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“The Inmates Are Now In Charge”: In Arkansas, The House That Bubba Built Crumbles

The House that Bubba Built, namely the Arkansas Democratic Party, crumbled to the ground Tuesday night as freshman GOP Rep. Tom Cotton knocked off Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor and former GOP Rep. Asa Hutchinson, who helped lead the charge to impeach President Clinton, won the race to become Arkansas’ next governor.  Hutchinson defeated Mike Ross, a former congressman whose first job in politics was serving as Bill Clinton’s driver, to win the governor’s mansion where Bill and Hillary once lived.

Despite Clinton’s seven trips to the state to campaign for the 2014 Democratic ticket, nothing he did could hold off the Republican wave that swept the state. The Democratic ticket was ultimately drowned out by the tide of anti-Obama sentiment in Arkansas, where the president has a 30 percent approval rating.

The Associated Press declared Cotton the winner two minutes after the polls closed, as Cotton swamped Pryor 56 percent to 40 percent, while Ross lost to Hutchinson 55 percent to 42 percent.

In his victory speech Tuesday night, Cotton declared, “The people of Arkansas have made their choice.”

The shift in political power completes the partisan realignment of the state that began in 2010, when Republicans defeated incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln by more than 20 points, took control of the state legislature in 2012 for the first time in more than 100 years, and eventually swept all four House seats.

Cotton, a lanky Harvard-educated lawyer and Army combat veteran, burst onto the political scene in 2012 when he easily won his Arkansas House seat and became the “anti-Rand,” vocally defending the Iraq War as “just and noble” and rejecting his party’s growing libertarian inclinations on global affairs.

That unapologetically hawkish posture won over the likes of former President George W. Bush, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Sen. John McCain, GOP mega donor Sheldon Adelson, former Rep. Allen West, and the John Bolton PAC, all of whom donated generously to Cotton’s Senate bid

Cotton was also heavily bankrolled by the securities industry, the largest sector to donate to Cotton’s campaign, and Elliott Management Corp., the hedge fund run by Paul Singer, a neocon defense hawk.

Although Sen. Pryor committed a number of unforced errors during the campaign, including stumbling when asked whether he believed President Obama had properly responded to the Ebola outbreak, the president’s unpopularity in Arkansas seemed to doom Pryor from the start.

At one debate, Cotton tied Pryor to Obama by saying the latter’s name more than 70 times.  American Crossroads, another big funder for the pro-Cotton effort, plowed more than $500,000 into ads portraying the Pryor and the president as essentially the same person. In an ad called “Spelling Bee,” a young child spells “Pryor” as “O-B-A-M-A,” to which the judge says, “Close enough.”

On Tuesday night, Arkansas voters agreed that even sharing a party affiliation with President Obama, as Pryor and Ross did, was close enough for them, and officially completed Arkansas’ shift from blue to purple to — for now — solidly red.


By: Patricia Murphy, The Daily Beast, November 4, 2014

November 5, 2014 Posted by | Arkansas, Midterm Elections | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Theatrical Posturing, Not Much Lawmaking”: What We Talk About When We Talk About A Republican Senate

Presuming we have a Republican Congress next year, there’s going to be a lot of talk right after the election about what that will change 1) politically and 2) substantively. While I’m ordinarily an advocate of more substantive discussion and less political discussion (not that I have a problem with political discussion, since I do plenty of it myself, it’s just that it should be leavened with consideration of the things that actually matter), there’s a potential problem in the substantive discussion that I think we should be on the lookout for.

For instance, this morning on the radio I heard some energy expert whose name I didn’t catch say that if Republicans take over the Senate, we’re likely to see the government shift its focus toward fossil fuels and away from renewables. Which sounds perfectly logical until you ask how such a shift is supposed to take place.

This is what is often missing from policy discussion: enough acknowledgment of the institutional processes that determine how policies actually get set and altered. If you’re going to say that a Republican Congress is going to produce a particular policy change, you have to be clear that you’re saying the following events will occur:

1. Republicans will write a bill to do the thing.

2. The bill to do the thing will not only pass the House but more importantly garner 60 votes in the Senate, which means it will get the votes not only of Republicans but also of some Democrats, thereby overcoming a Democratic filibuster.

