Archive for category Republicans

Normalizing Relations With Cuba

Viva Fidel

IF CASTRO, IN FACT, DIES…

…and you are the kind of person who likes REALLY wild street parties, you want to get to Miami now.

Dave Barry, 2006

Communist holdout Cuba has long been ground zero for American dirty tricks (up to and including a military invasion in 1961). The CIA has tried to kill Fidel Castro so many times, he once said, “If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I would win the gold medal.”

The USA-only 54-year economic embargo of Cuba has hampered the ability of Cuban-Americans to help relatives on the island, and prohibited trade.

Automakers, agricultural conglomerates and telecommunications companies are among those that have long eyed Cuba as fertile territory. The country has nickel deposits and offshore oil reserves, and it produces widely coveted cigars. Only 5 percent of the population has access to the full Internet.

Meanwhile, its tropical climate and abundant beaches have made it a popular destination for Canadian and European tourists, just as it was for Americans before the 1959 revolution. Cruise companies, airlines and hotel operators are among those poised for the moment that Congress might lift the embargo.

Well, now it looks like sanity has prevailed at last.

“Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba,” Obama said at the White House. “Neither the American nor Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that’s rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.”

Every morning MSNBC’s Cuban-American anchor José Diaz Balart brings on die-hard anti-Castro guests, some of whom suffered in Cuban jails as political prisoners. They don’t want normalization while Fidel and his brother Raul stubbornly live on. But a new generation of Cuban-Americans tend to vote for Democrats, and in 2012, President Obama won a majority of the Cuban-American vote.

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More Awfulness From Congress

Hell no we won't go
Hell no, we won’t go!!

The must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) contains a 449-page package of public lands riders. As you might expect from this Congress, it’s a stinker full of corporate giveaways. It transfers 110,000 acres of our public lands into private ownership. Part of the Tonto National Forest in Arizona will be given to Rio Tinto for a copper mine, including sacred Apache lands. Coal reserves in the Bull Mountains of Montana will be given to Great Northern Properties, a Houston-based coal company. Sealaska Corporation gets 70,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest for clear-cutting timber that used to belong to all Americans.

There’s a stealth provision removing existing Wilderness Study Area (WSA) protections for two areas in eastern Montana, without any public input whatsoever.

The legislation also mandates automatic renewals of livestock grazing on our public lands, even where grazing operations are degrading wildlife habitat and fouling streams and rivers — without the evaluation under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that’s currently required. The so-called “Grazing Improvement Act” also automatically extends grazing permits on public lands from 10 to 20 years. The exemption of grazing permits from NEPA basically puts public land management agencies out of business with regard to ecosystem management. That is a heavy hit with far-reaching consequences.

Ten right-wing Tea-GOPers including Tom Coburn of Oklahoma had objected to including parks and wilderness bills in a defense bill. They were joined by Democratic Senators Jeff Merkeley (OR), Ron Wyden (OR), and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and Independent Bernie Sanders (VT). On December 11, the Senate voted 85-14 to break the filibuster.

As a “Christmas tree” bill enjoying widespread bipartisan support, the NDAA passed the House by a vote of 300-119 last Thursday and the Senate by 89-11 yesterday. The package of legislation is expected to be signed by the President soon.

On the plus side, the NDAA riders would add 250,000 acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System, establish or expand national parks, and designate more than 100 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers. But the losses far outweigh the wins.

More info:
Some Context on the Defense Bill Riders: Public Lands Losses Far Outweigh Any Wins
Top 5 Offensive Provisions of the Public Lands Rider
Defense bill with wilderness & parks plus land giveaways beats cloture 85-14. 3 Dems & Sanders no
Congress Protects New National Parks And Wilderness Areas For The First Time In 5 Years
Defense Bill Passes, Giving Sacred Native American Sites To Mining Company

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Senator Elizabeth Warren: Who Does Congress Work For?

Wall Street wants to get bailed out by taxpayers AGAIN, the next time they recklessly crash our financial sector with risky derivatives. This could cause the next Great Depression. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is trying to stop them, even though the Tea-GOP is threatening to shut down the federal government (in less than five hours) if a Dodd-Frank repeal proposal written by Citigroup lobbyists doesn’t pass.

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Here We Go Again

Shutdown 8 days

The question is, with Republican control of both houses of Congress, is our government becoming more dysfunctional or less dysfunctional? During his re-election campaign, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell threatened a string of government shutdowns. Right-wing Republican House members think they have 30 to 40 “no” votes on a government funding bill proposed by Speaker John Boehner, which is enough to shut down the government again.

The government will run out of spending authority on December 11 unless Congress passes a continuing resolution.

Lots of observers are saying, “Last year’s government shutdown was politically disastrous for Republicans.” But was it really? It cost us $24 billion in lost economic activity, but what did the Tea-GOP lose? Economic sabotage has been a winning strategy for them.

UPDATE:
December 11, 9:30 am — A little over 12 hours to go until government shutdown. The $1.014 trillion Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act (HR 83) has been dubbed “CRomnibus” as it is a combined continuing resolution (CR) and omnibus spending bill. There are so many controversial measures tucked into this legislation that it’s hard to list them all. The main point of contention is the de-regulation of Wall Street investment banks, allowing them to trade in risky derivatives using taxpayer-guaranteed deposits (what could possibly go wrong?). Page 1,599 of the bill effectively kills what’s left of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform. There’s much, much more — bad for the average American, bad for the environment, and great for the 1 Percent. Remember everything in this legislation is a surprise because none of it was debated openly and no hearings have been held.

House Dems are being told that they have to vote for this stinker, otherwise the Tea-GOP will come up with something worse after they take over the Senate next year. Some, for example Senator Elizabeth Warren, say the CRomnibus ought to be replaced by a stopgap spending bill. IMHO even a government shutdown at midnight would be preferable to passing this bill.

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Seriously? Utah’s Plan To Seize Public Lands Would Cost $280 Million A Year

Manti-La Sal National Forest

The right-wing Utah legislature began a legal battle to steal our public lands when Gov. Gary Herbert signed HB 148, the “Transfer of Public Lands Act and Related Study” in March 2012. Supposedly, if the federal government does not turn over title to 31.2 million acres of land by the end of this month the State of Utah will spend millions of dollars of our tax money on a ridiculous lawsuit. HB 148 is utterly unconstitutional according to the Property Clause (U.S. Const. art. IV, sec. 3, cl. 2.), the Utah Constitution (Article III), and illegal under Section 3 of the Utah Enabling Act.

We found out yesterday that a theoretical takeover of public lands by the State of Utah would place a heavy burden on the state budget.

A study released Monday by researchers at three Utah universities found that transferring national forests and other public lands to the state of Utah would cost taxpayers at least $280 million per year — a price tag that could only be paid if the state were able to increase drilling and mining, seize energy royalty payments that are owed to U.S. taxpayers, and, if energy prices remain low, raise taxes to pay for the shortfall.

Here’s the right-wing “plan”: Fire 5,000 or so federal employees, abolish all of our national forests and national parks, and turn over Utah public lands to the corporations– particularly the oil and gas industry and the tar sands industry. These are the same legislators who slashed the Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation budget by nearly 80 percent. What could possibly go wrong?

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, one and all. Don’t let right-wing lies ruin your Thanksgiving dinner. Media Matters offers this handy Thanksgiving Survival Guide.

Net neutrality

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Erick Erickson to Tea-GOP: ‘Shut. It. Down.’

Via Media Matters.

Faux News Channel political analyst Erick Erickson, an influential voice among Tea Party Republicans, is calling on the new GOP Congress to push for a government shutdown. In a November 18 post to his RedState.com website headlined “Shut. It. Down.”, Erickson says that the 2013 shutdown provides an excellent model for Republicans to follow now that they control both houses of Congress.

He thinks that President Obama will get the blame for another Tea-GOP government shutdown.

Block Obama. Let him show himself again to be the petulant man-child Americans have started recognizing. And this time, when he shuts down the government, keep it shut till you have your way and then hold public hearings to show how Obama selectively shut things down to hurt the voters intentionally.

Bring. It. On.

UPDATE:
Erickson To GOP: Shut Government Down — There Are No Consequences!

“[T]he voters did not elect the GOP to do any part of their own agenda,” he wrote. “The GOP did absolutely nothing but run on ‘we are not Obama.’ If that is the image they rebuilt, then they need to not be Obama and need to not fund Obama’s agenda.”

UPDATE:
Heritage vetoes Republican ‘rescission’ plan

Republican leaders on the Hill may be looking for a way out of the hole they dug for themselves, but finding a solution that the right considers acceptable will probably be even more difficult than it was the last time the GOP shut down the federal government.

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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

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

29 Comments

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%.

25 Comments

O’Reilly: Dem Voters Are Emotional, Selfish and Unpatriotic

Via Media Matters. They watch Faux News so we don’t have to.

This is incredible, a perfect example of the right-wing’s alternate universe. Bill O’Reilly claims Americans who vote for Democratic Party candidates are emotional, selfish and just interested in “what you can get from the government.” He doesn’t believe they have the best interest of the nation in mind. Plus, he wants to scare everybody with Ebola [Note: Americans are much more likely to be the victim of a police shooting than to contract Ebola].

Meanwhile in reality, the Tea-GOP is doing everything they can think of to put our economy into a tailspin. They have staged a government shutdown and a near-default on the National Debt. They have enforced austerity budgeting (“sequestration” in Washington-speak) that has cost us 1.6 million jobs and 1.2 percent of GDP. And they think they can blame everything on President Obama – why not, it has worked before.

UPDATE:
How The Press Is Doing The GOP’s Ebola Bidding
Fear is the Tea-GOP’s midterm election theme. Message: Panic looms. We stand exposed. Nobody’s in charge. It’s worse than you think.

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‘Thomas Eric Duncan was a victim of a broken system’

A guy shows up in the ER, has symptoms of Ebola, and says he just came from Liberia. But from the hospital’s point of view, the most important fact about this patient is he has no health insurance!

Josephus Weeks:

On Friday, Sept. 25, 2014, my uncle Thomas Eric Duncan went to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. He had a high fever and stomach pains. He told the nurse he had recently been in Liberia. But he was a man of color with no health insurance and no means to pay for treatment, so within hours he was released with some antibiotics and Tylenol.

…Thomas Eric Duncan was a victim of a broken system.

Of course, we know how this story ends. Mr. Duncan became the first person to die from Ebola in America. The whole letter is worth reading.

Isn’t it astounding to learn that 13 years after the 9/11 attacks and Anthrax, out of all the hospitals in the entire USA there are just four level 4 biohazard facilities with a combined capacity to handle nine (9) Ebola patients at a time? Right now four of those beds are occupied, and there are five available. Didn’t anybody see “Contagion” (2011)?

Why don’t the cable news channels report that the Tea-GOP cut NIH funding, delaying the development of an Ebola vaccine? This is not something Big Pharma cares about, because they make their biggest profits from drugs that treat long-term chronic diseases, not epidemics that kill people (especially poor people in Africa).

Finally, where is our nation’s Surgeon General during all this? Oh that’s right, we don’t have one because the Tea-GOP has been blocking the nomination of Vivek Murthy for the past year.

More info:
I’m a Hazmat-Trained Hospital Worker: Here’s What No One Is Telling You About Ebola
11 People Who Should Really Shut Up About Ebola
The Smoking Ebola Gun: Rand Paul’s Senate Hold Is Why The Nation Has No Surgeon General

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