Visiting the GOP Display in the Museum of History’s Failures

“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages, to the world-famous Museum of History’s Failures!  Please excuse the dust on some of the exhibits.  We try hard to keep everything spotless, but some displays just attract the dust of uselessness like a magnet.

“The first stop on our tour is the exhibit we call “Failed Free Market Practices”, an archaic form of economic system that prevailed from the beginning of the industrial revolution through the beginning of the 21st century.  You will note the small children working, with sweat pouring off their filthy faces as they toil 14 hours a day in a stuffy unsafe factory, known as a sweat shop because of the hot and stuffy working conditions.  Also note the industrialist factory owner in his expensive clothes, counting his money as he laughs at the the children working below him.

“Next is a replica of a conference room on Wall Street, New York at the beginning of the 21st century.  Note the seated folks devising methods of offering no-down-payment mortgages to people who cannot really afford them.  Press any of the sound buttons and you will hear them discuss how much money they’ll make when the mortgage rate jumps from the unrealistically low initial 2% to 24.99% after three years.  Yes, folks, these things really did happen, and it caused millions to lose their homes. And the entire world was ultimately plunged into a recession. Over two billion lost jobs by the time it was finally over.

“Who asked how people allowed this to happen?…  Well, son, it turns out that there was a political party back then known as the GOP, for “Grand Old Party”, which was actually the Republican Party.  Please walk this way as we make our way to the GOP exhibit, as I explain the rise and fall of the GOP.

“In President Abraham Lincoln’s time, it was the party of liberally social ideas.  But something happened to it.  It became more and more conservative, believing on the one hand that personal liberty and freedom were very important, but that government’s only real function should be to defend the country from outside military threats, and not much else, including personal liberties.  GOP began to believe that taxes should not fund anything else.

“In 1980 a charismatic actor named Ronald Reagan, also known as Ronnie the Ray-Gun because of his love of star wars, became president.  He pushed huge tax cuts to the rich under the later-proven false premise that if the rich have more money, they’ll use some of it for more and better-paying jobs for the poor and middle class.  He never told anyone is that the rich would use the money to get even richer, by exporting American jobs overseas where they could re-institute sweat-shop-like factories at a fraction of the cost of American factories.  So they became richer while the middle class became poorer.

“Under the Ronnie Ray-Gun administration, the United States also got poorer, because tax revenues were reduced by the rich tax cuts, while the federal budget grew hugely, resulting in the biggest budget deficits and national debt in history.  Yet, that was nothing compared to what happened next.

“At the opening of the 21st century, another GOP-republican became president.  George W. Bush, known to millions simply as W (for whacked) came into office in history’s closest (stolen?) election and proceeded to start an unnecessary war with a country then known as “Iraq”, whose leader had once tried to assassinate W’s father.

“W gave the rich another huge tax cut, yet he raised federal spending and the budget deficit and national debt to new and unprecedented heights.  The GOP controlled the US Congress for six years of W’s eight years and rubber-stamped everything W wanted.  While all of this was happening, Wall Street was stealing the country blind with their greed-driven policies, as you all saw in the last archaic history exhibit.

“Additionally, W gave the fundamentalist religious extremist right-wing fanatics of the USA unprecedented control over the running of the federal government and its agencies, laws and policies, negatively affecting everyone.

“All of this was so bad that it drove the GOP into its ultimate extinction.

“By the time W’s reign of terror was over, only 20% or so of America’s citizens would even admit they were republicans, mostly from the southern, formerly slavery-supporting states.  The rest of the GOP supporters began realizing that the party was “W”hacked and wanted no part of it.

“Ah!  Here we are:  the “Arlen Specter ‘Flip GOP the Bird'” exhibit.  Notice the formerly republican Pennsylvania senator standing in the Capitol building, middle finger of his right hand raised in a ceremonial rejection of an elephant photograph, which was symbolic of the GOP.  Standing next to him is Olympia Snow, the now-formerly republican senator from the state of Maine, awaiting her turn to do the same.  This display represents the beginning of the mass exodus from the sinking GOP.

“Any questions?  No?  Then let’s proceed to the next exhibit called “Before Universal Health Care”, which displays folks dead or dying from swine flu after they lost their jobs and health care in the recession…remember that?…and couldn’t afford basic human medical care.

“I know I know.  Incredible, the brutal past, huh?”

Is Bush Officials’ 2001 Torture Planning a War CRIME?

Just when we thought we knew the real story about the CIA torturing program that we had been told began with four legal opinions from the Bush Justice Department in August 2002 and May 2005, the US Senate Armed Services Committee has just released a report based upon their recent investigative hearings on Capitol Hill.

This report clearly indicates that high level Bush administration officials in both the intelligence community and the military began planning to torture captives they did not yet even have in custody yet in December 2001.  These officials did so by calling for training of interrogators in torture techniques such as waterboarding as many as 166 times in two days, exposure to extremes of heat and cold, sleep deprivation for up to eleven days and other forms of physical and mental pain and extreme duress.  Some even expressed an eagerness to begin such “harsh” interrogations, as repulsive as that fact is to many of the rest of us.

This new information flies in the face of Bush administration claims that they only resorted to torture as a “last resort” when other forms of interrogation failed to extract information from captives.  it also flies in the face of claims made by George W. Bush himself said on March 23, 2003, at the start of the US invasion of Iraq, “I expect those people to be treated humanely. If not, the people who mistreat the prisoners will be treated as war criminals.”

And in a huge burst of arrogance, hypocrisy, and Nazi-like propaganda, on March 24, 2003, Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said, “It is a blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions to humiliate and abuse prisoners of war or to harm them in any way.  As President Bush said yesterday, those who harm POWs will be found and punished as war criminals.”

Finally, as if to ensure that everyone listening to this tripe would be convinced of the “high-morale fiber” of this corrupt administration’s group of thugs, on March 25, 2003, then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said “, “In recent days, the world has witnessed further evidence of their [Iraqi] brutality and their disregard for the laws of war.  Their treatment of coalition POWs is a violation of the Geneva Conventions.”

This was right after Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz stated “the Geneva Convention is very clear on the rules for treating prisoners.. They’re not supposed to be tortured or abused; they’re not supposed to be intimidated; they’re not supposed to be made public displays of humiliation or insult, and we’re going to be in a position to hold those Iraqi officials who are mistreating our prisoners accountable, and they’ve got to stop.”

Gee whiz…what about when WE do it??

As citizens of a country that was founded on high morale values, democratic principals, and the philosophical high ground of individual rights and freedom, liberty and justice of all, We, the PEOPLE!! is OUTRAGED!  That outrage is not only fueled by the Bush administration’s predilection for brutal treatment of prisoners in violation of the Geneva Conventions which the USA signed onto in good faith, but also by the fact that this brutality began its US life in 2001, before the US Justice Department began its secret series of rationalizing memos justifying such heinous treatment of prisoners.  This is in complete opposition to what we had been led to believe was the memos preceding and precipitating the torture program.

This is extremely significant because if true, it means that the memos were written after the fact as a result of the already-implemented torture program, instead of the torture program resulting from the clearly flawed memos.  The situation has thus begun to look more and more like an attempt by the Bush administration to provide cover for the perpetrators of this war crime activity after the fact.  In other words, a cover-up.  Shades of Nixon and Watergate!

Last week, President Obama announced that any CIA operatives that had acted in accordance with the Bush Justice Department memos written by Bush Justice Department political appointees John Yoo, who was the leading author of the 2002 interrogation memos which were signed by Jay S. Bybee, from the Office of Legal Counsel, and three in 2005 by Steven G. Bradbury, would be free from prosecution, as long as they were acting in good faith in compliance with the memos.  While the president seemed to be abandoning the concept that was considered inviolate over half a century ago during the Nuremberg trials of nazi war criminals of 1945-1949 (namely that “I was only following orders” is no excuse), at least it was understandable that the president was not interested in prosecuting the end-users of higher officials’ decision-making.

But in light of the latest revelations from the Senate Armed Services Committee report, the president’s thought process on this issue is no longer valid.  Considering that some of those same federal government employees potentially were conducting torture sessions under the guise of “protecting the nation” before any Justice Department legal opinion/direction was written blows away any justification for amnesty.

What the president ought to do, and the senate will probably do anyway, is to appoint a special prosecutor to definitively investigate this horrible episode in American History and develop valid charges against those that committed war crimes and/or federal law or international law, as well as those who attempted to provide cover by either directing the Justice Department to justify torture, or accepted that direction from higher up and wrote the justifications.

And no one involved it the Bush administration’s torture plans and programs should be granted “amnesty”, regardless of how high up the chain of command this criminal activity goes.  Certainly, we did not allow such amnesty during the Nuremberg Trials or when Saddam Hussein was tried for gassing his own people, nor will we provide it to his hired torturers.

So why wouldn’t the same standard of justice apply to us?

If Gays can Legally Marry, Are Ranchers and Their Sheep NEXT??

In 2004 the supreme court of the state of Massachusetts, USA ruled that discriminating against gays & lesbians by not allowing them to marry was a violation of the the state constitution.  With that legal decision, Massachusetts became the first state in the USA to allow full-fledged same-sex marriages, and it joined a growing world-wide group of countries in Europe, Canada and elsewhere that allow the legal institution and contract of marriage regardless of sexual orientation or gender.

Since that time, another four states in the USA have joined Massachusetts in permitting same-sex marriage, with New York State about to consider the issue.

Extreme right-wing and religious groups in the USA were incensed and outraged by this and vowed to fight until the decision was reversed.  They joined in using every tactic they could think of to amend the constitution in Massachusetts, but were unable to impact the implementation of this ground-breaking decision.  Nonetheless, these groups continue to fight the legality of gays and lesbians joining in legal matrimony at every opportunity they can find.

Their opposition to same-sex marriages is diverse, depending upon which group is advocating against same-sex marriage at the moment.  And even among these groups, there is no agreement as to what marriage truly is.

In the strictly legal sense, marriage is simply a legal contract between two people that primarily addresses money issues and benefits, similar to those in an employment agreement.  Married people enjoy certain state-derived, state-supplied, and/or state enforced benefits that single people do not enjoy.  For instance, if a spouse dies without leaving an express last will and testament, the state ensures that the dead spouse’s assets are divided between the surviving spouse and any offspring, according to the probate laws of the state in which the married couple resides.

This legal arrangement or “corporate partnership”, if you will, has absolutely nothing to do with the judeo-christian-muslim concept of religious marriage, which is a vowed bond before a deity between a man and a woman, with the express purpose of being fruitful and multiplying the members of the species.  In fact, if one researches the origins of marriage in the religious sense, one will find that ancient marriage primarily protected men and restricted women, although the woman did achieve a certain level of physical protection in that she had a place to live and food to feed herself and her children.

While it is true that over the centuries the religious marriage became, and was initially tied to, state-governed, or civil marriage, that bond started to disintegrate with the adoption of constitutions guaranteeing the right of individuals to practice the religion of their choice, or no religion at all, with the state staying out of religious matters while it administered non-religious governmental affairs.  And over time, the supreme courts of modern governments have further defined this separation between church and state, much to the chagrin of evangelicals who believe that government should still be enforcing their personal religious beliefs on everyone.

While most modern western governments now operate in this non-religious fashion, exceptions clearly exist in nations such as Iran and some Arab states, among others.  In those countries, violation of religious laws can be punishable by torture or death, enforced and imposed by the state.  Thankfully, that is not the case here.

Of the two primary groups that oppose same-sex marriage, one consists of some evangelical organizations in the USA who would welcome a religious code of laws into government.  One well known example is the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, which you can also read more about HERE and HERE, if your stomach can handle it.  This fanatical fringe group of ultra-right-wing-extremists-religious zealots preaches that God kills American soldiers in Iraq in retribution for the USA’s tolerance of gays & lesbians.  They represent the ultra-fanatical extreme, but there are other religious groups somewhat less demonstrative that oppose same-sex marriage on biblical grounds as well.

Another distinct group of folks opposing same-sex marriage, as well as any easing of restrictions against gays or lesbians, are the homophobes, or people who suffer from homophobia, described as an irrational fear, hatred and/or disgust of and for homosexual people.  There is no logic to this condition, and these folks are in need of medical or psychological help.

Thus, there are actually two really two different forms of marriage, one civil and the other religious.  As long as folks agree to keep these legally separated, the religious objections to same-sex marriage can be preserved in religious marriage ceremonies without hurting the same sex couples who wish to be treated as equal citizens.  That is a right, after all, which they certainly possess under the rule of law.  And while homophobes will never be comfortable with this and there is no logical accommodation for their illness, it is the ultra-religious-right that is organized and that simply refuses to separate the two forms of marriage.

In fact, they contend that if same-sex couples are allowed to marry civilly, then what’s next?  The sheep rancher in Montana that will want to marry the little ewe that is always running away from him for some obscure reason?  The woman who wants to marry her shower head?  Dogs marrying cats?  Chairs marrying tables?  Live folks marrying dead people?  Where will it all end?

On the other hand, why would anyone even care?   Is it because they’re really trying to save us from ourselves?  Or is it that they are so personally insecure, they simply can’t stand diversity?

Or maybe, just maybe…it’s the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, might be happy (a definition of  “Puritanism”).

If Ignorance Was a Virtue, Sarah Palin Might Be Canonized

Watching Sarah Palin can be very entertaining.  From strictly a physical attractiveness point of view, she is a pretty, shapely woman with nice hair who is fun to look at.  If one is not from the upper Midwest of the USA, it can be either fun or annoying, but certainly interesting, to listen to her “Fargo” (the movie) accent. And if you’re into the great outdoors and all it offers, she’s definitely interesting to behold with a rifle in her hand.

But if you listen carefully when she speaks as a presidential-nominee-wannabe, an additional factor appears….a feeling of dread.  The dread comes from the fact that some Americans actually believe that Sarah understands all the nuances (including the US constitution and federal law) associated with her statements.  Some of these folks may also believe that the Earth is flat and that Elvis lives, with the assistance of the Zork aliens and their life-extending techologies.

For starters, remember her claims regarding her foreign policy qualifications when she was running for vice-president.  She actually thought that she was convincing people of her expertise at foreign policy because she could see Russia from one of the outtermost (sparsely populated) Aleutian Islands, and because Canada abuts Alaska along its predominately unpopulated eastern border.  She neglected to explain how “seeing” a foreign country somehow provides foreign relations experience.  But maybe she didn’t know that.

She further claimed executive military command experience because, as governor, she can call out the National Guard.  Of course, she neglected to include the fact that state governors can only call out their National Guards in times of natural disasters or extreme civil unrest.  They have no authority whatsoever to use their state’s National Guard for true military operations, such as war or military deployments.  That authority rests solely with the federal government.  But maybe she didn’t know that.

Fast forward to the ex-senator from Alaska Ted Stevens debacle, who was convicted in federal court of seven felony counts of corruption. His conviction was later reversed by a federal judge because of prosecutorial misconduct, committed, by the way, by at least two US Department of Justice prosecutors who were Bush administration appointees.

Sarah Palin, upon hearing of the reversal, followed the Alaska GOP’s lead in calling for a “rerunning” of the November 2008 election, in which democrat Mark Begich defeated the republican Stevens.  Of course, Palin neglected to mention that there is no legal mechanism in place for such an election rerun, nor did she mention that the fact that Stevens’ conviction was vacated due to prosecutor misconduct did not, in itself, prove Stevens innocent of any of the charges against him.  Additionally, she didn’t mention that she has a vested interest in having Stevens reinserted into a US senate seat so that he would be too busy to run against her for governor in 2010.

Not to be forgotten, she neglected to suggest that the 2000 presidential election between Al Gore and George W. Bush be rerun as well.  Maybe she didn’t know how bad the Bush administration turned out to be for America, but then, during the last campaign, in a televised interview with Charles Gibson in September 2008, she also didn’t know what the “Bush Doctrine” of pre-emptive US invasions of countries deemed dangerous by the self-same administration was.

Then just days ago, Palin decided to culminate this incredible record of public ignorance by attacking President Obama regarding defense department proposed budget cuts, regarding missile defense, or the shooting down of missiles by missiles.  She said “Alaska’s strategic location and the system in place here have proven invaluable in defending the nation….”  Beside the fact that she doesn’t get to make any decisions about “defending the nation”, what “invaluable proof” is she talking about?  And if the “system” is “in place here”, what is she talking about?

She went on to categorize Alaska as “a sovereign state of the United States”.  This statement alone raised a lot of eyebrows.  According to Websters Dictionary, sovereign means “having sovereignty” and sovereignty is defined as  “supreme power especially over a body politic b: freedom from external control : autonomy c: controlling influence3: one that is sovereign ; especially : an autonomous state”.  In truth, neither Alaska nor any other state of the USA is autonomous, free from external control, or exercising of supreme power;  the US federal government is the ultimate power and authority in the US.  But maybe Palin didn’t know that.

She evidently also didn’t know that the proposed defense budget cuts do not eliminate missile defense; they actually enhance this evolving technology by further refining the research and development on technology that already works, as opposed to incredibly expensive, unproven technologies that may or may not ever be deployable.  Even John McCain, Palin’s 2008 running mate and himself a strong career military man states in a written statement reported by no less than Fox News that Gates’ proposed defense budget was , “major step in the right direction…it has long been necessary to shift spending away from weapon systems plagued by scheduling and cost overruns to ones that strike the correct balance between the needs of our deployed forces and the requirements for meeting the emerging threats of tomorrow”.

In criticizing the proposed defense budget, which has been developed by folks who know a lot more about such things than Palin, she also neglected to mention that Hawaii is under much greater threat of an incoming enemy missile than Alaska is.  Hawaii is, after all, the home of the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor.  That’s the place the Japanese attacked in 1941.

But maybe Palin didn’t know that.  She certainly has proven repeatedly that she doesn’t do a lot of research.  But still, she’s entertaining to watch.  In fact, if she keeps making these types of “I-don’t-know-what-I’m-talking-about” statements, she’s going to entertain herself right out of any chance of being nominated for president in 2012.

And that’s why we love her.  🙂

What The Ultra-Right Anti-Obama Folks Don’t Get

If you frequent some of the more conservative blogs, or have friends whom you could probably classify as right wing in the extreme, you have probably heard an endless array of Obama-bashing….everything from his economic recovery agenda to the fact that he removed the ban on stem cell research, to his choices for key cabinet posts, to (name your favorite bashing topic HERE).  Their basic mantra is always the same:  President Obama and the democrats are never right, just as the republicans in congress and even the former white house administration are never wrong.

Never mind that Barack Obama continues to garner over 64% approval rating according to PollingReport.com, while concurrently the republicans in congress can only achieve a dismal 18% approval rating, also according to PollingReport.com.  In fact, the republicans are acting as though they won the election and the polls are somehow spirited by people who have somehow lost their perspective.  According to some of the blogs and right-wing radio talk show hosts, some conservatives actually believe that President Obama won just by slick propaganda and slight-of-hand, deluding the stupidly impressionable and somehow hypnotized American electorate.

One loyal reader of We, the PEOPLE!! couldn’t resist answering one of those blog claiming that Obama hoodwinked the ignorant and gullible American masses.  His response to the ultra-right republican mantra was so good it is worth sharing with everyone:

“I was recently reading a right wing blog and this line jumped out at me:

Again, how can anyone explain even the existence of Obama if not for the fact the Liberal Nutroots created a such crazy propaganda that ten of millions of voters believe?

“It can easily be explained, but not if you refuse to look in the mirror.  Bush & Company, with the help of Republicans, Big Government Conservatives and, yes, even some Democrats too, have presided over some of the worst policy failures in American history.

“A rushed war for WMDs that did not exist and a war whose justification changed as each previous justification was proven false.   Thousands have died.   Billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent.  No WMDs were ever found.  No connection to those that attacked us on 9/11 was ever proven.  Any dissent was, however, “aiding the enemy” or “not supporting the troop.  One justification after another was offered for policies that we all know damn well would have been condemned by  Republicans/Conservatives/ Limbaugh if Democrats did the same.

“The end result has been that Al Qaeda is growing in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Osama Bin Laden is still on the loose, international hostility was unleashed toward us, and the economy has taken a job-eliminating nose-dive.

“The attack on 9/11 came after the US had been warned that Osama Bin Laden was determined to strike in the US.  The memo was ignored because, supposedly, it did not spell out all the details of the attack.  What’s a president to do?  Bush went on vacation.  We know the rest of the story.. Not his fault!

“We were told that a strong economy and reduced deficits could only be promised and delivered if we gave tax breaks to the top income earners, and,  for the first time in history, during a time of war.  Any dissent was “class warfare”.  We know the results here, too.  However, deficits are either not important or they are the fault of someone else, if you listen to Republicans.

“They pushed for deregulation of the banking and investment industry in the belief that a totally free economic system is best, and that regulation is bad and government can’t do anything right. “Government is the problem”, they quoted the “old Gipper” Ronald Reagan as saying.  We were further assured three years ago when these taxes were again cut that we would have prosperity.  And not to worry, the financial market will self regulate.  Does anyone, even those that touted these policies the loudest, really believe that any of this has worked out at planned?

“And let’s look at the Karina response fiasco.  Once again, it was “blame-the-Democrats” time.  But unlike many Republicans, most Americans agree that the Federal Government has a role to play in disaster relief, and that if the local officials screw things up, the Feds should be prepared.  If you think the Federal response to Katrina was “a heck of a good job” well, then I guess you voted Republican.

“Understand this:  All these failures are due to the failure of Conservative and Republican ideology to address the problems of today.  Republicans offered only more of the same wine packaged in new bottles, the worse of which was Sarah Palin.  Most people realized that and voted for change..any change.

“Those are only my thoughts, but what else would you expect from a “Liberal Nutroot” who falls for Liberal “propaganda”?”

In fairness, it certainly does seem that many republicans are visibly running away from the hated Bush legacy as fast as they can, a legacy which, by the way, they helped to implement.   With the mid-term elections only a short eighteen months away, one would think that bashing President Obama for implementing change from that past would be the last thing that republicans would want to do, particularly considering the clear message that the latest polls indicate the American people are sending.

But then, many of these republicans didn’t listen in 2006 nor in 2008.  Maybe they’re not good at listening.  After all, it’s hard to listen when you’re busy shouting at the rain.