Nel's New Day

August 31, 2015

Vote on Iran Deal Nears

Conservative media, including Fox, is still distributing the falsehood started by the Associated Press that Iran could use its own inspectors in investigating a military site (which it called a nuclear site). Republicans initially tried to use this announcement to scuttle the Iranian deal, but two hours later AP deleted the information. The original report stated that Iranian scientists would inspect air and soil samples at Parchin and that the number of these samples would be limited to seven. Media ran a scary headline: “AP Exclusive: UN to let Iran inspect alleged nuke work site.” The report that inspections in the past were carried out by Iranians with no one else allowed on the site came from a leaked draft agreement and is not included in the final one. The edited version eliminated the incendiary details and kept quotes from outraged GOP lawmakers .

According to arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis, the leak was to make the agreement sound bad and to hope that the information would make congressional lawmakers start making demands. The AP allowed itself to be duped.

In raising serious—and false—doubts about the Iran agreement, the AP joined Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who evidently leads GOP foreign policy. During the August recess, a Jewish lobbying group paid for members of Congress to visit Israel and hear Netanyahu’s arguments to opposed the P5+1 nuclear agreement with Iran, signed on July 14 by the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia. The 58 members of Congress who visited Netanyahu in August were told that they should visit him instead of their constituents if they want contributions from wealthy Jewish donors.

TV ads focused on making people believe that the Iran agreement to control the country’s nuclear weapons is evil should come to an end this fall. Congress has only 18 more days for the first vote to follow the prime minister of Israel rather than the President of the United States.

The process in Congress:

  • Return from recess on September 8, nine days from now.
  • Begin debate on a GOP-sponsored “resolution of disapproval” against the deal.
  • Gather at least 60 votes to move the resolution forward in the Senate.
  • Vote on the resolution by September 17 with a simple majority of 51 votes to pass.
  • Pass the resolution because the GOP has the 51 votes.

If (or when) both congressional chambers approve the resolution against the Iran agreement, the president has 12 days to veto the resolution. Congress has another 10 days to vote on an override. The president needs 34 votes to avoid an override; thus far, 31 senators have committed to supporting the agreement and voting against the override. The House would need at least 44 Democratic votes to override a veto. Passing a resolution of disapproval and overriding a veto would bar President Obama from waiving most of the U.S. sanctions on Iran, necessary to complete the agreement with Iran.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) received much publicity when he came out in opposition to the agreement. He thinks that the country would be better off with the nuclear aspects but objects to the role Iran may take as a trading partner. His goal in opposing the Iran deal is to keep Israel’s domination in the area for another half century. He claims that he doesn’t want a war with Iran, but GOP presidential candidates do. Scott Walker would bomb Iran on the first day of his presidency. Most of the other candidates weren’t as clear in their intentions except they would rescind the agreement. Donald Trump is the only Republican candidate who supports it.

Mike Huckabee, far down in the polls, visited Israel to get financial support although he cannot legally accept donations from foreign nationals. His earnings from selling survivalist gear to Doomsday believers on his radio show seems to be insufficient to run his campaign. Ignoring Israel’s liberal abortion policy and its universal healthcare, Huckabee opposed U.S. foreign policy that the West Bank is illegally occupied territory. He said it sounded like “someone is illegally taking land” (which it is) and refers to the Palestinian seat of government as Judea and Samaria.

Walker has promised Israeli officials an increase in military aid should the U.S. have the misfortune of Walker as president. To Walker—and Israel—the one-third of the U.S. foreign aid budget that Israel gets every year isn’t enough for its 0.001 percent of the world’s population.

Within the seven countries that signed the deal, only U.S. hawks are in opposition. Camille Grand, an expert on nuclear nonproliferation, said that no constituency in Europe is against the agreement. He said, “The hawks are satisfied [with the deal].” In the world, the only strong opposition comes from Iranian hardliners, U.S. Republicans, and some Israel officials. Like the GOP opposition to the new START nuclear treaty, U.S. officials are eager to derail an agreement to advance the nation’s interests because of their hatred for President Obama.

Worried that the Senate may not muster the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), leader in undermining U.S. foreign policy, has made a statement, asking the Congress and the president to “speak with one voice when it comes to dealing with the Iranians.” That would be Cotton’s voice after he persuaded 46 other senators to sign his letter to Iranian officials telling them not to trust U.S. officials. Cotton also wants to do away with the filibuster, ignoring the fact that the Republicans originally created the mandate for 60 votes to advance. The senators who express such amazement that Democrats might want to filibuster the Iran agreement ignore the GOP cause of almost total gridlock in that chamber during President Obama’s two terms. They also don’t recognize what might happen if they insisted on only up-and-down votes and then lost the simple majority in the senate.

Just looking at the names of people against the Iran agreement should be proof that the opposition is wrong. These are the same people who supported the Iraq War. George W. Bush learned nothing from that disaster and called the president “naive,” and David Frum, Bush’s speechwriter who coined “Axis of Evil” for Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, accused President Obama of anti-Semitic rhetoric. In the Senate, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ), called war against Iraq the “only reasonable option” and “the right war for the right reasons.” Mastermind of the Iraq War, Dick Cheney, plans to give an address against the agreement on September 8 although he’s no longer in office. Reporter Eli Lake, who argued about Iraq’s non-existent WMD, accuses the president of practicing the “politics of fear” to achieve peace. Columnist Bill Kristol, board member of an Israeli committee, was the first to write in March 2003 that “we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators” in Iraq. Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, who turned against his own party to support the Iraq War, has become the new leader of United against Nuclear Iran after its former leader decided that the Iran agreement was a good deal. Not in office in 2002, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, testified at that time that Iraq had WMD. He is taking the same position with Iran.

Today’s problems with Iran come from Bush’s preemptive war on Iraq which expanded Iranian influence and a nuclear program exacerbated by the U.S. wars in the Middle East. Without the Iraq War, ISIS may never have existed. The agreement is a way to clean up the mess left by Bush and his hawks.

The Los Angeles Times has come out in support of the Iran agreement and has a very simple reason: “Although it certainly represents a gamble, the deal makes it highly unlikely that Iran will develop a nuclear weapon during the next 10 or 15 years. Without it, there is no such assurance…. It is far from a perfect deal … but at the end of the day, it must be supported because the alternatives are worse.”

With a large arsenal of nuclear weapons, Israel is a far more dangerous country than Iran because Netanyahu is willing to bomb anyone who gets in his way. The United States should take a good look at the far-right leadership in Israel and reconsider sending Israel one-third of our foreign aid budget to help wage war.

On the pro side of the agreement are dozens of former Israeli military officials, dozens of retired American generals and admirals, and a wide array of experts on nuclear non-proliferation. On the anti side is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is leading ignorant Republicans around by the nose. I’ll side with the experts.

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August 30, 2015

Zombie Duggars Won’t Disappear

In the past, zombies were defined as the living dead, soulless corpses. Now the term is also used for legislation, debts, and anything else that reappears after people thought the issues had been resolved. Controversy surrounding the Duggar family, particularly oldest son Josh, fits into that category. The family of “19 Kids and Counting” started publicly suffering in mid-May when the report about Josh sexually molesting five young girls—four of them his younger sisters—went viral. At that time, he was 14, and the youngest girl was under five. The tragedy was more scandalous because his father, Jim Bob, concealed the information from the police until he was no longer in the state legislature and then downplayed Josh’s behavior so much that Josh didn’t face arrest for his crime.

In 2004, the Duggar family began their TV notoriety with a program called “14 Kids and Pregnant Again.” Two years later, Josh was still molesting his sisters. The information was kept under wraps until May 19, 2015, when InTouch published an article about Josh’s crimes along with a police report detailing the abuse. The police report was destroyed, and Josh apologized. He also resigned from his job as a lobbyist for the extreme-conservative religious Family Research Council. Reruns of “19 Kids and Counting” were pulled after over 20 corporations pulled their advertising. Not until July 26, however, did the cable channel cancel the program. Since then, Josh’s activities, past and present, have been headlined on the Internet.

