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“A Willingness To Say Things That Aren’t True”: The Facts Kelly Ayotte Doesn’t Want Her Constituents To Know

When the bipartisan compromise on expanded background checks died two weeks ago at the hands of a Republican filibuster, only one senator from New England voted to kill the bill: New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte (R).

This week, as Ayotte returns to the Granite State, many of her constituents are expressing their dissatisfaction. Take this town-hall meeting today, for example.

When another man rose to ask Ayotte to explain why she voted against expanding background checks, several people in the audience of more than 250 people applauded.

“I know people have strong feelings about this issue,” Ayotte began. She said she voted against the bipartisan compromise on background checks last month because she believed gun owners would face an undue burden and she feared it could lead to a federal gun registry.

What bothers me about the senator’s response is how wrong it is. The “undue burden” Ayotte is worried about adds a few minutes to gun purchases, and it already applies to existing firearm sales in gun stores. If it helps prevents gun violence, why is it “undue”?

More importantly, the fears of a possible federal gun registry are ridiculous. As we talked about a couple of weeks ago, there is no federal registry. The proposed measure explicitly prohibits a federal registry. Under the bill, anyone even trying to create a federal registry would be a felon, subject to 15 years behind bars. No one has even proposed the possibility of a federal registry.

The irony is, if Ayotte was worried about a possible registry, she should have loved the compromise plan — it strengthened the prohibition on the very registry she’s so worried about.

And best of all, Ayotte surely knows this. The U.S. senator has had two weeks to think of an excuse and the best she can come up with are talking points she knows aren’t true.

Have I mentioned lately how difficult it is to have a serious policy debate when those engaged in the discussion are willing to say things that aren’t true?

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 2, 2013

May 4, 2013 Posted by | Background Checks, Gun Violence | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Whatever”: Government Oppression Of Religious People Continues With National Day Of Prayer

One summer when I was in college, I worked for a tiny lobbying firm, most of whose clients were disease-related. If the firm wasn’t able to get you increased funding for research into your disease, at the very least it could get a friendly member of Congress to introduce a proclamation about it. Framed on the office walls were documents declaring the first week in June to be Copious Earwax Awareness Week or November to be Toenail Fungus Month.

The government declares lots of national days of this and weeks of that, most of which go unnoticed. Today, however, is the National Day of Prayer, in which, that pesky establishment clause notwithstanding, the federal government encourages you to get down on your knees and implore your deity to deliver whatever you happen to lack, or to be merciful toward those he might otherwise smite. Don’t confuse it with the National Prayer Breakfast; that’s an entirely separate national prayer event. Here‘s Barack Obama’s proclamation of the day, though beyond that I don’t think the government is doing much to honor it. That slack is picked up by the quasi-official National Day of Prayer Task Force, a decidedly evangelical Christian group chaired by Shirley Dobson, wife of James Dobson. This year’s honorary chair is California megachurch pastor Greg Laurie, whose participation led to protests from gay-rights groups unhappy with Laurie’s particular view of sin and sexuality. Laurie will be leading prayer events on Capitol Hill and the Pentagon today. The theme of this year’s events is “Pray for America,” the message being that everything is pretty much going to hell (so to speak) in our country, and the only thing that can get us back on the right track is Jesus.

In the face of all this government sponsorship of prayer, the rather less influential secular humanist movement has declared today the National Day of Reason. They had to declare it themselves, because unlike the National Day of Prayer, the government wasn’t going to get involved with them. So feel free, if you swing that way, to take a moment today to consider all that reason and science have done for us.

I’ll stop before my impulse to snark gets the better of me, but I would like to note something for my religious friends, especially the Christians: Next time you want to say you’re “oppressed” because people are saying that there may be a few areas we can keep religion out of, like science class, or that it might be better not to assume that everyone is a Christian but instead be sensitive to people who believe in gods other than yours or no god at all, consider that those of us who don’t believe in an almighty deity tolerate stuff like the National Day of Prayer all the time. We don’t much like it, but we almost always just let it slide. The government makes our kids stand up and declare that we’re “one nation, under God,” our money says “In God We Trust,” Congress starts every day with a prayer, and official sponsorship of religious events is everywhere. On the other hand, while there are lots of places where discussion of people’s religious beliefs is excluded, there is nowhere—nowhere—where the government explicitly affirms and honors the beliefs of those who don’t believe in god. There’s no government-sponsored “There Is No God Day” with White House proclamations and Pentagon gatherings.

And that’s as it should be. It’s not government’s job to tell you it agrees with your metaphysical views. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

11Yes, technically kids in public schools don’t have to say the Pledge of Allegiance if they don’t want to, but peer pressure being what it is, few feel comfortable abstaining.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 2, 2013

May 4, 2013 Posted by | Government, Religion | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Most Striking Is What’s Not There”: George W. Bush’s Multi-Million Dollar Can Of Whitewash

Big doings in Big D — the George W. Bush Presidential Library is open for business!

What a piece of work it is: a $250 million, 226,000-square-foot edifice on 23 acres in Dallas. His brick-and-limestone structure is certainly imposing, but once inside, you quickly see that it’s a $250 million can of whitewash. Of course, all ex-presidents want libraries that show their good side, and Bush himself was organizer-in-chief of this temple to … well, to himself. What’s most striking is not what’s in it, but what’s not.

For example, where’s that “Mission Accomplished” banner that he used as a political prop in May 2003, when he strutted out so fatuously on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln wearing a flight suit to pretend like he had won the Iraq War? And how about a video loop of him finally showing up in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, cluelessly praising his infamously incompetent emergency management honcho with the now notorious shoutout: “Heck of a job, Brownie.”

Also, while there are 35 featured videos, a replica of W’s oval office, narrated presentations by top Bush officials and even statues of the family dogs — where’s Cheney? Shouldn’t there be an animated exhibit of the perpetually snarling veep in his dark chamber, scheming to shred our Constitution and set up an imperial presidency (or, more accurately, an imperial vice presidency)?

Another essential element of George’s tenure that goes unportrayed could be called “The Dead Garden of Compassionate Conservatism.” It could feature such mementos as him cutting health care funding for veterans, closing of the college gates for 1.5 million low-income students and turning a blind eye as eight million more Americans tumbled down the economic ladder into poverty on his watch.

Then there’s a shady exhibit that deserves more exposure. It’s the list of 160 donors of over a million dollars to the center, with each name chiseled into bricks that form what should be called “The Brick Wall of Special Interest Government.” Among those chiseled in are AT&T, casino baron Sheldon Adelson, Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News empire, several billionaire funders of right-wing politics, the founder of, and even the royal rulers of Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

The 160 names are by no means all of the corporate and fat-cat donors — many more gave, but shyly requested that their involvement be kept from the public. Present law allows such unlimited, secret donations, even while a president is in office, still wielding the power to do favors for donors. Bill Clinton used this undercover loophole, and George W. happily chose the same dark path.

Today (May 1), the doors to Bush’s pharaonic “Presidential Center” opens to the public, allowing us commoners to dig deep into the shallowness of his achievements. The enormous building itself sets the tone: sharp edges, high brick walls and the welcoming feel of a fortress. Yet the ex-prez insists that it’s a place for public contemplation of his legacy, “a place to lay out facts,” he says.

How ironic is that? After all, the Bush-Cheney regime was infamous for its disregard of facts, as well as its hiding, twisting and manufacturing of facts to fool people. From going to war over Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction to its plan to gut and privatize Social Security — facts were whatever Bush, Cheney, Rummy, Rove and Condi imperiously declared them to be.

More ironic is the centerpiece of the library’s attempt to whitewash George’s eight awful years: an interactive exhibit called “Decision Points Theater.” And theater it is, portraying George heroically as “The Decider.” Visitors to this rigged exhibit can use touchscreens to see Bush in virtual action, pondering as he receives contradictory advice on whether to save the poor people of New Orleans, bail out Wall Street bankers, rush into Iraq, etc.

The whole show is meant to make you feel sympathy for him, then you’re asked to “vote” on whether he did the right thing. Again, irony: We the People got no vote on these issues back when it would’ve mattered.

There are many, many Bush quotes in this pantheon, but the one that best characterizes him and should be engraved above the entrance to his sparkling new center is this, from August 2002: “I’m the commander. See, I do not need to explain why I say things. That’s the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation.”

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, May 2, 2013

May 4, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Like The Facts, Stop Collecting Them”: The Conservative Quest To Eliminate Facts

The very first post at referenced that great line from the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion — but not their own facts.”

During the years I spent at FactCheck, I certainly wittnessed my share of politicians trying to make up their own facts. And while I wasn’t allowed to say this at the time, it was always pretty clear (to me, anyway), that one side was making up a lot more facts than the other. Republicans have happily embraced half-truths and outright falsehoods. From “Death Panels” to climate change denialism to the austerity discussion to Paul Ryan’s budget math, the GOP appears to have embraced a policy of Making Stuff Up.

But now it seems that conservatives’ War on Facts has entered a new phase. If the facts are against you, just stop collecting them.

Rep. Jeff Duncan, a South Carolina Republican, has introduced a bill that would prevent the federal government from collecting data about the economy.

That’s right. The bill would require that the Census Bureau stop collecting the information that economists use to calculate (among other things) the unemployment rate, the labor force participation rate, housing construction rates, trade deficits, and much more.

So you might well be saying, “This sounds like a pain for economists, but why should I care if a bunch of stuffy economists are inconvenienced?”

The answer is that without this information, it will be impossible to tell how much any legislation coming out of the Congress costs.

When the Congressional Budget Office calculates the cost of a particular piece of legislation, they have to have something to compare it against. They do this by calculating a budget baseline—that is, they look at how much the federal government will spend and how much revenue it will collect under current law. It’s that last part that’s important here.

To know how much money the government will collect in taxes, you have to know a lot of things about the economy generally. Much of this is incredibly complicated, and a whole lot of extremely smart CBOers spend hundreds of person-hours each year trying to produce an economic forecast. Not being an economist, I can’t tell you exactly what goes into all of those models, but I do know one thing for sure. If you want to know how much tax revenue you’ll collect, you pretty much have to know how many people have jobs.

But, then, if you’re just planning to make up your own numbers anyway, you probably don’t much care whether the CBO has the data it needs to produce accurate estimates.

By: Joe Miller, Director of Digital Communications,  Century Foundation, The National Memo, May 2, 2013

May 4, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment


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