Archive for the ‘GOP’ Category
Interesting column by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post.
Glad Coburn’s leaving the Senate, and his swan song is to block efforts to prevent veteran suicides. What a shit. As the post at the link states, the program is $22 million—not much considering the cost of the Iraq War—and as the post notes:
“This is why people hate Washington. Senator Coburn is the only person stopping this bill from becoming law,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “If Senator Coburn blocks the Clay Hunt SAV Act, an enduring part of his legacy will be killing an overwhelmingly supported bipartisan suicide prevention bill for our veterans. That has real implications. If it takes 90 days to revisit this issue in the next Congress, the statistics tell us that 1,980 additional veterans will die by suicide. Senator Coburn needs to think carefully about that number in addition to his concerns about the minimal financial costs of this bill.”
Juan Cole writes at Informed Comment:
Outgoing House Intelligence Committee head Mike Rogers (R-MI) was on Candy Crowley’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, speaking against releasing any details concerning CIA use of torture in the period after the September 11 attacks.
The Senate report is due out this week and is already the object of a Karl Rove style disinformation campaign by former President George W. Bush and others. The report apparently alleges that there were black torture cells inside the Central Intelligence Agency of which Bush and other high officials were kept ignorant. They are attacking this report on this relatively minor issue (whether or not the relevant CIA units told their superiors everything) as a way of taking the focus off the torture assembly line run by the United States of America for a while. They may also be running interference for Dick Cheney, who may well have ordered the torture and in a just system would be in jail for that and numerous other crimes.
Rogers has never shown the slightest interest in upholding the US Constitution or in upholding the rights of those falsely arrested or otherwise wronged by the Federal government. He is now turning his television notoriety as a politician into a career in talk radio, competing with Rush Limbaugh.
When Crowley asked him about the report, he replied that “foreign governments” had warned the US that its release would cause violence.
Please note that when Hosni Mubarak, then president of Egypt, warned Rogers in 2002 that invading Iraq would “create a thousand Bin Ladens,” Rogers did not evince the slightest interest in avoiding a massive violent reaction to that policy. So apparently he feels that there are times when it is worth it to risk violent reactions overseas, i.e. when it concerns the illegal invasion and occupation of another country (from which perhaps people in Rogers’ circle or campaign contributors benefited?).
Since Rogers’s Iraq War has already stirred up most people in the Middle East against the US, so that the main guerrilla movement that grew up to oppose Rogers’ policies, ISIL, is routinely beheading Americans, that cow is rather out of the barn. . .
Another example of how corporations are taking over the government in the US, using government powers for private gain, the very definition of corruption. Eric Lipton reports in the NY Times:
The letter to the Environmental Protection Agency from Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma carried a blunt accusation: Federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state.
But Mr. Pruitt left out one critical point. The three-page letter was written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest oil and gas companies, and was delivered to him by Devon’s chief of lobbying.
“Outstanding!” William F. Whitsitt, who at the time directed government relations at the company, said in a note to Mr. Pruitt’s office. The attorney general’s staff had taken Devon’s draft, copied it onto state government stationery with only a few word changes, and sent it to Washington with the attorney general’s signature. “The timing of the letter is great, given our meeting this Friday with both E.P.A. and the White House.”
Mr. Whitsitt then added, “Please pass along Devon’s thanks to Attorney General Pruitt.”
The email exchange from October 2011, obtained through an open-records request, offers a hint of the unprecedented, secretive alliance that Mr. Pruitt and other Republican attorneys general have formed with some of the nation’s top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda, an investigation by The New York Times has found.
Attorneys general in at least a dozen states are working with energy companies and other corporate interests, which in turn are providing them with record amounts of money for their political campaigns, including at least $16 million this year.
They share a common philosophy about the reach of the federal government, but the companies also have billions of dollars at stake. And the collaboration is likely to grow: For the first time in modern American history, Republicans in January will control a majority — 27 — of attorneys general’s offices.
The Times reported previously how individual attorneys general have shut down investigations, changed policies or agreed to more corporate-friendly settlement terms after intervention by lobbyists and lawyers, many of whom are also campaign benefactors.
But the attorneys general are also working collectively. Democrats for more than a decade have teamed up with environmental groups such as the Sierra Club to use the court system to impose stricter regulation. But never before have attorneys general joined on this scale with corporate interests to challenge Washington and file lawsuits in federal court.
Out of public view, corporate representatives and attorneys general are coordinating legal strategy and other efforts to fight federal regulations, according to a review of thousands of emails and court documents and dozens of interviews.
“When you use a public office, pretty shamelessly, to vouch for a private party with substantial financial interest without the disclosure of the true authorship, that is a dangerous practice,” said David B. Frohnmayer, a Republican who served a decade as attorney general in Oregon. “The puppeteer behind the stage is pulling strings, and you can’t see. I don’t like that. And when it is exposed, it makes you feel used.”
For Mr. Pruitt, the benefits have been clear. Lobbyists and company officials have been notably solicitous, helping him raise his profile as president for two years of the Republican Attorneys General Association, a post he used to help start what he and allies called the Rule of Law campaign, which was intended to push back against Washington.
That campaign, in which attorneys general band together to operate like a large national law firm, has been used to back lawsuits and other challenges against the Obama administration on environmental issues, the Affordable Care Act and securities regulation. The most recent target is the president’s executive action on immigration. . .
It’s an important development, and note the “related coverage” at the link:
Rhode Island Investigating Former State Attorney General – NOV. 21, 2014
How Lobby Firm Cultivates Influence – NOV. 9, 2014
Missouri Attorney General Puts Limit on Contributions – NOV. 19, 2014
Donations Are Assailed by Hopefuls in New York – OCT. 31, 2014
Ryan Cooper has a good column in The Week:
If there’s one principle that animates the bulk of Republican discourse, it’s the idea of limits on state power. Government is not the solution, etc. Judges should strictly interpret the laws as written, as well as their original intent. Whenever possible, policy should follow federalist principles, with authority delegated to the states.
It’s a nice little principle with deep roots in American history. It’s also a crock. American conservatives don’t necessarily care about small government. What they care about are certain ideological outcomes, which they set out to achieve by any means necessary, whether it’s using the federal government to override state policy or the Supreme Court to strike down legislation passed by Congress.
Look no further than the King v. Burwell lawsuit, a challenge to ObamaCare that will be up before the Supreme Court this summer. It is perhaps the most blatant case of judicial activism since Bush v. Gore. Conservatives don’t like ObamaCare and want it destroyed. How this happens is of little importance. Until they win a legislative majority, this “Monty Python–esque exercise in extreme tendentiousness,” as Jonathan Chait put it, will suit just fine.
But perhaps an even better example of this particular Republican hypocrisy can be found in Washington, D.C. In the last election, D.C. voters overwhelmingly passed a ballot initiative legalizing possession of marijuana. Outraged Republicans are trying to use Congress’ absolute power over the district to stop the local government from spending any of its own money on legalization, effectively overturning the measure by force.
Ian Millhiser has an interesting post at ThinkProgress with the above title, which seems highly optimistic to me, mainly because he fails to recognize that the conservative justices on the Supreme Court are quite nakedly partisan and make partisan decisions, in some cases ignoring overwhelming evidence: Citizens United, for example, and the gutting of the Voting Rights Act.
Still, one should hope. Millhiser writes:
For the last decade, the Supreme Court of the United States has openly refused to police partisan gerrymandering even in egregious cases where the state legislature or its congressional delegation bears little resemblance to the will of the people. A new study out of Duke University, however, casts serious doubts on the reasoning of the justices who have thus-far refused to strike down unconstitutional gerrymanders.
In 2012, Democratic U.S. House candidates in North Carolina received 81,190 more votes that Republicans. Republicans received just under half of the votes earned by the two parties. And yet, the GOP walked away with 9 of the state’s 13 congressional districts. So, despite the fact that they earned just over 49 percent of the two-party vote, Republicans won nearly 70 percent of the state’s congressional seats.
Common sense dictates that the legislative maps that could produce such a result must be deeply flawed — and that they must be biased towards Republicans, the same party that controlled both houses of the state legislature when these maps were drawn (although the state had a Democratic governor at the time of the redistricting, the governor has no veto power over congressional maps). A new study by Duke Mathematics Professor Jonathan Mattingly and undergraduate Christy Vaughn seems to confirm this insight. Their study confirms that it is highly unlikely that a fair redistricting process would have produced a map as skewed towards one political party as North Carolina’s congressional map is.
Mattingly and Vaughn’s study redrew numerous random congressional maps, all of which complied with three rules: the districts must be “connected,” they must “come as close as possible to having [an] equal number of people,” and “they should be as compact as possible.” They then ran eight different simulations, some of which gave greater preferences to compact districts over equal population, while others placed greater emphasis on maintaining exact population. Seven of the eight simulations did not produce a single map where Democrats won less than five congressional seats, assuming that every voter who cast a vote for a Democrat or a Republican in 2012 would have cast the same vote under the simulated maps. The one simulation that did produce a handful of outlier maps where Democrats won only four seats did so “in less than 5% of the samples.”
Thus, the actual result of the 2012 elections — four Democratic congressional seats in North Carolina — did not even show up in all but one of Mattingly and Vaughn’s simulations. In the simulation where it did arise, it did so only in a few unusual cases. It is exceedingly unlikely that North Carolina’s GOP-friendly maps could have arisen organically. Rather, as Mattingly and Vaughn demonstrate, they are almost certainly the product of a legislature that carefully designed the maps to produce a desired result. The study’s authors argue that this result cries out for an independent check on redistricting — “The fact that the election outcomes are so dependent on the choice of redistrictings demonstrates the need for checks and balances to ensure that democracy is served when redistrictings are drawn and the election outcome is representative of the votes casted.”
Which brings us back to the Supreme Court. In the 2004 case Vieth v. Jubelirer, a total of four conservative justices joined an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia arguing that federal courts should not get involved in partisan gerrymandering cases. The essence of Scalia’s argument in Vieth is that courts are simply unable to come up with a legally manageable standard for determining which gerrymanders cross the line when they become impermissible. According to Scalia, “no judicially discernible and manageable standards for adjudicating political gerrymandering claims have emerged.”
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a separate opinion in which he also lamented the fact that such a standard has not yet emerged — although he seemed more open than Scalia to the possibility that it could emerge in the future. “When presented with a claim of injury from partisan gerrymandering,” Kennedy wrote, “courts confront two obstacles.” The first is a “lack of comprehensive and neutral principles for drawing electoral boundaries,” and the second is “the absence of rules to limit and confine judicial intervention.” While judges might have an intuition that a particular gerrymander crosses the line where it unconstitutionally favors the members of one party over another, Kennedy was not aware of any “comprehensive and neutral principles” that could be used to judge each congressional map to determine whether it crossed the line.
That is the genius of Mattingly and Vaughn’s study. It creates an objective methodology for assessing whether a map is impermissibly gerrymandered. Admittedly, judges would still have to apply some discretion to determine how skewed a map must be before it must be struck down. What if 10 percent of the maps produced using Mattingly and Vaughn’s methodology were in line with actual election results? What the number were 20 percent? But in truly egregious cases like North Carolina, any reasonable judge can recognize that the map could not have resulted from a fair and neutral process.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that the Court’s present majority — all five members of the Court’s current conservative bloc have expressed at least some reluctance to decide partisan gerrymandering cases — will allow judges to reach this question. Should the Court’s majority change in the coming years, however, Mattingly and Vaughn may have provided that new majority with the tools they need to eliminate North Carolina-style gerrymandering in the future.
Yasmin Anwar reports for the UC Berkeley News Center:
When it comes to climate change, deforestation and toxic waste, the assumption has been that conservative views on these topics are intractable. But new research from the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that such viewpoints can be changed after all, when the messages about the need to be better stewards of the land are couched in terms of fending off threats to the “purity” and “sanctity” of Earth and our bodies.
A UC Berkeley study has found that while people who identified themselves as conservatives tend to be less concerned about the environment than their liberal counterparts, their motivation increased significantly when they read articles that stressed the need to “protect the purity of the environment” and were shown such repellant images as a person drinking dirty water, a forest filled with garbage, and a city under a cloud of smog.
Published today (Dec. 10) in the online issue of the journal Psychological Science, the findings indicate that reframing pro-environmental rhetoric according to values that resonate strongly with conservatives can reduce partisan polarization on ecological matters.
“These findings offer the prospect of pro-environmental persuasion across party lines,” said Robb Willer, a UC Berkeley social psychologist and coauthor of the study. “Reaching out to conservatives in a respectful and persuasive way is critical, because large numbers of Americans will need to support significant environment reforms if we are going to deal effectively with climate change, in particular.”
Researchers conducted a content analysis of more than 200 op-eds published in such newspapers as The New York Times, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, and found the pro-environmental arguments were most often pitched in terms of moral obligations to care about the natural environment and protect it from harm, a theme that resonates more powerfully with liberals, they added, than with conservatives.
They hypothesized that conservatives would be more responsive to environmental arguments focused on such principles as purity, patriotism and reverence for a higher authority. In their study, the authors specifically tested the effectiveness of arguments for protecting the purity of the environment. They said the results suggest they were on the right track:
“When individuals view protecting the environment as a moral issue, they are more likely to recycle and support government legislation to curb carbon emissions,” said Matthew Feinberg, a postdoctoral fellow in psychology at Stanford University and lead author of the study which he conducted while at UC Berkeley.
Scientific consensus on the existence of warming global land and ocean temperatures – attributed in large part to human activities that produce greenhouse gas emissions – continues to grow and influence public opinion, especially with such extreme weather events as Hurricane Sandy. A recent Rasmussen poll reported that 68 percent of Americans view climate change as a “serious problem,” compared to a 2010 Gallup poll in which 48 percent of Americans said they thought global warming was exaggerated.
In the first experiment, . . .