Josh’s life further unraveled after a hacker found the names of 37 million people signing up for the Ashley Madison site. He was the first celebrity to be outed from the release of the names. As a paying member of Ashley Madison, the social-networking site made to facilitate illicit extramarital affairs, he spent almost a thousand dollars on two different accounts between February, 2013, and May, 2015, including an “affair guarantee” fee of two hundred and fifty dollars. Josh had not one, but two, accounts with the site which showed an extensive list of his sexual preferences.

The Ashley Madison account wasn’t the first that Josh created. Over a decade ago, his Facebook profile used to hook up with women was allegedly under the alias “Joe Smithson.” He used a photo of Jonathan Blankfein, son of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, on that profile. The “Smithson” profile was also linked to a profile on OKCupid, “joesmithsonnwa,” until it was flagged by Gawker and deleted. That photo belongs to Hollywood DJ and producer named Matthew McCarthy who is losing jobs because at least one club thought he was linked to the Duggar scandal.

According to porn star Danica Dillon, Josh had sex with her twice while his wife was pregnant. Before InTouch published this information, Dillon passed a polygraph test in which she talked about his coming into the Gold Club in Philadelphia where she was stripping. Josh talked about what a fan he was of Dillon, even before her recent “boob job.” Dillon said that sex with him was “creepy,” that “he was manhandling me, basically tossing me around like I was a rag doll.” Although the sex was consensual, Dillon said, “It was very traumatic. I’ve had rough sex before, but this was terrifying.”

Satan originally got the blame for Josh’s actions, but the responsibility was moved over to Josh’s wife, Anna. The Duggars privately urged Anna to admit that “she should have been more aware of the pressures Josh was under, of the issues he was facing, and how she could have better counseled him or helped him,” according to an unnamed source. Divorce is not an option for Anna because their religion requires her to stay married to Josh forever.

Last week, Josh wrote, “I have been the biggest hypocrite ever. While espousing faith and family values, I have secretly over the last several years been viewing pornography on the internet and this became a secret addiction and I became unfaithful to my wife.” Later the reference to pornography was replaced by a reference to allowing “Satan to build a fortress” in his heart and then completely removed. There was no apology to the lives he damaged through his bigotry toward LGBT people and others who don’t follow his faith. Duggars’ world teaches that women’s improper attitude and dress are to blame for men’s inability to control their libidos.

Family dynamics show possible reasons for Josh’s behavior. Father Jim Bob teaches his sons to repress sexual desires, partly by not looking at attractive women. “Nike” is the code word for the boys to look at their shoes because, as the autobiography Growing Up Duggar states, God forbid that they like looking at women. Sources say that Jim Bob operates like a dictator, for example telling anyone seen kissing before marriage that they shouldn’t do it. Statistics indicate that conservatives, many of whom grow in fundamentalist Christian churches, watch more porn than anyone else. In the Duggars’ home, the father cannot be challenged, women are inferior to men, and using birth control is a sin.

Two unnamed members of the Duggar family are fed up with the way that Josh has gotten away with his sexual behavior. The solution to Josh’s problems was to send him back to the same fundamentalist Christians who supposedly rehabilitated him over a decade ago; even family members don’t believe in this solution. Why they have doubts is understandable: Pastor Paul Kingsbury, who runs the North Love Church facility, reportedly helped a man accused of sexual assault evade prosecution in the United States by keeping him in a mission in Bolivia. According to his protector, the man had fulfilled his penance by showing remorse and would protect him in “any way necessary” from facing charges in the United States.

The brother of Josh’s wife went much farther. Daniel Keller, infuriated by a post from Josh’s sister Jessa about Jesus cleansing Josh if he confesses, engaged in a back-and-forth Twitter exchange that pointed out the difference between confessing and getting caught, concluding with calling Josh a “pig.”

Losing their show cost the Duggars $25 million dollars. First they begged for money, and Michelle complained about having to do the housework. No comment about Jim Bob helping her with the housework. One of Michelle’s big rants came from having to fold laundry at 1:00 in the morning. Their next solution to financing their expensive lifestyle was to have a new show—counseling victims of sexual abuse. At the same time, they’re preparing a documentary, “Breaking the Silence,” featuring Jill and Jessa Duggar plus other sexual abuse victims to bring the issue further into the public eye. Beyond that, they plan a new series featuring themselves, parents who condoned sexual abuse, as sex abuse counselors. That from parents who never sought counseling for Josh’s victims.

If Josh were an ordinary person, leaving others to their lives, the news would not be important. But the family actively opposed a local ordinance to ban LGBT discrimination because they claim that LGBT people are a danger to children. The Duggars have always held themselves up as fine, upstanding Christians to be used as examples for all. After the show’s cancellation, parents Jim Bob and Michelle wrote that “our desire in opening our home to the world is to share Bible principles that are the answers for life’s problems.” Josh could not even take responsibility for his own actions but instead blamed his wife. His sisters, who were victims of his sexual molestation, tried to justify his actions.

As Josh’s sins become more openly known, the conservative world is either ignoring them or claiming that progressives are the hypocrites and that Josh isn’t because he has confessed. At the same time, they continue to pillory people who do not violate the law in the way that Josh has. And they want the United States to become a theocracy that would follow the Duggars’ teaching.

August 24, 2015

The GOP Created Trump’s Adoring Public

 

Unlike the general media, I’ve avoided writing much about Donald Trump. The media, while decrying all the attention that he gets, have been using up the oxygen in the GOP presidential candidate field with its concentration on The Donald. Prime example is Meet the Press, with “I-hate-the-Trump-attention” Chuck Todd who talks about little else now.

Personally, I think that Trump has done a service by showing how they will say anything to get public approval. His position that babies born in the United States to immigrants—as Jeb Bush would say, “anchor babies”—should not be citizens despite the edict of the U.S. Constitution infected most of the GOP field. Just one candidate, Scott Walker, switched his opinion on the subject three times in the past week. Last Monday, MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt asked Walker if he wanted to end the 14th Amendment’s automatic citizenship to all children born in the U.S.  He answered, “Yeah, absolutely, going forward.” He said, “It’s about enforcing the laws in this country.” By Friday, he wouldn’t take a position on the question, and on ABC’s This Week yesterday, he stuck to “enforce the laws.” This time, however, he picked the U.S. Constitution, opposite to his laws a week ago. Once first in Iowa, Walker has dropped to third of fourth.

Like others, Walker imitates Trump with claims that he is not part of the GOP Washington establishment and wants to build a wall to keep out immigrants. Despite his assertions, he’s adopted these positions since Trump’s popularity. Walker also plans to be more spontaneous—not exactly a spontaneous comment.

Ben Carson said that he wanted to use drones against undocumented immigrants although he backed down to say he didn’t want to intentionally kill them. Bobby Jindal wants to arrest mayors of the so-called “sanctuary cities” that don’t exist. Rick Santorum joined Jindal and Lindsey Graham in jettisoning the 14th Amendment for citizenship. More despicable comments came from Iowa radio host, Jan Mickelson, who first wanted to make undocumented immigrants “assets” and then “slaves.”

Rand Paul attacked Trump for being a “fake conservative” and lacking substance. Trump would fail, according to Paul, just like Silvio Berlusconi—who served three terms as Italy’s prime minister. Pretending to be the leader in the race, Jeb Bush first ignored Trump, then he patronized him, and finally attacked Trump, perhaps under directions by his donors. Bush’s ratings just keep going down. Having watched the venom directed at other attackers, Ted Cruz stays nice to him and agrees with him about doing away with blanket citizenship for babies born in the U.S.

