mykeystrokes.com

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

“Joni Ernst Fights For Dirty Water In Iowa”: Shows How Far Republican Candidates Have Drifted From The Party’s Old Moorings

Joni Ernst, the winner of the Iowa Senate Republican primary on Tuesday, has a briefcase full of the usual shopworn, hard-right policies: no same-sex marriage, no reform of immigration, no federal minimum wage, no Education Department, no progressive tax code. She still clings to the idea of private accounts for Social Security.

But one of her positions, expressed at a recent debate, demonstrates a particularly pernicious and little-known crusade of the modern Republican Party: she opposes the Clean Water Act. She called it one of the most damaging laws for business.

That a Senate nominee could take this position, even more than the others, shows how far Republican candidates have drifted from the party’s old moorings. In 1972, the Clean Water Act passed with full bipartisan support, and is widely regarded as one of the most successful environmental acts ever passed. It doubled the number of rivers, streams and lakes suitable for fishing and swimming. It drastically reduced the amount of chemicals in drinking water, and substantially increased the size of protected wetlands. Rivers no longer catch fire.

The law’s value is so obvious that it shouldn’t even be necessary to defend it. But in Iowa, it remains a divisive issue, and Ms. Ernst’s offhand remark was a clear signal to the state’s big agricultural interests of which side she is on.

Iowa’s waterways are notoriously dirty, the result of runoffs from vast livestock operations and crop fertilizer. The problem has become worse in recent years with a sharp increase in the global demand for pork, leading to enormous hog farms that pack tens of thousands of pigs into small spaces. Last year, the Des Moines water utility had to turn on, for the first time, the world’s largest nitrate-removal plant to get the chemical — the result of manure and fertilizer pollution — out of people’s taps. (Excessive nitrates can cause cancer and miscarriages, and are linked to “blue baby syndrome,” in which infants suffocate.)

“The issue is the quality of the water in the Raccoon and the Des Moines” rivers, Bill Stowe, the waterworks manager, told the Des Moines Register last year. “This trend is absolutely off the scale. It’s like having serial tornadoes. You can deal with one, you can deal with two, but you can’t deal with them every day.”

For years, the state’s Department of Natural Resources, which is in the pocket of big agriculture, didn’t deal with the runoff problems. And two years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency told the state that it was violating the Clean Water Act and must immediately do a better job. State farm operations and politicians have bridled at the moderate increase in regulation that resulted, and last year House Republicans passed a bill that would undermine enforcement of the Clean Water Act, giving the states much more power to set their own rules. (Fortunately the bill was never taken up in the Senate.)

Ms. Ernst wants to take the seat of Senator Tom Harkin, who is retiring after compiling a strong liberal and pro-environmental record. For Iowans who worry about what’s coming out of their faucets, she has a great deal of explaining to do.

 

By: David Firestone, Editors Blog, The New York Times, June 4, 2014

June 8, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Right Wing | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Shrill Partisan Hackery”: The Right’s Unhinged Bergdahl Hypocrisy; The Ultimate Way To Savage Obama

Of course Republicans are going to compare the prisoner swap that won the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl to Benghazi. They both start with B. It leads to their favorite words that start with I: investigation, and possibly impeachment.

The ridiculous Andrew McCarthy, flacking his new book making the case for Obama’s impeachment, of course finds more fodder in the prisoner transfer. Tuesday morning he was joined by Fox News “legal analyst” Andrew Napolitano and a man who couldn’t even hold on to a congressional seat for a second term, Allen West. The shift to Bergdahl reflects growing concern that the right’s Benghazi dishonesty isn’t working with voters. Even conservative analysts have chided colleagues for Benghazi overreach. Sure, Trey Gowdy will continue with his election year partisan witch hunt, but the right is wagering the Bergdahl story might hurt Obama more.

The anti-Bergdahl hysteria plays into six years of scurrilous insinuation that Obama is a secret Muslim who either supports or sympathizes with our enemies. Even “moderate” Mitt Romney, you’ll recall, claimed the president’s “first response” to the 2012 Benghazi attack “was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” This is just the latest chapter.

The partisan opportunism over the Bergdahl deal shouldn’t be surprising, but it is, a little bit. This wasn’t some wild radical idea of the Obama administration; it was driven by the Defense Department and signed on to by intelligence agencies. Although Congress is claiming it wasn’t given the requisite 30 days’ notice of a prisoner transfer (more on that later), this deal or something very much like it has been in the works for at least two years, with plenty of congressional consultation.

And plenty of partisan demagoguery: In 2012 the late Michael Hastings reported that the White House was warned by congressional Republicans that a possible deal for the five Taliban fighters would be political suicide in an election year – a “Willie Horton moment,” in the words of an official responsible for working with Congress on the deal. In the end, though, Hastings reported that even Sen. John McCain ultimately approved the deal; it fell apart when the Taliban balked.

Two years later, the right’s official talking points are mixed: Some critics focus on rumors (buttressed by Hastings’ own sympathetic reporting on Bergdahl) that he was a soldier disillusioned by the Afghan war who deserted his post. Wrong-way Bill Kristol has dismissed him as a deserter not worth rescuing, while Kristol’s most prominent contribution to politics, Sarah Palin, has been screeching on her Facebook wall about Bergdahl’s “horrid anti-American beliefs.”

But missing and captured soldiers have never had to undergo a character check before being rescued by their government. Should they now face trial by Bill Kristol before we decide whether to rescue them? Is Sarah Palin going to preside over a military death panel for captured soldiers suspected of inadequate dedication to the war effort?

Other Republicans accuse the president of breaking the long-standing rule against “negotiating with terrorists” to free hostages. They’re wrong on two counts: The U.S. has frequently negotiated with “terrorists,” to free hostages and for other reasons. President Carter negotiated with the Iranians who held Americans in the Tehran embassy in 1979, unsuccessfully. President Reagan famously traded arms to Iran for hostages. The entire surge in Iraq was predicated on negotiating with Sunni “terrorists” who had killed American soldiers to bring them into the government and stop sectarian violence.

Besides, this isn’t a terrorist-hostage situation, it’s a prisoner of war swap, and those are even more common: President Nixon freed some North Vietnamese prisoners at the same time former POW Sen. John McCain came home from Hanoi. Even hawkish Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu traded more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit last year. Such prisoner exchanges are particularly frequent when wars are winding down, as Ken Gude explains on Think Progress.

It’s true that Bergdahl was never officially categorized as a “prisoner of war,” since the Pentagon apparently stopped using that designation years ago. But he was defined as “missing/captured,” which is essentially the same thing. And while the Taliban fighters who were released were likewise not formally designated prisoners of war, either, because of the odd, formally undeclared status of the war with Afghanistan, that’s what they were. As President Obama said Tuesday morning, “This is what happens at the end of wars.” Imagine the outrage if the president brought the troops home from Afghanistan but left Bergdahl behind.

It’s shocking to see conservatives argue that the Taliban should have the final word on an American soldier’s fate, even if he’s accused of desertion. There’s already an Army inquiry into the conditions of Bergdahl’s disappearance. “Our army’s leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred,” the Joint Chiefs chair Martin Dempsey said Monday night. Would John McCain, for instance, deny Bergdahl the right to military justice and leave his punishment to the Taliban?

Even some Democrats who had doubts about the 2012 Bergdahl release deal, like Sen. Dianne Feinstein, support the exchange executed last weekend. “I support the president’s decision, particularly in light of Sgt. Bergdahl’s declining health. It demonstrates that America leaves no soldier behind,” she said in a statement. Former CIA director Leon Panetta opposed the earlier deal because he felt it didn’t do enough to prevent the five Taliban leaders from returning to combat; this deal holds them in Qatar for at least a year. Panetta also lauded the deal Monday night because of Bergdahl’s use to intelligence agencies.

It may be that the terms of the Bergdahl deal merit congressional investigation, particularly about whether Congress was sufficiently consulted on the deal. Partly because of the ongoing efforts to free Bergdahl, Congress agreed to reduce its own requirements for notification of Guantánamo releases. But Obama, in a signing statement, signaled he believed even the relaxed law tied his hands, arguing that the president needed the flexibility to act quickly in certain situations when negotiating a transfer of Guantánamo prisoners. Yes, it’s true that Obama and other Democrats criticized George W. Bush’s wanton use of signing statements. This one can be debated. But Republicans didn’t wail en masse over Bush’s signing statements or his national security secrecy the way they are doing now.

