In the USA...United Surveillance America
Rachel Maddow: CIA spying on Congress ‘is death of the Republic stuff’
By Arturo Garcia
Wednesday, March 5, 2014 23:49 EST
A dispute between the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Senate Intelligence Committee may have spilled into dangerous territory, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said on Wednesday, following a New York Times report that agency operatives gained access to the computers being used by lawmakers to investigate the agency.
“This is kind of death of the Republic kind of stuff,” Maddow said. “The whole separation of powers thing almost pales in comparison to the seriousness of the allegation that a nation’s own spy services have been turned against its’ own government. Particularly, where that government is supposed to be overseeing the spy services.”
The Times reported that the allegations exacerbated an ongoing rift between the agency and the committee over the CIA’s now-defunct interrogation program, which included waterboarding and other techniques in secret prisons located outside the U.S. Agency officials reportedly grew concerned that committee members had gained unauthorized access to CIA documents in the course of compiling the report, which is reportedly more than 6,000 pages long and highly critical of the agency. The program was shut down by President Barack Obama not long after he took office.
McClatchy Newspapers also reported that the agency’s inspector general has asked the Justice Department to open its own criminal investigation into the matter.
Sen. Mark Udall (D-UT) hinted at the allegation in a letter to President Barack Obama, Maddow said, alluding to “unprecedented action” taken by the CIA against the committee.
“I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee’s oversight responsibilities and for our democracy,” Udall wrote.
CIA Director John Brennan issued a statement ripping “spurious allegations” against the agency, without mentioning Udall by name, and saying he would “encourage others to refrain from outbursts that do a disservice to the important relationship that needs to be maintained between intelligence officials and Congressional overseers.”
Times reporter Mark Mazetti told Maddow that intelligence officials are calling the rift unprecedented.
“What you had for years was a dispute between the CIA and the Intelligence Committee over, basically, the history,” he said. “Who writes the history of this extraordinarily controversial program that took place during the [George W.] Bush administration. But what we’ve seen is, it’s really escalated from there, and it’s gone to this issue of separation of powers, congressional oversight, how independent is Congress in overseeing intelligence agencies.”
Bernie Sanders wants to unite Tea Party and progressive voters in 2016 White House run
By Travis Gettys
Thursday, March 6, 2014 14:42 EST
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said he’s prepared to run for president in 2016 because he doesn’t see anyone willing to stand up for progressive values.
“This country faces more serious problems than at any time since the Great Depression, and there is a horrendous lack of serious political discourse or ideas out there that can address these crises,” Sanders told The Nation. “That somebody has got to represent the working-class and the middle-class of this country in standing up to the big-money interests who have so much power over the economic and political life of this country.”
Sanders said he would offer a more progressive choice than presumed Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
“She is a very, very intelligent person, no question about it, but I don’t know what her political future is, whether she’s going to run,” Sanders told TIME. “I don’t know what she’s going to say, but if you talk about the need for a political revolution in America, it’s fair to say that Secretary Clinton probably will not be one of the more active people.”
While he’s not actively organizing and raising money for a White House bid, Sanders said he has been traveling around the country and asking Americans about their concerns.
“I think it’s premature to be talking about a campaign when we still have a 2014 congressional race in front of us,” Sanders told The Nation.
Although he generally caucuses with Democrats, the senator said he would have to run an unconventional campaign because he is listed as an independent – although he suggested that could be an advantage.
“I think there is profound disgust among the American people for the conventional political process and the never-ending campaigns,” Sanders said. “If I run, my job is to help bring together the kind of coalition that can win—that can transform politics. We’ve got to bring together trade unionists and working families, our minority communities, environmentalists, young people, the women’s community, the gay community, seniors, veterans, the people who in fact are the vast majority of the American population. We’ve got to create a progressive agenda and rally people around that agenda.”
He hasn’t decided if he would run as an independent or third-party candidate, although he understands that doing so could draw votes away from a Democratic candidate and help get a “right-wing Republican” elected.
“The bolder, more radical approach is obviously running outside of the two-party system,” Sanders said. “Do people believe at this particular point that there is the capability of starting a third-party movement? Or is that an idea that is simply not realistic at this particular moment in history? “
Sanders said most voters support progressive policies, even if they don’t know it.
“In terms of fundamental economic issues: job creation, a high minimum wage, progressive taxation, affordable college education — the vast majority of people are on our side,” he said. “One of the goals that I would have, politically, as a candidate for president of the United States is to reach out to the working-class element of the Tea Party and explain to them exactly who is funding their organization – and explain to them that, on virtually every issue, the Koch Brothers and the other funders of the Tea Party are way out of step with what ordinary people want and need.”
