Saturday, January 8, 2011

Rachel Maddow - GOP declares war on own promises (apparently)

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The commentary which follows is from Crooks & Liars:

Republicans are off to a rough start after taking control of the House of RepresentativeWednesday.  MSNBC's Rachel Maddow noted Thursday that the party had only beenpower for some 33 hours when they had already made, by her count, at least eight serious missteps.

"Their initial pledges to the American people have turned out to be kind of a mess," she said.

As one of their first acts, Republicans decided to read the Constitution on the House floor Thursday, but purposefully left out some of the more embarrassing passages.

For example, the three-fifths compromise that counted slaves as part of a person was nullified by the 13th Amendment, and so it wasn't included in the reading. The 18th Amendment, which imposed prohibition on alcohol, was omitted.

In addition, Article 4 Section 4 was accidentally left out of the reading because pages in a three-ring binder "simply stuck together."

In their "Pledge to America," Republicans said they would cut $100 billion from the budget in the first year, but have recently backed away from that number. Homeland Security Committee chair Peter King (R-NY) is looking at cutting $50 billion, and a GOP aide told The Huffington Post's Howard Fineman that the bottom line is more like $30 billion.

While the Democrats were in power, Republicans complained that the open rules process -- allowing unlimited amendments and debate -- wasn't used. Politico observed Thursday that "[n]one of the bills that will be brought to the floor this week will be brought under open rules."

Republicans adopted a new rule called cut-as-you-go that requires all legislation that will increase the deficit to be offset with spending cuts. The Congressional Budget Office has said that one of the Republicans' first initiatives, repealing health care reform, would add $230 billion to the to the national debt over ten years.

Party leadership has solved this problem by exempting repeal of health care reform from the rules.

The GOP promised that all committee attendance would be publicly posted. They reversed that rule Tuesday.

In their Pledge to America, Republicans promised that all bills would be justified with a citation of the Constitution.

"The three bills that Republicans plan to introduce this week — one to cut the congressional budget, one to repeal the health care bill and another to instruct House committees to present new health care legislation — were posted on the Rules Committee website with plenty of time for review, but none had the constitutional citation for similar review," Politico reported.

"The Republican Party has wrapped itself in the Constitution at every turn for political purposes," Maddow continued. "They've outdone themselves on this matter."

Two House Republicans skipped out on the swearing-in ceremony on the House floor Wednesday. The Huffington Post reported that Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) decided to attend a fundraiser instead.

The two tried to claim they had been properly sworn in because they had raised their hands while watching the swearing in on television. Sessions and Fitzpatrick went on to cast votes in the House. Sessions even presided over the Rules Committee.

"Dude, you can't get sworn in by a TV," Maddow explained. "You have to be there in person. If you could become a congressman by raising your hand at the TV, everyone simultaneously watching C-SPAN yesterday and reaching for something on a high shelf or waving to a friend would be a congressman right now."

"These are self-inflicted things," she added. "Republicans carefully laid out these rakes on the floor inside the front door. They've been stepping on them one after the other since they got in."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Referendum on the Nature of the Tea Party

The following is a guest post from Waylon Fairbanks. Waylon writes on international politics and modern culture. He is a guest blogger for My Dog Ate My Blog and writes on accredited online colleges for Guide to Online Schools.

The emergence of the right-wing, populist movement known as the Tea Party has drawn analysis and interpretation from every corner of the political spectrum. With interpretations ranging from the saviors of liberty to the Sturmabteilung, everyone with an opinion and a pen has weighed in. And with the Republican takeover of the 112th Congress, finally, a verdict on the Tea Party's true nature is about to be reached.

Between Fox News and other mainstream promoters of right-wing ideology openly promoting and supporting the Tea Party, and liberal pundits like Keith Olbermann denouncing it as "racist" and Christopher Hitchens characterizing it as a deep, Caucasian fear of becoming a minority, the stunning lack of consensus has dismantled any chance at an objective understanding of the Tea Party. Yet like many historical populist movements, the ambiguity lies in the fact that as the major ideological opposition to the governing party, remaining vague is key. The Tea Party's success as a movement lies in its ability to remain ill-defined, and thus attract diverse legions of disgruntled Americans. Fortunately, for us proud liberals and democratic-socialists, the party is over. On January 5th when the new Congressional session began, the truth about the Tea Party will begin to appear, in all its ugly glory.

