Nel's New Day

July 1, 2019

DDT: Week 127 – Hobnobbing with Autocrats

A mainstream journalist claimed that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) survived last week’s G20 without offending anyone, but the report skipped his offensive behavior such as his attack on the 1951 mutual defense treaty with Japan when the U.S. forced a new constitution on Japan and blocked any military there except for self-defense. Before DDT got to Osaka, he complained that Japan would not help the U.S. if it were attacked but instead “watch it on a Sony television.” DDT complained about India’s raising tariffs caused by his increased U.S. tariffs on aluminum and steel. DDT repeated his attack on Germany for not paying enough for NATO and again lied about the U.S. share of NATO financial burden and other countries in being arrears. In a conversation with Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, DDT said, “We take care of our allies.” At the end of the summit, he bragged about his preference for the world’s dictators.

DDT’s few allies—authoritarian thugs—in almost 200 countries: 

Vladimir Putin: After a journalist asked DDT if he had talked to Putin, sitting next to him, about interfering in U.S. elections, DDT smiled at Putin, humorously wagged his finger at him, and said twice, “Don’t meddle in the election.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laughed at the exchange. Investigator Robert Mueller has confirmed the opinion from the U.S. intelligence community that Russia meddled in 2016, but DDT takes Putin’s word that he didn’t. On the anniversary of the Capital Gazette shooting that killed five people, DDT also praised Putin for getting rid of the “fake news.” Over 200 journalists have been murdered in Russia, and another dozens have disappeared.

Mohammed Bin Salman: DDT piled praise on Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, the murderer of U.S. journalist and resident Jamal Khashoggi.

Jair Bolsonaro: A member of the Brazilian president’s armed forces was arrested in Spain for carrying 86 pounds of cocaine as the advance team stopped in Seville on their way to the G20 summit in Japan. One of the president’s promises was anti-drug trafficking by gangs; he bragged about his military’s professionalism.

Kim Jong-Un: Love-sick DDT asked North Korea’s president to meet him at the border while DDT is in South Korea “just to shake his hand.” Although DDT claimed the idea was spur of the moment, the White House said they delayed its announcement for a week because of security reasons. DDT managed his photo op and media attention by stepping across the border into North Korea. In discussing talks about Kim’s denuclearization, DDT said he didn’t care how long it would take, giving the murderous dictator time to create the weapons.

Rodrigo Duterte: DDT continues to admire the Philippine’s murderous leader.

Benjamin Netanyahu: DDT is working with Israel’s prime minister to destroy Palestine. DDT’s next project is getting the PM re-elected in September so that the country doesn’t indict Netanyahu. 

Before heading out to Japan, DDT placed more sanctions on Iran. DDT claimed that he would make sure than Iran didn’t have nuclear weapons, yet he backed out of President Obama’s agreement with Iran because it only concentrated on keeping Iran from having nuclear weapons. Russia has promised to look out for Iran’s interests while Europe attempts to keep the peace on DDT’s worsening situation. DDT deployed F-22 stealth fighters to Qatar in order to build up Gulf forces. Last month, the U.S. sent nuclear-capable B-52 Stratofortress bombers along with an aircraft carrier task force. 

About a war with Iran, DDT said, “It wouldn’t last very long…. You’re not going to need an exit strategy. I don’t need exit strategies.” He echoed ultrahawk Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) who claimed that a war with Iran would take “Two strikes: the first strike and a last strike.” All the saber rattling repeats the claims of the George W. Bush administration. In 2002 and 2003, Ken Adelman, assistant to Donald Rumsfeld in the 1970s, wrote two op-eds for the Washington Post, “Cakewalk in Iraq” and “Cakewalk, Revisited.” The “cakewalk” is now 16 years old. The GOP Senate failed to pass an amendment that would have stopped DDT from a tweet to start a war with Iran.  

Former president Jimmy Carter called DDT an illegitimate president and spoke about DDT’s disastrous immigration policy:

“[DDT] lost the election and was put into office because the Russians interfered on his behalf….

“Every day we send a disgraceful signal around the world, that this is what the president of the United States government stands for. And that is torture and kidnapping of little children, separation from their parents and deprivation of those who are incarcerated.”

DDT has followed his own advice for accusations of sexual assault against E. Jean Carroll: “deny, deny, deny.” He first said he’d never met Carroll although a photograph proved him wrong; he continued by saying that she’s “totally lying” about his sexual attack; and he used the third “deny” to say that “she’s not my type.” The pattern is the same for all other reports of sexual assaults and indicates that he would assault women if they were his “type.” Rupert Murdoch has pulled all stories about Carroll from the New York Post.

The stock market may go up this coming week: DDT has claimed he’s ironing out the China trade war by talking with President Xi Jinping.

GOP members of Congress are thinking about balancing the budget by taking money away from domestic departments such as labor and education to pay for the massive cuts benefiting the wealthy and big businesses. Yet DDT plans an even higher national debt by going around Congress to give bigger tax cuts to the wealthy. He thinks he can sign an executive order indexing capital gains rates to inflation with 86 percent of the tax breaks going to the top one percent. Corporate stock with dividends held for 10 years would presently be taxed at 24.3 percent, but DDT’s plan would drop the tax to 21.4 percent. The change would give the wealthy $102 billion over the decade. Even Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin disapproves. George W. Bush had considered the same idea but decided it was illegal. DDT’s adviser Larry Kudlow, who predicted that there would be no recession a decade ago, called it useful for “economic growth”—the same justification as the failed 2017 tax cuts.

DDT finally admitted that he opposes any solution for the climate crisis because it threatens corporate profits. At the G20 summit he tried to enlist support against solving the climate crisis from his authoritarian friends in Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Australia, and Turkey.

No one knows for sure the profits that DDT would see from his latest tax scam, but a recent court order may make some of his financial records public. A federal ruling permits congressional Democrats to continue their emoluments case against DDT, giving them financial records from the Trump Organization. The DOJ plans an emergency plea to an appeals court, but this long-shot legal tactic is rarely granted in ordinary litigation.

In a day-long closed-door interview with House Intelligence Committee staff, Giorgi Rtskhiladze, a Georgian native and U.S. citizen who works for the Trump Organization, talked about his personal and financial losses because of his work with DDT and DDT’ associates, including the failed Trump Tower Moscow development in 2015. According to Rtskhiladze, DDT mixed business with politics in his projects, and his partners lost millions. The businessman’s name was mentioned in Robert Mueller’s report.

Twitter plans to label tweets from national political figures such as political candidates and government officials with over 100,000 followers, including DDT, that should be taken down for breaking the company’s rules. Before reading the tweets, users need to click on a screen that states:

“The Twitter Rules about abusive behavior apply to this Tweet. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain available.”

Tweets will also be de-prioritized to circulate to fewer people. Twitter bans threats, glorifications of violence, bullying, targeted harassment, and the incitement of others to harass. Other bans include “hateful conduct,” which can involve threats or harassment on the basis of race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, and other factors. Banned tweets do not need to be direct incitements to violence but could lead to real-world harm. Reddit has also decided to “quarantine” the biggest forum for DDT supporters to stop being a hub for conspiracy theories and violent threats.

