Friday, March 23, 2012


Quotes of the day

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

“Former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., the GOP co-chair of President Obama’s deficit commission, told ABC News that ‘The American people are disgusted at both parties’ for not being able to agree on a measure to reduce the deficit…

“‘Reagan raised taxes,’ Simpson said. ‘We’ve never had less revenue to run this country since the Korean war.’

“Contrary to some Republicans expressing skepticism about the Aug. 2 default date, Simpson said that Treasury Secretary ‘Tim Geithner ain’t fooling.’”

“[M]any Congressional Republicans seem to be spoiling for a fight, calculating that some level of turmoil caused by a federal default might be what it takes to give them the chance to right the nation’s fiscal ship…

“Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the Budget Committee chairman seen as the voice of fiscal authority among House Republicans, said that he believed an agreement leading to a debt limit increase would eventually be reached, but that the impasse could extend beyond the administration’s Aug. 2 drop-dead date.

“‘Let’s say we go past Aug. 2,’ he said in an interview. ‘As time goes on, the situation deteriorates, so I do believe there will be something.’ He pointed to ‘macroeconomic circumstances and credit markets — and also paying the bills — Social Security, Medicare, the troops.’

“‘I think there ultimately will be something,’ he said. ‘I really honestly don’t know what it’s going to be. I really don’t.’”

The hotter precincts of the blogosphere were calling [McConnell's proposal] a sellout yesterday, though they might want to think before they shout. The debt ceiling is going to be increased one way or another, and the only question has been what if anything Republicans could get in return. If Mr. Obama insists on a tax increase, and Republicans won’t vote for one, then what’s the alternative to Mr. McConnell’s maneuver?…

“The tea party/talk-radio expectations for what Republicans can accomplish over the debt-limit showdown have always been unrealistic. As former Senator Phil Gramm once told us, never take a hostage you’re not prepared to shoot. Republicans aren’t prepared to stop a debt-limit increase because the political costs are unbearable. Republicans might have played this game better, but the truth is that Mr. Obama has more cards to play.

“The entitlement state can’t be reformed by one house of Congress in one year against a determined President and Senate held by the other party. It requires more than one election. The Obama Democrats have staged a spending blowout to 24% of GDP and rising, and now they want to find a way to finance it to make it permanent. Those are the real stakes of 2012.

“Even if Mr. Obama gets his debt-limit increase without any spending cuts, he will pay a price for the privilege. He’ll have reinforced his well-earned reputation as a spender with no modern peer. He’ll own the record deficits and fast-rising debt. And he’ll own the U.S. credit-rating downgrade to AA if Standard & Poor’s so decides.”

“Most people don’t care about the deficit, much less the debt ceiling. They care about jobs and the economy–which is the real advantage Republicans have in the coming campaign.

“If McConnell actually proposes to pull an Emily Littella and say ‘Never mind’ about the debt ceiling, the President can pocket this inadvertent gesture of sanity, sign the debt ceiling extension…and then come right back with an economic package reducing the deficit $2.4 trillion over the next ten years, including the budget cuts that both sides have agreed upon plus the loophole closing revenue raisers–corporate jets, oil and ethanol subsidies, and hedge fund manager tax breaks–that 80% of the American people favor. Let the Republicans vote that one down, or refuse to consider it at all in the House of Representatives. Barack Obama would have a lovely issue to run on.

“But I don’t believe for a moment that McConnell is going to do this. He’s desperate, facing a deal that either includes revenue increases or doesn’t happen at all. He’s blinking as fast as he can.”

“There is no constitutional authority for the legislative branch to surrender its clearly delineated duty to write bills for raising revenue and borrow money on the credit of the United States.

“Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner recently employed a clever but easily falsifiable argument, which cites Section 4 of the 14th Amendment to claim that the president can override the separation of powers…

“McConnell’s enthusiasm for this unconstitutional gimmick is disheartening, but it does not change the law. Congress has no more right to give up its authority than the president has to confiscate it.”

“Despite intense lobbying of Congress by President Obama, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and others in the administration about the economic urgency for raising the nation’s debt limit, fewer than one in four Americans favor the general idea of raising it. Also, Americans are significantly more concerned about the budgetary risk of giving the government a new license to spend than they are about the potential economic consequences that would result from not raising the debt limit. Both of these findings put Americans more on congressional Republicans’ side of the debate than Obama’s — at least in terms of political leverage as the two sides negotiate a deal.”

