Monday, November 29, 2010

Streams Of Consciousness- Nov. 29


It's widely reckoned in the Senate that Arkansas ConservaDem Mark Pryor is the dimmest bulb in that body. He as much as admitted it in an on-camera interview with Bill Maher for the film Religulous 2 years ago when he excused his pandering to superstitious rednecks back home by smirking that there's no IQ test to be a Member of the Senate-- as if we didn't know. Watch:

Now as the lame duck session kicks in-- and Pryor thinks about his reelection bid in 2012 in a state that just decimated elected Democrats-- there is every reason in the world to believe that Pryor will be roosting on the other side of the aisle on the high-profile, divisive issues where Democrats can most use him. He's likely to vote against the DREAM Act, as he did in 2007, and he's telling the media that he'll oppose repealing DADT as well, possibly being the very vote to kill the effort, something that is sure to cause him the same grief progressives just gave Blanche Lincoln. The man who cynically claims he believes in talking snakes also says being gay is a sin. He told the Democrat-Gazette that "he opposes repeal; that he thinks homosexuality is a sin and that he has reservations about housing gay troops with straight troops (as if this hasn't occurred forever). He's been fully indoctrinated by the Religious Right's false arguments-- that military chaplains won't be able to continue to preach morally justifiable discrimination; that gays are just lying in wait to assault straight soldiers if only given the cover of open service."

And Speaking About DADT...

The Senate got it's third-- after Lindsey Graham and Miss McConnell-- notorious Republican closet queen today, as Illinois' Mark Kirk was sworn in. ThinkProgress welcomed him by pointing out that, although he insists he never ran into any gays during his 21 years in the military, he did promise during the campaign that he might be open to repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell. As when Kirk often says something, he was lying. It's a trait most closet queens like Kirk have honed down to a science.

That's especially sad because poll after poll has been showing most Americans think DADT should be repealed. A new one released today by PEW confirms all the rest of them. Opposition to gays serving in the military has steadily declined from 45% in 1994 to just 27% now. And support for equality for gays serving our country in the military has risen in that time period from 52% to 58%.
Large majorities of Democrats (70%) and independents (62%) favor allowing gays to serve openly. Republicans are divided (40% favor, 44% oppose). Among conservative Republicans, far more oppose than favor allowing gays to serve openly (52% to 28%).

Nearly half (48%) of white evangelical Protestants oppose letting gays serve openly in the military, while just 34% support this proposal. Majorities or pluralities across other religious groups favor allowing gays to serve openly.

The balance of opinion across age groups is in favor of letting gays serve openly. Those 65 and older are the only age group in which fewer than half (44%) favors this; still just 28% of seniors are opposed to gays and lesbians serving openly while an identical percentage offers no opinion.

Two-thirds of college graduates (67%) favor gays and lesbians serving openly, as do more than half of those with some college experience (55%) and those with no more than a high school education (54%).

And, predictably, Know Nothings, currently called Tea Partiers, are in complete opposition to gays serving in the military. I guess that's part of smaller government or something... not the bigotry and hatred some people use to equate them to the Taliban.

Teabagger Congressmen Looking For Places To Sleep

Maybe they didn't expect to ever win or maybe they expect to be defeated in 2012, but the Wall Street Journal estimates that around 15% of the freshmen are planning to sleep in their offices instead of getting apartments in Washington. In 2008 it was kind of funny when we wrote about this in regard to Utah kook Jason Chaffetz (above with his cot, looking for a Capitol Hill office).
"Since I'm here on a temporary basis, I don't see any need to have a permanent kind of residence," says Rep.-elect Joe Heck, a Nevada Republican, who was thinking roll-out cot when he looked at office space this month.

Earlier this month, freshman lawmakers drew lots and chose the three-room suites they and their aides will inhabit in one of three House office buildings.

For many of them, a key selling point was not proximity to the House chamber, where they'll vote, but to the House gym, where they'll shower.

Rep.-elect Tim Griffin, an Army reservist, stood near the gym in the Rayburn House Office Building and used some compass software on his phone to navigate the paths to potential offices.

"We want to get as close to Rayburn as possible," Mr. Griffin, an Arkansas Republican, told an aide. "I've got to walk all the way down this hall in the morning."

He settled on a suite in the Longworth building with plenty of space for the six-foot sofa he says will be his bed for the foreseeable future. "I don't want to see you in your bathrobe," Rep.-elect Cory Gardner (R., Colo.), a non-office sleeper, told Mr. Griffin as freshmen rushed about Capitol Hill looking at available offices.

...Nobody seems to know for certain how many lawmakers currently dwell in their offices; estimates range into the dozens. The practice appears to crest after Republican wave elections.

In the mid-1980s, then-Speaker Tip O'Neill (D., Mass.) rousted the office sleepers, including Texas Republican Dick Armey, who later became House majority leader and is now a booster of the anti-Washington tea-party rebellion. "The theory was the offices weren't for sleeping," says Stan Brand, who was House general counsel at the time. "They were for transacting business."

