The Watering Hole, Monday, July 7th, 2014: Crazy Talk

Thanks to commenter BruinKid at Daily Kos for these two libertarian wingnuts’ words:

First, a quote from Libertarian Kevin Gutzman, who is currently a “neighbor” of ours living in Danbury, Connecticut (In the olden days when Wayne and I were growing up in Brewster, New York, Danbury was considered a ‘local’ call, and we didn’t have to dial the 203- area code.) It’s kind of scary that he is a professor of history at Western Connecticut State College, or as we have always called it, “WestConn.” (My sister attended for 3-1/2 years.)

“As Americans celebrate the Fourth today, remember this: the statists are the intellectual descendants of those who did not celebrate the Fourth in the 1790s, celebrating Washington’s birthday instead:

“In the Founders’ day, the 4th of July was a partisan holiday. It was celebrated in the 1790s and 1800s by Jeffersonian Republicans desirous of showing their devotion to Jeffersonian, rather than Hamiltonian, political philosophy. If you were a Federalist in the 1790s, you likely would celebrate Washington’s Birthday instead of the 4th of July. If you believed in the inherent power of the Executive in formulating foreign policy, in the power of Congress to charter a bank despite the absence of express constitutional authorization to do so, and in the power of the federal government to punish people who criticized the president or Congress, you would not celebrate the 4th. The 4th was the holiday of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, those great states’-rights blasts at federal lawlessness. It was the anti-Hamilton, anti-Washington, anti-nationalist holiday.”

Next, from Jeffrey A. Tucker, who, according to Wikipedia, describes himself as “a dedicated anarchist” (he may also have been involved in the racist newsletters that got Ron Paul in some trouble):

“Now that 4th of July celebrations are over, let’s take the Declaration of Independence seriously and abolish the United States. It’s a cobbled together empire based on nothing but 19th century political ambitions. The results have been a menace to the world and certainly a menace to its own people. If the U.S. devolved to hundreds or thousands of small countries, or even became the great 21st century experiment in P2P legal institutions with no overarching geographically contiguous legal structure, that would even be better. The nation state is an anachronism, and the largest surviving case in point really should set the example, in the spirit of the principles that gave it birth, and be the first to go.”

Last, according to Salon’s July 1st article by Elias Isquitch, Governor Paul LePage of Maine has apparently been “pallin’ around with terrorists.” Author Mike Tipping, who covers local politics in Maine, has a book out about Governor LePage’s several meetings with a group called “Sovereign Citizens”, who are purportedly allied with the “Constitutional Coalition”, who are on the FBI terrorist watch list. LePage’s staff have verified that the meetings did occur. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center:

“Among the things reportedly discussed at these meetings was whether or not to seek violent retribution against key political opponents. A Coalition member named Jack McCarthy described the meeting on a radio program hosted by a small group of sovereign citizens calling themselves the Aroostook Watchmen:

“We also discussed this there, that as far as I know, the penalty for high treason has not changed in 100 years. And, I did not say it, but the governor said it. I never – I never opened my mouth and said the word. The governor looked at us and looked at his buddy and said they are talking about hanging them.”

LePage has vehemently denied that he ever discussed executing anyone, let alone his Democratic opponents, with the group, and a spokesperson characterized the meetings as a benign effort by the governor to listen to people across the political spectrum…

The topics of these meetings evidently revolved around classic antigovernment “Patriot” movement conspiracy theories, including the belief that American dollars are phony “fiat” money and that the Federal Reserve is a hoax. One of the meetings was dominated by discussion, led by noted conspiracy theorist Michael Coffman, revolving around the notion that the United Nations is out to seize Americans’ private property rights and impose a New World Order environmentalist regime.”

From the “Constitutional Coalition” website:

“Our Constitution established specific powers of the federal government, powers that are limited and enumerated. The founders believed that the government exists to perform only those services that the people cannot provide for themselves, such as the national defense. Local and state government powers were also to be limited and enumerated with the people self governing in all other areas.

The founders held that only a moral people – a nation of godly people with common spiritual and social values – were capable of self government.”

Here, to take the bad taste out of your mouths, just watch any one of these “comedy vs anti-science videos” that “show how humor can make a difference.” (Which I found as part of “more related stories” after the Paul LePage story, right next to one described as “Comedy can’t change the world: why Russell Brand is dead wrong about politics and humor…” – heh) Or, you can celebrate the fact that Pink Floyd is coming out with a new ‘album’ in the fall. Yay!

This is our daily open thread–what’s on your mind today?

The Watering Hole, Monday, June 16th, 2014: Local Fearmongering

A few days ago, I received the below email from our local State Senator Greg Ball:

Subject: Assault On Our 2nd Amendment Rights

Friend:

After recent anti Second Amendment efforts in the Assembly, the Senate Democrats are now pushing efforts to move legislation sponsored by Senator Peralta (S68A) that would mandate microstamping in New York State. Microstamping involves the expensive and invasive use of laser technology to engrave a microscopic marking onto the tip of the firing pin and onto the breech face of a firearm, so that spent cartridges give information about the firearm.

This is an extreme attempt to turn law abiding citizens into criminals, rather than tackling the real criminals. We must unite in both the Senate and throughout the state, to kill this extreme and costly effort, as we have done in the past.

There is not a shred of credible evidence that proves the technology actually works. This is a back door gun grab by liberal legislators engaged in social engineering, and we will stand our ground to defeat this recent effort.

I will keep fighting up in Albany to stop legislation that would infringe on our Second Amendment rights, but please stay vigilant and talk with your friends in other parts of the state to contact their elected officials.

Yours truly,

Senator Ball’s giant signature follows, but I won’t include it here, honestly, it’s huge.

Anyhoo, this is the gist of my reply to Senator Ball:

“This is an extreme attempt to turn law abiding citizens into criminals” In what way, Senator Ball? If a gun that is used in a crime shows the ID, wouldn’t it assist law enforcement in their efforts to apprehend a criminal? Most of the penalties outlined in the proposed legislation apply to gun manufacturers and gun dealers. If the ‘law-abiding-citizen’ gun owner does not deface his gun, microstamped or otherwise, then he will not be a criminal under this legislation. See Section 6. (A):

“6. (A) Any person who wilfully defaces any machine-gun, large capacity ammunition feeding device or firearm, INCLUDING DEFACING A MICROSTAMPING COMPONENT OR MECHANISM OF A SEMIAUTOMATIC PISTOL, is guilty of a class D felony.”

“…rather than tackling the real criminals.” Can you define who the real criminals are? Do you or your Republican colleagues have any proposals describing how you would “tackle” these “real criminals”?

“We must unite in both the Senate and throughout the state, to kill this extreme and costly effort, as we have done in the past.” The proposed legislation requires that the process cost no more than $12. (See S.7 below)

“There is not a shred of credible evidence that proves the technology actually works.” Um, not according to the text of the legislation’s Section S.6, so you might want to look into this further:

S.6 “…firearm microstamping is a revolutionary forensic technology that produces an identifiable alpha-numeric and geometric code onto the rear of the
cartridge casing each time a semiautomatic pistol is fired; that the alpha-numeric and geometric code on an expended cartridge casing will provide
an initial lead for law enforcement by enabling law enforcement to match the cartridge casing found at a crime to the original owner of the firearm;
that information from completed crime gun tracing is an important element utilized by COMPSTAT and other crime analysis systems to target illegal
firearms trafficking; that microstamping technology continues to produce identifiable markings onto expended cartridge casings even
after thousands of rounds of testing; that this additional tool will help law enforcement investigate illegal gun trafficking, close firearm-related
criminal cases and protect the public; and that legislative action is necessary to require all new semiautomatic pistols sold after January 1, 2016 to be
microstamp-ready.”

“This is a back door gun grab by liberal legislators engaged in social engineering” Now this is just pure fear-mongering strawman tactics, Senator, intended to rile up an already-riled-up base. Contrary to every NRA/Second Amendment worshippers’ rumor-mongering (which started BEFORE President Obama was even elected), that the big bad government was going to be “coming for your guns!”, the proposed S68A legislation mentions nothing about confiscation of guns whatsoever. In fact, the law itself, if passed, would not go into effect until AT LEAST January 1, 2016 OR whenever law-enforcement officials have received notification from microstamp job shops that certain production standards can be readily met; and, in fact, the law would only apply to GUNS MANUFACTURED AFTER JANUARY 1, 2016.

S.7 “This act shall take effect January 1, 2016, or at such time that the superintendent of the state police has received written notice from one or more microstamp job shops that such shop or shops are willing and prepared to produce microstamp structures on two internal surfaces of a semiautomatic pistol as defined in subdivision 26 of section 265.00 of the penal law for a price of twelve dollars or less at a production level of one thousand semiautomatic pistols per batch, whichever occurs later…”

So your guns-above-all-else-type of constituents can stock up to their heart’s content with non-microstamped weaponry.

“…and we will stand our ground to defeat this recent effort.”

This, Senator, offends me even more than your previous incendiary words.

While (S68A) would not have prevented, nor might not prevent, a tragedy such as the Sandy Hook shootings, any and every effort to do so warrants at least discussion. Yet you insist on using the volatile phrase “stand your ground”, which is now synonymous with “you can shoot anyone you want if they look at you the wrong way, or play their music too loud or, well, whatever, AND you can get away with murder! [Women need not apply.]” Your total lack of human tact or empathy is astounding. The people in Newtown/Sandy Hook are our neighbors. Perhaps you’ve forgotten that a teacher in the Pawling School District lost a child at Sandy Hook? You talk about this legislation’s (imagined) effect on law-abiding citizens, what about the effect of ignoring such a horrific slaughter of truly innocent children? Would you publicly label those particular parents of Newtown victims who are now advocating stricter gun laws “gun-grabbers”?

“I will keep fighting up in Albany to stop legislation that would infringe on our Second Amendment rights, but please stay vigilant and talk with your friends in other parts of the state to contact their elected officials. Not for much longer, Senator. [State Senator Ball has announced that he would not be running for public office once his term is up.]

Senator, IF this legislation ever passes, I hope that you will not be out there telling people these irresponsible, incendiary lies. In the meantime, why doesn’t the NY State Senate work toward gun-control legislation that could prevent another Sandy Hook, another Columbine, another Aurora, etc., etc. There have been over 70 shootings since Sandy Hook in public places such as schools, malls, plus killings like the recent one in Florida where a father killed three children and his wife before turning the gun on himself.

But the scariest shooting of all occurred last week when two of Cliven Bundy followers killed, in cold blood, two Las Vegas policemen on their lunch break at a local pizzeria; then the couple adorned each corpse with a Gadsden (“Don’t Tread on Me”) Flag. Shortly thereafter, after killing another innocent civilian, they killed themselves, too cowardly to face responsibility for their despicable act. A libertarian pundit, Adam Kokesh, “argued that because America’s political institutions — including the police — have become “homicidal … against freedom,” it was wrong to see the Millers unprovoked killing spree as acts of murder rather than self-defense. Kokesh argued next that the Millers had, if anything, saved lives by murdering two police. “Think of how many lives might have been saved by this incident,” he urged his audience. “How many people would these cops have killed had they not been killed?” “We can only hope that some of the officers in America are listening — if you care about your own safety”

Seriously, Senator Ball, please remember that words have consequences. The kind of rhetoric you use in your email could be the spark that lights some mentally unstable New Yorker’s fuse. Is that really what you want?”

Sincerely,
blahblahblah

 

Open thread–what’s on your mind today?

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 21st, 2014: SCALIA: JUSTice REVOLTing

Why does Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia keep giving us more reasons to question his fitness for his job?

It’s not like he hasn’t provided ample evidence of judicial bias over the years, the most fateful of which being his participation in the Selection of George W. Bush as President in Bush v Gore. Scalia’s later spinning of that decision, along with his callous exhortations to Gore voters to “get over it!”, calls into question both the decision and his more recent mental competence. One commenter on the linked article, which is from 2012, succinctly put it:

“Since Supreme Court decisions are intended to set legal precedent going forward (although in this bizarre instance the court stated this decision was meant to be sui generis, an abrogation of its function) then it is literally impossible to “get over” a Supreme Court decision. Maybe this swaggering jerk should step down if he doesn’t get that.”

justice scalia being rude
From a 2012 article in The Daily Beast, some info about the most infamous photo of Scalia:

“Vaffanculo”
Scalia didn’t appreciate a reporter from the Boston Herald asking him in 2006 how he responds to critics who say his religion impairs his fairness in rulings. “To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo,’” Scalia reportedly said, flicking his right hand from under his chin. In Italian, this not-so subtle phrase means “f–k off” and the accompanying hand flick is equally rude. “You’re not going to print that are you?” he apparently asked in an interaction that occurred, it’s worth noting, inside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross at Sunday mass.”

[emphasis mine]

Scalia has no love for LGBT Americans, as discussed in a 2013 Mother Jones article. One example:

“In his dissent in Lawrence [Lawrence v Texas], Scalia argued that moral objections to homosexuality were sufficient justification for criminalizing gay sex. “Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home,” he wrote. “They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.”

And in this Mother Jones article from February of 2012, sarcastically entitled “Supreme Court Poised to Declare Racism Over”, the [dis]honarable Justice Scalia displays his views on racial discrimination during Shelby County, Alabama’s challenge to the Voting Rights Act. From the article:

That’s not to say all discrimination is a thing of the past. In the eyes of the high court’s conservatives, America has transcended its tragic history of disenfranchising minorities, but there’s still one kind of discrimination that matters: Discrimination against the states covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Justice Antonin Scalia said that it was “sort of extraordinary to say” that “Congress can just pick out…these eight states,” referring to the states covered by Section 5.

Later, Scalia telegraphed his reasoning for what will almost certainly be a vote to strike down part of the law. Explaining overwhelming support for the Voting Rights Act reauthorization in Congress in 2006, Scalia called Section 5 the “perpetuation of a racial entitlement” that legislators would never have the courage to overturn. “In the House there are practically black districts by law now,” Scalia complained.

[Makes ya wonder how Scalia's Siamese twin, Clarence Thomas, REALLY feels about discrimination against other American citizens of color.]

When Supreme Court Justices are connected at the spine

When Supreme Court Justices are connected at the spine


Conan O'Brien hits the nail on the head

Conan O’Brien hits the nail on the head

And then there’s these:
scalia court not political

Delusions of grandeur?

Delusions of grandeur?

Last week, Justice Scalia came out with another disturbing notion. From yesterday’s Think Progress thread:

“During an event at the University of Tennessee’s law school on Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia suggested to the capacity crowd that perhaps they should revolt against the U.S government if their taxes ever get too high.

During a question and answer part of the event, a student asked Scalia about the constitutionality of a federal income tax. Scalia assured the questioner that the tax was in fact permissible by the constitution, but added that if it ever became too high, “perhaps you should revolt.” … Supreme Court justices have largely refrained from such rhetoric. Still, in recent years, Scalia has shifted even further to the right than when he was first appointed.

Days later, at a joint appearance with fellow Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Scalia offered a bit of ironic commentary on inflammatory rhetoric. “It sometimes annoys me when somebody has made outrageous statements that are hateful,” he told the audience at the National Press Club. “Sometimes the press will say, ‘well, he was just exercising his first amendment rights’…You can be using your first amendment rights and it can be abominable that you are using your first amendment rights. I’ll defend your right to use it, but I will not defend the appropriateness of the manner in which you are using it.”

[Right back atcha, Antonin.]

And all of this from someone who was once a regular on the PBS series “Ethics In America”. The series was produced by the Columbia University Seminars on Media and Society and was hosted by Fred Friendly; individual episodes can be viewed here. I recommend checking out some of the episodes; the ones with Scalia show a younger, more reasonable and slightly more jovial Antonin Scalia.

These days, I don’t believe that Antonin Scalia knows the meaning of the word “ethics.”

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind?

Breaking Gnus: Koch Bros Sue Over “One Man-One Vote”

Hot on the heels of the Supreme Court’s latest ruling that Freedom of Speech means anyone can spend any amount to get their candidate elected, the Koch Brothers seek to expand this notion of Freedom of Speech, arguing that restricting voting rights to one vote per person is an impermissible restriction on their freedom of speech.

Anyone should be allowed to vote as many times as they can afford, the lawsuit alleges, arguing for unrestricted mail-in ballots.

Constitutional Law scholars note that the “one man-one vote” doctrine was never written into the Constitution, effectvely conceding that the Koch Brothers’ lawsuit might prove persuasive before the Roberts’ Court.

“After McCutcheon and Citizens United, it’s only a matter of time before free speech, money, and voting rights will be treated as equals under the Constitution” one scholar, who asked to remain anonymous, commented. A constitutional amendment to overturn those decisions was deemed highly unlikely to ever garner enough support to become part of the supreme law of the land.

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, HUMP DAY, February 19, 2014: The Continuing Relevancy of the Amendments to the United States Constitution…continued.

In an earlier post, this author discussed the relevancy of Amendments 1-4. We now visit a few more:

——————————————————————————–

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

——————————————————————————–

Ok, this one’s pretty much optional. What began under Bush has been dramatically expanded under Obama, without much protest. Two words: DRONE STRIKES.

Now, “due process of law” consists of the Unitary Executive deciding you’re an enemy of the State, you cannot be captured, therefore you must be killed. Judge, jury & executioner, all wrapped up into one neat little package.

Any gun nut who seriously thinks he can take up arms against the United States, as his 2nd Amendment Right, is not playing with a full deck, regardless of the number of rounds in his magazine. Joe Militia isn’t going to stop a drone. And, by taking up arms against the U.S. he fulfills the criteria used to order drone strikes against U.S. citizens abroad.

——————————————————————————–

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Speedy trial? Yeah, right. The courts are backlogged, and it’s not getting any better. Oh, and if you have a civil matter, well, you have no right to a speedy trial. Your case will get bumped from the calendar because criminal cases take precedence, thanks to the 6th Amendment.

Oh, and see the comment about Drone Strikes if you still think every accused will be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, etc. before the drone hits.

——————————————————————————–

Amendment VII

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

For some reason, the Founding Fathers never bothered to add a clause indexing this to inflation. Nonetheless, try getting a jury in Small Claims Court. And the number of jurists varies by State.

——————————————————————————–

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

I think it was Justice Scalia who put this to rest. If you’ve not been convicted, water boarding is not ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’

OPEN THREAD TIME

GO AHEAD

POST WHAT YOU WANT

IT’S NOT LIKE THE GOVERNMENT IS WATCHING….

The Watering Hole; Thursday November 7, 2013; “The U.S. Needs a New Constitution . . .”

In a recent article in The Atlantic, Alex Seitz-Wald suggests that The U.S. Needs a New Constitution—Here’s How to Write It. I have no argument at all with his proposition. In fact, it brings to mind words from a Minnesota high school declamation contest speech I recited way back when, circa 1958. Its title was “The Constitution on Trial,” and the opening line of the indictment was both definitive and succinct: “The Constitution is old, and outmoded.”

Seitz-Wald’s premise is much the same. He writes:

“No society can make a perpetual constitution,” Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison in 1789, the year ours took effect. “The earth belongs always to the living generation and not to the dead .… Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years.” By that calculation, we’re more than two centuries behind schedule for a long, hard look at our most sacred of cows. And what it reveals isn’t pretty.

Seitz-Wald’s proposal to revise is based on the fairly simple proposition that

. . . the Constitution simply isn’t cut out for 21st-century governance. It’s full of holes, only some of which have been patched; it guarantees gridlock; and it’s virtually impossible to change.

Recent events, especially the shutdown and near economic collapse which were orchestrated by a minority of nutcases in the House of Representatives (in consort with the unwillingness/inability of the House “Leadership” to take the few steps needed to work around the problem and solve it) have come to define that implicit undercurrent message which reads, simply, “Give us what we demand or it’ll be the worse for y’all!.” And what they want, of course, are things that are anathema to any fair-minded “Democracy,” itself a word which can no longer be applied to governance in the United States for the simple reason that democracy dies when FEAR — the fear of simply watching as those (perceived aberrant, i.e. non-white) racial and ethnic populations work their way toward majority status — becomes the driving demand for radical change. There are other considerations, of course, most of which appear to be driven by the (seemingly incongruous) religious and power/greed contingents of the nation’s far right political movement. But still, FEAR (of almost everything) is perhaps the most descriptive and definitive word.

Seitz-Wald pretty much avoids discussing the element(s) of the FEAR which many see as the foundation of the American proto-fascist politic which is oft-labeled “Wingnuttistanian,” but he does point to some very obvious Constitutional issues which really do — for those more rational — demand correction, i.e.:

The American system was designed with plenty of checks and balances, but the Founders assumed the elites elected to Congress would sort things out. They didn’t plan for the political parties that emerged almost immediately after ratification, and they certainly didn’t plan for Ted Cruz. . . .

. . . the Senate is an undemocratic relic where 41 senators, representing just 11 percent of the nation’s population, can use the filibuster to block almost anything and bring government to its knees. A single voter in Wyoming, a state with a mere 600,000 people, has the equivalent representation of 66 Californians unfortunate enough to live in a place with 38 million other people. The two-senator allotment to each state also makes it essentially impossible to change the makeup of the states or admit new ones like the District of Columbia. And the House, of course, isn’t a more attractive alternative.

All true.

He also notes the difficulties implicit in using a Constitutional Convention as the means to assist the correction of each of those Constitutional ‘flaws’ which have become more apparent via each and every Washington (self-imposed) “Crisis.” Still, at one point he at least gave me AN IDEA! when he quoted “. . . the Public International Law & Policy Group, a pro-bono law firm that advises transitioning countries on the rule of law, [and who] developed a 222-page U.N.-endorsed “Post-Conflict Constitution Drafter’s Handbook” . . . [which includes] instructions on how to write a preamble . . .”

