“One Nation, Under God, Indivisible….”: REALLY?

Lat night US president Barack Obama again did what he does so very well:  He gave another very good State of the Union speech to the entire US congress, most of the Supreme Court, his cabinet, and the American people…as well as many others from around the world.

Obama is an orator, and his ability to speak is becoming legendary.  But last night’s message was unique in that he made the point repeatedly that the only way to succeed was for both democrats and republicans to work together, to compromise on legislation and to move forward as a team.  As if to accentuate the point, more than 60 congresspeople of opposing parties sat together instead of their more recently normal total segregation by party.  It seemed that the bipartisan spirit kept increasing as Obama kept speaking, judging from the number of non-partisan standing ovations he received.

One factor that stood out in Obama’s speech was that he did not lay blame on the GOP or try to convince the audience that “it’s all their fault”.  Instead, he focused on multiple solutions to the deficit spending problems the USA currently faces.  And regardless of one’s opinion of any of the solutions Obama offered, his tone was clearly and repeatedly conciliatory and bi-partisan.

Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan later gave the “official” GOP response.  It was notably tempered in its tone.  He said that the present huge national debut “is the product of acts by many presidents and many Congresses over many years”.  But that non-partisan view disappeared when he switched to blaming Obama  and the democrats.  “The President and the Democratic Leadership have shown, by their actions, that they believe government needs to increase its size and its reach, its price tag and its power.”  Clearly a partisan, divisive statement.

Evidently, he was absent from 2002 to 2006, when GW Bush and his republican-controlled congress ballooned the deficit, spending like drunken sailors on their last night in a french port.

But this was nowhere as blaming, partisan, accusatory or grossly misleading as Republican congresswoman Michelle Bachmann’s Tea Party Express’ SECOND GOP response to Obama’s speech.  In it, she blamed Obama and the democrats for the recession and its resultant high unemployment, while neglecting to mention that the recession started in December 2007 under Bush.  She blamed Obama and the democrats for the huge deficit increase in the first budget in Obama’s administration…a budget she neglected to explain was developed by out-going GW Bush’s administration just before they left office.  She went on to demand full repeal of the new health care law, despite the fact that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that this would increase the deficit, and would hurt people just now beginning to enjoy the new benefits provided by the law that they never had before.

Additionally, she claimed that the creation of the USA was a “miracle”.  Couple that with her wildly (weirdly?) revisionist view of American history when she recently said that it was the USA’s founding fathers who ended slavery in the USA (even though by the time slavery was abolished by President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 “Emancipation Proclamation“, most of the founding fathers, many of whom owned slaves themselves, had been dead for at least 40 years!).  And she wants to be president?!?

Clearly, Bachmann’s response was divisive.  But worse, she managed to interject her own religious dogma into her speech, much as Tea Party activists are prone to do whenever they can.  They seem oblivious to the fact that it wasn’t until 1954 during the McCarthy-era-induced communism scare, that Congress passed legislation to add the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance as an “in-your-face” affront to the former Soviet Union, which officially had endorsed atheism as national policy.  Oh, and by the way, the Soviet Union has been extinct for over 20 years!

In sum, Bachmann speech embraced the “under God” portion of the Pledge of Allegiance while simply ignoring the “indivisible” portion.  She also exercised the tried and true practice of the scientifically and logically challenged, i.e., ignoring undesirable facts and replacing them with fabricated hate and fear rationalizations tailored to support one’s personal agenda.

To their credit, many mainstream GOP politicians have attempted to marginalize Bachmann’s comments.  Some have actually expressed downright embarrassment at the idea that the GOP seemed to have a “two-headed” response to Obama’s State of the Union speech.  They know that much of the Tea Party movement is like a loose cannon that tends to ignore the damage potential they have on the rest of the GOP.  And the larger GOP understands that if they can’t somehow absorb the Tea Party into the mainstream, the next election might seem like a brick wall hit at 200MPH…. : : :SPLAT!! : : :

And in the meantime, the democrats are quietly watching.  And smiling.

The Symbolic and Useless House Repeal of Health Care Reform

As this is being written, the US House of Representatives is engaged in debate (listen to it HERE) on repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act of 2010, Obama’s premier domestic policy accomplishment during his first two years as president.  In this public debate, one side speaks for a short time, and then the opposing side speaks for a short time, typically 30 seconds to a minute.  It’s surprisingly fast-moving action and actually quite fascinating to listen to the democratic and republican congresspeople making their case against and for, respectively, the repeal bill.  In fact, it is refreshing to note that the vitriolic tone that characterized congressional debate over the past two years seems to have been reined in on both sides.  The debate actually sounds professional, for the most part.

As expected, the GOP is claiming that the existing health act must be repealed because (so they claim) it destroys jobs, raises medical costs and taxes, and rations medical care.  The democrats, on the other hand, are armed with the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) final scoring of health care reform, which states that the existing law will actually reduce the budget deficit, create jobs, increase care, and bring health care costs down.  The CBO also has found that repeal of the law would actually increase the deficit considerably, not reduce it, as the GOP claims. So the debate continues…

Unfortunately and sadly, all of the expense in money, energy and time, and all of the effort to be civil and professional in the course of the debate is totally futile and wasted.  The repeal bill is destined pass in the house of representatives regardless of who says what because the GOP has the majority.  It was pass even though the GOP knows beyond a doubt that this repeal effort is a show destined to hit a brick wall when it leaves the house of representatives.  The GOP is doing what they do very well:  They’re making a political statement.  They’re doing exactly what they promised they would do during the recent 2010 congressional election campaigns.  And most effectively for them, they’ve got every republican in congress marching in lockstep, ready to vote as a single political voting block.

Unfortunately for them, the polls have begun to indicate that the American people are becoming more familiar with the truth about the new health care reform law.  They now understand that because its passage last March, this law mandates that Americans can now get health insurance even if they have pre-existing medical conditions, and they can’t lose that insurance anymore when they actually get sick.  They know that repealing the law would take those benefits away from them.  In fact, according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll taken between January 13th and 16th, fully 63% want the law to either to remain as is, or be changed to do more, as opposed to 39% who want it either repealed or changed to do less.  Check it out yourself HERE

And while the GOP claims they agree with the benefits listed above, they haven’t introduced a single bill to replace the law they want to repeal.

And why?  Because they know that when this bill leaves the House, it’s going absolutely nowhere.

So all of the debate, all of the arguments, and of the back-and-forth occurring in congress (even as this this is being written), is essentially pointless.

Later today, when the final House vote is taken and the GOP-controlled chamber sends its newly-approved, dead-on-arrival repeal bill to the senate for its consideration, informed Americans may well issue forth a collective yawn of boredom.  But all evidence of renewed civility among the diverse political parties to the contrary, don’t be surprised if the ultra-right begins loud, obnoxious celebrations makes wild obnoxious claims about the American people taking America back from those awful “socialists”, to the real America of 1789…the way the founding fathers formed it.  You know…with legal slavery and women devoid of the right to vote or hold political office.

Somehow, that kind of rings hollow when one considers the self-same ultra-right loves those definitely female women folk Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, both of whom are considering running for president.  Think about it:  Do you really think they want to return to 1789??

Sometimes bullshit is symbolic.  And sometimes, bullshit is just….bullshit.

Editor’s note: At 5:50pm the vote was taken and the final tally was 245 for (all republicans and three democrats) , 189 against (all democrats).  There were some cheers coming from the upper gallery where the public sits.  So now the bill goes….nowhere. (And he who laughs last, laughs best. – anon.)

Hate and Fear Mongering FINALLY in the Spotlight

Consider the following recent quotes:

“Don’t retreat, reload!” Sarah Palin, former Governor of Alaska, Tea Party activist and possible republican candidate for US president;

“If this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.” Sharron Angle, losing GOP nominee for US senate from Nevada, Tea Party supporter;

“If ballots don’t work, bullets will.” Joyce Kaufman, conservative radio talk show host and Tea Party activist;

“I am thinking about killing Michael Moore and I am wondering if I could kill him myself or if I would need to hire someone to do it.” Glenn Beck, conservative radio & TV talk show host and tea Party sympathizer.

“I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous . . . The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Michele Bachmann,  Conservative US congresswoman from Minnesota, US House Tea Party Caucus leader, and possible GOP candidate for president.

Now, consider this chilling prophecy:

“Sarah Palin has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district (view it HERE.-ed.) and when people do that, they’ve gotta realize there are consequences to that action.” US democratic Congresswoman from Arizona Gabrielle Giffords.

Giffords was shot through the brain last Saturday by a lone 22 year-old lunatic gunman.  In the same incident, U.S. District Judge John Roll, Giffords staffer Gabriel Zimmerman and 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green were murdered in cold blood.

As of this writing, there is no evidence to directly link the Giffords shooting with the hate and fear rhetoric listed above, or any other known public statements of like kind.  And the same can be said for the John F. Kennedy (JFK) assassination in 1963 and the Bobby Kennedy (RFK)  and Martin Luther King (MLK) assassinations in 1968.  And there may never be any evidence of a direct link.

But it’s not that simple.

The lack of direct links does not exonerate the hate and fear mongers.  In fact, there is endless evidence that hate and fear mongering has galvanized hate groups for a very long time.  Put another way, the case for an indirect link is pretty solid.

Take, for instance, racial hatred in the USA which gave rise to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) after the US civil war.  Thousands of African-Americans were lynched and otherwise murdered by the KKK and other similar groups in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Those groups were joined in many cases by “just plain folks” who had been subjected to an almost endless stream of hate and fear talk during much of their lives.

Let’s face it:  Children are not born hating anyone.  They are taught who to hate and fear by others, primarily adults.  This self-propagating social programming is insidious because it is so prevalent.  It’s difficult for children raised to hate and fear anyone to change that programmed perception and emotion later in life.  And when they become parents, they teach their own children the same things.

Even in today’s so-called advanced society, there are countless people who hate and fear other groups of people, and would kill them if they could.  Al Qaeda is the most notorious example but by no means the only one.  And when American public figures talk publicly about shooting people if they don’t like the balloting, or put gun cross-hairs on congressional districts run by people from another political party, it reinforces and validates those hating and fearing folks.  That gives rise to the forming of hate groups, such as the militant civilian militias that exist just under the radar in many US states.  Knowing that is all some lunatic needs to believe that he’s doing something noble and patriotic by assassinating a public figure.

To their credit, many political figures from both the democratic and republican parties have called upon their colleagues to tone down the nastiness and personal attacks that have become an ever increasing part of the political landscape over the past ten years.  As the new speaker of the house John Boehner said upon accepting the speaker’s gavel in congress last week, people can disagree without being disagreeable.  It may not be sexy, and it may not get the media’s attention, but it is one way to avoid encouraging the hate and fear mongers out there.  It’s got to start somewhere.

And that begs the question:  Will the hate-radio hosts like Beck or Kaufman or their brethren heed the call?  After all, they make their very big salaries inciting hate and fear, as they cast dispersions upon elected and government officials and the government itself.  And other cultures they don’t understand or agree with (or believe that YOU don’t understand or agree with) are targets, too.

Beck or Kaufman toning it down???

Don’t bet on it.

WACKO Time In Washington; What a Show!

Well, the GOP took control of the US House of Representatives yesterday in an opening session that was quite entertaining.  Out-going democratic speaker Nancy Pelosi passed the gavel to incoming republican speaker John Boehner.  She did so by giving him this humongously over-sized wooden gavel that he brought along for the event.  Hmmm….

Today, January 6, 2011, the new GOP majority in the House got right down to business by reading aloud the US Constitution, which was written in 1787 in archaic English.  Of course, because of the many contextual differences over 220 years of language evolution, it has necessarily been interpreted by the the US Supreme Court.  Hundred of thousands of pages of case law have resulted from these cases.  However, the GOP saw no need to read them since the GOP doesn’t even like most of them.

Concurrently,  a House hearing was being held regarding the GOP’s plan to repeal health care reform.  In an televised exchange between a democratic congressmen and a GOP anti-health-care-reformist, the reformist claimed that the US constitution’s preamble, which states:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

..only refers to promoting the general the welfare of the USA as an entity, not the general welfare of “We, the PEOPLE!!”, despite US Supreme Court case law to the contrary.

Adding to the drama, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that repeal of health care reform would increase the federal deficit by US$230 billion over the next ten years, and after 2019 would continue to cost one half percent of the USA’s yearly gross domestic product!  They previously announced last March that health care reform would actually reduce the federal deficit by US$143 billion over ten years.

John Boehner replied that the CBO was wrong and that they got their facts & figures from democrats.  “But they’re entitled to their opinion”, he added.

The non-partisan CBO was wrong??  They got facts and figures only from democrats???

Yet, the GOP knew clearly knew ahead of time that there would be bad news from the CBO, because yesterday they first passed a brand new house rule that prohibits any legislation from increasing the federal debt, and then they passed a special exception that rule,  just for their efforts to repeal the new health care reform law.

To top off this weird but fun display, republican right wing-extremist state legislators from 40 states got together to advocate denying US citizenship to babies born in the USA of undocumented foreign parents. That birthright is contain the US constitution’s fourteenth amendment, which states in section 1:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws….”

These fanatics propose to pass laws in their own states prohibiting the granting of US citizenship to babies born in the US of undocumented foreign parents.  That they would be violating the 14th amendment, and that it’s the federal government and not their states that controls US citizenship doesn’t seem to bother them.  They just want their little states to pass their little laws and that will be that.

Oh, yeah?

Hey, guys, have you read Article 5 of the US constitution?  It says:

“The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress;…”

That 3/4 approval of all states requirement is a  pretty high bar, one they can’t hope to achieve.  So they’re going to try some smoke and mirrors, and maybe a pony show.  And in the meantime, they look really great to the uninformed and the racists, while they look really stupid to those who are informed about such things.  And they’re they’re using YOUR tax money to finance their efforts.  Nice, huh?

So just when you thought that no one could have more missteps than the democrats did over the past two years….

…Here come the republicans.

What a show!!!!

And the finale?  Ultra right-wing-conservative Michelle Bachmann is considering a run for US president.  Maybe she’ll have to mud-wrestle Sarah Palin??  🙂