Via Verum Serum.

“I can guarantee you, Mark, that plan is going nowhere.” Click the image to listen.
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Romney won’t sign Iowa group’s marriage pledge

Yes, the same one that Bachmann signed and for which she took so much heat that even Gingrich ended up backing away from it.

Thus far it’s just her and Santorum. Your move, Mr. Pawlenty.

When it was first circulated last week, the introduction to the pledge stated that African American children were more likely to be raised in two-parent households when they were born into slavery than they are today. The group struck that language and apologized after black ministers complained, but it said it stands by the rest of the document.

Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Romney, told The Associated Press in a written statement Tuesday that Romney “strongly supports traditional marriage,” but that the oath “contained references and provisions that were undignified and inappropriate for a presidential campaign.”…

Romney, who supported rights for gay couples in Massachusetts, was criticized in Iowa by some Iowa social conservatives during his 2008 campaign, when he finished second in the caucuses after aggressively courting Christian conservatives…

The Family Leader, an organization formed last year and positioning itself to be an influential player in the 2012 caucuses, said Tuesday they stand by the 14 policy positions listed under the promise to “defend and to uphold the institution of marriage as only between one man and one woman.”

Here’s a PDF of the pledge, which is all over the map politically. I’m keen to hear which parts specifically he thought were “undignified and inappropriate” for a campaign, especially now that the radioactive language about slavery has been dropped. As for the politics of this, it would have caused him more headaches to sign than not to sign. He’s all but given up on Iowa and he’ll never be social cons’ candidate of choice, so he’s better off using this to draw a distinction with Bachmann that he can reference later. Until someone threatens him in New Hampshire he’ll stay focused on the general election and his electability vis-a-vis Obama. This is one less thing the Democrats can use against him to knock him off-message from the economy.

Can’t wait to see what T-Paw does here. He probably has to sign to protect himself among social conservatives — it might finish him off in Iowa if he didn’t and he can’t afford that like Mitt can — but if he does then he’ll be dealing with this from now until election day, assuming he’s nominated. Tough call. Oh — incidentally, the AP claims that Romney’s the first Republican presidential candidate to reject the Iowa pledge. Not so.
READ MORE - Romney won’t sign Iowa group’s marriage pledge

“Sister Wives” clan to challenge constitutionality of Utah’s polygamy law

Who’s angrier about this? Traditional marriage activists, or gay rights activists who don’t want to see the debate about same-sex marriage dragged down the slippery slope when they’re trying to build on momentum from New York?

Nationally-known constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley said the lawsuit to be filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City will not call for plural marriages to be recognized by the state. Instead, it asks for polygamy between consenting adults like his clients, former Utahn Kody Brown and his wives, to no longer be considered a crime.

“We are only challenging the right of the state to prosecute people for their private relations and demanding equal treatment with other citizens in living their lives according to their own beliefs,” Turley said in a press release. The Browns star in the TLC network show “Sister Wives.” There is no word yet on whether they will appear in a press conference scheduled for Wednesday…

The complaint to be filed Wednesday, Turley said, presents seven constitutional challenges to the state’s bigamy law. It is largely based on the right to privacy.

“In that sense, it is a challenge designed to benefit not just polygamists but all citizens who wish to live their lives according to their own values—even if those values run counter to those of the majority in the state,” said Turley, a member of the faculty at George Washington University.

If the distinction between decriminalization and state recognition seems confusing (which it did to me at first), it helps to know that Utah’s bigamy statute includes cohabiting with one person when you’re legally married to another. And in fact, this guy is only legally married to one woman; the other three are, er, “sister wives.” Basically, he’s arguing that he doesn’t care if the state recognizes them as legal spouses or not, just that he doesn’t want the cops to come knocking and lock him up when they find out. In that sense, his court claim mirrors the current legal regime in most states where gay marriage is banned but gay sex is constitutionally protected.

