The Senate voted 82-15 to proceed with debate on the immigration reform bill crafted by the bipartisan "Gang of Eight." The vote doesn't mean that the bill necessarily has enough support to pass.
Sen. Mark Pryor voted yea and Sen. John Boozman was one of 15 Republicans to vote nay. Pryor will be a closely watched vote going forward. Without support from conservative Democrats like Pryor, the effort is likely sunk — but unfortunately for reform proponents, he is likely preoccupied with trying to position himself for a tough re-election campaign in 2014.
Edward Snowden is the source of the intelligence leaks regarding the PRISM program and Verizon surveillance. Snowden, a 29-year-old former CIA employee, has done contract work for the National Security Agency for the last four years. He revealed his identity today through the Guardian, the paper that he has been providing classified documents to. From the Guardian's story:
In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: "I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions," but "I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant. ..."
"I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in." He added: "My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them."
He has had "a very comfortable life" that included a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves. "I'm willing to sacrifice all of that because I can't in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building."
Shades of the three stooges in Virginia. Buzzfeed quotes from a 2008 book by the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in Virginia, E.W. Jackson, who was a minister at the time. "“It is the principle of sin, rebellion against God and His truth which has brought about birth defects and other destructive natural occurrences," Jackson wrote. He's also stirred controversy by saying that Planned Parenthood had done more to harm black people than the Ku Klux Klan and that homosexuals are "perverted" and "very sick people."
From his book, excerpted on Buzzfeed, more on the sin-causes-birth-defects argument:
Keep in mind that the whole cosmos has been made imperfect — wounded — by sin. It is the principle of sin, rebellion against God and His truth which has brought about birth defects and other destructive natural occurrences. Leaving aside that for a moment, recent discoveries about the genetic code of each human being are a fulfillment of scripture. Your genetic code is the handwriting of God, written before you or the world existed. Our genetic blueprint is proof of the existence of the Living God and His infinite intelligence, purpose and design. Sadly, many will ignore the deeper spiritual truth which underlies the advance of this scientific knowledge.
Well yeah, okay, hard to argue with that.
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, the former Republican presidential candidate and eternal source of amusement and bemusement, posted a video on her campaign website early this morning to say she would not seek re-election next year.
Ernie Dumas this week compares the fulminations about Benghazi — which Republicans are attempting to make an impeachment-worthy scandal from minute differences in post-attack talking points — with the cooked-up Whitewater investigations.
Better still, he asks what Republicans would have made of the 1983 slaughter of 241 U.S. servicemen in Beirut or of the overlooked intelligence that preceded the 911 attacks, if only a Democrat had been president on either of those occasions.
If you are a beltway Republican, no antidote for the blues matches extended congressional hearings on a real or imagined national horror—that is, if it might heap dishonor on a Democratic administration. If Hillary Clinton will be the dishonoree, so much the better.
The news lately could hardly be more disheartening: Barack Obama’s easy re-election, Democratic congressional gains, stratospheric polling for Hillary Clinton in 2016, more horrible polls for congressional Republicans, a rapidly shrinking budget deficit, a 15,000 Dow and improving economic numbers across the board.
So what to do but revive the Benghazi hearings.
Reps. Rick Crawford, Tim Griffin and Steve Womack each refused to support the bipartisan legislation. Instead, they voted in favor of an amendment to the bill that would remove specific protections for gay, bisexual or transgender victims and strip protections of Native American women living on reservations.
Rep. Tom Cotton doesn't want anything to do with protecting abused women. He voted against the bipartisan legislation AND the Republican amendment.
Griffin has issued a disingenuous statement trumpeting his support of the House version of VAWA. He said the Senate version was unacceptable because "it fails to guarantee the Constitutional rights of U.S. citizens on tribal lands."
The Washington Post reports that was a sticking point for a number of Republicans, which led to a new version, drafted in part by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, which stripped protections for LGBT women.
Sen. John "Dr. No" Boozman voted against the Senate bill earlier this month.
Former Vice-president Al Gore gave a talk discussing his new book this evening at an invitation-only event at the Clinton Presidential Library, with students of the Clinton School of Public Service and a who’s who of local politcos in attendance, including David Pryor, Dale Bumpers, and Mack McLarty.
"The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change" is Gore’s attempt to forecast and explain radical changes coming to the world through globalization, technology, scientific advances, medical advances, artificial life and artificial intelligence, outsourcing of jobs to robots and mechanization, increasing inequality, overpopulation, the Internet, erosion of democratic institutions, genetic engineering, murkier identities of nation states, climate change….And so on! Really, there’s much more, and Gore crams a dizzying array of world-historical trends into his six sweeping and interrelated “drivers,” each with a catchy tag like “Earth, Inc.” or “The Global Mind.”
He argues convincingly in the book that “there is no prior period of change that remotely resembles what humanity is about to experience.” Despite the hefty ambition and sweeping scope, it’s actually a relatively breezy read, recalling the style of best-selling writer Malcolm Gladwell, cited approvingly a few times in the book. Like Gladwell, Gore offers a big survey of big ideas from the social and hard sciences, replete with fun factoids — Genetic engineers have created goats that secrete spider silk from their udders! Seventy percent of pictures on Facebook are posted by women!
While the book is measured and professorial, his talk was fiery and passionate, as preacherly as it was erudite. Al Gore may be wonky but he’s mad as hell. The crowd ate it up. Having grown up with Gore as my U.S. Senator in Tennessee, I was struck by the oft-noted contrast between the young Al Gore, a careful, often stiff politician seeking establishment approval — and the old Al Gore, a tell-it-like-it-is firebrand with a cult following among idealistic young liberals.
Unsurprisingly, his passion reached its highest pitch on the topic of climate change, though he was equally fired up about the corroding influence of moneyed special interests in the U.S. democracy.
He closed with a call to arms:
We have the opportunity to seize the future. Aristotle wrote that the end of the thing defines its nature. What is our end destined to be? Should, God forbid, we not rise to the occasion and these incredibly powerful changes sweep us along and bring about an end to civilization — as the scientists say, certainly, the climate crisis can — what does that say about our nature? Or to put it another way, who are we as human beings? Are we destined to prove the proposition that the combination of opposable thumbs and the neocortex was just a big mistake? Are we destined to be creatures that destroy our own future? I refuse to believe that! I refuse to accept that! I know what men and women in Arkansas and Tennessee and throughout this country are made of. And we have our limitations, and we can make mistakes. But when the chips are down and the stakes are high, we, all of us as human beings — and particularly those of us whose minds have had the opportunity to be freed in our country’s system — have the ability to rise to challenges and seize the moment when it is necessary to do so. I hope you will help to save our future and make it worthy of our children.
Over the past four years, politics in the nation’s capital has been consumed by the fight between the president and tea party Republicans. But because Obama is far closer to the center than the tea party is, what counts as middle ground in Washington is more conservative than the political center nationwide. In this setting, even centrist proposals face mighty legislative hurdles.
Beyond the capital’s divisions, citizens across the country resist the “liberal” label — even though polls showthat they tend to hold liberal positions on individual issues. Political scientists call this “symbolic” vs. “operational” ideology.
See the Post's graphic for some examples.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted to lift the debt ceiling for three months, kicking the can down the road until May.
The vote was 285 to 144; all of Arkansas's congressional delegation (even Cotton) voted with the majority.
The measure requires that if lawmakers in either of the chambers of Congress fail to pass a budget bill by April 15, their pay will be blocked. (The pay would go into escrow, Boehner explained this morning on NPR).
From the New York Times article:
“The good news is that our Republican colleagues finally recognized that America must pay its bill and meet its financial obligations without conditions,” said Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland. “The bad news is they only want to do it for three months.”
The Blair Center for Southern Politics and Society at the University of Arkansas and the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock have released results from a new poll on political and other questions.
Here's the UA news release, which focuses on student loan issues. Americans are more likely to blame colleges and the federal government for high student debt than the students, it says.
Among others, the polling looked into demographics of recent presidential votes:
Roughly half of the respondents said they voted for President Barack Obama and 42 percent said they voted for Gov. Mitt Romney, while the remainder did not respond. Men were more likely to have voted for Romney (46 percent), while women were more likely to have supported the president’s reelection (56 percent).
Support for Romney was higher overall in the South than elsewhere, but results indicated significant racial and regional gaps.
Of the Southern respondents who reported to have voted in the election, 67 percent of whites, 2 percent of African Americans and 32 percent of Latinos indicated they voted for Romney, while 33 percent of whites, 98 percent of African Americans and 66 percent of Latinos in the South indicated they voted for Obama.
Of the respondents outside the South who reported to have voted in the election, 47 percent of whites, 2 percent of African Americans and 28 percent of Latinos indicated they voted for Romney, while 46 percent of whites, 95 percent of African Americans and 72 percent of Latinos outside the South indicated they voted for Obama.
This is a partial release of poll findings. More topics are to be covered.
Here's Paul Krugman in yesterday's New York Times, dropping some truth bombs about the realities of "The Fiscal Cliff":
"I keep seeing articles about the 'fiscal cliff' that do, in fact, describe it — often in the headline — as a debt crisis. But it isn’t... No, what we’re having is a political crisis, born of the fact that one of our two great political parties has reached the end of a 30-year road. The modern Republican Party’s grand, radical agenda lies in ruins — but the party doesn’t know how to deal with that failure, and it retains enough power to do immense damage as it strikes out in frustration."
Gov. Beebe didn’t offer many specifics after his Roosevelt Room meeting with President Obama and five other governors regarding the fiscal cliff. He said that he came away optimistic, because bipartisan governors were able to come to a consensus, so perhaps Congress will follow suit. That consensus seems to be vague, though. The governors agreed that they don’t want to see the country go over the cliff and that all states and the federal government will have to share the burden. And if anyone is wondering how to get the President’s ear, Beebe said he is the point man. According to President Obama, V.P. Biden has never left a governor’s phone call unreturned.
The group of governors didn’t get into specific cliff-avoidance plans, but they did ponder if states will be relieved of federal obligations regarding specific programs that will be slashed. “If the state has to lose $100 million, then we need to lose $100 million in federal requirements,” Beebe said.
The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration has a preliminary list of program cuts complied from Federal Funds Information for States, should Arkansas lose federal grants. The biggest cut, nearly $12 million, would come from Title I grants to local education agencies. The U.S. Department of Education would determine which institutions lose funding, but these grants largely go to public schools that serve low-income children. According to Brandon Sharp, Administrator for Fiscal and Budget, the cuts wouldn't take place till 2013-2014 school term, which gives Congress extra time to find another solution. Next in lines for cuts are special education programs, Head Start and WIC. See the list here: FFIS_VIP_Series_Sequester_Reductions.pdf
At the press conference, Beebe also weighed in on the state universities' coaching changes. "I was surprised with the U of A’s pick. U of A had kept that a really good secret or that didn’t become an option till this weekend…This guy’s got a good track record, and I’m sure he’s a very good, competent coach, and I’m sure Wisconsin hated to lose him. Malzahn, I’m obviously very disappointed…but it's a place that a lot of people want to go. I don’t know another school in the country that’s had two SEC coaches hired in two years, so it’s obviously a desirable job... and a program on the rise. They’ll end up with a good choice."
U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin has been chosen to serve on the powerful U.S. House Ways and Means Committee. Griffin says this means he will not run for Governor or Senator in 2014, both of which he had considered doing.
Ernie Dumas' column today is — like all Dumas columns — a must read on the wisdom of Warren E. Buffett and Steven L. Rattner, two very rich men who don't think rich men need a handout to get richer. Both men wrote about their ideas — Buffett to restore the 2000 tax rate and Rattner to raise the capital gains tax to 28 percent — in oped columns in the New York Times.
How much proof does the Republican Party need that tax cuts don't produce jobs? Re Buffett:
He posed a simple hypothesis that ought to be directed at every proponent of slashing capital gains taxes, including the legislative hearing rooms at Little Rock. If an investor you trust comes to you with an investment idea and says he is in it and thinks you should be, too, would your response be, “Well, it all depends on what my tax rate will be.” If the tax rate is a little high would you say you would rather leave your money in your savings account earning a quarter of 1 percent?”
It's nonsense that is playing out at home:
Meantime, the clamor for lowering or eliminating taxes on capital gains and dividends and cutting other taxes ramps up in Little Rock. The arguments approach the ridiculous. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette suggested editorially that if Arkansas would just slash its income tax rates hordes of people would quit their jobs and the sunny climes in California to move to Arkansas and create a boom. I’m not kidding.
Column on the jump.
He was recently re-elected easily in Tennessee, though some of this sordid tale was already leaking into public print. A helpful court, citing lack of a completed transcript, delayed until after the election release of court testimony that lays out in full his background.
* Avowed supporter of "pro-life" (anti-abortion) policies? Check.
* Family values candidate? Check.
* Divorced? Check.
* Former wife had two abortions BEFORE they were married? Check.
* Had sex with two former patients (he's a physician)? Check.
* Had sex with three co-workers? Check.
* Had sex with a drug company rep? Check.
* Urged one of the patient sex partners to get an abortion? Check.
* Lied about conversations with patient in which he urged her to get abortion? Check.
* Wrote painkiller prescriptions for one of mistress/patients and provided various gifts including a plane ticket to Las Vegas? Check.
* Said in questioning, "I've never been challenged or questioned in terms of my integrity before."? Check.
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