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“The Impeachniks Roar”: Like Raged Unhinged Primates Shrieking And Pounding Their Chests

There have been only two presidential impeachments in the 224 years since George Washington became America’s first president. Both—of Andrew Johnson in 1868 and of Bill Clinton in 1998—failed to get the required two-thirds majority in the Senate. And Richard Nixon, of course, was about to be impeached in 1974 when he chose to resign instead; unlike the other two, there would have been nothing partisan about Nixon’s impeachment and he almost certainly would have been convicted. There are always some partisans of the party out of power who would like to impeach the president, simply because it’s the only way to get rid of him if you can’t beat him at the polls. But a presidency without too much actual criminality shouldn’t produce too many such armchair prosecutors. Or so you’d think.

But these are no ordinary times, and the Republican thirst for impeaching Barack Obama (or “Barack Hussein Obama,” as impeachniks inevitably call him) has gone mainstream, as evidenced by the fact that The New York Times featured a story about it over the weekend. The pattern is becoming familiar: at a town hall meeting, a member of the House or Senate is confronted by a constituent practically quivering with anger and hatred at the President. The constituent demands to know why impeachment hasn’t happened yet. The Republican politician nods sympathetically, then explains that though he’d like nothing more than to see Obama driven from office, it would require a vote of the House and then a trial and conviction vote in the Senate, and that just isn’t going to happen.

As Steve Benen said, “I remember the good old days—back in 2011—when unhinged conservative Republicans in Congress used to come up with pretenses of high crimes when talking up presidential impeachment. Lately, they don’t even bother. Obama is the president; he’s a Democrat; the right doesn’t like him; ergo impeachment is a credible option. QED.” Take, for instance, Representative Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan. When the ritual question came to him, Bentivolio said it would be “a dream come true” for him to submit a resolution to impeach Obama. But he lamented the fact that “Until we have evidence, you’re going to become a laughingstock if you’ve submitted the bill to impeach the president.” I mean, come on—evidence? What is this, Judge Judy or something? No constitutional scholar he, the congressman only realized this bit about “evidence” after doing some careful research. “I’ve had lawyers come in—and these are lawyers, PhD.s in history, and I said, ‘Tell me how I can impeach the president of the United States.’ [They replied,] ‘What evidence do you have?'” The nerve!

Meanwhile, out in the ideological hinterlands, the rabble are getting roused. People are putting “Impeach Obama” signs on overpasses! There’s a Facebook page! “Movement To Impeach Obama Snowballing” shouts World Net Daily (along with a plea to “Visit WND’s online Impeachment Store to see all the products related to ousting Obama”).

To be sure, it isn’t that there aren’t plenty of Republicans who reject impeachment out of hand, because there are. But they’re regarded by many in the base as contemptible quislings; within the party, the moderate middle position is now occupied by those who wouldn’t mind impeaching Obama, but realize that the practical hurdles are too difficult to overcome. And yes, there were liberals who wanted to impeach George W. Bush back in the day, but they were almost all fringe characters. They weren’t the people making our laws. As always, on the right the extremism goes much farther up the tree.

There will come a point—around October of 2016, I’m guessing—where this insanity will just peter out. But between now and then it could well grow more intense, with more and more members of Congress (not to mention 2016 presidential candidates) forced to take a position of sympathy toward impeaching Obama. For the base, disappointment long ago turned to anger, which is now turning to a kind of guttural explosion of rage. Like early primates who find that all the shrieking and pounding of chests has failed to drive off the interlopers who had the temerity to walk right in and think they could coexist in this part of the forest, they’re left with nothing to do but to fling their shit in the general direction of those they hate and fear. But hey, America is “polarized” and both sides are equally to blame, right?


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, August 26, 2013

August 26, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Threatened By The Armageddon Caucus”: GOP Leaders Have Given Right-Wing Members Veto Power That Impedes Governing

Are you ready for the Big Magilla of American politics? This fall, every important domestic issue could crash into every other: health-care reform, autopilot budget cuts, a government shutdown, even a default on the national debt.

If I were betting, I’d wager that we will somehow avoid a total meltdown. House Speaker John Boehner seems desperate to get around his party’s Armageddon Caucus.

But after three years of congressional dysfunction brought on by the rise of a radicalized brand of conservatism, it’s time to call the core questions:

Will our ability to govern ourselves be held perpetually hostage to an ideology that casts government as little more than dead weight in American life? And will a small minority in Congress be allowed to grind decision-making to a halt?

Congress is supposed to be the venue in which we Americans work our way past divisions that are inevitable in a large and diverse democracy. Yet for some time, Republican congressional leaders have given the most right-wing members of the House and Senate a veto power that impedes compromise, and thus governing itself.

On the few occasions when the far-right veto was lifted, Congress got things done, courtesy of a middle-ground majority that included most Democrats and the more moderately conservative Republicans. That’s how Congress passed the modest tax increases on the well-off that have helped reduce the deficit, as well as the Violence Against Women Act and assistance for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

All these actions had something in common: They were premised on the belief that government can take practical steps to make American life better.

This idea is dismissed by those ready to shut down the government or to use the debt ceiling as a way of forcing the repeal or delay of the Affordable Care Act and passing more draconian spending reductions. It needs to be made very clear that these radical Republicans are operating well outside their party’s own constructive traditions.

Before their 2010 election victory, Republicans had never been willing to use the threat of default to achieve their goals. The GOP tried a government shutdown back in the mid-1990s, but it was a political disaster. Experienced Republicans are trying to steer their party away from the brink, the very place where politicians such as Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and a group of fourscore or so House members want it to go.

Particularly instructive is the effort to repeal health-care reform. The very fact that everyone now accepts the term “Obamacare” to refer to a measure designed to get health insurance to many more Americans is a sign of how stupidly partisan we have become. We never described Medicare as “Johnsoncare.” We didn’t label Social Security “FDRsecurity.”

Tying the whole thing to Obama disguises the fact that most of the major provisions of the law he fought for had their origins among conservatives and Republicans.

The health-care exchanges to facilitate the purchase of private insurance were based on a Heritage Foundation proposal, first brought to fruition in Massachusetts by a Republican governor named Mitt Romney. Subsidizing private premiums was always a Republican alternative to extending Medicare to cover everyone, the remedy preferred by many liberals.

Conservatives even once favored the individual mandate to buy insurance, as MSNBC columnist Tim Noah pointed out. “Many states now require passengers in automobiles to wear seatbelts for their own protection,” the Heritage Foundation’s Stuart Butler said back in 1989. “Many others require anybody driving a car to have liability insurance.” Since all of us will use health care at some point, Butler argued reasonably, it makes sense to have us all in the insurance pool.

But that was then. The right wing’s recent rejection of a significant government role in ending the scandal of “a health-care system that does not even come close to being comprehensive and fails to reach far too many” — the words were spoken 24 years ago by the late Sen. John Chafee, a Rhode Island Republican — tells us why Congress no longer works.

The GOP has gone from endorsing market-based government solutions to problems the private sector can’t solve — i.e, Obamacare — to believing that no solution involving expanded government can possibly be good for the country.

Ask yourself: If conservatives still believed in what both left and right once saw as a normal approach to government, would they speak so cavalierly about shutting it down or risking its credit? This is what’s at stake in the Big Magilla.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 25, 2013

August 26, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An American ‘Hyphenated’ Idiot”: Bobby Jindal Blames Racial Inequality On Minorities Being Too Proud Of Their Heritages

One day after thousands rallied at the March on Washington 50th anniversary demonstration, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) pitched the Republican civil rights vision…by criticizing minorities for not assimilating into American culture.

In a Politico op-ed Sunday, Jindal lamented that minorities place “undue emphasis” on heritage, and urged Americans to resist “the politically correct trend of changing the melting pot into a salad bowl” comprised of proudly ethnic identities.

Jindal insisted that, “while racism still rears its ugly head from time to time” since Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I have a dream” speech, the major race problem facing modern America is that minorities are too focused on their “separateness”:

Yet we still place far too much emphasis on our “separateness,” our heritage, ethnic background, skin color, etc. We live in the age of hyphenated Americans: Asian-Americans, Italian-Americans, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Indian-Americans, and Native Americans, to name just a few.

Here’s an idea: How about just “Americans?” That has a nice ring to it, if you ask me. Placing undue emphasis on our “separateness” is a step backward. Bring back the melting pot.

There is nothing wrong with people being proud of their different heritages. We have a long tradition of folks from all different backgrounds incorporating their traditions into the American experience, but we must resist the politically correct trend of changing the melting pot into a salad bowl. E pluribus Unum.

