Thursday Reads: Republicans Go Over The Cliff

WileEBoehner (1)

Good Morning!!

Before we get started, I need to make another appeal for donations. We still need a little more money to pay for WordPress extras like extended memory and our domain name. If you could give even $5, it would help a lot. We only need about $30 more to cover everything. Thanks so much to those of you who already gave!

Now on to the news of the day, which is so strange that I hardly know how to begin. Did we really just go through more than two weeks of a hostage drama with supposed grown-up elected officials threatening to bring down the U.S. economy–and along with it the global economy–unless the President and the legislature agree to repeal a legitimate law that has been upheld by the Supreme Court? Or failing that, deny birth control to adult women?

Yes, yes we did. Somehow, truly insane people have tried to take over the government. They’ve been defeated for now, but in only a few months we could go through this again! This article at Bloomberg Businessweek pretty much sums it up: Congress Ends Impasse to Be Revisited in January.

After the partisan passions and heated rhetoric, the disruptions of a government shutdown and displays of dysfunction, Congress did what it could have done weeks ago: voted to fund the government and lift the debt limit.

The passage last night by wide margins — an 81-18 vote in the Democratic-led Senate, followed by a 285-144 vote in the Republican-controlled House — allows the U.S. to avoid default and ends the shutdown that began Oct. 1 and has taken $24 billion out of the U.S. economy.

President Barack Obama signed the bill just after midnight, according to a White House statement. The measure puts government workers back on the job starting today and permits the U.S. to pay its debts, benefits and salaries.

Lawmakers didn’t show they’re any closer to resolving the underlying issues of spending priorities and deficit-reduction measures, particularly in the House where a shrinking political middle makes compromise elusive as the latest events show.

The focus now shifts to a new series of deadlines — the first for budget negotiations with a Dec. 13 target — that set up more rounds of political combat over taxes and spending on programs including Social Security and Medicare. The deal funds the government at Republican-backed spending levels through Jan. 15, 2014, and suspends the debt limit through Feb. 7.

GOP Ransom Note

But according to CBS News, Republicans still plan to keep trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

[Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell claimed victory for Republicans in the fact that the sequester cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act were preserved, and assured the party he is committed to fighting to repeal Obamacare.

“Republicans remain determined to repeal this terrible law, but for today the relief we hope for is to reopen the government, avoid default and protect the historic cuts we achieve under the Budget Control Act,” he said. “This is far less than many of us had hoped for, frankly, but its far better than what some had sought. Now it’s time for Republicans to unite behind other crucial goals.”

Ted Cruz plans to continue the hopeless fight against Obama’s health care law. From Mediaite: Ted Cruz Slams ‘Lousy Deal,’ Pledges Obamacare Fight Is Far From Over on Hannity.

Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, the conservative tag-team that led the fight on Obamacare from the beginning, joinedSean Hannity Wednesday night before the House voted to officially end the government shutdown, both of them slamming the compromise deal and promising to continue fighting the health care law. Cruz called it a “lousy deal” and the latest example of the “Washington establishment selling the people down the river.”

Watch the video at the link if you can stomach it.

Meanwhile, back in Texas some folks aren’t so happy with their new Senator. The Houston Chronicle yesterday expressed regret for having endorsed him. From HuffPo:

Nearly one year removed from its decision to endorse Ted Cruz, the Houston Chronicle reflected back on that choice in a Tuesday op-ed, admitting that he has not lived up to the paper’s expectations.

In a piece entitled “Why We Miss Kay Bailey Hutchison,” the newspaper reflected back on how Hutchison had an “extraordinary understanding of the importance of reaching across the aisle when necessary.” That skill has not been displayed by Cruz or senior Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), according to the Chronicle….

In an Oct. 18, 2012 op-ed, the Chronicle explained that its endorsement of Cruz was premised on him following the example of previous senators, including Democrats Lloyd Bentsen, who went on to serve as Treasury Secretary and Lyndon B. Johnson, who later became president.

“We expect Cruz as the senator from the Lone Star State to spend his energies standing up for Texans of every background and economic station, representing their best interests from health care and education to energy, space and medicine,” the paper wrote.

The Dallas News notes: Ted Cruz left with few friends after Obamacare fight fails, government shutdown ends, debt limit rises.

It might be time for Ted Cruz to get a dog.

Because as the saying goes, if you want a friend in Washington, that’s what you do. And by the time Cruz’s crusade to defund Obamacare finally crashed to a halt Wednesday, the Texas senator had precious few friends left.

The government shutdown alienated colleagues in both parties. It generated fresh animosity toward the tea party and a flurry of recriminations toward Cruz. Voter support for the Republican Party plunged….

Cruz willed himself to the center of the fight. For months, he predicted that Democrats would cave if Republicans stood together to strip funding from the health care law. He dramatized the cause with a 21-hour overnight Senate speech, soaring to unusual prominence for a freshman senator. He refrained from using the risk of a catastrophic default on U.S. debt as leverage. Still, the defeat was so resounding that it left his political future in doubt.

The vast majority of his colleagues repudiated his tactics. Some accused him of promoting himself more than any attainable goals or the health of his party.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, called the last few weeks an “agonizing odyssey.”

“This has been one of the most shameful chapters I’ve seen here,” he said, lamenting damage to the GOP for little gain. “We’re in a hole. We have to dig out. We weren’t going to defund Obamacare, and we weren’t going to keep the government shut down.”

On the other hand, Mitch McConnell didn’t walk away empty-handed. WFPL in Louisville reports: McConnell-Reid Deal Includes $3 Billion Earmark for Kentucky Project.

Language in a draft of the McConnell-Reid deal (see page 13, section 123) provided to WFPL News shows a provision that increases funding for the massive Olmsted Dam Lock in Paducah, Ky., from $775 million to nearly $2.9 billion.

The dam is considered an important project for the state and region in regards to water traffic along the Ohio River.

As The Courier-Journal’s James Bruggers reported in 2011, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said they needed about $2.1 billion for the locks due to “stop and go funding.”

Asked about the additional funding in the proposal, McConnell spokesman Robert Steurer directed all questions to lawmakers who worked on the bill directly.

Hostage-taking, extortion, and bribery. It’s the Republican way.

Lee and Cruz

In the midst of the madness last night, Diane Reedy, a House stenographer had to be dragged off the House floor after she grabbed a microphone during the vote and began ranting about Freemasons. CNN:

Amid all the chaos of the last-minute deal in Washington, there was an unusual moment on the House floor moments after the bill passed.

A House stenographer and well-known employee calmly took to a microphone and began screaming.

“Do not be deceived. God shall not be mocked. A House divided cannot stand,” she said, according to a House GOP aide. After a few seconds, she was escorted out by the Sergeant-at-Arms, but an audio recording by Todd Zwillich of Public Radio International captured the rest of her rant.

“He will not be mocked, He will not be mocked, (don’t touch me) He will not be mocked. The greatest deception here, is that this is not one nation under God. It never was. Had it been… it would not have been… No. it would not have been… the Constitution would not have been written by Free Masons… and go against God. You cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve two masters. Praise be to God, Lord Jesus Christ.”

According to Dana Bash, the woman is well liked on Capitol Hill. She was taken to a hospital for a psychological evaluation. I hope she will be okay; but frankly, her behavior is no crazier than that of some House members. For example, insane Texas Rep. Louis Gomert claimed yesterday that Sen. John McCain is a supporter of al Qaeda. Raw Story reports McCain’s response: 

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) shrugged off Rep. Louie Gohmert’s (R-TX) insinuation that he was an “al Qaeda supporter” in an interview with NBC Nightly News host Brian Williams on Wednesday, while conceding to an increasing amount of polarization between lawmakers.

