The Watering Hole, Monday, February 2, 2015: Speaker Logan?

After the French Revolution, tensions had risen between the USA and France. Many French revolutionaries felt we had not aided them enough, and after we signed the Jay Treaty with Great Britain, France authorized the seizing of American ships and taking prisoners. In 1797 President Adams sent John Marshall, Charles C. Pinckney, and Elbridge Gerry (who would later try to redraw political districts that reminded people of a salamander in order to give him an electoral advantage, thus giving birth to the term “Gerrymander”) to negotiate a peaceful settlement. Instead, the result was what would become known as the XYZ Affair and an unsuccessful trip. After their return, a Philadelphia Quaker named Dr. George Logan decided on his own to try to negotiate a peaceful settlement. He was successful and France agreed to stop seizing ships and to release their prisoners. This did not go over well with President John Adams and he recommended that Congress pass a law to stop the “temerity and impertinence of individuals affecting to interfere in public affairs between France and the United States.” The result was the Logan Act. As amended today, the act reads:

Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

The Act does grant an exception for private citizens who wish to sue a foreign government for injuries, but that’s it. And when you think about it, it makes sense. For example, would you want the Koch Brothers to be allowed to legally negotiate their own agreement with the government of Canada regarding the tar sands oil? Would you want them to then be allowed to go into court and demand that the Keystone XL Pipeline be built because they had a contract and that contract must be honored? Bad idea. Better to not let them have that negotiation in the first place, especially if our government is not in favor of the project. (The Republicans are, because they only care about businesses earning huge profits, even foreign ones. President Obama will veto it.)

In the 200+ year history of the Logan Act there has never been anyone prosecuted under it. There was a farmer who was indicted, but that was over something he had written regarding the land which eventually became the Louisiana Purchase. He was never prosecuted and the Purchase quelled the entire argument being made. (Plus, I’m not so sure he would have been prosecuted, since he only advocated in a letter to a newspaper for something. I don’t believe he actually negotiated with anyone in France.) There have been arguments made (not in court) that the Logan Act may be unconstitutional, but there have also been numerous references to it in other court decisions. And the basic idea that the President is the only one who can negotiate on behalf of the United States has been mentioned several times in court rulings. So while nobody has been prosecuted (including Rev Jesse Jackson and Jane Fonda), the law remains in effect. Which brings us to Speaker John Boehner.

In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama said this about Iran:

Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material. Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran, secures America and our allies — including Israel, while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict. There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran.

But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails — alienating America from its allies; making it harder to maintain sanctions; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again. It doesn’t make sense. And that’s why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress.

Iran has made it clear that they will stop enriching uranium and negotiate with other countries about its nuclear program provided the United States does not pass any sanctions bill before the talks are concluded. So what do Republicans want to so? They want to pass a sanctions bill anyway that would take effect if the talks break down. What they seem unable to grasp is that the very act of passing a sanctions bill (even if and when it does get vetoed by Obama) could be the trigger that ends the talks. It truly makes me wonder if Republicans want Peace or not. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu views Iran as an existential threat, which is just another way of saying, “Even if they don’t try to harm us today, they probably might try to tomorrow, or they might decide to help someone else harm us, so let’s go to war with them before anyone attacks us.” This is not a workable foreign policy, this is paranoia. But since Republicans want to deny Obama any kind of victory at all, on any subject at all, they decided to try to thwart Obama’s foreign policy by inviting Netanyahu to address our Congress, specifically on why we shouldn’t enter into this agreement with Iran. It’s pretty clear that this invitation, arranged and negotiated without the knowledge of the White House (until a few hours before it was publicly announced), is a violation of the Logan Act. The purpose of both the invitation and of the address is to “defeat the measures of the United States,” and it clearly violates the Logan Act. The President has already said he would not meet with Netanyahu because they have an election coming up. And we know that Netanyahu thinks it’s wrong to do something like this because he said so himself, almost 20 years ago. When then-Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres visited the US in 1997, just before he faced an election, opposition leader Netanyahu said, “I can’t find an example of any previous Israeli government whose prime minister, on the eve of elections, made a cynical attempt to use relations between Israel and the United States as a party advertisement.” Being so hypocritical, it’s no wonder he enjoys such support from the Republican Party (a/k/a The American Likud Party.)

This is our daily open thread. Talk about anything you want, just don’t invite any foreign heads of state to address our Congress. That would be bad.