The position the Tea Party decides to take on a series of legislative escapades led by the Republican House will quickly force the Tea Party to define itself as either the independent and deficit-minded protectors of America, or the bigoted wing of the Republican establishment. Yet already in the lame duck session, the Tea Party's silence on the large, Obama tax compromise has proven the first hypocrisy in a projected likelihood of many. Both major aspects of the compromise, one would reason, contradict the politics of the movement: the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts will add 561 billion dollars to the federal deficit, and the Keynesian, demand-sided elements of the compromise are contradictory to the so-called laissez-faire Tea Party economic ideology. So then, why did we not see Glenn Beck leading a march on Washington? Surely, if the Republicans would have unanimously opposed the legislation, the Tea Party would have been up in arms (excuse the pun) and rallying, as they have been during other major Democratic legislative victories. Regardless of whether the Tea Party views itself as an independent movement, not one voice was raised when the Republican Party stance was in contrast to the Tea Party's.

Unlike the coalition comprising the Democratic Party, which is made of a plurality of varied interests, the Republican Party is essentially the product of two factions: the pro-business and the social conservative. A shrewd Republican businessman will often throw a bone to the social conservatives in the woodwork and denounce abortion or stem cell research, and the social conservatives will embrace an economic ideology they are not intellectually fit to understand. Since the election of Reagan, this mutualistic symbiosis has worked excellently. Yet because social conservatives tend to rely on populism, and the business community on elitism, any attempt to reconcile the Tea Party with the Boehner establishment will only reveal rift in the Republican Party. This leaves the glorified Tea Party only two options: they can either become subservient to the business interests of the Republicans in the House and thus fade into ambiguity, or they can depart from the Republican agenda when the House prefers its business interests to making Christian fundamentalism the state religion. However, it is likely this decision has already been made, and the Left can sit back and witness the crumbling of one our most hated allies – the Republican Party, or the Tea Party. Anyone for tea?

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Please check out My Dog Ate My Blog for more excellent essays.

Monday, January 3, 2011

His eye is on the sparrow - a really fishy story!

The synoptic Gospels are essentially collections of various materials attributed to a first-century Jewish itinerant by name of Jeshua, or Joshua, or more commonly known as Jesus.  It is very unlikely that this Jesus was an historical figure, but was created by one or more writers to satisfy the need of the early church to put flesh and blood on their savior, the Christ.

Cf. Earl Doherty's "Jesus: Neither God nor Man."

This becomes quite clear if one reads the Gospel of Luke, chapters 9 through 18. In this section, the Jesus figure wanders about meeting various people and groups and issuing a variety of proclamations and judgments, many of which make no sense at all.

For example, in Luke 12:4-5, the itinerant is quoted as saying (with no context): "To you who are my friends I say: Do not fear those who kill the body and after that have nothing more they can do. I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Believe me, he is the one to fear."

What could that possibly mean? Is he referring to Yahweh, the god of Hebrew tradition? Yahweh certainly killed enough people in his heyday!

But the ensuing verse is the one I'm focusing on in this essay. It seems the Jesus figure is still talking to "his friends" and he says "Are not sparrows five for twopence? And yet not one of them is overlooked by God. More than that, even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Have no fear; you are worth more that any number of sparrows."

It goes without saying that this is a silly saying; especially to someone who has gone bald. Which hairs are numbered, the ones lost or the ones still clinging to the scalp? And the implication that God gives a flip about sparrows and takes care of sparrows is ludicrous.

In Arkansas over the past few days, "3,000 birds mysteriously dropped dead from the sky."

Not only so, but "An estimated 100,000 dead drum fish are floating along a 20-mile stretch of the Arkansas River and washing up on the river's banks near the town of Ozark..."

The fact that pious Christians continue to praise their god in the face of incontrovertible evidence he/she/it just doesn't give a damn is quite mind-boggling.

This god does not care about sparrows, nor fish, nor humans. Every day, millions of humans die horrible deaths from disease, hunger, medical malpractice, accident, etc. and no god intervenes to save them or ease their suffering.

Yet, Christians (and Jews and Muslims) prattle on in their houses of worship about how god's "eye is on the sparrow," so how much more he cares for you. Not true. And to hold such convictions in spite of all the evidence to the contrary reinforces the truth that no one is as blind as the one who refuses to see.

The idea that there is a personal god who cares about you and me and the rest of the world is one of the biggest religious hoaxes ever perpetrated on the human race!

His eye is not on the sparrow; nor the drum fish in Arkansas; nor you or me.

So enjoy your life and do the best you can.  As the song goes, "Imagine there's no heaven..." and live your life to the fullest.

Conservatives don't give a damn about the Constitution

There are a bunch of so-called "conservatives" in the U.S. House who are planning to "teach" the Constitution of the United States. This is really funny, because they don't give a damn about the Constitution. They care only about their perverted ideological views which hold, first and foremost, that this is a nation ordained by their god, and that it should be run under their interpretation of biblical law.

A second notion derived from their ideology is that Democrats and progressives are bad and President Obama is one of the worst. Thus, their goal for the next two years is not to help govern the nation in an intelligent and helpful manner, but to do everything they can to screw things up and then lay the blame on Obama: they want the presidency back in Repugnican hands; they want Obama to go down to defeat in 2012!

The intellectual scope of this group is laughable. Consider the fact that the Minnesota moron, Michele Bachmann, is one of its leaders. But they are still dangerous because the majority of people in the United States are woefully ignorant of the history and the government of the nation and thus susceptible to the Bachmann's of the world who lie without shame about both.

Case in point: You may recall that President Obama visited Indonesia a couple of months ago. David Gibson noted that "In his speech in Indonesia, Obama used the phrase 'E pluribus unum' to underscore that in Indonesia, as in America, 'hundreds of millions who hold different beliefs can be united in freedom under one flag.'"

That, of course, is not true today in the United States, if it ever was. Religionists of various stripes are doing everything in their power to gain control and force the rest of the nation to follow their beliefs. Racists have unified under various banners to push their causes, one of which is to get rid of Obama; another has to do with revising the truth as to the cause of the Civil War.

Nevertheless, Obama held out to the Indonesians the "truth" as we would like it to be and as our Constitution envisioned it.

Now "'E pluribus unum' [from many, one] was adopted by Congress in 1782 and was considered the nation's unofficial motto, appearing on coins and banknotes since 1795. In 1956, at the height of the Cold War, Congress passed a law establishing "In God We Trust" as the official national motto, just as Congress had added the phrase 'under God' to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954."

Conservatives in Congress always want to nod to their god, even though the Constitution is quite clear that the nation has no god nor does the nation rely on any god. So, when the Soviet threat loomed, frightened conservatives played the god-card, thinking, I presume, that their god would be so impressed by their fealty, he or she or it would protect them from the Russian menace!

Stupid, yes, but typical of Repugnican conservatives in our national (and state) legislatures (along with a few "blue doggy" Dems).

Back to Obama in Indonesia. Because Obama did not use the phrase "In God We Trust" in his speech, 41 moronic Repugs and one dumbass Dem (members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus) penned a note to Obama wanting to know why he said "E Pluribus Unum" was our national motto instead of "In God We Trust."

This bunch of bozos from the Prayer Caucus also questioned Obama's failure to include the word, "creator" when "citing the second line of the Declaration of Independence."

Now, this is the kind of stuff Conservatives worry about. They don't worry about a president of their own ilk and of their own religious bent who lied over and over again (along with his appointees) in order to instigate an illegal war which isn't over yet, causing the deaths of 4,000 plus Americans, untold suffering and thousands upon thousands of Iraqi deaths at a cost of over $1 trillion!

The conservatives don't worry about climate change which threatens millions of lives worldwide at this very moment. They don't worry about the deregulation of corporate rules which has created one of the worst economic depressions in our history!

They worry about religion in government. They worry that the president of the United States might not be religious enough in their view to effectively govern the country.

Their stupidity is exceeded only by their ignorance. Even worse, the fact that they were elected by the American people gives rise to the belief that ignorance and stupidity rules throughout the land.

On the issue of religion, the Constitution and our founding fathers were quite clear (in spite of Beck and Barton's pompous and pious lies) that we are a secular nation ruled by secular law!

As to religion and politics: Article VI of the Constitution says:

" religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any office or public Trust under the United States."

So, it doesn't matter if Obama is a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, an agnostic or an atheist or anything else! The Constitution can't be clearer than that; which proves that conservatives don't give a damn about the Constitution!

Furthermore, the First Amendment to the Constitution is very specific: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ... "

What the conservatives don't get is that "the free exercise thereof" does not mean they have the right to impose their religious views on the rest of us, including the President of the United States!

They don't get it because they don't want to get it. They are ideologically driven and to hell with anything that gets in the way of their ideology!

And no matter that they establish a group to study the Constitution, no matter how loudly they protest their love for, and adherence of, the Constitution, the fact is they don't give a damn about the Constitution!

Truck stop

Thanks to Atheist Cartoons.

For the uninformed, all of the gods mentioned were born on December 25 (many of a virgin)...

Former senator Alan Simpson calls seniors the Greediest Generation

Photo from the CS Monitor (Credit to Larry Downing/Reuters)  Alan Simpson on left.

The following essay was sent to me by a friend who thought it was worth sharing. I agree wholeheartedly. The essay is said to have been written by a man living in Montana.

Are "seniors" the greediest generation? Or are the greedy ones really Alan Simpson and his creepy Repugnican cohorts?  It is the latter people who, through their mismanagment and ideological nonsense, have brought this country to its economic knees, not American "seniors"!

The essay follows:

Hey Alan, let's get a few thing straight...

1. As a career politician, you have been on the public dole for FIFTY YEARS...

2. I have been paying Social Security taxes for 48 YEARS (since I was 15 years old. I am now 63)...

3. My Social Security payments, and those of millions of other Americans, were safely tucked away in an interest bearing account for decades until you political pukes decided to raid the account and give OUR money to a bunch of zero ambition losers in return for votes, thus bankrupting the system and turning Social Security into a Ponzi scheme that would have made Bernie Madoff proud...

4. Recently, just like Lucy & Charlie Brown, you and your ilk pulled the proverbial football away from millions of American seniors nearing retirement and moved the goalposts for full retirement from age 65 to age 67. NOW, you and your shill commission is proposing to moved the goalposts YET AGAIN...

5. I, and millions of other Americans, have been paying into Medicare from Day One, and now you morons propose to change the rules of the game. Why? Because you idiots mismanaged other parts of the economy to such an extent that you need to steal money from Medicare to pay the bills...

6. I, and millions of other Americans, have been paying income taxes our entire lives, and now you propose to increase our taxes yet again. Why? Because you incompetent bastards spent our money so profligately that you just kept on spending even after you ran out of money. Now, you come to the American taxpayers and say you need more to pay off YOUR debt...

To add insult to injury, you label us "greedy" for calling "bullshit" on your incompetence. Well, Captain Bullshit, I have a few questions for YOU...

1. How much money have you earned from the American taxpayers during your pathetic 50-year political career?

2. At what age did you retire from your pathetic political career, and how much are you receiving in annual retirement benefits from the American taxpayers?

3. How much do you pay for YOUR government provided health insurance?

4. What cuts in YOUR retirement and healthcare benefits are you proposing in your disgusting deficit reduction proposal, or, as usual, have you exempted yourself and your political cronies?

It is you, Captain Bullshit, and your poliltical co-conspirators who are "greedy." It is you and they who have bankrupted America and stolen the American dream from millions of loyal, patriotic taxpayers. And for what? Votes. That's right, sir. You and yours have bankrupted America for the sole purpose of advancing your pathetic political careers.

You know, we know it, and you know that we know it. And you can take that to the bank, you miserable son of a bitch.