...before the 2014 midterm elections, that is. After that all bets are off, it seems, and there are no guarantees.
And yet public opinion shows pretty convincingly that Republicans were on the losing end politically of last year’s partial-government shutdown. For two weeks, government offices, major tourist attractions, and even the open-air World War II Memorial in D.C. were temporarily closed. And while Republicans did their best to expose the White House’s calculated and incredibly petulant efforts to exploit the crisis, most Americans pinned the blame squarely on congressional Republicans. No surprises there. You might even recall that's exactly what happened the last time congressional lawmakers found themselves negotiating during a government shutdown.
Nonetheless, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) recently told Roll Call that House Republicans have supposedly learned from their past missteps. To that end, he said, they are committed to passing a spending resolution funding the government at least through December:
On a possible government shutdown: In his book, Ryan calls the 2013 shutdown a “suicide mission” for the House GOP, and on Wednesday he told CQ Roll Call he agreed that Republicans were easy to blame for the events that transpired.
But House Republicans won’t repeat that mistake this September, Ryan predicted: “We will pass a clean [continuing resolution], and if for some reason the Democrats don’t take that, then they will clearly have shut the government down … it will be patently obvious … that they are playing politics with this, and trying to trigger a shutdown so they can blame us, but we’re really blameless in this particular situation.”
Ryan’s confidence that his conference will cooperate in passing a stop-gap spending bill free of controversial policy riders — ”until Dec. 11 is what we’re thinking,” said Ryan — contradicts Democrats’ cries over the past few days that the GOP is spoiling for another shutdown that could cost them the election in November.
The last thing the GOP needs, I think, is to be blamed for another government shutdown just before Election Day 2014.
What, if anything, could damage or diminish their electoral prospects more?
Another example of the "how would this be handled if a Tea Partier were the jerk" question [Please read Mary Katharine Ham's excellent post from yesterday on this]. It sure wouldn't be patience, toleration, extended coverage in order to reconcile matters, and a long-extended bro handshake. G'me a break! Note how the "white supremacy" line is not even noticed by Don Lemon.
Senator John McCain (R- Ariz.) expressed his anger with President Obama's reaction to the beheading of American journalist James Foley and called for a dramatic increase of airstrikes to the region. He believes that this tragic incident should be a "turning point" for the president's strategy in defeating the Islamic terror group.
McCain said to Reuters:
"First of all, you've got to dramatically increase the airstrikes. And those airstrikes have to be devoted to Syria as well...We have to defeat them, not stop them."
McCain's aggressive and passionate denouncement of the ISIS group in light of Foley's murder has been much more than what American's have seen from President Obama. The president eulogized Foley yesterday in a statement, but didn't speak of how America plans to fight what McCain calls "the most vicious terrorist organization that we've ever encountered."
To The Arizona Republic, McCain said:
"This president has ignored the threat for a long period of time, and now we're paying the price."
McCain reports that ISIS is now the world's largest terror organization and has a large inventory of stolen Iraqi military equipment:
"The more he (Obama) delays and the more he acts incrementally, the more ISIS adjusts and the more difficult they will become," McCain said. "And one of the decisions that he has to make is to attack ISIS in Syria because they are moving the captured equipment there and they are fighting there and their enclaves are there. They have erased the border between Iraq and Syria. They are now an enclave larger than Indiana."
According to a new Reason/Rupe poll, an astounding 68 percent of Americans surveyed said that it should not be legal for children under the age of nine to play outside unsupervised. A smaller, yet still sizable, percentage of people surveyed agreed that 12-year-old children should also not be allowed to be outside unsupervised.
A whopping 68 percent of Americans think there should be a law that prohibits kids 9 and under from playing at the park unsupervised, despite the fact that most of them no doubt grew up doing just that.
What's more: 43 percent feel the same way about 12-year-olds. They would like to criminalize all pre-teenagers playing outside on their own (and, I guess, arrest their no-good parents).
Growing up in Maine, I spent a decent amount of time outside by myself as a child without parental supervision. I went sledding and ice skating without my mother hovering over me—way before I ever had a cell phone. I biked through the neighborhood without parental guidance. I babysat children starting around age 11. Nobody died.
Parents should be trusted to know what's best for their children. Crime rates are at their lowest in decades, and arresting parents for letting their children play unsupervised is doing nothing but waste valuable police time. Society needs to lighten up a little, and these poll numbers are very troubling.
A new edition of the "Saturday Night Live" oral history reveals what everyone already knew: the show has a liberal bias.
In the 200 new pages of the updated book, which first published in 2002, the writers, the cast and, heck, probably even the light technician, explain their distaste for conservatives and how they looked forward to mocking them on Saturday night. I've included just a taste of their comments.
