Nel's New Day

July 20, 2016

GOP Platform Goes Back to 19th Century

Republicans love to talk about the importance of following the U.S. Constitution being the party of Lincoln. Judges and legislation are bound by the Constitution. This year the platform of the self-proclaimed party of Lincoln has seven pages—ten percent of the content—in a section called “A Rebirth of Constitutional Government” (aka revisionist constitutional theory).

This section of the GOP platform proclaims that government exists to protect “God-given, natural rights”; in any difference of opinion, God wins. One of these God-given “inalienable right that predates the Constitution” is “the right of individuals to keep and bear arms” as “a natural inalienable right that predates the Constitution.” Another God-given rights are “to devote resources to whatever cause or candidate one supports” (such as influencing elections), influence elections), to “set their own membership standards” free from anti-discrimination laws, and the “freedom of Americans to act in accordance with their religious beliefs” often when those beliefs call for defiance of the law, as examples of rights that are “not given to us by the government but are rights we inherently possess.”

The platform gets worse by completely invalidating  the U.S. Constitution. “The government cannot use subsequent amendments to limit First Amendment rights.” Thus the GOP repudiates the way that legislators and judges are bound by the Constitution. Republican position is that Congress cannot propose and states cannot ratify, for example, a constitutional amendment overruling the Supreme Court’s campaign finance decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the Republican Party’s position is that this amendment would be null and void.

“Inalienable” means “impossible to take away or give up.” Therefore Republicans state that rights that they consider inalienable cannot be changed through constitutional process and no more amendments with the slightest connection to the First Amendment—religion, free speech, and financing—can be made.  Also “the unborn child” has an “inalienable right to life … which cannot be infringed.”

Stephen Rosenfeld has culled these excerpts from the 2016 GOP platform.

  1. Tax cuts for the rich.
  2. Bank deregulation.
  3. Elimination of consumer protection.
  4. Repeal of environmental laws.
  5. Shrinking unions and union labor.
  6. Privatization of federal railway service.
  7. Freezing or elimination of federal minimum wage.
  8. Cuts in government salaries and benefits.
  9. Appointment of only anti-choice Supreme Court justices.
  10. Appointment of only anti-LGBT and anti-Obamacare justices.
  11. Legalization of anti-LGBT discrimination.
  12. Christianity as a national religion.
  13. Greater campaign finance loopholes and dark money.
  14. Eliminate gun controls nationwide.
  15. An anti-choice constitutional amendment.
  16. Elimination of federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
  17. Permission to states in closure of abortion clinics.
  18. Opposition to stem cell scientific research.
  19. Condemnation of executive branch policy making.
  20. Retention of the electoral college.
  21. Requirement of citizenship documents for voter registration.
  22. Drawing congressional districts without consideration of undocumented immigrants.
  23. No labeling of GMO ingredients in food products.
  24. Work requirements for welfare recipients and cuts in food stamps.
  25. More oil and gas drilling on U.S. shores.
  26. Completion of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
  27. Expansion of fracking and burying nuclear waste.
  28. No tax on carbon products.
  29. Disregard of global climate change agreements.
  30. Privatization of Medicare.
  31. State administration of Medicaid.
  32. No increase of Social Security benefits by taxing the rich.
  33. Repeal of Obamacare.
  34. Monopoly control by internet service providers.
  35. English as the official U.S. language.
  36. No amnesty for undocumented immigrants.
  37. Wall along U.S./Mexico border to keep immigrants out.
  38. Government verification of citizenship of all workers.
  39. Penalties for cities giving sanctuary to migrants.
  40. Puerto Rico a state but not Washington DC.
  41. Support of traditional marriage but no other families.
  42. Privatization of government services to fight poverty.
  43. Mandatory bible study in public schools.
  44. Replacement of public schools with privatized options.
  45. Permission of abstinence-only approaches in sex education.
  46. Privatized student loans without lowering interest rates.
  47. Restoration of the death penalty.
  48. Dramatic increase in the Pentagon budget.
  49. Cancelation of Iran nuclear treaty and expansion of U.S. nuclear arsenal.
  50. Reaffirmation support for Israel and elimination of sanctions movement as anti-Semitic.

And that’s just a few of the issues covered in the platform. The GOP shows itself to be pro-rape, pro-gold standard, and pro-“right-to-work” while being anti-national parks and anti-mass transit.

The less rabid members of the Republican party who don’t follow all these positions blithely say that no one reads the platform or pays any attention. Yet the platform is the wish list of GOP leaders for Congress; it’s what they think they want to do to the United States. This platform calls for a drastic military buildup when a large percentage of taxes already goes to the Pentagon. This policy, combined with the massive tax cuts that they call for, follows the first term of George W. Bush which led to trillions of dollars in deficit and a recession that still hurts the nation’s economy.

In his speech tonight, GOP VP candidate, Mike Pence, called for the appointment of Supreme Court justices who will uphold the constitution, but the platform calls for justices who follow the GOP platform. During the convention, speakers consistently maintained that there is nothing progressive about the Democratic party, that it is the GOP that wants to move forward. In many ways, however, the platform resembles the conservative position of the mid-1800s except conservatives 150 years ago didn’t oppose abortion and immigration.

The theme of Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) speech tonight is that “freedom matters.” He’s right, but his party’s platform wants to take away freedom for many people in the United States—no freedom for LGBT people to have the same rights as heterosexual people, no freedom for women to have reproductive health care, no freedom from poverty and illness, no freedom to have clean water and air, no freedom for equal internet use, no freedom for people with any skin color to travel safely wherever they want, no freedom for people other than strict “Christians.” In short, no freedom for all—just the entitled.

Of course, Cruz was booed at the end of his speech for not endorsing  Donald Trump after he said that people should not stay away from the election in the fall and that they should vote their conviction. Then Cruz’s wife, Heidi, was escorted from the floor for her own safety. So much for GOP unity. Or maybe the entire situation was a set-up so that Cruz would make Mike Pence, who followed Cruz, look good.

As far as the platform and Donald Trump, however, anyone with sense knows that Trump won’t even read it—and he certainly won’t pay any attention to it. He only wants a wall between the United States and Mexico.

