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?