“On that particular issue, sometimes comments like that are made out of malice,” McCain told Williams. “But if someone has no intelligence, I don’t view it as being a malicious statement. You can’t respond to that kind of thing.”

And this wasn’t just an isolated incident.

Gohmert made a thinly-veiled reference to McCain during an Oct. 11 appearance at the Value Voters Summit, mocking his trip to meet with rebel leaders in Syria by calling him, “a guy that’s been to Syria and supported Al Qaeda and the rebels.”

The two also clashed in 2012, with Gohmert calling McCain and other GOP lawmakers“numbnuts” after McCain criticized Gohmert and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) for what he called “specious and degrading attacks” against former State Department aide Huma Abedin.

Can we get Gomert a psych eval? Please?

Just a couple more links on reactions to the insanity in DC:

From the Wall Street Journal: Business Voices Frustration With GOP.

The budget stalemate that had the U.S. flirting with default has left business and the Republican Party, longtime political allies, at a crossroads.

In interviews with representatives of companies large and small, executives predicted a change in how business would approach politics. They didn’t foresee a new alignment with Democrats but forecast backing challengers to tea-party conservatives in GOP primaries, increasing political engagement with centrist Republicans and, for some, disengaging with politics altogether.

Many business executives say they were dismayed that some Republicans didn’t heed their warnings that closing the government and risking default would hurt the U.S. economy. Others expressed disgust with Washington politics in general. All said the crisis could have been averted with a more pragmatic approach.

The decadeslong relationship between American business and the GOP is certainly likely to endure, with business still feeling a kinship and shared goals with many in the party, including a push for lower taxes and lighter regulation.

But the conversation among businesses is “characterized by tremendous frustration and angst,” said Dirk Van Dongen, president of the National Association of Wholesale-Retailers, a trade group. “Because at the end of the day, the system is supposed to produce results, and the failure to produce results has consequences.”

credit rating

Reuters: Dollar slides as relief at U.S. debt deal fades.

“The U.S. can give a sigh of relief for now but the New Year could bring a dangerous sense of déjà vu,” Luke Bartholomew, investment analyst at Aberdeen Asset Management, said.

Equity markets in the U.S. and Asia initially welcomed the last-minute deal which pulled the world’s biggest economy back from the brink of a historic default, but the rally ran out of steam as the longer-term implications sank in….

The temporary nature of the agreement and longer-term worries that the debt ceiling risks would become a structural drag on the economy also weighed on debt markets.

That view was shared by Chinese credit agency Dagong, which downgraded the U.S. sovereign rating to A- from A with a negative outlook, driving further dollar losses.

The 10-year benchmark Treasury note yield slipped to 2.65 percent from around 2.68 percent late in New York. While U.S. Treasury bill futures had gained 0.1 percent.

“It casts dark clouds over the economy – politics are now the main drag for growth in the U.S,” Rabobank strategist Philip Marey said.

Read more at the link.

Finally, the Center for American Progress has released a report on Replacing the Sequester. Check it out at the link.

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? What reactions are you seeing to yesterday’s agreement? Please post your own thoughts as well as your links on any topic in the comment thread.


Tuesday Reads: Nightmare on Capitol Hill

Nightmare on Capitol Hill Dave Granlund

Good Morning!!

Yes, it’s real–too real. We’re approaching the deadline for raising the debt ceiling–it’s Thursday–and Congress is still dithering. But it looks like they may figure out a way to kick the can down the road again, as long as Ted Cruz doesn’t decide to have another tantrum.

According to the Hill this morning, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell are close to agreeing on “a deal” to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling for a few more months. The two Senate leaders huddled for hours yesterday trying to put together some kind of package that would satisfy House Republicans and convince them not to bring down the U.S. Government and the global economy.

An emerging deal to reopen the government and raise the nation’s debt ceiling until February gathered political momentum Monday evening after Senate Republicans signaled they would likely support it.

Lawmakers and aides said the legislation would fund the government until Jan. 15 and extend the nation’s borrowing authority until February but leave ObamaCare largely untouched.

The agreement would also set up another “supercommittee” to try to deal with the next round of automatic sequester cuts. The committee would have until December 13 to report to Congress. Anyone who thinks they’ll agree on anything, please raise your hand.

The big question is whether a package to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling can pass muster in the House.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was briefed on the deal Monday, and members of his conference were taking a wait and see attitude.

“When we see it, we’ll know what it is. Do you know what it is yet?” Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), chairman of the House Rules Committee, asked reporters as he left Boehner’s office.

“As soon as we see something in writing, then we can understand how we can thoughtfully understand what we’ll do with it,” Sessions said.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) wouldn’t comment on the emerging Senate deal, but he told reporters House Republicans will meet Tuesday morning “to discuss a way forward.” “Possible consideration of legislation related to the debt limit” was added to Cantor’s daily House schedule for Tuesday.

Ted Cruz Onward Michael Ramirez

Of course the biggest potential fly in the ointment is Texas junior Senator Ted Cruz and his gang of Tea Party House members. Cruz wouldn’t say whether he’s planning another fake filibuster or some other effort to kill the Affordable Care Act. However, Cruz did hold a secret meeting with House Republicans last night, according to Roll Call.

Sen. Ted Cruz met with roughly 15 to 20 House Republicans for around two hours late Monday night at the Capitol Hill watering hole Tortilla Coast.

The group appeared to be talking strategy about how they should respond to a tentative Senate deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling without addressing Obamacare in a substantive way, according to sources who witnessed the gathering. The Texas Republican senator and many of the House Republicans in attendance had insisted on including amendments aimed at dismantling Obamacare in the continuing resolution that was intended to avert the current shutdown.

Sources said the House Republicans meeting in the basement of Tortilla Coast with Cruz were some of the most conservative in the House: Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas, Steve King of Iowa, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho, Steve Southerland II of Florida, Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Justin Amash of Michigan.

The group is a collection of members who have often given leadership headaches in recent years by opposing both compromise measures as well as packages crafted by fellow Republicans….While the emerging deal to reopen the government and hike the debt ceiling increase may have been a hot topic, it was not immediately clear what the group actually discussed. But the fact that such a group met with Cruz at all could give House GOP leaders even more heartburn as they consider themselves what to do if the Senate passes the measure.

If Cruz and his buddies decide to cause more trouble, they could bring about a default by dragging the fight out until after Thursday. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew could probably keep the U.S. afloat for a few more days, but it would be touch and go. Joshua Green wrote yesterday at Bloomberg Businessweek that “Ted Cruz Could Force a Debt Default All by Himself.”

How could this happen? Because the Senate can move quickly when necessary, but only by unanimous consent. Let’s say Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) strike a deal today (that’s looking unlikely). Cruz surely won’t like it and has said repeatedly, “I will do everything necessary and anything possible to defund Obamacare.” If he’s true to his word, he could drag out the proceedings past Thursday and possibly well beyond. “If a determined band of nut jobs wants to take down the global economy, they could do it,” says Jim Manley, a former top staffer for Reid. “Under Senate rules, we are past the point of no return—there’s not anything Reid or McConnell could do about it.”

If Cruz is truly determined to block or delay any deal that does not touch Obamacare, here’s how he’d do it: The hypothetical Reid/McConnell bill would probably be introduced as an amendment to the “clean” debt-ceiling raise that Democrats introduced—and Republicans defeated—last week. Reid voted against cloture on the motion to proceed to that bill, a procedural tactic that allows him to reconsider the bill later on. Let’s say he does so by 5 p.m. Monday. There would need to be a cloture vote on the motion to proceed. Cruz would dissent, but he wouldn’t be able to round up 41 votes for a filibuster….

