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“Better Love It Or Leave It, Because We Cling To Guns”: The Hatred Is Still Out There, Waiting For The Next Crusade

The times they have a changed. I remember when the extreme right-wing nuts were social pariahs. No mainstream politician or national media organization would openly embrace or advocate for them. They were either percolating as white supremacist racists, shamed KKK holdouts, Hell’s Angels road bandits, or grouped into a category labeled “survivalists.” They were all armed and willing, had caches of enough weapons and supplies sometimes hidden in bunkers, and they were going to save America. We knew they existed, sometimes gave them some thought, but mostly ignored them as pesky bugs that one just has to monitor and avoid as best as possible, because there was a powerful sense that the rightness of the American Dream machine would prevail.

This was also a time when America’s youth were “crusaders” against government over-reach. Despite their being armed only with the first amendment, idealism, and organizing peaceful and mostly non-violent protests, a majority of Americans angrily called them unpatriotic and yelled for them to “love it or leave it!” Odd to realize now how that slogan was never aimed at the right wing nuts.

During the same period of social discontent when the Black Panthers “stood their ground” armed with the second amendment, the FBI and all shades of law enforcement agents either killed many of them in shoot-outs or imprisoned others. Americans, in the mid-west, and from coast to coast supported the government and its agents with patriotic fervor for ridding society of those illegal treasonous Hanoi Jane and black militant types. The chaotic unrest of the ’60s and ’70s faded as the social crusaders donned work suits and NBA team uniforms and assimilated back into the melting pot.

Fast forward to Cliven Bundy’s “home on the Nevada range,” where the big ugly truth stood its ground that America is still a Civil War house divided across one hundred fifty plus Aprils. What first appeared to be a resurgent state rights sagebrush rebellion on steroids took a prickly cactus turn.

There was the usual and now quite predictable circus of “Republican” characters that jumped on this event to spin the narrative, score political points, spend Koch brother monies, stoke the base, create another poster child victim of Obama’s illegal government over-reach, and gain another propaganda win.

The shocking surprise was the turnout of “first responders.” The neo-minutemen and women that flocked to the Nevada “Concord” from other states, forming a volunteer armed citizenry, that took up sniper positions, and were ready to place women as the first receivers of bullets against federal agents enforcing the law against the cattle welfare queen, Cliven Bundy. This group was more than ready and desirous of martyrdom to bring about their larger cause, the overthrow of the evil empire.

Just when did it become fashionable and acceptable, and not punishable for armed treason against the government? That is exactly what occurred there. No one was saying, “love it or leave it” to this posse, because they cling to guns, because they have become embedded into a way larger fabric of American society than their predecessors were able to. I wonder if the gush of the Republican power elite somehow legitimized and thus emboldened these folks? Could this have become the first shots of the rewriting of the Civil War?

Thankfully, the same guy that started this defused the standoff. Cliven Bundy talked. No longer an obscure desperate lone ranger, Cliven had the embrace and love from the Republican machine that empowered him to spew his Civil War era racism. The same machine that gaveth him a platform, now couldn’t find enough cactus, sagebrush, or moral platitudes to distance themselves fast enough. Oh well, no one promised unconditional love.

It is beyond me why the extreme right wing Republican power machine doesn’t do a better job vetting the Cliven Bundys. Does so much power and money breed such stupidity? I guess in their mind they won anyway. They know the hatred is still out there waiting for the next crusade, and it isn’t the sort of group that anyone other than me might politely ask of them, but here goes, please, “America, love it or leave it!

 

By: Alen Schmertzler, The Huffington Post Blog, May 2, 2014

 

 

May 3, 2014 Posted by | Cliven Bundy, Right Wing | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Your Tax Dollars At Work”: What Conspiratorial Madness Looks Like

Over the last 18 months, the deadly attack in Benghazi has been investigated by the independent State Department Accountability Review Board, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Senate Armed Services Committee, the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

How many of them uncovered evidence of a cover-up? None.

And so far-right lawmakers said what’s really needed is a special, brand new committee. For months, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) resisted these calls, content to leave the matter in the hands of the existing committee chairs. This morning, it appears Boehner changed his mind.

Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio established a special committee to investigate the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, according to a senior leadership aide.

The news comes the same day House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa subpoenaed Secretary of State John Kerry, aiming to compel him to testify before Congress about the administration’s response to the attack.

“The new emails released this week were the straw that broke the camel’s back,” an aide in Boehner’s office told Roll Call.

In reality, the “new emails” only confirmed what was already known and offered nothing in the way of new information.

This, in a nutshell, is what conspiratorial madness looks like.

House Republicans have no health care bill. They have no immigration bill. They’ve passed no jobs bill. They won’t consider extending unemployment benefits or raising the minimum wage or fighting for pay equity or investing in infrastructure or taking climate science seriously or even tackling a compromise on debt reduction. Since Republicans took over the House, Congress’ ability to actually pass laws has slowed to levels unseen in modern times.

But good lord are they invested in discredited conspiracy theories involving Benghazi.

Remember, the materials that “were the straw that broke the camel’s back” are effectively meaningless.

Ultimately, the new e-mails do little more than buttress what has been known for a year about the immediate communication among the Obama team as it rushed to cobble together talking points from the information it had to feed to Rice, who was only asked late in the day Friday to be the White House mouthpiece.

Dave Weigel added that in order to take the “smoking gun” argument seriously, “you need to forget the previously-known” information that’s already part of the public record. Indeed, conspiracy theorists should feel discouraged, not emboldened – the “new” information Republicans are so excited about “reveals nothing new.”

But Congress has decided it wants a new committee to tackle the work that’s already been done by other committees. Your tax dollars at work.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), is reportedly set to head this new committee.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 2, 2014

May 3, 2014 Posted by | Benghazi, Darrell Issa, John Boehner | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Knowingly Deceiving The Public”: Obamacare Truthers Get Caught In A Lie On Delinquency Rate

First, the Obamacare Truthers—the Republicans and conservatives who insist that every piece of remotely positive news about the health-care law’s impact has to be a filthy lie—lost the battle of the enrollment figures. The issue here isn’t whether the Obama administration is telling the complete truth when it says 8 million. The issue is that the Truthers predicted 3 million, 2 million, 1 million, 0 million, a death spiral. And whether the administration is gilding the lily and the real number is 8 or 7.7 or 7.4 million, the hard fact is the Truthers were just crazy wrong.

Having lost that battle, they’ve now opened fire on a second front. Maybe the enrollment numbers are wrong, maybe they’re right, the Truthers say, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is the percentage of people who actually pay their premiums.

There is some truth (as opposed to Truth) to this. People can sign up with every intention of paying and then get hit with something—an unexpected car-repair bill—and they can’t pay. Or more likely, they’re young and healthy, and they decide “What was I thinking, I got all caught up in Zach Galifianakis fever?”—and they don’t pay. And if the young and healthy (who cost the insurance companies nothing) don’t pay, then the only people in the system are the old and sick, who cost the insurance companies a lot, and premiums skyrocket.

So in some ways the “percentage paying” number is even more important than the raw enrollment number. It is, after all, the real enrollment number, the number of people actually getting and keeping health coverage. And so the second the Truthers lost the enrollment fight, they moved to the percentage battle. This will prove that Obamacare can’t work.

On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee put out a report looking at enrollment (“report” is overdoing it; it’s one page). It was methodologically pretty simple. They collected data from every insurer participating in what’s called the Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM) and looked at who’d signed up for coverage and who’d paid a first premium by April 15. The House panel’s answer was 67 percent.

Now, 67 percent doesn’t sound half bad to me, but the GOP spun it as yet another Obamacare disaster—it would push the “real enrollment” number down near 5 million and mean that one in three people who’d signed up for health-care coverage was already delinquent. They didn’t quite say that, but it was obviously the whole point of the report. “Tired of receiving incomplete pictures of enrollment in the health-care law, we went right to the source and found that the administration’s recent declarations of success may be unfounded,” said committee chairman Fred Upton of Michigan.

The committee got what it wanted: Headlines saying only 67 percent of ACA enrollees were paying. I’m sure there was ample coverage on Fox News, and it blasted out across the talk-radio waves. They have a talking point now, and a number, and it’s low enough that they can spin it as a lousy number.

The only problem is it’s a wrong number.

The Democratic minority on the committee released a memorandum slicing the majority’s logic to pieces in a matter of three paragraphs. Actually, it can be done in one sentence: Lots of enrollees’ first premiums weren’t even due by April 15!

Here’s a little language from the Democratic memo that lays it out a bit more fully: “As of April 15, premiums had only come due for individuals who had signed up for coverage before March 15. Five million individuals had enrolled in coverage through the marketplaces as of March 17.  On April 17, the president announced that 8 million Americans had signed up for coverage through the marketplaces. That means that more than 3 million enrollees—or nearly 40 percent of all enrollees—did not have premiums due by April 15 and therefore were not required to have paid them by that point.”