U.S. Economy Adds 175,000 Jobs, and Unemployment Rate Ticks Up to 6.7%
By NELSON D. SCHWARTZ
MARCH 7, 2014
The American economy added 175,000 jobs last month, a pace that was better than economists had expected and well above the anemic job gains recorded in December and January.
Still, the latest figures for hiring were down from last year’s average of roughly 190,000 and fell a bit short of what policy makers had been hoping to see at this stage of the recovery. The unemployment rate rose 0.1 percentage point to 6.7 percent.
The February report by the Labor Department had been eagerly awaited and was viewed as a wild card, with economists struggling to estimate the impact of wintry weather in many parts of the country as well as seasonal adjustments by government statisticians.
Before Friday’s report, the consensus among economists on Wall Street called for employers to have added 149,000 positions in February, with the jobless rate remaining flat at 6.6 percent.
In December, the economy added 75,000 jobs, and in January, according to last month’s release of data, it created 113,000 positions. Both numbers fell well short of expectations among experts on Wall Street. On Friday, the January gain was revised upward to 129,000.
There has been an intense debate among economists and traders as to the effects of the weather in recent months versus more fundamental factors in the economy.
February’s data is unlikely to resolve the debate.
In fact, some economists are already looking ahead to the release of figures for March and April, arguing that the current batch of data is not very reliable and that so-called clean data won’t be available until the cold weather eases and spring arrives.
In addition to the usual seasonal factors and statistical quirks, February’s report was difficult to predict because other surveys have offered contrary signals about the labor market this week. As it turned out, the private sector added 162,000 jobs, while the public sector added 13,000.
A private survey by ADP suggested healthier growth, but the Institute for Supply Management’s nonmanufacturing survey augured weakness. New weekly jobless claims reported by the Labor Department on Thursday were more encouraging.
“We are braced for just about anything tomorrow,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said in a note to clients before the report. “Mixed payroll signals and unpredictable seasonals make tomorrow’s number a very tough call.”
Companies Test Plans to Cut Their Health Costs
By REED ABELSON
MARCH 6, 2014
At Walgreen, the giant drugstore chain, employees now have a much broader choice of insurers and plans. Once limited to two options, either from a local Blue Cross plan or UnitedHealthcare, workers can now choose among as many as 25 plans from five insurers, depending on where they live, including Kaiser Permanente, the well-known California-based H.M.O.
As health care costs continue their steady climb, employers are looking for ways to slow the pace. A survey of large employers released on Thursday showed that companies were shifting more costs onto their employees but were also experimenting with concepts like private exchanges that allow companies like Walgreen to offer their workers more choices in health care plans.
The average annual cost of coverage for both employers and workers increased to $12,535 in 2014, compared with $11,938 last year, according to the survey of 595 large companies by Towers Watson, a benefits consultant, and the National Business Group on Health, a Washington-based employer alliance. Employees are paying almost a quarter of the amount, now $2,975 a year, up nearly 7 percent from 2013.
Continue reading the main story
Inflation and Health Care Costs
Employers manage the rising costs of providing health benefits each year by making changes to their health plans, like asking their workers to pay more, or reducing benefits. The annual increase in employers’ health care costs, after such plan changes were made, reached a 15-year low in 2013. But it still far outpaced inflation.
While there are few signs that the nation’s large employers are likely to drop coverage for their workers anytime soon, companies continue to hunt for new concepts, like private exchanges. Similar in design to the public exchanges created under the federal health care law, they are available only to employees of certain companies and are not offered on the open individual market. Like the public exchanges, though, the theory is that by being part of an exchange that offers multiple plans, insurers will compete more aggressively on price. They would also push for better deals with hospitals and doctors and do better managing potentially expensive diseases.
The other appeal of the exchanges is to allow consumers to choose the kind of plan they want instead of having the government or the employer choose a plan for them. “Private and public exchanges epitomize the shift from wholesale to retail,” said Ceci Connolly, a managing director for PwC’s Health Research Institute, an arm of the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Employees, like individuals in the public exchange, can also switch insurers if they think their share of premiums has risen too quickly or if they struggled for hours on the phone trying to get a claim paid.
Only a small fraction of the 122 million workers now getting coverage through employers is currently enrolled in these private exchanges, but the number could rise to tens of millions by the end of the decade, according to Bruce Ballentine, who recently wrote a report on exchanges for Moody’s Investors Service.
Several private exchanges are also being offered by large benefit consultants like Aon Hewitt, Mercer and Towers Watson, which are making significant investments and promoting the idea with their existing corporate clients. “These benefit consultants have longstanding relationships with employers,” he said.
Some insurers are offering exchanges themselves, with marketplaces looking more like an old-style cafeteria plan and limited to a single insurer but with a broader array of plans than an employer might typically offer.
“There are so many things that have the exchange name, and there are significant differences,” said Cary Grace, the chief executive of Aon Health Exchanges.
Early results from Aon Hewitt, released Thursday, show that premium increases for companies on the exchanges are lower than companies without them. The average cost of premiums for 2014, for the 150,000 or so workers enrolled in its exchange the previous year, is expected to rise just 5.1 percent, compared with the 6 or 7 percent estimated for large employers over all.
Aon’s model requires the insurers to assume the risk of paying the employees’ medical bills rather than simply managing claims for the large employers that self-insure. By forcing the insurers to be responsible for the costs of the employees’ health care, “we’re realigning the incentives,” said Ken Sperling, the Aon Hewitt executive who helped lead the effort. Aon says it has now enrolled more than 600,000 employees from different companies.
Like the public exchanges, Aon’s private exchange also relies on dividing plans into tiers that offer varying levels of coverage. The bronze plan, for example, has a deductible of $2,500. Premiums vary by employer, depending on that company’s history of medical claims.
Walgreen offered the Aon exchange for the first time for plans that went into effect this year. “We got overwhelmingly favorable response in the sign up process and the choices that were available to them,” said Michael Polzin, a spokesman. With a broad mix of employees, the company was looking for a way to offer a variety of plans.
While employers could use private exchanges as a way to cap how much they will pay for health benefits, much the same way they use a 401(k) to replace a pension plan, Walgreen said it was not viewing the exchanges as a way of reducing its share of health costs. “We want to make sure our benefits are competitive,” Mr. Polzin said.
What the private exchanges like the one from Aon do not offer — yet — is an abundance of new entrants, like the co-ops created to offer nonprofit consumer-based alternatives on the state exchanges, or smaller plans offered by a large health system. Benefits consultants and others say the long-term goal is to achieve a diversity of offerings, but the current exchanges now favor large well-established insurers. “This is going to be iterative,” Ms. Grace said.
Companies are turning to exchanges more aggressively for retirees, according to Ron Fontanetta, an executive with Towers Watson, and they are looking closely at the public exchanges for their part-time employees. The concept of these marketplaces is “a very clear trend,” he said. “There’s no question that many employers are asking about private exchanges.”
Employers are also looking closely at other ways of controlling health costs, including using on-site clinics or experimenting with different kinds of networks of hospitals and doctors, Mr. Fontanetta said. And while they plan to continue to pay for coverage, they are looking at ways they could reduce their financial commitment by scaling back what they pay for dependents’ coverage, for example.
While health care costs have been rising more slowly in recent years than they have in decades, they continue to outpace inflation, Mr. Fontanetta said. Employers are thinking hard about what steps they can take to reduce their exposure, he said, at a time when health care is changing rapidly. “The current time period represents a watershed moment for employers.”
U.S. House Passes Ukraine Aid Bill
by Naharnet Newsdesk
06 March 2014, 22:55
The House of Representatives on Thursday overwhelmingly approved U.S. financial aid to crisis-plagued Ukraine, but the Senate is unlikely to take up the measure until at least next week.
The lower chamber of Congress voted 385 to 23 in favor of the loan guarantees, the first tangible congressional response to Russia's incursion into its neighbor and former Soviet satellite.
The White House and State Department have said the aid will include some $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine's government as Kiev grapples with military and political interference by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ukraine's new leaders have asked for at least $15 billion in financial aid.
"The House's swift, bipartisan action today reflects America's solidarity with the Ukrainian people," House Speaker John Boehner said shortly after the vote.
"This is only a start on fulfilling our commitment to provide the president as many tools as needed to keep President Putin in check and protect the sovereignty of Russia's neighbors."
Boehner on Wednesday said the measure would strengthen Obama's hand in dealing with Europe's deepest security crisis since the Cold War.
The top congressional Republican also said a set of economic sanctions was being worked up by his committee leaders.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, however, has signaled he would not be able to put the Ukraine aid bill on the schedule this week, citing a traffic jam of other legislation.
Meanwhile the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a resolution that strongly condemned Putin's aggressive actions regarding Ukraine and called for economic sanctions against Russia.
The non-binding measure is "part of a larger effort to provide assistance to Ukraine and to impose real costs on Russia for its actions," the committee's chairman Ed Royce said in a statement.
