Nel's New Day

October 13, 2015

House Members Search for a Speaker

When House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced his resignation, Republicans went into a tizzy, trying to figure out who would replace him. That tizzy moved into chaos last week when the House Freedom Caucus revolted against House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), inept heir apparent to the top job. McCarthy claims that he took himself out of the running because he wanted more than the obligatory 218 votes, but rumors allege that he has been having a long-term affair with a colleague, perhaps Rep.Renee Ellmers (R-NC). Before McCarthy took himself out of the running, the 40 Tea Party “Freedom” voters had promised to vote in a block for Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL). The loss of 40 votes means that the “establishment” GOP would have only 207 votes unless Democrats decide to join them in selecting someone other than Webster.

The Freedom Caucus says that they want “democracy” in the House, but a “questionnaire” from the group shows what its expectations for the next speaker. Freedom’s Speaker must tie any increase in the debt ceiling to cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The debt limit arrives on November 5; without an increase, the U.S. could default on its obligations, sending both the country’s and the world’s economy into a tailspin. When the Tea Party contemplated not raising the debt ceiling in 2013, the Treasury Department reported that “default could result in recession comparable to or worse than 2008 financial crisis.”

Another requirement for a new speaker, according to the Freedom Caucus, is to not fund the government without an agreement to defund “Planned Parenthood, unconstitutional amnesty, the Iran deal, and Obamacare.” December 11 is the deadline to pass a budget to keep the government from shutting down. The Freedom Caucus also requires the next speaker to oppose any “omnibus” bill and instead fund the government by separate bills.

Joan Walsh explained the background for the House GOP chaos following Boehner’s decision not to lead the motley crew that state gerrymandering has sent to Washington. After wealthy billionaires led Tea Party members in their position of hating government, governing, and compromise, the GOP establishment decided that these people would be useful. To keep their leadership, Boehner and his sidekicks offered the possibility of repealing the Affordable Health Care Act, hold the debt ceiling hostage, defund Planned Parenthood, stop the Iran deal, and other radically extremist views. Along with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the GOP leaders even recruited the extremists through their “Young Guns” program.

Every failure for Boehner sent him to Democrats for a bailout from disaster, leading the angry Freedom Caucus to feel a greater and greater sense of power. Unfortunately, Boehner didn’t look for bipartisanship often enough. If he had involved Demcrats business such as voting on the Senate’s immigration bill and other measures, he could have shown the extremists that they were not in charge of the House while doing the nation’s business.

Highly conservative, Webster presided over both chambers in Florida’s legislature when it overrode a veto restricting “partial birth” abortions, created “Choose Life” license plates, and required doctors to notify parents of minors seeking abortions. The legislature also passed bills mandating pre-marriage and pre-divorce counseling. Webster supported legalization of homeschooling to spare children in evangelical families from a “Godless” public education.

Webster’s alignment with the Religious Right puts him in alignment with groups and people who want to apply biblical law to law, including wives submitting to their husbands. His history with Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) shows his belief that God has made sure that he got elected. Gothard’s teachings with their emphasis on a culture of fear and extreme patriarchialism influenced the home education of the Duggars (19 Kids and Counting), and, like the oldest Duggar son, Gothard has been accused of multiple sexual harassment and abuse.

In the U.S. House, Webster has had little effect, introducing only 18 bills. Of these only two had co-sponsors, and none passed. He will most likely not be reelected to the house because of the likely dismantling of his Orlando district, but Webster is counting on God’s help. In the past, he said that he prayed for anyone considering a run in his district to “lose interest,” saying “that hedge of thorns has protected me all these years.”

Another person with “some support” from Freedom voters is Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who headed up the Planned Parenthood hearing debacle where Cecile Richards was grilled for five hours and interrupted 51 times—ten times each hour—with sexist remarks and character attacks. In his bid for Speaker, Chaffetz promised to default on the debt and shut down the government if the GOP didn’t get what they wanted.  He also demanded that the White House appoint a special prosecutor to open up “a criminal probe” investigating his claim that the Secret Service leaked his personal information to intimidate him. The issue was a leak to media outlets about Chaffetz’s rejected application for a Secret Service job in 2003 and the particulars surrounding the decision.

One desperate method of selecting a speaker came from Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) for a “bipartisan coalition,” again asking the Democrats for a bailout by expecting Democrats to vote for a Republican House Speaker. Before they go that far, however, the less extreme—but still conservative—Republicans are literally begging Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to take the position.

Thus far, Ryan has largely ignored the suggestion, obviously knowing that to do so would end his career for any other political position. In New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait  wrote, “No other figure within the party combines Ryan’s philosophical radicalism and tactical pragmatism” and called him “the president of Republican America.” If Chait is right, “America” is in big trouble.

Ryan came into power with a strong opposition to abortion and Todd Akin-like comments about rape that kept the Missouri candidate out of Washington. He then advocated Social Security privatization and the Iraq War. His horrific budget blueprint brought criticism from Catholic leaders because of its harshness toward the poor, who he describes as “lazy.” Ryan was a big part of Mitt Romney’s failure with his campaign of huge tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy compared with austerity for the poor. The Ryan/Romney ticket couldn’t even win Ryan’s home district.

Ryan held his celebration, after he won his congressional race, at The Cottonpicker in Burlington (WI) highlighting his exploitation of racial divisions, union collapse, and economic anxiety. His Ayn Rand view of economics focuses on “makers and takers” that appeals to angry white people. Ryan talks about the “catch and release” of Mexican immigrants, derides “anchor babies,” and makes other insensitive and inflammatory remarks in his town hall meetings and campaign appearances.

And the Tea Party members call him too “left-wing” to represent them!

In an effort to wield the Tea Party power, the Freedom chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), said that his caucus would “look favorably” on Ryan for speaker if he does what they want. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) said that the Freedom caucus won’t drop support for Webster for an undeclared candidate. The Tea Party demands a Speaker who will never compromise—on anything! They want a “leader” who will shut down the government until they get what they want.

Only 22 percent of people in the U.S. agreed with the Tea Party agenda, according to last month’s CBS News/New York Times poll. Chris Christie, GOP presidential candidate, claims that “nobody cares” who the House speaker is. “What they want is a Congress who is actually going to do something,” he said. To Christie, doing anything—even if it’s wrong—is better than doing nothing. Right now, the House is doing nothing because they’ve left Washington for a ten-day recess. Upon their return, they have two weeks to avert a government default on its debts.

Speaker Nathaniel Prentice Banks, 1855-1857, required 133 ballots to get accepted at a time when the House could not agree on slavery. If the current House follows this pattern, Boehner may decide to remain. If he doesn’t, or if he’s thrown out in a coup, Boehner can select a person to be Speaker pro tempore.  Right now at least 21 House members have said that they want to be Speaker, four of them from Texas. Will all but one back down with consensus for the last man standing? Or will it be a free-for-all? We won’t know for at least a week because the GOP House members want a vacation this week.

September 27, 2014

Far-Right Indoctrinates Small Children through Terror, Falsehoods

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 11:00 PM
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Desperate because conservatives are losing their constituency of older white people, far-right leaders are working to proselytize the young. Fox network is losing its watchers, and conservative radio shows are losing their sponsors. The answer to the conservative movement is children. The best way to take them into the fold is false and misleading education. For a long time, schools have tried to obtain textbooks that give the conservative revisionist history and science. Ten scholars in politics and history have found that Texas textbooks are full of lies and distortions to trick students into believing the radical right myths about racism, government, and the false perception that the United States was founded as a “Christian nation.”

For example, segregation wasn’t so bad, according to the textbooks, because white and black schools had “similar buildings, buses, and teachers.” Although taxes have gone up since 1927, society “does not appear to be much more civilized today than it was” back then. The book provides no information about the much reduced poverty and diseases, improved education, and better infrastructure such as the federal highway system.