The real killer is that Senate rules stipulate there must be 30 hours of post-cloture debate, unless senators agree unanimously to waive it. Reid and McConnell would want unanimous consent to move quickly, but Cruz could refuse, thereby forcing 30 hours of debate. This would drag things out until Tuesday at 11:30 p.m. Then there would be a vote on the motion to proceed (requiring a simple majority), followed by an intervening day, assuming Cruz withheld his consent to vote earlier. So now we’re looking at a Thursday cloture vote on the bill itself, followed by another 30 hours of post-cloture debate that would blow right past the Treasury deadline.

Ted Cruz Jesus

Let’s hope even Cruz isn’t that delusional and foolhardy. Booman also points out that the Senate can change the rules and limit post-cloture debate for this one vote. That takes 67 votes.

At The Daily Beast, Lloyd Green calls what Cruz and other Tea Party Republicans are doing “backdoor impeachment.”

The dance over the debt ceiling and the fight over the government shutdown are nothing less than impeachment on the cheap: a chance to negate the will of the majority by ostensibly placating the letter of the law. Unable to win the last two presidential elections or to persuade a Supreme Court majority that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional, House Republicans have arrived at a point where default and closure are the next best things. This combustible brew of race, class, and economic anxieties bubbles all too closely to the surface.

These days, the GOP comes across as hating Obamacare more than loving their countrymen, and the nation is returning that ire (PDF). Less than a quarter of Americans view the Republicans favorably, and a majority dislikes them, three-in-10 intensely. The GOP’s goal of recapturing the Senate in 2014 is now looking more like a dream than a reality, as Republicans are “forced to explain why they are not to blame and why Americans should trust them to govern both houses of Congress when the one they do run is in such disarray.” Indeed.

Unfortunately, the calamity of a potential default has tempered neither judgment nor passion. On Saturday, Ted Cruz—the man who lit the match, won the Values Voters Straw Poll with 42 percent of the vote. Channeling her inner Glenn Beck, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) concluded that the President “committed impeachable offenses.” Bachmann also proclaimed that civil disobedience was a potential response to Obama’s “thuggery,” and compared the Obama presidency to Egypt’s deposed Muslim Brotherhood.

I hope you’ll read the rest at the link.

Ted Cruz is stealing the right wing nut show for now, but in the House Paul Ryan raised his ugly head over the weekend to complain about the ACA’s individual mandate and requirement that women have access to birth control. From HuffPo:

Sources told the Post that, in a private meeting with House Republicans, Ryan said that by kicking the can down the road, the GOP would lose “leverage” in their fight against Obamacare.

Ryan’s main concern appears to be delaying the health care law’s individual mandate, but ThinkProgress points out that Ryan also emphasized the need to give employers the ability to deny birth control coverage based on moral or religious reasons.

Meanwhile most people around the country and even on Wall Street don’t seem all that concerned about what’s happening in Washington DC. I guess that after multiple emergencies in which political leaders “cried wolf,” everyone just assumes that Congress will find some way to keep the country going. Still, is this any way to run a country? Shouldn’t citizens be up in arms? Will Durst has a wacky column about this at Cagle Post called “Fukushima Sushi.”

Which is harder to believe? The ludicrous shenanigans going down in Washington or the fact that nobody seems particularly interested in doing anything about them? Good neighbors — it looks like we got ourselves one heck of a bumper crop of official dysfunction this year. Near as high as Manute Bol’s eye.

You’d think with national parks closed, veteran’s benefits being withheld and a possible catastrophic debt ceiling crisis looming, folks would be atwitter like chicken inspectors on a rotisserie spit during a power surge. And you’d be as wrong as a Bergman film on Comedy Central.

What the country seems to be seeking here is a little something called political responsibility. Which, in these dark days, is a wee bit of a tad of a total and complete oxymoron. Real similar to saying Fukushima sushi. Or elegant squalor. Comfortable rock.

Driving the point home: Weird normality. Spherical edge. Iron kite. Freedom shackle. Fresh detritus. Flammable sleet. Placid hammer. Colossal shrimp. Diminutive giant. Formal jeans. Sensitive linebacker. Salable autonomy. Veteran rookie. Vegetarian butcher. Pork tartare. Reality TV.

Keeping it real: Precarious certainty. Serene devastation. Bitter honey. Catholic condom. Heaven’s basement. Gelatinous needle. Sadistic lover. Banker’s compassion. Macabre solace. Chaste indiscretion. Temporary tax. Restorative annihilation. Healthy fries. Unhungry shark.

Lots more oxymoron’s at the link. How he came up with so many, I’ll never know.

Now what stories are you focusing on today? Please share your links on any topic in the comments.


Early Saturday De-Lite

For this third installment (y’all are probably sick of these cartoons now) we have a several commentaries on the debt ceiling and other topics that have been in the news this past week.

Hope you enjoy them!

01/16 Luckovich cartoon: Hostage taking | Mike Luckovich

011613-toon-luckovich-ed

Blackmail With the Debt Ceiling – Truthdig

Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » National Buffoons

http://media.caglecartoons.com/media/cartoons/10/2013/01/16/125654_600.jpg

Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » Boeing Dreamliner Problems

Boeing Dreamliner Problems © Patrick Chappatte,The International Herald Tribune,Transports,Aviation,Boeing,Dreamliner,USA,Cars,Economy

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Lisa Benson, Victor Valley Daily Press – 01/18/2013 

*Please take a look at this comment regarding the Headstart cartoon below.

Cartoon by Lisa Benson -

Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » Piers Morgan Tonight

Piers Morgan Tonight © Tim Campbell,Indianapolis,gun control,assault weapons,piers morgan,cnn,2nd amendment,founding fathers,gun debate 2012, Living With Guns, nra, NRA 2012, second amendment

This last one is real funny, if you have trouble reading the small writing…click the image for a larger look.

Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » The Masters Voice

125568_600

There you are, have fun this long weekend!

This is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads: A Mixed Bag of Odds and Ends

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I thought I’d go light on politics in today’s post. I’ve got a collection of interesting links on varied topics. I hope you’ll find something to your taste.

I’ll begin with some true crime stories.

LA County’s Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran has completed a review of actress Natalie Wood’s autopsy report and has concluded that she was very likely assaulted before her death and was probably unconscious when she went into the water, indicating that her death is now considered “suspicious.” CBS News reports:

The Los Angeles Coroner’s Office released a new report (pdf) Monday. Sources tell CBS News the review of the original coroner’s report in 1981 raises questions about every major finding that led investigators to originally conclude Natalie Wood’s death an accident. Sources say the report concludes that the bruising on the actress’ wrists, knees, and ankles could be more consistent with injuries from an assault than they were from struggling to climb back on a boat.

Wood died on November 28, 1981, when according to her husband, actor Robert Wagner, she fell off their yacht, the 60-foot-long Splendour, possibly while trying to re-tie a dinghy that had been banging against the side of the boat, disturbing her sleep.

Her body was found hours later floating in the waters off Catalina Island.

Wood’s death was ruled an accidental drowning. But in 2011, Los Angeles Sheriff’s detectives re-opened the case after the skipper of the boat, Dennis Davern, co-authored a book in which he gave a very different account of what happened that night. Davern said, “I believe Robert Wagner was with her right up until the moment she was in the water.”

According to Davern, Wagner asked him not to tell investigators what had happened, but years later he regrets contributing to a “cover-up.”

Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood

Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood

However, according to CNN the county Sheriff says that Wagner is not a suspect. CNN provides two alternative descriptions of the events leading up to Wood’s disappearance from the yacht.

Davern offered a previously unreported account of how Wood’s death was reported, saying that Wagner waited hours to call the Coast Guard after Wood went missing off Catalina Island following an argument between the couple….

Wood and Wagner married in 1957, divorced in 1962, then remarried in 1972. They invited Wood’s “Brainstorm” co-star, Christopher Walken, to join them on the Thanksgiving weekend sail that preceded her death….

After Wagner then argued with Walken and broke a wine bottle, Wood left in disgust and went to her stateroom, Davern told CNN. Walken also retired to a guest room, Davern added, and Wagner followed his wife to their room. A few minutes later, Davern said, he could hear the couple fighting.

Embarrassed, Davern said, he turned up the volume on his stereo. At one point, Davern recalled, he glanced out of the pilot house window and saw Wagner and Wood on the yacht’s aft deck. “They’d moved their fight outside … you could tell from their animated gestures they were still arguing,” he said.

A short time later, Wagner, appearing to be distraught, told Davern he couldn’t find Wood. Davern searched the boat but couldn’t find her. He noticed the rubber dinghy also was missing.

Wagner claims that Wood went to her room and he didn’t follow her, but sat on deck having drinks with Walken before noticing that his wife was missing.

I’m sure you remember the story of the 10-year-old boy who shot his Neo-Nazi father, Jeff Hall, after years of abuse. I’ve written a couple of posts about it. Well, today the boy was “found responsible” for the death.

Neo-Nazi leader Jeff Hall and friends

Neo-Nazi leader Jeff Hall and friends

A Riverside County judge on Monday found a 12-year-old boy guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting and killing of his father, neo-Nazi activist Jeffrey Hall, as he slept on the family’s living room couch.

He also was found guilty of a weapons charge, with the judge determining he knew right from wrong.

This kid was 10 years old! Children that young simply cannot understand the consequences of their actions in the same sense as adults can. Yet he was found guilty of second degree murder.

Public Defender Matthew Hardy focused on the boy’s abusive home life, where gunplay and neo-Nazi gatherings were commonplace. Witnesses testified that Hall beat his son repeatedly, often in drunken or drug-addled rages.

Social workers responded to the Hall household more than 20 times. At the time of the shooting, the boy was a dependent of the court, an effort designed in part to shield him from further abuse, Hardy said.

Clinical psychologist Anna Salter, a mental health expert called by the prosecution, testified that the boy’s birth mother used heroin, LSD and other drugs while she was pregnant, which she called
“devastating” to the boy’s development. The boy also has an extensive history of violence dating to when he was 3. In school, he once tried to strangle a teacher with a telephone cord, she said.

The judge acknowledged that years of abuse and exposure to hate-filled Neo-Nazi philosophy had led to the child killing his father. Yet at the same time the judge used the child’s exposure to violence and hate to claim that this boy was mentally more mature than other 10-year-olds.

The youngster, who was 10 when he put a gun to his sleeping father’s head and pulled the trigger, was charged as a juvenile. He could be held in juvenile detention until he is 23.

The boy’s father, Jeffrey Hall, was a West Coast leader for the neo-Nazi organization known as the National Socialist Movement. He was asleep on a couch in the early morning hours of May 1, 2011, when his son crept downstairs with Hall’s .357 magnum revolver and shot his father point-blank in the head.

The judge said Hall’s attempts to indoctrinate his son into the hate group corrupted the thought process of a disturbed boy who already had displayed violent tendencies.

“It’s clear that this minor knows more than the average child about guns, hate and violence,’’ Leonard said.

Still, she added, “this is not a naive little boy unaware of the ways of the world.’’

It’s outrageous. Putting a 12-year-old boy in a facility with older boys who are already hardened criminals will erase any chance this boy has for a decent future.

One more crime story…another person is claiming to know where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.

An aging mobster who was once a high-ranking member of Detroit’s La Cosa Nostra organized crime family reportedly knows where labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa is buried.

NBC 4 New York reports that Tony Zerilli, 85, said Hoffa was buried in a field in suburban Detroit, about 20 miles north of the restaurant where he was last seen in July 1975.
“All this speculation about where he is and he’s not,” Zerilli told the station. “They say he was in a meat grinder. It’s all baloney.”

Zerilli said Hoffa’s final resting place is in a field in Michigan’s northern Oakland County. He was buried in a shallow grave and the plan was to move the body at another time, but Hoffa’s remains were never moved from the first spot where they were buried, he said.

I suppose the police will have to go dig up the field and try to find poor old Jimmy Hoffa’s bones…

Since I’ve been struggling with a horrible cold plus a case of norovirus, I decided to check out the health news. I’ll bet you didn’t know that a bad cough will last around 18 days no matter what you do to treat it. According to Mark Ebell, associate professor at the University of Georgia College of Public Health, recently did a study to compare public attitudes with actual facts about viral illnesses.

A new study shows that although most people think a cough ought to last no more than a week or so, the duration of the most annoying symptom of winter illness is about 18 days — and could be more than three weeks.

Taking antibiotics in the interim is not only ineffective, it could also prompt dangerous side effects — and contribute to the country’s growing problem with bugs becoming resistant to the drugs used to treat them.

Ebell:

“A lot of times patients will come to me and they’ve been coughing for four or five days and they’re not getting any better, so they ask for an antibiotic,” he said. “After eight or nine days, they’re still not feeling better, so they ask for an even stronger antibiotic. Then they’ll say, ‘The only thing that really works for me is this really strong antibiotic.’”

The trouble is, antibiotics aren’t actually the solution for most of the 3 million outpatient cases in the U.S. each year in which cough is the chief complaint, or for the more than 4.5 million outpatient cases diagnosed as acute bronchitis or bronchiolitis. More than 90 percent of such cases are viral, not bacterial, which means they won’t respond to the drugs most folks request, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

I love berries, so I found this story interesting: Berries Ward Off MI in Women. MI stands for Myocardial infarction, basically a heart attack.

Young and middle-age women whose diet included high levels of anthocyanins — the flavonoids present in red and blue fruits such as strawberries and blueberries — had a significantly reduced risk for myocardial infarction (MI), a large prospective study found.

Women whose anthocyanin intake was in the highest quintile had a 32% decrease in risk of MI during 18 years of follow-up (HR 0.68, 95% CI 0.49 to 0.96, P=0.03), according to Eric B. Rimm, ScD, of Harvard University, and colleagues.

And in a food-based analysis, women who consumed more than three servings of strawberries or blueberries each week showed a trend towards a lower MI risk, with a 34% decrease (HR 0.66, 95% CI 0.40 to 1.08, P=0.09) compared with women who rarely included these fruits in their diet, the researchers reported online in Circulation.

“Growing evidence supports the beneficial effects of dietary flavonoids on endothelial function and blood pressure, suggesting that flavonoids might be more likely than other dietary factors to lower the risk of [coronary heart disease] in predominantly young women,” they observed.

For years, researchers didn’t bother to study heart disease in women; but in recent years it has become clear that women and men differ in how heart attacks are experienced. Perhaps what we need to do for prevention differs from men too.

Here’s a science story that Dakinikat may find interesting in relation to her fascination with ancient graves and burial rites: DNA Test Sheds Light on Mystery Deaths.

A new DNA test can restore at least part of the identity of long-dead people who left no trace of their image, scientists reported on Monday.

The technique has revealed the hair and eye colours of unknown individuals slaughtered as sub-humans by the Nazis and of a mystery woman buried alongside monks in a mediaeval crypt, they said.

