Archive for Senate

Take Those Threats Seriously

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Nicole Sandler

Americans have really short memories. It was less than a year ago that the Republicans shut down the US government for 16 very long days. And now Mitch McConnell is threatening to do it again. I suggest we take those threats very seriously.

To refresh our country's collective memory loss:

FirstFederal employees were furloughed for a combined total of 6.6 million days, more than in any previous government shutdown. At its peak, about 850,000 individuals per day were furloughed. That number fell once most Department of Defense civilian employees were able to return to work as the Pentagon implemented the Pay Our Military Act.

Secondthe shutdown cost the Federal government billions of dollars. The payroll cost of furloughed employee salaries alone – that is, the lost productivity of furloughed workers – was $2.0 billion. Beyond this, the Federal government also incurred other direct costs as a result of the shutdown. Fees went uncollected; IRS enforcement and other program integrity measures were halted; and the Federal government had to pay additional interest on payments that were late because of the shutdown.

Thirdthe shutdown had significant negative effects on the economy. The Council of Economic Advisers has estimated that the combination of the shutdown and debt limit brinksmanship resulted in 120,000 fewer private sector jobs created during the first two weeks of October. And multiple surveys have shown that consumer and business confidence was badly damaged.

The report highlights some of the more direct impacts the shutdown had on the economy by shutting down government services.

For example:

  • Federal permitting and environmental and other reviews were halted, delaying job-creating transportation and energy projects.
  • Import and export licenses and applications were put on hold, negatively impacting trade.
  • Federal loans to small businesses, homeowners, and families in rural communities were put on hold.
  • Private-sector lending to individuals and small businesses was disrupted, because banks and lenders couldn’t access government income and Social Security Number verification services.
  • Travel and tourism was disrupted at national parks and monuments across the country, hurting the surrounding local economies.

Fourththe shutdown impacted millions of Americans who rely on critical programs and services halted by the shutdown.

For example:

  • Hundreds of patients were prevented from enrolling in clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health.
  • Almost $4 billion in tax refunds were delayed.
  • Agencies from the Food and Drug Administration to the Environmental Protection Agency had to cancel health and safety inspections, while the National Transportation Safety Board was unable to investigate airplane accidents in a timely fashion.
  • Critical government-sponsored scientific research was put on hold. Notably, four of the five Nobel prize winning scientists who work for the Federal government were furloughed during the shutdown.

Fifththe shutdown could have a long-term impact on our ability to attract and retain the skilled and driven workforce that the Federal government needs. The shutdown followed a three-year pay freeze for Federal employees, cuts in training and support, and, for hundreds of thousands of workers, administrative furloughs earlier this year because of sequestration. These cuts will make it harder for the government to attract and retain the talent it needs to provide top level service to the American people.

To put it much more simply, it was really, truly awful.

And Americans, for a change, laid the blame (mostly) where it belonged: squarely at the feet of the GOP.

But those short memories were what the Rethuglicans were counting on, as Mitch McConnell seemingly has no qualms about threatening similar action again IF REPUBLICANS TAKE CONTROL OF THE SENATE! You'd think that would be impetus enough to keep anyone with even a modicum of sanity from voting for any member of that party.

But sadly, Mr. Predictor of Election Outcomes Better than Anyone Else himself, Nate Silver's latest pronouncement is "Republicans Remain Slightly Favored To Take Control Of The Senate".

I hope everyone will take a few minutes to read Dave Johnson's apocalyptic tome about what they are threatening to do (and will likely follow through on) should that unthinkable outcome become reality on Nov. 4: "GOP Vows to Dismantle  or Shut Down Government if They Win Senate." Dave joined me on the show this morning to explain why you should be afraid, very afraid, of that prospect (unlike the fake fears the GOP is always ginning up.)

In the first hour, Howie Klein was on with me, as he is each Monday morning, for The Steve Israel Hour, sponsored by Little Debbie. We talked about tomorrow's primaries in FloriDUH, Arizona and Oklahoma; about Andrew Cuomo's running mate, Kathy Hochul and how truly conservative she is, the vote coming before the people of Scotland to decide on their independence, and more..

Tomorrow, we'll talk with Tom Risen of US News and World Report about his friend, the late James Foley. And the Gliberal Goddesses (GottaLaff, Amy Simon and myself) are back with more gliberal giddyness.... Radio or Not!

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RIP Senator Jim Jeffords, of Vermont, who passed away this week

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Gannett News Service phote

And he passed on AS an Independent … The GOP let Jeffords wave buh-bye. The party left him.

Thom Hartmann had some interesting things to reveal! (And a Vermonter, sigh, but Bernie covers all ills.)