In other words, people who didn’t even have premiums due yet, and who account for 37.5 percent of all enrollees, are counted in this GOP report as part of the delinquent third.

If you don’t want to take it from Democrats, take it from the insurance officials themselves. They dispute the GOP numbers. Karen Ignani of AHIP, a large group of providers, said the pay-up rate so far in her realm has been 85 percent. The Blue Cross-Blue Shield group says 80 to 85 percent of enrollees have been paying. And WellPoint announced, on the very day of the GOP report, that its figure was 90 percent.

In addition, Talking Points Memo’s Dylan Scott got hold of the questionnaire the committee sent to insurers, and it’s a joke. One industry source—not a Democratic operative—told Scott: “Everyone who saw it knew exactly what the goal was.”

I asked the GOP staff at the committee if they had a counter to the argument that their numbers were incomplete and in essence rigged. On background, one staffer there basically told me that they didn’t have a counter. The committee press release makes it clear, I was told, that these data represent payments only through April 15, and the committee will seek another report May 20.

In other words, this staffer is saying: Yep. Which makes it rather hard to avoid the conclusion that the committee knowingly put out a bad number. Why would a committee of the House of Representatives do something like that? Well, what am I saying? We know why.

The continuing truth about Obamacare is that it’s going pretty darn well so far. The other truth is that the Obamacare Truthers will forever be among us, saying, ah, but it’s the next step that’s crucial, and that’s where the death spiral will begin! That’s our Republican Party: Hoping that millions and millions of people don’t get health coverage, just to deny the president a political win. They don’t care how many people die, as long as they take Obamacare with them.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, May 2, 2014

May 3, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP, Obamacare | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Charity Is Not A Substitute For Justice”: Paul Ryan Still Doesn’t Understand The Scale Of The Poverty Problem

Earlier today, House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) continued his study of poverty with a hearing entitled, “A Progress Report on the War on Poverty: Lessons from the Frontlines.” Featuring witnesses from several poverty-fighting non-profits, Rep. Ryan styled the hearing as a “listening exercise” to hear about the strategies these charities and non-profits use to help alleviate poverty on the local level.

While it is admirable that Rep. Ryan gave a platform for community leaders to share their stories, he seems to have no sense of the scale of the problem before him. Indeed, Rep. Ryan’s veneration for the work of private charity is quite the contrast with his opinion of the federal government’s anti-poverty programs, which he has disparaged as “duplicative,” “complex,” and “ineffective.” However, for as much good work as it does, private philanthropy has well-known biases, as charitable donations tend to flow disproportionately to more glamorous causes, and often dry up during business cycle downturns—just when they’re needed most. In short, while individual charities and non-profits do incredible work to help our communities, they lack the ability to create widespread change; only the federal government has the resources to help alleviate poverty at the scale that is required.

While all of the witnesses who appeared at the hearing—including, ironically, both witnesses called by the Republican majority—represent organizations that receive federal funding, only one of the witnesses, Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund, used her time to point out the importance of government programs. She cited a 2013 Columbia University study that found that government programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC); Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps); the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program (WIC); and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) reduce poverty by approximately 40 percent. Kathleen Short of the U.S. Census Bureau has also performed research on this topic, finding that government programs such as WIC, SNAP, and EITC, among others, all had a significant impact on reducing the poverty rate. In addition, Feeding America estimates that private charities make up just 4 percent of all food assistance resources in the U.S., with federal programs such as SNAP comprising the other 96 percent.

But it seems that Rep. Ryan doesn’t understand the unique role only the government can play in helping lift citizens out of poverty, as his recent FY15 budget proposal cuts billions from poverty-fighting programs, as Matthew Yglesias over at Vox recently pointed out. We also analyzed the proposed Ryan budget and projected that, if enacted, Rep. Ryan’s huge cuts would have a negative impact on economic growth and cost the labor force millions of jobs.

If Paul Ryan truly wanted to help the poor, he would not just rely on local leaders and private charities to reduce poverty in our country; instead, he would propose a budget that supports social safety nets and poverty-fighting programs.  He would support increasing the minimum wage, which would give 27.8 million Americans a raise and help the parents of one in five children.  And he would vote to extend Emergency Unemployment Insurance, which would help unemployed Americans in our weak labor market and even generate jobs.

Marian Wright Edelman got things right during the hearing when she said that “all of our charity is not a substitute for justice and a fair allocation of public resources.” Unfortunately, the House majority seems to think that publicly-funded programs must be ineffective just because they are publicly-funded—despite all evidence to the contrary.

 

By: John Smith and Alyssa Davis, Economic Policy Institute, April 30, 2014

 

May 3, 2014 Posted by | Paul Ryan, Poor and Low Income, Poverty | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Run Away As Fast As You Can!”: Ralph Nader Wants Liberals To Back Rand Paul. Don’t Do It.

This week, Ralph Nader returned to the political stage with a new book, Unstoppable, whose triumphant subtitle is The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State. To kick off his publicity tour, he has argued that liberals should “definitely” impeach President Barack Obama, abandon the “international militarist” Hillary Clinton, and instead embrace Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) as a possible leader of his dream coalition.

To what end? In the book, Nader writes that by marrying the Left with the libertarian Right, we can cut off government support for corporations and have “honest government,” “fair taxation,” and “more opportunity.” Nader sees relatively low-hanging fruit in opposing “sovereignty-shredding global trade agreements, Wall Street bailouts, the overweening expansion of Federal Reserve power, and the serious intrusions of the USA PATRIOT Act against freedom and privacy.” He also articulates loftier, if not fully fleshed out, aspirations to “push for environmentalism,” “reform health care,” and “control more of the commons that we already own.”

Some liberal commentators, like Esquire‘s Charles Pierce and the American Prospect‘s Scott Lemieux, are dismissing Nader’s vision as fantastical, since the Right will never join his progressive crusade. But Nader’s vision should not be dismissed so quickly. He leads his book with concrete examples from the 1980s of when he put Left-Right coalitions together to stop an over-budget nuclear reactor project and to pass legislation to protect whistleblowers who uncover wasteful government fraud.

More recently, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), and then-Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) joined forces to pass legislation auditing the Federal Reserve. Nader is correct that there are opportunities to build ideologically diverse coalitions and that coalition building is the key to getting most anything you want out of politics.

However, coalition building requires compromise and, most critically, prioritizing one set of issues over another. The trade-offs inherent in Nader’s path into Rand Paul’s arms should make liberals run screaming.

The Nader strategy of a permanent coalition with the libertarian Right greatly limits what liberals can accomplish. Where there is a joint desire to restrain government (end the drug war) and limit spending (stop corporate welfare), a Nader-Paul alliance can form. But you can forget about anything that involves new government regulation, higher taxes, and more spending. That would preclude big-ticket liberal priorities like capping carbon emissions, expanding anti-poverty programs, guaranteeing universal preschool, and investing in infrastructure.

Nader effectively deprioritizes those goals, because his primary agenda is to “Dismantle the Corporate State.” But the hard truth is that if liberals want to make progress on their core agenda, the coalition to nurture is not with the Paulistas. It’s with the CEOs.

The little-talked-about secret of most major liberal accomplishments over the past 80 years is that they received some degree of corporate support, at least enough to disempower conservative opposition. This is true for much of FDR’s New Deal, LBJ’s anti-poverty legislation, and environmental regulation, as well as Obama’s stimulus, repeal of the Bush tax cuts, Wall Street regulation, and health-care reform.

As I observed in the New York Times following the Supreme Court’s upholding of ObamaCare, “When corporations are divided or mollified, reformers can breathe. The president can be heard. Business owners can be convinced that they will remain profitable. The dim prospect of perpetual gridlock can be trumped by the allure of regulatory certainty.”

Nader wants to scrap this long, if quiet, history of liberal success that has built the pillars of modern activist government in favor of prioritizing a civil libertarian agenda. His strategy makes sense if you think smashing the NSA is more important than saving the climate or feeding the hungry. I suspect most liberals would not make that trade.

There’s nothing wrong with forging temporary, limited partnerships with whoever is willing to play ball at that moment. You can work with libertarians against corporations on global trade today, and cooperate with corporations against libertarians on funding infrastructure tomorrow.

But Nader’s vision goes beyond ad-hoc coalitions. He wants to permanently side with government-hating libertarians over government-accepting corporations. That may have superficial appeal to liberals currently agitated over income inequality, but it’s not the strategy that helped liberals in the past century build the social safety net, reduce poverty, and avoid another a Great Depression.

 

By: Bill Scher, The Week, May 2, 2014

May 3, 2014 Posted by | Liberals, Libertarians, Politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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