Have Republicans forgotten they were elected to govern? Not when it comes to money and power. Money, especially. It’s being used in South Carolina to raise support for Lindsay Graham, up for reelection next year, by touting an immigration solution that matches his work with the Senate bill introduced by the Gang of Eight. Now in committee, the bill is the object of scorn by Alabama’s Jeff Sessions. But Graham says he, “believes in it with all his heart.”
The same 501(c)(4) money supporting Graham opposes Vincent Sheheen, a Democratic candidate for governor, a moderate from an established political family, the kind of Democrat that once won easily in South Carolina, as Bill Clinton once did in Arkansas. A 30-second commercial opposes Sheheen by saying he wants South Carolina to be the only Southern state to accept Obamacare. The spot openly touts the region’s solidarity with regression.
Win or lose, Republicans have put buzz words in place. Now at the state level, voters hear the bell and respond. This is one reason why Republicans repeatedly raise Benghazi. It’s not only to tie Hillary Clinton to the incident, but to pound into it a connotation of failure, weaknesses and cowardice. Hence the angry testimony of State Department officers in a recent hearing which added nothing to what was known except more reports and confessions of anger.
The white men expressed their anger at being told troops would add to the confusion, especially when conditions were not clearly understood. The Republican purpose is to add anger and fear—to turn Benghazi into a brand like Obamacare. All one need do is hear the word, and a parade of negatives immediately comes to mind for the uninformed majority.
If Benghazi is in, military sexual assault is out. Silence reigns about a problem so severe that both males and females in a US uniform are more likely to be sexually assaulted than killed in combat. The Republican concern for mission-readiness and discipline so displayed when gays were allowed to serve openly does not extend to violence and force within inter-gender (and intra-gender) relationships.
Any civilian organization facing year-on-year statistics for sexual assaults at the level of the military would be gravely criticized and shut down. Yet the focus of Congressional national security is on e-mails about Benghazi talking points, while the rampant, growing, out-of-control epidemic of military sexual assaults undermines military working order—widespread reports cite the difficulties of working with your rapist—and puts the nation’s security at risk. And brings home a lot of hurt.
Last year, 26,000 assaults were committed, by the military’s own score. The Air Force Chief of Staff discussed it in a Senate subcommittee hearing as the result of a “hook-up” culture. Yet the Air Force’s officer in charge of the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention was charged two weeks ago with groping an unknown woman in a Virginia parking lot, and was arrested by civilian authorities. Yesterday, the Army reported the arrest of an officer at Fort Hood, a Texas base, who was the Sexual Assault Prevention Office Coordinator. He is being held on multiple charges of abusive sexual misconduct.
Outrage? The tempest over revised talking points and e-mails also ignores three of the most important global developments in recent weeks: the factory fire in Bangladesh that left more than 1,100 workers dead, calling into question issues of global working conditions and safety; the massacres in Northern Nigerian villages by the Nigerian army; and the conviction of Guatemala’s former president and military dictator, 86-year-old Efrain Rios Montt on charges of genocide. Continue reading Hooking Up the Wrong Way
Benghazi memo underwent multiple revisions by Jay-Z and William Ayers! IRS scrutiny was merely groundwork for tossing Teabaggers into secret FEMA concentration camps! They’re gonna confiscate and melt down all privately owned guns for a statue of Obama taller than the Washington Monument! The Tsarnaev brothers smoked crack on the Truman Balcony and slept in the Lincoln Bedroom! For Congressional Republicans, the Obama Administration is just one scandal after another, and – by God and the Founding Fathers! – they’re going to get to the bottom of every last fictional one of them.
Turning to more rational events, the Senate Environment Committee will vote Thursday on Gina McCarthy, the President’s nominee for EPA head. The nomination has been held up for a month by Senate Republicans, whose rationale for opposing McCarthy apparently boils down to the fact that she was nominated by Barack Obama.
