Tag Archives: Republicans

I must have missed the meeting

downton abbey-Repug versionThe Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) expired last year and has not been reauthorized. The law has been held hostage by the Republican men on the Judiciary Committee over some asinine pretexts that the law might could be used to expand protection of undocumented or LGBT victims and allow tribal governments to arrest paleface abusers.

VAWA is not your everyday-no-big-deal-who-cares-we-can-live-without-it kind of law. This law changed everything for victims of domestic battering, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking crimes. It also changed everything for those who were trying to help – law enforcement, courts, social services and non-profits. VAWA funded local grants, which brought together and coordinated victim response, funded shelters, rape crisis centers, legal assistance and prevention programs. VAWA made domestic violence a federal crime, and for the first time, began protecting victims with disabilities, victims held hostage by their immigration status, Native Americans, teenagers and families. VAWA became law in 1994, written by then Senator Joe Biden and signed by President Clinton, and was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005 with broad bipartisan support. Going back to 1994 is unthinkable.

Last week, the bill reauthorizing VAWA (S. 1925) finally got out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The vote was 10-8 with all Republican men voting against it. No telling when it could be scheduled for a vote or how many Republican men are planning to try and stop it.

If this isn’t about Republican men versus women, then they need to prove it.

Having spent last week listening to a debate about contraception that would have been out of place in episodes of Mad Men or PanAm, it seems now that the issue may not have been settled, at least not if Republican men have anything to say about it. Catholic Bishops, all men, are also not satisfied with the semantic compromise and now acting as if they wish to debate how their religious freedom extends to their corporate businesses and argue that their church’s freedom is more important than people’s freedom or equal protection.

This “religious” debate is about the minimum standards of coverage for health insurance policies — sort of like the minimum things in peanut butter to be labeled, “peanut butter;” or the minimum things included in a car to make it safe; or the minimum standards for clean air or water. In this case, it is about a list of zero-copay, preventive services and medicines, which have proven – yes, using facts – to lower the cost of health care and save lives. (Author’s note: I personally believe that saving lives is more important than saving souls, but realize there is not a bipartisan consensus on this issue.) Contraceptives are included in the list, not because of politics, but because they have been proven to save lives and money. But this debate is not about cost – inclusion of contraceptives is cost neutral and over time will save money.

There seems to be no “religious” argument about free condoms. Condoms are used by men. Men don’t get pregnant, aren’t at risk to die or endure complications while pregnant, don’t carry or deliver babies, and generally, aren’t even in a child’s life unless they want to be or are required by a court of law.

The “religious” argument is only about those working for corporate businesses owned by churches — churches are exempt from the law. The argument is only about contraception and only about denying access to poor working women, which could save their lives, while, in the opinion of their employer, could at the same time damn them to hell. Okay, it is also about individual privacy. Don’t forget, just last month, the Supreme Court confirmed that ministerial exception extended to church corporate businesses – women who decide they’d prefer to risk hell someday over death now, could easily lose their job without recourse.

If this isn’t about Republican men in cahoots with Religious men versus women, then they need to prove it.

What a time to be a woman? Forty years since ERA passed, but fell short of ratification,* we seem to be going backward. Fast. Traditional women’s issues are really family issues — equality, education, environment, healthcare, childcare, and peace — all under fire from the Republican right.

Also last week, we heard way too much clarification from Santorum, the Republican front runner, of his ideas on women —

On women in combat: “my concern is being in combat in that situation instead of being focused on the mission, they may be more concerned with protecting someone who may be in a vulnerable position, a woman in a vulnerable position.”

On rape: when asked by Piers Morgan, “Do you really believe, in every case, it [sic: abortion] should be totally wrong, in the sense that — I know that you believe, even in cases of rape and incest — and you’ve got two daughters. You know, if you have a daughter that came to you who had been raped.” Santorum responded with, “Yes.”

On unmarried mothers: “The notion that college education is a cost-effective way to help poor, low-skill, unmarried mothers with high school diplomas or GEDs move up the economic ladder is just wrong.”

On stay-at-home mothers: “Respect for stay-at-home mothers has been poisoned by a toxic combination of the village elders’ war on the traditional family and radical feminism’s misogynistic crusade to make working outside the home the only marker of social value and self-respect.’’

On equal opportunity: “Radical feminists have been making the pitch that justice demands that men and women be given an equal opportunity to make it to the top in the workplace.” — Washington Post

This week’s Republican front runner (Author’s note: at posting the decision had yet to be made whether to recount the Maine caucus results, which could either confirm Romney as the winner and this week’s front runner or make Ron Paul the winner and front runner. Should Ron Paul or Newt officially become this week’s front runner, I will add their hateful statements in an update.), Mitt Romney, is a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and once was bishop of his Belmont, Mass., congregation and later president of the Boston stake (Mormon for division or area). While he seldom goes on record, his beliefs on the roles of women are consistent with his church, “woman’s primary place is in the home, where she is to rear children and abide by the righteous counsel of her husband” (McConkie 844), but evolving. Anti-abortion, even at the risk of the life of the mother unless he’s running for Senate and then he’s supportive of women’s rights unless he’s running for the Republican presidential nomination.

Just two weeks ago, the Republican men in the House were, “mounting an assault on women’s health and freedom that would deny millions of women access to affordable contraception and life-saving cancer screenings and cut nutritional support for millions of newborn babies in struggling families. And this is just the beginning…

…include the elimination of support for Title X, the federal family planning program for low-income women that provides birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and testing for H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted diseases. In the absence of Title X’s preventive care, some women would die. The Guttmacher Institute, a leading authority on reproductive health, says a rise in unintended pregnancies would result in some 400,000 more abortions a year.” – New York Times

Even our beloved and trusted, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, took a stand against women before they reversed their decision and asked for another chance.

I keep asking myself, how is all of this possible? If there was an organizing meeting on this war against women, I missed it. Surely this isn’t coming from political consultants. There are more women than men, and more registered female voters. Seems like a political strategy destined to lose. It can’t be totally grass roots — I know some Republican men who treat their wives and daughters as if they were equal. There must be more to it.

The poor are always disproportionately women. How can any Republican person of faith or free thinker (forget that, they couldn’t be Republicans) conclude that good policy is balancing the budget on the backs of the poor? Yes, in the Bible, Jesus says, “ye have the poor always with you,” but that should not inspire Republican men to want to have more in poverty. Surely preventive medical care, adequate nutrition and quality schools costs less than generational poverty, prison and emergency room health care. Or is there more to this? Is it to keep wages low to attract industries and inspire real estate deals?

Or could it be the Tim Tebow corollary – God decides who wins, but won’t necessarily pick you every week?

Could it be that male Republican candidates are just trying to win the favor of God?

Does God really hate women or is the Old Testament God still mad about that garden of eden thing?

Or are Republicans trying to win the favor of religious voters fixated on a time way back when dominating men were relevant, though assholes?

Are Republican elected leaders and candidates really that stupid? How can they be pro-family and anti-woman?

Could the increase in partisan misogyny be a delayed reaction to mothers a generation ago switching from nursing to formula?

Then, I turn on the television. The role models for this type of behavior are all there. The stereotypes. The sexism. The boys club thinking. The wealthy who don’t need two working in a household. The idiotic singles sitcoms. Or Downton Abbey, oh, those were the best of times when all was perfect for the gentry – when roles were right and all others were beaten or jailed – when women could aspire to be a maid, but not a butler. All in prime time. Local news may be worse –  by turning a light on the personal tragedy of the hour and asking the “tough questions” of how battery feels or how could such a fine young man go wrong? And then, of course, there is the cable “news.”

Or is this really just about something Republican men are not able to understand? That women are people, too.

Author’s note:  And that’s just in the US. Around the world, …

*Full text, for those who might have forgotten why the Equal Rights Amendment was so controversial, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”) Just for the record, the ERA needed three more states. Here’s a list of those that did not ratify: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia.

Rebels Without a Clue

Rebels Without A ClueThe political equivalent of testosterone has the potential of doing something that bullets, bombs, ordinary corruption, conspiracies and daylight failed to do for over 300 years.

Maybe that’s over the top – we’ll see. But the dumbed down, “grass roots” electorate who voted and gave a path to power to weak minded new politicians and reelected old politicians who saw the light of promised, simple solutions to complicated problems, have us – all of us – in a game of chicken over the debt limit that should never have been played.

Those aware, should remember the game of chicken from Rebel Without a Cause. Two testosterone laced teenagers drive toward a cliff with a plan to jump out of the cars they do not own at the last possible moment. The one who jumps first is the chicken. Life to this point was irrelevant. Only the dare was important. The game didn’t have to happen until they decided that it did and then it had to. Only one could win, both could die, but both could survive. In the movie, Buzz, played by Corey Allen, caught his sleeve in the door handle, couldn’t jump out and the car and Buzz go off the cliff into the ocean.

In my metaphor, the Republicans have caught their promise not to raise taxes in the door of their car. Obama has caught the sleeve of revenue vs. fairness in his. Our cliffhanger is only ten days from the edge and it looks as if they are both going off the cliff and taking us with them. Our only hope is they will hit the brakes and save us all. Chicken is not the worst outcome. Going off the cliff is.
___

Note: this story has been updated to correct a plot error caught by an alert Dew reader.

Winning the Unpopular Vote

We the Republicans © Dana S. Rothstein #133535On face value, it might seem stupid to run for office on issues sure to piss off the majority of people. Take, for instance, the Republican party (please). They are, of course, against Democrats who make up 34-45% of the US population, depending on the day and who’s counting. The percentage of each party varies by state or district, but generally, about 15% of the voters decide who will win and who will lose.

Some might argue, a campaign of inclusion (suggested search term: democracy) would be the best way to reach that 15% swing vote. So how do the Republicans expect to win elections when they are also in lockstep against:

  • People on Medicare (at least, 15% of US population)
  • People on Medicaid (at least, 12.6% of US population)
  • People who are unemployed (at least, 9.1% of US population, unless you also include those of us who have given up or work multiple jobs, etc.)
  • People who believe abortion should be legal (at least, 56% of US population)
  • People who believe and are concerned about global climate change (at least, 71% of US population)
  • People without health insurance (at least, 14.3% of US population – under 65, not eligible for Medicaid)
  • Immigrants (at least, 13% of US population, most all of us if you go back a few generations)
  • Blacks (at least, 12.6% of US population)
  • Union members (at least, 12.1% of US population)
  • Government workers (at least, 4% of US population)
  • LGBT (at least, 3.8% of US population)
  • Muslims (at least, .6% of US population)
  • Agnostic and athiests (at least, .9% of US population)
  • Plus, all those little groups, including elites, people who believe in science, are against guns, war, monopolies, corporate funding of campaigns, listen to NPR, don’t watch Fox, etc.

You shouldn’t just add these numbers up. People are members of more than one group. Groups don’t vote as a block. And people are more likely these days to vote against a candidate or even a single issue than for one. But with only 15% in play, it still doesn’t seem to pass a logic test that this Republican strategy can be successful.