So, no lawsuit to legalize polygamous marriage — yet. But legal precedents have a funny way of building on each other:

The lawsuit is not demanding that states recognize polygamous marriage. Instead, the lawsuit builds on a 2003 United States Supreme Court decision, Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down state sodomy laws as unconstitutional intrusions on the “intimate conduct” of consenting adults. It will ask the federal courts to tell states that they cannot punish polygamists for their own “intimate conduct” so long as they are not breaking other laws, like those regarding child abuse, incest or seeking multiple marriage licenses…

The questions surrounding whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry are significantly different from those involved in criminal prosecution of multiple marriages, Ms. Pizer noted. Same-sex couples are seeking merely to participate in the existing system of family law for married couples, she said, while “you’d have to restructure the family law system in a pretty fundamental way” to recognize polygamy.

Professor Turley called the one-thing-leads-to-another arguments “a bit of a constitutional canard,” and argued that removing criminal penalties for polygamy “will take society nowhere in particular.”

Ah, but they’re not asking to change family law, just to take polygamy out of the penal code. The family law case will be the next lawsuit. FYI, the Supreme Court already upheld laws against polygamy — 130 years ago, rejecting a Mormon challenge based on the Free Exercise Clause. So there’s precedent here if SCOTUS wants it when it eventually hears a case along these lines. Two important footnotes, though. One: The Court’s language in Lawrence v. Texas, a decision authored by Anthony Kennedy, was famously broad in its implications (a point noted by Scalia in dissent at the time), so there’s no telling whether that earlier precedent is still good law. And second, Lawrence itself overruled a much more recent precedent in Bowers v. Hardwick to arrive at its holding. So yeah, there’s quite a fair chance that the Brown clan might pull this off.

Exit question: Speaking of people who aren’t eager to watch this court/media battle play out, how excited do you think Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman are right now?
READ MORE - “Sister Wives” clan to challenge constitutionality of Utah’s polygamy law

Report: DeMint, Jim Jordan nix McConnell’s debt-ceiling plan; Update: Dems are considering it, says Durbin

DeMint’s opposition isn’t confirmed yet but Robert Costa of NRO has it on good authority. That might not be an insuperable obstacle to passage in the Senate given the fact, per Bret Baier below, that Reid seems open to the idea. If he can bring the Dems into line then all they’d need is the usual suspects — Brown, Snowe, Collins, Murkowski, and a few others — and they’re golden.

But Jordan’s kiss of death in the House will make things hard for Boehner:

Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, tells NRO that while he hasn’t review all the details of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R., Ky.) “contingency plan,” he doesn’t see much of a future for it in the House.
The RSC has 175 members. If all or most walk away, Boehner would need practically the entire Democratic caucus plus 50-60 Republicans who are willing to break with conservatives and lock arms with the left in the name of ceding control of the debt ceiling to Obama. They’d be doing it in the name of averting a default and boxing in The One as the candidate of debt next year, but I doubt that’d save them from primary challenges. How does Boehner get McConnell’s bill through the House under those circumstances? No wonder he seems so noncommittal about it; watch his reaction when Baier presses him on it at 1:30 of the clip below.

The key here, as is increasingly the case, might be Cantor. Whether there’s a rift between him and Boehner or not, he’s banked enough conservative cred by holding the line on taxes throughout the negotiation that he might be able to pry away some RSC members if he backed McConnell’s plan. Has anyone heard his reaction to it yet? If so, please tip us and I’ll update the post. I’ll leave you with a link to this brief but must-see vid (via NRO), which contains what must be one of the most ominous pauses in modern political history. No wonder McConnell’s thinking about Plan B.

Update: The Senate might be ready to play ball:
A back-up plan proposed by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell that would keep the U.S. government from defaulting on its debts next month is viable and under consideration by Senate Democrats, according to Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the chamber.

“We’re talking about it as one of the options, yes,” Durbin said in response to a question about whether the McConnell plan is viable.
Update: Still no word on Cantor vis-a-vis McConnell’s plan, but this quote from earlier today speaks volumes:

Across the Capitol, a closed-door caucus of House Republicans broke up with the leadership conceding that it’s frankly at a loss about getting the votes before Treasury’s Aug. 2 deadline.

“Nothing can get through the House right now,” Cantor said after the White House meeting. “Nothing.”
READ MORE - Report: DeMint, Jim Jordan nix McConnell’s debt-ceiling plan; Update: Dems are considering it, says Durbin

Street name “Seven in Heaven Way” upsets American Atheists

This summer, the city of Brooklyn renamed a neighborhood street “Seven in Heaven Way” to honor seven local firefighters who gave their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. A nice thought, right? Simple, symbolic, sincere. But sadly, the commemorative gesture has since generated controversy.

The New Jersey-based American Atheists, the same group that brought the country “God Less America” Fourth of July aerial banners, promptly objected to the street name.

“It’s improper for the city to endorse the view that heaven exists,” American Atheists president David Silverman said. “It links Christianity and heroism.”

Additional objections: Sept. 11 was an attack on “all of America,” so no memorial of it should “break” the Constitution — and, also, the street sign presumes to know what the seven firefighters themselves believed.

But, as The Heritage Foundation’s Jennifer Marshall points out, the group’s objections reveal a misunderstanding of freedom of religion.
Godless secularism – or a “naked public square” denuded of all religious references and symbols, as the late Richard John Neuhaus put it – never was intended to be the character of our American republic. Religious freedom, the cornerstone of all freedom, is freedom for religion, not hostility toward it.

Yes, the Founders wisely separated political from religious authority in our federal government, but they didn’t intend to divorce religion from public life or politics. They based the American model of religious liberty on a favorable view of religious practice.

Far from privatizing or marginalizing religion, the Founders assumed religious believers and institutions would take active roles in society, engaging in the political process and helping to shape consensus on morally fraught questions. …

Most nations are dominated, demographically anyway, by adherents of particular faiths. But every denomination – and the atheist camp as well – is a small minority somewhere on the planet. This reality underscores why religious liberty, not the radical secularist or theocratic systems at either end of the spectrum, should be precious to everyone.
But on a more practical level, the objections reveal an acute sensitivity that seems unwarranted in this situation. A street name with the word “heaven” doesn’t automatically imply an endorsement of Christianity — many other religions include a paradisal idea of the afterlife, too. Nor does it even necessarily imply an endorsement of the belief that heaven is real. Are no streets named for mythical places or fictional characters? Additionally, more than 400 New York City streets have been named for 9-11 victims and heroes. Clearly, the sign was named with the simple motivation of recognizing seven men who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Perhaps that’s why one First Amendment lawyer described the situation this way: “The area of religion is so complex and nuanced that you could argue nearly anything … But a [legal] challenge in this case would be far-fetched.”

from: hotair
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'Harry Potter' tickets sell out a week before release

After 10 years, the end of "Harry Potter's" cinematic tale has arrived. Fans packed into London's Trafalgar Square on Thursday for the world premiere, and the cast talked to CNN about what it was like to say goodbye to the long-running franchise.

If you're planning on seeing "Potter" stateside on July 15, check to make sure there's still a ticket available at a showing near you. Online retailer Fandango reports that the site has already sold out of more than 2,000 showings across the U.S., from "Anchorage, Alaska to Sunrise, Florida," according to a statement. So far, it's Fandango's fastest selling movie. (Surprise, surprise.)

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" opens July 15. You can catch a sneak peek of never before seen footage during Larry King's "Harry Potter" special this Sunday, July 10 at 8 p.m. ET. Don't forget to send in any questions you have for the cast via iReport by Friday, July 8 at noon, and you could see the answer on

READ MORE - 'Harry Potter' tickets sell out a week before release

Obama: No, I can’t promise that Social Security checks will go out in August if we don’t reach a deal

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

See James Pethokoukis’s new graph for a response to this. There should be plenty of revenue in August to cover entitlement checks and interest on the debt if Treasury has the legal authority to prioritize payments,
which isn’t as clear as one would hope. Either way, the more voter angst O can create about default — and given the movement among independents, he’s doing a fine job — the more pressure there is on the GOP to make a deal and the more protected he’ll be politically if we hit X Day on August 2 without an agreement. Which, of course, is the point of McConnell’s gimmick today: If his bill were to pass, responsibility for keeping Social Security flowing coming would shift suddenly from those darned millionaire-hugging Republicans to the debt-loving Obama administration. You are willing to unilaterally order another $2 trillion in debt right before the election in order to keep grandma’s checks coming, aren’t you, champ?

If you’re looking for the case for and against the McConnell gambit, here’s Grover Norquist giving a thumbs up and Philip Klein giving a thumbs down. Norquist’s argument is straightforward: This debt-ceiling showdown has always been about politics for Obama, so let him choke on the politics of it. Force him to finally finally finally put his spending plan in writing after he and his party have ducked the issue for months. In fact, according to Roll Call, McConnell’s only question at yesterday’s debt-ceiling meeting was to ask how much the Biden plan would save in discretionary spending next year. The answer: Two measly billion. It’s time for Democrats to get serious, says Norquist, and this will force them. Au contraire, says Klein, there are lots of ways Obama can gin up phony savings to check the “deficit hawk” box for his campaign. Besides, he argues, the McConnell plan actually weakens the GOP’s ability to reach a real deal because O will read it as a sign of panic in the caucus and will press harder for concessions. I’m not so sure about that, though: To me it looks like a sign that McConnell and others in the caucus have more or less given up on making a deal, which strengthens the GOP’s hand insofar as Obama will either need to make new concessions to get them back to the table or start thinking about a Plan B like McConnell’s plan to avert a default.

I do think Klein was spot on with this post from April, though, about how the GOP promised the base too much in terms of what it could realistically achieve while sharing power with Democrats. For all the sturm and drang about the debt-ceiling deals under consideration, to my knowledge none of them — even the “grand bargain” — would actually reduce the debt over the next 10 years. Even the best-case scenario is merely a slower rate of growth. That’s not a serious solution, or even a half-solution, to such a cataclysmic problem, and yet it’s the very best we can do with the current occupants in Congress and the White House. We’ll have to shuffle the deck next year and hope for better; all McConnell’s doing is acknowledging the bleakness of the situation and trying to maximize the odds of a more favorable hand. Exit question: Given that McConnell’s bill would force Dems to own the debt hike, why would Reid allow it to pass the Senate without changes? And if it did, would Obama sign it or veto it?
READ MORE - Obama: No, I can’t promise that Social Security checks will go out in August if we don’t reach a deal

Intern who helped save Gabby Giffords’ life to throw out first pitch tonight

Daniel Hernandez, the intern whose calm courage helped to save the life of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at tonight’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Phoenix, the New York Post reports.

Hernandez, 21, was hailed as a hero after his quick thinking was credited with keeping Rep. Giffords (D-Ariz.) alive until paramedics arrived after she was shot in the head outside a Tucson-area grocery store in January.

After hearing the gunfire, Hernandez ran to Giffords and held her upright so she could breathe and applied pressure to her head wound. He had been hired by Giffords less than a week before the Jan. 8 attack.

Among those killed in the shootings, in which six people died and 12 others were wounded, was Christina Taylor Green, the daughter of Los Angeles Dodgers scout John Green and granddaughter of former Major League Baseball manager Dallas Green.

MLB commissioner Bud Selig invited the families of all of the victims to participate in the pre-game ceremony, reported.

Hernandez’ part in the tragic Giffords’ story has always impressed me, perhaps because I know just how terrified I would have been in the same situation, how tempted to run as far and as fast as possible. Perhaps such a terrifically human gesture as to immediately attempt to alleviate the suffering of another ought to be the norm — but is it? Certainly it’s more likely to be if, when someone does display loyalty and bravery, he receives recognition and gratitude. The chance to throw out a ceremonial pitch at an All-Star game seems in line with that.
READ MORE - Intern who helped save Gabby Giffords’ life to throw out first pitch tonight

Video: Sgt. Leroy Petry receives the Medal of Honor

The second living recipient of the Medal of Honor since Vietnam, just nine months after Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta became the first.
What kind of man are we talking about here? One who didn’t have to participate in the raid for which he was awarded the MOH but went voluntarily, had his hand blown off by a jihadi grenade during that raid after he picked it up and tried to toss it away before it detonated, thereby saving the lives of two of his men, and then reenlisted in the Army after being fitted with a robotic arm and went back to war. Total deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan: Eight and counting. He has four kids.

As usual, the Army’s done a bang-up job creating a Medal of Honor webpage for him. The Profile and Battlespace graphics are a must, but take time to read this Army news story too about his recovery and experience with his new robotic hand — all the way to the part where one of his kids names the damaged arm “Nubby.” An apt exit quotation from Obama: “What compels such courage? What leads a person to risk everything so that others might live?”
READ MORE - Video: Sgt. Leroy Petry receives the Medal of Honor