July 13, 2016

GOP Platform—From the Party of Small Government

Filed under: Politics — trp2011 @ 10:14 PM
Tags: ,

The GOP is still working on its platform, but drafts of amendments already reveal its direction. Their stated philosophy is to shrink the government so much that it would fit in a bathtub, but the platform thus far shows that they can’t even fit it into an Olympic-size swimming pool. Here are highlights of the two planks, “America’s natural resources, energy and environment” and “Great American families, education, healthcare and criminal justice”:

  • Pornography is a “public health crisis.” The GOP claims that they want to make children safer, but the public health crisis of gun violence was not addressed.
  • Planned Parenthood is condemned, and Supreme Court vacancies are to be filled with “committed judicial conservatives, like the late Justice Antonin Scalia, so that the Court can begin to reverse the long line of liberal decisions—from Roe to Obergefell to the Obamacare cases.” The anti-abortion policy remains the same—no consideration for rape, incest, or the life of the pregnant woman.
  • The use of Title IX to support survivors of campus sexual assault and trans students is condemned. The GOP “salutes” the state governments who are suing the federal government in these areas.
  • Marriage should be between a man and woman. Despite a Supreme Court ruling which established the constitutional right of same-gender couples to marry, the GOP demands a “reversal whether through judicial reconsideration or a constitutional amendment returning control over marriage to the states.” The committee rejected an amendment to have a “thoughtful conversation” within the GOP on marriage equality from an openly-gay platform committee although DC delegate Rachel Hoff begged the committee members to “include me and people like me.” She was told that she could still join the party even if it wouldn’t recognize her marriage. Only 37 percent of people in the U.S. oppose same-gender marriage. The platform also calls for overturning the Supreme Court marriage decision through a constitutional amendment and appointing judges “who respect traditional family values.”
  • Children raised in “traditional” homes are “healthier.” The GOP ignores research that this statement is flat wrong. Outcomes for same-gender couple’s children—including health, emotional difficulties, and coping and learning behavior—is not different from those for children of different-gender couples. Although the GOP doesn’t give children the right to clean air and water, they “have a natural right to be raised in an intact biological family.”
  • Early childhood education should be prevented. A GOP committee member explained that it “inserts the state in the family relationship in the very early stages of a child’s life,” and conservatives have called pre-K education a “godless, socialistic” institution.
  • All government intervention in parenting is to be eliminated. Parents can discipline children any way they wish, including beatings, locking them in cellars, and raping them. Parents can withhold vaccines from children, kill them through religious beliefs, and refuse to educate them because End Times are coming. Texas already legalized parents’ right to deny children an education.
  • Food stamps are unconstitutional. Even for children.
  • Parents can force their LGBT children to undergo “conversion therapy.” Several states have passed laws preventing forced therapy to “take away the gay,” and President Obama has called for a ban on “conversion therapy.” Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that this practice, especially on young people, is not medically or ethically appropriate, instead causing great harm to the subject. (The committee entirely avoided the use of “LGBT” while endorsing discriminations against the community.)
  • State laws should limit which restrooms transgender people could use.
  • Education needs “a good understanding of the Bible.” The GOP wants students to have the option of taking biblical literature in public schools because this “good understanding” is “indispensable to the development of an educated citizenry.” The Bible should also be taught in public schools as American history to keep students from getting “the wrong version” of events. No reference was made to the other 10,000 religions of the world, many of them in the United States. One delegate said that churches should teach the Bible instead of schools, but that position lost. At least one-fourth of people in the U.S. are not Christians.
  • Coal is a “clean” form of energy. The platform uses the same language as coal’s lobby group, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). Burning coal creates a large quantity of heavy metals, pollution that endangers the environment and health.
  • Campaign contributions should be unlimited and concealed“[Republicans] support repeal of the remaining sections of McCain-Feingold, support either raising or repealing contribution limits, and oppose passage of the DISCLOSE Act or any similar legislation designed to vitiate the Supreme Court’s recent decisions protecting political speech in Wisconsin Right to Life v. Federal Election Commission and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.”
  • Military women should be barred from combat. 
  • A physical wall should be built along the entire U.S. border with Mexico.  
  • A ban on AR-15 assault rifles or restrictions on the size of ammunition magazine clips is not acceptable.  
  • People from “terror-sponsoring” countries should receive “special scrutiny” before entering the United States.
  • The power grid must be protected against magnetic pulse attacks. Some of the language in this declaration comes from fictional sources.
  • Congress should turn federal lands over to the states. That way states can sell all the land to private parties.
  • The United States should support Israel against Palestine. There should be “no daylight” between the U.S. and Israel; any mention about a two-state solution between those two countries was removed from the platform.
  • GOP delegates should not be allowed from identified areas such as parts of California, Hawaii, Florida, Ohio or New York. Okay, this was a proposal that might not have been passed. But the other crazy positions above are up for consideration during the convention.

Republicans brag about being the party of Abraham Lincoln. The GOP of 150 years ago expanded federal power by funding the transcontinental railroad, state university system, and homesteading in the West while creating a national currency and protective tariff. After the Civil War, Republicans passed laws granting protections for blacks and advancing social justice. That party was left in the dust; now the GOP embraces racism, xenophobia, and misogyny in the name of freedom and liberty. It’s an oligarchic, theocratic party seeking apartheid and obsessed with sex.

The GOP platform of 1956 supported equal pay for equal work, union expansions, trust-busting and anti-monopoly laws, the United Nations, correction of inequities in taxation, and national parks. It also recommended desegregating the schools, expanding  a “soundly financed system of transportation,” strengthening Social Security, and providing a national health care plan. Achievements cited “the highest wages and the highest standard of living ever enjoyed by any nation.”

The GOP platform of 1956 bragged about raising wages “substantially” during Eisenhower’s first term as well as increasing the minimum wage and extending Social Security benefits. Its intent was to “protect the working standards of our people.” “[Since the 1952 platform] unions have grown in strength and responsibility, and have increased their membership by 2 millions.” Because the Republicans of 1956 considered “that the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of the people is as important as their economic health,” it had “created the Department of Health, Education and Welfare as the first new Federal department in 40 years.”

In addition, “the Republican Party supports an immigration policy which is in keeping with the traditions of America in providing a haven for oppressed peoples, and which is based on equality of treatment, freedom from implications of discrimination between racial, nationality and religious groups, and flexible enough to conform to changing needs and conditions. That 1956 platform also stressed the importance of resources’ conservation across the United States.

“America does not prosper unless all Americans prosper,” and “government must have a heart as well as a head,” according to 1956 Republicans.  “We recommend to Congress the submission of a constitutional amendment providing equal rights for men and women.”

Much of the current platform has been directly crafted by Tony Perkins, the president of the conservative religious Family Research Council; Kris Kobach, Kansas AG who wrote restrictive voting legislation and open gun rights for the country; and other ultra conservatives.

“The Republican Party’s platform is taking a turn for the right,” reads the lead sentence from a Time article by Zeke Miller. It’s actually in the ditch. The “autopsy” purchased by the GOP after the presidential loss in 2012 recommended inclusion of women and minorities, but the proposed platform promotes hatred, racism, religious bigotry, and exclusion. As Republicans express a fear that a handful of Muslims in the U.S. (0.8 percent of the population) will force Sharia law on everyone, they project their far-right evangelical Christian law from the Old Testament on the entire population, no matter what religion they follow.

The platform is not a done deal. The 2,475 delegates will have a vote on it during the GOP convention. It may make for interesting television watching.

People reading about the GOP platform may say that nobody pays attention to party platforms. They do, however, reflect the thinking of the party leadership—and this platform is insane. That makes the GOP crazy.

March 31, 2016

“Small Government” in Kentucky, Alabama

bevins hammerWhen GOP Matt Bevin ran for Kentucky’s governor, he promised to save the people by doing away from the dreaded “Obamacare” in the state. Republicans elected him, and he kept his promise. Under the former governor, the state’s health care, KYNECT, was a model for the country in its coverage for over 500,000 people.

Here is what happened with the Tea Party’s new state computer system:

  • Benefind—Bevin’s new system to replace KYNECT for—has shut people out of their online accounts or entirely eliminated their health coverage with no warning and no explanation.
  • Children have been cut off from Medicaid coverage.
  • People who visit overcrowded state offices where they are forced to wait hours—sometimes an entire day—to see anyone. Or they are forced to come back the next day after the computers crash.
  • The helpline is available only from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm, limiting access for people who work those hours.
  • The recorded message sends people to a website which has many glitches, is hard to use, and provides no help for people without computers or Internet access.
  • People looking for help in public benefits now are forced to wait hours or days as they repeatedly call the helpline that gives them only a recorded message before hanging up.
  • People who can’t get coverage are cutting back on their medications and ending up in the hospitals’ emergency rooms multiple times.
  • Over 500 workers statewide trained to help people sign up for health coverage cannot access Benefind and thus cannot help people to apply for coverage or fix problems with their coverage.
  • People who formerly provided proof of citizenship can no longer get health coverage until they resubmit the documentation.

Bevin’s answer? On YouTube, he says, “I’m aware of and sensitive to your frustrations.”

Republicans who say that big government doesn’t work may be right—when they’re trying to operate it.

[Personal comment: Today I spent over two hours on the telephone with insurance companies and pharmacies on behalf of my partner. One of her medications cannot be generic; therefore she needs prior approval from her insurance company to pay for the brand medication. She has prior approval, but the insurance company will not send her anything in writing to prove it. Even after that, the cost of the medication with differs from $87 to $1500 for a ninety-day supply—with insurance.

I called three pharmacies multiple times to find the prices. All of them started out by stating that they couldn’t do that without the prescription although one of them said on the opening telephone message that it would give the prices of medications for Medicare. The cheapest pharmacy, gave three different prices on three different calls, but refused to give any written verification. It will take faxes for the prescription but won’t send a fax to request the prescription from the pharmacy that holds the prescription. That pharmacy will fax the prescription on but only after it is asked. Another prescription will require a doctor’s visit.

I’m retired—sort of—and have the time to make the calls during the daytime when these places are open. I’m also determined and willing to take on the problems of these calls. After a drastic increase in my blood pressure over the two hours, I can’t imagine the pain that people in Kentucky are now enduring—just because the GOP doesn’t like “big government” and probably people. Then there’s the issue of a different in almost $6,000 for a prescription from a local pharmacy and the “mail-in” part of a huge insurance company. These problems are something that could be changed by single-payer or universal health care, but it might violate our freedom. Big business loves our freedom because it gives them trillions of dollars.]

Did I mention that Republicans hate “big government”? Here’s a fine example of how they legislate it. Mississippi just passed the “Religious Liberty Accommodations Act,” yet to be signed by GOP Gov. Phil Bryant, allowing discrimination against sex by anyone except a male/female couple after marriage. According to the language, an unmarried couple having sex in their personal bedroom is breaking the law if signed by Bryant.

In another Southern state, the big story out of Alabama less than two weeks ago showed GOP Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley governing the state by giving an 80 percent increase in salary to four cabinet members, an extra $73,405 each, after signing a bill banning all cities from raising the minimum wage—the federally mandated $7.25 an hour. These salary increases were the biggest, but dozens of other people—cabinet and staff members—also got sizeable raises.

Last August Bentley defunded Planned Parenthood in the state before a federal judge overturned his move. Taxpayers had to pay for the legal fees. Last December Bentley diverted funding from the 2010 BP oil spill recovery effort to renovate a second Governor’s mansion on the Gulf Coast. In January he took 45,000 people off food stamps if they weren’t supporting minor children. Each of these people had received only $194 a month.

bentleyThis month, however, things got very bad for Robert Bentley after it was revealed that he is having phone sex—and maybe more—with his top aide, Rebecah Mason, on “burner” phones bought at Best Buy. (To find details, just Google the situation.) Rumors have been swirling about his infidelities for quite a while, but they became much more open after his wife of 50 years filed for divorce. He first denied the accusations, despite the tapes played on the media, and then asked for forgiveness. Just for his infidelity and not for refusing poor women health care, causing people to go hungry, appropriating funds for his own personal use, and trying to block LGBT rights in the name of “family values.” Bentley supporters complain that the emphasis in the country shouldn’t be on sex—no problem as long as conservative laws don’t prioritize sex in their “big government” prohibitions.

Although some lawmakers talk about impeaching Bentley, he says he won’t quit. His former Baptist pastor talked about “church discipline” and said that Bentley is no longer a member of the Tuscaloosa congregation where he was once a deacon. The subject of Bentley’s desire has resigned, wanting to spend more time at home with her family, but her husband, state director of the state faith-based initiative office, remains at his job.

Mason’s company was paid over $328,000 during the past three years, more than his cabinet members before their 80 percent raise. She may have been received much more than this. Although Mason served as Bentley’s top aide, she didn’t have to file financial disclosure forms because she wasn’t designated as a state employee.

Alabama has trouble with politicians: a former governor is in prison for corruption, and the speaker of the State House of Representatives is to stand trial this year on 23 felony charges of ethics violations.

Bentley is using his position to investigate two men for blogging about his alleged affair with political adviser Rebekah Mason. He ordered the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and the Law Enforcement Tactical System (LETS) to find incriminating evidence against attorney Donald V. Watkins, and Legal Schnauzer blogger, Roger Shuler. Some people question whether Bentley broke any laws in his love fest, but Watkins claims investigations will find “wire and mail fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, and racketeering violations under federal law, among other charges …[in circumventing] public oversight, transparency and competitive bid laws by channeling millions of public dollars into entities like the Workforce Councils of Alabama and others legitimate agencies and then directing the recipient agency to execute vendor contracts with certain special friends and supporters.”

The U.S. House Freedom Caucus, each making an annual salary of $174,000, is working toward “small government”by not going to work. Despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’s claim that the entire last year of the presidential term is a “lame-duck session,” the HFC understands that this time is only the approximately 75 days between the general election and the new president’s inauguration. Members hope to not go into session for this time, causing only 17 days in session after July 15 and  zero days after September 30. They have to wait until April 12 to do this because they aren’t in session.

Conservative House members have already killed the budget and the appropriations process for the year, and the government can’t operate after September 30 without a continuing resolution to maintain last year’s spending levels. HFC board member Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) described the lame-duck session as “a bunch of people who have already either quit, retired or been fired by their constituents decide they still want to vote on major stuff.” He admitted that quitting work that early this year wouldn’t look good for the legislators. He also said, “When you’re one of the people who tends to think most of what we do here is screwed up in the first place, then the less we do, maybe the better.”

That’s life in the world of conservatives who want “small government.”

September 4, 2015

What the GOP Stands For

The GOP consistently asserts that it’s the party of values, that the Democrats lack morality and integrity. Here are some examples of their values from just the past week.

GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush opposes almost everything that his opponent Donald Trump represents and attacks Trump for supporting Planned Parenthood, tax increases, single-payer health insurance, and Democrats. Meanwhile Trump trashes Bush about his “love” for immigrants, speaking Spanish, and being weak. When asked if he would support Trump if the business mogul won the GOP nomination, Bush said, “Of course.” He can abandon all of his ideals because “we need to be unified. We need to win.” Trump has signed the “pledge” to support the winning GOP candidate, but it’s not legally binding.

