This post first appeared on Think Progress. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) hosted a town hall meeting in Bartlett, TN this week, where she sought to assure the right-wing crowd that Republicans won’t become more “moderate” if they take back control of Congress. Underscoring this point, Blackburn said that one of the top priorities of Republicans would be to repeal health care reform:
Blackburn said the key to Republican conduct, should the GOP win a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, is in the Republican conference of House leaders where priorities of a GOP majority would be determined. She said the priority of the conference will be to repeal national health care reform.
This week, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) also told the National Review that the GOP agenda’s “first plank” this fall should be to “repeal Obamacare,” noting it was “very close to a universal position on the part of Republicans.” So far, all but seven of House Republicans have signed onto Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) repeal petition. Blackburn was one of the earliest signatories, getting on board on June 23. The Republican leadership has been reluctant to release its agenda for the next Congress. This month on Bloomberg News, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that Republicans wouldn’t tell the public about their plans until September. While the GOP touts fiscal discipline and reducing the deficit, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) were recently unable to name any spending cuts they were considering. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), however, has said that in addition to repealing health care, Republicans should “issue subpoenas and have one hearing after another and expose all the nonsense that has gone on.”
Cross-posted from Think Progress. Since Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed the anti-immigration SB-1070 into law, many high-profile musicians — including Kanye West, Sonic Youth, and Rage Against the Machine — have boycotted the state. In recent weeks, activists had been pressuring Lady Gaga to cancel her July 31 concert in Phoenix, saying, “This is no time for a Poker Face, Lady Gaga!” Gaga, however, went ahead with her concert on Saturday and used it as a venue to speak out:
LADY GAGA: I want you to let go of all of your insecurities. I want you to reject any person, or any thing, or any law that has ever made you feel like you don’t belong. I got a phone call from a couple of really big rock and rollers, big pop stars, big rappers, and they said, “we’d like you to boycott Arizona…because of SB-1070.” And I said, “you really think that us dumb f*cking pop stars are going to collapse the economy of Arizona?” I’ll tell you what we have to do about SB-1070. We have to be active. We have to actively protest. The nature of the Monster Ball is to actively protest prejudice, and injustice, and that bullsh*t that is put on our society…because you’re a superstar, no matter who you are, no matter where you come from and you were born that way! I will not cancel my show. I will yell and I will scream louder. And I will hold you, and we will hold each other, and we will peaceably protest this state. Because if it wasn’t for all of you immigrants, this country wouldn’t have sh*t. And I mean it. I mean it so deeply in my soul.
Watch it: Gaga also told a story of a boy she met whose “house was raided because of a parking ticket or something. They took his brother, and now he is in Mexico. … It’s really (unfair), and it’s really disgusting.” She dedicated her song “You and I” to the boy at her concert, which more than 14,000 people attended.
This post originally appeared on Think Progress. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) fired up progressive activists as the closing speaker at the fifth annual Netroots Nation conference on Saturday evening. He jokingly called the gathering “the most exciting political gathering of the year without guns” and told the gathering to keep fighting and pushing elected officials. A few hours before the event, ThinkProgress sat down with Franken and asked him about the public’s frustration with the Senate’s gridlock. Franken told us that the new Senate will likely take up filibuster reform next year, an effort that he supports. He also discussed the need for other procedural reforms:
TP: Is there any other ideas that aren’t being talked about as much that you think would help the Senate be more productive? FRANKEN: Well, I think there are, you know, a lot of this is procedural reform on how you offer amendments, and again, obviously, on cloture, and filibusters, and how many hours you have to have of debate even after cloture. One easy idea is, you have to wait 30 hours after a cloture vote to vote, because there’s supposedly 30 hours of debate. Well, sometimes they’ve had cloture votes where it’s — we’ve had to vote cloture on something that isn’t controversial at all, like a nominee who ends up passing 98-nothing. There’s no debate over the next 30 hours. So, you could say, I mean, one easy reform would be, say, either side or both sides can give up 15 hours. So, instead of it being 30 hours, it’s 15 hours. I mean, a lot of all of this was just to slow-foot, to slow things down.