Not satisfied with indoctrinating children in schools, the far right hocks coloring books for the littlest ones. Open carry is good, gays are bad—these are just a few ideas in the coloring books.

true facesThe newest offering shows bin Laden’s last moments, a man being killed by ISIL, and Taliban members. Open this new coloring book and you’ll find bin Laden’s last few moments, Taliban members and a man being killed by ISIS. Big Coloring Books has re-released the updated We Shall Never Forget 9/11: The Kids’ Book of Freedom and The True Faces of Evil Global Terrorism (with trading cards). The one letting kiddies color in an image of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with the words “stone him” now includes a man being crucified as an introduction to ISIL. The page reads, “This is what ISIS wants to bring to America and its people. What are you going to do when they come for you?” (The last line comes from “Bad Boys,” written by the reggae group “Inner Circle.”)

The video accompanying the announcement of the book admits that it is “savage, barbaric, and animalistic.” Visuals of what children can color are available here.

The books’ publisher, Wayne Bell, touted his goods on Fox & Friends. Brian Kilmeade faithfully explained that the coloring books are “meant to teach kids about terror threats facing our nation” and explained that they are “teaching tools.” In claiming that the books are “accurate and fair,” he skipped over the concern that the books reinforce negative stereotypes because almost all mention of Muslims come with the terms “extremists” and “terrorists.” In the Bowe Bergdhal prisoner exchange, the book states that Obama “broke the law.”

Bell defended the gory nature of the books by claiming that TV-watching children see Christian kids being “cut in half” in Iraq. The Internet has published reports of one 5-year-old child so killed, but no video. Kilmeade said that the images in the books could “cause nightmares” but children “will be educated at the same time.” According to Kilmeade, there would be no need for these books if teachers did their jobs.

cruz coloring bookThese coloring books aren’t the only false, scary propaganda aimed at small children. Like this one by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).  Note the “Tea Plant” on the cover. According to its description, the Ted Cruz to the Future™ – Comic Coloring Activity Book is a “non-partisan, fact-driven view of how Texas Sen. Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz became a U.S. senator and details, through his quotes and public information his ideas for what he believes will help America grow.”  Among “non-partisan, fact-driven” information children will learn from the new book:

  • Ted Cruz Is A Man Of Great Virility And Stamina. (The word “virility” should bring up interesting discussions with little children.)
  • Ted Cruz Can See The Future.  (because he spoke with “clairvoyant precision” about the “quickly approaching Obama Care disaster.”)
  • Cruz Is the Constitution’s Guardian.
  • America Is a Christian Nation. (from all those “official references to … Divine guidance.”)
  • Providing Health Care To People Who Can’t Afford It Is Worse Than War.

tea party coloring bookThese radical right-wing coloring books for kids as young as two years old aren’t new. Before the 2010 election, the 32-page The Tea Party Coloring Book for Kids came on the scene from Really Big Coloring Books Inc. Christopher Knight described it in the LA Times as “cheerful in tone, semi-literate in its writing, and factually challenged…. Puzzles, lyrics to patriotic songs and line drawings of the Statue of Liberty, edifices in Washington and the facade of the New York Stock Exchange are interspersed with free-market-obsessed texts.” Messages include “No more taxes!” and private medicine “not restricted by federal or state governments.” Mr. Rushmore presidents look worried while citizens have huge smiles on vacant faces. Federal debt has “become a life style because as [sic] this will bankrupt our country.”  Run-on sentences are rife, which would have caused my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Adams, apoplexy.

The false myth of the Tea Party of 1773 is carefully placed on the front cover. No mention that the tea was thrown into the Boston Harbor because government gave big business a deal that caused small Colonial businesses to go under because they couldn’t compete. The Boston Tea Party was an uprising against big corporate tax cuts enacted by the British Parliament, many of whose members were, like King George III, major company stockholders.  (If that sounds familiar to present day, members of Congress might start worrying about a revolution.)

~TeaParty_Cover3.20A sequel to this has popped up, Tea Party II: Why America Loves You, replete with the cult’s heroes such as Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rand Paul, and Sarah Palin.  It came out before Palin’s big brawl in Anchorage that called out the police and caused her to deny she was there before she admitted she was there. House Minority Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) are represented, but the text explains that they are bullies because they “openly make fun of the Tea Party.”

Politifact, which tends to lean conservative , has ruled that 60 percent of the claims by Fox network pundits and on-air personalities are Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire. Add the above statements from Wayne Bell and Brian Kilmeade to that 60 percent. And avoid the false fears of the far-right coloring books unless you want to provoke nightmares.

August 10, 2014

Conservatives Claim Moral High Ground But Ignore Bible, Constitution

God—and the U.S. Supreme Court—gave people the right to discriminate, according to Sens. Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Mike Kelly (R-PA). That’s why they’re pushing a bill, “The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2014,” allowing adoption and foster care centers to discriminate against same-sex couples. Nowhere does the language in the bill use references to LGBT people, and it is so vague that any organization can discriminate against anyone if its “sincerely held religious beliefs” are being infringed. The senators claim that the bill is meant to “ensure children can continue to get care from people of faith,” but the bill is intended to give special rights to religious organizations.

Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who started a range war against the U.S. government, told a gathering last week that his vendetta was between good and evil. Providing him personal inspiration, God told Bundy, “This is your chance to straighten this thing up.” At least that’s what Bundy claims. He added that people rallied around him because they were “spiritually touched.” The “touched” might have been accurate. Bundy’s big concern at the gathering was that only about 100 people attended. He asked:

“Where is all of your college students? Where’s our young and where’s our old? Where’s our black and where’s our brown? Where are you people? Aren’t you interested in freedom and liberty?”

Although Mormon, Bundy is the perfect example of Tea Party believers. They claim that they want religion back into politics, but what they want is just their own religion represented throughout the country. Despite their claims that the movement is secular, it is religious, founded in spiritual revival and zealotry. Their devotional belief system mandates how people should live, how society should function, what is right and wrong, and who should—and shouldn’t—lead the country.

The basis of their system is a refusal to compromise. The Tea Partiers’ moral imperative is that they will shut down the government before bending on any legislation just as Samson pulled down the pillars of the temple. Their bellicose nature keeps them from reasonable disagreements about fiscal or foreign policies. Anyone who opposes their dogma in government, economics, race, and sex are infidels. Heretics are burned at the primaries.

The Antichrist of the Tea Party religion is the illegitimate Barack Obama must be opposed just like the lesser demons of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Tea Partiers blame them for any problems in the past six years. Washington, D.C. is the seat of corruption in the same way that Rome was before Christ. The solution for Tea Partiers is to undermine the government while pretending to repair it. To do this, Tea Partiers put forward the vision of Paradise from the white, male, Christian country after the Civil War with plantocracy in the South and plutocracy in the North. States rights put blacks in their place, and robber barons fought off the sinful labor laws, unions, and income tax. The cry of “take back America” means a return to the Gilded Age when immigrants, minorities, and women knew their subservient place to the ruling whites.

Without reading the U.S. Constitution, the Tea Partiers have proclaimed this document as its holy text and themselves as solely responsible for its interpretation. If literal readings serve their purpose, they follow the words exactly, cherry-picking text as they do in the Bible. An example is the omission of “a well regulated Militia” in the NRA’s printing of the Second Amendment at its headquarters and the rulings concerning the militia until the past 30 years.

A return to states’ rights got a big boost from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas when he stated that separation of church and state was never intended in the states. He claims that the only purpose of the Establishment Clause is to protect states from federal interference; it “does not protect any individual right.” His position goes back over 20 years to a SCOTUS case about whether states could have term limits on Congressional representatives. A 5-4 ruling determined that the state could not limit federal terms because the Constitution had no amendment allowing them to do this.

Thomas was on the losing side, and he wasn’t happy. “The ultimate source of the Constitution’s authority is the consent of the people of each individual state, not the consent of the undifferentiated people of the nation as a whole,” he wrote. If there was nothing in the constitution, then states had the power by default. That argument has failed for over 200 years, but Tea Partiers agree with Thomas. They cannot acknowledge that the constitution is an agreement among the citizens of the United States and not among 50 independent republics.

To increase acceptance of the U.S. Constitution among fundamentalist Christians, far-right political figures claim that the document comes from the Christian god. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) explained the process: “Jesus destroyed Satan so that we could be free and that is manifested in what is called the Constitution of the United States. God created this nation and God created the Constitution; it is written on biblical principles.” DeLay gave Texas politics to the GOP by putting Republicans into the Texas House with corporate money so that gerrymandering could keep Democrats out of the legislature.

A big victory for Tea Partiers, at least temporarily, was the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the family that owns Hobby Lobby, and the family is not finished. After starting to push its Christian curriculum into public schools, the Greens plan a Bible museum two blocks south of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the home of history, science, and art museums. Steve Green explained why:

“This nation is in danger because of its ignorance of what God has taught. There are lessons from the past that we can learn from, the dangers of ignorance of this book. We need to know it. If we don’t know it, our future is going to be very scary.”

The text of the Tea Partiers’ Bible is actually opposed to all of them who want small government. According to 2 Peter, 2:10-15, false prophets are those who “despise government.” These government-haters are “wells without water” and “clouds that are carried with a tempest”; they are those “to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever.” Verse 17 provides disgusting descriptions that I won’t include. God’s judgment of these government-haters “lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not” (Verse 3).

To those who condemn LGBT people, the Bible states:

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” – Romans 2:1

About abortion, God commanded women accused of adultery to drink an abortion-producing potion. Under Jewish law, the fetus is the same as “water” during the first 40 days. Abortion is always commanded when the mother’s life is endangered at any time during the pregnancy. The God who handed down Jewish law is the God of Christianity.

The Bible supports charity, loving your enemies, putting down your weapons, not judging others, welcoming the foreigner at the gates, putting others before yourself, not lording yourself over others, and not despising the government.

June 28, 2014

Election Have Consequences

Election years between presidential elections are usually pretty ho-hum. Primaries come and go with almost no one caring except for the people who lived in the states where they occur. No longer. The Tea Party obsession with destroying the U.S. government which hit a peak in 2010 makes primary-watching right up there with the World Series and the World Cup. Some pundits may have thought that Rep. Eric Cantor’s loss to an unknown Republican two weeks ago was the high point, but Tuesday’s struggle in Mississippi surpassed that in another GOP crisis.

In early June, incumbent GOP Sen. Thad Cochran failed to get over 50 percent in the Mississippi primary and was forced into a runoff with opponent Tea Partier Chris McDaniel. The night before the runoff, he described his election as “unstoppable,” and then lost by 6,693. Cochran won by 1.8 percent after he asked for help from black, probably Democratic, voters. Mississippi law doesn’t require recounts, but McDaniel has refused to concede, saying that he’s looking into voting “irregularities.”

In a campaign that could be called McCain v. Palin, an extremist radical conservative tried to paint a conservative as too far left. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) politely described McDaniel as inexperienced, and his running partner in 2008, Sarah Palin, was joined by former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) to defend McDaniel.

Before the primary, an attempt to sneak into a nursing home to take photos of Cochran’s wife, who suffers from dementia, led to arrests. One of those arrested, a McDaniel supporter and founder of the state Tea Party, killed himself this week. The campaign also attacked Cochran’s daughter, Kate, for criticizing McDaniel on her Facebook page with a creepy photo of her and the hash tag “#Who’s Ya Daddy?”

In the early morning hours after the primary, three McDaniel supporters, Tea Party members, mysteriously locked themselves into the basement of the Hattiesburg courthouse next to the ballots. According to a report, Constable Jon Lewis, a big McDaniel supporter, had helped them get in. They claimed they wanted to see how the ballot count was proceeding, but the building was empty after the task had been completed hours earlier.

The day before the runoff, a McDaniel supporter filed a lawsuit to stop crossover voting. Mississippi has no party registration, but state law prohibits voters from participating in the GOP runoff if they voted on a Democratic ballot in the primary. Another state law requires any voters in a party primary to support that primary’s nominee in the general election. Although a federal appeals court struck down that law as unenforceable in 2008, the South keeps unconstitutional law on the books in perpetuity. The lawsuit was dismissed.

Far-right GOP gubernatorial loser in Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli threatened to send poll watchers into precincts with largely black voters. The watchers didn’t materialize, but the Tea Party is crying “foul” about blacks voting in the runoff.  “Our whole system is corrupt,” said a woman who attended the McDaniel post-election party. “We deserve to be called the most corrupt state in the nation.”

Two days after the runoff, Palin called for Tea Party members to leave the GOP and form a third party. She commiserated about McDaniel’s loss with Sean Hannity on his Fox program:

 “Well, if Republicans are going to act like Democrats, then what’s the use in getting all gung ho about getting Republicans in there? So yeah, if Republicans aren’t going to stand strong on the planks in our platform, then it does no good to get all enthused about them anymore.”

Palin’s sour grapes comes from more than just Mississippi. Tea Party candidates lost in New York and Colorado, and Palin’s pick for the U.S. senator from Oklahoma, T.W. Shannon, lost by almost 23 percent. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had also backed Shannon as an “outsider.” It seems that John McCain has been replaced in Sarah Palin’s heart.

ted-cruz-sarah-palin-485x324 Already elected Koch-Republicans want to shut down government because of the EPA’s proposal to control carbon pollution from the country’s power plant. Congress has no authority to change the EPA’s proposal without without amending the Clean Air Act. The ultra-conservative Supreme Court also sided with EPA’s authority to impose specific standards for carbon emissions. This month’s SCOTUS decision upheld the plan to regulate power plant and factory emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

Loonier yet, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has decided it’s in his best interest to sue President Obama because “the president is not faithfully executing the laws of our country.” The man who spent over $5 million to fight marriage equality now wants to waste more taxpayer money on a lost cause. After years of complaining about activist judges, the GOP is looking for an activist judge to rule against the president. The organization behind the suit would be the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) which is controlled by the GOP.

Boehner’s House of Representatives is actually the government branch that suffers from failure to perform. Jobs, immigration, tax reform, Export-Import bank, the Senate’s high-way-funding bill—these are a few of the areas in which the House takes no action. About Iraq, Boehner said, “It’s not my job to outline for the president what tools he should use or not use.” According to the U.S. Constitution, deciding about war is Boehner’s job. About the serious immigration problem, Boehner said, “I want to get our members to a place where they are comfortable, whatever that is.” He’s named a “working group” to eventually “suggest to the administration things that we think can be done.”

When asked what specific executive actions he intended to challenge in court, he said, “When I make that decision, I’ll let you know.” He’s left Washington for over a month. By September he may have some ideas.

Even Fox network Neil Cavuto blasted a Republican, specifically Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN), for the proposed lawsuit:

“There are far more important things that you guys have to be addressing than filing lawsuits passed by each other. BY THE WAY, ROME IS BURNING.”

Bachmann’s said that the GOP needs to defund the executive branch, and Cavuto proclaimed:

“Think about what you are saying. Defund the Executive, Congresswoman? If Democrats had said we are just going to defund President Bush, defund the Executive, you would have laughed them out. … I think Democrats would be in their right minds to laugh you out now. … Rome is burning and you are filing.”

After it was clear to President Obama that Boehner had abdicated his responsibilities, the president made 180 executive orders compared to George W. Bush’s 291 and Ronald Reagan’s 381. Boehner’s 112th Congress passed only 284 bills, the fewest since the 1940s, and his 113th Congress is on track to pass fewer. Currently, it has passed 121 bills with only 48 days—many of them not full days—until the session is over.

The conservatives are going off the rails in three different directions: shut down the government, keep the president from taking any actions, and form a third party. We’ll see how well these ideas work in hiding the GOP incompetence from the voters.

Far-right conservative Erick Erickson said it best on redstate.com: “I’m just not sure what the Republican Party really stands for any more other than telling Obama no and telling our own corporate interests yes. That’s not much of a platform.”

Yup. Erickson is right.

April 28, 2014

Tea Party Follows Fallacies of Ayn Rand

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:26 PM
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Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is once again on the campaign trail, trying to convince people that he has great concern for the poor—although it’s their fault if they live in an inner city. Ryan gets his ideas from Ayn Rand’s books, and Matt Yglesias has superbly summarized the Ryan policy to help the poor: “Rich people should pay lower taxes, middle class and working class people should pay more taxes, and poor people should get less food, medicine, and college tuition.”

It’s been over 50 years since I read Atlas Shrugged, but the book just won’t disappear, thanks to the irrational desires of white males to elevate Ayn Rand to sainthood. In a nutshell, Rand depicts corporate CEOs and one-percenters as the selfless heroes who will save society with all other people villains because they’re trying to drag down the rich instead of worshipping them in gratitude.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) required campaign staffers to read the book until he ran for president and felt he had to repudiate Rand’s atheism. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who drove the country into a recession, was part of Rand’s inner circle. His reason for opposition to regulation of financial markets came from her maxim that business greed protected the public, that old fairy tale that the wealthy are job-creators. After he left office, Greenspan admitted he got it all wrong before he tried to cover his tracks and give excuses for his damage to the country.

Adam Lee has provided ten lessons that Atlas Shrugged teaches:

All  good and trustworthy people are handsome, and all evil people are ugly. The heroes are distinctively Aryan with steely blue eyes and ash-blond hair.

A great businessman typically sneers at the idea of public safety. Heroic and decisive capitalists dive into dangerous situations and use only their gut for decisions. As heroine Dagny Taggart said, “When I see things, I see them.” Rand’s morality includes the success of bribing officials.

Democracy rewards bad guys, and violence rewards good guys. Members of Congress—the villains—voted for the Equalization of Opportunity Bill, forcing big companies to break up. The good guy, however, killed a state legislator before he could vote to pass a law stopping the good guy from finishing his railroad track and then threw a government official down three flights of stairs for offering him a loan.  Another Rand hero blows up his own oil fields because the government passed new regulations on rail shipping.

The government has never invented anything or done any good for anyone. Everyone who works for the government is a leech or bumbling incompetent. No mention of radar, space flight, nuclear power, GPS, computers, and the Internet brought about by government research.

Violent jealousy and degradation are signs of true love. Dagny’s first lover physically abuses and rapes her; her second one is a married man who leaves her bruised and bloody before he calls her a whore. Both men are Rand’s heroes; in her world, women are meant to be subservient to men. “The most feminine of all aspects [is] the look of being chained.” To Rand, a woman being the dominant partner in a relationship was “metaphysically inappropriate.”

All natural resources are limitless. To Rand, there is no end to land for homesteading, trees for cutting, coal for mining, and fossil fuels for drilling. Government bureaucrats invent environmental laws to punish and destroy successful businessmen. Fiction supercedes the laws of thermodynamics as Rand’s protagonists discover a motor that produces limitless energy for free because it runs on “atmospheric static electricity.”

Pollution and advertisements are beautiful; wilderness is ugly and useless. Rand describes New York City as cradled in “sacred fires” from the surrounding smokestacks and heavy industrial plants. In the pristine wilderness of Wisconsin, Rand’s hero says, “What I’d like to see is a billboard.”

Crime doesn’t exist, even in areas of extreme poverty. The only violence in Atlas Shrugged is government employees’ stealing the wealth of the rich at gunpoint to give to the poor. No burglary, no muggings, no bread riots, no street crime—although society circles down into poverty and economic depression. None of the wealthy worries about personal safety while the members of the elite mysteriously disappear.

The only thing that matters is success at making money.

“There’s nothing of any importance in life — except how well you do your work. Nothing. Only that. Whatever else you are, will come from that. It’s the only measure of human value. All the codes of ethics they’ll try to ram down your throat are just so much paper money put out by swindlers to fleece people of their virtues. The code of competence is the only system of morality that’s on a gold standard.”

Smoking is good for you. Like Rand, most of the novels’ heroes smoke, for good reason, according to a cigarette vendor:

“I like cigarettes, Miss Taggart. I like to think of fire held in a man’s hand. Fire, a dangerous force, tamed at his fingertips … When a man thinks, there is a spot of fire alive in his mind—and it is proper that he should have the burning point of a cigarette as his one expression.”

A heavy smoker, Rand wrote Atlas Shrugged before she developed lung cancer and had a lung removed with the help of government funding.  Worth today’s equivalent of $1.2 million when she died, she still took Social Security and Medicare because she needed the system for help.

In Business Insider, Max Nisen pointed out ways in which businessmen shouldn’t hold up Atlas Shrugged as a model:

Return to the gold standard: Ben Bernanke, former chair of the Federal Reserve, said that the wild fluctuations in inflation would return under the gold standard because it is unstable and bad for business.

The belief that successful people are inherently superior and frequently victims: Helping people achieve instead of looking down on them is true leadership.

Suggestion that people can and should be motivated only by money or trade: Many people are better motivated by doing something they consider worthwhile, including giving help to people. Any business owner who fails to understand this will lose talented employees.

A contemptuous view of customers: Rand promotes the idea that anyone who takes assistance is contemptible and should be avoided at all costs, not a good business model.

The perception of government as antagonist: Like the rest of the novel, government is a caricature. Good businessmen know that their success depends on infrastructure and property laws, especially intellectual property laws. That’s what they get from government.

A new generation will now be introduced to the third part of Atlas Shrugged as a new movie, including Rob Morrow, is scheduled to be released on September 12 of this year. The producer hopes “to draw a connection between the political implications in Atlas to the midterm elections and use the film as an opportunity to show their support for Atlas’ message of freedom and the rights of the individual.” Because the first two parts did badly at the box office, the movie had to be partially funded by donations from the general public.

A close attachment to Rand, however, may be awkward for conservatives. She was pro-abortion, supporting sexual freedom, and, worst of all for conservatives, an atheist. Her rejection of self-sacrifice included the idea of a god to whom a person should be subservient. The concept of Original Sin requires guilt, mandating atonement by attending to the “rotting sores” of others. To Rand, all altruism is evil. Rand described Jesus’ teachings as “the best kindergarten for Communism.”

The problem with Rand’s books, other than the fact that they are badly written, is that they are not balanced. Individual freedom and equality are prized by Western democracies but not at the cost of creating a huge gulf in equality. Large disparity in power eliminates individual freedom and equality because there is no longer ability for everyone to act freely.

Rand’s form of libertarianism and objectivism acts as a cult because it requires power differentials between leader and follower. No one is allowed to criticize. Libertarians claim “Reason,” using the term so that anyone who disagrees is “unreasonable.” Objectivism is simply a form of hedonism, not an objective approach. Both are absolute, allowing no possibility for thinking and change.

People love Rand’s polemics because they can behave selfishly without guilt. Following Rand, however, would only lead to the crumbling of the nation’s entire infrastructure and the destruction of the planet because the wealthy and the corporations only want the instant gratification of making more and more money. In truth, they are the leeches on the rest of us because they take everything from the people who actually work. Generally, the role of government, no matter how much some people hate it, is to keep the rich from taking everything from everyone else.

January 10, 2014

GOP ‘Obsessed’ with Abortion

Just because the U.S. Congress is not enacting much legislation doesn’t mean that state legislators aren’t working. The problem with the GOP-run states, however, is that they’re all working against women.  During the past three years, state legislators in GOP-controlled states enacted 205 laws to restrict reproductive rights for women, more than the previous decade when states passed just 189 abortion restrictions.

The top year was 2011 with 93 anti-choice laws. Things looked a bit better for women in the next year with “only” 42 laws, but the number climbed to 70 in 2013. That increase came from just a few states that passed 26 of these bills: North Dakota, Texas, Arkansas, and North Carolina.

graph abortion restrictions

 Almost half of the abortion restrictions enacted since 2011 fall into four categories: targeted restrictions on abortion providers (TRAP), limitations on insurance coverage of abortion, 20-week abortion bans, and restrictions for medication abortion. States have also adopted restrictions including parental notification, waiting periods, counseling, and ultrasounds, among other issues.

A study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology shows that being forced to view ultrasound images has minimal effect on a woman’s decision to have an abortion, a requirement in seven states. The hypothesis that this visual can create fetal bonding for women who want an abortion has been debunked. In a study of 15,575 medical records, 98.4 percent of women terminated their pregnancies even when forced to look at the ultrasounds.

The sweep of Tea Party politicians in 2010 started the anti-choice trend. Candidates campaigned on fiscal issues and immediately moved on to social issues as soon as they were elected. The Guttmacher Institute identified 13 states as “hostile” to abortion rights in 2000 with more than four anti-choice laws; the number more than doubled to 27 by 2013. Over 31 percent of women in the United States live in these 27 states. States designated as “supportive” to women’s abortion rights dropped from 17 to 13 in the same period of time. California actually expanded women’s access to abortion and prevented clinics from being unfairly targeted. Both Pennsylvania and New York are making moves to follow California’s example.

The most recent state bill designed to restrict women’s reproductive rights comes from Mississippi State Rep. Sam Mims, who initiated the bill meant to shutter the only clinic in the state that provided abortions. His current bill would limit over-the-counter access to emergency contraception to people age 18 and over. Minors would be forced to either get a prescription or obtain the medication from a doctor or other health provider.  

Last August, Plan B was approved for pharmacy shelves without a prescription, but it is still very difficult to obtain in many places. An investigation revealed that Native Americans living on reservations have almost no access because stores are not stocking the drug. These areas tend to be remote and have above average levels of sexual assault. Even stores in cities as diverse as Portland (OR) and Louisville (KY) keep Plan B behind the counter rather than on the shelves as required by law.

These stores also demand ID or refuse to sell Plan B if the customer is under 18. A study in the Journal of Adolescent Health published in December shows that 20 percent of almost 1,000 pharmacies stated that only females at least 18 years of age could purchase Plan B.

Mississippi is following the direction of Oklahoma which passed a law making emergency contraception available only to those 17 and over and forcing everyone to show ID for its purchase. A state judge later blocked the law from going into effect, partly because it violated the “single subject” rule, restricting a bill to only one issue. When the state legislature tried to re-pass the restriction, the bill failed to get out of committee. Mississippi remains one of the two states in the United States with the highest number of teen pregnancies and banning all contraceptive information except abstinence in schools.

The first bill that the Tea Party introduced when they were elected to the U.S. House in 2010 was on anti-choice. Then they held committee hearings about contraception without allowing women to participate. Yesterday they did both.

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, with not one woman among its 12 members, is considering the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 7). Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), who heads the subcommittee, denied a request from Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the District of Columbia, to testify although H.R. 7 specifically affects her district. Subcommittee member Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) made a motion for Norton to testify, but that motion was also denied.

The bill bans subsidies and insurance coverage for abortion in Affordable Care Act state-level insurance marketplaces. It also requires small businesses to pay more for health benefits if they choose to offer insurance plans that cover abortions. And it changes the tax code to eliminate medical-expense deductions for abortion care, except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. That could require the IRS to audit any women who claims one of these exceptions, forcing the women to relive their horrible experiences.

Before the Affordable Care Act went into effect this month, over 80 percent of private insurance plans covered abortion just as any other medical procedure. State legislatures, such as Michigan, have begun banning the insurance coverage of abortion, hoping that women cannot afford to pay for the procedure. In Michigan, the law passed without a governor’s veto requires a special insurance rider for abortion even in the case of rape.

In D.C. the proposed bill prevents the District from spending its own local funds on abortion care for low-income women. Norton wrote that the subcommittee is obsessed with dual objectives: infringing on the District’s right to self-government and interfering with the reproductive health of the District’s female residents, particularly its low-income women. Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, agrees, calling the GOP behavior “obsessive.”

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) promised to fight for a rider in next week’s appropriations package to allow employers to refuse to cover contraception in their health insurance plans for moral reasons. The Republican National Committee will delay its annual winter meeting and bus members to the annual March for Life, an anti-abortion rally in Washington, D.C.

The judicial system has been an integral part of decisions regarding anti-choice laws, generally overturning them as unconstitutional. Fortunately, the conservative U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an Oklahoma case limiting medication-induced abortions. SCOTUS’s decision let stand the lower court ruling, overturning the Oklahoma law to limit these abortions. The decision may also affect the other 15 states that passed similar laws.

At this time, 17 percent of abortions in the U.S. are medication-induced, an advantage after GOP-controlled states have greatly restricted the number of clinics and doctors. Medication is also a benefit, especially for women with ectopic pregnancies from a fertilized egg implanted outside the uterus, because this type of abortion does not need general anesthesia. Oklahoma has only two clinics where women can get abortions, forcing women to drive up to four hours one way to see a provider.

In Texas, a brain-dead woman is being forced to stay on life support until her fetus is harvested. When Marlise Munoz collapsed last November, perhaps because of a pulmonary embolism, she was 14 weeks pregnant. Her brain did not recover because of no oxygen for an extended period of time, but electric shock revived her heart. She had been very clear about not wanting to be on life support, but a state law forces her to remain there for the length of her pregnancy, despite the strong possibility that the fetus is also brain-dead after the same lack of oxygen. Texas is one of 12 U.S. states invalidating a pregnant woman’s end-of-life wishes.

LifeSupport_MapThree experts hold the position that her situation is not covered by the Texas law. Dr. Robert Fine, clinical director of the office of clinical ethics and palliative care for Baylor Health Care System, said, “Under Texas law, this patient is legally dead.” John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth pointed to a provision of the Texas Advance Directives Act: “A person may not withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment under this subchapter from a pregnant patient.” Tom Mayo, a Southern Methodist University law professor, said the hospital would not have absolute immunity from a civil or criminal case. Meanwhile the hospital refuses to take Munoz off life support.

There is some hope in Vermont. State legislators have introduced a bill this month that would affirm a woman’s right to an abortion and repeal all pre-Roe v. Wade Vermont statutes that criminalize performing abortions or advertising abortion services.

While people have lost their unemployment benefits, going hungry because the minimum wage is so low, and being separated from families through deportation, GOP continue their efforts to stop abortions and prevent people from getting low-cost health care. At the same time, they fight contraception, forcing women to get pregnant.

June 21, 2013

The IRS Argument Deflates

The GOP has been working the IRS manufactured scandal hard for the past month, trying to convince people that President Obama was directly responsible for the use of the term “tea party” to audit organizations in the 501(c)4 category.  Fox and GOP minds ignored the fact that many other organizations—including progressive ones—were audited,  many of the groups audited were certainly political, and that Fox was so eager to disenfranchise progressive groups with the IRS that they asked viewers to file fraudulent complaints.

But the House Oversight Committee, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) charged along, inciting the base and cheering them on.  On a Sunday ABC news panel before the case had been investigated, George Will promoted the idea of impeachment by equating President Obama and Richard Nixon and reading a passage from Nixon’s articles of impeachment. He wasn’t alone in his suggestion.

Issa thought he had the proof to back the president into a corner. Weeks ago, he promised to release the full transcripts from the IRS controversy hearings in the Oversight Committee. Then he leaked edited pieces and said he wouldn’t release the rest of them for a very long time, giving the impression that he didn’t have the goods to blame the president.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) took offense at the way that Issa was trying to smear the president with the edited transcripts and asked him to release the full ones. Issa sent Cummings a letter scolding him for getting out of line, Cummings responded by saying that Issa had to release transcripts by last Monday or he would, Issa didn’t do it, and Cummings released the full transcripts on Tuesday, leading to Issa’s anger.

The release of the full transcripts backed Issa into a corner. They show that the White House had no involvement in any of the audits.

Although Issa did start his attempt to make hay out of straw in the IRS controversy until a few weeks ago, he knew about the issue years ago. He also knew that a George W. Bush appointee was head of the IRS at the time that he raised the issue with the IRS. But nothing appeared before the presidential election last fall.

Issa’s recent history of manufacturing scandals in the hope of creating problems for President Obama include Solyndra’s loan guarantees, “Fast and Furious,” Benghazi—all Issa’s inventions. What many know less about is Issa’s past.

During his meteoric rise to wealth and power, he was indicted for car theft, arrested for illegally carrying a concealed weapon, and accused of arson. The accusations of deliberately burning down a building for profit and threatening a former employee with a gun did not result in formal charges, but there is enough information to substantiate some of his criminal actions. After Issa was in a car accident, he told the woman he had hit that he didn’t have time to wait and left before police arrived. The woman had to be hospitalized. There were no charges, but he made an out-of-court settlement after being sued.

The chair of the House Oversight Committee entrusted with investigating government wrongdoing and lying claimed to have the “highest possible” ratings during his Army career. In truth, he “received unsatisfactory conduct and efficiency ratings and was transferred to a supply depot.” He also lied when he said that he provided security for President Nixon in 1971 and won a national Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Once Issa’s allegations were punctured, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) picked up the IRS scandal banner.  At the conservative American Enterprise Institute today, he admitted the president was probably not directly responsible for the audits. Yet in covering for Issa, McConnell tried to connect the president with the so-called scandal by accusing President Obama—wrongly—of personally trying to prove he was innocent. Then McConnell claimed that the situation is part of a government assault on free speech as part of a “culture of intimidation.” Somebody has to be blamed for these audits, so McConnell picked the unions as the responsible party.

McConnell cherry-picks the Constitution like some people do the Bible. In his concern about free speech and intimidation, he ignored the House Rules Committee’s rejection of an amendment that would cut back the NSA’s ability to collect data on U.S. citizens. First Amendment protecting speech good; Fourth Amendment guarding against search and seizure bad—according to the GOP. Although the GOP isn’t happy with the other part of the First Amendment that protects freedom of religion.

The Tea Party bitterly complained—and the GOP House members picked up the cudgel—that more of them had been targeted than progressive organizations. That’s true, mainly because there were far more conservative groups wanting non-profit status for their political spending than progressive ones. The percentage for both sides was most likely the same. But conservatives have succeeded in making the IRS afraid. The GOP doesn’t want justice; it wants destruction of anyone who opposes it.

Now that GOP House members may have to give up salivating over the possibility that they could bring down President Obama with their IRS accusations, they should be concerned with IRS reform. After the Supreme Court gave people what seemed to be unlimited donation power with Citizens United, the criteria for 501(c)(4) “social welfare” nonprofits got even fuzzier. Frustrated by the flood of applications from the so-called nonprofits, some IRS low officials decided that using terms to find these would be useful.

The ambiguity of rules saying “social welfare” is okay but “political intervention” isn’t, gave a great deal of discretion regarding approval to these low-level staffers. The group can be tax exempt if political activity “less than primary.” Staffers had jurisdiction to decide what “primary” is. The inability of the Federal Elections Commission to be effective threw election law oversight into the IRS ball court.

What the GOP managed to largely conceal in all the discussion is that the groups claiming to be social welfare consistently got involved in politics with 80 percent of the advertising money from these groups going to Republican candidates and issues. No wonder, the House GOP has so diligently tried to protect them. In examining over 100 applications for IRS recognition, ProPublica found—surprise!—that the applications consistently said they were not spending money on elections and then did just the opposite. The American Future Fund, a conservative, self-identified nonprofit, spent millions of dollars on campaign ads since 2008—even before it mailed is fraudulent application.

The real disgrace—read “scandal” is not the Tea Party situation. It’s the fact that the IRS favors the wealthy. As Donald Dayen wrote in Salon:

“IRS audits of the largest and richest corporations have steadily declined since 2005, down 22 percent in the ensuing four years and even more from 2011-2013. In the same period, the agency accelerated its scrutiny of small and midsize corporations. Since 2000, the IRS has been more likely to audit the working poor, individuals and families making under $25,000 a year, than those making over $100,000 annually. The middle class received disproportionately more audits throughout the past decade as well. An IRS unit formed in 2009 called the Global High Wealth Industry Group, designed to give special attention to tax compliance of high-wealth individuals, performed exactly two audits in 2010 and 11 in 2011.”

Since 2002, the IRS budget has shrunk 17 percent while being saddled with more responsibilities, including Obamacare and offshore accounts. The indiscriminate 5 percent sequester cut will make the IRS problems only worse. One answer when employees are to do more work with fewer resources is shortcuts to keep up with the workflow. If the GOP wants the IRS to do their job, they should give them the funding to do this. The money spent in that area will help reduce the deficit. But the GOP wants to benefit the wealthy so they will keep the IRS from successful audits of them.

June 19, 2013

GOP Protests Immigrants, Filibuster Control

The House GOP passed its ridiculously restrictively anti-abortion bill yesterday, re-alienating women. Now they’re moving on to reject Hispanics with bigoted their stand against immigrants. GOP Congressmen have worked hard to tell anyone that letting minorities into the United States is counterproductive because most of them will vote Democrat, especially those from Latin America.

Tea Party representatives have put House Speaker John Boehner between the proverbial rock and a hard place by demanding that he not allow any immigration reform bill on the House floor unless a majority of Republicans is willing to vote for it—meaning that he must reject all bills that the Tea Party opposes. Unless he doesn’t. When he was asked yesterday if a bill would require majority GOP support to get to the House floor, he said, “We’ll see when we get  there.”

Immediately after the 2012 election, when the GOP was pursuing ideas to move their voting base beyond white men, Boehner said that he and President Obama could find common ground to immigration reform because “a comprehensive approach is long overdue.” Fast forward seven months, and he said that the idea that he is “pushing a comprehensive immigration bill” is “just not true.”

Media have spent a great deal of time trying to determine exactly what Weathervane Boehner means when he says, “I don’t see any way of bringing an immigration bill to the floor that doesn’t have a majority support of Republicans.” One side says he’s bluffing; the other side claims that he will join the GOP in killing immigration reform.

The GOP business community wants the reform bill to pass, not only to get cheap labor but also to win the 2016 presidential election. Yet the party base is dead set against immigration reform. Most likely most of the GOP legislators are bad-mouthing the bill in public while demanding in private that it be brought to the floor. Boehner may think that his language gave him wiggle room, but his base won’t agree. The question for Boehner is how much he is willing to endanger his position as Speaker of the House.

Today the far-right members of the House made themselves very clear in their rejection of immigration reform through a day-long press conference, organized by Reps. Steve King (R-IA) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX). Scheduled for the west side of the Capitol, the group was joined by Tea Partiers who were there to protest the IRS. In addition to the usual far-right suspects from Congress, Glenn Beck, who had decided that he should stop trying to divide the country and then developed paralyzed vocal chords, returned with his toxic rhetoric.

Yesterday he used his television show to draw a comparison between the immigration reform advocates peacefully protesting outside the home of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and the Ku Klux Klan. “The left is set up on revenge,” Beck said, comparing the demonstrators to Greece’s Golden Dawn party, a neo-Nazi group with ties to anti-immigrant hate crimes. Kobach was not home during the protest, as the Sunflower Community Action knew, but he threatened to shoot them if necessary. One of Kobach’s achievements is writing Arizona SB 1070, an anti-immigrant law that drove thousands of people out of the state in fear.

King’s six-hour anti-immigration reform press conference/rally today opposed “amnesty” for “illegal aliens,” Sharia law, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). A sizeable group of the conservatives booed Rubio’s name and carried anti-Rubio signs including “Marco Early Advocate of Muslim Brotherhood Takeover. Obamas [sic] Idiot.” Once in favor of the immigration reform bill, Weathervane Rubio opposed it and then appeared on ABC’s This Week last Sunday to say that “95, 96 percent of the bill is in perfect shape and ready to go.”

Rubio is one of the many GOP presidential wannabes of 2016. Meanwhile Allen West, former representative from Florida, has said that he’s considering a run against Rubio, if God sets his feet on that path. In addition to being virulently anti-government, West has shown himself to be sexist, anti-Muslim, pro-corporation—the list continues.

King has compared immigrants to dogs and livestock. For years he has tried to “clarify” the 14th Amendment that provides U.S. citizenship for anyone born in the country. In 2010, he said, “The framers did not consider the babies of illegals when they framed the 14th amendment because we didn’t have immigration law at the time, so they could not have wanted to confer automatic citizenship on the babies of people who were unlawfully in the United States.”

When DREAMers came to his office to advocate for immigration reform after the House voted to deport them, King tweeted:

20 brazen self professed illegal aliens have just invaded my DC office. Obama’s lawless order gives them de facto immunity from U.S. law.

#Gof8 You promise border security. How, when we can’t secure Congress from Obama amnesty? Schumer, McCain, come guard my door.

Here are the fearsome 20. King would never survive a high school classroom.

king aliens

While part of the GOP Congressional caucus stands on the Capitol steps to alienate Hispanics, House Republicans are planning a series of meetings with Hispanic-Americans in the nation’s capital as part of a GOP effort to woo minority voters. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the one woman allowed to be on the House leadership team, is planning four meetup sessions between Hispanic-Americans and GOP lawmakers at the Capitol Building this summer, starting today. Wonder how that went with the anti-immigration talk outside.

The situation in the Senate is growing so dire that even Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is finally considering the so-called “nuclear option,” ending filibusters of administration nominees in the upper chamber, after years of opposing the loss of the filibuster. If this were to happen, judicial nominees and Senate-confirmed administration positions, including the presidential cabinet, could be approved with a simple majority rule. To employ this option, he would need almost unanimous support of the chamber’s Democrats, which he most likely can’t get, starting with the retiring Carl Levin (D-MI).

GOP senators are coming unglued about the possibility of returning Senate procedures to a few decades ago before they mandated 60 percent of the vote on even the simplest action. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has threatened Reid if he were to follow through with his plans. If the GOP were to take over the Senate, Alexander said that the GOP agenda would repeal Obamacare, convert all federal education funding into school vouchers and scholarships, open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling, and repeal the estate tax.

This threat is the most hollow of any I’ve heard in a long time. The minute that the GOP gets a Senate majority, this is exactly what they will do—and far worse!

May 19, 2013

Religion, Our Country’s Culture Crisis

As I grew up, politics and religion seemed to be separate, unlike the last few decades. My partner (a very smart person!) and I pondered about when and how the fundamental evangelical Protestants became the power in the United States.

After the rigid Puritans settled the New World during the seventeenth century, other persecuted religious groups coming to America diluted the Puritans’ power. Although evangelicals, Baptists, and Methodists proselytized the colonies in the eighteenth century, thinkers behind the organization of the new country were largely Deists who, in their rejection of the Christ’s divinity, were comparable to today’s Unitarians. They were the ones who cemented the “wall of separation” between church and state. At the same time, the American Revolution strengthened the view that God was “partial” to this country.

During the nineteenth century, revivals crossed the country in spurts, and new religions such as the Mormon Church, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Church of Christ, Scientist gained their footings. The revivals of the early twentieth century established fundamentalist Christian religions such as that of the Foursquare Church from Aimee Semple McPherson, immortalized in the Elmer Gantry, a book by Sinclair Lewis made into a movie starring Burt Lancaster and Jean Simmons. During its early popularity, this religious approach occurred primarily within poorer populations and in the South. After the 21st Amendment overturned prohibition in 1933, Protestants seemed to be a religion that didn’t try to control people in the United States through the government.

John F. Kennedy’s election started that included eight years of Democratic presidents. This was the time when the conservative Southern Democrats left the party for the GOP and when conservatives laid the groundwork for later domination. During the next 24 years, the only Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, was a Southern Baptist who served just one term. 

Ironically, Tea Party that claimed to have no concern for social issues ultimately gave fundamentalist Christians the power that they craved. These conservative factions gained control through the organization of savvy politicians such as Dick Armey (formerly of FreedomWorks) and funding from corporations that found their ideology useful in adding to corporate wealth.

As the growing Tea Party was co-opted by fundamentalist Christians, it changed from the party for smaller government and no taxes into one that worked to change the United States into a theocracy. The result was a larger, controlling government because of restrictive laws to force people into their morality and their obsession to investigate anything they thought could damage the opposition. The corporations continued to financially support them because the Tea Party members support laws that increased corporate wealth. 

Now the dichotomy between fundamental and mainstream Protestantism is causing a crisis of identity within the nation. In Clash!: 8 Cultural Conflicts That Make Us Who We Are, Hazel Rose Markus and Alana Connor address the acrimony between the two parts of Protestantism.

Moderate Protestants believe in science as part of their religion, and the history of their persecution in Europe showed them the importance of the wall between religion and government. Fundamentalists don’t agree. Former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), a Southern Baptist, calls evolution a mere “theory,” and Texas Gov. Rick Perry agrees. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), an evangelical Lutheran, dismisses both evolution and climate change, calling it “voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax.”  Other Republican leaders—Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, etc.—go along with the non-belief in science.

The country’s only Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, said, “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” Santorum, a Catholic who ran for president last year, reported that when he first read these words, he “almost threw up.”

Conservative Protestants want clear social hierarchies, traditional moral codes, and more God in their lives. Their God is their best friend while moderate Protestants have a more distant God. Although warmer, the conservatives’ God is more wrathful, angrier, and more punishing while moderate Protestants see their deity as more benevolent and forgiving.   

An example of this punishment comes from a Texas judge, John Roach Jr., who invoked his “morality clause” and punished Carolyn Compton for living with her partner out of wedlock. If the partner doesn’t move out within 30 days, Compton will lose her two children. Because Texas does not recognize same-sex marriage, Compton cannot marry, Page Price, her partner of three years. Therefore she loses her loving partner or her children to an abusive man.

Fundamentalists also perceive God’s punishing the entire country. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) recently claimed that the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Benghazi attack were judgments by God as a way to punish America.

Pat Robertson’s recent marriage advice to a woman who called his program and asked how to forgive her cheating husband shows the fundamentalist perspective of hierarchy.

As the woman was talking, Robertson interrupted her:

“Stop talking about the cheating. He cheated on you. Well, he’s a man, okay. What you do is begin to focus on why you married him in the first place, on what he does good.” 

“Does he provide a home for you to live in? Does he provide food for you to eat? Does he provide clothes for you to wear? Is he nice to the children, do you have a happy family? Does he take the kids to sporting events? Does he go out and watch their Little League games? Does he share with you stuff that is going on? 

“And…uh…is he handsome, or is he, you know, what is it? Start focusing on those things and essentially fall in love with him all over again, and I recommend that you reach out and touch him. Touch his face! Hold his hand. Look into his eyes. Talk to him…”

“He must have some good points, or you wouldn’t have married him. So, give him honor, instead of trying to worry about it…but recognize, like it or not, that males have a tendency to wander a little bit. What you want to do is make a home so wonderful that he doesn’t want to wander.

“Reach out and think of the good stuff, then begin to thank God that you have a marriage that is together and that you live in America and that good things are happening…” 

Thus the Seventh Commandment applies only to women. 

Will Robertson continues his belief about LGBT people, who he equals with murderers and rapists and thieves? Or continue to believe in Bachmann’s theory of punishment about the 9/11 attacks being caused by feminism, ”a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians”? When pigs fly?

The Arizona government has established the same anti-LGBT punishment policy. After Phoenix included LGBT and disabled citizens in its anti-discrimination law to give them rights in housing and employment, religious leaders, including the Roman Catholics, said that the new law could “trample on religious liberties.” To save religion, Rep. Eddie Farnsworth and Sen. Steve Yarbrough reintroduced a tweaked, already-defeated bill as an amendment to an unrelated bill in order to skip a second public hearing. 

Language for the bill written by a conservative group, Center for Arizona Policy, states that no government entity can “burden” religious freedom, a “stand your ground” law for the religious. It allows people to discriminate against anyone they want if they claim religious grounds as an excuse—discrimination based on personal belief. The bill passed the Arizona House by a vote of 32-24.  

The Christian News calls it a way “to expand protections for the free exercise of religion.” The bill now goes to the Senate which has 17 Republicans of 30 members. At least one Republican representative had a bit of sense. “Can I create a religion and then claim infringement?” asked Kate Brophy McGee. 

What an interesting idea! Would that happen if we have a theocracy or do we have to follow just one religion,  that of the fundamental evangelical Protestants. 

February 15, 2013

Rubio, Paul Offer No Specifics

The first televised response, or rebuttal, to the president’s State of the Union address was delivered almost 50 years ago by Sen. Everett Dirksen (R-IL) and Rep. Gerald Ford (R-MI) to the speech given by President Lyndon Johnson. This year two freshmen senators, Marco Rubio (FL) and Rand Paul (KY) gave differing GOP positions after President Obama’s SOTU. It was evident that neither one had heard the president’s speech; it was more of the standard narrow small-government, make-the-poor-pay conservative position.

Unfortunately for Rubio, he drew great attention from comedians and progressive programs about his sweating, face-wiping, saliva-cleaning, and bottle-swigging behavior. Until this year, Bobby Jindal and Michele Bachmann had provided the low bar for achievement in the SOTU response endeavor. From now on, the image of Rubio leaning over to pick up his bottle of water and then taking a drink in the middle of a sentence will predominate the 2013 SOTU rebuttal images.

Paul Krugman, however, provided perhaps the most scathing response to Rubio’s speech, writing “that zombie economic ideas have eaten his brain.” Krugman defines zombie ideas as those that have “been thoroughly refuted by analysis and evidence, and should be dead–but won’t stay dead because it serves a political purpose, appeals to prejudices, or both.” He cites one of the most popular of these zombies as the frequent GOP statement that tax cuts for the wealthy help the country’s economy. As almost everyone knows, deregulated financial markets led to the need for large government bailouts to keep banks from failing. Yet Rubio, in all his ignorance, claimed last Tuesday night that “a major cause of our recent downturn was a housing crisis created by reckless government policies.”

Another zombie is that deficit spending destroys jobs: Rubio wants a “balanced budget,” even in a recession. But, as Krugman points out, the economy was depressed because businesses wouldn’t invest. Rubio said, “Every dollar our government borrows is money that isn’t being invested to create jobs. And the uncertainty created by the debt is one reason why many businesses aren’t hiring.” Businesses don’t hire because people don’t have money to spend. Bush’s economy clung to life partly because of the 800,000 public jobs that he created during his two terms, about the same number of jobs lost since President Obama took office because of the cuts in government spending.

In complaining about excessive government spending, Rubio failed to admit that the deficit is shrinking faster than at any time since the end of World War II; the country actually had a $3 billion surplus in January.

budget deficit Friday

Part of that is came from the $2.5 reduction that President Obama and the Democrats in Congress already approved. And this isn’t good news: such a rapid decrease in the deficit will likely result in an economic recession, damaging everything from education to food safety to medical research.

The GOP that wants a “balanced budget” voted for big government with deficit-financed Bush’s tax cuts, Bush’s wars, Bush’s Medicare expansion, and Bush’s Wall Street bailout with no regard for the “mountains of debt heaped on our children and grandchildren.” Bush’s first budget began with a federal debt of $5.7 trillion. His last budget ended with a federal debt of $12.9 trillion. Obama is now sitting on a debt of $16.1 trillion. Senator Rubio’s math fails him.

Rubio’s treatment of the sequester matched other post-truth positions. He repeated the GOP myth that the dramatic government cuts to take place in 13 days (while Congress has declared a ten-day recess) is entirely the responsibility of President Obama. Yet it was the GOP House, supported by math whiz-kid Paul Ryan (R-WI) that passed the sequester. After the vote, House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) chortled that Republicans got 98 percent of what they wanted.

Even a GOP representative recognized the falsehood of Rubio’s statement. Justin Amash (R-MI called the GOP attempt to blame the president for the sequester “disingenuous.” He said, “The debt ceiling deal in 2011 was agreed to by Republicans and Democrats, and regardless of who came up with the sequester, they all voted for it. So, you can’t vote for something and, with a straight face, go blame the other guy for its existence in law.”

Rubio voted against the sequester, but 28 of his GOP senate colleagues voted in favor of it. In the House, which passed the sequester by 268 to 161, two-thirds of the Republicans voted in favor while one-half of the Democrats opposed it.  Doug Elmendorf, CBO director, told the House Budget Committee that automatic sequestration cuts will cost the American economy 750,000 jobs just this year.

Republicans claim that they have a plan and the opposition has provided none. It’s actually the reverse. Both Senate Dems and the president have a sequester alternative, but they include tax increases on the wealthy instead on the poor and middle-class populations. The House action that Paul Ryan (R-WI) has talked about happened six months ago—in the last Congress. Nothing has been done in the 113rd Congress.

In his formal Republican response, Rubio criticized Obama for proposing tax increases: “The tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle class families,” Rubio said. “It will cost them their raises. It will cost them their benefits. It may even cost some of them their jobs. And it will hurt seniors because it does nothing to save Medicare and Social Security. So, Mr. President, I don’t oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich. I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors.”

He described his neighbors as immigrants, working people, and middle class. Yet Rubio’s house is for sale at $675,000. Huffington Post has a very nice slide show of Rubio’s “working-class” home.

rubio house

During his call for smaller government, Rubio  explained that he was able to attend college because of a government loan, and his mother needed her Medicare.

Rubio thinks that minimum wages won’t work, that we just need “good-paying” jobs.  Yet the current minimum wage is worth almost 20 percent less than it did almost a half century ago, showing that just believing in “good-paying” jobs doesn’t work.

minimum-wage

Not having heard the president’s SOTU, Rubio complained that the president failed to present specifics. It was Rubio, however, who talked in generalities. Typical of GOP speeches, he called for spending cuts but couldn’t name anything he wanted to cut. He suggested changes in Medicare but vowed that none of the changes would hurt seniors. He claimed that the president wanted to increase the deficit. He pushed the policy of turning safety net programs over to states when he represents one of the most corrupt state governments in the nation.

Rubio even stated that combating the climate crisis means asking government to “control the weather.” The GOP refuses to accept that people influence climate change, but the chart showing the number of anomalies during the past half century should frighten anyone.

climate anomoliesRubio also neglected a number of subjects that the president addressed, for example, the need to repair the infrastructure would include the interstate highway system, initiated by Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, that allowed the nation, and particularly Florida, to become a success story in growth of population and economic opportunity. Politicians like Rubio who call for much smaller government ignore the fact that government supports them, in Rubio’s case for most of his working life.

In his Tea Party response, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) used the same zombie ideas, accusing the president of over-spending and over-taxation. He used Ronald Reagan’s claim that “government is the problem,” the same President Reagan who increased government spending, raised taxes seven years of his two terms, and almost tripled the national debt.

Paul said that everyone in the United States is “guaranteed a chance to succeed based not on who your parents were but on your own initiative and desire to work.” Paul’s father was a doctor in the U.S. Air Force and National Guard because he became an obstetrician and then served in the U.S. government for 24 years. He, too, is convinced that the job market will flourish as soon as the government gives another big tax cut to corporations.

Paul shared the spending blame between both major political parties, further promoting the division between mainstream GOP and Tea Party members. Rubio’s party wants the sequester to take effect to destroy the president whereas Paul wants to get rid of most defense spending and foreign aid.

Like Rubio, however, Paul had no specifics. And like Rubio, Paul voted against the Violence against Women Act that would help women subjected to domestic abuse and sexual assault. There seems to be no end to the “war on women.”

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