mykeystrokes.com

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

“Pope Francis Makes Tea Party Heads Explode”: Why Steve King & Louie Gohmert Have It In For The Pontiff

The Bishop of Rome is coming to Washington in September to address a joint session of Congress, and boy are things already getting frisky. Pope Francis is an extraordinarily popular Pope who’s not afraid to wield that popularity for human rights and economic justice. In other words, he’s well to the left of most members of Congress, and he may well get up in their faces about issues near and dear to him. Since you’re sort of required to clap for the Pope, this is going to make for an interesting scene.

In late 2013, not long after his election, Francis wrote an extensive document making economic justice a centerpiece of his papacy. “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life,” he wrote, “today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality.”

“Such an economy kills,” wrote Pope Francis, denouncing the current economic system as “unjust at its roots” and one “which defend(s) the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation.” Such a system, he warned, is creating a “new tyranny,” which “unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules.”

On foreign affairs he’s made his priorities known, too. Earlier this year, Francis helped broker the thawing of relations between the United States and Cuba, and just this week,the Vatican announced that it would sign a treaty recognizing a Palestinian state. As Patricia Miller writes in Salon, these sorts of moves aren’t some radical break in policy for the Vatican. It’s just that American conservatives were able to turn a blind eye to these actions before “rock star Francis” commanded their attention. “It’s more accurate,” Miller writes, “to view this particular step in the Vatican’s relationship with Palestine both as a continuation of the Holy See’s long-standing support for Palestinian statehood and as an expression of Francis’ overriding interest in fostering international peace—and his unique ability and willingness to put his finger on the scales to do so.”

The Vatican’s recognition of a Palestinian state under Francis comes at a time when the Republican Party is more reflexively “pro-Israel” — which is to say, pro-Netanyahu — than ever. It’s become routine, if not an outright litmus test, for Republican presidential candidates to reject the pursuit of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, a position that both Democratic and Republican standard-bearers have held for decades. The Obama administration has gone to great lengths to veto U.N. resolutions recognizing a Palestinian state as a favor to Netanyahu’s Israel, and yet Republicans still assault Obama as working hand-in-hand with the Iranians to assure Israel’s destruction. And now we’ve got an actual religious and political leader who has recognized a Palestinian state coming to address Congress.

The fine congressional reporters at Politico did that thing where they asked the usual funny, good-for-a-quote Republican suspects for their opinion on Francis’ upcoming speech in light of his treaty recognizing Palestine and other heretical moves, like his criticism of unregulated capitalism. And the members were, indeed, good for various funny quotes.

Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina is stunned to see the Pope getting so “political” and demands he rein in his activities to more traditional church-y stuff. “It’s interesting how the Vatican has gotten so political,” Duncan said, “when ultimately the Vatican ought to be working to lead people to Jesus Christ and salvation.” Iowa’s Steve King echoed Duncan, saying he’s not sure that he’s as good of a politician as he is a Pope.”

Know your place, sweetheart.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp holds the interesting position that Catholicism is agnostic on issues of poverty, and Francis should stick to what he describes as Catholicism’s “non-negotiables,” like its opposition to abortion and gay marriage and its support for school choice. “How do you deal with a poverty problem? There’s not a Catholic [fix], contrary to the arguments of certain economists that work at the Vatican… But there’s a Catholic view on life, on marriage, on the rights of parents and education. So I hope he sticks to this.” As for foreign policy, Huelskamp gives Francis his permission to speak to “faith and morals… but on foreign affairs, maybe not.” Because morals certainly have no place in foreign affairs.

The quotiest of them all, Rep. Louie Gohmert, describes the Palestinians as “haters” and wants the Pope to know that they don’t take too kindly to his style of Popin’ down in East Texas. “The Pope is the head of his religion, and he makes those calls for himself,” Gohmert generously concedes, “but I represent 700,000 people from East Texas and a vast majority agree with me.”

There’s a whole lot more in here, including Rep. Trent Franks questioning Pope Francis’s grasp of scripture.

It’s fascinating to see these members trying to impose constraints on what’s acceptable for the Holy See to say in his address to Congress. Just a few months ago, conservatives were apoplectic that anyone would dare criticize Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to trash the President’s foreign policy before a joint session of Congress. The man has a right to speak his mind! It helped, of course, that Netanyahu’s mind and the Republican mind were one and the same. Now the Pope might come and say “Palestinians have rights too” and everyone’s all, Whoa whoa whoa, let’s stick to the fetus here, guy. 