Trickle-down Trumpism” has hit Nevada: as Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV), a senate candidate, wants to make doing away with birthright citizenship, “part of the discussion,” as far-right Republicans so quaintly describe their opposition to the 14th Amendment. Nevada is one of five states with the largest numbers of Hispanic voters. Heck also opposes Medicare, minimum-wage increases, reproductive rights, and Social Security.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, who plans to speak in the upcoming rally opposing the Iran agreement, sees nothing wrong about his own preemptive Iraq War that killed hundreds of thousands and cost the United States trillions of dollars. About that invasion, he said:

“It was the right thing to do then. I believed it then and I believe it now. No apologies.”

He also wants to go to war with ISIS because they may have weapons of mass destruction—another several trillion dollars lost to the United States.

As he is wont to do, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker claimed and then disclaimed something, this time that a border wall on the Canadian border of the U.S. should be considered because it is a “legitimate issue.” He never said that, claimed the GOP presidential candidate after millions of people heard him on last Sunday’s Meet the Press. It was a joke, he said, because millions of people were outraged by his foreign policy strategy.

Chief video editor James O’Keefe, who managed to kill ACORN through falsified videos, has gone after Hillary Clinton. At a press conference, he claimed his hidden video cameras by Project Veritas caught two senior Clinton campaign officials accepting illegal contributions from a foreign citizen. The video shows Campaign staffers turned away a Canadian customer at a Clinton rally because financial support for U.S. campaigns can come only from residents in the U.S., but a Project Veritas employee took $40 from the Canadian woman and bought her the t-shirt plus another $35 worth of merchandise. Project Veritas wants its $35 back and people to believe that Clinton violated the campaign-finance laws.

A project attorney admitted that the staff who bought the merchandise broke the law but said it shouldn’t count. According to the Federal Election Commission’s campaign finance laws, people cannot “knowingly provide substantial assistance” by “acting as a conduit or intermediary for foreign national contributions and donations.” In Roman mythology, Veritas (the name of O’Keefe’s project) was the goddess of truth and mother of Virtue.

Once the United States was proud to be a “melting pot” of cultures, but the GOP wants to eradicate the concept. Rick Santorum, whose father was born in Italy, ridiculed the value of diversity in the United States, a viewpoint popular with conservatives. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) blamed “diversity in America” for gun violence, using the “murder in Virginia” as an example. Vester Flanagan, the man allegedly behind the “murder in Virginia,” was born in Oakland, California.Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, whose mother was pregnant when she arrived in the United States, said, “Immigration without assimilation is invasion.”

Kansas started a downward spiral when Sam Brownback became governor with a GOP legislature four years ago and stripped the state of most of its funding. When schools sued the state for adequate funding, the legislature passed a law removing authority for the state Supreme Court to appoint chief judges for the state’s judicial districts. This year’s budget declared that any court striking down this law would stop funding for the entire court system throughout the state. A district judge has just struck down the law because state constitution sets broad standards that the legislature must meet.

Kansas AG Derek Schmidt plans to carry through the removal of all funding for the courts. Attorney Pedro Irigonegaray stated, “Without funding, our state courts would close, criminal cases would not be prosecuted, civil matters would be put on hold, real estate could not be bought or sold, adoptions could not be completed.” A stay has been granted until the state Supreme Court can hear an appeal. Thanks to Brownback’s generosity to corporations and the wealthy while raising property taxes, Kansas has lost jobs and suffers billions of dollars of debt.  A report from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities called the state “a cautionary tale, not a model” because it’s remained in the recession and declining even further. At one time, Brownback aspired to the White House.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a GOP presidential candidate sometimes considered less nuts than his opponents, has a goal for his desired presidency: put the name of McKinley back on Alaska’s Mt. Denali. That was the mountain’s name, meaning “the high one” in Athabaskan language, until 1896 when the gold miner who “discovered” it wanted it named after the champion of the gold standard. McKinley never visited Alaska, and most people don’t know anything about him except for his assassination six months into his presidency. In American Place-Names, George R. Stewart wrote, “The original naming [McKinley] was little more than a joke.”

Alaska changed the name back to Denali in 1975, but Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH) blocked the change in Congress until 2009 when his colleagues took up the battle. By keeping the legislation pending, the Board of Geographic Names couldn’t make a change, a protocol and not a law. Fortunately, a 1947 law gave the Secretary of the Interior the power when “the Board does not act within a reasonable time,” now 40 years. Incensed, Regula is calling the president a dictator. Ohio evidently considers the name change of vital importance for the United States.

In less than two weeks (September 16), at least ten GOP presidential candidates will stand on a stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library to engage in a debate sponsored by CNN. That’s “at least ten” because Carly Fiorina may have browbeat the cable network to let her participate. Since the August 6 debate, Fiorina has done well in the polls, but the ones before that debate kept her out of the main event.  CNN refused to change the guidelines, saying that it would be illegal, until they changed the guidelines. Nobody previously included could be bumped, but Fiorina might be added in what could be called “the Fiorina addendum.” The GOP is delighted because having a woman on the stage might make them look slightly better.

No week would be complete without Fox network idiocy. The Black Lives Matter movement is a “criminal organization,” according to Tom Shillue. He said that “it’s time to arrest the leaders” and “people are drunk on rights in this country.” An onscreen banner during Fox & Friends described it as a murder movement, and Elizabeth Hasselback asked why Black Lives Matter was not labeled as a hate group, trying to falsely connect the death of Harris County Deputy Darren Goforth (TX) to the movement. Frequent guest David Clarke, a Wisconsin law enforcement officer, said President Obama “breathed life into an ugly movement.” Shannon Miles, who killed Goforth, has a criminal history and was declared mentally incompetent in 2012 but has no connection to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The biggest irony of the week? (And that’s hard to pick!) Sen. Rand Paul, sort of Libertarian and GOP presidential candidate who opposes government surveillance, has provided the masses with an app for a selfie with him. Installing it will give his campaign permission to follow the person with a GPS and find the person’s social media accounts.

Media and ignorance is driving the decisions of many Republicans, and these are the results. A new Public Policy Polling shows that 51 percent of GOP voters want to eliminate birthright citizenship, 54 percent think President Obama is a Muslim, and only 29 percent believe he was born in the United States. Meanwhile, 40 percent think that Ted Cruz, born in Canada, was born in the United States. Only 14 percent of Republicans are convinced that the president is a Christian; even Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he doesn’t know. Trump’s supporters have even higher percentages about these issues: 66 percent believe President Obama is a Muslim, 61 percent say he wasn’t born in the United States, and 63 percent want to amend the Constitution to eliminate birthright citizenship.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg of bigotry and stupidity from the past week.

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 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.]

