Archive for category Elections

Are Our Public Lands Up For Grabs Now?

High in the Morning - Maynard Dixon

Tea-GOP Congresswoman-elect Mia Love regarding our public lands: “I support returning ownership back to the state of Utah.” The premise of this statement (not to mention the grammar) is completely wrong, because the public lands in Utah have always been in federal ownership since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. The State of Utah did not exist until 1896, nearly a half-century later.

State-level land grab attempts such as the Transfer of Public Lands Act (the 2012 Utah law that demands the federal government hand over public lands to the state by December 31, 2014) violate both the U.S. Constitution and the Utah Constitution. However, the U.S. Congress has the ultimate power over all federal lands. The Property Clause in Article 4 of the Constitution says: “The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States…”

Now that the Tea-GOP controls both houses of Congress, will Mia Love get her wish?

Claire Moser on Think Progress:

For the Republican Party, the growing internal debate over whether America’s public lands should be seized and sold represents a choice between the conservation values of Republican President Theodore Roosevelt and the power of a special interest-driven agenda. Former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar observed in August that the RNC’s endorsement of land grabs would “cause Teddy Roosevelt to turn over in his grave.”

With the debate escalating over whether public lands should be seized or sold, candidates who dodged the issue but won on Tuesday will likely soon have to say whether they are with the party of Teddy Roosevelt or Cliven Bundy.

President Obama has the power (delegated by Congress to the chief executive in the Antiquities Act of 1906) to proclaim national monuments on public lands. He has already done so 13 times to protect more than 260 million acres of land and water, which is more than any other President. And he says he is “not finished” with national monuments.

There is a proposal for a Greater Canyonlands National Monument in Utah. The Tea-GOP has it coming. Will President Obama bring it?

More info:
The Sagebrush Gang Rides Again? (February 2012)

UPDATE:
Is possible San Rafael Swell state park another Utah land grab?

8 Comments

Senator Mark Udall’s Rare Opportunity: Release The Torture Report Now

In the Guardian, Trevor Timm points out that while Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) lost his bid for re-election, that gives him a one-time chance to bring transparency to the CIA’s secret torture program.

Udall’s loss doesn’t have to be all bad. The lame-duck transparency advocate now has a rare opportunity to truly show his principles in the final two months of his Senate career and finally expose, in great detail, the secret government wrongdoing he’s been criticizing for years. On his way out the door, Udall can use congressional immunity provided to him by the Constitution’s Speech and Debate clause to read the Senate’s still-classified 6,000-page CIA torture report into the Congressional record – on the floor, on TV, for the world to see.

How about it, Senator Udall?

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Jonathan Chait Predicts Permanent Gridlock

Do nothing Congress

There is no shortage of gloom and doom today in the wake of the Democratic Party’s epic electoral fail. Jonathan Chait’s analysis is that the Dems may be locked out of the majority in Congress for the foreseeable future, although they might be able to keep control of the White House.

Mitch McConnell did not become the majority leader by cooperating. His single strategic insight is that voters do not blame Congress for gridlock, they blame the president, and therefore reward the opposition. Eternally optimistic seekers of bipartisanship have clung to the hope that owning all of Congress, not merely half, will force Republicans to “show they can govern.” This hopeful bit of conventional wisdom rests on the premise that voters are even aware that the GOP is the party controlling Congress. In fact, only about 40 percent of the public even knows which party controls which chamber of Congress, which makes the notion that the Republicans would face a backlash for a lack of success fantastical.

McConnell’s next play is perfectly clear. His interest lies in creating two more years of ugliness and gridlock. He does not want spectacular, high-profile failures that command public attention — no shutdowns, no impeachment. Instead, he wants tedious, enervating stalemate. McConnell needs to drain away any possibility of hope and excitement from government, so that the disengaged Democratic voters remain disengaged in 2016.

OTOH Majority Leader McConnell may not get what he wants, because Other Majority Leader Rafael “Ted” Cruz has different ideas.

UPDATES:
Right-Wing Media Outraged After Obama Declares Intent To Cooperate With GOP
“Stop Barack Obama”: Right-Wing Media Demand No Compromise

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Too Close To Call

Owens and Love

According to the latest Dan Jones and Associates poll, Mia Love has 48 percent with Doug Owens at 43 percent. The five-point spread is roughly equal to the poll’s margin of error, and 6 percent of voters are still undecided. This election could easily go either way. Back in August, Love had a 12-point lead.