In a clear example of Republicans trying to “slow things down,” the Washington Post notes today that the Senate GOP — along with a few conservative Democrats — “have blocked measures that would offer summer jobs to teenagers, give aid to states to prevent layoffs of teachers and other state employees, and expand funding of Pell grants — arguing that all would raise the budget deficit.” Franken attributed their obstruction to crass partisan motives:
And Republicans sort of take this stance that the best thing we can do is slow everything down so as little can happen as possible, so that we can both blame Democrats for not having stuff happen, like jobs bills and stuff like that. And so that, you know, I mean sometimes it’d be a legitimate difference of opinion on something, but sometimes it’s been ridiculous. But I do think that this whole approach of slowing everything down, in many ways I think it’s so that, they don’t want a jobs bill because they don’t want people to get jobs before the election. It’s a harsh thing to say, and I don’t want to impugn the motives of my colleagues, but I don’t get what they’re doing otherwise.
Watch it: Franken has had experience with the filibuster dating back to before he was even seated as a U.S. senator. As Republicans attempted to drag out the recount process in Minnesota (even though it became clear that Franken was the winner of the election), the GOP promised to filibuster any attempt to seat Franken early.
This post first appeared on Think Progress. As ThinkProgress has documented, the lobbyist-run Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has been instrumental in orchestrating the Tea Party movement. The group coordinated “grassroots” protests around the country and provided organizations and communications support to the Tea Parties. AFP staffers are also regular presence at Tea Party rallies. The man behind AFP is David Koch, who is one of the richest men in the world thanks to his oil, chemicals, and manufacturing conglomerate Koch Industries. In 2009, AFP President Tim Phillips said he “launched our organization.”
This post first appeared on Think Progress. This past week, the Tea Parties went after the NAACP for its resolution calling on the movement to denounce “racist elements” in its midst. “You must expel the bigots and racists in your ranks or take full responsibility for all of their actions,” said NAACP President Benjamin Jealous. One of the groups that supported this resolution was CAIR, the largest Muslim civil liberties advocacy organization in the U.S. The organization is now calling attention to anti-Muslim bigotry in the Tea Party movement, pointing to an upcoming event in Florida:
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said the group Emerald Coast Tea Party Patriots has invited Brigitte Gabriel, the head of the anti-Islam hate group ACT! for America, to be the keynote speaker at its “U.S. Constitution Freedom Rally” on August 21 in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. CAIR is also calling on political candidates scheduled to appear at the event, including GOP Senate candidate Marco Rubio, to cancel their appearances unless Gabriel is dropped as a speaker.
In 2008, the New York Times’ Deborah Solomon called Gabriel a “radical Islamophobe.” In 2007, Gabriel gave a speech in which she said that the difference “between Israel and the Arab world is the difference between civilization and barbarism. It’s the difference between good and evil,” adding that in the “Arabic world,” they “have no soul.” Watch it: Gabriel has also asserted that every practicing Muslim is radical and when asked by the Australian Jewish News whether Americans should “resist Muslims who want to seek political office in this nation,” replied, “Absolutely.” She has similarly stated that Muslims can’t serve loyally in the U.S. military. Gabriel is a frequent Fox News guest. In August, Tea Party Central of OC in California plans to offer a “Basic Training Class 101” by Gabriel’s group, ACT! for America on how to “be an effective activist against Political Islam and its threat to our way of life, and how to communicate this threat to elected officials, the media, and others.”
This post originally appeared on Think Progress. Last month, BP CEO Tony Hayward further added to his and his company’s public relations problems when he lamented that he wanted the oil crisis to be over so he could return to his privileged life. “There’s no one who wants this over more than I do,” said Hayward. “I would like my life back.” Hayward’s life includes no work on weekends or holidays, triathalons, West Ham football, “[s]ailing through the tropics and skiing in Vail, Colo.” Even though oil continues to gush and BP officials insist that he is still “in charge of all BP operations,” Hayward nevertheless attended a “prestigious yacht race” today:
BP PLC Chief Executive Tony Hayward was spotted attending a prestigious yacht race Saturday, as his company deflects criticism for its handling of one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history. Hayward was spotted by photographers on his yacht, “Bob,” which was competing at the JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race off the Isle of Wight.
A BP spokesperson said that Hayward was “spending some time with his teenage son after devoting most of the past two months away from family.” In an interview taped for ABC’s This Week, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel called Hayward’s attendance at the race “part of a long line of PR gaffes and mistakes.”
This post originally appeared on Think Progress. Before Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) became BP’s biggest fan and apologist yesterday, one of the loudest voices criticizing the Obama administration was Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who said that BP needs to stand up for itself:
“They have to lift the liability cap,” said Bachmann. “But if I was the head of BP, I would let the signal get out there — ‘We’re not going to be chumps, and we’re not going to be fleeced.’ And they shouldn’t be. They shouldn’t have to be fleeced and make chumps to have to pay for perpetual unemployment and all the rest — they’ve got to be legitimate claims. “The other thing we have to remember is that Obama loves to make evil whatever company it is that he wants to get more power from. He makes them evil, and what we’ve got to ask ourselves is: Do we really want to be paying $9 for a gallon of gas? Because that could be the final result of this.”
Bachmann is now trying to back away from her comments. “I said that I was concerned that Washington, the Obama administration, could use it as a permanent ATM,” Bachmann insisted to the Pioneer Press. “I want to make sure everyone knows I’m not a shill for BP.” She also recently went on CNN where she similarly made clear that she believes “BP clearly is at fault” for the oil spill. “I’m not here to shill for BP,” she said.
Cross-posted from Think Progress. The National Republican Congressional Committee often touts its “Young Guns” program, an initiative “dedicated to identifying, recruiting, and mobilizing a new generation of conservative leaders.” But as the Daily Beast points out, this fresh-faced group really isn’t that young:
In fact, the current crop of the 22 Young Guns looks very much like the old generation of conservative leaders. These upstarts together average an age of 49.6 years old — two months shy of the average age of new members who joined Congress in 2008. And those current reps are no spring chickens themselves. According to one analysis, the 111th Congress is the oldest, on average, of any since 1907. More than half of the Young Guns, having celebrated the big 5-0, are already eligible for an AARP membership. Only two of the group’s designated candidates– Martha Roby, who is running for Alabama’s 2nd District, and district attorney-cum-reality-television star Sean Duffy, who is running for the open seat in Wisconsin’s 7th District — are under the age of 40.
In the past, the Republican National Committee has had to lure younger GOP donors — aka “Young Eagles” — with trips to topless clubs. (HT: Wonkette)
This post originally appeared on Think Progress. The Ugandan parliament is considering legislation that would impose the death penalty or life imprisonment for some homosexual acts (which are already illegal), require people toreport every LGBT individual they know, and criminalize renting property to gay men and women. As Rachel Maddow repeatedly highlighted on her MSNBC show, this anti-gay push in Uganda was inspired — and promoted — by the religious far right in the United States. In March 2009, three American evangelicals — whose anti-gay teachings have been widely discredited — went to Uganda and preached about the “dark agenda” of LGBT individuals. Just one month later, Ugandan lawmaker David Bahati introduced the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill.” While many evangelical leaders who promote hatred toward gays have tried to distance themselves from the Uganda bill, Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, a retired Anglican bishop from Uganda and Chaplain of Integrity Uganda, spoke at the Center for American Progress this week and blamed global anti-LGBT sentiments on the religious right in the United States. From his discussion with CAP Visiting Senior Fellow Bishop Gene Robinson (13:35):
ROBINSON: One thing that I often say to groups here is that the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic communities are responsible for most of the discrimination LGBT people have experienced. And it seems to me that the church, synagogue, the mosque needs to repent of that kind of emotional and spiritual violence, as I say, which often leads to physical violence. Do you see any movement of the churches or the Muslim community in Uganda – any movement to a recognition to the harm that has been done or is it still the source of much of the prejudice? SENYONJO: It’s very, very unfortunate because there are even some Christian groups coming from here — that is to say, the United States — who are making it very difficult by preaching a gospel of hatred to the LGBT people. One wonders, if God — whom I do, many of us, I say, do believe — that God is a god of love, but some people are preaching a gospel of hating a certain group of people. … It’s very unfortunate, people also read the scriptures. They usually pick bits which fit them. And they pick them and say, “Oh, in the Old Testament this happened, in the Qur’an and all that.”