July 31, 2015

Travesties in Friday News Dump

The last day of the traditional work day is known in the media as “Trash Day,” according to the classic TV series “West Wing” description of the Friday news dump. The tactic is to “dump” bad news or documents on that day so that media scrutiny would be minimized. Here are some of the Friday dump day travesties:

 

Black Women’s Equal Pay Day was last Tuesday: July 28, 2015, is the day when black women caught up with the salary that white men made in 2015. In other words, black women had to work 575 days to match the pay that men made in 365 days. Black women make 64 percent of white men, but Native American women salaries are far worse—at 59 percent of white men’s salaries.

What Voting Problems?! A Wichita State University mathematician asked for Kansas voting machines to be audited because of suspicious patterns in electronic returns, but government officials don’t want anyone to know about its problems. When Beth Clarkson, chief statistician for WSU’s National Institution for Aviation Research, made calculations after last November’s election, she found a “statistically significant” pattern in which the percentage of GOP votes increase according to how big the precinct is, even where other demographics don’t agree. She said that this anomaly happens across the country. Forced to file a lawsuit against state Secretary of State Chris Kobach for documentation, she still hasn’t been able to get the information.

Walker Rides High on Hypocrisy. In an op-ed for the Des Moines Register, presidential candidate and Wisconsin’s GOP governor, Scott Walker, wrote, “You can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep.” His reference was to how Hillary Clinton spent time in meetings with union bosses, who he calls “big-labor special interests,” as she will “shun everyday” people. Walker is headed to a luxury hotel in Southern California with other GOP presidential candidates—Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio—to attend the Koch brothers annual summer conference for Freedom Partners with 450 of the wealthiest donors on the far-right.

An Environmental Award for Rick Scott Is a Joke. The governor has  one of the worst environmental records in the history of Florida—and that’s saying something—and banned state employees from saying “climate change.” He decimated funding for important departments and projects while appointing developers and land use lawyers to their boards. They gave employees bonuses for speeding up permit approval and suspended Connie Bersok who refused to violate state law by approving development in the state’s wetlands. Chair of the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida giving Scott an award for his “conservation work” is Rodney Barreto—wealthy businessman, lobbyist, chair of the South Florida Super Bowl Committee, and Jeb Bush appointee.

McConnell Shows Game Plan for 2017: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) plans to use reconciliation to bypass the 60 votes necessary to overturn the Affordable Care Act. The purpose of reconciliation is reducing the deficit, and repealing the ACA would increase the deficit. The far-right Heritage Action group suggests replacing an official score of a repeal with a GOP invented score.

GOP Women Posted Graphic Illustration of Lynching on Facebook. The official Facebook page of the Oklahoma Federation of Republican Women briefly showed an image of a lynched black man until complaints led to its withdrawal. The text read, “The KKK was formed by the Democrats to keep control over black Americans. The Democrats of today just traded ropes for welfare.” In 2013, over 40 percent of food stamp recipients were white. The number of food stamp beneficiaries who are black has declined every year from 2001 through 2010; in 2013, only one-fourth of the recipients were black. Even if more beneficiaries were black, there is no excuse for using either the illustration or the text.

Pro-Israel, Anti-Iran Agreement Organization Pays to Take Democrat Senators to Israel on a Propaganda Tour: Lobby group AIPAC led the United States into a war with Iraq, and now it wants the United States to start a war with Iran. That’s why they are sending 40 members of Congress, several of them Democrats, to Israel this coming month to listen to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explain why they should vote with him instead of the President of the United States. Legislators prefer to meet with Netanyahu rather than their own constituents. AIPAC is spending at least $50 million to persuade people to vote against the Iran agreement.

Super PAC Carly for America Is Coordinating with Presidential Candidate Carly Fiorina: The Supreme Court ruling allowing almost unlimited money in donations to political candidates through super PACS also mandated no communication between the organizations and the individual campaign efforts of political candidates. Yet the super PAC for Fiorina, confusingly called “Carly for America,” has invited its supporters to join a conference call with the candidate Carly Fiorina while including the necessary legal notice that Carly for America “is an independent expenditure committee and not authorized or coordinated with any federal candidate or candidate’s committee.” The super PAC also performs candidate campaign functions such as managing rapid response to press questions, rolling out endorsements of the candidate, funding grassroots organizing, and organizing advance work for Fiorina’s appearances. Fiorina isn’t alone in crossing the line: presidential candidate and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry delivered his anti-Donald Trump speech at a July 22 event hosted by his super PAC, Opportunity and Freedom PAC.

Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) Lecture Nuclear Physicist on Nuclear Weapons. Last week, Cruz and Johnson accused Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz of knowing less that they did about Iran’s possible nuclear weapons and the threat of an imaginary Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) weapon to take out the nation’s electronic grid. First, the senators accused Moniz of not knowing what an EMP was because he had said he did not know the 2008 Congressional report recommendations. Cruz claimed to be “stunned” at what he considered Moniz’s ignorance about the subject. Then he refused to allow the nuclear physicist, longtime MIT professor, and holder of a PhD in theoretical physics from Stanford to answer a question before accusing him of “refusing to answer the question.” Far-right articles claim that the EMP could easily leave “9 out of 10 Americans dead,”but the Federation of American Scientists stated that this would require a “large device” detonated about 300 miles above Wichita at the altitude of the International Space Station.

Alabama’s governor, Robert Bentley, Appointed Matthew Brown to the State Department of Education: The new appointee is a fundamentalist Christian who hates the public school system and has sworn that his children will never attend public school. Bentley said, “Matthew brings a unique perspective to the position.” His perspective is to starve the public education system through vouchers and charter schools, which Bentley strongly supports through taking $30 million from public schools.

Medicare Turned 50 Yesterday: That’s the good news. The travesty is the GOP attempts to eliminate health care for the elderly and disabled. Presidential candidate Jeb Bush is leading the charge to”figure out a way to phase out this program for [younger people] and move to a new system that allows them to have something.” Backlash led a Bush spokesman to say that Bush wanted only modest reforms. Conservatives say they want to shift the current “defined benefit” program providing specific protections and levels of financial security to a “defined contribution” that distributes money according to a pre-determined formula and require seniors to shop for coverage. What they really want is to end Medicare’s guaranteed health care.

Cruz Tells Code Pink That “Truth Matters” Before He Lies: After pointing out the importance of truth, Cruz said that both Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei and President Rouhani “explicitly said they are developing nuclear weapons. There is no doubt about it.” Code Pink’s co-founder Medea Benjamin said, “That is absolutely false.” Benjamin speaks the truth, but Cruz told Benjamin not to interrupt him. Conservatives failed to report the statements but said that Cruz “crushed” Code Pink. [Insight into Cruz: one of his favorite superheroes is Rorschach, the mentally unstable killer in Alan Moore’s Watchman who lives by his own moral code and exacts severe—maybe psychotic—punishment for anyone who violates it.]

pigs flyTexas Displays Judicial ActivismAfter anti-LGBT activists couldn’t get the 17,000 signatures required to put Houston’s anti-discrimination measures to a vote, the Texas Supreme Court suspended the ordinance, ruling that it either be repealed or put before voters. The court couldn’t do this legally, but it made the ruling. Do conservatives find this judicial activism—which they profess to hate? Will they object? Do pigs fly?

Congress Passes Short-term Highway Funding Bill: The Senate has passed a funding bill to continue the Highway Trust Fund for six years but pays for only three, providing $45 billion spread out for the six years over the gasoline tax. They not only refused to increase the gas tax to levels of 20 years ago but also could not work anything out with the House, that passed only a three-month extension of the funding. The Senate made a bipartisan refusal with 18 Democrats and 15 Republicans voting against it. Great comment from Oregon’s senior senator, Ron Wyden:

“I said to a friend this morning with apologies to the elephants: When the elephants lock tusks, it’s never dull.”

States cannot possibly plan for major transportation projects and prolong maintenance on dangerously damaged roads and bridges with short-term fixes, and this is the 34th “fix” since 2009—an average of five each year. After the recess, the two congressional chambers will have to tackle the problem again. And the Iran deal. And the appropriations bill. And Planned Parenthood. And anything else that has nothing to do with jobs. And the infrastructure suffers because Congress hands out the money in dribbles and drabs.

 

June 3, 2015

Will Hastert Have to Follow His Principles?

Moral values have always been a strong platform of the Republican party, but they consistently betray their own conservative positions. The latest example is 73-year-old Dennis Hastert, former Speaker of the U.S. House, bribing someone to conceal an “unidentified event” long ago while Hastert taught in Yorkville (IL). Promising to pay an unnamed person $3.5 million, Hastert has been indicted for withdrawing $1.7 million of money in sums under $10,000 to avoid IRS detection and then lying to the FBI about the money. It appears that he molested at least two underage males while he was coaching wrestling.

Barney Frank pointed out on All In with Chris Hayes:

“There is a hypocrisy issue. Dennis Hastert was a member of the House who voted for the Defense of Marriage act. He subsequently as Speaker twice put before the House of Representatives the constitutional amendment that would have cancelled retroactively all the same sex marriages that had taken place legally. … The rank hypocrisy of this man using his power to persecute other people for doing what he was doing.”

Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA) was forced to resign from the Speaker position in 1998 because he was having an affair with an employee of the House Agriculture Committee while he was still married. (Later he divorced his wife, and married the woman.)  His replacement, Rep. Robert Livingston (R-LA), resigned because he was having an affair with a lobbyist who was lobbying him. (His replacement was David Vitter, a right-wing family-values conservative who was then caught having adulterous affairs with prostitutes.) Livingston then formed a lobbying group, blocking a Senate bill to call on one of his clients, Egypt, to curtail the country’s human rights abuses.

Hastert took over as Speaker just 18 days after the beginning of impeachment proceedings against President Clinton. Frank concluded, “I think that it now looks like if you take Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Dennis Hastert, and Robert Livingston the Republican Speakers or would be speakers, Clinton is a choir boy.”

Orin Kerr summarized the situation in the Washington Post:

“If I understand the history correctly, in the late 1990s, the President was impeached for lying about a sexual affair by a House of Representatives led by a man who was also then hiding a sexual affair, who was supposed to be replaced by another Congressman who stepped down when forced to reveal that he too was having a sexual affair, which led to the election of a new Speaker of the House who now has been indicted for lying about payments covering up his sexual contact with a boy.”

One of the impeachment “managers” who made the case to the Senate was Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), who had had an adulterous affair. It was called a “youthful indiscretion,” but it happened when Hyde was 41. He is known for the Hyde Amendment barring the use of federal funds to pay for abortions that has annually appeared as riders on appropriation bills for the past 30 years.

Hastert voted “aye” on all four impeachment counts. During the impeachment proceedings, Princeton scholar Sean Wilentz told House Republicans that, in the future, they would be seen as “zealots and fanatics” and added, “History will hunt you down for your cravenness.”

In addition to consistently voting against marriage equality, Hastert voted no on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill to prohibit companies from discriminating against LGBT employees. He was also a strong supporter of funding for abstinence sex education because “more kids need to be taught to just say no, that doesn’t just apply to drugs, it also applies to sex before marriage.” Hastert resigned as Speaker after the discovery that he had protected former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) who had sexual  relationships with boys employed as pages at the U.S. Capitol.

In his autobiography over a decade old ago, Hastert wrote, “I was never a very good liar. Maybe I wasn’t smart enough. I could never get away with it, so I made up my mind as a kid to tell the truth and pay the consequences.”

Hastert codified a House doctrine, first used by Gingrich, that prevented any floor vote on a bill unless a “majority of the majority” party supports the bill. The policy, called “The Hastert Rule,” has resulted in a combination of massive gridlock and partisanship in the House. No bill can go to the floor unless the Speaker of the House gives permission. For example, a bill technically passes the House with 218 votes, but with the current number of Democrats in the House at 170, a bill must have at least 123 Republican votes—that’s a required 293 votes, almost 55 percent of the House members. Last year, the immigration bill passed with 68 votes in the Senate failed to even get an up-or-down vote in the House because too few GOP members supported it.

Known as a nice guy, Hastert hid scandals during his tenure as Speaker for people in his own party. He concealed Tom DeLay’s misconduct until they became obvious. When the ethics committee recommended a series of reprimands for DeLay in 2004, Hastert fired the committee chair, Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO) and two other GOP members of the committee, Kenny Hulshof (MO) and Steve LaTourette (OH) before leading rule changes to make it harder to admonish House members. After three DeLay associates were indicted, Hastert enacted a rule enabling DeLay to stay as majority leader if he were indicted.

Colleagues claimed that Hastert was squeaky clean, but he manipulated land transactions in his home state to increase his net worth by millions of dollars. He bought land at a low price while two cronies purchased adjacent land at a much higher price before merging the parcels in a trust that gave Hastert an inflated share. Using his clout as Speaker, he jammed through a transportation bill with an attached $207 million earmark to fund a highway interchange that neither the Illinois Department of Transportation nor residents adjacent to the land wanted. The Speaker got $3 million, a 500-percent profit, and the highway was never built.

Hastert also forced through the Medicare prescription-drug bill by presiding over the nearly three-hour vote in the dead of night that the rules limited to 15 minutes. The Rules Committee squashed amendments from both Democrats and Republicans with rare conferences late at night and closed to anyone except Hastert’s loyal followers. Provisions, neither in House or Senate bills, were added without notice to lawmakers.

Throughout all the chicanery, Hastert kept a quiet demeanor and stayed away from most Sunday talk shows. Reporters largely ignored his presence while he managed to guide the country into the disaster that exists today.

Where Hastert goes from here, no one knows. His arraignment on financial charges, originally scheduled for tomorrow, has been moved to next Tuesday, June 9. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin, who contributed $1,500 to Hastert’s campaign before taking the bench and is the brother of Illinois House GOP Leader Jim Durkin.

Haley Barbour, former RNC chairman, said about the indictment for paying hush money to the former Speaker of the House because he had sex with a teenager and then lied about it to the FBI:

“It doesn’t matter a bit politically. Democrats hope it does, but I don’t think so.”

The Wall Street Journal questioned the charges against Hastert from “busybody agencies” such as the FBI and IRS,” and NBC’s Pete Williams called the charges purely “technical.” This weekend, on the Sunday talk shows, moderators and reporters raked the prosecution over the coals. NBC News correspondent Pete Williams called the charges against Hastert purely “technical.” ABC’s Dan Abrams and Fox network’s Brit Hume think that “derivative crimes” are minor issues, similar to lying under oath—the charge that Hastert used to impeach President Clinton.

Seventeen years ago, Republicans said that derivative crimes were important, regardless of context, because no one was above the law. Hastert, House deputy majority whip, agreed, and voted to authorize the House Judiciary Committee to investigate Clinton. The committee must “uncover the truth” and “uphold the rule of law,” said Hastert. “Sweeping the matter under the rug just won’t work.” With his votes for impeachment, he declared that the president was not “above the law.” Sixteen years ago, when President Clinton was acquitted, Hastert said, “Republicans in the Congress can be proud that they stood by the principles that have made this nation strong.” The first principle he cited was “respect for the rule of law.”

Now the question is whether Hastert is above the law. Will he be able to conceal his own wrongdoings? I’m guessing yes, because conservatives are usually successful in this area.

April 20, 2015

Wisconsin Senator an Example of Uncaring Rich

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who used $8.8 million of his own money to get elected in 2010, was then the tenth wealthiest congressional member with almost $50 million, up from almost $20 million the previous year. By now, he’s gone down to thirtieth wealthiest in Congress but remains in about the top 5 percent within a group of very wealthy people.

One could call Johnson a “self-made” man because his wealth comes from his marriage to University of Minnesota sweetheart, Jane Curler. Her father, Howard Curler, started a company in 1958 with Robert Woods that developed innovative packaging—shrink-wrapped cheese and meat packaging, films for coffee and other products, etc. Almost 40 years ago, Curler created a business, PACUR, for son Patrick that sold its products exclusively to Dad. Son-in-law Ron Johnson joined the company in 1979.

Johnson’s wealth, and the way that he procured it, is not the problem, however. It’s his indifference to the other 95 percent of the people in the United States who haven’t found a wealthy spouse to give them the same opportunities. Recently he agreed with radio host Jay Weber in criticizing the use of “sad sack stories about who’s dying from what and why they can’t get their coverage” to promote “Obamacare.”

For the second time, Johnson has lost a lawsuit to stop congressional members and their staff from getting health insurance subsidies by arguing that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) required them to get insurance on their own. In the first judgment against Johnson, U.S. District Judge William Griesbach ruled that Johnson and his aide, Brooke Ericson, lacked standing to bring the suit because they had not been injured under an equal protection theory. Griesbach wrote, “The Constitution wisely cabins judicial authority by forbidding judges from deciding disputes unless the plaintiff is actually injured in some concrete, discernible way.” The George W. Bush-appointed judge added:

“The nation’s system of government doesn’t allow every controversy to play out in court. There is nothing in the Constitution stipulating that all wrongs must have remedies, much less that the remedy must lie in federal court. In fact, given the Constitution’s parsimonious grant of judicial authority, just the opposite is true.”

A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals concurred with Griesbach after Johnson appealed the decision. “Respectfully, we do not see how Senator Johnson’s reputation could be sullied or his electability diminished by being offered, against his will, a benefit that he then decided to refuse,” Judge Joel Flaum, a Reagan appointee, wrote for the panel. The other two judges were appointed for Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton.

Johnson is frustrated because the judge failed “to address the important constitutional issues at hand” although addressing from these plaintiffs would be unconstitutional. After two failures in the courts, Johnson is reviewing the decision before deciding whether to drop the matter, ask the full appeals court to review the decision, or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) called the lawsuit “an unfortunate political stunt” that would cause top congressional staff to quit if Johnson won.

Three years ago, Johnson tried to convince voters of the ACA’s evils by claiming that his daughter’s heart surgery would not have been possible with ACA as the law. He claimed that he ran for the Senate to replace the “healthcare freedom” prior to the ACA. Dr. John Foker disagreed with Johnson’s story. On the other hand, the man who saved the life of Johnson’s daughter is “generally supportive” of the ACA but thinks it doesn’t go far enough. He said, “Unfortunately it was written by the insurance and drug companies, so not so great.” In addition, the surgery was performed at a government-funded medical institution and was developed under the socialized healthcare systems in Brazil and France.

After a GOP president lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and insisted on a multi-trillion-dollar war, Johnson wants to privatize medical care for veterans and run the VA at a profit. This was after he accused President Obama of not keeping enough troops in Iraq. With the Republicans in control of Congress, Johnson’s plan is moving toward fruition after Concerned Veterans for America, funded by the Koch brothers, released a report supporting privatization. Veterans would have a private insurance option, and one-fifth of future veterans might not be eligible for care under tougher enrollment standards. Real veterans’ groups oppose the plan, and this clip from the The Rachel Maddow Show discusses why privatization would be a disaster.

Health insurance isn’t the only thing that Johnson wants to take from people; he wants to force single women to marry. The new chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said that a single woman who wants to “increase her take-home pay” instead of having yet “another child out of wedlock” to increase her welfare windfall should instead “find someone to support her.” He may be projecting his personal experience on the poor.

The idea that women have more children to get more government benefits has been debunked by both Politifact and Washington Post because food stamps, health care and other government assistance don’t come close to covering all the expenses that come with having a child. Johnson also ignores the fact that almost half the children in the current generation will spend at least part of their childhood in single-parent household, most of them headed by women and most not receiving “welfare.”

A recent study shows that almost as many poor or near-poor children are in two-parent families as in single-parents ones. In addition, countries such as Iceland, France, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Britain all have higher nonmarital birth rates than does the United States, yet they all have far lower rates of child poverty. As author and activist Barbara Ehrenreich has argued, poverty is not a lack of character, it is a lack of money. The number of “traditional families” idealized by well-funded organizations and Christian ministries is rapidly shrinking although it dominates the U.S. imagination. Johnson and his fellow Republicans are contributing to the number of “poor single women” through their support of rising economic inequality, diminishing numbers of blue-collar jobs, lowered wages, and unbelievably high levels of incarceration in poor communities.

Dozens of studies with thousands of participants throughout the United States show that people’s feelings of compassion and empathy go down as their level of wealth increases. At the same time, higher levels of wealth lead to feelings of entitlement, deservingness, and self-interest, according to Paul Piff, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Social Behavior at the University of California, Irvine. Some of these studies are described here. One reason may be that wealth provides the luxury of less dependence on others, thus desensitizing a sense of empathy.

UC-Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner has found that this deficit physically appeared through the vagus nerve which is activated by caring. Images of suffering produced a vagus nerve response in lower-class people that didn’t appear in upper-class individuals. These are the people increasingly making decisions for society as over half the members of Congress are millionaires.

Conservatives who get very riled about these studies could look at the Republicans in Congress. Ron Johnson is just an example of conservative members who take from the poor and give to the rich.

Johnson, the senator who sued to stop ACA for congressional staff and sneered at the “sad sack” stories, is the same person who is afraid of backlash against the GOP if the Supreme Court gives the GOP what they asked for in stripping health care subsidies for millions of people in the United States. The biggest election disaster for the GOP would be in the red states where conservatives can’t—or won’t—set up state-run insurance exchanges if the Supreme Court refuses to recognize the federal exchange for those who live in poverty.

Also in Wisconsin, state representatives Jesse Kremer and Steve Nuss want food stamp recipients to show ID to eliminate the non-existent waste and fraud, forcing them to identify themselves as a lower class. The elderly can forget about asking someone to get groceries for them. Kremer also wants special government-run food pantries for people with food stamps.

The best Wisconsin story from the week: Gov.Scott Walker explained that the U.S. role in the world is “what makes us arguably the greatest nation in history.” This from the party and the person who questions President Obama’s “love for his country.”

March 2, 2015

Send in the Clowns to CPAC

The annual Conservative Political Action Conference last week started with speaker Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) saying that the GOP needs to support and elect “principled, positive, and proven” conservative candidates instead of rewarding “the guy who can shout “freedom” the loudest.  In other words, stop sending in the clowns. Nobody took his advice.

Some CPAC messages: waterboarding works, the Muslim Brotherhood controls one-third of all mosques in the U.S., and the nation is currently experiencing Islam’s “third great jihad.”

tomi lahrenSouth Dakota TV host Tomi Lahren, 22, explained that women like Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren can be classified as male because they get attention through their words and wisdom. Then she said she wasn’t apologizing for being white and she’s rich because she grew up in South Dakota. She concluded, “Let’s look at the top three Democrats for 2016. You’ve got Hillary, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden? Old, rich, white, and if the pantsuit fits, male too?” She also doesn’t want the government near her body, so that would make her pro-choice if she thought about it. This may be a rising GOP star!

Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson said, “Bring your Bible to the Oval Office, and your woman, ’cause the hippies are coming to get you.” No one seems to know what he meant although the rest of the speech concerned the possibility of Republicans getting sexually transmitted diseases.

Heritage Foundation vice-president Jennifer Marshall said that the three legs of the conservative stool are marriage, small government and a stable economy because “the sexual revolution has made relationships between men and women much more challenging.” Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute followed up by saying that poverty can be erased “by having stable, two-parent households.” Poverty might be eradicated by just having “stable” households.

Donald Trump still questions the authenticity of President Obama’s birth certificate, and Rick Santorum gave a birtherism “joke”: “The president’s popularity is so bad around the world today that I heard this report from a source that the Kenyan government is actually developing proof that Barack Obama was born in America.” Both men were greeted with silence.

Trump also said he would be the best commander-in-chief because he has the best skills to negotiate with terrorists. Trying to follow the GOP mantra of non-negotiation, however, he said he would “hit [ISIL] really hard,” maybe with “some boots on the ground for a period of time until you get rid of the cancer.” Then he would put lots of sanctions on Iran despite Iran’s opposition to ISIL. As for the national debt, the man who has personally filed bankruptcy declared:

“I understand debt, I understand business better than anybody that’s ever run, in my opinion, for office. Nobody’s had the success, in a business sense that I’ve had. I know how to get rid of debt… and I would do it quickly.”

Governors don’t know enough about foreign affairs to be president, said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), trying to flaunt his personal knowledge. His strategy to defeat ISIL: defeat them “on the ground by a Sunni military force with air support from the United States.” Although a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he claims that the president doesn’t have a military strategy “because he doesn’t want to upset Iran.” ISIL and Iran are actually enemies, and Iran has already gone after ISIL targets. The president has already launched a military offensive against ISIL targets, as Rubio suggests. Rubio wants “a sustained air campaign,” increased  “efforts to equip and capacitate non-jihadists in Syria,” arming and supporting “forces in Iraq confronting it,” and work with “with nations in the region threatened by the Islamic State to participate in real efforts to defeat it”—everything that President Obama is already doing.

Triangulation in politics: exploiting public disapproval of both major parties by separating from both. Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) approach: GOP congressional leaders have sold out to Democrats on immigration, and people should support him because he’ll be farther right than all those Washington “politicians.” He wants everyone to stand up to the Republicans.

Sarah Palin inadvertently skewered leading GOP candidates for president when she said:

“It’s said that old men declare wars, and then they send the young ones to fight ‘em. So it’s the duty of he who sends them to actually make sure that we can win those wars. And it’s our duty to elect an honorable commander-in-chief who is willing to make the same sacrifices he sends others away to make.”

That lets out those who didn’t serve, some of whom actually dodged the draft: Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and perhaps a few others.

The biggest reaction from the media, however, came from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s comparison of Wisconsin protesters and ISIL: “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.” Non-violent Wisconsin protesters didn’t hold hostages, behead people, or burn them alive; they just marched, chanted, held signs, and sang. Walker, however, equates U.S. citizens peacefully exercising their constitutional rights with violent terrorists killing people and blowing up the infrastructure.

joan walker

Walker’s spokesperson tried to cover for him by saying that he wasn’t comparing the protesters to ISIL, but Walker made the situation worse when he said, “That’s the closest thing I have in terms of handling a difficult situation, not that there’s any parallel between the two.” In other words, he admitted he has no experience with terrorism. Even Jim Geraghty wrote in the highly conservative National Review that “Walker doesn’t quite understand the complexity of the challenge from ISIS and its allied groups.”

Walker's protesters These are some of Walker’s ISIL look-alikes in Wisconsin. More images are available here.

tractorISIS

Walker’s CPAC comment followed his claim a week earlier that “the most significant foreign policy decision of my lifetime” was then-President Ronald Reagan’s move to break up the union for the air traffic controllers by firing about 11,000 of them during a 1981 strike. He explained that this event proved to countries throughout the world that “we weren’t to be messed with.” Walker, 47, missed two wars in Iraq, START treaties, Nixon in China, ending the Vietnam War, the Camp David Accords, negotiation of the Northern Ireland peace process, Osama bin Laden’s death, the Iranian hostage crisis, wars in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Iran/Contra, and much more.  Foes around the world also didn’t stop “messing” with the United States after 11,000 people lost their jobs. Walker’s naïve statements show his approach toward foreign affairs.

http://www.alternet.org/world/guess-what-scott-walker-and-isis-have-common   Walker and ISIL militants have something in common: their hatred for unions. Walker may also not know that Reagan supported unions in other parts of the world.

Mark Salter, a top adviser to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign added this comment to an article about Walker on Salter’s Facebook page:

“I want to like him but Scott Walker is kind of a dumb ass.”

Matt Taibbi called Scott Walker, “God’s Gift to the Democratic Party.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) came out the winner of the CPAC with over one-fourth of the votes. Koch-supported Walker got 21.4 percent among the 17 GOP contenders, and Cruz, with 11.5 percent, was third. Fourth and fifth were Ben Carson (11.4 percent) and Jeb Bush (8.3 percent). Some of his votes probably came from the people he bussed in from downtown Washington, D.C. The remainder of the wannabes got under 5 percent. Paul had a position that everyone can agree with: “It’s time for a new president.” That’s because of term limits for U.S. president. Of the 3,007 CPAC voters, 42 percent were students.

A report from Pew Research Center released last week shows that “majorities say the Democratic Party is open and tolerant, cares about the middle class and is not ‘too extreme.’ By contrast, most Americans see the G.O.P. lacking in tolerance and empathy for the middle class, and half view it as too extreme.”

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