The Watering Hole, Monday, August 18th, 2014: Sick Day

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I am so sick of everything that I’m just going to throw up a few thoughts and see who’s coming down with the same thing.

I can’t even find the words to describe how sick I am of “Christians” (who, if Christ were real, would have been disowned by him) who are doing their damnedest to take over this country, whining about ‘religious persecution.’ The same zealous whackjobs go crazy fearmongering about ‘teh gay agenda’, when their own ‘Christian-nation/one-nation-under-their god’ agenda is infinitely more far-reaching. An excerpt from Right Wing Watch:

“Christian-nation activist David Lane is engaged in a multi-year, multi-state project to get conservative evangelical pastors more involved in electing right-wing candidates, and he is intent on making sure that the GOP nominates a 2016 presidential candidate to the Religious Right’s liking.”

When pastors of any religious stripe start getting “involved in electing right-wing candidates”, their church’s tax-exempt status should be revoked, period. They’ve been on thin ice for years, let them operate on just tithing and other donations from their parishioners.

I’ve been sick forever, it seems, of the sheer stupidity of the vast majority of Americans, but the last few years the ignorance has reached new heights? depths? From the now-common mundane ignorance of people who cannot speak or write proper English, to the simplistic denials of the worldwide disaster of global climate change, too many Americans are smugly proud of their lack of knowledge. When ‘leaders’ in government happily announce “I’m no scientist” when talking about human female biology/birth control, or climate change, or evolution, the premise of the movie “Idiocracy” doesn’t seem quite so far-fetched anymore. Just add some holy-rollers/snake oil salesmen to Idiocracy so it’s a tad more realistic.

I’m sick of the police and other law enforcement entities playing into the teabagger/libertarians’ narrative with the militarization of police forces across the country. There are groups out there who are insanely itching to get into a firefight with the “gummint” and consider ANY law enforcement to be the “gummint.” Cops, you are NOT helping when you treat civilians as an enemy – I’m looking at YOU, FERGUSON.

And I am sick to death of the blatant outright racism that has been revived by the election of President Barack Obama. But not just the racism itself, it’s the acceptance, even embracing, of racism that makes me so sick. I don’t know if President Obama anticipated just how much racist backlash would result from his election – I know I certainly didn’t. Just take one or two examples regarding the insanity that is happening in Ferguson, Missouri:

Ever-clueless Representative Steven King:

“”This idea of no racial profiling,” King said, “I’ve seen the video. It looks to me like you don’t need to bother with that particular factor because they all appear to be of a single origin, I should say, a continental origin might be the way to phrase that.”

“I just reject race-based politics, identity politics” King concluded. “I think we’re all God’s children. We all should be held to the same standards and the same level of behavior.”

and,

Tea-Partier radio-show host Jesse Lee Peterson:

““I’ve said from day one that Michael Brown is a thug,” Peterson explained before asserting that he must be a criminal by nothing[sic] “the fact that he was running from the cops, period, because good folks do not run from police officers, they follow their instructions.”

He added, “I just think that it’s a shame that, in America today, that criminals are given the benefit of the doubt – especially black criminals because white criminals are not – but black criminals are given the benefit of the doubt and the police officers are the suspects. I don’t know what has happened to my country.”

According to Wikipedia, “On September 21, 2005, Peterson penned a column for WorldNetDaily, in which he suggested the majority of the African-American people stranded in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina were “welfare-pampered”, “lazy” and “immoral” and “Peterson has also thanked “God and white people” for slavery—adding that if it weren’t for the slave trade, blacks might have never made it to the United States—and described traveling on slave ships as akin to “being on a crowded airplane” That is one ‘brother’ who really hates his own race. How can he possibly think that way?

I can’t help but think that, had Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Primary and the Presidency in 2008, we would not be seeing all of this out-in-the-open, ‘can-you-top-this’ undisguised racism. I blame President Obama for a lot of things, but I can’t honestly blame him for being elected and thereby opening the floodgates of racial prejudice.

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

The Watering Hole; Thursday August 7 2014; One Day in the Life of An August

A couple of months back I made a deal with myself, a compact of sorts, one in which I promised to enjoy no less than two hours every morning in a realm completely FREE of both politics AND every other human foible — not an easy task in this screwy corner of this screwy world. Still, I had the means at hand: climb on the old bicycle each morning at ten minutes before sunrise, duly outfitted with a bottle of cold water, a pack of gum, tire tool/patch kit and pump, cell phone (and insurance card) just in case I get run over by a pickup, and most important of all, my camera. The goal: twenty miles of riding plus as many photo captures of whatever Nature might care to toss my way.

So far, so good: 1270 miles since June 1 (67 days, 19 mpd avg) plus a huge pile of jpg’s. And NO POLITICS!! Until the other day, that is. The only blessing was that it wasn’t me or any other human that splayed the political bombshell on my lens. Nope, it was Mother Nature herself (and my guess is that she really had no idea what she’d done, no evil intent of any kind — or so I HOPE!).

Here’s the way it went. I took off at around 5:50 AM, MDT, and over the course of two hours ran across some interesting stuff, all courtesy of Mother Nature. First, the early morning illumes over and upon our local lake:

Dawn over Beckwith 252

Next, a very happy bug enjoying his early morning floral soliloquy:
Happy Bug 301

And then another very happy bug doing the same:

Happy Bug 312And next a lesson, one in which Nature demonstrated (with a wee bit o’ help from moi) that no matter how crazy, how disoriented the world might appear, nothing ‘out there’ ever really changes. Note that even when ‘the world’ is turned upside down, the sun still illuminates, the morning sky remains a vibrant blue, the mountains forever stand tall, and the weeds don’t seem to mind if they happen to be pointing down instead of up. What a Grand Place exists ‘out there’! What a Wondrous World it is!

Hollydot reflections 276

Then it happened. About a mile or two on down the road, suddenly up popped the big UH OH! Out of the corner of my eye I spotted him. He was standing alone and peacefully munching the luscious and rain-fed grass in yonder pasture. I watched him with some admitted fascination for several minutes until somewhere in the process it struck me: I was gazing at the metaphoric personification of humankind’s behavioral dilemma, cryptically disguised as -

A Pasture Bull! 

Pasture Bull 274

Ah yes, the Pasture Bull! Fortunately, he was well inside his domain’s (electrified) fence line so I had no need to worry that he might mistake me for either a cow or an evil Matador. Nor did I have to try sneak up to get a close-up — thank all gods for the zoom lens!

Got home, pulled the photo up on the screen and . . . well, suddenly it all came back and brought to mind some words I’d written several years ago, a paragraph that wound up in my book concerning political conspiracies and power struggles amongst those generally mean-spirited buffoons who suffer under far far too many false impressions of their earthly and cultural import (think Cheney, Dubya, Putin, Reagan, Nixon, Krushchev, . . . Napoleon? Sure, why not. The list is endless):

“There are those who see themselves as gods of one sort or another, . . . and they’re not unique to only our modern world. History amply demonstrates. Personally, I see them–each and every one of them–as being nothing more than a manifestation of a genetic carryover of some sort, a trait inherited from certain of our evolutionary predecessors. I mean, take your ordinary pasture bull as an example. He has no intellect, nothing between his ears beyond the instinctive knowledge of what he has to do to have his way with the rest of the herd. But I have a dollar that says the meaner the bull, the more godlike he’d see himself as being–IF only he could think. It’s probably a blessing that he can’t. Think. Too bad some of our own species’ bulls aren’t similarly blessed. I mean, if they were only the mental equivalent of a pasture bull, we could simply shoo them into a corral, lock the gate, and let them bellow. No such luck, though. We elect them, crown them, anoint them, bow before them, die for them, make them rich, famous. Why is that, I wonder? Been wondering that most of my life, actually.”

I have to wonder: why does all of that — the words, the photo — bring to mind the word “Teabagger”? Maybe because it all . . . ummm . . . so perfectly defines them, describes their ultimate fantasies? Ah, well, who can really say, y’ know?

Anyway, ponder that issue for a moment or two; allow your mind to create a mental image that melds Pasture Bull with Teabagger and then take a peek at the (unattributed) photo below, followed by a quick read of the handful of what seem to be appropriate and descriptive quotes:

Yuk

 “Political liberty, the peace of a nation, and science itself are gifts for which Fate demands a heavy tax in blood!”

“Narrow minds can develop as well through persecution as through benevolence; they can assure themselves of their power by tyrannizing . . . others.”

“Nature makes only dumb animals. We owe the fools to society.”

“There’s nothing so fearsome as the revolt of a sheep . . .”

Those tidbits of descriptive wisdom are all courtesy of 19th century French novelist and playwright, Honoré de Balzac; interesting how appropriately his words work to describe today’s American Tea Party. What’s even more satisfying, however, is that the words do NOT describe the behavior or passions of even the most aggressive pasture bull — means that Mark Twain was right in his thesis that mankind has descended from the higher animals! Seems to me, too, that allathat stands as proof positive that every Teabagger everywhere is therefore definable as INFERIOR to each and every pasture bull, given that when compared with their eternally unsavory human mimics, each and every pasture bull automatically becomes a gentle and fair-minded critter!

Yet one more win for Mother Nature! And better yet, my “One Day in the Life of an August” was NOT unduly interrupted by political . . . by political what . . . by political Bullcookies maybe?

Actually, watching that bull do his thing was so far more interesting than watching, say, the Gohmert-Bachmann-King triumverate trying to do THEIR non-thing that I think maybe the bull deserves some name recognition. Were it up to me, in fact, I’d name him Honoré de Balzac! He’s clearly earned it! :grin:

OPEN TEAHRD THREAD

oops :oops:

The Watering Hole, Monday, August 4th, 2014: Peculiar Podiatric Political “Humor”

At our office, the content of our ‘Sales’ emailbox is usually comprised of orders, queries, requests for catalogs, etc. Occasionally we still get offers for misspelled Cialis, Viagra, etc., as well as the internet version of the letter from a Nigerian prince. Once in a while, for reasons beyond my comprehension, we get anti-government rants from a group called (I believe) The American Land Rights Association. But last week we got a very unusual (and pretty weird) political email. Here it is in its entirety:

From: Martin Marks [mailto:drfootsie@cox.net]
Sent: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:01 AM
To: drfootsie@drfootsie.org
Subject: PODIATRY to POLITICAL CARTOONING

Hi: PLEASE SHARE

Taxed Enough Already
Tired of CORRUPTION
ABOLISH IRS

We AIM to PLEASE ……….

GRID LOCK – gov’t waste

If you like your ……..

ILL Eagle - The  Barak Stops Here 01

While none of these made any sense or fell into the category of “humor” such as we understand it, the editor of the Virginia News Source (which touts itself as “Tidewater Virginia’s ONLY source of reality based news. We are professional muckrakers, politically incorrect, and equal opportunity offenders”) absolutely loves them. Here’s an excerpt (I recreated the misspellings, etc.) from the editor’s July 25th blurb about Dr. Footsie:

“I love ‘whack jobs and I connected with him and stuck up a a great relationship nstantly. My kind of person. Of sound mind. Off-beat humorous.

Dr. Footsie has enough of a whacky outlook, and the creative, artistic ability to articulate the wrongs of the world in a delightfully humorous way. That’s not to say that his cartoons aren’t biting. They are. They are effective. In one upcoming cartoon, he depicts Obama in a cartoon entitled “a black eye on America”, combining all that wrong about Obama’s failed presidency. Subtle meanings are hidden throughout his work.”

Well, they certainly fit in with the crap on the Virginia News Source website. They are NOT, however, either “delightful”, nor “subtle”, nor “humorous”, at least in MY opinion. Don’t quit your day job, “Dr. Footsie.”

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

The Watering Hole; Thursday July 31 2014; IMPEACH!!!

Impeachment: the presentation of formal charges against a public official by the lower house, trial to be before the upper house. ‘Impeachment’ is also a word that’s been spoken and heard more often in the last couple of decades than in the previous history of the United States. Three Presidents, Wm. Clinton, George W. Bush, and now Barack Obama have been threatened with removal. Clinton was, in fact, impeached by the House but served out his term because the Senate (even with a Republican majority) refused to convict.

According to informed and wide-spread opinion, George W. Bush was indeed impeachable on multiple offenses, but even after Democrats achieved a functional House majority in the 2006 Congressional elections, no action was taken.

Today, Barack Obama is, according to un-informed and wingnut opinion, very definitely impeachable, and the threats to do so — particularly with the Tea Party faction — are gaining in popularity as the 2014 elections approach. Should the Republicans manage to both maintain their House majority and gain a Senate majority come November, the chances of impeachment will likely elevate accordingly.

Following is a closer examination of details, an overview of each of the three consecutive presidencies in which the word “impeachment” became operative. It is perhaps curious that of the three, only one enjoyed any level of the justification specified in Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution . . .

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

. . . and it was never acted upon.

In order of occurrence:

Immediately following 1998’s elections, the lame duck GOP-controlled House went after Bill Clinton by initiating impeachment proceedings, and on December 19, 1998 Clinton was impeached by the House on two charges: perjury to a grand jury and obstruction of justice. The (Republican-controlled) Senate did not convict, however, and Clinton served out his full second term.

The next President, George W. Bush, was, over the course of his two terms, accused of numerous impeachable offenses, and the impeachment option started to pick up speed in the summer of 2006 when it began to appear that Democrats might win an electoral majority in the House in the upcoming fall elections. On August 29, 2006, Dave Lindorf at PoliticalAffairs.net bluntly contrasted the folly of Clinton’s impeachment by summarizing the bulk of informed opinion as to why the impeachment of Bush should proceed. Lindorf wrote:

“Clinton’s offense was simply lying under oath about an adulterous affair.

“Bush, in contrast, has admitted to ordering the National Security Agency to monitor Americans’ telecommunications without a warrant, in clear violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (New York Times, 12/16/05). Beyond that, documents show he okayed torture of captives in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, contravening the Third Geneva Accord on treatment of prisoners of war, an international accord that was long ago adopted as U.S. law (Human Rights Watch, ‘Background Paper on Geneva Conventions and Persons Held by U.S. Forces,’ 1/29/02).

“He has blatantly subverted the Constitution by claiming the right to ignore (so far) 750 acts duly passed by Congress (Boston Globe, 4/30/06). He has defied the courts in revoking the most basic rights of citizenship-the right to be charged and tried in a court of law (Guardian, 12/5/02). And the evidence is overwhelming that he knowingly lied about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, and about Hussein’s alleged link to Al-Qaeda, in order to win public and Congressional approval for his invasion of Iraq (Center for American Progress: “Claims vs. Facts: Iraq/Al-Qaeda Links”).

“These and other Bush offenses pose direct threats to the Constitution and to the survival of the Republic, and yet, despite widespread concern and outrage among the public about many of these actions, not one major corporate news organization has called for Bush’s resignation, the initiation of impeachment proceedings, or even for censure . . .”

On May 7, 2006 Patricia Goldsmith of Long Island Media Watch (a grassroots free media and democracy watchdog group) summarized potential impeachment charges against George W. Bush when she wrote:

“The push for impeachment acknowledges two simple truths: we can’t wait for 2008, nor can we live with BushCo’s legacy. That is to say, we must not only remove GWB, but we must remove all the devices and stratagems his administration has used to subvert the Constitution including: signing statements and the concept of the unitary executive; the abrogation of the Geneva conventions, the concept of enemy combatants, extraordinary rendition, and Guantanamo; pre-emptive military attacks; warrantless spying on citizens; the unlabeled exchange of government propaganda for news; and much more. These illegal maneuvers should not be available to future presidents of any party.”

Meanwhile, Fox News (online and during the runup to the Nov. 2006 elections) offered advice to the Democratic Party after apparently concluding that Democrats had a good chance of assuming post-election control of the House:

“Step one would be for the Democratic leadership to definitively put to rest any loose talk of impeaching President Bush. They should say in one and two syllable words that impeachment will not happen once they are in the majority and thus take away a potential rallying cry for the beleaguered Republicans.”

Fox eventually got its wish when, around the time the election results of November, 2006 had become operational, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) laid the entire GWB impeachment thesis to rest when he announced, “Speaker Pelosi and I have made it clear that this Congress is not going to proceed with impeachment, and is going to focus on critical issues facing our nation, such as healthcare for children and the war in Iraq.”

Enter President Barack Obama, clearly the most Republican-despised President in all of history, a President for whom dreams of total and complete failure have defined the entire political aspiration of today’s extreme right wing-driven GOP. Obama’s use of the Presidential executive action tool — his attempt(s) to get at least SOMETHING accomplished in spite of the least productive Congress in the nation’s history are consistently viewed as “dictatorial” at best, impeachable violations of the Constitution in their unfounded rhetoric.

Sarah Palin placed her familiar ignorance on full display when she recently wrote, on Breitbart.com (in part):

“President Obama’s rewarding of lawlessness, including his own, is the foundational problem here. It’s not going to get better, and in fact irreparable harm can be done in this lame-duck term as he continues to make up his own laws as he goes along, and, mark my words, will next meddle in the U.S. Court System with appointments that will forever change the basic interpretation of our Constitution’s role in protecting our rights.

“It’s time to impeach; and on behalf of American workers and legal immigrants of all backgrounds, we should vehemently oppose any politician on the left or right who would hesitate in voting for articles of impeachment.

“The many impeachable offenses of Barack Obama can no longer be ignored. If after all this he’s not impeachable, then no one is.”

In late summer of 2013, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) laid out his own reasoning concerning Obama’s potential impeachment when he warned that if Republicans should decide to force the U.S. to default on its debt by refusing to raise the debt ceiling then it “would be an impeachable offense by the president.” Right. OK. Uh huh.

Gohmert is far from alone as an incumbent in support of impeachment, however. Here Is a List of Republican Incumbents Who Support Impeachment — I suspect it’s far shorter than it will be post-election IF the Republicans should happen to preserve their control of the House AND gain a majority in the Senate. Such points obviously don’t make their logic any more profound even though it’s probably predictable, given their post-election fevers in 1998.

Still, there’s a recently-emerged “other side”, a position that in all probability is based on legitimate fears that pre-election hype concerning impeachment (for clearly spurious reasons) may well jeopardize Republican chances of (a) gaining a majority in the Senate, or perhaps even (b), maintaining their majority in the House, by ‘inspiring’ more electoral support and enthusiasm amongst Democratic voters. Therefore, the new talking point, as spouted by John Boehner on July 29th 2014:

“We have no plans to impeach the President. . . . . Listen. It’s all a scam asserted by Democrats and the White House.”

Glenn Beck also blames Obama and the Democrats for using the impeachment “scam” as a means of diverting attention from the President’s failures — Immigration, e.g.

The bottom line, in summary, reads something like this: Each of the last three American Presidents — two Democrats and one Republican — have been accused of having committed impeachable offenses during their respective terms of office. Of the three, however, only one — Republican George W. Bush — actually engaged in policies which demanded a closer look because of their extremely dubious constitutionality, and even though several of the offenses were clearly of Article II Section 4 context, no official charges were filed.

Makes one wonder if these days the most compelling impeachable offenses are simply those which are the most sententious, i.e. each and all of those moralizing and self-righteous pithy aphorisms which seem to flow steadily from the mouths of the far right wingers. Or maybe it’s even simpler. Could it be that their sole perceived impeachable crime is nothing other than the President’s political party affiliation? Or, horror of horrors, the President’s skin color?

Stay tuned.

OPEN THREAD

 

 

 

The Watering Hole, Monday, July 21st, 2014: Floriduh vs Kitties

I was going to write about yesterday’s ThinkProgress thread about a fundraiser for Florida Governor Rick Scott. The story combines just about everything we liberals abhor: wealthy private-prison CEO; $10,000/plate fundraiser; private-prison abuses and fraud; immigrant detention; privatization of prison system healthcare (under Rick Scott?!); and so on, with big money and greed being the leitmotif. But it just got me too angry, so here’s some photos of some of our past furry friends. If I’ve posted a lot of these before, please humor me.

Stubby Plant

Stubby Plant

Tippy with Velveteen Rabbit

Tippy with Velveteen Rabbit

Lissa Grooms Her Ears (Amelia in lower left, photo of 20-something Wayne in upper right)

Lissa Grooms Her Ears (Amelia in lower left, photo of 20-something Wayne in upper right)

Earnest squeezes behind Pip

Earnest squeezes behind Pip

Becca prepares to leap.

Becca prepares to leap.

Nog (N.O.G. = Not Orange Guy)

Nog (N.O.G. = Not Orange Guy)

Belz and Lissa play while Splatter watches.

Belz and Lissa play while Splatter watches.

Preston, Jack and Souphlee

Preston, Jack and Souphlee

There, at least I feel better…

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

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; Friday June 27 2014; Can STUPID be Summarized?

The 2014 primary elections in Colorado were this last Tuesday. The Democrat ballot had a dozen or so “contests” on it, but each ‘contest’ had only one contestant. Interesting, I thought, that there were no real choices to make other than whether or not to take the time to read the names and either leave them blank or mark them with an ‘X’. That was NOT the case on the Republican side of the swamp, however. There, there were numerous choices for each contest — not all that surprising in this era where the ‘baggers are working their fingers to the bone to rid the world of anyone who might be considered “mainstream.” Problem is, though, that more often than not (and in GOP primaries across the country, not just here in Colorado), the closest the favorite/winner ever gets to ‘mainstream’ is that he’s not quite as nuts or demented as the ones beneath him in the final count.

Anyway, the GOP “winners” (my way of spelling ‘losers’) here, i.e. the dudes who will be on the ticket in November running against Democrats who are generally bright, progressive, and competent, are reviewed and duly summarized in just the title of a Think Progress article: Climate Change Deniers Prevail In Colorado GOP PrimariesI could probably rant for several pages on the surreal and unbelievable stupidity and shallowness of the GOP’s candidate slate here, in Colorado. But I won’t, because I’m pretty sure that there’s probably no more collective GOP stupidity here than in any other state, so there’d be nothing new in any rant I might come up with. I do admit, however, that I was surprised that Climate Change Denial was so prominent a GOP feature this year. And frankly, I’ve seen virtually zero evidence that the issue has much variance from state to state amongst Republican candidates. In fact, I have to wonder: just how uniform — across the country — is Republican stupidity? Can anyone point to a GOP candidate anywhere that is NOT a climate change denier? And on so many other issues, is the candidate philosophy uniform across the board, or at least nearly so? Are they, each and all, uniformly against, to name but the few that quickly come to mind:

Climate Science
Renewable Energy
Public Education
Workers’ Rights/Labor Unions
Social Security
Medicare
ACA/Medicaid
Abortion
Contraception
Closing Corporate Tax Loopholes
Immigration Reform
Gun Control (any or all issues therein)
Environmental Protection (EPA)
Raising Minimum Wage
Food Stamps
Tax Reform

If they’re generally against all of that (and more, I’m sure), what are they uniformly FOR? I can only come up with three:

Impeaching Obama
War (most anywhere)
Enriching their Corporate and Wall Street Benefactors

I know I’m missing a whole bunch of issues on the ‘against’ side, maybe even one or two on the ‘for’ side. What’s missing? Contributions welcome!

OPEN THREAD

 

 

Sunday Roast: Robert Greenwald’s “Koch Brothers Exposed”

I know it’s an hour long, but please watch this video.  It’s only ONE HOUR of your life.

It’s important for all of us to know how the despicable Koch brothers have woven their tentacles throughout this country, like a deadly cancer.

They have a very specific ideology, and they don’t give a shit if you subscribe to it or not.  Given their way, we will all feel the toxic Koch boot on our necks, sooner or later, and we can’t fight them if we don’t know what they’re about.

This is our daily open thread — Are we ready to give the Koch brothers the boot?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 24, 2014: Love Thy Neighbor As Thy Self Does Not Mean Love Thy Neighbor Like Thy Self

As a Liberal Atheist (no, that’s not redundant) who believes in treating others as I would like them to treat me (also known as the ethic of reciprocity; it’s a good philosophy, one that came from Plato, not Jesus), it surprises me when elected public officials who proclaim to be followers of Jesus Christ’s philosophies fail to interpret them correctly. One of the laws Jesus followed was Leviticus 19:18

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Yet the Chesterfield County, VA, Board of Supervisors seems to believe the word “as” is the same as the word “like”.

Not content to be allowed to open their public meetings with a prayer (because nobody really means it, according to the Conservatives on the Supreme Court), the board “limited opening prayers to ordained leaders of monotheistic religions.” The county maintains an official list of local clergy from which the invitee to give the prayer is chosen, but not all religions are welcome. A local Wiccan was denied a spot on the list because it was felt that “neo-pagan” faiths do not fall within the Judeo-Christian tradition and that they invoke “polytheistic, pre-Christian deities.” And the official county list (isn’t it a little creepy to hear of a local government keeping an “official list” of local clergy?) excludes a local Sikh organization, even though they practice “strict mono-theism.” Then there’s the problem that the list only includes ordained clergy. As the ACLU of VA and Americans United for Separation of Church and State say in their letter to the board, “The requirement that prayer-givers be ‘ordained’ is similarly problematic, as some religions do not require their clergy to be ordained, and others do not have clergy at all.” Out of curiosity, I wonder if any Muslims will be invited to say a prayer? After all, they worship the same God as the Christians and Jews. Actually, I would be surprised if there were anyone the list, because it would mean there are practicing Muslims in Conservative Virginia.