Mr. Armey moved out briefly, then quietly started sleeping on his office couch again, according to a former aide.

After Republicans took the House in 1994, ending four decades of Democratic control, the number of office sleepers grew. The new speaker in 1995, Georgian Newt Gingrich, gave the practice his blessing.

...Freshman Todd Rokita (R., Ind.) was floored when shown a 600-square-foot, $2,000-a-month studio. He'll sleep in his office instead. "I'm not doing this as a political stunt," he says. "I'm doing this because I'm a cheap bastard." Most House members earn $174,000 a year and maintain homes in their districts.

Professor Cornbread

I got every question right. See if you do too-- and learn about why term limits should be on the table and up for discussion-- especially if read with Frank Rich's terrific NY Times column from yesterday in mind.

Two Execrable Choices For New House Appropriations Chair

The old guard wants career criminal Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and the right guard, lead by the hysterical Club For Growth is insisting on extremist Jack Kingston (R-GA). Lewis would have to get a waiver of GOP rules to grab the chair again and many of loathe to grant it since it is no secret Inside the Beltway that although Rove successfully defused the criminal investigations, Lewis was far more guilty of rank corruption than his less cautious sidekick Duke Cunningham, currently rotting in prison. In the end it will be, more or less, Boehner's decision and he and Lewis have worked very closely in the past.
Each of the three candidates running for the post have downsides for GOP leaders, making their decision all the more difficult.

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) is pitching himself as “battle-ready” and tested, but given his long record as a pork-barrel spender his selection could enrage tea party-backed freshmen. They might be more likely to support Kingston.

Kingston is marking himself as the outsider candidate since he sponsored anti-earmark legislation in 2007, though his record is not earmark-free. Taxpayers for Common Sense says Kingston obtained $66 million in earmarks in fiscal 2010 compared to Rogers’ $93 million and $97 million for Lewis.

But the fact that Kingston is more of an outsider could be a problem for leaders, since he could be more difficult to control.

An appropriations chairman can win loyalty for the leadership by pressuring agency officials to fund pet projects under threat of reduced funding for other projects. Some observers believe Kingston could balk at such requests from leaders.

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) also has a long track record of bringing home the bacon and he therefore has similar liabilities and strengths as Lewis. But the Kentucky Republican helped himself by announcing his support for the GOP earmark ban. In letters to colleagues he has pledged to open up the appropriations process to the wider membership.

But some supporters of the other candidates say Rogers has not performed well in front of the media and that could be a liability given the importance of explaining GOP spending positions to the public. In response to the criticism, Rogers has promised to prioritize media outreach in letters to colleagues touting his candidacy.

Lewis’s track record as a fundraiser for GOP lawmakers is a mark in his favor. It was seem as the deciding factor when Lewis fended off a 2004 chairmanship challenge from Rogers.

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch said that Lewis will be calling in his chits before the Nov. 30 meeting, reminding members of past favors.

The Senate broke a GOP filibuster on Tom Harkin's FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510) today. Every Democrat plus 14 Republicans voted for cloture, which passed 69-26 in the face of mindless, ritual opposition from DeMint and his pack of hyenas. The bill gives the FDA the authority to proactively work on preventing foodborne illnesses instead of just reacting after an outbreak occurs.
"The statistics are that Americans are getting sick and they are dying because of food borne illnesses," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, a chief architect of the measure.

Food recalls are now voluntary, but the Senate-passed legislation would give the FDA the power to order food producers to recall their products, a step that could prevent tainted food from reaching consumers' tables.

Food producers would have to increase safety requirements and record keeping to keep the food supply safer. The bill would also increase safety standards for imported foods.

Some Republicans, including Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., opposed the bill, saying it represented a government overreach that would create unnecessary burdens on food producers and increase food prices.

If The Afghan Police Are The Solution To Our Problem, We Might As Well Just End This Thing By The Weekend

Did you watch Peter Galbraith explaining the utter futility of trying to train an Afghan police force on 60 Minutes last night? He sounded like the only person in the report who wasn't on powerful Mazar-i-Sharif opiated hash. If you missed it, you can watch the segment below. Get through all the silly feel-good prpoaganda and listen carefully to Galbraith. And then think about what happened there today.
A gunman in an Afghan police uniform has killed six US service members in eastern Afghanistan, officials say.

The man opened fire during a training mission in Pachir Wagam district, Nangarhar province, said Nato. He was also killed in the incident.

US officials later confirmed that all six were Americans, but declined to give further details.
The Taliban issued a statement saying it was responsible for the killings, AP news agency reported.

Spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the gunman had joined the border police in order to kill foreign soldiers.

"Today he found this opportunity and he killed six invaders," he said.
Nato said the incident was being investigated.

"An individual in an Afghan border police uniform turned his weapon against International Security Assistance Forces (Isaf) during a training mission today, killing six service members in eastern Afghanistan," Monday's statement said.

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