Posts Tagged George W. Bush

G.O.P. Helps Americans Like Government – NYTimes.com


October 11, 2013

G.O.P. Helps Americans Like Government

By DAVID FIRESTONE

The Capitol on Oct. 9, 2013.

There’s a lot of terrible news for Republicans inside the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, but one of the worst bulletins is this: Americans are becoming more appreciative of government.

The poll shows that 52 percent of respondents said that government should do more to solve problems and help meet the needs of people. That figure is up four points since June, and is at the highest level since July of 2008, when it stood at 53 percent.

The economic crisis was building during the summer of 2008, and people were growing increasingly weary of President George W. Bush’s laissez-faire attitude. Barack Obama’s more optimistic vision of government’s possibilities became infectious and helped propel him to victory, but after he took office, the popularity of government, as measured by that question, quickly fell and has been below 50 percent for most of his presidency.

Now it is back up, and Republicans have only themselves to thank. There’s nothing better than shutting down government to remind people of how much they need it. The television footage of shuttered offices and national parks, as well as people who are suffering because of lost wages and federal assistance, has had a significant effect.

So did the 2008-2009 recession and its aftermath. More people came into the government’s orbit, seeking assistance or benefiting from stimulus money, including much of the automobile industry. The poll showed that nearly a third of respondents said their family was personally affected by the current shutdown, compared to only 18 percent during the shutdowns of 1995 and 1996. The budget crisis has even made health care reform substantially more popular than it was just a few weeks ago.

This is one of the great existential fears of the right, of course, and is one of the few things uniting the various ideological wings of the Republican Party. Mitt Romney complained about the 47 percent of Americans who were “dependent on government,” and Senator Ted Cruz recently accused Mr. Obama of trying to get Americans “addicted to the sugar” of his health care law.

But this week, Americans know that government isn’t just about sugar. It’s a necessary part of their lives, and Americans expect it to be there when the private sector lets them down, as it did during the recession and as it has done on health care for so many years. Now as the Republicans’ abysmal new approval ratings show, voters are also gaining a clearer picture of precisely who in Washington is letting them down.

 G.O.P. Helps Americans Like Government – NYTimes.com.

 

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No Party in Gallup’s History Has Been Less Popular Than the GOP Is Now – Philip Bump – The Atlantic Wire


No Party in Gallup’s History Has Been Less Popular Than the GOP Is Now

Reuters

PHILIP BUMP OCT 9, 2013

During the impeachment of Bill Clinton, Republicans were pretty unpopular. After eight years of George W. Bush, same. But never in the history of Gallup polling has the party been more unpopular than it is right now.

A crucial caveat: that history only goes back to 1992, so it doesn’t include, for example, the post-Watergate era. But still, over the past 21 years the Republican Party has never been viewed less favorably by Americans than it is right now. Gallup explains.

[T]he Republican Party is now viewed favorably by 28% of Americans, down from 38% in September. This is the lowest favorable rating measured for either party since Gallup began asking this question in 1992.

Emphasis in the original. Gallup readily notes that the decline in opinion for Republicans isn’t mirrored in an increase of favorability for Democrats. Forty-three percent of Americans view that party favorably. And 49 percent view Democrats unfavorably — but 62 percent have that opinion of Republicans. Interestingly, Republicans were twice as likely to view their own party unfavorably as were Democrats theirs.

As you can see from the graph above, party popularity doesn’t necessarily translate into electoral success. In 1999, Republicans were at their then-lowest point in favorability, but won the White House the next year. If nothing else, this new data reinforces what other polls have shown for weeks: it will take something significant for the Republican Party to walk away from this shutdown with a victory.

 No Party in Gallup’s History Has Been Less Popular Than the GOP Is Now – Philip Bump – The Atlantic Wire.

 

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Size Matters by Tom Purcell



TOM PURCELL

Size Matters

Q: Is the government too big and powerful? Does a one-legged duck swim in circles?

A: Ah, yes, you speak of a recent Gallup survey that found 60 percent of Americans think the federal government has too much power — a full percentage point higher than the previous high recorded in September 2010. Gallup’s Joy Wilke did a fine job breaking down the survey data.

129231 600 Size Matters cartoons

Loujie / Cagle Cartoons

Q: Yeah, and I’ll bet that percentage has jumped lots more over the past few decades.

A: You are correct. In 2005, about 50 percent of Americans felt the government was getting too big and powerful — 10 percent less than now.

Q: What I want to know is who are the 40 percent or so who do NOT think the government has gotten too big?

A: That’s an interesting question. Thirty-two percent now say the government has the right amount of power and 7 percent say it doesn’t have enough.

Q: Not enough! Who the heck are the 7-percenters?

A: There are always some people who think the government can solve all our problems. Thankfully, their numbers are not growing. They have been at 7 percent since Gallup started tracking this big-government issue.

Q: I’ll bet the survey reflects a high level of division among conservatives, moderates and liberals.

A: That is also correct. Republicans tend to think government is doing too much, whereas Democrats tend to agree that government can do good. Of course, Republicans and Democrats have gotten mighty polarized since President Obama took office in 2009.

Q: That makes sense. Obama embraced all the big-government security initiatives of President Bush, then gave us a massive new entitlement program, ObamaCare.

A: Yes, and these measures have the country more divided than ever. However, Republicans’ and Democrats’ views have generally become more polarized since Obama took office. In 2002, the two parties were about equally likely to view the federal government as too powerful, at 36 percent and 35 percent, respectively, with independents, at 45 percent, most likely to say this.

Q: And now?

A: Right now, 81 percent of Republicans think the government is too powerful. But 38 percent of Democrats agree that the government is too powerful — the highest percentage since President Obama took office.

Q: I can see how politics factors in, but hopefully, the data reveal that some people don’t let their political views affect their concerns?

A: Thankfully, that is true with some. As Bush grew the government in the war on terror, both Republicans and Democrats began reporting increasing unease about government gaining too much power — with the NSA and other government agencies now out of control, there is good reason to be concerned.

Q: If so many Americans are concerned that the government is getting too big and powerful, why do so many keep voting for bigger government?

A: Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, offers some interesting insights on that in his book “Gross National Happiness.” After mining reams of data, he found very different viewpoints among conservatives and liberals.

Q: What did the data reveal?

A: They showed that conservatives hold more traditional values — faith, marriage, family, freedom, hard work. They believe in the individual and just want to be left alone.

Q: And liberals were the reverse?

A: That is correct. Liberals see government as a way to right perceived wrongs. And they vote for politicians who promise to impose more rules, regulations and mandates on the people who make them unhappy. But you have to admit, Republican politicians these days are just as likely to use the largess of the federal trough to promise voters goodies in return for their votes.

Q: Our federal government is going to keep getting bigger and more powerful, isn’t it?

A: Does a one-legged duck swim in circles?

 Size Matters by Tom Purcell.

 

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Osama Bin Boehner and the Republican Party Are The Real Terror Threat To America


Osama Bin Boehner and the Republican Party Are The Real Terror Threat To America

By: Rmuse Sep. 21st, 2013

Boehner-point

After the terror attacks on 9/11, Osama bin Laden remarked his long term plan was drawing America into a long drawn out war that would wreak havoc on the American economy, and George W. Bush’s administration kindly obliged him. An act of terrorism to destroy a nation’s economic security is no less despicable than a suicide bomber destroying a nation’s sense of physical security, and it is likely a prudent government would take whatever steps necessary to thwart an act of terror they knew was underway. After weeks of warnings and blatant threats from a powerful terror group, America is in the midst of a terror attack, but there is little the government can do to thwart the terrorists because they are firmly entrenched in the government.

Terrorists instill fear to extract concessions from their target, and Republicans are using fear of a government shutdown and economic devastation to force President Obama and Democrats to meet their demand to eliminate the Affordable Care Act and enact steep cuts to Social Security and Medicare. If any American thinks Islamic terror groups such as al Qaeda or the Taliban are any less dangerous or despicable for killing innocent civilians to extract demands than Republicans, they are deluded. Unfortunately for Americans, Republican terrorists will inflict damage on millions of Americans’ lives whether their demands are met or not, and it informs that compared to the GOP, al Qaeda and the Taliban are reasonably kind-hearted humanitarians. For the American people, the simple truth they must come to terms with is that regardless if Republicans shut down the government, crash the economy, or succeed in eliminating the Affordable Care Act, millions of American lives will be devastated.