In any even bigger surprise, the full Senate may vote as early as Tuesday on another stalled nominee, Ernest Moniz, who has been put forward for Secretary of Energy.
It’s National Women’s Health Week, which was part of the rationale for a White House event last Friday underscoring Obamacare’s measures to improve women’s health. The President noted on Friday:
… there are times when I just want people to step back and say, are you really prepared to say that 30 million Americans out there shouldn’t have health insurance? Are you really prepared to say that’s not a worthy goal? Because of politics?
Strangely enough, this Thursday a majority of the House of Representatives will essentially say (for approximately the 7,148th time) that 30 million Americans out there shouldn’t have health insurance, that it’s not a worthy goal. And they’ll say that because of politics. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 5/13/13
Moral charges no longer have political meaning! Violate any of God’s Supreme 10 or men and women’s high ideal of public trust, or the simple statues of common law, and after taking the state plane overseas to see your mistress, paying the highest ethics fine in the history of the state, run for office by campaigning against a cardboard cutout which is not even the image of your opponent—and in South Carolina District 1, you can win by 10 points!
Ideas and people connect values and actions. Cardboard cutouts and moral charges are the new symbols of faith for a coast that was once America’s richest locale, a coast that generated the ideal of the American Dream that now has been consumed by its contradiction—not overrun by the contradictory presence of Africans enslaved that dream left out as it created its riches from their labor, but by the corrosive greed of entitlement that ignored their humanity. That greed has overwhelmed all common sense and decency in South Carolina 1. It threatens the country.
Tuesday’s special election in SC-1 was about Mark Sanford. Conducted in two stages, a Republican primary, then the special election, the electoral process presented a badly flawed, unrepentant individual continually exercising bad judgment—Thursday, he appears in local court to answer charges of trespassing for entering his former wife’s house without her consent, after being previously warned—and the voters sanctioned his passive mean-spiritedness as their ideal of character and to represent their politics.
But every action has the seeds of change in its core. Those seeds are ideals that stretch to the arc of the universe, Dr. King reminded us. Let Mark Sanford have his day, his win, his office, his place as the symbol of our worst.
That symbol is but a symptom of a larger, growing illness that is taking many forms. When the Air Force’s top officer in charge of preventing sexual assaults is charged by civilian police for drunkenly grabbing, in a parking lot, the breasts and buttocks of a woman whom he did not know, Houston has a bigger problem than the personal conduct of a corrupt congressman or the failed positive of a career military officer.
Today, the AP reported the Air Force removed the launch authority from 17 officers in charge of the nation’s most powerful intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles, siloed in Minot, South Dakota. An April inspection found multiple readiness violations, from failing to obey orders and a lack of decorum to potential compromises of the missile’s launch codes and ignoring safety precautions.
Yesterday, the Pentagon released its annual report on sexual assaults. By its own statistics, the US military—an organization trained in the highest ideals of honor and conduct—has a higher rate of sexual assault than any civilian organization. Continue reading A Profile of Flaws
By its nature, a rule produces a reaction which can go in either direction, toward compliance or resistance. The NRA, by its nature, resists all gun rules. It consistently demands extreme freedoms (yes, even freedoms can be extreme!) to own and buy and sell the most dangerous weapons of death available to American citizens. Its strategy to resist rules and regulations has been to wrap guns in the flag, and leverage its ideology with cash from supporters and gun manufacturers. So in the NRA view, guns are no longer thought of a commercial product. They are extensions of the Constitution. The constitutional protections afforded ownership, in the NRA view, should be extended to the marketplace. Background checks, equipment limits, and other rules are seen as interfering with the end result of ownership. In the NRA world, not only is ownership constitutionally protected, the marketplace should be unregulated.
Is a constitutional right abridged if a marketplace connected to that right is regulated? Is the right to own a gun mirrored in the right to buy and sell? More importantly, doesn’t the Constitution protect citizens in a way that they can be free from the intentional and unintentional dangers associated with the use of guns? Does the government have the right under the Constitution to pass laws that make me, you, and others less likely to die, singularly and en masse, at the hands of an instrument that others see as the source of the defense of life and freedom? Should the risk associated with guns be greater for some than for others? Is that risk mitigated or increased if we all own guns?