It might surprise you, but according to Gallop,

“The most balanced political states in 2008 were Texas (+2% Democratic), South Dakota (+1% Democratic), Mississippi (+1% Democratic), North Dakota (+1% Democratic), South Carolina (even), Arizona (even), Alabama (+1% Republican), and Kansas (+2% Republican).”

Each of these states voted for McCain in the 2008 Presidential election. Each with a Republican governor, Republican upper and lower house majority, with a solidly Republican US house delegation, and at least one Republican Senator (only South Dakota, North Dakota and Mississippi had a Democrat Senator).

How is that possible in these “balanced” states? Assuming vote counting was accurate, the only answer can be that it is about who votes, and more importantly these days, who doesn’t vote.

Let’s start with voter suppression 101:

  • Make it hard to vote. Limit early voting to a few inconvenient locations away from poor areas with limited hours, few machines and rumors of long lines. Force people to take time off from work, give up their hourly pay and put their jobs at risk. Works particularly well for people who are struggling.
  • Require a valid photo ID. This works well for those who are older and may not have a drivers license or be able to afford to apply and pay for an alternative. It is also effective to keep away the homeless or those whose identification doesn’t reflect an accurate address because of eviction, foreclosure or change of status.
  • Purge the voter rolls. This is very popular, effective and there a lot of variations to the scheme. Mismatch names or social security numbers and make people prove they aren’t who some computer thinks they might be (suggested search terms: Georgia purge voters). Or prove they are citizen. Or make them wait in long lines to vote on a provisional ballot that may not be counted.
  • Create long lines. Easy to do. Just send few voting booths to the polling place you want to suppress and more to the polling place you wish to help. Also very effective to provide few people or broken machines. Long enough lines, and people will go home (suggested search term: Ohio long lines polls).
  • Caging lists. Republicans send out registered mail to the address of a voter in a district they wish to suppress. If returned, they contest the ballot. Expected to be particularly effective with the foreclosure crisis.
  • Robo calls. Hire your telemarketer to call registered voters who you don’t wish to vote and tell them their polling place has changed. Or they’ll be arrested (suggested search term: Virginia robo calls vote).
  • Contest new registration. A favorite of Republicans during the last few cycles. Republicans have attempted to force verifications of mail in forms. They have even offered rewards to find bogus registration by community groups and have threatened prosecutions.
  • Make absentee ballots as confusing as possible. Seems obvious. Put the right information in the wrong place and your vote doesn’t count.
  • Prison disenfranchisement. 5.3 million mentally competent and able adult Americans (we are the only democracy in the world that does it) are not allowed to vote because they have been either incarcerated, on parole or on probation. Click here for a state list.
  • Pray for rain, sleet, snow, dark of night. Surely, the Republicans will do this. Time will tell if it will be effective.

In 2008, more than 130 million people voted – the highest percentage in a generation. The surge of voters were mostly among black, Hispanic and young voters. Without that higher turnout, McCain would have won. The Republicans are counting on making your life so miserable this time around that you stay at home.

What a Week

President Obama at White House Correspondents DinnerDuring Friday night’s White House Correspondents Dinner, President Obama paused during his remarks, smiled thoughtfully and said, “What a week.” We had no idea.

In addition to his everyday duties, briefings, meetings with the National Security Team, the Attorney General, Defense Secretary,  Secretary of State, Congresspeople, Governors, etc., doing press interviews, hosting Crown Princes and Presidents, working to fix our immigration problems, manage a few a wars, and commemorating the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike, our President took time to do a few more things that made last week seemed pretty amazing.

It started out ordinary enough as he and the first family hosted the Easter Egg Roll. By Wednesday morning, he and Michelle were in Chicago doing Oprah, then to New York for a fund raiser and back to Washington. Thursday, he announced a new National Security Team and presented his long form birth certificate. Friday he and Michelle were in Alabama to view the storm damage, meet with Governor then on to Florida to meet with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and view the final space shuttle launch. Fortunately, the Endeavor  was aborted (still legal), so he could get back for the Correspondents Dinner and a relaxing weekend at the White House. All that was planned, was his Saturday address announcing a plan to end oil subsidies at this time of record oil company profits;  the special ops mission to take out bin Laden and a relaxing bipartisan dinner Monday night with leaders of both houses to informally discuss the budget and Republican plans to hold the nation hostage on debt ceiling. OK, that was eight days.

Recapping: Easter Egg Roll; Oprah; new National Security Team; long-form birth certificate; Libya; immigration reform; multi-state natural disaster; Correspondents Dinner; announce plans to end oil subsidies; take out bin Laden; host bipartisan dinner to talk about the budget; help kids with their homework. The reviews aren’t all in, but early reports suggest it was a pretty good week.

Monday:

Wednesday:

Thursday:

Friday:

Saturday:

Monday:

What on his schedule this week?

Southern governors (all but one, Republican), report the Federal response to the disaster has been almost perfect – Google “Bush Katrina” to be reminded of the political risk of natural disasters. This week and next, of course, he’ll also be dealing with the greatest flood surge along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers since 1927.

Celebrations have broken out evoking a sense of relieve and patriotism not seen in decades – Google “Carter Hostage Rescue” to be reminded of the political risk of precision military operations. Perhaps, we should also be reminded that it was during last week, that NATO missiles missed Gaddafi and killed his son and grandchildren – something that President Obama will be dealing for a while.

And then there is debt ceiling. Is it possible that Republicans, back fresh from two-weeks being yelled at by constituents for voting to end Medicare and Medicaid, stinging from watching a competent president succeed where others failed, and flushed with patriotism for the bin Laden mission, will do what’s important for our country and pass the debt ceiling? Or will they march as lemmings off a cliff and take the world’s economy with them? That’s something that President Obama has already started working on this week. The Washington Post reports that the Treasury Department has begun implementing some emergency measures that buys 25 more days than expected to solve the political issues – we have now until August 2nd before default. Stay tuned. The week has barely just begun.

Update 05.03.11: Reuters reports the Mississippi River dropped a foot within hours of levee detonation and the NY Times reports it saved Cairo, IL. Obama has more work to do, though, the Army Corp of Engineers warns the river may rise again and isn’t expected to crest in New Orleans until May 22nd.

Update 05.03.11: Newsweek/Daily Beast reports the week might not have been so good. In a survey just completed, President Obama got no post-bin Laden bump in approval ratings saying, “The clear reason: It’s the economy, stupid. Even after Bin Laden’s death, only 30 percent think the country is on the right track, and only 27 percent think the economy is on the right track.”

Update 05.03.11: Not so fast, the Los Angeles Times reports a survey released by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Washington Post, shows President Obama’s approval rating jumping nine points post-bin Laden to 56%; a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation showing a four-point bump to 52%; USA Today/Gallup poll finding “32% said they feel more confident in Obama as commander while 21% said they feel a little more confident;” and “Ipsos-Reuters poll said that their view of Obama’s leadership had improved in the wake of the raid.” The Times went on to say, “Overnight polls are notoriously fickle and often differ from each other on the questions asked and the numbers computed.”

Update 05.03.11: Over a drink together, Chris Matthews reminded me that on Friday, President Obama also gave the commencement address at Miami-Dade College (4/30/11), let’s watch:

Update 05.04.11: CBS News reports a “new CBS News/New York Times poll found that 57 percent of Americans generally approve of Mr. Obama in the wake of the raid in Pakistan. Two weeks ago, when bin Laden was still America’s most-wanted terrorist, the president’s overall approval rating was at 46 percent. A whopping 85 percent of those polled gave Mr. Obama high marks for his handling of the operation to find bin Laden.”

Update 05.04.11: Channel 6 News reports the Army Corp plans to blow additional sections of levees along the Mississippi in Mississippi County, MO; New Madrid, MO; and Hickman, KY. Tough decisions. Huge stakes in the lives of residents and politically for the Obama administration.

Georgia House Bill 277

Feral HogI’m no fan of feral hogs, even when they aren’t in the Georgia House. A few years back, I was taking a long walk toward the sunrise on a desolate stretch of beach along the edge of the Hobcaw Barony, just north of Georgetown, SC, when one of these evolutionary misfits, the real ones, not the elected kind, bounded over the dunes.

The feral hog was surely trophy size, a few hundred pounds or better. Ignoring my instinct to run screaming, I calmly called on all my wildlife knowledge. If it were a bear, my left brain thought to myself, I should play dead. No f’ng way, thought my right brain interrupting loudly. Has it seen me? The sun was just coming up over the ocean, perhaps I should be still and hope he, she, it moves on. Of course it was low tide and safety of the surf fifty yards away. Surely these devil inspired nightmares can’t swim. They can and can run up to 30 mph. I can run four or five miles an hour. It seemed to be eating the dune grass. I considered it was a good sign that it didn’t have an arm in its big ugly tusks. The standoff continued. I, hiding my fear. He, she it, ignoring the predator, me, on the beach. Then it disappeared back over the dune.

I have mixed feelings about deer. The Bambiesque Key deer that are so tame they’ll feed out of your hand, are awfully cute. A month or so after a visit to Little Palm Island,  where we had gotten to hang out with the Key Deer, I woke one night to find my wife in the middle of the bedroom floor petting the invisible Key deer she was dreaming about.

Then there are those other deer. The ones who play chicken games late at night with motorists. Imagine the love you’d have for this future venison, if you, in the late stages of a midlife crisis were driving an Alfa Romeo Spider on a deserted moonless night around midnight. You were on the back road shortcut halfway from North Augusta to Charleston. You were taking a curve a couple of miles above the speed limit  knowing why you owned a sports car, when a herd of deer suddenly froze in your headlights. Alfas, at six inches off the ground, don’t run over deer. Deer run, roll, bounce and jump over Alfas. It is tradition for hunters to rub the blood of their first deer on themselves. It was my blood that was all over me. With no headlights, a mangled hood, broken windshield, torn top and freshly installed spare on the front right, I creeped along for a few miles until I spotted lights. A late night bar was not as good as a service station, but I walked in and asked for help, “I just hit a herd of deer and am bleeding.”

There were about a dozen patrons and a single voice yelled out, “where?”

I answered, “my head.”

“No, where’d you hit the deer?” came the same voice back.

“A couple miles west,” I offered. The bar emptied. Even the bartender left in the race for my trophies. This is what it feels like to be bait, for deer. Two months and almost $10 grand later, I got the car back. I also began to develop a taste for venison.

My only hunting experience is shooting children and their parents. I have never shot a feral hog or a deer, so maybe I’m not qualified to weigh in on Georgia House Bill 277. In fact, I’ve never hunted at all. My grandson’s 10th birthday party was held at Charleston Paintball. I had some trepidation about it. My people, as they say in Charleston, weren’t gun people. I convinced myself that it would be like using water pistols. It is not. I don’t recommend it for anyone, unless I don’t like you.

Charleston Paintball is less than a mile from the entrance to the Air Force base. On this Saturday in February, there were perhaps a thousand people gathered to hunt each other. Mostly men and their boys. Many who looked as if they came right off the battlefield. Fully equipped with special guns, extra ammo, paint grenades, even body armor. Every one of them looked the part for the role they’d play that day. There is an odd sense of safety you feel when you start out. Everyone must wear protective garb. Everyone must have their weapon check to ensure the air rifles weren’t too powerful. Everyone looked as if they were going to wipe out a terrorist group – or a school – and enjoy it. Fortunately, we had a private group with our own referee. I was also relieved to find that we had two surgeons in our group. Even I was beginning to think this would be a time I’d always remember.

The first staged battle went well. I was just sitting, awaiting the attack on our fort. A random high shot hit me in the arm and I was out. It stung a bit, but it was all good fun. The second battle went even better. After killing two beautiful little boys with perfect between-the-eyes shots, I snuck up on my grandson. He and I were the only ones left. He was hiding out in the fort when I took him out with a couple of shots to his abdomen.

The rest of the day didn’t go so well. I experienced brutal death after brutal death. Everyone learned a little about strategy. It took me a few hours to learn the best strategy is to get off the battlefield. Even with all the protective equipment, those damn paintballs will draw blood – mine included. They hurt like a son of bitch. And almost six weeks later, I still have deep bruises. If you shoot the guns fast enough, which little boys like to do, the compressed air in the gun freezes the paint and the plastic balls impact with the hurt of a golf ball. Experiencing it first hand, paintball is particularly lousy for the targets. I suspect the feral hogs and deer feel that way, too.

Yesterday, the Georgia Senate passed HB 277 . Existing law had allowed baiting fields for feral hogs and deer, but prohibited shooting them within sight, or within 200 yards of the bait. Obviously, this was unprogressive and unfairly benefited the wealthy who owned big tracks of land. The new law, which the Governor plans to sign, only affects the “Southern zone” of Georgia, changes the restriction to 50 yards, and you can shoot ‘em if you see them. Power to the people.

Opponents of the legislation, suggest that the change in this law is unethical, barbaric, unsportsmanlike, and that claims of wildlife management and health benefits are untrue. Read more of the arguments from the Political Vine, a site “produced by Georgia Republican Activisits”: HB 277: Deer Hunter vs. Deer Hunter and HB 277: Deer Hunting Over Bait – Unethical on So Many Levels, Part 2.

I know that the great state of Georgia has some important issues before the legislature this year. With only 40 days to eat barbecue, meet with lobbyists, and the like, it is really hard to balance the budget, while not raising taxes on anyone connected and by only cutting programs for the poor, underrepresented, or those popular with the opposing party. It is a tough task to assign the state’s priorities and invest in programs that will benefit the next generation of Republicans, while at the same time competing with the other great states of the deep South to stay out of the ranking cellar in education, life expectancy, obesity, poverty, teen pregnancy, unemployment, etc. – or, for that matter, competing with the other great states of the deep South to stay near the top of the rankings for business climate, miles of roads built, prison population, football and hunting. Speaking on behalf of all Georgians, I just want to say thank you – and, please, go home soon.

Stimulus Hawk

In a dramatic achievement of bipartisan compromise, the Clinton-Obama administration has announced a compromise with Republicans for continued stimulus spending – deficit be damned – as long as the economy, as judged by the Chamber of Commerce, deems it appropriate. No, extending the Bush tax cuts for the superwealthy was so last week. Iraq and Afghanistan.

Stuck in the malaise of the post-prozac depression, we simply cannot afford to have hundreds of thousands of Americans return home off combat pay. The effect on Visa and Mastercard write-offs would be massive. Public relations spokespeople for virtually every economist who has ever appeared on TV, have stated that, “America needs the stimulus from combat-death life insurance pay-outs to the surviving families to keep our communities vibrant and our schools and VA hospitals open.” Were one of these wars to suddenly come to an end, every American would suffer from the effect of those laid-off in the bomb, bullet, flack jacket, tank, predator drone, helicopter, MRE, spy satellite, cargo plane and cable news industries. The effect would be enormous – we would have to go back to watching people talk about abortion and the protection of marriage.

Were the totally implausible to occur, ‘peace’, the opportunity for middle-aged former veterans to sell themselves to companies formerly known as Prince, for only five times what real soldiers make, is over. Stop. Think for a moment. Without thousands of flights per month half way around the world, what would happen to the price of oil? What would happen to community college language programs in middle eastern dialects? What would happen to the army of friendless nerds working for letter divisions of government who spend their waking hours listening in on phone conversations to and from war zones? Zeltch. Nada. Unemployment. Just imagine for a moment how long they could make it on the street as homeless.

We cannot afford to let his happen. We must support the wars. We must stand against peace. Whatever wars they want, for whatever reason, we need this. For capitalism. For free enterprise. For if we stop fighting over there, the war will leave your street and come to Wall Street.

It is cannot be about winning un-winnable wars. Look what happened to Russia when they left Afghanistan – their economy was destroyed and their government overthrown. We’ve been in Afghanistan now longer the Russians. We cannot afford to ever leave.

If you have not gotten it yet, think for a moment about the people. Awash with dollars in a country where malls are made of clay, how could they survive on poppy production alone? What will happen if the Taliban were to take over the Pakistan nukes? Preemptive strike by India? Or will Ms. Clinton invite a short Pakistani general to come back to power? Would Pakistan make new nuke sales to future terrorist states, such as Brazil or Canada or, god forbid, Mexico? Would Osama come out of his cave leaving us with no enemy to be the focus of our fear? No, we must stay the course.

The joint chiefs, in an announcement approved by Hillary Clinton, have weighed in, “No comment.” Unnamed, anonymous and/or innocuous or vague sources have confirmed that “as long as Wikileaks is plugged, you’ll have to check with the White House or, even, the State Department for an official statement that can be parroted in your blog.” China and Saudi Arabia are on board. Publicly, the EU is for peace, but not at the price of not war. The rest of the world is just too busy or hungry to care.

Perhaps, someone like Senator Jim DeMinted (T, SC) will state it best, “In this time when our very way of life is being threatened by godless people who have run out of money, I’m pro-offense spending. Especially, if we have to cut taxes and social security to pay for it.”

We need to stop thinking about war as, well, “war.” We need to cease our fixation with the sounds of explosions, the blood of innocent children and camps of refugees. We need to embrace that war is about the economy and jobs – our jobs. We need to come together and support our troops in protecting our way of life.

Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence. ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

No matter what political reasons are given for war, the underlying reason is always economic. ~A. J. P. Taylor

When a war breaks out, people say: “It’s too stupid, it can’t last long.” But though a war may be “too stupid,” that doesn’t prevent its lasting. ~Albert Camus

One is left with the horrible feeling now that war settles nothing; that to win a war is as disastrous as to lose one. ~Agatha Christie

No protracted war can fail to endanger the freedom of a democratic country. ~Alexis de Tocqueville

A great war leaves a country with three armies: an army of cripples, an army of mourners, and an army of thieves. ~Anonymous (German)

War is not an adventure. It is a disease. It is like typhus. ~Antoine De Saint-Exupery

Make wars unprofitable and you make them impossible. ~A. Philip Randolph

Lame Canard Session

The stakes are enormous: millions of Americans have lost their meager unemployment benefits; job creation is abysmal; unemployment is increasing; municipal and state governments are in dire need of revenue; the Bush-era tax cuts will expire on December 31st; and obstructionism in Congress is sure to be even worse in the next session.

Our formerly hopeful, now pragmatic President, knowing just how close our economy is to falling off the cliff, has embraced compromise to get help from Senate Republicans to stimulate the economy. The Republicans in the Senate, knowing that a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts is precisely the issue they will need for the 2012 election, are willing to compromise all principles to throw some scraps at the poor by extending unemployment benefits for a year and a month (past the next holiday season). Both parties are anxious for the one-year cut in payroll taxes that is also in the deal.

So just how bad is the deal?
Allowing the unemployment benefits to expire makes almost no economic sense. The stipend is tiny, but merciful, and it goes immediately back into the economy providing stimulus we badly need. How long it should be extended is debatable, but ending it before we have job growth is the answer.

Allowing the tax cuts to expire will hurt the working poor: the bottom 10% bracket will disappear and go back to 15%, plus the earned income tax credits will expire.

Allowing the tax cuts to expire will hurt the middle class: tax rates will increase 3%; families will lose $500 per child in deductions and some tuition credits; and singles will lose the marriage penalty fix. The House has already passed a bill to extend breaks for the poor and middle class. Should the bill fail to pass the Senate, there may be plenty of support for fixing it next year – especially if the economy continues to flounder.

Allowing the tax cuts to expire will bother the rich: 30 years ago, the top marginal income tax rate was 70%, now it is 35% and would go back up to 38%. Dividends will be again taxed as ordinary income, which it is. The long term capital gains rate, now zero, will go back up to 10%-20% – temporarily cutting the capital gains rate can create an incentive to invest, while cutting the tax rate to zero and keeping it there, does just the opposite. Estate taxes will go back into effect with a $1 million deductible.

The Bush tax cuts were spectacularly effective in increasing the wealth of the richest Americans and turned our surplus to deficit. The next 10-year cost of extending the tax cuts is about $4 trillion,

“…three times the entire projected Social Security shortfall. So giving in to Republican demands would mean risking a major fiscal crisis — a crisis that could be resolved only by making savage cuts in federal spending. And we’re not talking about government programs nobody cares about: the only way to cut spending enough to pay for the Bush tax cuts in the long run would be to dismantle large parts of Social Security and Medicare,” according to Paul Krugman.

But is this just a canard? Hard to know. This lame duck session of Congress is, mercifully, coming to an end soon. It seems likely the Obama-Republican compromise could pass the Senate, but whether the House will betray the same progressive beliefs as our President, is a toss up.

Forgiveness is way overrated

I’m really in to brotherly love, peaceful coexistence and all that stuff. I got little room for hate and vengeance – antipathy is about as far as I go. Someone slights me, I forgive or forget and move on. Apply the golden rule – forgive as I want to be forgiven.

It’s just that I’m not looking for forgiveness for murder, kidnapping, maiming, torture, assault (except verbal), robbery, abuse, incest, poisoning, grand theft, bribery, the general ruining of lives or conspiring to commit any of the above. Not saying that I couldn’t find a way to forgive some variations of these crimes, just that they don’t come freely. Likely they require some combination of stopping the behavior, confession, remorse, making amends – all of which just might lead to reconciliation. It is true in our relationships, courts and religion.

I know, I know, I know, you are thinking, “what about politicians?” Same list. If, for instance, a political party in charge of our government were to lie about reasons to take us to war, require thousands of our nation’s finest to sacrifice their lives and tens of thousands, perhaps, many more injured for life and wreaking untold heartache and hardship on their families; add to it the organized murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, the maiming of a million or so more and the displacement of even millions more, calling it “collateral damage,” while in their march of madness toward making the Middle East safe for oil companies; emptying our treasury for their rich friends, dismantling the regulations that protected our economic system from failing that caused the unemployment, foreclosures, evictions, repossessions, lost pensions, bankruptcy and ruined lives of a hundred or so million of my fellow citizens, while bailing out those greedy bastards who caused this bringing their status quo back to unimaginable wealth; add to it the spoiling our lands, water, air and bringing the apocalypse of global climate change from fear to a near-term reality; add to it kidnapping and torture… well, I could go on. I don’t care how often they have admitted their sins and asked for forgiveness; I’m not ready to forgive them. Wait a minute, the Republicans, not a one, have admitted or asked for forgiveness, They’ve just asked for my vote. They aren’t going to get that. As God might would say, “Damn them.”

But wait, the new testament Bible teaches us that every sin is forgivable, except if a person blasphemes the Holy Spirit – that’s about God’s forgiveness, not mine and the Christian God has some pretty weird standards. If heaven is filled with murderers, rapists, abusers, liars, thieves, and people in office during the Bush administration, I’d prefer to be elsewhere.

I know, I know, I know, you are saying, “what about corporations, they are people, too, aren’t they?” Same list and likely to be continued.

More reading: Wikileaks.org

Pledge to America: the cliff notes

The long awaited sequel to Newt Gingrich’s 1994 “Contract On America,” is out. Here are cliff notes. A summary of sorts inspired by Cliff Hillegrass’ original, but written for the lemmings expected to be led and fall from the cliff.

Overall:

Republicans pledge to reconnect with their version of the “permanent truth” of long-buried, rich, slave-owning white men – none of whom were Baptist – who lived in a time before indoor plumbing, electricity, automobiles, telephones, television, internets, rights for women or people of color, automatic weapons, predator drones, polling, political action committees, Republicans, Democrats, citizenship, elections, Wall Street, public libraries, credit cards, corporations, health insurance, retirement plans, banks, dollars, and the life expectancy was about 30.

Republicans pledged to offer a “plan,” rather than an “agenda.” They announced their firm patriotic pledge to be against uncertainty, red-tape factories specifically located in Washington, D.C. (other color tape factories and those red-tape factories in other areas are apparently just fine) and people not working. They reaffirmed their pledge to listen to the minority mob at this critical time when those elected by the majority don’t seem to be listening to Fox.

Based on the 50 photos in their 48 page pledge, they are also pro-cowboy hats and are really really pro-white people – only one person of color was shown, John Boehner who is orange.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs:

They believe our economic problems are caused by heavy hands, a dead economist, and the continued cowardice of business owners. They believe the Democrat bill that provided the largest middle class tax cut in history, revenue sharing to the states to keep schools open and teachers and police on the job, and investments to rebuild roads and bridges that put construction workers back to work should have been cancelled.

They pledge to put people back to work by not spending money and definitely not hiring them by the government. They believe that it is critical to give people making so much money that they couldn’t find enough tax dodges and have to report over $250,000 in earned income a 3% tax break. They believe the Republican initiative to save Wall Street has caused investor uncertainty, but that if Wall Street has to obey the rules, they won’t take risks and our economy won’t trickle on middle class and poor people.

They pledge to end the deficit by permanently not raising taxes, giving more tax deductions to corporations, repealing the requirement for corporations to report expenses over $600, and requiring an act of Congress for almost any new business regulation. The Republicans pledge “put us a path to balance the budget and pay down the debt” by immediately cutting $100 billion from the stimulus bill that would have been used to buy American products and hire Americans to rebuild decaying public buildings and bridges. They pledge to go back to the Clinton-era, Obama-endorsed, pay-as-you-go strategy on new spending, except in the cases of unexpected emergency Republican spending such as highway funding, new subsidies for agriculture, more fighter jets built in Republican districts, etc. They also have pledged support of Obama’s plan to re-privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Healthcare:

They pledge to immediately repeal healthcare reform and replace it with common sense, allowing HSAs to be used for anything in a drug store, getting rid of state regulation of health insurance companies, and, of course, tort reform. No mention of the 50+ million Americans who don’t have health care coverage. They also pledge to discontinue the federal prohibition on abortion funding and replace it with a prohibition on abortion funding.

Government Reform:

The Republicans pledge a requirement that every law carry a Congressional version of a Bush signing statement – just a little something to clarify intent which can be used before the Supreme Court or campaign contributors. The idea is that regardless of whether the bill is constitutional, if they say it is, and the President signs it, they agree on intent, which should put the judiciary on proper unconstitutional notice not to disagree.

They pledge to require that all bills be posted 72 hours before a vote as the Democrats already do. The theory is that it will give Rush, Glenn and Sarah more time to alert the radio, cable and tweetisphere to alert the people to alert the pollsters to alert the staff to alert our leaders how to vote.

They pledge to require that at any point in the process, any legislator can offer an amendment to reduce spending and send the bill back to a committee to restart the never ending process which should, once and for all, mean that Congress will never pass another bill while a black man is in the White House. If that doesn’t work, they also pledge to make sure measures are passed “one at a time” rather than bundling a critically important-to-K-Street bill with other bills not considered important by Republicans. And if that doesn’t work, they also pledge to put an expiration date on all federal programs to coincide with election years including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but plan to save Social Security by cutting benefits until it is so unpopular that we won’t want it any longer.

They particularly are against big government, but pledge no specific size goals. They are also pro-accountability and transparency, which is code for, “we can’t wait to start the inquisition of Obama.”

Security:

Not much here. I suppose they got to their page limit. They pledge to pass a “Clean Troop Funding Bill,” I know it sounds as if the Republicans are anti-dirty troops, but they aren’t. The pledge is totally meaningless except to provide some cover should they fail on other pledges and have to pass a military funding bill that includes bridges to nowhere.

They also pledge to “demand an Overarching Detention Policy” to prevent those illegally detained by our government anywhere in the world, but especially those in Guantanamo, from having a fair trial, to fully fund the fully funded Star Wars missile defense shield, even though it is still illegal by treaty and will never work, but Reagan wanted it, and they reiterate their dislike for Iran and immigrants, but pledge no specifics of how they are going to make their lives worse.

Energy:

They pledge they are for domestic energy production and against cap and trade, but pledge no specifics and certainly didn’t pledge anything to address global climate change or new energy sources.

The complete 48 page Republican “Pledge to America” can be read here.

Back to Work to the People’s Business

Lawmakers are back to work this week after the long Labor Day recess. With elections just six weeks away and so many millions of Americans suffering poverty, unemployment, facing eviction, bankruptcy, hunger or without medical care, let’s take a look at how are representatives are going to prove to the voters that they take their jobs seriously.

In addition to prayers, committee meetings, general housekeeping and endless requests for things to be read into the record that didn’t actually occur, here’s what is on this week’s schedule in both chambers, I kid you not.

House of Representatives Senate
Resolutions, each requiring separate votes, expressing the sense of the House regarding…

  • Honoring what happened on 9/11/2001.
  • Honoring the Oklahoma National Guard service since 9/11/2001.
  • Honoring those who died on D-Day at the Battle of Normandy (1944).
  • Congratulating Miami Dade College on their 50th Anniversary.
  • Congratulating Michican Technology University on their 125th Anniversary.
  • Commending USC for winning the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship.
  • Designating this week as, “National Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week.”
  • Recognizing the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
  • Permitting of Members of Congress to administer the oath of allegiance to applicants for naturalization to take advantage of photo opportunities, which look really nice in campaign flyers and videos.
  • Recognizing the 50th anniversary of the legislation that created REITs.
  • Designating the Post Office located at 218 North Milwaukee Street in Waterford, Wisconsin, as the “Captain Rhett W. Schiller Post Office.”
  • Designating the last week of September as National Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Week and the last Wednesday of September as National Previvor Day.
  • Expressing condolences to and solidarity with the people of Pakistan in the aftermath of the devastating floods.
  • Designating the Federal building and courthouse located at 515 9th Street in Rapid City, South Dakota, as the “Andrew W. Bogue Federal Building and United States Courthouse.”
  • Designating the facility of the Government Printing Office located at 31451 East United Avenue in Pueblo, Colorado, as the “Frank Evans Government Printing Office Building.”
  • Designating the federally occupied building located at 1220 Echelon Parkway in Jackson, Mississippi, as the “James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and Roy K. Moore Federal Building.”
  • Designating the Federal building located at 6401 Security Boulevard in Baltimore, Maryland, as the “Robert M. Ball Federal Building.”
  • Observing the fifth anniversary Hurricane Rita devastated the coasts of Louisiana and Texas, remembering those lost, etc.
  • Observing the fifth anniversary Hurricane Katrina, saluting volunteers, recognizing, remembering, reaffirming, etc.
  • Recognizes the value of recreational aviation and backcountry airstrips located on the nation’s public lands.

Legislation (note: in addition to the people’s new business, the House has 44 bills, which they passed in this session, was sent to the Senate and passed (all, but two by unanimous consent), but a final required vote in the House for them to become law hasn’t happened)…

  • Amends a law so that the Navy’s procurement contract for F/A-18E, F/A-18F, and EA-18G aircraft that expired in March and be extended until two weeks ago.
  • Amends the Made in America Promise Act of 2009 to prohibit Representatives and Senators from making a determination under the Act that is inconsistent with the Act on purchases made by their offices which bear a congressional seal – passed.
  • Amends a law to prohibit the Department from Homeland Security from procuring clothing, tents or natural fiber products directly related to national security that are not grown, reprocessed, reused or produced in the US unless they cannot be procured when they are needed.
  • Requires any person judged in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 from being awarded a government contract unless the head of the agency awarding the contract wants to give it to them anyway and they tell Congress about the next month – passed.
  • Authorizes the GSA to allow the American Red Cross to distribute stuff the government bought during disaster response.
  • Amends a 2002 law that allows the Rural Utility Service to make energy efficiency loans, to make them interest free.
Resolutions, each requiring separate votes, expressing the sense of the Senate regarding…

  • Honoring the Oklahoma National Guard service since 9/11/2001.
  • Designating this month as “National Preparedness Month.”
  • Recognizing “National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.”
  • Recognizing the victory in the America’s Cup race.
  • Remembering Ralph Smeed.
  • Remembering Bobby Eugene Hannon.
  • Commending the entertainment industry’s encouragement of interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Judicial Confirmation Votes

  • Confirmation of the nomination of Jane Stranch to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit (held hostage for 400 days). Judge Stranch was confirmed.

Procedural Votes

  • Four cloture motions were scheduled with respect to the Small Business Jobs bill (held hostage since June), which would create a $30 billion small business lending fund, funnelled though banks holding less than $10 billion in assets, and provide $12 billion in tax breaks to help small businesses grow and add new employees. Two Republicans, Sen. George Voinovich [R, OH] and Sen. George LeMieux [R, FL] voted with every Democrat in favor, making the other motions moot and allowing a vote on the bill.

Legislation (note: in addition to lobbyists’ new business, the Senate has 372 bills yet to be acted on in this session that have been passed in the house – most of them non-controversial and passed by an overwhelming and bi-partisan majority (only 16 of the 372 by less than 60% support), but are being held hostage in the Senate by secret holds, threats of filibuster by the party of no and legislative shenanigans)…

  • No votes are scheduled, but it is expected that the Small Business Jobs will be voted on late Thursday. Update: the bill passed on a 61-38 vote, Thursday, so they can go home for the weekend.
Acknowledgement: This post was inspired by and much of the content derived from OpenCongress.com – a non-profit, independent public resource. Other sources for this story include Senate.gov, ThinkProgress.org,