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.

OPEN THREAD

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.

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 7th, 2013: All the Crazy That Fits

It’s been a while since I put on my hip waders and stepped into Newsmax, so here’s a few gems:

From “Rev. Billy Graham Prepares ‘Perhaps … My Last Message’” by David A. Patton:

“In an exclusive interview, the Rev. Billy Graham tells Newsmax that President Obama’s “hope and change” mantra is nothing more than a cliché and warns that the nation faces increasing threats to civil and religious liberties from its government.

Graham, who is preparing for possibly his last crusade, this time via video, said America is drenched in a “sea of immorality” and suggested that the second coming of Christ is “near.”

“Our early fathers led our nation according to biblical principles,” Graham wrote in response. “‘Hope and change’ has become a cliché in our nation, and it is daunting to think that any American could hope for change from what God has blessed,” he stated, an obvious reference to President Obama’s campaign motto.

“Our country is turning away from what has made it so great,” he continued, “but far greater than the government knowing our every move that could lead to losing our freedom to worship God publicly, is to know that God knows our every thought; he knows our hearts need transformation.” ~~~

Many believing Christians believe in a coming Armageddon, a final battle between good and evil prophesied in the book of Revelation.

Graham tells Newsmax it is not wise to “speculate” about the dates of such a battle, but he adds that the Bible says that there “will be signs pointing toward the return of the Lord.”

“I believe all of these signs are evident today,” Graham wrote, adding that “the return of Christ is near.

“Regardless of what society says, we cannot go on much longer in the sea of immorality without judgment coming,” he says.”

Next, from “Rove: Obama Wants to ‘Break the Republicans’” by Amy Woods:

“Republican strategist Karl Rove on Sunday described President Barack Obama’s behavior throughout the budget showdown as “stubborn obstructionism” whose goal is to “get more money and break the Republicans.”

“The stubborn obstructionism of the president … has a purpose, which is to try and get the Congress to agree to the Senate Democrats’ spending number, which is $91 billion bigger than the House, and bust the sequester, and end the 2011 spending agreements,” Rove said on “Fox News Sunday.” “He is attempting to put the responsibility for raising the debt ceiling and, in fact, naming the amount of the debt ceiling on the Congress and not on himself.”

Third, from “Rand Paul: Democrats’ Stubbornness Keeping Government Closed” by Sandy Fitzgerald:

“Paul denied that House Republicans led to the shutdown by refusing to fund the government.

“The House Republicans said they would fund all of government, and they did,” Paul said. “They funded all of government short of one program. So they really were never wanting to shut down government over this, they were wanting to fund government, and then have a debate.”

He further blamed Obama for his refusal to negotiate for the shutdown.

“When you say the president wants 100 percent of Obamacare or he will shut down the government, that’s exactly what happened,” said Paul. “If he [Obama] doesn’t get 100 percent of his way – his way or the highway – then they won’t do any spending bills that don’t include everything that he wants. That’s him unwilling to negotiate, that’s him being unwilling to compromise.”

Had enough? How about one more? From “Rep. Graves: Obama To Blame if Country Defaults” by Amy Woods:

“Georgia Republican Rep. Tom Graves said Sunday the party is “united” in its belief the government should re-open and negotiations with Democrats should continue to avoid a possible economic default over the debt ceiling.

“We have had a tremendous fight over keeping the government open and protecting Americans from Obamacare,” Graves said on “Fox News Sunday.” “There’s no reason to default. The president’s the only one demanding default right now.”

Sorry, but I have to throw this last link in, just for laughs: Another one by Bill Hoffman, “From Senate to Center Stage: Fred Thompson Makes Broadway Debut”. The author of the piece completely omits any mention of Thompson’s disastrous run for the Presidency, or the fact that Thompson’s most recent “acting” gig has been on ‘Reverse-Mortgage’ commercials.

This is our Open Thread. Have at it!

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 2nd, 2013: Whose American Dream?

On a weekend which is supposed to celebrate the lowly worker and his/her hard-fought-for rights, and less than a week after Republicans refused to participate in the celebration marking the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, hard-core conservatives gathered in Florida to “Defend” a much different “Dream.”

Most Americans, like King, might describe the American Dream as one of fairness, an America where hard work, thriftiness, integrity, compassion, and sharing were among the most admirable characteristics. Most Americans dream of a life of somewhat limited goals, i.e., a nice house in a decent neighborhood, enough earnings to perhaps travel, to afford a few little luxuries, indulge in a hobby – generally, to be content and free from everyday financial worry.

Others trivialize both this type of American Dream and the dreamers who dream it, and hold in contempt those who cannot, through no fault of their own, achieve such a minor goal. To them, the American Dream is one of unfettered greed, and those who do not dream ‘big’ are not worthy of their consideration, let alone assistance. And these dreamers of greed went to Florida to “Defend The American Dream.”

Yes, the “Defending The American Dream Summit” was held in Orlando this past weekend, sponsored by your friendly neighborhood free-market-unregulated-capitalism group “Americans For Prosperity”, along with such proud bastions of integrity as The Blaze, Townhall.com/Townhall Magazine, and Altria. Who, you might ask (as I did) is Altria? From their website:

“For more than 180 years, Altria’s companies have built some of the best-known brands in the world – Marlboro, Copenhagen, Skoal and Black & Mild – that today lead their respective categories.”

Yeah, big tobacco.

The only sponsor that may be non-partisan/bipartisan, (based on its client list), is Tray, Inc., a marketing firm.

From “About The Summit”:

“In this banner event, free-market champions from Main Street to Capitol Hill come together for an unforgettable weekend with a shared desire to advance the time-honored ideals of economic freedom.

All around us a battle of ideas rages, and the very fabric of American prosperity is under attack. Now more than ever, we must be alert, involved, and engaged in the fight for freedom and liberty.”

The group of speakers touted include some of our favorite rabid righties: Senator Ted Cruz, Governor Bobby Jindal, Senator Ron Johnson, Governor Rick Perry, Michelle Malkin, Governor Voldemort Rick Scott, and total whack-job David Horowitz – more on him later.

From the Summit Agenda, some of the “Defending The Dream” Summit Breakout Sessions”:
-Bully on the Playground: Beat Back the Bureaucrats (Policy Session)
-Get Past the Gotchas: Staying in Control (Social Media & Messaging Session)
-Medicaid Expansion: Breaking the Bank While Cheating the Poor (Policy Session)
-Freedom in Decline: How Big Government is Ruining Your Future (Youth Oriented Session)
-The Green Monster: Subsidizing Failure in Renewable Energy (Policy Session)

One of the “exhibitors” at the DTD Summit is Go For The Heart – yeah, I never heard of it either. The website says ‘About’ itself:

“Go For the Heart, Inc. is a private non-profit corporation
dedicated to defending the principles of a free society
and to training conservative activists, strategists,
legislators and candidates in the art of political war.”

Its ‘Mission Statement’:

“Conservatives do not have a response to the attacks leveled at them during the Election Cycle as the “party of the rich” and “the oppressors of women, minorities and the poor.” Go For The Heart will equip and empower elected officials, candidates, campaign professionals, grassroots activists, and the conservative youth with the messaging tools to blunt the baseless attacks by Liberals and to be successful in winning elections for conservatives, whether Democrats, Libertarians, Republicans or Independents.”

Guess who seems to be in charge at Go For the Heart? Well, the “Go For The Heart in A Nutshell” video features David Horowitz – as do the downloadable publications offered. Yes, David Horowitz, again. [NOTE: I did not have the stomach to watch the video - do you?]

While there has been little reporting on what each speaker said, that little is enough to show just how extreme and divided the speakers and other conservatives really are. Marco Rubio received mixed greetings due to his lack of Tea Party purity over immigration, as reported by The Washington Post as well as at Breitbart.com:

From Breitbart: “Heckling calls of “no amnesty” and “Secure the border” were heard around the room and throughout Rubio’s presentation. In fact, calls of “traitor” were even heard in some corners of the audience. The catcalls proved that few were pleased with Mr. Rubio.”

But, again, that pesky David Horowitz delivered the most ironically delusional fantasy that I’ve heard in a while, calling the president “…the most brazen and compulsive liar to ever occupy the White House…”

“The reason we don’t attack him is obvious, but no one will say it out loud. I will: It’s because the color of his skin is black…It is because Obama is a minority that nobody will hold him to a standard or confront him with what he has done.”

This is no “American Dream” that the Koch Brothers-backed Americans For Prosperity is trying to “defend” – this is any sane American’s nightmare.

This is our daily open thread — go ahead, start your rants!

The Watering Hole, Monday, August 12th, 2013: The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Twenty-five years ago this month, I went to the Women’s Health Pavilion in Dobbs Ferry, NY, to have my tubes tied.

Wayne and I were planning to get married in October that year, and had decided that, since neither of us felt that we had the temperament to raise children, having my tubes tied was the best route to go. I had been on the Pill off and on for about 10 years, and didn’t want to be exposed to its possibly harmful side effects anymore.

Even back then, as a fully-grown 32-year old adult, at a facility which catered to both happily pregnant women and unhappily pregnant women and teens seeking abortions, the doctors assumed, despite my protestations, that I might change my mind. They insisted that I have the type of tubal ligation which could be undone, even though they admitted that this procedure was more painful than the no-going-back type (they were definitely right about the pain!) That was the first time in my adult life that a decision about my body and reproductive choice was forced upon me by others.

That seems like ages ago now; but it also seems like ages ago (instead of a mere 17 months) that I began writing about the Republican War on Women (see here, here, and here), and in the meantime the suppression of women’s rights by Republicans just keeps getting worse.

This year, the main spotlight has been on Texas, where it took two “Special Sessions” of their legislature to pass a strict anti-abortion bill that couldn’t get passed in their regular legislative session. The only good thing that resulted from this extended knock-down drag-out fight was that it made a political star of State Sen. Wendy Davis, whose tenacious example and amazing filibuster brought thousands of Texans and millions of American women together in support of both Wendy and women’s rights.

Since then, however, more states have jumped on the he-man-woman-haters-club bandwagon. North Carolina’s Republican Governor Pat McCrory, after promising during his campaign that he would not sign any new abortion regulations, went ahead and did so. Then, adding insult to injury, he offered women protesting outside of his mansion a plate of cookies.

After that, Iowa is now contemplating a bill banning what’s called “telemedicine abortion”, where the doctor can prescribe the abortion pill to a woman online rather than in the doctor’s office.

And most recently, despite the legislation’s failure to pass in Georgia’s legislative session, Governor Nathan Deal(R) “vowed to use his executive power to enact it anyway.”

Lastly, getting back to Texas:

On the final day of the second session, state Sen. Eddie Lucio (D) — the only Senate Democrat who supported the recently approved omnibus anti-abortion bill — filed a measure to require women to complete a mandatory adoption certification course before they may seek an abortion. Lucio has suggested he will attempt to keep pushing that measure during the third session.

It’s hard to find a current answer to ‘how many states now have strict anti-abortion laws?”, but according to answerbag.com (from 2010):

Thirty-eight states have laws that prohibit abortions after a specific point in the pregnancy, except in cases where the late-term abortion might save the woman’s life or protect her health. Sixteen states have laws in effect that do not allow for late-term abortions.

And, according to religioustolerance.org:

At least 16 states still have pre-1973 anti-abortion laws on the books even though they are clearly unconstitutional and nullified under Roe v. Wade.”

Will the attack on women’s reproductive rights ever end? When will Republican women wake up and realize just how much Republican men despise them, want to keep women second-class citizens, and will do anything to control their reproductive health and rights? And when will male Democrats grow a collective pair and denounce Republican men as the ignorant, greedy, hate-filled, misogynistic bullies that they are?

This is our daily open thread — What’s on your mind?

The Watering Hole, Monday, July 22nd, 2013: “Someone’s Got a Case of The Mondays”

Yes, even though I’m writing this on Sunday night, I’ve already got “a case of the Mondays.” The cumulative effect of the idiocy, racism, and total regression of our country into savage barbarism has caused me to become overwhelmed by depression, anger, hatred, frustration, despair and hopelessness. I’m at the point where I can’t even form a coherent rant. So I’ll just put up a photo or two that might help soothe the soul of others who are suffering from a “case of the Mondays.” Forgive me if I’ve used any of these before.

Looking west across Hudson River

Looking west across Hudson River

Fading Sunset Reflection

Fading Sunset Reflection

Skyfire Sunset

Skyfire Sunset

This is our Open Thread. Go ahead, talk amongst yourselves.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, July 20, 2013: I Worry ‘Bout It

Time for another parody, what d’ya say? This one was inspired by a friend of mine, Frank, who said he really liked this song. Frank may actually help me record some of these things (I’m the hold-up, not him; stage fright); so this is for him. I hope you all enjoy this one about arguing with political opponents, or anyone who you think hasn’t a clue what he or she is talking about, but insists it’s right anyway. I’m sure some of us won’t agree who needs to hear it. (I know who I think needs to hear it. :))

I Worry ‘Bout It
Original Words and Music “Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry ‘Bout Me)” by Sandy Linzer and Denny Randel, 1966
Additional Lyrics by Wayne A. Schneider, 2013

Ahhhh, I can see
This ain’t no fun for me-
You’re only showing in your heart no empathy
If there’s another plan
That I don’t understand
Go on and tell me, Man
‘Cause now I worry ‘bout it

It’s so true
That you’ve been lying, too
The world all knows we only want what’s best for you
What good are facts denied
If your whole point’s implied
Go on and be decried
And hope I worry ‘bout it

Say you’re wrong
And I’ll just move along
Although you’ll think about it when you hear this song
I’ll always think that you
Intend to take the view
That somehow it’s all true
And that I worry ‘bout it

Ooooooooooh bay-ay-by.

See this guy
Before he says goodbye
Remember if they ever let him spin and lie
Don’t hide your own disdain
Don’t ever feel to blame
‘Cause he’ll do that again
That’s why I worry ‘bout it

I thought you
Know better than you do
You’ll spend your whole life saying what you want is true
And so this is goodbye
I know you’d rather lie
But don’t you tell me why
‘Cause then I’d worry ‘bout it

This is also our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss arguing with political opponents/idiots, brilliant song parodies you’ve read recently, or anything else you want to discuss..

The Watering Hole, Saturday, July 13, 2013 – Not All Libertarians Are Alike

Before I begin I must say that this post would not have been possible without the aid of a great website called The Political Compass. I intend to quote directly from their website both to promote the website itself and to help educate all of us (including myself.) I hope they don’t mind.

From the website:

There’s abundant evidence for the need of it. The old one-dimensional categories of ‘right’ and ‘left’, established for the seating arrangement of the French National Assembly of 1789, are overly simplistic for today’s complex political landscape. For example, who are the ‘conservatives’ in today’s Russia? Are they the unreconstructed Stalinists, or the reformers who have adopted the right-wing views of conservatives like Margaret Thatcher?

On the standard left-right scale, how do you distinguish leftists like Stalin and Gandhi? It’s not sufficient to say that Stalin was simply more left than Gandhi. There are fundamental political differences between them that the old categories on their own can’t explain. Similarly, we generally describe social reactionaries as ‘right-wingers’, yet that leaves left-wing reactionaries like Robert Mugabe and Pol Pot off the hook.

Senator Randal Howard “Rand” Paul has been in the news lately because he hired someone who once made a living as a despicable character to work for him to be his director of new media. Senator Paul defended the hiring of Jack Hunter, saying that whether or not Hunter expressed white supremacist views in the past doesn’t matter because he himself (Paul) has never seen Hunter express any of those views. This is pretty weak because turning a blind eye to someone’s past is not something a United States Senator, who is, after all, a Public Servant, should do. Yes, what The Southern Avenger did was legal and constitutionally protected free speech, but that doesn’t mean you should reward him by giving him a job as an aide to a Senator. “The senator said he believed Hunter is ‘incredibly talented’ even if he doesn’t agree with things his aide wrote or said while working as a radio talk show host.” Tell us, Senator, were there equally qualified people out there who didn’t make public appearances wearing a mask emblazoned with the Confederate Flag (the flag of the army that killed more U.S. soldiers than all other armies combined), and who doesn’t think John Wilkes Booth’s heart was in the right place, or who whine and complain that white people can’t freely express themselves (I don’t want to link to Hunter’s site, but you can find it from some of the other links)? Why hire this guy? Senator Paul and Jack Hunter both say he doesn’t express views like that anymore, but that’s as far as anybody knows. Hunter also claims to be embarrassed by some of his past statements, which he also claims actually contradicted his true feelings. Yeah, people often say stuff like that when their past racist views are exposed. It doesn’t mean it was morally okay to publicly express those views, especially since you were doing it to make a buck. I mean, really, how long can you go around saying things you really don’t believe? In Hunter’s case it was more than a decade. And before he quit that gig to work for the Senator last year, he help co-write a book for Paul. The Senator wants us all to think that Hunter’s “act” was something from his youth. Hunter is 39 years old.

In addition to all of that, I’m sure you’ve heard about the Senator’s views on the Civil Rights Act. The Senator claims he abhors racism, but somehow feels it’s okay for a private establishment, even if it is open to the public, should not be legally barred from practicing discrimination based on race. No, Senator. If you abhor racism, then you cannot be okay with other people practicing it. And if you don’t bar it legally, they will do it. Look how long it took for states to start changing their voting laws to make it harder for non-whites to vote once the Supreme Court (in its infinite stupidity) struck down part of the Voting Rights Act.

Which brings me back to the point of this post- not all Libertarians are alike. Senator Paul and his Director of New Media are conservative libertarians. People like Nelson Mandela and Mohandas K. Gandhi are liberal libertarians. When you take the test at Political Compass, you are given a score that tells you where you rank on the liberal/conservative scale (-10 to +10) as well as on the libertarian/authoritarian scale (-10 to +10).

Back to the Political Compass:

In the introduction, we explained the inadequacies of the traditional left-right line.

leftright

If we recognise that this is essentially an economic line it’s fine, as far as it goes. We can show, for example, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung and Pol Pot, with their commitment to a totally controlled economy, on the hard left. Socialists like Mahatma Gandhi and Robert Mugabe would occupy a less extreme leftist position. Margaret Thatcher would be well over to the right, but further right still would be someone like that ultimate free marketeer, General Pinochet.

That deals with economics, but the social dimension is also important in politics. That’s the one that the mere left-right scale doesn’t adequately address. So we’ve added one, ranging in positions from extreme authoritarian to extreme libertarian.

bothaxes

Both an economic dimension and a social dimension are important factors for a proper political analysis. By adding the social dimension you can show that Stalin was an authoritarian leftist (ie the state is more important than the individual) and that Gandhi, believing in the supreme value of each individual, is a liberal leftist. While the former involves state-imposed arbitrary collectivism in the extreme top left, on the extreme bottom left is voluntary collectivism at regional level, with no state involved. Hundreds of such anarchist communities exisited (sic) in Spain during the civil war period

You can also put Pinochet, who was prepared to sanction mass killing for the sake of the free market, on the far right as well as in a hardcore authoritarian position. On the non-socialist side you can distinguish someone like Milton Friedman, who is anti-state for fiscal rather than social reasons, from Hitler, who wanted to make the state stronger, even if he wiped out half of humanity in the process.

The chart also makes clear that, despite popular perceptions, the opposite of fascism is not communism but anarchism (ie liberal socialism), and that the opposite of communism ( i.e. an entirely state-planned economy) is neo-liberalism (i.e. extreme deregulated economy)

axeswithnames

The usual understanding of anarchism as a left wing ideology does not take into account the neo-liberal “anarchism” championed by the likes of Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman and America’s Libertarian Party, which couples social Darwinian right-wing economics with liberal positions on most social issues. Often their libertarian impulses stop short of opposition to strong law and order positions, and are more economic in substance (ie no taxes) so they are not as extremely libertarian as they are extremely right wing. On the other hand, the classical libertarian collectivism of anarcho-syndicalism ( libertarian socialism) belongs in the bottom left hand corner.

In our home page we demolished the myth that authoritarianism is necessarily “right wing”, with the examples of Robert Mugabe, Pol Pot and Stalin. Similarly Hitler, on an economic scale, was not an extreme right-winger. His economic policies were broadly Keynesian, and to the left of some of today’s Labour parties. If you could get Hitler and Stalin to sit down together and avoid economics, the two diehard authoritarians would find plenty of common ground.

Here’s where my scores ended up:
Economic Left/Right: -7.75
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.85

So, as you can see, I’m a Libertarian, but a Liberal one, not a Conservative one like Senator Paul or his co-author, The Southern Avenger, Jack Hunter. But what about other people? Here’s where it gets interesting. (Okay, that’s a tacit admission that it may not have been particularly interesting up to this point.) Many of us on the left have complained not simply that President Barack Obama is not as liberal as we had hoped he would be, but that he’s no better than Mitt Romney would have been. Technically this is not accurate, for Romney is more conservative and authoritarian than Obama (despite his talk about “freedom”), but only slightly so. Check where Political Compass rated the presidential candidates in the 2012 election. Romney’s scores appear to be about a +7/+6.5 while Obama’s are only a slightly better (in this author’s opinion) +6/+6. As you can see, nowhere near being either Liberal or Libertarian. If you think that’s bad, check out where the European Union countries fall. All of them are in the Conservative/Authoritarian quadrant.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss RW Libertarians or any other topic you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Monday, June 24th, 2013: The Silence of the Dems

Pretty much every single day, Republicans do or say things that make us either laugh at their foolishness or gasp at their political machinations. On the one hand, we hear idiots like Michele Bachmann spout ‘history’ that she pulled out of her ass, or the ignorance of misogynists such as Trent Franks and Michael Burgess, or just about anything out of the mouth of Steve King. On the other hand, Republican governors and congresspersons are busily doing ALEC’s bidding, continuing and escalating their war on women’s reproductive rights, joined by the supposed “jobs, jobs, jobs”-focused Republican-controlled House. It would seem to be easy enough to just sit back and watch the Republican party descend into oblivion.

Yet, while some of their utterances can be amusing, the Republicans’ overall strategy of limiting citizens’ rights, particularly women and minorities, along with their disdain and antagonism towards the poor among us, is deadly serious. But what are the Democrats doing to stop them, or at least to draw the country’s attention to the medieval legislation being proposed and passed by the Republican governors? I, for one, am sick of the “State’s Rights” BS by which Republican governors and Congressmen swear. President Obama has talked about their divisiveness, and a few of the more left-leaning Democratic Senators have as well, but where are the majority of the Democrats?

But it’s not just Republican schemes that the Democrats need to decry: where are they on President Obama’s illegal (in my mind) drone program, or the NSA spying, or the continuation of the ill-begotten PATRIOT Act? While dinosaurs like Diane Feinstein and Chuck Schumer seem perfectly comfortable with spying on Americans, and denounce whistleblowers as traitors, where are the other Democrats speaking up for our rights as citizens? Where are the Democrats when it comes to the apparently untouchable big corporations, banks, etc.?

Since talk of the next round of elections started the moment the general election in November was over, it seems that most liberal pundits are focusing more on the self-destruction of the Republicans than on what potential Democratic candidates will offer as an alternative. Democrats need to start now to distinguish themselves from the Republicans on issues, and they’re going to need to speak loudly and carry a big stick. They cannot simply rely on pointing at Republicans and laughing from the sidelines. The time for them to speak up is now!

This is our Open Thread. What do you have to say today?

The Watering Hole, Monday, June 3rd, 2013: Lows and Highs

As is my wont, I found today’s offerings while trying to research a totally different topic. Let’s start with the lows (after all, it is Monday):

First up: The Atlantic Cities website has an interactive map of the world, where you can pick any area, zoom in, and watch a time-lapse video of changes over thirty years’ time. The human infestation of our poor planet continues apace. (sigh)

In other ‘low’ news, Darrell Issa is still wasting oxygen (as well as taxpayers’ money and valuable legislative time) on Obama conspiracy theories, in this particular case the IRS/Tea Party story. (On a slight ‘high’, at least Candy Crowley made an attempt to introduce Issa to reality.) And, almost lower than Darrell Issa himself, right-wing trolls, i.e.:

spammeister1 [yes, "spammeister1" is really the troll's screen name]
“And the nobama admin IS the most corrupt in the history of our once great republic. Issa, being experienced, saw that from the beginning even tho , as u say, he as of yet had no actual proof. but look at the corruption in the admin now. CROOKS!!!! LIARS!!!!! FOOLS!!!!!”

(The Spammeister had more to say later, but I won’t inflict more of his brand of ‘stupid’ on you.)

Then there’s this literary masterpiece:

jojomon1
“really Kevin you really believe that liberal bs more then 50 where denied and no liberal org where even look at and that s really the kind of government you want well you make my point for me liberals or the new communist party”

And, this plum:

Sheila Firmin · Top Commenter
“Candy can not be trusted to be fait or balanced….she is an Obama shill…..asskissing arm of the administration.”

[eyes rolling]

On a somewhat lighter note, but still in the ‘low’ category, we have…Cicadas: I’ve heard that this year there’s supposed to be a plague of cicadas. For anyone who’s curious about whether human development can prevent cicadas from emerging from their 17-year cycle, this article on The Atlantic Cities website has the answer. Short version, probably not – but at least I learned a bit more about cicadas than the fact that they come in cycles.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Now for your ‘highs’ today: Here’s 13 different bird’s eye views from around the world, courtesy of cable cars. Enjoy! (unless you’re afraid of heights, of course.)

This is our Open Thread. Go ahead, talk amongst yourselves!

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 20th, 2013: Dirty vs Clean

First, I’m dragging you into the down and dirty: a brief glimpse into the dark and incomprehensible sludge that passes for brains in far-right-wingers:
From a commenter on a TP thread about the new Virginia GOP nominee for Lieutenant Governor:

“What I will never understand is that Gays have no idea they are being set up for easy persecution by the Liberals. How hard do you think it is going to be to find Gays now that same sex marriages are taking place? There is a paper trail to follow! When the time comes that Islam takes more and more control of America which unless you are a moron is happening right under your nose, “Gays’ will once again be TARGETED but this time these religious nuts believe God wants them to cut the heads off of Gays…just saying”

“BTW Shari law calls for the execution of Homosexuals on the spot when found out and this administration wont even use the word Radical Islam and is arming them…keep supporting Liberals and bashing Christians fools.. right up to the day when there are no Conservative Christians left to defend the Constitution and Sharia Law comes here and explain it to them its a ” life” as they place you on your knees and cut your head off!”

From a Moneynews (aka Newsmax) article/new conspiracy theory about the IRS (to which I am NOT linking, both on general principle and for your own sakes), a couple of separate commenters:

“…a flat income tax is no more than rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. Under the flaw tax, you still have to surrender your Constitutional rights to pay the tax, you still have to place ALL your property in jeopardy or peril to pay the tax, and you subject yourself to criminal prosecution every time you fill our a return. And under the flat income tax you still have to file returns, which gives this congressionally sanctioned terrorist organization, the irs, its jurisdiction over you, your property and just about everything you do (now with the inclusion of obamacare). What is desperately needed is to sever that jurisdiction between ordinary American citizens, doing nothing more than earning an honest living from their God given talents, and this hedonist organization that has no more regard for your rights and property than a common street thug. To do that, we need replace the marxist income tax with a national sales tax. It is what the Framers intended to finance the government. Read Federalist 21.”

“- Open the White House Doors Now – Our Kids Deserve better! – That’s a travesty in itself….never mind all this other corruptness in charade! Who has gone to jail?”

“If the government doesn’t do something about the IRS, I think it’s time the american people take in in their own hands. Fed up with this communist government and the people who support them.”

“ABOLISH THE IRS AND THE INCOME TAX!
WE DO NOT NEED THE IRS INCOME TAX OR EVEN A FAIR/FLAT TAX!!!!!!!!!!!
WE do NOT need a federal income tax!!!!!!!!!!!!!
and I need to add I FRIGGING HATE THE IRS! IT NEEDS TO BE ABOLISHED NOW LONG WITH OVER HALF OF THIS TYRANNICAL FED GOVT!
READ THIS: WE DO NOT NEED THIS MASSIVE DAMN FED GOVT! WE DO NOT NEED THESE A-HOLES MONITORING OUR MOVES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

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Now, since I forced you to get all dirty, here’s something to clean you off:
piglet enjoying shower

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to comment on any topic that comes to mind.

Who Cast What At The Who Now?

This past Wednesday, Rep Louie Gohmert (R-Wingnuttia) accused Attorney General Eric Holder of a charge which, to my knowledge, has never been leveled at any cabinet level officer of the United States. He said that the Attorney General was “casting aspersions on my asparagus.” No, I didn’t mishear that, though my bad hearing might have led me to think he said something almost as disjointed. Listen for yourself Continue reading

The Watering Hole; May 16 2013: The GOP, and why it MUST BE ERADICATED!

If, say, fifty years ago today — during those halcyon days when I was less than six months short of my twenty-first birthday, when I would soon (finally!) be allowed to register to vote — if, way back then, someone had told me that at some point in my life one of the two major political parties in the United States would have no other agenda than to destroy all of its opposition by any means available in its dogged pursuit of nothing less than full and total power in/of the State, I’d have shrugged, laughed, and dismissed the notion out of hand. But then, exactly one month to the day following my 21st birthday, at about 11:45 AM, MST, I was heading home for lunch when these words interrupted the music on the car’s radio:

We have an unconfirmed bulletin from Dallas, Texas; President Kennedy has been shot. There is no word yet as to his condition. Stay tuned, we will update as information becomes available.

A few minutes later I parked, walked inside, and turned on the TV. There was confusion, of course, lots of confusion. Then, suddenly, this:

Dallas, Texas; John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the United States, is dead.

Everything changed that day. I remember first and foremost the sense of sadness, coupled with a sense of foreboding amongst the vast majority of my acquaintances and, clearly, of people everywhere. I also well remember the elation on the part of the handful of far-right-wingers that I knew back then; as one of them said upon hearing the news, “Live like a tyrant, die like a tyrant.” And of course on the larger stage there was the John Birch Society, and . . . yeah, like that.

With occasional (and, unfortunately, temporary) interruptions every now and then, it’s been a Republican-driven national downhill slope over the five decades since that fateful day. There was Nixon, of course, and Ford, then Reagan, then Bush, and Bush . . . and today the (formerly) Grand Old Party has evolved from basically a centrist organization to a neo-Fascist extreme right wing movement, one which has zero tolerance for any long-embedded ‘American’ ideals. Instead, they’re totally obsessed with three basic goals: global military dominance, money, and absolute political power. Everything and everyone else — the middle class, education, organized labor, the elderly, not to mention each and all of those ‘tired, those poor, those huddled masses yearning to breathe free’ — are to have their collective needs not only ignored, but redistributed. Upward. The rich are not (yet) rich enough.

And, worse, there’s a damn Democrat in the White House! Second term. Elected by sizable popular margins both times. And worst of all, he’s a black man. With a black wife. And black children. An obvious enemy of the people. He is, indeed, the GOP’s worst nightmare. And since day one of his first term, there has been only one, single, Republican goal: force that black Democrat S.O.B. President to FAIL! In every possible way. Especially in ways which will serve to advance their agenda of destroying the middle class, destroying public education, destroying organized labor, and relieving the tired, the poor, the elderly, the huddled masses . . . of each and every penny of public largesse. Let them eat cake. Or die. Whatever.

From the last day or two, a few headlines:

House ready to make draconian cuts to food stamps in Farm Bill

The proposed legislation would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) by almost $21 billion over the next decade, eliminating food assistance to nearly 2 million low-income people, mostly working families with children and senior citizens.  The proposal reduces total farm bill spending by an estimated $39.7 billion over ten years, so more than half of its cuts come from SNAP.  The SNAP cuts are more than $4 billion larger than those included in last year’s House Agriculture Committee bill (H.R. 6083).

Republican filibuster could shut down workers’ rights enforcement

Congressional Republicans are committed to breaking government one step at a time, and it’s a given that anything that attacks workers as well as the function of government will vault to the head of the line. So it is with the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB can’t function without a three-member quorum. Republicans blocked President Obama’s nominations to the board. Obama made recess appointments. Businesses sued and a Republican-appointed court overturned the recess appointments in a staggeringly broad decision. That’s being appealed to the Supreme Court. Obama nominated some more people to the NLRB and renominated the recess-appointed people. Republicans look likely to block those nominations. Meanwhile, one current member’s term expires in August, which will leave the labor board unable to function.

The IRS “scandal” — all smoke, no fire

But what about the specific targeting of Tea Party groups? Doesn’t that show that this was all just a witch hunt against groups with right wing ideologies? Uh, no. It came up at exactly the time the office was getting flooded with a bunch of hastily prepared applications spewing from the Tea Party’s messy birth. The edict went out expressly because the office was being flooded with a bunch of hastily prepared, clearly political, applications all using very similar terms. In fact, the entire group of IRS employees in question was created to address the influx of possibly political applications. If the office had suddenly received a hundred applications for exempt status all claiming to be from the Sierra Club, wouldn’t you want them to pay a bit more attention? I would. What if those applications had all been from groups using Muslim Brotherhood in their titles? Would the same pundits still be on the air screaming about the IRS getting all political?

Behind all this are the staggering numbers. Out of thousands of applications, only a handful were rejected. You know what happens while a nonprofit organization is waiting to get this approval? They get to operate as a nonprofit organization. The harm caused by this action is exactly zero, and exactly no groups have sued the IRS in response to their rejection. They simply amended the application and tried again.

Furloughs now slashing paychecks for 820,000 workers

Thanks to the Defense Department’s announcement Tuesday, the number of federal workers forced on furlough by the sequester now stands at 820,000. Other agencies had already furloughed 140,000 workers and the Defense Department is furloughing 680,000. That’s 820,000 workers and their families suffering. substantial pay cuts.

That’s a mere sampling of the nonsense being perpetrated by today’s GOP, a brief glance at just a portion of one single page from yesterday’s Daily Kos. And not a word about the other Republican ‘dramas’ currently being played out, including Benghazi, the DOJ investigation via AP phone records of serious leaks concerning an intelligence operation in Yemen (which ultimately prevented an al Qaeda plot to blow up a US-bound passenger plane).

Note, too, that despite all the Republican hoopla over the news that the IRS took a close look at some 75  applications for tax exemption status by newly-formed “Social Welfare” organizations whose name or description included the words “Tea Party,” nary a single complaint ever issued from even a single Republican politician or official when, back in 2004, the IRS investigated the tax exempt status of the NAACP . . . simply because its chairman at the time, Julian Bond, was highly critical of George W. Bush and his war in Iraq.

Scandal, scandal, scandal. Political posturing, political screeching. Over what? Why? There’s a black Democrat in the White House, that’s why! Gotta screech, screech, screech, create “scandals” at every opportunity. Yesterday, at Consortium News, Robert Parry offered an interesting perspective in his May 14 article:

The Right’s ‘Scandal’ Funhouse Mirror

The modern American news media operates like a giant right-wing funhouse mirror reflecting back some large things as small and some small things as large. The Right gets to decide which items will be misshapen in which ways – and the mainstream press then reinforces the distortions. [. . .] This funhouse effect was first noticeable during the scandals of Ronald Reagan, when it didn’t seem to matter how much evidence was compiled about his complicity in grotesque human rights crimes including genocide in Central America, his tolerance of drug trafficking by his anticommunist clients, and his support for sophisticated propaganda operations to destroy troublesome journalists and other investigators. [etc.]

The ultimate questions finally and boldly arise and stand forth, and they read thus:

When does ‘enough’ become ‘too much’?

When is it time to act to prevent a future (or present, for that matter) ‘hostile takeover’ of the government of the United States?

How about today?

Open Thread. Have At It. But Remember: TAKE NO PRISONERS!

THE WATERING HOLE: Wednesday, March 27, 2013: REPUBLICAN REBRANDING

Twitter, The Zoo's Top Investigative Journalist

Twitter, The Zoo’s Top Investigative Journalist

Twitter listened in on the closed-door conversations at the recent CPAC Conference regarding re-branding the Republican Party.

Mittens was the first one to speak up: “47% of the country won’t like us no matter what we call ourselves.”

Ryan: “You and you’re 47% speech cost me the election!”

Mittens: “Oh, and like your lame-brained budget proposal had nothing to do with it.”

Queen P: “Boys, boys, pipe down. If anybody knows anything about losing elections, I do.”

McCain’t: “You can say that again.”

Queen P: “If anybody knows anything about losing elections, I do.”

Herman C.: “He didn’t mean that literally. Look, why don’t we try something that’s never been done before?”

Ron P.: “What did you have in mind?”

Herman C: “Truth!”

Michelle B gagged on a corn dog. Gov. Christie tried to give her the Hemilich but couldn’t reach any further than her bosom, at which point her eyes popped even wider than they normally look. Just then, Larry Craig walked in and sized up the situation.

Larry: “Stand back, wide guy. I know how to handle this.” Larry strode over, tilted Michelle’s head back and extracted the long meat sausage from her throat.

Queen P: “Wow, that was just like a pro!”

Larry: “Thanks. Just doin’ what I do best. Now, can anybody direct me to the restroom?”

Michelle: “Go out, go to your left, it’s just past the closet.”

Larry left, but being a staunch Republican found it impossible to go to his left.

Mittens: “Truth? Truth? I spoke the truth about 47% of the population and look where that got me.”

Herman C: “No. Not that kind of truth. Truth about us. About what we stand for.”

Ryan: “You mean the Rich and Powerful? Call ourselves the Rich And Powerful Party?”

Queen P: “And Evangelicals. We can’t fergit our Christian Base.”

Rove, who had been sitting in a corner in a fetal position stood up: “Rich And Powerful Evangelical Party. I like the sound of that. It rings true. It sums up everything we stand for in a few words. It’s bound to catch on.”

And with that, the R.A.P.E. Party was born.

HAPPY HUMP DAY, EVERYONE.

OPEN THREAD TIME.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, March 21, 2013: Free Dumb

Video

Oddly the tea party still believes it will control the Repubican party.  CPAC held a straw poll and the winner for the 2016 primary is Rand Paul.  While that’s not really much to worry about the fact that so many current members of congress legislate with an eye to avoiding a tea party primary challenge is.

Tea Party Leader Defends Membership In Fascist Group

 James_Ives_Fascist

Nothing says patriotic like good old-fashioned Fascism, at least according to the president of the Greater Fort Bend County Tea Party, James Ives. As reported by the Texas Tribune, Mr. Ives’ title before he joined the Tea party was quite different: the director of propaganda for the American Fascist Party (AFP). When confronted with this information, he wisely did not deny, but what he did say was far more revealing:

“From my point of view, it was all pro-Constitution, pro-America.

I never did anything. There really weren’t enough people involved to be a gathering, let alone a rally. It was basically a scattering of people across the continent just complaining.”

READ MORE AT LINK

Obviously we can’t afford to ignore Rand Paul and the Tea Party types while they continue to force their beliefs on the rest of us.

THIS IS OUR OPEN THREAD.  WHAT’S UP?