 

By: Jim Newell, Salon, May 15, 2015

May 18, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Louie Gohmert, Pope Francis, Steve King | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Steve King Unveils Radical Court Scheme”: GOP Radicalism Stripping Federal Courts Of Jurisdiction To Hear Cases Related To Marriage

Under the American system of government, elected legislators are responsible for writing laws. If those statutes are legally controversial, they’re challenged in the courts and evaluated by judges. It’s Civics 101.

But once in a while, some far-right lawmakers decide they’re not entirely comfortable with separation of powers and the idea of judicial review. Yesterday, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), usually known for his fierce opposition to immigration, issued a press release announcing a new proposal related to marriage equality.

Congressman Steve King released the following statement after introducing his bill “Restrain the Judges on Marriage Act of 2015.” This bill strips federal courts of jurisdiction to hear cases related to marriage.  The effect of the bill would prevent federal courts from hearing marriage cases, leaving the issue to the States where it properly belongs. […]

“My bill strips Article III courts of jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court of appellate jurisdiction, ‘to hear or decide any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, any type of marriage.’”

The “Restrain the Judges on Marriage Act” has already picked up seven House co-sponsors – all of them Republican – including some familiar names like Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), and Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.).

And that’s a shame because, even by 2015 standards, this idea is just bonkers.

This came up a couple of weeks ago when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), soon after launching his presidential campaign, told an Iowa audience “he would prod Congress to strip federal courts of jurisdiction over the [marriage] issue, a rarely invoked legislative tool.”

As we talked about at the time, it’s “rarely invoked” because the approach – known as “court-stripping” or “jurisdiction-stripping” – is so radical, it’s just too bizarre for most policymakers to even consider.

The idea isn’t complicated: under this scheme, Congress would pass a federal law effectively telling the courts, “We’ve identified a part of the law that judges are no longer allowed to consider.”

To reiterate what we discussed two weeks ago, let’s say you live in a state with a law that discriminates against same-sex couples. You decide to challenge the constitutionality of the law, get an attorney, and go to court. Under Steve King’s bill, the judge would have no choice but to ignore the case – the courts would have no legal authority to even review lawsuits related to marriage equality because congressional Republicans say so.

Whatever one thinks of marriage equality, court-stripping is itself ridiculous. The constitutional principles of “separation of powers” hasn’t disappeared just yet, so the idea that the legislative branch will dictate to the courts what kind of cases judges are allowed to hear is more than a little crazy – it undermines the very idea of an independent judiciary.

And it sure as heck isn’t “constitutional conservatism.” Indeed, it’s effectively the congressional version of “legislating from the bench” – King and his cohorts want to adjudicate from the legislature.

To be sure, this isn’t entirely new. Back in the 1980s, Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) repeatedly tried to prevent federal courts from hearing cases related to school prayer. About a decade ago, Sam Brownback and Todd Akin (remember him?) worked on similar measures related to the Pledge of Allegiance. Now, a handful of House Republicans are dipping their feet in the same radical waters.

As a matter of history, Congress has never actually passed a court-stripping scheme – we can only speculate about the constitutional crisis it would invite – and even if the GOP-led House tried to pursue this idea in 2015, there’s simply no way it’d overcome a Democratic filibuster in the Senate or get President Obama’s signature.

But the fact that several members of Congress are pushing such a proposal – all while Ted Cruz expresses interest in the same idea – speaks to an ugly strain of radicalism among Republican lawmakers.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 23, 2015

April 24, 2015 Posted by | Judiciary, Marriage, Steve King | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Armchair Warriors”: The Syria Question That Congress Must Answer

Congress is asking the wrong questions about Syria. The issue can’t be who wins that country’s civil war. It has to be whether the regime of Bashar al-Assad should be punished for using chemical weapons — and, if the answer is yes, whether there is any effective means of punishment other than a U.S. military strike.

Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey showed the patience of Job this week as House and Senate members grilled them about the impossible, the inconceivable and the irrelevant.

At Wednesday’s hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I thought for a moment that Kerry was going to blow. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) launched into a self-righteous soliloquy about Benghazi, the IRS, the National Security Agency and what he portrayed as Kerry’s longtime aversion to using military force.