“This system can be used to solve historical controversies where colour photographs or other records are missing,” said Wojciech Branicki from Poland’s Institute of Forensic Research in Krakow.

Here’s one example:

Reporting in the journal Investigative Genetics, the researchers first tested it on a tooth taken from the remains of General Wladyslaw Sikorski, who led Poland’s government-in-exile in Britain in World War II before dying in a plane crash in 1943.

Sikorski’s body was disinterred from a cemetery in Newark, England, in 1993 for reburial in pomp in Krakow, but was exhumed once more in 2008 for further examination to sound out a theory that he had been poisoned, shot or strangled.

Analysis of the genetic code from the tooth gave a 99-percent likelihood that Sikorski had blue eyes, and an 85-percent likelihood that he had blond hair.

Both tallied with contemporary descriptions of Sikorski and with paintings of him made many years after his death (no colour photographs of him are known to exist).

I’m running out of space, but I have a few political reads for you that I’ll post link dump style.

Allyssa Rosenberg at The New Republic: FX is Feminism for Men. Seriously, take a look at this one!

Politico: Biden: W.H. readies 19 executive actions on guns

Alternet: Noam Chomsky Slams America’s Selfish Ayn Randian Elites – Chomsky explains how elites’ obsession with short-term personal gain threatens humanity.

Alternet: 10 Awful Crimes That Get You Less Prison Time Than What Aaron Swartz Faced

Bloomberg: Geithner Says Debt Limit Steps May Run Out by Mid-February

Those are my offerings for today. What’s on your reading and blogging list?


Reading the Tea Leaves on the Coming Ideological Battle over the Debt Ceiling

reading-tea-leaves

I’m getting a sense that the White House has a plan to deal with the GOP hostage takers in the debt ceiling fight. The plan involves eliminating every possible alternative to Congress allowing the Treasury to pay the nation’s bills, while calmly but forcefully explaining to the American people how the U.S. government works. Obama apparently understands that the media will not help him educate the American people; therefore he will work around them.

Whether this plan is going work is anyone’s guess, but it seems pretty clear that Obama plans to pin the full responsibility for action on Congress.

On Friday, the administration eliminated the most recent suggestion for a “plan B,” the so-called “trillion dollar platinum coin.” They also reiterated the decision not to use the 14th Amendment option, which Obama first announced during the 2011 debt ceiling fight.

Joe Weisenthal was “stunned.”

With this, the White House has now ruled out the two best options for preventing a default in the event that the House GOP refused to life the debt ceiling. The White House has been quite adamant that the other alternative (invoking the 14th Amendment) is not acceptable.
So now the stakes are high, as The White House has refused to negotiate with the GOP on a debt ceiling hike.

What bargaining chips does The White House hold? Unclear.

Paul Krugman was characteristically shrill.

If I’d spent the past five years living in a monastery or something, I would take the Treasury Department’s declaration that the coin option is out as a sign that there’s some other plan ready to go. Maybe 14th Amendment, maybe moral obligation coupons or some other form of scrip, something.

And maybe there is a plan.

But as we all know, the last debt ceiling confrontation crept up on the White House because Obama refused to believe that Republicans would actually threaten to provoke default. Is the WH being realistic this time, or does it still rely on the sanity of crazies? [….]

…if we didn’t have some history here I might be confident that the administration knows what it’s doing. But we do have that history, and you have to fear the worst.

On Saturday, Krugman reported that he had gotten “calls” about Friday’s post from the powers that be:

The White House insists that it is absolutely, positively not going to cave or indeed even negotiate over the debt ceiling — that it rejected the coin option as a gesture of strength, as a way to put the onus for avoiding default entirely on the GOP.

Truth or famous last words? I guess we’ll find out.

I honestly can’t blame the White House for not wanting to use the 14th amendment or “platinum coin” options. Both would undoubtedly lead to wrangling in the courts and, in the case of the 14 amendment choice, a possible Constitutional crisis. But still, was it wise to publicly eliminate the only possible leverage the White House has to force the House GOP to get over their tantrums and allow the Treasury to pay the bills that Congress has already run up? I simply don’t know.

In the President’s press conference this morning, he appeared to confirm that my sense of the “plan” is accurate. He did a good job of spelling out what the consequences will be for the nation and the world if the U.S. defaults on its debts.

The debt ceiling is not a question of authorizing more spending. Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize more spending. It simply allows the country to pay for spending that Congress has already committed to.

These are bills that have already been racked up, and we need to pay them. So, while I’m willing to compromise and find common ground over how to reduce our deficits, America cannot afford another debate with this Congress about whether or not they should pay the bills they’ve already racked up. If congressional Republicans refuse to pay America’s bills on time, Social Security checks, and veterans benefits will be delayed.

We might not be able to pay our troops, or honor our contracts with small business owners. Food inspectors, air traffic controllers, specialist who track down loose nuclear materials wouldn’t get their paychecks. Investors around the world will ask if the United States of America is in fact a safe bet. Markets could go haywire, interest rates would spike for anybody who borrows money. Every homeowner with a mortgage, every student with a college loan, every small business owner who wants to grow and hire.

It would be a self-inflicted wound on the economy. It would slow down our growth, might tip us into recession. And ironically it would probably increase our deficit. So to even entertain the idea of this happening, of the United States of America not paying its bills, is irresponsible. It’s absurd. As the speaker said two years ago, it would be, and I’m quoting Speaker Boehner now, “a financial disaster, not only for us, but for the worldwide economy.”

So we’ve got to pay our bills. And Republicans in Congress have two choices here. They can act responsibly, and pay America’s bills, or they can act irresponsibly and put America through another economic crisis. But they will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy. The financial wellbeing of the American people is not leverage to be used. The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip. And they better choose quickly, because time is running short.

He also took opportunities to continue patiently explaining, in response to questions from obtuse members of the press corps such as Chuck Todd and Major Garrett.

Despite the efforts of Todd and Garrett to get Obama to say he’ll have to give in to Republican demands, the president repeatedly said he isn’t going to negotiate with GOP terrorists.

Will it work? And more importantly, will Obama really refuse to cave this time? As I noted earlier, Krugman has his doubts. One reporter, Juliana Goldman, even asked the president why anyone should believe him this time when he has always caved in the past. Obama’s response:

Well, first of all, Julianna, let’s take the example of this year and the fiscal cliff. I didn’t say that I would not have any conversations at all about extending the Bush tax cuts. What I said was, we weren’t going to extend Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. And we didn’t.

Now, you can argue that during the campaign, I said — I set the criteria for wealthy at $250,000, and we ended up being at $400,000, but the fact of the matter is, millionaires, billionaires are paying significantly more in taxes, just as I said.

So from — you know, from the start, my concern was making sure that we had a tax code that was fair and that protected the middle class. And my biggest priority was making sure that middle class taxes did not go up. You know, the difference between this year and 2011 is the fact that we’ve already made $1.2 trillion in cuts. And at — at the time, I indicated that there were cuts that we could sensibly make that would not damage our economy, would not impede growth.

I said at the time, I think we should pair it up with revenue in order to have an overall balanced package, but my own budget reflected cuts in discretionary spending. My own budget reflected the cuts that needed to be made. And we’ve made those cuts. Now, the challenge going forward is that we’ve now made some big cuts. And if we’re going to do further deficit reduction, the only way to do it is in a balanced and responsible way.

It’s all very calm and reasonable-sounding; and, as I said, I think Obama did a good job in today’s press conference. He has two more high-profile opportunities to get his message out–the Inaugural Address next Monday and the State of the Union Address on February 12. He could also make campaign-style appearances around the country as he did before the “fiscal cliff” battle.

Now let’s look at what the Republicans are planning. This morning we got the inside dirt from the usual suspects at Politico, Jim Vandehei, Mike Allen, and Jake Sherman. According to the Politico guys, the GOP is getting ready to go on the warpath.

The idea of allowing the country to default by refusing to increase the debt limit is getting more widespread and serious traction among House Republicans than people realize, though GOP leaders think shutting down the government is the much more likely outcome of the spending fights this winter.

“I think it is possible that we would shut down the government to make sure President Obama understands that we’re serious,” House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state told us. “We always talk about whether or not we’re going to kick the can down the road. I think the mood is that we’ve come to the end of the road.”

Republican leadership officials, in a series of private meetings and conversations this past week, warned that the White House, much less the broader public, doesn’t understand how hard it will be to talk restive conservatives off the fiscal ledge. To the vast majority of House Republicans, it is far riskier long term to pile up new debt than it is to test the market and economic reaction of default or closing down the government.

GOP officials said more than half of their members are prepared to allow default unless Obama agrees to dramatic cuts he has repeatedly said he opposes. Many more members, including some party leaders, are prepared to shut down the government to make their point. House Speaker John Boehner “may need a shutdown just to get it out of their system,” said a top GOP leadership adviser. “We might need to do that for member-management purposes — so they have an endgame and can show their constituents they’re fighting.”

Basically, the whole world is supposed to stand back and let the Tea Party wackos in the House have an extended, violent temper tantrum to “get it out of their system.” Or else.

According the Politico piece, Speaker Boehner will be meeting with GOP members most of the week to discuss strategy and then on Thursday and Friday House GOP members will meet in Williamsburg, VA. During the two-day meeting Boehner and presumably some of the saner House Republican leaders will try to explain to the Tea Party crazies why forcing the U.S. into default is not a very smart idea. I wonder if there will be visual aids?

So that’s where we are for now. At least Obama has stated his case clearly. However, at some point he is going to have to do something dramatic if the Republicans won’t budge. And why should the Republicans or anyone else believe Obama will stick to his guns this time? Only time will tell. I thought this piece by Garrett Epps at The Atlantic (published on Saturday) summed up the situation very well: Does Obama Actually Have a Debt-Ceiling Plan, or Is He Bluffing?

Moby Dick Best Sm 1

In Melville’s Moby Dick, the whaling ship Pequod crosses the equator on its quest for the White Whale, and in that instant, Captain Ahab smashes his quadrant to the deck and crushes it underfoot.

No more careful navigation. It is, we understand, Moby Dick or die.

As we hurtle toward the new debt-limit crisis, President Obama has done much the same. He says he won’t negotiate spending cuts with a gun to his head. He’s also said that he won’t invoke § 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment, with its provision that “the public debt of the United States . . . shall not be questioned,” to give him authority to continue borrowing once the debt limit has been reached. The Senate Democratic leadership Friday urged him to prepare to raise the ceiling unilaterally; so far, he has remained mum.

Yet Obama, to all appearances, is the calmest man in this overheated capital as the doomsday clock counts down toward a first-ever U.S. default, and the almost certain global depression that would follow.

We can only wait and see what will happen, but as Epps writes, in the end, the onus will be on Obama.

The moment may be coming when wishing and faith do not suffice. Those are the moments when presidents earn their pay. If that requires reversing course on the Fourteenth Amendment, so be it; if it impels a stupid coin trick, then so it does; and if it imposes a political cost on the president, then he must pay it.

After Ahab smashes the Pequod’s quadrant, second-mate Stubb muses to himself, “Well, well; I heard Ahab mutter, ‘Here some one thrusts these cards into these old hands of mine; swears that I must play by them, and no others.’ And damn me, Ahab, but thou actest right; live in the game, and die in it!”

And that’s just the debt ceiling. Obama will also have to deal with fights over the sequester and the federal budget.


Sunday Night Open Thread: The Calm Before the Storm?

calm before storm

I’ve been having this feeling all weekend that the entire country is holding its breath as we mark time until Washington DC blows sky high. Is anyone else feeling that way or is it just me? I’ve been somewhat out of the loop the past couple of days. I have some kind of sinus thingy and I ended up spending a lot of time updating my computer drivers and other software. But I’ve been surfing around this evening, and everything is looking very weird and wacky in the nation’s capital.

In the first place, why are Republicans all over the place threatening a government shutdown? And why aren’t Democrats countering the Republican lies? Failing to raise the debt limit won’t trigger a government shutdown. If the U.S. defaults on its debts it will trigger a national economic disaster–and perhaps a global meltdown. A shutdown would happen if Congress refused to appropriate funds to keep the government running. Defaulting on the debt would mean another lowering of our credit rating and higher interest on the debt in the future.

I can’t figure out if the Democrats are just giving the Republicans rope to hang themselves or if there is something else going on.

This morning on Dancin’ Dave’s Disco Dance Party, Mitch “Pruneface” McConnell wouldn’t respond to questions about the threatened “government shutdown.”

Pressed repeatedly on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” McConnell instead placed responsibility on President Obama for leading the country and avoiding a shutdown.

“I know what your question is,” McConnell said. “What I’m telling you is I haven’t given up on the president stepping up to the plate and tackling the single biggest issue confronting the country.”

Neither Dancin’ Dave nor McConnell addressed the most important issue–raising the debt ceiling. McConnell’s focus is squarely on cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but he wants the President to spell out the cuts. As Josh Marshall writes:

In other words, big cuts to key social insurance programs are not only the price of avoiding what would likely be a catastrophic government shutdown (a real one, not like what we had back in the 90s). But Democrats must also shield Republicans from the political consequences of cutting these programs by cutting them on the Republicans behalf.

McConnell apparently also claimed that “He Doesn’t Want Debt Ceiling Negotiations to Turn Into a Hostage Situation.”

In one of three Sunday talk show appearances, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wasn’t sure whether he’s prepared to “shoot the hostage” by letting the country default on its loans in the next round of the fiscal fight. While some Republicans are threatening to block a debt ceiling increase unless Democrats agree to major spending cuts, McConnell sidestepped the issue on ABC’s This Week. “It’s not even necessary to get to that point,” he said. “Why aren’t we trying to solve the problem? Why aren’t we trying to do something about reducing spending? … Waiting until the last minute is no way to run the government.” He added that he would not accept any new tax revenues in the next deal. “The tax issue is finished. Over. Completed. That’s behind us.”

Hmmmmm….

According to The Hill, some “appropriators” in Congress have been “working quietly to avoid government shutdown.”

House and Senate appropriators have been quietly working behind the scenes for months to craft 12 compromise annual spending bills to avoid a shutdown that is slated to occur when the current six-month stopgap spending bill expires.

That sounds ominous. Are these unnamed Congresscritters working out the details of “entitlement” cuts so they can whip them out at the last minute when everyone is desperate for an agreement?

“We’ve got most of it worked out,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), the chairman on Interior and Environment appropriations subcommittee.

A Senate Democratic aide concurred that work is far along and will pick up again when the Senate returns Jan 22. Appropriators had been striving to attach an omnibus to the year-end “fiscal cliff” deal and new Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) is ready to continue the effort.
The negotiations mean that disputes over individual programs and policy riders — such as those on abortion and defunding Obama’s health reform — that have exacerbated government shutdown crises like that in April 2011 are being minimized.

Nancy Pelosi did talk about the debt ceiling, and she recommended that Obama just take the bull by the horns and raise it himself.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged the president on Sunday to drop his resistance to the idea and simply bypass the upcoming debate over raising the debt ceiling by deeming the entire cap unconstitutional.

Appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Pelosi offered her strongest endorsement to-date of the 14th Amendment option, which holds that Congress doesn’t have the power to use the debt ceiling as a hostage-taking device because the validity of the debt “shall not be questioned.”

Nancy Pelosi: Well, you ask the Republicans, because we always passed the debt ceiling. When President Bush was president, as he was incurring these massive debts, and the Republicans weren’t saying ‘boo’ at the time. There should be, this is a conversation where there should be no doubt. In fact, if I were president, I’d use the 14th Amendment, which says that the debt of the United States will always be paid.
Bob Schieffer: You would just go ahead and do it, you wouldn’t wait for the Congress?

Nancy Pelosi: I would just go do it. But the Congress has incurred much of this debt. And so what are you saying, we incurred it but we’re not going to pay it? If you want to say, ‘We are not going to do it so much in the future,’ well that’s another thing. But you can’t say, ‘I’m not paying my past debts.’

Go Nancy, Go!!

boehner

Now check this out from the Wall Street Journal: The Education of John Boehner.

What stunned House Speaker John Boehner more than anything else during his prolonged closed-door budget negotiations with Barack Obama was this revelation: “At one point several weeks ago,” Mr. Boehner says, “the president said to me, ‘We don’t have a spending problem.'” [….]

The president’s insistence that Washington doesn’t have a spending problem, Mr. Boehner says, is predicated on the belief that massive federal deficits stem from what Mr. Obama called “a health-care problem.” Mr. Boehner says that after he recovered from his astonishment—”They blame all of the fiscal woes on our health-care system”—he replied: “Clearly we have a health-care problem, which is about to get worse with ObamaCare. But, Mr. President, we have a very serious spending problem.” He repeated this message so often, he says, that toward the end of the negotiations, the president became irritated and said: “I’m getting tired of hearing you say that.”

Boehner, like McConnell announced there will be no more tax increases, period–only tax reform, and by that he means lower tax rates.

The speaker is adamant on two points: First, Republicans won’t be agreeing to any more tax increases during the next two years. “The tax issue is resolved,” he says, and it will be discussed only in the context of a broader debate about tax reform—specifically, lower rates. He dismisses the president’s declaration that any future budget cuts will have to be “balanced” with more tax hikes.

Second, Mr. Boehner says he won’t engage in any more closed-door budget negotiations with the White House, which are “futile.” He adds: “Sure, I will meet with the president if he wants to,” but House Republicans will from now on proceed with establishing a budget for the year following what is known as “regular order,” and they will insist that Harry Reid and Senate Democrats pass a budget—something they haven’t done in nearly four years—before proceeding.

The real showdown will be on the debt ceiling and the spending sequester in March….The debt bill is “one point of leverage,” Mr. Boehner says, but he also hedges, noting that it is “not the ultimate leverage.” He says that Republicans won’t back down from the so-called Boehner rule: that every dollar of raising the debt ceiling will require one dollar of spending cuts over the next 10 years. Rather than forcing a deal, the insistence may result in a series of monthly debt-ceiling increases.

The Republicans’ stronger card, Mr. Boehner believes, will be the automatic spending sequester trigger that trims all discretionary programs—defense and domestic.

It’s a long interview and it provides some insight into Boehner’s thinking, such as it is.

Roll Call has a piece called: Boehner Coup Attempt Larger Than First Thought

A concerted effort to unseat Speaker John A. Boehner was under way the day of his re-election to the position, but participants called it off 30 minutes before the House floor vote, CQ Roll Call has learned.
A group of disaffected conservatives had agreed to vote against the Ohio lawmaker if they could get at least 25 members to join the effort. But one member, whose identity could not be verified, rescinded his or her participation the morning of the vote, leaving the group one person short of its self-imposed 25-member threshold. Only 17 votes against Boehner were required to force a second ballot, but the group wanted to have insurance.

Even with 24 members, the group would easily have been able to force a second ballot round, but the effort was aborted in frenetic discussions on the House floor.

“Aborted?” I thought Republicans were against that.

And did you hear that Thomas Gibson was arrested for DUI today?

The 50-year-old actor, known for his roles on “Criminal Minds” and “Dharma & Greg,” was driving in downtown L.A. at around 1:00 a.m. on Jan. 6 when he attempted to continue through a part of town that had been sectioned off for a half marathon.

Sources tell The Huffington Post that the race was not over when Gibson drove his Audi SUV right onto the course, interrupting several runners. The race started at 9 p.m., but the road was still blocked off and authorities were making sure no vehicles were let through.

According to TMZ, Gibson was stopped by police and told to go a different way, but he proceeded anyway.

I hope that won’t cause any problems for my favorite TV show, Criminal Minds.

So what are you all hearing? Are we headed for the storm of the century?


Republican Insanity Continues Unabated Following Fiscal Cliff Agreement

Crazy John Cornyn

Crazy John Cornyn

Have you heard the latest from Texas Sen. John Cornyn? This morning the Houston Chronicle published Cornyn’s bizarre op-ed in which he calls for a “partial government shutdown” if President Obama refuses to come to Republicans on bended knee with a plan to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in return for Congress agreeing to raise the debt ceiling.

Over the next few months, we will reach deadlines related to the debt ceiling, the sequester and the continuing appropriations resolution that has funded federal operations since October. If history is any guide, President Obama won’t see fit to engage congressional Republicans until the 11th hour. In fact, he has already signaled an unwillingness to negotiate over the debt ceiling. This is unacceptable. The president should immediately put forward a plan that addresses these deadlines, and he should launch serious, transparent budget negotiations.

The biggest fiscal problem in Washington is excessive spending, not insufficient taxation. Tax cuts didn’t cause this problem, so tax increases won’t solve it. If we don’t reduce spending and reform our three biggest entitlement programs – Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – then we will strangle economic growth, destroy jobs and reduce our standard of living. With the national debt above $16 trillion, and with more than $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities hanging over us, our toughest fiscal decisions cannot be postponed any longer.

Excuse me? Tax cuts didn’t cause the problem? The Bush tax cuts, combined with two interminable wars that Republicans allowed President Bush to exempt from inclusion in the budget certainly did lead to our fiscal crisis–with a lot of help from banksters. If Republicans want to “reform” the big three safety net programs, nothing is stopping them from coming forward with their own list of specific cuts. The President doesn’t have the power of the purse after all, Congress does. Back to Cornyn’s moronic screed:

Republicans are more determined than ever to implement the spending cuts and structural entitlement reforms that are needed to secure the long-term fiscal integrity of our country.

The coming deadlines will be the next flashpoints in our ongoing fight to bring fiscal sanity to Washington. It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well being of our country, rather than plod along the path of Greece, Italy and Spain. President Obama needs to take note of this reality and put forward a plan to avoid it immediately.

WTF?!! Cornyn doesn’t seem to understand what failing to raise the debt ceiling would mean. Congress has already approved borrowing for expenditures that must be paid for. We’ve already reached the debt limit, we’re way beyond fixing our problems with a government shutdown. Of course Cornyn doesn’t explain what he means by that anyway, but I’m guessing he wants to stop Social Security checks and Medicare and Medicaid payments. Whatever, what he has written makes no sense.

Yglesias responds to Cornyn’s “outrageous op-ed.”

What he’s missing here is that the path he’s advocating is much worse than anything that’s happened in Italy or Spain. He proposing that the federal government simply default on payment it’s obligated to make.

We have had, in the past, episodes that have been called government shut-downs. What’s happened in those cases is that no new appropriation bill has been passed authorizing many branches of the federal government to operate. Absent an appropriation, there’s no legal basis for the government programs to be administered and so they aren’t administered. Then congress appropriates new money and things come back.

What Cornyn is talking about is something else. He’s talking about the government not paying bills that it’s already obliged to pay. Social Security and Medicare exist. Bondholders are owed interest payments. State and local governments have submitted paperwork to get their grants. Veterans are owed benefits. Contractors have agreed to do work. Congress has passed the appropriations bills. But if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, the Treasury won’t have the money to pay the bills it has to pay. The result won’t be a “shutdown” of government functions; it’ll be a deadbeat federal government. Some people won’t get money they’re legally entitled to. But who won’t be paid? And who will decide who won’t be paid? Does the Secretary of the Treasury just arbitrarily get to decide that bondholders and residents of blue states get paid, but there are no Social Security benefits for Texans? Can Obama dock Cornyn’s pay but not Chuck Schumer’s? Certainly there’s no legal authority for that kind of prioritization, but what’s Obama supposed to do if congress tries to prevent him from spending money that he’s legally obliged to spend.

As Dakinikat has already made abundantly clear to us in numerous posts, the U.S. is not in the same or similar position as Greece, because, for one thing, we can print our own money. Here’s just the latest from Dak on this point.

What we really need is a recovery. That will not happen with all the fiscal policies being placed on the table right now. Let’s review one simple thing. As long as you have a good currency, federal debt instruments in demand, and a vast array of taxable assets in your country, there is no such thing as a ‘bankrupt’ government or excessive debt.

Jamie Bouie discusses government shutdowns:

A government shutdown occurs when Congress fails to pass an appropriations bill. Without appropriations, the federal government lacks the authority to operate, and so it doesn’t. Agencies close, workers go home, programs are suspended, and nothing goes on for as long as Congress is at an impasse. This is what happened in 1995, when the Gingrich-led House forced a shutdown, and this is what almost happened at the beginning of 2011, when Boehner led his conference to a similar position.

This isn’t on the table. Rather, Cornyn is referring to the debt ceiling, which is a congressional limit on the Treasury’s ability to pay obligations. If Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling, the government will continue to function, it just won’t pay the people its promised to compensate. Social Security checks won’t go out to retirees, Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements won’t go out to hospitals, payments won’t go out to military contractors, and federal workers will receive an I.O.U for paychecks.

This is why its so dangerous for Republicans to refuse to raise the debt ceiling. Contra Cornyn, keeping the limit low won’t reduce deficits or stop the United States from accumulating debt; instead, it will keep the federal government from paying what it owes to a variety of people and organizations, from bondholders to pensioners. When you stop making payments on your mortgage, the bank comes to take your house. When the government of the world’s largest economy stops making payments on its obligations, financial markets spin into a panic.

In 2011, the mere threat of not raising the debt ceiling was enough to slow economic growth to a crawl, and nearly erase the gains of the previous months. Put another way, what Cornyn has signaled—along with most of the Republican Party—is a willingness to crash the economy and damage the full faith and credit of the United States if President Obama doesn’t adopt core parts of the conservative agenda.

Boehner

Cornyn isn’t alone in his insane tactics. This morning, John Boehner claimed in a “closed door meeting” with House Republicans that Americans support Republicans’ threats to bring down the national–and likely global–economies in return for allowing the Treasury to pay our debts.

“With the [fiscal] cliff behind us, the focus turns to spending,” Boehner said, according to a person in the room. “The president says he isn’t going to have a debate with us over the debt ceiling. He also says he’s not going to cut spending along with the debt limit hike.”

The Speaker cited a new poll conducted just before the New Year by the Winston Group, a Republican firm, which found that 72 percent of respondents “agree any increase in the nation’s debt limit must be accompanied by spending cuts and reforms of a greater amount.”

Boehner first laid out that principle in a 2011 speech in New York, and he has said he will stick to it as Congress debates the debt ceiling in the next two months. The Treasury Department said the nation hit its $16.4 trillion borrowing limit in late December and estimates the next increase must occur before March.

lindsey-graham-scsen

And Lindsay Graham made similar demands a few days ago.

Graham said he anticipates forcing Democrats to give in on a long list of the GOP’s top spending priorities in the new year: raising the eligibility age for Medicare, increasing premiums for its wealthier beneficiaries, and trimming Social Security benefits by using a new method to calculate inflation.

“I think if we insist on changes like that, we’ll get them,” he said.

At the Atlantic, Elizabeth Reeve notes that Republicans have embraced the label “hostage takers” and are taking pride in their claimed willingness to drive the country and the world into economic chaos.

Conservatives did not always advocate so openly that Republican lawmakers be really and willing to risk the full faith and credit of the United States, nor did they say this is what Republican lawmakers wanted to do. In August 2011, New York Times conservative columnist Ross Douthat put hostage-taking in scare quotes, and noted, “it’s an odd sort of hostage situation when the hostage seems to want to be there,” arguing that Democrats always negotiate on taxes. Today, the change is not just that conservatives are embracing this liberal talking point as their own. It’s that they’re doing it completely cynically. In 2011, you had some people — Michele Bachmann, for instance, at least claim that failing to raise the debt limit wouldn’t be so bad. “I’ve been in Washington for a long time, and I’ve seen smoke and mirrors time and time again,” Bachmann said in June 2011, calling the talk of the economic damage from a default “scare tactics.” The next month, she shrugged, “As we debate the debt ceiling, the players seem to have lost all sense of proportion.” This was widely viewed as crazy. In 2013, conservatives are not making the claim that failing to raise the debt limit would have few negative consequences. Instead, they’re just urging Republicans to use the crazy.

Today, the problem is not the political costs, but the lack of Republican unity to hold out for a great deal. “At some point we have to be serious about this,” Chocola told Newsmax. “At some point, Republicans have to do what Republicans say they have to do — and they have to stand up for limited government, spending restraint, and fiscal responsibility.” It’s not that the GOP has too many hostage-taking Bachmanns. It’s that it doesn’t have enough of them.

Unfortunately, as Greg Sargent reports, the corporate media seems to be buying into the “GOP debt ceiling spin.”

The early returns, based on the coverage of this looming battle so far, suggest Republicans are successfully defining the terms of this debate — they are defining it as a standard Washington standoff, in which each side will demand concessions from the other. Indeed, you can read through reams of the coverage without learning three basic facts about this fight:

1) Republican leaders will ultimately agree to raise the debt ceiling, and they know it, because they themselves have previously admitted that not doing so will badly damage the economy.

2) Because of the above, a hike in the debt ceiling is not something that Democratic leaders want and that Republican leaders don’t. In other words, it is not a typical bargaining chip in negotiations, in the way spending cuts (which Republicans want and Dems don’t) or tax hikes (which Dems want and Republicans don’t) are.

3) And so, if and when Republicans do agree to raise the debt ceiling, it will not constitute any kind of concession on their part — even though they will continue to portray it as such to demand concessions in return. It will only constitute Republicans agreeing not to damage the whole country, which does not constitute (one hopes) them making a sacrifice.

President Obama has stated that he will not negotiate with Republicans over the debt ceiling, only over a balance between increased revenues and spending cuts. Who knows whether he’ll stand firm or not? We can only hope that he will use every bit of the power of the bully pulpit to educate the American electorate about the consequences of failure to raise the debt ceiling. He can do it in the State of the Union and Inaugural addresses and he can continue traveling around the country explaining what the Republicans are up to. This might be a good time to hire Bill Clinton as official “explainer in chief.”

Regardless of what happens, this is certainly going to be a fascinating, though nerve-wracking fight to watch.