Jeffords had always been a Rhino (surprisingly thick on the ground up here in New England); in fact our wise and politically active Gramma Bea … if one has thoughts that our souls return, or somehow meet again after death … I can count on her giving him all kinds of hell in the proverbial 'meeting again' phase.

Photo, the AP.

Photo, the AP.

It's hard to imagine a more principled New Englander member of Congress than Jeffords. He was a dying breed: men and women who serve their country well and can see both sides.

From The Washington Post.

James M. Jeffords, the maverick Vermont politician who in 2001 gave Democrats a short-lived majority in the U.S. Senate when he left the Republican Party and declared himself an independent, died Aug. 18 at a retirement residence in Washington. He was 80.


from left, former U.S. Sen. Robert Stafford, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Sen. James Jeffords, R-Vt., U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, sit behind Calvin Coolidge impersonator Jim Cooke.

from left, former U.S. Sen. Robert Stafford, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Sen. James Jeffords, R-Vt., U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, sit behind Calvin Coolidge impersonator Jim Cooke.

Diane Derby, a former aide, confirmed his death but said she did not know the immediate cause. Mr. Jeffords declined to seek reelection to the Senate in 2006, citing his wife’s and his own declining health, and was succeeded by Bernie Sanders, his state’s longtime representative-at-large, who also is an independent.

A former Vermont state senator and attorney general, Mr. Jeffords served seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives before winning election to the Senate in 1988. He established himself as a moderate-to-liberal Republican, a reflection of his state’s political tendencies, and frequently voted with Democrats on matters such as health care, taxes, abortion, gay rights, gun control and the environment.

He was but 80 years old to have touched the number of people Jeffords did.

U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., waves to members of the Legislature at the Statehouse in Montpelier in this Jan. 5, 2006, with his wife, Elizabeth “Liz” Daley Jeffords. (Photo- TOBY TALBOT:AP )

U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., waves to members of the Legislature at the Statehouse in Montpelier in this Jan. 5, 2006, with his wife, Elizabeth “Liz” Daley Jeffords. (Photo- TOBY TALBOT:AP )

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Overnight: The Senate Decided to Do Nothing [about gun violence]

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Overnight gun violence

This is a Blunt from our archive in April, 2013 about the Senate's inaction on gun control.

To read how to contribute to a Blunt, please go here.

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Granite-Thick Skulls In Granite State of New Hampshire

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NewHampshireInfantinew252h204

New Hampshire is known as the Granite State. We all know granite. It's one of the hardest rocks in existence and it's the high end of kitchen counter tops. Granite has a new purpose now--it's used to describe the thick head of Sstate Rep. Will Infantine (R) from New Hampshire. He took to the floor of the state house yesterday to explain away why women don't DESERVE as much money as men for doing the same jobs. He was pushing for defeat of a fair pay act in the New England state. Oh, and he's quite eloquent. Just listen.

His exact words, reported in HUFFPO:

“Men by and large make more because of some of the things they do. Their jobs are, by and large, more riskier ” (sic)

“Men work five or six hours longer a week than women do. When it comes to women and men who own businesses … women make half of what men do because of flexibility of work, men are more motivated by money than women are.”

To be that big a moron and say these ridiculous statements in fighting against a fair pay bill should single this man out for Ass-wipe of the year consideration. But you know something, he's not alone -- not by a long-shot in that thinking. The New Hampshire House voted yesterday 187-134 on Wednesday to give preliminary approval to the Paycheck Equity Act, the bill seeking to eliminate wage discrimination on the basis of sex. But it should have been 321-0.

133 other members of that state lawmaking body agreed with Representative Dufus Infantine. Women are second class citizens and don't deserve to be treated equally. Think this is amazing?

It's sickening. And it's not going away. Republicans nationwide are trying to keep fair pay out of the hands of women. And this has got to be stopped. Period. Triple exclamation point!!!

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GOP Senators Vote Against US Pledge of Allegiance

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GOP

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all...

That's how the original Pledge of Allegiance goes. But the U.S. Senate, under the leadership of the Republican party, has undertaken to amend the age-old pledge. They're adding "except for minorities, the poor, and women."

It seems the GOP has determined there's a new meaning to phrases or words like "one Nation," "indivisible" and "liberty and Justice for ALL". It used to be that "All" means everyone. "Liberty and Justice" means freedom and fairness. Finally, "one nation" means united, as in the United States. Evidently, gone are the days...

Sadly yesterday the Senate Republicans, voted to trample their pledge. They voted down, as a unit, the Paycheck Fairness Act. Its purpose was to fix a wrong in our nation. It was to close the gap between wages of men and women doing the same job. And this bill would not cost anything. Here's what the proposed law would do, according to THE HILL:

The legislation punishes employers for retaliating against workers who share wage information, and puts the justification burden on employers as to why someone is paid less and allows workers to sue for punitive damages of wage discrimination.

So let's hear it for the patriotic Senate hypocrites from the GOP who swear by their patriotism yet feel it's important to trample on the very tenets of our Pledge of Allegiance. 

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Torture worse than waterboarding: Inside the Senate report on CIA interrogations

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bush torture larger

Did you know that waterboarding was the "least worst" method of torture used on high-value detainees by the CIA under the Bush administration's watch?

My dear friend and one of the best investigative reporters out there, Jason Leopold, went on Nicole Sandler's radio show just before my weekly spot. He's a tough act to follow, especially when he reveals what the corporate "news" media won't touch with a ten-foot ad buy. Which is why you haven't heard about the "not legally authorized" torture "techniques" that will likely turn many American stomachs once details are finally (if ever) made public.

Now, because Jason has made such good and plentiful use of the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act), he is being called a "FOIA terrorist" and has had to deal with considerable blowback from some very powerful people in very powerful places. IMHO, the reason they feel so "terrorized" is that they're scared to death of Jason's reporting and the truths he brings to light.

Here are a few excerpts from Jason's Al Jazeera America piece:

A still-classified report on the CIA's interrogation program established in the wake of 9/11 sparked a furious row last week between the agency and Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein. Al Jazeera has learned from sources familiar with its contents that the committee's report alleges that at least one high-value detainee was subjected to torture techniques that went beyond those authorized by George W. Bush's Justice Department.

Two Senate staffers and a U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the information they disclosed remains classified, told Al Jazeera that the committee's analysis of 6 million pages of classified records also found that some of the harsh measures authorized by the Department of Justice had been applied to at least one detainee before such legal authorization was received. They said the report suggests that the CIA knowingly misled the White House, Congress and the Justice Department about the intelligence value of detainee Zain Abidin Mohammed Husain Abu Zubaydah when using his case to argue in favor of harsher interrogation techniques. [...]

Even before accessing the documents, committee staffers received crucial information in a briefing from former FBI agent Ali Soufan in early 2008, according to Al Jazeera’s sources. Soufan — who now runs a private security and intelligence consultancy — told the staffers that he had kept meticulous notes about the methods used by a psychologist under CIA contract to interrogate Abu Zubaydah at a CIA black site in Thailand after his capture in Pakistan in March of 2002. Soufan's account, the staffers say, shows that torture techniques were used on Abu Zubaydah even before some had been sanctioned as permissible by the Bush administration. [...]

Two Senate staffers told Al Jazeera that the Panetta documents question the Bush administration claims about the efficacy of Abu Zubaydah’s torture, and the staffers noted that some of the techniques to which he was subjected early in his captivity had not yet been authorized.

Jason explained that the previously undisclosed torture methods made waterboarding seem like the least ghastly practice by comparison... and perhaps that's why the public focus was (intentionally) on waterboarding. See the shiny, inhumane keys? Now move along.

You can hear Jason talk about these revelations in his own words here (podcast). And please read his entire Al Jazeera post here. Where you will not read, hear, or see any references to Jason Leopold's reporting is in the corporate "mainstream" media. Maybe we can all use our social media skills to force the press into covering his work. Wouldn't that be novel?

torture

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Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) holds big lead over Scott Brown (R-Bqhatevwr)

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scott brown tweet  bqhatevwr

Hey, did you hear the one where Scott Brown of Massachusetts is now pretending to be from New Hampshire so he and his truck can run for the U.S. Senate? He blew it big time when he lost badly in Massachusetts back in 2012. Just ask Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Ooo! Ooo! And remember how Scott Brown was really, really proud to be from Massachusetts? Me too! Ari Melber, take it away:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Now Scott Brown is running against Senator Jeanne Shaheen, and he has fewer than eight months to overcome her double digit lead, as well as convince New Hampshire voters-- to quote former witch, Christine O'Donnell-- "I'm you."

So far this appears to be their resounding response: Bqhatevwr.

Via American Research Group:

If the 2014 election for US Senate were being held today between Scott Brown, the Republican, and Jeanne Shaheen, the Democrat, for whom would you vote - Brown or Shaheen? (names rotated):

chart Jean Shaheen v Scott Brown 2014

Among registered voters who are undecided about how President Obama is doing his job (they account for only 9% of those registered), Shaheen has a huge lead, 73% to Brown's 7% (20% are undecided).

The breakdown goes a little something like this: Brown appeals more to GOP voters and men (Wait, aren't the two synonymous?), but Shaheen is preferred by independents and women.

More here.

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