Robinson also pointedly criticized anti-gay religious leaders by comparing them to people who start campfires in California and then don’t want to be held accountable because they claim “that they did not intend to burn down half of Los Angeles” (18:49):
ROBINSON: It seems to me that that’s an image we ought to be using with those who go to Uganda, for instance, and in the name of the Gospel preach this kind of message. And then when violence occurs, or this legislation, like the Bahati bill occurs, you know when we confront them here in this country about that, they say, “Oh my goodness! That was never our intention!” Well, when you set off that kind of sparks you should not be surprised when it turns into a wildfire.
Watch the full event here: Robinson is the bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church in New Hampshire and was the first openly gay priest ordained by a major Christian denomination. Senyonjo had to leave Uganda because of his efforts to decriminalize homosexuality and increase tolerance there.
BP has embarked on an aggressive campaign to repair its public image in the wake of its disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It has repeatedly run full-page ads in major newspapers, retained high-powered lobbying and public relations firms, and launched a series of television ads with CEO Tony Hayward looking apologetic. The company has even hired Anne Womack-Kolton, a former top aide to Vice President Cheney, to be its new spokesperson. Now, joining Womack-Kolton in helping BP repair its image is former chief of staff to President Bush, Josh Bolten:
The former European Commission president Romano Prodi is understood to be assisting BP in its attempt to restore its battered reputation in the United States. The Times understands that Mr Prodi, who twice served as Italy’s prime minister, is a key member of an “international advisory board” assisting BP that also includes Josh Bolten, the former chief of staff to President George W. Bush. Both Mr Prodi and Mr Bolten are former employees of Goldman Sachs, the investment bank that advises BP. BP’s former chairman Peter Sutherland also held a senior role at Goldman. The group has been helping the oil giant to defend its interests against a fierce onslaught from the US Government, which intensified yesterday as it emerged that 44 US Senators have signed a letter demanding that BP does not pay a dividend next month.
Bolten became most famous during the Bush administration when the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Bolten and former Bush counsel Harriet Miers in contempt after they refused to cooperate in an investigation into the administration’s firings of U.S. attorneys. This aggressive PR campaign by BP may actually be having the opposite effect of what the company is hoping for. Last week, President Obama chastised BP for devoting its resources in this area instead of to the people along the Gulf Coast who are struggling to maintain a living because the spill took away their occupations:
My understanding is, is that BP has contracted for $50 million worth of TV advertising to manage their image during the course of this disaster. In addition, there are reports that BP will be paying $10.5 billion — that’s billion with a B — in dividend payments this quarter. Now, I don’t have a problem with BP fulfilling its legal obligations. But I want BP to be very clear, they’ve got moral and legal obligations here in the Gulf for the damage that has been done. And what I don’t want to hear is, when they’re spending that kind of money on their shareholders and spending that kind of money on TV advertising, that they’re nickel-and-diming fishermen or small businesses here in the Gulf who are having a hard time.
BP shares “plunged” in London today, with investors “shaken by the prospect that the British oil giant might cut its dividend.” UK business leaders are upset at the criticism the Obama administration is directing at BP, and Prime Minister David Cameron will be speaking with Obama about BP this weekend. In response to its tumbling stock prices on the New York Exchange last night, BP said it was “not aware of any reason which justifies this share price movement.”