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“Wait, The Sequester Thing Is Still Happening?”: Well-Off People Soon To Finally Be Inconvenienced By Sequestration

This week, the FAA began keeping 10 percent of America’s air-traffic controllers home every day, because of a stupid federal budget argument that turned into a purposefully bad law. Furloughing a bunch of air traffic controllers has a pretty easy-to-predict effect on air travel: It causes delays. Airlines have been sending out automated emails warning travelers to expect as much. The Washington Post yesterday reported on how the first day of furloughs turned out: The New York airports had delays of “one to three hours.” By later in the day, those delays had rippled out to airports in the middle of the country. By late Monday night, LAX was still dealing with delays of more than an hour.

I am guessing that over the next few days a lot of Americans are going to hear about these delays, or be personally inconvenienced by them, and think to themselves, wait, the sequester thing is still happening? Well, yes, it is, because so far it hasn’t been that bad, for certain Americans. Other Americans, though, have been aware of the cuts since they went into effect.

Thus far, many of the people directly affected by sequestration cuts have been the sort of people whose desires and policy preferences are easily ignored by our political institutions. Larry Bartels has shown that politicians are quite responsive to the views of their rich constituents, but not particularly concerned with anyone else. “The views of middle-class constituents matter rather less, while the views of constituents in the bottom third of the income distribution have no apparent effect on their senators’ roll call votes.” Martin Gilens has found basically the same thing.

So far, the sequestration cuts have been particularly hard on people who rely on food pantries and Head Start and Meals on Wheels and unemployment benefits, along with more middle-income government employees and contractors. (And a bunch of scientists, but no one listens to scientists unless they’re building death rays or something.) For rich people, the most inconvenient thing about the sequestration thus far has been trying to figure out why it caused the president to threaten to drone Bob Woodward that one time.

That is going to change, once flights everywhere — but especially out of the Northeast — are suddenly being delayed and canceled all the time, for no good reason. For a really dumb, easily fixable reason, in fact. (And no, we don’t need to “fix” this with a “balance” of cuts and tax hikes, we just need to not do the sequestration. Just repeal it! Super-simple. Then have your idiotic Grand Bargain Budget Showdown.)

“Shuttle flights between Washington and New York were running 60 to 90 minutes late,” the Times reports. Do you know who takes weekday shuttle flights between Washington and New York? People who think they are too important for the train, let alone the bus. People Congress listens to. (People Congress is, also.)

Members of Congress are more likely to fly commercial than attend school on an Indian reservation. Their rich constituents, the only ones they listen to, are more likely to fly often than their constituents who, say, rely on federal housing vouchers.

So Congress may feel a bit more urgency, then, about addressing the sequestration cuts. (Pundits and journalists, too, may start treating them more seriously.) The DCA-LGA shuttle is at risk.

Not that the inconveniencing of the usually convenienced will cause an immediate sensible end to sequestration cuts. The defense cuts were supposed to ensure that right-wingers hated this, and that didn’t work. A lot of people are pretty committed to this weird showdown between the president and House Republicans. And delays and flight cancellations may make a certain type of conservative more committed to mass austerity.

There are certain Simpsony-Bowlesy people who believe quite strongly that the United States will — must — pay for the sin of Debt, by self-imposed austerity or by “becoming Greece.” Plenty of right-wingers already believe a sort of millenarism-via-Drudge in which the United States is already Greece, or some other failed state on the verge of collapse. Mass airport congestion will only nurture that pleasant feeling of inevitable, deserved decline. (This is related to the common elite opinion that mass unemployment is a sign of a country “taking its medicine.”) For some, the worse things get in America, the more evidence it is that we need to make things worse.

So, if your flight gets canceled sometime soon because a bunch of knuckleheads in Congress don’t know how sovereign debt works, just be grateful you’re not a Medicare cancer patient. (Unless you are one, too.)


By: Alex, Pareene, Salon, April 23, 2013

April 24, 2013 Posted by | Congress, Sequestration | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Should You Still Despise George W. Bush?”: He Hasn’t Initiated A Disastrous War Or Bankrupted The Government In Years

Twitter was alight this morning with mockery of this post from Washington Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin, explaining a marginal improvement in George W. Bush’s post-presidential approval ratings (from 33 percent when he left office to 47 percent now) by noting that Bush won that ugly Iraq War (who started that again?), gave us a great economy, and pretty much solved the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, among other accomplishments, and also had a “tender, tearful love of country,” unlike some people she could mention. I’ll leave it to others to respond to the particulars of Rubin’s journey to Bizarro World, but if we assume this poll to be accurate, the question is, why might Americans’ opinions of Bush be somewhat less dreadful than they used to be?

Let’s think about it this way: How do you feel about Bush? If you’re like me, your contempt for him isn’t what it once was. Back in the day, I took a back seat to no one when it came to displeasure with him. But I’ll admit that in the four years since he left office, my own feelings toward him have softened. Not that I now think he was anything other than a terrible president, but I’m not actively mad at him anymore. My rational judgment hasn’t changed, but my more emotional feelings have dissipated somewhat.

That’s partly because of the rise of the Tea Party and its takeover of the GOP, which made Bush look like a moderate by comparison with the lunatics who are now exerting so much influence over his party. But more than that, I think, is the fact that he’s just not in our faces every day. If you were a liberal in the 2000s, Bush was pissing you off all the time. But give the guy some credit: he hasn’t initiated a disastrous war or bankrupted the government in years!

I suspect if you asked conservatives about Bill Clinton, a few might admit to the same evolution. When Bubba was president, their hatred of him burned with the fire of a thousand suns. But now? There are so many other things to get mad about, and if Clinton is spending his time raising money to buy mosquito nets to stop malaria, well there’s nothing wrong with that. And if Bush is spending his days painting pictures of dogs, it’s hard to get worked up about it.

There will no doubt now be a campaign to resuscitate Bush’s image; National Journal‘s Ron Fournier does his part with a column noting that Bush has been known to write a thank-you note, and is also very punctual. Nobody could argue he did nothing good; for instance, he put resources toward addressing the AIDS crisis in Africa, knowing that there was little domestic benefit to be had. And from what one can tell, in person Bush was usually a nice guy. But we shouldn’t let the mists of time make us forget all the awful things he did, too. Presidents have to be judged by their actions and the effects those actions have on the country and the world. Bush’s eight years in office were a string of disasters, and not little ones either. His disasters were grand and far-reaching, from the hundreds of thousands who died in Iraq to the squandering of trillions of dollars to the abandonment of New Orleans during Katrina. A few years later those things may no longer make us boil with rage. But we shouldn’t forget them.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, April 23, 2013

April 24, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How Conveniently We Forget”: Chuck Grassley Called On Democrats Not To “Use” Newtown Deaths

Histrionics broke out at a Senate immigration hearing this morning when Senator Patrick Leahy called on Republicans not to use the Boston bombings as a weapon in the immigration debate. “Last week, opponents began to exploit the Boston Marathon bombing,” Leahy said. “I urge restraint in that regard.”

Perhaps the most prominent Republican official to have drawn a link between the bombings and the immigration reform proposal is Senator Chuck Grassley. And so, at today’s hearing, Grassley offered some curious pushback to Leahy that tells us a lot about how some conservatives are approaching both debates. Yes, Grassley actually said this:

“When you proposed gun legislation, we did not accuse you of using the Newtown killings as an excuse,” Grassley said. “I think we’re taking advantage of an opportunity when once in 25 years we deal with immigration to make sure every base is covered.”

Really? Here’s what Grassley himself said back on January 30th, over a month after the shootings:

Although Newtown and Tucson are terrible tragedies, the deaths in Newtown should not be used to put forward every gun control measure that has been floating around for years.

What’s more, Senator Rand Paul and other Republicans have accused the Obama administration of using the families as “props” in the push for gun control.

To be clear, if conservatives want to seize on the Boston bombings to make a political argument about immigration reform, that’s not necessarily something we should automatically condemn, as some Dems are doing. As Jonathan Bernstein notes, we should respond to events with politics. Politics are everywhere and they are inescapable. If major, consequential, nationally riveting events aren’t supposed to trigger debate over how we should organize ourselves and solve our problems, what should trigger it?

For the reasons I outlined this morning, I don’t believe the Boston bombings tell us anything all that relevant about how we should approach immigration reform policy. But pointing that out isn’t the same as claiming there’s anything inherently wrong or inappropriate about trying to apply an event such as the Boston bombings to the current policy debate. Substantively rebutting the argument that the bombings tell us something about how we should approach the argument over the path to citizenship is not the same as condemning the act of making that argument.

Now, it’s true that in pointing to major events to justify a political argument, one can cross the line from legit policy argument into demagoguery. For the record, I don’t think Grassley has done that yet. He merely said the bombings should be part of the discussion as we seek to determine what’s wrong with our current immigration system. That’s not the same as claiming, as others have, that the Boston bombings show that we should end the immigration reform debate entirely.

Similarly, Obama and Democrats said the Newtown shootings should be part of a broader discussion over how to respond to, and reduce, gun violence.

Grassley, however, only seems to believe this is appropriate in the case where he thinks it will help his cause.


By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, April 22, 2013

April 24, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rubio Comes Up Short On Gun Control”: Thinking Just Like Mitt Romney Is How He’s Going To End Up

Marco Rubio showed his true yellow colors last week, joining 45 other cowards to defeat Senate legislation designed to stop criminals from buying firearms online and at gun shows.

The vote was nauseating. So is Rubio.

A few days earlier, he’d admitted to Fox News that he hadn’t read the complete bill that would expand federal background checks of gun buyers, but he was opposing it anyway.

Other pertinent materials that Rubio obviously didn’t read included a recent New York Times sampling of nutjobs, convicted criminals and even one fugitive who purchased assault rifles and other weapons over the Internet.

On NBC, Rubio repeated the NRA lie that background checks don’t work.

The truth: Since 1998, the National Instant Background Check System has blocked more than two million gun purchases by felons and others who are prohibited from owning firearms.

It’s unknown how many of them later went to gun shows and purchased AK-47s because, in most states, gun-show vendors aren’t required to keep detailed sales records. That’s one loophole that Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey were trying to fix.

The Manchin-Toomey bill was supported by a huge majority of Americans — between 86 and 90 percent, depending on the poll — but not by the junior senator from Florida, the one who thinks he’s going to be the nation’s next president.

Listen to what he said on television:

“The fact of the matter is, we have a violence problem in the United States. Guns are what people use, but violence is our problem.”

Really? Stop the presses!

In fact, Rubio doesn’t have much to say about the causes and costs of violence in American culture. Currently there’s no mention of this tragic problem on his official website.

What you’ll find there is multiple “news” items about his role in immigration reform. He believes this is the issue that will make him the Republican frontrunner and help put him in the White House.

That’s why he appeared on seven national talk shows last Sunday — to promote new immigration legislation. When questioned about the upcoming gun bills, Rubio faithfully recited his NRA scripture.

And when it came time to decide on Wednesday, with heartsick families of the murdered Newtown children watching from the Senate gallery, Rubio stood with the cowards and pimps for the gun-manufacturing lobby.

He voted no to universal background checks. No to a ban on assault rifles. No to modestly limiting the number of bullets in magazine clips.

To what did the bold new face of the Republican Party say yes?

An NRA-backed proposal that would have allowed persons with concealed-weapons permits in one state to carry their weapons anywhere in the country. Top law enforcement officials thought this was an extremely poor idea, and it was defeated.

Most of the senators who voted against expanding background checks on gun buyers did so out of fear. They come from conservative, mostly rural states, where a flood of NRA money and advertising could boost their opponents in the next election.

Cowering, they acted out of political self-preservation.

Rubio has no such alibi. He doesn’t need the NRA to get re-elected in Florida, a state of 18 million residents and rapid urbanization.

The difference between him and the other 45 cowards is that Rubio isn’t thinking about going back to the Senate. He’s thinking about moving to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

He’s thinking about those electoral votes in the West and the Deep South. He’s thinking about the Iowa primary.

In other words, he’s thinking just like Mitt Romney. And that’s how he’s going to end up — losing women voters, losing minority voters, losing the big cities and losing the election. That’s assuming he gets the GOP nomination.

Rubio had an opportunity to enter that Senate chamber and do something that almost all Americans believe is right and sensible for this country.

Something that would have set him apart from his gutless colleagues.

Instead he revealed himself as one more cynical slave to the gun makers’ lobby. His yellow vote won’t be forgotten in 2016.

It should be made to haunt him.


By: Carl Hiaasen, The National Memo. April 23, 2013

April 24, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Guns, But Not Trials, For Terror Suspects”: The Land Of Liberty According To Lindsey Graham

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is not pleased that the Obama administration decided to prosecute Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in civilian court, even though it would probably be illegal and counterproductive to treat the U.S. citizen as an enemy combatant.

The senator, a lawyer and reserve Air Force JAG officer himself, called for stripping Tsarnaev of his constitutional rights to due process even before the 19-year-old was captured Friday evening. “The accused perpetrators of these acts were not common criminals attempting to profit from a criminal enterprise,” Graham said on Twitter on Friday. “Under the Law of War we can hold #Boston suspect as a potential enemy combatant not entitled to Miranda warnings or appointment of counsel.”

But Graham seems to hold the opposite view when it comes to different constitutional rights for those accused or suspected of terrorism. At a press conference he set up this afternoon to slam the White House on the enemy combatant decision, he was asked about legislation that would stop people on the Terrorist Watch List from buying guns. Here’s his response:

GRAHAM: “I think, anyone who’s on the Terrorist Watch List should not lose their Second Amendment right without the ability to challenge that determination. I think, Senator Kennedy was on the Terrorist Watch List. There’ve been people come up on the watch list. I did not want to make that a — the basis to take someone’s Second Amendment rights away. What I would suggest, is that if you come up on the Terrorist Watch List, you have the ability to say, “No, I’m not a terrorist.” And that would be the proper way to do that.

Currently, the federal government can only prevent a firearm sale for 11 reasons — suspected ties to terrorism, or even suspicion that a gun would be used in an attack, are not one of them. Between February 2004 and December 2010, 1,453 people on the terror watch list tried to buy a gun and over 90 percent were not stopped.

Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s bill to close what he calls the “terror gap” would not automatically strip anyone’s Second Amendment rights, as Graham suggests. It would, in fact, allow “any individual whose firearms or explosives license application has been denied to bring legal action to challenge the denial.” In Graham’s world, Tsarnaev would have no such clear recourse to challenge his status as an enemy combatant.

The Terrorist Watch List is imperfect and there are plenty of legitimate civil libertarian arguments to be made against restricting firearms access to people on the list, since people on it haven’t been convicted of any crimes and they’re not even allowed to know whether they’re on the list. For instance, Ted Kennedy was, indeed, briefly and erroneously placed on the no fly list in 2004, though that’s a different list. But Graham’s opposition to limiting the Second Amendment rights of people suspected of being terrorists is wholly inconsistent with his support for completely stripping away their Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights to a fair trial in court.

Contrast his opposition to closing the “terror gap” with this, from a 2011 New York Times article:

Citizens who are suspected of joining Al Qaeda are opening themselves up “to imprisonment and death,” Mr. Graham said, adding, “And when they say, ‘I want my lawyer,’ you tell them: ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer. You are an enemy combatant, and we are going to talk to you about why you joined Al Qaeda.’ ”

So the only right that Graham seems interested in preserving for people suspected of being affiliated with al-Qaida is their right to purchase firearms.

The NRA also opposes closing the “terror gap,” fearing that it would be used to strip the Second Amendment rights of “Americans who disagree with the policies of the Obama Administration,” “who believe in federalism,” or “who post their political opinions on the Internet.”


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, April 22, 2013

April 24, 2013 Posted by | Constitution, Terrorism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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