On Friday, Americans witnessed the beginning of the operational phase of a terrorist act in progress as Republicans in the House passed a budget with a provision to wipeout the provisions of the ACA. To make matters worse, Speaker of the House John Boehner had the temerity to announce the terror attack was a victory for the American people, and doubtless there are terrorist sympathizers in the population who celebrated an act of terror to deprive 30-million Americans of healthcare. It is noteworthy that the act of terror is also an act of insolence in attempting to eliminate a law passed by both houses of Congress, signed by the President, and ruled constitutional by the conservative Supreme Court. House Republicans are now daring Senate Democrats to foil their terror plot to eliminate the ACA, and if they do, the terrorists will shut down the U.S. Government. If anyone thinks the Republicans are not the American version of al Qaeda, they will be convinced when the next phase of the terror attack gets under way when the full faith and credit of the United States is the price for rejecting Republicans’ attempt to deny tens-of-millions of Americans healthcare.

Shutting down the government is a very serious threat and one many Republicans are advocating without remorse, but the real danger lies in the GOP’s threat to cause an economic catastrophe if they cannot keep millions of Americans sick and dying. There is little argument from economic experts and Republican leaders alike that a credit default will create a world encompassing economic and financial crisis to rival the Great Depression, but with support from 66% of Republicanvoters, the GOP figures economic ruin is a small price to pay to prevent Americans from gaining access to healthcare. Regardless if President Obama breaks precedent and negotiates with Republican terrorists or not, millions of American lives will be adversely impacted either by losing access to healthcare or suffering through a 21st century Great Depression.

It is safe to say most Americans expect Islamic extremists affiliated with al Qaeda to launch terror attacks against innocent American citizens, but it is likely few expect a devastating attack from members of Congress. The Republican al Qaeda is worse than Osama bin Laden’s organization because at least the Islamic terrorists gave America a demand that, although unacceptable, would stop further damage to innocent victims; Republicans intend to harm Americans whether their demands are met or not, and it puts them in a special category of evil even the worst radical Islamic terrorist cannot fathom. It is true al Qaeda or the Taliban have little compunction harming their own people, but they always give them a way out that doesn’t incur more damage; Republicans revel in inflicting damage on Americans.

It is not often that intelligence agencies are able to identify and track a terror group’s activities from the planning stages through to the actual attack, but the entire nation has witnessed Republicans broadcast their intent, launch the first stage of the attack, and ready the next phase that will be more devastating and affect much more than just the American people and the economy. To be fair to the terrorists, they did warn the nation two years ago they would hold the debt ceiling hostage under threat of inflicting major damage to the economy like they did in 2011, but the threat of a government shutdown and defaulting on the nation’s debt in exchange for keeping millions of Americans sick and dying, or their Social Security and Medicare intact, exceeds the damage even the most evil al Qaeda terror cell could dream up to harm the most American lives.

The President announced not long ago that it was time to shift the focus of the war on terror, but it is likely he did not imagine it is time to focus on the true terror threat to America, its economy, and people; the Republican Party. For the American people, they are witness to a crime of terrorism in progress, and although the majority of Americans shudder at the damage Republicans intend to inflict on the nation and its people, the unfortunate truth is that many of them are on the sidelines cheering that the terrorists succeed.

 

 Osama Bin Boehner and the Republican Party Are The Real Terror Threat To America.

 

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Poll: Louisiana GOPers Unsure If Katrina Response Was Obama’s Fault | TPM LiveWire


Poll: Louisiana GOPers Unsure If Katrina Response Was Obama’s Fault

TOM KLUDT 10:33 AM EDT, WEDNESDAY AUGUST 21, 2013

A significant chunk of Louisiana Republicans evidently believe that President Barack Obama is to blame for the poor response to the hurricane that ravaged their state more than three years before he took office.

The latest survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, provided exclusively to TPM, showed an eye-popping divide among Republicans in the Bayou State when it comes to accountability for the government’s post-Katrina blunders.

Twenty-eight percent said they think former President George W. Bush, who was in office at the time, was more responsible for the poor federal response while 29 percent said Obama, who was still a freshman U.S. Senator when the storm battered the Gulf Coast in 2005, was more responsible. Nearly half of Louisiana Republicans — 44 percent — said they aren’t sure who to blame.

Bush was criticized heavily when he did not immediately return to Washington from his vacation in Texas after the storm had reached landfall. The government was also slow to provide relief aid and Michael Brown, then-director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), admitted in a televised interview that he learned that many of the storm’s victims at the New Orleans Convention Center were without food and water well after the situation had been reported in the press.

Brown’s handling of the response ultimately led to his resignation, but Bush offered an infamous endorsement of the FEMA chief only days before he stepped down. 

“Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job,” Bush said.

PPP Louisiana poll, August 2013 part 1

PPP Louisiana poll, August 2013 part 2

 Poll: Louisiana GOPers Unsure If Katrina Response Was Obama’s Fault | TPM LiveWire.

 

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Republicans Blast President Obama For… Taking A Vacation


Republicans Blast President Obama For… Taking A Vacation

August 9th, 2013 4:08 pm Allison Brito

Obamas vacation

As Congress slips into recess and retreats to their home districts, the president is also preparing to depart for the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard with the first family for a ten day vacation.

Of course, conservatives will again attack Obama for being a lackadaisical leader who takes a vacation “every five minutes.” These criticisms coming from the right ignore that President Obama has taken fewer vacation days than his predecessor and other presidents before him.

Before President Obama left for a separate family vacation back in 2010, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly invited Washington Times columnist and Fox News contributor Monica Crowley on the show to give her input. “He’s actually shoehorning the job of the presidency into his busy schedule of going on vacation.” Crowley continued, “Is he ever working?”

O’Reilly actually called out Crowley for not criticizing President George W. Bush on the same issue. Crowley admitted that we all want a president to have down time to “clear his mind,” yet she came back and charged, “However, Obama is taking a vacation every five minutes. He’s blowing off steam almost every day.”

Crowley later claimed, “Bush took two vacations a year, in August and at Christmas time. That was it.”

Vacations have become a contentious partisan issue, with presidents of the opposite party always being criticized for taking too much time off.  However, Monica Crowley is grievously wrong about President Bush’s vacation time and is vastly downplaying his getaways from the White House.

According to Mark Knoller of CBS News, who has been tracking presidents’ vacation time for two decades now, at a similar point in his presidency, George W. Bush had taken 399 days off compared to Obama’s 87.

CBS News reported in 2011, “To be fair, a presidential vacation away from the White House is not the same as a vacation for the average person. The president is still in contact with his advisers and on call for any emergency.”

The Washington Times also condemned the President’s elitist vacation. “The Government Accountability Institute calculates that Mr. Obama spends twice as much time at leisure than on policy briefings. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, considering the policies. Nevertheless, we’re paying a lot for a debt to pleasure.” The editorial continues, “Nobody begrudges a president a little time off, but we’re paying $2 million for a comfortable holiday on Cape Cod, the Massachusetts summer retreat of the wealthy elites.”

A separate Washington Times article criticizes the Obamas for closing a major roadway – a measure the Secret Service requires. For anyone who is familiar with Martha’s Vineyard, the Obamas are hardly the only family — or famous family — who take to the popular vacation spot in the summer months. Traffic and other disturbances are something the locals are used to this time of year, with or without the Obamas.

 Republicans Blast President Obama For… Taking A Vacation.

 

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E.J. Dionne: The economic whodunit – The Washington Post


E.J. Dionne Jr.

E.J. Dionne Jr.

Opinion Writer

The economic whodunit

By E.J. Dionne Jr., Published: April 28

The policy mystery of our time is why politicians in the United States and across much of the democratic world are so obsessed with deficits, when their primary mission ought to be bringing down high and debilitating rates of unemployment. 

And since last week saw a cross-party celebration of the opening of George W. Bush’s presidential library, I’d add a second mystery: Why is it that conservative Republicans who freely cut taxes while backing two wars in the Bush years began preaching fire on deficits only after a Democrat entered the White House?

Here is a clue that helps unravel this whodunit: Many of the same conservatives who now say we have to cut Social Security to deal with the deficit supported Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security — even though the transition would have added $1 trillion to the deficit. The one thing the two positions have in common is that Bush’s proposal also would have reduced guaranteed Social Security benefits.

