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

“Devolving The Gingrich Revolution”: In The End, It’s All About The Same Thing Gingrich Was About; “Not To Reform, But To Destroy”

According to Mike DeBonis, the Freedom Caucus usurpers in the House might not be as focused on WHO becomes Speaker as much as HOW he (I don’t think any women are under consideration) wields the gavel.

When the 40 or so Republican lawmakers responsible for the recent upheaval in the House talk about what it would take to quell their rebellion, they do not necessarily talk about the debt ceiling, the federal budget or any other demand of the party’s energized conservative base.

They speak instead about rule changes, committee assignments and the hallowed pursuit of “regular order” — a frequently invoked, civics-textbook ideal by which legislation bubbles up through subcommittees to committees to the floor to the president’s desk and into law.

“The false, lazy narrative is that we want a more conservative speaker,” Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) told reporters at a forum of hard-line House members last week. “But the reality is: What we want is a process-focused speaker. What we need is a speaker who follows the House rules.”

There are those who fear that such a change would make the House even more ungovernable than it already is. But putting those concerns aside, it is interesting to take a historical look at where this “top-down” management the usurpers want to get rid of originated. Paul Glastris and Haley Sweetland Edwards laid it out for us not too long ago.

When Newt Gingrich became speaker of the House in the fall of 1994, he set about almost immediately creating “the most controversial majority leadership since 1910,” according to longtime Congress watchers and political scientists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein in their 2006 book, The Broken Branch. Under his leadership, backed up by seventy-three conservative Republican freshmen who swept to power that year, the goal was not to reform, but to destroy; not to compromise, but to advance a highly conservative agenda no matter the means.

Sound familiar? Those who suggest that the current iteration of the Freedom Caucus has its roots in the precedent set by Newt Gingrich have a point. But back then the usurpers embraced an opposite means to reach their ends.

Gingrich’s strategy, as he explained it to Mann and Ornstein, was simple: Cultivate a seething disdain for the institution of Congress itself, while simultaneously restructuring it so as to eliminate anything—powerful chairmen, contradictory facts from legislative support agencies, more moderate Republicans—that would stand in the way of his vision.

Gingrich’s first move in 1995 was to dismantle the decentralized, democratic committee system that the liberals and moderates had created in the 1970s and instead centralize that power on himself. Under his new rules, committee chairs were no longer determined by seniority or a vote by committee members, but instead appointed by the party leadership (read: by Newt himself, who often made appointees swear their loyalty to him). Subcommittees also lost their ability to set their own agendas and schedules; that too largely became the prerogative of the leadership. At the same time, Gingrich imposed six-year term limits and required chairs to be reappointed (by leadership) every two years. Finally, Gingrich protected, and in some cases bulked up, the staff leadership offices and increasingly had those offices write major pieces of legislation and hand them to the committees.

These rules, taken together, essentially stripped all congressional Republicans, especially those in previously senior positions, of power; instead, whether or not they advanced in their careers—whether they were reappointed or on which committee they were appointed—would be determined by party leaders based on their loyalty and subservience. (Two years after the Democrats took the majority in the House in 2007, they eliminated the term-limits rule; Speaker John Boehner reinstated it when the Republicans regained control in 2010.) “If you were thinking about the next stage in your career, you did what you were told to do,” observes Scott Lilly. The point of this centralization of power was to give the leadership maximum control of the legislative agenda and to jam through as many conservative bills as possible.

Fascinating, huh? The very rules these usurpers want to throw out are the ones put in place by the original usurper…Newt Gingrich.

Now the so-called “Freedom Caucus” will dress up their aims in talk of “regular order” and “decentralization.” But in the end, they’re all about the same thing Gingrich was about: “not to reform, but to destroy; not to compromise, but to advance a highly conservative agenda no matter the means.”


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 11, 2015

October 13, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, House Freedom Caucus, Newt Gingrich | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“This Is What Erasure Looks Like”: We Are Witness To The Vandalism Of African-American Memory

“This,” says Roni Dean-Burren, “is what erasure looks like.”

She’s talking about something you might otherwise have thought innocuous: a page from World Geography, a high school textbook. A few days ago, you see, Dean-Burren, a former teacher and a doctoral candidate at the University of Houston, was texted a caption from that book by her son Coby, who is 15. It said that the Atlantic slave trade “brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.” This was in a section called “Patterns of Immigration.”

She says the words jumped out at her. After all, a “worker,” is usually someone who gets paid to do a job. An immigrant is usually someone who chooses to come to a new country. Neither of which describes the millions of kidnapping victims who cleared America’s fields and endured its depravities in lives of unending bondage that afforded them no more rights under the law than a dog or a chair.

As the Trail of Tears was not a nature walk and the Normandy invasion not a day at the beach, black people were neither workers nor immigrants, but slaves. Dean-Burren, who is black, took to social media to explain that. You can guess what happened next. The story went viral, and the embarrassed publisher, McGraw-Hill Education, scrambled to apologize and fix the mess.

That’s all well and good. But let no one think this was incidental or accidental. No, there is purpose here. There is intent. In recent years, we’ve seen Arizona outlaw ethnic studies, Texas teach that slavery was a “side issue” to the Civil War, a Colorado school board require a “positive” spin on American history, and Glenn Beck claim the mantle of the Civil Rights Movement.

We are witness to the vandalism of African-American memory, to acts of radical revision and wholesale theft that strike at the core of black identity. Once your past is gone, who are you? What anchor holds you? So Dean-Burren’s word strikes a powerful chord: This is, indeed, erasure — like a blackboard wiped clean, all the inconvenient pain, sting and challenge of African-American history, gone.

It is, she says, “the saddest thought ever” that her grandchildren might not know Nat Turner’s rebellion or Frederick Douglass’ harsh condemnation of slavery. “The fact that they may not know what it was like for women to get the right to vote, the fact that they may not know that millions of Native Americans were slaughtered at the hands of ‘Pilgrims’ and explorers … I think it says a lot about our society.”

Nor is she persuaded by the argument that teaching the uglier aspects of American history would make students hate their country. She calls that “a crock of poo.” And it is. America’s ugliness defines its beauty as silence defines sound and sorrow defines joy.

“We tell our children that all the time: ‘The reason you’re standing here today … and you have what you have and you can go to the schools you want to go to, and you can say out loud, ‘I want to be an Alvin Ailey dancer …’ or ‘I want to go to Stanford,’ … is that you come from survivors. You come from people who said, ‘I’m going to stick it out. I’m going to make it. I’m going to keep pushing.’ If we don’t know the ugly, I don’t know how you can really love the pretty.”

To put it another way: Black History Matters. So let us be alarmed at attempts to rewrite that history for the moral convenience of others or to preserve what James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates have described as the fiction of white American “innocence” where crimes of race are concerned. They keep trying to make it less painful, says Dean-Burren, like putting a document through a Xerox machine and making it lighter, lighter and lighter still.

“And then, when you look up, there’s nothing on the page.”


By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, October 12, 2015

October 13, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, American History, Slavery | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“GOP’s Case Against Planned Parenthood Collapses”: Jason Chaffetz Admits He Uncovered No Wrongdoing

As if truth-telling worked out so well for his colleague Kevin McCarthy, Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz has just admitted that the GOP’s investigation into Planned Parenthood’s misuse of federal funds turned out to be a dud.

“Did I look at the finances and have a hearing specifically as to the revenue portion and how they spend? Yes. Was there any wrongdoing? I didn’t find any,” Huffington Post’s Jennifery Bendery reports the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman admitted during yet another hearing on Thursday.

Chaffetz is of course, currently preoccupied lobbying to lead his fellow House Republicans after current House Speaker John Boehner announced his surprise resignation from Congress at the end of this month (Boehner has since offered to stay on as speaker until a replacement is found).

Chaffetz announced his upstart challenge to McCarthy last week, but after continued fallout over McCarthy’s boast to Fox News’ Sean Hannity that the Select Committee on Benghazi has served as a successful political tool against Hillary Clinton, McCarthy’s coronation turned into a collapse. Curiously, the Utah Republican has followed a similar route to McCarthy’s, admitting that his committee’s investigation into Planned Parenthood has been unsuccessful.

“Did we find any wrongdoing? The answer was no,” Chaffetz said.

Just last week, all three cable networks covered his grilling of Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards and his tearful introduction blaming her organization for causing the death of his parents by wasting limited federal resources that could otherwise have been used for cancer research.

“Cancer in this country kills about 1,500 people a day,” Chaffetz said. “A day — and yet our federal government only spends $5 billion to fight it. If they were shooting 1,500 people a day, if there were rockets coming in, we would be fighting this with everything we’ve got.”

“Every time we spend a federal dollar,” Chaffetz added, “what we’re doing is we’re pulling money out of somebody’s pocket and we’re giving it to somebody else.”

For five hours, Republican lawmakers grilled Richards about her salary, the organization’s travel budget and of course abortions, all the while ignoring that Planned Parenthood provides crucial cervical cancer screenings.

“I think there will continue to be investigations,” Chaffetz said of the ongoing charade to prop up a series of  selectively edited undercover videos that purport to show the discussion of fetal tissue donation sales that triggered this latest defunding effort.

During Thursday’s hearing, Republicans successfully admitted a graphic abortion video, that a witness testified under oath was not even filmed inside a Planned Parenthood location, into the Congressional record as evidence against the women’s health organization.


By: Sophia Tesfaye, Salon, October 9, 2015

October 13, 2015 Posted by | House Government Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz, Planned Parenthood | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Using Loved Ones As Props To Bolster Political Ambitions”: GOP Must Stop This Charade And Apologize To Benghazi Families

What many thought was true has been confirmed this week: The GOP-created House Select Committee on Benghazi is nothing more than a partisan effort to hurt Hillary Clinton and help the Republicans in the 2016 presidential race.  At this point the House leadership should do the right thing and offer a public apology to the families of the four Americans killed in that terrorist attack for using their loved ones as props to bolster their political ambitions.  Plus the GOP House leadership should reimburse U.S. taxpayers for the nearly $5 million spent on this “investigation,” which in essence is nothing more than a negative campaign commercial against Hillary Clinton.

The committee’s charade first began to publicly unravel two weeks ago with the remarks of House majority leader Kevin McCarthy.  While in the comfy confines of Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, McCarthy made the case for how a Republican controlled Congress helps create a “strategy to fight and win” elections.

McCarthy, who at the time was still in the running for the House speakership, explained to Hannity, “Let me give you one example: Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?”  McCarthy then bragged, “But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen.”

On one hand you have to applaud McCarthy for his brutal honesty. That ‘s rare today in Washington from politicians in either party.

But McCarthy was not the only Republican insider to tell us this week that the GOP committee is part and parcel of the Republican’s 2016 campaign to defeat Clinton. We heard that exact sentiment expressed in even greater detail Sunday morning by Maj. Bradley Podliska, a self-described conservative Republican, who served as an investigator for the committee for ten months.

Podliska explained to CNN’s Jake Tapper that the committee’s leaders’ obsession with Clinton was so acute that they pulled resources away from probes of other individuals and agencies to focus on the likely 2016 Democratic presidential nominee. This troubled Podliska, an intelligence officer, who joined the investigation “to get the truth to the victims’ families.” But he added, thanks to the GOP’s partisan agenda in conducting this investigation, “The victims’ families are not going to get the truth, and that’s the most unfortunate thing about this.”

The use of government apparatus to go after political enemies sounds like something right out of Richard Nixon’s’ playbook. The difference being that Nixon, when using agencies like the FBI and IRS as political weapons against his rivals, was less obvious and more secretive – until he got caught, of course.

Look, McCarthy and Podliska’s comments simply confirm what many have long believed about this committee’s agenda. After all, before this committee was created in May 2014, there already had been eight congressional investigations into the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, most headed by Republicans.

These thorough investigations answered all the questions surrounding the attack and offered recommendations to try to ensure another like this would not occur. For example, the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee report released in February 2014 definitively found that there was no “stand down” order ever given to the CIA or military (despite what Fox News will tell you) that prevented them from trying to save the four Americans killed.

Yet despite these extensive congressional hearings, including the testimony of Hillary Clinton, hundreds of pages in reports generated by both GOP-led and bipartisan committees like the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s report released in January 2014, and at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars, the GOP-controlled House authorized the current investigation.

At this point, the House select committee’s investigation into Benghazi has spanned more time than the congressional hearings on Watergate and the Warren Commission’s probe into the assassination of President Kennedy, and they are now just two months shy of surpassing the time it took to complete the 9/11 Commission’s investigation.

Now just so it’s clear, some of the Benghazi investigations already conducted have pointed fingers at the State Department and White House. For example, the bipartisan U.S. Senate report concluded that the attack could have been prevented and singled out the State Department for failing to bolster security.  That’s certainly a legitimate issue and no doubt it will be raised in the 2016 campaign if Clinton wins the nomination.

But the current House investigation is politics at its worst. They are using the memory of the four brave Americans killed, Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty, for political gain.

And not only should the House leadership reimburse U.S. taxpayers for the $4.5 million dollars spent by this committee, the Federal Election Commission should review the situation to determine if the money would be considered an “in kind” contribution to the Republican National Committee. There could be certain reporting requirements triggered if that were the case.

Hillary Clinton may still testify as planned on October 22 before this committee. If she does, I hope she asks the committee chair Trey Gowdy if he will apologize to the families of the dead Americans. It’s the least the Republicans can do after using the memories of four brave Americans to help bolster their political ambitions.


By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, October 12, 2015

October 13, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“So Killing Tamir Rice Was…Reasonable?”: A State-Sanctioned Drive-By—And Nobody Will Pay A Price For That

He is going to get away with it.

The Cleveland police officer who shot an unarmed 12-year-old boy will never spend a day in jail. He will never be charged with any criminal offense. He will never be booked and fingerprinted, never handcuffed. He will never be forced to explain himself before a jury of his peers.

Few things unnerve me. I am slow to anger and am not prone to tears.  But I was both Saturday night—pissed off and crying—because somebody somewhere said it was OK to kill a black child. Two investigators, working at the behest of a local prosecutor, said killing Tamir Rice was reasonable.

For nearly a year, that same prosecutor has been looking for a way to cover his proverbial ass, to assuage public pressure and help us all forget that a rookie cop who repeatedly failed field and fire arms training before getting kicked off another department shot a black kid without provocation.

Tamir was shot on sight.

It was clear that the officers did not know the entire incident was captured on camera. They said Tamir was sitting at the table with a group of people when, in fact, he was alone.

They said Tamir reached into his waistband and pulled out the toy gun before he was then shot and killed by Officer Timothy Loehmann. “He gave me no choice. He reached for the gun and there was nothing I could do,” Loehmann told a fellow officer in the moments after he shot Tamir.

That was a lie too. The video clearly shows that Tamir used both hands to hold his shirt up to expose the BB gun just before he was shot and fell from the table.

Another demonstrable lie: Loehmann also claimed that he repeatedly ordered Tamir to put his hands up. In fact, Tamir was shot within two seconds of the squad car door opening. The wheels were barely at a complete stop. There was no time to order Tamir to do anything, let alone three times, as Loehmann contends, and no time for Tamir to react.

Tamir never removed the toy from his waistband and never pointed it at the officers, thus at no point could they have determined whether the orange safety tip was missing. Tamir presented no threat to anyone and, even if the gun were real, Ohio is an open-carry state. The minimum age is 18, but remember the officers said they thought Tamir was in his 20s.

As Tamir lay on the icy concrete fighting for his life, neither Loehmann nor his partner Frank Garmback thought to render first aid. An FBI agent who happened to be in the area working a bank robbery came by a few minutes later and tried desperately to resuscitate the boy.

In the end, none of that will matter. Not the videotape, not the lies, not the failure to render aid to a dying boy. There will be no grand jury indictment and the probability that Loehmann will face criminal charges is hovering around zero. Even if Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty were of the mind to take this case to trial, the deck would be stacked against him.

Such charges against a police officer are extraordinarily rare in Ohio or anywhere else in the country. When there is a grand jury indictment, the probability of a conviction is even smaller. Convincing 12 people that a member of law enforcement acted with illegal force in the killing of a suspect is a steep hill to climb. When the officer is white and victim is black, the pathway to justice grows even rockier.

However, McGinty appears to be participating in the card shuffling. The investigation has dragged on for nearly a year. If the roles had been reversed—a 12-year-old black boy shooting a white police officer—Tamir would have been indicted on first-degree murder charges and tried as an adult. Had Tamir lived, he would have faced criminal charges. An incident report filed a full week after he died alleged “aggravated menacing” and “inducing panic.” Those charges were “abated by death.”

Without question, tape or no tape, if the roles were reversed, McGinty would have sprinted to the grand jury room and dared anyone to challenge that decision. He certainly would not be gaming the public and rigging the process by releasing two reports that appear to exonerate the officers on a Saturday night before a grand jury has had a chance to review the evidence.

We should be troubled by the notion that Loehmann was an officer at all, that somebody on the Cleveland police department saw fit to hand him a badge and a gun in the first place. Another department in the area previously fired him because he was unable to follow “basic functions as instructed.” He experienced a “dangerous loss of composure” during a weapons training exercise and his performance was “dismal,” wrote a former commander. The written memo said further that Loehmann demonstrated “a lack of maturity.”

“I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct these deficiencies,” the author of the memo wrote.

I resent that there is a system in place designed, ready, and eager to protect Loehmann. Hiring him without reviewing his personnel records was nothing short of malfeasance. I resent that anyone deemed him worthy to serve and protect.

But more than that, I resent the notion that our sons are required to meet a different standard when confronted by police or other people in authority. I resent the fact that my sons and daughters cannot play with the same toys. I resent the fact that young Tamir could not play in a public park without the threat of death or jail. I resent that anyone anywhere would dare blame Tamir’s mother for her son’s death. I resent that fact that open-carry laws are not designed to protect my black children and me, but rather to protect society from me and my black children.

Whether driven by implicit racial bias or plain incompetence, despite assurances from the district attorney that he will take the matter to a grand jury, I do not harbor a scintilla of confidence that Loehmann will ever answer for killing this child.

I resent the fact that Tamir is dead—killed in a state-sanctioned drive-by—and that nobody will pay a price for that.


By: Goldie Taylor, The Daily Beast, October 12, 2015

October 13, 2015 Posted by | Cleveland Police Department, Police Shootings, Tamir Rice | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

%d bloggers like this: