What a difference a few days can make! Take a look at the transcript from Fox News host Sean Hannity’s show on Monday April 21:
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: The rhetoric from the left about Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his supporters is getting worse and worse by the day. First, as the country marked the 19th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing over the weekend, vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee Donna Brazile made this disgraceful comparison after talking about how the feds backed down. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THIS WEEK”/ABC)
DONNA BRAZILE, DNC VICE CHAIR: That was the right thing to do, to try to, you know, simmer things down. Remember, this is the 19th anniversary of the Oklahoma bombing. So this notion that Mr. Bundy has no other recourse but violence is — anti-government violence — is absolutely wrong. He’s been waging this battle for two decades. He’s lost. Everybody else is paying their grazing fees. He should pay his fees, as well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we should be reluctant to compare Bundy to Timothy McVeigh.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: And that’s not all. Earlier today, runners embarked on the first Boston marathon since last year’s terror attack. And just days ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had this to say about Bundy family supporters. Watch this.
SEN. HARRY REID, D-NV.: These people who hold themselves out to be patriots are not. They’re nothing more than domestic terrorists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: Pretty unbelievable. Now, given the events in Oklahoma City and at the Boston Marathon, we really know what real domestic terrorists look like, and that’s not Cliven Bundy or his supporters.
That was before Bundy gave a rambling press conference and let the world see exactly who and what he is. From The New York Times yesterday morning: A Defiant Rancher Savors the Audience That Rallied to His Side.
BUNKERVILLE, Nev. — Cliven Bundy stood by the Virgin River up the road from the armed checkpoint at the driveway of his ranch, signing autographs and posing for pictures. For 55 minutes, Mr. Bundy held forth to a clutch of supporters about his views on the troubled state of America…
Most of all, Mr. Bundy, 67, who was wearing a broad-brimmed white cowboy hat against the hot afternoon sun, recounted the success of “we the people” — gesturing to the 50 supporters, some armed with handguns and rifles, standing in a semicircle before him — at chasing away Bureau of Land Management rangers who, acting on a court order, tried to confiscate 500 cattle owned by Mr. Bundy, who has been illegally grazing his herd on public land since 1993.
Mr. Bundy’s standoff with federal rangers — propelled into the national spotlight in part by steady coverage by Fox News — has highlighted sharp divisions over the power of the federal government and the rights of landowners in places like this desert stretch of Nevada, where resentment of Washington and its sprawling ownership of Western land has long run deep.
Others who have loudly supported Bundy’s cause are Senators Rand Paul of KY and Dean Heller of NV. and Texas candidate for governor Greg Abbott. Claiming that the Feds wouldn’t come around to bother him again soon, Bundy took the time to share some of his opinions on other topics:
Next the NYT reported some remarks Bundy made on Saturday to a group of about 50 supporters along with one reporter and one photography
“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.
“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”
Whoops! Suddenly right wingers who had supported Bundy or just ignored his unlawful behavior did a 180 degree turn. Here’s Sean Hannity on his radio show yesterday:
Conservative media titan Sean Hannity, formerly one of Nevada rancher Clive Bundy’sstrongest advocates, expressed his vehement disgust Thursday with the latter’s remarks on slavery.
Bundy’s comments “are beyond repugnant to me. They are beyond despicable to me. They are beyond ignorant to me,” Hannity said during his radio show.
Still, he claimed, Democrats are wrong to use Bundy’s racist, misogynistic remarks to attack Republicans.
“They want to say that conservatives are racist. Conservatives hate women,” Hannity said. “Conservatives want old people to die, granny over the cliff. They want the young people to fend for themselves. They want to poison the air and poison the water.”
“People that for the right reasons saw this case as government overreach now are branded because of the ignorant, racist, repugnant, despicable comments of Cliven Bundy,” he said.
Because Bundy was not sophisticated enough to wrap his racism in euphemisms as many Republicans do, his “mainstream” supporters will have to back off. But what about the militia types and their rifles? Will they be turned off by Bundy’s racist rhetoric? Not likely. From Think Progress:
James Yeager is calling from Cliven Bundy’s front yard, where he’s one of several (he won’t say how many) providing 24-hour security to the Bundy family. He and his friend packed up “a full medical kit and a camera” and drove 26 ½ hours from their home in Camden, Tennessee last week to document what he calls “a tremendous overreach of federal power.” He’s been posting daily videos to his YouTube site.
