Monday, September 30, 2013

The Dirty Secret Behind the Insani-TEA

Earlier today, a few House Republicans admitted the votes were there to end the shutdown insani-TEA. So why can't they just pass the Senate bill already? Who's willing to answer this?

No really, they can pass the Senate bill. After all, it already sets government funding at Sequester levels. How much more austerity do they want?

Apparently, G-O-TEA culture warriors won't be satisfied until people die. Yes, they're that bloodthirsty. Not only are they out to destroy Obamacare, they want to starve millions of American families.

A little earlier, President Obama addressed the very real possibility of the federal government shutting down tonight. He explained what's about to happen... And why.

Congressional Republicans are taking their irresponsibility to a whole new level. They really can't accept yes for an answer? And they really can't accept last year's election results?

Senator Harry Reid (D-Searchlight) refused to mince words when he addressed the insani-TEA he's had to witness on Capitol Hill.

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He calls it anarchy. I call it insani-TEA. Whatever the case, it's hurting real people. And there's no good reason for any of it to happen.

House Republican "leaders" can bring this unnecessary crisis to an end whenever they want. That's the horrific dirty secret behind all the G-O-TEA manufactured nonsense. So why won't they stop the insani-TEA?

Failed Culture War

Earlier today, we looked at the economic ramifications of a G-O-TEA led government shutdown and debt debacle. Now, let's examine why they're forcing us onto the brink of disaster. Of course, it's partially due to their ongoing temper tantrum over Obamacare (working despite their many sabotage attempts). However, there's more to this story than initially meets the eye.

Believe it or not, House Republicans not only threatened health care access for millions of Americans, but they also brought back to the forefront their other favorite war: the G-O-TEA War on Women. Oh, yes. That's right. It's back.

Late Saturday night, House Republicans slipped anti-contraception garbage into their giant garbage can of an "appropriations bill". Do they not remember how Mitt Romney joined in on the G-O-TEA attacks on contraception... And lost the last Presidential Election? Most Americans know contraception saves lives and saves money because most American women have used it. That's why most Americans got sick and tired of Rush Limbaugh's attacks on women's health care 18 months ago.

Don't believe me? Believe the latest Bloomberg Poll. Only 22% of Americans want even more restrictions on contraception and abortion. Oh, and that's not all.

Also according to that Bloomberg Poll conducted late this month, 55% of Americans support marriage equality while only 39% oppose. While the struggle for LGBTQ civil rights continues, the American people are increasingly acceptive. And the G-O-TEA's hangup over one word is causing another major problem for their party.

Republicans bet big on "TEH CUL'CHUR WARZZZ!!!" And now, they're losing. While demagoguery and xenophobia were able to win elections in the past, most Americans now are sick and tired of the same old homophobic diatribes and screeds against basic women's health care.

Yet instead of addressing their growing policy discontent, House Republicans are throwing a political temper tantrum. They're essentially forcing all of us to suffer because their policies cost them the last election. And they continue to deny they're losing their culture war.

Note to Republicans: Manufactured crises and unnecessary drama won't magically cause their failed culture war to disappear.

Shutdown Sh**fest

It was supposed to end by now. The federal government was supposed to be kept running. Will we be proven wrong tonight?

The latest and greatest manufactured crisis continues to rage on despite the Senate rejecting the House G-O-TEA shutdown agenda. But because G-O-TEA Congresscritters refuse to stop the drama, a government shutdown will happen tomorrow if the House can't pass the Senate approved temporary budget.

Even some House Republicans admit it's a political "loser" for their party. So far, recent polls are confirming their fear. And now, even Republican Senators are urging their party to stop the insani-TEA.

Here's Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine).

"What is abundantly clear is that the American people do not want dysfunction in Washington to lead to another government shutdown. A shutdown will only further damage our struggling economy and reverse an already slow climb out of recession.

"I voted against Obamacare and have repeatedly voted to repeal, reform, and replace it, but I disagree with the strategy of linking Obamacare with the continuing functioning of government-a strategy that cannot possibly work.  Instead, I urge the President and congressional leaders to sit down immediately and negotiate at least a stopgap funding measure to avoid a disruption in many vital programs on which our citizens rely.

And a Former President who has experience tackling manufactured crises spoke out yesterday on today's maelstrom of stupid.

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” former President Bill Clinton had strong words for the GOP (and no words on his wife’s 2016 campaign). Commenting on the party’s fierce push for cuts and obsession with fighting Obamacare, Clinton noted, “”I’ve never seen a time– can you remember a time in your lifetime when a major political party was just sitting around, begging for America to fail?”

Clinton of triangulation fame also advised President Obama against negotiating with the GOP, describing Republican budget hawks as “spiteful”:

“If I were the president, I wouldn’t negotiate over these draconian cuts that are gonna take food off the table of low-income working people, while they leave all the agricultural subsidies in for high-income farmers and everything else,” he said. “It’s chilling to me. The entitlement spending is going down as the unemployment rate drops and the economy grows. Half of the deficit’s already disappeared. The rest of it just seems almost spiteful.”

Already, US and global stocks are falling amid worries of how this manufactured crisis could (further) harm the economy. No matter how much the usual G-O-TEA suspects want to deny reality, a government shutdown and possible debt default run huge economic risk. Yesterday, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman tried to inject some sanity into the crazy "debate" on Capitol Hill.

Financial markets have long treated U.S. bonds as the ultimate safe asset; the assumption that America will always honor its debts is the bedrock on which the world financial system rests. In particular, Treasury bills — short-term U.S. bonds — are what investors demand when they want absolutely solid collateral against loans. Treasury bills are so essential for this role that in times of severe stress they sometimes pay slightlynegative interest rates — that is, they’re treated as being better than cash.

Now suppose it became clear that U.S. bonds weren’t safe, that America couldn’t be counted on to honor its debts after all. Suddenly, the whole system would be disrupted. Maybe, if we were lucky, financial institutions would quickly cobble together alternative arrangements. But it looks quite possible that default would create a huge financial crisis, dwarfing the crisis set off by the failure of Lehman Brothers five years ago.

No sane political system would run this kind of risk. But we don’t have a sane political system; we have a system in which a substantial number of Republicans believe that they can force President Obama to cancel health reform by threatening a government shutdown, a debt default, or both, and in which Republican leaders who know better are afraid to level with the party’s delusional wing. For they are delusional, about both the economics and the politics.

And this is why all the major world stock indices are tumbling today. The world has begun doubting its faith in the ability of our federal government to run itself. And it's all thanks to continued G-O-TEA intransigence.

For decades, America has been the top global economic leader. For decades, we've been the platinum standard in economic stability. But now, a few Republican hotheads on Capitol Hill are threatening to shut down the government and default on US debt. This would mean our government fails to live up to its promise to pay its bills and provide for the people. It's nonsense... And it's not what the world expects of the world's economic leader.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again now. This is fucking madness. This only hurts people. It helps no one. And it risks the world losing its faith in American leadership once and for all.

Are those gawd-damned G-O-TEA fuckers happy now?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Big Deal, Big Irony

Earlier this month, many were worried about the crisis in Syria. Then, after President Obama threatened use of military force against the Syrian Government for using chemical weapons against its own people, the real diplomacy began. And now, a deal is being reached.

The United States and Russia have been at odds on how to force the handover [of chemical weapons]. Those two countries negotiated the deal, and France played a large role in helping come up with compromise language, the sources said.

The deal includes a resolution with so-called Chapter 7 authority, a reference to a United Nations provision that allows member countries to take military and nonmilitary action to confront threats to peace and security.

The U.S. and Russia reached agreement earlier this month on the outlines of a plan to rid Syria of chemical weapons. Syria satisfied the first part of the plan last week, when it gave the world a catalog of its weapons stockpile.

The agreement envisions the removal of chemical weapons from Syria by the middle of next year.

Fortunately for everyone, the combination of tough talks and hard negotiations secured a real deal. A month ago, many were wondering when World War 3 would start. Now, all five permanent members of the UN Security Council have managed to agree on something... And something that truly is a big deal.

So why can't we feel good about this? The strange irony of today is that even when President Obama can forge agreements on the world stage, he can't even count on the G-O-TEA Mad House to agree with him on basic things like keeping the government open. Just as the Senate is about to finish a temporary federal budget agreement, House G-O-TEA "leaders" are threatening to blow it up and force a shutdown.

They're not even pretending to be sane any more. They're truly caving into pure batshit crazy.

The bill, obtained by the National Review, tacks on items including a one-year delay of Obamacare; tax reform in the image of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI); approval of the Keystone pipeline; expanded offshore drilling and other pro-oil and coal energy reforms; increases in military spending coupled with deeper cuts to domestic programs; repealing a fund in the financial regulatory reform bill; means testing for Medicare; repealing the Obamacare prevention and public health fund and medical malpractice reform.

One House GOP leadership aide didn't deny the contents of the summary but cautioned that it may not be final. The aims, however, reflect the direction the House of Representatives is taking and contains important clues as to how the debate will unfold. [...]

Democrats believe the Republican plan is [batshit] crazy. And President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have repeatedly vowed not to make concessions in order to lift the debt ceiling. But Boehner is in a bind because the debt limit is a very tough vote for conservatives and he needs to dangle all sorts of enticements before them in order to win over most Republicans.

It's been nearly a year since President Obama won reelection and Democrats made net gains in Congress. Republicans lost the 2012 Election. But now, they want to re-fight the 2012 Election and threaten to blow up the world economy if Barack Obama doesn’t kill himself after directing Mitt Romney be appointed President they don't get their way?

They truly are fucking nuts. Who would have guessed Russia and Syria would be more willing to prevent global disaster than Congressional Republicans? Wow, what irony...

Manufactured Lie-sis

Hey, we told you so. On Monday, we could see the end approaching for the latest and greatest G-O-TEA manufactured crisis. And now, the US Senate is moving as quickly as possible to avert a government shutdown by passing a temporary budget extension. As usual, Senator Harry Reid (D-Searchlight) has been busy piecing together the final deal.

But now, Republicans are more divided than ever. They don't know how far to go to achieve their supposed goals. And really, they don’t like that their mendacity has been exposed.

If they’d been sounding the tocsins of doom in earnest, the political consequences of a shutdown would have been worth bearing. Republicans would have joined him and turned what he did from a day-long oratory into a “real” filibuster.

Does that mean Cruz and his fellow speakers are the only true believers in the GOP? I don’t think so. I think they saw an opportunity to claim the spotlight and they took it. They know the movement they’re courting rewards those kinds of demonstrations. It wasn’t an earnest attempt at persuasion — it’s not like anti-Obamacare screeds are new to anyone. Which is why it’s correct to point out, as dozens of others including Harry Reid already have, that Cruz wasn’t filibustering anything.

I agree, but only because I don’t believe Cruz ever intended to convince any of his colleagues to change their votes.

And there’s no going back from this. You can’t claim to be a hero if you won’t run into a burning building to save a child. Cruz lit the building on fire. Nearly every Republican stood safely outside. And a lot of people are going to remember that the next time any of them claim Obamacare will ruin the country and only they can stop it.

If Obamacare (aka the Affordable Care Act) is so horrible and life-threatening, then why are Republicans giving up on their effort to defund it this fall? May it be due to the reality of Obamacare not really being horrible and life-threatening? After all, the Affordable Care Act is largely based on the conservative Republican alternative to then President Clinton's 1994 health care reform proposal.

Now that the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare is being implemented, more Americans will have the chance to find affordable health insurance and better care. And it's happening thanks to a mix of stronger regulation of the insurance market, increased consumer buying power, a better social safety net for working poor in need of help, and private sector innovation. Keep in mind that most "Obamacare coverage" is actually coming from private companies or non-profit co-ops.

Wow. That doesn't sound life-threatening at all. In fact, this sounds pretty life-saving. And here we have why Republicans can't sustain their campaign to destroy the Affordable Care Act. Oh, and no wonder why they must resort to manufactured crises to spread fear, anger, and a whole lot of misinformation.

Next week, Obamacare exchanges will come online. Also next week, Congressional Republicans will start yet another debt ceiling fiasco. One crisis is simply manufactured, while the other is simply nonexistent.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Hickey's Honest Hiccup

While most of our attention has been focused on Washington lately, we can't completely ignore recent rumblings from Carson City. One, in particular, is quite disturbing. And of course, it's the one from everyone's favorite Nevada G-O-TEA bomb thrower, Assembly Member Pat Hickey (R-Reno).

In a recent conservative talk radio interview, Assembly Member Hickey experienced some diarrhea of the mouth got candid about Republicans' plan to win the 2014 Election cycle. In short, they're hoping you don't vote.

And there's actually more to it than just that. As ThinkProgress' Ian Millhiser noted, G-O-TEA campaign strategists want to take advantage of the US Supreme Court's recent attack on the Voting Rights Act to make the playing field even more favorable for their side. So get prepared for another onslaught of voter suppression.

While Nevada Republicans haven't been successful in legislating voter suppression, they have so far succeeded in blocking progress on strengthening voting rights in this state. And to make matters worse, Nevada Republicans in Washington haven't said a peep as their G-O-TEA Congressional colleagues are dead-set on killing any chance of Congress fixing the Voting Rights Act. And as long as that isn't addressed, G-O-TEA forces plan to impose state sanctioned voter suppression in several states with Republican controlled governments.

Of course, Pat Hickey is now attempting damage control. Don't pay attention to that. Rather, pay attention to what his party does and doesn't do on voting rights. After all, actions speak louder than words.

And really, Pat Hickey was only saying aloud what G-O-TEA forces have quietly been working on all this time.

Going for (Fili)bust

At last, the moment is nigh. Even though the drama on Capitol Hill hasn't subsided quite yet, the end is near. And for that matter, so is the beginning.

The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare, or ACA) has been subject to nonstop political mud wrestling marathons since it was being debated in Congress four years ago. But now, it's a law that's being implemented. And in just six days, the ACA exchanges will be open for enrollment.

This is the centerpiece of the ACA. And this morning, the US Department of Health & Human Services released an eye-popping report on the ACA exchanges right before they become reality.

"We've done a pretty good job of getting affordable options on the shelves," Jeanne Lambrew, deputy assistant for health policy to Obama, told reporters Tuesday in advance of the report's public release. "That is success that we've gotten to the point where we can say that."

On average, people will have a choice of 56 different insurance plans -- depending on which state you live in, though, that figure could range from seven (in Alabama) to 106 (in Arizona). The average number of insurers in a state is eight, though that again ranges from one to 13 in different states.

As for premiums, before tax credits kick in, they will average 16 percent below the Congressional Budget Office's original estimates for a silver-level plan (which covers 70 percent of costs). The number of insurers in a state is directly tied to how low premiums will be, Lambrew noted. Arizona, with an average of 106 plans to choose from, had the lowest average premium for a 27-year-old adult: $166 a month. Wyoming, with an average of 16 plans, had the highest average premium at $342 a month.

But then the tax credits take effect. Those knock the premium for that 27-year-old, projected to earn $25,000, down to $145 in most states. For a family of four making $50,000, the credits take the premium price down from more than $1,000 in some states to $282.

As we've explained many times before, Obamacare is working. And it's working despite G-O-TEA obstruction.And it's working to lower health care costs while ensuring more and better coverage.

After all, the ACA provides the same health coverage that Members of Congress receive. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) explained this on the Senate floor.

So this is what some G-O-TEA crispy critters are going for (fili)bust over. And they're wondering why the cruel joke is now on them? Despite their nonsensical political games, Obamacare is becoming reality. And despite their misleading spin, more American families will soon discover how it helos them.

Congressional Republicans are still going for (fili)bust... And it won't be long before they just come out of this pointless melee looking awfully busted.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Manufactured Crisis v. Real Peril

The end is near! Finally, the end is near. The latest and greatest G-O-TEA manufactured crisis is finally coming to an end, and we can soon go on with life.

Yet as the current manufactured crisis approaches its inevitable conclusion, the nation and world must continue to wrestle with very real crises. In fact, there's one in particular making news again (for all the wrong reasons).

Food insecurity is set to rise 10-20% by 2050. Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are about to become more common. And millions of people around the world are at risk of being trapped in epic poverty.

Sounds downright frightening, doesn't it? It should. Forget the stupid manufactured crises on Capitol Hill, climate change is the real crisis threatening global security.

We're risking our own future and our children's future by failing to solve this real crisis. But if we take the necessary steps to solve it, we can actually save lives. No really, we can save 3 million lives per year by 2100 by cutting greenhouse gas emissions. This is actually a rare case where cuts (in carbon emissions, that is) can save lives.

However, this is not just about cuts. It's also about growth. If Germany, Sweden, Brazil, Paraguay, and other nations can capitalize on the renewable energy revolution, why can't America? Well, we are to a certain extent... But we're still nowhere near our full potential.

So why aren't we taking advantage of this real opportunity? Why can't we actually solve this real crisis? Why must we keep wasting time on manufactured distractions? And why are we still debating real science?

Instead of obsessing over ridiculous manufactured crises, those "leaders" on Capitol Hill need to start focusing on solving the real ones.

All Stuck, No Middle

Here he goes again. Last November, Senator Dean Heller (R-46%) tried to reinvent himself as "Senator No Labels Post-partisan". The shtick even started to seem somewhat believable when he flip-flopped came around on comprehensive immigration reform.

Yet over the course of this year, as Senator Heller has felt the ire of a distrustful 21st Century Know Nothing base, he's been changing his tune yet again. As spring turned to summer and summer turned to fall, Senator Dean Heller was sounding less "No Labels Post-partisan" and more standard issue G-O-TEA (all over again). Why is this?

I'd like to think Sam Shad was looking for answers. Unfortunately for all of us, Senator Heller provided none in his most recent "Nevada Newsmakers" appearance.

Shad: “War on Republicans, the Libertarian side of the party versus the moderate side of the party. How is this going to affect future of the party and where do you stand?”

Heller: “Well obviously it has had impact. We saw during the last election cycle, in fact, if you take a look at the United States Senate two years ago we were sitting here thinking the Republicans were going to take control. I’m a big believer that to win a race you have to have a good campaign, you have to have a good candidate, and you have to have both. You can have both and lose, but you can’t win without both. So we are seeing the same dynamics now going in two years later. The state of Georgia has some very conservative candidates and the key is to win races. I want the most conservative candidates that can win being the nominee for the Senate races. If we do that I think we can take the majority.”

[Ralston:] Could someone please translate that into English for me? And the follow-up? Still waiting---

While I don't always agree with Jon Ralston, I do sympathize with him here. I think I also need a translation. I don't speak gibberish, either.

To be fair to Senator Heller, he's not the only Republican stuck in an increasingly confusing G-O-TEA civil war. Now that the G-O-TEA's latest and greatest manufactured crisis is falling apart fast, Congressional Republicans are quickly turning on each other.

As the deadline for a federal budget is fast approaching, Republicans are now busy fighting each other. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) bashed the G-O-TEA shutdown strategy on the Senate floor earlier today, only for the G-O-TEA culture warriors to turn around and denounce him. The Wall Street Journal editorial page again decried the G-O-TEA shutdown debacle, only for "the base" to throw yet another temper tantrum amd demand even more "purity".

Republican "leaders" are now saying they're pushing for "conservative principles"... But so are the G-O-TEA culture warriors. So who's to be believed?

And is there any wonder any more why Senator Heller is so afraid of saying anything substantive? His party is stuck as it's starting to feel blowback from its latest manufactured crisis. And right now, all it's doing is consuming itself alive. Senator Heller is afraid of being consumed alive. He's just lucky that his next election won't be until 2018.

From "Rebranding" to Hard Landing

So much for "rebranding". Early this year, Republicans' mass embrace of comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) was supposed to be part of a major "rebranding" effort for the Republican Party. Sadly for those who made the jump for CIR, the rest of the party didn't follow.

Instead, they followed the lead of the 21st Century Know Nothings. And that's meant a slow and ghastly death for CIR. Sure, G-O-TEA "leaders" have occasionally made gestures suggesting otherwise. But so far, it looks like the "rebranding" has just become another hard landing (back to their hardened base).

But hey, don't just take my word for it. Take a look at what Brian Beutler is reporting.

On Friday, two of the three House Republicans participating in a bipartisan immigration reform working group threw in the towel. More to the point, they threw in the towel because the political environment has got too hot for them — which is why they blamed President Obama for their decision, rather than irreconcilable policy differences with Democrats. [...]

According to Greg Sargent, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will begin turning up the pressure on Republicans by introducing immigration legislation of her own — one that hybridizes the Senate’s bill with measures bipartisan House negotiators had settled upon. But Speaker John Boehner has also promised not to put immigration legislation on the House floor unless half of his conference supports it — and I have my doubts that House Republicans aren’t going to support any bill, but particularly a huge one like immigration reform, introduced by Nancy Pelosi.

She could in theory introduce what’s known as a discharge petition, which would force a vote on her own bill if signed by 218 members. But Republicans will be under immense pressure not to buck the leadership to pass a Democratic immigration reform bill. The political consequences of immigration reform are questionable for Republicans, but if a bill becomes law over the party’s explicit objections, they’ll experience all of the downside and none of the upside.

Which is a long way of saying it’s probably not going to happen. And Republicans will go to the electorate in 2014 and perhaps again in 2016, without anything new or different or improved to offer an increasingly liberal electorate.

And there, we have it. Because G-O-TEA politicians are more concerned about placating their base than paying attention to the rest of the electorate, they can't accept any compromise. And because they're more interested in tearing down the Obama Presidency than passing any kind of good policy, we're stuck with nothing (but the same old idiotic manufactured crises).

After the last Presidential Election, at least some Republicans actually spoke openly about the need for change. And for a moment, "rebranding" seemed like a real possibility. But now, that party has completed its hard landing back down to its G-O-TEA base. And as long as it stays there, it can't change.

And thanks to this ongoing G-O-TEA intransigence, we can't fix our broken immigration system. And as a result, real families suffer as the nation fails to take advantage of new economic opportunities. Yep, so much for that "rebranding".

Monday, September 23, 2013

The End Game

What a Monday. We've seen plenty of drama from the usual suspects. And of course, they're demanding the same old disgusting ransom as they threaten to hold the nation hostage.

Of course, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) is over the ridiculous G-O-TEA drama. However, there was an interesting twist today. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) is also over the ridiculous G-O-TEA drama. Pay very close attention to what's said below... And what's not said.

"Senator McConnell supports the House Republicans' bill and will not vote to block it, since it defunds Obamacare and funds the government without increasing spending by a penny," McConnell spokesman Don Stewart told TPM in an email Monday. "He will also vote against any amendment that attempts to add Obamacare funding back into the House Republicans' bill."

The decision clears a path for Democrats to pass a continuing resolution that funds Obamacare. Procedurally, Democrats need 60 votes (they have 54 members) to advance the House-passed continuing resolution. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) can strike the language defunding Obamacare with 51 votes, which frees up McConnell and every other Republican to vote against such an amendment. This way he never has to actually vote to fund Obamacare but doesn't force a shutdown over an unachievable goal.

Because Senator McConnell is facing a "TEA" fueled primary challenge, he has to sound "severely conservative". But in failing to say "The [Other] F Word", Senator Reid should be able to proceed in crafting a budget agreement that all sides can live with.

And that's not all. Former Senator Judd Gregg (R-New Hampshire) couldn't stay silent as some in his party continue promoting economic destruction.

The self-promotional babble of a few has become the mainstream of Republican political thought. It has marginalized the influence of the party to an appalling degree. 

An approach to the debt ceiling that says one will not vote for its extension unless ObamaCare is defunded is the political equivalent of playing Russian roulette with all the chambers of the gun loaded. It is the ultimate no-win strategy. 

You cannot in politics take a hostage you cannot shoot. That is what the debt ceiling is. At some point, the debt ceiling will have to be increased not because it is a good idea but because it is the only idea. 

As we've discussed here many times before, there's no realistic way for the G-O-TEA gang to succeed. Obamacare is law. A budget must signed into law in a week. And the debt ceiling is not something to mess around with.

Even as the media pundits are setting each other's hair on fire, the end game is now in sight. Senator McConnell is now deferring to Senator Reid, and to the Republicans willing to negotiate with him. And sooner or later, G-O-TEA "leaders" will blink.

This week should be interesting...

Still Makes No $

Earlier this morning, we were reminded of the latest and greatest manufactured crisis to hit Capitol Hill. Never mind we still have over a month until Halloween, politicians and media pundits are already spooked. Even the high and mighty at the Federal Reserve and Wall Street are feeling the fright.

Even as we're seeing real crises develop around the world, The Beltway Pundit Class continues to obsess over the manufactured crisis that's ripping the Republican Party apart while causing jitters among economists. As we've discussed here many times before, it doesn't have to be this way. Yet for some reason, Congressional Republicans keep pushing us to the brink.

Last night, Desert Beacon had to debunk the spin coming from Rep. Mark Amodei's (R-Drama) office regarding his vote for fiscal insani-TEA. Of course, he claims he just helped the House "do its job". If he defines "do its job" as cause unnecessary drama, then he may be right. Funny enough, Rep. Amodei was the one claiming he was "tired of the drama" earlier this year.

This actually isn't the only fit of drama coming from Nevada Republicans. Over the weekend, Rep. Joe Heck's (R-TEA Curious) office sent a letter to constituents who asked about his vote to force millions of Americans to starve. Since July, he and other House Republicans have been on a mission to slash and burn the SNAP program that provides a critical lifeline to millions of food insecure Americans and our nation's economy. And once again, Rep. Heck is claiming his vote was to "reform" SNAP. He even claimed the bill provides $333 million more for soup kitchens!

OK, so what's so bad about that? Can't those pesky poor people go to soup kitchens? Nope, since soup kitchens and other private charities are already stretched beyond capacity due to post-Great Recession poverty and unemployment. An extra $333 million over ten years, or less than $670,000 per state per year, won't nearly be enough to take care of this. After all, House Republicans voted to slash $40 billion (!!!) from SNAP and throw them to already overextended private charities.

Rep. Heck also cited "fraud" as a reason to vote to gut SNAP, but the "fraud" claims he and other House Republicans cite have already been debunked. So why do they keep threatening the lives of so many Americans? Maybe Paul Krugman can explain.

[... L]ast year, average food stamp benefits were $4.45 a day. Also, about those “able-bodied people”: almost two-thirds of SNAP beneficiaries are children, the elderly or the disabled, and most of the rest are adults with children.

Beyond that, however, you might think that ensuring adequate nutrition for children, which is a large part of what SNAP does, actually makes it less, not more likely that those children will be poor and need public assistance when they grow up. And that’s what the evidence shows. The economists Hilary Hoynes and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach have studied the impact of the food stamp program in the 1960s and 1970s, when it was gradually rolled out across the country. They found that children who received early assistance grew up, on average, to be healthier and more productive adults than those who didn’t — and they were also, it turns out, less likely to turn to the safety net for help.

SNAP, in short, is public policy at its best. It not only helps those in need; it helps them help themselves. And it has done yeoman work in the economic crisis, mitigating suffering and protecting jobs at a time when all too many policy makers seem determined to do the opposite. So it tells you something that conservatives have singled out this of all programs for special ire.

Even some conservative pundits worry that the war on food stamps, especially combined with the vote to increase farm subsidies, is bad for the G.O.P., because it makes Republicans look like meanspirited class warriors. Indeed it does. And that’s because they are.

And even worse, Reps. Heck & Amodei have been voting to continue subsidies for several of their House Republican colleagues. So "welfare" is good for Republicans with "family farms", but not for poor people in actual need?

To make matters even worse, the House G-O-TEA budget plan offers even more painful austerity. It denies chemotherapy to cancer patients, preschool to children, housing to families, and help to domestic violence victims. Oh, and did I mention it (further) threatens economic recovery?

So now, we must ask this: Why are Joe Heck, Mark Amodei, and other House Republicans threatening the lives of so many Americans? And why do they persist in pursuing the same old economy busting austerity policies? Their prescription for economic ruin makes no sense.

We Are (Still) Not a Deadbeat Nation.

Last Thursday, we looked at the reasoning behind the Federal Reserve's decision to delay plans to taper its stimulus program. Today, we have a little more insight into how and why that happened. Moments ago, New York Federal Reserve Bank President William Dudley said the decision was made partly because results of their economic tests did not suggest the US economy was ready yet for tapering... And in particular, fiscal uncertainties "looming very large right now".

Hey, G-O-TEA Congresscritters, Mr. Dudley is talking about you!

And it's not just The Fed getting fed up with the manufactured crises. Over the weekend, President Obama again urged Congress to cut the manufactured crisis crap. After all, "We are not a deadbeat nation".

We already know the G-O-TEA manufactured crisis meant to take away people's health care and cause more economic harm makes absolutely no economic sense, but that's not all. It's also increasingly making little to no political sense. A new CNBC poll shows huge opposition among Americans to a G-O-TEA fueled government shutdown. Even 48% of Republicans don't support the G-O-TEA anti-Obamacare shutdown scheme, and 36% of Republicans don't support any defund Obamacare scheme.

Yet despite the economic and political reality of now, the usual TEA flavored suspects are peddling their tired old manufactured crisis. They're even threatening other Republicans with primary challenges "negative scoring" (for conservative interest group scorecards) if they don't go along with the Lords of the Crazy in their quixotic quest to destroy America's social safety net. Unfortunately for them, at least some Republicans are still dismissing their insani-TEA.

"In the United States Senate, we will not repeal or defund Obamacare. We will not. And to think we can is not rational," Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said last Thursday on CNN. "To somehow think we are going to defund it is simply not going to happen at this time, and it will, in my opinion, as it did before, harm the American people's view of the Republican party." [...]

The government shuts down next week on Oct. 1 if Congress doesn't act. Senate Democrats believe that even if they do get six GOP votes, completing the bill may take all week, bringing the country perilously close to a shutdown by the time it ping-pongs back to the House. Polls suggest Republicans, being the party out of power, will be blamed. That means once the lights go out, they'll have no choice but to fold. The only question is whether Cruz destroys what's left of the GOP brand in the process by shining a national spotlight on its radical tactics. He's laying the groundwork to escape from the battle with his reputation in tact by preemptively blaming his colleagues -- colleagues who remain skeptical of his plan.

"Tactics and strategies ought to be based on what the real world is. We do not have the political power to do this," Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) said Sunday on CBS' "Face The Nation." "So we're not about to shut the government down over the fact that we cannot, only controlling one house of Congress, tell the president that we're not going to fund any portion of this [health care law]. Because we can't do that."

We only have one week left until the manufactured crisis turns into unnecessary economic pain. And yes, it truly is unnecessary. After all, we are not a deadbeat nation. We do not shirk our responsibility to take care of ourselves and each other.

When more Congressional Republicans actually take this to heart, maybe then we can actually take their "economic policies" seriously.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

How Diplomacy Works

In the midst of all the latest and greatest manufactured crisis, it can be easy to forget about the real crises we face. Earlier this month, our eyes were on Syria as the nation seemed to be inching closer to joining the war already raging in that corner of the Middle East. But last week, President Obama scored a diplomatic breakthrough as Russia finally offered a deal for Syria to unload its chemical weapons that the US, France, and the UK could accept.

Since then, this story has continued... Along with the civil war. Unfortunately for many in Syria, the conflict remains. Yet even with some belligerent language continuing to creep into the international dialogue on Syria, an international consensus on how to remove the chemical weapons from the Assad Regime is still near.

And on top of this, we may be nearing another major diplomatic breakthrough. President Obama has recently exchanged letters with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and a deal may be near to prevent Iran from developing its own stockpile of nuclear weapons. While there aren't any official plans (yet?) to normalize US relations with Iran, it at least looks like there's some sort of dialogue and some sort of budding agreement on (refraining from developing) nuclear weapons.

While there are clearly still challenges ahead, it looks like progress is being made. So why doesn't it seem this way? That's a good question. And it may have something to do with certain politicians and talking heads not understanding how diplomacy works.

Fortunately for everyone, progress is being made on Syria and Iran. And progress is being made without any shots being fired. This is how diplomacy works.

Sure, it may not be as salacious as provoking armed conflict. And it may not be as "sexy" as causing a stir on the pages of Pravda. But again, this is how diplomacy works... And this is why Capitol Hill has been able to shift focus from real crises back to the usual manufactured crisis.

Stop the Insani-TEA!

Yesterday, we got quite the surprise. The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee voted unanimously to continue The Fed's $85 billion monthly bond buyback program. Major stock indices immediately shot up when this was announced, as many had been expecting The Fed to "taper" its buyback program.

Yet while the equity market and a whole lot of talking heads were jumping for joy over The Fed's decision to continue its stimulus program, hardly anyone noticed why this happened. Fortunately for us, Steve Benen noticed.

But as we've discussed many times, [outgoing Federal Reserve Chair Ben] Bernanke keeps urging conservative lawmakers to get smarter about economic policy, to no avail.

He has, over the last few years, occasionally abandoned subtlety and explicitly pleadedwith Congress to consider fiscal stimulus -- or at least less fiscal austerity -- but Republicans have always refused. (Indeed, GOP lawmakers haven't just been content to ignore the need for fiscal remedies, they've also demanded that Bernanke stoptrying to improve the economy through monetary measures.)

Bernanke wants Congress to act as a partner, working alongside the Fed to strengthen the economy. Instead, Congress has acted as an opponent, pushing in the opposite direction.

And now that Republicans are threatening to impose economic chaos on Americans on purpose, the Fed chair apparently figures it's a bad time to start scaling back. He's right.

We've said it here before, and we'll say it again today. Investment begets growth! It should be a simple concept for everyone to understand.

Unfortunately for us, the Congressional G-O-TEA Gang just don't get it. Instead, they're pursuing another manufactured crisis and demanding even more austerity. So of course, we now have to live on a razor's edge for the next two weeks as we await the conclusion of this latest and greatest manufactured crisis.

At least now, there are signs of the conclusion approaching. Brian Beutler reported earlier on the latest twist in the latest episode of Republican Insani-TEA. Even though House Republicans are now set to pass their nonsensical and sadomasochistic budget resolution, the Senate G-O-TEA culture warriors who had originally proposed this very plan are now developing cold feet... Just in time for their feet to meet the fire.

Make no mistake, even the likes of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are realizing their fiscal pipe dream has no chance in hell of getting past Harry Reid. Their insani-TEA is about to crash into reality. And at this point, Republicans are left deciding whether to crash and burn with the G-O-TEA culture warriors while forcing everyone to endure a government shutdown, or save whatever is left of their faces by cutting a last minute deal with Democrats.

A favorite philosopher of ours once uttered three words that forever made their mark on pop culture. Yesterday, Ben Bernanke and The Fed shouted out these same three words when announcing continuation of The Fed's stimulus program. And now, it's time for Congressional Republicans to pay very close attention to the advice we're giving them: Stop the insani-TEA!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

No Mas Excusas

It's the maddening circus that just won't end (yet). As we discussed earlier today, Congressional Republican "leaders" are giving into G-O-TEA delusions of grandeur for the time being. They're scheduling the 42nd vote to take our health care away. And they're doing so because they're careless and incompetent their base demands more drama.

Once again, the nation is being held hostage due to a G-O-TEA temper tantrum. And even as they continue reveling in their latest manufactured crisis, they're still scheduling time for more scandalicious fishing expeditions. If there's one thing G-O-TEA Congresscritters excel at, it's wasting time (& taxpayers' money)!

Congressional Republicans always seem to have time to waste on silly partisan games. Yet when it comes to real issues that need real attention, they duck and cover. Case in point: comprehensive immigration reform (CIR).

Yesterday, President Obama (yet again) made it clear he’s ready to work with Congress to pass CIR. And throughout this week, labor and business leaders are meeting with Congressional Democratic leaders to determinr a path forward for CIR. But as of now, all anyone is hearing from Congressional Republicans on CIR is this: {crickets}.

As we've noted here before, real American families suffer as long as the House fails to act on comprehensive immigration reform. So what are House Republicans waiting for? Perhaps another manufactured crisis and/or haute faux scandal to claim as an excuse for continued inaction? Here's a reality check for them: The time for excuses is over.

Past Fights v. Current Needs

Not that long ago, things seemed settled. Even a certain US Senator said it. He admitted the law was... The law.

“It’s the law of the land [...] I always said that this presidential election was going to determine whether the Affordable Care Act was going to move forward or not.

“It’s not going to be repealed. It’s not going to be substantially changed [...] President Obama got re-elected. Let’s move on.”

Believe it or not, that was Senator Dean Heller (R) speaking to the Las Vegas Sun last December. Back then, Senator Heller readily admitted the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare, or ACA) was settled law. But now, he's part of the G-O-TEA contingent preparing to blow up the world economy if the ACA isn't destroyed just as it's being implemented.

And not only that, but the Congressional G-O-TEA Gang are demanding even more economically harmful austerity. In fact, the austerity they're now demanding is so extreme that even Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Romney Shambles) previous budget plans! And considering how much harm the current austerity regime has caused, the G-O-TEA demands for even more austerity are almost inexplicable.

Well, almost. But because House Republicans care more about internal politics than actual governance, we're stuck in this perpetual cycle of farcical drama. The only way left for us to escape is for Congressional Republican "leaders" to agree to a bipartisan budget deal with Democrats.

So when will they start living in reality? The Presidential Election was last year. The need for the economy to heal is now. It's long past time for Republicans to stop re-litigating past policy fights and start taking care of business now.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

La Estupidez y El Té

This month is Hispanic Heritage Month. So how are Congressional Republicans celebrating? Oh, they have a shiny new YouTube video to share with the nation!

Wow, what... A crock of crap. ¿Dónde están sus cabezas?

A slick video does not make for actual "minority outreach". But you know whatbdoes? Try policies that work (for working families).

Is this why Republican "leaders" failed to mention their sterling economic policies? And is this why they failed to mention comprehensive immigration reform (CIR)? Ah, now that video is starting to make sense (but it's still stupid as hell).

Study after study after study has demonstrated how CIR will benefit the economy. So House Republicans can't honestly claim they're stalling CIR for economic reasons. So why are they doing it?

Recently, House Republican "leaders" have claimed they "don't have time" for immigration. Really? They "don't have time" for CIR, yet they do have time for manufactured crises, anti-Obamacare obstruction, and even more quixotic battles in the ongoing G-O-TEA War on Women? What the hell are they smoking? Here's a helpful hint for Congressional Republicans: Put down the pipes and realize none of these actions appeal to Latin@ voters.

Comprehensive immigration reform, on the other hand, does appeal to Latin@ voters... And to most voters overall. So what's the problem?

Early last month, there was a glimmer of hope as Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) and a few other House Republicans were warming up to reform. Yet later that month, Rep. Heck declined to promise any real action. And right around the same time, the 21st Century Know Nothings were climaxing in their campaign to kill reform.

And this is the real reason why House Republicans are afraid to act on CIR. Simply put, they fear their own 21st Century Know Nothing base. Yet in their quest to pander to their extreme base, they fail to realize they're jeopardizing their own party’s long term political future. The more they double down on their "Great White Hope", the more they lose touch with reality .

This only makes Republicans' "minority outreach plan" look that much more stupid. Jeez, everyone (living in actual reality) is already spilling the tea and trying to make Republican "leaders" realize the mess they're in. But before they can escape from the mess, they will have to finally drop the "TEA".

Endless Cycle of Tragedy

Yesterday, the US Senate went to recess. While a decision like this would usually be met with criticism, this happened for a very understandable reason. Keep in mind that the US Capitol is less than two miles from the Navy Yard.

Here's what Senator Harry Reid (D) had to say when he announced the recess.

And that's not the only local aspect of this story. Don Andres is on Rep. Steven Horsford's (D-North Las Vegas) DC staff. He also lives near the Navy Yard, so he was eyewitness to the terror that fell upon his neighborhood. He spoke with MSNBC's Chris Hayes about what he experienced yesterday morning.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

What happened yesterday was horrific. And it was quite saddening. However, it wasn't all that shocking.

Six of the twelve deadliest mass shootings in US history have occurred in just the past six years. Think about it. Oh, and three of those mass shootings have occurred just in the last fourteen months: the Aurora, Colorado, theater massacre; the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut; and yesterday's Navy Yard massacre in Washington, D.C.

We're now staring down an endless cycle of tragedy, yet all we hear from the gun lobby is ruthless spin. When will the madness end? When will more elected "leaders" actually develop the courage to lead?

In so many other ways, we take precautionary measures to prevent horrific tragedies like the one that happened yesterday in DC. Yet when it comes to the most basic precautionary measures, "we can't go there" because they're "too controversial". And the endless cycle of tragedy continues... (Until we can finally agree to do something to stop it. When will that happen?)

Perpetual Cycle of Farcical Drama

Even amidst the real crisis still developing in Washington, some on Capitol Hill continue to obsess over their ridiculous manufactured crisis. Even though virtually no one else actually wants it, we're all getting it. And it's all due to the G-O-TEA gang's preference for absurd drama over actual governance.

So why are we stuck in this perpetual cycle of farcical drama? Jonathan Chait has a theory. And I suspect he's onto something.

Since taking control of the House of Representatives in 2011, a coterie of Republicans has challenged this informal approach. Their belief is that the absence of cooperation should lead not to stalemate but to the president bending to their will. That assumption implies a delegitimization of the presidency that Obama has come to understand, belatedly, that he can’t accept.

The Republican Establishment is trying to coax the crisis-mongers out of their fervor. Today The Wall Street Journaleditorial page assails Republicans who insist on shutting down the government unless President Obama agrees to destroy his own health-care reform, a fantastical demand. “Kamikaze missions rarely turn out well, least of all for the pilots,” theJournal warns.

But it’s not as if the House leadership has a more reasonable proposal on offer. In fact, the position of the House leadership is far more radical. GOP leaders are promising their base that if they give up on the Obamacare shutdown fight, they can have an Obamacare debt-ceiling fight. House leaders are dangling before the baying hordes, reports Politico, “tons of conservative goodies: construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, entitlement reform and principles for tax reform.” You can have all this and more!

And because House Republican "leaders" fear their own 21st Century Know Nothing base, we're stuck in this manufactured crisis for the time being. Because a few Members of Congress care more about their extreme ideology than the well-being of the nation (and they actually have power over their "leaders"), the nation's economy is being held hostage. It makes no sense to all of us living in the real world, but it's nonsensical music to the ears of those living in G-O-TEA Fantasyland.

Even a growing number of Republicans are demanding an end to the perpetual cycle of farcical drama! Are party "leaders" listening?

When the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal is comparing far-right lawmakers to Kamikaze pilots, it's safe to say all is not well within the Republican Party. When the staffer of one Texas GOP lawmaker is lecturing another staffer of a Texas GOP lawmaker on "dealing with reality," it even worse.

This is more than just idle curiosity about an intra-party spat. In less than two weeks, the government's lights will go out, and Republicans don't want to get the blame for an unpopular shutdown.

In other words, the unanimity that existed the last time the GOP shut down the government [1995, and to a large extent the 2011 debt debacle] does not exist right now. Worse, there are no real leaders among congressional Republicans that the rest of the party will follow and whom Democratic leaders can negotiate with.

Yet even with this being said, there are likely enough Republicans in the House to reach across the aisle and agree to a bipartisan budget deal with House Democrats. At this point, the nation depends on it. So when will they put country before party?

When can we finally end this perpetual cycle of farcical drama? It's harming the nation. And all of us living in reality want off already.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Something Evil in Our Society

Let's travel back in time for a moment. Less than eight months ago, Gabrielle Giffords testified to Congress (an institution she once served in). It had been just over two years since she and others were shot at a "Congress at Your Corner" event near Tucson, Arizona. And it had been less than two months after the horrific Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school massacre.

She asked her former colleagues in Congress to be courageous. And some did show courage. Others, however, did not. And thanks to those others fearing the NRA and placing its wants ahead of their own constituents' needs, Congress passed nothing on gun safety this past spring.

Let's fast forward to today. The nation is reeling from another frightening massacre. And this time, it occurred at the Navy Yard in our nation's capital, less than two miles from Capitol Hill. Thirteen people have died today, including one of the gunmen (Aaron Alexis).

Law enforcement discovered three weapons on Aaron Alexis: a shotgun, a semiautomatic pistol, and an AR-15 assault weapon. Perhaps this was on Dr. Janis Orlowski's mind when she spoke today. Dr. Orlowski is the Chief Medical Officer of MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where Navy Yard Shooting victims were sent for treatment. As she was updating the media on the three victims still in critical condition, she was asked what stood out today.

"There's something evil in our society that we as Americans have to work to try and eradicate," she responded. Dr. Orlowski later added, "I would like you to put my trauma center out of business. I really would. I would like to not be an expert on gunshots." She also pleaded, "Let's get rid of this. This is not America." 

Today, we've been reminded of something evil in our society. We've been reminded of those who will go to great lengths to cause tragedy and suffering. And we've been reminded of those who've been craven and/or greedy enough to stand by and allow those evil individuals to gather what they need to inflict harm on others.

However, we've also been reminded of the good in our society today. We've been reminded of those who sacrificed their own lives to save the lives of others. Now what can we do to honor them? And what can we do to stop this evil in our society from claiming any more innocent lives?

Delusional (G-O-)TEA

Round and round and round we go. Where we'll land... We already know. Even as a very real crisis continues to unfold less than two miles from Capitol Hill, The Hill is still abuzz over the ongoing manufactured crisis du jour.

Yet even as the usual G-O-TEA suspects continue demanding drama, President Obama is making it clear that he doesn't want any more of it.

“I have been through this a couple times with Speaker Boehner,” he said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” declaring that while he’s willing to negotiate further deficit reduction, “What I haven’t been willing to negotiate, and I will not negotiate, is on the debt ceiling.” [...]

“If we continue to set a precedent in which a president … is in a situation in which each time the United States is called upon to pay its bills, the other party can simply sit there and say, ‘Well, we’re not gonna pay the bills unless you give us what we want,’ that changes the constitutional structure of this government entirely,” Obama told “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos.

Boehner is in an extraordinarily difficult position. His first order of business is to persuade rebellious GOP lawmakers not to shut down the government after Sept. 30 — when the current continuing resolution funding the government runs out — if Obama doesn’t give in to their demands. To talk them out of it, Boehner is floating thepossibility of another debt limit standoff, with lofty demands like delaying Obamacare. If Obama’s remarks to ABC are any indication, Boehner’s plight hasn’t shaken the president’s resolve.

“We can’t negotiate around the debt ceiling,” Obama said.

Here's the problem: The G-O-TEA gang won't let go of their delusions of grandeur. No matter how much they hate Obamacare, it's here to stay. President Obama has also made it clear that he refuses to jeopardize people's lives (and health care) just so he can indulge the G-O-TEA gang in their increasingly farcical delusions of grandeur.

Yet as of now, Congressional Republican "leaders" continue to indulge the 21st Century Know Nothings in their nonsense. They continue making s**t up on health care. They continue pretending comprehensive immigration reform never passed the Senate (with strong bipartisan support). And they continue wasting taxpayers' time and money on ludicrous conspiracy theories.

Remember when Rep. Mark Amodei (R-La Vida Loca) declared he was "tired of the drama"? Desert Beacon does, and that's why she's calling him out on his latest melodramatic nonsense. It's just too bad that Republican "leaders" still can't cut the crap already.

Update on Navy Yard Shooting

This morning, many of us were awaken to the horrific news of the Navy Yard Shooting in Washington, D.C. At least seven have died today. And law enforcement in the nation's capital are now on a manhunt for the two surviving shooters. (Police now suspect three shooters committed the massacre.)

“The big concern for us right now is that we have potentially two other shooters that we have not located at this point,” Lanier said.

Lanier described one of the possible shooters as a white male wearing what appeared to be a khaki tan military uniform and a beret, and carrying a handgun. She said police also are looking for a black man, about 50, wearing an olive military-style uniform, and possessing a “long gun.”

Police are asking anyone with information on these two people to call 202-727-9099.

Authorities have confirmed at least seven fatalities, including the shooter.

At least two police officers were among those shot. Police on the scene said one is a D.C. Metropolitan Police officer who was shot twice in the leg and was evacuated to a hospital. Lanier said he was in stable condition after engaging the shooter with gunfire. The other was a base officer. The D.C. officer, a male, was conscious at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and his chances for survival were good, hospital officials said.

Three victims are in critial condition and are being treated at Washington Hospital Center. Two are civilians, and one is a Washington Metropolitan police officer. All were likely shot using a semi-automatic assault weapon.

Before President Obama was set to deliver his scheduled speech on the state of the economy, he commented on the shootings.

The shootings occurred less than two miles from the US Capitol and just east of the Washington Nationals Stadium. So far today, this has led to closed schools, closed roads, and plenty of fear throughout The Beltway as two of the three suspects are still on the loose.

This morning, many of us woke up to the news of yet another gun violence tragedy. Seven people are now dead, and another three people are still in the hospital and in critical condition. And so far, examinations of the gunshot wounds seem to confirm earlier reports of the shooters using AR-15 assault weapons.

And this tragic, horrific beat goes on...

(We'll keep updating the blog as more news breaks on the Navy Yard Shooting.)

Another Day, Another Tragedy

Today, we have another unfolding tragedy on our hands. And this time, it's happening in the nation's capital. Yes, there's been a shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.

The Navy said at least three shots were fired at 8:20 am (13:20 GMT) in the headquarters building of the Naval Sea Systems Command.

About 3,000 people work at the headquarters.

Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan, reporting from Washington, said the shooter may have barricaded himself on Navy Yard grounds. Witnesses saw police with rifles running towards the building where they believed the attacker might be.

One of the injured was said to be a police officer, shot in both legs.

Twelve people were shot this morning. And two of them were police officers on duty. And just moments ago, four were announced dead.

There's also a local angle to this story. About an hour ago, Tim Hogan (who works communications for Rep. Steven Horsford [D-North Las Vegas]) tweeted photos from the crime scene. Another Horsford staffer, Don Andres, was near the Navy Yard at the time of the shooting.

The shooter(s) apparently used an AR-15 military grade assault weapon. And the shooter(s) used it at a US Military office to kill people there.

At this point, it's unclear if the shooter(s) was/were military staff or civilian(s). There are now even reports of potential multiple shooters. The Navy Yard ad surrounding neighborhood are still swamped with first responders, as the Navy Yard is still being treated as an active emergency.

So another day, another tragedy. Another week, another horrific incident of gun violence. And we still must wonder what it will take for us to finally stop this bloody madness.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Return to Dysfunction Junction

Now that President Obama is pursuing a diplomatic solution to the Syria crisis, Congress is returning to the usual business. And of course, that means another G-O-TEA manufactured crisis. I'm not sure what else to say about this, so I'll leave the rest of the explaining to Ed Kilgore.

So having fought its way into the Syria debate just days ago, Congress is stepping aside—or perhaps it’s better to say it’s stepping out of one quagmire into another, the partisan fiscal conflict that’s no closer to being resolved now than it has been since 2011. Indeed, the House is about to adjourn for a long weekend, leaving itself just five working days before the end of the fiscal year. At present the GOP leadership doesn’t have the votes to pass a continuing appropriations resolution to keep the government functioning because it can’t find a formula that sufficiently “defunds Obamacare” to satisfy 30 or so conservatives.

All the earlier talk about how the Syria crisis was going to “distract” Congress from dealing with its other issues is now shown to have missed the point: time isn’t what Congress needs. It needs a Republican Party, especially in the House, that make decisions without constantly placating a faction willing to blow up the budget, the operations of the federal government, and perhaps the economy, if it is not allowed to nullify past laws and overturn past elections.

No wonder why Senator Harry Reid (D) doesn't "do social things". And now, he'll especially be needed. Why? I'll let Rep. John Dingell (D-Michigan) explain.

Oh, yes. That's right. The House G-O-TEA gang are still wasting time on their anti-Obamacare chicanery and tomfoolery! And as expected, Senator Reid has no interest in jumping on the "Defund Obamacare" train to Dysfunction Junction.

“I told [Boehner] very directly that all these things they’re trying to do on Obamacare is a waste of their time,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters. “Let’s stop playing these really juvenile political games.”

“Those in touch with reality should understand that passing a clean CR is the right thing to do,” he said. “Their direction is a direction to shut down the government. … If Republican leaders keep giving into tea party demands they must be rooting for a shutdown.”

The White House also reiterated Thursday that President Barack Obama would reject efforts to undermine Obamacare. “We will not accept anything that delays or defunds Obamacare,” spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

While the G-O-TEA street theater may be entertaining, it ultimately accomplishes nothing. In fact, it's actually harming the nation. And we continue to suffer the awful policies that resulted from their histrionics.

So we've returned to Dysfunction Junction this week as Congress struggles to secure any kind of budget deal. What will it take for Republican "leaders" to agree to let the country escape? Maybe they like the dysfunction, but the rest of us are sick and tired of the manufactured crises and unnecessary drama.