Of course, cars kill people, too. Society has inherent risks. Yet a study released last May by the Washington-based Violence Policy Center found gun deaths actually exceeded car deaths in ten states in 2009. Bloomberg News reported this will be true as a national statistic by 2015! As the numbers of cars on streets and roads increased, public policy, focused on safety (seat belts, enforcement of driving under the influence laws at the local level, improved safety equipment by auto makers, child seats) have saved lives. Deaths from auto fatalities diminished by 22 percent in just five years, from 2005 to 2010. Dramatic proof of the good use of public policy!
But can parallel effective public policy be crafted to save lives when tied to the one instrument whose ownership involves not only fun, sports and collecting, but also involves a latent but inherent right to kill, even if in the name of public and personal safety and the Constitution?
Research is one way of looking at these questions to determine the impact of policy on gun violence deaths and injuries. Gun violence ranges from suicide (52 percent of all suicides) to mass spree killings, growing more common and commanding public attention. Best estimates (probably slightly understated) say 87 people die per day from gun violence. (I have also seen dramatically larger estimates. Whatever the number, a problem, by fact and comparison exists.) Can policy reduce this number?
In the debate over policy, let’s not forget women are on the front lines. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says 58 percent of domestic violence homicides committed against women involve a male intimate acquaintance using a gun.
An older study by two Harvard professors found the US has the highest rate of domestic violence gun murders—82 percent of total murders of an aggregate of 25 high-income nations, while having only 32 percent of the aggregate female population. Every study, every statistic indicates that women are at risk from gun deaths in situations of domestic violence and that the risk is not lessened by gun ownership by women in the household.
In fact, for women the home is the most dangerous source of gun violence and murder against women. Guns of all types are statistically more likely to be used to kill women in their households than to prevent crime or personal attacks (self-defense). Continue reading Working Rules
The League of Conservation Voters released their 2012 scorecard, and it shows that the Illinois Congressional delegation is much greener today than it was last year. Most of those who had the worst environmental voting records were defeated in the 2012 election. One exception, who scored lowest of them all, wants to run for Governor.
Notoriously anti-environment, anti-science Congressmen like Bobby Schilling, Joe Walsh, and Don Manzullo (who all scored 6%) were defeated in the recent election, thanks in part to newly drawn districts.
The lowest scoring Democrat was Jerry Costello, who retired. We can hope for a better record from his replacement, Democrat Bill Enyart, but his pandering to the coal industry is discouraging. You would think more Southern Illinois politicians would have noticed that a coal-based economy has never brought stable prosperity to the region before, and it isn’t going to suddenly start now.
Two members of the Illinois delegation scored 100%! Northside Chicago Congressman Mike Quigley and my favorite Senator, Dick Durbin.
One Congressman holds the dubious distinction of earning 3%, the lowest ranking in Illinois: Aaron Schock. That surprised me because he ran for Congress as a pro-environment moderate. I thought he might have a record similar to Republican Tim Johnson, who at least scored 60%. It takes effort to have an even lower score than a climate-change denying zealot like John Shimkus.
Campaign ads during his first race for Congress featured him in front of wind turbines promoting alternative energy. He gave lip service to clean energy, but voted for large coal and oil subsidies. Continue reading Illinois Congressional delegation gets greener while Aaron Schock ranks dirtiest
Congratulations Barack Obama! Your second inaugural was sublime and passionate, and the weather offered a beautiful, brisk day. But I’m thinking about poor William Henry Harrison in 1841, who spoke for two hours in the cold without a hat or coat during his inaugural. He died thirty-two days later, from complications of pneumonia.