Kerry, you may recall, is a highly decorated Vietnam combat veteran. Duncan is an armchair warrior.

“I am not going to sit here and be told by you that I don’t have a sense of what the judgment is with respect to this,” Kerry said.

But he held it together and gave Duncan a more civil answer than he deserved. “This is not about getting into Syria’s civil war,” Kerry explained. “This is about enforcing the principle that people shouldn’t be allowed to gas their citizens with impunity.”

For Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the question is why President Obama hasn’t been doing more to shape the outcome of the war. As the price of his vote to authorize a strike, McCain insisted that the resolution approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee include language calling on Obama to “change the military equation on the battlefield.”

I respect McCain’s knowledge and experience on military matters, even when I disagree with him. In this case, I think he’s hallucinating.

In Iraq, with U.S. forces occupying the country and a compliant government installed, it took a huge troop surge and a long counterinsurgency campaign to beat back the jihadists who threatened to take over part of the country. In Syria, with no boots on the ground and a hostile regime clinging to power, how is Obama supposed to ensure that the “good” rebels triumph over the “bad” ones? Why does McCain think we have it in our power to favorably change the equation now?

Let me clarify: I believe that a U.S. strike of the kind being discussed, involving cruise missiles and perhaps other air-power assets, can make it more likely that Assad loses. But I also believe that — absent a major commitment of American forces, which is out of the question — we cannot determine who wins.

For some skeptics on Capitol Hill, the question is why we don’t wait for others to act — the United Nations, perhaps, or some of the 188 other nations that have ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention outlawing atrocities such as those committed in Syria.

I guess hope springs eternal, but that’s how long the wait will be. Russia has vetoed every attempt by the U.N. Security Council to act. Britain’s House of Commons has said no. France is willing but won’t go it alone.

Maybe all this reluctance is a warning that we, too, should demur. But let’s at least be honest with ourselves: If we don’t act, nobody will. The clear message to Assad, and to other tyrants, will be that poison gas is frowned upon but not prohibited.

There is no way that Assad can be shamed into contrition and atonement; at this point, he’s fighting not just for power but for his life. He has to believe that if he loses the war and is captured by rebels, be they the “good” ones or the “bad,” he will be tried and executed like Saddam Hussein — or perhaps killed on the spot like Moammar Gaddafi.

If someone has a workable plan to snatch Assad and his henchmen, haul them before the International Criminal Court and put them on trial, I’m all ears. As things stand, however, the possibility of someday facing charges in the Hague must be low on the Syrian dictator’s list of worries.

If Assad and his government are ever to be held accountable for the use of forbidden weapons to murder hundreds of civilians, the only realistic way for that to happen is a punitive, U.S.-led military strike. This is the question that Obama put on the table — and that too many members of Congress seem determined to avoid.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 5, 2013

September 6, 2013 Posted by | Congress, Syria | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Stark Raving Mad”: When Unhinged GOP Conspiracy Theories Become Self-Defeating

Remember Rep. Joe Wilson (R)? The right-wing South Carolinian has been in the U.S. House for nearly 12 years, and apparently has distinguished himself exactly once: he shouted “You lie!” during President Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress on health care policy.

Apparently, though, Wilson is still on Capitol Hill, and piped up during a House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting today with a question on Syria for Secretary of State John Kerry. Watch on YouTube

For those who can’t watch clips online, note that Wilson, with a halting cadence, very carefully read a question that someone on his staff apparently prepared for him:

“With the president’s red line, why was there no call for military response in April? Was it delayed to divert attention today from the Benghazi, IRS, NSA scandals, the failure of Obamacare enforcement, the tragedy of the White House-drafted sequestration or the upcoming debt limit vote? Again, why was there no call for a military response four months ago when the president’s red line was crossed?”

Now, I can appreciate a wild-eyed conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, but even by House GOP standards, this is just stark raving mad. First, the “scandals” Wilson believes in don’t exist; things are going fairly well for the Affordable Care Act; and sequestration was Republicans’ fault.

Second, think about the point Wilson is trying to make with his deeply silly question: the White House was, the theory goes, overwhelmed in April by scandals and policy fiascoes. To “divert attention” to all of these terrible problems, President Obama did … nothing.

