Category Archives: Sen. Lamar Alexander

Alexander’s Ex-Staffer Found Dead

Whoa:

Senate staffer arrested on child pornography charges found dead

The former chief of staff to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) who was arrested on child pornography charges last month has been found dead in a suicide.

Jesse Ryan Loskarn, 35, hanged himself in his parents’ house in Sykesville, Md., according to a spokesperson for Maryland’s office of the chief medical examiner.

Authorities found Loskarn’s body on Thursday after responding to a call at approximately 12 p.m., according to a statement from the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department.

A preliminary investigation indicated that Loskarn had committed suicide, and the body was then transported to the State Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy.

Loskarn had been released into his parents’ custody in mid-December after being charged with possession and distribution of child pornography. Prosecutors had until Feb. 10 to formally indict Loskarn in the case.

This is a very disturbing and sad story for all concerned. I can’t imagine the pain his family must be going through.

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Filed under Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee

Today’s Moment Of “Huh”?

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander joins the chorus of Republicans — all of whom have been trying to destroy Obamacare for the past three years — in calling for the resignation of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius over the website’s faulty launch.

Let that one sink in for a moment. The people who have voted to defund Obamcare eleventybillion times and shut down the government for two weeks over this very law they despise want the person who botched the rollout to resign.

Dudes. She should be your 2016 front-runner.

I see absolutely no reason to take these folks seriously, ever. It’s just more Kabuki.

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Filed under health insurance, Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee

Republicans In Disarray, Episode Eleventybillion

Anyone who doubts how completely off the rails the Republican Party has gone need look no further than so-called “moderate” (as in, “not crazy”) Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, Tennessee’s elder statesman who supposedly left his leadership post two years ago so he could be freed from the toe-the-party-line restraints of leadership and work to “make the Senate a more effective institution” and “deal with serious issues.”

Serious issues like immigration reform? The fiscal cliff? Taxation? Indeed! That has the nut wing of the GOP calling for the fainting couches, however:

In Alexander’s case, the disgruntlement keeps alive the possibility of a primary challenge in 2014, when he will run for a third term, say Cunningham and other tea party leaders in the state.

“There is a lot of chatter (about challenging Alexander),” said Mark Herr, head of the Mid-South Tea Party in Memphis.

In addition to immigration reform, the Tennessee senators have drawn flak from some conservatives this year for supporting sales taxes on Internet purchases, accepting dinner invitations from President Barack Obama, supporting income tax increases on upper incomes in order to avoid a “fiscal cliff” and supporting a cloture motion that allowed Senate Democrats to bring up a proposal for expanded background checks on gun sales. Despite voting for cloture, Corker and Alexander opposed expanded background checks themselves.

He had dinner with President Obama? Traitor!!!

Hilarious. Alexander has high approval ratings in Tennessee, and one would think his reputation as a “moderate,” “serious” politician and growing war chest would allay any fears that his seat is threatened by mouthbreathers in tricorner hats.

Still, Alexander appears to be taking this Tea Party primary threat seriously. The election is still over a year away, but Tennesseans are being reminded of what a massive defender of freedom Alexander is, with this TV ad featuring a cameo by Tea Party darling Rand Paul. Here’s “Man of the people” Lamar Alexander, standing up to Dah Man (ahem, Army Corps of Engineers) to protect your right to fish below a dam (and possibly drown). Take that, Big Government! That’s some world class populism, and just to prove what Defender Of Freedom Alexander is, he made sure to have BFF Rand Paul’s ugly mug in the ad, too. Brush with greatness, I tell ya!

That oughta stomp on any Tea Party primary challenge, amiright? I’m sure the Freedom To Fish Act and Rand Paul will completely make up for all the other stuff Lamar Alexander did to piss off the Tea Party.

Alternately, Lamar Alexander thinks the Tea Party is that stupid? Who knows, he could be right. Why else spend the money and run the ad in the first place? Either way it sure speaks volumes about how the Tea Party has so-called moderates running scared.

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Filed under Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tea Party, Tennessee

Lamar Alexander Signs On To Internet Tax Law

And you thought Republicans hated taxes? Hah!

CNET has learned that two Republican senators are preparing to introduce new legislation that would allow states to force Amazon.com and other out-of-state online retailers to collect sales taxes.

Sens. Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee are currently putting the final touches on their bill, which is backed by Wal-Mart Stores, Best Buy, Home Depot, and other companies that are currently required to collect sales taxes. It’s a bipartisan concept: a related effort was embraced by Democrats including Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois a few months ago.

I’ve long felt that the internet tax exemption was going to be history sooner rather than later. It was just a matter of time.

I’m just curious if this will kill the tax exemption for other out of state retail sales, too? I thought the reasoning behind the internet sales exemption was that any retailer lacking a bricks and mortar location in a particular state didn’t have to charge sales tax. That’s why if you travel out of state and buy from a store and have your items shipped home, you don’t have to pay that particular state’s sales tax. (Of course, you’re supposed to voluntarily pay that tax in your home state but really, does anyone do that?)

Am I understanding this incorrectly?

Anyway, I know a bunch of people are going to whine about this because a lot of folks have had a free ride for a long time. But I never really understood the logic behind these sales tax exemptions in the first place.

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Filed under Sen. Lamar Alexander, taxes

Alexander Admits He’s Out Of Touch With Modern GOP

As if we needed any more proof that “moderate” Republicans are an endangered species, Tennessee’s own Sen. Lamar Alexander is stepping down from his post as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference because, as the Los Angeles Times reports,

In remarks on the floor on Tuesday, he suggested he said he was stepping down after four years in the post because his was out of sync with the hyper-partisanship and high-intensity media environment that has infiltrated, and some say hobbled, the Senate.

“Stepping down from leadership will liberate me to spend more time working to work for results on the issues I care the most about,” he said. “I want to do more to make the Senate a more effective place to address serious issues.”

Lamar Alexander is one of those Republicans who likes to present himself as the elder statesman-type, the sober voice of reason with a pragmatic approach. That’s all very well and good but as his party has rushed headlong off a cliff, he’s kept silent. I feel for the guy, I really do, but I don’t know how you can be effective in the Republican leadership while everyone around you is a blithering idiot and you’re too chicken-shit to speak up.

I’m thinking of the recent healthcare debate, when Alexander’s colleagues were on television spreading outright lies about a “government takeover of healthcare,” “socialized medicine,” “death panels” and whatnot. It would have been nice if Lamar and the other sober, reasonable moderate Republicans in the Senate had told their more foamy-mouthed colleagues to zip it so we could have real discussion about healthcare policy, an adult conversation — something this country has desperately needed. But no, the grown-ups didn’t step up, the children shouted over everyone else, and the upshot is that a couple years later we had a Republican presidential debate where the audience shouted “let him die!” in answer to a question about the uninsured.

From the Times:

Alexander is known as a lawmaker with strong bipartisan relationships and a measured demeanor. In his remarks, he pushed back against those who view his willingness to work with Democrats as a compromise of conservative principles.

“I’m a very Republican Republican. I grew up in the mountain of Tennessee and still live in a congressional district that’s never elected a Democrat to Congress since Abraham Lincoln was president of the United States,” he said. “If I could get a 100% Republican solution to any of our legislative issues I would do it in a minute. But I know that Senate usually requires 60 votes for a solution on serious issues, and we simply can’t get that with only Republican votes.”

Alexander said he planned to be more aggressive on key issues, not less. He said the problem was not incivility in the Senate, but a media culture that doesn’t support good governing.

“But if you will notice carefully, most of the people you hear shouting at one another on television and radio or on internet have never been elected to anything,” he said. “It would help if we in the Senate knew each other better across party line. But to suggest that we should be more timid in debating the biggest issue before the American people would ignored the function of the Senate and would ignore our history.”

That’s an interesting statement for Alexander to make. I would think being a member of the Republican Party leadership would put him in the perfect position to address this problem. Then again, maybe he’s afraid that Rush Limbaugh will say something mean about him on the radio. Or perhaps, freed of his leadership mantle, he thinks he’s better poised to help his party dial back the crazy. We will see.