YES! A Preamble! Yee Haw!!

So: I decided that I would help by first acknowledging that the USA is no longer and for all practical purpose, “United,” that it is instead absolutely and irresolutely DIVIDED into two eternally disparate factions, consisting, resp., of We Who Care, and Teh Stupid (aka Wingnuts). Wingnuts have, ever since the election in 2008 (exacerbated by the SECOND election in 2012) of the nation’s first Black POTUS, talked of secession, of their desire to leave the USA once and for all, to form a new nation . . . a new nation similar in concept and in its philosophy to the one which, some 150 years ago, essentially DEMANDED a Civil War that ultimately cost more American deaths and casualties than the sum of those who have died in all American wars fought before or since.

Ah well, yes; never mind the nasty details. Onward.

For those who still inhabit America’s extreme and hate/fear-driven right wing fringe, this day’s “moral” solution to allathat is simple: Secession . . . a concept for which I can muster no contrary argument. Seems logical, in fact, that those who are consumed ONLY by hate and fear should, on their own volition, leave forever the safety and security guaranteed by the Liberal state, and secede; take that ‘forward’ leap and create their own nation, one in which  fear, and hate, and fear (aka ‘love’) of “god” defines their meager and ultimately pitiful existence. Secession has become, clearly (and sadly, I suppose), the only real solution to America’s intrinsic dilemma.

Therefore: as a fair-minded and compassionate Liberal, I do herein and hereby offer, to all who choose the emergent Wingnuttistan nation over the multi-racial TRAVESTY that is today’s United States of America (i.e. that one time  “pure-WHITE” country, the one that now has a BLACK president) — free of charge or copyright obligation — the first words for their NEW CONSTITUTION! For their Preamble!!!!!

My proposal reads as follows:

We the people of Wingnuttistan, in order to form a more perfect union, do hereby hold these here truths to be self-evident: that all men are NOT created equal, that it’s only WHITE CONSERVATIVES what’s been endowed by their Creator with them unalienable Rights that shall NOT NEVER be infringed! — that among these ARE the right of the people to KEEP AND BARE ARMS along with ALL the BULLETS they want in BIG magazines; that Congress shall NOT NEVER make no law  prohibiting the FREE EXERCISE OF CHRISTIANITY; that Muslin Sharia law AIN’T NOT NEVER NOT permitted; that each and all them brown and colored folks is herein and forevermore defined as THREE FIFTHS OF ALL OTHER PERSONS because we be SICK AND TIRED of them buggers thinking they be like us which they ain’t, cause this here’s a WHITE COUNTRY!  PRAISE JESUS!

Nah. Way too complex, too tricky to comprende; way too many big words. Not simple enough for Wingnuttistan. So, here it is, My REVISED proposal for the Preamble to the new Wingnuttistanian Constitution:

We the people of Wingnuttistan, in order to form a more perfect union, do hereby hold these here truths to be self-evident: that all men are NOT created equal, that it’s only WHITE CONSERVATIVES what’s been endowed by their Creator with them unalienable Rights that shall NOT NEVER be infringed! — that among these ARE the right of the people to KEEP AND BARE ARMS along with ALL the BULLETS they want, in BIG magazines; that Congress shall NOT NEVER make no law  prohibiting the FREE EXERCISE OF CHRISTIANITY; that Muslin Sharia law AIN’T NOT NEVER NOT permitted; that each and all them brown and colored folks is herein and forevermore defined as THREE FIFTHS OF ALL OTHER PERSONS because we be SICK AND TIRED of them buggers thinking they be like us which they ain’t, cause this here’s a WHITE COUNTRY!  PRAISE JESUS!

Q.E.D.

And for YOU: Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, . . . and all y’all who FEAR the Voice of reason, the voice of those of us who don’t subscribe to your greed, the voice of those of us who sincerely care for others in ways which are NOT simply — as you see it — an ‘electoral strategy,’ and to your deeply embedded bête noire, to your hatreds of each and all who might not act or look quite like you (aka those who are really LUCKY): DON’T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU IN THE ASS ON THE WAY OUT! YOUR SICK-SICK-SICK [sic] Nirvana is waiting, breathlessly I’m sure, for your arrival.

Godspeed.

OPEN THREAD

CLOSED FOR BUSINESS

Christmas came early for hundreds of thousands of federal workers as the Tea Party Caucus successfully shut down the Federal Government. This, to be sure, is a White Christmas. Except for Father Christmas, John Boehner. He’s orange.

The Speaker of the House used the power of his position to prevent a clean funding bill from coming up for a vote. He is dedicated to spending any amount, incurring any hardship, just to see that millions of Americans don’t have health insurance. Except that he’s spending taxpayers’ money, and he’s not having to get by without a paycheck. The same goes for the Tea Party Caucus. They know, thanks to gerrymandering, they’ll get re-elected.

The Republican Party has long run on the mantra of a smaller federal government and now, they’ve succeeded in their goal. Only functions deemed “essential” are operating. Everything else is shut down, or shutting down. Everything else, we can get by without, on a permanent basis. National Parks? nope. Government regulators? Who needs them. Research grants? Let the free market take care of it.

If the Tea Party wants to, they can make sure that a total economic collapse, worse than the Great Depression, starts on Obama’s watch. All they have to do is…nothing. And they’ll still get their full paychecks.

Merry Christmas.

Pro-Life, at any cost.

The American Life League, Inc.’s website reveals their take on abortion statistics:

Total number of abortions in the U.S. 1973-2011: 54.5 million+

234 abortions per 1,000 live births (according to the Centers for Disease Control)
Abortions per year: 1.2 million
Abortions per day: 3,288
Abortions per hour: 137
9 abortions every 4 minutes
1 abortion every 26 seconds

These statistics include only surgical and medical abortions. Because many contraceptive measures are abortifacients (drugs that induce or cause abortions), it is important not to overlook the number of children killed by chemical abortions. Since 1965, an average of 11 million women have used abortifacient methods of birth control in the United States at any given time. Using formulas based on the way the birth control pill works, pharmacy experts project that about 14 million chemical abortions occur in the United States each year, providing a projected total of well in excess of 610 million chemical abortions between 1965 and 2009.

So, this is what the “Pro-Life” crowd wants to prevent, in blocking access to surgical and “chemical” abortions – the addition of over 600 million to the population of the United States in one generation.

The current population of the United States is about 300 million. According to the American Life League, had women been prevented from having abortions, the population would have been amore than 900 million.

Reality Check Time.

More live births do not equal a more equitable distribution of wealth. For 98% of us, three people would have to survive on the resourses/income that one person has now. Put differently, triple the size of your household, without any raise in income. Now provide for your family.

And while you’re pondering that, imagine triple the demand for food, shelter, energy, etc. Nothing like tripling demand to drive up prices. But, with more workers in the workforce, wages are driven lower.

Ending birth control and abortions will cause a population explosion that will create a humanitarian crisis of biblical proportions. The ensuing population growth will be unsustainable, the suffering from abject poverty and starvation unfathomable.

But the “Pro-Life” crowd is incapable of comprehending the logical consequences of their own actions.

The Watering Hole; Friday June 7, 2013; “Source of Anti-Government Extremism”

Robert Parry at ConsortiumNews.com continues his explorations of motivations which underlie the extreme political right wing’s increasingly troubling policies and attitudes. He begins by reiterating the obvious when he says,

The Right’s hostility to “guv-mint” is not new. It traces back to the South’s fears that any activism by the national government, whether building roads or providing disaster relief, would risk federal intervention against slavery and later against segregation, perhaps even the end of white supremacy . . .

He later adds,

. . . the Founders recognized the need for order if their experiment in self-governance was to work. Even some of the more radical Founders, the likes of Sam Adams, supported the suppression of domestic disorders, such as Shays’ Rebellion in Massachusetts and the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania. The logic of Adams and his cohorts was that an uprising against a distant monarch was one thing, but taking up arms against your own republican government was something else.

But the Tea Partiers are not entirely wrong when they insist that their hatred of “guv-mint” has its roots in the Founding era. There was an American tradition that involved resisting a strong and effective national government. It was, however, not anchored in the principles of “liberty,” but rather in the practice of slavery. (highlight added)

Parry details many of the machinations that Virginians such as James Madison, George Mason, and Patrick Henry undertook. Their goals were twofold: to find the means of ensuring ratification of the new Constitution by Slave States, and to assure them that slavery as an institution and way of life would not be compromised by any of the language and wording in the main body of the document. And in result:

Virginia’s delegates narrowly approved the Constitution on a 89-79 vote.

The key constitutional revision to allay the fears of Southern plantation owners was the Second Amendment, which recognized that “a well-regulated Militia [was] necessary to the security of a free State,” echoing Mason’s language about “domestic safety” as in the protection against slave revolts.

The rest of the Second Amendment – that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” – was meant by definitions of the day to ensure the right to “bear Arms” as part of a “well-regulated Militia.” Only in modern times has that meaning been distorted – by the American Right – to apply to individual Americans carrying whatever gun they might want.

But the double-talk about the Second Amendment didn’t begin in recent years. It was there from the beginning when the First Congress acted with no apparent sense of irony in using the wording, “a free State,” to actually mean “a slave State.” And, of course, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” didn’t apply to black people.

The Second Congress enacted the Militia Acts, which mandated that military-age “white” men must obtain muskets and other supplies to participate in bearing arms for their state militias. Thus, the South was guaranteed its militias for “domestic safety.”

After continuing with a remarkable and compelling recitation of historic details implicit in 18th, 19th, and 20th century’s ‘resistance’ (for lack of a better word) politics, Parry ends with his summation:

. . . the biggest secret withheld from the American people is that today’s Right is actually promoting a set of anti-government positions that originally arose to justify and protect the South’s institution of slavery. The calls of “liberty” then covered the cries of suffering from human bondage, just as today’s shouts of outrage reflect resentment over the first African-American president.

The roots of today’s Wingnut movement, whether it’s called ‘conservative,’ or ‘Tea Party,’ or ‘Libertarian,’ or even the umbrella word, ‘Republican’ — are clearly and constantly rooted in racism in one way or another. We watch daily as the collective ‘they’ rants and carries on about virtually any issue that involves skin color other than white, or religions other than “Christian;” languages other than English; ‘wimmin’ in positions of authority when they ought to be home, barefoot, and pregnant; sexual preferences other than “normal;” we listen to the constant and NeveR-ending screAms concerning gun “rights” . . . along with accusations that the “Communists” are behind EVERY tree, and that President Obama himself is a “Marxist-Communist-Fascist-Muslim-Terrorist,” that he is clearly NOT an American, that he was foreign-born with a Communist-Muslim BLACK father whose goal was to have his son become President and overthrow the Amurka we all know and love. One World Government, etc., ad infinitum.

Hate and fear is their mantra, and their racial hatred leads to fear of everything, esp. the ‘guv-mint.’ Racial fear and hatred defined America at her birth, and sadly, it continues to define, today, a major political segment of that same America.

I’m damn sick of it all. Sick of the ingrained and deeply embedded ignorance, sick of wanton gun violence, sick of hearing nonsensical narrations that are based in nothing other that hatred and fear, in fear and hatred combined with the (horror of horrors!) reality that we have a (twice-ELECTED!) black Aframerican President, and his family, occupying the White House. And ‘wimmin’ are in the work place, often in positions of authority. And Sharia Law is everywhere in the shadows, waiting to POUNCE! And gays are allowed in the military! And in lots of states gays and lesbians can marry! And blacks can own guns! And illegal Mexicans are everywhere . . . mowing my yard, trimming my trees, harvesting my melons . . . and voting for Obama, illegally! And a black guy is in the WHITE House! Oh Ick!

Their world is falling apart. So I have a suggestion to help assuage AND accelerate, a suggestion which I’ve made over and over again:

REPEAL THE SECOND AMENDMENT!

It’s based in racism, in hatred and in fear; it has NO practical basis, and accomplishes nothing worthwhile, nothing that ‘defines’ a civilization worthy of even a moment’s respect. And perhaps in the process, maybe we might also see to the repeal of each and every other Constitutional and legal proviso that encourages and/or enables Wingnuttistanian fears, along with their implicit hatreds of others based on nothing but skin color, or religious preference/belief, or sexual orientation . . . I’ve had enough of their NONSENSE.

Hope I’m not alone.

OPEN THREAD. ANYTHING GOES . . . ‘CEPT FOR WINGNUT ILLOGIC, OF COURSE.

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 8th, 2013: Close GTMO Now!

Until Chris Hayes spoke so strongly and eloquently about the ongoing hunger strike at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, I was completely unaware that it was happening.

“…of the 166 detainees left at Guantanamo over half of them have already been cleared for release, meaning that the government does not have a case against them and does not think they pose a threat to the United States. And yet they languish at the prison at Guantanamo…The dozens of men who have been cleared by the United States government for release should be released immediately, should be paid restitution, and offered legal residence in the United States.

If that sounds radical or outside the boundaries of political feasibility, I would say that shoving tubes up the noses of men a few times a day to force them to stay alive in our prisons, even though we readily admit we have to no reason to continue to keep them, is pretty damn radical, too.

According to a Miami Herald article from March 3rd,

“Under that procedure[force-feeding], military medical staff strap a captive into a feeding chair and pump a can of Ensure nutritional supplement into each man’s stomach through his nose twice a day.

President Obama issued an executive order to close the Guantanamo detention facility back in 2009, and has stated:

“It is a rallying cry for our enemies. It sets back the willingness of our allies to work with us in fighting an enemy that operates in scores of countries. By any measure, the costs of keeping it open far exceed the complications involved in closing it. I want to be very clear that our goal is to construct a legitimate legal framework for the remaining Guantanamo detainees that cannot be transferred.”

It is abundantly clear that the political grandstanding and fear-mongering are blocking such a goal. However, since 2009, President Obama seems to have put the detainee issue on the back burner. And despite the undeniable fact that 86 of the 166 remaining detainees have been cleared for release, and the majority of the other detainees have not even been officially charged with anything, there are plenty of idiots (mostly Republican) who still believe that these prisoners are the “worst of the worst” terrorists. These idiots also seem to suffer under the delusion that if Guantanamo is closed down, the prisoners will be let loose into the streets of America, even though there have been offers from States with empty prisons to take in any or all of them if necessary. However, continued incarceration of most or all of the prisoners is unthinkable to any sane and humane person.

The detainee hunger strike has been going on since about February 6th. RT news has a timeline from that date through April 6th (in reverse chronological order.)

Groups such as Human Rights Watch, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, are all calling for the detention center to be shut down. From John Knefel at Rolling Stone, Pillay says:

“The continuing indefinite incarceration of many of the detainees amounts to arbitrary detention.” “The United States is in clear breach not just of its own commitments but also of international laws and standards that it is obliged to uphold.”

In the meantime, according to the Huffington Post, the press is being blocked from access to the prison base; worse, due to the sequester cuts, even some of the detainees’ lawyers are unable to see their clients, with military flights to Guantanamo being cut back in frequency. Yet, prior to the sequester, the DoD had requested approximate $250,000,000 in funding to upgrade the facility and additional building – why?

The United States of America gave up its moral high ground when we went to war in Iraq based on a lie. We cannot continue this treatment of, if it weren’t for the thrice-damned PATRIOT Act, “prisoners of war.” The detainees who have been cleared for release MUST be released, and the others either charged and tried in civilian courts or released as well. This blackest stain on our country must be cleansed.

If/when the hunger strikes start to gain real national attention, perhaps that simmering pot on the back burner will start to boil over.

This is an Open Thread. What’s on your mind today?

The Watering Hole, Monday, March 11th, 2013: From Morons to Marvels

Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has been in the news a lot lately, in part for having been one of the select few Republicans who were invited to the recent dinner meeting with President Obama. In an appearance yesterday on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Senator Johnson stated,

“If we’re going to really get to an agreement, this is a good step…You have to start meeting with people. You have to start developing relationships. You’ve got to spend a fair amount of time figuring out what we agree on first.”

[Especially when the Republican "leaders" won't tell their flock the truth about what the President has offered, and the flock and the media are too dumb or brainwashed to lift a couple of fingers and check whitehouse.gov!]

The same “This Week” appearance also saw Paul Krugman, in his inimitable manner, school Senator Johnson on the Social Security program.

Prior to that, in the debate over authorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Senator Johnson was one of a group of “…Republicans [who] have objected to new provisions in the law, including one allowing tribal courts for the first time to prosecute men who aren’t American Indians when they’re accused of abusing an American Indian woman on a reservation. . .”, according to ThinkProgress, which also quotes Senator Johnson as saying:

“the Senate has approved a piece of legislation that sounds nice, but which is fatally flawed. By including an unconstitutional expansion of tribal authority and introducing a bill before the Congressional Budget Office could review it to estimate its cost, Senate Democrats made it impossible for me to support a bill covering an issue I would like to address.”

Coincidentally and fortuitously (or not), when searching for a link on a completely different topic, I ran across this one about Ron Johnson from 2010. It includes a video of Johnson, demonstrating the average conservative’s love of fetuses but not actual children, while “…testifying against the Wisconsin Child Victims Act, which would have eliminated the statute of limitation on lawsuits brought by victims of abuse by priests against the Catholic Church.

Okay, as a palate-cleanser, I believe that there’s something for everyone in these photo slideshows from The Weather Channel.

For all of us who love space science and/or who have experienced various types of mind-enhancement, here’s (now think Muppets “Pigs in Space” voice) “Light Trails from Space.”

Staying in space for the moment, the Comet Pan-STARRS is in the ‘hood, and should start to be visible to the naked eye tomorrow. The chart shown in this article indicates where the large comet can be located (in the western sky at sunset) over the next two weeks or so.

Last from TWC (and getting back to ‘trails’…you’ll see): unusual (and occasionally claustrophobia-inducing) tunnels are highlighted in this feature. Although the first tunnel shown only has the one photo – see below – the rest of them have some amazing shots. Tunnel #18, Shanghai’s Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, described as “senseless, yet fabulous“, could likely induce trails even for persons who have never seen trails before. A youtube video of the entire ride is linked to under the description of the Shanghai tunnel, but I haven’t had the chance to watch it yet. Who’s gonna go first? :)

Enjoy!

Ukraine "Tunnel of Love"

Ukraine “Tunnel of Love”

This is our Open thread – what topic would you like to discuss?

The Watering Hole, Friday March 1, 2013; Gone, Wasted, Broken — and Sequestered?

 Gone, Wasted, Broken –
An Elegy on America

Gone now, America’s halcyon days
Where Reason stood tall and grand in the sun;
Brilliance defined Her equanimous ways –
Gone now, expunged, all Her triumphs hard won.
E. pluribus unum: Her goal was clear;
One chosen from many, She alone rose
Reflecting the grandeur of cause sincere,  
Gone now, forever corrupted by woes.
Environments  Poisoned with gas and fume;
Waters  Mercurial, deadly as wars;
Broken  A people, too cold to exhume;
Uberty  Transposed to desolate shores;
Society  Crushed, then forced to concede
Hegemony – now become pow’r . . . and greed.     

We have to face the reality that we who call the United States of America our home reside in a nation that is either on the brink of a rapid decline or is already well on its way down that ever-steepening slope. Why is that? Why is it happening? What’s happened to ‘bring it on’?

The sonnet above is an acrostic attempt on my part to not only poetically summarize elements implicit in America’s national demise, but at the same time to surreptitiously name one of the recent major players in the process. Note the first letters in each of the three words in the main title: G_W_B; also note the first letters of each of the sonnet’s fourteen lines, in order: G_W_B_G_E_O_R_G_E_W_B_U_S_H.

George W. Bush and his administration were not, of course, the first shots fired in support of America’s national demise, nor were they the last. But when one recalls the upsurge in the nation’s status during the Clinton years and the almost immediate fall from grace following the ‘selection’ by the US Supreme Court of GWB as president in December of 2000, it’s not much of a stretch to presume that the Gone, Wasted, Broken premise picked up a lot of speed at that moment, and that the steepness of the downhill slope increased dramatically as well. Political corruption in support of greed and power — and war — has a way of slowly but surely not only causing havoc and suffering, but also of revealing itself as the culprit.

An obvious question remains: what’s the genesis? Why? Why should there ever develop — in a Constitutional Democratic Republic such as the United States — a movement designed to overturn and disparage the very things that make it possible for the nation to maintain a semblance of freedom and economic prosperity for all? Historically, the standout reasons most often reflect the intent on the part of the body politic to use the talents and ethics of The Many as tools, with but one single purpose in mind: to further enrich The Few.

When did America’s downhill slide commence? Technically, on the day of her founding. She was, after all, a nation built by fair-skinned European invaders on a “new” continent inhabited by aboriginals who were, by virtue of their dark-skinned nature, easy to spot, easy to hate, and, thanks in no small part to the slightly elevated technology brought to the continent by the European immigrants, they were also relatively easy to kill, to overwhelm, to control. And too, there were the Africans, brought by the Europeans to do the hard and demeaning work in the agricultural fields of the South — black slaves who were officially defined, in the US Constitution of 1787 (Article I, Section 2, Clause 3), as being the equivalent of three fifths of all other Persons. Historically, in other words, the United States did not get off to a particularly equanimous start . . . racial hatred and distrust were, in effect, parcel to her character and remain, to this day, as major players in her political profile.

A review of more recent history — roughly the last 100 years or so — exposes the up and down cycle which is defined by the relentless clash between (a) the never-ending quest on the part of The Few for MORE power, for MORE wealth, and (b) those charitable programs designed to appease the needs of We the people — The Many — those who are embraced by the Constitution’s first three words. A cursory review of history quickly reveals that the consequences of (a) are, almost without question, eventual (and potentially severe) economic recession and/or depression, often war, whereas the consequences of (b) are far more beneficent and include relative prosperity for The Many, attainable without the imposition of any level of “suffering” upon The Few — who nevertheless remain obsessed with their lust for wealth and power.

During his State of the Union Address on January 11, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt suggested that the nation should implement a second bill of rights to include, for all Americans:

  • The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
  • The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
  • The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
  • The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
  • The right of every family to a decent home;
  • The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
  • The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
  • The right to a good education.

Roosevelt’s concept has since been labeled “Socialist” and “Redistributionist” (by representatives of The Few) and “Unfinished” (by spokesmen for The Many). Interestingly, Roosevelt included, when he characterized that which is commonly viewed as classic “rightist reaction,” words which were, indeed, predictive of America’s current dilemma. He said:

“One of the great American industrialists of our day—a man who has rendered yeoman service to his country in this crisis—recently emphasized the grave dangers of ‘rightist reaction’ in this Nation. All clear-thinking businessmen share his concern. Indeed, if such reaction should develop—if history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called ‘normalcy’ of the 1920’s—then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home.” (bold highlight added)

Roosevelt equated “rightist reaction”  and the “‘normalcy’ of the 1920′s” with “the spirit of Fascism.” Imagine it. Then take a quick look around at the obtuse politics of America today. Consider the extreme Protofascist right wing’s so-called Tea Party and the notables amidst them, including, among numerous other “favorites,” newcomer Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas. Note also spokespeople for ‘the cause’ such as Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and virtually the entire broadcast staff at Fox “News”, and don’t ignore the nearly fifty members of the House of Representatives and its Tea Party Caucus, including such (presumed) luminaries as Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Steve King of Iowa.

FDR was spot-on correct when he equated the grave dangers of ‘rightist reaction’ in this Nation” to “the spirit of Fascism here at home.” We are surrounded constantly by both, and though they are not (yet) in the majority, their obstructionism has effectively brought the government of the United States to a standstill, and their threat to both the national and global economies is as immediate as it is pervasive.

Next up — scheduled for this day, March 1, 2013 — the latest effort on the part of the American Protofascist movement’s extreme right wing is to impose political minority control on the US Government. Popularly called the Sequester, it’s an economic abomination designed and intended (a) to derail any potential success America’s first Black President might ever hope to achieve in resurrecting the plundered economy and the overall National Failure brought forth by the previous administration, and (b) to return to the so-called ‘normalcy’ of the 1920’s” by the forced diminishment of financial/banking regulatory procedures as well as by the eventual destruction of each and every remaining vestige of that “Socialist” President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Greed and Lust for Power have, again and as usual, quite literally devoured the American Right Wing. The overall consequence is surely to be the continuation of their implicit intention, i.e. the immutable national destructions noted above In Gone, Wasted, Broken, brought forward yet again by the errant economic philosophies embedded within the eternally negative “rightist reaction” to any and all legislative attempts designed to improve the quality of life of The Many, of We the people.

Also on the Protofascist agenda and currently surfacing as an issue in various states is the proposed modification of existing rules of Electoral College vote distribution. The goal is to take advantage of Article II (Section 1, Clauses 2, 3, and 4), plus Congressional District gerrymandering in a way which will shift the outcome of presidential elections to the Protofascist side of the ticket, potentially to guarantee election of a right wing President even if the popular vote goes the other way by virtually any margin, landslide included. Some might dare consider the concept to be parcel to suppression of the ‘one man, one vote’ ideal, and they’d be correct. But still, the issue would almost certainly be deemed ‘Constitutional’ by the nation’s highest court — although instead of ‘Constitutional’, the word “Putsch” may well be the more appropriate, more descriptive choice.

Perhaps in final analysis it was, indeed, George W. Bush himself who said it best of all the day that he announced:"This is Historic Times"

“This is Historic Times.”

Or, perhaps it would more behoove us to heed the words of Thucydides, who wrote, circa 400 BCE . . . The strong do as they can, while the weak suffer what they must” . . . and then proceed from there to explore whatever means might prove necessary to restructure and repair that reality once and for all. I suggest the latter course, noting that Thucydides also pointed out that “Praise is due to all who . . . refuse dominion, yet respect justice more than their position compels them to do.” Are We the people prepared to “refuse dominion”? Willing to respect justice”? Compelled to act to save our country, and then do it? Sadly, I have my doubts.

**************

This is today’s open thread — have at it!

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, February 27, 2013: Vote-Rigging – The Case for Amending the Constitution

Or Why Section 1, Article 2 is suddenly in the forefront.

The Republican Party, having been stung in the past two Presidential elections have taken it upon themselves to change the rules.

Red states will continue to award electoral college votes on a winner take all basis. But in Blue state after Blue state, Republicans are introducing measures to apportion electoral college votes based on the percentage of the popular vote each party receives. The net result should guarantee that Republicans would regain the White House in 2016, even if they lost the popular vote by a landslide.

But is this Constitutional? Yes. Here’s the relevant portion of Section 1, Article 2:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

In fact, the various States could decide to appoint Electors without regard to the popular vote. That’s how broad the power granted to the State’s Legislatures is.

As of this writing, the move to rig elections hasn’t gotten much traction. But in the article linked above, it looks like the Pennslvania State Legislature could ram this through and get it to a willing Republican Governor’s desk for his signature. In these days of very few swing states, even one of them adopting such a rigging scheme could make a difference in the next Presidential election.

The Michigan GOP is eager to do the same thing. Republicans have finally figured out that the people aren’t buying what they have to sell. If our democracy applied the same market rules as Capitalism, they would be out of business. But instead of changing their product line, they want to change the rules of the game; they want a monopoly over the election process.

This, then, is the argument for amending the Constitution to call for electing the President and Vice-President based on the nation-wide popular vote. To be sure, the Ruling Class will spend hundreds of millions to defeat such an amendment.

Already too much power has been consolidated into a hand-full of elected representative who are beholden only to the very, very wealthy. They have gerry-rigged districts, safe seats, and access to virtually unlimited war chests and attack ads to defeat any challenger.

We, the people, must choose: either we change the current system through peaceful means, or it will get to a point where change will come through violence. Just know this; even in peaceful protests, people die. Those in power will, far too often stop at nothing to maintain that power. The uprisings in the Middle East foreshadow the United States’ future unless something changes.

THIS IS OUR OPEN THREAD
HAPPY HUMP DAY!

The Watering Hole, Friday January 25, 2013; Of Geese, Guns, and Slaves

This is today’s open thread . . . speak up, speak out!

Canadian Geese in various poses along the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies in the foothills of the Sierra Mojada (aka the Wet Mountains) of Pueblo County.

Canadian Geese in various poses along the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies in the foothills of the Sierra Mojada (aka the Wet Mountains) of Pueblo County.

Last Sunday (January 20, 2013) was a gorgeous day along the Colorado Front Range. It was bright and sunny, warm (for January), a perfect day for a nice long walkabout. It was close to 2:30 PM and we were homeward bound from our five miler; had less than a mile to go. The stretch of road underfoot was one that meanders across an open patch of prairie — a sizeable swath of treeless grassland with only a handful of houses randomly situated around its periphery; the bulk of it is just grass. The local golf course borders it on two sides, and the local lake is a few blocks up the road. Canada geese are everywhere, but they’re particularly numerous on the lake (naturally) and the golf course where they enjoy the water hazard ponds as well as to wander on the fairways/greens (I’ve asked them why the fairways, but so far no response besides “honk”). Overall, the goose population clearly outnumbers that of humans in this tiny town, probably by at least two to one — a most pleasant factoid given that even though they might honk a lot, nary a single goose owns or drives a damn pickup!

All was peaceful and quiet until suddenly a BLAM!! BOOM!! interrupted the soliloquy. We stopped dead in our tracks and looked around. WTF? About a quarter mile off the road to our left were the only people in sight. They were standing in an open stretch of prairie, maybe a block from the closest house. As we stared and gaped, two geese fell like rocks from the flock overhead; immediately the pair of armed killers (being kind here) quickly picked up the dead geese and carried them away. Not certain as to where they went, maybe to their car or truck parked somewhere on the graveled road nearby. We couldn’t tell for sure, but saw no more of them.

My first impressions were those of anger, of disgust, and even of fear for other living creatures in the vicinity. Such impressions marched in lock step with the enduring suspicion that the perpetrators had to have broken multiple laws, including discharging a weapon within the city limits and within a quarter mile of a residence or occupied building, plus the killing of waterfowl not ‘in season.’ All were incorrect, as I later learned following a few minutes of investigative digging. First of all, this little town is unincorporated and is therefore ‘only’ part of the County and not really a town, so ‘in town’ shooting rules apparently do not apply. (When is a town not really a town? When it’s not formally incorporated – nothing else counts). And of course it’s OK, in unincorporated areas, to discharge a weapon if the shooter is 150 yards or more from any residence or occupied building. That’s 450 ft, or 0.085 miles, about one-third of a quarter mile. Oh, and yes, goose hunting season is in full swing here in Colorado between Nov. 17 and Feb 10, so no violations there. All. Perfectly. Legal. And, on any reasonable plane, also nonsensical. Killing waterfowl for sport, with shotguns, in a residential area . . . an unincorporated residential area . . . means there’s no danger. Obviously. Besides, the Second Amendment says . . . etc.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Still can’t. One question lingers: WHY are idiots allowed to own, much less carry or shoot a gun, any gun, at any place, at any time? WHY!? Because of the Second Amendment, most will say. It gives everyone that right, right? Right. If you say so. It reads:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Word salad. I’ve long wondered why it was written as it is, with so little definition of, e.g., ‘well regulated Militia,’ or ‘security,’ or ‘free State,’ or ‘Arms.’ What am I missing? What did the author(s) really mean to say?

Enter Thom Hartmann. Last week I ran across an essay by Mr. Hartmann posted on truthout.org and entitled, The Second Amendment was Ratified to Preserve Slavery. Bingo. On came the lights, poof went the darkness, and suddenly the true intent of the Second Amendment became clearly visible. Mr. Hartmann sums it all up in his opening statement (emphasis added):

The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says “State” instead of “Country” (the Framers knew the difference – see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia’s vote. Founders Patrick Henry, George Mason, and James Madison were totally clear on that . . . and we all should be too.  

He continues his exploration of the thesis and in the process draws heavily on statements written by prominent Virginians including Patrick Henry, James Monroe, and George Mason who were concerned that Article 1, Section 8 (Clauses 15 and 16) of the proposed Constitution might well endanger the ownership of their ‘property’ to the extent that one day, slaves might even be freed. Horrors. The clauses read:

[The Congress shall have Power . . .]

Clause 15: To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

Clause 16: To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

Scary stuff, right? Patrick Henry voiced his concern(s) over these provisions as expressed in the new Constitution when he said,

“If the country be invaded, a state may go to war, but cannot suppress insurrections. If there should happen an insurrection of slaves, the country cannot be said to be invaded. They cannot, therefore, suppress it without the interposition of Congress . . . . Congress, and Congress only, can call forth the militia.”

Henry later voiced his concern to Founder (and slave owner) James Madison who was, at the time, writing (at the behest of fellow Founder and slave-owner Thomas Jefferson) amendment drafts. Henry said,

“In this situation, I see a great deal of the property of the people of Virginia in jeopardy, and their peace and tranquility gone.”

The “property of the people” Henry thought to be “in jeopardy” was, of course, the slaves.

So today we’re left with an amendment that was written to help cover the collective asses of slave owners in Virginia and elsewhere in the South, to essentially “protect” them from already drafted clauses in the Constitution which they found to be extremely worrisome because the ‘power’ to manipulate and use state Militias would now be delegated to the Congress rather than to the individual states.

In consequence, this day virtually ANY nutcase can own any gun he wants to own, buy as many bullets as he can afford, and kill anything he cares to kill . . . from school children in Connecticut to movie goers in Colorado to members of a Congresswoman’s staff in a public outdoor meeting in Arizona to a black teenager in Florida who was thought to be a ‘threat’ because he wore a hooded sweatshirt to wild birds in flight along with all unprotected wild critters anywhere . . . and ANY effort to restrict or control the tools of such nonsense is met with screams of ‘unconstitutional!’ and ‘treason!’ And the murderous beat goes on, and on, and on as we the people honor the legacy of language designed only to offer comfort to slave owners.

Meanwhile, the Thirteenth Amendment (1865) specifically states that:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

And while it’s true that the Thirteenth Amendment did, indeed, retroactively and permanently do away with slavery and involuntary servitude (in the USA), it unfortunately did NOT also correct and clarify the Word Salad of the Second Amendment. Any killer can still own a gun. And use it whenever his ‘pleasure’ demands. Therefore, I do herein and hereby offer free of charge my recommendations to overwhelm the Second Amendment’s Word Salad, to make it speak in crystal clear fashion the original intent of the Framers:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to  control the antics of uppity Negro slaves and thus ensure  the security of a free State, the right of the  white male slave-owning  people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

There. Fourteen words added, no more Word Salad. Ratify, and problem(s) solved.

A final statement:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo all victims everywhere of needless gun-enabled bloodshed; to each and every creature lost in fashion cruel, in violence due solely to the gift of political privilege entrusted by our Founders to 18th-century slave owners:
Requiescat In Pace
R.I.P.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, January 24th, 2013: A Brief Glimpse into FauxGnus

I decided to hold my nose and take a look at some of the recent stories on foxnews.com, to see what the current spin looks like. While Media Matters is the best source for the real low-down and dirty lies from Fox, I’m just going to skim a bit of the scum off the surface of their cesspool:

First, so-called journalist Wayne Allyn Root discusses “Why I am a newly-minted Member of NRA” (basically because he believes the right-wing hype, and that he’s always been anti-Obama), and uses ‘facts’ and ‘statistics’ helpfully provided by Gun Owners of America, along with referencing a Rasmussen poll. A brief, but telling, excerpt:

“I want to protect the Second Amendment. And I don’t want government telling me what to do. And if any of those rights are going to be threatened, then I realized it’s time for me to stand up for the NRA…Leftist, big government, Nanny State politicians always come to the wrong conclusion about most issues.”

and, after the obligatory Hitler reference:

“The reality is that throughout history, the first thing all tyrants do is disarm the citizens. Then the mass killings begin.”

In another reverse-reality story by entitled “Crabby Obama Caught in Budget Trap” by Chris Stirewalt, the author, who must have come out of a coma after the Bush Administration, unblushingly pulls this bit of hypocrisy out of his posterior:

“But it was the political calculation by Democrats to spend without budgeting – to avoid the process by which the pleasure of spending and pain of borrowing and taxing are intertwined – that has left the president in this bind.”

In “Barack Obama–our Imperial Emperor In Chief”, Cal Thomas shows the depths of his delusion:

“At his news conference Monday [January 14th], a petulant, threatening and confrontational President Obama spoke like an emperor or supreme ruler. All that was missing was a scepter, a crown and a robe trimmed in ermine.
This president exceeds even Bill Clinton in his ability to evade, prevaricate and dissemble. I didn’t think that possible.”

“Judge” Anthony P. Napolitano brings us his particular and somewhat unique interpretation of the Constitution and, in particular, the 2nd Amendment in “Guns and the Government.” Here’s something I’ve never heard floated before:

“The opening line of the Constitution contains a serious typographical error: “We the People” should read “We the States.”

and then the tired old right-wing bullshit (and this man was a JUDGE?):

“The Constitution expressly prohibits all governments from infringing upon the right of the people to keep and bear arms. This permits us to defend ourselves when the police can’t or won’t, and it permits a residue of firepower in the hands of the people with which to stop any tyrant who might try to infringe upon our natural rights, and it will give second thoughts to anyone thinking about tyranny.”

Just for fun, we have crazy ol’ Tom Tancredo promising to smoke a joint.

Lastly (since even I couldn’t stand any more), more fantasy about the United Nations, this time regarding gun control, in “Does UN Arms Trade Treaty Figure in Obama Administration’s Gun Control Plans?” This piece includes the lie:

“The Administration first agreed to take part in the U.N. arms treaty negotiations in 2009—the same year in which it launched the now-notorious Fast and Furious operation, which provided weapons to illicit gun traders, ostensibly to track gun-running operations to Mexican drug cartels.”

[The FandF operation started in 2006 under the Bush Administration.]

This is our Open Thread. Try not to catch teh Crazy!

The Watering Hole, Thursday, January 17th, 2013: The NRA

Today’s thread provides a look at some recent activity from the NRA’s website, along with some background and statistical information from the ATF’s website, plus a few other odds and ends.

From the NRA’s website:

January 16, 2013
NRA RESPONSE TO PRESIDENT OBAMA’S GUN CONTROL PROPOSALS
Throughout its history, the National Rifle Association has led efforts to promote safety and responsible gun ownership. Keeping our children and society safe remains our top priority.

The NRA will continue to focus on keeping our children safe and securing our schools, fixing our broken mental health system, and prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law. We look forward to working with Congress on a bi-partisan basis to find real solutions to protecting America’s most valuable asset — our children.

Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation. Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy.

["inevitability?]
- and -

January 10, 2013
STATEMENT FROM THE NRA
The National Rifle Association of America is made up of over 4 million moms and dads, daughters and sons, who are involved in the national conversation about how to prevent a tragedy like Newtown from ever happening again. We attended today’s White House meeting to discuss how to keep our children safe and were prepared to have a meaningful conversation about school safety, mental health issues, the marketing of violence to our kids and the collapse of federal prosecutions of violent criminals.

We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment. While claiming that no policy proposals would be “prejudged,” this Task Force spent most of its time on proposed restrictions on lawful firearms owners — honest, taxpaying, hardworking Americans. It is unfortunate that this Administration continues to insist on pushing failed solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems. We will not allow law-abiding gun owners to be blamed for the acts of criminals and madmen. Instead, we will now take our commitment and meaningful contributions to members of congress of both parties who are interested in having an honest conversation about what works — and what does not.

Back in December, the NRA-ILA (Institute for Legislative Action) – self-described as “The Lobbying Arm of the NRA” – commented on Senator Diane Feinstein’s draft for proposed new gun legislation. And on January 4th, the NRA-ILA began to gin up fear over proposed House gun control bills.

From the ATF (which the NRA refers to as the BATFE, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), here’s a brief history of the National Firearms Act. The ATF website also includes information regarding Firearms Trace data (“state-by-state reports utilizing trace data which is intended to provide the public with insight into firearms recoveries”) as well as graphs and links for “Number of NFA Firearms Processed by Fiscal Year” Take a look at the jump in the numbers of “firearms processed” in 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2012, when the NRA, in the person of Wayne LaPierre, was strongly pushing the “Obama’s going to take your guns away” meme. The website also provides a list (including photos and descriptions) of firearms which are covered under the National Firearms Act and subsequent additional gun control legislation.

Let’s go back to the NRA again. Here’s a brief introductory excerpt from a fascinating Alternet article by Steven Rosenfeld entitled “The Surprising Unknown History of the NRA”:

“For nearly a century after, its founding in 1871, the National Rifle Association was among America’s foremost pro-gun control organizations. It was not until 1977 when the NRA that Americans know today emerged, after libertarians who equated owning a gun with the epitome of freedom and fomented widespread distrust against government—if not armed insurrection—emerged after staging a hostile leadership coup.

In the years since, an NRA that once encouraged better markmanship and reasonable gun control laws gave way to an advocacy organization and political force that saw more guns as the answer to society’s worst violence, whether arming commercial airline pilots after 9/11 or teachers after the Newtown, while opposing new restrictions on gun usage.

It is hard to believe that the NRA was committed to gun-control laws for most of the 20th century—helping to write most of the federal laws restricting gun use until the 1980s.”

The NRA claims to have over four million members, a number disputed in this article from motherjones.com. There have also been claims made by the NRA that, since the Newtown tragedy, the NRA is gaining 8000 new members a day, supposedly over 100,000 total. However, when I tried to find more information to back up these claims, all I found were links to Fox News, Breitbart, and to some site called “The Daily News Report” (no relation to the NY Daily News.) And since this Daily News Report article contains the sentence “Unlike many who are using the school shooting as a political club, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has been staying quiet out of respect for the Newtown victims“, I think we can safely dismiss this ‘report.’ BTW, tomorrow night, FoxNews will be presenting “Hannity Special: Inside the Gun Debate, featuring Wayne LaPierre.” I wonder if they’ll have any of the parents from Newtown on for this “fair and balanced” Hannity “Special.”

And lastly, also from motherjones.com, here’s Frank Smyth’s article “Unmasking the NRA’s Inner Circle”, as discussed last night on Lawrence O’Donnell’s Last Word.

This is our open thread…better put your reading glasses on!

The Watering Hole, Thursday, January 10th, 2013: I Love NY

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo

Yesterday, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo gave his State of the State address, covering topics ranging from education to housing to green energy initiatives, women’s issues, and, of course, the topic du jour, gun control. New York State already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country; Governor Cuomo is now calling for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, along with other measures, in response to recent tragic shootings in Connecticut and in upstate New York. The Governor is working with State lawmakers to hammer out new legislation, and is hoping to reach an agreement with them by the end of this week.

The complete outline of Governor Cuomo’s forward-looking proposals, which also include a minimum wage hike and decriminalization of “open possession” of less than 15 grams of marijuana (woo-hoo!), can be reviewed here.

Although the comments following articles regarding the Governor’s proposals regarding gun control are much the same blustering rants as those on way too many sites, i.e.: American citizens misinterpreting the 2nd Amendment to justify that they need their guns to protect against a tyrannical government, or for personal protection of self, home, family; the “government” is coming to take their guns, basically from their cold dead hands; cars, hammers, knives, you name it, all kill more people than guns; and (the most laughable) that “people are leaving New York in droves”; I am proud to be a New Yorker, and glad that Governor Cuomo is starting to act (not just sound) more like his father than I had expected.

The Death of a Nation (a retrospective on the W. Bush era, Part 9: THE CEDING OF GOVERNMENT)

Below is the final essay in my compilation which I collectively entitled The Death of a Nation. It was written in March, 2005, shortly after George W. Bush’s second inauguration.  Sadly, not much has changed in the nearly eight ensuing years. Today, in fact, on the veritable eve of the election of 2012, we as a nation are STILL faced with the possibility of what would be, in effect, a return to the policies of the W. Bush era, policies which failed so miserably but which still evoke obvious favor (and fervor) from corporate and ‘power/wealth’ entities.

(Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7, Part 8)

Will the voting public vote to continue the insanity, or will it — FINALLY — vote to reverse those insipid ‘conservative’ trends by returning full control of both Congress and the White House to that cluster of clear-thinkers that stands for The People and not for special interests? Time will tell, but one fact remains certain: any return to the failed policies of the W. Bush era will guarantee one thing: the process which WILL be the prime mover in The Death of (this) Nation will be accelerated to breakneck speed.

**********

The Ceding of Government

“The market economy is not everything. It must find its place in a higher order of things which is not ruled by supply and demand, free prices and competition. It must be firmly contained within an all-embracing order of society in which the imperfections and harshness of economic freedom are corrected by law and in which man is not denied conditions of life appropriate to his nature.”
 (Wilhelm Roepke, “Austrian” Economist)

I cite the Roepke quote because I’m rather fond of paradoxes, and a close examination of Roepke’s words seems to point at one (though I’m sure he didn’t so intend).  Roepke begins by stating the obvious, i.e., “The market economy is not everything . . .”  True enough.  The market economy ideally serves the physical needs of a given culture by providing such things as food, housing, tools, technology, and leisure entertainment for the public to enjoy, as well as work which is exchanged for a common medium of exchange (e.g. dollars), which in turn can be used to purchase goods from the marketplace which the buyer needs or desires to own.  Beyond that niche, the market economy is not worth much at all, especially when it comes to spiritual matters, or matters of morality, law, etc.  For those, people must look elsewhere.

“It must find its place in a higher order of things which is not ruled by supply and demand, free prices and competition . . .”  Not so sure what he means here, at least in the so-called ‘Austrian’ context, but it does remain a fact that America’s market economy continues to evolve rapidly in ways which would, one might assume, change the fundamental and familiar supply-demand dynamics.  In the first place, America produces very little in the way of consumer goods anymore.  Anyone who doubts that should read the labels next time they visit the hardware store, department store, shoe store, etc. – “Made in USA” labels are rare as hen’s teeth these days.  That of course means that the manufacturing jobs are no longer in the US but rather have been ‘outsourced’ instead.  Levi Strauss, in fact, moved their entire operation out of the US, and now the bulk of their blue jeans are manufactured in Mexico.  They’re still sold in the US, of course, and look no different than they ever did; I assume the asking price is about the same as before which would allow a bit more profit for Strauss. Continue reading

The Death of a Nation (a retrospective on the W. Bush era, Part 7: RELIGIOUS)

The attempt to inject religion and religious belief/practice into high level politics in the United States stepped forward in earnest in January, 2001, on the day of George W. Bush’s first inauguration as president. He brought with him his own brand of what was, in effect, the sort of ‘Christian’ fundamentalist-evangelicalism which has found a home in certain parts of the country, particularly amongst the uneducated and easily frightened manipulable masses (“conservatives” in modern political parlance). The election of Barack Obama to the Presidency in 2008 served to substantially reduce the contribution(s) of the Oval Office to what many seem to hope is a burgeoning American theocracy, but certainly did not quash the program or the agenda which underlies. As we speak, the Romney-Ryan ticket stands in support of numerous theocratic preferences, and if elected would certainly and immediately set out to formally institute the highest among them, i.e. the complete and total imposition of fundamentalist “Christian” policies in re human reproduction, specifically in the areas of contraception and abortion, with intent to outlaw both on the fragmented thesis that life begins at conception, that the fertilized egg is a ‘person’ with all attendant rights implied. No exceptions. Not even rape. As US Senate candidate from Indiana, Republican Richard Mourdock stated in a political debate on October 23, 2012), “I believe that life begins at conception. . . . Life is a gift from God, and I think even when life begins with that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen.” Former Senator and presidential primary candidate Rick Santorum (R-PA) also noted, on January 20, 2012, that “The right approach is to accept this horribly created, in the sense of rape, but nevertheless . . . gift of human life, and accept what God is giving to you.”

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6)

God. Religion. Politics. Since January of 2010 in the US House of Representatives alone, there have been thirty votes on measures to restrict a woman’s right to choose. And that amazing statistic represents, without any doubt, no more than the tip of the emergent theocratic iceberg desired by so many to be established as a defining national thesis.

Supporters willingly ignore the fact that the first amendment to the US Constitution begins with these words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .” There are those in seats of immense power today who, as we speak, refuse to accept the premise that this is NOT a nation founded or based upon any belief or even any recognition of any deity of any kind, that the concept called freedom OF religion also includes the guaranteed right to freedom FROM religion. Nevertheless, their eternal goal remains singular: to see that obedience to the precepts of fundamentalist and evangelical ‘Christianity’ is forced upon everyone in the country, no exceptions.They seem to not realize or care that the words ‘God’ and ‘Christ’ do NOT appear anywhere in the Constitution, and that the words ‘religion’ and ‘religious’ each appear only once: ‘religion’ as noted above, and ‘religious’ in Article VI, Clause 3, the clause which includes the line “. . . no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

George W. Bush was among the first who brought the insertion of fundamentalist Christianity into seats of national power to the forefront, and to this day the theocratic movement persists and is, in many ways, even increasing in strength. Their hope, of course, is to impose their brand of ‘Christian’ theocracy upon the nation as a whole, and in so doing to achieve full power of the state in all matters. The predictable consequence of national collapse does not seem to enter into their vision, or their calculations.

Following is a brief analysis (April, 2005) of the matter as evidenced by some events which occurred during the first half of W. Bush’s presidency. The devil is, as they say, in the details.

**********

Religious:

“We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.” ~George Orwell

In George Bush’s “Americuh,” not all is as others would have you believe.  In fact, the reality of George Bush’s Americuh is roughly the opposite: virtually NOTHING is as others would have you believe.  And unfortunately for those who would prefer to immerse themselves into the honorable and loving side of Christian mythology, today’s best advice would be to repeat that old admonition: don’t believe anything you hear and most of what you see – something like that.  Emily Dickinson wrote:

    Finding is the first Act
    The second, loss,
    Third, Expedition for
    The “Golden Fleece”

    Fourth, no Discovery –
    Fifth, no Crew –
    Finally, no Golden Fleece –
    Jason – sham – too.

Sham: “Something false or empty that is purported to be genuine; a spurious imitation; The quality of deceitfulness; empty pretense.”

It’s hard to figure who is really using who, here.  Are the Republicans using the Christian right for electoral purposes?  Yes.  Is the Christian right using the Republican party to advance its own theocratic agenda?  Yes.  Next question: are the Republican politicians who love to speak of God and of Jesus really all that devout? And, too, are the leaders of the Christian right (e.g. Falwell, Robertson, Graham, etc.) really all that “Christian” – in the biblical sense?  In a word, NO!  In four words, You’ve gotta be kidding! Continue reading

The Death of a Nation (a retrospective on the W. Bush era, Part 6: MILITARY)

The essay which follows was written in March, 2005, and remains, (admittedly) at best, a superficial overview: a (potentially futile) attempt to at least suggest that the aggressive militarism of the United States which bubbled to the surface quite rapidly in G.W. Bush’s first term was not only bad, but dangerous as well.  Sadly, to this day the war horror of that period continues with the USA still involved in what has now become the longest war in America’s insanely war-stained history: the war in Afghanistan.

Military. War. During my lifetime, the ‘known’ wars and (aggressive) “skirmishes” with American participation include (but are in no way presumed, herein, to be limited to): the Second World War; Korea; Cuba; Vietnam; Chile; Grenada; El Salvador; Panama; Bosnia/Herzegovina; the Persian Gulf; Afghanistan; Iraq; and now (potentially) Libya, Syria, Iran . . . et al., et al.

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5)

War.

The Incessant Voice of War:

One wearies of incessant Voice of War.
Across full breadth of time each nom de guerre
Inflicts upon the Human soul a scar
Which screams in mockery of hallowed prayer.
How many millions must we finally kill
Before is learned this simple quirk of fate:
That murdered dead, in valley or on hill,
Do NOT portend a Greatness in The State?
Upon this Earth of monuments and tombs
Which weep for fallen souls, it’s fair to shout
NO MORE! to darkness that forever looms
In constant threat. And let there be no doubt
Of this–War’s victims hang upon the Cross
Of senseless death . . . in silent, wretched, loss.

So, whereto from here? More of the same? Are ‘we’ inextricably embedded in the muck and mire of incessant war? A look back at the policies and products of the George W. Bush presidencies is not, necessarily, encouraging. Nor is the prospect of yet another right wing Republican presence in either the Congress or, most emphatically, in the White House; e.g. Romney-Ryan. Time will tell . . . apparently. In its invariably nerve-wracking fashion.

**********

Military:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”  ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

I include that quote not because Eisenhower was the Five-Star General who commanded the allied forces to victory in Europe during the Second World War; not because he, as President (note the use of upper case) made good on his pledge to go to Korea following his election in 1952 to find a way to stop hostilities there, and that on July 27, 1953 an armistice was signed; not because President Eisenhower, once he’d had enough of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his bogus ‘hearings’ in search of Communists behind every tree, found a way to put a stop to the nonsense and send McCarthy back into his hole; and not because Eisenhower was a Republican who won two elections with landslide margins.  No, I include that quote in order to point to the contrasts between then and today, only fifty years apart.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was a West Pointer, a bold yet measured military man who commanded the allied forces that smashed the Nazi war machine.  He was also a firm negotiator who understood and realized the stupidity that drives men constantly to war; he was, too, a Republican. Continue reading

The Death of a Nation (a retrospective on the W. Bush era, Intro)

Twelve years ago right about this time of the year I was looking forward to the 2000 election, hoping to do, by voting, my tiny part to keep George W. Bush in Texas and OUT of Washington DC. Then I had a (sudden and unexpected) grand mal seizure, ended up in the hospital, and two months later had brain surgery to correct the causative congenital circulatory disorder. In between, I voted for Gore, had another seizure, watched as the SCOTUS bungled the election and appointed Bush to the presidency, and slept through Bush’s inaugural address whilst recovering in the ICU.

It was a total bummer of an experience, i.o.w., that so-called “election” of 2000, made evermore worse by that which went down in the next eight years of the Bush “presidency.”  By late 2004 I was hopeful — not optimistic, just hopeful — that common sense would prevail and the electorate would toss the monkey in the White House out on his ear. We all know how THAT turned out. Anyway, beginning late in 04 and continuing through April of 05, I wrote a series of essays which I collectively titled “The Death of a Nation: An Examination of America’s Descent Into the Maelstrom.” And today, here we are some eight years down the road and approaching election 2012 even as, once again, my optimism wanes and I’m left only with a dash of hope.

I recently resurrected the essay collection, read it for the first time in years, and found it interesting from both the historical and (current) political points of view. It is, indeed, a blessing that George W. Bush is no longer on the Amurkan throne BUT, unfortunately for all of us, the damage he did persists to this day, and should the political right happen to regain full power in the government either this year OR (for that matter) ever again . . . well, the obvious question becomes ‘how much worse can things get before national collapse becomes the defining reality?’ Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 8th, 2012: To Vote or Not to Vote

Last week a friend at work brought in a recent copy of the Norwalk (Connecticut) Community College’s campus newpaper, TheVoice, so that I could read one of the opinion pieces. This particular piece, written by James Marchese and originally published on September 17th, was entitled “Why I think voting is a waste of time.”

While I agree with some of the reasons that Mr. Marchese puts forth, he demonstrates a lack of knowledge which undercuts his premise:

“Our politicians have no accountability for what they say. To get elected they are willing to bend the truth about what they will do in office. Most often, it is promises to “change” whatever is ailing our society at the time. Though how often does a fundamental change take place? There is often talk of it, but when push comes to shove, things often stay the way they are; politicians normally take that as the safest route.”

The lack of accountability for what politicians say stems from three main problems:
1), when a politician speaks, it is usually either in front of a friendly audience of supporters who don’t care whether the politician is factually correct; or it is in front of journalists who may or may not question the politician’s “facts”, and the journalists who do dare to question a politician who is obviously lying receive short shrift or are simply told that they are just plain wrong.
2) The quality of what passes for journalism in this country, particularly on the televised “news” shows, is sorely lacking any interest in researching the background or the veracity of a politician’s claims. The internets are not just a “series of tubes”, they are a trove of information which can be accessed in a matter of seconds. In addition, many “journalists” are more than willing to trade fact-finding for access to an influential politician, particularly when that politician is a Presidential candidate.
3) Once a politician does get into office, even with the best intentions in the world, he or she is immediately faced with the Borg-like mentality of ‘be assimilated or die’ (the ‘die’ part meaning that none of the politician’s ideas will ever see the light of day), otherwise known as “go along to get along.”

“I see lots of back-and-forth over trivial subjects, but the aspects of our country that need to be scrutinized the most are entirely left alone. For this I mostly blame lobbyists, who are people employed to persuade politicians on certain decisions. How they persuade them exactly, I am not sure. Still I believe someone voted into office by the people should stand with the people they represent, not the people schmoozing them.”

I agree wholeheartedly with the writer’s first and last sentences in this paragraph, but the rest of it betrays his naivete about what has been going on in Washington, DC, for decades. How do lobbyists persuade politicians to do what the lobbyists want? MONEY, MONEY, MONEY. If the writer has not grasped this concept, it is certainly an indication that he has never, ever been paying attention.

“I believe if politicians really cared about the people they would make more decisions based on what is best for them, and not on what their party’s standing is. In some cases our elected officials reject new bills and policies just because a rival created it. Our government should not operate out of spite, they should be setting an example and learning to cooperate to really decide what is best for the country.”

This, too, I agree with. However, again, while Mr. Marchese seems to be aware of at least the idea of obstructionism in today’s Congress, he apparently has no idea of which party is doing the obstructing. If he did even the most minimal research, he would find that the Tea Party Republicans have been doing their utmost to prevent ANY legislation which might compromise their own etched-in-stone ideas about minimal government, or which might allow the Democratic President anything that resembles a victory, even at the cost of hurting American Citizens.

“I have been called un-American, an idealist, and even a communist on occasion. [Try being a Liberal, the name-calling is even worse.] The fact of the matter is, that I refuse to participate in something that I value as having no merit. I personally refuse to give people power over me when there is no way to guarantee they will act in the best interest of the people. Politics is often too dirty a game for my taste.”

So, Mr. Marchese believes that exercising his Constitutionally-given right to vote has no merit. And while he “refuse[s] to give people power over [him]“, his very refusal to do so actually gives politicians and government the ultimate power over him, i.e, ignoring him completely. Yes, politics is a dirty business, but it is NOT a game. It can be, literally, the difference between life and death for some, and the difference between keeping your rights or losing them. With so many people being purged from voter rolls, along with other voter-suppression tactics going on in so many Republican-governed states, the right to vote should not be tossed aside so readily. In my opinion, Mr. Marchese’s decision to not sully his hands by participating in the electoral process implies not only a lack of concern for the future of this country, but also an innate selfishness that belies his supposed concern for “the best interest of the people.”

This is our daily open thread — got anything to say?

The Watering Hole, Monday September 17, 2012 – Happy Constitution Day, Happy 225th USA v. 2.0

The Declaration of Independence was adopted in Congress on July 4, 1776, and for this reason it is generally considered that July 4 is our nation’s birthday. Actually, that was the birth of the United States of America Version 1.0. The first version of the United States was governed under something called The Articles of Confederation. The Articles were a States’ Rights person’s dream. Under the Articles, “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every Power, Jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.” The Articles required that the thirteen colonies (now called “States”) would “severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.” In Congress, each State would have one vote, regardless of the number of delegates it sent there. There was one small problem. The Articles of Confederation didn’t work.

So, in May of 1787, a Constitutional Convention was convened. The delegates to the convention, many of them the same as those who adopted the Articles, recognized that things had changed and that their country would have to undergo some changes in order to adapt. Through the summer, they came up with a Constitution that had some significant differences with the Articles of Confederation. One of the most significant of these differences is that under the constitution, there would be a strong central government rather than a weak one. I believe this is the part most States’ Rights advocates do not wish to accept.

On September 17, 1787, the Congress passed the Constitution put forth by the convention. It was ratified on June 21, 1788 and when into effect March 4, 1789. Today marks the 225th Anniversary of the birth of what is, for all intents and purposes, the United States of America version 2.0. It’s not the same country founded in 1776, and is not based on the same principles as the first one. And no matter how religious the country and states were under Version 1.0, we have a Secular government under version 2.0. People may not be aware of this, nor be able to appreciate the marvel of it, but for the first time in history, a nation was founded with no official religion. In all other countries, the official religion was whatever religion the ruler of that country practiced, and most citizens were expected to support and practice that religion, also. Along came this upstart of a republic called the United States of America, and it had the crazy, unheard of idea that people could practice whichever religion they preferred, no matter what religion the President practiced. Personally, I would have preferred that the Constitution also specify that no person’s religious beliefs would be the basis of any Law in the United States. And I would have liked the gun thing clarified a bit more.

This is our open thread. Discuss the Constitution or any other topic you wish.

Cross-posted at Pick Wayne’s Brain

The Watering Hole, Monday, July 16th, 2012: The Tea Party’s Kissin’ Cousins

Thanks to pete, who, on Saturday’s thread, provided this link to TPM to a whole new world of crazy in American politics. I thought it was worth revisiting.

A woman named Randi Shannon, while running for a State Senate seat in Iowa, abandoned that campaign because, as she described in a letter to her supporters, she was taking a U.S. Senate seat in the Republic of the United States of America. This “Republic of the United States of America” is apparently based on the Constitution and the Amendments through Number 13. After that, the citizens of this ‘Republic’ believe that the U.S. Federal Government was highjacked and therefore no other Amendments in their imaginary world. In my opinion, the style and content of this “letter” is immature, ignorant, illiterate, petulant, pretentious, patronizing and psychotic. You have to see and read the whole thing for the full effect, but here’s a couple of sections that I particularly noted:

First, the date in the header: [[[ July 4th, 2012 ]]] Seriously? What’s with all of the brackets?

Then:

The Office of the Senator of the Republic of the United States of America,And The Republic for Iowa, Senator Randi Shannon

Wait, now Iowa gets to be its own Republic?

[Forth] Every concern which The People of Iowa have regarding GOVERNMENTAL ABUSE, such as the high cost and unconstitutionality of Obama-care and current healthcare costs, the invasive, insufferable acts committed by the TSAs at Airports, Taxation at Obscene levels, and the list goes on and on, are all problems brought on by The “de facto” UNITED STATES CORPORATION.

Okay, first, “FORTH”?! Of course, also note the usual lies about the ACA, and the ignorance about today’s tax rates.

*Check out the “Recent Posts” and “Blogroll” on the sidebar here. I also liked this bit:

Also, President Turner began a 40-day fast on Monday, July 9. If you would like to join him in this fast, or if you want to know more, download the document with the Daniel Fast Food List here. [Emphasis mine.]

Here’s a few more links to different aspects of this idiocy.

Oh, and, of course, this “Republic” is ‘officially’ a Christian nation.

This is our daily open thread — what’s on YOUR mind?

THE Watering Hole, Wednesday, 7/11/12: The New Republican Conspiracy

Tweeter scoops the Mainstream Media yet again.

REPUBLICANS PLAN TO PRIVATIZE THE COURTS

According to Tweeter, The Zoo’s investigative journalist par excellance, a vast Right-Wing Conspiracy is planning an unprecedented assault on the federal judiciary:privatization.

Under their plan all Federal Courts, except for the Supreme Court, will be held privately. There is, however, a raging debate as to whether they will be owned by one or more individuals or a Corporation. A few billionaires are insisting that private ownership is the only way to truly have an independent judiciary, while others extoll the advantages to a publically traded judicial corporation.

“Imagine the thrill of holding stock in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals” one anonymous insider told Tweeter. “Decisions that once were, well, not very interesting for the common folk, suddenly take on a whole new light when the value of your investment is at stake. With publically traded courts, everyone can invest in the judiciary. This takes jurisprudence out of the Court Room and puts it into the Board Room, where it belongs.”

Tweeter contacted a Constitutional Law Scholar for further background on this controversial plan to give ownership of the judicial branch to the public. The scholar, who chose to remain annonymous, said:

Article III of the Constitution states:

“The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.”

This means every court below the Supreme Court is a creation of Congress, by statute. So, if Congress wants to privatize the federal judiciary, that will likely pass a constitutional challenge. Let’s face it, if Congress wanted to do away with the federal court system in its entirety, it could do so, as long as it kept the Supreme Court. Come to think of it, if Congress wanted to get rid of the Supreme Court, it probably could – after all, if it got rid of the Supreme Court, there would be no court to say what it did was unconstitutional.

The fact that no one has heard of this conspiracy is proof of its existence, as well as proof of the effectiveness of the security measures it has taken, until now, to keep this plan secret. In fact, this is supposed to be so secret, it won’t even be mentioned at the Republican Party Convention. But according to Tweeter’s sources, this conspiracy gained immense traction these past few weeks, in reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare.

We here at The Zoo will keep you, are dear readers, informed of any new developments.

THIS IS OUR OPEN THREAD
ANYTHING YOU POST CAN, AND WILL, BE HELD AGAINST YOU