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“Benghazi, The Cost Of An Obsession”: A Farcical Waste Of Time And Money

The furious, year-and-a-half-old effort to turn the deadly Benghazi attack into a Watergate-level scandal has so far failed. Naturally that hasn’t stopped Republicans from howling at hearings and turning over seat cushions in search of evidence. “Naturally,” because the Republican base has so far embraced these tactics.

But the Democrats, who for the most part have responded to the hysteria with loud sighs, are increasing their efforts to change the politics of the endless investigation by showing that it’s a farcical waste of time and money.

So it was that on Monday Nancy Pelosi provided journalists with a document revealing this year’s anticipated operating costs for the 12-member select committee on the Benghazi attacks. House Republicans have apparently requested $3.3 million for the panel, which will be composed of seven Republican lawmakers, five Democrats and an expected staff of 30.

USA Today put that figure in perspective:

Since the Benghazi committee was created in May, its full-year equivalent budget would be more than $5 million. This is more than the House Intelligence Committee, which has a $4.4 million budget this year and spent $4.1 million last year. The largest House committees — Energy and Commerce; Oversight and Government Reform; Transportation and Infrastructure — have budgets between $8 million and $9.5 million for the year.

A special committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming created by Democrats in 2007 spent about $2 million a year until it was shut down by the new Republican majority in January 2011.

The $3.3 million doesn’t count as a new expenditure since it will come from legislative branch funds that have already been appropriated. But this kind of profligacy won’t help the Republicans sell themselves as fiscal conservatives.

 

By: Juliet Lapados, Taking Note, Editor’s Blog, The New York Times, July 8, 2014

July 9, 2014 Posted by | Benghazi, House Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Such Short Memories”: The Worst President Since World War II? Uh, Guess Again

When George W. Bush was inaugurated president of the United States on January 20, 2001, the unemployment rate stood at 2.4 percent. By the time Dubya completed his second term in office on January 19, 2009, the unemployment rate at risen to 7 percent. When Dubya took office in 2001, he was left with a budget surplus of $127.3 billion. When he completed his second term, he left a budget deficit of $1.4 trillion. The US national debt was $5.7 trillion on January 19, 2001. After eight years of Dubya, the debt was $10.6 trillion.

The US was at peace on January 20, 2001. After eight years of Dubya, the US was involved in two overseas wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that had cost US taxpayers nearly $1 trillion. The bigger of the two — Iraq — was launched based on mistaken, manipulated, or concocted information (or some combination of the three), and had resulted in the deaths of approximately 4,200 US military personnel and somewhere between 100,000 to 500,000 Iraqi civilians.

America’s image abroad took a serious plunge under Dubya, primarily because of Iraq. International surveys of tens of thousands of people taken by the Pew Research Center’s Pew Global Attitudes Project during those years consistently found extremely low opinions of Dubya and the US due to the war in Iraq, particularly among Muslims. The revelations of atrocities committed by US soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison and abuses by contracted security firms like Blackwater certainly didn’t help. Oh, and the little matter of holding prisoners at Guantanamo and… more torture.

Both wars were carried out in retaliation for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The attacks, which took place during Dubya’s first year, resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 people and at least $10 billion in material damage.

A muscular foreign policy? Well, yeah… if you consider taking on third-rate powers like Iraq and Afghanistan “muscular.” Dubya couldn’t do much against Russia when it invaded Georgia in 2008, nor against Iran’s nuclear program. Also impotent to prevent the military rise of China. Some things just can’t be helped — not even if you’re a superpower.

The stock market? When Dubya took office in 2001, the Dow Jones stood at $10,587.59, the S&P 500 at $1,342.54, the NASDAQ at $2,770.38. Eight years later, the Dow was at $7,949.09, the S&P at $805.22, and the NASDAQ at $1,440.86. Those represented drops of 25 percent, 40 percent, and 48 percent, respectively.

The Great Recession in the US, which occurred during Dubya’s seventh and eighth years (2007-2008) in office, triggered a worldwide financial crisis — the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and resulted in the collapse of numerous large financial firms in the US and around the world. It threatened the very viability of the international financial system.

During Dubya’s seventh and eighth years, Americans lost a total of $16.4 trillion in household wealth. In 2008 alone — Dubya’s last year — more than 1 million Americans lost their homes, and the foreclosure process had begun on another 2 million Americans.

Health care costs? Under the Dubya years, health insurance premiums doubled. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average cost of employer-sponsored premiums for a family of four was $6,000 per year in January 2001. Eight years later, the average cost had risen to $12,680. It’s no wonder that the number of Americans with healthcare insurance dropped by 7.9 million under Dubya. Some 13.7 percent of Americans were uninsured in January 2001. Eight years later, the figure had risen to 15.4 percent.

Oh, Americans have such short memories — made only worse by how pathetically poor many choose to be informed. This is perhaps best reflected in the immensely entertaining poll recently taken by Quinnipiac University on June 24-30. The poll surveyed 1,446 people and asked them to rate US presidents since World War II. The result? Barack Obama was found to be the worst president since WWII. Right.