On another note, here’s a shout-out to Democrat Tim McGraw, who at one time talked about running for the U.S. Senate. Granted, now might not be the best time but hey, it’s worth talking about. Can’t remember where I saw this but recently there was a discussion about why Republicans have no problem electing their entertainers to office, but Democrats rarely do. Think about it: there’s Ronald Reagan, Fred Thompson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, ex-Love Boat star Fred Grandy, Sonny Bono, Clint Eastwood … but where are the Democrats? There’s Jerry Springer, Al Franken, John Hall, and who else?

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Filed under Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee

Cut A Deal, Dammit

I'm Getting That Sinking Feeling Again

Hey, GOP: my retirement savings is too high a price to pay for your political aspirations. Just sayin’.

Seriously, my bank account hasn’t even recovered from the last time you assholes destroyed the economy in 2007, and now you want to burn it down again? Just so one of your nutters can win the White House in 2012? How crazy is that?

I’m sick of Republicans’ craven political aspirations destroying my standard of living. Hey, we’re not all like Eric Cantor, investing in an ETF that shorts U.S. Treasury bonds.

Frankly, I’m pissed off. I called Sen. Corker’s office and asked what he was doing to solve this problem. The Clueless Intern™ told me last week Corker made a speech urging his colleagues to come to the bargaining table. Ooooh, was it one of those speeches I see on C-SPAN to an empty Senate chamber? Excuse me for being underwhelmed.

I then called Sen. Alexander’s office and asked his Clueless Intern™ what he was doing about this issue because I’m tired of seeing my retirement savings flushed down the toilet of political ambition. She told me Sen. Alexander hadn’t made any public statements yet as he was waiting to see a final deal.

This isn’t entirely true. He’s said plenty about the need to tie the vote to debt reduction, and he’s happy to show up at debt ceiling photo ops with his fellow Republicans.

But Mama always said to judge a man but what he does, not what he says. And both Corker and Alexander voted to increase the debt ceiling when there was a Republican in the White House, not just once but multiple times. In fact, there really wasn’t much fuss made about it save the last time, when Alexander voted no, hardly a ballsy move on his part since the measure required a simple majority and it easily passed, 53-42. So just to recap:

• September 2007, Corker votes yea, Alexander no.
• March 2006, both Corker and Alexander vote yes.
• November 2004, Alexander and Sen. Bill Frist vote yes.
• May 2003 Alexander and Sen. Bill Frist vote yes.

Neither Alexander or Corker were in the Senate in June 2002, but Republicans Bill Frist and Fred Thompson voted yes. Republicans also voted for our unfunded wars and unfunded Medicare Part D benefit, which are two of the major reasons we have these debts to begin with. So they’re perfectly happy to run up a bill on the Chinese credit card but when the bill comes in the mail they won’t pay it. Instead they’d rather see people like me lose their retirement savings when the nation goes bankrupt to score a political point? And they think we won’t notice?

No. Cut a damn deal. Call your Senators and tell them to cut a damn deal. I’m sick of this crap. If the nation defaults over GOP refusal to negotiate and the economy tanks before it’s had a chance to recover from the last implosion, it will be devastating. And no, it will not be good news for Republicans.

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Filed under budget, Sen. Bob Corker, Sen. Lamar Alexander

>Loose Lips & Peer Pressure

>[UPDATE] 2:

This is a nice start but what about the rest of us? What about all of the folks who are targeted by other kinds of hate speech — the Muslims, the gays, the Hispanics, the African Americans, etc. etc. etc.? Still, I’m encouraged that a Republican is at least thinking along these lines.

Adding …. The more I think about this idea, the more pissed off I get. It’s like how in Tennessee you can take a gun anywhere except the state house. If legislators and “government officials” don’t want guns near them, why are they so quick to make sure the rest of us have to come in constant contact with them. What makes you guys so special?

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[UPDATE]:

What the hell were you thinking, local edition.

Go read it … excellent reminder that “passion” on local issues can easily be turned into intimidation, too.

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The Tucson shootings have prompted me to revisit this column by Rick Perlstein, which I linked to back in September.