3. President Obama will sign the bill to do the thing.

It’s possible that that sequence of events could occur in some cases. For instance, Republicans have had a feverish desire to build the Keystone XL pipeline for some time, and they’ve come to attach an importance to it that’s way out of proportion to its actual impact. They seem to say with all sincerity that building the pipeline is a key to American prosperity, which is beyond absurd—building the pipeline would create a few thousand temporary jobs, and the number of permanent jobs maintaining it would literally be in the dozens. But President Obama never seemed adamantly opposed to the pipeline, and one could imagine him signing on if he got something in return. You could also see the pipeline getting a few Democratic votes from red state Democrats who want to show that they love the world’s dirtiest fuel (tar sands oil) and are therefore not hippies, so it could get 60 votes.

That might or might not happen, but it’s at least conceivable. It wouldn’t, however, represent some massive shift in our nation’s energy policy, whatever else you might think about it. And it’s an extremely unusual case.

On almost everything else Republicans want to do, either the bills they write won’t overcome Democratic filibusters, or they’ll be vetoed by the President. Much of the time, that will be because instead of embarking on a good-faith effort to find some accommodation with Democrats, they’ll just propose the thing they really want. It might be possible to forge a compromise on tax reform, but that would be a lengthy and involved process, so Republicans will just try to pass a bill slashing corporate tax rates, which won’t become law. There are ways the Affordable Care Act could be improved, but instead of working with Democrats to find them, they’ll be much more inclined to just pass repeal votes, whether it’s repeal of the entire law or repeal of individual provisions one by one (or, more likely, both).

In other words, we’re going to get an awful lot of theatrical posturing, and not very much lawmaking. We shouldn’t mistake the latter for the former.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, November 3, 2014

November 5, 2014 Posted by | Congress, Republicans, Senate | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Evangelical Myth Won. Wall Street Won. The Banks Won. America Lost”: Since Lies Worked So Well For Republicans, We’ll Have More

The Republican Party base is white evangelicals. So no wonder the GOP lies about the country, the economy and the president worked. The folks who base their lives on religious mythology have spent lifetimes being trained to believe lies. And if you point that out then they kick into victim mode and denounce people who question them as persecutors. Last night they won. Lies won.

As the New York Times noted:

“Republican candidates campaigned on only one thing: what they called the failure of President Obama. In speech after speech, ad after ad, they relentlessly linked their Democratic opponent to the president and vowed that they would put an end to everything they say the public hates about his administration. On Tuesday morning, the Republican National Committee released a series of get-out-the-vote images showing Mr. Obama and Democratic Senate candidates next to this message: ‘If you’re not a voter, you can’t stop Obama.’ The most important promises that winning Republicans made were negative in nature. They will repeal health care reform. They will roll back new regulations on banks and Wall Street. They will stop the Obama administration’s plans to curb coal emissions and reform immigration and invest in education.”

Since the economy has rebounded, health care reform has worked, all that remained for the GOP was to lie. And since the base of the GOP is white aging southern evangelicals the GOP was in luck. These are easy folks to lie to. That’s because they already accept an alternative version of reality. Also, of course since the lies are about a black man, that doesn’t hurt. Yes, race is “still” an issue.

The midterm election boiled down to xenophobia about the “Other.” Ebola was the president’s fault! ISIS was coming to get us! We aren’t safe!

None of this is true, but no matter. In fact judging by actual facts the Obama presidency has been successful in spite of the GOP obstruction. The economy is back. Jobs are up. Health care reform is working. We’ve been kept safe from terror attacks. America is strong.

What we’ll now see is a reinvigorated religious right. And since lies worked so well we’ll have more. Creationism, anti-gay initiatives, anti-choice initiatives, and of course pro-Koch-Brother-Financed lies upon lies to bury climate change debate is on the way.

The Republican-dominated Supreme Court stands ready to back corporate and religious right-financed attacks of the environment, pro-Wall Street laws and all the rest.

Racism  won. Evangelical myth won. Wall Street won. The banks won. America lost.


By: Frank Schaeffer, The Huffington Post Blog, Movember 5, 2014

November 5, 2014 Posted by | Evangelicals, Midterm Elections, Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Third Time’s The Charm?”: New Hampshire Says ‘No’ To Interloper Scott Brown

In New Hampshire, the Massachusetts invasion has been staved off—for now.

Incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen has been declared the victor in the closely-fought race against Scott Brown, the former Massachusetts senator who slid across the border to the state where he keeps a family vacation home, declaring residency and announcing his candidacy in one fell swoop.

Brown had achieved national fame in 2009 when he crisscrossed Massachusetts in his pickup truck, going on to defeat attorney general Martha Coakley in a special election for the Senate seat formerly held by the late Ted Kennedy. That race presaged the Tea Party wave that was to come in 2010. Brown’s victory was short-lived however; in 2012, he was defeated by liberal favorite Elizabeth Warren.

Brown was a favorite of Wall Street and of moderate Republicans cheered by the possibility that a type of Rockefeller Republicanism was returning to the northeast. In the run-up to the midterms, he publicly flirted with running for president, before eventually being lured into the Senate race in neighboring New Hampshire.

It was a long shot to say the least. New Hampshire remains one of the most conservative states in the Northeast, with Republicans regularly competing in the presidential elections, but it is also fiercely independent, and resentful of the encroachment of the Boston suburbs.

Shaheen often played up her local roots. Brown did himself no favors when, in the campaign’s final debate, he seemed to flub a question about basic Granite State geography, calling Sullivan County north of Concord, when it is in fact west of Concord. The Shaheen campaign pounced, spending part of the next day hitting the hustings in Sullivan County.

“The key is that Brown said what he—and probably a lot of other people—think,” wrote a columnist for the Boston Globe. “That ‘anyplace past Concord’ faces the exact same set of issues.”

Brown tried to counter this narrative by focusing on national issues, describing a nation and hence a state that was left insecure and unstable thanks to President Obama’s leadership, and of course, by Shaheen’s support of that leadership. He combined a number of crises facing the president, including the threats of Ebola and ISIS, mismanagement in the Secret Service and child migrants coming over the border, to argue for a change in direction.

Those attacks though fell flat among charges that Brown was an interloper who would vote to limit the reproductive choices of women in the U.S. Senate.

Things took an especially awkward turn for Brown in the race’s final hours, when the former senator was asked by an MSNBC reporter if he planned to move back to Massachusetts if he lost.

Brown did not answer.


By: David Freedlander, The Daily Beast, November 4, 2014

November 5, 2014 Posted by | New Hampshire, Politics, Scott Brown | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Where’s The Accountability?”: In Michigan, Public Records Could Very Well Be Gone Forever

Whether you’re a conservative, liberal, moderate, tea partier or progressive, there is one thing we can all agree on: We all want government to be accountable to the public.

One of the best ways to understand the inner workings of government and hold elected and public officials accountable is through open records laws. The Freedom of Information Act or FOIA allows watchdog groups, citizens and reporters to request and access public documents.

That’s why we were shocked on Wednesday to find out that the Michigan Department of Community Health had illegally deleted all email communications from its director despite the fact that state law requires them to remain on file for two years.

Here’s a little background: In Michigan, lawmakers and the governor are exempt from FOIA. In order to help the public see how government is working for them, we decided to request all email communications between department heads and the Governor and his chief of staff. It’s a roundabout way of doing it, but it is one of the only ways to get around the exemption in Michigan law.

Through this process we’ve discovered a number of things and have posted all of the documents for the public to view. One of our biggest findings was the fact that the Snyder administration quietly cancelled a $98,000 fine against the Aramark Corporation, an out-of-state company that has a prison food service contract with the state, after a series of contractual blunders.

Our latest FOIA request revealed another bombshell of information, but this time it’s the lack of information that was damning.

On Wednesday, after a month of waiting for the Department of Community Health to respond to our FOIA request, our attorney was informed that the emails didn’t exist because they had been deleted upon the director’s retirement.

That’s illegal. Under Michigan law, the emails that we were requesting must be kept on file for at least two years. In some of our other FOIA requests we’ve received emails dating back even further than that two-year timeframe. Deleting them before that time expires is a misdemeanor.

As a former journalist, I feel sick thinking about the fact that public records could very well be gone forever. We don’t know what was in those emails. We don’t know if there was anything nefarious or illegal going on in those conversations. That’s not the point. The point is public records were illegally destroyed.

The question that needs to be asked is, why? Why were these records destroyed? Who ordered their deletion? Those are questions that are burning in our mind and we’re determined to find out.

The department might as well have set a filing cabinet of public records on fire or shoved hundreds of pages of communications through a paper shredder. In this case, someone pressed delete and the public’s right to know went completely out the window.


By: Sam Inglot, The Huffington Post Blog, November 4, 2014

November 5, 2014 Posted by | Freedom Of Information Act, Michigan, Politics | , , , | Leave a comment

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