Tea Party Struggles to Regain Political Traction
by Naharnet Newsdesk
06 March 2014, 21:44
How do you win the White House? U.S. conservatives and Tea Party faithful launched their annual convention Thursday seeking to answer that gnawing question after several setbacks in Washington.
Born of a grass-roots thirst for small government and greater protections of constitutional liberties, the Tea Party movement celebrated its fifth anniversary last month amid deep divisions within the Republican Party in a mid-term election year.
Internal battles have uncomfortably pitted the party's politicians against one another as the far-right seeks to oust establishment Republicans in the Senate and House that the movement deems insufficiently conservative.
But the movement's luminaries pushed a message of youthful can-do idealism before thousands of attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington.
"You want to lose elections, stand for nothing," boomed Cruz, a Tea Party rockstar mulling a 2016 presidential bid.
"You win elections by standing on principles, inspiring people that there is a better tomorrow," he told the crowd.
"We did it in 1980 with a grassroots movement that became the Reagan revolution, it's the same thing happening all over again."
The political force that emerged from a Taxed Enough Already movement in 2009 is counting on such a revolution to help it secure more seats in Congress in November in the run-up to the presidential election two years later.
But mainstream Republicans warned that a persistent anti-Washington, anti-Obama sentiment must be replaced with a strategy of presenting better strategies and ideas.
"Let's come out of this conference resolved to win elections again," said New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Christie, who is also considering a presidential run, has been wounded by a political scandal in his home state, but appeared to be back in favor among conservatives who gave him a standing ovation.
The Tea Party has rallied against President Barack Obama's health care law, high taxes and skyrocketing national debt.
Christie opposes Obama, too, but he brought his tough-love message to CPAC conservatives: "We've got to start talking about what we're for and not what we're against."
Paul Ryan, the former vice presidential candidate who is seen as a bridgebuilder between conservatives and more establishment Republicans, agreed.
"We're not just opposing a president. We're developing an agenda -- a modern, pro-growth, principled agenda for our party," said the author of a series of austere federal budget plans that would severely slash spending.
"It's messy and noisy and even a little bit uncomfortable. But the center of gravity is shifting."
First, Republicans will need to heal deep party rifts, and a look at who is not attending CPAC illuminates the divide.
The Senate's conservative heroes Cruz, Rand Paul and Mike Lee are here, while Tea Party star Sarah Palin wraps things up on Saturday.
But House Speaker John Boehner, attacked by Tea Partiers as a sellout, has not been invited.
Boehner helped end an impasse last year when a conservative effort to force a showdown over federal spending resulted in a crippling 16-day government closure.
He infuriated the Tea Party again in January when he introduced a U.S. debt-ceiling increase with no strings attached.
Other establishment lawmakers are in the Tea Party's sights, too. But a vote Tuesday in Texas, where far-right congressman Steve Stockman lost badly to incumbent Senator John Cornyn in a party primary, laid bare the difficulties of such a strategy.
Still, 72-year-old Hal Doiron of Texas believes the movement is growing, even if it's "quieter and more mature."
But with the Tea Party "actively working against some establishment Republicans, of course that makes them very nervous," he said.
Chris Christie Admits GOP is Fighting for the Koch Brothers at CPAC
By: Keith Brekhus
Thursday, March, 6th, 2014, 5:46 pm
In a rare moment of honesty, Chris Christie spoke the truth about what the Republican Party stands for at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) today. Christie told the audience Republicans need to have a positive message as he proclaimed:
We have to start talking about what we’re for and not continuing to rail against what we’re against is because of one simple reason, our ideas are better than their ideas.
And according to Chris Christie, what are Republicans for? They are for the Koch brothers. Christie blasted Democrats and defended the Koch brothers by stating:
What they’re for in Washington, D.C. is to have the leader of the Senate Democrats stand up and rail against two American entrepreneurs (the Koch brothers) who have built a business, created jobs and created wealth…Harry Reid should get back to work and stop picking on great Americans.
Chris Christie has a message for Democrats. Stop picking on the Koch Brothers. Yes, the heroic Governor of New Jersey has come to the rescue of the most vulnerable Americans, Charles and David Koch. The beleaguered billionaires need the government to stand up for them against these bullying attacks from the commoners and from that mean Harry Reid. So without a second thought, Chris Christie voiced in his own words what Democrats have been saying for quite some time. The Republican Party is now little more than an entire political party devoted to making the lives of Charles and David Koch better while giving the rest of the nation the shaft.
Chris Christie’s simple straightforward admission of the Republican Party’s priorities should serve as a reminder to the rest of America who the conservative movement represents. No matter how well they wrap their policies in populist or patriotic rhetoric the Republican Party has decided that its job is to fight for the Koch brothers and protect them from the rest of the American people. Chris Christie said so much at CPAC. We appreciate the Governor of New Jersey’s brief but heartfelt moment of candor. Now we have his words on record.
Big Oil and the Koch Brothers Have Hijacked Our Government and Trampled Liberty
Thursday, March, 6th, 2014, 10:17 am
Over the past five years Americans may have taken note that Republicans have never accepted, or acknowledged, the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency and sought every means under the Sun to supersede his Constitutional authority. If they were not blocking the President’s judicial, cabinet, and agency nominees, Republicans have obstructed this President’s agenda; including seeking to sue him for using executive orders nearly every president since George Washington has issued. As the oil industry’s legislative arm, Republicans have went to great lengths to give the Koch brothers, oil exporters, and a foreign corporation a gift that climate scientists say is “game over for Earth’s climate” regardless it is President Obama’s sole purview to approve construction of the KeystoneXL pipeline.
Republicans in Congress have passed laws approving the foreign corporation’s permit to begin construction of KeystoneXL, attempted to attach immediate construction approval to raising the debt limit, and lied copiously about the economic benefits and jobs associated with the pipeline’s construction. President Obama has not given approval for the foreign corporation to begin constructing its dangerous pipeline, but Nebraska Republicans took matters into their own hands and passed a law granting the Republican governor sole authority to approve the pipeline’s construction. Fortunately for Nebraskans fearful of illegal land grabs and the safety of the Ogallala Aquifer, a Nebraska judge ruled that the law, and the governor’s approval, is unconstitutional and effectively put the construction and the route of the entire KeystoneXL pipeline in limbo.
Before 2011, Nebraska gave oil pipeline companies free rein to seize private and public land even if they were foreign companies like TransCanada. In November 2011, the state passed a new law, the Major Oil Pipeline Siting Act, adding requirements for the pipeline approval process that included public hearings, a requirement to establish how a pipeline serves the public interest, and approval reports from a plethora of agencies. However the new law was prohibited from affecting TransCanada’s construction of the Keystone XL pipeline because any legislation that delayed KeystoneXL would be unconstitutional.
The new law’s only requirement was that eminent domain to seize private land could be used if future pipelines were approved by the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC). That did not sit well with a Republican state senator. The Republican, Jim Smith, introduced a new law, LB 11161, which allowed pipeline companies to bypass appropriate agencies and approval requirements except for Nebraska’s Department of Environmental Quality that lacked standards or authority to evaluate the pipeline’s impact. LB11161 allowed approval to go straight to the Republican governor, a rabid Keystone booster, to approve KeystoneXL and give TransCanada free rein to seize all private land along the pipeline’s route. The judge hearing the lawsuit against the Republican governor agreed with the plaintiffs and ruled the Republican governor’s route approval was unconstitutional.
It is noteworthy that after Republican state senator Smith’s law was signed by the governor, he received an all-expenses paid trip to see the Alberta Tar Sands courtesy of the Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Within a couple of months Nebraska’s Republican governor approved TransCanada’s new pipeline route and gave the foreign company permission to seize private land and begin constructing KeystoneXL across Nebraska. The three Nebraskans had already received letters from TransCanada informing them they would use imminent domain and seize their land that precipitated the lawsuit against the governor, the “acting” director of the state department of environmental quality, and the state treasurer on grounds the new law was unconstitutional; on February 19 the judge agreed the governor and Republican-dominated legislature overstepped their authority.
Unlike in Nebraska, an oil industry pipeline is already being built between Illinois and Oklahoma due to the oil corporation’s use of a loophole in the law. The corporation, Enbridge, has already amassed a disastrous record of environmentally devastating tar sand leaks. Enbridge is the corporation whose pipeline ruptured in 2010 and dumped 3.3 million litres of tar into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. The Environmental Protection Agency had to order Canada’s largest pipeline company to return to the river last September to cleanup areas where at least 684,000 litres of tar still remains in the river. Once completed, the Enbridge project carrying tar sand that began construction last fall will cover 589-miles, pass over 1,950 wetlands and waterways, including the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, with an initial capacity of 600,000 barrels per day from Canada, North Dakota¸ and Montana.
According to one of the founders of Tar Sands Free Midwest, Debra Michaud, the alarming aspect of Enbridge’s tar pipeline is the ease and speed by which it was approved using a tactic she and the Sierra Club says allows the oil industry to bypass environmental protection laws to fast-track pipeline projects. Michaud said, “This is one of the most important fossil fuel issues of our time. This is really laying the groundwork for the way they’re going to take over this country with pipelines.” Apparently, Michaud’s concern is not unique. In its current issue, Bloomberg Businessweek says “The Keystone XL pipeline should be an open-and-shut case from a climate perspective. But it’s difficult, even for a president, to take on Big Oil. Obama can only do so if he is given political cover by a large, insistent, popular movement.” That movement, and any concerned American, has until Friday, March 7 to weigh in and express their disgust and outrage that Republicans, the Koch brothers, and a foreign corporation are pushing an oil export pipeline carrying Canadian tar to enrich the oil export industry, the Kochs (between $100-250 billion), and it is “game over for the planet’s climate.”
Although there are several issues Americans should be mortified over with one tar sand pipeline already under construction and one in Nebraska shut down by a judge’s ruling, it is the audacity of Republicans and their oil industry masters to flout the law with veritable impunity. Republicans have allowed a foreign corporation, TransCanada, to seize Americans’ private land under eminent domain, passed a law giving Nebraska’s Republican governor authority to approve construction of KeystoneXL, and ignore environmental laws with no regard for the health and safety of American citizens.
Something is wrong with this country that American citizens have become so timid that they sit idly by while Republicans assist the oil industry to have its way with Americans’ air, water, and health. Americans will never have to worry about a foreign nation seizing their land, poisoning their water supply, or taking control of the government because although Christian extremists and Wall Street pose an existential threat to this country, America is firmly under control of the Koch brothers, ALEC, and their allies in the oil industry. One never thought Americans would allow a foreign corporation serving the interests of the Koch brothers to accumulate unchallenged power over the people that TransCanada and the oil export industry have amassed, but with Republicans providing legislative muscle and American apathy, it was just a matter of time before the oil industry seized controlled of America.
Republicans Use Stalinesque Tactics to Show Their Love For The Constitution
By: Adalia Woodbury
Thursday, March, 6th, 2014, 9:17 am
The next time Republicans and their surrogates at Fox news talk about their love for the constitution, and especially when they claim to care about civil rights, remember Wednesday, March 5 2014. That was the day Republicans in the House and the Senate took a sledgehammer to the constitution of the United States.
There was the stunt bill to sue President Obama for being president.
There was that predominantly Republican block of Debo Adegbile’s nomination to head the DOJ’s civil rights division. As Sarah Jones pointed out beautifully in her post, the real reason Republicans objected to Adegbile’s nomination is his effectiveness as an advocate for voting rights that extend beyond the devout followers of the Republican cult.
Their stated reason, in reality, is as much a swipe at civil rights as their primary motive. By stating their opposition to Adegbile because as a criminal defense attorney he represented Mumia Abu Jamal amounts to an admission of the Republican Party’s opposition to the sixth amendment which guarantees all criminal defendants a right to counsel – including those accused of the most heinous of crimes. After all, the constitution that Republicans love only provides privileges for Republicans and corporations.
It’s more than shameful that seven Democrats (Casey, Coons, Donnelly, Heitkamp, Manchin, Pryor and Walsh) joined the Republicans in their opposition to the sixth Amendment.
Then there’s the Darrell Issa meltdown after Louise Lerner, once again, invoked her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent during the latest chapter of Issa’s IRS inquisition. How dare she invoke a right that is guaranteed under the Constitution. After all, she isn’t a Republican! How Dare Elijah Cummings think that, as the ranking member on this committee, he also gets to ask questions. Didn’t he know Issa’s inquisitions are one sided validations of debunked conspiracy theories?
Moreover, this inquisition is really about preserving the life’s blood of the Republican Party. Issa is fighting to protect the anonymity of rich individuals and corporations that launder money to the Republican Party through 501(c )(4)s. Anonymity is key because corporate free speech shouldn’t mean people knowing if their purchases might be financing efforts to allow corporations to poison their air and water with impunity while simultaneously taking away people’s jobs, housing, healthcare, insurance and education.
Republican surrogate, Fox, wasn’t about to miss out on the day of assault on the constitution. Republican puppet, Jon Scott, came right out and said if Louise Lerner waves her Fifth Amendment rights, the death threats she has been receiving will go away.
I can see why if you’re getting death threats, why you wouldn’t want to open yourself up to more scrutiny,” Scott admitted. “But at the same time, it would seem that answering some of the questions might cause some of these people who are so angry to ease up.