DDT is excluding the general population for his July 4 military party in public areas of Washington, D.C. by sealing off the area from the Lincoln Memorial steps halfway down the Reflecting Pool, reserving it only for his family, friends, and “ticketed” VIP friends (aka wealthy donors). Votes for Vets is selling USS John S. McCain t-shirts and urging people to wear them in Washington on July 4 to honor military service and sacrifice.

Last month, Jon Stewart gave an impassioned speech before the House Judiciary Committee to beg that the Victims Compensation Fund for 9/11 first responders be made permanent. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), known for blocking almost all House bills in his chamber, asked why Stewart was so “bent out of shape,” that he would get around to the issue. One of the responders who appeared with Stewart, 53-year-old Luis Alvarez, died on June 29, 2019, and the Senate has taken no action. After the former Marine and 20-year NYPD detective saved people on 9/11, Alvarez (right) suffered from colon cancer before his liver shut down. After his death, Alvarez may accomplish something he could not do while alive, but Republican legislator push bills that only help the wealthy or themselves.

May 6, 2015

This Week Doubles GOP Presidential Field

Another day, another GOP presidential candidate. Yesterday Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor, made his announcement by preaching the good word from his birthplace of Hope, also Bill Clinton’s birth place. Using ministerial language to match that of candidate Ted Cruz, Huckabee declaimed that the United States has “lost our way morally” while his crowd cheered.

Huckabee trails in sixth place at 7.5 percent, following two undeclared candidates—Jeb Bush (15.5 percent) and Scott Walker (12.3 percent)—and three already in the field: Marco Rubio (14.3 percent), Rand Paul (10 percent), and Ted Cruz (8.8 percent). His attacks in the speech were directed not only against the president but also GOP candidates. According to Huckabee, a politician running for higher office should “at least have the integrity and decency to resign” from his current job. He attacked Jeb Bush for hailing from a “family political dynasty.” Huckabee said, “I grew up blue collar, not blue blood.”

Huckabee mansionThe “blue collar” guy has come a long way in the last eight years as testified by his $3 million beachfront home in Florida. He and Texarkana friend and former legislator David Haak got permits to build neighboring homes on an eroding beach in Santa Rosa. Seven hurricanes in six years made the lots unbuildable because the “frontal dune” was too close to the street for the 11,000 square-foot compounds. They simply dumped truckloads of sand farther out on the beach, shaped it into a mound, and declared the man-made hump to be the new frontal dune. The Florida DEP wouldn’t give permits until Huckabee’s contractor moved the home sites back five feet and made a deal with the head of the agency. Taxpayers are provided $43 million for the replenishment of the 19-mile stretch of beach in front of his vacation home.

During the past eight years ago, Huckabee made money from his own show on the Fox network, a syndicated radio program, and several books. More funds went into his coffers from “renting” his campaign email list. One group charges people $72 to locate the miracle cure for cancer hidden in the Bible; another one sells food to survivalists for the upcoming disaster. When CNN host Jake Tepper asked him about allowing his mailing list to pedal bogus cancer cures, Huckabee compared it to selling legitimate medical equipment. He said he hadn’t lost his credibility because “I never signed that letter.” He followed up his justification by saying, “I didn’t actually run that part of my company.” His name, however, was on the promo.

As huckster, Huckabee had a video on the “Diabetes Reversed” website in which he touts the “amazing” treatment for Type 2 diabetes. He recommends getting rid of all those medications and switching to Barton Publishing’s Diabetes Solution Kit. A New York Times report stated that “the American Diabetes Association and the Canadian Diabetes Association caution against treatments like the one peddled by the company Mr. Huckabee represents.” A spokeswoman said that the candidate had dropped his connection with Barton early this year, but the website had a reference to the “governor” earlier today. (It’s not there now.)

Huckabee finds the IRS as criminal as abortion. He wants to replace income taxes with a 23-percent sales tax. To Huckabee and his supporters, this so-called FairTax would fund the government, including Social Security and Medicare.  Laurence Kotlikoff, a Boston University economist, pointed out that multi-million-dollar houses would not be taxed and wealthy people might effectively avoid paying the sales tax.

The candidate also suffers from the same flip-flopping that other presidential candidates do. Common Core educational standards were “near and dear to my heart” just two years ago, but now he hates them. As governor, he called for lifting Cuba’s economic embargo of Cuba to help his rice farmers but now opposes the president’s foreign policy by saying that Cuba’s government is tyrannical. While running for president, he said that “climate change … is real”; now he opposes “cap and trade” legislation. At the same time that he objects to what he calls “wage stagnation,” he opposes a higher minimum wage.

In a promo for his candidacy, Huckabee claims that he cut taxes and welfare … and raised average family income by 50 percent.” A fact check shows that the increase over 11 years wasn’t adjusted for inflation. It was actually 20 percent at a time (1996-2007) when the federal average increased more than this. He also took total credit for the income change. Huckabee was governor during increases in sales taxes, a three-percent income-tax surcharge, a 25-cent cigarette increase, and a tax on beds in nursing homes. Club for Growth maintains during Huckabee’s governorship that state sales tax rose 37 percent over his tenure, motor fuel taxes rose 16 percent, and cigarette taxes rose 103 percent, while spending rose at three times the rate of inflation.

Huckabee has been an Obama “birther” and made other personal attacks against the president. Because President Obama lived with his mother and stepfather in Indonesia, he’s neither a Christian nor a “real American.” As Huckabee told Bryan Fischer:

“Most of us grew up going to Boy Scout meetings and, you know, our communities were filled with Rotary Clubs, not madrassas.”

Huckabee also pushed the conspiracy theory that Obama may have identified as a foreign student in college and said that the president’s administration gives “special rights and privileges ” to Muslim-Americans. He told people to refuse to join the military until there is no longer a conservative president in the White House and wants officials to defy federal law on marriage equality.

According to Huckabee, President Obama is making the U.S. less free than North Korea, and an expansion of contraceptive access is comparable to the belief that “cannot control their libido.” He declared that “Obamacare” would have forced Ted Kennedy to commit suicide were the celebrated senator not already dead and blamed the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre on the lack of government-sponsored school prayer. One of his religious claims is that “a wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband.”

During his 11 years as governor, Huckabee commuted and pardoned 1,033 prisoners, twice as many as his three predecessors combined. Twelve of them had been convicted of murder. Maurice Clemmons went on to kill four police officers in Washington state, and serial rapist Wayne DuMond moved to Missouri where he raped and killed two women after Huckabee pressured the state parole board for his release in an illegal private meeting.

Huckabee assured his audience in his candidacy announcement that he hasn’t changed even if he has more money. In the past he endorsed quarantining AIDS patients, condemned efforts to shield homosexuals from discrimination, and called for the death penalty to be imposed on big-time drug dealers. Being gay should be a criminal offense, he has argued. Max Brantley, editor of the Arkansas Times, thinks Huckabee’s ideas haven’t changed:

“He’s got a penchant for sort of cheap-shot quips. He thinks a lot of himself. He thinks he can talk himself out of anything. The main thing I still marvel at is how many people think he’s a nice guy, because he’s got a real mean streak.”

