The Watering Hole, Monday, March 17, 2014: Why All The Hate?

If you’re like me, not only are you incredibly smart and good-looking, you wonder why so many people on the Right hate, just viscerally hate, the President of the United States. The knee-jerk reaction is to say it’s because the Haters are (Insert Randomly Insignificant Criterion Here) and the President is Not, and that for most of the haters, the randomly inserted insignificant criterion would be race. Not necessarily. There’s a lot of people who hate the president, and there’s certainly a chunk of them with an IQ well below the three-digit range who think the color of his skin is reason enough to hate him. Thankfully, despite this group’s inability to grasp the concept of birth control, Natural Selection will prevent them from becoming a majority in this country. But they don’t account for all the Haters. Some of the Haters claim to be Christians who think the President is Not One of Them. They think he’s a Muslim. What’s really funny about that one is that these are the same people who said Obama shouldn’t be President because he sat in the pews of a Christian church for 20 years listening to the hate speech of Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Well, Uptighty Righties, which is it? Is Obama a Muslim, or a Christian who listened to a kind of hate speech that differs from your own? None of your other reasons to hate him make sense, either. At least, none of the reasons coming from the Right. Some of us on the Left certainly have our problems with a number of areas of his Governance, but we don’t hate him for it. We’re disappointed as all get-out, but we don’t hate him. But you do. Why?

I hear many of you claim he’s a “Communist,” a “Marxist,” and even a “Fascist,” all at once. And I laugh, because if I don’t, I’ll start shaking my head in sadness until I’m overcome by sobbing fits, despondent over the intense stupidity of my fellow human beings. You can’t be a Marxist and a Fascist at the same time, and if you don’t know enough about them to understand why, you should really stay out of the political arena. I would also not only recommend, I would beg you to stay home on Election Day, or least don’t go near the polls to cast a vote. Your political awareness is on par with that of sea urchins, who are at least smart enough not to advertise their ignorance. I just can’t see how America’s best interests are served by letting you have a say in who governs it. But you’ll notice (or, more likely, I’ll have to point out to you) that I’m not calling for you to not be allowed to vote. That’s how many on your side of the political aisle solve an issue like that. If they don’t like the way they think someone is likely to vote, they make up some bullshit reason to deny him the right to vote at all. Our side doesn’t do that, nor do we put out fliers telling you the election is being held on another day. We just ask you to do what’s best for your country, and don’t vote until you learn what you’re talking about.

You can’t govern a country based on denying rights to the people who aren’t like you, especially when about 75% of the country is not like you! This is a Republic, and you are a small percentage of its citizens. We don’t need to put anybody in Congress who thinks like you because there’s something wrong with the way you think. You need mental health treatment. And we hope you’ll be happy to learn it’s covered thanks to Obamacare.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss what you think we should do about all the Haters, or anything else you want.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, November 16, 2013: Taylor Swift and The Gettysburg Address

From the website “Learn the Address“:

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, documentarian Ken Burns, along with numerous partners, has launched a national effort to encourage everyone in America to video record themselves reading or reciting the speech.The collection of recordings housed on this site will continue to grow as more and more people are inspired by the power of history and take the challenge to LEARN THE ADDRESS.

The site features this mashup of all five living presidents and a slew of politicians and celebrities, including Taylor Swift, who ABC considered the most important of the celebs to be featured in the video. (Each recorded his or her own.)

At the site you are invited and encouraged to share your own Gettysburg Address reading. You can upload a YouTube video of yourself, then give them a link to it. If accepted, they’ll post it at their site along with the presidents, politicians, and celebrities already featured there. Here is the complete Gettysburg Address, which takes about two minutes to read Continue reading

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, 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!

Sunday Roast, August 11, 2013: They’re Both Wrong

Just this past Thursday (remember that day; a mere three days ago) Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) had an unpleasant conversation with a constituent who insisted that Barack Obama was constitutionally ineligible to be the President of the United States. She claimed to have proof in the form of some papers supposedly gathered by Arizona Bigot-Extraordinaire Joe Arpaio’s Cold Case Posse (which I sincerely hope didn’t use a penny of taxpayer money pursuing this non-crime), but the Congressman was not interested in looking at them. He said to her (and it sure sounds like this to my hard-of-hearing ears), “I don’t even give a shit.” She tried to claim it was “a matter of law.” For his part, the Congressman’s argument was that “We had four years to take care of that,” and that because Obama was re-elected, it was a “dead issue” and “we lost that argument.”

They’re both wrong.

No matter how many times they bring it up, Continue reading

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, Saturday, June 8, 2013: Mother, Should I Trust The Government?

When your government, one that is supposed to be of the People, by the People, and for the People, appears to violate the Constitution and invade the privacy of the People without probable cause, should you really just trust them when they can just say they can’t tell you exactly what they’re doing because it would harm national security? Especially when, most of the time, they are not required to prove to any judge that national security really is involved? And this is despite the fact that when the Supreme Court ruled that the government can invoke such a privilege (it was not the first time it was used, simply the first time the Supreme Court said they could do it), they stressed that the decision to withhold evidence is to be made by the presiding judge and not the executive. Unfortunately, judges generally defer to the Executive. This is a bad idea. The government doesn’t always tell the truth, which is what happened in the very case that led to recognition of the state secrets privilege. “In 2000, the [withheld classified information from the 1953 case was] declassified and released, and it was found that the assertion that they contained secret information was fraudulent.” So the right of the government to claim that information shouldn’t be released because it contained details whose release might be harmful to national security was based on a case where the government lied and said the release of certain information would be harmful to national security when it really wouldn’t. Doesn’t that mean they can keep anything they want secret just by invoking “state secrets,” even if it doesn’t really apply? How do you convince a judge to look at the information and challenge the government’s claims?

We recently learned that our government has been collecting “telephony metadata” on every phone call made by Verizon customers (and let’s not assume that it only applied to Verizon customers) for several years now. It is important to note that they stressed that it was important to note that they were not listening to the phone calls themselves, nor were they recording the calls so they could be listened to later, and that they were only collecting the phone number of the caller, the phone number being called, the time of day, the length of the call, and possibly the location of the parties involved (! emphasis mine). Here’s why I’m concerned (from the second link):

“But civil liberties lawyers say that the use of the privilege to shut down legal challenges was making a mockery of such “judicial oversight”. Though classified information was shown to judges in camera, the citing of the precedent in the name of national security cowed judges into submission.

The administration is saying that even if they are violating the constitution or committing a federal crime no court can stop them because it would compromise national security. That’s a very dangerous argument,” said Ilann Maazel, a lawyer with the New York-based Emery Celli firm who acts as lead counsel in the Shubert case.

“This has been legally frustrating and personally upsetting,” Maazel added. “We have asked the government time after time what is the limit to the state secrets privilege, whether there’s anything the government can’t do and keep it secret, and every time the answer is: no.”

That’s not how our country is supposed to work. We’re not supposed to have a Constitution that defines and limits our government’s powers, but then decide we’ll ignore it when it gets in the way of doing what we want to do. If you want to do a search on private information without a warrant and without probable cause, then amend the part of the Constitution that says in order to do a search on private information, you have to have a warrant and you have to have probable cause. And if you read the Constitution (which I know many Americans have not, as evidenced by what we’ve seen at Tea Party rallies), you will find that the only mention of secrecy in our government is to the part of each House of Congress’ daily journals they think should be kept secret. It mentions nothing about Executive Privilege, or state secrets, or even of any right of the President (or Vice President) to hold secret meetings and keep the advice of the unnamed guests secret. People (and by the term “People” I’m generously including Justices of the Supreme Court) seem to forget that the President of the United States, for all the power we give that office, is a Public Servant. So any advice given to the President, by anyone at all, that concerns what might be in the best interests of the People ought to be both available to the public and actually in the best interests of the people. Otherwise, the President is not being a servant of the public but a servant of a private interest, and this can not be allowed. But in order to make sure that isn’t happening, we have to have access to what was discussed in those meetings. [Discussions with military personnel would be an obvious exception, but only because the military personnel would be addressing their Commander in Chief, and would not be having domestic policy discussions.]

The argument that if you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to worry about is a ridiculous one because that isn’t the point. The point is that our Constitution clearly says that not only do you have a right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures, but that if they want to begin one, they have to get a warrant, supported by oath or affirmation, and “particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” (The Constitution is unclear on whether the search they can now conduct can be an “unreasonable” one. If the TV shows I’ve seen showing cops cutting open furniture, spilling powders on the floors and tables, and emptying anything that might be a container are in the least bit realistic, then it seems they are then allowed an “unreasonable” search.) So who gave the FISA Court judge a statement under oath or affirmation that says it’s necessary to know what number was called from your phone, when the call was made, how long it lasted, and where the two of you were when the conversation was taking place? The authority to conduct any such search is supposedly granted under the USA PATRIOT Act, but that law, if you know what the letters mean, is about tools for fighting Terrorism. Is there some reason the government should have the idea that you’re a terrorist? Then what business do they have keeping track of how your phone is being used?

Another false argument is that you already give your personal information away to private corporations, so what’s wrong with the government asking them to give that same information to you? What’s wrong is that a private corporation does not have the authority to throw you in jail based on what it knows about you. And for all anybody knows, it’s probably in the tiny print of that credit card agreement that you gave them permission to share everything they know about your credit card use history the first time you used it. I think it says somewhere in there that you agree to any new Terms of Use by using the card. But that’s because you didn’t equate the private corporation with your government. Perhaps that’s where you went wrong. Is there really any difference any more?

A line from the following was the inspiration for the title:

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss government surveillance or anything else that keeps you up at night.

The Watering Hole, Monday, March 18th, 2013: Ezra, Budgets, and Photographic Wonders

I’m hoping to hear that Ezra Klein will be taking over the “UP with Chris Hayes” weekend show. Ezra has his own wonky way of explaining things so that a topic which would normally make one glaze over becomes understandable and interesting. His ‘I can explain blank in 20 seconds or less (sic)’ bit is something that I now look forward to when he subs for one of the other MSNBC regulars. Ezra’s writing is just as eloquent as his speaking: here’s an excerpt from one of his recent WP posts regarding the Paul Ryan budget proposal (once again called “The Path to Prosperity”):

“Ryan’s budget is intended to do nothing less than fundamentally transform the relationship between Americans and their government. That, and not deficit reduction, is its real point, as it has been Ryan’s real point throughout his career”.

Speaking of budgets, both Bill Maher and Chris Hayes recently brought up the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s Budget Proposal, which previously hadn’t had much mention anywhere. That fact is surprising to me, as the CPC’s budget is one that every liberal would support. Matthew Yglesias has a good article about it in Slate; here’s the pdf of what the CPC calls the “Back to Work Budget.” For the rest of the budget options: you can check out the official White House budget page here; the Senate Democrats’ budget, prepared by Patty Murray, can be reviewed here.

In the meantime, on a local level, the Brewster School District (which all of Wayne’s family attended), despite a budget increase (to be paid for by a school tax increase), is cutting staff, programs, etc., partly due to the loss of stimulus funding, the effect of sequestration, and unfunded State mandates. Too bad that the only budget proposal from Congress which really invests in education is the CPC’s.

Enough about budgets…time to look at some spectacular photos, brought to you by The Weather Channel: first, a slideshow of unusual landscapes by photographer Marsel Van Oosten; then photographer Martin Rietz captures volcanic lightning in this group of photos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

Ukraine "Tunnel of Love"

Ukraine “Tunnel of Love”

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

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

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

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

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

and, after the obligatory Hitler reference:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the NRA’s website:

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

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

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

["inevitability?]
- and -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Watering Hole, Thursday, January 3rd, 2012: Thank You, Mr. President

Gee, I feel so special: the President’s Campaign Manager wrote directly to ME! Yeah, I know, everyone on their mailing list received this email, but…anyway, here’s Jim Messina’s email, featuring President Obama’s explanation of the deal that he made to ruin John Boehner’s career keep middle-class Americans from being hit with a tax increase:

Jane –

The President reached an agreement with Republicans and Democrats in Congress on the “fiscal cliff” that prevents a tax hike on 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses, while fulfilling the President’s promise to ask the wealthiest Americans to begin to pay their fair share to reduce the deficit.

President Obama recorded a video to update supporters like you on what’s in the agreement and what it means for you — watch it and share it with friends and family:

It’s thanks to people like you who spoke up and contacted your members of Congress throughout this debate that we were able to avoid a crippling tax hike.

As we address our ongoing fiscal challenges, the President will do exactly what he said he would on the campaign trail — working for the middle class and all those fighting to get into it, and building an economy from the middle out, not the top down.

There will be more soon. For now, thanks for all you do, and happy new year.

Jim Messina
Campaign Manager
Obama for America

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

The Sunday Roast: 2012 – The Best Line…and The Worst

I have been thinking a lot about what stuck in my mind from last year and, of course, there are numerous occasions that are memorable. In my own life and in politics. Not all good memories, but that was 2012 for me. Not all good. Let’s stick to politics.

Here the best line in politics of 2012. Hint: A door painted on a rock…

And there was in my humble opinion the worst:

The only way is to take away the guns from the bad guys. Period!

So, what are you thinking? There are some really great quotes out there you are welcome to post the best, funniest, most thoughtful, most thought provoking and most uplifting lines that come to your mind. I think we might as well end this year on hope. Heaven knows we can all use it.

To All Critters and Regulars and the Occasional Lurker. I wish you a very Happy, Healthy and Successful New Year. Let’s get 2012 behind us, we have been spared another Republican President, yes it affects us over here as well. But there is still a lot of work to do on both sides of the Atlantic. I wish us all the best for it.

EV

 

The Watering Hole, Monday, December 3rd, 2012: Conservative BS on Taxes

Since I forced myself to wallow in some of the crap on Newsmax, I figured that I should share some of the sliminess with you all. Let’s start with the arrogantly delusional George Will, who manages to squeeze a lie into each paragraph of his dementia-driven article. Here’s just a few examples of Will’s drivel; he starts off with:

“With a chip on his shoulder larger than his margin of victory, Barack Obama is approaching his second term by replicating the mistake of his first. Then his overreaching involved healthcare — expanding the entitlement state at the expense of economic growth. Now he seeks another surge of statism, enlarging the portion of gross domestic product grasped by government and dispensed by politics. The occasion is the misnamed “fiscal cliff,” the proper name for which is: the Democratic Party’s agenda.”

- and -

“…he surely understands that the entitlement state he favors requires raising taxes on the cohort that has most of the nation’s money — the middle class.”

- and -

“Republicans…respond that because lower rates reduce incentives to distort economic decisions, they promote growth by enhancing efficiency. Hence restoration of the higher rates would be a giant step away from, and might effectively doom, pro-growth tax reform…Furthermore, restoration of the Clinton-era top rate of 39.6 percent would occur in the very different Obama era of regulatory excesses and Obamacare taxes. Hence Republicans rightly resist higher rates.”

On to forever-lugubrious John Boehner:

“I would say we’re nowhere, period,” Boehner said on a taped segment of the “Fox News Sunday” program that aired today. “We’ve put a serious offer on the table by putting revenues up there to try to get this question resolved. But the White House has responded with virtually nothing.”

Yet, from the same article:

“Obama has proposed a framework that would raise taxes immediately on top earners and set an Aug. 1 deadline for rewriting the tax code and deciding on spending cuts, according to administration officials. It calls for $1.6 trillion in tax increases, $350 billion in cuts in health programs, $250 billion in cuts in other programs and $800 billion in assumed savings from the wind-down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Next, we’ve got the ubiquitous Grover Norquist. Norquist, despite a growing number of Republicans attempting to put some daylight between themselves and the Norquist pledge, stated last week:

“Well, the Republicans also have other leverage. Continuing resolutions on spending and the debt ceiling increase. They can give him debt ceiling increases once a month. They can have him on a rather short leash, you know, here’s your allowance, come back next month…Monthly if he’s good. Weekly if he’s not.”

In the Newsmax article, Norquist continues in the same childish vein, threatening “Tea Party 2“:

“Republicans want to continue the Bush tax cuts, and the extenders and the AMT [Alternative Minimum Tax] package . . . it’s the president who’s threatening to raise taxes if he stamps his feet and doesn’t get his way.”

And in case you aren’t sickened enough by those three, there’s the Sue Ann Niven of the Republicans, Peggy Noonan, saying:

“The election is over, a new era begins — and it looks just like the old one…A crisis is declared. Confusion, frustration, and a more embittered process follow. This is the Obama Way.”

Got your blood boiling yet?

This is our daily open thread — it’s Monday, wake up and start discussing something!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, December 1, 2012 – There Is No Fiscal Cliff

So what’s all this talk about a “fiscal cliff”? Who’s trying to scare us about what’s happening at the end of the year? Well, it turns out that the Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, first described the coming combination of tax hikes and spending cuts as a “fiscal cliff.” He didn’t coin the term, but he was the first to apply it to what may happen. And there isn’t universal agreement that it’s the best way to describe it. There are many who prefer “fiscal slope.” I like “fiscal downshift.” Still moving forward, just a little bit slower.

Despite Republican denials, the stumbling block is clearly the tax cuts for the top-most income earners. The GOP liked the Bush Tax Cuts because it meant their rich benefactors didn’t have to shoulder so much of the financial burden of running the country that made them so fabulously wealthy in the first place. As if the way of life we enjoy had nothing to do with the money the government spent. But after giving them their first round of tax cuts in 2001 (we were running a surplus at the time – which helps pay down the debt – and they felt “people ought to be able to keep more of their own money,” so they gave the wealthiest among us a tax cut that saved many of them more money in taxes than most of us make in a year, as if they really needed it), they started two wars in the Middle East. One of those wars did not require the full force of our military, and the other did not require our military at all as it was based on total lies. Then the Republican-controlled Congress, in their infinite “wisdom” (as in “we’s dumb”), did what no country in the history of Civilization has done. They cut taxes in a time of war. In other words, they started two wars and refused to pay for them.

This ran up our huge debt, of course, but the Republicans lied to the country and told us it wasn’t adding to the deficit. That’s because they were defining the deficit as only pertaining to the actual budget passed and not as the difference between the total amount of money the government took in versus how much it spent. They funded the wars through Emergency Supplemental bills, which is money not counted as part of the budget. The concept was intended to be used for unforeseen spending. The Republicans never intended for either war to ever end, so there was no excuse for calling them “emergency spending.” Yet this is how they were able to tell voters that the deficit wasn’t so bad and deflect their attention away from the ever-expanding debt. When Barack Obama came into office he put the wars on the budget, so they weren’t being funded by emergency supplemental bills that weren’t being paid for with tax revenues, and the Republicans immediately started talking about how much Obama had increased the deficit. You gotta admit, that takes balls.

The vast majority of the political hand-wringing seems centered on the tax cuts for the bottom 98% of income earners, the folks making less than about $250,000 per year. [For the record, I live in New York State, one of the most heavily taxed states in the country. The cost of living can be high here, especially in parts of New York City, but outside of there, $250,000 per year is pretty damn good. The only way those folks would be struggling is if they were trying to live beyond their actual means. It's possible to live quite happily on that income.] The Congress can rectify that very easily. In fact, they should since it’s quite possible that close to 100% of the House Republicans want the “lower 98″ to have their tax rates extended into the new year. A bill to do that has already passed in the Senate. [Yes, a bill for raising revenue must "originate in the House." But since they're amending the Tax Act of 1986, they are amending a bill that originated in the House. It just originated there almost three decade ago.] But Speaker John Boehner refuses to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. Why not? If you say you want the Bush Tax Cuts to continue but you won’t guarantee that they continue for the folks who aren’t in the top 2% of income earners, it’s pretty hard to say you aren’t trying to make sure the top 2% get their tax cuts extended, too. You can pass them for the rest of us and have a real public debate about whether or not the top 2% get to keep their tax cuts. But they don’t want to do that because the public knows that every one of their arguments in favor of doing so are bullshit. The rich are not “job creators,” and everybody with an IQ in the three-digit range knows that. But even Rick Santorum admitted they would never get the support of the smart people, and the people he said that to liked it. :lol:

But all is not lost. Famous rich people like Warren Buffett have said they want their taxes to be increased. They understand that in order to have the great country we have, you need to have a government that can sustain it. And that means paying for things like infrastructure, public schools, and police protection. Goods move to market on well-maintained roads. Businesses benefit from a well-educated work force. And people feel safer when they know there are police (and other emergency first responders) nearby to assist in an emergency. And many of us on the Left have said we’re willing to let our taxes go up if it will help the economy and the nation. So House Democratic Party Leader Nancy Pelosi has announced that if the Republicans don’t act by Tuesday, she will file a discharge petition. If 218 House members (and that number would have to include those Republicans we’re so sure want the Middle Class Tax Cuts to continue) sign the discharge petition, the bill automatically comes to the floor for a vote. And remember, there’s no such thing as a filibuster in the House. The Republicans can’t delay and stall the bill by threatening to filibuster it, the way they do in the Senate.

But is it really such a bad thing if the deal isn’t reached and the sequestration kicks in? Not if they work out a deal right away. You see, it’s not as though all of the spending cuts happen in the first few days or weeks. They could always suspend the rules and pass a bill without it going through all the committees and pass it in January when the 113th Congress convenes. The tax hikes on the lower and middle income earners would be temporary, and the hit on our wallets not so severe. They could even make it retroactive to the beginning of the year and we’d all get that money back. And remember, no Congress can ever tie the hands of a future Congress. They can always repeal or waive existing law and do whatever they want as long as the president signs it (and it doesn’t violate the Constitution, of course.) When the Democrats had the Congress, they instituted PAYGO (Pay As You GO.) All spending had to be paid for, except in extreme emergencies. The Republicans did away with that, usually by using emergency spending bills to authorize spending that often didn’t qualify as an “emergency.” That’s how we got two unnecessary wars and an unfunded Medicare Prescription Drug Bill pass. By the way, another way to save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars is to allow Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices, the way the Veterans Administration does. Right now Medicare is prohibited from doing so. (Thank former Congressman Billy Tauzin for that one.) It would just be nice if the Republicans would publicly admit that they are primarily responsible for this nation being in such deep debt. Then we can begin to have an honest discussion about what to do about it. Otherwise, the Republicans will pretend their fiscal policies work and have nothing to do with the situation.

This is our open thread. Feel free to discuss the fiscal downshift or any other topic you wish. But relax. It’s not as dire as they make it out to be.

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 12th, 2012: Wallowing in Filth

Thinking that I would just check the Patch local newspapers online to see the local reaction, if any, to the Obama re-election, I somehow ended up wallowing in the filth on the Washington Times.

Not that there wasn’t any filth in the local online ‘news’ – there were plenty of stupid, ignorant, and racially intolerant comments following the above article.

The second piece that I found in the Patch talked about the author’s experiences at the polls in Rockland County, NY (across the Hudson River), where, he alleged, poll workers were wrongfully denying certain non-white and younger voters’ rights to vote, and/or giving voters incorrect information. A woman commenter responded by listing several instances of alleged hanky-panky by Democratic pollworkers, among other things. Then the commenter threw in a link to The Washington Times, and I gave in and clicked on it. Naturally, I wish that I hadn’t. Reading many of the comments following that article made me want to shower, at the very least. However, I did at least run across a possibly useful site which includes a map of which States have, or are considering, photo ID voter laws.

Here’s a few more articles from the Washington Times that ought to raise one’s blood pressure:
- “The Rising Number of States Seeing One Party Rule”; and,
- “Companies Plan Massive Layoffs as ObamaCare Becomes Reality;

And if all this wasn’t enough, here’s some more crap from Newsmax.com: Fearmongering about “Currency Wars”; plus, just take a look at some of the “articles” listed on the home page at Newsmax.com: “FBI Suppressed Petraeus Scandal to Protect President“, and “Norquist to Newsmax: Don’t Surrender Bush Tax Cuts.”

This is our daily open thread–Had enough? I know I did!

The Watering Hole, Thursday, November 8th, 2012: “Political Capital”

George W. Bush appears to have had a long-term “thing” about “political capital. From Slate, November 2004:

“Bush has long been smitten with the notion of getting and spending “political capital.” In December 2000, Time asked him, “What did you learn about being president from watching your father?” Bush’s answer: “I learned how to earn political capital and how to spend it.” The interview continued:
TIME: You think he didn’t spend it well late in his term?
BUSH: I think he did not. History has shown that he had some capital in the bank that was not properly spent.”

…and…

“…during an interview with Tim Russert on Meet the Press in 1999. Bush told Russert he would spend “capital” on his plan for Social Security.”  [Yes, we remember his cross-country "Privatize Social Security Tour" (sigh)]

W’s first press conference after his re-election, on November 4, 2004, has a couple of gems when viewed an eternity later (2012):

On “political capital”:

PRESIDENT BUSH:
I feel — I feel — I feel it is necessary to move an agenda that I told the American people I would move…you go out and you make your case and you tell the people, “This is what I intend to do.” And after hundreds of speeches and three debates and interviews and the whole process, where you keep basically saying the same thing over and over again, that when — when that — when you win, there is a — a feeling that the people have spoken and embraced your point of view. And that’s what I intend to tell the Congress, that I made it clear what I intend to do as the president; now let’s work — and the people made it clear what they wanted — now let’s work together. And it’s one of the wonderful — it’s one of the — it’s like earning capital. … I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style. That’s what happened in — after the 2000 election. I earned some capital. I’ve earned capital in this election, and I’m going to spend it for — for what — what I told the people I’d spend it on…

On the supposedly all-important Deficit:

“Q Thank you, sir. Many within your own party are unhappy over the deficit, and they say keeping down discretional spending alone won’t help you reach your goal of halving the deficit in five years. What else do you plan to do to cut costs? [emphasis mine]
PRESIDENT BUSH: (Chuckles.) Well, I — I — you know, I would suggest they look at our budget that we’ve submitted to Congress, which does in fact get the deficit cut in half in five years. And it is a specific, line-by-line budget that we are required to submit, and have done so.

The key to making sure that the deficit is reduced is for there to be on the one hand spending discipline — and I — as you noticed in my opening remarks, I talked about these appropriations bills that are beginning to move. And I thought I was pretty clear about the need for those bills to be — to be fiscally responsible, and I meant it…

The revenues are exceeding projections, and as a result the projected deficit is less. But my point there is is that — so with — with good economic policy that encourages economic growth, the revenue streams begin to increase. And as the revenue streams increase coupled with fiscal discipline, you’ll see the deficit shrinking, and we’re focused on that.”

Now, I have been puzzled about this whole “political capital” idea since I originally saw George W. Bush swagger and leer about it. Back then, the other election buzzword was “mandate”, as in “the re-election of GWB proved that he has a ‘mandate’ from the American people,” even though only a little more than half of the American people had actually voted for him. I’ve never seen Democratic Presidents utilize this reasoning; nor would I actually expect them to do so, for the same reason why I would never use the term “landslide” to describe a win of only a few percentage points.

Three questions:

-Using Bush’s “political capital” logic, shouldn’t President Obama have now earned some of his own, to spend on doing what he promised America he would do?
-Would Republicans and the TV cheerleaders at Faux News admit that President Obama had earned “political capital” to spend, since he had won a “mandate” from the people? …and…
-Will President Obama and the Democrats ignore the Republican obstructionists and actually try to spend that “political capital”?

This is our daily open thread–what do you think?

This is How I Feel Today

Unfortunately, the Republicans in Congress will continue to obstruct progress and try to keep the country from moving forward.  The GOP has not learned that the tide is changing and that the younger, more diverse population does not accept their right wing conservatism. The rule of the old, angry, white man is beginning to fade into the past.

Yesterday showed that money can’t buy the Presidency of the United States.  Guess Sheldon Adelson investigation by the FBI will continue.

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 5th, 2012: Adelson’s “Newspaper”

In my post from Saturday, November 3rd, I promised (threatened?) forthcoming info regarding the view of our Presidential Election from overseas. So here’s a few recent articles – aka “newsletters” – from the Israel HaYom free daily newspaper**, owned by Mitt Romney’s biggest sugar-daddy, Sheldon Adelson:

November 2nd Newsletter: “Will Sandy save Obama?”
November 2nd Newsletter: “A stormy road to the White House – Uncle Sam’s Identity Crisis”
Another November 2nd Newsletter: “Where will the storm take voters?”
A third – and truly offensive – Newsletter/Opinion from November 2nd: “Obama’s ‘black power’ past and present”

Fourth: In this article from yesterday, it appears that there may not be any daylight between Bibi Netanyahu and President Obama, at least on one issue:

Two days after Abbas implied in a Channel 2 interview that he would be willing to abandon the demand for a Palestinian “right of return” in exchange for peace with Israel, Netanyahu told the weekly cabinet meeting: “I saw the interview with Abbas over the weekend. I heard that he has since rescinded his remarks, but this proves how important it is to hold direct negotiations without preconditions.[Emphasis mine]

From the Fifth (and last) in the Israel HaYom’s election series: The following two (the only two) amusing excerpts from Boaz Bismuth’s “Two Days to Go”, reporting from Cambridge, Massachusetts, prefaced an article based mostly on the Obama “Messiah” myth:

“At least one thing is certain: The next American president will be a Harvard graduate. Out there, in the picturesque calm of the prestigious Ivy League institution…I watched the students passing in front of me and wondered whether any of them would choose to emulate the two famous alumni, Obama and Mitt Romney, and someday join the race to the White House.

“We’re not too excited by the fact that two of our alumni are running for president,” explains Sam, a business student. “Obama is a part of the ruling elite, just like Romney, and it is pretty clear that someone from the ruling elite will be sitting in the White House.”

I ask Sam to help me figure out the polls. “Look, it’s rather simple,” he says. “The people you see who are dressed up and wearing a tie, like me, will vote for Romney.”

“And what about the rest?” I ask.

“They’ll vote for Obama,” he replies.

“But I see very few ties,” I remark.

“It’s the weekend,” he explains.”

Bismuth’s next paragraph gave me a satisfying chuckle:

“Since Americans are unable to decipher the multitude of polls, Nate Silver has come to the rescue with his New York Times blog, FiveThirtyEight, named after the 538 electoral votes. Silver, 38, who accurately predicted the results in 48 states in the 2008 election, declares decisively: Obama is going to win on Tuesday. He projects that 300 electoral votes will go to Obama (30 more than he needs to win), and 50.5% of the popular vote. On the opposite side of the fence, senior Republican strategist Karl Rove predicts in the Wall Street Journal that Romney will win 279 electoral votes, making him the next president of the U.S.”

[Yeah, well we all know how Rovian Math worked out in 2008, right? It still brings me joy to remember the look on Karl's face when, in the midst of his explanation of how, via Rovian Math, McCain could still win, Brit Hume next to him announced that Obama had won Ohio, and the election was over. Priceless.]

And just for fun (or at least a brief break from our election,) here’s a couple of IsraelHayom’s ‘newsletters’ regarding Iran:

From Friday, November 2nd: “Iran is near completing its nuclear activities in Fordo”; and today’s “Iran suspending uranium enrichment in effort to halt sanctions.”

**Check the ‘About Us‘ page’s claim that “… Israel Hayom has a 31.8 percent exposure rate, maintaining its position as the most read daily newspaper in Israel for the second year in a row.” I emailed a few of the above links to a Jewish co-worker, whose daughter has visited Israel several times and has close contacts there: her daughter had never heard of ‘Israel HaYom’, and was going to ask her Israeli friend about it. Haven’t heard anything yet, but IMO, this “newspaper” could be nothing more than one of those freebies you can grab on your way out of the grocery store. :)

This is our daily open thread–try to stay strong and sane!

President Obama vs Mitt Romney: HWOCV? (How Would Other Countries Vote?)

While I haven’t quite been ‘all over the map’ on the internets last night and this morning, I have spent several hours overseas.

Once again, I started at foreignpolicy.com, where “Blue Planet”, by Uri Friedman, caught my eye. For a brief moment I thought it was going to be about climate change, then I saw the subtitle: “What if the world could vote in the U.S. election?” Well, let’s see:

“In a recent UPI/C-Voter/WIN-Gallup International poll, which surveyed more than 26,000 men and women in 32 countries, 62 percent of respondents said that the U.S. president has a high or very high impact on their lives, and 42 percent felt they should have the right to vote in this year’s contest for that very reason. When you call yourself the leader of the free world, you’d better believe the world is going to take an interest in who you are.”

“Obama is preferred over Mitt Romney in 31 out of 32 countries in the UPI poll and 20 out of 21 countries in another BBC World Service/GlobeScan/PIPA survey. Fifty-one percent of respondents in the UPI poll said they would cast a ballot for Obama, with more people saying they wouldn’t vote for either candidate (18 percent) than would vote for the Republican nominee (12 percent). In the BBC survey, 50 percent of respondents chose Obama and only 9 percent selected Romney.” [NOTE: The BBC survey did NOT include Israel.]

Mr. Friedman’s article goes on to describe the (as he designated them) “Red States” and “Blue States.” As one would expect, “Blue States” include “…France…Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.” Under “Red States”, Mr Friedman writes:

“There is really only one red (foreign) state in this election, and it’s Israel. In a poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University last week, 52 percent of Israelis said a Romney win would be preferable for Israeli interests, compared with 25 percent who said the same about Obama. The divide was starker among Jewish Israelis, who backed Romney by a 57-22 margin, with support for the GOP candidate strongest among right-wingers. A plurality of Arab Israelis, by contrast, favored Obama (45 percent) over Romney (15 percent)…Benjamin Netanyahu hasn’t expressed a preference for Obama or Romney during his effort to get the United States to commit to clear “red lines” for Iran’s nuclear program, but the Israeli press** has speculated that the prime minister’s meddling in the race could invite U.S. payback if Obama is reelected.”

Keep in mind that these surveys were taken during September and October. I’d be curious to know whether there would be any changes if those polls were taken now, after Hurricane Sandy has drawn attention to the differences between a very Presidential President Obama and the out-and-out opportunism and phoniness of Willard Mitt Romney.

**I’ll have more on some of the “Israeli Press” in another post that I’m working on, probably for sometime tomorrow. Stay tuned…

The Watering Hole, Thursday, October 25th, 2012: Mixed Bag

I realize that I’m constantly posting articles from Foreign Policy Magazine, but they do provide some interesting items. Here’s a few that you may (or may not, I admit) be interested in.

First, a “who said it” article with fifteen quotes from either President Obama or Mitt Romney. Many of the quotes make the answer pretty obvious, but considering how WillardMitt has been trying to morph into a reasonable moderate like President Obama…well, see how you do on it.

Next, “In Praise of Apathy” discusses the American non-voter, as well as the two-party system, the electoral college, and the failings of the latter two. I was afraid that this article would be similar to the ‘Voting is a waste of time’ one on which I had previously written, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Speaking of the two-party system, here’s another FP article about the Third-Party Presidential Debate that was held on Tuesday night. Some of the topics in this debate are issues that many of us are more concerned about than those covered in the three debates between President Obama and Mitt Romney: the use of drones, climate change, the war on drugs, etc.

Last, an article from “The Daily” that I found on FP’s sidebar, entitled “Unsolicited Advice: An Open Letter to Undecided Voters”, which I think you’ll all enjoy.

This is our daily open thread–let’s talk!

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 22nd, 2012: Mixed Emotions

Since I’ve been wallowing in the throes of depression – Rmoney and Obama are more-or-less tied in the polls, Republicans are doing everything possible to disenfranchise likely Democratic voters, CEOs are threatening their employees if they don’t vote for/donate to Rmoney, my Jets lost in overtime to the damned Patriots, the list goes on and on – I thought I’d throw out something to start the week on a lighter note.

Our current local State Senator, Republican Greg Ball, had some issues with women (among other things) that plagued his last campaign, but still managed to win. His 2012 challenger, Democrat Justin Wagner, has been sending out a series of mailers taking advantage of Ball’s misogynistic reputation. Here’s the front covers from the four mailers that we received – enjoy!

Not so amusing is the fact that tonight is the third and final Presidential debate between President Obama and Elder Professional Liar former Massachusetts Governor Rmoney. So here’s just one more Foreign Policy article, listing 50 questions that various and sundry people would like to see asked of both candidates during tonight’s debate.

(Note: I could not figure out how to get the “Not so” out from between the pictures, so if any of my fellow Critters can edit that and put it at the beginning of the paragraph below them, please feel free to fix it for me.)

Last, but obviously not least: HAPPY 24TH ANNIVERSARY, HONEY!

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

The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 20, 2012 – Romnesia

Campaigning at George Mason University on Friday, President Barack Obama took a new approach to Governor Mitt Romney’s constant changes of position. He announced that we have to name this condition, and he suggested “Romnesia, a condition that causes one to forget their past statements and beliefs.”

[Transcript and video from Think Progress]

OBAMA: Now, I’m not a medical doctor but I do want to go over some of the symptoms with you because I want to make sure nobody else catches it.
If you say you’re for equal pay for equal work, but you keep refusing to say whether or not you’d sign a bill that protects equal pay for equal work – you might have Romnesia. If you say women should have access to contraceptive care, but you support legislation that would let your employer deny you contraceptive care – you might have a case of Romnesia. If you say you’ll protect a woman’s right to choose, but you stand up at a primary debate and said that you’d be “delighted” to sign a law outlawing that right to choose in all cases – man, you’ve definitely got Romnesia. [...]

And if you come down with a case of Romnesia, and you can’t seem to remember the policies that are still on your website, or the promises you’ve made over the six years you’ve been running for President, here’s the good news: Obamacare covers pre-existing conditions.

We can fix you up. We’ve got a cure. We can make you well, Virginia. This is a curable disease.

Of course, the president was just being polite. Mitt Romney is, without question, a habitual liar. People often say that every politician tells lies to get elected, but not like this guy, and not so often and about so many things. There isn’t an issue out there on which Mitt Romney hasn’t taken two or more positions, often contradictory.

On Monday night, the two candidates will meet in one last debate, this one centered on Foreign Policy. Now, Mitt Romney has no foreign policy credentials whatsoever. His money has spent more time in foreign countries than he has. His foreign policy advisers consist primarily of Bush Administration war hawks who think the second best cure to whatever ails America, after tax cuts, is War, especially if it’s based on the pretense of “defending Israel.” In fact, Republicans believe that every American president is constitutionally responsible for defending Israel, no matter what that nation’s government does. And they believe in the idea of pre-emptive warfare to “eliminate existential threats.” What are those, exactly? Well, technically, nobody can truly say because they exist only in people’s minds. They’re based on the loose idea that anything that might conceivably be used as a weapon against Israel is a threat whose existence justifies the use of military force to eliminate it. Thus, if Iran is enriching uranium for a modern electricity program, the idea that five or six years from now (or even two or three) they might be able to build a nuclear weapon becomes a morally justified use of military force. This makes total sense in the right-wing mind. By that rationale, because anyone who buys both a gun and the ammunition for it might one day kill an innocent person, Society would be justified in sentencing that person to death before they even got home. Doesn’t make sense, does it?

This is our Open Thread. You can discuss Romnesia or any other topic that tickles your fancy, though we prefer you not post any videos of your fancy being tickled.

[Cross-posted at Pick Wayne's Brain.]

UPDATE: I found this on Twitter, a perfect example of Romnesia in action:

https://twitter.com/KawaiiMagpie/status/256536982417723392/photo/1

The Watering Hole, Thursday, October 18th, 2012: Romney’s Foreign to Foreign Policy

While we’re all still on a bit of a contact high from President Obama’s excellent performance in Tuesday night’s debate, the final Presidential Debate, supposedly covering U.S. foreign policy, looms just around the corner. As a follow-up to my post on Monday, I’m offering two pertinent articles from Foreign Policy magazine.

The first is a piece of rather hawkish advice offered to President Obama by David Rothkopf, which, in part, points out the frightening fact that:

“To get to buried Iranian facilities, such as the enrichment plant at Fordow, would require bunker-busting munitions on a scale that no Israeli plane is capable of delivering. The mission, therefore, must involve the United States, whether acting alone or in concert with the Israelis and others.”

Oy!

The second, as I mentioned on Monday, is a return to Mitt Romney’s recent foreign-policy speech at VMI (Virginia Military Institute.) While I find it disturbing for a Presidential candidate to be obviously undermining his audience’s Commander-in-Chief, even more disturbing were Romney’s comments about the recent tragic attack on our embassy in Benghazi. This line in particular jumped out at me: “These mobs hoisted the black banner of Islamic extremism over American embassies on the anniversary of 9/11.” I’m still looking, but I have not found ANY independent corroboration of this little tidbit.

The following are a few more excepts. Of course, it figures that Romney is a proponent of an Obama Administration policy with which many of us liberals take great issue.

“Drones and the modern instruments of war are important tools in our fight, but they are no substitute for a national security strategy for the Middle East.”

Anyway, Romney continues…

“It is time to change course in the Middle East. That course should be organized around these bedrock principles: America must have confidence in our cause, clarity in our purpose and resolve in our might. No friend of America will question our commitment to support them. No enemy that attacks America will question our resolve to defeat them. And no one anywhere, friend or foe, will doubt America’s capability to back up our words.”

Based on this attitude, Romney wants to pour an unnecessary and unasked-for $2 trillion-with-a-T into the Department of Defense.

“I’ll work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination. For the sake of peace, we must make clear to Iran through actions, not just words, that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated.
I’ll reaffirm our historic ties to Israel and our abiding commitment to its security. The world must never see any daylight between our two nations.

Why? The United States of America is NOT the same country, we don’t share the same culture or the same history as Israel; we are not geographical neighbors experiencing common challenges. The Constitution says nothing about our country’s ability to create a new country, nor about then being responsible for that new country forever. The President of the United States swears an oath to protect and defend our Constitution, and that oath does not mention protecting and defending Israel as well. Israel is fully capable of defending itself, having been greatly helped by our military and financial assistance. Isn’t it time to cut the cord and let the allegedly adult sovereign state of Israel be responsible for its own actions? But I digress…

“Finally, I will recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel. On this vital issue, the President has failed, and what should be a negotiation process has devolved into a series of heated disputes at the United Nations. In this old conflict, as in every challenge we face in the Middle East, only a new President will bring the chance to begin anew.”

Now, that’s the ultimate lying hypocrisy from Romney, who, in the infamous, supposedly-private “47% speech” to big-money donors, said:

“And I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there’s just no way. And so what you do is you say you move things along the best way you can. You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that it’s going to remain an unsolved problem. I mean, we look at that in China and Taiwan. All right, we have a potentially volatile situation, but we sort of live with it. And we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve. We don’t go to war to try and resolve it.

In other words, Romney has no plan for the Middle East. Does this mean that Romney’s believes in “hopey-changey”?

I also ran across this interesting and helpful analysis on Romney’s VMI speech, by Andrew Quinn.

This is our daily open thread–what do YOU have to say?