When asked if he also packed weapons, Yeager said, “of course. I’m always armed. This is not any different than any other day for me.”
Yeager is one of hundreds of supporters who journeyed to Bunkerville, Nevada in support of the rancher’s standoff with the federal Bureau of Land Management. Though federal agents released Bundy’s cattle over a week ago, many have remained on the ranch to protest and protect the rancher’s family. They’ve hailed Bundy — who owes the federal government over $1 million in unpaid grazing fees — as an “American hero.” The Mormon father of 14 has even inspired futuristic fan fiction from his most ardent admirers: “Yes, it’s been a great half-century for America, and we owe much of our good fortune to the bravery of Cliven Bundy.”
They call themselves militia members, oath keepers, protesters and patriots. Senator Harry Reid calls them “domestic terrorists.”
Harry Reid is right. Check out these images and commentary by Reuters photographer Jim Urquhart:
“I’ve got a clear shot at four of them,” the man with a rifle beside me said, as he aimed his weapon in the direction of U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officers.
We were on a bridge in southern Nevada in the midst of a tense standoff between the BLM and a group of angry ranchers, milita-members and gun-rights activists. It seemed as if we were a hair’s breadth away from Americans killing Americans right in front of me.
This showdown had come after the BLM started rounding up cattle belonging to rancher Cliven Bundy, who had been letting his animals graze illegally on federal land for over 20 years….
I decided to leave the protesters’ rallying point and drive several miles to where BLM and National Park Service (NPS) officers were holding Bundy’s impounded cattle but when I got there, there didn’t seem to be anything new to report.
I was making my way back to the protest site when Jennifer called me. She said the demonstrators were coming in my direction to go to the BLM facility and demand that Bundy’s cattle be released. My heart skipped a beat and anxiety set in, as I realised the armed group was heading this way looking for a showdown.
The convoy arrived just a few moments after I did and began to clog lanes of traffic on the south side of the interstate, the opposite side to the BLM base
Read more at the link. I don’t know about you, but I find this entire episode frightening. Who are these angry, violent people in our midst?
And Cliven Bundy isn’t apologetic. He told CNN last night that he doesn’t regret his racist comments, “I think I’m right.”
Cliven Bundy — the Nevada rancher turned conservative folk hero for bucking the federal government’s attempts to stop his cattle from grazing on public land — admits he doesn’t understand the bipartisan uproar over his comments suggesting blacks might have been better off under slavery.
But he understands what he meant by those comments, and he’s not backing down.
“I don’t think I’m wrong,” Bundy told CNN’s Bill Weir on Thursday night. “I think I’m right.”
The rancher said he doesn’t feel “abandoned” by the uproar by the likes of right-wing radio firebrand and Fox News host Sean Hannity, who has ripped what he called the “ignorant, racist, repugnant, despicable comments.” [....]
He backtracked somewhat, insisting he “didn’t really mean it to compare (African-Americans’ current plight) with slavery. I meant to compare it with maybe life on the farm or life in the South, where they had some chickens and the gardens, and they had something to do.”
At the same time, Bundy stood by his general premise that blacks once had better lives — stating that, right now, “they don’t have nothing to do with their children, their family unit is ruined … That’s what I was referring to I don’t think they have the life that they should have” because of the government.
I admit I didn’t pay much attention to the Bundy story at first. I live in a city and community where I’m very insulated from people like this and where Republicans are a tiny minority. Of course we still hear ignorant remarks on talk radio, but on the whole people who are vicious racists have to tone down their rhetoric or be marginalized. But once I began reading about Bundy in JJ’s and Dakinikat’s posts over the past two days, I realized this is no joke.
Having a black man as a two-term president has terrified and enraged these racist militia types and brought them out of the woodwork to express their ugly opinions more blatantly than before. As Harry Reid has said, they are domestic terrorists and they must be brought under control. What will happen if we elect a women president?