Congressional investigations are one thing; shrill partisan hackery is another. “There’s little that’s actually new here,” says Mitchell Reiss, a State Department official under President George W. Bush who also served as national security adviser to Mitt Romney. Reiss is right about the Bergdahl deal, but he’s wrong about the larger political atmosphere. What’s “new” here is a president who’s had his competence, his patriotism, even his very eligibility for office questioned from the outset.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, June 3, 2014

June 8, 2014 Posted by | Bowe Bergdahl, Conservatives | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Attack First, Get The Facts Never”: Republicans Couldn’t Wait To Go On The Attack After Bowe Bergdahl’s Release

Bowe Bergdahl. How long is this going to continue?

Cable chatter, talking heads with little to talk about, Republican orchestrated guests with (surprise!) more Obama attacks, facts be damned.

It reminds me of the disappearance of former congressional intern Chandra Levy, where the cable guys couldn’t get enough but didn’t know enough, or the recent 24/7 coverage of a lost airliner where all the reporting was that there was nothing to report.

Republicans called for action to get Bergdahl released and criticized Obama for not doing enough, then, when he was released, condemned the release. Here are some examples:

Sarah Palin before: “Todd and I are praying for Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl, his family, and all of his fellow soldiers who are putting their lives on the line to defend our freedom and protect democracy abroad,”

Sarah Palin after the release: “No, Mr. President, a soldier expressing horrid anti-American beliefs – even boldly putting them in writing and unabashedly firing off his messages while in uniform, just three days before he left his unit on foot – is not ‘honorable service.’ Unless that is your standard.”

Former Rep. Alan West, R-Fla., before: “Then there is Army SGT Bowe Bergdahl still held by the Islamic terrorist Haqqani network, probably in Pakistan, in the same place where Osama Bin Laden was hiding. This past POW/MIA national day of recognition, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reiterated a pledge to secure the young Army NCO being held captive, but have there been any actions? Any time, attention, or even mention from the Commander-in-Chief? Nah, no camera highlights in it for him.”

Alan West after the release: “Ladies and gentlemen, I submit that Barack Hussein Obama’s unilateral negotiations with terrorists and the ensuing release of their key leadership without consult — mandated by law — with the U.S. Congress represents high crimes and misdemeanors, an impeachable offense.”

There are plenty more examples of the before/after effect from Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and James Inhofe, R-Okla., to name a few.

Some Republicans put up tweets of praise, then withdrew them, but Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., takes the cake with this statement which was later deleted from his website:

“A grateful nation welcomes the news of the return of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. I have the pleasure of regularly speaking with our nation’s active duty military and veterans and I know that there is nothing more solemn than the pledge to never leave one of their own behind on the field of battle.

“Sgt. Bergdahl is a national hero. It’s my hope that once he ultimately retires from active duty service, implementation of reforms to our nation’s VA hospitals are made so that he will have access to the long-term care he has rightfully earned from the horrors he endured.”

OK, fine, this is politics. This is gladiator cable TV. This is a “hot” story.

But, maybe, just maybe, we ought to let the military examine what we know, what we don’t know, what are rumors and what are facts. Maybe we ought to hear from Sgt. Bergdahl before attacking his family, his friends, anyone who ever knew him. Maybe we should not be so quick to judge and cast aspersions on all involved before we know more.

But that is not how the emotional vice that is our politics works – you sense an opening, go for the jugular, any jugular, even if there is collateral damage.

 

By: Peter Fenn, U. S.News and World Report, June 5, 2014

June 8, 2014 Posted by | Bowe Bergdahl, Politics, POW's | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Impeachment To Save Gitmo”: Republicans Getting Dangerously Close To Treating Liberalism As An Impeachable Offense

So today Sen. Lindsey Graham warned the White House that any additional releases of Gitmo prisoners without express congressional authorization could lead to the introduction of Articles of Impeachment.

Now one way to look at this threat is that Republicans are getting awfully free and easy with the I-word these days. If they aren’t thinking about impeaching Obama over Benghazi!, they’re thinking about impeaching him over the IRS “scandal,” or maybe his determination to implement the Affordable Care Act, or perhaps his promulgation of Clean Air Act regs. GOPers may think they’re being careful and clever by dropping the I-word without taking action, but the problem is their activist base is going to get irrepressibly excited by such talk, and then it’s 1998-99 all over again.

Another way to look at it is that Republicans are getting dangerously close to treating liberalism as an impeachable offense. Since they cannot quite make that case, they will latch onto any passing “scandal,” even if it’s not scandalous to anyone other than their own selves and such media figures as can be seduced into complicity with fantasies of becoming the Hero Journalists of Watergate.

In this particular case, though, Graham is indulging in some unacknowledged irony by threatening impeachment in order to protect the despicable symbol of a former president’s (and vice president’s) excesses. Even talking about removing a duly elected and re-elected president in order to save Gitmo is the kind of behavior that could expose the presumed bipartisan gang-leader from South Carolina for the ideological bully he truly is.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, June 4, 2014

June 8, 2014 Posted by | Impeachment, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Gutlessness And Disingenuous”: While Our Planet Melts, GOP Pleads Ignorance”:

It is irreversible now.

And there’s a word that should get everybody’s attention. Last month, two groups of scientists, publishing separately in the journals Science and Geophysical Research Letters, issued reports that came to alarmingly similar conclusions: The melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet has reached a point of no return. If greenhouse gases stopped spewing forth tomorrow, we’d still face the grim prospect of steadily rising seas from this unstoppable melt.

So it would be a good idea to save what ice we still can. Or else condemn our grandchildren to vie for beachfront property in St. Louis on a planet of shrinking land, diminishing resources, and growing population.

This week, thankfully, the Obama administration — once noteworthy chiefly for its disinterested torpor where climate change is concerned — proposed politically risky new Environmental Protection Agency standards requiring deep cuts in carbon pollution levels at U.S. power plants by 2030. And the opposition party? Their attitude is summed up by the headline of a recent story on Politico: “Republicans on climate science: Don’t ask us.”

Writer Darren Goode reports that the GOP has adopted a new global warming “talking point.” Which is that they are not equipped to talk about it. As in Speaker John Boehner telling reporters, “Listen, I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change.” And Florida governor Rick Scott demurring that, “I am not a scientist.” And a spokeswoman for the billionaire Koch brothers, the deep pockets of the right wing, saying, “We are not experts on climate change.”

The gutlessness, disingenuousness and sheer cynicism of this new tack are difficult to overstate.

For the record, most of us are not experts on climate science. But most of us have the good sense to listen to those who are.

The right, however, prefers to pretend there is some sort of “debate” in the scientific community over whether human activity is raising the temperature of our one and only planet. There isn’t. Indeed, that finding is accepted by 97 percent of climate scientists. This, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science that, with 121,000 members, is the world’s largest general science group.

So the GOP’s “debate” is three scientists out of a hundred. Heck, you could probably find three scientists out of a hundred who think smoking is good for you.

Our planet is at a point of crisis. The ice is melting, the sea levels are rising, the oceans are acidifying, drought patterns are changing, precipitation is increasing, extreme weather is growing ever more common. Yet for Boehner, the salient issue is that “every proposal that has come out of this administration to deal with climate change involves hurting our economy and killing American jobs.”

Not to be glib about unemployment and recession, but if asked to choose between dinging the U.S. economy and killing the planet on which that economy depends — assuming that were even a real choice — it’s hard to imagine most of us would prioritize the former. And if the Democrats’ ideas are so bad, fine. Where are the Republican proposals? As was the case with health care, why are they once again late in their discovery of a critical problem and bereft of serious solutions therefor?

Here is an idea. The two parties should work together as if they were composed of adults to find a way to save our planet. Instead, the GOP is buck passing with an eye on the midterms. Ninety-seven percent of experts say we don’t have time for these shenanigans, yet Boehner and company pretend there’s still some kind of “debate” going on. Ninety-seven percent.

Maybe the GOP isn’t good at science, but surely they understand basic math.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami, Herald; The National Memo, June 4, 2014

June 8, 2014 Posted by | Climate Change, Global Warming, GOP | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

%d bloggers like this: