ATF bureau director confirmed – only took Republicans 7 years to stop saying NO

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed a director for the federal agency that regulates firearms, fulfilling one of the demands President Barack Obama made after the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting.

After a delay while lawmakers awaited the return of a colleague who was flying in from North Dakota, senators voted 53-42 to install prosecutor Todd Jones as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The troubled bureau, which gun-rights activists often criticize as too aggressive, has experienced stagnant funding and had lacked a permanent director since 2006.

In January, a month after a gunman opened fire at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing 20 children and six adults, Obama asked the Senate to confirm an ATF director as part of his plan to prevent future mass killings.

Many of Obama’s other demands, such as an expansion of federal background checks, have failed to win the necessary support in Congress.

For the firearms bureau, Senate Democrats echoed Obama’s frustrations.

“It is time for the Senate to do its job and confirm an ATF director for the first time in seven years,” Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, said on Wednesday.

Jones has run the ATF as part-time acting director since September 2011, while remaining the U.S. attorney for Minnesota, the state’s chief federal prosecutor.

Iowa’s Chuck Grassley tried a little extra foot-dragging at the end. Ot was it knuckle-dragging?

Led by Republicans, a significant chunk of senators wouldn’t vote until the NRA said they were “neutral” on Jones. More of the usual crappola that’s been going on for seven years. Republicans hate the ATF so much they tried what has become a standard act of corruption for Congressional conservatives, e.g., stop affirmation, stop funding, so the vote they lost can’t be implemented.

Our right-wing’s view of democracy.

Voted against reauthorizing FISA warrantless wiretaps

Voting NO:

Akaka (D-HI)
Baucus (D-MT)
Begich (D-AK)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Brown (D-OH)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Coons (D-DE)
Durbin (D-IL)
Franken (D-MN)
Harkin (D-IA)
Leahy (D-VT)
Lee (R-UT)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Merkley (D-OR)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Murray (D-WA)
Paul (R-KY)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schatz (D-HI)
Tester (D-MT)
Udall (D-CO)
Udall (D-NM)
Wyden (D-OR)

Profiles in courage comes to mind. For these 23 – not those who voted YES.

Not the White House. Not President Barack Obama.

Oz tells Obama to forget stationing a nuclear aircraft carrier group

“Australia is the gateway to New Zealand – we know hobbits have weapons of mass destruction”

Australia, which tries to tread a fine line between supporting its closest ally, the US, and not upsetting China, its biggest trading partner, yesterday rejected a proposal to base a US nuclear aircraft carrier group near Perth, saying it did not want American bases in the country.

The idea was raised in a Pentagon-commissioned report by the influential Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, which suggested relocating a carrier and its support fleet from the US east coast to HMAS Stirling, an Australian naval base south of Perth – as part of the latest version of the Cold War popular with Washington politicians.

But the Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, ruled it out, saying that while negotiations were under way to increase US navy access to the base, Australia would not be hosting a US aircraft carrier group, which typically including submarines, destroyers and fighter jets. “We have made it crystal clear from the first moment – we don’t have United States military bases in Australia, and we’re not proposing to,” he said…

The US, which has announced plans to shift the bulk of its naval fleet to the Pacific by 2020, has been forging closer military ties with countries in the region, in an effort to counter China’s growing military strength. It already has a carrier strike group based in the Japanese port of Yokosuka.

Mail me a penny postcard when China decides to waste money to station military bases in Canada, Guatemala, Greenland and a carrier group circling off Chesapeake Bay.

Oh, that’s right. The last aircraft carrier they bought from the Russians has been parked and turned into a luxury hotel. Not proper Cold War behavior at all.

Congress fix our broken patent system? Republicans said NO!

The first thing you need to know about the U.S. patent system is that it has a backlog of more than 700,000 patents.

The second thing you need to know is that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been so neglected for so many years–essentially robbed of funds by Congress, which reappropriated portions of the agency’s budget for other purposes–that the organization tasked with protecting America’s technological and scientific assets labors with too few staff and a “20-year old technology infrastructure that does not even remotely enable it to take advantage of modern information technology.”

And the most important thing you need to know about the U.S. patent system is that the America Invents Act just passed by Congress doesn’t fix any of this. Nor does it touch the larger issue of whether or not it’s wise to allow inventors to patent business processes and software and then sue the hell out of each other in a cage match that is essentially a tax on innovation.

The major opportunity in this act, aside from the elimination of software patents, was to free the USPTO from the congressional appropriations process, whereby Congress exercises control over the agency’s budget. The USPTO doesn’t use taxpayer money–it’s funded by application fees–and yet it still has to ask Congress for permission to access those funds, giving that body an opportunity to reappropriate them for any other purpose.

Giving the USPTO self-determination over its own budget would have at least allowed it to tackle that 700,000+ backlog of patents. That provision of the bill, which originally appeared in the Senate version, was blocked by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY), who appear to have been confused about the source of the USPTO’s funds. (i.e., not taxpayer dollars.)

Surely no one expected Congressional Republicans to take the time to find out what exactly it was they were saying “NO” to?

If the appropriate corporations – in this a range of korporate killer klowns from Walt Disney to Microsoft – tell them to say “NO” – the only question from Republicans is, “How loud, boss?”

Republicans + election slogans = crapping on 9/11 responders

When does the Republican party abandon 9/11? When it’s time to provide $7.4 billion in medical treatment and compensation to first responders and residents sickened by the toxic dust after the September 11, 2001 attacks at the World Trade Center. Yesterday, the House’s 255-159 vote (243 Democrats and 12 Republicans supported the measure; 155 Republicans and 4 Democrats voted nay) fell short of the majority needed to pass the long-debated James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2009.

Not that a simple democratic majority ever mattered to Republicans.

Party of NO blocks funds for small business loans

Senate Republicans blocked a $30-billion plan to help community banks boost lending to small businesses, dealing a blow to President Barack Obama’s election-year battle to reduce unemployment.

Tempers ran high as Democratic leaders failed to muster the 60 votes needed to advance the measure over a Republican filibuster…

Even if the Senate passes the small business lending bill next week, it will be too late to get it to Obama’s desk before mid-September. The House of Representatives, which passed its version of the bill in June, is set to begin a six-week break on Friday. The House will be unable to vote on the version passed by the Senate until then…

An earlier Democratic effort to pass a jobs package that included money for cash-strapped states and extended some expired individual and tax breaks was also blocked in the Senate by Republicans who argued that the extra spending should be covered by cuts elsewhere in the budget.

Senate Democrats are making another push to provide $10 billion in education funding to states and $16 billion to help with the Medicaid health program for the poor. Reid filed a separate bill on those measures and a procedural vote is set for Monday.

Surely, no one expects Republicans will support schoolchildren or the poor.

Obama has been pushing for passage of the lending measure arguing that getting more capital into the hands of independent community bankers would lead to more small business loans. It is supported by independent bankers and business groups.

The Republican Party is the best example of American dementia. People vote for Republicans because they say that supporting the rich and powerful will bring jobs and a healthy economy. No one remembers how we got to this recession.

Repeating the same stupidity and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.

On a subjective note, riht now, there is no sector of regional banking here in the Southwest with more energy and activity than small business lending. Every penny made available to community banks would be going straight back out the door into economic stimulus – and to qualified borrowers at that.

The Republican Party could care less.

Party of NO blocks campaign funds disclosure

Republican Flag of Freedom

In a blow to President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats, Republicans blocked a bill on Tuesday to require an unprecedented level of public disclosure of who pays for political campaign advertising.

On a Senate vote of 57-41, Democrats fell short of the needed 60 to clear a procedural hurdle Republicans set up against The Disclose Act, likely killing the measure for the year…

Transparency and democracy fail once again in the U.S. Senate.

With Obama’s support, Democrats crafted the campaign finance bill in response to a Supreme Court decision in January that overturned federal and state limits on independent expenditures by corporations to support or oppose candidates.

The Democratic-backed bill would require corporate as well as union and advocacy group leaders to disclose their names in campaign ads rather than allow so-called front groups to take responsibility for the political advertising.

Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Dick Durbin pointedly noted that many Republicans had earlier favored more disclosure.

But this year, Durbin said, “They’re betting that most of these ads are going to be on behalf of their candidates and against Democrats. That’s what it comes down to…”

Voters will be left clueless as to who is funding the ‘independent’ TV ads promoting and attacking candidates and how much these secretive funders are paying for these ads,” Public Citizen’s Craig Holman said. The non-partisan advocacy group urged the Senate to reconsider the bill after the August recess.

The measure would also ban election spending by companies with more than 20 percent foreign ownership and recipients of U.S. bank bailouts…

Polls show broad public support for the aim of the bill to provide greater disclosure of donors to campaigns. But Republicans dismiss such surveys, saying they were conducted before Democrats drafted their bill behind closed doors.

Every bill in Congress is drafted behind closed doors. They keep the public out – and the stink in.

The issue is that the Republicans, once again, use 19th Century century rules to prevent a democratic vote on the issue.

Republicans lie to save their Wall $treet buddies

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell decided last week to portray the Democratic version of financial regulation as a Wall Street “bailout,” it seemed like a brilliant, albeit cynical, political move.

What do the voters hate even more than Wall Street? Bailouts. What’s the perfect way to combine their antagonism for big banks with their distaste for taxpayer-funded bailouts? Accuse the Democrats of bailing out the banks. Perfect.

A good political move in theory, only it didn’t work. First, the outcry was over a “bailout” that wasn’t. Granted, there is some money in the bill — $50 billion — but it’s provided by the banks, not the taxpayers. And it’s not there to bail out banks, it’s to help the sick ones die properly without creating a panic. “Paying for the funeral” is the way Treasury sources describe it…

And get this: When the GOP leadership hatched this idea, it found more than a handful of Republicans — and not just the usual moderate suspects — who actually want to vote for financial reform. In fact, the difference between Wall Street reform and, say, health care reform, is that “there truly is a group of us who will hold our side’s feet to the fire” to get a bill, one Senate Republican told me.

So when McConnell got all his Republicans to sign a measure to force more negotiations before bringing the bill to the floor, some were with him with a strong caveat: They would not threaten to filibuster a bill they think the country needs. Period.

The traditional Big Lie tactic worked well enough in watering down chances at real healthcare reform. Republicans had the aid of spineless Democrats on that one.

But financial reform is different. Voters want it done. In most cases, the supply of government exceeds the demand for it. In fact, a slew of recent polls show that only about 20 percent of the people trust the government to do the right thing. But even so, a majority of folks actually want the government to intervene to fix Wall Street’s excesses.

In other words, the banks are so out of control that even the inept government needs to step in and do something.

Republicans just may be smart enough to trade one class of opportunism – the Party of NO, after all, appeals to their teabagger trolls – for another more traditional role. Work to water down any possible sanctions that might rank the needs of American taxpayers above Wall Street profits.