It brings to mind a gag quote I found online a couple of years ago. It was accompanied by a photo of Dubya. Went like this: “I screwed you all. But thanks for blaming it on the black guy.”

Bill Clinton perhaps put it best when he described the Republican Party’s position toward Obama: “We left him a total mess. He hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in.”

 

By: Marco Caceres, The Huffington Post Blog, July 8, 2014

 

July 9, 2014 Posted by | George W Bush, Politics, President Obama | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Fundamentalism, The Political Kiss Of Death”: Experienced Veterans Of Culture Wars, Just Not On The Winning Side

Jonathan Rauch writes that Christian conservatives, in response to their defeat in the “culture wars,” are likely to isolate themselves from the wider society.

I think that is precisely what they will do. It’s what they’ve done before. After the failure of Prohibition and their Pyrrhic victory in the Scopes trial, they headed for the backwoods, hiding out in their tent revivals and two-bit tabernacles.

The iconoclastic libertarian, H.L. Mencken, skewered and roasted them with all the glee of the Calvinistic deity in newspapers across the country. They earned every column inch.

Even into the 1960s, they continued their retreat, establishing thousands of “Christian” schools in protest of 1) the ruling on prayer in government schools, 2) sex education, and 3) desegregation of government schools. They wanted the right to pray, repress and hate–three constant traits of the American fundamentalist.

Oddly, it was the victory of Jimmy Carter, a born-again Christian, who gave them a lust for power–in spite of Carter holding none of the hateful values inspiring his fellow fundamentalists. Once they saw the glimmer of political power, however, nothing could restrain them. The greatest lust is not sex, it’s power.

It is said in Luke that Satan took Jesus to a mountaintop and showed him “all the kingdoms of the world” and said to him, “All this power I will give thee, and the glory of them; for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.”

Jesus resisted, it is said, but for American Christians this temptation was too great. With Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson playing the role of Satan, they were promised political domination of this country, and by implication, the world. The temptation was too great.

In the end, they tied their wagons to the anemic presidency of the village idiot, George W. Bush, discrediting themselves and their message in the process.

America turned against the demands of the Christian Right. The campaign to bring back censorship failed. The campaign to ban abortion fizzled with public opinion now as split as when the battle started. They will never have the nation-wide ban on abortion they seek.

Their crusade against gay people backfired spectacularly–not only did they fail to make it a felony to be gay, but gay couples are legally marrying in state after state.

During the “war” Americans, became more secular and less Christian. More Americans today say they are non-believers than when the Moral Majority set out to make this a “Christian nation.”

They lost because they fought tooth and nail against the oldest American value–individual rights and liberty. Americans have long held those as core values. I won’t say Americans have always lived up to those values–they haven’t, but I will say they always clung to them.

As much as the Religious Right pretends they are patriots, in terms of American core values, they are traitors to the Enlightenment tradition of the Founders, instead they preached an authoritarian religion which, when all was said and done, had no appeal for the American people.

Time and time again, we have been able to judge the final victory of a cultural war by determining the side of the American fundamentalist. The staunchest advocates of slavery were fundamentalists, so much so that the largest fundamentalist denomination in the country originated in a defense of slavery: the Southern Baptist Convention. Fundamentalists supported Prohibition. They tended to oppose equality of rights for women.

During the war against Jim Crow, racist fundamentalists put out pamphlets on the evils of “miscegenation.” Figures such as Jerry Falwell claimed “civil rights” was communistic. Some outposts, such as Bob Jones University, refused to admit black students even into the 1970s. Fundamentalists are experienced veterans of culture wars, just not on the winning side. If anything, their support for a cause is the kiss of death.

 

By: James Peron, President, Moorfield Storey Institute; The Huffington Post Blog, July 8, 2014

 

 

 

July 9, 2014 Posted by | Culture Wars, Fundamentalists, Religious Right | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“They’ll Be Waiting A Long Time”: The Illusory Conservative Campaign For The “Right” Minority Voters

I’ve been pretty harsh about the racial aspects of Team Chris McDaniel’s argument that the MS GOP SEN runoff was “stolen” from him. But let’s bend over backwards to be fair and adopt Dave Weigel’s interpretation of what hyper-conservatives mean when they complain about the “wrong kind” of appeals to African-Americans:

The Tea Party, a movement that helped elect Allen West to Congress and helped make Herman Cain—Herman Cain!—a presidential contender, and wants to elect Mia Love to Congress in Utah, believes that conservatives can win black votes while remaining conservative. When West talks about escaping “the liberal plantation,” that’s what he means. The “racist” party is the one that wins black votes by promising largesse, and the colorblind party aims to win them by talking free markets and social values.

Taking this seriously, of course, means ignoring the thousands of dog whistles blown during the endless Tea Party efforts to demonize “looters” and “food stamps” and “voter fraud”–and of course, the first African-American president. There’s no binary choice on the table either to offer minority voters “largesse” or to attack their integrity, work ethic, and even patriotism for participating in federal programs when they qualify for them. The whole “plantation” meme beloved particularly of African-American conservatives is an ongoing insult bordering on a blood libel, which is why you don’t find many African-Americans supporting Allen West or Herman Cain.

But intentions aside, if conservatives are waiting for the “right” kind of Republican appeal to attract the “right” kind of minority voters, they’ll be waiting a long time. The simple fact is that the already-meager Republican share of the minority vote has been steadily sliding since the GOP began its latest lurch to the Right. George W. Bush won 11% of the African-American vote and 44% of the Latino vote in 2004. In 2008 John McCain won 4% of the African-American vote and 31% of the Latino vote, and in 2012 Mitt Romney won 6% of the African-American vote and 27% of the Latino vote. That’s a pretty calamitous decline, and any conservative unwilling to admit that endless GOP attacks on “redistribution” and “illegal immigrants” and “welfare” has nothing to do with that is either dishonest or smoking crack.

Check out the language in this tweet over the weekend from McDaniel campaign manager (and state legislator) Melanie Sojourner, made in the course of saying she’d never endorse the “race-baiting” Thad Cochran:

Throughout my campaign and since I’ve repeatedly made comments about how I felt the Republican Party was doing itself a disservice by not reaching out to conservative African-Americans. Where I’m from, in rural Mississippi, I grew up knowing lots a [sic] God-fearing, hard-working, independent conservative minded African-American family’s [sic]. On the McDaniel campaign we had two young men from just such family’s on our staff.

Sojourner’s idea of “outreach” seems to be to wait for minority voters to develop sufficient character to vote for the GOP exactly as it finds it today. That presumably means accepting conservatives have been right all along–dating back to Jim Crow–about the evil nature of the Welfare State and a federal government large and strong enough to support civil rights laws.

Do people like this really believe in their heart of hearts they’re being “color-blind?” I cannot peer into their souls, but it’s no more or less plausible than the constant complaints from southern white conservatives I heard growing up that segregation was good for both races. Lord knows anything’s better for African-Americans than being consigned to the plantation of dependence on Washington for help in feeding one’s kids and gaining access to health care and keeping open threadbare public schools and securing the right to vote. Perhaps if the GOP becomes even more conservative the great minority voting breakthrough will finally occur.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 8, 2014

July 9, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Minority Voters, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Christie Struggles To Defend The Indefensible”: Since We Can’t Save Everyone, Chris Christie Is Not Inclined To Try To Save Anyone

New Jersey’s Democratic legislature approved a measure in the spring to limit the size of firearm magazines to 10 rounds of ammunition. In theory, it’s the sort of gun-safety reform that’s tough to condemn – it’s perfectly consistent with the Constitution; it doesn’t affect hunters; it wouldn’t prevent Americans from buying firearms to protect themselves; and it might save lives.

The bill landed on Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) desk in May, but as we talked about last week, the Republican governor waited until the day before a holiday weekend to announce he’d vetoed the legislation. As Rachel noted on the show, Christie soon after added insult to injury.

First, note that the governor refused to meet with some parents whose children were murdered in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. It’s tempting to think basic human decency, if nothing else, would lead a politician to at least hear these parents out, but Christie’s office said he was out – even though the parents said they saw the governor when they arrived at his office.

Second, note how Christie explained himself yesterday while talking to reporters.

“I’ve heard the argument, and so, are we saying, then, that the 10 children on the clip that they advocate for, that their lives are less valuable? If you take the logical conclusion of their argument, you go to zero, because every life is valuable.

“And so why 10? Why not six? Why not two? Why not one? Why not zero? Why not just ban guns completely? I mean, you know, so the logical conclusion of their argument is that you get to zero eventually.

“So, you know, I understand their argument. I feel extraordinary sympathy for them and the other families, and all the families across America who are the victims of gun violence…. I understand their argument. I’ve heard their argument. I don’t agree with their argument.”

It’s important to understand why this slippery-slope argument is so deeply flawed.

In some of the high-profile mass shootings from recent memory, the ability of the gunman to use high-capacity clips has mattered a great deal. It’s not hard to understand why: when the shooter has to stop to reload, it gives people a chance. Maybe some can get away. Maybe the gunman can be tackled. Maybe that interval, however brief, can make the difference between life and death for a potential victim.

And so lawmakers in New Jersey decided, in the name of public safety, to lower the legal limit of the magazine from 15 rounds to 10. The governor said last week such a change “will not end” gun violence, which is true, but it also misses the point. The goal here is to reduce the number of people who might get shot.

Christie wants to know if “they” – presumably, “they” refers to parents whose children were massacred – are arguing “that the 10 children on the clip that they advocate for, that their lives are less valuable.” I obviously can’t speak for them, but the governor’s cheap reply is based on deeply flawed logic.

Christie hasn’t denied that this gun-safety reform might make a difference. Instead, he’s arguing that since we can’t save everyone, he’s not inclined to try to save anyone.

And all the while, New Jersey’s Tough Guy Governor doesn’t even have the courage to sit down with Newtown parents and make his bad argument to their faces.

Rachel concluded last night, “No one is quite sure what counts as a shameful moment in New Jersey politics anymore, but the governor calling out the parents of murdered kids, for them not understanding the value of human life? This is at least testing the bounds of what is usually called shameful, if not the very definition of the word, itself.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 8, 2014

July 9, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie, Gun Control, High Capacity Magazines | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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