Actually, they never really went away. Between elections the vast right-wing "vote fraud" fear machine has been overhauled, fine-tuned, and re-calibrated. And now it's gearing up for the midterm elections.TPMmuckraker has the story. Electoral fraud -[...]
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With Rahm leaving, I imagine a lot of people in Washington will start to open up about his tenure as chief of staff, both for good and ill. At a DC breakfast this morning with reporters, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius offered some insight into what it's[...]
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In case you missed it, the extraordinary video of thuggish New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino threatening a New York Post bureau chief yesterday. Carl Paladino - New York Post - New York - Republican - Andrew Cuomo[...]
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That's some contrast, eh? A hundred and fifty-seven billion suspension bills, then a quick detour into funding the entire federal government in one bill, and then put out the lights and we're outta here!
The early adjournment was somewhat unexpected, so there are still several committee meetings still scheduled. Some may yet be canceled or postponed, but for now, they're still on the books.
Here's an item that's sure to make you glad to welcome your Senators home:
Senate Democrats agreed Wednesday night to a Republican demand to block President Obama from making recess appointments while Congress is out of town campaigning for the midterm elections.
Democratic leaders have agreed to schedule pro-forma sessions of the Senate every week over the next six weeks, a move that will prevent Obama from making emergency appointments, according to Senate sources briefed on the talks.
How's your forehead doing after that one? I hope you remembered to put your coffee down before you smacked it!
Why in the world would a Democratic Senate do that to a Democratic President? Well, there's sort of a good explanation, at least technically:
Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had threatened to send Obama’s most controversial nominees back to the president if Democrats did not agree to schedule pro-forma sessions, according to a senior GOP aide.
Senate rules give McConnell this power.
That would have forced the president to resubmit the nominees to the Senate and Democrats to start their confirmation processes (including hearings) all over again.
For some reason -- and here's something ripe for reform when the rule books open up in January -- nominations still pending if the Senate recesses for more than 30 days are returned to the President. Renominating them when the Senate returns means sending them through the whole review process all over again.
So rather than have to go through that, Dems were clearly tempted to agree instead to blocking recess appointments in exchange for an agreement to allow a unanimous consent waiver to keep these nominations on the books.
But I couldn't blame you for wondering what that's really worth, considering that the likelihood of Republicans allowing any of these nominations to actually go forward when the lame duck Congress returns is probably slim to none. Still, I guess miracles do happen, so they left the door open should one turn up. There are no miracles for nominations that aren't actually pending.
Why, besides just being a Republican, would McConnell do this?
His move was seen retaliation for Obama’s decision to give Donald Berwick a recess appointment to serve as the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
What? Who? Well, Berwick heads up the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which used to be known as the Health Care Financing Administration, or HCFA. That's the agency that some of you may remember Newt Gingrich claimed he was talking about in his infamous "wither on the vine" statement. It's a reasonably important position, with a lot of authority over implementing key provisions of the health insurance reform bill.
So that's what apparently got traded for the right to make any other recess appointments, ever. Just thought you should know.
How's that forehead doing? Put down your coffee, I'm not done!
Democrats agreed earlier in the day to a Republican demand to cut spending levels for government agencies in order to pass a stop-gap spending measure.
That continuing resolution to fund the government's operations? The one that had to pass because they couldn't pass any regular appropriations bills, since they'd all be filibustered? Well, normally they just pass CRs that say everyone gets funded at current levels until we pass a real appropriations package. But Republicans said no, if you want to avoid a shutdown right here and now (forget waiting until after the election), you'll have to accept across the board cuts right away.
So... you know the rest.
Have a nice election, everyone! Let's get out there and fight, fight, fight!
Today's committee schedule, for those of you who haven't had enough of this, appears below.
Newly minted Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to Treasury Elizabeth Warren, known for her combative stance against the predatory practices of the big banks and lenders, opted for a conciliatory speech in the proverbial belly of the beast.[...]
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Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) confirmed Wednesday afternoon that his net neutrality bill was effectively scrapped after Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) declined to support the legislation.
In a statement, Waxman urged the Federal Communications Commission to reassert its authority to regulate broadband access providers. Doing so would allow the FCC to create its own net neutrality rules -- an effort that was thrown into doubt when a federal court ruled the agency overstepped its authority by sanctioning Comcast for allegedly violating broadband rules.
Waxman said he and his staff had worked with public interest groups, Internet service providers and Web content companies to try to reach an agreement around a bill that all parties could support. Waxman, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said he had also kept Republican members on the committee abreast of his work. He said it was essential to gain Republican support for the bill.
I am not going to reveal anything about #1 bestseller (and Oprah choice) FREEDOM by Jonathan Franzen.
Suffice it to say that the New York Times book review by Sam Tanenhaus called it "a classic of American fiction" and, honest to God, that praise was mild compared to most major reviews.
Personally, I found the book to be the best fiction work I have read in decades and, not meaning to brag, I read a lot of fiction. The characters in the book will stay with me forever. At least, I hope so.
I just want to comment on a minor stream that runs through the book: it is that neo-conservatives are loathsome, that they joined up with war profiteers to get us into Iraq, and that they were motivated by a combination of pro-Israel zeal, profits, and the belief that we must Americanize the Middle East. One character, who I think is modeled on Norman Podhoretz, gets to pronounce the neocon philosophy at a Thanksgiving dinner (basically a thanks giving for the blessing of the Iraq war).
Before the crazies say it, I want to add that Franzen is by no means anti-Jewish, just anti-neocon. In fact, there is an ultra-Orthodox family in the book, whose dream is to live in the West Bank, who are lovely people -- just a little muddled.
So why is this significant? It is significant because this book is so huge (about as big as any work of fiction can be in this country) and that it's "oh-by-the-way" incorporation of the Walt-Mearsheimer thesis demonstrates that the two professors have won. Nobody much argues about the role of the neocons in promoting Middle East wars.
The bottom line is that Walt-Mearsheimer triumphed despite the obvious flaw in their own thesis i.e, that the lobby could stifle critics of Israel. They can -- but not if the critics are respected and well-known academics or journalists. The lobby was able to get many of their speaking dates cancelled, were able to plant unfriendly reviews everywhere and were able to have them universally smeared both personally and professionally.
But, in the end, they won the day. And, no, the lobby will not be able to shut Franzen down. It only goes after those it considers vulnerable. They thought Walt and Mearsheimer were but they weren't. Franzen, the biggest author in America, is untouchable.
And so a "thesis" once thought shocking becomes uncontroversial although dealing with the reality of it is more necessary than ever. They want an Iran war even more than they wanted to invade Iraq. I am grateful to Franzen for aiming his powerful searchlight at this bunch.
McDonald’s Corp. is threatening to drop its health insurance plan for nearly 30,000 hourly restaurant workers unless regulators waive a new health care law requirement. Sending “one of the clearest indications that new rules may disrupt workers’ health plans,” McDonald’s claims the requirement to spend 80% to 85% of premiums on benefits would be “economically prohibitive” to continue offering coverage.
The House yesterday approved a bill “to give up to $7.4 billion to workers sickened during the cleanup of the World Trade Center site after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.” New York lawmakers said they would push the Senate to pass a similar bill once Congress returns for its lame-duck session.
CIA Director Leon Panetta told Pakistan’s intelligence community yesterday that the U.S. government is working to counter a terror plot to attack several public targets in European capitals. According to Panetta, the CIA learned of the attack — which was set to occur in November — after “capturing one of the prospective attackers en route from Pakistan’s FATA region.”
Pakistan blocked a vital supply route for U.S. and NATO troops yesterday, following a cross-border helicopter strike that killed three Pakistani soldiers. The blockade appears to be a major escalation in tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) “will not lift her hold on Office of Management and Budget director nominee Jack Lew,” continuing to demand that the Obama administration first lift its moratorium on offshore drilling. The senator met with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Tuesday, but there was no resolution of her issues with the moratorium.
Sen. Barbara Boxer and her Republican challenger, Carly Fiorina, traded charges that the other was too extreme for California during a debate last night. Boxer accused Fiorina of shipping jobs overseas as CEO of Hewlett-Packard, and attacked her opposition to health care reform.
Yesterday, Senate Democrats “agreed to a Republican demand” to block President Obama from making recess appointments while Congress is out for midterm elections. In scheduling pro-forma sessions, Democrats prevent Republicans from forcing any of the 115 executive- and judicial-branch pending nominations from having to be resubmitted and reconfirmed in the Senate.
And finally: Obama said he?s ?amused? by Jon Stewart?s rally. ?I was amused – Jon Stewart, the host of The Daily Show, apparently he?s going to host a rally called something like ?Americans in Favor of a Return to Sanity? or something like that,? the president said. ?And his point was, you know, 70 percent of the people?are just like you.?
ThinkProgress is hiring! Details here.
Earlier this month, right-wing congressman Steve King (R-IA) publicly demanded a ?blood oath? from House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) to repeal the Affordable Care Act if the GOP takes back the House, even if it means shutting down the government. In the event a government shutdown were to occur, King said he wants to ensure ?there wouldn?t be a repeat of 1995 where the House caved.?
Such radical measures were also espoused by Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA), who told a group of supporters this month that shutting down the government is worth the ?pain,? even if it means cutting off veterans? disabilities payments. ?If government shuts down, we want you with us,? Westmoreland said at the Faith and Freedom Coalition convention.
While the right-wing fringe has been at the forefront of advocating a government shutdown, the party leadership seems to be going along for the ride. RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who is on a nationwide bus tour (riding aboard the RNC?s ?Fire Nancy Pelosi!? express), tacitly endorsed a shutdown during an interview with the Nebraska Watchdog blog:
NEBRASKA WATCHDOG: What about the possibility of a government shutdown if Republicans get control of Congress?
STEELE: Well, anything can happen. Again, I don?t know what the dynamics are at that point. We?ll see who the leadership is, how big the margins are, what the numbers in the new Congress look like.
Newt Gingrich, the architect of the last shutdown of the government, has laid out a strategy for the GOP to make it happen once again, beginning with a promise not to fund anything. When asked by ThinkProgress in April about the possibility of a shutdown, Gingrich said that, while he?s ?not for shutting the government down,? he is for ?drawing a line in the sand.? And if Republicans do force a shutdown, it will be Obama?s fault, Gingrich argued.
These two young people probably put a lot of time and thought into their college applications. What a shame they didn't also work at becoming decent human beings, because this is simply unthinkable. No, life is not an episode of "American Pie" and you don't get to publicize someone's private sex life for your own amusement. These two should be very ashamed of themselves for a very long time:
PISCATAWAY ? A Rutgers University freshman appears to have killed himself by jumping off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate broadcast live images of the 18-year-old having a sexual encounter with another man on the internet, according to campus and law enforcement sources.
Tyler Clementi, 18, of Ridgewood, is presumed dead after his car, cell phone and computer were found near the George Washington Bridge last week, law enforcement sources said. His wallet was found on the walkway adjacent to the New York-bound lanes. In a statement released this afternoon, Clementi?s family confirmed the suicide and said his body has not been found.
Dharun Ravi, 18, of Plainsboro, and Molly Wei, 18, of Princeton, were charged with two counts each of invasion of privacy for setting up a camera in a dorm room on Sept. 19 and using it to view and transmit a live sex scene, said Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan.
Paul Mainardi of Woodbury, the Clementi family's attorney, said Ravi and Clementi were roommates at Rutgers.
"Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay," Ravi said on his Twitter page in a Sept. 19 entry posted at 6:17 p.m.
Two days later, Ravi posted another entry directing his nearly 150 Twitter followers to iChat, an internet messaging service with a live video feed.
"Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes it's happening again," Ravi wrote in the Sept. 21 post.
Ravi's Twitter feed has since been taken down. But the entries survived in a cached version of the page still available through Google's search engine this afternoon.
Prosecutors said Ravi and Wei set up a camera on Sept. 19 and broadcast live images of Clementi having a "sexual encounter." Ravi is also accused of trying unsuccessfully to broadcast a second sex scene Sept. 21.
The Clementi family released a statement this afternoon. "Tyler was a fine young man, and a distinguished musician. The family is heartbroken beyond words. They respectfully request that they be given time to grieve their great loss and that their privacy at this painful time be respected by all," it said.
What sort of mean little weasels would do something like this?