Make no mistake. Scott’s comments amounted to legitimizing the Stalinesque death threats as a means of getting people to give up their constitutional rights.
All of this fits a pattern in which the constitution that Republicans say they love is much like wealth. They believe both are reserved exclusively for Republicans and their corporate sugar daddies and they are willing to use Joseph Stalin’s tactics to make sure the rest of us get the message.
Mitch McConnell Tries To Save His Senate Seat By Waving a Rifle Around at CPAC
By: Sarah Jones
Thursday, March, 6th, 2014, 12:23 pm
It wasn’t too long ago that children were brutally mass murdered in Newtown, but that doesn’t stop Republicans and the NRA from displaying their callous, shallow, misguided belief that a gun makes a man.
It’s CPAC 2014.
So it should come as no surprise that Republican Mitch McConnell (R-KY) entered the stage holding a rifle over his head to cheers. After all, the Senate Minority Leader is pretty desperate to turn on the rabid Republican base, who aren’t very impressed with him. What better way to do it than to carry an image of alleged power like a gun, which represents to the little ones who have a lot to prove the power to murder another living creature? So hot, amiright? This moment was captured by Politico’s Director of Photography, M. Scott Mahaskey, in the above image.
Watch McConnell give the gun to the Republican Senator from Oklahoma, Tom Coburn, here if you have not eaten yet, or have been hard wired to watch old white men who are so unaware that they have no idea how Freudian trading a rifle to commemorate the end of one’s career appears:
Trying too hard (just a hint, but responsible gun owners are not so immature that they think their gun proves something):
Coburn McConnell and a gun
We are to believe this is not a hopeful phallic symbol of potency and relevancy being passed from one dinosaur to another, but rather a lifetime achievement award. Jeff Zeleny, ABC News Senior Washington Correspondent, explained that the gun is a lifetime achievement award from the NRA that McConnell presented to Coburn:
The gun McConnell presented to Coburn? A lifetime achievement award from the NRA. Coburn is retiring at the end of the year.
— Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) March 6, 2014
McConnell spent his speech attacking Democrats to no avail. McConnell chanted the obligatory conservative conspiracy theories about the IRS and Benghazi, but even these fail safes didn’t arouse for him any conservative love. McConnell finally tapped into the conservative crowd’s sweet spot with some blind, stupid Obama hate, saying Obama is “treating our Constitution worse than a place mat at dinner.” This from a leader of the party that enabled W, speaking behind an evil teleprompter no less, about our constitutional lawyer president. But reality has no place at CPAC.
If you claim Obama is treating the Constitution like a place mat with a gun over your head whilst cheering the death of a gay soldier, you win at CPAC. Bonus points for ordering a woman to get you a beer while you’re doing it, and explaining that the war on women is all in her pretty head.
Zeleny also shared McConnell’s strategy over avoiding the income inequality debate:
Trying to reframe the debate over income inequality, McConnell says of Democrats: "They've done next to nothing for the little guy."
— Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) March 6, 2014
I suppose trying to raise the minimum wage and providing affordable access to healthcare insurance might be seen as “nothing” by someone who is as wealthy and out of touch as Mitch McConnell. But then, that’s not too comforting, especially given his failure to come up with a jobs plan in the last 30 years (no, that’s not a typo).
But you are to forget all of that real policy stuff that impacts you and yours, and focus on the GUN. THE GUN.
Yes, it’s CPAC 2014 – the convention of Neanderthals for “freedom”, also known as the clever manipulations of the corporate gun lobby playing on the festering feelings of disempowerment that permeate the lower classes during a recession. Well done, corporate masters and puppets.
“If I’m given the opportunity to lead the U.S. Senate next year, I won’t let you down,” Mitch McConnell said on stage. And it makes sense if you realized to whom he was directing this promise. Hello, NRA, Koch Brothers, et al.
As the Nation Moves Left, John McCain Is America’s New Most Hated Senator
By: Jason Easley
Thursday, March, 6th, 2014, 3:00 pm
A new PPP poll has found that Sen. John McCain has passed Mitch McConnell to be become America’s least popular U.S. senator.
PPP summarized what can only be described as a boatload of bad news for McCain, “PPP’s newest Arizona poll finds that John McCain is unpopular with Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike and has now become the least popular Senator in the country. Only 30% of Arizonans approve of the job McCain is doing to 54% who disapprove. There isn’t much variability in his numbers by party- he’s at 35/55 with Republicans, 29/53 with Democrats, and 25/55 with independents, suggesting he could be vulnerable to challenges in both the primary and general elections the next time he’s up.”
Sen. McCain’s approval rating of 30% back home in Arizona means that he is 2% less popular than Mitch McConnell is in Kentucky. McCain’s disapproval rating (54%) is six points lower than McConnell’s (60%), but he is also less popular than the fading fast Republican Senate leader. The fact that McCain is only six points more popular with Republicans (35%) than he is with Democrats (29%) signals that the end is near for self styled Arizona maverick.
McCain is likely to share a similar problem with McConnell. Republicans in both states think that their incumbent senior citizen senators are too liberal, and compromise too much with Obama. I suspect that the folks back home have also grown sick of their senator’s constant chasing of television cameras. McCain is a virtual weekly guest on the Sunday morning shows, and the television networks have gone completely over the top by featuring him as a guest eleven times in the past week.
The Arizona senator has cultivated a press corps that fawn all over him so at first glance it surprising that he is the least popular senator in the country. Beneath the media hype, is a senator that has not done much for years in the Senate. Since losing the 2008 election, McCain has mostly used the Senate as a glorified retirement home and perch to get on national television often and frequently.
Arizona is shifting away from Republicans, and more towards being a 2016 presidential swing state. As Arizona changes, one of the first things it may do is send John McCain into retirement.
Wendy Davis Shows Democrats How to Stand With Their President in a Red State
By: Sarah Jones
Thursday, March, 6th, 2014, 11:19 am
There’s been a lot of talk about how some Democrats don’t feel like they can be seen with President Obama, particularly in red states. While the politics behind this choice make sense, there’s another bolder choice. A choice that shames anyone who shows disrespect for the office of the president.
It took a woman to lead the way down this proper path, and that woman is Texas State Senator, Democrat Wendy Davis.
When asked during a live stream interview with the Texas Tribune Thursday morning if she would attend an event that President Barack Obama would be attending on April 10, she responded, “I’m definitely planning on being at the celebration. I’m excited about greeting our president there, and our former presidents.”
President Obama will be delivering the keynote address at a Civil Rights Summit in Austin, Texas, ironically commemorating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. First Lady Michelle Obama will attend the Summit with the President.
Moderator Texas Tribune Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith followed it up by acting like he was getting in on a dirty secret, asking Ms. Davis with his hand over his face if she would shy away from photographs with the President.
This is the kind of thing that needs to stop, and yes, the press is complicit in it. The press buy into the notion that Democrats can’t afford to be seen with this President — the guy who won two elections, the last one in a landslide.
Wendy Davis wasn’t having it. She set the record straight by saying firmly, “No, I’m definitely not going to do that.”
Ms. Davis, who just days ago officially won the Democratic nomination with Won with 79.05% of the vote, became a national name during her widely watched filibuster during which she stood up for women against highly a restrictive and harmful abortion law passed by Texas Republicans.
“I’m excited about greeting our president there, and our former presidents,” Davis said, crisply putting Obama in with other presidents, pointing out that he belongs in the presidential category which should infer respect for the office if not the person.
When the moderator, Texas Tribune Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith, covered his face to ask whether Davis would shy away from photographs with the president, Davis said with great dignity, “No, I’m definitely not going to do that.”
And that is how Democrats should be handling this matter. Instead of buying into the bullies’ narrative that Obama is the uncool kid and being seen with him makes them dirt, Democrats need to take a stand for decency and respect for the office. They can use this moment to show their respect for traditional values like respecting authority, a note that should play well to red state independents and Republicans who haven’t been completely hate-washed. And if done properly, it leaves the frothing madness appearing just as fringe as it is in reality. It exposes it for what it is, instead of enabling it and acting like it’s okay.
“No, I’m definitely not going to do that” implies “Why would you even suggest it?” Sometimes it takes a Southern lady to sweetly shut it down with an implied “How dare you”.
Democrats should make them speak the problem with this President, because in the end, they can’t. They’ll pretend it’s about Obamacare, but of course, that was never a viable cover, and now that it’s putting money in individual’s pockets and increasing spending while helping people and lowering healthcare costs, it’s a total fail of a disguise.
Sure, it’s not perfect and neither is this President. But he deserves the respect of his office. He has done nothing to deserve being treated like an interloper at the cool kids’ table, when in fact he is the cool kid and he is definitely not an interloper. It’s almost surreal that the very people who are only in office because of gerrymandering and lies accuse this President of being the interloper.
We all know what this is about. Wendy Davis isn’t having it.
Wendy Davis is running against Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, who leads her by 12 points in Rasmussen‘s first look at the 2014 Texas gubernatorial race. However, as Ms. Davis pointed out in her interview, these are early days.