Cast member Horatio Sanz, who I used to think was funny, explained why he had qualms about Will Ferrell's impression of George W. Bush, but loved Tina Fey’s Palin:
I always kind of felt bad when Will Ferrell did his Bush impression because he was such a good old boy that you really didn't think, "Oh, this evil little rich prick whose dad and his friends got him in office." You thought, "Oh, he's just a good old guy I'd like to drink beer with." As funny as Will's impression was, the audience as a whole, the whole country, would probably see that as, "Oh, I like Bush. Because he's Will." You know, if Will hadn't done that impression, or at least made him likable, it may have tipped it the other way. I honestly think so. We made up for it. I think Tina's impression basically killed Sarah Palin.
Whether or not the show’s interpretation of Palin did play a part in the 2012 presidential election, there’s no denying she was a favorite target at the NBC studio. Take, for instance, writer Paula Pell, who explained her confrontation with the former governor as such (emphasis mine):
I planned that I was going to come up and talk to [Palin] and shake her hand and welcome her and say, "My wife and I are very good people, and we live a very socially conscious life, and we do a lot for our community, and I just want you to know the face of gay couples and gay people," and I had this whole speech planned. Then I just kind of came up to her in the chaos in the hallway and just nodded and said "hi" and walked off. I thought to myself, "I'm such a chickenshit." I was like, "Wow, she's pretty." I just got overwhelmed by the fact that this character who was everywhere on TV was in front of me, and she was real and just ridiculous. So I didn't get my big political moment.
"SNL" Producer Lorne Michaels, who one would hope would stay nonpartisan, offended Palin by insisting he wasn't offending her:
[Palin] has wonderful manners — and I honestly don't mean this in a condescending way — but it's that pageant-winner thing.
Then, of course, we can't forget the woman who started it all. Tina Fey's opinion of the Alaska mom and governor she so hilariously, yet insultingly portrayed can be summed up by Michaels:
Tina was terrified of anything where they would be together looking like an endorsement.
But, as we all know, Palin isn't one to remain silent:
I know that they portrayed me as an idiot, and I hated that, and I wanted to come on the show and counter some of that.
As easy as it seemed to mock conservatives, "SNL" producers shared how hard it was to try and make fun of the current president, who can seemingly do no wrong. Producer-writer James Downey explained the challenge:
If I had to describe Obama as a comedy project, I would say, "Degree of difficulty, 10 point 10." It's like being a rock climber looking up at a thousand-foot-high face of solid obsidian, polished and oiled. There's not a single thing to grab onto — certainly not a flaw or hook that you can caricature. [Al] Gore had these "handles," so did Bush, and Sarah Palin, and even Hillary had them. But with Obama, it was the phenomenon — less about him and more about the effect he had on other people and the way he changed their behavior. So that's the way I wrote him.
In other words, Obama has no flaws. Downey did at least offer a rare glimpse of truth regarding the show’s agenda (emphasis mine):
The last couple seasons of the show were the only two in the show's history where we were totally like every other comedy show: basically, an arm of the Hollywood Democratic establishment. [Jon] Stewart was more nuanced. We just stopped doing anything which could even be misinterpreted as a criticism of Obama.
Downey isn’t alone. Former cast member Chevy Chase admitted to CNN’s Alina Cho he intentionally portrayed President Gerald Ford as a bumbling buffoon in the 1970s because he wanted Jimmy Carter in the White House.
For more proof of how biased the satire show is, read my article from Townhall Magazine, " Saturday Night Lies."
I'm going to give Palin the last word. Unlike the 'SNL' cast, she needs no script to throw a few zingers:
Palin: If I ran into Tina Fey again today, I would say: "You need to at least pay for my kids' braces or something from all the money that you made off of pretending that you're me! My goodness, you capitalized on that! Can't you contribute a little bit? Jeez!"
Put this in the "you can't make it up department." CNN refused to air an ad condemning Hamas which showcases their disdain for human life. Here is the ad, which Fox News did run, below:
President Barack Obama isn’t the most helpful politician to Democrats this election cycle, but there could be another “boogeyman” in this election cycle: Michael Bloomberg. The National Rifle Association launched an offensive against this anti-gun activist earlier this week–and it’s about time (via Washington Post):
The National Rifle Association announced Tuesday that it is kicking off a multimillion-dollar campaign that will extend beyond November to tar the reputation of Michael Bloomberg, perhaps the country's most powerful gun control activist. The NRA launched a TV ad that slams Bloomberg not only on his gun policies, but also over his push as mayor of New York City to ban large sugary beverages.
In other words, they want to give you lots of reasons to dislike the guy.
The NRA is aiming at Bloomberg, not specific candidates, the organization says. But the ad campaign -- which includes both online and television components -- just happens to be headed for some of the biggest battleground states of the 2014 election, like Colorado, North Carolina and Kentucky.
Personality often complements policy in campaigns. The NRA is wagering that by casting Bloomberg as a wealthy Northeastern elitist who wants to tell people how much soda they should have, they'll arouse more anger about his gun control agenda.
With Bloomberg’s defeats in the Colorado recall and most recently in the primary for Milwaukee County Sheriff, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization sees that they can cut the Achilles tendon of the anti-gun left.
Even Milwaukee County Sherriff David A. Clarke Jr. touched upon these points in his op-ed for the Washington Times, slamming Bloomberg for his hubris and having little political acumen when it comes to pushing his agenda via his effete organization [emphasis mine]:
Mr. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, made a huge political miscalculation when he sauntered into my territory of Milwaukee County, Wis. — a solid-blue county that overwhelmingly votes Democrat — expecting an easy signature win for his failing crusade to disarm law-abiding Americans.
According to one Democratic Party source, Mr. Bloomberg said of his attempt to knock me off in my re-election primary for sheriff, “This one is personal with me.” That is a sign of desperation. Yes, even billionaires can be greedy. Surely, Mr. Bloomberg saw me as an easy win that he could parade around the country as a warning to other pro-gun candidates to either get in line with his anti-gun movement or face defeat at the polls. He saw picking off a big-city, pro-gun sheriff as a prize worth landing.
This was no ordinary defeat for Mr. Bloomberg’s “Mayors Against the Second Amendment” group. Losing to a local sheriff in a county dominated by Democratic Party voters just might have set his futile movement back to a point of no recovery.
As for Bloomberg’s hubris, it’s almost stomach churning; the guy thinks he’s earned himself a spot in heaven. Yet, the NRA could potentially disseminate a devastating narrative against the pro gun control crowd with this urban/rural dichotomy they’re aiming to highlight.
In December of 2012, then-Mediaite editor Noah Rothman noted that even squishy New York Times Republican David Brooks warned that Bloomberg being at the helm of the anti-gun movement isn't going to work:
One of the problems with this debate; it’s become a values war. It’s perceived as urban versus rural. And, frankly, it’s perceived as an attack on the lifestyle of rural people by urban people. And, I admire Mayor Bloomberg enormously – there’s probably no politician I agree with more – but it’s counterproductive to have him as the spokesperson for the gun law movement. There has to be more respect and more people, frankly, from rural and red America who are participants in this.
Given Second Amendment rights’ success–legally and legislatively–in the past couple of years, Mr. Brooks seems to have hit the bullseye with this prediction.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday that the Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into the execution of American photojournalist James Wright Foley.
“The Justice Department is actively pursuing justice in this case. We have an open criminal investigation....
[T]hose who would perpetrate such acts need to understand something. This Justice Department, this Department of Defense, this nation — we have long memories and our reach is very wide. We will not forget what happened and people will be held accountable, one way or the other.”
In his response, Holder dubbed Foley "a symbol of what’s right about the United States."
The FBI confirmed Wednesday that the YouTube video showing an ISIL adherent boorishly beheading Foley was authentic. President Obama even took a slight reprieve from his vacation at Martha's Vineyard Wednesday to offer condolences. In a short, but poignant, speech, he vowed that the United States would continue to "confront terrorism" and to protect its "people and timeless values."
Let us hope that the Obama administration breaks character in this situation and acts on its promise to hold this terrorist organization accountable for the barbaric beheading.
The American Prospect's Paul Waldman does not think highly of recent Republican Party efforts to expand their appeal by promoting "sharing economy" companies like Uber. It's not that Waldman has anything against Uber, he just thinks their is no political salience to the issue. Waldman writes:
I have no problem with the Republicans embracing Uber. Taxi regulations usually have a logic to them, but they can also be ridiculous. In the places where Uber is being fought, it's a pure battle of interests, with the existing businesses fighting to keep their privileged position. It's really not an ideological contest at all.
Not all progressives, however, seem to agree with Waldman. Dean Baker, co-founder of the progressive Center for Economic and Policy Research, recently wrote for The Guardian:
But the downside of the sharing economy has gotten much less attention. Most cities and states both tax and regulate hotels, and the tourists who stay in hotels are usually an important source of tax revenue (since governments have long recognized that a modest hotel tax is not likely to discourage most visitors nor provoke the ire of constituents). But many of Airbnb's customers are not paying the taxes required under the law.
Airbnb can also raise issues of safety for its customers and nuisance for hosts' neighbors. Hotels are regularly inspected to ensure that they are not fire traps and that they don't pose other risks for visitors. Airbnb hosts face no such inspections – and their neighbors in condo, co-ops or apartment buildings may think they have the right not to be living next door to a hotel (which is one reason that cities have zoning restrictions).
Insofar as Airbnb is allowing people to evade taxes and regulations, the company is not a net plus to the economy and society – it is simply facilitating a bunch of rip-offs. Others in the economy will lose by bearing an additional tax burden or being forced to live next to an apartment unit with a never-ending parade of noisy visitors, just to cite two examples.
The same story may apply with Uber. Uber is currently in disputes with regulators over whether its cars meet the safety and insurance requirements imposed on standard taxis. Also, many cities impose some restrictions on the number of cabs in the hopes of ensuring a minimum level of earnings for drivers, but if Uber and related services (like Lyft) flood the market, they could harm all drivers' ability to earn even minimum wage.
So far from a harmless and isolated "battle of interests" in the transportation sector, it turns out that "sharing economy" companies like Uber and Airbnb challenge the very legitimacy of many government fixes to supposed market failures.
Consumers are essentially being offered two economies: 1) a traditional, highly regulated economy that supposedly ensures their safety, protects them from fraud, and promises a minimum level of quality, but at a higher cost and with limited flexibility; 2) a modern, essentially unregulated economy where people rely on information provided by their peers to ensure their own safety, protect them from fraud, and secure valuable services.
The more younger voters use, choose, and identify with the second model for organizing human behavior, the more likely they are to be sympathetic to Republican limited government messages.
Does the spread of Uber and Airbnb guarantee Republican dominance? No. But by embracing the sharing economy Republicans have found an innovative way to introduce their brand to a wider population of voters that are normally told, in Waldman's words, that Republican only like "cutting taxes" and "trying to keep gay people from getting married."
Reportedly captured by an affiliate of the Free Syrian Army and turned over to ISIS, the late journalist James Wright Foley was held in captivity for a period of years before he was brutally executed earlier this week. But the U.S. government didn’t forget about him; on the contrary, the president himself green-lighted a top-secret operation to rescue him and other hostages in Syria. Alas, the mission failed.
The New York Times reports:
A secret nighttime military mission authorized by President Obama to rescue Americans held captive in Syria failed early this summer when a team of two dozen Delta Force commandos raided an oil refinery in the northern part of the country but found after a firefight with Islamic militants that there were no hostages to be saved, administration officials said Wednesday.
The officials — speaking a day after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria posted a video showing the American journalist James Foley being beheaded — described what they called a “complicated operation” in which the commandos were dropped by helicopter into Syrian territory in an attempt to rescue Mr. Foley and others being held by the Sunni militant group.
The Army commandos fought their way to the spot where they believed that ISIS was hiding the hostages, the officials said. But when the team swooped in, the hostages were gone. “We’re not sure why they were moved,” a Defense Department official said. “By the time we got there, it was too late.” The official said it may have been “a matter of hours, perhaps a day or two” since the hostages had been there.
So U.S. intelligence officials had the correct location, but for some reason, the hostages were moved just before Army commandos could get to them. Devastating. Still, the article notes that although one U.S. soldier was “slightly wounded” during the attempted extraction, no Americans died. The raiders, meanwhile, took out at least a handful of Islamic terrorists.
And yet while the rescue attempt was daring, laudable, and dangerous, some at the Defense Department are questioning why the administration released information about the raid in the first place:
Two Defense Department officials, who spoke separately on the condition of anonymity because of the operation’s delicate nature, expressed anger at the administration for revealing the mission. One of the officials said the aborted raid had alerted the militants to the Americans’ desire and willingness to try to rescue the hostages, and, in the aftermath, had probably forced the captors to tighten their security.
But, the official said, the conference call on Wednesday revealed new details that ISIS is not likely to have known. “This only makes our job harder,” the official said. “I’m very disappointed this was released. We knew any second operation would be a lot harder.”
Although this, perhaps, is a plausible reason:
Caitlin Hayden, the National Security Council spokeswoman, said the administration had “never intended to disclose this operation” but had felt that its hand was forced by news media outlets that were preparing to report on the mission. “An overriding concern for the safety of the hostages and for operational security made it imperative that we preserve as much secrecy as possible,” she said in a statement on Wednesday evening.
Still, how could “media outlets” have access to this sensitive information if someone from the administration hadn't first leaked it? This explanation therefore doesn't address the underlying problem; namely, classified information continues to find its way into the hands of journalists and reporters. Why? Nevertheless, the Defense Department released this statement yesterday confirming the mission, and vowing to never leave captured American citizens behind when they can plausibly be rescued:
As we have said repeatedly, the United States government is committed to the safety and well-being of its citizens, particularly those suffering in captivity. In this case, we put the best of the United States military in harms' way to try and bring our citizens home.
The United States government uses the full breadth of our military, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities to bring people home whenever we can. The United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will work tirelessly to secure the safety of our citizens and to hold their captors accountable.
Sadly, there is still another American journalist being detained by ISIS. And unsurprisingly, his fate remains uncertain.