No matter what the opposition does, Trump’s ratings keep going up. An online survey showed 32 percent of Republicans backing Trump, up from 24 percent last week, and double the support for Bush. Carson comes in at 8 percent. A CNN survey shows that 45 percent of Republicans think that Trump is the best candidate to improve the economy while Bush, the next closest contender, trails at 8 percent.

A month ago, Timothy Egan wrote a piece for the New York Times that is rather prescient when he explained that Republicans so terrified and appalled by Trump actually created the campaign monster that they cannot control. Those protesting denigrating veterans, immigrants, and anyone who isn’t rich, fail to recognize that the protesters have ignored facts and reason in their march toward an oligarchy. When the GOP tries to make itself look respectable, they claim that they are the party of Abraham Lincoln, but that claim is true in name only—not ideology. As Republicans in Congress work to start another war in the Middle East, they neglect GOP President Eisenhower’s warning about the dangers of the U.S. becoming influenced by a military industrial complex.

Trump is the brand of the crazies cherished by the GOP media. Early in President Obama’s first presidential term, the media cheered when a GOP representative, Joe Wilson, stood up at the president’s State of the Union speech to shout, “You lie!” Brian Williams wrote about the “change in mood” surrounding the president’s speeches after the most recent SOTU:

“[J]ust the general din, the chatter, people making comments, the laughter that followed the applause after he said he was not running for office anymore, his line designed to answer back, I don’t know, in the windup of the speech, looking at the wording, was intended to be a call to our better selves, a call to a better era from a system thoroughly broken.”

Just as Republicans justified the right to rudeness toward the president, Trump gains ratings with the same offensive disrespect toward anyone who tries to get in his way. The GOP supported the hatred pointed at the president, but Trump has made it intramural. Trump said that POW John McCain was not a war hero, and Republicans fought back. Bush demanded “respect and admiration” for McCain. Yet 11 years ago, the Republicans smeared a Navy veteran with a Bronze Star, a Silver Star, and three Purple Hearts, and no Republicans supported John Kerry’s war record. As Florida governor, Jeb Bush used official stationery to praise the men who orchestrated the smear campaign against then-presidential candidate Kerry.

The last Republican to show any “respect” was McCain when he refuted a woman’s claim that presidential candidate Barack Obama was an “Arab” during the 2008 campaign. The crowd booed McCain’s response that his opponent was “a decent person.”

Trump knew that his racist comments about Mexicans would not cause him problems because Rep. Steve King was re-elected after he said undocumented immigrants had “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” Yet half the presidential candidates spoke at King’s Freedom Summit in January. In July, Rick Perry called the public response to Trump, “a toxic mix of demagogy, meanspiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if followed.” He was one of King’s speakers and said nothing about King’s racist remarks. Perry was also the governor who said that Texas might have to secede from the United States.

Comments to Egan’s piece:

“I’m old enough to remember that back when I was a child, the democrats preached hate. Then all the bigots changed parties, I think because when LBJ became president he signed the civil rights act, and all the bigots fled to the republican party. Same philosophy, different party. Trump like all white male politicians of the 50s and 60s, says to blame minorities for everything, crime, poverty, etc., so that people do not blame the politicians, the white males in power, for their actions. I was amazed in the 60s when I went to Berkeley and found that people said the same things about Mexicans there that the people here in the South said about blacks. Always blame anyone but the white male politicians is the rule. And it works too often.”

“They fail to understand that what they sense—the complete failure and fiction of 40-years of ‘trickle down’ economics which has resulted in the decimation of a once vital middle class—is actually the result of a deeply flawed, failed Republican ideology. So they scapegoat. They blame the people who have even less—the ‘takers,’ the ‘moochers’—you know, the poor, immigrants, people on disability, the unemployed. Their self-loathing and their ignorance makes them vote against their own interests, and has them looking for a savior–a rich, self-made man.”

“I’m a Vietnam vet. The line we crossed was Vietnam. We waged war for the profit built into every bullet. There is nothing we won’t do for money. What goes around comes around. The insanity in our society is the result of living with that elephant in the room for several generations.”

“Sen. Graham asked other Republicans to call out Trump’s initial hateful comments because they are bad for the party. But how about calling them out because they simply are toxic for the country? How about saying that it is wrong to encourage fear of immigrants and of Mexicans, that no group deserves to be reduced to rapists and drug dealers?”

“The news media has finally found something that scares them more than a nuclear- armed Iran, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Taliban, and his name is Donald Trump.”

With Trump consuming the media, GOP standard bearers such as George Will, Charles Krauthammer, and Michael Barone are forced to spend valuable newspaper inches fighting him while Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and Breitbart form the cheering section for Trump’s lack of “political correctness” (aka incivility). The establishment is failing to support its positions of cutting Social Security, increasing immigration, and expanding free trade. A past GOP would have a backroom with people who could destroy Trump, but now the Tea Party is the tail wagging the elephant. People don’t want rules and don’t want to be careful of what they say. Trump gives them permission to follow their basest needs, and the GOP doesn’t know what to do about it.

In another piece of craziness, Bill Kristol suggests Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, among others, to be the 18th GOP Presidential candidate, joining ten governors and four U.S. senators. Think Progress has called Alito, “the most partisan justice” on the current court.

August 22, 2015

GOP Discouraged, True Conservatism Disappearing

Filed under: Politics — trp2011 @ 9:13 PM
Tags: , ,

Last weekend, I searched for some missing papers in my office. My method of doing this is to clean files, shelves, anyplace that has papers. It was a productive day: I filled a huge recycling can, and I found a couple of clippings on conservatism.

The first one is from Eugene’s Register-Guard on New Year’s Day 2005 after George W. Bush was Time’s “Man of the Year.” (Actually, the RG got it wrong because Time finally changed the term to “Person of the Year” in 1999.) Bush’s selection may not have been an honor; Vladimir Putin received the same “honor” three years later.

To quote the editorial:

“Conservatism used to be about the past. Conservatives resisted change, valued traditions and defended institutions. A Conservative foreign policy resisted foreign entanglements, while a conservative domestic program aimed for small government and balanced budgets.

“Bush’s conservatism is about the future, and about provoking change. Conservative disdain for the nation’s secular institutions, excepting the military, is palpable—schools, the media, the courts, the executive agencies of government and others are regarded as needing to be torn down and rebuilt. A conservative foreign policy has become one that is assertive, muscular and unilateral. A conservative domestic policy is one that favors tax cuts without regard to deficits.

“The new conservative vision of America’s place in the world is being tested in Iraq. Bush believes American power can bring about a democratic transformation in that country, creating an example that would ripple throughout the Middle East. It’s an ambitious project, and in 2004 it didn’t go as well as its architects hoped. Bush’s new conservatism is being tested at home as well as the federal government attempts to simultaneously sustain large tax cuts, steep increases in spending and record deficits…

“Politics will never be the same.”

Even a Democratic president hasn’t been able to change some of these problems in the United States.

The second piece came from 2004. Mark Oberzil of Forest Grove (OR) wrote the following:

I am a conservative. I believe in staying solvent and out of debt.

I am a conservative. I believe in keeping my nose out of other people’s business, their nations and their bedrooms.

I am a conservative. I believe in conserving our assets and our resources — our air, our land, our water. Accordingly, I don’t support or engage in wastefulness, inefficiency or lavish excesses.

I am a conservative. I think an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Therefore I support appropriate government spending on such things as infrastructure, schools, social welfare and crime prevention, because in the long run it’s cheaper and more effective.

I am a conservative. If I am attacked, I respond appropriately and conservatively. I do not swat mosquitoes with dynamite.