His impulse of the ridiculous lives on in the attitudes of today’s Congressional Republicans. They too have Harrison’s meaningless tenacity and his willingness to ignore the impending damage. In this vein, the first bill the House will consider is one that cuts off the salaries of Senate millionaires.
Michelle Obama was right to roll her eyes. The Boehner-directed legislation that demands a budget resolution also raises the debt ceiling for three months. During his tenure, Boehner has turned the House into a legislative assembly line, passing versions of the same bills over and over, including the repeal of the Affordable Care Act thirty-four times!
Boehner’s dysfunction is accepted as a part of the political game, the differences between the parties. It’s not. The real difference between the parties is in their commitment to differences in ideology. The Republican positions are mistaken for policy, as variations of a broad approach to governing that reduces government spending and oversight. This persistent idea is absolutely contradicted over and over by the words and actions of Republicans themselves; their policies’ common feature is its ideology of power, power in its worst and best cases, its hidden relationships, its strategies and paradoxes, its pursuit as the prize.
That’s why the bill to temporarily raise the debt ceiling for three months has a provision to block the Senate’s salaries unless it meets the House’s demands. That’s not about policy; it’s a blatant, bruising bill that asserts power and challenges the Senate, dictating the terms and conditions they must meet, or accept a House-imposed-and-passed personal penalty.
Even a divided, smaller Republican party would have many tools left to further its drive for power. First, the Republican Party has well financed outside help. From organizations such as the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity to the Jim DeMint-headed Heritage Foundation to its large individual donors, Republicans have an ever-expanding cache of money to use to advance its pursuit. Too often, Democrats and progressives decouple money from politics after elections, without recognizing that for Republicans the funding cycle never ebbs. Continue reading The Negative Consequences of Friendship
Click here to link to petition.
The following letter is attached to the petition:
To: The U.S. House of Representatives
Strip Congress of Employer-Provided Health Insurance and Other Benefits.
With 2013 figuring to be a pivotal year for our country in terms of determining the future course of our economy, how we deal with vexing social issues — and perhaps even more vexing whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, Chris Christie’s prospects for 2016 — it is crucial, as the public is reminded incessantly, that our lawmakers “roll up their sleeves and get to work on behalf of the American people”. As evidence of how seriously your leadership takes this awesome responsibility, the Majority Leader has scheduled you to be in session for excruciatingly exhausting 126 days during the coming year.
With spending cuts being the number one priority of the majority party of your body, it is understandable why the Leader might consider cutting people from full-time down to part-time in order to reduce costs. But as your salaries are unaffected by the reduced hours, that leaves only a reduction in benefits as the means by which this bold, visionary move will actually save the taxpayers any money.
Not that anyone begrudges you your government-run healthcare, but until a majority of the country’s other part-time and underemployed workers are afforded such benefits (one way or another), aside from adding to the deficit your continued coverage would also set a precedent that may reflect negatively on the vaunted status you currently hold in the minds of either nine or twelve percent of the population (depending on your preferred pollster). Continue reading Strip the Part-Time Congress of Employer-Provided Health Insurance: Petition by The Desperate Blogger
How did I miss this whopper?! Republican Congressional candidate Rodney Davis claimed during a radio interview that climate change stopped sixteen years ago.
Clearly, you can tell that’s true because over the last several years we definitely haven’t had an unusual degree of extreme flooding along the Mississippi, no extreme droughts, and no Frankenstorms. Oh yeah, wait, those things are happening more often and it’s exactly what scientists told us to expect as a result of climate change.
You can listen to his comment after the 42:00-minute mark during a Focus interview on WILL public radio. A caller asked Davis how he plans to deal with climate change (no, it wasn’t me this time). Davis answered by claiming that, according to recent reports, “global warming stopped about sixteen years ago.”
Then he launched into his usual repetition of the Exxon/Koch Brothers talking point that there’s still a debate about whether man-made pollution is causing the crisis. It’s the argument climate change deniers have retreated to now that it’s impossible to ignore the change that’s already happening. As always, he dodged saying where he stands on whether man-made pollutants are the problem. He has gone through the entire campaign refusing to tell which side of that debate he’s on.
