable to think of any substantive arguments.

It would seem, then, that expanded background checks would be the kind of measure that might actually pass. And yet, on the Sunday shows, Republican senators rejected the popular idea out of hand.

In this clip, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said closing the gun-show loophole is “a bridge too far” for most Senate Republicans. He added that the “paperwork requirements alone would be significant.”

The nation would like to reduce mass murders, but for some federal lawmakers, “paperwork requirements” have to take precedence?

Similarly, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was asked whether expanded background checks can survive in the Senate. “I don’t think so,” he said. “I don’t think it makes any sense. The current system is broken. Fix the current system.”

By “fix the current system,” Graham apparently envisions efforts to improve the existing background database while enforcing the law more diligently — that might be possible if Senate Republicans weren’t also blocking ATF from functioning effectively — all while leaving the massive gun-show loophole in place, on purpose.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 1, 2013

April 1, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Was Abe A RINO Too?” John Boehner Has No Use For Lincoln In Context

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) sent a memo to all House Republicans today, telling them what a great job they’re doing. Of particular interest, though, was the Speaker arguing how “noble” he and his party are for trying to balance the budget. From the memo:

The book Congressman Lincoln by Chris DeRose, which I recently read, includes a chapter focused on Abraham Lincoln’s efforts to help craft a new national agenda. At one point in the book, young Lincoln warns that government debt is “growing with a rapidity fearful to contemplate.”

“[Government debt] is a system not only ruinous while it lasts, but one that must soon fail and leave us destitute,” Lincoln warns his countrymen in Congressman Lincoln. “An individual who undertakes to live by borrowing, soon finds his original means devoured by interest, and next no one left to borrow from – so must it be with a government.”

Lincoln’s words ring true today, perhaps to a degree greater than ever before.


Lincoln, however, while warning of debt, also said that the debt had been created by the unwillingness to consider new revenue.

“By this means a new national debt has been created, and is still growing on us with a rapidity fearful to contemplate — a rapidity only reasonably to be expected in time of war. This state of things has been produced by a prevailing unwillingness either to increase the tariff or resort to direct taxation. But the one or the other must come,” Lincoln wrote in the Whig Circular in 1843.

Oh how I love this story.

Lincoln, who saw great value in a strong federal government, supported public investments in infrastructure, and increased taxes to pay for the Civil War, was concerned about government debt. The historical context matters — Lincoln warned of lost creditors, while in contemporary times, investors are eager to loan the United States money — but it would appear the legendary leader believed in fiscal responsibility.

But Boehner has no use for what Lincoln actually said and did. While today’s House Speaker refuses to consider asking any American to pay so much as a penny in additional taxes, Lincoln saw increases in taxes or tariffs as an undeniable way of responsibly paying our debts. Indeed, he blamed federal debts on “a prevailing unwillingness [to] resort to direct taxation.”

And to borrow a phrase, Lincoln’s words ring true today, perhaps to a degree greater than ever before.

I’d just add, by the way, that the Speaker’s credibility on the issue is genuinely laughable. Boehner today writes, “There should be no doubt that our purpose in calling for a balanced budget is a noble one, and the right one.” This is the same Boehner who approved George W. Bush’s tax cuts without paying for them, put the price of two wars on the national charge card for future generations to worry about, supported Medicare expansion through deficit financing, and added the costs of a Wall Street bailout to the national debt.

Now this same guy wants to talk about the nobility of his fiscal agenda? While taking Lincoln out of context? And while pretending his preferred budget plan isn’t filled with magic asterisks?

C’mon, Mr. Speaker. You can do better than this.

Update: Jay Bookman emails to let me know the story gets even better. In that same piece, Lincoln goes on to endorse a tariff rather than a direct or property tax to raise revenue, because — get this — through a tariff, “the burthen of revenue falls almost entirely on the wealthy and luxurious few, while the substantial and laboring many … go entirely free.”

So, by 2013 standards, Lincoln is a success-hating RINO, right?


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 28, 2013

April 1, 2013 Posted by | Deficits, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Stark Raving Mad”: Liz Cheney Slips Further Down The Rabbit Hole

The point of Liz Cheney’s Wall Street Journal op-ed today is fairly predictable and not altogether uncommon among far-right activists — she wants the Republican Party to resist the urge to become more mainstream, and instead “fight” harder against the GOP’s real and imagined enemies. But in execution, Cheney’s piece is a rather extraordinary work of delusion.

Jon Chait highlights some of the more glaring problems with the op-ed — he uses it to argue, persuasively, that Cheney is “obviously stark raving mad” — which reads like a bizarre rant from a partisan so filled with rage towards President Obama that reason was thrown out the window when the writer made a right-hand turn into Crazy Town. Cheney is certain, for reasons that remain mysterious, that Obama has “launched a war on Americans’ Second Amendment rights,” is deliberately sabotaging capitalism, and wants to destroy the nation’s global standing on purpose.

It’s a truly ridiculous tirade with all the sophistication and accuracy of a Breitbart comments section. But there’s also an unintentionally amusing part — Cheney’s unhinged rant includes this Ronald Reagan quote from 1961:

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. The only way they can inherit the freedom we have known is if we fight for it, protect it, defend it and then hand it to them with the well-taught lessons of how they in their lifetime must do the same. And if you and I don’t do this, then you and I may well spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.”

This is, to be sure, a popular quote on the right, and if it seems familiar to long-time readers, it’s because I’ve written about it several times before.

In this case, however, Cheney forgot to look up the context in which Reagan made these comments before relying on it. Indeed, note that at one point in the quote, Reagan said, “And if you and I don’t do this,” although in Cheney’s piece, there’s no frame of reference to tell the reader what “this” is.

And what was Reagan referring to at the time? I’m glad you asked.

“This” was referring to preventing the creation of Medicare. Reagan warned Americans in 1961 that Medicare, if approved, would turn the United States into a dystopian nightmare. In the same recording Cheney quoted, Reagan argued that if Medicare became law, we’d see federal officials empowered to dictate where physicians could practice medicine, and open the door to government control over where Americans were allowed to live. In fact, he warned that if Medicare passed, there was a real possibility that the federal government would control where Americans go and what we do for a living.

And so, freedom-loving Americans had to stop Medicare or we “may well spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.”

We now know, with the benefit of hindsight, that Reagan’s paranoid rant was wrong, and hysterically so. His predictions didn’t come true, and Medicare did not destroy American freedom. Those who are actually in their sunset years are delighted with Medicare, and are not sitting around, longing wistfully for an America where seniors seeking medical care were forced into poverty.

Cheney, either out of confusion, negligence, ignorance, or willful disregard of the truth, thinks Reagan’s warnings from a half-century ago “still ring true.” They do? How? What is Cheney talking about?

As Chait added, far-right paranoia seems to be bequeathed from one generation of deranged conservatives to the next. Social Security was going to destroy America, they said. When that didn’t happen, it was Medicare that would crush our way of life, they said. When that didn’t happen either, it was the Affordable Care Act — the dreaded “Obamcare” — that threatened everything Americans hold dear.

The delusions, like Cheney’s op-ed, are laughable.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 29, 2013

April 1, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The GOP’s Diversity Deserts”: A Party Chronically Hostile To “Otherness”

Well, that didn’t take long.

Just a week ago, the Republicans issued their much-ballyhooed “autopsy” on why they lost the presidential election last year and how they might remedy their problems.

They concluded that their principles were fine; the problem was how they presented those principles. Their witless wisdom is simply to tone down their rhetoric. They want to turn Teddy Roosevelt’s famous saying on its side: Talk softly but carry a big stigma.

The establishment Republicans’ push for a softer tone, however, is pure political scheming and has nothing to do with what most Republicans seem to fundamentally believe.

And many rank-and-file Republicans are adopting this two-faced tactic. A Pew Research Center report issued Thursday found that although most Republicans say that “illegal immigrants” should be allowed to stay in this country legally, most also believe that immigrants are a burden because they take jobs and health care, and they threaten American values.

Try as you may, you can’t build a philosophical facade like a movie set — convincing in appearance, but having no real structure behind it — and expect it to forever fool and never fall.

The true convictions of your heart will, eventually, be betrayed by the disobedience of your tongue.

Enter Don Young of Alaska, a Republican congressman for the past 40 years who this week used a racial slur so vile and insensitive that it was hard to remember what decade we were in.

In an interview Thursday with an Alaska radio station, Young reminisced about his family’s employment of Mexican farm workers:

“My father had a ranch. We used to hire 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes. You know, it takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”

The casual reference dripped with an inculcated insensitivity.

The same day, Young’s office issued a statement, which should in no way be misconstrued as an apology.

“During a sit-down interview with Ketchikan Public Radio this week, I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California,” Young said in the statement. “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect.”

No disrespect? Only a man drained of empathy could even make such a claim.

It wasn’t until Friday, after demands from Republican leaders like John Boehner and John McCain, that Young issued a real apology. But the damage may have already been done. These kinds of statements cement an image of a callous party moving contrary to public consciousness.

The question must be asked: Why do so many insensitive comments come from these Republicans?

One reason may well be their proximity problem.

Too many House Republican districts are isolated in naturally homogeneous areas or gerrymandered ghettos, so elected officials there rarely hear — or see — the great and growing diversity of this country and the infusion of energy and ideas and art with which it enriches us. These districts produce representatives unaccountable to the confluence. And this will likely be the case for the next decade.

For instance, according to the Census Bureau, about 6 percent of Alaska’s population is Hispanic and just 3 percent is black. And Alaska is among the most Republican states in the union, according to a Gallup report issued last year.

Too many House Republicans have districts dominated by narrow, single-note, ideology-driven constituencies that see an ever expanding “them” threatening the heritage of a slowly shrinking “us.”

This defensive posture is what so poisons the Republicans’ presidential ambitions. Instead of embracing change, Republicans want to suspend or in some cases reverse it. But the principle articulated by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus rings true: the only thing constant is change.

With the exception of a few districts, a map of the areas in this country with the fewest minorities looks strikingly similar to a map of the areas from which Congressional Republicans hail.

In fact, although this is the most diverse Congress in history, not one of the blacks or Asians in the House is a Republican. Only about a sixth of the Hispanics are Republicans, and fewer than a third of the women are.

The Republican Party has a severe minority problem. People like Don Young only serve to illustrate and amplify it. Young is another unfortunate poster child for a party fighting an image of being chronically hostile to “otherness.” No disrespect.


By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 29, 2013

April 1, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We Are Failing”: Father, Forgive Us, For We Know Not What We Do

Jonylah Watkins died on a Tuesday.

She was with her father, who was sitting in a minivan in Chicago on the night of March 11 when someone opened fire. Doctors worked 17 hours trying to repair what a bullet had done to her body, but to no avail. She died the next morning. Her funeral was about two weeks ago. She was six months old.

Antonio Santiago was seven months older when his mother put him in a stroller and took him for a walk in their Brunswick, GA, neighborhood. Sherry West says they were accosted by two teenagers demanding money. She told them she didn’t have any. West says they shot Antonio in the face and killed him. This happened two days after Jonylah’s funeral.

An Associated Press reporter was on hand a day later as the boy’s father tried to comfort his child’s mother. “He’s all right,” Luis Santiago told her, smiling for her benefit. “He’s potty training upstairs in heaven.”

Which is, of course, the very foundation of faith, the belief that even tragedy will work ultimately for the good, that in the end, the bitterest tears transmute to the greatest joy. That is, in essence, what is commemorated this Easter week. It marks the morning when, we Christians believe, a carpenter turned itinerant rabbi overcame death itself, rolled a stone aside and walked out of his own tomb.

In the King James Bible, in the book of Matthew, the rabbi — Jesus — is quoted as saying, “Suffer little children and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

When I was a kid, that always confused me. I wondered why children were commanded to suffer. But, as later translations confirm, the word was used in its old English sense, meaning: to permit or allow. Let the children come to me, He is saying, for they are the essence of grace. Love the children.

Two thousand years later, a singer named Marvin Gaye turned that command into a stark plea: Save the children.

As a nation, as a people, we have failed at both.

Nearly 100,000 people will be shot this year according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Seventeen thousand will be younger than 19. So almost 5,000 kids have been shot since the Newtown massacre in December, the one that was supposed make us finally get serious about gun violence.

That toll speaks unflattering volumes about our seriousness. As does a Politico report that support is softening for laws that would expand background checks and impose other common-sense restrictions on gun ownership. A Florida state legislative panel just voted to support a bill allowing teachers to bring guns to school. Once again, the nation endorses the Orwellian logic that would “solve” the problem of too many guns by adding more guns.

How do you suppose we would explain that to Jonylah or Antonio? Which of the gun lobby’s inane platitudes would we use to justify our failure to keep them safe? Jonylah, guns don’t kill people; people kill people. Antonio, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun …


This year as every year, foes of abortion publicly mourn the loss of babies who could have been. But they — we — remain silent on the loss of babies who actually were, who died because we could not get our act together, because ours is a nation that does not simply enable private gun ownership, but that worships and fetishizes it to the point where sensible restriction — even sensible conversation — seems impossible.

As a result, we are a nation where what happened to Jonylah and Antonio has become grimly, sadly… routine. That fact alone starkly illustrates the insanity to which we have devolved, and the challenge that faces faith this Easter week.

We keep crying the bitter tears. We are still waiting for the joy.


By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., The National Memo, March 31, 2013

April 1, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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