I am a conservative. I don’t deal falsely or prematurely with facts.

I am a conservative. I understand the purposes of various institutions. It is the job of government to govern, the job of religion to address spiritual needs, and the job of business to secure profits by producing needed goods and services. I do not confuse these institutions.

I am a conservative. I understand my position in the world and that my opinions are not the only valid ones.

I do not have an exclusive claim on what is right, good or patriotic, and those who disagree with me are not automatically evil traitors.

What’s really weird, though, is that I’ve always thought these things…

… but now everyone calls me a liberal!

A more recent letter to the Eugene Register Guard from conservative W.K. O’Connor, “How conservatives can gain respect”:

“A few thoughts after being subjected to the Aug. 6 dog-and-pony debate by Republican presidential contenders:

“When conservatives abandon efforts to prevent women from having abortions; stop refusing to expand Medicaid (might help the poor — can’t have that); stop pounding on deporting illegal immigrants (bigotry toward Latinos); show some semblance of social conscience by giving back what they’ve taken from food stamp and nutrition programs for poor single mothers and elderly people by closing a tax loophole for billionaires (horrors!); halt their blatant, continuing war on minority voters by taking voting rights from millions of people who have voted for 30, 40 or 50 years (the most elemental right in a democracy); cease lying about global climate change; quit supporting private ownership of guns nobody needs, and stop stripping schools of funds they need for education — not to mention their blatant racism and homophobia — then I would respect them.

“That may make me sound like a liberal. I’m not.

“But the Republican Party my family grew up with doesn’t exist anymore, being now driven by religious wackos who subvert the Constitution.

“Our democracy is in decline and is being driven further into oblivion by a billionaire oligarchy. Unless the people stand up and restore some sanity, we’re simply accelerating the process.

“’Ours is a problem in which deception has become organized and strong; where truth is poisoned at the source; one in which the skill of the shrewdest brains is devoted to misleading a bewildered people’” — American journalist Walter Lippmann.”

Connor isn’t alone in his disgust for the GOP. Approval rating for the Republican party has gone down nine points since January to 32 percent, just two-thirds of the 48 percent approval of the Democratic party. Republicans brought down the rating with their drop from 86 percent approval in January to the current 68 percent who see their own party positively.

Republican rating poll

 

By 53 percent to 31 percent, the Democratic Party is viewed as “more concerned with the needs of people like me” than the GOP. The Democrats hold a 16-point lead on governing in an honest and ethical way (45 percent to 29 percent). The blue part is ahead in ability to handle these areas as well:

  • Environment (a margin of 53% to 27%)
  • Abortion and contraception policies (50% to 31%)
  • Education (46% to 34%)
  • Health care (46% to 36%)
  • Foreign policy (41% to 38%)

If true conservatives disagree with the leaders of the Republican party, they need to take it over in the same way that the Tea Party hijacked the GOP over a decade ago.

August 21, 2015

Justice Denied

Filed under: Terrorism — trp2011 @ 9:21 PM
Tags: , ,

On December 4, 2014, the oldest living victim of the McCarthy era paranoia that gripped America in the 1950s went to court to vacate her 64 year old conviction and restore her good name. Miriam Moskowitz and her lover, Abraham Brothman, were convicted on November 28, 1950, for conspiring to obstruct justice in the same courthouse where Julius and Ethel Rosenberg would soon be put on trial for treason for giving secretive atomic bomb information to the Soviet Union. Moskowitz was sentenced to two years in prison. Her trial judge, Irving Kaufman, also handled the trial for the Rosenbergs who were executed in 1953.

Throughout her prison term, she thought everyday about how she was going to make the prosecutors, judge, and others involved in her conviction pay for their wrong doing. At 98 years of age, almost 64 years after her conviction, Moskowitz is the only one alive to tell her story.

moskowitz 1At the age of 34, Moskowitz, a secretary, became involved with a married man, Abraham Brothman, a chemical engineer whose known associates included Harry Gold, a U.S. citizen and admitted Soviet spy. The Red Scare was front page news. The FBI began following her while they brought in and interrogated Brothman and Gold, trying to tie them together as co-conspirators involved in espionage with the Soviet Union.

Gold initially told the FBI that Moskowitz was not involved in any espionage. To escape the electric chair, however, Gold agreed to deal and described Moskowitz as a co-conspirator along with Brothman. Her conviction was solely based on the grand jury statements and FBI interviews with Harry Gold that were not available to her original attorneys for use in cross-examination.

Moskowitz believed she was innocent and refused to testify before the grand jury because it would expose her relationship with the married Brothman. At the trial, Brothman and Moskowitz were charged with conspiring to lie to the grand jury and federal agents investigating a suspected spy plot involving Gold. Later Gold was charged with espionage. Brothman and Moskowitz were found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison. Gold was sentenced to 30 years but served only 15 years because he testified against the Rosenbergs.

After their release from prison in 1952, Moskowitz and Brothman broke up, and her life as a convicted felon began. Hounded and harassed by the FBI, Moskowitz couldn’t keep a job because agents constantly questioned her activities and patriotism. She “found it painful to reveal [her] past” and tried for decades to maintain a “low social profile” to avoid drawing attention to herself. Finally, desperate and depressed, she contemplated suicide.

Her life finally took a turn when she got a job as a junior high school math teacher in 1970. A longtime violinist and violist, she began playing in chamber orchestras. “It was the greatest time of my life. I have never known such bliss,” Moskowitz said. She told the Los Angeles Times that she still regrets that she was never able to serve on a jury, never had any serious romances, and never had any children.

“I would have wanted that very dearly. If it had never happened, I’d have had a houseful of children. By now, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. It would have been nice.”

miriam-278In 2008, over the United States’ objection, the grand jury minutes exposing the deal and initial investigation of Gold were ordered unsealed because of their “substantial historical importance.” In the minutes, Gold claimed Moskowitz was not involved. In August, 2014, Moskowitz petitioned the court to have her felony conviction vacated because the soon-to-be Rosenberg prosecutors had withheld critical grand jury testimony relating to the only witness that would testify against her during trial—Harry Gold. According to the papers filed with the court, Moskowitz did not discover the contradictions in Gold’s damming testimony against her until 2010 when she was doing research for her 2010 book, Phantom Spies, Phantom Justice, about her case.

The petition that Moskowitz filed described how her shame of the conviction kept her from marrying and having friends. The trial and its aftermath changed the course of her life. “I was portrayed as a monster, and I did nothing wrong,” she said, “and it affected my relationships, my entire life.” Her petition read, “The Court has the opportunity to correct a miscarriage of justice from the McCarthy era, of which Ms. Moskowitz is perhaps the last living victim.”

Moskowitz explained why she wanted her conviction overturned. “I am probably the last living victim of the McCarthy era. I am a generous law-abiding citizen, and I don’t want this to be the end of how I am regarded.” In response to Moskowitz’s plea to the court to act “ before it is too late” and “correct this historical wrong by vacating the conviction,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara filed opposition claiming that Moskowitz had not established an error in 1950 trial, “let alone an error of the most fundamental character.”

Ignoring the idea that Gold had admitted lying to the FBI about Moskowitz’s knowledge or involvement, the government continued to rely upon Gold’s admittedly false testimony to uphold the conviction. Dismissive of the claim that the government withheld evidence from Moskowitz at trial, Bharara claimed that at the time of her trial and conviction there was no obligation by the government to disclose prior witness statements or turn over exculpatory evidence. The government’s position was that she suffers no greater disability than any other felon.

Miriam Moskowitz did not seek money from the government as a result of her conviction. She only wanted to clear her name.

“The trial was held at the height of the McCarthy period, when people were simply not rational politically,” Moskowitz said. “The prosecutor saw a golden opportunity to rack up a conviction on his credit, and he went to town.”

After hearing oral arguments on December 4, 2014, District Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled that Moskowitz’s lawyers could not show the newly released records that might have exonerated her. The government said her conviction was supported by the evidence. “Too bad,” Moskowitz said as she walked out of the court with a cane. “My 98-year-old life goes on, and it’s not affected.” She told a film crew, “Okay, that’s the end. You can finish your documentary now.”

Miriam Moskowitz, 98, accompanied by her nephew Ira Moskowitz, leaves federal court in New York on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014 after a judge rejected her request to erase her 1950 conviction for conspiracy to obstruct justice in the run-up to the atomic spying trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. She served a two-year prison sentence. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Miriam Moskowitz, 98, accompanied by her nephew Ira Moskowitz, leaves federal court in New York on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014 after a judge rejected her request to erase her 1950 conviction for conspiracy to obstruct justice in the run-up to the atomic spying trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

“People need to know about this history,” Moskowitz said. “This has to open up people’s minds. This has to make them think.” Miriam Moskowitz is right. Hatred and suspicion now sweeping throughout the United States will most surely lead to more lives destroyed and justice denied unless the perpetrators are stopped.

 

August 20, 2015

Pentagon Loses Taxpayer Money, Wants More

More money for defense and less money for taxpayers—that’s what Republicans want. Hillary Clinton’s emails a horrible and deliberate defense disaster—that’s what Republicans want to prove. The Pentagon missing $8.5 trillion? No mention and probably no problem. This expenditure is more than China’s economic output last year. The Defense Department’s budget was $567 billion, but no one knows how much of that money is spent as intended. The Pentagon is the only federal agency that has failed to comply with a two-decade-old law requiring audits of all government departments.

An extensive investigation by Scot Paltrow reveals the way that the U.S. military failed to submit to an audit, flouted federal law, and concealed the loss of billions of dollars through waste and fraud. Employees for the U.S. Department of Defense were told to put input fake data, called “plugs,” to reconcile military books with those of the U.S. Treasury. Now the records are filled with missing, unidentified, and wrong numbers. The same thing happened at the operational level.

The Pentagon consistently ignores warnings about its accounting practices from oversight agencies. It fails “to keep track of its money—how much it has, how much it pays out, and how much is wasted or stolen,” according to Paltrow. “Widespread pay errors inflict financial hardship on soldiers and sap morale, [but] pay errors are only a small part of the sums that annually disappear into the vast bureaucracy that manages more than half of all annual government outlays approved by Congress.” Accounting errors lead to loss of soldiers’ wages from unfounded accusations that soldiers have been overpaid. Without their salary, soldiers are forced to get food from charity pantries.

The Pentagon continues to spend money of supplies it doesn’t need and stores other items that it doesn’t need because it doesn’t keep track of weapons, ammunition, etc. It has a backlog of more than $500 billion in unaudited contracts with outside vendors, but it doesn’t know how much of that money has been paid for real goods and services. The Navy can’t account for ships, submarines, and other physical assets even after the $1 billion it spent to upgrade record-keeping.

Most of the Pentagon’s incompatible accounting and business-management systems—maybe 2,200 or 5,000, depending on who’s counting—were built in the 1970s and use obsolete computer languages on old mainframes. Even if someone could search for data, much of it is corrupted and just plain wrong. The tens of billions of dollars used to upgrade technology failed, adding to the waste. In the meantime, military knowingly signs off on entries that it knows to be false. Corporate managers certifying false financial reports suffer criminal penalties; the Pentagon’s officials have none.

Every year, the Pentagon buys more of what it already has in excess, defined as a three-year supply. In 2008, for example, it had 15,000 parts in stock for the “vehicular control arm” of the Humvees, equal to a 14-year supply. From 2010 through 2012, it bought another 7,437 of them at considerably higher prices as demand dropped by almost half. Nobody knows if these have been stored in the right bins, which makes inventory impossible. Nothing has been done to track employee theft. The Pentagon ordered the Defense Department to have a labeling system, a directive that the DOD ignored.

Obsolete supplies aren’t monitored although the Army is trying to detonate some C4 plastic explosives made in 1979. Nothing has been done with runway flares from the 1940s and warheads for Sparrow missiles not fielded since the 1990s. Rocket-launch systems retired in the 1980s take up space. “Keeping all those useless bullets, explosives, missiles, rifles, rocket launchers and other munitions costs tens of millions of dollars a year,” Paltrow reported.

Despite all these issues, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that a cut of $52 billion in 2014 was “too deep, too steep, and too abrupt.” His claim that “this is an irresponsible way to govern” sounds like the way that the Pentagon manages its finances. Hagel had no idea how much money the Pentagon had. In one office (Columbus, Ohio), duplicate entries across multiple ledgers led to mistakes for the Air Force in 2009, totally $1.59 trillion which included $538 billion for plugs—roughly eight times what the Air Force was allotted for that year.

Efforts to fix the problem have consistently failed. Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England established the Business Transformation Agency in 2006 to upgrade business operations and prepare the department for auditing. By 2009, the department had spent over $10 billion a year, but it didn’t stop business as usual. Defense Secretary Gates shut down the project in 2011.

How much of the $3 trillion spent on contracts for goods and services during the past ten years has been wasted in overpayments or never spent is not known. Bills are easily padded because detailed invoices are not required. The tremendous backlog to audit fulfillment of contracts came to 24,722 contracts worth $573.3 billion by the end of 2011. The Army’s backlog was 450,000 contracts in 2012. The Navy and Air Force don’t know what their backlogs are. To take care of the problem, the value at which a contract is automatically audited rose from $15 million to $250 million.

GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina is campaigning on making the U.S. Department of Education a “whole lot smaller.” As president, she would make the department “justify every single dollar every single year.” Nobody says that about the military. Fiorina also said that she doesn’t know what the Department of Education does. She could easily find the department’s reports and charts about its goals, the sources of its expenditures, and comparisons to previous year. It’s right here.

The Department of Education provides grants, including Pell grant funding; makes sure that states spend federal money as they should; keeps schools from gender discrimination per Title IX; and collects national education data. Without federal oversight, states won’t spend the Title I money as intended to effect education equality. The Department also checks on the for-profit college industry, i.e., fining Corinthian Colleges because it misrepresented job placement data.

Fiorina decried “complicated accreditation” for these for-profit colleges that she found to be “expensive.” These colleges, however, have higher student loan debt and poor completion rates because their accreditation rules are already too loose. HuffPo reported that accrediting boards frequently have executives from for-profit colleges, perhaps the reason that none of the five major companies had the accreditation revoked in the past ten years and fraudulent job placement data was ignored.

The budget for the Department of Education for this year is $68.8 billion, and the agency knows where its money goes because it’s the law. The Department of Defense’s budget is $567 billion—about 12 percent of the budget for the Department of Education—and the DOD has no idea where it goes because it flouts the law. Below is what $8.5 trillion dollars looks like in $100 bills. That’s what the Pentagon has been allotted during the past 20 years with no accountability.

trillions of dollars

Food stamp fraud may account for about $500 million (less than one cent per each dollar of the $82 billion), but the Pentagon has lost $8.5 trillion. That amount has cost each household approximately $70,000. In 2013, about 45.3 million people, including 14.7 million children, lived in poverty in the United States—14.5 percent of the population and the largest number in the 54 years that statistics have been kept. Almost one in five children live in poverty.

Lack of government support has driven tuition for higher education sky-high. The student debt is now at $1.2 trillion in the United States, and the costs will cripple the future for both young people and the economy. People will have to pay down this debt instead of buying houses and cars, shoring up the GDP.

