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The Republican Party is in the Midst of Convulsive, Painful Internal Struggle

Okay, let’s recap.

John Boehner has resigned from both the House and the Speakership at the end of October, driven out, one presumes, by the lunatic intransigence of the 40 or so hard core tea partiers in the house (members of the hilariously named Freedom Caucus).

In the race to succeed him, the house majority Whip, Kevin McCarthy was looking good to win the speakership.  Except of course he just dropped out of the race.  Jason Chaffetz, apparently unashamed of Cecile Richards handing him his head in the Planned  Parenthood hearings, announced he wants to be the Speaker.  The House’s hardcore conservatives have endorsed Daniel Webster for the role.

Politico describes the situation among House Republicans as chaos: Read the rest of this entry »


Government Shutdown Watch

The post will replace my earlier one, Congress on Track for Another Government Shutdown.

The federal government made it past the end of the fiscal year with a continuing resolution (CR) that expires on December 11. Speaker John Boehner is stepping down, effective at the end of this month. President Obama has declared that that he will not sign another short-term CR.

As of today, the Tea-GOP House caucus is nominating a new Speaker, the inarticulate, gaffe-prone House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) [Apparently not – see updates]. Rep. McCarthy has already let the proverbial cat out of the bag by telling Faux News’ Sean Hannity that the purpose of the Benghazi Select Committee was to get Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers down.

Unless Boehner is able to push through legislation before retiring, the new Speaker will face a November 5th deadline to raise the debt limit, and then a December 11th budget deadline. At this point it does not look like the Tea-GOP has enough votes in the House to avoid missing those deadlines and precipitating a major governing crisis.

In short, it appears the only way to avoid a default on the National Debt and to prevent another federal government shutdown is with the support of House Democrats– who will surely demand an end to the sequester cuts and who knows what else.

Kevin McCarthy Pulls Out Of House Speaker’s Race

Reps Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) were also running for Speaker. On Wednesday, the House’s conservative “Freedom Caucus” endorsed Webster.

Ian Millhiser on Think Progress:

It is possible that there is no one in America who can win an absolute majority of House members votes, the amount that is necessary to become the next speaker.

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“The result of choices”

See the text of the president’s remarks here.


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Jason Chaffetz is a Blithering Idiot

Let’s go to the video.

And there’s some choice quotes from him in this article.

In the video here, he flat out lies about the source of his data and Cecile Richards shoots him down.

His performance in the Planned Parenthood hearings is an embarrassment.

(From what little I’ve seen, Mia Love didn’t exactly demonstrate intellectual prowess in her questioning.)


I don’t think anyone saw that one coming . . . John Boehner Resigns From Congress

Boehner is out – effective the end of October.

I guess we won’t be hilariously mispronouncing his name any more.


Presidential Primaries, Anxiety in the Face of Change and Reconstruction

Nancy LeTourneau has a fascinating piece at Washington Monthly.  The whole thing is worth a read, but the passage that jumped out at me was this:

In other words, the forces of change are upon us and that is creating a tremendous backlash in the Republican Party. I think that pretty well summarizes the situation. While “establishment candidates” like Jeb Bush want to talk about things like taxes and foreign policy, the issues Brownstein highlights are the ones that are animating Republican voters right now.

But it’s interesting to note that, while the Republican anti-establishment movement is focused on race, ethnicity and cultural changes, the anti-establishment challenge in the Democratic presidential primary is coming from Bernie Sanders – whose message is all about growing income inequality, i.e., class. To be honest, I’m not quite sure what to make of that disconnect.

She goes on to note that there is a historical precedent for what we’re experiencing.  The whole thing is worth a read.

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Kim Davis, Religion and the Religious Right’s Perpetual Culture War

The basic outline of this drama could have been predicted (and was predicted) months ago – someone objects to same-sex couples marrying; in their business or government position they refuse to issue marriage licenses or otherwise serve same-sex couples. A minor media brushfire occurs, a right wing legal organization leaps into the fray and throws gasoline on the fire.  A court orders the person to issue said marriage licenses or provide said services.  Person refuses, and on the advice of the legal organization starts talking about religious freedom.  Court orders person to do their job.  Person refuses.  Right wing legal organization gives bad advice, hoping to create a martyr.  Person goes to jail for contempt of court.  The Religious Right goes up in flames.

The specific details were always up for grabs – there’s no reason it had to be Rowan County, Kentucky rather than Mobile, Alabama or Twin Falls, Idaho.  The objector could have been a man not a woman, a judge not a county clerk or the owner of a business.  That the objector would adhere to a form fundamentalist Christianity was a given, although the specific form doesn’t make much difference (Davis belongs to an Apostolic Christian Church). The actual nature of the objection could easily have been a cut and paste job – we were always going to hear screeching about religious freedom and how this poor person is being oppressed. Even the specifics of the punishment are largely unimportant – whether it was jail time or fines or an order to comply with nondiscrimination laws, the reaction was always going to be the same.  Even the comparisons to Rosa Parks were inevitable as the religious right tries to coopt the luster of the Civil Rights movement.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis helpfully stepped into the fray. Her refusal to issue any and all marriage licenses, especially to same-sex couples, put her in the middle of the fight the religious right has wanted for the longest time. Read the rest of this entry »


What? A Guy Can’t Cut A Deal?

Senator Rick Santorum is probably sorry one of his aides didn’t rush him off before the public had a chance to submit questions on the “Overtime” segment of the popular HBO “Real Time” political series from August 28th 2015, which takes place after the HBO cable show signs off. Americans want to know why Republicans are so upset about Obama’s recent diplomacy successes in Iran.

To those of you who are as tired of Reagan worship as I am, this might interest you. Let me try to capsulize a little American history for you here.

Near the end of the seventies, president Jimmy Carter was humiliated by Ted Koppel’s “Nightline” program, which started out every night with a countdown of how many days our second worst enemy – behind Russia – had held American hostages in that “terrorist” country. The American media still avoids touching on what Republican operatives did to gain political prominence during those times.

To make a long story short: Republicans made a secret deal to sell weapons to the “terrorists” in Iran so they could use them against our “friends” in Iraq, while at the same time, making Carter look weak by requiring Iran to detain our hostages until the very moment Reagan was sworn in. Cute. :(

That’s what Maher is alluding to in this video, which was not broadcast on his cable show. The lesson Democrats are supposed to learn, is that only Republicans can negotiate with “terrorists”. When THEY do it, it’s called a “deal”. Notice the, I got caught, look on Santorum’s face. He’ll be telling the same lie starting tomorrow.

Vote Republican. :(


Utah State Reps Margaret Dayton and Mike Noel Join The Tin-foil Hat Brigade

According to a recent article:

Two Utah lawmakers on Tuesday speculated that federal environmental officials might have deliberately triggered the Colorado mine release that sent 3 million gallons of toxic sludge into a San Juan River tributary, and asked Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes to investigate the possibility.

Yep.  They asked for that.

Utah’s Sen. Margaret Dayton (R) and Rep. Mike Noel (R) have no evidence for their claim — it’s more of a feeling, really — but the two have asked the state Attorney General Sean Reyes to investigate anyway.

Because we all know the absence of evidence is evidence of a conspiracy.


Re-Organizing the Political Rules?

I won’t say I agree with every word, but Nancy LeTourneau’s article at the Washington Monthly, “President Obama on Power and Change”, is one of the better articles I’ve seen lately.  In it, LeTourneau describes President’s Obama’s approach to policy and political negotiations as “conciliatory rhetoric as a ruthless strategy.”

In the article, she quotes Mark Schmitt:

The reason the conservative power structure has been so dangerous, and is especially dangerous in opposition, is that it can operate almost entirely on bad faith. It thrives on protest, complaint, fear…One way to deal with that kind of bad-faith opposition is to draw the person in, treat them as if they were operating in good faith, and draw them into a conversation about how they actually would solve the problem. If they have nothing, it shows. And that’s not a tactic of bipartisan Washington idealists — it’s a hard-nosed tactic of community organizers, who are acutely aware of power and conflict.

Obama’s approach to negotiation has been to put something on the table and challenge his political opponents to respond. Republicans have repeatedly fallen into the trap of having nothing or having only proposals so extreme they were clearly not serious. In a world not distorted by a media entranced of the “both sides do it” narrative, this strategy could have yielded greater results. As LeTourneau describes it:

As the story was told to the American public, it came across as “Washington is gridlocked because both sides have dug in.” According to former Republican Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren, that is exactly what Republicans had in mind.

I’m not a fan of the “Barack Obama plays eleven dimensional chess” school of thought.  Instead, I like this explanation of his often seemingly timid approach.  He’s not doing politics as usual, instead he’s playing the game differently, he’s playing by a different set of rules. Arriving in a DC up-ended by the seemingly endless failures of the Bush administration, it was obvious something different had to happen.  Well it has been happening and the progress has been achingly slow, but it has been progress.

The question for me is – “Can we expand on the foundation that’s been laid?”


Anchor Babies Are Back, Thanks to Trump

Anchor babySo-called “anchor babies” are now an issue in the Tea-GOP presidential primaries, with most candidates saying they would like to cancel the constitutional right of citizenship.

Since Donald Trump came out Sunday against birth right citizenship, Bobby Jindal and Lindsey Graham have followed suit. Scott Walker is also with Trump on this.

Chris Christie says we ought to “reexamine” the 14th Amendment. John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush says birth right citizenship is one of “like 10 things I would change in the Constitution.”

If the Tea-GOP prevails, the children of a disfavored class will be disqualified from citizenship – rejected by the land of their birth. Despite the fact that birthright citizenship has been part of our Constitution for nearly 150 years, no precedent is sacred to the Tea-GOP. For them, there is no such thing as settled law.

Of course, the anchor baby myth is pure fear mongering without basis in fact. Assuming anyone cares about facts. Children born to undocumented immigrants get deported all the time, along with their families – precisely what Trump proposes. Even though they are U.S. citizens, most are not entitled to come back to this country until they are 21 years of age.

What’s more, there would be a significant cost to “solving” the nonexistent anchor baby problem. The parents of every child born in this country would have to go through a lengthy and expensive individualized assessment of their child’s citizenship. The Center for American Progress points out that such assessments currently cost an average of $600, essentially a birth tax. The alternative would be legal limbo, without U.S. citizenship — or possibly having no citizenship in any nation.

More info:
Donald Trump Tells GOP To Jump On Immigration, Candidates Say ‘How High?’
Donald Trump’s First Policy Plan Is Even More Racist Than You Think It Is
Wikipedia: Anchor Baby

To be fair, some Tea-GOP candidates don’t advocate taking away the right of citizenship to everyone born in the USA.

John Kasich has reversed his position, telling CNN earlier this month, “I think we need to get over that. I’m not for it anymore. Let these people who are born here be citizens and that’s the end of it. I don’t want to dwell on it.” Mike Huckabee also opposes changing the 14th Amendment.


A Few Thoughts on Phil Lyman’s Saga

I haven’t paid much attention to the brouhaha about Phil Lyman and his saga.  He’s the in-law of an in-law, so beyond some family discussion along the lines of “oh his poor family”, I haven’t given it much thought.

Lyman knew his ride up the canyon was illegal.  He did it anyway. It wasn’t much of a protest. One might reasonably expect a county commissioner to have other avenues by which to make his case. Lyman may think of himself as someone in the grand tradition of Ghandi or MLK but he’s more like Cliven Bundy, i.e. not really the grand rebel he seems to believe he is.

He’s doing his best to confuse the issue (Judge Shelby knows someone in SUWA!).

He seems wildly unlikely to actually go to jail, unlike say real activist Tim DeChristopher.

Large chunks of Utah, like many other western states, is controlled by the Federal Government.  Rural Utah, like the rest of rural America, is struggling economically. If Lyman wants to bring attention to the problems of rural Utah, there were and are better ways.

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