In other words, deficits don’t really matter to many of the ideological conservatives shouting so loudly about them now. Their central goal is to hack away at government.

This goes to the larger argument about jobs and deficits. For a brief time after the Great Recession hit, governments around the world, including President Obama’s administration, agreed that the immediate priority was restoring growth. Through deficit spending and other measures, the 20 leading economies agreed to pump about $5 trillion into the global economy.

Obama and Democrats in Congress enacted a substantial stimulus. The package should have been bigger, but Obama — thinking he would have another shot later at boosting the economy — kept its size down to win enough votes to get it through Congress.

The second chance didn’t come because conservatives stoked anti-government deficit mania — and never mind that the deficit ballooned because of the downturn itself, and that the stimulus needed to reverse it and those fiscally improvident Bush-era decisions.

Then along came academic economists to bless the anti-deficit fever with the authority of spreadsheets. In a 2010 paper cited over and over by pro-austerity politicians, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff argued that when countries reached a debt level above 90 percent of their gross domestic product, they almost always fell into slow growth or contraction.

Financial Times columnist Philip Stephens compactly takes the story from there: “The implication was that deep retrenchment was the only route back to prosperity. Now, economists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst say the results reflected a data ‘coding error’ and some questionable aggregation. The assumption that high debt always equals low growth is not sustained by the evidence.”

While Reinhart and Rogoff acknowledged their error, they dismissed the controversy in a New York Times op-ed as an “academic kerfuffle” and insisted that their findings had often been “exaggerated or misrepresented” by, among others, politicians. (They also complained about the “hate-filled, even threatening, email messages” they received. I’d be happy to share my e-mail with them. Friends, if you have the good fortune to be engaged in public debates, you get a lot of angry missives these days.)

The two economists would have added to their credibility by showing a bit more humility about their data problem. But the damage was done. Europe and the United States moved prematurely to austerity. Tens of millions of people have suffered from joblessness or lower real incomes. Reinhart and Rogoff didn’t force these decisions, but they abetted them.

Now, through the “sequester” cuts, we are compounding the problem. It’s outrageous that Congress and the administration are moving quickly to reduce the inconvenience to travelers — people fortunate enough to be able to buy plane tickets — by easing cuts in air traffic control while leaving the rest of the sequester in place. What about the harm being done to the economy as a whole? What about the sequester’s injuries to those who face lower unemployment benefits, who need Meals on Wheels or who attend Head Start programs?

Instead, we should be using this period of low interest rates to invest in our infrastructure. This would help relieve unemployment while laying a foundation for long-term growth. But anti-government slogans trump smart-government policies. For reasons rooted in both ideology and the system’s bias against the less privileged, we hear nothing but “deficits, deficits, deficits” and “cuts, cuts, cuts.”

To paraphrase a French statesman from long ago, this is worse than a crime. This is a mistake. Its costs are being borne by good people who ask only for the chance to do productive work.

 E.J. Dionne: The economic whodunit – The Washington Post.

 

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What Happens When Fracking Hits the Suburbs | Alternet


What Happens When Fracking Hits the Suburbs

Residents of Gardendale, a suburb near the hub of the west Texas oil industry, face having up to 300 wells in their backyards.

January 2, 2013 

 

Photo Credit: Pincasso/ Shutterstock.com

The corner of Goldenrod and Western streets, with its grid of modest homes, could be almost any suburb that went up in a hurry – except of course for the giant screeching oil rig tearing up the earth and making the pavement shudder underfoot.

Fracking, the technology that opened up America’s vast deposits of unconventional oil and gas, has moved beyond remote locations and landed at the front door, with oil operations now planned or under way in suburbs, mid-sized towns and large metropolitan areas.

Some cities have moved to limit fracking or ban it outright – even in the heart of oil and gas country. Tulsa, Oklahoma, which once billed itself as the oil capital of the world, banned fracking inside city limits. The authorities in Dallas last week blocked what would have been the first natural gas well in town. The town of Longmont, just outside Denver, meanwhile, is fighting off attempts by industry groups to overturn a fracking ban.

But Gardendale, a suburb of 1,500 people near the hub of the west Texas oil industry, exists in a legal and political environment in which there are seemingly few restrictions on fracking, even inside city limits. For residents here, fracking is part of daily life.

“You can hear it, you can smell it, and you are always breathing it. It’s just like being behind a car exhaust,” said Debbie Leverett, during a tour of the area last October organised by the Society of Environmental Journalists. “All of your senses change.”

Over the last few years oil companies have drilled 51 wells in Gardendale, an area that covers about 11 square miles – and that’s just the start.

Berry Petroleum, the main oil developer, plans to drill as many as 300 wells in Gardendale. “Berry’s current plan is to drill approximately 140 wells on 40-acre spacing in and around the Gardendale area,” Jeff Coyle, a company spokesman, wrote in an email. “Additionally, we are preparing to conduct a pilot study on 20-acre spacing and, if those test results are encouraging and economic conditions warrant, we may drill up to 160 additional wells.”

Some of those wells will be drilled within 150ft of residents’ front doors – far closer than in other towns in Texas.

In the nearby city of Midland, the oil industry hub and childhood home of George W Bush, the city council capped the number of wells inside city limits at 30. The town requires oil companies to stay 500ft away from buildings and homes. In some circumstances oil companies may be required to landscape around a well.

“People are still not really happy when an oil well turns up in the backyard,” said Wes Perry, Midland’s mayor and an oil man himself. But he added: “We are an oil town. We can’t be hypocrites.”

However, Gardendale lacks the legal authority to keep fracking at a distance. The suburb, just outside Midland and Odessa, is unincorporated, so it does not have the legal authority to impose zoning restrictions. Residents voted down an attempt to incorporate last year, fearing it would lead to higher taxes.

Berry argues the close proximity serves to encourage industry and residents to co-exist. “What we have here is a situation where we have to find the best way to work together, where mineral rights owners and surface rights owners can co-exist,” Coyle said.

But co-existence does not work for Shane Leverett, Debbie’s husband. Leverett has worked in the oil industry, but he said the drilling plan for Gardendale was excessive. “This is a fantastic opportunity for oil and gas development, but it is coming at the expense of all of us,” he said.

The couple are suing the oil company to try to block drilling on their 130 acres on the edge of town. The land is staked with bright plastic strips marking potential oil wells.

Current plans call for seven wells on the property. “They’re talking about a well every 600 feet and a pad every 300 feet,” Shane Leverett said. “Do the math. There’s not much room left over for us.”

The suit seeks to challenge a pillar of Texas law: that property owners have no control over the extraction of the oil that lies beneath their land, unless they also own mineral rights. The Leveretts only own the surface rights to their land. The mineral rights were sold off decades ago – a fact the Leveretts were aware of when they bought their property, but they did not think there was a real prospect of drilling at the time.

Fracking changed that, however, making it profitable to drill on the Leveretts’ land.

“This case is of historic importance,” said Steve Hershberger, the Leveretts’ lawyer. “Now that the oil companies have found oil and gas through fracking and horizontal drilling they are going into residential areas and urban areas. This case is going to define the relationship between mineral owners and surface owners in a big way.”

The oil company argues the Leveretts got what they paid for. “Essentially, each Gardendale surface owner bought his or her surface property (at a discounted price without the minerals) betting, wrongfully as it turned out, on the proposition that oil and gas development would not occur in the area,” Coyle said.

Other residents complain the oil company dictates what property owners can do above ground, even without definitive drilling plans.

Hector Rodriguez said he was barred from expanding his trailer home or putting in a bigger dog house on his six acres because the oil company insisted on protecting access.

“They told me they might not ever drill there, but they put the stake there just in case,” he said. “They told me I could not do anything there. I have no rights.”

Coyle said the company believes the Rodriguez property sits atop a potential oil well – although it is not currently scheduled for drilling.

Rodriguez, back at home, is unimpressed. “We’re just talking about a dog house,” he said. “I should be able to decide about that.”

 What Happens When Fracking Hits the Suburbs | Alternet.

 

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The Tea Party Mindset Still Dominates the GOP | Alternet


The Tea Party Mindset Still Dominates the GOP

Don’t be fooled by those who say it’s dying: The fiscal cliff impasse proves the Tea Party way of looking at the world is alive and well among Republicans.

December 27, 2012

 

Two stories that might seem to contradict each other ran in the New York Times this week. One declared the Tea Party movement “significantly weakened” in the wake of November’s elections and on its way to becoming “just another political faction.” The other noted that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell might be concerned about a potential 2014 primary challenge – enough to filibuster any fiscal cliff plan that President Obama and Democrats draw up, no matter how modest.

The problem, of course, is that the Tea Party’s power resides in Republican primaries, where conservative purists wreaked considerable havoc in the past two election cycles. This included, famously, McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, where the minority leader’s protégé was crushed in a 2010 GOP Senate primary by Rand Paul. Now McConnell has to worry about suffering a similar fate in two years, especially if his handling of the current fiscal impasse evokes cries of treason from the base. How could this square with claims of fading clout for the Tea Party?

Actually, there’s a way. It just depends on how you understand the Tea Party.

Defined as a literal movement, with an active membership pressing a specific set of demands, the Tea Party absolutely is in decline. Tea Party events have become less crowded, less visible and less relevant to the national political conversation. As the Times story notes, the movement’s die-hards are embracing increasingly niche pet issues. The term “Tea Party” has come to feel very 2010.

But if you think of the Tea Party less as a movement and more as a mindset, it’s as strong and relevant as ever. As I wrote back in ’10, the Tea Party essentially gave a name to a phenomenon we’ve seen before in American politics – fierce, over-the-top resentment of and resistance to Democratic presidents by the right. It happened when Bill Clinton was president, it happened when Lyndon Johnson was president, it happened when John F. Kennedy was president. When a Democrat claims the White House, conservatives invariably convince themselves that he is a dangerous radical intent on destroying the country they know and love and mobilize to thwart him.

The twist in the Obama-era is that some of the conservative backlash has been directed inward. This is because the right needed a way to explain how a far-left anti-American ideologue like Obama could have won 53 percent of the popular vote and 365 electoral votes in 2008. What they settled on was an indictment of George W. Bush’s big government conservatism; the idea, basically, was that Bush had given their movement a bad name with his big spending and massive deficits, angering the masses and rendering them vulnerable to Obama’s deceptive charms. And the problem hadn’t just been Bush – it had been every Republican in office who’d abided his expansion of government, his deals with Democrats, his Wall Street bailout and all the rest.

Thus did the Tea Party movement represent a two-front war – one a conventional one against the Democratic president, and the other a new one against any “impure” Republicans. Besides a far-right ideology, the trait shared by most of the Tea Party candidates who have won high-profile primaries these past few years has been distance from what is perceived as the GOP establishment. Whether they identify with the Tea Party or not, conservative leaders, activists and voters have placed a real premium on ideological rigidity and outsider status; there’s no bigger sin than going to Washington and giving ground, even just an inch, to the Democrats.

It’s hard to look around right now and not conclude that the Republican Party is still largely in the grip of this mindset. Yes, since the election, there have been GOP voices – some of them genuinely surprising – speaking out in favor of giving President Obama the income tax rate hike that he’s looking for. But the January 1 deadline is now just days after and, crucially, there’s been no action. And it’s looking more and more like there won’t be.

This is the case even though Obama apparently indicated that he’d settle for only raising rates on income over $400,000, that he’d dial back his new revenue request by $400 billion, that he’d be OK with not extending the payroll tax holiday, and that he’d sign on a form of chained-CPI for Social Security benefits. Oh, and despite the fact that if nothing happens, all of the Bush tax rates will expire on January 1, with no changes triggered for Social Security or any safety net program. Despite all of this, Republicans in the House still said no to Obama last week, and then wouldn’t even allow Speaker John Boehner to bring a bill to the floor to simply extend the Bush rates for income under $1 million. And McConnell and the Senate GOP still seem unwilling to go any farther than their House counterparts.

This is exactly what the Tea Party mindset produces. For one thing, the House GOP conference (and to a lesser extent, the Senate GOP) contains no shortage of Tea Party true-believers – men and women who embody the spirit of the movement and have no qualms about going to war with party leadership if they believe their principles are at risk. And they are backed by a conservative information complex – media outlets and personalities, commentators, activists and interest group leaders – ready to cast them as heroes in any fight with “the establishment.”

All of this is more than enough to instill real fear in Republicans on Capitol Hill who aren’t true believers – but who do like their jobs and want to keep them. McConnell falls in this category. Boehner evidently does too. And so do many, many other Republicans who don’t want to look back and regret the day they cast a vote that ended their careers. The fact that the Tea Party, as a literal entity, seems to be dying is actually a sign of how successful it’s been. Its spirit now rules the Republican Party.

 The Tea Party Mindset Still Dominates the GOP | Alternet.

 

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Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » Newtown A Microcosm Of Government Failure


DOUG PATTON

Newtown A Microcosm Of Government Failure

It has become axiomatic that when seconds count, the police are only minutes away. In the case of the first responders to the horrific school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, it was 20 minutes, to be exact.

 

Nate Beeler / Columbus Dispatch

That’s the picture that is emerging from the 911 calls from that terrible day. Twenty minutes. I have tried in vain to imagine my 7-year-old grandson, his defenseless classmates and their equally defenseless teacher being shot to death one by one while waiting 20 minutes for police to arrive. It is a scenario too terrible to conjure in my mind. To imagine local law enforcement personnel taking a full one-third of an hour to respond to such a monstrous event is infuriating. And yet, there it is. Those who wish to protect themselves and their loved ones in almost any situation should not depend on government. How many times have we seen it before?

On September 11, 2001, government failed to protect the unsuspecting victims on those four airplanes, as well as those on the ground. On Flight 93, it was courageous passengers, taking matters into their own hands, who stopped those Islamist monsters from making that day even more infamous.

In September 2005, government — federal, state and local — completely failed the people of New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina flooded the city’s poorest section. Those who were willing and able to take care of themselves and their families were spared. Many of those who counted on government simply perished.

Even the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last September, was a case study in brave volunteers, not government — especially not this government — making a difference.

And in every mass shooting, in every school or other public place, in every corner of this country, government has betrayed the very people it is sworn to protect, usually by declaring a “gun-free zone” or some other absurd control on the right of private citizens to render protection for themselves, their families and their neighbors.

On October 16, 1991, in Killeen, Texas, an assailant drove his pickup truck through the front window of the Luby’s Cafeteria. He then shot 50 people, killing 23 of them, before turning the gun on himself. Two of those victims were the elderly parents of Suzanna Hupp, whose revolver was useless to her because it was 100 feet away in the glove compartment of her car. Hupp later was elected to the Texas Legislature on a platform of allowing Texans to carry concealed handguns, legislation she successfully pushed through and which then-Governor George W. Bush signed into law.

On April 20, 1999, in Littleton, Colorado, two misfit high school students decided to murder as many of their teachers and classmates as possible. Their subsequent rampage — again carried out in gun-free zone — left 13 innocent victims dead.

On April 16, 2007, at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech), a lone gunman shot and killed 32 people, wounding 17 others. Another school, another gun-free zone.

A few months later, just before Christmas, on December 5, 2007, in Omaha, Nebraska, a 19-year-old loner walked into the Von Maur department store at the Westroads Shopping Center and murdered eight innocent shoppers. As I wrote in a column at the time, “This individual looked at the ‘no concealed weapons’ sign and read, ‘Murderers welcome here. Please come in and shoot as many people as you like. No one here is capable of stopping you. Even our mall security officers are not armed.’”

January 8, 2011, at a Tucson, Arizona, supermarket, 6 people were murdered and 13 others wounded, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who miraculously survived a bullet through her brain.

July 20, 2012, Aurora, Colorado, in a movie theater that does not allow law-abiding citizens to carry their licensed, concealed firearms, 70 people were shot, 12 of them fatally, by a single shooter.

And now, most recently, we have Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, with its horrendous toll of 26 dead — 20 of them 6 and 7-year-old children. As usual, no one there was allowed the tools to protect them. One of the teachers reportedly huddled with her students in hiding and assured them, “The bad guys are here now. We just have to wait for the good guys to get here.”

Sadly, the good guys didn’t arrive for 20 minutes.

 Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » Newtown A Microcosm Of Government Failure.

 

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