Conservatives caused this inequality, but they are determined to deny help to any of these people. Yet they are willing to distribute over one-half trillion dollars every year to an agency that has no idea how the taxpayer money is spent. For conservatives, a steak or shellfish or shredded cheese is outrageously out-of-bounds for food stamp recipients, but 22,437 extra Humvee front ends are just fine. Billions of taxpayer dollars for failed business systems or excessive purchases of supplies or unfulfilled government contracts or unpaid soldiers or lack of audits that break the law are acceptable. Conservatives need to look at their priorities.

August 19, 2015

Lawmakers Learn Sexism in School

Republican lawmakers have a solution for legislators who can’t keep their hands off interns: just make the interns—female, of course!—follow an “intern dress code.” The idea, promoted by Republicans, came to a screeching halt after Democrats’ disgust, social media firestorms, and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s ire, but it got a lot of publicity and made Missouri Republicans look even more misogynistic than they’ve appeared in the past.

McCaskill’s letters to the lawmakers promoting the idea pointed out its sexism, stating that it “reeks of a desire to avoid holding fully accountable those who would prey upon young women and men seeking to begin honorable careers in public service.” She knows whereof she speaks: McCaskill was harassed when she was a legislative intern decades ago.

The issue went viral after House Speaker John Diehl, a “family values” conservative, was forced to resign because his sexually suggestive texts with a 19-year-old House intern became public. That was two months before state Sen. Paul LeVota resigned because two interns accused him of sexual harassment.

A request for reviewing a proposed new “intern code” resulted in the answer, “intern dress code.” Another representative agreed, emailing his colleagues:

“We need a good, modest, conservative dress code for both the males and females. Removing one more distraction will help everyone keep their focus on legislative matters.”

A third Republican, this one a woman, supported the idea by stating that dress codes are common in the workplace.

Sanity returned, however, when another representative asked, “We’re really not going to require interns to dress so we’re less distracted, are we?” He added, “All we need is a code of ethics and a penalty provision.” Another response got to the crux of the matter: “The finger is being pointed at the young, female interns. [The dress code should be] “the same as for everyone in the House.”

For the information of all those conservatives who think that female interns are at fault for all the infidelity, a handbook for interns already has a dress code:

“Those engaged in [lawmaking] must dress professionally and appropriately. Men are required to wear a jacket and necktie for admission to the side galleries of the House Chamber. Women should dress in appropriate business attire (such as dress, suit, dress slacks and jacket).”

As one representative said, the problem is “harassing interns,” not a dress code. He added, “If my plaid jacket or the sight of a woman’s bare knee distracts you from your legislative duties, I would look for other work.”

Dozens of women—including current and former interns, legislative aides, lobbyists and lawmakers—have told the Kansas City Star that sexual harassment in the Capitol is commonplace. One of them claimed that the prevalence of this harassment “has nothing to do with what a female wears. This is not the 1950s. Harassment in the workplace is illegal and a woman’s attire does not give anyone the right to harass, regardless if they feel distracted.”

Taylor Hirth and Alissa Hembree, the interns who blew the whistle on LeVota’s alleged sexual harassment, released a joint statement expressing disappointment in the newly proposed intern code:

“Suggestions requiring certain GPAs, increased supervision and mandatory dress codes suggest that the interns are lacking in quality, knowledge, or character and are in some way to blame for the harassment they experience. Additionally, it implies that those perpetuating this behavior are unable to control their own behaviors.”

In an opinion piece, Mary Sanchez took on the misogynists:

“Gentlemen of Jefferson City, please refrain from veering off track.

“There is one sure way to end the sexist, slovenly behavior of some male politicians toward female college interns and other women working in, or elected to, our state capital. Demand that men behave properly. Focus there….

“The proposal [for a new dress code] was a centuries-old patriarchal paradigm: Shift the guilt so that the woman is chastised and monitored, lest she lead the innocent man astray. As if the sight of a knee uncovered unleashes a torrent of hormones that men simply cannot control.

“The errant male politicians need to change. Not the women who have been forced to deal with the juvenile antics of some representatives, senators and lobbyists.

“And yet the idea to focus on the women’s behavior, via their dress, was among the fastest replies to sprout. It’s backward thinking. Worse, it comes from people who make laws for the rest of us. As much as I’m a stickler for appropriate business dress for both men and women, this misses the point.

“Men should have been offended too. The idea assumed that they are weak, unable to control themselves at the sight of an attractive woman. It implied that men will be men. And it’s up to the women to be on guard.

“The onus is on the elected officials to behave with respect for themselves, the intern, the political office that they hold. College interns are there to learn about good government, not to prop up some middle-aged man’s faltering ego….

“The most effective means to curb sexism in Jefferson City will likely occur informally. Sexual harassment at the capital will cease to be a problem when men hold other men accountable.”

Men learn the belief that women should be responsible for controlling the male libido early on. School dress codes are meant to protect males, both students and faculty, by keeping girls covered up. One example is Woodford County High School (Kentucky) where Stacie Dunn’s daughter Stephanie was sent home for showing her collarbone that “may distract their male class mates.” Dunn took a scarf for her daughter to cover up the offensive collarbone, but the principal sent her home anyway for giving him “an attitude.” Apparently, the scarf still didn’t cover enough.

stephanie

Superintendent Scott Hawkins tried to justify the dress code because it had been in effect for over 10 years. He said, “The whole idea behind the dress code is to make sure you have a safe learning environment and that’s what we’re trying to create.” In Kentucky, dress codes are set by school districts and not separate campuses.

Last March, student Maggie Sunseri made a documentary of interviews with female students and school principal, Rob Akers. In the 33-minute film, “Shame: A Documentary on School Dress Code,” the 33-minute film Girls said they felt embarrassed and ashamed after being “called out” for “revealing” outfits. They also talked about having trouble finding acceptable clothing and being forced to miss class. Rules weren’t uniformly enforced, according to the interviewees.

Akers justified the removal of distraction as the reason for dress codes because “guys would make inappropriate statements.” The girls, however, said it was unfair to limit their clothing instead of dealing with the boys who harassed them. “It sends the message to boys that it’s all girls’ fault, basically—any reaction or any action that they do is the girl’s fault,” one girl said in the film.

Sunseri said her film was about “the underlying message behind a code that tells young women to cover up and young boys that they can’t control themselves.” The 16-year-old high school junior said the dress code is sexist toward both girls and boys in that it “perpetuates the notion that a woman’s body is inherently more sexual than a man’s body, and that young boys’ natural tendencies are to harass or assault women.”

No wonder some male Missouri lawmakers cannot control their libido: they may never have seen a collarbone.

 

August 17, 2015

Cats: Red or Blue?

Filed under: Politics — trp2011 @ 9:44 PM
Tags: , , , ,

bo-obamaDemocrats v. Republicans. Cats v. dogs. How do they relate? A few years ago, the American Veterinary Medical Association researched preference of house pet in red and blue states with an unsurprising result: red states have the highest rate of dog ownership, and blue states are more likely to have cats as pets.

Nine of the top ten states for dog ownerships voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, despite Romney’s leaving his dog Seamus in a carrier on the car roof for a 12-hour road trip. Nine of the ten states with the fewest dogs per household voted for President Obama, in spite of the Bo, the First Dog. Four of the top five cat-loving states voted for the president although California, at 28.3 percent feline owning households, has one of the lowest rates of cat ownership. Cats in the United States do rule—74.1 million pet cats to 70 million pet dogs.

Four years ago, Keith Koffler tried to persuade his readers that cats are Republicans because they like freedom and don’t follow rules. Dogs herd sheep, help the blind, and sniff out bombs—showing that they like government jobs—according to Koffler.

https://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/10/27/1339526/-Why-cats-aren-t-Republican?detail=emailclassic  Koffler evidently has never lived with a cat. Or understand the nature of Republicans. He might benefit by reading a piece from last fall called “Why Cats Are Not Republicans.”

  1. Cats are curious about what you do in your bedroom, but they don’t try to legislate away your freedom to do it.
  1. Cats may take away your cushion, but they’ll give it back to you with a gentle push.
  1. Cats give you attention and sympathy when you’re sick.
  1. Females are treated with importance in the cat world.
  1. Cats make use of solar power, often all day long.
  1. Cats lick their own problems and take care of other cats too.
  1. Cats don’t blame black and brown cats for their troubles.
  1. Cats know how to ration their resources.
  1. Fat cats are not at the top of the cat hierarchy, are not cat role models, and have more trouble surviving and thriving, not less.
  1. While Republicans blindly follow authority, it is said that getting Democrats to act in unison is like herding cats.
  1. Cats don’t foul their own nest.
  1. Cats are popular and well-liked on the Internet and elsewhere.

Cartoon

Even conservatives know that they are dogs. Why else would the conservative Democrats be called Blue Dogs? [Thanks to Karen Nichols for the funny.]

August 16, 2015

‘End Times’ Guide Religious Direction

Former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is framing the Iran deal in terms of the Bible, claiming that the UN vote to approve the Iran deal fulfills the prophecy of Zechariah 12:3 that all the nations of the world will unite against Israel, “with the United States leading that charge.” According to Bachmann, God and “heaven’s armies” will use groups like AIPAC to defeat the deal in Congress and in doing so “prove to the world His power and His strength.” She added that people are lucky to be living in these dark times because the world will soon come to an end.

John Hagee concurs, explaining fundamentalist Christian love for Israel with the belief  that Israel is connected to the Christian belief of End Times. Like ISIS, these Christians think that we’re nearing the time when the Rapture will take all those faithful up to heaven while the rest of us burn down below. In 2011, Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL), said that if “we stop helping Israel, we lose God’s hand and we’re in big time trouble.” This week, Hagee said:

“God could care less about what we say about Russia, about China, about Iran, but when we as a nation take a stand against Israel, God will take a stand against us.”

A pop-upon Hagee’s website this week states, “Bibi [Netanyahu] Did His Job. Now We Must Do Ours.” Since 2001, his foundation has donated over $58 million to hard-right Israeli organizations, and Christian Zionists have paid millions of dollars for Jews to immigrate to Israel. Over 60 percent of white evangelicals believe that at least half of world Jewry must be in the Land of Israel for the End Times to proceed, and 77 percent of evangelicals think that they are living in the End Times as do 40 percent of all people in the U.S.

Jim Bakker, the televangelist who went to prison for bilking over 152,000 of his flock, is back with a new scam—selling gear and food to survive the End Times. Hoping to instill even more fear from the projected End Times, he advertises:

“New York, Chicago, all of your big cities, will be Hell. The gangs will take what they want. They will kill to take what they want. Then they will start eating bodies of the people they kill.”

This past week he talked about the End Times with Rick Wiles, who has his own issues:

“Add it up: Bird flu is killing tens of millions of chickens and turkeys, a mysterious virus is killing millions of piglets, a mysterious colony-collapse disorder is killing billions of honeybees, California is in the throes of a mega-drought unlike anything seen in over 1,200 years. Why? The answer is very simple: America is in a state of rebellion against almighty God.”

Wiles has had a good talk with God:

“He said, ‘America has dealt treacherously with me as a treacherous wife.’ And He said, ‘She wants what’s beautiful and good and then she began to commit adultery with other men and I forgave her, and she did it again and I forgave her, and she did it again and I forgave her, and she did it again and I forgave her. But now she’s committing homosexual sex with another woman and I cannot look at her anymore.’ He said, ‘I can’t even look at her, she’s not my wife anymore. The divorce is final.’ He told me that on the day the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, God went to court too and he got a divorce.”

Bryan Fischer joined Wiles in lambasting same-sex couples through his complaint about their trying to adopt children. Somehow he managed to compare forcing to do things against their will to slavery, ending with the “homosexual lobby” trying to bring “slavery back to the Confederate States of America.” Even if anyone could follow his irrational pretzeling, why would he think that racists in the former Confederacy wouldn’t want a return to slavery?

Rafael Cruz, Christian father of wannabe “Christian” president Ted Cruz is also agonizing about his loss of freedoms. Liberty is important to the elder Cruz because he escaped the Batista regime in Cuba, and he wants everyone here to know how freedom is being taken from us. On the Jan Mickelson show, he listed examples of our lost free will: our ability to buy incandescent light bulbs and our preference of toilet seat is gone. Another myth from Cruz is that the Clean Air Act will regulate the puddles in our own backyard: two mistakes—it’s the Clean Water Act, and it’s not happening. The younger Cruz is equally wacky; he’s claimed that the UN wants to close down all the golf courses in the United States. Racism, uncontrollable gun ownership, healthcare, income inequality, crumbling infrastructure, climate change, lack of food and water aren’t worth a mention, but don’t take away preferred Cruz’s toilet seat.

The War on Christmas has started four months before the actual holiday. Elizabeth Hasselbeck, conservative reject of The View, fired the first salvo from her current position on Fox and Friends when she addressed the story of how people asked for the move of the nativity scene in Belen (NM) from public to private property. The mayor will use taxpayers’ money to go to court because the town is named after Bethlehem. Fox is most likely looking forward to its one-sided “war” after losing the one against Donald Trump.

Outdoing all these ridiculous religious views, however, is this story. The Family Council Action Committee is presenting its first annual “Power of Courage” award to Arkansas state Rep. Justin Harris and another state legislator, Rep. Charlene Fite. Earlier this year Harris “rehomed”—aka gave away—two adopted daughters to a sex offender who then raped the six-year-old daughter. That was after Harris and his wife tried to exorcize the three-year-old and six-year-old girls. FCA’s press release praises the two lawmakers because they “demonstrated courage by standing strong in faith when situations were tough at the State Capitol and they did so with grace. They are consistently models of their Christian values in their homes, their communities, and their churches.” The press release made no mention of Harris’ behavior other than he won’t be seeking reelection.

The Arkansas Times was careful to point out that this news was not satire because it could come straight out of The Onion. The award was to have been presented at an event headlined by GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) until the organizers, the Crawford County Republican Party, asked FCA not to do this at this event.

Despite hate messages from radically-right Christians, the world of religion has some good news this week. Muslim leaders plan to issue a call next week to protect the planet and demand that Islamic followers help the environment. They are taking the same position that Pope Francis has espoused—that humans are stewards assigned to care for the Earth and leave it “a better place than we found it.”

Georgians in the 80th state house district has overturned tradition by electing a Democrat in a district that voted for Mitt Romney by a 56-43 margin. In a special election, Taylor Bennett won the seat over Max Davis by 55 to 45 points, despite spending only one-third as much as his opponent. The winning Bennett ran on his opposition to a proposed “religious freedom restoration act” and talked about his lesbian mother and sister.

The best religious quote of the week comes from Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ):

Cory Booker

Glenn Beck makes me proud to be from Oregon. Number One of the 15 worst cities in the United States (to quote Beck, “avoid like the plague when things go bad”) is Portland. The remainder are, in order, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Phoenix, St. Petersburg (FL), Columbus (OH), Detroit, Boston, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Las Vegas, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Washington, DC, and St. Louis.

[Chuck Todd update: After Todd interviewed Donald Trump on Meet the Press, his conservative panel concentrated on bashing Trump. No one pointed out that the same criticisms, such as Trump not directly answering questions, are also true of other GOP candidates. Or the fact that both Chris Christie and Rand Paul already said that they want to rescind automatic citizenship for everyone born in the U.S. Todd consistently interrupted Trump but treated Ben Carson with great courtesy. Bernie Sanders, another interview subject, had to disabuse Todd of the notion that he and Trump are alike. The husband of a staff member for Democratic candidate Jim Webb, Todd praised Jeb Bush for his speech at the Iowa State Fair but trashed Hillary Clinton, providing the conservative press with several criticisms for the Democratic candidate. Todd is at least consistent in his openness to endorse candidates while trying to keep up a pretense of being a journalist.]

August 15, 2015

GOP Party Filled with ‘Crazy,’ ‘Stupid’

Current GOP politicians may need to be polite about the far-right crazies in their party, but older ones who are no longer in office are sometimes being brutally honest. One of these is Bruce Bartlett, a senior policy analyst for George H.W. Bush. On “All In,” Chris Hayes asked Bartlett about a column by conservative George Will announcing that Donald Trump had no place in his party.  Will wrote:

“So, conservatives today should deal with Trump with the firmness [William] Buckley dealt with the John Birch Society in 1962. The society was an extension of a loony businessman who said Dwight Eisenhower was ‘a dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy.’ In a 5,000-word National Review ‘excoriation’ (Buckley’s word), he excommunicated the society from the conservative movement.”

(I wonder if Will knows that the Koch brothers trace their lineage back to the John Birch Society. But that’s subject for another day.)

Bartlett had earlier written about Trump representing the “populism and anti-intellectualism that became dominant in the Republican Party with the rise of the Tea Party.” Hayes asked him to expand on his previous op-ed. Bartlett said:

“Oh, I love Donald Trump because he exposes everything about the Republican Party that I have frankly come to hate. It is just filled with people who are crazy, and stupid, and have absolutely no idea of what they are taking about. And the candidates, no matter how intelligent they may be, just constantly have to keep pandering to this lowest common denominator in American politics.”

According to Bartlett, issues and policies no longer matter; only “attitude” matters. He may have been referring to Trump, but “attitude” runs rampant among most of the GOP presidential candidates.

The Iraq War: In a speech to the Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security (APPS), a group formed and backed by people associated with major defense contractors, Jeb Bush didn’t rule out bringing back torture. He also called the Iraq War “a pretty good deal,” saying that the “mission was accomplished.” The “good deal” that found no weapons of mass destruction cost at least 4,424 U.S. lives (not including those who came home and killed themselves because of the war), lives of hundreds of civilians and military involved in reconstruction (not made public), over 115,000 Iraqi lives (some people say 600,000 or more), and $1.7 trillion in direct expenses which will expand to over $6 trillion with VA benefits and other costs.

Cuba: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) lambasted the president for expanding trade and travel with Cuba after over 50 years, but he struggled with the truth. He claimed that the “people have a standard of living well below that of virtually every other nation in the hemisphere.” Fact: Cuba is rated above all its Caribbean neighbors, including Mexico, as well as above Central America and much of South America. Its infant mortality rate is lower than in the U.S. and holds the lowest HIV rate of the Americas. This summer Cuba became the first country in the world to eliminate transmission of HIV and syphilis from mothers to children.

Iran Deal: Asked for why he opposes the Iran deal, Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, compared his foreign policy position to requiring that his sons keep the door open when they hosted girls in their bedrooms. He compared the agreement to permitting teenage boys to keep the doors closed and warning them before entering the room. President Obama suggested a few months ago that Walker take “some time to bone up on foreign policy.” He must not have had any time since then because the agreement calls for continuous monitoring of all Iran’s sites including centrifuge workshops–in short, the door is open.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is even more creative in his method of opposing the Iran agreement: he wants individual states to impose their own sanctions on the money the Obama administration has agreed to release as part of the deal. Cruz evidently thinks that each state can develop its own foreign policies although the Supreme Court ruled that only the president can make foreign policy. If Congress also had that right, the U.S. would have two foreign policies and states, that lack the authority of federal banking laws or international finance, would add more. Cruz agreed that the Supreme Court precedent might be in opposition, but he prides himself on his success against the George W. Bush administration by stopping its order from the International Criminal Court to state judicial proceedings.

Black Lives Matter: After activists from “Black Lives Matter” interrupted the end of Bush’s Las Vegas campaign event, the candidate said that he had met with advocates for the movement before his speech. The 15-minute meeting consisted of Bush, a member of his staff, North Las Vegas Mayor Pro Tem Pamela Goynes-Brown, and Sean Fellows, a registered lobbyist for a communications firm, who once ran as a Republican candidate for state assembly. There were no representatives from “Black Lives Matter” although Goynes-Brown is an African-American. Maybe that’s what confused Bush. Goynes-Brown said that the meeting didn’t discuss the movement and doesn’t call herself an activist.

Vaccines:  A parent asked Carly Fiorina if she would protect her fight to not vaccinate her children because of her religious beliefs and because vaccines are made using “aborted babies” (not true), Fiorina said, “When in doubt, it is always the parent’s choice.” Parent’s choice has sometimes killed children because of lack of care, but that fact wasn’t mentioned.

Pledge to not raise taxes: Grover Norquist is checking off the presidential candidates to see who will sign a pledge to never—no matter what—raise taxes. New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, is the latest to fall in line behind Norquist, vowing to “oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.” He follows Rubio, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Cruz , Rick Perry, Fiorina, Rick Santorum, and Ben Carson. Walker, Bobby Jindal, and Mike Huckabee “have all previously signed the pledge in some capacity” and are expected to do so again this year. Bush said his record showed how he cut taxes every year while governor, but Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) criticized the pledge in 2012 as unconstructive.

Walker gave his campaign donors $250 million of taxpayer money a new basketball arena and made the “necessary cuts” to replace the $250 million from education. Evidence shows that this will not increase jobs, despite Walker’s claims, and he may lose the Koch brothers with this stunt. Their organization, Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin, stated:

“Government shouldn’t be in the business of financing private sports stadiums. The current deal is based on fuzzy math, complicated accounting and millions of taxpayer dollars. Whether it comes from the state, the county, the city or other authority, these are taxpayer dollars.”

Immigration: A few years ago, Christie supported comprehensive immigration and boasted about his support from Garden State’s Latino community.  Now he wants to “reexamine” the 14th Amendment which bestows citizenship on all people born in the United States. Paul agrees with Christie, and Graham calls the amendment “a mistake.” Ohio governor, John Kasich, has agreed with them in the past.

Fetal Tissue: On record for opposing Planned Parenthood, Ben Carson used fetal tissue while doing research in the early 1990s to better understand the development of the chambers (or “ventricles”) of the brain. One of the fetuses for the research had been aborted at “the 17th week of gestation.” Now he calls this fetus “a human being.” Carson explained, “You have to look at the intent.” He condemns “killing babies” but accepts “taking a dead specimen.” He also called abortion “the number one cause of death for black people.” As to his accusation that “abortion clinics” are in black neighborhoods, 60 percent of them were “in neighborhoods where more than half of residents are white,” according to a 2014 study. The doctor also calls the Affordable Care Act, which has greatly increased health care for black people, to slavery.

Space exploration: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) loved NASA’s successful visit to the dwarf planet Pluto in July and hoped that young people will “feel that American science, ingenuity and daring are alive and well.” He continued by talk about its importance but has voted to cut NASA funding while refuting the findings of the agency’s scientists. So much for “American innovation.” Cruz took the same position in praising space exploration but voting to defund NASA.

Totaling up approval ratings for Trump, Rubio, Bush, Walker, Fiorina, Carson and Cruz shows that 70 percent of likely GOP primary voters favor right-wing extremists. Trump isn’t the problem; the unleashed electorate trained by Fox is the crisis. Most politicians referred to as conservatives are actually radical fundamentalists.

At the same time, the only criticisms against Hillary Clinton are that she isn’t friendly enough and she kept her email private—just like many of the candidates have done.

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