Tag Archives: politics

Coming Distractions: The IRS Saga–More Republican Nonsense in a Congress Near You

Gallup Poll Shows Congressional Approval at around 13 percent.

Gallup Poll Shows Congressional Approval at around 13 percent.

In the knee-jerk fraud that masquerades as a Republican alternative, the latest pseudo-drama inside the Beltway will be the sanctimonious months of Congressional hearings about a non-existent conspiracy at the Internal Revenue Service.  Faced with real issues — immigration, health care, gun reform, electoral reform, among them — the wing-nuts that control the House of Representatives have a new excuse to do worse than nothing.

The real agenda is to attack their Democratic opponents, especially the president, and increasingly the leading presidential candidate for 2016, Hillary Clinton.

Succinctly stated, all of this, in a New York Times editorial:

Inevitably, the stumble by the I.R.S. will now be used by the Republicans as a point of attack. They are gleefully promising months of hearings, and the National Republican Congressional Committee is already trying to tarnish Democratic lawmakers with what it calls “the Obama administration’s use of the I.R.S. as a political tool.”

This will serve as the perfect distraction from issues, like the budget, gun control or immigration reform. And it will probably prevent any real progress on campaign finance reform, which, in turn, will make it vastly more difficult for the I.R.S. to prevent abuse of the tax code.

The I.R.S. stumble, if it is one, comes as a result of a highly partisan flawed and democracy-damaging decision by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case. The I.R.S. began to investigate whether right-wing nonprofits claiming tax exemption were really political fronts for the Republicans who placed the Supreme Court majority on the bench so it could make the damaging decision. “Oh no,” meanwhile, cries the Tea Party, “we’re nonpartisan.”

All of this works very well as long as straight-thinking citizens pay little heed, not even the 22 minutes needed to watch The Daily Show, to check out the sad humor of it all.

I don’t know about you — but it becomes increasingly difficult to even read or watch the news from Washington — so predictable as it is. A moderate majority of citizens appears to have given up. We are left with a Senate tilted to low-population states, a House built by a Republican minority that stacked the deck state by state.

Two of the prime deck-stackers, the Koch Brothers, by the way, are now trying to purchase the Los Angeles Times and the rest of the Chicago Tribune’s assets. Then, they’ll even be able to control the message better than they already have.

Failing broader outrage from a gerrymandered public, laughter and mockery is probably the best way to go.

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Guns Abroad — How Others See Americans

Guns turned in voluntarily after Australian law took effect (AP)

Once, when I was a kid, a lady in Germany was shocked that I was an American who could speak to her in her own language and took advantage. “Where’s your six-shooter,” she asked. Another time, entering New Zealand, a customs official thought about patting me down for drugs and weapons. “Florida, eh? he said raising an eyebrow.

That’s the way they see us.

Such is the case with U.S. gun violence; President Obama’s announcements on gun control were big news.

Australian television, for example, chose an extreme talking head, Larry Pratt, president of the Gun Owners of America, to discuss the issue.

By way of context, Australia imposed gun laws that worked in 1996 after a shocking mass killing. Former Prime Minister John Howard described the success of Australia’s laws in an op-ed article in the New York Times.

Here’s a section of the interview with Mr. Pratt on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

LEIGH SALES: In Australia, the government reacted to a massacre in 1996 by banning the sale, importation and possession of semi-automatic rifles and by removing 700,000 guns from circulation.

In the 18 years before that we had 13 massacres. After that we had zero. We didn’t have a civil war, the government didn’t come and take all of our stuff away from us. Why not just give it a try in the US?

LARRY PRATT: Once you’ve given it a try there’s no going back and so in the United States we’re not going to do that. In the United States we are citizens in control of the government and as the Swiss say to this day, a rifle is the emblem of a free man.

LEIGH SALES: But it worked in Australia. Why not just try it?

LARRY PRATT: Your violent crime rate is not so admirable and besides…

LEIGH SALES: It’s a lot lower than yours.

LARRY PRATT: We’re not interested in being like Australia. We’re Americans.

An American friend of mine visiting Australia called attention to the interview. “Doubtless Larry Pratt left the show pleased with his no holds barred defense of Americans’ right to own automatic weapons,” my friend said, “but I have to say that as the segment ended I felt sick.”

It is called American exceptionalism. Overseas, it is a farce.

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The Election Horse Race Won’t Be a Photo Finish

A favorable jobs report four days before the election is good news for President Obama. Unemployment remains under eight percent.

Even before that, Nate Silver of the 538 blog, the guru of poll analysis, showed the president has more than an 80 percent chance of winning the election.

The news of the day—and watching the campaign swings these days–adds fuel to my argument that the president has never been in as much trouble as most news outlets have been telling us. My guess is that even after his poor performance in the first debate, President Obama has been in pretty good shape for re-election.

Political reporting focuses on the horse race, rarely on issues. The race narrative gets boring unless you sell the idea of a close finish.

The story about Romney and momentum is mostly a narrative created by Romney’s handlers then swallowed up by the news, then regurgitated by the campaign once more. If nothing else, the closed circuit narrative makes it easier for Romney to hop on and off his plane every day with a dream of winning.

Romney’s key attribute—“I’m not Obama”—plays to his constituency but isn’t enough to win. I think a majority of the electorate—in terms of popular vote and certainly in terms of electoral vote–sees through Romney’s shape-shifting candidacy.

One part of the final sprint will be dirty tricks, anything Karl Rove and company have left in their bag.

Voter suppression, voter turnout, intimidation. Still, likely the tricks won’t be enough to propel Romney to victory.

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