These people are far more dangerous to our country than foreign terrorism. The FBI should be infiltrating milita groups instead of running stings on muslim-Americans if they want to minimize terrorism in this country. When we have a Supreme Court Justice advocating–even tongue-in-cheek–that unhappy taxpayers should overthrow the U.S. government, we have to understand right wing extremists are a serious threat to our country.
So . . . this ended up being a one-subject post. I know there are plenty of other things happening in the news. What stories are you following today?
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.
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.
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.
I’m not sure if it’s the heat or the depressing news, but I’m having a hard time getting going this morning.
We’re into our third heat wave of the summer, and I’m actually getting acclimated to 90 degree weather; but I suppose it still has an effect on my body and mind.
I’m also somewhat depressed about the Zimmerman verdict and by the often ignorant reactions I see on-line and on TV.
Rachel and Trayvon
One bright spot in the coverage for me was Rachel Jeantel’s interview with Piers Morgan last night. She was real and authentic, and Morgan pretty much stayed out of the way and let her talk. I think she made a real impression on him and the reaction from the live audience was very positive too. It was refreshing. IMO, it says a lot about Travon Martin’s character that he had a friend like Rachel. I’m going to post the whole interview here in case you missed it or you want to watch it again.
Asked about what Trayvon Martin was like as a friend, Jeantel described him as a “calm, chill, loving person” and said she never saw him get “aggressive” or “lose his temper.” She said that the defense’s attempts to portray Martin as a “thug” were unfounded and defended his relatively mild drug use. “Weed don’t make him go crazy,” she said, “it just makes him go hungry.”
Jeantel also responded to the massive mockery she received in social media for the way she speaks, explaining that she was born with an under-bite that has made it difficult for her to speak clearly. When Morgan asked if she’d been bullied for her condition, she simply responded, “Look at me,” to laughter from the studio audience.
Morgan attempted to get Jeantel to offer her opinion of defense attorney Don West, who many claimed was condescending towards her when she was on the stand. Jeantel shook her head, declining to say anything bad about the man given her “Christian” upbringing.
In the second part of his interview with Jeantel, Morgan turned to the “creepy-ass cracker” comment she made and the major impact it had on the tenor of the case. She explained that the term is actually spelled “cracka” and defined it as “people who are acting like they’re police.” She said that if Zimmerman had calmly approached Martin and introduced himself, her friend would have politely said what he was doing there and nothing more would have happened.
Unlike the juror, Jeantel did think Zimmerman was racially motivated. “It was racial,” she said. “Let’s be honest, racial. If Trayvon was white and he had a hoodie on, would that happen?”
I’d also like to recommend this piece by Robin D.G. Kelley at Counterpunch: The US v. Trayvon Martin.
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Senator Rand Paul, Florida State Representative Dennis Baxley (also sponsor of his state’s Stand Your Ground law), along with a host of other Republicans, argued that had the teachers and administrators been armed, those twenty little kids whose lives Adam Lanza stole would be alive today. Of course, they were parroting the National Rifle Association’s talking points. The NRA and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the conservative lobbying group responsible for drafting and pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws across the country, insist that an armed citizenry is the only effective defense against imminent threats, assailants, and predators.
But when George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed, teenage pedestrian returning home one rainy February evening from a neighborhood convenience store, the NRA went mute. Neither NRA officials nor the pro-gun wing of the Republican Party argued that had Trayvon Martin been armed, he would be alive today. The basic facts are indisputable: Martin was on his way home when Zimmerman began to follow him—first in his SUV, and then on foot. Zimmerman told the police he had been following this “suspicious-looking” young man. Martin knew he was being followed and told his friend, Rachel Jeantel, that the man might be some kind of sexual predator. At some point, Martin and Zimmerman confronted each other, a fight ensued, and in the struggle Zimmerman shot and killed Martin.
Zimmerman pursued Martin. This is a fact. Martin could have run, I suppose, but every black man knows that unless you’re on a field, a track, or a basketball court, running is suspicious and could get you a bullet in the back. The other option was to ask this stranger what he was doing, but confrontations can also be dangerous—especially without witnesses and without a weapon besides a cell phone and his fists. Florida law did not require Martin to retreat, though it is not clear if he had tried to retreat. He did know he was in imminent danger.
Why didn’t Trayvon have a right to stand his ground? Why didn’t his fear for his safety matter? We need to answer these questions as a society. Please read the whole article if you can.
Read the rest of this entry »
One of the most frustrating things that’s happened in the last few years has been the overuse and misuse of the filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid--see the morning post–has decided that one of his top priorities will be to pass legislation to tighten rules on the use of the filibuster in the legislative chamber. The overuse of the lazy Senator’s filibuster has stymied nearly every attempt to get Democratic legislation through the Senate.
Bloomberg has an excellent article on the changes that will be proposed and what impact this could have on an Obama second term. The bill is called “The Mr Smith” bill. It’s be reintroduced by Sen. Frank (D-NJ). The bill would require those who want to filibuster a nomination or a bill to appear on the floor and actually speak. This means that Republican senators can’t just scream filibuster and the go home to dinner and cocktails. The bill was first introduced in 2011.
“The filibuster is being abused to create gridlock and prevent the Senate from doing the people’s business. Instead of being a deliberative body, the Senate has become a deadlocked body,” Lautenberg said in a press release Wednesday. “The ‘Mr. Smith Bill’ would help break the obstruction in Washington, bring transparency to lawmaking and hold senators accountable for their actions. This bill will stop senators from launching a filibuster and then skipping off to dinner, leaving our work in a stalemate.”
The bill — co-sponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York — also would require that the Senate move for an immediate vote once debate ends and those conducting the filibuster give up the floor.
“Right now, senators are allowed to filibuster and force the Senate to use up a week or more on a single nomination or bill, even if there is no debate occurring on the floor,” Lautenberg’s office said. “Under the Lautenberg proposal, that time could be reduced significantly.”
Typically, a Senate rule change requires a super majority of 67 yes votes, something that will be difficult for Democrats, with their narrow 53-seat majority, to achieve. However, on the first legislative day of a new Congress, a simple majority of senators, just 51 votes, can approve new rules.
According to Lautenberg’s office, 91 cloture votes were taken in the 111th Congress — almost “four times the 24 cloture votes taken 20 years ago and almost double the 54 cloture votes required in the 109th Congress (2005-2006), when Republicans were last in the majority.”
This is the first item that would reform the procedure that became infamous in the Jimmy Stewart movie. It has moved from being a true expression of frustration with a piece of legislation or a process to a systematic way to gridlock. It has increased the polarization that characterizes Congress these days. It isn’t used to either protect the rights of the minority or to force debate. It’s used for pure political gain. The Bloomberg article states that “there were more filibusters between 2009 and 2010 than there were in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s combined”. This will give you an idea of what’s become of a symbol of democracy. It’s became a way for Mitch McConnell to hold back progress including help for the unemployed, veterans, victims of domestic abuse, and judicial appointments. Newly elected Senators appear to be on board for reform.
Chris Murphy, the incoming Democratic senator from Connecticut, couldn’t have been clearer: “The filibuster is in dire need of reform,” he told Talking Points Memo. “Whether or not it needs to go away, we need to reform the way the filibuster is used, so it is not used in the order of everyday policy, but is only used in exceptional circumstances.”
Angus King, the independent senator-elect from Maine, said, “My principal issue is the functioning of the Senate.” He backs a proposal advanced by the reform group No Labels that would end the filibuster on motions to debate, restricting filibusters to votes on actual legislation. The group also wants to require filibustering senators to physically hold the Senate floor and talk, rather than simply instigate a filibuster from the comfort of their offices.
And it’s not just the new guys. In an election-night interview on MSNBC, Senator Dick Durbin ofIllinois, the Democrats’ second-in-command, emphasized the importance of filibuster reform. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is a committed guardian of institutional prerogatives who put the kibosh on filibuster reform in the previous Congress. But even he has given up protecting the practice. “We can’t go on like this anymore,” he told MSNBC’s Ed Schultz. “I don’t want to get rid of the filibuster, but I have to tell you, I want to change the rules and make the filibuster meaningful.”
That doesn’t go nearly far enough. The problem with the filibuster isn’t that senators don’t have to stand and talk, or that they can filibuster the motion to debate as well as the vote itself. It’s that the Senate has become, with no discussion or debate, an effective 60-vote institution. If you don’t change that, you haven’t solved the problem.
Common Cause actually sued the US Senate this year to end the filibuster.
Enter Common Cause. It argues that a minority in the Senate has used the filibuster to hold up all manner of legislation, including (most importantly, for this suit), the DISCLOSE Act (to tighten electioneering disclosure requirements in the wake of Citizens United) and the DREAM Act (to create a path to U.S. citizenship for certain aliens). It argues that the 60-vote requirement in Senate Rule XXII violates the default parliamentary majority-takes-all rule, the careful balance of powers in the legislative branch and between the three branches, and the power of the Senate itself to changes its own rules (because along with Rule V (which continues the Senate rules from Senate to Senate) Rule XXII seems to require that 3/5 of Senators vote to change Rule XXII). In particular, Common Cause argues that the filibuster violates the Quorum Clause, the Presentment Clause, the power of the VP to break a Senate tie, the Advice and Consent Clause, and the equal representation of the states in the Senate–all of which in different ways assume majority rule. It also argues that the filibuster is in tension with the eight constitutional exceptions to majority rule.
Again, the Bloomberg article says it best and btw, it’s written by Ezra Klein.
Party polarization has turned the filibuster into a noxious obstacle. Filibusters are no longer used to allow minorities to be heard. They’re used to make the majority fail. In the process, they undermine democratic accountability, because voters are left to judge the rule of a majority party based on the undesirable outcomes created by a filibustering minority.
Ideally, a bipartisan majority of senators would end the filibuster — either immediately or with a delayed trigger six years after a deal is struck — so neither party would know which is poised to benefit. But doing away with the filibuster in the next Congress has some appeal, too. Democrats control the Senate and Republicans control the House; there will be no instant power grab leading to one-party dominance.
So, go Harry. If they’re going to cause gridlock, then at least make them stand on the Senate floor until they drop. The American people deserve explanations instead of secretive political maneuvers.
I have some interesting links today–some of them a couple of days old, but even if you’ve seen them, they bear repeating.
First up, there’s just one more day until the first presidential debate. I just can’t wait to hear those “zingers” Mitt Romney’s advisers told the NYT he has been practicing for months.
Mr. Romney’s team has concluded that debates are about creating moments and has equipped him with a series of zingers that he has memorized and has been practicing on aides since August. His strategy includes luring the president into appearing smug or evasive about his responsibility for the economy.
Since August? I hope they haven’t gotten stale. Apparently they’re hoping Obama will have another “likable enough” moment. I doubt that will happen, but we’ll see.
Frankly, as Ezra Klein writes at HuffPo, Romney would be better off to forget the zingers and develop more popular policies.
Behind in the polls and facing mounting panic among his donors, Mitt Romney is readying his secret weapon for the debates: Zingers….Pro tip: If your strategy to turn the presidential election around relies on Romney’s sense of comic timing, you might want to prepare a Plan B, as well.
The idea that this election can be reshaped by a zinger speaks to a deeper problem in the Romney campaign’s fundamental view of the race. As they see it, Obama’s record is an obvious disaster and their job entails little more than pointing that out over and over again. That the polls haven’t seemed responsive to this theory hasn’t dissuaded them. The new explanation for Romney’s difficulties is that the media are in the tank for Obama and that’s why the Romney campaign’s message isn’t breaking through.
But, Klein says, Americans know the economy is bad, but they also think it would have been worse if John McCain had been elected, rather than Barack Obama. Check out the chart.
Anna Marie Cox also addressed the “zingers” story at the Guardian.
The Romney campaign, having already proven able to discover impressive new ways for a nomination to blunder (my jaw still involuntarily drops a little when I hear the phrase “47%”), they have now added yet another type of podiatric wound to their catalogue. According to a report in the New York Times on Saturday, Romney’s staff “has equipped him with a series of zingers that he has memorized and has been practicing on aides since August.”
Already an awkward presence, Romney seems particularly susceptible to the tense stillness and deathless pathos that accompanies a dud punchline. Picturing the forced jocularity around the campaign headquarters has its pleasures, specifically the idea of Mitt trotting out well-worn jokes with the panache of a Catskills stand-up:
“Take my economic policy … please!”
“How lazy is half America? So lazy …”
“Any car-elevator owners in the audience tonight?”
But there’s an awful flipside: my God, what if he actually tries one of them?
Whether you wince or guffaw at the image of Romney attempting and failing to “zing” the president, probably says more about your tolerance for the humiliation of others than your political sensibilities. You’d think covering politics would have inured me to it by now, but in real life, I can’t even watch “American Idol”. I will view the debate on Wednesday through the spaces between my fingers, with a desk nearby to bang my head against.
What I really wish is that Romney would follow Donald Trump’s advice. According to TPM, Trump tweeted that Romney “should ask Obama why autobiography states “born in Kenya, raised in Indonesia.”
Romney will definitely have to watch his tone though, based on the results of a focus group study that TPM reported today. And Republicans will have a hard time saying this one is biased, because it was done by Haley Barbour’s company.
Barbour’s firm Resurgent Republic conducted focus groups of blue collar voters in Ohio and suburban women in Virginia who supported Obama in 2008 but are now undecided. Both are swing demographics that Romney is working to win over in order to flip each state from blue to red.
Their findings? Voters are a lot more willing to believe attacks based around Romney quotes than they are on Obama quotes.
“Whenever we showed direct quotes from President Obama over the last few years, voters consistently say that this is probably taken out of context and they don’t seem to hold that same standard with Governor Romney,” pollster Linda DiVall, who conducted the Virginia focus groups, said in a conference call announcing the findings Monday.
She added that while their reaction struck her as “a little bit unfair,” it was nonetheless “American voters’ right to do that.”
Pollster Ed Goeas said his own Ohio focus groups elicited similar responses, which could make things harder for Romney as he seeks to reverse his comments that 47 percent of Americans consider themselves “victims.”
It sounds like these swing state voters have figured out that Romney is a lying liar who only cares about the needs of the top .01 percent. Voters just aren’t as stupid as the Romney campaign thinks.
Did you see the tough op-ed Harry Reid wrote for the Las Vegas Sun on Sunday? He really ripped Romney a new one.
We learn the most about someone’s character not from what he does when he knows others are watching but from what he does when he thinks they aren’t.
We’ve learned an awful lot of troubling things about Mitt Romney recently. First, his sweeping, closed-door condemnation of President Barack Obama’s supporters revealed the disdain he has for half the population he hopes to serve. Then, the limited tax returns Romney selectively released confirmed that he’s willing to share information about the time he’s been in the public eye and running for president, but not the time he was running the corporation he touts as his sole qualifying credential for the highest office in the land.
When he thought no one was listening, Romney accused 47 percent of Americans of not taking responsibility for their lives, painting them as lounging in government dependency — a conclusion he reached because, for various legitimate reasons, they are exempt from paying federal income taxes.
Romney stands not only on shaky ethical grounds in making that indiscriminate generalization — he’s also on flimsy factual footing. The 47 percent Romney derides as self-pitying “victims” includes seniors who live on a fixed income thanks to the Social Security they paid into and earned over a lifetime of hard work, our troops in combat zones and veterans who have fought for our country. It includes students studying to get the skills that will win them the jobs of the future and decent Americans actively looking for work because their jobs were outsourced by companies such as those Romney specialized in developing. Most of them pay plenty of payroll, property, local and state taxes.
Reid goes on to beat Romney over the head with his secret tax returns one more time. Go read the whole thing if you haven’t already. Reid is turning out to be the Democratic attack dog of the 2012 campaign season.
Just one more Romney link: Romney would put states in charge of federal lands. James Bruggers, a Kentucky reporter who covers environmental issues full-time writes:
Our public lands are a birthright, held in trust for each one of us and managed by a set of laws that were worked out through compromise by Congress and various presidential administrations going back generations.
They provide places for us to hike, ride our mountain bikes, horses, camp, hunt and fish. Many are managed for multiple uses, and they also allow for cattle grazing, timber harvesting, oil and gas development, mining and skiing.
Romney, however, has said he would change all this, putting states in control of lands now under the stewardship of such agencies as the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, who are charged with making sure all Americans have a say in their management. Often this gets reported simply as an expansion of oil and gas development on public lands, a simplification that fails to acknowledge just how radical of a shift in public policy it would be to turn over federal lands to state control.