Wilson’s conspiracy theory would at least have internal consistency if Obama had bombed Syria at the time, giving conservatives an opportunity to say the military offensive was timed to be a distraction from domestic difficulties. But Wilson doesn’t even have that — he’s saying Obama didn’t intervene in Syria in April to “divert attention” from made-up controversies, suggesting the Congressman doesn’t even understand the words of the conspiracy theory someone wrote for him to repeat during the hearing.

Alas, Wilson wasn’t alone.

Sahil Kapur reported on a related conspiracy theory from another South Carolina Republican.

Secretary of State John Kerry erupted at Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) after the congressman charged that the Obama administration cannot be trusted to carry out an attack on Syria due to mistakes made in Benghazi and controversies involving the IRS and NSA programs.

“I cannot discuss the possibility of the U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war without talking about Benghazi,” Duncan said, questioning Kerry at a Wednesday hearing.

“The administration has a serious credibility issue with the American people, due to the unanswered questions surrounding the terrorist attack in Benghazi almost a year ago. When you factor in the IRS targeting of conservative groups, the AP and James Rosen issues, Fast and Furious and NSA spying programs, the bottom line is that there is a need for accountability and trust-building from the administration,” he said. “The American people deserve answers about Benghazi before we move forward in Syria’s civil war.”

Kerry dismissed Duncan’s garbage rhetoric out of hand.

If the right-wing lawmaker’s name sounds familiar, it’s probably because Duncan is fond of conspiracy theories about the IRS and firearms; he believes conspiracy theories involving the Census Bureau; and he pushed Glenn Beck’s conspiracy theories surrounding the Boston Marathon Bombing in April. He’s also a birther.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 4, 2013

September 5, 2013 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Deeply Confused”: The Republican War On Data

The politics of paranoia can lead policymakers into some unfortunate directions. On everything from homeland security to education to guns, paranoid politicians invariably end up pushing some truly bizarre proposals for no good reason.

In the latest example, some far-right congressional Republicans have decided to wage a war on census data because they have paranoid ideas about “big government.”

A group of Republicans are cooking up legislation that could give President Barack Obama an unintentional assist with disagreeable unemployment numbers — by eliminating the key economic statistic altogether.

The bill, introduced last week by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), would bar the U.S. Census Bureau from conducting nearly all surveys except for a decennial population count. Such a step that would end the government’s ability to provide reliable estimates of the employment rate. Indeed, the government would not be able to produce any of the major economic indices that move markets every month, said multiple statistics experts, who were aghast at the proposal.

“They simply wouldn’t exist. We won’t have an unemployment rate,” said Ken Prewitt, the former director of the U.S. Census who is now a professor of public affairs at Columbia University.

The core issue is something called the American Community Survey, which the Census Bureau uses as a supplemental to the decennial reports, providing information on commuting, income, family structure, educational attainment, housing, and finance. The results are used extensively by businesses, researchers, academics, and government agencies, and have been an invaluable tool for decades.

Right-wing lawmakers, however, have come to believe nefarious government officials are collecting the information as part of a larger scheme — it’s never been entirely clear to me what they see as the point of the plot — that must be stopped. Sen. Rand Paul (K-Ky.), who revels in strange conspiracy theories, proposed legislation in March to make elements of the American Community Survey optional, apparently because he didn’t realize that they were already optional.

But it’s not just the American Community Survey that congressional Republicans are eager to crush.

Indeed, Rep. Jeff Duncan’s (R-S.C.) bizarre proposal, which has 10 co-sponsors, would also explicitly eliminate the agricultural census, economic census, government census, and mid-decade census.

As a consequence, Duncan’s bill would eliminate the existence of the unemployment rate and the measurement of the nation’s GDP, among other thing.

Maurine Haver, founder of business research firm Haver Analytics and a past president of the National Association for Business Economics, told the Huffington Post‘s Michael McAuliff, “Do they understand that these data that the Census Bureau collects are fundamental to everything else that’s done? They think the country doesn’t need to know how many people are unemployed, either?”

The answers to these questions are unclear — Duncan and other supporters of this proposal have not explained why they oppose the data, why they see the need to eliminate the data, or even if they understand what it is they’re doing.

Duncan, incidentally, is the same deeply confused congressman who spewed bizarre conspiracy theories about the Boston Marathon bombing, going so far that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano felt the need to say Duncan’s ignorant inquiries were “full of misstatements and misapprehensions,” and “not worthy of an answer.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 2, 2013

May 5, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: