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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Paul Ryan’s stunning hypocrisy: The little-noticed way the GOP proved it’s full of it


Paul Ryan’s stunning hypocrisy: The little-noticed way the GOP proved it’s full of it

GOP's still banging the "Grubergate" drum -- but an under-the-radar push from Ryan shows they don't mean a word

Paul Ryan's stunning hypocrisy: The little-noticed way the GOP proved it's full of itPaul Ryan (Credit: AP/John Minchillo)
As a general rule, I try not to write about hypocrisy in politics. It’s such a constant, such a fact of life, that it can feel a bit like complaining about traffic or the weather.

But just as there’s a difference between waiting an extra 20 minutes during rush hour and being stranded in your car for five days — or between a typical snowstorm and what’s happening currently in Buffalo — there’s a difference between the routine hypocrisy of politics and the kind we saw this week from Republicans in the House. One kind is an annoyance to be quickly forgotten; the other leaves a mark.

Before getting into why they’re so egregious, however, let’s pause to recap the Congressional GOP’s recent machinations.

Aware no doubt of how President Obama’s announcement this week on immigration reform would dominate both the media and the public’s attention, Republicans in the House, led by Rep. Paul Ryan, have been working to make sure the next head of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) — which acts as Congress’s honest broker when it comes to scoring fiscal policy — is not a nonpartisan technocrat, as has usually been the case, but rather a loyal member of the conservative movement. And, as former CBO chief Peter Orszag recently explained, because the CBO has no institutional protections from partisan hackery, and maintains its integrity mostly through tradition, there’s precious little anyone can do to stop them.

While there are no doubt many changes ideologues like Ryan would like to see the CBO make, reports indicate that the main reason GOPers want to install a right-wing hack as its chief is in order to make the agency integrate “dynamic scoring” more fully into its estimations. “Dynamic scoring,” for those who don’t know, is a phrase conservatives like to use to give a tenet of their anti-tax religion — lower taxes lead to more revenue! — an intellectual gloss. More importantly, dynamic scoring is generally the special sauce right-wing “wonks” put into their projections in order to claim that massively cutting taxes on the rich won’t lead to fiscal ruin. Remember the absurd claim that Bush’s tax cuts wouldn’t explode deficits? Thank dynamic scoring for that.

So that’s what’s happening under the radar with the CBO. And if that were the whole story, it’d probably fall under into the “routine traffic and weather” category of hypocrisy I mentioned earlier. What makes this more of a Buffalo snowstorm-level problem is the context — specifically, the fact that Republicans are destroying yet another norm of American politics, the nonpartisan CBO, at the very same time that they’re waging a relentless and disingenuous campaign to persuade the media (and thus the American people) that the way the Affordable Care Act was written was a breach of democratic norms without precedent.

Yes, this is where “Grubergate,” the most recent of the GOP’s seemingly endless supply of manufactured outrages, comes in. If you’re not familiar with this tempest in a teapot, I recommend you catch up by reading my colleague Joan Walsh. But for our purposes here, all you need to know is that Republicans have been devoting a ton of energy toward making MIT’s Jonathan Gruber’s admission, that the White House designed Obamacare with the likely political ramifications of the CBO score in mind, equivalent to the 18-minute gap in the Nixon tapes. Because the president knew that calling something in the bill a “penalty” instead of a “tax” would make it harder for conservatives to scream that Obamacare was the tax hike to end all tax hikes — as they did (and are still doing) with Hillarycare — that means, conservatives argue, that the bill itself was only able to pass through the most dastardly lies.

As BuzzFeed’s Adam Serwer noted, the Grubergate politicking is most likely an attempt to lay the groundwork for defending a possible future Supreme Court gutting of the ACA. (Although Gruber’s confirming the right’s suspicions of liberal technocrat elitism and piggishness, by calling voters stupid, is operational, too.) But when you see it through the lens of Ryan’s dynamic scoring push, you’re confronted with a level of bullshit that is flabbergasting — even in the context of partisan politics. According to Paul Ryan and other Republicans, it is absolutely not OK for a president to design a bill in a way that makes it harder for its opponents to demagogue. It is not OK to write a bill and think of the CBO at all. What is OK, apparently, is corrupting it from within.
Elias Isquith Elias Isquith is a staff writer at Salon, focusing on politics. Follow him on Twitter at @eliasisquith, and email him at eisquith@salon.com.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

House Republicans just passed a bill forbidding scientists from advising the EPA on their own research


House Republicans just passed a bill forbidding scientists from advising the EPA on their own research

The "reform" measure makes room for industry-funded experts on the EPA's advisory board

House Republicans just passed a bill forbidding scientists from advising the EPA <em>on their own research</em>John Boehner (Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Congressional climate wars were dominated Tuesday by the U.S. Senate, which spent the day debating, and ultimately failing to pass, a bill approving the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. While all that was happening, and largely unnoticed, the House was busy doing what it does best: attacking science.

H.R. 1422, which passed 229-191, would shake up the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board, placing restrictions on those pesky scientists and creating room for experts with overt financial ties to the industries affected by EPA regulations.
The bill is being framed as a play for transparency: Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, argued that the board’s current structure is problematic because it  “excludes industry experts, but not officials for environmental advocacy groups.” The inclusion of industry experts, he said, would right this injustice.
But the White House, which threatened to veto the bill, said it would “negatively affect the appointment of experts and would weaken the scientific independence and integrity of the SAB.”

In what might be the most ridiculous aspect of the whole thing, the bill forbids scientific experts from participating in “advisory activities” that either directly or indirectly involve their own work. In case that wasn’t clear: experts would be forbidden from sharing their expertise in their own research — the bizarre assumption, apparently, being that having conducted peer-reviewed studies on a topic would constitute a conflict of interest. “In other words,” wrote Union of Concerned Scientists director Andrew A. Rosenberg in an editorial for RollCall, “academic scientists who know the most about a subject can’t weigh in, but experts paid by corporations who want to block regulations can.”

Speaking on the House floor Tuesday, Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., summed up what was going on: “I get it, you don’t like science,” he told bill sponsor Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah. “And you don’t like science that interferes with the interests of your corporate clients. But we need science to protect public health and the environment.”

The House, alas, is staying the course, voting this week on two other bills aimed at impeding the EPA, including one that prevents the agency from relying on what it calls “secret science” in crafting its regulations — but which in reality, opponents argue, would effectively block the EPA from adopting any new rules to protect public health. The trio, wrote Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, in an editorial for the Hill, represents “the culmination of one of the most anti-science and anti-health campaigns I’ve witnessed in my 22 years as a member of Congress.”

The White House has threatened to veto all three.
Lindsay Abrams Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Republicans Are The Ultimate Takers Who Only Want To Give To The Wealthy That They Serve

more from Rmuse
Sunday, November, 9th, 2014, 5:05 pm

Boehner McConnell

There are several synonyms to describe the tendency, no habit, of Republicans’ idea of what it means to govern. Specifically, their habit of taking everything from the American people they can lay their grimy paws on. If Americans cannot recall, and it is likely their gross ignorance has taken what little memory they have left, that over the course of the past four years Republicans have attempted to seize, confiscate, rob, deprive, impound,  and snatch any and everything from the people. Regardless if it is their pensions, clean air and water, decent wages, healthcare, or religious freedom, Republicans have worked tirelessly to take everything from the people.

Even if some Americans do grasp the concept of Republicans as the ultimate takers, they likely fail to comprehend that the GOP are ultimately monumental givers; it is that spirit of generosity that drives their habit of robbing the people. Of course, over the past two decades and  leading up to the present, Republicans have never had any intent to give anything to the people, but it is important for the population to understand that their only motivation for taking from the people, besides sheer hatred and contempt, is to give to the people they serve; the rich.

It did not take more than a day after the midterm election results were reported for Republicans to announce in an op-ed the first things they intend to take from the people. No-one but an idiot really expected otherwise. However, if the main stream media were doing their jobs, they would have reported that in their written admission of stealing from the people, Boehner and McConnell were actually announcing what they intended to give to the Koch brothers, big business, and school privatization crusaders; gifts they were promised as recompense for their undying support and millions of dollars in campaign contributions. And, gifts they have attempted to hand over to the filthy fascists since the took control of the House; under the guise of “jobs bills.”

Americans should not focus so much on what Republicans will take from them, they will have plenty of years to look back in remorse and regret putting them in charge of the Congress,  what they need to give their undivided attention to is what they are giving their wealthy masters. The three items Boehner and McConnell listed as “job creation” measures, abolishing employer-provided healthcare for part-time employees, violating the Constitution and approving the Keystone XL pipeline, and privatizing education under the “more charter schools” scam, will provide nothing for the people and everything for their corporate masters.

GOP, and some Democratic, supporters are convinced that gaining an extra ten hours of work each week will lift them out of poverty and make them rich because giant retailers like Walmart, McDonalds, and Target are not required to provide basic healthcare insurance coverage. However, they will still be earning minimum wages until Republicans get around to abolishing it from the law; which will likely be relatively soon, and whether their pea-brains have figured it out yet, they are actually taking a wage cut. Walmart and McDonalds are not going to increase employees hours, and if they do it means they will cut their workforce; less jobs. They will also not provide healthcare that means if a worker wants it, they will pay out of pocket and it means their compensation is reduced. Oh, and for the trailer-park crowd in the former Confederacy assuming that because Walmart and McDonalds pays poverty wages they will still have access to Blue-state-provided food stamps and healthcare, the GOP has already passed legislation in the House to eviscerate those government programs with extreme prejudice. The gift to big corporations is they still get to pay poverty wages and avoid providing healthcare insurance and pad their bottom line. There will be no new jobs, over a million poor Americans will lose their healthcare, and corporations get a gift from Republicans.

There are many ways the Republican plan to violate the Constitution’s mandated Presidential authority is a gift to the Koch brothers, oil export industry, and Speaker of the House John Boehner. Never mind that unilaterally authorizing the immediate construction of Canada’s KeystoneXL pipeline is a monumental violation of the Constitution, as this column has reported for three years, the only beneficiaries will be Koch Industries’ refineries, exporters shipping Canada’s refined tar sand to Europe and China, and John Boehner’s stock portfolio. Remember, prior to taking control of the House and promising “hundreds-of-thousands of American jobs” in early 2011, Boehner bought stock in seven Canadian tar sand companies in 2010 in anticipation of the windfall from the pipeline’s construction.

The benefit to Americans is nothing.  In fact, it was refreshing, that except for one sentence buried in an interview with President Obama, Bernie Sanders is finally telling Americans fuel costs will rise because the Koch brothers will drain Midwest diesel reserves to expedite Canada’s tar through the pipeline on its way to the Gulf Coast and China to profit the foreign export industry. Americans will not see one drop of Canada’s oil and according to the oil industry, at best 1,500 to 2,000 temporary jobs will be created; for Canadian pipeline specialists and not Americans. Even the steel used in constructing the pipeline comes from Korea, so there is no benefit to American industry. What Republicans are taking is any hope of an environment whether from exacerbating climate change to pouring poison in the air and water when the rupture-prone pipeline begins leaking as every iteration of it has in Canada and America.

The greatest takeaway from the population, and gift to corporations, Republicans listed in their op-ed was robbing public school funding to increase the number of woefully inadequate and horridly underperforming charter schools to profit the private education industry. Republicans claim it is a gift to parents who want their children to be as ignorant, and biblically versed in science, as they are, but it is a huge gift to the privatization advocates. This is most troubling because President Obama said he and Republicans shared a desire for “education reform” that, according to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, privatization advocate Michelle Rhee, and President Obama includes transferring funding for public education to the charter school industry. More on this grossest of American abominations in another article.

Americans will learn that anything the emboldened Republicans are proposing as helping the people” is not-so-subtle code for taking something away. However, they should be well-aware that although Republicans exist to take everything from the people, they are taking it to give to their money-machine. In the case of the Keystone pipeline, Boehner is giving his stock portfolio a big boost in worth. The real travesty is that Republicans are just getting started and if the people are conscious, they should cringe every time the new Republican Congress announces they are helping the people. Because the primary reason they are “helping” by taking something away from the people is to give it their corporate masters; it is what they tried for four years in the House and now that they control the Senate, their largesse to the rich at the people’s expense will be epic.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Here Are Some Things That Soon-To-Be Iowa Senator Joni Ernst Actually Said

 Huffpost Politics

Here Are Some Things That Soon-To-Be Iowa Senator Joni Ernst Actually Said

 Joni Ernst

WASHINGTON -- Voters in Iowa elected Republican Joni Ernst to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, making her the state's first woman senator.

Ernst, a state senator and lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard, catapulted to stardom during the GOP primary with ads featuring her castrating hogs and pulling a handgun from her purse. The spots also helped Ernst win support from prominent Republicans, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. The woman who branded herself a "mother, soldier, leader” convinced Republicans she was the party's best chance to turn red a Senate seat held by retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.

While Ernst propelled herself to victory by painting herself as a Midwestern woman who grew up on a farm, Democrats pointed to questionable statements to claim she's a hard-right conservative, if not a conspiracy theorist.

Agenda 21
While campaigning last November, Ernst backed a right-wing theory that the United Nations' sustainable development plan Agenda 21 is a conspiracy that would enable the government to strip Americans of their freedom and eliminate private property rights.
All of us agreed that Agenda 21 is a horrible idea. One of those implications to Americans, again, going back to what did it does do to the individual family here in the state of Iowa, and what I've seen, the implications that it has here is moving people off of their agricultural land and consolidating them into city centers, and then telling them that you don't have property rights anymore. These are all things that the UN is behind, and it's bad for the United States and bad for families here in the state of Iowa.
[Agenda 21 is a non-binding, voluntarily implemented action plan of the United Nations with regard to sustainable development.[1] It is a product of the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. It is an action agenda for the UN, other multilateral organizations, and individual governments around the world that can be executed at local, national, and global levels. The "21" in Agenda 21 refers to the 21st Century. It has been affirmed and modified at subsequent UN conferences. Agenda 21's goal is to help the environment and was agreed at Rio Earth Summit in 1992. Local Agenda 21 is Agenda 21 on a local scale, a saying is "think globally act locally" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agenda_21]

States Can Nullify Federal Laws
At a forum held by Iowa's Faith & Freedom Coalition in July, Ernst suggested that states can somehow nullify laws passed by the federal government.
You know we have talked about this at the state legislature before, nullification. But, bottom line is, as U.S. senator, why should we be passing laws that the states are considering nullifying? Bottom line: our legislators at the federal level should not be passing those laws. We’re right ... we’ve gone 200-plus years of federal legislators going against the 10th Amendment’s states’ rights. We are way overstepping bounds as federal legislators. So, bottom line, no we should not be passing laws as federal legislators -- as senators or congressman -- that the states would even consider nullifying. Bottom line.
WMDs In Iraq
Ernst told the Des Moines Register's editorial board in May that she believed there were weapons of mass destruction found during the United States' invasion of Iraq. From the Daily Beast:
"We don't know that there were weapons on the ground when we went in," she said, "however, I do have reason to believe there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." When a Register reporter quizzed her on what information she has, Ernst said, "My husband served in Saudi Arabia as the Army Central Command sergeant major for a year and that's a hot-button topic in that area."
Ernst later clarified those comments in a statement conceding that there were no WMDs in Iraq, although the country had used them before.
47 Percent Mentality
Audio recorded by Radio Iowa in 2013 revealed that Ernst, like many conservatives, holds a "makers vs. takers" view toward social welfare programs. But as Greg Sargent reported, her comments went further than former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's infamous "47 percent" video.
We’re looking at Obamacare right now. Once we start with those benefits in January, how are we going to get people off of those? It’s exponentially harder to remove people once they’ve already been on those programs ... we rely on government for absolutely everything. And in the years since I was a small girl up until now into my adulthood with children of my own, we have lost a reliance on not only our own families, but so much of what our churches and private organizations used to do. They used to have wonderful food pantries. They used to provide clothing for those that really needed it. But we have gotten away from that. Now we’re at a point where the government will just give away anything.
Climate Change Skeptic
While hardly unique among Republicans, Ernst has claimed she does not possess the scientific knowhow to weigh in on whether humans are causing climate change. But she did chalk it up to "cyclic changes in the weather" during an interview in May.
Yes, we do see climates change, but I have not seen proven proof that it is entirely man-made. I think we do have cyclic changes in weather, and I think that's been throughout the course of history. What impact is man-made. ... but I do think we can educate people to make good choices.
She Really Likes Her Gun
An ad featuring Ernst shooting at a target that is supposed to represent the federal government isn't the first time she has used such a stark metaphor. Speaking at a 2012 NRA event, Ernst said her firearm would help protect her if the government imposes on her rights.
I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere. But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family -- whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.
Ernst also has suggested that President Barack Obama should be impeached, expressed openness to privatizing Social Security, called for abortion providers to be punished if a fetal personhood bill were passed, and opposed a federal minimum wage hike.


Joni Ernst hits a new low for anti-science conservatives: waving off germ theory

04 Nov 2014 at 09:21 ET     

As Tom Boggioni here at Raw Story reported yesterday, Joni Ernst, whose bugfuck wingnuttery has managed to fly mostly under the national radar this election season, hit a shocking new low in terms of conservative science denial: Claiming that disease transmission is a matter of “opinion”, not biological fact. Charles Pierce of Esquire reported his bizarre encounter with her on this:
“With Ebola, we see he’s very hands-off. He’s not leading. He’s not leeeaaading,” she said, drawing out that last word like a conjurer casting a spell. I suggested to her that, well, at that moment, one person in America — Dr. Craig Spencer — had Ebola. Her eyes went hard, like the wheels of a slot machine fastening on tilt.
“Well, you’re the press. That’s your opinion.”
Say what?
“But that’s not an opinion. It’s a fact. Only one person in America has Ebola.”
“But he’s not a leeaader,” Ernst said, again. “What he can do is make sure that all of those agencies are coordinating together and make sure that he is sharing that information with the American people, that he cares about their safety.”
It’s worth pointing out that, like with all other aspects of this ridiculous ebola panic, the racism driving it is fairly obvious. Ernst’s entire argument against Obama is a variation on ugly stereotypes about black people being lazy, except she uses a synonym—”apathetic”—and hopes the rest of us don’t notice. It’s a charge that’s so ridiculous, when applied to a man like Obama, that giving it a moment’s thought makes the racism of it screamingly obvious.

Alas, we live in a society where it’s considered impolite to notice even blatant racism as long as the racist manages to do a half-assed effort at coding it, by using a synonym for the racist thing she’s saying, in this case. But blatantly denying incontrovertible facts, like what ebola is and whether or not it can be diagnosed by “opinion”? Needless to say, if Ernst wins, she’s going to be a regular producer of WTF headlines, giving prior contenders like Louie Gohmert and Michele Bachmann a run for their money.

One more observation: One of the oddest things about midterm elections is how frequently politicians, particularly Republicans, will run on issues that the office they’re vying for has little to no power to deal with. Ernst here is running against Obama, not her actual opponent Bruce Braley. But if she wins, guess what? Obama is still going to be in office. Now, running against him isn’t necessarily illegitimate, if the issues were stuff where her vote could sway policy. But how he’s handling ISIS or whether or not he’s panicking over a non-epidemic to your satisfaction cannot be moved by a vote for Ernst. It is utterly irrelevant.