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

“If Democracy Goes Too Far”: ‘The Bullet Box’ Is An Option If The Ballot Box Fails, Says Gun-Rights Advocate

All Second Amendment enthusiasts are not the same. There are those who strongly believe in the right to bear arms for purposes of self-protection against criminals and for hunting and other sports usages. And then there are those who believe the ultimate purpose of the Second Amendment is to keep revolutionary violence on the table as a fallback plan if in their view “essential rights” are threatened, including gun rights themselves.

You can pretty clearly put many members of the Gun Owners of America, a group that considers the NRA a bunch of accomodationist squishes, in the latter category. The group’s longtime executive director, Larry Pratt, made that clear on his own radio show this week:

[T]he courts do not have the last word on what the Constitution is. They decide particular cases, they don’t make law. Their decisions, unlike the Roe v. Wade usurpation, don’t extend to the whole of society, they’re not supposed to. And we may have to reassert that proper constitutional balance, and it may not be pretty. So, I’d much rather have an election where we solve this matter at the ballot box than have to resort to the bullet box.

While Pratt’s term “bullet box” is attracting attention, this is a very old sentiment not just among gun enthusiasts but in broad swaths of movement conservatism. Recent proclamations in favor of the right to overthrow the government as essential to the maintenance of constitutional order have come from 2016 presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee. But perhaps the clearest statement was made in 2012 by now-senator Joni Ernst, one of the GOP’s rising stars:

“I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere,” Ernst said at the NRA and Iowa Firearms Coalition Second Amendment Rally in Searsboro, Iowa. “But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.”

Ernst, of course, like other Second Amendment ultras, is implicitly arrogating to herself the right to decide when godless socialist tyranny — you know, things like Obamacare or environmental regulations or court-imposed reproductive rights — has gone so far that it’s time to bring out the shooting irons and start executing one’s enemies. But you have to wonder how people like Ernst and Cruz and Huckabee and Pratt would react if such rhetoric was coming from the political left — say, a black nationalist group. The right-to-revolution thinking really does boil down to Mao’s famous edict that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

For the present, it’s enough for Pratt to remind the rest of us that his tolerance for democracy and judicial supremacy has its limits, and if pushed too far, the “bullet box” is ever-ready.


By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, June 1, 2016

June 2, 2016 Posted by | Democracy, Joni Ernst, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Next Palin Is In Your Pigsty”: She May Not Field Dress A Moose, But She Castrates Pigs

Before the 2016 campaign for president could even begin in earnest, the greatest political romance of our times has already died. And it could make all the difference next November.

In a turn that was perhaps inevitable but nonetheless remarkable, Sarah Palin delivered a hyped-up speech (at Iowa’s high-profile Freedom Summit) that drew disappointing reviews from within her own base of support.

To the surprise of no one, Palin’s critics blew a gasket straining to capture the extent of their contempt for the warmed-over address. An apparent TelePrompTer malfunction — the nightmare of pols ten times more polished and canny than Palin — only added to their sense of gleeful horror.

But with her rambling rehash of familiar tropes and postures, Palin finally outlasted the patience and goodwill of her own core constituency — the red-meat grassroots and the movement conservative media. Without any infrastructure, without any institutional platform, Palin could always count on her brand of performance art to put going rogue back in vogue. No longer.

Small-time soap opera, you say. End of an error. Actually, this is a big deal. Because the Palin phenomenon — the popularity, the opportunism, the branding, and, yes, the politics — all arose from a single source. Palin’s importance wasn’t as a new kind of conservative, ideologically speaking. It was as a new kind of politician.

There had never been a Republican or a Democrat with Palin’s combination of personality, character, youthfulness, and very specifically gendered sort of sex. Even to the critics, she didn’t come off as a pencil-necked weenie like Bobby Jindal or a sound-body-sound-mind orthogonian like Paul Ryan.

Being a woman helped. But, to borrow a line of analysis from critical theory, Palin wasn’t gendered the same way as other political women, in any party. She was no granny in a pantsuit, like Elizabeth Dole or Hillary Clinton. She doesn’t come off as fustily professional as Carly Fiorina or Meg Whitman. Palin’s character type can never be a career politician because she’s not even a career woman, in that stereotypical manner now apotheosized by Yahoo’s Marissa Meyer.

Palin’s life experience mattered because it betokened the entry into politics of a new kind of woman — equally into sports, guns, and kids. Palin’s character type eventually appeared to exist everywhere across the vast red swath of the American interior. Conservatives have long understood in what complex way their youthful women could be masculine without losing the femininity. (Tocqueville bemusedly praised American ladies’ “manly virtue.”) The revolution was in a conservative woman mobilizing that naturally grown manner in the arena of national politics.

However you choose to slice and dice gender identities, you must admit that Palin’s success arose from her own — and that losing her appeal in spite of it, much like earning an F in English, took a lot of willpower to pull off.

The failure was on glaring display when the right-leaning Washington Examiner went in search of praise for Palin’s prospects, but notable figures in the conservative mediasphere balked. Red-state stalwarts like HotAir’s Ed Morrissey sighed that her speech “wasn’t well prepared”; Gabriel Malor at Ace of Spades HQ said simply: “She is done.”

Voices like these, once locked into mutual admiration with the rogue Republican who decried the “lamestream” media, can’t by themselves consign Palin to the political scrapheap. As they freely admit, however, the grassroots has “generally moved on,” too, in the words of Ben Domenech (whose website, The Federalist, I have written for).

So the essential question for 2016 is where, or whom, they’ll move on to. The tea party ethos that Palin helped midwife may be protean and loosely organized, but it hasn’t weakened much  as a political force. This year’s crop of presumptive Republican candidates offers the conservative base its strongest, broadest, and most credible choices ever. Domenech could plausibly suggest to the Examiner that contenders with an outsider appeal, such as Gov. Scott Walker Or Sen. Ted Cruz, were well positioned to attract and energize Palin’s former constituency.

But character type is deeper, and it’s prior to politics. The true heir to Palin’s constituency will be a woman. How could it be otherwise?

It’s a question not lost on the Republican elite, which is smart enough to know there is no real reason Palin’s character type can’t be brought into a more establishmentarian alignment. Enter Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst — servicewoman, heartland heroine, and the no-brainer choice to respond to the president’s State of the Union on behalf of the whole Republican Party. Even a pig-castrating farm girl, you see, can find her way into the arms of such king- and queen-makers as Mitt Romney.

To her credit, Ernst possesses far more discipline than Palin, whose taste for guns did not extend into a longing for the military life. But if the whiff of the establishment gets too strong around her, the base will balk — just ask Marco Rubio. And the jilted Palin constituency will be up for grabs again.


By: James Poulos, The Daily Beast, January 29, 2015

January 30, 2015 Posted by | Joni Ernst, Sarah Palin, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“GOP Response; The Breadbags Of Empathy”: From Tiny Booties Made From Hostess Twinkie Wrappers To Bidding For Plutocrats

Imagine going to the doctor and saying, “My back is killing me. I can barely move. What can you do to help me? Should we do an X-ray? Physical therapy? Medication?” And the doctor responds, “Yeah, I hurt my back once. It was awful. So I know exactly what you’re feeling. Anyway, thanks for coming in—just see the receptionist on the way out to pay your bill.”

That’s not too far off from what we heard from Senator Joni Ernst in the GOP response to the State of the Union address last night. I’m particularly interested in this part:

As a young girl, I plowed the fields of our family farm. I worked construction with my dad. To save for college, I worked the morning biscuit line at Hardees.

We were raised to live simply, not to waste. It was a lesson my mother taught me every rainy morning.

You see, growing up, I had only one good pair of shoes. So on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them to keep them dry.

But I was never embarrassed. Because the school bus would be filled with rows and rows of young Iowans with bread bags slipped over their feet.

Our parents may not have had much, but they worked hard for what they did have.

These days though, many families feel like they’re working harder and harder, with less and less to show for it.

Because America is still the home of the world’s most creative and inspiring strivers, within minutes people were not only posting pictures of themselves with bread bags on their feet to Twitter, some even crafted shoes out of bread to photograph. But what, precisely, is the point of the bread bag story supposed to be?

The point is affinity, saying to ordinary people, in Christine O’Donnell’s immortal words, “I’m you.” I understand your struggles and fears, because I’ve experienced them. I don’t need to walk a mile in your shoes to feel your pain, because I’ve already done it, though mine were covered in bread bags. At a time like this, Ernst’s ability to tell stories about her hardscrabble roots is no doubt one of the big reasons Republican leaders chose her to deliver their response.

There’s a second part of this message that no Republican is going to lay out too explicitly, and Ernst certainly doesn’t, which is that because I’m just like you, when it comes time to make decisions about the policies that will affect you, I will have your interests at heart.

But there’s a problem with that, because despite the years she spent trudging through the snow in her bread bag feet, Joni Ernst’s beliefs about economics are no different from Mitt Romney’s, Jeb Bush’s, or those of any other Republican whose childhood feet were shod in loafers hand crafted from the finest Siberian tiger leather. There’s almost perfect unanimity within the GOP on economic issues, an agreement that the minimum wage should not be raised, that taxes on the wealthy are onerous and oppressive and should be reduced, that regulations on corporations should be loosened, and that government programs designed to help those of modest means only serve to make them indolent and slothful, their hands so atrophied that bootstrap-pulling becomes all but impossible.

But now that both parties agree that they must address economic inequality and stagnant wages, you really need to follow up the tale of long-ago hard times with some specifics about what you want to do now. And this is where things break down. When Ernst got to laying out the GOP economic agenda, here’s what she offered: First, the Keystone XL pipeline, which as an economic stimulus is a joke. For whatever combination of reasons—the fact that environmentalists hate it is the most important—Republicans have locked themselves into arguing that a project that will create at most a few thousand temporary jobs is the most important thing we can do to boost the American economy. Second, Ernst said, “Let’s tear down trade barriers in places like Europe and the Pacific.” Kind of vague there, but nobody likes trade barriers. She didn’t elaborate, however. And finally, “Let’s simplify America’s outdated and loophole-ridden tax code.” Which, again, nobody disagrees with in the abstract, but I doubt there are too many struggling families saying that their biggest problem is that the tax code is riddled with loopholes.

So that isn’t much of a program. But she did close by saying that America is “the greatest nation the world has ever known.” And it’s inspiring that someone like Joni Ernst can start life in the most modest of circumstances, fitted as a baby with tiny booties made from Hostess Twinkie wrappers, then graduate to bread bags as she learned to castrate hogs (they do help keep the blood off your one good pair of shoes), and eventually grow up to do the bidding of the nation’s noblest plutocrats. It shows what’s possible in this great country of ours.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, January 21, 2015

January 23, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Joni Ernst, Plutocrats | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Your Tax Dollars”: Family Of New GOP Senate Pork Buster Joni Ernst Pocketed Almost Half A Million In Government Assistance

Anyone who tuned in to hear the GOP response to the State of the Union address was treated to an introduction to the GOP’s newest freshman Senate star, Joni Ernst of Iowa.

You may recall Ms. Ernst’s legendary campaign commercial where she informed us all that she had grown up castrating pigs and was, therefore, uniquely qualified to cut the pork from bloated federal spending. You may also recall that, in the castration commercial, she told us about how her family had taught Ernst what she needed to know about the importance of living within one’s means—a lesson, Ernst argued, that has been lost on the federal government.

Turns out, the Senator’s family has a somewhat unusual concept of what “living within one’s means” actually involves as we now know that her father and uncle have been the beneficiaries of some of that good old government pork that the newly minted Senator has sworn to snip from the body of the federal budget.

Apparently, living within their means, inside the Senator’s family, involves including some of your tax dollars and mine as a part of the family budget.

While it may be true, as Senator Ernst recounted in her official response to the SOTU, that she had to walk to school in the snow, uphill both ways, when she was a kid—not really as her actual claim to feeling the pain of low income Americans is that she and her friends wore bread bags over their one and only pair of shoes to protect them from the snow—her family may well have paid for those shoes with taxpayer cash.

An examination by the Washington DC based District Sentinel website reveals that Ernst’s father, Richard Culver, pocketed $38,395 in taxpayer money in the guise of corn subsidies.

But then, Ernst’s dad can’t hold a candle to his brother when it comes to receiving government redistribution of wealth as Senator Joni’s Uncle Dallas has pocketed a cool $370,000 in government subsidies.

Somehow, as Senator Ernst castigated the federal government for all this wasteful spending and wealth redistribution, she failed to mention that her own family has benefitted substantially from the same.

I suppose we can forgive this bit of hypocrisy given Ernst’s long record of involving herself in ‘clean’ government back in Iowa, right?

Not so much.

As reported by Salon, it turns out that daddy’s construction company (and here I thought he was but a poor, struggling farmer) was awarded some $215,665 in building contracts from the Montgomery County during the years 2009 and 2010.

There is certainly nothing inappropriate in a builder winning a few government contracts—unless it turns out that the builder’s daughter Joni, who would go on to become a United States Senator, happens to be the powerful county auditor for that very same Montgomery County.

According to Iowa law, that is a “no-no.”

“The Iowa Code lays out stringent conflict of interest standards for county contracts. Chapter 331 of the code stipulates that ‘[a]n officer or employee of a county shall not have an interest, direct, or indirect, in a contract with that county.’ The provision applies if 5 percent of a company’s outstanding stock is owned by either a county employee or an immediate family member – including a parent – of an employee.”

I’m not sure how much more “on point” the statute could be.

Meet the new GOP—same as the old GOP.


By: Rick Ungar, Contributor, Forbes, January 22, 2015

January 23, 2015 Posted by | Federal Budget, GOP, Joni Ernst | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Joni Ernst Tells Us About GOP Politics”: The ‘Perfect Choice’ To Serve As The Voice Of The 2015 GOP

Delivering an official response to a president’s State of the Union address is a difficult, thankless task, which often doesn’t go especially well (see Jindal, Bobby and Rubio, Marco). A president generally enjoys an august platform, interrupted repeatedly with standing ovations, while the response usually features a politician standing alone, struggling to read from a teleprompter while speaking to a lone camera.

With all of this in mind, Republicans have made their choice in advance of President Obama’s speech next week.

Newly elected Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst will deliver the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, Republicans announced Thursday. […]

Ernst, who beat Democrat Bruce Braley decisively in November, told reporters she is “humbled and honored” to have the opportunity to deliver the address. The announcement was made at a Republican legislative retreat in Hersey, Pennsylvania.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the right-wing Iowan, just one week into her congressional career, the “perfect choice.”

And at a certain level, it’s easy to understand why. Ernst is a telegenic speaker who just won a competitive U.S. Senate race in an important battleground state. Given that congressional Republican leaders are dominated by white men, it stands to reason that the party would prioritize diversity for this national address.

But if Joni Ernst is now the “perfect choice” to speak on behalf of the Republican Party in 2015, it’s worth appreciating just what this choice tells us about the state of GOP politics.

For those who’ve forgotten, or perhaps didn’t follow Iowa’s U.S. Senate race closely, Ernst was arguably the most extremist candidate to seek statewide office in 2014. As readers may recall, Ernst endorsed banning abortions and many forms of birth control; nullifying federal laws she doesn’t like, privatizing Social Security; and impeaching President Obama. She argued that Saddam Hussein really did have weapons of mass destruction and people on Medicaid “have no personal responsibility for their health.” She dismissed the very existence of a federal minimum wage as “ridiculous” and credited the Koch brothers for the strength of her candidacy. She endorsed enough conspiracy theories to qualify her as the head of a Glenn Beck fan club.

At one point, Ernst expressed support for arresting federal officials who try to implement federal laws the far-right doesn’t like, and later, she added that she likes to carry a loaded firearm with her everywhere, in case she needs to defend herself – “whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.” [Update: A reader also reminds me of the time Ernst referred to the president as a “dictator,” as well as her outrageous rhetoric during the Ebola scare.]

The moment she was elected, Ernst instantly became one of the most radical U.S. senators, not just of this current Congress, but in recent American history.

As the 2014 campaign wound down, and revelations about the Republican’s bizarre nuttiness grew more serious, Ernst decided to stop talking to mainstream news organizations in Iowa altogether. She won soon after by nearly nine points, despite her extremism and despite her confusion about the basics of current events and public policy.

Ernst is the “perfect choice” to speak for Republicans? Really? Why would GOP leaders consider that a development to be proud of?


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 15, 2015

January 19, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Joni Ernst, State of the Union | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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