The Watering Hole, Monday, January 26, 2015: We Can Thank Religion For These Horrible Ideas

It is an indisputable fact that there have been people throughout history who have been motivated by their personal religious beliefs, whatever they may be, to do good things for other people, even complete strangers. It would be nice if the majority of those acts were done out of pure altruism and selflessness, but that is sadly not the case. The religious motivation was often not in the form of a reward for doing good as it was a punishment for not doing good. (Modern studies confirm what astute observers of humanity saw long ago, that conservative people tend to be motivated more by punishment than by reward, and that stupid people tended to think conservatively. So if you want them to do what you say, you make them afraid to not do what you say.) And while you may say, “What difference does it make why they’re helping their fellow humans?”, it’s important to understand that the same source (Religion) that tells them to do good things for people (at least once in a while) also gives them some very, very bad ideas. Alternet’s Valerie Tarico outlines them in more detail, but in short the horrible concepts are: Chosen People, Heretics, Holy War, Blasphemy, Glorified Suffering, Genital Mutilation, Blood Sacrifice, Hell, Karma, Eternal Life, Male Ownership of Female Fertility, and Bibliolatry (Worship of Books.) Religion may even be responsible for the Rape Culture in which we live. I’ll let you read them for yourself, I just want to talk about why a few of these concepts are contrary to the American concept of Freedom.

I worry about self-described Christian Conservatives taking political power. I consider them as dangerous to our way of life as any fundamentalist practitioner of any religion because they are making up their religious beliefs. Jesus did not preach a conservative message, so you can’t call yourself a conservative and a follower of Jesus’ teachings. There are Conservatives who have actually said our nation’s laws should be based on The Bible (though they’re usually vague about which one.) In three of his first four terms in Congress, Representative Robert Aderholt (R-AL 4) introduced three versions of a bill called The Ten Commandments Defense Act. (105th, 107th, 108th.) This bill declared that displaying the Ten Commandments on state (or some lower government) controlled property is a right reserved to the States under the Tenth Amendment. The problem here is pretty obvious when you think about it. He wants Congress to declare that States don’t have to obey the First Amendment when it comes to the Ten Commandments, even though the First Amendment states that Congress shall pass no law regarding establishment of religion. The very law he tried to have passed violated the First Amendment, because it was precisely the kind of law the authors of the First didn’t want Congress to pass. And even if you tried to say it was simply “enabling legislation,” it still amounted to establishment of religion. It has nothing to do with the alleged “Judeo-Christian” values upon which this nation was founded (because it wasn’t), it has to do with the fact that the Founders knew what happened to people who didn’t follow the official religion of a nation. They were forced to convert or face imprisonment or death. And there are nations in which that still happens today. The Founders thought that was wrong and that everyone should be free from government interference to practice their chosen religion, and that the worst way to let that happen would be to let the government declare a preference of one religion over another. And a federal law declaring States were free to do that to their citizens (who are also citizens of the United States, and under the Fourteenth Amendment afforded all their federal rights to their state citizenship) would be an Act of Congress that establishes a religion that supports the Ten Commandments. What bothers me more is that back then, his bill had 118 co-sponsors, some of whom have gone on to become US Senators. (And at least one who went to prison, but not for his involvement with this bill. Too bad.)

Another group of which you should be concerned are the Christian Reconstructionists. They have this screwed up view that God does not want governments to be involved in helping the poor. This is as good place as any to start describing why the Religious Right’s (or any other religious group’s) views on government should be null and void. This is the United States of America. Our government IS “We the People.” When we decide we want to help those less fortunate than ourselves, we institute government-run programs to do so. What makes government-run programs superior to private or religious charities is that the government is prohibited from discriminating against people! Private charities can find ways to make sure only the people they think deserve their help get it. If you truly believe people should be free from government interference to practice the religion of their choice, and if you believe people should be free to express any ideas they wish, then you can’t possibly also believe that the United States should be run according to any religious text. Any! The two principles are mutually exclusive. You can’t be free to practice your own religion when the government has decided that one religion is better than another. (I think all the monotheistic ones are bad, with the polytheistic ones not that far behind.) Because many monotheistic religions ban anyone from standing up and saying four simple words, “There is no God.” You would also not be allowed to say, “The entire concept of God is a flawed and silly one. Grow up and take responsibility for your lives here on Earth today.” They would put you to death. And it would be an Eternal Death because the idea of an Eternal Life gives people (especially conservative people, who are not inclined by their nature to want to help other people) an excuse to not live for today, to not live for making a difference to your planet’s fellow inhabitants today. It also lets the government (who is now running your life once they decided that a particular religious text trumps our secular Constitution) oppress you even more because, according to them, if you live a righteous life here on Earth today, no matter how much you or anyone else suffers, you will get your reward when you’re dead. And when they’re telling you that, take careful notice of how they’re getting their rewards today. Lastly, one of the absolute WORST idea Religion has given us is that women are property who must at all times be under some male’s control. This is the driving force behind all anti-abortion viewpoints. When they say it’s just a Biblical thing, they’re wrong. Life does not begin at conception (according to their own Bibles), it begins at the baby’s first breath. This not about “protecting the innocent unborn.” (Were people like Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer innocent when they were in the womb? I’m more interested in how the religious right views things.) If you believe that all people are equal under the law (which is what our Constitution guarantees), then you cannot also believe that men have any right to control women’s bodies. Hobby Lobby’s argument came down to that – Men have the right to control women’s bodies. It had nothing to do with Christian principles, because if it did, they wouldn’t have their products made in countries notorious for their human rights abuses.

Take away these horrible ideas Religion brought us, and maybe there’s a chance Humanity can live in Peace with one another. Nobody was chosen by an imaginary Being to be Its favorite (which several different religions claim.) People who think differently should not be killed for those beliefs (which won’t kill the ideas, anyway) but should be shown in an intellectual manner why their reasoning is flawed. As Tarico points out, if War can be holy, anything can be. Blasphemy is as American as it gets in this country. Glorified Suffering is just masochism made holy. Genital Mutilation is never necessary, nor is it ever justifiable. Blood Sacrifice is just an excuse to kill. Hell is as ridiculous a concept as heaven, when you think about it. (Please do that. Think about it.) Karma is a pretty cynical concept, and a good excuse to do nothing. But if you believe Karma will get back the guy who did something horrible to little children, then you have to believe the kids he brutalized did something to deserve their fate. Are you sick? Eternal Life because Why Live For Today? Male Ownership of Female Fertility because deep down inside them, conservative men are afraid of women because the women might not give them sex if they had to give consent first. And worshiping books leads to censorship of books that don’t support the ones worshiped. None of these concepts is good for Humanity, and all of them are the result of Religion. Please, don’t try to tell me Religion is nothing but good. It is filled with horrible ideas, and the sooner we stop treating them as good ones, the sooner we’ll all be free.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Religion, Politics, the separation of the two, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole; Friday January 23 2015; The Land Of ‘Az’ — A State Of Mind?

Last Monday on Martin Luther King Day, I posted as a comment here some stuff I’d written a long time ago about Arizona’s concerted effort(s) to overturn former Governor Bruce Babbitt’s MLK-Day proclamation. What really fascinated me way back then was how much popular support the bigoted viewpoint had managed to muster. The “opinion” I posted here consisted of five verses from a topical poetic “essay” I’d worked on and written some 25 years ago in the early months of 1990, my summation of the local political stupidity of the day, a task which eventually wound up consuming a LOT of five-line metered stanzas, each with a defined rhyming pattern. I did separate them into various topic categories — ranging from the English-Only movement to the official attempt to regulate Dildos plus everything in between — but I mean Jeebus, how many layers of stupidity can stupid politicians come up with in a relatively short amount of time? Answer: LOTS!

Anyway, while looking for the MLK verses I read the whole thing once again and actually had to laugh. I mean, here we are twenty-five years later and we’re still surrounded by political stupidity — even MORE of it today than back then. These days it seems more concentrated in D.C. than in the several states, although certain states today most assuredly have advanced the ‘dumb’ to new levels. And even more fascinating is the fact that a great many of the issues back then remain issues today, everything from racist bigotry to crooked politicians to uninformed (uninformable?) voters to toxic waste disposal to air quality to . . . etc., ad infinitum.

So here it is, my nearly ‘ancient’ poetic essay titled “The Land Of ‘AZ’ / A State Of Mind (???).” I suspect most readers today won’t recognize too many of the names (nor did I, actually), but I’m willing to bet everyone will spot a familiar (and current!) political issue that’s mired in the same muck as was spread all over the place twenty-five years ago. So take a look at 1990 Arizona and compare any or all to most everywhere out there today. Has anything really changed?

*** :grin: ***

ARIZONA: The Land of ‘AZ’
A State Of Mind (???)

An Exploration of Issues Confronting the
Grand Canyon State

(With parenthetical explanations added to assist
the uninitiated and/or uninformed)
and,

With Unabashed Gratitude to Samuel Taylor Coleridge,
Who Once Wrote:

Sir, I admit your general rule,
That every poet is a fool,
Though you yourself do serve to show it
That every fool is not a poet.

 *** :shock: ***

Arizona’s Canyons, Grand,
Are more than scars upon our land,
For canyons here are metaphors
Which well-define those classic bores
That we anoint to guide our lives;
Thus, empty-headedness now thrives
And open spaces do equate
With minds in our ‘Grand Canyon State!’

Frank Baum, with perspicacity,
Created Oz for all to see;
Since lands like Oz we know about
(‘Cause Arizona’s Oz’ redoubt),
We stoop to honor Baum’s creation
And give you “Az” as assignation!

For Az, you see, has lots of lizards,
Plus its fair share of mindless wizards,
(Those folks whose hearts pump blood that’s blue,
But won’t pay Principle her due);
Here thinking folks with minds, constrained,
Watch common sense flushed down the drain,
So let’s examine, case by case,
What fills Az up with empty space!

***  :evil: ***

On Official English:

(Most Gringos need not ever fear,
For “English-Only’s” spoken here!)

A man from Az seems quite upset
By voices which he deems unsound
(They come from those whose backs are ‘wet,’
Whose culture might suggest a threat,
For, after all, their skins are brown!)

Then after checking ’round the State
He noticed more that wasn’t right,
For others, too, did not equate
That English ‘speak’ has made us great,
While foreign tongues are but a blight!

He set upon a private quest
To mandate Az’ official tongue,
And, as most readers might have guessed,
‘Official English’ finally passed:
Thank voters from the bottom rung!

On Dr. King and His Holiday:

(“Let’s vote on it,” the bigots say,
“We hate the spooks, so we’ll vote ‘nay.”‘)

Some liked the Reverend, some did not,
To many, Martin lived in sin,
But while most rednecks have a pot,
(Above the belt, you know the spot)
It’s clearly not for pissin’ in!

Now, Julian Sanders, Architect,
Hates Martin’s foibles; deems himself
As our ‘White Knight,’ to help reject
King’s day (black sin, we can’t accept!)
But white sin? Hide it on the shelf!

Thus, drawing strength from Fascist Right,
King’s holiday he did rebuff,
Though ignorant, to our delight,
That Kings are always Kings, despite
The fact that once a “Knight’s” enough!

Still, lawmakers, in reverie
(Like babes in woods with no foresight),
Enjoy their own soliloquy
While fearing their constituency,
With little ken of what is right.

With stroke of pen, they could defuse
Az’ image, seen as quite retarded
By those with more enlightened views;
But still, they say, they must refuse,
Since ‘think’ in Az ain’t well-regarded!

On the Politics of Sex:

(Our solon’s minds are queer, it seems,
They fear both hetero-sex and ‘queens.’)

Our legislators oft’ convene
(While resting on well-trussed behinds)
To censure sex, while we, serene,
The ‘Great Unwashed,’ now deemed unclean,
Them re-elect: blame empty minds!

So now it’s not correct, you see,
For youths to fondle budding breasts,
And with our Courts’ proclivity
To not endorse indecency,
It’s jail for kids who flunk the test!

On Dildos:
(Sex aids are bad, as we should know,
Thus, all but the five best must go!)

We recognize the bad effect
That dildos might create, for whores,
So solons seek new laws; in fact,
The “Regulate The Dildos” Act
Suggests we stuff ours in our … (drawers?)!

On Evan Mecham:

(There’s still a lot to say ’bout “Meek,”
Since it’s a fact he’d run next week.)

Old Ev’s upon us once again,
His mind’s a-lyin’ on the table,
The ninth floor chair, he’d like to win,
To spite Ed Buck, who lives in sin,
Ev’s vision’s unimpeachable!

He claims that he’s Republican
(Though many don’t believe it’s true),
It seems an insult to Abe Lincoln
That Ev espouse such lowly thinkin’
Reflective of a ‘ short’ I.Q.!

Ev proved to Az some time ago
That nonsense gets us nowhere fast,
Still, ‘Mechamistas’ join the flow
While dancing Evan’s do-si-do,
Determined Az rejoin the past!

We are, they say, a Christian Nation,
That pickaninnies, we embrace,
That if we heed John’s ‘Revelation’
We’ll pave the way for our salvation,
Creating, here, a State of Grace!

Yet, still remains a simple task
Much like the one we gave to Custer,
For one more question’s there to ask:
Pray, Evan, what’s behind your mask?
Savant or simply mindless bluster?

Az’ future’s here for us to read:
Expel the past or else relive it,
Yet some folks, born of mutant seed,
Still think that Evan’s what we need;
If he returns, we’ll sure deserve it!

On Air Quality:

(Though “brown clouds” visit every day,
Our solons look the other way.)

While desert air turns shades of brown,
Officials oft’ don’t seem to know it;
They’re usually more involved, downtown,
With things to make the voters frown,
Like naming AZ’ ‘Official Poet!’

On Deck Park:

(An Irish cottage soon will grace
Our Central Phoenix Homeless Place.)

The freeway’s buried ‘neath the ground,
For just about a country mile,
The deck’s the neatest park around
Say City Fathers who have found –
Some Irish eyes that still can smile!

A patch of garden, Japanese,
A ‘Central’ bridge where beggars squat,
An Irish farm with piggeries,
And here and there, some grass and trees,
But master plan? Pray, what is that?

On Charles Keating:

(Seems Charlie Keating’s really miffed,
Says, “Uncle Sam stole Lincoln Thrift!”)

Charlie Keating stormed the West
With love of bucks, disdain for sin,
So decency became his quest
While dollars filled his treasure chest;
“Morality,” he preached, “must win!”

He rode his White Horse ’round the town
While bilking folks with little ken
Of millions; yes, he let them down,
Now even ‘Lincoln’ wears a frown,
Morality, you lost again!

On Our Senators:

(Two Senators, we have elected,
Az’ special interests, now protected!)

While big shots waltz around the state,
Our John McCain and DeConcini
Both dance along, while they berate
Those interests we all love to hate,
While slipping us the silver weenie!

For Dennis made big bucks, you see,
While cleverly, in Real Estate,
Investing dough where C.A.P
Canals (he knew) were going to be;
Guess we all know his interest rate!

And John McCain’s spouse (Cindi) made
A pile (or so the pundits say);
Built shopping centers, unafraid,
While teamed with Keating’s Silver Spade
As John helped Charlie pave the way!

On Voters:

(With no-show votes notorious
Some issues aren’t victorious.)

Some covet bus and rapid rail
To speed the Valley’s stop-and-go,
(Most surface streets can slow a snail);
Yet ValTrans, there to pass or fail,
One-quarter showed and said, “Hell No!”

The old Salt River bed’s a scar
As it traverses, east to west;
Still, visioned parks did not get far
Since nihilists alone did star;
Again, three-quarters flunked the test!

On Power Companies:

(Five billion bucks to save us dough
With nuke plants? Let’s all laugh: “Ho, Ho!”)

Our Palo Verde nuke plant stands
On desert flats outside of town,
The slickest plant in ninety lands,
(Built by local power brigands)
It seldom works, it’s always down.

So, lights are lit by older plants
Not burdened by this nuke plant’s schism,
But power brokers still can dance
While lifting wallets from our pants;
So, where’s old Santa when we need’im?

On Drug Law Enforcement:

(Who says it’s not completely fair
For cops to trap kids, in a snare?)

When Paul McCartney came to town
To play a concert, in Tempe,
(A place, we’re sure, where drugs abound,
Since college kids, there, hang around)
AZ’ D.E.A. stopped by to see.

The night, it’s true, had some success,
For sixty thousand fans were there
While fifty cops in ‘funky’ dress
Sold thirty kids some pre-rolled ‘grass:’
Some charged, “Entrapment!” Cops asked, “Where?”

On Child Molesters:

(Two child molesters, swathed in sin,
Are punished, based on tint of skin;
For one man has a year to do,
The other? Hundred forty-two!)

Herr Mueller has a heart that’s cold,
As does Señor Martinez,
For each enjoyed girls ten years old
Whose souls, to Devil’s Hell, they sold;
So now, Az’ juris prudence says:

“Mueller gets a year in jail, plus
His pension from our City’s purse;
Martinez gets a one way bus
To prison: now, before you fuss,
Recall he’ll leave there in a hearse!”

Herr Mueller was a fireman, see,
As such, his union did prevail,
To act as his fiduciary
To salvage said pecuniary,
Which he can spend when out of jail!

And, what’s Martinez’ greatest sin?
Molesting children? Yes, perhaps,
But maybe, also, dark brown skin
Has come to haunt a life, again,
While Az’ “Blind Justice” takes a nap.

On Toxic Waste Disposal:

(The town of Mobile’s quite remote,
So solon’s said (I’ll try to quote),
“Let’s put a firery furnace there,
Burn toxic waste and foul the air!”)

Az needs a place to lose its trash,
With such a theory, we can’t argue,
Though now, perhaps, we should rehash
The premise that for lots of cash
We’ll burn dioxins in our venue.

Some folks think burning toxic stuff
Is not a great idea, because
Our State’s already fouled enough
With dirty air that makes us cough;
Such plans give many people pause.

So Az folks, at a public meeting
(Who came in force to air their views),
Received our State’s official greeting
By way of an official beating
At hands of Az’ jackbooted crews.

Yet, in this land of rock and sun
Just who condones such crass behaviours?
The County Sheriff’s force, for one,
Plus politicians who’ll soon run
For one more term as our State’s Saviours.

A year ago, in Beijing’s Square
Most freedoms fled in just a wink,
And, though Red China’s ‘over there,’
Some acts in Az make us aware
Of thoughts that we don’t like to think.

The Land of Az, Summation:

(Agendas shroud the Land of Az,
Most seem to make scant sense, because
There’s little else they do, you see,
Than fracture Az’ fraternity!)

Clear vision’s not a force in Az
As witnessed by vignettes, declaimed
In verse preceding; thus, ‘Great Cause’
Is now interred: Its headstone says,
“INCISIVENESS, HEREIN, DETAINED!”

For silliness, in Az, pervades;
Those charged with making great decision
Are loathe to garner passing grades
(Insightfulness, in darkness, fades,
Hence, they view ‘light’ with great derision!)

Yet, Az folks still will not admit
They’ve chosen leaders who beguile ‘em
(For leaders here have half a wit,
And most of them seem full of shit!):
Are inmates runnin’ Az’ asylum?

The present here reflects the past,
And future’s scant consideration,
Our ‘Ship of State’ sails without mast
While others wonder, minds aghast,
If Az’ll e’er rejoin the nation!

So now, for Az, a eulogy
From Burns, ‘The Bard’ who pointed out
That, “… thou art blest, compared wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:”
Which Az defines, without a doubt!

AFTERWARD

(To those fair minds entombed herein,
‘The Bard’ now speaks to you again,
So read this script wherein he says
Some able thoughts: perhaps of Az?):

When from my mither’s womb I fell
Thou might hae plung’d me deep in hell
To gnash my gooms, and weep, and wail
In burning lakes,
Whare damned’ devils roar and yell,
Chained to their stakes.
(Robert Burns,
from Holy Willie’s Prayer)

OPEN THREAD

 

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 17th, 2014: Mixed Bag

Just a few articles from last week that I found interesting, and in case you missed them:

From Daily Kos, a very succinct [but limited] summary of some of President Obama’s accomplishments, in the form of a “letter to the editor” from a frustrated Canadian, who wraps up with: “When you are done with Obama, could you send him our way?” The blogger who posted the LTE at Daily Kos, Leslie Salzillo, ends (in part) with:

“…half of America was blinded by the half-truths FOX ‘News’ and Conservative talking heads fed them, because you know, if you tell just enough truth mixed in with a bucket of lies, it causes confusion. And that can lead to a bad case of the FuckIts.”

[Hmm, is a “bad case of the FuckIts” related to “someone’s got a case of the Mondays” from Office Space?]

Ms. Salzillo then posted a line by Robin Williams (sigh), speaking to Canada:

“You are a big country.
You are the kindest country in the world.
You are like a really nice apartment
over a meth lab.”

Raw Story had a couple of items, including this story about how former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [spit] feels about possible executive action by President Obama on immigration. The President may “…defer the deportations of up to 5 million undocumented immigrants who have children who are in the U.S. legally”, according to the article by David Edwards. Gonzales, appearing on CNN,

“…argued that the president should be focused on securing the border because of a “nightmare scenario” where terrorists infiltrate into the country through Mexico…

“Now, 99 percent of the people that come across the border are not terrorists,” he admitted. “They are coming over primarily to seek a better life. But I do think that it is legitimate in today’s world to do what we can as a government to secure the border.”

Apparently Gonzales has not read up on President Obama’s work to secure the southern border. According to The White House:

“Today, the Border Patrol is better staffed than ever before, having doubled the number of agents from approximately 10,000 in 2004 to more than 21,000 in 2011. More than 2,200 Border Patrol agents man the Northern border, a 700 percent increase since 9/11. More than 21,000 Customs and Border Protection Officers, including 3,800 along Northern Border, manage the flow of people and goods at our ports of entry and crossings.”

If I were Alberto Gonzales, and therefore needed something to fear, I’d be a whole lot more concerned about our porous northern border [no offense, dycker!]: twice the length of our border with Mexico, the U.S.-Canadian border only gets 2,200 Border Patrol Agents out of 21,000? And that piddly number is a 700% INCREASE since 9/11? Oy!

Sorta-kinda related – well, it reminded me of the Dubya days, appointing buddies whose former careers were in direct opposition to the purpose of the departments or Cabinets they were asked to head – but I digress:

Also from Raw Story, losing Oregon Republican Senate candidate Dr. Monica Wehby must have some set of “Thatchers” (Stephen Colbert’s name for ‘lady balls’) on her. After campaigning on the ‘repeal Obamacare’ platform, she allegedly called Oregon’s Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber to offer “…her expertise and interest in health care reform…”, according to the article by Tom Boggioni.

“According to multiple sources, Wehby asked about the job opening as director of the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) which administers the ACA…”

I liked this part:

“Prior to the election, Wehby’s campaign was rocked by allegations that many of the policy prescriptions posted on her campaign website were plagiarized, including one for reforming healthcare.
Wehby removed the alleged plagiarized portions, leaving the web pages blank.”

Heh, smooth move, “Doc.”

This story gets curiouser and curiouser, as the ‘fine hand’ of Karl Rove is in the background. Dr. Wehby “…was accused of taking wording from a survey conducted for Crossroads, a group run by Karl Rove, for her health care plan.”

I haven’t had time to read the Crossroads survey, but I think that it could be worth taking a look at, even just to see what Karl’s millions and minions have been up to.

This is our daily Open Thread…go ahead, talk amongst yourselves.

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 10th, 2014: Mitch Makes Plans

Today I’m just going to throw a few topics out here, good, bad, or meh

A few excerpts from yesterday’s Washington Post article by Lori Montgomery and Robert Costa, headlined (rather lengthily) “GOP crafts narrow agenda for new Congress, seeking unity, Democratic votes”:

“Within hours of solidifying their control of Congress, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John A. Boehner were quietly laying plans for a series of quick votes in January aimed at erasing their obstructionist image ahead of the 2016 elections.

Considering the previous unfortunate efforts of the Republican Party to slap a different varnish on their tarnished image, I can only cringe wondering what kind of Mr. Clean Magic Eraser(tm) “quick votes” these two have in mind. What would they deregulate first? IOW, what will be the Rs’ first BS “repeal this job killer” meme in 2015? And are Boehner and McConnell, while “seeking unity”, keeping an eye on their own far-right-flank tea-nut gallery? Megalomaniac Senator Ted Cruz (R-PlanetTexas) is not one to allow the limelight to stray far from him, and is already making obstructionist noises. Boehner and McConnell are fools – yes, I could stop right there, but – if they think that Cruz is going to bow to their so-called “leadership.”

“First up: Action on long-stalled bills with bipartisan support, including measures to repeal an unpopular tax on medical devices and approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Whoa, tortoise, whoa! [gets out baseball bat, “I said WHOA!”] Why you sly bastards! First, Boehner and McConnell know damn well that repealing the medical devices tax, however unpopular it may or may not be, will undermine one of the sources for funding the PPACA, aka Obamacare. Boehner has been shown by FactCheck.org to have been lying about the negative effect that the Medical Device Tax would have on jobs. Repealing the Medical Device Tax is just one way that the Republicans would start to unravel the PPACA without actually repealing the act itself.

Now let’s get to “approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.” It seems that everyone, except the few people/companies who stand to gain from the construction of the pipeline, is against that. This is definitely an example of the incredibly ballsy, obviously and provably false claims that the project would be a “job creator.” Temporary American jobs, yes; a few (50 or so) permanent American jobs, yes; but nowhere near the thousands that the pipeline’s proponents would have us believe. There are so many good arguments against the Keystone XL, it’s truly amazing that any politician is still promoting it; unless, of course, well-funded interests are funding them.

There’s loads more from the WaPo article, but there’s also more information in the New Republic’s article called “This is How the New GOP Senate will try to Dismantle Obamacare”, by Jonathan Cohn.

So far everything points to the Rs major obsession for the past several years – if they can’t repeal the ACA, they’ll just kill it with a thousand cuts.

This is our daily open thread – talk about whatever you want.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 25, 2014: Five Republicans I Fear Might Win

Courtesy of the good people at Right Wing Watch (a project of People For the American Way dedicated to monitoring and exposing the activities of the right-wing movement), here are five Republicans I fear might win on Election Day (which is just one week from this coming Tuesday.) What’s even more frightening than the mere fact that they won their party’s nomination is that they may end up being members of a Republican-controlled House and Senate. And that would be horrific for anybody in this country who isn’t a white, male billionaire which, last time I checked, was just about all of us.

The five names you don’t want to hear announced as winners on Election Night (or however many days it takes to count up every vote against them) are Joni Ernst, Thom Tillis, Jody Hice, Glenn Grothman, and Zach Dasher. The first two wish to become US Senators (in our government!) and the other three wish to become US Representatives (representing the interests of the very, very rich in the People’s House.) Ernst wants to replace retiring Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and Tillis wants to unseat first term North Carolina Senator Kay Hagen. Over in the House, Hice wants to replace the out-going non-believer in Science (and member of the House Science Committee) Dr. Paul Broun (who once called Evolution and the Big Bang Theory “lies straight from the pit of Hell“); Grothman wants to replace retiring Wisconsin Rep Tom Petri (who won’t endorse Grothman because, as he told a reporter, “Why would I endorse a person who has said that if in two years people said he was ‘just like Petri’ he would be insulted?”); and Dasher wants to bank on his family name (which isn’t his; he’s related to the Robertsons of Duck Dynasty fame) to replace the freshman Republican Vince McAllister.

I encourage you to read about each of these five candidates at the link above. Believe me, if you have any sense of decency as a human being, if you have any concern whatsoever about the extremist Tea Party people taking over our government so they can do the bidding of their wealthy benefactors, or if you have an IQ in the three-digit range, you will not want any of these five people to win a week from Tuesday. If they have the right view on anything, I can promise you it’s probably for the wrong reasons. And talk about extremism. Among them, in various combinations, they support: nullification of federal laws they don’t like, personhood amendments, Christian nationalism, anti-abortion laws, and the arming of school teachers. And I just picked one thing out of each of their platforms. They support many, many more extremist positions. I will be very unhappy if any one of them wins, and I will be downright depressed if any of them win and the Republicans take control of all of Congress because any of them might become the head of a Congressional committee. You should be, too.

This is our daily open thread. feel free to discuss Republican extremism or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, September 27, 2014: F-R-C! See the Real Kooks!

Well, it’s that time of year again. Time for self-identified Conservative Christians (an oxymoron, since Jesus could never have been mistaken for a conservative) to gather together and show the world all the hate in their hearts. Yes, it’s the Family Research Council’s 2014 Values Voters Summit, where the elite will never meet, nor the smart start to take part (according to one of their featured speakers). [Courtesy of the good people at Right Wing Watch. A project of People For the American Way dedicated to monitoring and exposing the activities of the right-wing movement.]

But it’s also the place, for reasons that defy conventional logic, where Republicans who one day hope to be the legal occupant of the White House (or a self-serving Member of Congress) feel they must go to solidify their conservative credentials, which is really ironic since there are precious few true conservative values expressed there. Oh, sure, there’s all the gay-bashing Islamophobia one could ever hope to see, but that isn’t true Conservatism. It might be considered Christian Conservatism, but as I said before, that’s an oxymoron. If there’s one thing about Christianity that this Atheist knows for certain, it’s the Golden Rule: Treat other people the way you would like them to treat you. (It also happens to be my own personal guiding principle in life. I just don’t need a fear of going to Hell – which not everyone believes in, including Jews – to make me follow it.) And while I have personal doubts about whether or not the Biblical character known as Jesus actually existed, I’m pretty sure the person described in that book (or in most versions of it) would not say the kinds of things they say at the Values Voters Summit.

For example, there was Bishop E.W. Jackson (the “E.W.” stands for “Everybody’s Wingnut”), who falsely claimed that the Bible defines marriage as being between one man and one woman. Actually, if you read it carefully, that’s not what it says. There’s plenty of polygamy going on in the Bible, including with that of the first King of Israel, David (probably not his real name.) So it is factually incorrect, an important point if you wish to express a valid opinion, to say that marriage “has always been defined” as being between one man and one woman. You don’t even have to go to the Bible for proof. The people living here before the Europeans showed up and screwed everything up had a very different view of marriage. For one thing, it didn’t involve God. For another, it didn’t involve monogamy.

Then there was former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee dropping the huckaboom on the attendees by telling them that the reason Mitt Romney lost in 2012 was because Conservative Christians stayed home. The only problem is that opinion is not supported by the facts. Even Ralph Reed’s organization had polling data that showed exactly the opposite. And they were the only ones who noticed. But why let pesky things like facts get in the way of a good talking point. Or a talking point, anyway.

Then there was former half-Governor Sarah Palin, the woman who tried to be one grumpy old man’s heartbeat away from the presidency. (Do you know who she is?) Palin tried to make the point that…that, well…you know, it’s hard to figure out what point she was trying to make. She seemed more concerned with throwing out standard right-wing insults (Alinsky!) than she was with making a coherent statement. And, like so much of the right wing media, she had to get her digs in on what has become known in conservative circlejerks as the “latte salute.” And like so much of the right wing media’s trash-talking, this was a non-scandal (along with all the other non-scandals Palin rattled off.) There is no requirement that the President do anything in return when a military person salutes him. In fact, presidents didn’t even bother returning salutes until Ronald Reagan started doing it back in the early eighties, and that’s probably because he forgot he wasn’t in the 1st Motion Picture unit anymore. Seriously, it is not as big a deal as they are making it out to be, but that’s because they’ve got nothing, not even the values they claim to have.

Which brings me to one simple question about the “Values Voters Summit”: Whose values? You see, when it comes to defining morality (which, I’m sure the attendees at the summit didn’t know, Ronald Reagan said you can’t legislate), conservatives add more things to the definition than liberals, and give them equal weight! According to Dr. Jonathan Haidt’s studies,

…morality is not just about how we treat each other (as most liberals think); it is also about binding groups together, supporting essential institutions, and living in a sanctified and noble way. When Republicans say that Democrats “just don’t get it,” this is the “it” to which they refer.

Liberals tend to value fairness and equal justice much higher than conservatives, who value all those things listed as equally important. This would explain why Conservative Christians think only Christians should have First Amendment protections, or that only Christians have morals that matter. This is just self-referential opinion, confirmed by other Conservative Christian sources. It’s also a bunch of hypocrisy, since there is nothing “sanctified or noble” about gathering together and bashing the morality of more than half the country.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to talk about the loonies at the VVS, or anything else you wish to discuss.