Perlstein was responding to the Koran-burnings a couple of right-wing pastors were planning. He observed:

The problem is that elite media gatekeepers have abandoned their moral mandate to stigmatize uncivil discourse. Instead, too many outlets reward it. In fact, it is an ironic token of the ideological confusions of our age that they do so in the service of upholding what they understand to be a cornerstone of civility: the notion that every public question must be framed in terms of two equal and opposite positions, the “liberal” one and the “conservative” one, each to be afforded equal dignity, respect — and (the more crucial currency) equal space. This has made the most mainstream of media outlets comically easy marks for those actively working to push public discourse to extremes.

At the time I agreed with Perlstein, and noted just because people are going on about FEMA camps and Koran-burning pastors, that doesn’t mean the media has to cover it ad nauseum. But now I’m not so sure.

Perlstein, a historian, revealed that back in the early ‘60s there were anti-JFK rallies promoting fear and lies about Communist infiltration of America; some of these rivaled today’s Tea Party rallies in numbers. As Perlstein pointed out, the national media thought better of reporting on this “fringe” in the interest of “civil discourse.” But let’s remember what happened to JFK, shall we? It’s not as though not covering the anti-JFK fringe kept a lid on violent acts and prevented tragedy.

Conversely, today we have “pastor” Fred Phelps presiding over a group of about 90 people who are primarily members of his own extended family, spreading their hate all across the national news media. But Phelps is universally reviled. Both right and left find his protests of funerals repulsive and the Southern Baptist Convention has condemned Phelps and his “church.” Sunlight is the best disinfectant, or so the saying goes, and perhaps making the nation aware of the fringe factor is actually the first step to confronting it.

The second step, of course, is what Perlstein called “stigmatizing uncivil discourse.” Ed at Gin And Tacos wrote this morning:

[...] We need people in general, and Republicans in particular, to take a more active role in condemning this kind of rhetoric – before something terrible happens, not when the body count starts rising.

There is a very simple, useful question that we do not often enough ask in the United States, especially where politics are concerned. The GOP, in the last several years, has avoided it altogether. We need to make a concerted effort to stop excusing or encouraging insane behavior and ideas with one question: “What in the hell is wrong with you?”

No one asks that anymore, which is odd given how often the need to do so arises.

That’s precisely the type of question which has shoved Fred Phelps and his cult of merry hatemongers off to the fringe and completely deflated his anti-gay message. You’re going to protest a soldier’s funeral? What the hell is wrong with you! You’re going to protest Elizabeth Edwards’ funeral? What the hell is wrong with you!

As I stated yesterday, our problem is not violent rhetoric, it is our violent culture from which this rhetoric springs. But when violent rhetoric does enter the discourse, why does the Right always go on the defensive? The Left, after all, is the group that held a Rally To Restore Sanity two and a half months ago — which was derisively mocked (and misrepresented) by Righties like the folks at Fox & Friends. Ironically the mere concept of a “Million Moderate March” completely confused the mainstream media. So, you know, it’s not like anyone is listening to us on the Left. The Right needs to quit its reflexive wagon-circling and call out its own when they do things like bring an assault rifle to a presidential event.

At one time I had hoped my own Senator Lamar Alexander would be that person. He’s an elder statesmen of the Republican Party, a man who has served his country in a variety of capacities and has a long, distinguished career in public service. I begged him during the whole “death panels” brouhaha to come forward and tell everyone to calm down and quit the lies and misrepresentation so we could have a real conversation about healthcare. Sadly, I got crickets.

So yesterday Sen. Alexander told CNN’s Candy Crowley that we need to stop talking about Sarah Palin’s “cross-hairs” ad and remember that, unlike the Tea Party, Jared Loughner had “The Communist Manifesto” and “Mein Kampf” on his reading list. The implication being, of course, that such books are on liberals’ reading lists (and he ignored more benign books on Loughner’s reading list like “Aesop’s Fables” and “Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland.”).

So I’m calling out Sen. Lamar Alexander: what the hell is wrong with you? If you won’t step up and condemn this stuff, who will?

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Filed under media, partisanship, right-wing hate, Sen. Lamar Alexander