The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 28th, 2015: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

Just a quick glance at some of the stories on Right Wing Watch is enough to make it clear that, while there is a lot of craziness going on around the globe, the no-longer-United States of America is now forging ahead in an effort to be Number 1 in the category of Insanity.

Rand Paul calls for “Tent Revivals” in “Rand Paul Suggests Gay Marriage Is The Result of a ‘Moral Crisis’ in America”, by Brian Tashman:

“We need a revival in the country,” Paul said. “We need another Great Awakening with tent revivals of thousands of people saying, ‘reform or see what’s going to happen if we don’t reform.’”

Also by Brian Tashman, in “Ted Cruz: Conservative Christians have Ceded Power** to Non-Believers”, Cruz tells interviewer David Brody of the “Christian” Broadcasting Network that “he hopes and prays that God put him in the position he is in today.” In addition:

“Brody also hailed Cruz’s father, far-right activist Rafael Cruz, for his political views that he says have “rubbed off on Cruz.””

**”Ceded Power”? What “power”? The only “power” that ANY religious person/group should have in America is the same power that any citizen of this country has, as enumerated in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

And you’ve got to love this one: “Glenn Beck Is Now Locked In A Fight To The Death Against The GOP Establishment.” While I’m sure that, like me, you all would disagree with the reasons why Beck is going after both Grover Norquist and Karl Rove (Beck thinks that Norquist is part of a front for the Muslim Brotherhood, then attacked Rove for defending Norquist), you have to agree with parts of his argument with Karl Rove:

“You guys have the spine of a worm, the ethics of whores, and the integrity of pirates. My apologies to worms, whores and pirates.”

and

“Can you not smell what you are shoveling anymore?”

One last thing, from Raw Story An article by Alternet’s Alex Henderson, titled “Here Are 9 Things Many Americans Just Don’t Understand–Compared To The Rest of The World” illustrates why ‘travel is so broadening.’ Number 3 is particularly relevant:

3. American Exceptionalism Is Absolute Nonsense in 2015

No matter how severe the U.S.’ decline becomes, neocons and the Tea Party continue to espouse their belief in “American exceptionalism.” But in many respects, the U.S. of 2015 is far from exceptional. The U.S. is not exceptional when it comes to civil liberties (no country in the world incarcerates, per capita, more of its people than the U.S.) or healthcare (WHO ranks the U.S. #37 in terms of healthcare). Nor is the U.S. a leader in terms of life expectancy: according to the WHO, overall life expectancy in the U.S. in 2013 was 79 compared to 83 in Switzerland and Japan, 82 in Spain, France, Italy, Sweden and Canada and 81 in the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Austria and Finland.”

In my opinion, in 2015 the U.S. of A. ranks #1 only in the number and power of its Religious Right-Wing Nut Jobs.

This is our daily Open Thread – have at it!

The Watering Hole; Friday March 27 2015; The Great American Con Game

The Congressional Progressive Caucus recently released their proposed “People’s Budget” for official consideration. It’s a Federal budget proposal designed to serve “. . . the values, needs, and hopes of all our people, not just the powerful and the privileged.” In brief synopsis, the People’s Budget enables investment in:

  • Infrastructure and Transportation:  …
  • Education:
  • Social Security:
  • Hunger:
  • Environment:

The investments will be paid for by raising revenues in several areas, including:

  • Taxing the Wealthy Fairly
  • Stopping Subsidies for CEOs
  • Keeping Jobs and Corporate Profits at Home
  • Taxing Wall Street
  • Rationalizing Defense Spending
[…]

In re the Taxing the Wealthy Fairly proviso, the tax rates would be adjusted according to income, as follows:

$1-10 million: 45 percent
$10-20 million: 46 percent
$20-100 million: 47 percent
$100 million-1 billion: 48 percent
$1 billion and over: 49 percent

It should be noted that the highest of the new tax rates is still lower than the top bracket in place during most of the Reagan administration.

The (limited overview) bottom line is that if said budget is approved and carried out, it

Creates more than 8 million good jobs by 2018.
Increases functionality of Worker Protection Agencies.
Includes a four percent raise for federal workers.
Provides Paid Leave Initiative and Child Care.
Supports a minimum wage increase and Collective Bargaining.
Repeals sequester and all Budget Control Act spending caps.
Increases discretionary funding to invest in working families.
Reverses harmful cuts and enhances social safety net.
Invests in veterans, women, communities of color and their families.
Allows states to transition to single-payer health care systems.
Invests in clean and renewable energy and green manufacturing.
Implements comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship.

And last but by no means least, it also mandates that public financing of campaigns to curb special interest influence in politics becomes a replacement of the ‘Citizens United’ Supreme Court travesty.

How in the world could anyone, Republican and Democrat alike, not be in favor of such an egalitarian budget, itself a clear and obvious effort to broadly support the well-being of common folk — PAID FOR simply by raising the wealthy/corporate tax rate stream to a level not as high as was in effect during most of St. Reagan’s presidency?

I decided to find out. Earlier this week, I signed a petition of support for the People’s Budget, a petition that was forwarded to Cory Gardner, my new Tea Party Senator (that’s the “Elections Have Consequences” Cory Gardner). Gardner’s boilerplate response proved to be quite revealing in that it essentially spelled out the reasons the country continues to suffer its economic malaise. Gardner says:

Our nation’s debt stands at a staggering $18 trillion and continues to grow with Washington’s out-of-control deficit spending. Without changes in our budget, the Congressional Budget Office projects that amount could rise to $27 trillion in ten years.

The President’s budget is a disappointment, full of new spending and fewer opportunities to come to the table with the new Congress and work towards a responsible budget for our nation. It tries to justify its massive spending increases with more taxes, fees, and budgetary tricks. We need real spending cuts that will slow and reverse the growth of our national debt and reforms that aim to eliminate waste and abuse at all levels of the federal government.

During my time in Congress, I have continued to vote for spending cuts, deficit reduction, and greater fiscal responsibility. We need a responsible plan that leads to a balanced budget while keeping our nation’s promises which is why I have remained committed to passage of a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution. Achieving a balanced budget and restoring economic stability continue to be my priorities moving forward. I am committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address our nation’s spending problems and find responsible solutions that reduce our nation’s debt. As legislation concerning the federal budget comes to the Senate floor for a vote, please rest assured that I will keep your thoughts in mind.

The red and underlined highlights are my own, of course, added to help summarize The Great American Con Game which, according to Gardner, demands responsible solutions, a balanced budget, economic stability, and keeping our nation’s promises — all without more taxes, fees, and budgetary tricks. I can’t help but note that the People’s Budget takes care of all of his legitimate concerns (and many more) with the exception of the ones that are greed-based, the ones best solved by Taxing the Wealthy Fairly and via those budgetary tricks such as Stopping Subsidies for CEOs, and Keeping Jobs and Corporate Profits at Home, and Taxing Wall Street. Unfortunately for the common man, each and all of those revenue-raising propositions are,  to Teabaggers, as evil and irrational as is — heaven forbid! — Rationalizing Defense Spending.

In the final analysis, Gardner is simply parroting the central points of what can reasonably be called The Great American Con(servative) Game and in the process is conclusively demonstrating to the world that he’s no more committed to finding responsible solutions concerning the federal budget or to restoring economic stability and keeping our nation’s promises than are any other of his fascist Teabagger compatriots. Their sole interest has nothing to do with honorable governance, with defending and supporting the Constitution. Their goal is to gratuitously arrange the transfer of ALL wealth and power to the banking and corporate elites, to the 1%, by any means possible — even as they completely disregard the long term damage their greed-based policies have already inflicted and will continue to inflict on “We the people” and on the nation itself. The defining words of such policies and attitudes are as simple as they are familiar: Fascism; Oligarchy. Not exactly Constitutionally-based descriptors of what the country is on the verge of becoming, and most certainly WILL become if and when an unchallengeable Tea Party majority should ever assume full control of the government.

All that having been said, I’ve decided to assign my ‘attitude summation’ concerning today’s Great American Con Game, aka the Republican Party, to Albert Einstein who once pointed out that

“This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once.

To which I can only add Amen, Amen.

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole; Thursday March 26 2015; Ted et al., et Al

“Great ideas often receive violent opposition from mediocre minds.”
~Albert Einstein

Last Monday (March 23 2015) Ted Cruz (R-Tx) became the first announced candidate for 2016’s presidential election. He won’t be the last, of course, as the potential field is extremely broad and contains familiar names such as Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, Rick Perry, and  who knows, maybe even Paul Ryan, maybe even Mitt Romney. I’m not sure it makes any difference who prevails, however, given that their collective ideology contains at the very least a list of those 14 familiar right wing enthusiasms, including a strong sense of nationalism, a standard enemies list, an all-powerful military, national security fervor, religious fervor, little or no concern for human rights, sexism, a controlled mass media, corporate protection, labor suppression, cronyism, phooey on arts and intellectualism, obsession with crime and punishment, and of course the control of electoral outcome by any means available. Their disdain of practicality is, of course, uniform and embraces virtually everything that might help lower and middle class individuals, including a viable living wage, universal health care, education, immigration reform, racial and ethnic justice, etc. In short, anything considered liberal or progressive that might benefit all the people is, to Republicans and in a word, verboten.

Stated another way, the Republican Party’s sole “solution” to any sort of progressive-liberal populist thought or program that favors the well being of we the people over the upward assignation of money, wealth, and power is to elect any one of their above-mentioned potential candidates — one of those “Demagogues and Stooges” of the day — one of many ubiquitous ‘mediocre minds’ that are perfectly willing to offer whichever level of ‘violent opposition’ it will take to rid America once and for all of her “Great ideas.”

I do admit that over the years I have remained fascinated by the vast intellectual gulf that separates thinkers from Republicans, the same gulf that separates rational discussion  from the robotic recitations of Republicans everywhere. Here are some tidbits that celebrate those differences — a handful of quotes I’ve collected over the years, words by one of the foremost thinkers emergent within the entire span of human existence: Albert Einstein.

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”

“Those who have the privilege to know, have the duty to act.”

“Nationalism is an infantile disease, the measles of mankind.”

“The pioneers of a warless world are the youth that refuse military service.”

“War seems to me to be a mean, contemptible thing: I would rather be hacked in pieces than take part in such an abominable business. And yet so high, in spite of everything, is my opinion of the human race that I believe this bogey would have disappeared long ago, had the sound sense of the nations not been systematically corrupted by commercial and political interests acting through the schools and the Press.”

“A human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe'; a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely but striving for such achievement is, in itself, a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.”

“The flag is proof that man is still a herd animal.”

“The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the true source of all art and science.”

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”

“This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism on command, senseless violence and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism.”

Einstein on Religion

“If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”

“I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings. April 24, 1921

“My position concerning God is that of an agnostic. I am convinced that a vivid consciousness of the primary importance of moral principles for the betterment and ennoblement of life does not need the idea of a law-giver, especially a law-giver who works on the basis of reward and punishment.” (in a letter to M. Berkowitz, October 25, 1950)

“It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I feel also not able to imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. My views are near those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order which we can grasp humbly and only imperfectly. I believe that we have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding and treat values and moral obligations as a purely human problem—the most important of all human problems.” (1947)

“The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naïve.” (in a letter to Beatrice Frohlich, December 17, 1952)

“I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own ― a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms.” (Albert Einstein, quoted in The New York Times obituary, April 19, 1955)

“A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.”

“Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion of the future: it transcends a personal God, avoids dogma and theology; it covers both the natural and spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity.”

From those words, one conclusion is clear, concise, and obvious: Albert Einstein was NOT, in his day, a fascist, and were he alive today he would NOT be (assuming there’s a difference) a Republican.

Q.E.D.
Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

OPEN THREAD

Wednesday, March 25, 2015: And they’re off and running….

Ted Cruz, the Cuban-Canadian socialist-Marxist libertarian from Texas has thrown his hat into the presidential race. With his hair, he should put it back on. Same goes for Trump.

But in bigger news, Hobby Lobby, the for-profit conservative Christian corporation, will be announcing its bid on Palm Sunday. “Like the Savior, riding in on a donkey, Hobby Lobby will lead the way to peace, salvation and craft goods from China” reads one draft of their impending announcement. Hobby Lobby won the corporate right to discriminate based on religion, and intends to expand that right to all government services.

Exxon-Mobile is said to be mulling over the idea of running, as is Monsanto, who, for the last decade has been secretly trying to clone Ronald Reagan.

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The Watering Hole, Monday, March 23, 2015: It’s Clearly Not A Budget

It’s supposed to be a budget, but clearly it’s not. Sure, it’s got some numbers in it, but it also has places where there are no numbers, just huge assumptions about money that even a high school student would find obviously wrong. For example, they want to repeal Obamacare (because, what, 57th time’s a charm?) but they make no provision for where the tax revenue the ACA generated will be raised. The other major problem with that thing with numbers is that it calls for cutting a trillion dollars in spending without specifying the programs being cut. The likely candidates are “food stamps, disability payments for veterans, the earned income tax credit, and Pell grants for college students,” but even cuts there won’t make up for the money Republicans claim they won’t be spending. In short, there is no way this Republican budget can have any connection to Reality.

That’s putting it more kindly than Paul Krugman. He called Republicans the “Trillion Dollar Fraudsters.”

One answer you sometimes hear is that what Republicans really believe is that tax cuts for the rich would generate a huge boom and a surge in revenue, but they’re afraid that the public won’t find such claims credible. So magic asterisks are really stand-ins for their belief in the magic of supply-side economics, a belief that remains intact even though proponents in that doctrine have been wrong about everything for decades.

And therein lies the problem: Republicans are governing this country based on a philosophy that has historically been proven wrong. Tax cuts for the rich do not create jobs. Consumer demand creates jobs, and so do public works programs. If you give more money to the super wealthy by cutting their taxes, they are not going to spend all that money, which is what is needed for the economy to function. The economy only works when money moves around. You buy something from your local merchant. He takes your money, and money from other customers, and he replenishes his stock of the things you all bought. He does this by going to his vendors and buying those products you bought from them. Those vendors, in turn, do the same thing and replenish their own inventory of goods. If a business owner is buying a service from another company, she gives that company her money for their services, and they use it to pay their employees, who go out to their local stores and buy the things they need. If everything is working the way it’s supposed to, the consumers have the money to buy the things they need, the vendors sell enough goods and services to pay their employees and vendors, the businesses involved make a little profit, and the shareholders of those companies get a little more money for themselves. The poor and many of the middle class often live paycheck to paycheck. They spend most, if not all, of what they bring in. Rich people don’t do that. If you give a worker an extra fifty dollars in his paycheck, there’s a good chance he’s going to spend most of that $50, thus stimulating the economy as described. You give that super rich person an extra $50 and he’s not even going to notice it (so he won’t notice when it’s not there), because it’s probably going to end up in some offshore bank account, free of taxation. Public works programs also stimulate the economy because in addition to providing jobs (so people have money to spend), they reduce traffic delays which result in lost productivity. The beneficial ripple effects of an infrastructure spending program are too numerous to detail, but they are one of the best ways to stimulate the economy, along with continuing to pay out unemployment insurance benefits. You can bet that money isn’t going out to offshore bank accounts.

But it starts with someone spending the money in the first place, otherwise there’s nothing to “prime the pump.” If people don’t have money to spend, or have billions of dollars but are not spending it, the economy doesn’t work. Goods and services aren’t sold and businesses are forced to layoff workers. (If they’re not bringing in money, they have no money to pay employees.) Unemployment rises, and so does government spending on benefits (which were earned, by the way, not just handed out to anyone who asks.) Assuming there’s money in the government budget to pay unemployment insurance benefits. Republicans love to cut UI benefits because their rich overlords equate social worth with financial worth. They believe that if you’re poor, it’s because you made bad choices in life, such as not being born into a wealthy family. They believe (with all their cold, black hearts) that because they’re rich and you’re not, that they are better than you. They falsely believe that they made it on their own (including the ones who inherited wealth), and that they never needed any help from the government. How wrong they were. Setting aside their own education (since the super wealthy often have private tutors and attend private schools where they make their private connections in life), there are many ways the super wealthy depend on government. For example, they require roads to earn their wealth. Even if they fly themselves to work in their own helicopters, the people who work for them, the people who deliver the supplies their businesses need, all depend on roads paid for by the public. Their places of work (and homes) are protected by police officers paid for by the public. They use water and electricity often supplied by a delivery system paid for by the public. And this doesn’t even go into the all the ways the government helps the people who help the super wealthy make more money. And if it’s paid for by the public, it’s done through the government. (Because We the People are the Government.) So it is simply not true that any super rich person made it “all on his own.” Their wealth was made possible by the liberal framework around which our society is built. You can’t have a nation of people who look out only for themselves. It just can’t work. Where’s the sense of Community if nobody helps each other out? That’s what our government is – people helping each other out, even if the people being helped out don’t understand that. Actor Craig T. Nelson once said to Fox News Channel (where ignorant, frightened people turn to find out what to fear), “I’ve been on food stamps and welfare. Anybody help me out? No.” Actually, Craig, Yes, somebody did help you out. Your fellow citizens. By having your government give you food stamps and welfare. You’re welcome.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Republican inhumanity, or anything else that interests you.