Love-Owens poll

Bryan Schott points out that Mia Love has never crossed 50% in any poll, while Doug Owens leads with independents 57% to 29%, and has support from 16% of Republicans.

Love has run a surprisingly lackluster campaign, and has gotten into trouble over false statements – for example, her recent claim that fewer Americans have health insurance now than before the Affordable Care Act was implemented.

What does everyone else think?

UPDATE:
Election Results: Mia Love beats Doug Owens 50% to 47%.

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Hillary: ‘Trickle down should be consigned to the trash bin of history’

Hillary on trickle-down

I know Hillary Clinton would be the Wall Street candidate if she runs for President. I remember how the last President Clinton irritated progressives by embracing right-wing policies, and the last thing this country needs is another dynastic succession. Most of all, as we have seen with President Obama, progressive populist rhetoric can turn out to be meaningless.

But it’s still good news that Hillary said this at an October 24 campaign event for Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley (emphasis added):

Don’t let anybody tell you that raising the minimum wage will kill jobs. They always say that. I’ve been through this. My husband gave working families a raise in the 1990s. I voted to raise the minimum wage and guess what? Millions of jobs were created or paid better and more families were more secure. That’s what we want to see here, and that’s what we want to see across the country.

And don’t let anybody tell you, that, you know, it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs. You know, that old theory, trickle-down economics. That has been tried. That has failed. That has failed rather spectacularly.

One of the things my husband says, when people say, what did you bring to Washington? He says, well I brought arithmetic. And part of it was he demonstrated why trickle down should be consigned to the trash bin of history. More tax cuts for the top and for companies that ship jobs over seas while taxpayers and voters are stuck paying the freight just doesn’t add up. Now that kind of thinking might win you an award for outsourcing excellence, but Massachusetts can do better than that. Martha understands it. She knows you have to create jobs from everyone working together and taking the advantages of this great state and putting them to work.

By way of explanation, Coakley’s Tea-GOP opponent Charlie Baker won an “Outsourcing Excellence Award” for sending American jobs out of the country.

UPDATE:
Rand Paul Mocks Hillary Clinton Over Jobs Remark

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Insane Right-Wing Ebola Conspiracy Theories

Media Matters offers a four and a half minute compilation of how right-wing media have been trying to spread unfounded hysteria and conspiracy theories about Ebola. Apparently it’s just part of the GOTV operation to make sure all the wingers show up at the polls on November 4. It’s hyper-partisan politics as usual, and the good of our nation and the world is not even a consideration.

Mario Machado on HuffPo:

Sure, FOX news gets away with blatant racism and nobody bats an eye because it’s just part of their act, but they are not alone in their uncompassionate reporting on the thousands of people currently suffering from Ebola.

…We speculate endlessly over the fictionalized and sensationalized prospects of an epidemic that will never become a legitimate threat within the US, but no one finds the time to even mention the horror that must face the individuals, the families, the health care workers and the citizens of an impoverished country who are slowly watching this unspeakably devastating disease spread within their midst. For the moment, we are too busy asking ourselves, “What does this Ebola outbreak mean for me and my life?” instead of the questions we should be asking, such as “How can we as a global community best act to stop this terrible disease everywhere?”

So whether anchors are talking about travel bans for everyone and anyone coming from West Africa, or discussing the domestic “Ebola epidemic” in regards to the few cases we’ve had in the U.S., it is important to realize that it is all just well-disguised racism and Western exceptionalism being paraded around under the banner of “national security.”…

More info:
The Ebola Truthers Have Arrived and Their Conspiracy Theories Are Completely Insane
POLITICO poll: Democrats in danger over Ebola
Poll: Majority Of Americans Worried About U.S. Ebola Outbreak
Gallup: One-Fifth of Americans Worry About Getting Ebola (Those would be the regular Faux News Channel viewers)

UPDATE:
Politicians Who Say ‘I’m Not A Scientist’ On Climate Offer Their Advice On Ebola There is a method to the madness: Tea-GOPers always reject science when it runs counter to their political interests of the moment.

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Tea-GOP Ready to Seize the Senate

Mitch McConnell

FiveThirtyEight’s Senate Forecast gives the Tea-GOP a 60.8 percent chance of winning a majority of Senate seats. HuffPo’s poll-tracking model says there is a 68 percent chance. Sam Wang’s Princeton Election Consortium is the outlier, predicting the Dems have a 65 percent chance to save their Senate majority.

The Economist explained the situation last month:

More vulnerable Democrats are up for re-election this year than vulnerable Republicans. The GOP needs to take away six seats from the Democrats, and is already nearly assured of winning three; of the six or seven competitive races (depending on who’s counting), Republicans must win just three to gain a majority. Add in Barack Obama’s low approval ratings and the fact that the out-of-power party generally does better in midterm elections, and you have a nice bloodless political-science description of the Republican advantage.

Yet the technical factors don’t quite explain why Democrats feel so listless this autumn…

…In the face of the far right’s effective veto over the congressional GOP, Democrats have given up on passing any significant legislation either until they regain control of the House, an impossibly remote prospect, or until the Tea Party somehow withers away, which shows no signs of happening. The Democrats’ acceptance of their inability to accomplish anything significant has left them unable to campaign on big themes. The party feels exhausted, still convinced of the need for immigration reform, climate change legislation and expanded benefits for the middle class, but unable to imagine a political pathway to get there. If the Democrats lose the Senate this fall, it may be technically due to an unlucky roster of elections and the traditional midterm setback for the party in power. But it will also be a verdict on the party’s inability to conjure a sense of élan or vision in the face of the political paralysis tea-party Republicans have induced.

When the party that’s nominally in power looks so powerless, that’s a problem. The Dems ought to have thought about that in 2009, when they had a brief window of opportunity to reverse the Bush administration’s malfeasance. Now they can’t promise anything much, and seemingly can’t even deliver on small commitments (e.g. President Obama’s vow to make unspecified immigration reforms via executive order by “the end of summer.”)

Meanwhile, the Tea-GOP never misses an opportunity to blame Obama for all bad news – whether it’s ISIS, Ebola, or leaving the front door of the White House unlocked. Right-wingers can’t offer viable policy proposals anymore, so they resort to fear mongering and unrealistic demands to seal the U.S. borders. You can be sure the Tea-GOP voters will take their fears to the polls on November 4.

Stephanie Cutter has suggested that the Dems might actually gain in the long run if the Tea-GOP takes over the Senate and goes ahead with Mitch McConnell’s program of serial government shutdowns.

Sadly, the lesson I want the Washington Dems to learn probably won’t get learned. They are always promising to do something for average Americans after the next election. Bill Clinton says now is not the time for a protest vote, but I would say a protest vote is needed now and in every election until they get the message.

UPDATES:
Democratic Fundraising Gets Shriller And Shriller As Party Abandons Candidates
The GOP’s Dangerous Demagoguery on Ebola

The reality, as National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins recently stated, is that an Ebola vaccine would likely have already been developed if not for the past decade’s worth of largely GOP-imposed budget cuts.

84 Comments

Fox’s Manufactured Benghazi Scandal by the Numbers

Ed Kilgore at Washington Monthly highlighted a report from Media Matters, detailing the depth and breadth of the right’s bizarre Benghazi! obsession. Ed noted:

Short of gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Watergate hearings, I’m not sure we’ve seen anything quite like it in modern electronic media. And we wonder why in the strange alternative universe of the conservative movement, jabbering about Benghazi! is like discussing the weather.

From the Media Matters report:

Media Matters reviewed Fox News transcripts and identified segments including significant discussion of Benghazi on The Five, Special Report with Bret Baier, The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity, and On the Record with Greta Van Susteren between September 11, 2012, the night of the attacks, and May 2, 2014, when House Speaker John Boehner announced the formation of a select committee to investigate the attacks and their aftermath. This report does not include The Kelly File or Fox Report because they did not run for the full period of the study.

Key Findings
?1,098 total Fox News evening segments that included significant discussion of Benghazi — an average of about 13 segments per week
?In 18 of 20 months studied, Fox ran at least 20 Benghazi segments per month, with a high of 174 in October 2012
?382 segments aired on Special Report, the network’s flagship news program
?478 segments invoked the talking points used for Susan Rice’s 2012 Sunday show appearances
?281 segments alleging a “cover-up” by the Obama administration
?144 interviews of GOP members of Congress versus only five interviews of Democratic members of Congress and Obama administration officials
?120 comparisons to Iran-Contra, Watergate, and the actions of the Nixon administration
?105 attempts to link Benghazi to Hillary Clinton’s potential presidential ambitions
?100 segments promoting the lie that the administration issued a “stand-down order”

Media Matters points out that Fox’s talking points have been repeatedly refuted by actual facts but that hasn’t stopped the sludge from flowing. The right’s obsession with Benghazi is a perfect example of the mighty wurlitzer at work. It’s depressing – people on the right have an almost religious belief that Benghanzi! was some sort of scandal and that if they just keep digging the nefarious, black-hearted truth will emerge.

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House Intelligence Committee Finds No Wrongdoing by the Administration in Benghazi

Conservatives have now spent 2 years shrieking hysterically about BENGHAZI, convinced of some sort of malfeasance or deliberate wrongdoing by the Obama Administration. According to the Republican led House Intelligence Committee, not so much.

Among the key findings:

– Intelligence agencies were “warned about an increased threat environment, but did not have specific tactical warning of an attack before it happened.”

— “A mixed group of individuals, including those associated with al Qaeda, (Moammar) Khadafy loyalists and other Libyan militias, participated in the attack.”

— “There was no ‘stand-down order’ given to American personnel attempting to offer assistance that evening, no illegal activity or illegal arms transfers occurring by U.S. personnel in Benghazi, and no American was left behind.”

— The administration’s process for developing “talking points” was “flawed, but the talking points reflected the conflicting intelligence assessments in the days immediately following the crisis.”

Anyone betting this will mean conservatives will stop hysterically shrieking about Benghazi is taking a sucker’s bet.

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46 Comments

House GOP Could Force Government Shutdown Over EPA Carbon Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed coal regulations have angered Tea-GOP right-wingers who deny climate science.

Via The New Republic:

A standoff with Senate Democrats and the president over funding for the EPA and Interior Department could set the stage for a budget showdown, risking a partial government shutdown. Here we go again.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) said the House Appropriations Committee may include a rider to the bill that’s necessary to keep the Department of Interior and EPA open after the fiscal year’s end in September.

…A partial shutdown to the Interior and EPA might seem like it would cause less damage to the GOP than the full-scale shutdown of 2013. But remember that includes national parks, which was one of the most visible and unpopular consequences from last year’s shutdown. And the EPA is charged with a lot besides fighting climate change, like protecting our drinking water and overseeing cleanup of toxic waste sites.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has warned the Tea-GOP not to shut down the government over climate change. But really, if they do it right before the midterm elections it might do more good than harm.

34 Comments

The War Power, The Sergeant, the Senator: Treason or Heroism

The Sergeant who some years ago left his post in that unnecessary and unwinnable war in
Afghanistan is either a hero, a traitor, or just a terribly young man in the wrong war at the wrong time. He spent terrible years of torture and probably said things he didn’t really mean.

Some years ago in Vietnam, Senator McCain was shot down over Vietnam, another unconstitutional war, and equally unwinnable war, confessed repeatedly to things he later recanted, once safely in the United States, and is, quite rightly regarded, despite his confessions to American war crimes, a hero. The two cases are not quite completely on all fours, as we say in the law. But the similarity is sufficient to compare with each other and with the undergirding of law.

Presidents, from George Washington to Barack Obama, who are visited by war, either their own or, like Obama, inherited from another (in Obama’s case two other) fools who preceded them, have always had this power. While not yet president, and without this act may well not have become president, Ronald Reagan communicated with Iran, telling them, in effect, just to refuse to deal with Carter on releasing our citizens from the U. S. Embassy in Iran, and await his presidency. Their deal (which killed Jimmie Carter’s hope for a second term and by the way was treason, meriting a firing squad.)

The 30, 60, 90 day notification of Congress is also unconstitutional, but not for the reasons the Republicans and Democrats alike, trumpet. Saint Paul, as I recall, said “this trumpet has an uncertain sound.” And I know he said that some leaders have “zeal without knowledge.” This is Republican and Democratic leaders on steroids, just like my former wife.

The reason the War Powers Act is unconstitutional is not what is now said by either Republicans or Democrats, as I told Joe Biden when he was both Minority Senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate and when he was chair. I testified before his committee a few times, and he called me at the law school sometimes to chat about this. The reason is simple. Due to both a few but very senior Democrats and almost all Republicans, Congress forced the Demo’s to give the president 30, 60, or 90 days to play with Congress’ army while he picked his nose. War has not been officially declared since FDR did it in WW2. George Bush (the first) and Colin Powell, in my opinion, got it right, constitutionally, by voting 50-50 in the Senate, and then the Dark Lord, Vice President Cheney, broke the tie and we went to war in Iraq the right way by law; and they had the smarts to stop when their limited mission was accomplished. And until this time, the President, as Commander in Chief, has no constitutional power to use the United States armed forces, save self-defense.

In the Framers’ mind that means only when the United States of America, not our allies, are attacked. For Utahns, the reason J. Reuben Clark, my hero and a great patriot, a rock-ribbed Republican who served under many Republican presidents, served variously as chief legal adviser to the Department of State (then, as an deputy Attorney General on loan from Justice to State,,,,,,now called Legal Adviser to the State Department; and Vice Secretary of State, and Ambassador to Mexico; and advised many presidents between world wars one and two, on all arms control treaties between those to dreadful wars) opposed NATO was because it delegated the war power to a generation not yet born and for the defense of people, and nations, not yet born. Neither the United Nations (Korean War) nor NATO (Ukraine?) can declare war for the United States of America. This is the statement of law, the War Clause, that makes this beyond debate. Remember, that it is also the sole right of Congress: not the President of the United States, nor NATO, nor the United Nations, that decides what constitutes International law, as well. So, both Constitutional Law and International Law, save an attack on the United States, inform us that Congress, not the president or these international bodies, who determines for war or peace.

So screw the people and the Congress and president now living. When the president, any president, has this army to use, that army will never return to Congress’ care. This is unconstitutional because it is an illegal attempt to delegate to the President a plenary power, given exclusively, textually, to the Congress. Like the power over interstate commerce (the road by which most civil rights legislation is constitutional), along with the equal protection and due process of law clauses of the 5th and 14th amendments. It’s as if Congress were to say to Obama, “Say, friend, we’re so damned tired of life in Washington, despite the cherry blossoms, we will do what the Supreme Court does, and reconvene when good weather returns. We’re going to go to Balboa Island, California, where it’s nice and sunny, in ocean or on the beach, and pick our nose and scratch our butts. And better yet, we have one in eight chances not to pick both with the same finger. Even though we’ve proven, time out of mind, that we in Congress cannot chew gum and pick our nose, simultaneously (a great blessing). So, pres., you now have the taxing and the spending power, and we’ll sweeten the loaf by throwing into the pot, since you do have to stick around in this shitty weather, and give you the power also to fund and provide for the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy. And don’t sweat it about financing things by the provision in the Constitution that spending bills begin in the House. Since you already have the taxing and spending power, do all this in the White House. P.S. please instruct the Treasury Department to deliver our checks, our salaries, and all the REALLY big bucks from the armaments industry and all those other lobbyists. We really have earned this right by selling our souls to the devil. Have a good life.

I say that both Senator and Soldier are bona fide heroes. Ed Firmage xoxox

3 Comments

SUV’s, Pink Slime and the Conservative resistance

Back in 2008, there were very high gas prices. They skyrocketed during the Bush years and as gas prices went up, I saw fewer SUV’s and the sky was much less polluted. Utahns have responded to a problem and acted properly. Logically if gas prices go up, then you should use less. It only makes sense. Now in 2014, Gas prices are even higher. What do I see? There are even more trucks and they are larger. What happened in 5 years? Why is it that in 2014, when gas prices are higher while there is a greater inequality of wealth do we see more gas-guzzling vehicles? This scenario reminds me of a controversy back in 2012 where several republican governors went and defended Pink Slime. They defended this product which is the remaining scraps of beef ground into a fine paste and laced with ammonia. When the Obama Administration condemned that practice, several republicans ate the pink slime raw. In terms of gas prices and driving a big-ass truck, when the left keeps talking about the environment and how we have to lessen our impact, the right does the opposite. This is a backwards thinking and this is by far the scariest thing I have seen in this country. This goes beyond hurting others and goes straight into the realm of hurting themselves. All for political regression.

I get that the right does not like Obama or anyone from the [snickers] “left”, but just because you feel that they are the enemy does not mean that you do the exact opposite of what they do. Sure, there are people who are afraid of communism and socialism, but even then when Russia became the first nation to reach space, the US didn’t start digging holes to reach the mantle as a protest. Instead they got into space to better them. It’s not even a thing that the left does. I may think that Bush is the worst president we have ever had, but when he signed a bill to illegalize telemarketing, I didn’t all of a sudden support telemarketers and buy into their scams.

We are in a very interesting fork in the road. We have issues with war, issues with the environment, issues with our education, with our economy, with our GDP and we can go either two ways. The first one is that we do what Utahns back in 2008 did. We identify the problems and correct them. Or we could say that logic and reason is the devil/communism/unamerican/whatever and end up ruining our society permanently. This isn’t even a joke. Last year, the world was on the brink of total economic collapse all because they wanted to repeal Obamacare. Something that was a republican idea to begin with. We are in the 21st century. We need to act like it’s the 21’s century or we will end up in the 5th century.

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