mykeystrokes.com

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

“Another ‘Price’ To Pay”: New Budget Committee Chief; Time For A New Debt-Ceiling Standoff

Almost immediately after the 2014 elections, the conventional wisdom among much of the Beltway media was that power would change Republicans for the better. By taking control of both chambers of Congress, the argument went, GOP lawmakers would have no choice but to become a responsible governing party. They would prove, at long last, that they’re capable of acting like grown-ups.

Just one month later, there’s already ample evidence that those assumptions about Republican maturity were completely wrong.

Republican Tom Price, the incoming House Budget Committee chairman, said his party could demand steep spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling next year, the most provocative comments by a senior GOP member to date on how negotiations could play out.

The Georgia congressman, during an hour-long briefing with reporters Friday, said the expected mid-2015 debate over whether to raise or suspend the debt ceiling offered Republicans an opportunity to make a sizable imprint on government policy.

The far-right Georgian added that he wants to see Republicans bring back the so-called “Boehner rule” – an arbitrary policy that demands a dollar in cuts for every dollar increase in the debt limit – that even Republicans recognized as ridiculous a couple of years ago.

“I prefer to think about it as opportunities and pinch points,” Price said, apparently using “pinch points” as a euphemism for “causing deliberate national harm.”

It’s worth emphasizing that Price isn’t some random, fringe figure, shouting from the sidelines – the Georgia Republican next month will fill Paul Ryan’s shoes as chairman of the House Budget Committee.

In other words, it matters that Price envisions a strategy in which Republicans threaten to hurt Americans on purpose unless Democrats meet the GOP’s demands.

That said, Price would be wise to start lowering expectations – his intention to create a deliberate crisis will almost certainly fail.

The gist of the plan is effectively identical to the scheme hated by House Republicans in 2011. Next year, the Treasury Department will alert Congress to the fact that it’s time to borrow the funds necessary to pay for the things Congress has already bought. As Price sees it, the GOP-led Congress will tell the Obama administration, “We’ll cooperate, but only if you slash public investments. If not, we’ll default on our debts, crash the economy, and destroy the full faith and credit of the United States.”

Why Price or anyone else would want to slash public investments right now – hurting the economy, just as the recovery gains steam – is a bit of a mystery.

Regardless, the problem with this ridiculously dangerous and politically violent scheme is that President Obama has already said he won’t play the GOP’s game. Indeed, earlier this year, Republican leaders suggested they would once again hold the debt ceiling hostage, but the White House called their bluff and refused to pay any ransom.

Soon after, Republicans backed down, and a new precedent was set.

Hostage crises only work when there’s a credible threat. In this case, Democrats have to actually believe that Republicans would do deliberate harm to the country unless Dems paid a ransom. But once Obama realized that GOP leaders had no intention of crashing the economy on purpose, the fear disappeared and the incentive to hold the nation hostage again vanished with it.

On Friday, Tom Price said in effect, “Maybe we can go back to the way things were in 2011?” And the polite response from the Oval Office and sensible adults everywhere will be, simply, “No.”

Let’s not forget that incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recently explained, “There will be no government shutdown or default on the national debt.” And with those simple words, it became quite obvious that attempts to exploit the debt ceiling won’t work because Republicans won’t follow through on their threats to harm the hostage.

Someone probably ought to explain all of this to the incoming chairman of the House Budget Committee.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 15, 2014

December 16, 2014 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, House Republicans, Tom Price | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Make This Monster Pay A Price”: Why We Needed To Hear From Dick Cheney One Last Time

Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s time is about up, in many senses. For a Republican Party trying to look forward, he shouldn’t be a go-to voice for the media on national security policy. His sneering attacks on President Obama aren’t news anymore. The man who famously said, “It’s my new heart, not someone else’s old heart,” about the donor to his taxpayer-funded heart transplant should have lost the power to shock us by now. Unless he has a sudden attack of conscience, and apologizes for his career, he has nothing to say worth hearing.

Except on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report. There’s been some anger on the left that Cheney took his seat yet again on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, but I think he belonged there, one last time. Let the American people hear from the man who claims that interrogation methods we prosecuted after World War II, as well as others even more depraved, aren’t actually torture.

Cheney is such a monster that he couldn’t even keep himself from defending “rectal feeding.” While he acknowledged that it “was not one of the techniques that was approved,” he sanctioned it nonetheless. “I believe it was done for medical reasons. … It wasn’t torture in terms of it wasn’t part of the program.”

That would seem to imply that anything that was “part of the program” was torture, which of course Cheney denies.

Ironically, earlier on Fox News Cheney said, “I don’t know anything about” rectal feeding or rectal rehydration (he may well have been lying). But by the time he got to “MTP,” he wasn’t willing to let any torture method go undefended. And even host Chuck Todd noting that “the medical community has said there is no medical reason to do this” didn’t shame him.

Todd asked Cheney some tough questions about U.S. prosecution of Japanese officials who waterboarded Americans, about the fact that at least a quarter of the detainees were innocent and, of course, about rectal feeding. Unfortunately, Cheney either dodged or lied.

Their exchange about innocent detainees showed Cheney at his most sociopathic:

TODD: Twenty-five percent of the detainees, though, twenty-five percent turned out to be innocent. They were released.

CHENEY: Where are you going to draw the line, Chuck? How are –

TODD: Well, I’m asking you.

CHENEY: — you going to know?

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: Is that too high? You’re okay with that margin for error?

CHENEY: I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective. And our objective is to get the guys who did 9/11 and it is to avoid another attack against the United States. I was prepared and we did. We got the authorization from the president and authorization from the Justice Department to go forward with the program. It worked. It worked now for 13 years.

“I have no problem” if 25 percent of the people we detained and potentially tortured were innocent. Take that in. It’s the same mentality that leads to police shooting unarmed black men in the name of public safety. But it squares with Cheney’s famous “one percent doctrine” that governed the aftermath to 9/11: If there’s even 1 percent chance that terrorists might have a weapon of mass destruction, the U.S. should act as if it’s a certainty, and do whatever it takes to stop them.

It also squares with Cheney telling Larry King, about his lifesaving heart donor, “I don’t spend time wondering who had it, what they’d done, what kind of person.”

America’s torture architect got a new heart, but he can never get a soul. Americans needed to see that display of authoritarian arrogance on Sunday. But now let’s hope he goes away.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, December 15, 2014

December 16, 2014 Posted by | Dick Cheney, National Security, Torture | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Elizabeth Warren’s Real And Imaginary Appeal”: The Trap Of The ‘Hidden Majority’ Is Too Often ‘Fools Gold’

Friday night on the floor of the U.S. Senate as part of a doomed effort no one is much paying attention to is not the ideal context for a Big, Memorable Speech. But the excerpts of Elizabeth Warren’s speech against the Wall Street derivatives swap language of the Cromnibus touted by Miles Mogulescu at HuffPost are indeed pretty powerful, though again, comparing them to Obama’s 2004 Democratic Convention speech viewed live by a big chunk of the politically active population seems more than a bit of a stretch.

If, however, Warren keeps this up, she could very quickly make herself the kind of big public figure she has long been to smaller circles of progressive activists. What’s most interesting about her speech is that she placed as great an emphasis on Wall Street influence in the Obama administration Treasury Department as she did on the legislative provisions in the Cromnibus. She’s pulling no punches. And not only does this indicate she will go to the mats to stop the nomination of Antonio Weiss to a top position at Treasury–a fight she looks likely to win–but that she’s launching a broad challenge to the acceptability of any recent Wall Street vets in the ranks of Democratic executive branch officials or advisors. This represents a clear collision course with the administration, and with Hillary Rodham Clinton (Warren’s constant references to Citi in her speech–so closely identified with the key Clintonian advisory Robert Rubin–could not be a coincidence), even if Warren’s public disavowals of interest in a primary challenge to Clinton represent an unshakable private conviction. You could see, say, Bernie Sanders taking up the banner of a primary challenge with Warren playing a key role in the background whether or not she’s formally in the insurgent camp.

Mogolescu, however, probably reflects the views of a lot of Warren’s fans in thinking that she and only she can topple Clinton, but that she can also put together the transformative super-partisan coalition that progressives once thought Barack Obama might spearhead:

It [Warren’s speech] transformed the conventional wisdom about American politics that the main divide is between left, right, and center, when it is really between pro-corporate and anti-corporate. Her declaration that neither Democrats nor Republicans (meaning the voters, not the Washington politicians) don’t like bank bailouts rings loud and true. Tea party supporters don’t like bailouts and crony capitalism any more that progressives do.

I’m afraid we need to call B.S. on this idea of Elizabeth Warren (or any other “populist) becoming a pied piper to the Tea Folk, pulling them across the barricades to support The Good Fight against “crony capitalism.” Yes, many “constitutional conservatives” oppose corporate bailouts. But they also typically support eliminating not just subsidies but regulation of big banks and other corporations; oppose most if not all of the social safety net (and certainly its expansion); and also oppose legalized abortion and marriage equality, for that matter. It’s not even all that clear that Warren-style “populism” will improve Democratic prospects with the white working class, which harbors a host of grievances with the traditional liberalism that Warren embraces beyond her signature financial “issues.”

To most Democrats most of the time, Warren is raising important and legitimate concerns about Wall Street that must be addressed, not just dismissed as “class warfare.” To some Democrats some of the time, she represents a decisive break with the Clinton and Obama traditions that is morally necessary. But let’s don’t pretend there’s a slam-dunk “electability” case for this kind of politics. Yes, the “median voter theorem” of politics that dictates a perpetual “move to the center” by general election candidates has lost a lot of its power just in the last few years. But the countervailing “hidden majority” argument for more ideological politicians of the left and the right is hardly self-evident, and has in the past often been fool’s gold.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, December 15, 2014

December 16, 2014 Posted by | Elizabeth Warren, Politics, Progressives | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Racial Strife Can Lead To Progress”: Learning More About How Race Is Experienced By Different People In Our Very Diverse Society

Big city mayors have to stay as neutral as possible when asked about disputes between their citizens and the police. But New York City mayor Bill de Blasio found his voice in a profoundly moving way when he responded not as a mayor, but as a parent.

His sentiments came out in a news conference and an ABC-TV interview after a grand jury decided not to indict a white police officer in the video-recorded choking death of Eric Garner, a black suspect in Staten Island.

The mayor, who is married to an African-American woman, described his own warnings to his biracial son, Dante, about making any sudden or otherwise suspicious movements in an encounter with police.

“What parents have done for decades who have children of color, especially young men of color, is train them to be very careful when they have … an encounter with a police officer,” de Blasio said on ABC’s This Week.

Asked if he felt his son was at risk from his city’s own police department, de Blasio responded: “It’s different for a white child. That’s just the reality in this country. And with Dante, very early on with my son, we said, ‘Look, if a police officer stops you, do everything he tells you to do, don’t move suddenly, don’t reach for your cellphone,’ because we knew, sadly, there’s a greater chance it might be misinterpreted if it was a young man of color.”

Although the mayor expressed “immense respect” for New York’s Finest, police union officials fired back. The cops felt “thrown under the bus,” said one.

But I appreciated de Blasio’s remarks. We have something in common. We are both fathers of handsome young African-American males with conspicuous hair.

Dante’s explosively huge Afro made headlines during his dad’s campaign last year as a major asset, especially with young voters. My son has long dreadlocks, today’s version of the big Afro and mutton-chop sideburns with which I upset my own parents. “Grandma’s revenge,” I call my kid’s hairstyle.

I appreciated de Blasio’s remarks because one does not often hear a prominent white official speak candidly about “The Talk,” which is what many black parents call the painfully necessary conversation they have with their kids about how to behave if stopped by police.

The Talk has slipped into more widespread conversations with the recent wave of controversial police killings of black men and boys, some of which — like Garner’s — were captured on video.

Besides Garner, who died this summer when a police officer put him in an alleged chokehold after stopping to arrest him for selling untaxed “loosie” cigarettes, there was 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, after a struggle.

More recently, a Cleveland cop fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was playing with a fake gun. Video of that shooting has run repeatedly on TV, along with the shooting of unarmed Levar Jones, 35, who reached into his car for his license too quickly in a Richland County, South Carolina, according to the officer, who has since been fired. Jones fortunately survived.

Is this why a narrow majority of Americans in a new Bloomberg Politics poll say they think racial interactions have gotten worse under President Obama? I think things only seem worse, especially to those who didn’t want to face the persistent canyon of our racial and cultural differences.

Racial discord in my view is a lot like sex: We may not be having more of it than we used to, but we’re talking about it more than ever.

In that way, we’re learning more — whether we intended to or not — about how race is experienced by different people and families in our very diverse society. Part of the thanks goes to modern media that, depending on how they are used, can shed light or more heat.

But those who expect to reach a “colorblind society” without a lot of effort and occasional setbacks are, as Frederick Douglass — one of the 19th century’s most important African Americans — said, are “people who want crops without plowing the ground.” We have many miles to go before we reap.

 

By: Clarence Page, The National Memo, December 15, 2014

December 16, 2014 Posted by | Bill de Blasio, Race and Ethnicity, Racism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Crossed The Line”: Even John Yoo Has His Limits

John Yoo’s reputation is well deserved. The conservative law professor at UC Berkeley is perhaps best known as the principal author of the Bush/Cheney “torture memos” – defending the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” – during Yoo’s tenure at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

And when it came to torture and national security, the conservative lawyer was largely in the “anything goes” category. But apparently, even Yoo has his limits.

As former Vice President Dick Cheney argued on Sunday that the CIA’s aggressive interrogation of terrorism suspects did not amount to torture, the man who provided the legal rationale for the program said that in some cases it had perhaps gone too far.

Former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo said the sleep deprivation, rectal feeding and other harsh treatment outlined in a U.S. Senate report last week could violate anti-torture laws.

“If these things happened as they’re described in the report … they were not supposed to be done. And the people who did those are at risk legally because they were acting outside their orders,” Yoo said on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS.”

In an interview on C-SPAN, Yoo added, “Looking at it now, I think of course you can do these things cumulatively or too much that it would cross the line of the anti-torture statute.”

Just to be clear, this is not to suggest Yoo endorses or agrees with the torture report released last week by the Senate Intelligence Committee. On the contrary, it’s quite clear that he does not.

But as a political matter, his willingness to draw legal lines now, in light of the new revelations, creates an interesting dynamic.

We know, for example, that according to the CIA’s records, rectal feeding and hydration were forced on detainees without medical need.

According to former CIA director Michael Hayden, that wasn’t illegal and it wasn’t torture.

According to former Vice President Dick Cheney, that wasn’t illegal and it wasn’t torture.

According to Karl Rove, that wasn’t illegal and it wasn’t torture.

But according to John Yoo, this crossed the line. In other words, a variety of leading Republican voices haven’t just embraced torture as a legitimate tool, they’ve positioned themselves to the right of the torture-memo author who helped give the Bush/Cheney White House the green light in the first place.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 15, 2014

December 16, 2014 Posted by | Dick Cheney, George W Bush, Torture | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: