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“You Want War? We’ll Give It To You”: Rand Paul Ready For ‘War’ Over 2016 Debates

When it comes to foreign policy, Rand Paul isn’t eager to launch any new wars. When it comes to 2016 debates, it’s a different story.

The next gathering for the Republican presidential field will be Thursday night, when candidates participate in their sixth debate. The Fox Business Network announced last night that seven of the remaining candidates have been invited to the prime-time event: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich. That leaves Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum, who have been relegated to the kids-table undercard debate.

The Kentucky senator, who has been on the main stage for each of the first five debates, had already vowed to skip this week’s event if he were blocked from the prime-time gathering, and as of late yesterday, Paul and his campaign team intend to follow through on that threat.

But Paul also talked to the Washington Post in more detail about his frustrations.

…Paul reiterated that the “arbitrary, capricious polling standard” had been a source of disgust for the grassroots, dubbing it a story of media political bias.

“It won’t take much for our supporters to understand why we’re doing this,” Paul said. “You want war? We’ll give it to you.”

What’s unclear is what in the world that means.

To be sure, the senator’s complaints have some merit. As Rachel noted on the show last night, when the Fox networks host these gatherings, “they’re notoriously woolly about their qualifying criteria for their debate…. They don’t get that specific about how they’re going to do it.”

It’s a little tough for Paul – or anyone else, for that matter – to lash out at Fox for being biased against Republican presidential campaigns, but the senator’s concerns about statistical methodology are harder to dismiss.

But when Paul says he and his supporters are prepared for “war,” it’s an open question as to what they have in mind. Protests? Angry tweets? Will Paul pull a page from Alan Keyes’ 1996 playbook and try to join a debate to which he hasn’t been invited?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 11, 2016

January 12, 2016 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primary Debates, Rand Paul | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ted Cruz: Flip-Flopper”: Supports Trade Agreements As Long As They Don’t Contain Anything Related To Immigration

It might surprise you to hear someone say that Ted Cruz is a flip-flopper. He’s built an entire reputation on being nothing if not consistently conservative. But when it comes to an issue that reporters like Scott Bland suggest are animating Trump supporters – trade – he did a huge flip-flop.

Back in April of last year, as Congress was preparing to vote on Trade Promotion Authority (so-called “Fast Track”), Senator Cruz wrote an op-ed in support of it with none other than Rep. Paul Ryan. As we all know, Ryan is now the Republican House Speaker – a position that places him at the center of what Cruz calls “the Washington cabal.” So he not only supported giving President Obama “fast track” authority on trade deals, he joined forces with the cabal to speak out it favor of it passing in Congress.

A short two months later, Sen. Cruz voted against TPA, citing “concerns over unrelated legislation and a separate trade deal, the Trade in Services Agreement, which he asserted could impact U.S. immigration law.”

As it stands right now, it would seem that Ted Cruz supports trade agreements as long as they don’t contain anything related to immigration. That might be an interesting question for a reporter to pose to the candidate on the campaign trail or at an upcoming debate.

On the one hand, Cruz might face criticism from the “job creators” if he changes his tune and comes out against trade deals. On the other, he could hurt his chances with Trump supporters if he embraced them.

Attempting to obscure and pander on the issue of trade agreements is not the first time Cruz has changed his tune on an issue. He did the same thing with his position about H-1B visas – he was for them before he was against them. What a flip-flopper!

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 11, 2016

January 12, 2016 Posted by | Immigration, Ted Cruz, Trade Promotion Authority | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The GOP Sounds Of Silence”: From ‘Where Are The Jobs?’ To ‘Where Are Republicans On Jobs?’

The economic news on Friday was even better than optimists expected: the United States added nearly 300,000 jobs in December, wrapping up the second best year for the American job market in over a decade. In fact, looking at the last two years combined, 2014 and 2015 were the best back-to-back years for job creation since 1998 and 1999, at the height of the dot-com boom.

While no mainstream American politicians publicly root against the U.S. economy, the fact remains that this strong job growth must be baffling to Republicans. GOP orthodoxy, repeated ad nauseam, is that President Obama’s domestic agenda – the Affordable Care Act, higher taxes on the wealthy, Wall Street regulations, environmental safeguards, et al – is crushing the economy and stifling the American job market.

The only way to put Americans back to work, Republicans insist, is to do the exact opposite of the policies that cut the unemployment rate from 10% to 5%.

Obviously, that’s a tough sell for anyone with even a passing familiarity with the facts, but it got me wondering: how exactly did Republican officials and candidates respond to Friday’s good news?

When I say they reacted to jobs report with silence, it’s important to stress that I’m being quite literal. For years, the Republicans’ economic line was, “Where are the jobs?” With over 14 million new private-sector jobs created in the last 70 months, the new, more salient question has become, “Where are the Republicans on jobs?”

Over the weekend, for example, I checked House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) official blog, which used to publish a statement with the release of every new jobs report. Friday, however, featured plenty of new content, none of which referenced the job numbers.

The Republican National Committee’s official blog also used to issue once-a-month press releases on unemployment, but on Friday it said nothing. The same is true of RNC Chairman Reince Priebus’ Twitter feed.

There was similar silence from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the Senate Republican leadership team.

How about the presidential candidates? Nothing from Donald Trump. Or Ted Cruz. Or Marco Rubio. Or Jeb Bush. Or Chris Christie.

Look, I don’t expect GOP presidential candidates to issue a statement celebrating President Obama’s successes in putting Americans back to work after the Great Recession. And I certainly don’t imagine Republicans are going to announce a plan to reevaluate all of their bogus assumptions about Obama’s agenda and the economy.

But we’ve reached the point at which Republicans no longer seem interested in talking about job creation at all. It’s as if they hope ignoring the issue altogether will keep people from noticing one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the job market in a generation – which might even work, since much of the political world barely stopped to notice Friday’s jobs report.

Republicans could say the good news will be even better if they’re elected. They could celebrate strong job growth and make the case that Obama deserves no credit. They could say something about the issue that, up until quite recently, dominated the political debate like no other.

But for now, it seems the GOP has decided the easiest course of action is to pretend the good news on jobs simply doesn’t exist. Up until fairly recently, such a scenario would have been hard to even imagine.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 11, 2016

January 12, 2016 Posted by | Economic Policy, Economic Recovery, Jobs, Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“This Is More Than A Protest”: Behind The Scenes In Oregon, Ammon Bundy Preaches Revolution

Ammon Bundy came here to preach.

But Bundy is not spreading the word of God, though he’s a devout Mormon. Instead, Bundy is telling local residents that the federal government is illegitimate, that the county government is the highest authority in the land, and that they should arrest their local sheriff and subject him to a citizen grand jury if he sides with the treacherous feds.

This is the gospel of the sovereign citizen movement—and Bundy is winning converts.

I’m from rural Utah. You can’t grow up in rural parts of America and not know militia types. I’ve met five people from southern Utah up here already; Bundy’s brother, Ryan, lives in my hometown. When Ammon and his supporters took over Malheur a week ago, I started calling around to find out what was going on and was asked to tell the “real story.”

It started when Dwight and Steven Hammond were ordered back to prison after apparently not serving enough time for an arson conviction for burning some federal land. The Hammonds have been fighting the Bureau of Land Management for decades after BLM gained control of a strip of land between their range and pasture, refusing to let them drive over it. Thanks in part to this fight, Rep. Greg Walden got legislation passed to rein in the BLM. The bureau ignored it, according to Walden, and then charged the Hammonds and other ranchers exorbitant fees to access their own land.

If Congress can’t even control federal agencies, what’s a rancher supposed to?

Ammon Bundy had an answer.

He has been here for months, educating ranchers about the tenets of the sovereign citizen movement. See, the feds don’t listen to the law, but you don’t have to listen to the feds, he told them. The U.S. government is not legitimate; the highest authority here is the county and the sheriff, who can tell BLM and FBI to get lost.

“The sheriff has a sworn duty to protect his citizens,” Ammon Bundy says as another man finishes his sentence, “against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.”

These ideas are taken chapter and verse from the sovereign citizen bible, a bizarre tributary of right-wing ideology that believes the federal government has been illegally occupying American land since at least the end of the Civil War.

These ideas have inspired militias over the past four decades, paramilitary-style groups that often allow would-be demagogues to present themselves as representatives of the original “divinely inspired” form of government. These forces fueled deadly standoffs at Ruby Ridge and Waco, culminating in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. That terror attack hurt the militia movement, but it has grown dramatically during the Obama years.

Ammon’s men says Harney County Sheriff David Ward is nothing less than a collaborator with the real enemy: the U.S. government.

“Sheriff, your oath was not made to the federal government nor any of their corporate entities such as the BLM or Forest Service etc,” the men wrote in an open letter. “Where were you when a foreign entity not having any constitutional power, authority and jurisdiction within your county abused your citizens?… Have you taken sides with the Feds?”

If the sheriff does not say “no to the Feds and rid  your county of their presence and tyranny that they have spread across your County,” then locals should form a citizen grand jury and indict him.

Some ranchers are listening, because they’ve tried everything else and feel screwed by the government. When people come to give the feds a taste of their own medicine by taking over some of Uncle Sam’s land, the ranchers hope this will be the thing that finally forces the government to obey its own laws.

Security is tight at the compound. Men with anti-government patches, holding assault rifles, patrol the buildings in full tactical gear. There’s a truck parked crosswise across the road at the entrance. Two guards in ski masks survey the area from a tower.

Some of the guards are provided by a militia group called the Three Percenters. They take their name from the idea that only 3 percent of American colonists fought in the Revolutionary War and it would only take the same slice of America to liberate it from its federal oppressors today. The militiamen patrol the perimeters and even drive through the closest major town, Burns, 30 miles away.

Brandon Curtiss, president of the Idaho Three Percenters, said they’re here to “make sure this doesn’t turn into a Waco situation, but we’re also here to make sure that extremist elements, people who really do want to start trouble, don’t come in.”

Many people carry guns: a Ruger P89, a Makarov .9mm, a .45 revolver. The handguns never leave their holsters except for cleaning except when people gathered around to admire some beautiful engraving on one sidearm.

Bundy has expelled people for carrying long arms openly, as it was an unnecessary escalation. He is playing a long game, mindful of PR. There is also no alcohol in the buildings. You might see an occasional flask up the hill, outside (I was offered a slug of moonshine to ward off the cold). Nobody wants Ammon to see them drinking.

Inside the encampment, more than two dozen men, women, and children occupy stone and wood buildings surrounded by snow-covered trees and picnic tables. There’s a bunkhouse, offices, a kitchen. The beds are meant for firefighters and visiting biologists, but they serve armed occupiers just as well.

The occupiers are resupplied by locals friendly to the cause. Cupboards burst with jerky, trail mix, crackers. If you’re going to conduct an armed takeover of federal buildings, you need lightweight things filled with calories, especially in the winter. When one driver announced he was carrying doughnuts, laughing men raided his back seat while a child begged his mom for permission to join in. One rancher brought a whole cord of wood and another brought winter jackets. Resupply happens hourly, depending on what the ranchers have to spare.

Someone found the keys to the wildlife refuge’s trucks, although only trusted people get the keys. “This belongs to We the People,” you hear over and over. Militia members and supportive locals have already renamed the national wildlife refuge as the “Harney County Resource Center.”

Similarly, the occupiers say the buildings are open to anyone but they aren’t friendly to outsiders except locals. Perfectly polite, always, but not friendly. In fact, they don’t talk to press outside of canned responses for the most part. The meetings are closed; paranoia is running high. Who is coming, and when, and what will we do? What is the plan?

But walking around, you hear snippets of conversation. Some people appreciate the snark of “Y’all Qaeda” and laugh at “Vanilla ISIS,” too. They’re not without humor, but they spend most of the time talking tactics and politics.

“We have to wake up the residents,” one says.

“We can only pray that they will see how much strength they have,” another says.

“Article II, though…” a different man begins to implore.

“You know this is all not the real problem,” says one of the newcomers around the campfire at night. “It’s those Muslims coming in here, the government is letting the terrorists in and calling them refugees.”

John Ritzheimer, an Iraq war veteran fond of wearing “fuck Islam” T-shirts and protesting mosques, shuts that chatter down.

“You know, I agree with you. That’s what I do for a living, when I’m not here, try to tell people about this [radical Islam] threat. But that’s not why we’re here, and we’re not going to get into it now.”

The discussion turns to the United Nations, Agenda 21, the New World Order, and the Illuminati. One man covers all the cameras on his devices so the government can’t turn them on remotely, he says, which Edward Snowden revealed was not a paranoid fantasy.

People are frustrated that the press coverage is focusing on the guns and the crazy talk. The story is supposed to be about Harney County, the plight of the ranchers. Ammon’s actions were meant to bring attention to the injustice and overreach by the government. While everyone sort of knew that city folk might misinterpret things, locals are astonished that they only hear about guns on the news.

These people are cut off from the rest of the country, really; the days melt into each other just like the seasons. Civil unrest in cities, and the idea that perhaps the fourth estate isn’t as responsible as it once was, are new and frightening things. The ranch family I stay with has discussions long into the night about how they are learning more about the country than they ever wanted to learn. When I showed them footage of police brutally cracking down in Ferguson they were shocked to their core, even knowing how malevolent power can be.

I never expected to hear the same emotions and philosophies from a 15-year-old gang member in Missouri and a 67-year-old rancher in rural Oregon, but close your eyes and you’ll hear it.

“Why don’t they just follow the law?” asks the rancher, who prefers to remain anonymous for fear of BLM retribution. “We’re not being violent, we’re just trying to get justice.”

The media is starting to go home, and the ranchers surrounding the refuge are now left with the fallout: People come to see what the fuss is about and nobody can deny that these people are all very nice.

At first, the rancher was cautiously supportive of the Bundys, even bringing supplies to the men. Now that attention has been brought to the plight of Harney County, the rancher would like to see the Bundys go home.

People living here want respect, not a revolution.

 

By: Linda Tirado, The Daily Beast, January 10, 2016

January 12, 2016 Posted by | Anti-Government, Domestic Terrorism, Sovereign Citizens Movement | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“This Moment Was Arresting”: President Obama’s Tear A Starkly Human Thing

He didn’t bawl.

His voice only roughened for a moment and he dabbed at a couple tears that straggled down his cheek. As displays of emotion go, it wasn’t all that much. But it was, of course, more than enough.

Inevitably, President Obama’s tears became the takeaway from last week’s White House speech on gun violence. They came as he recalled the 2012 massacre of six educators and 20 young children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

“Every time I think about those kids,” said the president, tears shining on his cheek, “it gets me mad.”

One grows used to thinking of politics as a craft practiced mostly by people who are only technically human. One grows used to their cynical manipulations and insincere triangulations, to their poll-tested smiles, and focus-grouped quips. Which is why this moment was arresting. The president wept and it was a starkly human thing.

Or at least, that’s surely how most of us saw it. It is a sign of how angry and hateful our politics have become that some conservatives refused to accept the moment at face value.

“I would check that podium for a raw onion,” sneered Andrea Tantaros of Fox “News.”

“He’s putting something in his eyes to create the fascist tears,” wrote John Nolte of Breitbart.

“(hashtag)Crocodile Tears” tweeted actor James Woods.

One hardly knows how to respond. There isn’t even anger. There is only embarrassment for them, only amazement that some people are so bad at being, well … people.

But the sense of disconnectedness, of the action being wholly at odds with some people’s interpretation thereof, went far beyond the president’s tears. To compare what Obama actually said as he seeks to rein in the nation’s runaway gun violence with the way it was afterward construed by his political opposites is to feel as if one has fallen down the rabbit hole into an alternate reality where people drink trees and smell music and the idea that words have fixed meaning is about as real as the Tooth Fairy.

“I believe in the Second Amendment … that guarantees the right to bear arms,” said the president.

Which House Speaker Paul Ryan interpreted as: “From day one, the president has never respected the right to safe and legal gun ownership that our nation has valued since its founding.”

Obama took a handful of modest actions, including: an executive order clarifying that anyone who makes a living selling guns is required to conduct background checks on buyers; hiring more personnel to process background checks; pushing for improved gun safety technology and tracking of stolen firearms.

Which Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump processed as: “Pretty soon, you won’t be able to get guns.”

One nation, two realities, one of them populated by the NRA and its GOP henchmen, by extremists who don’t just own guns or like guns, but who sanctify and worship guns and so regard even the most humble effort to check their destructive power as blasphemy against their god.

In the other reality live the rest of us, heartsick and frustrated that our country has come to this: Mass shootings are commonplace and we cannot muster the political will to do anything about it. So nothing happens; nothing changes. Bullets fly, the gun lobby prattles on, and in an endless loop, we mourn mothers, fathers, sisters and sons in San Bernardino, Aurora, Ft. Hood, Tucson, Charleston and, yes, Newtown, where 20 first-graders — little children — were gunned down, slaughtered.

And people are disbelieving that the president cried? It is not amazing that someone might ponder this carnage and want to weep. No, what’s amazing is that some of us ponder it and do not.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, January 10, 2016

January 12, 2016 Posted by | Gun Deaths, Gun Violence, National Rifle Association, Sandy Hook, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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