If he had done even cursory research before writing his editorial, Jindal may have discovered some systemic inequities preventing minorities from assimilating to his satisfaction. Though Jindal is right that Americans have made “significant progress” since the March On Washington For Jobs And Freedom, the national black unemployment rate has steadily remained double the white unemployment rate for the past 60 years.

In urban areas like Chicago, the poverty rate and median income for black families is also about the same as it was in 1963.

Even segregation, once vanquished by the civil rights movement, is rebounding aggressively. Since 2001, urban schools and neighborhoods have become increasingly re-segregated through lax integration enforcement and so-called “white flight.” Research shows this resegregation intensifies poverty and violence in minority neighborhoods, trapping black families in an endless cycle. Jindal himself has helped this trend along in New Orleans with his school privatization plan, which has worsened racial inequality in 34 historically segregated public schools and, according to the Justice Department, “reversed much of the progress made toward integration.”


By: Aviva Shen, Think Progress, August 25, 2013

August 26, 2013 Posted by | Civil Rights, Race and Ethnicity | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Dog’s Life Can Be Dizzying”: The Obamacare Opposition Has Finally Caught Its Own Tail

It’s time to pop the champagne and blow the kazoos: the war on Obamacare has officially reached its point of reductio ad absurdum. Two of the opposition’s favored fevered conspiracy theories about the law have clashed, like two asteroids headed for the planet that smash into each other before they can do any damage below.

First, there was the opposition’s demand that members of Congress and their staff be subjected to Obamacare—that they be forced to give up their coverage in the health plans for federal employees and join the new insurance exchanges on the theory that “if Congress was going to impose Obamacare upon the country, it should have to experience what it is imposing firsthand.” This never really made sense from the outset since the exchanges, at least for the foreseeable future, are meant only for people without employer coverage and for small businesses buying coverage for their workers. That is, most of “the country” is not going to have anything to do with the exchanges—they are just going to keep being covered by their employers.

Forcing the incongruous requirement that Hill employees enter the exchanges resulted, inevitably, in a snafu: the exchanges are not designed for employers and employees to share the cost of plans that are selected by workers, since the exchanges are meant for people buying coverage on their own. Congress, like most large employers, covers the lion’s share of their workers’ premiums, but wasn’t going to be able to do so as the law was written, leaving Hill workers with thousands more dollars a year in premium costs than they now pay. To fix this problem—which was never intended even by the members of Congress who wanted Hill staff to share in the burdens of Obamacare—the administration and Congress agreed on a tweak that would maintain the requirement for congressional staff to enter the exchanges, while allowing for the federal government to pick up its share of the costs. Conservatives decried this as an “exemption” from Obamacare, which was flatly untrue: in fact, the Hill is being included in Obamacare to an extent beyond what the law was built to allow for. For a pithy dismissal of the “exemption” trope, see the recent letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal by the gentleman from Verona.

Meanwhile, opponents of the law have since the early days of its drafting been busy fanning flames on another front as well: charging that the law would allow for federal funding of abortions, which has been barred for years. This line almost managed to stop the legislation in its tracks before supporters settled on a highly unwieldy compromise—plans on the exchanges can cover abortions (as many insurance plans now do) but the abortion coverage must be offered in a supplemental plan, purchased separately from the main coverage, and without the help of the federal subsidies many people will receive to help them buy the plans. This is such a messy arrangement that abortion rights supporters fear that precious few plans on the exchanges will even bother to include abortion coverage. And the law also allows states to pass laws banning abortion coverage, period, from plans in their exchanges, as many states have already done.

Do you see where this is headed? The law forces Congress and its staffers into the exchanges…the law, in theory, allows for plans with abortion coverage to be sold on the exchanges…and, voila, the crash in the skies above. Take it away, Associated Press:

The politics of the abortion debate are always tricky for lawmakers. They may soon get personal. An attempt to fix a problem with the national health care law has created a situation in which members of Congress and their staffers could gain access to abortion coverage. That’s a benefit currently denied to them and to all federal employees who get health insurance through the government’s plan…

Abortion opponents say the regulation would circumvent a longstanding law that bars the use of taxpayer funds for “administrative expenses in connection with any health plan under the federal employees health benefits program which provides any benefits or coverage for abortions.” Unlike many private corporate plans, federal employee plans only cover abortions in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.

“Under this scheme, (the government) will be paying the administrative costs,” said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., author of the abortion funding ban for federal employee plans. “It’s a radical deviation and departure from current federal law, and it’s not for all federal employees, but for a subset: Congress. Us.” Smith is calling on the Obama administration to specify that lawmakers and staffers must choose a plan that does not cover abortions. The funding ban, in place since the 1980s, is known as the Smith amendment.

This framing is actually off the mark. It’s not “an attempt to fix a problem” with the law that has created this situation. It was the original demand by Republicans (Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley led the way) that members of Congress and their staff be forced into the exchanges. The administration is downplaying the whole matter, noting that, technically, Hill members and staffers who buy a plan on the exchanges that comes with the abortion coverage will be paying for that part of the coverage out of their own pocket. But yes, in theory, a member of Congress and his or her staff may now be able to have abortion coverage, which was not the case previously. The horror! After all, we know that some members of Congress have a messy track record with abortions—like, say, demanding that their mistresses get one.

So, tiger, how does that tail of yours taste?

By: Alec MacGillis, Senior Editor, The New Republic, August 20, 2013

August 26, 2013 Posted by | Abortion, Affordable Care Act | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Going Once, Going Twice, Sold”: Under A New Texas Law, The Police Can Act As Gun Dealers

For decades, weapons confiscated by the police in Texas were supposed to be used for law enforcement purposes — or else destroyed. Starting next month, police departments across the state will be allowed to sell some of them.

Some local departments have already been selling confiscated weapons, operating under a gray area of existing law, said T. Edwin Walker, president of Texas Law Shield, which provides legal services to Texas gun owners.

House Bill 1421, which passed during the last legislative session, formally permits law enforcement officials to sell found or unclaimed weapons to licensed firearms dealers. They can also sell confiscated weapons that are left unclaimed after cases that were never prosecuted or did not result in a conviction. In cases that do result in a conviction, police departments keep the firearms as evidence in case they are needed for appeals.

The new rule gives law enforcement another option, said State Representative Charles Perry, Republican of Lubbock and the author of the bill. “It has a fiscal impact in a positive way, and it makes sense if the weapons are in good shape.”

It is unclear how well the measure will meet its stated goal, which Mr. Walker said is allowing the police to “recoup some money, to put some money back in their budget.” Police departments in large Texas cities like San Antonio, Houston and Austin, which destroyed hundreds of guns in 2012, have said they would not participate.

Some law enforcement officials said they already had department policies against selling confiscated firearms and worried about putting more weapons back on the street.

The Waco Police Department has not yet decided if it will sell confiscated guns, but “at first blush it is probably not something we will be willing to do just for the fact that we don’t want to put additional weapons back out there on the street that have already been confiscated or used in a crime,” said Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton, the department’s public information officer.

Those who might rely on the new law? Small, cash-starved departments in rural Texas, some of which have already been making such resales.

In Crane County, home to about 4,300 people at the base of the Texas Panhandle, even two gun confiscations a year are a lot, said Chief Deputy Andrew Aguilar of the county sheriff’s office. Firearms his department has seized in the past have already been sold, he said.

In many rural towns, sheriffs’ sales of seized property are common sources of income, said Alice Tripp, the legislative director of the Texas State Rifle Association.

After the law takes effect on Sept. 1, law enforcement agencies will be able to sell confiscated guns to licensed weapons dealers. The proceeds will first cover outstanding court or auctioneer’s fees; the remainder will go to the police department that seized the weapon.

Jason Knowles, the manager of Patriot Firearms in Lubbock, said he doubted the confiscated gun market would be bustling.

“The majority of firearms seized by law enforcement typically are relatively cheap and of low quality,” he said. “You don’t get a lot of high-end guns in the seizure world.”

Sgt. Jason Lewis, the Lubbock Police Department’s public information officer, said the department had destroyed 56 firearms in 2012, many of them cheap, stolen guns in very poor condition. He said it would not participate in gun sales.

“Every once in a while, you get something that you are like ‘Whoa, that’s too bad that you are melting that,’ ” Sergeant Lewis said. “For the most part, it is junk.”


By: Ian Floyd, Texas Tribune, Published in The New York Times, August 24, 2013

August 26, 2013 Posted by | Guns | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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