The caller interrupted Davis to tell him “that’s absolutely wrong” about climate change stopping, and challenged him to talk to a Nobel Prize winner at the University of Illinois about the scientific reality. That guy deserves a gold star. He may have been referring to a Professor of Atmospheric Science, Don Wuebbles, an outspoken, internationally recognized expert on climate issues who’s right here in central Illinois.
I googled the wacky claim about global warming stopping sixteen years ago and discovered it has been making the rounds on right-wing blogs and talk radio shows like Glenn Beck’s. It started with discredited writer Davis Rose publishing an article in a conservative British tabloid, which claimed there’s a report showing global temperatures stopped rising in 1996. The original report came from the British Met office.
The Met Office is the British version of the national weather service. They wrote a brutal, detailed response to what they describe as “misleading information” in the article. Here’s my favorite part: Continue reading Rodney Davis makes wacky claim that climate change stopped 16 years ago (IL-13)
Democrat David Gill and Republican Rodney Davis shared the same stage for their debate last night, but they’re clearly not living in the same reality. Let’s review a few issues.
Debt and Taxes
Rodney Davis started the debate by saying his top issue is cutting the national debt. His plan for doing so is to cut taxes. Seriously. He wants to reduce revenue to bring down the debt. He doesn’t believe in that arithmetic thing Bill Clinton was talking about.
Later in the debate a student question asked the obvious. Are spending cuts alone without a tax increase enough to deal with the debt, and what, specifically, would you cut from the budget?
Davis again repeated the magical debt-reducing tax cut theory that worked so well for George W. Bush. He didn’t name any specific spending cuts he would support. He told the university audience that his unspecified spending cuts would free up more money to spend on student financial aid for college.
In a single debate, Davis claimed that everyone will get tax cuts, that tax cuts will reduce the deficit, that only things you don’t like will be cut from the budget, and all the spending you do like will still be increased. Also, everyone gets a unicorn that farts glitter.
David Gill said he supports ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, but does not support any tax increase on the middle class. Unlike Davis, he named something specific he would cut. Gill thinks we should already be out of Afghanistan and that military spending can be cut as we withdraw.
Gill’s plan of proposing specific cuts in a bloated part of the budget, and expiring the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy could be described as a reality-based strategy to cutting the debt. Counting on trickle-down tax cuts to magically grow the economy, as Davis suggests, is exactly how we got the debts of the Reagan and Bush years.
Energy and Climate Change
The moderators didn’t bring up climate change, but David Gill did twice. First, he brought up the droughts that hit farmers hard this year and spoke about the need to keep things from getting even worse due to climate change. He later said he takes a science-based approach to the issue, and that it’s a real problem we need to deal with.
Gill says that if we’re going to subsidize energy sources that it should be clean tech development rather than subsidies going to oil and dirty energy. He brought up the dirty industry dollars going to the Davis campaign several times, including donations from Exxon, Exelon, and the Koch brothers.
Davis debated both Gill and his own flip-flopping positions on energy. First, he said he opposed federal support to clean energy projects like Solyndra. When asked directly about the clean energy tax credit for wind, he said he supported it, even though he opposed them just last week. Later he went back to attacking federal spending for clean energy yet again.
Davis flip-flopped three times in under an hour, and never said a word about climate change. He doesn’t appear to believe in either science or arithmetic.
Health Care Choice
Rodney Davis repeatedly used the fear tactic of telling people that universal health care will result in the government dictating their choice of doctors and health care decisions. He believes a “market-based” insurance system will give people the freedom to choose their own doctors and health care options. It gets truly bizarre when Davis supports this argument by pointing to his own experience while being on a government, taxpayer-funded health care plan provided by his federal government job. Continue reading Congressional candidates Gill, Davis occupy same stage but different realities. IL-13