From a Romney white paper:
States will be empowered to establish processes to oversee the development and production of all forms of energy on federal lands within their borders, excluding only lands specially designated off-limits;
• State regulatory processes and permitting programs for all forms of energy development will be deemed to satisfy all requirements of federal law;
• Federal agencies will certify state processes as adequate, according to established criteria that are sufficiently broad, to afford the states maximum flexibility to ascertain what is
I still remember how shocked I was when I heard Romney say this in the Nevada primary debate. This is a huge issue as far as I’m concerned. American is still a beautiful country with many unspoiled wilderness areas. It is vital that we protect those public lands–they belong to all Americans, not to individual state governments.
Here’s another environmental story on the attempts to block the Keystone XL pipeline: BREAKING: Blockader Locks to Underground Capsule to Protect a Family Farm. It’s a live blog of the “Tar Sands blockade.” Here’s their Facebook page.
From Firedoglake blogger Kevin Gosztola:
A Tar Sands Blockader, Alejandro de la Torre, locked his body in a concrete capsule buried in the path of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline to stop a small family farm in East Texas from being destroyed by construction. He blocked demolition for at least six hours before police were able to break off a chunk of concrete is arm was in and arrest him.
Police confiscated cameras of Blockaders that were there to film for Torre’s safety. Tar Sands Blockade spokesperson Ramsey Sprague reported they wanted to keep cameras on him as long as possible but police intimidated observers and took the cameras.
Last week, TransCanada supervisors encouraged police to use torture tactics on protesters to stop their nonviolent direct action.
Sprague recounted the brutality, which was “astounding.” Shannon “Rain” Beebe and Benjamin Franklin locked themselves to TransCanada machinery to stop clear-cutting. The police hung them with their arms behind their backs. They put pressure on their shoulder with their arms twisted. They pepper sprayed a tube connecting their arms. They twisted a tube cutting off circulation to their hands. (One protester is seeking medical attention for nerve damage.)
The police used tasers and planned to keep using tasers on Beebe and Franklin until they released. Cameras were supposed to be on the scene to film the action, but police were directed by TransCanada supervisors to run off those with cameras so they could commit brutality without people seeing video evidence on the evening news.
Continuing the environmental theme, pioneering environmental activist Barry Commoner died on Sunday.
Scientist and activist Barry Commoner, who raised early concerns about the effects of radioactive fallout and was one of the pioneers of the environmental movement, has died at age 95.
Commoner died Sunday afternoon at a Manhattan hospital, where he had been since Friday, said his wife, Lisa Feiner. He lived in Brooklyn.
Commoner was an outspoken advocate for environmental issues. He was one of the founders of a well-known survey of baby teeth in St. Louis that started in the late 1950s. The survey assessed the levels of strontium-90 in the teeth and showed how children were absorbing radioactive fallout from nuclear bombs that were being tested.
The survey helped persuade government officials to partially ban some kinds of nuclear testing.
Feiner said Commoner had “a very strong belief that scientists had a social responsibility, that the discoveries would be used for social good and that scientists also had an obligation to educate the public about scientific issues so that the public could make informed political decisions.”
Commoner took on that role of educating the public, writing books on environmental issues. Among his works were “Making Peace with the Planet” and “Science and Survival.” He made the cover of Time magazine in early 1970 and ran for president as a third-party candidate in 1980.
Finally, here’s a little bit of schadenfreude for you. Bloomberg reports that New York is “suing JP Morgan for fraud over mortgages securities.”
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), the biggest U.S. bank, was sued by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman over claims that the Bear Stearns business the bank took over in 2008 defrauded mortgage-bond investors.
Investors were deceived about the defective loans backing securities they bought, leading to “monumental losses,” Schneiderman said in a complaint filed today in New York State Supreme Court.
“Defendants systematically failed to fully evaluate the loans, largely ignored the defects that their limited review did uncover, and kept investors in the dark about both the inadequacy of their review procedures and the defects in the underlying loans,” Schneiderman’s office said.
Schneiderman in January was named co-chairman of a state- federal group formed to investigate misconduct in bundling of mortgage loans into securities leading up to the financial crisis. The group includes officials from the U.S. Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the FBI and other federal and state officials.
Poor Jamie Dimon. Why don’t people respect his “success?”
Those are my suggestions for today. What are you reading and blogging about?