Chuck Norris is still a strong Huckabee support, which may be a mixed blessing for the candidate. The actor has been highly visible recently in his declaration that the federal government is planning a military takeover of Texas in Jade Helm 15, a U.S. military training program.

Jon Stewart is definitely not a supporter of Huckabee—or of Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson. A piece on The Daily Show supplements news footage about the most recent “crazies.” About Huckabee’s objection to the worshipping of “the false god of judicial supremacy,” Stewart commented, “Ah yes the false god of Judicial Supremacy, or as your founding father dinner-mates once called it, the constitutional rule of law.”

A year ago, Huckabee said that female political candidates should be put on a pedestal. We’ll see where he puts his competition now.

October 17, 2014

White Privilege in the U.S.

Bill O’Reilly appeared on Jon Stewart this week in an attempt to get people to buy the latest book in his killing series, Killing Patton. The book got short shrift in the discussion, however, as Stewart said all he wanted from O’Reilly was an admission that white privilege exists. O’Reilly denied that it existed and then moved on to say that Asian privilege exists in the country because they make more money than other groups. Then he admitted that slavery and Jim Crow were bad, but “that was then, this was now.” Unfortunately, Stewart didn’t ask O’Reilly about the Jim Crow voting laws passed within the past few years.

Stewart explained that far more blacks are disproportionately arrested and imprisoned for drugs although whites use drugs in far higher numbers. O’Reilly agreed and then said, “America is now a place where if you work hard, get educated and are an honest person, you can succeed.”

o'reilly Stewart said, “You are carrying more of a burden as a black person in this country than a white person in this country.” O’Reilly responded, “Collectively, yes,” O’Reilly responded. “But not –”

“Individually,” Stewart said, completing the thought. “They don’t stop and frisk Wall Street bankers, even though they’ve done far more damage to the economy.” Not letting up on the pressure, Stewart got O’Reilly to admit that white privilege—racism—is “a factor.”

Dialog about “white privilege” came front and center after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson (MO) opened a discussion. As black men tried to explain the problems caused by their color, many white men declared that they had no prejudice and didn’t understand why blacks thought that bigotry existed. The privileged cannot understand the concept of entitlement because the advantages are largely unacknowledged and thus invisible. Peggy McIntosh, a women’s-studies scholar at Wellesley, wrote an amazing essay in the 1980s in which she listed 49 areas of entitlement:

  1. I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
  2. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
  3. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
  4. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
  5. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
  6. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
  7. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
  8. If I want, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
  9. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.
  10. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person’s voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race.
  11. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
  12. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
  13. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
  14. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.
  15. I can be pretty sure that my children’s teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others’ attitudes toward their race.
  16. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.
  17. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.
  18. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.
  19. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
  20. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
  21. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
  22. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
  23. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge”, I will be facing a person of my race.
  24. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
  25. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.
  26. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.
  27. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her/his chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.
  28. I can be pretty sure that if I argue for the promotion of a person of another race, or a program centering on race, this is not likely to cost me heavily within my present setting, even if my colleagues disagree with me.
  29. If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn’t a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of color will have.
  30. I can choose to ignore developments in minority writing and minority activist programs, or disparage them, or learn from them, but in any case, I can find ways to be more or less protected from negative consequences of any of these choices.
  31. My culture gives me little fear about ignoring the perspectives and powers of people of other races.
  32. I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my race.
  33. I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.
  34. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race.
  35. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it had racial overtones.
  36. I can be pretty sure of finding people who would be willing to talk with me and advise me about my next steps, professionally.
  37. I can think over many options, social, political, imaginative or professional, without asking whether a person of my race would be accepted or allowed to do what I want to do.
  38. I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my race.
  39. I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.
  40. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.
  41. I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my race.
  42. If I have low credibility as a leader I can be sure that my race is not the problem.
  43. I can easily find academic courses and institutions which give attention only to people of my race.
  44. I can expect figurative language and imagery in all of the arts to testify to experiences of my race.
  45. I can choose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin.
  46. I can travel alone or with my spouse without expecting embarrassment or hostility in those who deal with us.
  47. I have no difficulty finding neighborhoods where people approve of our household.
  48. My children are given texts and classes which implicitly support our kind of family unit and do not turn them against my choice of domestic partnership.
  49. I will feel welcomed and “normal” in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.

McIntosh’s list was published over 25 years ago. Two years ago, Ernestine Hayes added to the list.

  1. Beauty, handsomeness, masculinity and femininity are personified by people who do not look like me.
  2. Authority most often rests in people who do not look like me.
  3. My children and grandchildren are taught by white teachers.
  4. People who are not of my culture are acknowledged experts of my culture.
  5. People appropriate my identity and profit from describing their versions of my experience.
  6. My children and grandchildren are likely to drop out of school.
  7. My children and grandchildren are likely to be victims of violence.
  8. My children and grandchildren are likely to suffer from tuberculosis, alcoholism, diabetes, incarceration and poverty.

After the publicity of police brutality since Michael Brown’s killing, I’ll add one more:

I can be stopped by the police without the fear that they will steal my money, beat me up, or kill me.

September 25, 2013

Cruz Pretends to Filibuster, Alienates His Own Party

Yesterday, Sen.Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) announcement that he would filibuster Obamacare took media attention across the country. It was as if nothing else was happening. But he doesn’t understand what a filibuster actually is. His colleague in the Texas state senate, Wendy Davis, understands the filibuster as she stood for over 11 hours, not touching any furniture, not eating or drinking, not using the restroom, and speaking alone on one specific subject. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) allowed Cruz to give a really long speech in which he read a children’s book and stopped speaking while other senators took up his time. He didn’t block or stop anything, the way that Davis did; he just wasted time.

cruz daughtersDuring his 21-hour speech, Cruz compared fellow Republicans to Nazi appeasers, said that most people in Washington wear “cheap suits with bad haircuts,” and took time out to read a book to his adoring daughters as tweeted by Jason Johnson. The daughters are very fortunate in having health care; Cruz represents a state in which 33% of adults and 17% of children have no health insurance.

The selection of Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham might have seemed a good choice for anyone who didn’t read the entire book–like a Fox network host. Cruz said that the complaints about eating green eggs and ham were exactly like Obamacare—people didn’t want it. The book, however, makes a point about being open to experiences because at the end the character gives in, eats the food—and likes it. The character even says, “Thank you!”

On Slate, Matthew Yglesias points out the similarity of the book to Obamacare: “The Democrats’ bet on the Affordable Care Act is that it’s like green eggs and ham—they’re convinced the public will like it when they try it.” Yglesias continues with the explanation that’s going through the media like a virus, that the GOP is desperate to repeal Obamacare before it takes effect because people will find that they love it.

There’s a story circulating about a man who looked at Kynect, the state’s health benefit exchange established by Obamacare, and said, “That’s better than Obamacare.”

Although Cruz might think that the Republican party is ready for an anti-establishment candidate like himself, it hasn’t happened for 50 years when Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) ran for president—and lost. “When the Wall Street Journal starts to belittle you… That’s what these people read every day,” said one senior GOP aide, explaining why Cruz won’t be getting the donors with deep pockets.

For a supposedly bright man, Cruz has a lot of negative baggage. He threatened to support the Second Amendment by bringing his own gun into a committee meeting and encouraging others to do the same thing. After Cruz and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) sent a memo to that effect, federal law enforcement officials made sure that the senators left their weapons at home.

Cruz wanted to impeach Obama for no good reason, and he questioned Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s patriotism. If the United Nations didn’t stop China’s policy of one child per couple, Cruz threatened to pull U.S. funding from the U.N. meant for peace-keeping missions and assistance to refugees. Cruz has never liked the U.N. because he thinks that the organization is trying to get rid of golf courses in the United States.

While Cruz advocates Christian churches be allowed to endorse political candidates, he declared that Islamic law in the United States is “an enormous problem.” Trying now to look as if he’s not part of the elite, Cruz refused to study with anyone at Harvard Law School who hadn’t been an undergraduate at Harvard, Princeton, or Yale.

The greatest irony is that Cruz’s speech was directed at a bill that the House had passed. In essence, he was delaying the vote on a bill that 217 GOP House members had approved. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said,”We’d be hard-pressed to explain why we were opposed to a bill we’re in favor of.” After Cruz spoke for 21 hours, the Senate voted 100-0—including Cruz’s vote—to vote on the bill.

Last March Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called Cruz a wacko so Cruz is now declaring that McCain lost the 2008 presidential election because conservatives wouldn’t vote for him. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said that Cruz didn’t understand how much damage would be caused to the GOP if they shut the government down as they did in 1995-96. Other GOP legislators are unhappy with Cruz although not as openly.

As an ambitious politician, Cruz seems to be all about getting donations to his potential presidential campaign. Most of the money coming into Defund, Inc. is directed toward Cruz, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), and the Senate Conservatives Fund. The month of August, typically slow for fundraisers, saw $1.5 million go into SCF’s account along with the names of 1.5 million people who signed the defund petition on the Don’tFundObamaCare website.

The SCF, presumably a Republican PAC, has run ads attacking seven GOP senators, including Mitch McConnell, Jeff Flake, and Lindsey Graham, for not opposing Obamacare enough, even though they all voted against the bill and said they would vote to defund it. Last week, the SCF announced it would also run ads against House Republicans if they fail to embrace the right defund strategy. Haley Barbour, former Mississippi governor and RNC chairman, said:

“The House of Representatives has voted to repeal Obamacare in one form or another something like 40 times since it went into effect, yet some of these groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund or the Club for Growth attack the same Republicans who voted against OC, but they attack them over tactics. There is just no excuse.”

A lesser known reason that the GOP is bitterly fighting against the implementation of Obamacare is that it registers voters. When uninsured people, primarily low-income and minority applicants, sign up for health care exchanges, they will be asked if they want to register to vote. The 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), aka the Motor Voter law, directs DMVs and other public assistance state agencies to provide voter registration services. Both state-run exchanges and the federally-run exchanges in states where GOP governors refuse to set them up will be required to comply with the Motor Voter law.

Rush Limbaugh declared in June that Obamacare is “about building a permanent, undefeatable, always-funded Democrat majority.” Last spring Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) wrote to HHS, charging that the health care law “does not give your Department an interest in whether individual Americans choose to vote” and asking HHS to provide justification for including voter registration questions in health insurance applications.

Some conservative legal scholars argue that exchanges don’t fall under the Motor Voter law’s definition of social service providers because they operate as a marketplace for private insurance. The exchanges, however, also provide government subsidies, and HHS made it clear that all health care exchanges would need to provide voter registration services. The 24 million mostly low-income and minority uninsured folks who are expected to purchase insurance through the exchanges are particularly likely to be unregistered to vote. Not having health insurance is one of the strongest indicators that someone will not vote, according to Lake Research, a political strategy research firm.

Only 65 percent of eligible voters in the US are registered to vote, and scores of new voting laws from GOP legislatures are putting barriers between many people and the voting booths.

At least 140 million people registered in the two decades wince the Motor Voter law took effect. If Obamacare is responsible for increased voter registration, it could change democracy in the United States. Following the passage of the Social Security Act in 1935, senior voter turnout rates rose while turnout for other age groups dropped. Midterm turnout for seniors rose from 66 percent to 73 percent between 1958 and 1998 alone, and now seniors vote at an historically high rate. As Lawrence Jacobs, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota and author of Health Care Reform and American Politics, explained, “The passage of Social Security gave seniors resources and motivation and identity as beneficiaries that got them to the polls.”

The same scenario will likely play out among poor and minority voters who often feel disconnected from politics and government, Jacobs added. They will soon receive “tangible benefits” through the Affordable Care Act and will be motivated to hold onto those benefits by voting. “Obamacare will define a new constituency,” Jacobs concluded.

In the New York Times Frank Bruni called Cruz’s speech “grandstanding”:

“This week [Cruz] is blithely putting the lawmakers in his party between a rock and a hard place. If they fail to match the anti-Obamacare passion that he flexed anew in a Senate speech Monday, they’ll land on the far right’s watch list. But if they match it and the government shuts down, there’s a good chance that the Republican Party takes the blame and a hit it can ill afford.”

An informal U.S. News & World Report survey shows that over 81 percent of respondents believe that the GOP threats to shut down the government to defund Obamacare will hurt the party.

The Obamacare health exchanges open in six days. Be afraid, GOP—be very afraid.

For some educational entertainment, check out Jon Stewart’s take on Ted Cruz.

September 4, 2013

Attacking Syria, A Very Bad Idea

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:46 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Congress took its first step toward military action today when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-7 to pass the resolution giving the president limited authority to use force against Syria. Three Republicans voted for the resolution—Bob Corker (TN), Jeff Flake (AZ), and John McCain (AZ). Evidently McCain spent enough time from playing poker on his smart phone to cast a vote.  Two Democrats, Chris Murphy (CT) and Tom Udall (NM) voted against it and Ed Markey (MA) voted present. The White House assumes that the full Senate will vote next week, followed by the House the week after.

Speaking at a House committee hearing, Secretary of State John Kerry argued that the U.S. had to strike to stop extremist groups fighting against the Syrian government from becoming stronger. If the U.S. doesn’t punish the Assad government, Kerry said, Arabs will provide arms and financing to the rebels. “We will have created more extremism and a greater problem down the road.”

The politicians trying to push the country toward military action keep referring to the videos of the dead people and worrying about the poor children. Children have died in Africa and Asia—even in the United States—but these legislators demonstrate no concern for anyone in those areas. The only area of concern is the home of oil. The U.S. wants continued access the Middle East countries that pump the black goo into our nation. We gone into Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and now Syria in only 13 years to keep the fuel supply freely flowing.

President Obama admitted as much in an interview on PBS: “If we are clear about the free flow of energy throughout the region that affects the entire global economy…,” then one can understand the need for dealing with Syria. This greed goes back over 100 years when the UK took over oil in the Middle East to power their fleet; in that way the country emerged victorious in the first two world wars.

Congress and the president sat by as 100,000 Syrian people were killed and another 7 million displaced. With unsupported intelligence that under 1,500 people were maybe killed with chemicals, the administration and some legislators want to attack Syria.

The president has promised that his only intention is to “degrade” Syrian weapons through a few bombings. Any misplaced attack or counterattack would result in escalation into a huge military action causing trillions of dollars. We watched this happen just ten years ago.

No one is talking about the danger to civilians from trying to destroy chemical weapons through bombing that can release toxic chemicals. In addition to killing civilians, bombing can also create an environmental catastrophe. Under the best of conditions, at least 20 to 30 percent of poison would remain in lethal form after the use of explosives. Daryl Kimball, executive director of the nonprofit Arms Control Association, said, “It’s a classic case of the cure being worse than the disease.” Some of the suspected storage sites are in or near major Syrian cities like Damascus, Homs and Hama, cities with a combined population of well over 2 million people, according to Kimball.

The president has promised “no boots on the ground,” but even if he changed his mind, sending in soldiers to seize and destroy chemicals would not ensure its destruction, according to Ralf Trapp, a French chemical weapons consultant and longtime expert in the field. Temperatures would have to be up to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit. Environmental damage and deaths from the attempted destruction would come from such factors as wind, heat, time of day, strength of the storage unit, and quantity and type of chemicals.

The only precedent for bombing a chemical weapons storehouse was in 1991 when the U.S. bombed a bunker in Iraq that may have contained 2,500 artillery rockets filled with sarin. Over 20 years later, no one can go near the site because of the contamination. “An entry into the bunker would expose personnel to explosive, chemical and physical hazards,” according to a 2012 report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

U.S. intelligence no longer knows who controls some of Syria’s chemical weapons supplies. “That’s a very real risk,” said Susannah Sirkin, international policy director for the Physicians for Human Rights, which has been monitoring weapons of mass destruction for more than two decades. “You would risk dispersing agents into the environment,” she said. “Given that sarin is not seen or smelled, that’s terror.”

Another issue is that by bombing storage sites that are near contested areas in the civil war, the chemical weapons can fall into others’ hands, including extremist rebels or pro-Assad militia, Kimball said. “What we’re looking at in Syria is an unprecedented situation.”

There are more reasons that military action in Syria is a very bad idea:

  • A US military attack would be illegal: The U.N. Charter prohibits using force against another country or intervening in an internal or domestic dispute in another country. The only exemptions are when a country is directly being attacked or the U.N. Security Council specifically authorizes force because all peaceful means have been exhausted. The U.S. has ratified the charter, meaning that attacking Syria is against U.S. law even if Congress does authorize such action.
  • There is no reason for military action in Syria: The president doesn’t want to change military balance or overthrow the regime, but attacks will cause great damage and death in Syria. In fact, the attacks could accelerate the regime’s missile strikes. Punitive airstrikes have rarely worked and often lead to greater retaliation. The more the U.S. terrorizes people in the Middle East, the greater the number of members in their terrorist organizations.
  • Military intervention would likely lead to greater death and destruction: Beyond the guaranteed civilian causalities, foreign military interventions increase the length of civil wars because both sides are less likely to compromise.
  • The U.S. doesn’t know that the Syrian government is responsible for any chemical attacks: In addition, the U.S. has tried to undermine control of weapons and weaken enforcement agencies such as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Its director general, Brazilian diplomat Jose Bustani, oversaw the destruction of 2 million chemical weapons and two-thirds of the world’s facilities, but the George W. Bush administration got him dismissed. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have threatened to withdraw the organization’s financial contributions, more than 20 percent of the organization’s budget. The U.S. has also continually opposed a U.N. ban on chemical weapons and other non-conventional weapons because it chooses to use weapons such as napalm and white phosphorous against civilians and supported Saddam Hussein when Iraq used chemical weapons to kill up to 5,000 Kurdish civilians. In fact, the U.S. even provided Iraq a key chemical for mustard gas.
  • A military attack likely would strengthen the Syrian regime: Attacks from outside always result in nationalism, particularly true in Syria because millions of them believe that they are the last country resisting both Islamist extremism and Western imperialism.
  • A military strike likely would reduce the chances of successfully ending the war: The only ways to reduce bloodshed is through negotiation or broad-based nonviolent pro-democracy struggle.
  • The U.S. has no support from the international community: Only France, which occupied Syria for much of the early twentieth century, has shown any interest in supporting U.S. attacks. Military action against Syria will increase the world’s anti-U.S. sentiment and decrease any diplomatic influence of the U.S.
  • People in the U.S. oppose military intervention in Syria. 

Attacking Syria is a lose-lose situation. If Assad stays in power, we have a bad relationship with the country because we tried to beat up on it. If the rebels take control, it could be even worse because they are anti-U.S., anti-Israel, and anti-Western while being pro-al Qaeda.

For days, pro-war politicians and pundits have puffed themselves up and said that we need a military action against Syria to maintain credibility. According to them, our reputation is on the line. That’s what they said about Vietnam. And Iraq.

After a summer hiatus, comedian Jon Stewart is back and answers the credibility question: “We have to bomb Syria because we are in 7th grade. The red-line that they crossed is actually a dick-measuring ribbon. The only way to keep America’s penis from looking small is to conduct a limited operation designed to fail. We’ll call it Operation Just the Tip.”  No one escaped Stewart’s scalpel, including the “parade of idiots,” the cabal from a decade ago who took the nation into the disaster called Iraq. You can check out this clip.

May 13, 2013

Immigration Reform Divides GOP

The split between the two parties has grown into internecine war during the past two years, but now the battle has moved over to the GOP party as the immigration reform bill is creating a deep divide between the far-right conservatives and the extremists. (The moderate Republicans are now almost extinct.) As the Senate Judiciary Committee started to work on over 300 amendments to the 844-page bill, the tear between the two parts of the GOP daily became increasingly obvious.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) a politician with a very checkered past, leads the opposition, even calling the bill’s architects “dishonest.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is fighting back with his own “myth vs. fact” campaign, probably difficult for a politician whose positions tend to lean toward “myth.”

Republicans know their party’s survival is dependent on more more votes from women and people of color, especially after the announcement that Mitt Romney got only 17 percent of the minority vote, but this knowledge doesn’t affect some of the vitriolic speech.

Starting out as a bipartisan act, the proposal was drafted by four Republican and four Democratic senators. The bill strengthens Southwest border security and creates new guest-worker programs, especially for the badly needed low-skilled labor. The magical path to citizenship for undocumented people in the U.S. would require 13 years along with paying back taxes, fines, and fees.

A major player on the extremist, anti-immigration side is the Heritage Foundation, newly headed by former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). Supposedly a non-partisan “think tank,” the group published a report last week claiming that the bill would cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion, a number that came out of thin air. In contrast, the Social Security Administration estimates that the reform would add more than $275 billion in revenue to Social Security and Medicare, increase the gross domestic product by 1.63 percent, and provide more than 3 million jobs over the next decade. 

The report drew much controversy after the discovery that co-author Jason Richwine believes that  race determines intelligence. Richwine said:

“You have Jews with the highest average IQ, usually followed by East Asians, then you have non-Jewish whites, Hispanics, and then blacks. These are real differences, and they’re not going to go away tomorrow, and for that reason we have to address them in our immigration discussions and our debates.”

Even the lead author of the report, Robert Rector, admitted that he wrote the report for Heritage Foundation without looking at the entire bill. The Rector/Richwine report of 2013 is a 180-degree turn from the 2006 report published in 2006 that noted, “Worker migration is a net plus economically.”

Following ridicule—except from white nationalist websites—Richwine resigned, and the Heritage Foundation tried to distance itself from him. Yet the far-right organization is still stuck with his presence on their report, created to give cover to GOP lawmakers who wants to reject the bipartisan immigration reform bill.

One of DeMint’s dissenters is “no-new-tax” Grover Norquist, who claims that the bill would increase tax revenue by growing the economy. (I always worry about my thinking when I agree with Norquist.) Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention has asked that lawmakers consider “the human dignity” of the immigrants, and evangelicals started a pro-reform prayer campaign last Wednesday. Although formerly friends with DeMint, Rubio took particular umbrage at the Heritage Foundation statements.

Attempting to drown the bill by weighting it down, Congressional lawmakers have proposed the following amendments:

Prevents undocumented immigrants from becoming citizens. Sort of defeats the purpose of the bill. (Sen. Ted Cruz, TX)

Require DNA testing. This is to compare against the Combined DNA Index System at the FBI. (Sen. Orrin Hatch, UT)

Prohibit undocumented immigrants from applying for permanent residence if they qualify for any government assistance. No supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP), no the temporary assistance for needy families program (TANF), no supplemental security income benefits (SSI), no nothing. (Sen. Jeff Sessions, AL)

Ban humanitarian travel. Anyone returning to a home country for any humanitarian reason, such as visiting a sick relative, couldn’t reenter the United States. The current provisional legal status requires authorization for such travel. (Sen. Chuck Grassley, IA)

Deletes family re-unification. Points on a green card for entering the country would not allow points for siblings of U.S. citizens. (Sen. Jeff Sessions, AL)

Mandate in-person interviews for 11 million immigrants. That will most likely add a few decades to the process for 11 million people. (Sen. Jeff Sessions, AL)

Limit visas to South Korea. E-5 visas from all South Korean immigrants will be withheld until the country removes its age-based import restrictions on beef. (Sen. Chuck Grassley, IA)

Enforces head-of-household deportation and cause family separations. The current bill allows immigration to decline to deport people if they believe this would result in hardship for his or her U.S. citizen child. The party of family values doesn’t believe in keeping families together. (Sen. Chuck Grassley, IA)

Prevent low-income undocumented immigrants from seeking legalization. People have to make above 400 percent of the poverty line (more than $92,000 for a family of four) instead of the current bill that requires 100 percent of the poverty line or show regular employment. Sessions may not be aware that about two-thirds of the people in the United States make under this magical 400 percent—and in his state, 70 percent make less than that. (Sen. Jeff Sessions, AL)

Restrict visas for refugees. Nobody could apply for refugee and asylum status until one year after the Director of National Intelligence submits a review related to the Boston bombings to Congress. (Sen. Chuck Grassley, IA)

Allow undocumented immigrants to be hired, but only as domestic workers. These would specifically include cooks, waiters, butlers, governessess, maids, valets, gardeners, footmen, grooms, and chauffeurs. (Mike Lee, UT) 

Allow for racial profiling. Federal law enforcements could take into account a person’s country of origin when allowing them into the country. This comes from the party that’s screaming about the IRA’s profiling of Tea Party organizations despite the fact that these organizations have had a high rate of IRS “issues” during the past two years. (Sen. Chuck Grassley, IA)

Although conservatives fight any additional government spending except for defense, five Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to increase, by an undetermined billions of dollars, money spend on border security. Cruz wanted to triple the number of border patrol agents on the border and quadruple the technological infrastructure—probably meaning “the fence.” That would cost the country about $60 billion and stop any undocumented people’s movement toward citizenship by ten years. The measure failed in a vote of 5 to 13; even Arizona’s GOP senator, Jeff Flake, voted against it.

During the 2012 fiscal year, the government spent $18 billion to secure the border, employing 21,000 agents and building 650 miles of fencing in the past eight years. The existing bill already appropriates $3 billion to increase border security with the government able to spend billions more.

In a recent poll, 83 percent of respondents said they supported a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants already in the country illegally, as long as certain requirements—such as the ones on paying fines and back taxes, passing a criminal-background check and learning English–were met. Unlike extremist lawmakers, these people agree with President Reagan’s 1986 position when he signed a bipartisan immigration reform package that extended amnesty to any immigrant who entered the country illegally before 1982. 

Conservative columnist David Brooks made great sense in the immigration debate when he excoriated the opposition to the proposed bill by declaring that the “one core concern” is control, the desire to restrict conservatives in the country, assimilation, love, social mobility, skills, and the inevitable. His take on the situation is well worth reading.

Or for great dark humor on immigration reform in the Senate, just watch Jon Stewart.

April 26, 2013

The First Nine Constitutional Amendments, An Easy Lesson

Until the rants of the Tea Party started to take over the media, the U.S. Constitution was looked upon as an important part of our heritage that courts used to determine whether laws fit into the overview of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence. Less than five years ago, people like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) declared that everything the liberals do is unconstitutional, and three years ago, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) required that the entire constitution be read at the beginning of the 112th Congressional session so that all the bills would conform with the Constitution.

Representatives tried to read aloud with varying success–only a few glitches such as leaving out the piece blacks being only three-fifths of a person and skipping part of it because a couple of pages got stuck together. That part guaranteed “to every state in this union a republican form of government.”

They also left out the part written by the infallible Founding Fathers about runaway slaves, that if they escaped to a free state, the Constitution required that they not be freed but rather “delivered up” to their owners. Notable, too, was the omission of how the electoral college works, perhaps because the conservatives plan to get rid of it so that they can elect a GOP president.

Now Jon Stewart has brought to life the first nine amendments to the U.S. Constitution through playing clips of Fox pundits on The Daily Show, pontificating about the recent Boston bombing.

As Stewart said, “Anybody can toss away the lesser known amendments. Only a true patriot can set a course straight for the First.” And Bob Beckel, a host on The Five, did exactly that when he asked that the U.S. “cut off Muslim students from coming to the country for some period of time.” That eviscerates the First Amendment protecting freedom of speech, religion, and press as well as the right to assemble and petition the government.

Eric Bolling wanted wiretapping in mosques, attacking the Fourth Amendment that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and sets out requirements for search warrants based on probable cause.

Fox folks were highly incensed about suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev being read his Miranda rights, claiming he should be declared an enemy combatant and “intensely interrogated.”

“In the wake of an assault on our freedom and way of life, we have quickly jettisoned the Sixth Amendment–right to a fair and speedy trial–and the Fifth Amendment’s right against self-incrimination,” Stewart said. “What’s next?” Stewart left out the violation of the Seventh Amendment that provides for the right to trial by jury in certain civil cases, according to common law.

Sean Hannity doesn’t “believe” that waterboarding is torture. “There goes the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment,” Stewart continued. “Any others?”

Actually, yes there were. Ann Coulter said, “I want to know about this wife… I don’t care if she knew about this. She ought to be in prison for wearing a hijab.”

To Coulter’s impassioned plea, Stewart responded, “And down goes the Ninth Amendment! Down goes the Ninth Amendment! Ann Coulter doesn’t just want a police state. She wants a fashion police state.” (I had to look up the Ninth Amendment: it protects rights not enumerated in the Constitution.”

Thus Stewart showed that Fox wants to ignore seven of the first nine constitutional amendments in the treatment of the 19-year-old suspected of setting off pressure cooker bombs at the Boston marathon. It seems that Fox didn’t address the forced quartering of soldiers—but that’s only in peacetime, and the government seems to have declared the United States permanently at war somewhere.

Stewart asked if there were any constitutional right that Fox wants to keep after the Boston bombing.  “Since we’re just throwing amendments away willy-nilly, what if we wanted to track the weapons that any of these America haters bought, or do a background check?” Stewart said.

Visuals juxtaposed the 3,400 deaths from terrorism in the United States during the past 30 years with the almost one million deaths from guns during the same time. That was followed by a montage of clips from Fox, extolling the virtues of bearing arms in any situation and as many as people might want.

“Yes, it turns out there’s only one amendment in our constitution’s pantheon that is exempt from statistical analysis or emotional freak-out-itude, and it is the Second. So god help us if the Muslims ever decide to form a well regulated militia.”

Stewart

The written word does not do justice to this segment of The Daily Show. You can find the video here.  Send it to everyone you know, and make it go viral!

GohmertStupidity about the Boston bombing is as rampant in Congress as on Fox. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) accused President Obama of being influenced by Muslim Brotherhood members in his administration. On a radio interview yesterday, he said, “This administration has so many Muslim Brotherhood members that have influence that they just are making wrong decisions for America.”

Gohmert didn’t think this up on his own. Almost a year ago, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) claimed Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the government, pointing a finger at top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Her false accusations led to Egyptian protests against the Secretary of State when she went there and the need for Abedin to have police protection because of threats against her life.

At that time, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) condemned Bachmann’s statements, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) described her claims as “pretty dangerous.” Even conservative Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) defended Abedin.

Gohmert, who gets his information from extremist right-wing media media such as World Net Daily, sits on the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

Meanwhile the conservatives are busy creating conspiracy theories: the government staged the attack to take over the government; the First Lady is hiding a Saudi student who was the real bomber; the Fox cartoon Family Guy predicted the bombing; the marathon organizers knew about the bombing before the race; the suspects’ uncle worked with the CIA; Facebook pages memorializing the blast were created before it happened; the dead suspect was an FBI informant; he’s not actually dead; and photos of the suspects at the scene of the crime were photoshopped.

Now Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) believe that a nationwide shortage of ammunition has resulted from the Obama administration’s stockpiling. To stop this and create more “transparency and accountability,” they introduced the Ammunition Management for More Obtainability Act, AMMO act for short. Finally, a gun control bill from the conservatives!

These two Congressmen probably got their news from fringe websites like Drudge or Alex Jones’s Infowars. Even Brietbart.com, known for its crazy stories, described the idea as “based more on panic than fact.” These are the people who keep our country from moving forward.

October 22, 2012

Presidential Debate Three

Those who watched all three presidential debates in the last few weeks have now seen four different debaters. After the first debate, commentators discussed how remote President Obama was while Mitt Romney attacked him. Talking with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show,  even the president laughed at himself about having slept through the debate. Viewers of the second debate saw much more combat with Romney coming out as a greater bully than the first one because President Obama pointed out his opponent’s “fact-challenged” statements. The same president showed up tonight, but a different Romney—quiet, agreeable, middle-of-the-road, and meek, almost pathetic—decided to attend. This new Romney didn’t push the moderator, Bob Schieffer, to get more time.

As far as fact-checking, Romney slipped in a few of his standard lies such as creating 12 million jobs (which has already been debunked by the conservative Washington Post) and accusing the president of making an “apology tour” when soon after his inauguration (which the president pointed out had been debunked by every fact checkers).

But the majority of Romney’s “lies” were in agreeing with the president in almost all the policies after having opposed them. He wants to leave Afghanistan in 2014, help women gain equality in foreign countries, use drones—the list goes on and on. The man who ridiculed the president for wanting to heal the planet now stressed that he wanted peace across the planet—a dozen times.

Romney even supported the president in forcing Mubarak out of Egypt, an action that he had earlier criticized. Six days ago, Romney almost turned purple when he talked about the president’s failure in the attack on Benghazi; tonight he just looked benevolent during the discussion about Libya.

Probably realizing that he knew little about foreign policy, Romney avoided looking like a radical, settling for occasional sniping. President Obama stressed the idea that the U.S. needs a careful, thoughtful approach toward foreign policy and should proceed in a strong, steadfast manner instead of the “reckless” manner that Romney has proposed.

Although Romney obviously did some studying before the debate, he had a bit of problem with his geography. He said, “Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea.” In fact, Iran not only has a large southern coastline with access to the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman but also no land border with Syria.

Roger Simon’s description of the event was right on target: “Romney wasn’t terrible. But he was on the defensive for much of the evening, a fine sheen of sweat popped put on his forehead long before the debate ended, and – – worst of all – – Romney was repeatedly forced to say he agreed with Obama on policy after policy.”

Both candidates used the tactic of counting in many of the answers. Some undecided voters had earlier stated that they liked Romney’s “five-point plan” despite the lack of any details in these five points. They also said that they didn’t know what the president stood for so he took great care tonight in not only being high specific but also counting off all the items in a series.

People who know Romney’s past positions (like those he espoused last week!) realized that he had reversed himself in almost all of his positions. But I wondered how those less familiar with his past statements would react. One Republican pundit described him as reasonable, thoughtful, presidential, and circumspect with a reset to more traditional style of Republican policy.

The early polls erased much of my concerns that watchers would swallow Romney’s statements. CNN’s poll of registered voters gave the president 48 percent and Romney only 40 percent. Stronger was the CBS poll of uncommitted voters: President Obama – 53 percent; Mitt Romney – 23 percent; and tied – 24 percent. The 30 points difference was greater than the 24 points difference between the two men in the first debate with Romney winning.

In some ways, foreign policy is more important than domestic policy in a presidential debate because the president has greater latitude than foreign affairs. With U.S. foreign policy less constrained by Congress and relatively free from the media scrutiny that attends the president’s more domestic endeavors, foreign affairs largely remains the domain of the commander in chief.

In this discussion of foreign affairs, however, Romney merely looked pleasant as he largely agreed with the president during this narrow view of the country’s foreign affairs. Missing were issues such as drug traffic from South America, European economics and global finance, consequences of bombing Iran, keeping our planet habitable.

While Romney claims that he wants to help women, nothing was said about the “gag order,” the restriction that denies federal money for family-planning work abroad to any organization that provides information, advice, referrals, or services for legal abortion or supports the legalization of abortion, even using its own money.” Government financing for abortions overseas is already illegal under federal law, but the Republican’s gag rule forced clinic closures, reduced services, and increased fees. It also violated principles of informed consent by requiring health care providers to withhold medical information from female patients. By stifling political debate on abortion-related issues and violating free speech principles, the gag rule also badly undermined America’s credibility as it tries to promote democracy abroad.

Not mentioned in this debate, Romney also vows to renew another of George W. Bush’s shameful policies which blocked the United States from contributing to the United Nations Population Fund. This fund supports programs in some 150 countries to improve poor women’s reproductive health, reduce infant mortality, end the sexual trafficking of women, and prevent the spread of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. The Republican presidential candidate purports the debunked claim that the Population Fund supports coerced abortions in China.

The annual federal contribution to the fund is now down to $35 million, compared with $55 million in fiscal years 2010 and 2011. Overall support for international family planning and reproductive health programs stands at $610 million, far short of the need but still paying for contraceptive services and supplies that reach more than 31 million women and couples, averting 9.4 million unintended pregnancies, 4 million abortions (three-quarters of them unsafe), and 22,000 maternal deaths annually.

Romney may have known that criticizing President Obama for the death of four men at the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi would have gotten him into more trouble.  Even Fox Republican pundit Juan Williams pointed out that Romney’s political strategy is based on deliberate misinformation about the Benghazi assault. These are Williams’ corrections for the myths that Republicans have been spreading:

Correction #1: U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice told the truth based on existing intelligence when she said that the violence grew out of a spontaneous demonstration that was prompted by an American anti-Muslim video. Even two days later, CIA Director David Petraeus confirmed Rice’s statement when he briefed the House Intelligence Committee. Both of them said that there was an ongoing investigation where conclusions were subject to change.

Correction #2: Extra security was requested, not for Benghazi but for Tripoli, 400 miles away. Also U.S. security officials reported that more guards could not have repelled heavy weapons used by the attackers. Nine armed guards were at the embassy as well as four other unarmed Libyan guards inside to screen visitors. House Republicans are also conveniently forgetting that they voted to cut $300 million from Embassy security.

Correction #3: The Taliban threat has diminished, despite Romney campaign claims. Under President Obama, missions have killed the top commanders of the terrorist group including Osama bin Laden, and drone strikes are decimating the other Taliban members. The third and final correction comes in response to the charge that the attack on Benghazi is evidence that al Qaeda is resurgent.

Romney didn’t want the debate to be interesting: he just wanted to survive the 90 minutes without losing more votes.

Much more information available here.

January 19, 2012

SOPA Protest Effective

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 6:41 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

The great Internet blackout of many websites in opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) succeeded! Despite the fact that some mainstream media ignored it (nothing on the evening CBS news, for example), Congressional supporters defected–beginning with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), then a trickle, and ending with a flood. Rubio announced his renunciation of co-sponsorship on Facebook, one of the protesting entities. After more and more people called their Congresspeople, the phone lines jammed. By the end of the day, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-IA), minority senior on the Judiciary Committee, withdrew support for the bill he helped write. The number of co-sponsors (30 in the House and 40 in the Senate for the corollary PIPA) disintegrated after the Web got riled up.

What is SOPA—and the blackout–all about? If the House bill succeeds, the government can arbitrarily shut down any website, search engine, etc. that it thinks might be violating the copyright laws. (Notice that the party for shrinking government and keeping it out of people’s lives was largely in support of this draconian bill.) To quote Jorge Rivas and Jamilah King, “[SOPA] allows the U.S. attorney general to seek a court order against any targeted offshore website that would, in turn, be served on Internet providers in an effort to make the target virtually disappear. It’s kind of an Internet death penalty.”

Rivas and King describe the impact of SOPA as follows: “If you create or consume content on the Internet, under SOPA the government would have the power to pull the plug on your website. If you’re a casual consumer, your favorite websites could be penalized and shut down if they seem to be illegally supporting copyrighted material. This is especially important for human rights groups and advocates in communities of color, who could face increased censorship if the bill is passed. The language of the bill makes it easy for the US Attorney General to go after websites it simply sees as a threat.”

SOPA supporters who claim that the bill affects only foreign websites are wrong. Around the world, the most widely used sites are American: Google, Facebook, YouTube, etc. The bill will plant liability of pirated content squarely on the website owner. This approach requires U.S. companies to use their own resources to police the foreign pages for pirated content. Smaller companies such as Reddit lack the resources to do this and may be forced to close. Bill co-sponsors may not be aware of the fact that SOPA will have devastating consequences.

In this situation, the Republicans were the smart ones. Whether they understood that such a large protest meant they were wrong (probably not) or they needed to keep whatever votes they could find (probably), they were in the majority in abandoning SOPA. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NW) plans to keep his co-sponsorship and vote to override a promised filibuster from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) so “the bill can be debated and improved.” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), head of the Democratic National Committee, will also remain a co-sponsor because she’s “open to the final version changing and thinks everyone should come to the table and find a compromise.” It’s a bad bill: trying to fix it is like trying to cook spoiled meat in a way to make it taste better.

Former Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut is another Democrat who vigorously opposes backing down on SOPA—but then it’s his job to fight it. Since leaving the Senate, he’s become chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America. Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid of Nevada stated that he will bring a vote on PIPA next Tuesday without trying to resolve the conflicts. Enough Democratic Senators opposed the bill, however, that it will have trouble passing.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), author of the bill, is one of the remaining few who staunchly stands behind it. It’s been reported that this same author has violated the basics of SOPA by using a photograph on his campaign website with no credit or pay to the photographer. And he’s not the only one. A blogger in Hawaii started collecting violations from Congressional SOPA/PIPA supporters. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MI) changed the background on his Twitter page after the photographer, Walter Rowland, complained about its illegal use; Sen. Claire McGaskill (D-MI) stole her background image from Flickr user J. Stephen Conn; and Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) illegally used “Overweight Government Pig” by cartoonist John S. Pritchett—and thoughtfully cropped out the copyright notice. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) “lifted” an image from Google Maps for his website. [I’m betting that SOPA and PIPA turned out to be more educational that Congressional co-sponsors ever considered!]

More humor comes from Jon Stewart on The Daily Show when he compared SOPA to “coming up with a plan to prevent teen pregnancy that includes filling penises with cement. Your penis is still there, it’s just [that] no one can get at it.”

[Note: The four last standing Republican presidential candidates just announced in tonight’s debate in South Carolina that they opposed SOPA. More about SOPA and PIPA on Nel’s New Day, 12/17/11 and 1/17/12.]

Civil Rights Advocacy

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

AGR Daily 60 Second News

Transformational News; What Works For Seven Future Generations Without Causing Harm?

JONATHAN TURLEY

Res ipsa loquitur - The thing itself speaks

Jennifer Hofmann

Inspiration for soul-divers, seekers, and activists.

Occupy Democrats

Progressive political commentary/book reviews for youth and adults

V e t P o l i t i c s

politics from a liberal veteran's perspective

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

Rainbow round table news

Official News Outlet for the Rainbow Round Table of the American Library Association

The Extinction Protocol

Geologic and Earthchange News events

Central Oregon Coast NOW

The Central Oregon Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW)

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Over the Rainbow Books

A Book List from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: