The Ten Commandments Resurface as the Personhood Amendment

Dec 31 2010 Published by under Featured News, Issues, Republican Party

Take a good look: this is the Constitution of the future

Okay, I admit this is really not news. The entire Christian fundamentalist movement(s) has as its goal “restoring” a Biblical society that never existed and basically turning back the clock to the “good old days” when the Church could punish with fiery death anyone who disagreed with it.

What the AFA has done is to promote a comprehensive agenda for this return. Supporters call it a “Personhood Amendment” which is a very positive-sounding name for something that is positively medieval in construction and intent. After all, these Christofascists aren’t really all that interested in persons if they’re gay, or Muslim, or pagan, or feminist. A lot of people, if the AFA and its cohorts on the religious right had its way, would lose their personhood.

The personhood amendment was already tried in Colorado. Amendment 62, “would have banned abortion, many forms of birth control and embryonic stem cell research in the state.”

They have managed to get the Personhood Amendment on the ballot in Mississippi for 2011 to coincide with the gubernatorial elections. According to realitycheck.org, “two prior efforts in 2005 and 2007 failed to win enough support to get the question before voters.” It reads as follows:

Be it Enacted by the People of the State of Mississippi: SECTION 1. Article III of the constitution of the state of Mississippi is hearby amended BY THE ADDITION OF A NEW SECTION TO READ: Section 33. Person defined. As used in this Article III of the state constitution, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.” This initiative shall not require any additional revenue for implementation.

One problem is that the state’s Constitution doesn’t allow voter referendums to alter the Bill of Rights (maybe they should start calling it the Bill of Restrictions – or better, the Ten Commandments). Not at all certain how they intend to get through that except by pulling a “Dubya” and simply ignoring the Constitution. One happy coincidence for these medieval advocates: the American Family Association (AFA) is headquartered in Mississippi.

Matt Friedeman of the AFA’s American Family Radio said that if the proposal succeeds in 2011, he hopes it would lead the way to the criminalization of abortion across the country:

“So what we’re hoping for here is that one of these initiatives will be taken all the way to the Supreme Court and they’ll have to decide at that point what to do with it. And hopefully at that juncture we have a pro-life majority, and you never know from year to year to year what’s gonna happen there, but we hope we have a pro-life majority and we hope the day comes when Roe v. Wade is wiped off the books and we can go back to the states. Maybe even, if God would allow, to get a pro-life amendment for the whole country.”


Bryan Fischer used the opportunity to push his usual violations of the Constitution and his vision of a medieval-style theocracy:

“One of the things we look for from our political leaders is we want to see them work to align the public policy of our country with the standards of the word of God, that’s what we want, we want an alignment. We’re not talking about a theocracy where the clergy rules this country; we’re talking about statesmen, both men and women, who are committed as a matter of moral conviction to align the public policy of the United States with the word of God.”


This is not just a move to ban abortion and overturn Roe vs. Wade but an attack on science and on the Constitution. It is also a violation of the Constitution because it promotes the viewpoint of a specific religion. It is the insistence at the heart of these amendments that a Christian viewpoint be the only relevant viewpoint that is the most objectionable. Most of these people, if polled, would likely react violently to any suggestion that Islamic principles govern the process; so why should Christian principles be seen as any less objectionable?
If you go to a site like personhood.net you find the following rationale:

Throughout the history of the Church the doctrinal teaching of the “Sanctity of Life” (Genesis 1:26-27) has been the belief that Man is created Imago Dei (Latin: in the image of God) and therefore has worth at all stages of life. This is the bedrock of Western civilization’s understanding and practice of human dignity.

Besides being misleading (human life was valued before Christianity) the statement is also demonstrably false. Christians slaughtered human beings of all ages with happy abandon for nearly 2000 years before the European Enlightenment freed the Western World of some of the Church’s darker practices – big killers too, like crusades, inquisitions, and witch-burnings – you know,  real pro-life activities.

Les Riely, sponsor of the Mississippi amendment, revealingly says,

Isaiah 59 tells us that ,’ the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear’ so we first give all praise and honor to our Lord Jesus Christ for hearing our prayers and giving us the victory in this round.

It’s Jesus this, Jesus that. Jesus isn’t in the Constitution. Neither is Christianity, neither are the Ten Commandments.

It’s a little late now to try to convince us you really do value life. Did you really have to kill millions to make that point? If all life is sacred, why do women have to die to save a fetus if her life is endangered by her pregnancy? That would have been the effect of the “life-loving” Colorado amendment.

There is no reason at all once you cast aside Christian insistence on being considered “True Religion” and the concomitant assertion that only their viewpoint is valid, which is exactly the determination government is not permitted to make according to the Constitution.

It is not as if Christians are being told they cannot be Christians, or hold firm to their religious convictions. No one is forcing Christians to have sex outside of marriage, or to have abortions, or to marry a person of the same sex, or to accept stem cell treatment. If you don’t believe it’s right, don’t do it. You have that right. But you positively do not have the right to force these beliefs on others by legislating them into law. The Constitution forbids this. The Constitution is about granting and defending rights; the Ten Commandments are about restricting them. Let’s not confuse them.

19 responses so far

Federal Court Says Murkowski In, Miller Out

Dec 30 2010 Published by under Featured News, Issues, Republican Party

I wrote the other day about Joe Miller’s refusal to accept defeat in his race against Lisa Murkowski, who was the victim of a Palin-Tea Party Express ambush before the primary. She came back strong in a write-in campaign and edged Joe Miller in the general election.

Murkowski had the grace to accept defeat in the primary. Joe Miller hasn’t been able to demonstrate he even knows what grace is, let alone intends to demonstrate it. It’s not for lack of opportunity:

Joe just lost out on his federal case – the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out his lawsuit on Tuesday, just a week after the Alaska Supreme Court did the same. The federal judge said Miller hadn’t raised any federal issues and that he would not second guess the Alaska Supreme Court. Take that, Sarah Palin! You brought in out-of-state money to beat Lisa Murkowski but the much-hated federal government won’t interfere in what is the state’s business.

How that must hurt.

Miller of course, is still whining:

“I am disappointed with the federal court’s ruling today. The U.S. Constitution’s Elections Clause presented the most significant constitutional issue. Specifically, should the courts be required to follow the legislature’s standard for the selection of U.S. senators or create their own? My legal team believes that the clear language of the Election Clause as well as precedent support our claims. Thus, we are evaluating the ruling and determining what our next step should be.”

Miller can always appeal. But that won’t stop Lisa Murkowski from taking her seat in the 112th Congress on January 5 because the federal judge lifted the hold on the certification of the election.

It’s a done deal. Only Joe Miller seems unaware of it.

Miller beat Murkowski in the August GOP primary but lost to her in the November election. The Alaska Supreme Court ruled against him. A federal judge has ruled against him. More importantly, the people of Alaska ruled against him by casting more ballots for Lisa Murkowski.

Murkowski told the Anchorage Daily News

“This is pretty great news. It means that I can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that next week Alaska will have two senators in the United States Senate and there would not be any lapse that could have happened had certification been held up very much longer.”

She has reason to be happy.

“I have had a bottle of champagne in just about every refrigerator where I have visited over this Christmas holiday, and I haven’t been able to release that cork yet.”

What Miller will do is anyone’s guess. Unlike one of Palin’s other favorites, he’s an employable individual, being an attorney and all, and won’t have to steal from his campaign funds to get by, or form a pac to give himself a paycheck. Even so, he really wanted that seat and he shows no signs of giving up trying to find a way to weasel it out of the winner’s hands.

I suggested last time Miller hold man up. I won’t suggest any of us hold our breaths.

16 responses so far

Joe Miller Says He’ll Hold His Breath Until They Let Him Win

Dec 28 2010 Published by under Featured News, Issues, Republican Party

Joe Miller and Lisa Murkowski

Fairbanks attorney and would-be totalitarian strongman Joe Miller apparently will not try to perform a citizens arrest on Lisa Murkowski. He will, however, take her to federal court for having the audacity to defeat him in the general election after losing the August 24 primary in a write-in campaign.

Never mind that it was the Tea Party that originally came in to steal Murkowski’s seat out from under her.

We all remember Karl Rove’s judgment:

“Absolutely no she can’t win. Under the law, you have to carefully spell the name exactly correct, now everyone go to your pencil and paper and write the name ‘Murkowski’ and see if you got it right.”

“No, she’s going to lose,” he said.

And Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) used a Tea Party fundraiser to call her a “big-tent hypocrite” and said she had betrayed the conservative cause.

Republican cannibalism at its best – or worst.

But she didn’t lose. She outraged the Tea Party by actually winning.

And what neither Karl Rove nor Joe Miller (nor, most certainly, Sarah Palin) reckoned on was the innate fairness of the process. The state Division of Elections established guidelines before counting even began that the voter’s intent had to count when writing-in a vote.

God forbid fairness should enter into the democratic process. “We can’t have that!” the Tea Party says.

So Miller lost fair and square. That’s not just a liberal writer saying that, it’s the Alaska Supreme Court, the law of the land. But that is Joe Miler’s whining lament: she cheated! Egads, people misspelled her name. Has she no shame claiming the victory?

The Alaskan Supreme Court ruled against him. The message from the voters was “You lost, Joe.” The message from the highest court in the state was the same: “You lost, Joe.”

“There are no remaining issues raised by Miller that prevent this election from being certified.”

But Joe claims that the sanctity of the election process is at stake. Meaning, he can’t possibly have lost. Perhaps God promised him a victory or something. After all, he promised one to Sarah Palin too on the eve of the ’08 Election Day.

Apparently, those nasty feds aren’t so nasty when Joe’s victory is at stake. To hell with the State of Alaska. What do the feds say? Does the Tea Party have no shame, throwing the state under the bus and trying to trump with the federal courts?

Did the world just turn upside down?

I’m unclear as to how losing an election fair and square violates the sanctity of the democratic process but then, I’ve never performed a citizens arrest on somebody who asked me a question.

For the record, this is Joe’s reasoning:

“After careful consideration and seeking the counsel of people whose opinion I respect and trust, I have decided that the federal case must go forward. The integrity of the election is vital and ultimately the rule of law must be our standard. Nevertheless, I have also decided to withdraw our opposition to the certification of the election, ensuring that Alaska will have its full delegation seated when the 112th Congress convenes next month.”

What a guy. Such a gesture of magnanimity!

There really wasn’t much magnanimity evident in Joe’s official protest. As his spokesman Randy DeSota said on Wednesday,

“We are disappointed the Alaska Supreme Court has ignored the plain text of Alaska law and allowed the Division of Elections to effectively amend the state election code without even giving the public an opportunity for notice and comment.”

Of course, the Alaskan Supreme Court made just that ruling, that state law had not been violated. End of story.

Not so, says Joe.

Of course, none of this surprises Lisa Murkowski, who has already been exposed to the limitless, mindless hate and nihilism of Tea Party politics. Her campaign fully expected Joe Miller to be a big crybaby.

Perhaps the most amusing aspect of this whole situation is that with or without the contested votes, Joe Miller has lost. Lisa Murkowski ended up with a lead of 10,328 votes.  Joe says 8,159 of those votes can’t count. Even without them, however, Lisa Murkowski still has a 2,169 vote lead.

There is a great deal wrong with this picture. There is the Republican betrayal of Lisa Murkowski later reinterpreted as a betrayal by Lisa Murkowski, another Sarah Palin demagogue who like Christine O’Donnell showed himself completely unequal to the office to which he sought election (a real chip off the old block), and then, when the people had spoken, when the State of Alaska had spoken, these Tea Party tenthers turn around and appeal to the hated feds to overturn the state. We’ll leave aside for the moment the sheer childishness of Miller’s position on this. What does he do for an encore? Hold his breath?

No, take your medicine Joe. In Palin-speak, find your cojones and man up. Vox populi: The people have spoken. Isn’t that supposed to be what the Tea Party is all about? But it isn’t, is it Joe? It’s not about what the people want: it’s about what you want, what Sarah Palin wants, what Christine O’Donnell wants – a free lunch.

13 responses so far

START Treaty Overcomes Two Republican Amendments

President Obama and Congressional Democrats hope to ratify the START Treaty Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty ) negotiated between the U.S. and Russia back in April, before the 111th Congress breaks for the final time. The 112th Congress with its diminished Democratic majority takes their seats in January; their 58-42 majority was reduced to 53-47 in November.

We have addressed this matter frequently here at PoliticusUSA, and with good reason. Republican opponents have made clear their intention to obstruct passage of the Treaty and in this at least, if not their economic policies, they have been true to their word. I wrote originally about this Republican gamesmanship back on November 17. And as Sarah Jones reported on December 4, and both she and Jason Easley reported again on December 16, the Republicans are guilty of holding our national security hostage.

RMuse reported on December 17 about the Republican attempt to use Christmas as an excuse to ignore important matters of national security. They could apparently impeach President Clinton for Jesus’ birthday but not ratify a treaty. This holiday, they tell us, is all about world peace; but apparently not world peace when it’s sponsored by a Democrat.

The many excuses offered read like a Letterman Top 10 list, and are as unconvincing:

1)      We don’t have time because there is too much else to do

2)      We don’t have time because it’s Baby Jesus’ birthday

3)      We don’t have time because it’s too complex for us to understand

4)      We’ll lose our ability to set up a missile defense system

5)      We want tax cuts for the rich first

6)      We have to modernize our nuclear weapons complex first

The Democrats and the White House have taken note of these many absurd excuses and have been pushing all the buttons they can, and have several cogent arguments to offer:

Wednesday, the Senate voted 66-32 to open debate on the treaty. At that time, nine Republicans voted with 55 Democrats and two independents, including Richard Lugar of the Foreign Relations Committee, and John McCain. Those 66 votes are one short of what would be needed to ratify the treaty.

The Republicans countered with an attempt to amend the terms of the treaty. An amendment by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., failed on Saturday on a 59-37 vote.

The Russians have made clear that any amendment means the treaty is dead. We’d have to go back to start on START, and negotiate an entirely new treaty, which suits Republican purposes well.

On Sunday, that attempt failed on a 32-60 vote. The amendment was put forward by Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho. It would have changed the preamble to the treaty to address the “inter-relationship between non-strategic and strategic offensive arms.

Republicans continue to complain that the preamble would inhibit U.S. development of a missile defense system.

Democrats hope to vote on ratification on Tuesday. Republicans have their hackles up, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell claimed to CNN that “Members are uneasy about it, don’t feel thoroughly familiar with it, and I think we would have been a lot better off to take our time. Rushing it right before Christmas strikes me as trying to jam us. … I think that was not the best way to get the support of people like me.”

Of course, a vote on Tuesday would not be rushing it. The Senators have had all year to look at the treaty. It is not as if it was negotiated yesterday.

Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, isn’t having any of that. He has pointed out that there had already been several delays to give Kyl and the other Republicans an opportunity to have their concerns addressed. “We kept the door open until we finally are at a point where obviously we had to fish or cut bait.”.

Despite Republican opposition by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz, Fox News reports that “Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a supporter of the treaty, said several Republicans will support ratification and he believes the votes are there.”

Senator Evan Bayh missed the vote but according to an aide would provide the needed 67th vote, offering some hope that Republican efforts will be for naught.

It goes not only against the spirit of Reagan, who proposed the original START Treaty, but the advice of the military (who, after all, ought to be the experts in this area) to obstruct passage of this very important treaty and which makes clear that continued Republican opposition is simply a continuation of their two-year-old effort to block everything President Obama tries to do.

At least Jim DeMint, R-S.C., has given up his attempt to have the document read on the floor of the Senate, a process which would take some fifteen hours given the treaty’s 17 pages plus 339 pages of protocol and annexes, a sign that perhaps he realizes he can’t stop the process at this point as he turns his wrath on the $1.1 trillion government spending bill, should it come up. There are always new battles to fight, after all, and new excuses to invent. Life’s busy for a Republican senator these days.

8 responses so far

Iowa Case Shows GOP Doesn’t Really Believe in States’ Rights

James Bopp, Jr of Indiana wants to force Iowa to pass Republican Purity Standards

The Republican Party is host to the tenther movement – extreme form of “populist” outrage that says the Constitutionally ordained federal government is, well…unconstitutional. Somehow, and in some way, the federal government that was established to run the country in the post-Articles of Confederation world, has no legitimate right to run the country.

It is no surprise that tenthers have found their happy spot in the Republican ranks. The Republican Party has traditionally been the party of “smaller government” and Republican discourse in general has become ever shriller on the issue of federal interference in our lives, and in the “state business” of individual states. Even those Republicans who don’t drone on incessantly about states’ rights rail against big federal government and about being told what to do by that government.

The “tenthers” are crazy about the 10th Amendment (thus the name). The Tenth Amendment deals with states rights – that is, in a Constitutional sense – those rights which are not retained for the federal government. What is left over belongs to the states.

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The tenthers seem to think that pretty much everything is left over to the states. They take a very “minimalist” approach to the Constitution, one that seems a bit at odds with the ideas of some of the important authors of that document, including James Madison, who was very concerned about the threat to liberty posed by state legislatures.

Apparently, he was right to worry.

Though to be fair, even if he had managed to get the phrase “The states have no rights” into the Constitution, Republicans today would be interpreting that to mean the “federal government has no rights.”

Those pesky facts again.

It interests me that a group – I’m speaking of the Republicans a a whole here and not just tenthers – who are so interested in stripping down the powers of the federal government (and that is general Republican rhetoric since a black man was elected to be president) are so anxious and willing to interfere in the rights of other states.

Take California and Proposition 8. That’s supposed to be the business of California and of Californians if this whole states rights thing has any meaning at all, isn’t it? But conservatives shipped support INTO California to ensure that a segment of the population that they did not like was stripped of their constitutional rights. And in so doing – by their interpretation at any rate – stripped Californians of theirs.  I’m thinking about all those Mormons, for example, and all that Mormon money – from Utah.

What does Utah have to do with California?

We might ask too, what do out-of-state Republican interests have to do with Iowa? Well, they don’t like Iowa’s judiciary. They say it fails THEIR purity test. It has to go, they say. They want Iowa to toe the line.

Where’s the tenther outrage? Or is it outrageous only if a black Democrat – who happens to head the Executive Branch of the constitutionally established federal government – wants the states to follow the constitution? The states have no rights if its something the Republicans want? Is that how this works?

The Iowa Independent reports that

James Bopp, Jr. — the Republican National Committeeman behind failed “Purity Test” and “Socialist” resolutions — filed a federal lawsuit this week in hopes of changing the judicial selection process in Iowa.  The suit, filed on behalf of four state residents, charges that attorneys have too much influence in the selection process.

I don’t know…I just want to throw this thought out there…bounce it off the wall so to speak…but isn’t it IOWA’S business how they nominate their judiciary?

It’s not as if the system is a violation of the Constitution – national or state – it’s simply that Republicans don’t like that the system doesn’t force Iowans to nominate the kinds of judges they want.

In Bopp’s opinion, the nearly 50-year-old Iowa system provides “attorneys a stranglehold on the judiciary” while denying “ordinary voters” an equal voice.

My kingdom for populist outrage! Round up for locals and sue on their behalf.  But do four Iowans rounded up for the purpose amount in any legitimate sense to “populist outrage” among Iowa voters over how the system is handled?

It seems to work pretty well for Iowans.

You all might remember Mr. Bopp

Bopp, who has also worked in Iowa on behalf of a state affiliate of a national anti-abortion group and a national anti-gay organization, is hardly a newcomer to politics or lawsuits in relation to election law. A key supporter of and advisor for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney during the 2008 presidential cycle, Bopp was also a key architect of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, which led to the U.S. Supreme Court striking down limits on corporate spending in elections.

Bopp has represented anti-gay groups in Iowa, California and Maine, “petitioning that laws which require the groups to form Political Action Committees (PACs) and disclose their donors are unconstitutional.”

It doesn’t seem to matter that Bopp himself isn’t a citizen of any of the states he interferes with. He is, I am ashamed to say, a Hoosier, a Terre Haute, Indiana resident. Shouldn’t he be concerning himself with Indiana’s affairs? I mean, if the chief executive of the United States has no business worrying about what happens in say, Kentucky, what right does an Indiana lawyer have saying Iowa lawyers have no right to what happens in Iowa?

In point of fact, Republicans are more than happy to interfere in affairs of states not their own and they’re happy to have the federal government interfere as well if they can push their socially conservative agenda, and that is the business of James Bopp, Jr, who has served as general counsel for National Right to Life since 1978 and as the special counsel for Focus on the Family since 2004.

Yeah, I think you smell what I’m cooking here. Don’t be fooled. None of these people, the Republican Party as a whole or the tenthers as a group really want the federal government stripped of its powers – specifically its power to force states to toe the line – if that happened, a conservative-controlled federal government would have no ability to ram a socially conservative agenda down your throats. States Rights are only an issue because a black man – a Democrat – was elected president. Like the Tea Party, there was no Tenther movement before the Republicans were kicked out of office in 2008. Some states’ rights advocates like to claim as a genesis of their movement opposition to Bush’s unconstitutional attacks on individual freedoms after 9/11 but if so, they have been subsumed and their rhetoric along with them, by the Republican Party and its icons like Sarah Palin and Sharron Angle.

The Republican Pledge of America said,

We pledge to honor the Constitution as constructed by its framers and honor the original intent of those precepts that have been consistently ignored – particularly the Tenth Amendment, which grants that all powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Like the Tea Party, the tenther movement has become – however it originated – a reaction to Republican loss of control, a counter-revolutionary socially conservative force and not a radical revolutionary force, and one that pays no mind to the rights of states when it comes to standards of Republican purity.

5 responses so far

Republican Extremists Take Aim at Moderation

Nov 29 2010 Published by under Featured News, Issues, U.S. Senate

The punch thrown at Lugar by Republicans won't be joking

Through most of history, western culture has recognized the value of moderation and the evils of excess. Robert McCluer Calhoon, University of North Carolina, Greensboro recognizes its origins in the Peloponnesian War in the Fifth Century B.C.E. (Political Moderation in America’s First Two Centuries, 2008). The Icelandic Sagas are full, for example, of such lessons, the positive rewards of moderate behavior and the ills that follow from immoderate behavior. In politics, the success of the American political system has been based not on irreconcilable bickering between polar opposites and ideologues but upon the system of give and take, and compromise, embodied by moderate politicians.

Political moderation balances the extremes; it, not rancorous polarization, that makes the world go around.

Harry Clor (On Moderation: Defending an Ancient Virtue in a Modern World, 2008), points out that critics have argued that “moderate” and “extremist” are “phenomena wholly subjective and situation-bound, utterly dependent upon variable opinions or commitments, circumstances and partisan perceptions of circumstances.” People see moderation as weakness. But as Clor argues, a moderate politician “builds consensus and unifies; he or she seeks agreement across partisan lines and speaks to the people in a nonconfrontational, noninflammatory way intended to be unifying.”

It is obvious that moderation has no place in modern Republican discourse, whose rhetoric is based on confrontational and inflammatory statements, the more outrageous the better.

But moderation is not betrayal of ideology. The Founding Fathers hammered out a Constitution through compromise. None of the authors of the Constitution got everything they wanted. If the minority would have been unwilling, as are modern Republicans, to compromise, it would never have been ratified. We would still be waiting. Compromise was essential. I will argue here that not only bound up with America’s founding but that it is not moderation that is the enemy of a modern liberal democracy, but extremism.

The Republican Party’s purity standards do not allow for moderation in approaches to America’s problems. The “take no prisoners” approach of Republican victories has morphed into a “scorched earth” leave nothing for the enemy approach in defeat. If they cannot have the country then they will ensure that there is no country left to govern by bringing to a halt any process they disagree with. This goes far beyond filibustering, extending as it does to investigations and inquiries into the behavior of those in power.

It is ironic and troubling that the Republicans accuse the Democrats and President Obama of being extremist ideologues, comparing the president to Hitler and Stalin and the Democrats to Communists and Nazis while themselves evincing all the attributes of these authoritarian political movements.

It is the Republicans, after all, who insist on obedience to ideology, not the Democrats, who embody a far wider range of political views, from moderate to extreme. Finding a moderate Republican these days has become very difficult indeed, and the charge of moderation when laid by the base against a Republican politician is often a kiss of death.

One example of this trend was discussed yesterday in the New York Times: Republican Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana. Lugar is, as the Times reports, “standing against his party on a number of significant issues at a politically dangerous time to do so.” Such a thing is, sadly enough, newsworthy in this day and age, especially with regards a man who has shown himself “A reliable conservative for decades on every issue.”

For his sins (for example, his desire to ratify the START treaty) the Times tells us that,

Mr. Lugar’s recent breaks with his party have stirred the attention of Indiana Tea Party groups, who have him in their sights. “Senator Lugar has been an upstanding citizen representing us in D. C.,” said Diane Hubbard, a spokeswoman for the Indianapolis Tea Party. “But over the years, he has become more moderate in his voting.”

The sin of moderation. Who would have thought?

Even Republicans are shocked and disturbed that a stalwart like Lugar could be targeted.

“If Dick Lugar,” said John C. Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri, “having served five terms in the U.S. Senate and being the most respected person in the Senate and the leading authority on foreign policy, is seriously challenged by anybody in the Republican Party, we have gone so far overboard that we are beyond redemption.”

I am reminded by all this of the French Revolution, which began moderately enough and then became more extreme, to the extent that those who began the revolution became its victims, and moderation the enemy. Even a radical liberal like Thomas Paine found himself arrested, the same Thomas Paine who had defended the French Revolution from conservative Edmund Burke (Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790 ) in his Rights of Man (1791). I am reminded also of the McCarthyism of the very conservative 1950s, or going further back, of the witch-hunts of the 17th and previous centuries.

History offers abundant lessons beyond the few I mention here of the dangers of extremism run amok. No one is safe, not even the current guardians of the cause. Anyone can be denounced. Anyone can instantly find themselves a Canaanite, vomited out of the Holy Land.

Enemies and traitors lurk around every corner and even under your bed. Eager to remain in favor, the extremists outdo each other by being ever more extreme.

Clor argues that “‘you cannot get it all’ from any social arrangements, no matter how well conceived” and he is right. As I argued above, the Constitution itself is evidence of this. “Concessions are made and compromises achieved” in Clor’s words. It is difficult to see today where compromise will come from. President Obama tried in 2008 and in the two years since. Nobody is really surprised at this point by his failure. And it is difficult to see how the United States can survive without it.

The world will not stand still for us while we engage in deadlock, and it will be difficult for President Obama to go forward while the Republican House wants to go backward. But we know things can get worse. We know, however much the stimulus helped, that we are not out of the woods yet. We have only to look to Europe, to Greece, to Ireland, to Iceland, to see what a truly collapsed economy looks like. The Republicans seem to be steering us in that direction and anyone who doesn’t jump on board the bandwagon has betrayed the ideals of the revolution.

A world without moderation is a bleak place to contemplate, and probably a worse place to live, as we are all likely to find out unless a Republican Edward R. Murrow reveals himself and say “Enough is enough.”


6 responses so far

Money and Lies at the Heart of Republican Strategy in 2010

Nov 21 2010 Published by under Featured News, Issues, Republican Party

60 Plus Association Mailing

More disinformation than information has circled around President Obama’s healthcare reform bill thanks to the Republicans. These lies take many forms, from chain emails, YouTube videos, and of course, the mouths of Republican politicians and pundits. They delegitimize it by calling it, derisively, “Obamacare” in an effort to make it seem absurd. I mean, who would want health insurance, right? You would think it was the craziest idea in the world.

One of the rumors currently making the rounds – I know because my son’s nurse brought it up – is physician reimbursement. The story is that thanks to Obamacare, physicians will receive less medicare reimbursement, that this will be a disaster for seniors, that doctors will even drop their patients rather than be adequately compensated for their work.

This particular lie really took off in September of this year, leading up to the midterm elections. A conservative group, the 60 Plus Association (a supposedly non-partisan “seniors advocacy group”), attacked sixteen Democrats. Many of these Democrats were engaged in tight House races – the House Republicans ended up in control of. If you think Republicans won because dirty it’s because, well…the Republicans won dirty. They have been buying elections for over a century and they see no reason to drop a successful strategy.

As FactCheck.org reported, “$5 million – from donors whose identities it doesn’t have to disclose – to run the ads saying the lawmakers “betrayed” their constituents by voting for the health care overhaul signed into law earlier this year.”

According to FactCheck.org:

  • Some of the ads say that the law means “seniors could lose their doctors” or that it “threatens seniors’ ability to keep their own doctor.” But what the ads are talking about here has nothing to do with the new health care law. Some doctors have said they may stop accepting Medicare patients because of scheduled payment cuts set in motion by a 1997 law, cuts that are unaffected by the new statute.
  • All of the ads say that the new law cuts $500 billion from Medicare. It’s true that the law would restrain future growth of the program, but this isn’t cutting from existing spending. And the amount is spread over 10 years, totaling about 7 percent of what Medicare was projected to cost over that decade.
  • Many of the ads feature seniors saying the law will “hurt the quality of our care.” But the law specifically forbids cuts in the basic package of Medicare benefits, and even adds some new features, such as wellness checkups. It also closes the “doughnut hole” gap in the prescription drug benefit.

But if any physicians drop their patients, it won’t be because of “Obamacare.” It will be because of the 1997 Balanced Budget Act. FactCheck.org analyzes the lie in detail (emphasis mine):

Although the ads cite an April report from the office of the chief actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as support for this claim, that report actually discusses cuts the law makes in payments to other providers, such as hospitals and nursing homes – not doctors. The required cuts could make it difficult for some such providers to stay in business, the report says, “possibly jeopardizing access to care” from those institutions for seniors.

But that report and another CMS document issued in August also note that Congress has a habit of negating such cuts. In fact, the August report says with respect to the legislated payment cuts to hospitals and other such non-physician providers, “Congress is very likely to legislatively override or otherwise modify the reductions in the future to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries continue to have access to health care services.”

After all, the report notes, look what lawmakers have done to scheduled cuts to doctors’ pay that were mandated by the 1997 law: “Congress has overridden all of the scheduled reductions [for physicians] from 2003 to November 2010,” the report says. And for the hospitals and other providers covered by the new law: “Congress would presumably act to adjust Medicare payment rates as necessary” before the providers withdrew from the program.

“But,” asked the Washington Post, “how much did the health-care law passed this year have to do with Republicans winning back the House and gaining six seats in the Senate?” Their analysis provided several answers, from “yes” to “no” based on exit data and on the opinions of Democratic and Republican strategists

Did it work? Let’s take a look. Here are the folks who were targeted:

  • Rep. Paul Kanjorski, Pennsylvania; LOST
  • Rep. Chris Carney, Pennsylvania; LOST
  • Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, Pennsylvania; LOST
  • Tim Bishop, New York; IN RECOUNT
  • Scott Murphy, New York; LOST
  • Alan Grayson, Florida; LOST
  • Allen Boyd, Florida; LOST
  • Suzanne Kosmas, Florida; LOST
  • Steve Kagen, Wisconsin; LOST
  • Ron Kind, Wisconsin; WON
  • John Boccieri in Ohio; LOST
  • Ann Kirkpatrick, Arizona; LOST
  • Harry Mitchell, Arizona; LOST
  • Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona; WON
  • Joe Donnelly in Indiana; WON
  • Roy Herron, Tennessee; LOST

That’s sixteen candidates; only three of them have won – 18% if Tim Bishop loses. If Tim Bishop wins, 25%. The Republicans will have won 75% of races in which they made allegations of betrayal against Democratic candidates based on healthcare reform. It seems, in these races at least, healthcare reform may have been an issue.

The Republicans know they can’t win on the issues; they have to lie on the issues. They have to disenfranchise voting blocks who will present opposition to them. They have to buy elections by outspending – sometimes obscenely – Democratic candidates. Sharron Angle, for example, spent $97 per vote. Linda McMahan (wife of WWE owner Vince McMahon) spent $95 per vote and Meg Whitman in California spent $57 per vote (Linda McMahan spent an obscene $454 per vote in successful her primary race, Meg Whitman a more modest $64/vote). All three of them lost, ironically, which shows that even money has limitations when a candidate is obviously unfit.

It is when the money is spent on lies and disinformation that true damage is done, as in these sixteen races, and about this issue, healthcare reform. It’s a pity the Republicans won’t deal with the issues, either in political campaigning or when it’s over, but simply tell lies, repeating them over and over and spending millions to make sure you hear them, and to cast doubt, even if you don’t believe them. For a party that claims that “throwing money at a problem” won’t make it go away, the Republicans sure do like to throw money at a problem. Even worse for America, all too often, their pockets are deep enough to make it stick.

But do we need campaign finance reform? Nah, just like we don’t need healthcare reform.

6 responses so far

Republicans Talk and Hate and Offer no Solutions

Right now, the closest thing the Republicans seem to have to a real policy is orchestrating a win for Bristol on DWTS.

I don’t want to beat a dead dog, but I want to know what the Republican idea of foreign policy is. The Bush administration showed a clear and persistent disdain for diplomacy, preferring instead to simply invade other countries, and the Republicans seem to want to continue in this vein. The sabre-rattling continues unabated and every day seems to reveal another Republican demanding blood.

  • Lindsey Graham (R-SC) wants to invade Iran
  • Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) opposes cuts in defense spending
  • Jon Kyl says Congress doesn’t have time to ratify the new START treaty
  • Michele Bachman (R-MN) says Obama is going to let Iran nuke Israel

Why aren’t these people talking about the economy, about lost jobs, or about tackling the deficit? Really the only thing they’ve had to say so far about the economy is that they want to ban earmarks, which amount to less than half of one percent of the federal budget. Military spending accounts for over 50%.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist here to figure out that something isn’t right. So let’s try to understand this:

  • Banning earmarks, 0.5% of the federal budget will fix the economy
  • Keeping or increasing military spending, which is more than 50% of the economy, won’t hurt the economy
  • And we might as well add keeping the tax breaks for the rich, which won’t hurt the economy either, somehow

No, it still doesn’t make sense, does it?

Come to think of it, I want to know what the Republican idea of domestic policy is. Do they have one of those either? It doesn’t seem so; no foreign policy ideas and no domestic policy ideas. Just…nothing. Nothing at all.

Oh, they’re against a lot of things. It would take more time than I have to list it all. But they don’t seem to have any solutions either on a global or on a local scale beyond a nihilistic denial of everything.

It’s a matter of very simple mathematics. You don’t even have to drag economics into it. It’s just that simple: to spend money you have to have money, or you create deficit spending. You owe money. Right? We all know that. We experience it every day with house payments, car payments, credit cards and any other kind of loan.

The only way to balance things out is to make more money, or to spend less money.

Is that so hard to understand? And money has to come from somewhere. The government isn’t a corporation. It gets money from taxes. That is the money the federal government has to spend. If the government cuts taxes, it has less money.

But the Republicans want to continue to spend money. They don’t want you to have healthcare, they don’t want you to have unemployment insurance or social security. But they do want to buy more guns, tanks, planes and missiles.

I may not be a rocket scientist but I don’t think a missile is going to do any of us a helluva lotta good.

So we are justified in asking: What the hell kind of policy is this?

You’d probably get a lot of dumb looks if you actually asked. Michele Bachman apparently didn’t have a clue that the Bush administration had engaged in diplomatic relations and even state visits with Iran’s president, the much loathed Ahmadinejad. At least, she didn’t want to talk about that when it was brought up while she was busy denouncing Obama.

What other policies do the Republicans have?

  • They’re against same-sex marriage
  • They’re against repealing DADT in the military
  • They’re against abortion
  • They’re against the building of mosques in the U.S.
  • They’re against “Obamacare”
  • They’re against immigrants
  • They’re against federal regulations unless morally based
  • They’re against the environment and alternative energy
  • They’re against high speed rail

Does any of this help us with the two matters about which Americans are most concerned, jobs and health? No, not at all. You can ban same-sex marriages, keep DADT in place, ban abortion and mosques, and people still won’t have jobs and if they succeed in repealing what they derisively call “Obamacare” they won’t have health insurance either. Meanwhile, federal regulations protect the average citizen from corporate abuses and “green” programs and high speed rail would put thousands back to work and money into the economy. We can’t have that, apparently.

Again: what the hell kind of policy is this?

Will returning to a Bronze Age morality code put the economy back on track or keep people healthy? No, not so much.

Meanwhile, these new Republican politicians who campaigned steadfastly against health insurance for the rest of us want their own, and they don’t want to wait the required 28 days for it.

This is what voters have given us, a nihilistic party spouting slogans so absurd they can’t be taken seriously as a political movement. A political movement has to be about something. The Republican party is not. It is against a lot of things, but it offers us no path forward, no coherent policy that will lead us out of the mess their lack of vision steered us into.

Why are they back in office? Better than asking that, get out and vote next time and make sure they don’t get the executive back. The damage they can do is limited by the powers granted the House in the Constitution. Sanity still reigns in the Executive and in the  Senate, and I suspect that two years of Republican pseudo-policy might jar the electorate sufficiently to save them both in 2012, particularly if Palin runs, but the danger is real and the danger remains.

Demand answers, America. Demand solutions, demand action, real, meaningful action, and start asking of these people, “Why do you want Bristol to win?”

8 responses so far

Republicans Stall the START Treaty And Dream of More Deficit Spending

President Barack Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev sign START

Here is what we’re hearing from the Republicans since the midterms:

1)      Attack Iran

2)      Do not cut defense spending

3)      Put nuclear treaty with Russia on back burner

In exchange, Republicans have said they will voluntarily forgo earmarks.

There should be dancing in the street.

Smoke and mirrors is how the Republicans govern. Lots of flash, lots of misdirection (invade Iraq, anyone?) and endless spin, but nothing of any real substance, no evidence that any Republican is really interested in real world problems or in solving them.

Jon Kyl, who is the second-ranking Senate Republican said Congress is too busy to consider the nuclear treaty, signed by Obama in April.

“When Majority Leader Harry Reid asked me if I thought the treaty could be considered in the lame-duck session, I replied I did not think so given the combination of other work Congress must do and the complex and unresolved issues related to START and modernization.”

It’s not as if getting control of nuclear stockpiles is important or anything. The new START treaty would commit the U.S. and Russia to cut their deployed nuclear weapons by about 30 percent within seven years.

Of course, ratifying the treaty is one of President Obama’s major goals. It’s no surprise that the Republicans don’t find it important. They’re going to be too busy grandstanding to actually do anything.

And what does Kyl want? Kyl wants more money for modernization of U.S. strategic forces i.e. nuclear forces. But Obama did pledge to spend $80 billion over the next decade on upgraded our nuclear forces. Doesn’t sound too complex to me.

Always with the defense spending. The Republicans seem to have a one-track mind.

You would think Republicans would be concerned about Russia’s nuclear weapons. After all, they might fall into the hands of terrorists. And as Vice President Joe Biden points out,

“Without ratification of this treaty, we will have no Americans on the ground to inspect Russia’s nuclear activities, no verification regime to track Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenal … and no verified nuclear reductions.”

Gosh, you think it might be the oversight that bothers Republicans? They don’t want oversight anywhere, not of the oil industry, Wall Street, or even their own ethics. Maybe they don’t think the Russians should be bothered by it either.

Apparently they only care about WMDs when Iraq or Iran have them, er, um…make that don’t have them.

Republicans claim we need an anti-missile defense system [cue to them rubbing their hands greedily together in anticipation]. But isn’t the best way to get rid of a missile threat to get rid of the missiles themselves? Oh wait, a missile defense system is another way to spend money and ratchet up the U.S. deficit. Getting rid of missiles gives Republicans less to spend money on.

Now I get it.

Though they really don’t have any valid argument to base their objections on. Ambassador Richard Burt,  who was one of the chief negotiators when the original START treaty was agreed, points out that his is a rather modest agreement that reduces existing U.S. forces by between 20 and 25 percent,” he said. “It doesn’t affect our existing force structure of bombers and land-based missiles and sea-based missiles. And it provides for a very rigorous verification regime.”

Sounds good to me. It’s not as if the treaty will make America weaker, or threaten our national security, which is what Republicans claim they are concerned about. But defense spending has become as important to Republicans as abortion, and they are ideologically wedded to both. Meanwhile, they will continue to play games and pretend to be concerned about the deficit, and expect the American people to go along with their spiel. Republicans likely will, if only with a nod and a wink (the alternative is stupidity and I want to be magnanimous) but Democrats and independents ought to be concerned.

There is simply no excuse to keep defense spending where it is when so many Americans are suffering and being asked to give up so much. It is not justified by circumstances and it is completely and irredeemably immoral.

13 responses so far

Fox News Steals Another Obama Idea on Earmarks

Nov 16 2010 Published by under Featured News, Republican Party

GOP Victory is Adopting President Obama's Ideas for Their Own!

Fox News Denies Reality to Sell GOP as Driving Obama Regarding Earmarks

This morning on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends”, the erstwhile “news” brothers and sisters at RNC PAC/Fox News are pretending that President Obama is the earmark bogey man and that they will be the driving force in getting him to support banning earmarks. This would be a great sale of baloney if only reading people the country wide didn’t already know that the President has been attempting to get earmarks killed for oh, ever since he was a Senator.

And a Senator is kinda more important than being a Representative in the House, just like being President is actually more important than making up phony narratives for Fox PAC, but still, who are we to ruin the Great GOPPER Dream of 2010? Kill the earmarks, gentlemen!

And please, while you are at it, start with your districts! Yes, go home and tell your constituents that the reason you’re not bringing home the bacon is because you are a revirginized fiscal conservative, and that you would have rejected all of that pork last year if only that evil socialist didn’t force you to take it!

Here’s the Republican PAC’s objective take on the earmark situation courtesy of Media Matters, special props for their school boy excitement that “something will finally get done!” as if it were not the Republicans who had been blocking things from getting done for the past two years. So cute!

Did ya’ miss the narrative? Huh? Did ya’? How could you!? We report and you decide! It was right there in text on the screen for you, you flippin’ goofball! The Republicans are rushing in as the Cavalry of Fiscal Conservatism to Save America! Captains America are played by the white guys and they drive the African American president who likes to spend, spend, spend to their side, thereby saving the world, no, the universe!

Media Matters reports: ” Carlson stated during the November 16 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends: “The big onus will fall on the president, because let’s say that this bill comes to his desk to ban earmarks. Will he veto it, or will he sign it? That will be the interesting test.” Fox & Friends suggests Obama’s support for earmark reform came after McConnell’s newfound support of it.”

Yes, yes, yes! The White Man Calvary is saving the country! Without them, where would Obama be? Perhaps a nice man, no, we aren’t birthers today (that was before the election, you slowpoke!) – today we are playing the reasonable people who think the President is a nice guy, but just not that bright when it comes to money. Money is sort of a white man thing, since you know, the white guys have had it longer and know what to do with it! No insult intended here, of course.

In order to believe this fantasy, one must be ever so careful to never go beyond the reaches of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, lest one trip over reality!

Media Matters reports a brief recounting of reality, which all GOP PAC viewers had best ignore since it is funded by George Soros, the evil empire man funding Sarah Palin’s advisers. Oh, wait, I was supposed to leave that part out. OK, well, please ignore the following:

“On October 15, 2008, Obama stated: “Earmarks account for 0.5 percent of the total federal budget. There’s no doubt that the system needs reform and there are a lot of screwy things that we end up spending money on, and they need to be eliminated. But it’s not going to solve the problem” of reducing the deficit.”

Ouch. But, but the Republicans are making a Big Show of this, President Obama! Don’t ruin the show with facts about the deficit! After all, only a Republican knows how to drive the deficit up after a surplus and hand over trillions of dollars of unpaid for debt to the next guy and then put on the Big Show about being fiscally responsible!

“During the September 26, 2008, presidential debate, Obama said: “[A]bsolutely, we need earmark reform. And when I’m president, I will go line by line to make sure that we are not spending money unwisely. But the fact is that eliminating earmarks alone is not a recipe for how we’re going to get the middle class back on track.””

Again with the reality thing, Mr President? Reality is so boring. George Soros, George Soros, George Soros! Na-na, na-na! Please join me in collectively sticking your tongue out in what we call “debate”!

“In March 2009, Obama called for ending earmark abuses.” And called on CONGRESS to act, “Now I’m calling on Congress to enact these reforms as the appropriation process moves forward this year. Neither I nor the American people will accept anything less.”

Well, so, this is still the Republicans moment, right? I mean, they’re sort of driving him. Well, OK, they’re hopping on his bus, but still. At least they get to ride in the front.

“Obama dedicated his November 13 weekly address to earmark reform, saying:
As a Senator, I helped eliminate anonymous earmarks and created new measures of transparency so Americans can better follow how their tax dollars are being spent. As President, time and again, I’ve called for new limitations on earmarks. We’ve reduced the cost of earmarks by over $3 billion. And we’ve put in place higher standards of transparency by putting as much information as possible on earmarks.gov. In fact, this week, we updated the site with more information about where last year’s earmarks were actually spent, and made it easier to look up Members of Congress and the earmarks they fought for.””

Why, you can’t have put earmarks on the web, that was our idea! I mean, we were gonna, if we got elected. We just never got around to it under Bush and besides, the interwebs can be confusing. It’s about the narrative, not the DOING, Mr President! George Soros, George Soros, George Soros! Na-na, na-na!

“In a November 16 article, The Washington Post reported that “Obama also has supported an earmark moratorium and has encountered similar resistance from veteran Democratic lawmakers, who like McConnell are former appropriators.”
Obama commends “McConnell’s decision to join me and members of both parties who support cracking down on wasteful earmark spending.”

Er, flip flop McConnell? Isn’t he a Republican? Can we move on? This so doesn’t fit with our narrative.

Just to be safe, should we check out the scale of money going to Republicans versus Democrats in 2009 when Democrats were in power, which would usually indicate they would get more money? Um, darn it, I’m not seeing Republicans turning down millions of earmarks. Oh, reality, why have you forsaken me? Shhhh, petulant reality, we are all to believe that Republicans will get responsible now that they are in power, which is sort of like a teenager promising they wouldn’t drive drunk if only you would trust them first.

While nuance does not a good sound bite make, good policy it does. Doing away with earmarks all together during a recession is probably not a wise idea. Please, reality, you are such a flippin’ downer! Cut to the White Guy Cavalry saving the day!

Gosh, if I didn’t know better, I’d think the GOP has a hard time with the backseat of the bus, especially when their driver is not white or Republican. How else to explain the GOP adopting President Obama’s ideas as their own and then claiming victory for driving the President to their side? When just days before they were doing the pretend governing, and voting no on their own ideas, now they claim the President’s ideas as their own! Dizzy, I am!

Go, Cavalry! Save the day from your House of Little Power Representatives!

8 responses so far

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