Saturday, October 19, 2013

Michele Bachmann - Lest we forget...

Michele Bachmann is not running for re-election.  Whether that has to do with the recent ethics complaint/investigation or not is irrelevant.  She's going to be gone.  Oh, happy day!

But while she may be the dumbest member of the House of Representatives, there are many others who follow in her footsteps.

It is possible that Ms. Bachmann will attempt to return to the political stage.  Any success she might have in such an endeavor would be a tragedy.

Lest we forget how ignorant and incompetent and unethical she is, we need, every so often, to review her past actions and statements.

A scientist visits a Creationist Museum

Another question to ask is why this Creationist joke of a "museum" was built partly with public monies.

Check it out here.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Where was Ted Cruz born?

"I was born in Canada, I swear!  Or maybe the U.S.  Okay it could have been the USSR."

In recent days, I have seen a lot of discussion on the Internet and other political blogs about the place of Ted Cruz's birth and whether or not he is a citizen of the United States.  We know he was, up until recently at least, a Canadian citizen because someone said he was born in Canada.  Hah!

Questions related to Cruz's birth and eligibility to become president of the United States are very important because they are very important.  Just ask President Obama. 

Let me tell you, though, there's more to the Ted Cruz story than meets the eye.  Or the foot, for that matter.  After giving the matter a great deal of thought, I wrote the following to a friend of mine to help him understand the problem we have with Mr. Cruz:

I have some evidence (locked safely away in a ... well, a safe) that Cruz was born, not in Canada as claimed, but in the Soviet Union and is really an alien.  His father, Rafael, was born in Cuba.  Ted says his mother was born in the U.S., but we really can't trust him because it's obvious his allegiance is with his Cuban father.  While it's true Rafael does not say much about Cuba, that's probably because he's secretly a close friend of Fidel and he doesn't want to rock the boat when Ted runs for president. 

I know that Ted has released his birth certificate, but I've found numerous errors on it and it just doesn't look like a real birth certificate.  I've also seen a birth certificate showing he was born in the Soviet Union, but that has somehow disappeared.  I'm pretty sure he's an alien.  You can tell because of his big head and the fact his eyes look very squeamish, and he jumps around a lot and waves his hands and he gets real nervous when people ask him about his father's relationship with Fidel and Raul. 

Has anyone seen his mother's birth certificate?  How do we know his mother wasn't Jewish?  It looks very much like she was a Russian Jewess.  Which helps us to understand why Rafael, who claims to be a Christianist fundy pastor, likes to run around with Jewish garments on and wearing a yarmulke.  Plus, I've seen him standing next to a huge menorah, and I know he plays the shofar.  Does that sound like a fundy protestant to you?  Furthermore, if he was born in Cuba he should have been a Roman Catholic but the only things he likes about the pope are the pope's views on abortion and gay marriage.  It's all very confusing but makes Ted's story much more suspicious.

I think it's becoming clearer every day that Ted is actually Protestant/Catholic/Jew [and maybe Muslim - we're checking that out!] and is working undercover for the Castro regime in order to become president of the U.S. and establish a Communist Christian/Jewish government with a Cuban constitution!  This is what the Dominionist movement is all about.  And after Ted becomes president he will be crowned King of the World.  Hallelujah!  Amen.  Hail to the Flying Spaghetti Monster.  Allah be praised.  Yea Vishnu. 

Fear and Loathing and the Future of Government

The Hollywood ideologue and right-wing conservative, "B" grade movie actor turned politician, known in some circles as "The Gipper," and elsewhere as Ronnie Reagan, liked to promote the notion that "government is not the solution, government is the problem."

Of course Reagan soon learned that he was wrong and the opposite was true! Government was not the problem but rather provided solutions for a number of problems we faced.  And because he also came to understand that taxes were necessary for government to function Reagan increased taxes big-time to the dismay of the hard-core right who to this day don't believe it!

And so they continue to verbalize that the government is the "problem," which, if true, means the best thing to do is either shut down the government or cut it off at the knees by denying it the funds to operate.  The Tea Party teapot crackpots who led the recent attempt at severing the government's ambulatory possibilities were doing nothing more than following the mantra of Lord Ronnie.  Who cares about fiscal responsibility?  The government wastes too much money as it is!  Who cares about the government meeting its financial obligations?  The deficit is too large and we must cut "entitlements" to force a reduction in the long-term deficit even if it means putting millions of our sick and elderly out in the mean streets.

The November 2013 issue of Harper's Magazine proffers an article, "The Anti-Economist - The Future Progressive," by Jeff Madrick, which argues that the current crop of Republicans and some Democrats "seek to prevent Washington from responding to change" as a way of shutting down the progressive philosophy that "change is a way of life, that society must work to ensure this change is for the better, and that government is the most important means of doing so."

[A disclaimer:  There are those huddling in the far right-wing of non-reality, such as Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz, who have no dog in the fight of progressive vs. regressive, change vs. the status quo.  The reason for that is they believe in a special and very personal interpretation of their holy book - a revelation - that Jesus is coming back very soon and all will be well, and/or that God will help them take dominion of the entire earth at which time all the wealth of the sinful will be transferred to the righteous.  In fact, Sarah and Ted have both been "anointed" as "Kings" to receive this transfer of wealth.]  The full story here.

Mr. Madrick is not speaking about these religious fundamentalists for they live in an alternate reality which makes sense only to themselves.  He's speaking of the majority of the Republican Party who understand change to be a bad thing and thus signed Grover Norquist's infamous "Taxpayer Protection Pledge."  They pledged never to increase taxes for any reason!  Madrick notes that "218 of 233 Republicans in the House and thirty-nine of forty-five in the Senate have signed the pledge, which means that nearly half of our federal legislators have actively chosen to limit their own options in responding to the nation's changing needs."

Why would they do that?  If the recent government shutdown has taught us anything it has taught us that the current crop of Republican naysayers care more about retaining their seats in the domain of power than about the country they have sworn an oath to preserve and protect.  Norquist, for some reason which I cannot fathom, seems to have the power of non-return.  Those who defy Mr. Norquist are likely to lose their next election.

And that raises the question as to who is really running this country?  But Norquist represents only one aspect of this problem.  The Tea Party, a minority in terms of numbers, also has the power of non-return.  Defy the Tea Party and you're going to be back on the farm, punching cows and chasing chickens!

But change is inevitable.  Change makes "ancient good uncouth," as says the old hymn.  Again from Mr. Madrick:  "Neither the federal government nor the state governments could have known in 1789, the year the Constitution was ratified, that they would one day finance canals and railroads, build schools and medical-research facilities, subsidize land-grant universities, develop vast municipal water systems, create a network of interstate highways, and provide a public pension system for the elderly and a safety net for the unemployed."

Republican conservatives either cannot understand this or refuse to understand it.  They speak of the Constitution as if it was never amended to meet changing conditions and new understandings.  Not only so, but because they deny the importance of government, they have also come to believe that the best way to meet the challenge of change is to leave the challenge in the hands of individuals, often referencing the "pioneers," who they claim struck out on their own and made their own way as if the government did not provide loans and land grants and railroads and mail service and armies to protect them. 

Madrick mentions President Obama's remark that "The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation."  [2011 State of the Union address].  Mr. Obama was correct and we can name many worthy American innovations developed over the past century.  But, as Madrick notes, "Our national reflex is to assume that most technological breakthroughs come from entrepreneurial giants and venture capitalists."  "I did it myself," is another Conservative mantra.  Re-read some of Mitt Romney's campaign speeches from the last presidential election if you doubt this.

Milton Friedman, say Madrick, has become for many Americans, the all-knowing economist.  In his book, Capitalism and Freedom, Friedman said "The great advances of civilization, whether in architecture, in industry or agriculture, have never come from centralized government."

Not so!  It's BS and Madrick tells us why:  "[...] the federal government--not merely through financial grants to private industry but through government research, vision, and risk-taking--has been the prime mover of innovation in America since World War II."

And speaking of the innovative push of government, Mariana Mazzucato, an economist from the University of Sussex, notes that government will take on risks that private concerns will not.  She says this is especially true as "to what are known as general-purpose technologies (GPTs), which include aviation and space transport, the Internet and telecomunnications, and certain types of mass-production systems."

Madrick expands on this theme.  Private industry hesitates to get involved in risky operations because "the funds needed are unusually large and the payoffs highly uncertain."  It takes the government.  "Organizations such as the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (an early contributor to the development of the Internet), and the Small Business Research Program are indispensable to the advances---in green technology, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals, among many others---on which our economy relies."

I would add in another factor.  Private entities are generally profit-oriented.  Their concern is going to always be the almighty dollar.  We know how companies compromise themselves when that happens.  We know why we cannot (although we are because of financial cutbacks) allow the chicken industry to police itself.  To do so, is to put the entire population at risk.  The same is true in education and in the prison industry.  Today's anti-government conservatives are outsourcing our schools and our prisons.  And things are a mess in both cases as money continues to trump integrity and ethics.

This is precisely why proposals such as those coming from Bowles-Simpson, which would limit federal spending, are so "self-destructive."  The challenges of the future, indeed the challenges we face right now, especially in terms of climate change, are immense and to deal with them will require vast amounts of money.  Madrick quotes Mazzucato again:  "We live in an era in which the State is being cut back.  Public services are being outsourced, State budgets are being slashed, and fear rather than courage is determining many national strategies."

Here's the way it plays out:

Jesus is not coming back.  There is never going to be a "Rapture."  The transfer of wealth to the Kings who will reign over the Seven Dominions (a notion promoted by Pastor Rafael Cruz and his son, Ted) will not occur!  

The challenges are ours to face.  But we cannot even determine their magnitude by ourselves.  The fact is we are dependent upon government-funded research to define and then deal with these challenges.  Our hope is not found in some mythical religious nonsense, nor in a mythical Tea Party argument against "big government," but in a progressive move forward to do whatever it takes, which will invariably include providing the government with the necessary funds to assist in the development of technologies and resources.

One of the most immediate and important changes on the horizon has to do with the planet's warming climate.  The latest projections as to what is going to happen to the earth very soon are dire!  Many millions around the world will be permanently displaced as cities gradually sink under the rising waters.  It's "goodbye" New York, Miami, and hundreds of other coastal metropolises.  This catastrophe currently in the making is one example where we desperately need the government and all of its resources involved! 

[Read the entire article by Jeff Madrick in the November 2013 issue of Harper's Magazine, pp. 13-15.]

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bil Maher on wingnuts Bachmann and Scalia

[Our thanks to Crooks & Liars.  The commentary below is by Heather.]

Bill Maher had a few words for wingnut Michele Bachmann and her counterpart on the Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia during his New Rules segment on Real Time this Friday evening, and I particularly enjoyed this bit on Bachmann:
And finally, New Rule, I know we can't establish a religious test for office, but if you believe we're living in the end times, like Michele Bachmann does, we get to take away the car keys. Yes, let Jesus take the wheel.
If you think the world is about to end, that's your right, but you don't get to vote on next year's budget, because it doesn't concern you!
Don't we wish. She's finally going to scurry out of office now that she's under investigation and might not have been reelected anyway, but not before she's got a chance to inflict more damage on the American public.

He wrapped things up by going after Scalia and his remarks about the devil being "a real person running around, getting people not to believe in god." As Maher noted, a lot of "reasonable people" see Bachmann as a "total lune, but Scalia as a serious intellectual, when actually, they're the exact same idiot." Maher cited some of Scalia's idiocy about the devil making pigs run off of cliffs before letting him have it.
MAHER: Pigs running off cliffs? Hey, leave the debt ceiling deniers out of this. And what is Justice Scalia's theory as to why we don't see the devil anymore? Is it the logical answer that fictions like the devil are in the Bible because it was written before the age of science, when humans didn't know where the sun went at night, and is obviously a reflection of mankind's thinking in his intellectual infancy?
Of course not! That makes sense. What Scalia said about the devil is, “He used to be all over the New Testament... What happened to him?... He got wilier.”
Motherf**ker! Of course! Wilier. He may be evil, but he's always looking to improve himself. Antonin Scalia once said that people like him, who adhere to a traditional belief, were “regarded as simple minded.” We are, he said, fools for Christ.
You know, whether you're fools for Christ, or coo coo for Cocoa Puffs, I really don't care why someone acts like a fool, just that they do and when they do, we keep them away from decision making.
It would be one thing if Mr. Scalia sold pizza for a living, but this is a man we go to to interpret our laws. It's like smelling a gas leak and calling an exorcist. Antonin Scalia put George Bush in the White House and he believes the devil went down to Georgia.  He gets to decide when life begins and he thinks evil is a person, you know, like a corporation.
Here's the problem with believing the devil exists. It means you see the world divided into teams of good and evil and suspect the wily one, may be on the side of them, and when you start seeing compromising with your opponent as a compromise with evil, well, there's your tea party. - Make a Donation to 2013 C&L Fundraiser

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

God's Amazing Forgiveness - or Not (by the NonStampCollector)

Priests and pastors as civilian contractors in our military

The United States Senate, under pressure from religious groups and true believers, has authorized a bill to allow military chaplains to work during the government shutdown.

Isn't this amazing?  We've got millions of families struggling to put food on the table, and these clowns worry about religious services being held in military units.  Let people starve, but don't keep our soldiers and sailors and flyboys from bowing to their particular gods!

Not only so, but did you know that the military also hires clergy as civilian contractors to serve the troops?

In direct violation of our Constitution, our military pays civilian religious types - priests and pastors - to do their thing with our military personnel.  We've long had chaplains who have served as military officers after being vetted by their religious group and the military, but since when did we hire Catholic priests and/or Protestant ministers as civilian contractors?

Actually, to create a Chaplain's Corps made up of commissioned officers in any military service is unconstitutional.  It cracks wide open the wall of separation of church and state.  (Worse yet, these days the military has become an arm of fundamentalist Christianity!  Check out the work of Mickey Weinstein here.)  Why should taxpayers fund religion in the military? 

Chaplains are unnecessary in any branch of the military service.  Military personnel can worship in any church anywhere in the world (there must be a gadzillion churches, temples, mosques available).  If personnel need to talk to a counselor, train regular officers in psychology or psychiatry or family counseling, or whatever.  Many military units (if not all) already have some sort of "morale" officer.

I was not aware that the military hired priests and pastors as civilian contractors to serve a particular military unit or station.  What a total waste of taxpayer's money!  And now one of them, a priest named Ray Leonard, has sued the government in order to provide Catholic services to people working at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia.  Ft. Leonard was furloughed by the shutdown and he's not happy about that.  Why, he'd even volunteer his time but was told if he tried to provide masses he would be arrested.

Kings Bay, Georgia is located along Georgia's southeast coast - just north of Florida.  If it's like other places in Georgia, there must be 10,000 churches of various stripes within a 30-minute drive of the base.

So, two questions:  Why do they need a civilian contractor priest or any other clergy?  Let the personnel find a church to their liking in the area and worship to their heart's content.  Secondly, why does the base not have a regular chaplain present?  Military chaplains are supposed to be able to minister to ALL the personnel not just those of their own denomination.

Finally, remember, you and I pay for this nonsense!

[Read more about Army chaplains here).

Tea Party Teapot Crackpots and other Idiots

(Photo from the Boston Tea Party Historical Society)

Once upon a time a group of colonists dressed up as Native Americans dumped crates of tea into Boston Harbor. This was an act of vandalism pure and simple.

Today's Tea Party Teapot Crackpots, showing their lack of knowledge of American history, want to believe the tea dumping was an act of patriotism against high taxes.  Not so.

Another explanation would have us believe the tea dumping was a patriotic act to protest the fact that although the colonists paid taxes to the British Crown, they were not represented in Parliament. So they sang the old song, "No taxation without representation." Not so much.

It was on December 16, 1773, when these colonists/vandals desecrated English tea by tossing it into the dark waters. The tea belonged to the British East India Company, so by stealing and destroying the tea, the best that can be said of them is they were criminals/felons and quite stupid.

But wait, the Tea Act, which was supposedly the focus of the colonists anger, lowered the duty/tariff on British tea imported to the colonies.  So, the colonists couldn't have been angry about paying higher taxes and the old saw about "No taxation without representation" doesn't make a lot of sense.

What were they upset about?

Leland Gregory, in his book, Stupid American History, explains:

"Because once British tea was affordable, it would ruin America's lucrative trade in black-market tea, because three-fourths of the tea sold in America was smuggled in by John Hancock. Now the whole idea of dressing up like Indians makes sense, doesn't it?"

Today in these United States, the people pay lower taxes than most every other country in the world.  Many of our corporations and our very wealthy pay almost no taxes, and some, in fact, do pay no taxes.  They hide their profits in off-shore accounts or like General Electric, they hire hundreds of lawyers to do nothing except look for loopholes that the company can use to evade paying its fair share of taxes.

The Tea Party was hijacked early on by corporate interests, some funded and supported by the Koch brothers, although you wouldn't know that by their names.  For example, Americans for Prosperity has a "patriotic-sounding" name but is actually a well-funded Koch brothers enterprise which sows seeds of untruths and dissension in the country, especially when it comes to the Affordable Care Act.

Partly because so many folks attracted to the Tea Party are not highly educated and easily swayed by the waving of flags and by those racists who will never accept a half-white man in the White House, and by men in suits suggesting that the president may not have been born in the United States and is probably a secret Muslim, etc., and by such demagogues as Ted Cruz (probably one of the most dangerous men to surface in this country since Joe McCarthy), the Tea Party has been able to gain the allegiance of a surprising number of people in and out of government.

The name, Tea Party, is certainly misleading however.  Like the first tea party crackpots, they're not concerned so much with taxes (except to ensure that the rich pay as little as possible for they might also become rich some day) as it is to hijack the government to remold it into their fascist, totalitarian system which, from the rhetoric spewed by the likes of Sarah Palin, will be run according to faux Christian standards and be characterized by wars of vengeance and regime change.