mykeystrokes.com

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

“Yes, It’s The Guns”: Charleston Is More Proof America Needs To Fix Its Shameful Gun Laws

Hillary Clinton is right. As she told Nevada political journalist Jon Ralston last night in response to his question about taking action after Charleston, “Let’s just cut to the chase. It’s guns.”

Damn right, it’s the guns. In Newtown and Oak Creek and Aurora and Charleston and Columbine. In churches and schools and movie theaters and hospitals and police stations. In homes where one-year-old Braylon Robinson was accidentally shot to death by a 3 year old. In a nation where 300 million guns result in a mass shooting every two weeks.

And in an historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, called Mother Emanuel, where worshipers took a diffident stranger into their midst in Jesus’ name to pray with them. And he killed them for their kindness and the color of their skin.

Other countries have virulent racists and the mentally unbalanced. We’re the only developed country with unfettered access to deadly weapons and an unwillingness to do anything about it nationally. Australia enacted strict gun laws after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre. Both gun homicides and gun suicides declined sharply, and they haven’t had a mass shooting since.

After Aurora, Colorado was one of the few states to pass gun safety laws. Colorado State Rep. Rhonda Fields, whose own son, Javad Marshall Fields, was shot to death in 2005, sponsored the background checks bill. Anyone who doubts the racism of gun nuts didn’t see her email or the #copolitics Twitter feed during those votes. The barrage of vileness directed at the Colorado women legislators who sponsored the bills, including explicit threats of sexual and physical violence, are something I’ll never forget or forgive.

Victim families from three different massacres – Columbine, Aurora and Newtown – helped get Colorado’s gun laws passed. Arapahoe County Coroner Mike Doberson, whose office received victims from two of them, concluded simply, “Please pass these bills. I’m tired of taking bullets out of kids.”

Three state legislators lost their seats over Colorado’s attempt at sanity – two by recall, one by resignation. And every year, Colorado Republicans have attempted to overturn the laws.

Jane Dougherty is a bridal alterations consultant in Littleton, Colorado. Her older sister Mary Sherlach was murdered at Sandy Hook, after running at the gunman to protect the children. So for the two springs since, as the days of March and April warm to the weddings of June, Jane has returned to the legislature to fight for the laws she helped pass in Mary’s name. She calls it “guns and brides season.”

As the president has pointed out, it is shameful that federal legislators lack the courage to do the same. How are former Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., feeling about voting against gun reform measures these days? Pryor voted against background checks in a vain hope of saving his seat. The NRA spent $1.3 million in ads against him anyway. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., lost too, but at least one of her parting gifts was voting the right way. Republicans are utterly worthless on the issue.

I’m all for love and peace and tears and atonement, anger and grief in equal measure. I’m also for passing some serious gun control laws and telling members of the NRA what they can go do with themselves. Dear public officials: There’s a side. Pick one. Because it’s the damn guns.

 

By: Laura K. Chapin, U. S. News and Wrold Report, June 19, 2015

June 21, 2015 Posted by | Emanuel AME Church, Gun Violence, Mass Shootings | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Burden’s On Him”: More Signs Tom Cotton’s Not As Smart As He Thinks

In a debate with opponent Mark Pryor last night, Republican Senate candidate Tom Cotton, who’s very much the poster boy for the GOP future if the party refuses to moderate or diversify, showed again he’s not as smart as he thinks he is. ThinkProgress’ Alice Ollstein has the story:

Tom Cotton, the Republican candidate for Arkansas’ U.S. Senate seat, has repeatedly denounced the Affordable Care Act as a failure and vowed to help repeal it if elected. But in his second and final debate Tuesday night against Democratic incumbent Mark Pryor, he went further, claiming the high-risk insurance pools that many states ran before Obamacare’s passage were better for people with pre-existing conditions than the current exchanges.

“Many people were happy with their coverage under the high-risk pool, before it was eliminated,” Cotton said. “They should have been allowed to keep that choice.”

Pryor shot back, saying his personal experience proved otherwise. “I am a cancer survivor,” he said. “I have been in the high-risk pool. I have lived there. It is no place for any Arkansan to be. If we go back to the high-risk pool, it’s like throwing sick people to the wolves.”

Many of the high risk pools Cotton praised were known for their sky-high costs, exclusion of many applicants, and strict limits on what care is covered. In Arkansas, out of pocket costs for patients in such pools could be as high as $20,000 and those with pre-existing conditions had an average 6 month waiting period for care.

Now to be fair, it’s not 100% clear whether Cotton was referring (as was Pryor) to the high-risk pools that existed in Arkansas and many other (though not all) states prior to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, or to the new high-risk polls set up by Obamacare itself. But either way, the costs are much higher and the coverage much less extensive than under policies available via the exchanges. Maybe there’s somebody out there who did better under an unusually generous high-risk poll than under, say, an Obamacare Bronze Plan. But I’d say the burden’s on Cotton to explain what the hell he’s talking about. Certainly as a cancer survivor Pryor is in a superior position to know what it’s like to depend on high-risk pools, and Republicans everywhere have gotten away far too much with blithely talking about such pools as an “answer” without acknowledging the problem of crappy insurance at unaffordable rates.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 15, 2014

October 16, 2014 Posted by | Arkansas, GOP, Tom Cotton | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Upside-Down Tea Party Dogma In Arkansas”: Contrary To Tea Party Fantasies, It Wasn’t Private Entrepreneurs Who Paved The Roads

When we moved to our Arkansas cattle farm, a friend lent us a book titled A Straw in the Sun. Published in 1945, Charlie Mae Simon’s beautifully written memoir of homesteading here in Perry County, Arkansas during the 1930s was long out of print—maybe because the hardscrabble life it depicts is too recent for nostalgia.

Like much of the rural South before World War II, Perry County was essentially the Third World. So was Yell County, immediately to the west, home of U.S. Senate candidate Tom Cotton. Except for a lot of wasteful government spending he affects to deplore, it would still be.

Cotton’s campaign against Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor reflects everything upside-down about Tea Party dogma and the tycoons who fund it—a local story with national implications.

Originally featured as New Yorker essays, Simon’s book wasn’t intended as social protest. Even so, many forget that millions of Americans lived as subsistence-level peasant farmers within living memory.

Simon and her neighbors grew their own food and slaughtered their own hogs; they cut firewood, dug wells, built outhouses, made candles and fermented corn liquor. Electricity and telephones weren’t available; cash commerce all but non-existent. To file her essays, Simon walked hours to the general store or hitched rides on mule-drawn wagons along dirt roads that became impassible in wet weather. The simple life proved terribly complicated.

During the same period, writes historian S. Charles Bolton in the Arkansas Historical Quarterly, roughly 1/3 of black and 1/5 of rural white Arkansans emigrated to places like Chicago or Los Angeles. Others found work in town. Today, large parts of Perry and Yell counties are in the Ouachita National Forest. They had more residents then than now.

But here’s the thing: Contrary to Tea Party fantasies, it wasn’t plucky private entrepreneurs that paved the roads, strung the wire, saved grandpa from penury and made organized commerce across the rural South possible. It was federal and state investment.

Even today, such prosperity as Yell County enjoys—it’s the 64th wealthiest of Arkansas’s 75 counties—derives from timber cutting and the proximity of three scenic lakes built and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Not to mention, of course, agricultural price supports from the 2014 Farm Bill that Rep. Cotton voted against.

But enough history. There’s plenty of strictly contemporary reality that self-styled “conservatives” also ignore. In TV commercials, Cotton depicts himself as the dutiful son of a “cattle rancher” who taught him farmers can’t spend money they don’t have.

Cotton’s father does run a small cattle farm near Dardanelle. However, it’s also a fact that Len Cotton retired as District Supervisor of the Arkansas Health Department after a 37-year career. The senior Cotton has also served on the Arkansas Veterans Commission, the Tri-County Regional Water Board, etc.

The candidate’s mother Avis taught in public schools for 40 years. She retired in 2012 as principal of the Dardanelle middle school. Career government bureaucrats, both, bless their public-spirited hearts.

So I’m guessing Len Cotton raises cattle for the same reasons I do: because it’s an absorbing hobby with considerable tax advantages.

Meanwhile, the thing about the Farm Bill that urban liberals often don’t get, and that a poser like Tom Cotton’s being disingenuous about, is this that it’s damn near impossible to farm without risking money you don’t have.

The largest recipient of agricultural subsidies in Arkansas is Riceland Rice—a member-owned co-op representing 5,800 farmers.

Farmers who have to pay for seeds, fertilizer, and diesel fuel to pump water; also to finance tractors and combines more costly than the land. Farmers who borrow every spring in the hope of turning a profit in the fall. And who risk losing the entire crop to pests, floods, drought, tornadoes, to cheap soybeans from Brazil, etc. If there’s fraud and waste, cut it out. However, it’s in the national interest to keep agriculture strong.

But let’s head back to town, shall we? One of the fastest growing GOP strongholds in Arkansas is the college town of Conway, just across the Arkansas River. Tom Cotton’s sure to do well there.

And why does Conway prosper? Basically, government largesse. Located along Interstate 40, it’s the home of the University of Central Arkansas, a growing state school. It’s got a brand-new, federally-funded airport, two private colleges supported by state scholarships funded by the Arkansas Lottery, and an excellent non-profit hospital (Medicare, Medicaid), etc.

The city’s biggest private employers are Internet-oriented Acxiom and Hewlett Packard. (Pentagon researchers created the Internet.) Furthermore, everybody in Conway receives electricity, water, sewage, cable TV, Internet and telephone service from the Conway Corporation—a city-owned co-op begun in the 1920s, as efficient an example of municipal socialism as you’ll find this side of Stockholm, Sweden.

Dogma notwithstanding, all successful modern economies are mixed economies.

No politician who tells you differently is your friend.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, October 1, 2014

October 6, 2014 Posted by | Arkansas, Tea Party, Tom Cotton | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Republican Control Of Senate Not A Slam Dunk”: You Have The Power, Voting Will Matter This Year

There is something deeply satisfying about the troubles punditry is having in nailing down exactly what’s happening in the 2014 elections.

The careful statistical models keep gyrating on the question of whether Republicans will win control of the Senate this November. The prognosticators who rely on their reporting and their guts as well as the numbers are sometimes at odds with the statisticians.

The obvious reason for the uncertainty is that many of the key Senate races are still very close in the polls. This should encourage a degree of humility among those of us who love to offer opinions about politics. Humility is a useful virtue not always on display in our business. The unsettled nature of the election also sends a salutary signal to the electorate. As Howard Dean might put it: You have the power. Voting will matter this year.

It is not my habit to agree with Karl Rove, but he was on to something in his Wall Street Journal column last Thursday when he wrote that “each passing day provides evidence as to why a GOP Senate majority is still in doubt.”

Rove’s focus, not surprisingly, was on money. Democrats have been spending heavily to hang on to their majority, and he interpreted this as an imperative for Republican candidates and donors to “step up if they are to substantially reduce that gap.” In a parenthetical sentence, he disclosed his interest here: “I help American Crossroads/Crossroads GPS raise funds on a volunteer basis.” Rove’s professional history is in the direct mail business, and his column was a nicely crafted fundraising plea.

Rove acknowledged that the big-dollar Republican groups have yet to commit all the cash they have raised, so the TV advertising gap “is likely to shrink.” But the GOP’s real problem in closing the deal is about more than money. Spending doesn’t work unless candidates and parties have a case to make, and this gets to why we have yet to see either a clear trend or a dominant theme emerge in this campaign. Many swing voters may be in a mood to punish or put a check on President Obama. Yet Democrats might still hang on if voters decide that life and government will be no better with a legislative branch entirely under GOP control.

Underlying the Democrats’ argument that a Republican-led Senate will be no day at the beach is the fact that their conservative opponents are offering little of practical help to voters still unsettled by the economic downturn, and might make things worse.

Thus, even in conservative states, Democrats are zeroing in on Republican opposition to government programs aimed at solving particular problems. Their arguments and ads reflect a reality: Voters who might dislike government in the abstract often support the concrete things government can do.

In Kentucky, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes launched a Web ad on Friday criticizing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for leading a filibuster against Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s bill to bring down interest rates on student debt. “We want our students getting degrees, not debt,” Grimes says. Students are portrayed echoing the “degrees not debt” theme.

In Arkansas, Democrat Mark Pryor has run advertising built around the Ebola outbreak, criticizing his opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton, for being one of 29 House Republicans to vote in 2013 against a reauthorization of public health and emergency programs. Cotton’s campaign insisted that he voted later in favor of a subsequent version of the spending bill, but it’s striking that a conservative would be put on the defensive about opposing a spending program.

And in North Carolina, Sen. Kay Hagan used a debate earlier this month to launch a populist attack on state House Speaker Thom Tillis, her Republican foe, charging him with believing that “those who have the most should get the most help.” She has also denounced Tillis for blocking North Carolina from taking advantage of the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. She pointed to health-care providers in the state who are “having unbelievable problems because of no Medicaid expansion.”

I’ll try to practice some of the humility I’m preaching by acknowledging that I have no idea whether Republicans will take the six seats they need to control the Senate. Maybe their incessant assaults on Obama will prove to be enough. But an election that once looked to be a Republican slam dunk has even Karl Rove worried, because many voters seem to want to do more with their ballots than just slap the president in the face.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 21, 2014

September 22, 2014 Posted by | Democrats, Midterm Elections, Senate | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Taking Cover Behind What’s Left Unsaid”: The GOP’s Midterm Strategy Is As Hollow As Their Ideas Are

The most interesting thing about Senator Mark Pryor’s decision to tout his support for the Affordable Care Act in a well-financed, statewide television ad isn’t that he stands apart from other embattled Democrats this election cycle. It’s that Republicans scrambled to spin the story, insisting to reporters that Pryor couldn’t possibly be running on Obamacare if he won’t refer to the law by name.

This was poorly disguised Calvinball, a standard that Republicans invented for the special case of the ACA. Literally no other members of Congress are expected to refer to the laws they’ve helped pass by name or nickname. Republicans in the aughts weren’t expected to refer to the “Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act,” or “EGTRRA,” or “the Bush tax cuts,” or “the Bush tax cuts for the rich,” no matter how unpopular the moniker became. They ran on having cut taxes, and wanting to renew those tax cuts. And sure enough when President Obama set about trying to let “the Bush tax cuts” expire, he conveniently omitted the popular ones. Which is to say, the vast majority of them. He made those permanent.

Nevertheless, several reporters fell into line. And good for the ref workers. Score one for them.

But if Obamacare is a huge liability for Democrats, why are conservatives and GOP operatives desperate to control the narrative surrounding Pryor’s decision to run on the law? If your opponent’s stepping on rakes, why not just stand back and let him?

The answer is that with respect to both Obamacare and other issues Republicans must rely on diversions from policy and outcomes when expressing their substantive and strategic views. We’ve reached a point in the fight over Obamacare where the best thing Republicans have on their side is the law’s unpopular brand. Particularly in states like Arkansas, where President Obama is widely loathed but his signature law has cut the uninsurance rate nearly in half. It’s deeply silly to argue that Pryor isn’t running on Obamacare unless he refers to it using one of two unpopular slogans. But that’s the argument.

Instead, Pryor says, “I helped pass a law that prevents insurance companies from canceling your policy if you get sick or deny [sic] coverage based on pre-existing conditions.” Maybe he shouldn’t have said anything about “a law” at all, but that’s a niggling, semantic critique. That Republicans working to defeat Pryor are asking reporters to squeeze the word “Obamacare” into this sentence is an admission that they’ve lost the policy fight. They criticize Pryor for eschewing the label, because the label’s just about the only thing they’re comfortable assailing. In this way, they resemble Democrats six and eight years ago, running against the Bush tax cuts (for the rich), knowing that they had no intention of letting anything but the most regressive of those tax cuts expire.

In that sense, the GOP’s obsession with the moniker, and only the moniker, is excellent news for Obamacare’s political durability. But only if the people who cover politics are clear about the implications of the GOP’s rhetoric. Unlike Democrats, who were generally clear about the fact that they planned to make most of the Bush tax cuts permanent, Pryor’s opponent, Representative Tom Cotton, acknowledges that the pre-Obamacare status quo, in which insurers denied coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions, was “broken,” but nevertheless maintains that his goal is to repeal the law that makes that practice illegal.

Cotton repeated that mantra just this week, on the trail with Mitt Romney, who, in an amusing twist, tried to save Cotton from himself. “Tom Cotton is going to make sure that we change Obamacare, making sure that people can keep insurance and those that have pre-existing conditions can have coverage,” Romney said, “but he doesn’t want to see the federal government telling people in Arkansas what kind of insurance they have to have or making it more expensive.” Those are remarkably accommodating priorities. They’re just not ones Cotton is prepared to espouse just yet.

In this way, the politics of Obamacare in Arkansas mirror the politics of legislative brinksmanship in Kentucky. Just two days ago, Mitch McConnell, the embattled Senate minority leader who hopes to become majority leader next year, vowed to lard up appropriations bills with partisan policy riders and allow the president to choose between a veto, precipitating a government shutdown, and a bitter pill. A classic take it or leave it proposition.

McConnell said it would be up to the president to decide whether to veto spending bills that would keep the government open.

Obama “needs to be challenged, and the best way to do that is through the funding process,” McConnell said. “He would have to make a decision on a given bill, whether there’s more in it that he likes than dislikes.”

It wouldn’t be much of a challenge to Obama if McConnell plans to cave the moment the president whips out his veto pen. So the threat is pretty clear. Nevertheless, McConnell’s campaign wasn’t pleased by the ensuing deluge of stories about how a GOP majority would embrace high-stakes confrontations and potentially shut down the government again. And in a very narrow sense they have a pointMcConnell never said he’d shut down the government. Political scientist Jonathan Bernstein, no McConnell partisan, was among those who defended McConnell on this score.

But much like Cotton can’t credibly claim to support protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions when his plan is to repeal Obamacare, McConnell can’t sidestep the implications of his publicly declared strategy. He can’t say “when we’re in power, we’re going to put two and two together,” and then get angry when the headlines say, “McConnell promises four.”

That won’t stop him from trying to, though. And to an unappreciated extent, the broader Republican strategy heading into November is to speak in abstractions, and take cover behind what’s left unsaid.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, August 22, 2014

August 23, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: