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“An Object Of Worship”: Mississippi Defies Feds In Brave Struggle To Bring Guns To Church

Of all the cultural divides in these allegedly “United” States, probably none is more stark than the chasm in attitudes toward possession of lethal weaponry. There used to be a general consensus that deadly force should, generally speaking, be monopolized by police officers; possession of, say, a handgun in one’s home, was an exception in recognition of exceptional circumstances. Shooting irons for hunting were another thing, but those were reserved for occasions when one was, you know, out in the woods hunting.

That may still be the prevailing attitude on the coasts, but the romance with heavily arming citizens to carry out their very own forms of justice is really running wild in parts of the heartland, where conservative lawmakers are outraged at the idea that there is anywhere on Earth that privately owned guns don’t belong, to the point of considering that the most important of all liberties.

The Great State of Mississippi is offering an illustration of this principle as we speak with the march toward enactment of legislation to recognize a right of concealed-carry in churches. And the Republican salons, who are promoting the cause of honoring the Prince of Peace by insisting on the right to shoot and kill people right there in His sanctuary, are preemptively concerned that the godless socialists in Washington might interfere. So once again, they’ve gone back to that fine antebellum doctrine of nullification to deny the power of the Feds — or at least the executive branch — to regulate firearms at all.  The Jackson Clarion-Ledger has the story:

The bill would allow churches to create security programs and designate and train members to carry concealed weapons. It would provide criminal and legal protections to those serving as church security.

The bill also would allow concealed carry in a holster without a permit in Mississippi, expanding a measure passed last year that allowed concealed carry without a permit in a purse, satchel or briefcase, and another recent law that allows open carry in public.

The bill also seeks to prohibit Mississippi officials from enforcing any federal agency regulations or executive orders that would violate the state constitution — an attempt to federal gun restrictions not passed by Congress.

Senators argued whether this last provision would violate the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“Where did you go to law school?” Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, asked Tindell during the debate. “Are they telling people there that the Mississippi constitution trumps federal law? … You may have been wrong about things before, but you’ve never been more wrong than this. This is like arguing whether the freezing point of water is 32 degrees Fahrenheit. This is embarrassing, hopeless.”

It’s also entirely predictable that people who think the absence of guns is more dangerous than their omnipresence would extend the principle everywhere, even to bars and, yeah, churches. Beyond that, we see the ongoing radicalization of Second Amendment ultras who think gun rights are not just part of the Constitution but fundamental to it and superior to any other provision — in effect, an object of worship. At some point, the Second Amendment could run afoul of the Bible’s Second Commandment against raising up idols.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, March 30, 2016

March 31, 2016 Posted by | Churches, Concealed Carry Laws, Nullification | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Was Susan Sarandon Thinking?”: We Can Blame Her Ideology For The Dysfunction Of Our Politics

In an interview Monday with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, Susan Sarandon said that it was a “legitimate concern” that Bernie Sanders’s most passionate supporters wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, should she be the Democratic Party’s nominee. Then, she said she could see the logic in voting for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, because “some people feel Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately.”

Hayes clarified — did Sarandon mean “the Leninist model” of voting for Donald Trump? Picking the worst possible candidate in recent history in order to “heighten the contradictions” between Trump’s decisions in office and the newly heightened potential for a real “revolution”?

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Sarandon responded. “Some people feel that.”

This campaign cycle has seen the Democratic Party maintain some level of stability, even though it’s been thoroughly shaken up by a successful insurgent candidate and the huge viral movement behind him. Compared to our Republican friends, Democrats — even new, energized Democrats — have kept a level head and our eyes on the ball: winning in November. And not only the presidency. If Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president, which looks likely, we could take the Senate and even, maybe, the House of Representatives.

But if Sanders supporters, including myself, take our cues from Susan Sarandon, we can blame her ideology for the upcoming Trump presidency. And more than that, we can blame her ideology for the dysfunction of our politics.

Though Sarandon took to Twitter after her remarks to clarify that she would “never support Trump for any reason,” her ideology remains the same: that Bernie Sanders represents a “political revolution” against “establishment” politics, and that this establishment itself is a greater threat to American democracy than even the Republicans’ most extremist views.

If you believe this, so be it. But I would hope you consider a few things before doing so.

Do you know your options for your local congressional race? Who most closely aligns with your views? What about among candidates for the Senate? For governor?

These are the real “establishment.” These are what Bernie Sanders would need, as president, in order to ensure his über ambitious legislative agenda has a snowball’s chance in New York’s unusually warm winter.

When Bernie Sanders talks about a “revolution,” it is this: a revolution in political pressure on all levels of government. He wants to do more than he was ever able to do as an independent senator from Vermont.

Winning the presidency would be a huge mandate, but what if Sanders loses? Susan Sarandon, to take her word for it, wouldn’t mind if Sanders supporters “brought on the revolution” by electing Donald Trump.

These are two completely different revolutions.

One requires democratic engagement, vigorous debate, political organization, and systematic, long-term effort.

The other is a vain hope that the people most at risk of a Trump presidency — immigrants, refugees, Muslims, the poor, women — would be so at risk as to prompt some larger push back. To be honest, I really don’t know what kind of “revolution” this is. Protests in the streets? Tea Party obstructionism?

Surely, something will happen if Donald Trump becomes president and makes good on his promise to find and deport upwards of 11 million people, ban Muslims from entering the United States, and start trade wars with China and Mexico. It’s simply unavoidable.

But I would hope whatever happens, should Bernie Sanders lose the nomination — or win it and lose the presidency — fits his definition of revolution. We need a political revolution. Americans are traditionally very bad voters. We’re typically disengaged from politics. Our political media doesn’t hold our political leaders accountable, and neither do their constituents.

If we accept Sarandon’s definition of revolution, which requires installing what would be the worst president in a century, surely, none of that will change.

If we accept Bernie’s definition, we can have it all, even if he loses: a Democrat in office, and millions upon millions of politically engaged Americans holding her feet to the fire.

 

By: Matt Shuham, The National Memo, March 30, 2016

March 31, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Susan Sarandon | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Just A Crumpled Up Little Ball Of Paper”: The Night Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, And John Kasich Killed The RNC Pledge

Around 9:36 p.m. on Tuesday night in Madison, Wisconsin, the Republican National Committee loyalty pledge was pronounced dead.

It was killed by the combined efforts of three men, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich, all of whom all but confirmed that they would rather leap in front of a speeding train than support each other for president.

Trump was the most upfront about it when asked during CNN’s town hall. “No, I won’t,” the candy corn-headed frontrunner said when asked by Anderson Cooper if he would promise to back the eventual nominee. “[Cruz] was essentially saying the same thing. He doesn’t have to support me.”

For months, Trump has complained that he has been treated unfairly by the Republican Party and the media and those who don’t support him. He reiterated that sentiment on Tuesday, offering, “I’ve been treated very unfairly” as his main reason for giving any other possible GOP nominee his stubby little finger.

Cruz, as has been his penchant of late, demurred once again when asked about his support for another nominee. “I’m not in the habit of supporting someone who attacks my wife, who attacks my family,” he answered, referring to someone other than John Kasich.

That, of  course, was not an answer to the question.

“Let me tell you my solution to that: Donald Trump is not going to be the nominee,” was Cruz’s response to the second attempt at the question.

But the third time he must have gotten it right. Right?

“I gave you my answer,” the senator from Texas said of the man who has recently spent some of his time online mocking Cruz’s wife.

When asked about those responses after the town hall, Alice Stewart, a spokeswoman for Cruz, just repeated his initial answer: “Sen Cruz said he does not make a habit of supporting people who attack his wife.”

That left Kasich, the supposed man of reason in the Republican race, the nice guy just trying to run an honest campaign.

“Maybe I won’t answer it, either,” the Ohio governor joked, the wrinkles from his cheeks touching his ears. Kasich added that he has “respect for people that are in the arena” but also said he’d been “disturbed” by some stuff he had seen on the trail. And he wasn’t referring to the thing that fell out of Cruz’s mouth during a debate.

“I don’t want to be political here: I’ve got to see what happens,” he concluded.

Both the Kasich and Trump campaigns have not responded to a request for additional comment from The Daily Beast. Neither has RNC communications director Sean Spicer.

The pledge was dreamed up in September by the RNC to try to keep Trump from jumping ship and running as an independent candidate. Little did they know that he would become their presumptive nominee.

“I [name] affirm that if I do not win the 2016 Republican nomination for president of the United States I will endorse the 2016 Republican presidential nominee regardless of who it is,” the pledge read. “I further pledge that I will not seek to run as an independent or write-in candidate nor will I seek or accept the nomination for president of any other party.”

It took Trump approximately 24 hours to call a press conference, where he held up the piece of paper like Simba on Pride Rock, proudly declaring: “The best way for the Republicans to win is if I win the nomination and go directly against whoever they happen to put up. And for that reason, I have signed the pledge.”

Oh, how things have changed.

Five months after signing, Trump hinted at potentially running separately from the Republican ticket, claiming that the RNC hadn’t held up its side of the bargain. His two gripes? That establishment donors had packed the rafters to boo him at recent debates and that (Lyin’) Ted Cruz had questioned Trump’s past positions on guns and abortion.

But Trump steeled away and stuck it out!

For another month.

And then, just like that, the pledge died.

 

By: Gideon Resnick, The Daily Beast, March 30, 2016

March 31, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Loyalty Pledge, John Kasich, Republican National Committee, Ted Cruz | , , , , | 3 Comments

“McConnell’s “Three No’s” Under Fire”: No Meetings, No Hearings, No Vote

I have to admit that Senator McConnell’s ability to keep his troops of Republican Senators in line over these last seven years has been what some might call “impressive.” The plan to totally obstruct anything President Obama and Democrats attempted to do meant that he had to get Senators from traditionally blue/swing states to go along. Time after time we witnessed his ability to do that.

Shortly after the death of Justice Scalia, McConnell announced the ultimate in total obstruction tactics. He issued three “no’s” to any nominee put forward by this President: no meetings, no hearings, no vote. But on this one, he hasn’t managed to make it stick.

A quarter of Republican Senators (16) have announced that they will meet with Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland. Last week, three Senators came out in favor of holding hearings: Kirk, Collins and Moran. And now, Senator Kirk has said that he would consider voting for Garland.

Sen. Mark Kirk on Tuesday became the first Republican to say he might be willing to vote for President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

“Obviously I would consider voting for him,” the Illinois senator told reporters before he met with the nominee, Judge Merrick Garland. “That’s the whole purpose.”

While not going as far as Kirk, Senator Collins indicated something similar.

“The President, whether Republicans like him or not, is our President until next January, until Inauguration Day and it just seemed to me that there was no basis for saying that no matter who the President nominates, we were not going to consider that individual.”…

Hearings and meetings “are the best way to thoroughly understand a nominee’s views,” Collins said. “Undoubtably, there will be issues that would arise in a hearing that would provide grounds for people who don’t want to vote for Judge Garland or in those who do.”

Obviously this isn’t enough of a break in McConnell’s troop discipline to get movement on hearings – much less a vote – on Judge Garland’s nomination. But the key figure in all this is Senator Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. As Steve Benen reported yesterday, he is going to extraordinary lengths in his blue/swing state of Iowa to avoid public confrontation over his position. First of all, he is not publicly announcing his speaking engagements and/or meetings with constituents. Secondly, he is only visiting staunchly conservative areas of the state where he received 80-90% of the vote in his last election. Finally, even in those areas, he is facing “tough and repeated questions over his refusal to hold hearings on a nominee to the Supreme Court.”

It is anyone’s guess about whether the “no hearings” and “no vote” portion of McConnell’s plan will hold for the next seven months. But it is clear that the Majority Leader is facing some insurrection from the troops he had previously managed to keep in line.

 

By: Nancy Letourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 30, 2016

March 31, 2016 Posted by | Merrick Garland, Mitch Mc Connell, Senate Republicans, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Since When Is Kelly Ayotte A “Moderate”?”: The Disappearance Of Actual Republican ‘Moderates’ Is A Problem

The New York Times reported yesterday on the electoral challenges facing Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) in New Hampshire this year, given the factors in the 2016 race, some of which the incumbent senator can’t control. The headline read, “Tough Re-election for G.O.P. Moderate Is Getting Tougher.”

She may not always telegraph it, but Ms. Ayotte, a freshman senator, is locked in a herculean battle with the state’s popular Democratic governor, Maggie Hassan. As one of five Senate Republicans running for re-election in states that supported President Obama in both 2008 and 2012, Ms. Ayotte is seen as particularly vulnerable this November. […]

Six years ago, Ms. Ayotte was part of a Republican wave…. For Ms. Ayotte and other Republicans from that class, 2016 was always going to be a difficult year to run for re-election because more Democrats vote in presidential years. But with the possibility that Donald J. Trump, the most divisive Republican presidential candidate in a generation, will be at the top of the ticket, the party’s task may be all the more arduous.

The broader assessment seems entirely right: the GOP incumbent faces a strong Democratic challenger in a year in which Republicans in competitive states are likely to struggle. Walking the electoral tightrope will pose challenges.

But it’s the wording of the headline that jumped out at me: since when is Kelly Ayotte a “moderate”?

It’s challenging because, by some measures, Republican moderates no longer exist in any meaningful sense. FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver published an analysis last fall that noted, as a quantifiable matter, “The most conservative Republicans in the House 25 or 30 years ago would be among the most liberal members now.”

As GOP politics have become increasingly radicalized, what passes for Republican moderation has no real connection to anything resembling mainstream American centrism. Indeed, by most measures, Kelly Ayotte may not have a reputation as a wild-eyed partisan bomb-thrower, but her actual record is one of a far-right conservative.

Ayotte co-sponsored Ted Cruz’s bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, for example, without a replacement plan for the millions who’d lose their coverage. She filibustered a bipartisan bill to expand background checks before gun purchases. She’s voted, several times, to defund Planned Parenthood*. She joined the far-right in rejecting emergency disaster relief for Hurricane Sandy victims.

The list goes on. Ayotte rejected a clean debt-ceiling increase needed to prevent national default. She voted for Paul Ryan’s right-wing budget plan. She rejected a proposed increase of the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Though she later regretted it, Ayotte even went along with her party’s government-shutdown scheme in 2013.

According to the most recent available information on the group’s website, the Club for Growth gives Ayotte a lifetime rating of 81% – and as of a few years ago, it was even higher. It’s partly why she’s been a featured guest at far-right gatherings such as the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

Indeed, as I type, Ayotte has joined her party’s unprecedented Supreme Court blockade, rejecting a qualified nominee for reasons she and her party are still struggling to explain – a move even some of her GOP colleagues consider indefensible.

Sure, there are exceptions – Ayotte voted, for example, for the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform package – and the New Hampshire senator is hardly the most far-right member in the chamber, but the fact remains that there’s simply nothing about her record that says “moderate.”

My point is not to pick on the New York Times for the misplaced ideological label. Rather, what I think the Ayotte example offers is a reminder that the political world needs to rethink these assessments altogether, recognizing that actual Republican moderates are an endangered species, and being slightly less radical than extremists does not a moderate make.

When major news organizations start to think anyone to the left of Tom Cotton has credibility as a centrist, we lose sight of what matters: the Republican Party’s shift to the far-right has changed the nature of American politics in fundamental ways. Calling actual conservatives “moderates” only exacerbates the problem.

* Disclosure: My wife works for Planned Parenthood, but she played no role in this piece.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 30, 2016

March 31, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Kelly Ayotte, Moderate Republicans | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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