Why do Conservative Christians continue to blatantly act as though Freedom of Religion only applies to some denomination of Christianity? Why, when given an opportunity to impose their fantastic beliefs on others do they deny others the opportunity to impose their own fantastic beliefs right back to them? Why do they act as if Christianity is “under attack”? Why do they think Christians are being persecuted? Are they trying to assert that Christians aren’t being allowed into public office? Do they think that no Christian can ever get elected President of the United States, except for every single President we’ve elected, and even the one we didn’t? (No, I’m referring to Gerald R. Ford, not George W. Bush. Bush was declared the winner of an actual election thanks to voter fraud by the SCOTUS, who weren’t required to show a photo ID at the time.)

Look, I’m all for protecting your right to practice the Religion of your choice, even if that means believing in magical sky beings who don’t seem to care about human suffering. But it doesn’t mean that I have to practice it along with you. And it doesn’t mean you have a right to shove it down my throat, to borrow a common Conservative term applied to things that frighten them, or sexually arouses them, I’m not sure which. Probably both. It means you get to practice your Religion in the privacy of your own life. If you and others who believe as you do wish to gather in a privately-owned facility (such as a church, a temple, or a bar) to practice your Religion, go for it. But don’t believe for a second that the Public Square is the proper venue for Christian Evangelism (or any other kind, though few practitioners of other kinds, if any, seem to be doing it.) It’s funny to me how the Supremes said religious phrases are okay to be used by elected public servants because, in essence, nobody really means it, so nobody is trying to force their religious beliefs on you. But that’s not the point. Part of being a human is sharing experiences, and when non-Christians are being asked to publicly assert their devotion to Christ, our natural human desire to belong is challenged. Would you want to be a Christian standing in a street of Muslims all bowing down and facing Mecca to pray? Would that make you comfortable? Wouldn’t you think that, at the very least, you ought to get down on the ground, too, even if you’re just faking saying something? I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be made to feel that way by others, so why do you insist on being the one doing it to others?

This is our Daily Open Thread. Feel free to discuss oppressed and persecuted Christians, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 17, 2014: Fraud The Vote Story

In our last episode, we talked about a group calling itself “True The Vote.” Their motto is “equipping citizens to take a stand for free and fair elections.” They also consider themselves “the nation’s leading voters’ rights and election integrity organization.” They are big on election monitoring, and they have this belief that there is a significant problem with voter fraud in this country. “We are helping stop corruption where it can start – at the polls.” Actually that’s where it ends. It usually begins much sooner than someone walking into the polling booth, and is often done to avoid having to do just that. So, believing that requiring every voter to have a photo ID would solve the problem, they support Voter ID laws. So I do not support them. Might as well get that cleared up from the start. I’m not a journalist, I’m just a blogger with a liberal stand.

Before continuing, let’s do something True The Vote doesn’t do, and that’s point out that there are various kinds of election fraud. Not all election fraud is in-person voter fraud, where someone shows up at a polling place and illegally tries to cast a vote under a false identity. Of all the kinds of election fraud, this is probably the only kind that would be prevented by a sanctioned photo ID. A photo ID would not stop voter registration fraud, or absentee ballot fraud. Nor would it do anything to deter tampering with the results of the election. The Constitution was amended to stop the racist practice of requiring black and Native American voters to pay a poll tax before casting their votes in a federal election. The Supreme Court ruled in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections “that making voter affluence an electoral standard violated the Equal Protection Clause.” You can’t make people have to pay something in order to vote. And requiring them to obtain some kind of photo ID will cost them money, one way or another. The concern is for poor people, who do have a right to vote and often cast it against political parties that favor the wealthy. Coincidentally enough, this is the same party that is trying to make it harder for poorer folks to vote, because they know whose vote they would get. It’s blindingly obvious to anyone with an IQ in the three-digit range.

To justify support for requiring photo IDs for every voter, True The Vote gives a list of incidents in 46 states meant to illustrate the existence of voter fraud, and therefore the need for photo IDs. And while each may be an example of some kind of election fraud, even voter fraud, none illustrate the kind of massive fraud Republicans say is going on that photo IDs would prevent. Strangely enough, there is so much voter fraud being committed by people casting votes for Democrats that the Republicans have managed to control the House of Representatives and most state legislatures for about a decade. So it’s really, really hard to believe that voter fraud is any kind of problem at all. In fact (a word repugnant to those who disdain thinking), if one party was committing the kind of massive fraud the Republicans say is going on, wouldn’t it make sense that that party would control the House of Representatives and most state legislatures? Hey, Republicans! We’re not the stupid ones. Even your own Rick Santorum admitted it. It’s simple, Republicans: Either there is no massive voter fraud problem, or there is one and your party is committing it.

So is the kind of voter fraud photo IDs would prevent really happening in massive numbers? Let’s look at each of True The Vote’s examples. And remember, a lot of things are wrongly called “voter fraud,” so just finding news articles about people described as being charged with “voter fraud” does not automatically qualify as valid examples. Voter fraud is, in simple terms, trying to fraudulently cast a vote. And while absentee ballots are an easy way to commit voter fraud, they are not the kind of voter fraud a photo ID would prevent. In fact, they are exactly the kind of voter fraud one would commit if one couldn’t pass the photo ID check. So right away, we can see that requiring a photo ID is more likely to increase absentee ballot voter fraud. Just saying.

Absentee ballots are the fraud committed in Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut [limited free visits], Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming. If your problem is with absentee ballot fraud, requiring a photo ID isn’t necessarily going to prevent that, especially when it’s elected officials doing the fraud.

Voter registration fraud, where the problem involves how voter registration efforts were done illegally, not in-person voter fraud, were the problems in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada (a constitutional issue involving ACORN which went out of business years ago), North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Washington,

Illegal vote solicitation or buying was the “voter fraud” committed in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Texas. That’s a fraud committed by the candidates, not the voters involved. And I’m pretty sure they already knew the identities of the voters, so photo IDs would not have prevented those crimes.

Residency issues were the culprit in Kansas, Maine and New Hampshire. An interesting thing about the New Hampshire story is that they give figures that show voter fraud is not a serious problem. They investigated 8 cases out of about 711,000 votes cast. That’s about one fraudulent voter in 90,000. Are photo IDs needed to stop such a crime wave?

Illegal voting (which involved convicted criminals voting, or some other non-identity issue) happened in Minnesota and Tennessee. And even if a photo ID would have prevented these two crimes, does that justify requiring every citizen to present a photo ID?

Petition fraud would not have been stopped by Voter ID laws in Michigan (Rep. Thaddeus McCotter’s staff committed that crime), Ohio, and Wisconsin.

The justification for having Voter ID laws in Arizona was because someone ran for office in the wrong district. I’m pretty sure no one doubted who she was. And she was the candidate, not the voter.

And the link doesn’t work for the stories about Alabama, California, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Virginia, and West Virginia. It doesn’t prove your point when the link to your evidence doesn’t work. It’s like directing a shopper to an aisle that doesn’t exist. “Yes, Angus steaks at forty cents a pound are in Aisle Pi-R-Squared.”

The missing states were Delaware, Hawaii, Montana, Vermont, and District of Columbia. Four of these are generally considered blue states, but apparently there is no voter fraud happening in any of those places. And Montana is usually considered a red state, but they could find no voter fraud after they elected a Democrat as governor. You would think that if the Democrats really were casting votes for dead people, or voting under a false identity, there would be a lot of it going on to give them such control over those states. So why couldn’t True The Vote find any examples from them? I don’t know, maybe because it isn’t happening on such a massive scale?

Remember, the argument the red states are making is that there is such a massive voter fraud problem that the only way to stop all this illegal voting is to require every person stepping up to the voting booth to first present an acceptable photo ID (and government-issued student photo IDs are sometimes not considered valid). Yet they are unable to come up with any evidence that the problem is that big. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that nobody ever tried to illegally cast a vote. I’m just saying that it doesn’t happen so often that the only way to prevent it is to require people who may not have acceptable photo IDs (elderly people, students, nuns) to spend money to get one.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss voter fraud, True The Vote, lying conservatives, or anything else you wish.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 3, 2014: Tea Party Nation of Ignorance

One day a retired US Army Colonel and World War II Veteran named Harry Riley who, to the best of my knowledge, served our nation honorably, snapped. He somehow got the idea that the United States is a tyranny, and so he has begun Operation American Spring. Their mission:

Restoration of Constitutional government, rule of law, freedom, liberty “of the people, for the people, by the people” from despotic and tyrannical federal leadership.

That was my first hint that there might be something wrong with Harry. You see, in order to have a tyranny, you have to have a tyrant. And not only is a tyrant not a whole “federal leadership,” but if President Obama really was a tyrant, all these people crying about him being a tyrant would have been silenced a long, long time ago. That’s what tyrants do. That’s not what Obama has been doing. This distorted idea that we are living in a tyranny is utterly and completely ridiculous. People need to learn that words have meanings, and they should learn what those meanings are. We are not living in a dictatorship. Nor are we living under a Fascist/Socialist government, as if living in a government of complete opposites was even possible.

As further evidence of Harry’s detachment from reality, he lists certain assumptions upon which his little rally is predicated:

Millions of Americans will participate.
American veterans and patriots are energized to end the tyranny, lawlessness, and shredding of the US Constitution.
Government is not the target, it is sound; corrupt and criminal leadership must be replaced.
Those in power will not hesitate to use force against unarmed, peaceful patriots exercising their constitutional rights.
Patriots may be killed, wounded, incarcerated.
There is no hope given today’s technology of secrecy for the effort nor do we want it secret.

Ironically, many of the things for which Obama is accused of being a tyrant were started under the previous Republican administration. At least, that’s the impression I get. Look, I’m not totally happy about some of the things Obama has done, especially those in the name of “national security.” But as far as I know, the things most of us complain about were started before he took office, and our displeasure is over the fact that these programs have been continued or even expanded. But I can’t think of anything resembling tyranny that Obama started fresh. And if Harry’s delusions were confined to Harry, our nation wouldn’t be in as much trouble as it is. The cynical say that Democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the rest. And the Tea Party is a good example of why this is so.

The Tea Party Nation, headed up by Judson Phillips, is promoting Harry’s War. He’s e-mailing a column from his group’s website written by Alan Caruba, a column containing many hilariously wrong ideas about American History.

His column begins with an ad hominem attack on people who use logic in their thinking

You have to be extremely stupid to send a couple of hundred armed government agents to confiscate some bullheaded rancher’s cattle without contemplating how the rest of the nation will interpret your actions.

Actually you have to be extremely stupid to think that the federal government had no reason NOT to seize Cliven Bundy’s cattle when he was using OUR property to feed them and not paying us. Bundy owes you and me more than a million dollars in unpaid grazing fees, and despite all his court battles to overturn those fees, he has lost the war. I think this simple observation strikes at the core of what is wrong with Tea Party People. They don’t understand that the federal government is you and me. It’s not some tyrannical despot off by him or itself. If it’s not doing what we want it to do, it’s because we keep re-electing the same stupid Representatives and Senators to Congress, and the majority of them are Republicans.

But the attacks didn’t end there

What was obvious to voters who rejected Barack Obama’s run for the presidency the first and second time was the fact that he lacked any record of competency to be President. The rest voted for him because they wanted to say they helped elect the first black President of the United States and because they believed what this pathological liar said then and since.

You know, it’s an insult to suggest that the only reason we voted for Obama was so we could say we helped elect the first black President of the United States, and there was no evidence at the time that he was, or is, a pathological liar.

But we all know consistency is not a strong suit of the far right-wing

The assertion that Obama’s and Eric Holder’s actions and policies are opposed because they are black is absurd. It is an insult to everyone who voted for Obama and to the rest of us.

So it’s an insult to those of us who voted for him to say the other side opposes him because he’s black, but it’s not an insult to us to say we voted for him because he’s black. And how did Attorney General Eric Holder get into this? He was writing about Bundy’s dispute with the Bureau of Land Management, not with the Justice Department. But Tea Party People think all of the federal government is run by one person, who may be Barack Obama or Eric Holder, they’re not sure which.

And then the bizarre romantic view of American history begins

I love the notion that Cliven Bundy lives in Bunkerville. It reminded me of Bunker Hill and you know how badly that eventually turned out for the British in 1775. What ensued was a guerrilla war led by George Washington that defeated the most powerful nation of its time. There is no way a militia with small arms can defeat the kind of arms the U.S. government can bring to bear on such a battle, but one has to admire the courage of those people who showed up to confront them. That’s quintessentially American!

Let’s look at a few lines of this.

It reminded me of Bunker Hill and you know how badly that eventually turned out for the British in 1775.
He must be thinking way past 1775. The British won the battle of Bunker Hill, BTW.

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-battle-of-bunker-hill

What ensued was a guerrilla war led by George Washington that defeated the most powerful nation of its time.
A couple of things here. First, Washington didn’t defeat the British, the French did. And we wouldn’t be Americans today if not for the French. The British surrendered to the French. And as for Washington’s victories (few though they were), even those were possible thanks to the training his men received from Baron von Steuben, who was gay. They didn’t ask, and he didn’t tell.

But then Caruba goes on to admit that the entire premise of their support for Bundy is wrong

Bundy should have paid his grazing rights fees. Other ranchers do. What he has done, however, is bring greater awareness the amount of land that the federal government owns in Nevada and elsewhere, particularly west of the Mississippi, and expose a regime that wants to intimidate Americans with force if necessary.

Okay, so they admit that Bundy didn’t pay his grazing fees, which was the entire reason the federal government took the action they did. In other words, the federal government was acting entirely lawfully! Bundy is a scofflaw. And how else does a government enforce the law except by force! Are they really that naive? I’m afraid so.

Caruba goes on to quote a Wikipedia passage, which uses deceptive and incorrect math to make an irrelevant point

According to Wikipedia, “The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is an agency within the United States Department of the Interior that administers America’s public lands, totaling approximately 247.3 million acres, or one-eighth of the landmass of the country. The BLM also manages 700 million acres (2,800,000 km2) of subsurface mineral estate underlying federal, state, and private lands. Most public lands are located in western states, especially Alaska. With approximately 10,000 permanent employees and close to 2,000 seasonal employees, this works out to over 21,000 acres (85 km2) per employee. The agency’s budget was $960,000,000 for 2010 ($3.79 per surface acre, $9.38 per hectare)”

If you’re going to quote how much the BLM spends per acre of land covered, why use only the 247.3 million surface acres of public land, but not the 700 million acres of substrate mineral estate, which isn’t cost-free to manage? Shouldn’t you really be dividing that $960 million by the combined acreage of about 947.3 million? Isn’t the BLM really spending about $1 per acre to do its job? And what’s with all the metric conversions? FTR, the current Wiki entry for BLM has updated numbers, but the deception of dividing the budget money against only the surface area and not the substrate remains. The History section of that page requires citations. Take what you read there for what it’s worth.

So far, Caruba has failed to make any convincing arguments about anything. But it’s hard to be certain because I’m not sure what point he’s trying to make. So he goes off in a different direction

I can understand the need for national forests and reserves, but I have concerns about those reserves that are used as an excuse to deny access to massive energy sources that lie beneath their surface. If the U.S. didn’t own most of Nevada, Bundy would not need to pay grazing fees. Most certainly, his ancestors didn’t. The other excuse, that the government is trying to protect an endangered tortoise, is just part of the environmental movement’s efforts to keep energy sources from being available to all of us. Endangered species is pure fiction.

Does Caruba not understand the concept of public land? It belongs to all of us, and that means that no privately owned corporation should be allowed to destroy the most beautiful parts of our country just to make a dollar. And the oil they’re after would be sold on the world market, thus screwing the American people of the profits exploited from the land we own. As for the remark about Bundy not needing to pay grazing fees if the feds didn’t own so much of Nevada, what happened to “Bundy should have paid his grazing rights fees. Other ranchers do.”? But the next five words confirm to me just how willfully ignorant the Tea Party People wish to remain. “Most certainly, his ancestors didn’t.” Caruba must not know how this Internet-thingy works. A simple search brings up an official history of Grazing Fees from the Bureau of Land Management itself. Actually reading that article reveals

The Federal grazing fee, which applies to Federal lands in 16 Western states on public lands managed by the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service, is adjusted annually and is calculated by using a formula originally set by Congress in the Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978.[Emphasis mine.]

No need to sound so uncertain about it, Caruba. They didn’t, because they were probably dead by the time the fees were first set. The Ignorance is further revealed by the comment that “Endangered species if pure fiction.” Tell that to the dodo bird and the passenger pigeon. Prove to us that the extinction of an entire species has no effect on the rest of the environment. And use plenty of Science in your proof. You do believe in Science, don’t you, Caruba?

Caruba still doesn’t understand what the initial Cliven bundy problem was

What worries me and many of my blogger colleagues is the prospect of a renewed effort by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding what is essentially a fairly minor dispute between it and Bundy. Showing some common sense, the BLM backed off its initial effort.

He stole public property for his own enrichment and he didn’t compensate us for it. This has nothing to do with private property rights.

Caruba goes back into ad hominem attack mode

I don’t think the BLM response to Bundy was exclusive to the agency. That decision needed to be sent up the line as far as the White House. Indeed, it was likely initiated by the White House.

Do you have any evidence whatsoever that the White House initiated the federal seizure of Bundy’s cattle? I’m sure they were told by the Interior Secretary that action was going to be taken in the matter, but I can;t imagine that Obama called DIS and told them to seize the cattle. Again, now naive is Caruba about how the federal government works?

If there was ever any doubt that the Tea Party movement is one of Conservatism, Caruba’s revelations about what he thinks people should fear should dispel those doubts.

Even more scary is the fact that only Fox News channel had reporters on the scene. No other major television news outlet set journalists to record the event. How much in league with the White House does the media have to be to ignore two hundred armed government agents descending on a ranch in Nevada?

Conservatism’s message is always about being fearful of change, of things that are different. When a Conservative sees something that scares him, he thinks everyone else should be just as scared as he is. Caruba and his ilk think this is a big deal, but I can;t figure out why. He admits that Bundy should have paid the fees, so why is the government’s reaction to his refusal to do so an act of tyranny and not an act of law enforcement? Don’t Conservatives like Law Enforcement? And I wouldn’t be so quick to classify the employees of Fox News as “journalists.” The media doesn’t need to be in league with the White House to rightly ignore a man desperately trying to seek attention and unlawfully avoid having to pay us a million dollars.

Next comes a meaningless threat based on simple mathematics

I suspect that a lot of Americans and most certainly those who live in the rural areas of the nation are going to remember the Bundy face-off with the BLM come the November midterm elections. While most voters are crowded into the cities on the East and West Coasts, there are a lot of others in “flyover country.”

What you suspect and what you can prove are two different things, or have you never seen an American cop show before? And if, by your own math, “most people” live on the coasts, doesn’t that mean they outnumber the “lot of others in ‘flyover country'”? So why does that matter?

Again, a lack of understanding of what’s really going on leads to another meaningless threat

When you add in all the folks who lost their healthcare insurance and others who have discovered they can’t even buy a policy until next January, that’s going to be a voting bloc that could decimate Democratic Party candidates.

This is a callback to the “If you like your insurance you can keep your insurance” fiasco, a very inexpertly worded sound bite that came back to bite them in the ass. The people who lost their health insurance did so for a variety of reasons, but the primary one was that their insurance companies refuse to alter their policies to comply with the new law, even though they had years to do so. People who claimed they liked their insurance only liked the low premiums they paid and rarely, if ever, actually used their policies. If they did, they would often find huge deductibles and small lifetime limits. They were exactly the kinds of policies against which the law was meant to protect you. As for not buying a policy until next year, how is that the Democrats’ fault? [Notice how easily the Conservatives forget the "individual responsibility" part of their philosophy.] As for those unable to get Medicaid because their Republican Governors refused to accept the federal money, that’ only helps the Democrats win more State houses.

Uh-oh, here comes that T-word again

All tyrannies over-reach at some point and we are seeing that occur in the White House. The nation is fortunate to have the House controlled by Republicans and now needs a Senate as well in order to dispense some much needed justice on behalf of Americans.

It’s not a tyranny, or you would never have been around long enough to write this column.

Caruba demonstrates his memory problem with facts

It’s going to be interesting to see how the White House responds to the May 16th “Operation American Spring” being organized to bring a million or more to Washington, D.C. to participate in an event that will demonstrate the breadth of the unhappiness that has spread since Obama’s first election and is gaining momentum since his second.

Actually Riley is hoping to bring ten million people to Washington. You should try to learn to read for comprehension. The unhappiness is only among the people who believe the kind of nonsense and untruths the Tea Party People believe. Cliven Bundy is not a hero, he’s a criminal trying to rip you off personally.

Finally, Caruba ends with more paranoid speculation

The White House response will tell us all a lot about its current state of thought. Whatever it has in mind is likely to leak before the event. The best thing about Washington, D.C. is its inability to keep a secret. The worst thing is the Obama administration and the Democratic Party.

Why would the White House respond to an event that hasn’t happened yet, and is unlikely to be as big a deal as the organizers hope? And just what kind of response do they really think they’ll get if they behave as peacefully as they claim they intend to behave? We really need to stop giving the tea Party People a platform. Because they simply do not know what they’re talking about, and they’re so clearly afraid. They need medicine, not a microphone.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss anything you want.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 26, 2014: The Binary Bundy

It started with a story about grazing fees and ended up being a story about racism, as often happens with stories in America these days. Nevada cattle rancher Ted Cloven Cliven Bundy became the darling of right-wing media when federal agents seized his cattle for Bundy’s refusal to pay more than a million dollars in grazing fees and penalties. Supporters claimed it was an overreach of federal authority, despite the fact that courts have upheld the government’s actions at every step. Things were gearing up to finally have a national discussion on the role of government in our lives (a key and overlooked component in the disagreement between Liberals and Conservatives), when Bundy opened his mouth and talked about something other than property rights.

via Media Matters

After initially denying he ever mentioned picking cotton, Bundy made things worse for himself by trying to invoke the names of Rosa Parks and the Rev Martin Luther King, Jr., in defending his use of the term “Negroes.

via CNN

The clip above ends with Bundy claiming he’s not prejudiced, after screwing up completely what Prejudice is by saying “we’re talking about not being able to exercise what we think and our feelings.” No, Mr. Bundy, when we talk about prejudice we’re talking about exactly that – pre-judging – and all of us, myself included, are guilty of it to one degree or another. All of us look at other people and based often on nothing more than what we see, we make value judgments about them. And the primary thing we want to determine first and foremost is, “Is this person a threat to me?” That’s natural survival instinct and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s what goes on in the mind after the determination that it’s safe to walk past that person that gets people in trouble. Prejudice isn’t about exercising what we think or feel, it’s about what we think or feel, and how we came to have those thoughts or feelings. When you see a family of black people sitting on their front porch, as a family, and immediately assume that they’re on government subsidy, you are being prejudiced. And not in a good way. Because you have no rational basis for believing what you’re thinking. I assume that when you talk about “exercising” those thoughts or feelings, it means acting on them in some way. Since your thoughts or feelings were not derived from some rational line of thought, but derived instead from your erroneous prejudices, I can’t allow you to act on them without consequence. That’s not denying you your freedom, that’s protecting innocent people from your ignorance. And his prejudice didn’t end there. He went on to say, “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton.” Really, Bundy? Is that how you view black people? They’re either in jail or picking cotton?

What concerns me is the tendency for conservative-minded people like Bundy to engage in either/or binary-type thinking. If you’re a young black man, you’re either in jail or in a cotton field. Nothing else. No other options available. Either you’re a totally free individual or you’re dependent on the government for help. I love that one because most of our American way of life is only possible because of government activities, not least of which is police, fire, and military services keeping us safe and free to pursue our individual happiness. So I don’t understand this obsession with Freedom being a complete and total severance of any government authority over you. You might think that’s what the “free” part of a Free Society is, but it isn’t what the “society” part is about. Your Constitutional right to freedom is not absolute. It is limited to what Society says it is. And Government is the vehicle Society uses to ensure it remains Free. So we are all, to one extent or another, dependent on government. To pretend otherwise is to live in a dream world.

Clive Davis Cliven Bundy lives in a dream world. He thinks you’re either totally right or totally wrong, with no middle ground to be even partly right. He thinks he’s right so the government is totally wrong. Never mind that the arbiters of who’s right and who’s wrong have decided that the Government is totally right and Bundy is totally wrong. He’s just decided that the federal government is illegitimate and has no authority over him or his property. In this sense, he must be referring to the cattle as property because the land in this discussion is federal property, which he feels he has every right to use free of charge. Its owners (you and me) disagree. Who do you think is right?

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Ted Nugent Ted Bundy Cliven Bundy or anything else you want.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 19, 2014: The Myth of the Never-Changing Parties

Recently I got into a Twitter argument with a Conservative who actually called the observation that the Republicans have not always been Conservative and the Democrats have not always been Liberal a “bullshit liberal lie.” Then he called the Democrats “the party of the KKK.” Then he said I was the one who was historically ignorant. Okay, so he’s hurling around “KKK” like it’s an epithet (which it is), but apparently he doesn’t know that neo-confederates in the South consider Nathan Bedford Forrest a hero and the work of the Ku Klux Klan to be “social justice.” (Not everyone agrees. I side with the SPLC on this one.) So is being a member and early leader of the KKK a bad thing to Conservatives or not? If the KKK was a good thing, then why throw out the connection between Democrats and the Klan as a bad thing? If you’re proud of the work of the Klan, then you should be proud of Democrats, not contemptuous of everything any Democrat has ever done. Cognitive dissonance has never been seen as a bad thing by Conservatives. They don’t know the meaning of the word “hypocrisy.” (Seriously, they can’t possibly know given how steeped in hypocrisy they are.)

How do you debate political issues with someone who is obviously so historically ignorant about Politics in America? How do you discuss where America ought to go as a nation with people who think that because they were Republicans, that Lincoln (used Big Government to put down a rebellion) and Eisenhower (used Big Government to build the Interstate Highway System) were staunch Conservatives, or that Nixon (started the Environmental Protection Agency) or Reagan (raised taxes seven times; granted amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants) could ever get the Republican nomination today? To today’s Republican party, the word “Liberal” is the worst thing you cold call someone. Yet accuse a Republican from today of being against every social advancement and you hear them defend their party by pointing out all the things Liberal Republicans did for the country, back in the time when Liberals were welcome in the Republican Party.

Marsh Blackburn is one of the latest examples. From the article:

As we mentioned above, she wants to be clear that the GOP has led the charge for women’s equality. Let’s hear the whole quote:
“I find this war on women rhetoric almost silly,” Blackburn said Sunday, when asked on CBS’ “Face the Nation” if Republicans were against equal pay for women. “It is Republicans that have led the fight for women’s equality. Go back through history — and look at who was the first woman to vote, to get elected to office, to go to Congress, four out of five governors.”

Okay, let’s do that. because when you’re trying to make a point, one would think (if one did think) that facts would matter. And remember, she’s touting the achievements of Republicans in the past as evidence that Republicans of today are not waging a war on women.

Go back through history — and look at who was the first woman to vote,
Woman were allowed to vote in some parts of this country long before the 19th Amendment was ratified. Women in New Jersey had the right to vote from 1776-1807. But while they did record that women voted, they never recorded the time of day each person voted, so it is impossible to know with what political party the first woman to vote was registered. But since the Republican Party was founded in 1854, it wasn’t them. The first woman to vote under the 19th Amendment was from a family of Democrats.

to get elected to office,
The first woman elected to any political office in the United States was Susanna M. Salter. She was elected Mayor of Argonia, Kansas, from 1887-1888, and she was a member of the Prohibition Party. And while the remnants of today’s Prohibition Party are very conservative, back in Salter’s time it was more progressive. (Prohibition was a movement by progressives. Ironically, if it weren’t for Conservatives, I could probably get by without needing a drink.) So, again, not a Republican.

to go to Congress,
Yes on this one. Jeannette Rankin was, indeed, the first woman elected to Congress and a Republican. Her first term was in 1917, before passage of the 19th Amendment. And regardless of her political views then, when she was re-elected to Congress in 1940, she was more liberal in her views, and very pacifist. She voted against US entry into both World Wars. So Blackburn is 1 out of 3 so far on Republicanism, but not as good on Conservatism.

four out of five governors.
Okay, this one is hilariously wrong. The first Republican woman elected Governor of a US State was Kay Orr, who served from 1987-1991. She was also the ninth woman to serve as governor. And she was a Conservative, which is not surprising considering the year. (Specifically, that it was after passage of the Civil Rights Act, a significant point in the ideological history of the Republican Party.)

So to prove the point that Republicans are not waging a war on women, Rep Blackburn cites a list of non-related non-facts. Which is what Republicans do when you try to point out how Republicans of Today are out of touch with Americans of Today. You get to hear all about how Republicans passed the 13th Amendment ending Slavery, without hearing how opposition to it came from Conservatives. And that’s what really matters – Ideology, not party affiliation. The Republican achievements of which today’s Republicans are most proud, are the achievements of Republicans who would not be welcome in today’s Republican Party. Lincoln was not a Conservative, and the Democrats who fought against him at that time were not Liberals.

When the Democratic Party was founded, it “favored republicanism, a weak federal government, states’ rights, agrarian interests (especially Southern planters) and strict adherence to the Constitution; it opposed a national bank, close ties to Great Britain, and business and banking interests.” Sounds more like today’s Republican Party than it does today’s Democratic Party. And when LBJ got the Civil Rights Act passed, he knew that Conservative Democrats would leave the party and join the Republicans, and many of them did. The Democratic Party became more Liberal (how could it not when the Conservatives were jumping ship?) and the Republican Party be came less Liberal (on account of all those ship-jumping Conservatives) until, eventually, there were no more Liberals in the Republican Party. When Republicans proudly boast about their party’s achievements on social issues, they almost ALWAYS point to the things Liberal Republicans of the past did, not Conservative Republicans of today. In fact, the only Conservative Republican achievement of which I ever hear them brag is the Hyde Amendment, named after Mr. Edward Hyde Sen. Henry Hyde, which banned federal spending for abortion. Ironically, the same person I mentioned in the beginning of this, who thought the idea that the two major political parties had switched ideologies over time was bullshit, also refused to believe the Hyde Amendment existed, or understand what it did. And that’s who we’re dealing with. People who refuse to debate the issues based on actual verifiable facts, which proved that things did or did not happen.

In Classical Logic, a false premise can imply anything because a statement of the form If p, then q is False only when p is True and q is False. Otherwise it is True. Today is Saturday, so the statement “If today is Thursday, then I am the King of Norway” is True because it is false that it is Thursday. So it doesn’t matter what the rest says. Until Thursday rolls around and I am revealed not to be the duly recognized King of Norway, it is a True statement. So when Conservatives trot out their False premises for their “logic,” they’re often, technically, making True statements. And you can’t prove they’re making False statements until the premises upon which their arguments are made are True, and the conclusions they drew were False. Yet even when they’re proved quite wrong, it doesn’t seem to stop them from making the same claims. For example, Conservatives like to claim that tax cuts for the rich stimulate the economy and create jobs. And this was their justification for cutting taxes in the first few years of the Bush Administration, despite the fact that we had just gone to war before the second round of cuts. No country in the History of Civilization had ever cut taxes in a time of war, until the United States did in 2003. And despite all the money the folks at the top were keeping for themselves, they didn’t use it to create jobs, and the unemployment rate was on its way up by the time they left office. Doesn’t stop them from arguing that tax cuts for the rich create jobs. Sadly, people like the Conservative I debated on the Twitter believe them.

This is our daily open thread. Have fun with it.

The Watering Hole; Thursday April 17 2014; GOP’s Task: To Meld Ends – with Beginnings

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end.
But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
(Winston Churchill, 9 November 1942)

******

Every now and then I stumble across a random parcel of tidbits that invariably brings to mind, for whatever reason, a line from the 1950’s WWII movie South Pacific, words spoken by ‘the Frenchman’ character and plantation owner Emile de Becque to the island’s American military commander, Navy Captain George Brackett: “I know what you are against,” de Becque begins, but what are you FOR?”

The following is courtesy of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, and includes, in Bernie’s words, just a few excerpts of the Libertarian Party platform that David Koch ran on [as VP candidate] in 1980.” Note there’s not a word in all that Sanders quotes that would be in any way alien to this day’s Republican/Tea Party docket, and note too that it still, this day, most ably summarizes at least the bulk of the agenda of David Koch and his  Brother Charles, not to mention that of numerous other radical right billionaire financiers. The underlined highlights are mine, but everything else is exactly as originally published some 34 years ago. 

• “We urge the repeal of federal campaign finance laws, and the immediate abolition of the despotic Federal Election Commission.”

• “We favor the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.”

• “We oppose any compulsory insurance or tax-supported plan to provide health services, including those which finance abortion services.”

• “We also favor the deregulation of the medical insurance industry.”

• “We favor the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system. Pending that repeal, participation in Social Security should be made voluntary.”

• “We propose the abolition of the governmental Postal Service. The present system, in addition to being inefficient, encourages governmental surveillance of private correspondence. Pending abolition, we call for an end to the monopoly system and for allowing free competition in all aspects of postal service.”

• “We oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes.”

• “We support the eventual repeal of all taxation.”

• “As an interim measure, all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.”

• “We support repeal of all law which impedes the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws.”

• “We advocate the complete separation of education and State. Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended.”

• “We condemn compulsory education laws … and we call for the immediate repeal of such laws.”

• “We support the repeal of all taxes on the income or property of private schools, whether profit or non-profit.”

• “We support the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency.”

• “We support abolition of the Department of Energy.”

• “We call for the dissolution of all government agencies concerned with transportation, including the Department of Transportation.”

• “We demand the return of America’s railroad system to private ownership. We call for the privatization of the public roads and national highway system.”

• “We specifically oppose laws requiring an individual to buy or use so-called “self-protection” equipment such as safety belts, air bags, or crash helmets.”

• “We advocate the abolition of the Federal Aviation Administration.” • “We advocate the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration.”

• “We support an end to all subsidies for child-bearing built into our present laws, including all welfare plans and the provision of tax-supported services for children.”

• “We oppose all government welfare, relief projects, and ‘aid to the poor’ programs. All these government programs are privacy-invading, paternalistic, demeaning, and inefficient. The proper source of help for such persons is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.”

• “We call for the privatization of the inland waterways, and of the distribution system that brings water to industry, agriculture and households.”

• “We call for the repeal of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.”

• “We call for the abolition of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”

• “We support the repeal of all state usury laws.”

Makes one think Paul Ryan had a copy of that in front of him when he wrote his recent Federal budget proposition. On the other hand and as per Emile de Becque, we do now indeed know what they are AGAINST, and that includes ANY government support of any kind in any way of: fair elections and voting rights; granting medical care assistance of any kind to anyone in need; Social Security; the US Postal Service; ALL taxation, no exceptions; public education (read: “indoctrination”) subsidies at any level, including Kindergarten-College; “compulsory education laws”; environmental protection (EPA); energy regulation (DOE); all public transportation including trains, buses, also publicly owned and maintained rails, roads and highways, even inland waterways; safety mandates of any kind, including those implicit in seat belts & helmets; the FAA; the FDA; “all government welfare, relief projects, and aid to the poor programs;” OSHA; Consumer Product Safety Commission.

A pair of unmentioned hate- and fear-based issues which are particularly popular today are gun control and gay marriage. It’s probably fair to note that, esp. on the gun control issues, the cited document dates back to 1980, BEFORE John Hinkley Jr. shot President Reagan and BEFORE the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act became the law of the land, so perhaps their silence is understandable. The question of allowing/legalizing gay marriage was not, as far as I can recall, much of a vocal issue back then, and certainly NOT the product of our ‘runaway anti-Christian tyrannical government’ as many on the right claim to view the matter today.

On the other hand, today’s version of de Becque’s question still stands: what are they FOR? In their words they are for only the concepts (and consequences) embedded in their words: “repeal, abolish/abolition, dissolution, deregulate, terminate, condemn, privatization, and, why not, state usury,” along with, of course, the power and wealth acquisition implicit in ALL the above. To anyone who’s been watching the evolution of the American political scene over the last three-plus decades, the “points” as spelled out above are totally familiar; many of them have, in fact, either been advanced by the Republican/Tea Party congressionals or, if not formally introduced, they are all-too-frequently talked about and encouraged publicly, and often even demanded . . . with all due vitriol.

In summation, the above-cited 1980 Libertarian Party platform has IN FACT become today’s RADICAL RIGHT WING formula for, at the very least, preparing the “legal” means of turning the country and virtually ALL of its resources over to special interests, to the (mostly white, of course) power-hungry wealthy, and in the process relieving the once vast middle class — along with the ever-increasing numbers of working poor and unemployed — of any chance at ever living a productive life, much less of accumulating anything of lasting value to pass on to their progeny. And though said platform doesn’t even mention, much less address the concept “provide for the common defense,” it does implicitly suggest the repeal of (at least) the US Constitution’s Preamble propositions including “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, . . . promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” — in other words, to effectively dismiss the words “We the people” and substitute, instead, ‘we the proud, the lust-filled, greedy, slothful, envious and wrath possessed gluttonous rich and powerful’ — etc. Senator Sanders put it this way:

“The agenda of the Koch brothers is to repeal every major piece of legislation that has been signed into law over the past 80 years that has protected the middle class, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the most vulnerable in this country” and that “It is clear that the Koch brothers and other right wing billionaires are calling the shots and are pulling the strings of the Republican Party.”

It is, I suppose, fair to note that nowhere in the cited 1980 Libertarian (read: conservative) platform does it mention the privilege implicit in MONEY, nor does it demand that MONEY be THE yardstick when it comes to the grant of privilege (including even, strangely enough, the right to vote). Suffice to note, however, that in recent years the SCOTUS has amply addressed those issues by (1) their decisions in Citizens United and McCutcheon, and (2) in their dismissal of a major portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The collective result of those three (5-4) decisions has (a) nearly completely overturned all Campaign Finance legislation designed to minimize the impact the influence on elections of ‘Big Money’ and preserve the Democratic privilege of ‘one person one vote’, even as it has allowed the various states to legislatively impose the means of DENYING that ‘one vote’ to factions of those people who tend to vote for other than radical right candidates.

A close-up review of the above-mentioned policy proclamations as ‘platform’ does, however, reveal the absence of one ultimately necessary tidbit: nowhere (perhaps for obvious reasons), is that one missing detail either (yet) spoken of or insisted upon. The late Senator from West Virginia, Robert Byrd, described “it” — its whats, its whys, and its hows — in a March, 2005 speech on the US Senate floor when he said (underlines/highlights mine):

“But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends. Historian Alan Bullock writes that Hitler’s dictatorship rested on the constitutional foundation of a single law, the Enabling Law. Hitler needed a two-thirds vote to pass that law, and he cajoled his opposition in the Reichstag to support it. Bullock writes that “Hitler was prepared to promise anything to get his bill through, with the appearances of legality preserved intact.” And he succeeded.

“Hitler’s originality lay in his realization that effective revolutions, in modern conditions, are carried out with, and not against, the power of the State: the correct order of events was first to secure access to that power and then begin his revolution. Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality; he recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side. Instead, he turned the law inside out and made illegality legal.

FINALLY!! — and after all these 80 long and desolate years of progressive-liberal-socialist-Marxist-caring-for-others nonsense, there it is: the means to Meld Ends — With Beginnings!! And the process is SO SIMPLE!! Revolt WITH the Power of the State!! Use “the cloak of legality” to make “illegality legal”!!! – and then go for it! Return to 1980!! LIBERTY!! And then, LET THE REVOLUTION BEGIN! 

For current informational details on right wing progress, feel free to contact (to name but a small handful of radical right celebs) Reince Priebus, or Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Steve King, Michele Bachmann, Paul Broun, Rick Perry, Louie Gohmert, Paul Ryan, Mike Huckabee, Rick Scott, Scott Brown, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Paul LePage, Mike Lee, Darrell Issa, Cory Gardner, Ron Johnson, or even Nevada wingnut “welfare” rancher Cliven Bundy . . . et al. et al. et al. Take your pick; ask for details from any one or all rabid right wingers whose sole goal in life appears to be nothing more than to “Make illegality legal”!!! 

So. Where are we? We have obviously traversed and passed the end of the beginning and are now clearly standing at the rear portal that defines the beginning of the end. Just the other day, in fact, Think Progress reported that Wisconsin Republican Committee Voted To Uphold ‘Wisconsin’s Right …To Secede’, and included in said report was one very telling statement, one which brusquely points to the fact that “Though there is no shortage of irony to the Party of Lincoln now morphing into the Party of Secession, this Wisconsin resolution is part of a larger pattern of conservatives questioning the legitimacy of the United States as a nation. Indeed. And a day or two ago, Nevada welfare rancher Cliven Bundy restated that same premise with near perfection when he said, “I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing.” And right wing radicals everywhere, including those on Fox news, cheered him; many anti-government ‘militiamen’ even showed up on his ranch bearing fully loaded assault weapons, apparently ready to fight that ‘final battle’ against the tyrannical government of the United States, against We the people.

Stated another way,

The “end of the beginning”
now become
“the beginning of the end”

Final question for the Kochs and for Republicans, Teabaggers, and radical right wing neo-Fascists everywhere: I know what you are against, but what are you REALLY for? When you question the legitimacy of the United States as a nation, does that mean that each and all of your attacks on the Constitution and on each and every policy that benefits We the people are solid pieces of evidence that your ultimate goal is to destroy the United States as it currently exists?

I think the technical term for that is Sedition.

Another sip of KOCH, anyone?

O*P*E*N T*H*R*E*A*D

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 12, 2014: Religion Gone Mad

I do honestly believe it is your right, in both the Constitutional and Moral sense, to hold whatever religious beliefs you want inside your own head. You can even exercise those beliefs provided your actions cause no harm to others. I’ll even go so far as to say that, as a private citizen, you have a right to try peacefully to persuade others that your religious beliefs hold a shred of validity. But what you do not have a right to do, in neither the Constitutional nor Moral sense, is force others to accept, or even worse follow, your religious beliefs. And as long as I draw breath in my body, it will always be that way in this country. It ought to be that way around the world.

Now I won’t sit here and say that Religion has never done any Good anywhere in the world. It’s clearly not true. [NOTE: Before continuing, however, I want to make clear that unless otherwise explicitly stated, when I speak of Religion in this post, I am speaking of those Religions which involve the worship of one or more Deities, of varying strengths, abilities, and fetishes.] Throughout history, many people have been motivated by their religious beliefs to treat their fellow human beings with compassion, or to seek an explanation for how things work. Sadly, and undeniably, Religion has motivated people to perform horribly unspeakable acts of inhumanity against their fellow human beings, all in the name of pleasing their particular Deity of Choice. And that’s the dark side of Religion that we Americans don’t like to discuss – the Evil that Men do in the name of Religion. People have been killed because someone else thought they worshiped the wrong gods. Which is really kind of stupid when you think about it, something those religiously-inspired murderers rarely did. These religions often require one to forsake any other gods and worship only a specific one, and not to worship the other gods which they acknowledge exist. They then teach that this one specific god was the one who created everything (including, apparently, all those other powerful gods you aren’t supposed to worship), or that while other gods existed, this one was the only one capable of creating the planet on which we all live. (Some religions – okay maybe just the one – claim that their God proudly claims to be a “jealous God,” but that Jealously is still a mortal sin for human beings because, I don’t know, it’s bad? But okay for a God to have. It’s not just hypocritical, it’s illogical. God is telling you there’s something really bad about Him. But he loves you, and he won’t ever, ever hurt you again. By Flood, anyway.)

Our Constitution prohibits our Congress from passing any law respecting an establishment of Religion. It also extends that protection for the People to each of the States so that no state can pass a law respecting an establishment of Religion. (After all, what would be the point of being an American Citizen with the religious liberty to worship as one pleases if the state within which one lives can force one to practice a different religion?) That same Constitution requires any person holding any office of public trust in the United States, before entering office, to take an oath to support and defend that same Constitution. (I took such an oath. To my knowledge, belief and practice, it had no expiration date.) So it’s reasonable to expect that a person taking such an oath would familiarize him or herself with that same Constitution. So as to not do something stupid like this.

The Great State of South Carolina (which holds the record for most Civil Wars started in our country), has advanced a bill (Pregnant Women’s Protection Act) in a Senate committee that would expand their state’s ill-conceived Stand Your Ground Law to protect unborn children, defined as having started from conception. Opponents argue that the bill is unnecessary, as pregnant women already have the right to use deadly force in self-defense, but proponents claim that this bill is intended to extend that right to the fetus, on the theory that there are things you could do to a pregnant woman that might not be deadly to her, but might be for the unborn fetus. Here’s where I have a problem with the bill (besides its existence).

The bill the panel approved also includes a definition of “unborn child” as “the offspring of human beings from conception until birth.”

Regardless of what its advocates claim, this is nothing but a backdoor attempt to deny women their right to an abortion. And the people that want to do that, almost to a person, want to do so because of their religious beliefs. They are the ones who claim that Life begins at conception, and that the unborn should have the same Constitutional rights as the born. This is absurd. They would be granting rights outside the authorization of the Constitution. It clearly states that all persons born in the United States are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein the reside. The key word there, the only one that matters in any discussion of rights, is “born.” You have to be born to have any rights as an American citizen. I recently caught a repeat of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit involving the theft of frozen embryos by activists who felt Life begins at conception. The Assistant District Attorney pointed out that in New York State, Life begins at a baby’s first breath, which is why you couldn’t prosecute a woman for murder who had a stillborn baby (a lesson, BTW, some other states need to learn.) This bill undeniably is an attempt to impose a religious view on the citizens of a state, whether or not they practice that religion. And it is morally reprehensible.

Speaking of morally reprehensible, the Great State of Louisiana is moving forward with making “the Bible” the official book of the state of Louisiana. The bill doesn’t say which version of the Bible would be the official one, because a previous version of the bill that did so met objections from some lawmakers.

Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, said he sponsored the proposal after a constituent made the request. But Carmody insisted the bill wasn’t designed to be a state-endorsement of Christianity or a specific religion.

“It’s not to the exclusion of anyone else’s sacred literature,” he told the House committee. Again, later he said, “This is not about establishing an official religion of the state of Louisiana.”

Except that it is. What Conservative Christians often forget is that not everybody thinks or believes as they do. And they forget that other religions do not refer to their holy books as “the Bible.” In fact, that’s pretty much limited to Christianity (in most of its myriad forms.) Jews do not follow a Bible, nor do Muslims. So saying your state’s “official book” is a sacred text specific to one form of religion is endorsing that religion. How could it not be? When you make something your “official book,” you are, by definition, choosing it to the exclusion of all other books, religious or not. That’s the whole point of making it “official.” It’s like saying your state’s official bird is “the web-footed bird,” but not any specific web-footed bird, then trying to say you’re not endorsing aquatic fowl over all other forms of bird. Of course you are. And if the Constitution read “Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of bird,” your official state bird would be unconstitutional. And you couldn’t say it’s not to the exclusion of all other birds (because it is), and you couldn’t say it’s not an endorsement of any particular kind of bird, because it is.

Your religious freedom ends at my body. You have no right, neither Constitutional nor Moral, to force me to accept your religious beliefs as valid or irrefutable. And you have no right to force me to live by those religious beliefs. So stop trying to do so.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss religious freedom, Stand Your Ground, bibles, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 5, 2014: Tea Party Nonsense – Again

Two and a quarter centuries later and some people still do not understand the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment means that we have a Separation of Church and State in this country. And it’s important enough to capitalize it that way: Separation of Church and State. I don’t know how many people realize this but unlike many other countries (including some of our closest allies), the United States by design does not have an official religion. And that’s precisely why no one, not even the government, can force you to worship his God. That doesn’t make us Godless Communists; it means we have a diversity of religious thought in this country. (Which begs the question, “How could any of them be right?” But that’s a topic for another post, as my grandmother used to say. She was very forward-thinking for someone who died twenty years before Al Gore invented the internet.) So I get a little nervous when people start claiming that God is on their side. Because some of the worst atrocities in human history were committed by people who thought that God was on their side.

Howard Kooligan of the Tea Party Express is someone who makes me nervous. Not only does he claim that God is on his side (well, on the side of the Tea Party People), he also opposes the efforts of some of us on the Left to reduce income inequality. The thing is, not only is his rationale completely Biblical, it’s completely wrong.

I think it’s very important that churches get involved and that Christians follow the dictates of biblical principles in casting their vote. I think it’s clear that God has a position on many of the things we deem political today, from life to theft to the doctrine of covetousness, which by the way seems to be the promotion of the left. You know, they talk about ‘income inequality,’ well what is that but covetousness? So how could somebody support that cause if they’re biblical believing Christians?

He’s totally wrong. We don’t covet the wealth of the 1%-ers, some of whom pay a lower effective tax rate on their millions in unearned income than I pay on the money I busted my ass to make. We recognize that too much wealth accumulated in the hands of a few people is not only bad for the economy, it’s bad for Society. We feel that they should be taxed much higher on any new income they make, especially unearned income such as money from investments and stock trading. But we don’t want the money for ourselves, as Kooligan wrongly presumes. We want it used to help people less fortunate than ourselves. We want it used to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. We want it used to bolster our public education system, because why should knowledge only be for the privileged? Sure, we could all use the extra money (since we’re not the billionaires who don’t need the money), but we on the Left know that there are plenty of people out there who need it more than we do. But unlike many on the Right, we’re not greedy. Liberals believe in Cooperation over Competition. And many of us Liberals, including those who believe in God, believe that we must solve Humanity’s problems ourselves, and not wish for divine intervention. Did God ever stop a war started in His name?

That’s why Rick Scarborough of Tea Party Unity scares me. He has no interest in Humanity working out its problems. He wants help straight from the top.

If we do our part then I’m confident that the God of Heaven will intervene. This country has been on the brink of complete disaster and collapse in several occasions in our national history. During the Roaring Twenties, socially this country was on the brink and deserved judgment; go back during the pre-Civil War era when we were buying and selling human beings, we deserved God’s judgment. But there was always a thread of Christians active in politics who didn’t lose sight of the prize and did what they could and God intervened, and that’s what I pray for and work for in this latter period of our national history. No matter what we do, if God doesn’t intervene the country is lost. But I know this, all the prayers in the world won’t change this country and God’s not going to act if those of us who I call the remnant don’t get involved, pay the price, like you’re doing, so I encourage you to continue doing that.

First of all, isn’t “the God of Heaven” a redundant thing for a good Christian to say? After all, the First Commandment pretty much settles the issue of which God they worship. Do Christians believe in any other gods, that are located in places other than Heaven? They’re not supposed to, so why say it like that? Second of all, the Great Depression which followed the Roaring Twenties was not the judgment of God but the result of Conservative fiscal policies. And, third, how could anyone who supposedly read his Bible believe that God opposed the buying and selling of human beings? There’s all kinds of advice about slaves in the Bible including how to get them, how much you can beat them (if they survive a day or two, you’re okay), and how much sex you can have with your female slaves. Do we really want the Supreme Being who came up with that to be the one who “saves” us? No thanks. I’ll take my chances with the secular human crowd. They’re free on weekends.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss the idiots of the tea party, or any other topic you wish.

The Watering Hole, Monday, February 17th, 2014: Pick an Issue?

I’m sure that I’m not the only one among us Critters and Zoosters who received this email survey from Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) asking, “What should Congress focus on in 2014?”

Which issue matters most to you in 2014?

__Keeping Our Promise to Seniors by Protecting Social Security & Medicare

__Strengthening Our Manufacturing Economy

__Raising the Minimum Wage

__Protecting Women’s Health and Freedom

__Tax Reform That Rewards Hard Work

__Working to Lower Healthcare Costs

__Supporting Small Business Startups

__Investing in Innovation, Science, Research and Technology

Other:

I went with “Other”, more or less:

While most of the above are important issues in my view (“Protecting Women’s Health and Freedom” and “Investing in Innovation, Science, Research and Technology” in particular), I believe that the single most important issue that impacts the future of this country is EDUCATION. We need children who are taught critical thinking, in order to have the ‘Innovation, Science, Research and Technology’ in which to invest. Stressing the basics in: reading (especially reading comprehension); spelling (because words are spelt the way they are for good reason); vocabulary (because words mean what they mean due to their evolution through history); math skills; and the basics in the sciences and technologies, are all paramount. Investing in the future means investing in schools, teachers, and (most importantly) young citizens’ minds.

Really, with all of the problems that our country faces, there are so many important issues to be addressed that it’s impossible to say which is MOST important. And some issues which I would have thought were important are not even on the list, i.e, gun control, environmental issues (climate change, fossil fuel pollution of several sorts, etc.), our failing infrastructure…(sigh) I could go on, but you get the idea.

How would you respond to Senator Baldwin’s survey?

This is our daily open thread–you can answer the survey if you wish, or talk about whatever you want!

The Watering Hole, February 1, 2014: Christie is Not Yet Buttered

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is toast, he’s just not buttered yet. In a letter to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey requesting they reconsider their decision not to pay the legal fees of former Christie Administration official David Wildstein, who resigned after reports surfaced that he was the one who ordered lanes going to the George Washington Bridge be closed the first week of school last year, it was asserted that “evidence exists” which contradicts the governor’s claim that he knew nothing about the lane closings until he read about them in the paper after they had re-opened. The nature of that evidence is not revealed in the letter, which reads in part:

It has also come to light that a person within the Christie Administration communicated the Christie Administration’s order that certain lanes on the George Washington Bridge were to be closed, and evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the Governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference he gave immediately before Mr. Wildstein was scheduled to appear before the Transportation Committee. Mr. Wildstein contests the accuracy of various statements the Governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some.

Precisely which statements of Governor Christie’s can be proven false is not made clear.

Should Mr. Wildstein’s allegations prove true, that he has evidence which contradicts the Governor’s pleas of ignorance, there is no way that Christie can survive as Governor of New Jersey, let alone run for President in 2016. He has publicly stated many times that his administration was a reflection of him, and of the way he wanted to run New Jersey. And with information being reported that many of his top administration officials were involved in this bridge lane closing, people he consulted with on a daily basis, it’s becoming harder and harder to believe that the Governor himself knew nothing about the bridge lane closings while they were happening. Which was the central theme of his now-famous two-hour presser. And it would be bad enough if this whole using-federal-property-for-political-retaliation (which is why the bridge lane closings are now the subject of a federal investigation) was the only scandal facing the administration. It’s not.

Enter Hoboken, New Jersey, Mayor Dawn Zimmer. A couple of weeks back Mayor Zimmer made the public allegation that New Jersey Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno told her that if she would move on approving a land development deal tied to another Christie Administration official, her town might receive federal Hurricane Sandy relief money faster. “In an interview with MSNBC early today, Zimmer said Guadagno — the state’s first-ever lieutenant governor — pulled her aside during an event in Hoboken in May and made the connection explicit.”

“She pulls me aside and says that I need to move forward with the Rockefeller project. It’s very important to the governor,” Zimmer said, referencing a journal she kept during the interaction. “The word is that you are against it and you need to move forward or we are not going to be able to help you. I know it’s not right. These things should not be connected. But they are,” she says. “‘If you tell anyone I said it, I will deny it,’” Zimmer said, quoting from her personal journal.

Mayor Zimmer told several people about the conversation after it happened, and some of them have publicly confirmed that they were told this. But at the request of the U.S. Attorney investigating this alleged bribery of federal funds, none of those people are talking to the media anymore. Lt. Gov. Guadagno has denied the allegations as “illogical.” On a personal note, I did not find her denials credible, and the contention that Mayor Zimmer’s claims were “illogical” seems rooted in the idea that it would have been wrong of the Lt. Gov. to make the kinds of threats she did, so that’s all the proof one needs that she didn’t do it. That doesn’t work for me. If Mayor Zimmer is telling the truth (and I personally believe she is), then a denial is exactly what we would expect to hear. In fact, I would have been shocked if Lt. Gov. Guadagno confirmed the story, especially since she would go to jail if she did. The primary problem for the Christie Administration is that the evidence seems to support the allegations made against it, and its own claims of innocence do not strike people who know them as true. Even worse, as more stories come out, it appears that incidents surrounding the GWB lane closings and the Sandy Relief money (which also include charges that the Christie administration gave a contract to a firm who had a higher bid but who wanted to use the governor in the commercials, right before his re-election bid) are not isolated, and that more is yet to come.

And that’s why New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is toast. He’s just not buttered yet. But he will be. It’s just a matter of time.

This is our daily open thread. feel free to discuss Chris Christie, his administration, his denials of the charges against him, or anything else that strikes your fancy.

The Watering Hole; Thursday January 16 2014; “The Things That Are More Excellent”

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve long enjoyed a fondness for poetry, particularly poetry written by those of brilliant mind. There are numerous familiar names, of course, a few of which are Aeschylus, Omar Khayyam, Robert Burns, William Wordsworth, Percy Shelley, Emily Dickinson — the list is long and incredibly accomplished. There are, also and of course, many more accomplished poets of less familiar name, but whose work stands as tall as any.

In that latter vein, it was while rummaging through some old poetry files just the other day that I happened across this little ‘masterpiece’ by the British poet Sir William Watson (1858-1935). Watson probably wrote it somewhere around 100 years ago, give or take a decade, but curiously enough the ideas expressed in it seem to be so amazingly up to date as to suggest he wrote it just last week! I suppose the embedded message in that little factoid is that most likely throughout the vast bulk of human existence, if ideas and concepts are to change at all, said change invariably proceeds only with unimaginable lethargy.

Watson’s poem, quoted below, contains nine verses of eight lines each, and in which the final line of each verse is a repeat of the Poem’s title, “The things that are more excellent.” In the first seven verses he speaks of, resp., things that are NOT ‘more excellent,’ including (1) material possessions, (2) politics, (3) social issues subject to a prejudiced agenda of one or another sort, (4) the burdens of fetishes (“fetich”), (5) a demanding God and the religious practices therein implicit, (6) the conflict of the ‘social ramble’ with the natural world, and (7) the accumulation of wealth and power. Those aren’t quite the Seven Deadly Sins, but it’s probably safe to assume all of ‘SALIGIA’ is embedded in there somewhere!

In verses 8 and 9, Watson lays out with reasonable precision that which he sees as defining of “The Things That Are More Excellent” including friendships and understanding, science, art, knowledge, a liberal mindset, the sprawl of Nature, and life itself. I can find no argument with any of his conclusions.

So, without further ado, here it is, complete and unfettered. Enjoy!

THE THINGS THAT ARE MORE EXCELLENT
by William Watson

As we wax older on this earth,
Till many a toy that charmed us seems
Emptied of beauty, stripped of worth,
And mean as dust and dead as dreams,–
For gauds that perished, shows that passed,
Some recompense the Fates have sent:
Thrice lovelier shine the things that last,
The things that are more excellent.

Tired of the Senate’s barren brawl,
An hour with silence we prefer,
Where statelier rise the woods than all
Yon towers of talk at Westminster.
Let this man prate and that man plot,
On fame or place or title bent:
The votes of veering crowds are not
The things that are more excellent.

Shall we perturb and vex our soul
For “wrongs” which no true freedom mar,
Which no man’s upright walk control,
And from no guiltless deed debar?
What odds though tonguesters heal, or leave
Unhealed, the grievance they invent?
To things, not phantoms, let us cleave–
The things that are more excellent.

Nought nobler is, than to be free:
The stars of heaven are free because
In amplitude of liberty
Their joy is to obey the laws.
From servitude to freedom’s name
Free thou thy mind in bondage pent;
Depose the fetich, and proclaim
The things that are more excellent.

And in appropriate dust be hurled
That dull, punctilious god, whom they
That call their tiny clan the world,
Serve and obsequiously obey:
Who con their ritual of Routine,
With minds to one dead likeness blent,
And never ev’n in dreams have seen
The things that are more excellent.

To dress, to call, to dine, to break
No canon of the social code,
The little laws that lacqueys make,
The futile decalogue of Mode,–
How many a soul for these things lives,
With pious passion, grave intent!
While Nature careless-handed gives
The things that are more excellent.

To hug the wealth ye cannot use,
And lack the riches all may gain,–
O blind and wanting wit to choose,
Who house the chaff and burn the grain!
And still doth life with starry towers
Lure to the bright, divine ascent!–
Be yours the things ye would: be ours
The things that are more excellent.

The grace of friendship–mind and heart
Linked with their fellow heart and mind;
The gains of science, gifts of art;
The sense of oneness with our kind;
The thirst to know and understand–
A large and liberal discontent:
These are the goods in life’s rich hand,
The things that are more excellent.

In faultless rhythm the ocean rolls,
A rapturous silence thrills the skies;
And on this earth are lovely souls,
That softly look with aidful eyes.
Though dark, O God, Thy course and track,
I think Thou must at least have meant
That nought which lives should wholly lack
The things that are more excellent.

Note that if, in the second verse, the word ‘Westminster’ is changed to ‘Washington’ the entire context pretty much automatically vaults ahead a century to the present moment, and at that point defines the hell-hole in which resides our “government” — a contrivance that most certainly does not even approach  much less begin to comprehend ANY of those “Things That Are More Excellent.” As Watson put it, Tired of the Senate’s barren brawl, / An hour with silence we prefer / . . . / Let this man prate and that man plot, / On fame or place or title bent: /

The votes of veering crowds are not
The things that are more excellent.

Amen.

If I were to make a wild guess it would be that, were he around today, William Watson would NOT be one of the myriad who never ev’n in dreams have seen / The things that are more excellent.”  In other words, he would not be Republican, nor a wingnut, nor a teabagger, nor a politician of any description. Watson, in fact, ‘saw himself as a lifelong enemy of tyranny’ so there can be no doubt that he would still, today, continue to be precisely that which first and foremost he always was: a Poet capable of penning Universal Truth.

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Sunday Roast: Giving the unemployed the finger

In the face of empirical evidence that unemployment benefits help boost the economy, Congress went ahead and let the benefit expire for 1.3 million people — with another round of cuts coming right up.

Yes, I said “people.”  Not slackers, takers, losers, or lazy fucks, as Republicans and Tea Party morons like call the long term unemployed.

Officially, there are three people applying for every job in this country, but with so many people off the official unemployment roles (like me) — because their benefits ran out long ago, they’re so discouraged and depressed they don’t even look for work anymore, or they’re elderly or disabled — the actual number of people applying for each job is probably eight to ten.  Far too many of those jobs have absolutely no benefits, and don’t pay enough to keep a roof over your head AND keep the lights and heat on AND eat halfway decently.  Pick one!

But listen to the GOP/Tea Party, and you’ll hear patronizing statements that unemployment benefits make people lazy, shiftless slobs, who will feed off the government teat forever — this from career politicians who feed off the government teat.  Apparently, the best way to get people off unemployment is to just let the funds run dry, and accuse hard-working Americans of being lazy, blood-sucking shits, rather than actually passing a jobs bill (hey, the President has one!) or a sufficient stimulus bill.  Oh yes, they’ll extend unemployment benefits, but children, veterans, the elderly, and the hungry are damn well going to pay for it — unlike in the Bush years, where nothing was paid for EVER, and the GOP were happy as clams.

And gee whiz, where did all this unemployment come from anyway?  Let’s all ignore the FACT that George W. Bush crashed the economy in 2008, and had been hemorrhaging jobs out of this country long before the crash.  No no no, all this unemployment is because of President Obama’s socialist, fascist, Marxist, commie, pinko, nazi policies — again, flying in the face of actual evidence to the contrary — not because of constant Republican obstruction and blatant refusal to do the work they were sent to Washington DC to do.

Do you know how long they’ll keep doing this to the people of this country?  Yes, the people — do you actually think YOU are immune to GOP policies?  They’ll keep doing it as long as the people stay silent; as long as the people stay out of the voting booth; and as long as they can keep the people fighting among ourselves over things like the “War on Christmas,” so-called religious persecution, taxes (except the taxes of the top 1% aka the “job creators”), and other social issues that are only the business of those actually involved.

Pay no attention to the 97 days the millionaires in the House of Representatives will work this year — naming post offices, repealing Obamacare again, and railing against dirty, dirty women who want unfettered access to birth control, because they just don’t want to push out an unwanted baby every year — or their rapist’s baby EVER.  No, of course, lazy blood-sucking GOP/Tea Partiers aren’t the problem — it’s the unemployed.

Right.

This is our daily open thread — Discuss whatever.

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 4th, 2013: Bellies Up!

After mulling over possible topics for today’s thread, I decided to dispense with the craziness out there (Rand Paul’s chickenshit non-challenge to a duel with Rachel Maddow was tempting, but…) and just start the week off with:

CUTENESS!

Baby Panda (not my photo)

Baby Panda (not my photo)

surrender to cuddles

Fluff's big belly (photo by Jane E. Schneider)

Fluff’s big belly (photo by Jane E. Schneider)

Spotted-bellied Fern (photo by Jane E. Schneider)

Troi's belly before...

Troi’s big belly before…(photo by Jane E. Schneider)

Troi's belly now (photo by Jane E. Schneider)

…Troi’s big belly now (photo by Jane E. Schneider)

This is our daily open thread — I hope that so much cuteness will help to start Monday off in a cheerful way.

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 21st, 2013: Mixed Nuts

First, Foreign Policy Magazine got a little ‘spacy’ towards the end of the shutdown, with author Michael Peck penning a pair of fantasy articles titled “The Empire Shuts Down” and “One Starship to Rule Them All”

Next, this piece from moneynews.com, features the always-wild-looking “economist” Jim Cramer prognosticating – and perhaps precipitating, if anyone pays attention to him – the shakiness of the dollar. An excerpt:

As the world laughs at Washington’s antics, CNBC’s Jim Cramer says smart money should look for any possible means to flee the dollar.

The United States is “a laughing stock around the world, maybe worse than Italy in some ways when I look at benchmarks,” he said on Squawk Box. “We have obviously lost the faith of a lot of countries.”

If there is a way to take your money out of this country, Cramer suggests putting it in Germany. If he were in the shoes of China, Kuwait, Brazil or Japan, “I would do it immediately,” he claimed.

Third, from Newsmax.com, Amy Woods has a piece on another peanut gallery member: “Sen. Coburn: ‘We’re Drunk’ on Government Spending.” Here’s a bit:

“Special-interest groups, and not the tea party, caused the 17-day government shutdown, Sen. Tom Coburn said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“We didn’t do anything except create a big mess in Washington, and I’m not so inclined to think it was the tea party as much as it was outside interest groups and a few individuals within our party that took advantage of that situation,” Coburn said. All the bickering about the Affordable Care Act distracted Americans from the fact the government spends too much, he added.

Next, an October 19th article from Alternet brings us “Right-Wing Lunacy Never Sleeps: 10 Nutty, Vile and Absurd Utterances From the Fringe This Week.” In this round-up, Justice Antonin Scalia reaffirms his racism, Tony Perkins babbles some nonsense about Democrats wanting a theocracy, Glenn Beck and Pat Buchanan continue to howl in the wilderness, and more.

Finally, also courtesy of Newsmax, the other gum-flapping self-important Limbaugh, David, proves that he is just as delusional as his louder brother in “GOP Poised for Post-Shutdown Comeback”:

“Obamacare represented not only one of many policy setbacks under Obama but also the ever-acquisitive government’s consumption of another one-sixth of the formerly capitalist and robust American economy.”

[That's a load of horseshit, David, enough with the fake "government takeover of healthcare" bogeyman. Last I looked, the U.S. is still a capitalist nation, and the last time we had a "robust American economy" was under a Democrat, President Bill Clinton.]

“Then Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee ratcheted it up a notch, going to the Senate to call Obama out on his destructive agenda and promising to do everything they can to defund and derail Obamacare. Cruz’s 20-plus-hour floor speech was a seminar in the eloquent communication of conservative principles.”

["...eloquent communication of conservative principles"? 'Green Eggs and Ham'? I don't think that David Limbaugh (or his louder brother, for that matter) watched the entirety of Cruz's rambling and sometimes incoherent "seminar."]

“Just as my brother, Rush, gave millions of conservatives hope through his radio show by validating the legitimacy of their beliefs, Cruz, Paul, and Lee let us know that we have people in office fighting for us, as well.

“I reject the conventional wisdom that Cruz and his warriors hurt our cause by increasing the likelihood of our defeat in 2014. To the contrary, they enhanced our cause by energizing the base and fighting. And they laid serious gloves on Obama; his approval rating has never been lower. They also gave him an opportunity, which he fully embraced, to demonstrate his mean-spiritedness, his pettiness, and his dishonesty for all to see.

“The shutdown was not the disaster he promised any more than sequestration has been; he was hyper-partisan and gratuitously punitive during the ordeal; and his egregious misrepresentations about Obamacare were manifesting themselves throughout.”

[Sorry, but to Rush Limbaugh, the word "hope" is part of a punchline, certainly not something that Rush ever gave to his Rushbots. You can "reject conventional wisdom" all you want, but that doesn't mean that conventional wisdom, in this case, is wrong. Obama's approval rating is currently around 50%, according to a recent Rasmussen poll; on the other hand, according to the Gainesville Times, a new poll puts Congress's approval rating at an all-time low at 5%. I'm not sure exactly what planet David Limbaugh, along with the other mixed nuts listed above, inhabits, but it must be a particularly miserable place to dwell.]

This is our Open Thread. Go ahead, get cracking!

The Watering Hole; Thursday October 17, 2013; “Democracy Under Assault”

In a recent Op-Ed on Truthout.org concerning the GOP-Tea Party economic agenda, longtime Professor of Economics Richard Wolff made note of an obvious and history-verified truism, that “Many Germans in the years before 1933 dismissed the little man with the mustache: He could never take power, let alone keep it.” They were, of course, woefully mistaken, and millions from around the world died in result. Are we about to find ourselves on that same cliff edge? True, we don’t seem to have, at least at this point in time, any little man with the mustache, but we surely do have far too many who appear to think much as he did. They call themselves the Tea Party, and to at least the casual eye they do indeed have a very similar agenda embedded within the shallowness of their self-imposed political and religious fanaticism, one that reads something like . . .

“An evil exists that threatens every man, woman, and child of this great nation. We must take steps to ensure our domestic security and protect our homeland.” (1)

It May Be Hard to Believe, But GOP Will Become Even More Extreme, Respected Political Forecasters Say.  So reads the title of an article written by Stephen Rosenfeld in which he discusses the conclusions reached by Stan Greenberg, James Carville and Erica Seifert in their recent analysis of a series of focus groups from three red states. Rosenfeld summarizes their findings by noting that the resulting “Democracy Corps report is an illuminating profile of the GOP’s three main factions: the Tea Partiers leading today’s brinkmanship, the evangelicals lining up behind them, and overlooked but still significant moderates. At the front of this stampede are right-wingers who believe they are fighting for political survival in an era where white-run America is vanishing and they’ve lost the culture war.” He also remarks with no equivocation that the “analysis portends that the Tea Partiers and Evangelicals, comprising more than half of the party, will ramp up the rhetoric, accuse Obama of tyranny and possibly even pursue impeachment.

On the broadest scale, it doesn’t require a lot of imagination to grasp the fact that the Tea Party’s Evangelical faction is a major driving force behind much of today’s GOP intransigence; attitudes can be contagious, after all, especially when goals are so simple to define. Their primary operating premise seems to be, simply stated, that the government should, and in fact must, accept that

“. . . its first and foremost duty [is] to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life.” (2)  [underscore added for emphasis]

Amanda Marcotte carries the Evangelical intransigent attitude thesis forward in her essay entitled, Four Reasons Right-Wing Christians Salivate for the End times.  She begins by noting that “While there’s much about the Christian right that’s difficult for the rest of us to understand, the preoccupation with the ‘end times’ is close to the top of the list.” She points out that Three out of four evangelicals believe Christ will return soon. This is, of course, mostly wishful thinking—they believe they’re seeing the end of the world because they want to see the end of the world. Why . . . ?”   According to Marcotte, their Four Reasons are:

1. They don’t think they’ll be around for the worst of it.
2. The end of the world would mean they get to have the last word.
3. It provides a distraction from and an excuse to avoid the real problems in the world.
4. They want to see the non-believers punished and themselves instated as the rightful rulers of all mankind.

After a brief analysis of each point, she posits that their “eagerness to see the non-believers punished is so strong in the Christian right that many are unwilling to wait until the so-called “Tribulation” described in the Left Behind books, and to a lesser degree the Bible, is upon us. That’s why, after any great tragedy, there is a rush of eager-beaver pastors willing to say this is what people have coming for being sinners . . .”

“If . . . we are decent, industrious, and honest, if we so loyally and truly fulfill our duty, then it is my conviction that in the future as in the past the Lord God will always help us.” (3)

“Democracy Under Assault”  is the title of a book (published in September of 2004 and summarized here) by author Michele Swenson. Its subtitle reads, “Theopolitics, Incivility and Violence on the Right.” The book is based on the not-so-elusive thesis that theology-based politics invariably see  Christianity as the foundation of our national morality and in so doing, disavow/dismiss science entirely — especially the science which underlies and defines evolution, environmentalism, the thesis that intelligent life may exist elsewhere in the universe than on the Earth — or, for that matter, any other ‘inconvenient’ (read: anti-Christian) science-based premise. Interesting that the book is every bit (if not more) ‘current’ today than it was upon its publication nine years ago; that fact tells a rather gruesome tale, it would seem.

A pair of 2006 reviews of the book on Amazon.com vividly demonstrate the intellectual divide that continues to run rampant in this country. A five-star review proclaims the book to be . . .

“An in-depth examination of the war against pluralistic democracy waged by an unholy alliance of religious nationalists, the hard-core gun lobby, corporate plutocrats and anti-tax, anti-government activists. The book describes the fractured church-state divide, assaults on the independent judiciary, resurrected nineteenth-century science and socioeconomic Darwinism, as well as the revisionist history marking the U.S. rightward political turn.”

And then there’s this one, a one-star review:

“This book saddened me to the depths….I finally had to discard it. I love my country and am heavy-hearted to read such hatred toward people of faith.”

In summary, who knows but what many might one day soon agree that the Tea Party and other factions defined as extreme right do indeed see themselves as convincing evidence that

“It makes no difference whatever whether they laugh at us or revile us, whether they represent us as clowns or criminals; the main thing is that they mention us, that they concern themselves with us again and again, and that we gradually in the eyes of the workers themselves appear to be the only power that anyone reckons with at the moment.” (4)

The last nearly three weeks of government shutdown — along with, of course, the technique of holding the nation’s economic future hostage (simply as an attempt to force the hand of those in government who actually understand they serve ALL of ‘We the people’ rather than just the Evangelical and Neofascist factions) — demonstrate with no hesitation that the United States finds itself, this day, in serious and perhaps even ultimately fatal trouble. Stated another way,

“The greatness of every mighty organization embodying an idea in this world lies in the religious fanaticism and intolerance with which, fanatically convinced of its own right, it intolerantly imposes its will against all others.” (5)

Time will tell.

Oh, and by the way, I purposely left the quotes numbered 1-5 above unattributed when presented in order to make perhaps a larger case, to ultimately offer a broadened summation, as it were, of the “Democracy Under Assault” thesis. In that vein, suffice to say that each and all are the verbatim words of one person only. And no, that person is not Pat Robertson, not Jerry Falwell, it’s not even Rafael “Ted” Cruz or Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin. Nope. The words belong solely to that “little man with the mustache,” Adolf Hitler. Political fanaticism, stoked by religious fanaticism, is apparently a permanently-recurring human condition/affliction, one that is currently underway in the United States courtesy of the melding of the Evangelical biblical literalists with the Fascist contingent of the GOP, those far right fanatics that proudly call themselves the Tea Party. Thus, the history of power acquisition via fear, via greed, is in the process of repeating once again. Here. Here where the attitude of the masses remains the traditional, where the process of “Democracy Under Assault” by political radicals and religious fanatics is by and large “dismissed” by we the people on the basis that they “could never take power, let alone keep it.”

And lest we forget or choose to ignore, here stands a rather vivid statement of method, words which will, with luck, serve to remind:

“(T)he determined gangster is always in a position to make political activity and efforts impossible for decent people. In the name of law and order, the state authority gives in to the gangster and requests the others please not to provoke him.  –Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf   [underscore added for emphasis]

Or, as above-noted Economics Professor Richard Wolff put it,

“The Republican-Tea Party alliance operates a weapon of mass deflection, protecting capitalism from criticism. Sadly, the Democrats neither expose nor attack the Republican project.[underscore added for emphasis]

For further information on the undercurrents which predict and precurse the evolution of democracy to fascism, see: Actung, sie verlassen JETZT den Americanischen Sektor.

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