Once in a great while an event unfolds in which the opposing forcing forces are so strong that a huge explosion is inevitable, regardless of which one ultimately prevails. That event is the ultimate outcome of a a case the US Supreme Court recently agreed to hear: Sebelius, Sec. of H&HS, et al v. Hobby Lobby, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, Sec. of H&HS, et al.
It’s difficult to believe that in a 21st century technologically advanced industrial nation like the USA, such a case would be worthy of the Supreme Court. But then again, this selfsame court ruled only three short years ago that corporations have the same rights as people when it comes to freedom of speech as guaranteed in the first amendment of the bill of rights to the US constitution. To wit, in the infamous Citizens United case, the Supreme court ruled that corporations were free to donate unlimited amounts of money to political action committees and had ALSO a right to privacy while doing so!
At issue in the Hobby Lobby case are the religious beliefs of the Green family, which owns and operates this corporation of 578 stores nationwide, employing many thousands of men and women. David Green, billionaire, founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby is an evangelist who believes his religion is omnipresent, including in his work life.
To that end, he opposes Obamacare on numerous levels, including its requirement that the health insurance companies provide contraceptive coverage for women. But he’s most virulent opposed to its contraceptive coverage of the “morning after” pill, which Green and others like him consider to really be an abortion pill, even though the scientific community has stated that it is not.
These folks are also against Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) because they believe human life begins at conception and IUDs prevent a fertilized egg (conceived human) from implanting in a woman’s womb.
The Green family’s religious beliefs are at odds with scientific data. But they have a constitution right to believe in them as part of their religious freedom and to practice these beliefs within their own lives.
Hobby Lobby, which the Greens own and operate, is a corporation governed by law, and thousands of women work for this corporation who do not share the Greens’ religious beliefs. However, they still have the same 1st amendment right to freedom of religion that the Greens are claiming for themselves.
Nonetheless, the Greens filed a lawsuit against Obamacare’s contraception mandate, claiming the new health care law violates their right to religious freedom by forcing them, as Hobby Lobby’s owner/operators, to provide and/or allow health insurance companies to provide abortion-inducing devices and medications (free of charge no less) to their employees when in fact they believe abortion (and even contraception) is heinously against the laws of God.
What’s wrong with this picture? Or actually, the more valid question might be to ask, “What’s RIGHT with this picture?”……EXTREME right?
The answer is clear.
Everything about this lawsuit screams extreme right. Everything about it screams that the powerful and the wealthy have the right to dictate religious dogma and rules to the powerless and those with less means.
That the Greens don’t want believe in contraceptive devices is their right, misguided though it might be. But to IMPOSE that belief on the lives of others is NOT their right, and using their corporation as a front does not change that fact.
The same principal applies to their belief that the “morning after pill” is an abortion pill. They can believe that if they wish, but they cannot IMPOSE that misguided belief upon others,nor can they impose a forced practice upon others. The first amendment does not allow that.
Nothing, but NOTHING, screams for the separation of church and state more that this very issue.
But if the Supreme Court rules in June of 2014 that the Hobby Lobby corporation does in fact have the right to deny employer-based Affordable Care Act access to its employees on the basis of its own religious beliefs, then imprinting of church into onto government is exactly what we’ll get. How, you may well ask….?
The religious right will claim that the Supreme Court has established that the religious rights of corporations exceed those of the individual citizen.
Coupled with Citizens United, these corporations with their new-found religious powers can dominate the political environment of the USA to the detriment of the individual citizen with massive amounts of money infused into the political system.
Companies run by those who don’t believe in transfusions will be able to deny that coverage to their employees based upon the “corporation’s” religious beliefs. The religious right will own the government and the laws will favor the religious right. Soon, all employer-based health insurance could be a distant memory.
Exactly what the evangelical witch doctor ordered, isn’t it?
At this late date and with all the press about the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also either affectionately or abominably known as Obamacare, one might think that the government shutdown and the idiotic debt ceiling flirtation of early October never even happened. The GOP and particularly the ultra-extreme-right wing Tea Party embedded within it are absolutely gloating at the failures of the www.healthcare.gov website and the 5 million health insurance company cancellation notices that have gone out to perhaps 5 million private insurances policy-holders of sub-standard policies.
Never mind that those policies didn’t cover things like hospital stays or operations. And never mind that that there were other ways to sign up for the ACA/Obamacare besides the website.
Actually, the GOP is right.
Yeah, you read that correctly. The conservatives in this country were right that Obamacare was flawed. Involving the private for-profit health insurance industry, which they ABSOLUTELY insisted upon even though they STILL couldn’t manage to submit a single vote for the bill in 2009, was a BIG mistake. Every other advanced country on Earth knew better than to involve private industry health care insurance companies because they knew that putting a for-profit basis into public safety compromises the very public safety one is trying to protect.
Every advanced country on Earth, that is, except this one.
Mind you, not everyone in the USA is blind to this fact, nor have they been for a very long time. As far back as the Truman administration, the educated, informed and enlightened realized that public safety was a function of government that had to be above the for-profit motivation of free private capitalist marketeers. In fact, President Eisenhower, a republican, warned Americans in the 1950’s to be watchful of the “military-industrial complex” whose primary purpose was not protection of the nation but self-propagation of its own profits and power.
When Obamacare was being debated during the 2008 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton supported a universal health care plan that essentially would provide every American with complete health care from womb to tomb the same way that every citizen from every other advanced nation in the world is provided health care.
Republicans balked at this as “socialized medicine”, a government takeover of the individual’s healthcare, a massive tax hike, the responsible subsidizing the irresponsible, the end of private industry in the USA, etc., etc. They claimed that America’s healthcare system was the greatest on Earth, even though tens of thousands of Americans declared bankruptcy every year because of healthcare costs, tens of thousands of Americans died every year of preventable and curable health issues, millions of Americans had no health care coverage, millions of Americans went to hospital emergency rooms as their only source of health care, and then couldn’t pay their bills. And by the way, who do you think ends up paying those bills for that extremely inefficient form of health care delivery? That’s right, folks…ALL OF US.
In stepped Barack Obama with a plan for a sorta-kinda universal health care that covered everyone not already covered, as long as they filed an income tax return. That was the enforcement mechanism, i.e., you would be required to purchase PRIVATE FOR PROFIT healthcare insurance if you didn’t already have it, and if you didn’t, you’d be fined a paltry $95 on your income tax return. That was Obamacare, and it preserved the private, for-profit health insurance companies.
Mind you, it carries a stipulation that these companies cannot profit beyond a certain percentage, and that if they begin to do so, they must rebate the surplus back to their customers. There are also stipulations, good ones in fact, that prevent lifetime caps on insurance expenses, prevent the companies from dropping you if you get sick or have pre-existing conditions (such as being a female), allow you to stay on your parents’ plan to age 26, mandate coverage of preventative services such a mammograms, colonoscopies, lab work, mental illness services, etc.
But under other countries universal health care programs, these have existed forever.
Barack Obama has one monumental failing, albeit a very noble one. He believes most people are good and noble and honest and intelligent and will listen to reason and evidence and data and merit. He’s a good man that believes that if he honestly and honorably tries to meet the opposing side half way, the other side will honestly and honorably do the same. He’s woefully wrong.
His attempt to find a civilized, intelligent, fair, compromising, inclusive solution blew up in his face because the other side had absolutely no intention of ever EVER working with him to implement ANY change to the archaic inefficient for-profit-based health-care system that the USA has suffered under since forever, and which every other advanced country in the world has left behind decades ago.
Obama will recover from this because more people will benefit than won’t. But it didn’t have to be this way.
Last Tuesday (November 5th, 2013), elections for governor were held in New Jersey and Virginia. Additionally, a GOP primary runoff for a US congressional seat in Alabama was held, as well as a mayoral race in New York City.
Some factors influencing these races are pretty stable, such as geopolitics, e.g., New York City is a heavily democratic, or blue, city. Yet, over the past 20 years, New Yorkers elected a republican mayor, Rudy Giuliani, and then an independent mayor, Michael Bloomberg.
New Jersey is also blue state. Until recently, Virginia was considered predominantly red, while Alabama is about as red and conservative as one might be able to find in the USA.
These relatively stable geopolitical factors change very slowly over time as their populations change. However, more volatile factors such as recent past or current events influence elections as well, some to a greater extent than others. Take, for example, the seriously flawed and still not completed implementation of Obamacare (current) and the government shutdown and debt ceiling limit fight (recent events).
First, current (and ongoing) events: Anyone paying attention is aware that the first five weeks of Obamacare’s implementation has been nothing short of disastrous, what with its cranky website, the unanticipated cancellation of millions of sub-standard policies and a myriad of other problems which have caught everyone by surprise. The Obama administration has clearly lost some ground with the American people, as evidenced by recent polling declines in approval ratings, although they are slowly beginning to rise again as the healthcare.gov website improves.
Next, recent events: The government shutdown and race to drive over the debt ceiling limit cliff by the GOP driven primarily by the Tea Party ultra-conservatives in the US House of Representatives. These folks really believed their own rhetoric about how the whole country was behind them, right up to the moment the new debt ceiling limit passed and the government reopened. Even then, Tea Party leaders such as Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Joe Barton of Texas, Steve King of Iowa and others were still advocating for a government default claiming that it would have been a good thing, when all of the GOP’s traditional backers such as Wall Street and US Chamber of Commerce were screaming for them to stop it.
So, back to Tuesday night’s elections. In New Jersey, republican Governor Chris Christie won a huge re-election victory with 58% of the vote against a democratic in a democrat-leaning state. He won by being a moderate mainstream establishment republican who publicly embraced president Obama during the superstorm Sandy recovery last year on national television before the 2012 presidential election. He won by stating emphatically that he would work with anyone, regardless of political party, to get things done. He clearly put distance between his brand of republicanism and the Tea Party’s extremist brand of republicanism.
In Virginia, the democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe was predicted to win over Tea Party conservative Ken Cuccinelli by 8 to 10 percentage points, but only won by less than 3%. Obamacare’s problems lowered his win margin, just as the tea Party’s government self-destruction-plan a month earlier had raised that same margin. Still, the Tea Party’s hope that hatred of Obamacare is the key to their maintaining control of the House of Representatives and taking control of the senate in the November 2014 mid-term elections less than a year from now seems to be more crack-pipe-dream than reality if they couldn’t even pull it off while Obamacare is at its lowest in a state like Virginia that currently has a republican governor and that even now must be considered a swing state such as Florida and Ohio.
Oh, don’t forget New York City, which elected its first democratic mayor in 20 years.
What all this says is that in the broad spectrum of political locales that held elections last Tuesday, the message was crystal clear and it was the same:
People have had enough of extremism and gridlock. The pendulum is swinging back to the left after having swung way too far to the right. And the future, barring any more unintended burps and gas-passing by the administration, might look something like this:
In the 2014 elections, the democrats will pick up perhaps 14 seats in the House. With 214 votes to the republicans’ 220, they will have enough, with just 3 or 4 moderate republicans blowing off the Tea Party extremists, to get stuff done. In the Senate, the democrats will increase their numbers to 59. With at least one moderate republican, there will be no filibuster, and stuff will get done.
THEN they will all be judged as to their governing skills, as opposed to their ability to emulate walls, for the 2016 elections.
On of the credos of the republican party has historically been that polls don’t matter, and that real politicians don’t pay attention to them. Perhaps the more accurate statement would be that real UNSUCCESSFUL politicians don’t pay attention to polls.
It also seems that the more extremist right wing these politicians become, the more they ignore what the polls are telling them and in fact everyone about their activities and behaviors when those activities and behaviors start becoming less and less popular among the average American voter.
Take, for instance, the recent US government shutdown and the idiotic flirtation with the debt ceiling limit by the GOP-controlled US House of Representatives, and more specifically, by the Tea Party faction of the GOP.
The republican party claimed it was doing what it was going to do because the people of the USA, based upon polls (which republicans historically don’t believe in!), were against Obamacare and “wanted it repealed”. Of course, what republicans were not telling the American people was that as of September 29th, 2013, an CNN/ORC poll showed that only 39% of Americans were against Obamacare in any form and 38% favored it, while another 11% were against it because it doesn’t go far enough! So at least 49% either favored it or wanted it to be stronger! That’s not the same thing as wanting it repealed, but the GOP couldn’t be bothered with such minute polling details.
The government shutdown took effect on October 1st and multiple national polls showed that Americans blamed the GOP much more than they blamed president Obama or the democrats for the shutdown, even though the GOP tried hard to make it sound like it wasn’t their fault. Only the low-information citizen was convinced. The more informed, intelligent and educated American was paying attention and knew where the blame lay. As of October 20th, 2013, the same CNN/ORC poll showed that the percent of Americans against Obamacare had dropped to 38% while the percent of those that either favored it or wanted it strengthened rose to a whopping 53%!!
As bad as these numbers indicated the GOP was misinterpreting the mood of the country and overplaying their hand while sailing on taking Ted Cruz’s “Strategic Cruise To Nowhere”, they continued to ignore those polls much like a person ignoring a 4-inch growth on the extreme right side of their nose.
The second week of the shutdown/debt limit ceiling confrontation ended and the debt limit ceiling drop dead date of October 17th began to loom a lot closer than anyone thought congress was crazy enough to allow it to. The polls clearly showed that 75% of Americans did NOT want the nation to drive over the default cliff and DID want the debt ceiling increased prior to the default date. Moderate republicans smelled their own blood in the water and broke away, but the more fanatical Tea Party lunatic fringe, with Ted Cruz, Michele Bachmann, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and a cast of selfish idiots was in control of the republicans in the House of Representatives.
As the deadline approached and it became clear that the House of Representatives could not pass a republicans-only bill on the debt-ceiling-limit increase, the senate took over, passed a clean bill, sent it over to the House and it passed with 198 democratic votes and 87 ? yea votes from republicans.
But 144 republicans voted NO! They voted to not raise the debt ceiling and thus, not allow the US treasury to raise the money needed to pay for all the goods and services the congress has already appropriated money for and spent. In other words, they voted to not pay bills for goods and items already bought. By them.
Interestingly, the entire republican congressional delegation from Texas, where Ted Cruz is from, voted no. These people, along with those listed about and others like Mike Lee from Utah form the core of the more radical extremists in the tea party movement. They did not care who suffered as a result of the government shutdown or the flirt with the government debt default and in fact, they are totally without remorse for the damage they have done to anyone and anything, including their own party. In fact the refuse to acknowledge any damage, even thought the latest polls show that the nation thinks that the nation is worse off with a House of Representatives controlled by republicans:
Put another way, none other than a Fox News Poll on October 23rd found that 75% disapprove of republicans in congress and only 20% approve.
And finally, In what one might call the “reality check” that the tea party loves to ignore, when asked in a CNN/ORC poll if having a GOP-controlled House of Representatives was good or bad for the USA:
Tea Party: Keep doing what you’re doing.
For the rest of us: Com’n, November 2014!!!!!!!!!
October 9, 2013: the American government shutdown is 9 days old with no apparent end in sight. More and more very important programs are coming to standstill such as veterans benefits, head-start programs, research and development programs, and so forth. Programs that benefit the poor are impacted. And of this is because approximately 30 to 40 Tea Party republicans in the US house of representatives chose this very moment in the budgetary cycle when the USA would run out of funds to run the US government at the end of the fiscal year on September 30th, 2013, to make their last stand regarding Obamacare, more formally known as the Affordable care Act of 2010.
As bad as that might sound to anyone just tuning in, it’s really minor compared to the real threat looming on October 17th, just 8 short days away. That’s when the USA hits its debt limit, or the point where it cannot legally borrow any more money, either by floating bonds or by any other means, in order to have enough cash on hand to pay all of its debts on time.
Keep in mind that “debt” means incoming bills due on goods and services already appropriated by congress and purchased. It is akin to you going out and buying a steak dinner on your credit card, and then the credit card bill arrives later for payment to arrive at the bank on a certain date. If you don’t pay that bill on time (for the steak dinner you already bought and ate, keep in mind), you will have defaulted on your credit card debt. After a brief time period, your credit rating will be downgraded and the interest rate will be raised as a result. Further defaults will further downgrade your credit rating and increase your payback interest.
John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, really didn’t want to be in the position he’s in, any more than many mainstream republicans that understand how stupid it was to play Russian roulette with a government shutdown over Obamacare. But the lunatic Tea Party faction of the republican party is backed by very wealthy (and thus very powerful) people and groups such as the Koch brothers, whose nearly limitless financial contributions under the controversial Supreme Court ruling Citizens United has allowed the Tea Party to blackmail mainstream republicans to support the Tea Party agenda (even if they disagree with it and/or the Tea Party tactics) to avoid facing an extremely-well-financed Tea party primary challenge for their congressional district seat. It is political extortion at its worst, and is just another reason why the Tea Party is also known by increasing numbers of Americans (and others) as the American Taliban:
And as much as Boehner didn’t want to herd these cats during the shutdown, he REALLY EVEN MORE doesn’t want to do so during the run-up to the debt ceiling limit drop-dead date. But he, too, is under threat of losing his seat and his chairmanship to these political terrorists. And interestingly, most of them aren’t even talking about Obamacare anymore. They’re now demanding that the meat-cleaver sequester spending reductions that no one wanted, which have been in effect since March 2013, be further reduced by amounts equal to any increase in the debt ceiling before they will agree to raise the debt ceiling limit. Oh, and don’t even think of raising taxes on the richest 1% (like the Koch brothers and other Tea Party financiers) or reducing government subsidies to the obscenely profitable petroleum industry.
Put another way, the American Taliban is demanding that in exchange for allowing the USA to pay its bills and maintain its credit rating and not possibly enter a new recession and not possibly damage the world economy in the process, it must reduce spending BELOW the already insanely low levels of the sequester which already have eliminated such programs as meals on wheels for seniors, infrastructure projects, etc. And if they get their way, maybe they’ll raise the debt ceiling for 90 days, and then we came play this game all over again.
President Obama, having gone through this exercise only two years ago, has rightfully decided that the US government should not be run by threat and extortion and has dug in. The democrats in the senate and the house are united in this effort. But the republicans are clearly divided.
The senate republicans aren’t playing at all. And in the house, where all of this started, more and more mainstream republicans are realizing that if you can believe the polls, they’re probably doomed anyway in 2014 so better to do the right thing. As of this writing, 21 republicans are ready to join 200 house democrats and vote on a clean continuing resolution and an extension of the debt ceiling limit. That’s 221 and they only need 217 votes for a majority.
Now if John Boehner can only resolve that he’s probably not gonna survive to be speaker either way…..AND CALL THE FRACKIN’ VOTE!!!
Pop quiz time:
How many political parties are there in the USA?
If you answered “2”, you obviously thought the question asked how many “officially recognized” parties their are. The correct answer to that question would indeed be “2”. But the question suggested nothing about “official” parties.
The correct answer is that there are actually three distinct parties:
1. Democrats, made up of moderate centrists through leftists social democrats. They see government more as a friend than as an enemy and they believe that government serves functions that the individual cannot serve by himself or herself. Public safety issues fall under this classification. They also believe the capitalism works best when it is will regulated to prevent abuse by the powerful against the powerless.
2. Moderate Republicans, who often are not very different from moderate centrist democrats, although they tend to have more faith in the individual and more skepticism in government than their centrist democrat counterparts. However, the moderate republicans are still pragmatic enough to accept that there are many functions that individuals cannot possibly accomplish by themselves. Thus, more often than not they will join with democrats to negotiate and comprise to produce solutions and programs that work for the greater good of all. They tend to have more faith in free capitalism than democrats, but will still respond firmly with controls and corrections when burned by bad economic policies.
3. Extremist right-wing republican pseudo-fascists, who are further subdivided into the anarchists, the Christian right, and the fruit loops (a combination of the anarchists and the Christian rightists). These folks actually might be a new and distinct species of humanity, since the only characteristics that they share in common with mainstream democrats and republicans are the abilities to campaign and fund-raise. But all similarities end there.
The anarchists, who prefer the label libertarians, believe in the absolute minimum amount of rules, laws, government, foreign relations, interactions, government programs, social programs, taxes, etc., and the absolute less the better. The Christian right believes that that all rules, laws government programs, foreign relations, interactions, government & social programs, taxes, etc., must all be based upon the new testament, and the more, the better. The fruit loops believe in BOTH, or a combination thereof. In all cases, they all share one important priority: “ME!”
This third rail offshoot of the republican party is commonly known as the Tea Party, and its present darling (a title that seems to rotate like flavor of the month) is a freshman US senator from Texas, Ted Cruz. Previous Tea Party favorites have been Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Rand Paul and Todd Akin.
Texas is the state with the highest percentage of people, and the highest number of children with no health insurance of any of the 50 states of the USA. It is also the state with the highest number of executions of any of the 50 states as well. Cruz is about as opposed to any form of government-sponsored and/or government-assisted and/or government mandated health insurance as anyone can be. That means he hates Obamacare. And as a result, he decided he was going to shame his follow republicans in the senate into voting against the bill sent over by his GOP buddies in the House to defund Obamacare by babbling his brains out on the senate floor for 21 hours straight in a filibuster that really wasn’t because senate rules demanded he stop talking after 21 hours. Did you get all that?
Translation: He wanted everyone to vote against something he and they actually wanted. So he spoke for 21 hours in a mock-filibuster that served no purpose and convinced no one. In the end, he voted FOR what he wanted everyone, including himself, to vote against.
Weird, right? But it gets much worse.
Ted Cruz, during his 21 hour on-the-job monologue which he claimed was “intended to save the taxpayer jobs and money”, spoke about Star Wars and Darth Vader, Saturday Night Live, Sean Connery, Chinese gooseberries, and the Bataan death march of World War 2. He read from the bible and read two bedtime stories to his daughters including “Green Eggs and Ham” as well as other stuff, while earning his taxpayer-paid salary of $174,000 a year, which doesn’t include the taxpayer-paid salaries of his many supporting staffers in this meaningless political endeavor.
That Cruz then negated his own monumental waste of time and money and voted against his own proposed “no” vote was just icing on the circus cake, like a clown who steps in the elephant droppings and then laughs at his own clumsiness. The trouble is that the rest of the tea-flavored koolaid sipping fruit-loops think that the move is just part of some brilliant strategy that they can’t understand, which just reinforces to them just how brilliant it really is.
Ted Cruz is a fruit loop and fruit loops begat more fruit loops.
In the two weeks since the last We, the PEOPLE!! a lot has happened regarding the threat of a surgical strike by a coalition of military forces led the the USA against Syria’s ability to deliver chemical weapons (CWs) against either its own people or anyone else.
First, in an incredibly close vote of 285 to 272, the British parliament narrowly defeated a bid by British prime minister David Cameron to join an international coalition in a limited surgical attack against the Syrian CWs capabilities. Explaining why they refused to support the attack, a member of the opposition stated that they were still recovering from the UK being dragged into the Iraq war which was sold as quick in-and-out conflict to remove Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), consisting primarily of nuclear materials and perhaps even biological materials by faulty and manipulated intelligence which was submitted to the UK.
US president Obama, realizing that his razor-thin international coalition might collapse without UK participation, decided to submit the issue to the US congress for their support and approval. That was a bold move, considering that France was the only other nation able to militarily support an attack on Syria with substantial assets alongside the USA. After all, even though more that 2 dozen other nations supported actions against the Syrian regime and its use of CWs against innocent men, women and children (more than 400 of whom were killed by what is now known to have been sarin gas attacks), those nations are not equipped to provide much in the way of effective military support for a sophisticated surgical strike with a narrow but intense and extremely focused objective.
It was a gutsy move on Obama’s part and to some extent a baffling one. It was also unexpected, as was the British parliament’s refusal to join the party. The initial belief of the experts and the pundits was that Obama would go it alone or with France. But when he pivoted and punted the ball over to the congress, the initial belief was that congress would forget partisan politics on this issue and this issue only, and support the officer of the US president against the atrocities committed by a brutal dictator.
Remember for one moment why Obama came out swinging to begin with: The Russians, who are one of five permanent members on the UN Security Council, made it clear they would veto any proposal to hold Syria accountable for using CWs, and in fact, they supported the ridiculous premise that it was the rag-tag rebels who had used them. They also claimed that Syria’s Assad did not even possess CWs.
Even when Obama sent the issue to congress for their approval, he never specifically said that he would not act if they voted against action. That was key, because after that event the Russian and perhaps even the Syrians cooked up a plan whereby Syria’s CWs would be placed under international control (to be ultimately destroyed). Russia thus de facto admitted that Syria did indeed possess CWs (and therefore de facto admitted that the Syrian government under Assad was the logical origin of the August 21st CWs attack). Furthermore, Russia got Syria to agree to sign the latest international anti-CWs protocols, joining the rest of the international community in swearing off CWs.
It’s really hard to believe that any of this would have happened if the USA hadn’t rattled the sabre as it did.
But to back up just a skosh, or a scintilla, or a nano-moment, before the Russians blinked…when Obama took the issue to congress:
As time wore on, the patina of “us vs. them” wore off and was replaced with “us vs. them vs. you vs. us vs you and forget about them”. People began to retreat back into their familiar zones of comfort. More and more republicans (you remember, the folks who brought us Afghanistan and Iraq?) signed onto the “Let’s stay out of this one” list.
And while this was happening, back in the middle of the homeland (Missouri, to be exact), the republican state legislature passed a state bill (vetoed by the the democratic governor) that prohibited federal agents from enforcing federal gun control laws in Missouri…to protect the US second amendment from federal interference! That veto is being submitted to the legislature for a possible veto overturning vote.
Yep! You read it right. Republicans, in order to protect the sanctity of the national constitution, will pass state laws nullifying national laws. And republicans, in order to protect the world against weapons of mass destruction that do not exist, will embroil the USA and its allies in 2 10-year-+ wars at the same time.
But to protect children from chemical weapons attacks that are proven to have taken place, and to protect our own troops from the possibility of those same CWs being used against them at some future date?
Not if it was Obama’s idea.
So far, the 21st century is nothing to crow about in the annals of human history.
It started in its very first instant of existence with the threat of wiping out the planet’s computer systems, and more specifically the data and operating systems on those computers, because many of them had been designed without the capability to count time past 11:59:59pm, December 31st, 1999. The feared forthcoming Armageddon was known simply as Y2K (year 2000), which was short for the fact that no accommodation had been built into those operating systems to provide for the century change from 19xx to 20xx, and those systems would thus cease to function at midnight plus one nanosecond, January 1st, 2000.
It was a dud.
Nothing adverse happened to better than 99.99999% of the world’s computers. On January 1st, 2000, life just kept on running along, albeit slowed perhaps by just a wee bit too much partying.
But Y2K was a harbinger of more destructive and violent events to follow. Only 21 short months later, 9-11 and its resulting invasion of Afghanistan by the USA (and some much lesser efforts by some allies) happened. Then the US invaded Iraq in March 2003 and stayed until December 2011, leaving a dysfunctional quasi-democratic state in its wake while removing a big obstacle against Iran, a US adversary.
Next came the Arab Spring in December 2010. What started with peaceful protests by Arab citizens in various Arab nations in Africa and the middle east (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria) seeking democratic governments to replace dictatorships ended up in new Islamists governments and subsequent bloodshed and turmoil in most of them.
The last one, Syria, never even got to the new government phase. Instead, the Assad regime which has controlled Syria for many decades (a father and then son affair) decided to not yield to the pressures that the other three Arab governments had yielded to, and instead fought back with strong military force against its own people.
That conflict has been going on now for two years and has killing over 100,000 people. While the anti-government Syrian rebels scored a large number of initial military successes against Assad’s superior fighting forces, pro-Assad forces won back many of the initial rebel gains.
One type of munitions used by the Assad regime was a WMD (weapon of mass destruction): chemical weapons. These include nerve agents that shut down breathing and heart functions and chemicals that burn skin, eyes and lungs. Chemical weapons have been outlawed by global treaties. Their use and even their storage are violations of international law. But Assad still purportedly used these several times against both rebels and innocent civilians in his own country.
The US/NATO coalition fighting the Afghan war and the Iraqi war took a hands off approach to what had now become a Syrian civil war. In the USA, with the exception of some hawkish extremist right wing folks who want to kill all foreigners everywhere, no one is in the mood for another American military action. Enough already, right?
Additionally, a number of bad policy decisions were carried out by the Bush administration: Torturing detainees after 9-11, public abuse and private torture of prisoners at the military prison at Abu Ghraib, Iraq, extraordinary rendition (kidnapping prisoners and sending them overseas to be tortured), and other crimes against humanity committed by Americans with authority These policies and actions, while no longer practiced, have all rendered the credibility of the USA a bit less than Sterling in the eyes of the world. Thus, were the USA to unilaterally bomb Syrian military assets in the name of protection of human rights, that might be seen cynically by many in the world. In fact, there was a warning about this every eventuality leveled by more enlighten folks back when those shameful actions were occurring. And although the USA now has a completely different administration, the actions of the previous administration don’t just disappear from the USA’s record. Nor should they.
Conscious of all these factors, the Obama administration has wisely delayed any action against the Assad regime in retaliation for violating global treaties against the stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. It knows it has to first provide proof that chemical weapons were used and also proof of who actually used them. Then it has to form a coalition of other like-minded countries to join in any military retaliatory action against the Assad regime. This must occur while circumventing the UN Security Council, because both Russia and China, whom have supported Assad in the past, are likely to veto any plan to attack the Assad regime in any way on the UN Security Council.
Finally, military action must be surgical, shift and effective, most likely in a single multinational strike that reduces or completely eliminates Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons in the future. It might even shut down his command ,control and communication capabilities as a signal to him.
It must NOT be about regime change. Simply attack and leave.
The Israelis have been doing this for years. We need to learn from them.
Just when you thought that the whole “birther” issue, which which right-wingers attempted to use against president Obama during his first term, was finally put to bed for all but the most extremist “Flat Earth” believers, it rears its ridiculously bejeweled head yet again. Only this time, “Birther, The Sequel” is none other than one of the Tea Party’s rising stars, ultra-conservative republican senator Ted Cruz from Texas.
Cruz, a first-term senator, took office in January 2013. He’s already made a name for himself by advocating shutting down the government by refusing to raise the debt ceiling by September 30, 2013, to force the total defunding of Obamacare. More moderate republicans have actually come out and publicly distanced themselves from Cruz’s government shutdown plan, since they are wise enough to understand that the first casualty in any such shutdown will be the republican party.
Cruz also opposes any from of gun control, same-sex marriage, and significantly, immigration reform. Thus, it’s fair to say that he is probably more right-wing than 95% of his own party’s senators and congressmen.
The birther issue actually began in modern times against Barack Obama, when some extremist put a story on the internet claiming that Obama’s middle name was “Mohammed”. Even after his birth certificate from Hawaii was released (the first time), other extremists began alleging that the certificate was false and that Obama was actually born in Kenya to a Kenyan father. That, they claimed, made Obama ineligible to run for president of the USA, because one must be a “natural born American citizen” to run for that office.
That Obama’s mother was an American was never disputed. That’s very important, as you’ll note further down.
As a fast-moving rising star among the most extremist right wing base of the GOP, Ted Cruz has already dropped hints about possibly (probably) running for president of the USA in 2016. Unfortunately for him and his plans, in what could be the most classic case of “what goes around comes around” within the past 100 years, it appears that certain entities, not the least of which are extremist right wingers, are raising questions about Ted Cruz’s eligibility to run for president.
You see…Ted Cruz was born in Canada, of a Cuban father and an American mother.
Once this became publicly known, ultra-right-wing author Ann Coulter and ultra-right wing gazillionaire Donald Trump made public statements alleging that Cruz is not a natural born citizen. As a result, he would not be eligible to become president of the USA. They claim that if Cruz was born in Canada, he cannot be a “natural-born citizen” of the USA..
Interestingly, John McCain, the republican presidential candidate in 2008, was born in the Panama Canal Zone, which, while under US control at the time, was still part of Panama. But McCain’s father and mother were both American citizens. As a result, and in accordance with the US constitution and federal law, John McCain was born an American citizen, making him “natural born”.
So let’s see: Ted Cruz: born in Canada; father Cuban; mother American.
Barack Obama: born in Hawaii, USA; father Kenyan; mother American.
But even if Obama was born in Kenya (as the lunatics still allege), wouldn’t he have then been in the same category as the ultra-right wing Cruz?
To be clear, constitutional scholars are unanimous that Cruz is a “natural born American citizen”. Thus, that would mean that Obama, EVEN IF he had been born in Kenya, would ALSO be a “natural born American citizen”. The key is that both of their mothers were American.
That Obama was actually and verifiably born in Hawaii renders the whole argument moot anyway….UNLESS you’re a member of the “Flat Earth Society” or another similarly illogical group…like republicans. But there is a certain poetic justice occurring here with Cruz…don’cha think?
But wait! There’s MORE!!!!
The film divisions (not the news divisions) of both NBC and CNN are producing what are described as biographical documentaries about Hillary Clinton. This has absolutely terrified the GOP because of the possibility (probability?…one can hope…) that Hillary might run for president in 2016. Consider that the GOP is presently waging civil war against itself, what with moderates like Chris Christie battling libertarians like Rand Paul. Both are battling ultra-conservatives (like Ted Cruz) who are sucking up to the more extreme fringes of the already fringe Tea Party. Against this backdrop Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus recently warned CNN and NBC that if they broadcast these Hillary Clinton biographies, the GOP will boycott both TV channels, excluding them from covering the 20 (or 100) 2016 republican presidential debates!
Yep! Priebus put his foot down. Those ultra-liberal press outlets won’t be allowed to broadcast the lunatic fringe debates to any swing voters who like those two TV stations!
Priebus’s message is clear: “Don’t can’t screw with the GOP!!!!”
You just can’t make this stuff up, folks.
The nation’s unemployment rate continues to improve. Obamacare has already saved lives and caused health care premiums to go DOWN in places such as New York State. The stock market continues to break new high records weekly. The housing market continues to improve by leaps and bounds. The deficit has been cut in half. American consumer confidence continues to rise.
All things considered, including the fact that all of this is happening during the second presidential term of a democrat, one might think that republicans would see the handwriting on the wall and realize that the GOP of President Dwight D. Eisenhower is probably where today’s republican party needs to go if it wants to remain relevant.
However, this is not your grandfather’s republican party. The group in control of the GOP, known as the Tea Party, is far different from anything that would have passed for republican 5o years ago. In fact, except for the racial extremism that had historically marked many elected officials from the deep south, this group 50 years ago would probably been identified as fascist infiltrators.
The Tea Party believes that both the federal government and taxes should be at an absolute minimum. They believe that there is no such thing as too much military or too much military spending, an exception to their “limited federal government” philosophy. They think that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other social safety net programs such as food stamps are nothing more than give-away programs that should be summarily eliminated. They realize that they could never accomplish such a thing in one fell swoop, so they propose “changes’, which are primarily focused on starving the programs to death and transferring whatever is left to private for-profit corporations.
And finally, they believe that unbridled, unregulated free market capitalists should be allowed to operate in any fashion they so desire. There should be no minimum wage laws because market forces can be depended upon to take care of that. There should not safety regulations, because that interferes with corporate profits, and interference with profits means less trickle-down gains (crumb’s actually) for the lower classes. There should be no limits on the harvesting of natural resources and no limits on corporate plans and deals. Again, the interference thing.
The Tea Party is also heavily populated by people who believe that there is no such thing as a separation of church and state. They believe that the 1st amendment to the US constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion does NOT mean that people are also guaranteed freedom FROM religion. As a result, they believe that their personal version of Christianity should be the major player in whatever government is still allowed to exist.
Over the past several years the Tea Party has consolidated political power primarily via the near-limitless funding of very large, wealthy corporations run by free market fanatics such as the Koch brothers. As a result, the more moderate factions within the republican party began to take these folks seriously. In fact, as the Tea Party’s power grew, they issued ultimatums to their fellow republicans to “tow the Tea Party line or else” face a primary challenge during the next election. For members of the US House of Representatives, elections come around every two years, so the threat of a primary challenge was urgent. Even members of the US senate facing re-election every 6 years consider threat very real.
Thus, since the mid-term elections of 2010, the Tea Party has become more and more reckless in their pursuit of “shrinking the government to a size that they can “drown in the bathtub“, as well as wrap their compacted government in their religious dogma To achieve their goals they formulated a war strategy, declaring:
- War on social safety net programs;
- War on the environment;
- War on renewable energy;
- War on progress;
- War on the poor;
- War on immigrants;
- War on students;
- War on minorities;
- War on Gays;
- War on Muslims;
- War on government;
- War on education;
And, lest we forget…
- War on Women.
The Tea Party has succeeded in having the US government’s credit rating reduced as a result of their idiotic debt ceiling debacle of 2011. Now they’re threatening a repeat when the US government faces a similar debt ceiling issue later in 2013.
However, while exuding overconfidence, the Tea Party has failed to acknowledge that many Americans, including traditional republicans, are fed up with their unrealistic ultra-conservative views. When Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) recently threatened another debt ceiling crisis to shut down the government unless the senate agreed to defund Obamacare, many republicans went on record emphatically stating this was a stupid idea.
Lee has since recanted (sort of) , but the handwriting is finally and clearly on the wall. The Tea Party’s new “War on republicans” brings within reach a turnover of power in the US House of Representatives in 2014 to democrats.
We’ll be watching…and hoping.
It’s the middle of July. Summer is half over. Millions are on vacation. For some unfathomable reason, some people seem to think that news reporting is on vacation as well. That’s no surprise since the George Zimmerman trial seems to be taking up ALL of the news channels’ daytime reporting these days.
Considering the mega-multichannel live TV coverage, one would think they were actually broadcasting the first human landing on Mars!
Those people are just relaxing in front of meaningless reality TV while becoming even less informed than they were before!
It is thus no surprise that the GOP and the religious right can convince so many people that their views on such things as that “hoax known as global warming” (caused, as many will attest, by same-sex marriage) and the God-given incapacity of women to make proper decisions about their own bodies, are correct. After all, isn’t determining who was on top of whom longer (Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman) more important than passing job legislation or funding cancer research? Or put another way, wouldn’t most people would rather watch lawyer-porn on TV than legislative debates and votes on C-SPAN?
There are approximately 13,000 murders in the USA every year. Within that context the fixation of many people with the Zimmerman murder trial over all others defies logical explanation. But while they’re hypnotized by the trial lawyers and witnesses talking in slow motion on their TVs, other events have been, and are, occurring which in the long run are much more important and impactful to life on planet Earth:
- Edward Snowden, the leaker of the NSA surveillance policies, may end up in Venezuela, which has offered him asylum;
- The pilots of Asiana 214, which crashed in San Francisco, claim they thought the auto-throttle was engaged to keep them from going too slow;
- New pro-gun-carrying laws have passed in several states, allowing, for instance, guns in bars!
- Texas democratic state senator Wendy Davis stopped the religious-right-wing Texas GOP from eliminating most abortion clinics in Texas…for now.
- The GOP successfully filibustered in the US senate today, blocking a democratic proposal to reverse the doubling of student loan interest rates.
- The GOP-controlled US House of Representatives will hold hearings claiming Obama cannot delay one provision of Obamacare (employer-provided health insurance) for a year. (!!)
Yeah, you read that right. The GOP is screaming that President Obama, whose executive branch of government oversees the implementation and enforcement of Obamacare, cannot delay enforcement of fines and penalties against any employer of 50 or more workers that does not provide health insurance to its employees. The delay was announced last week as a result of businesses complaining that they did not understand all the complexities in the law and therefore could not possibly comply with the initial January 2014 implementation date. The Obama administration accepted the complexity argument and agreed to a one-year delay in implementation of that complex provision. The GOP, smelling blood in the water, decided to attempt to embarrass the administration, claiming that the individual mandate provisions, which the US Supreme Court found to be constitutional last year, should also be delayed a year.
Of course, that one-year delay in the mandate would bring the nation past the next mid-term election in November 2014, during which the GOP hopes regain control of the senate while maintaining its majority in the House of representatives. If they succeed, they would vote in both houses to abolish Obamacare completely before it has been fully implemented. And although Obama would veto such a bill, the republicans would hope to override any such veto, or preserve the issue until the next presidential election in 2016.
If you’re wondering when the GOP-controlled house is going to pass immigration reform, or a jobs bill, or an infrastructure repair and rebuilding bill, or a realistic compromise budget, or the farm bill, wonder no more. The expectation that the house will do anything other than obstruct everything passed by the senate for the next 18 months is a sure bet. And why? Because the ultra-religious-right-wing base of the “new but not-improved” GOP demands absolutely NO compromise with democrats or even with the ever-shrinking number of moderates in their own GOP.
So while Americans sit glued to their TVs like crack addicts, watching the “Court TV for REAL” supplied all day long by all the major broadcast and news networks as though they were dealing crack, national and world events go largely unnoticed by the addicted masses and their suppliers. REAL news junkies are forced to plug into what remains of the news outlets: AP, BBC, Bloomberg, C-SPAN, and the international news outlets.
Shame on you, CNN. Shame on you, MSNBC. We expect this from HLN and Faux Noise, but watching the premier stations sink to this low level is disgusting.
Your program directors need to watch “The Newsroom” on HBO. Maybe then they’ll remember what’s important, and what isn’t, in the news.
Today’s “We, the PEOPLE!!“ was supposed to be about why the USA hasn’t got a leg to stand on when demanding that China, Russia or any other country we have verbally attacked on civil and/or human rights issues turn over Edward Snowden, the ex-CIA employee and private security employee who has severely damaged the USA’s intelligence gathering capabilities. Why? Because no one (internationally) is buying our “Do as we say, not as we do” reality.
But then the US Supreme Court (a.k.a, the Supremes) issued their intensely-awaited rulings on two ground-breaking case regarding same-sex marriage. The first was on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 (DOMA) which was passed by a republican congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, who has recently opposed that law. DOMA only recognized marriage as a legal contact between a male and a female human, denying same-sex couples over a thousand protections and benefits that opposite-sex married couples enjoy.
The second ruling regarded a California District Court ruling that struck down California’s 2008 proposition 8 (prop 8), which prohibited same-sex marriage in California.
In the first and most significant of the two, the Supremes, in a 5-4 decision, ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional because it violates the equal protection and due process clauses of both the 5th amendment to the US constitution, which states, in pertinent part: “No person shall be… deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law“;
…and more importantly the 14th amendment to the US constitution which states in pertinent part: “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…“
The Supremes have long held that these “due process” and “equal Protection of the laws”provisions of the 5th & 14th amendments guarantee that all citizens will be treated equal in all matters of law. Since marriage under government law is a matter of law, and the law must be equally applied among all citizens in accordance with the “due process” and Equla protection” provisions of amendments 5 & 14, the government cannot pass a law that causes a group of citizens to be discriminated against by being denied rights that every other American enjoys under these provisions.
The striking down of the DOMA law, which the Obama administration didn’t support in the first place and which the republicans in congress attempted to defend in the Supreme Court anyway, is a watershed moment in American jurisprudence. While this ruling only applied to the federal DOMA law, it is clear that any future challenge to any of the 32 anti-same-sex marriage state laws in the USA is likely to prevail. And if the challenge is properly framed before the Supremes, their ruling is likely to strike down ALL 32 anti-same sex marriage laws in one fell swoop.
The Supremes issued their second ruling on California’s prop 8. Prop 8 supporters, i.e., people who do NOT support same-sex marriage, were the plaintiffs. They challeneged a California District Court’s ruling that prop 8 violated both the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the United States Constitution.
The Supremes ruled that the plaintiffs in the case (supporters of prop 8) did not have legal standing to present the case, and the case was remanded back down to the decision by the California District Court that declared prop 8 unconstitutional. That accomplished two distinct goals: First, it automatically made the California District Court decision the standing decision, meaning that same-sex marriage is now legal in California. Second, it did not impact in any way the other 31 states that have anti-gay-marriage laws or state constitutional provisions.
Needles to say, pro-religion-in-government forces such as the fundamentalist Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, and everyone’s favorite hate-mongering lunatic bin, the Westboro Baptist Church are absolutely LIVID over this decision These extremist fundamentalist right-wing organizations have recently have been chipping away at a woman’s right to choose in numerous states. But now they must divert their attention and their resources to fighting what will surely be a further battle to strike down the direction of the Supremes in the DOMA and prop 8 decisions. The handwriting on the wall clearly says that this issue will be over in 5 years or less, and that those groups that are bent upon imposing their morality on the rest of us have got to be shaking in their flop-flops.
Additionally, there’s another dynamic in play here that doesn’t bode well for the anti-equality fundamentalists:
The under-30 crowd supports gay marriage 70%-25%. Someday they will be the only voters left standing.
When that happens it will suck to be you if you’re still a bible-thumper. Even more than it does now.
Every so often, an event cuts directly through the partisan political posturing endlessly practiced in congress….or at least it appears to cut through it on the surface. Just such an event recently occurred with the revealing of the years-long mega-data-mining of most of the telephone and internet records of ordinary Americans by the US National Security Agency (NSA).
This program is the evolution of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant-less secret government surveillance program which started after 9-11 by the Bush Administration along with the Patriot Act and other lesser known laws. The outing was an act perpetrated by a former employee of a secret NSA contractor. Edward Snowden, a high school dropout who never completed his full enlistment in the US Army, nor did he complete his computer courses at a community college, was nonetheless enough of a computer wiz to work his way up from being a security guard at the CIA into a US$200,000 job with a secret intelligence contractor. As such, he had access to computers, files, programs and other secret information about covert US intelligence activities. He also signed a non-disclosure clause and he would have taken an oath to never reveal any classified information.
Still, despite these conditions of his employment, he freely told an American reporter for the British newspaper “The Guardian” about the current data-gathering programs at the NSA, including the name of the phone company providing the data, and the extent of the email mining, which was more about who is emailing whom than the exact wording and content of every email.
Realistically neither the NSA nor any other organization could possibly read every email, nor listen to every telephone conversation in this country. It would be akin to trying to listen to every conversation occurring at every sports stadium everywhere, all at the same time.
Even though that level of eavesdropping is impossible, all surveillance programs carry issues and risks. For instance, assume that you called a doctor, and then a lab, and then a hospital and then your lawyer, and then a cab company. Even though no one had listened in on your conversation, just having the phone numbers of each place you called could tell a story about you being sick. That constitutes an invasion of privacy for most Americans.
Also bearing consideration is the fact that power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and we have already experienced episodes of government officials going beyond the law “in the interest of expediency and national security”. Nowhere was this more clear than when the Bush administration routinely bypassed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court again and again to listen in on phone conversations during the Iraqi war, claiming they “didn’t have time” to get the secret warrant from the FISA court as required by law.
There is no evidence that the Obama administration either has in the past or would in the future condone such a violation. But Obama leaves office in January 2017. What if the next administration is more in line with “Tricky Dick” Cheney’s view of world control than the kinder, gentler, more intelligent Obama?
There was some some good being done by this surveillance, though that’s now gone. Until the outing of this information, no one, including the terrorists who would destroy us, knew the extent to which we were capable of monitoring their communications activities. Obviously, now that they know, they’ll find ways around that, just as Osama Bin Laden operated off-grid for so many years.
And there is also an argument to be made that people have a right to know that their privacy is secure and protected in compliance with the fourth amendment to the US Constitution (protection against unreasonable search and seizure). thus, congress must devise comprehensive legislation based upon workable systems that guarantee privacy protection under penalty of law. And here is where the issue is at its most amusing:
Since Edward Snowden blew his cookies, the old adage that politics makes strange bedfellows was never more obvious or fun to watch.
Some democrats and republicans see nothing wrong with the NSA surveillance program and have called Snowden a traitor. Liberals like Diane Feinstein have joined with conservatives like John Boehner in this regard (a la sleeping with the enemy). Other very conservative republicans like Rand Paul have joined liberal democrats to praise Snowden as a hero (a la dancing with the stars). What’s not so evident is that as a group, the conservatives LOVE this issue because they hope it will stick to President Obama like flypaper. meanwhile, many democrats secretly LOVE that the conservative base of the GOP wants lots of government surveillance programs to protect against terrorists while HATING big government and background checks, proving that GOP’ers are hypocritical morons that can’t think straight.
In the end, it’s still business as usual at the funny farm… isn’t it?
In the wee hours of this morning (Wednesday, May 29th, 2013), Michele Bachmann the republican congresswoman from Minnesota’s 6th district since January 2007, announced via a 15-minute video posted (in the wee hours of the morning) on her web site that she won’t run for re-election in November 2014. That’s only 16 short months away.
She stated in her video that none of the difficulties she has encountered in the recent past had ANY impact on her decision. Nope. None of those issues, such as the pasting she got in her bid for the GOP presidential nomination, or the criticism of her endless inaccurate historical remarks, or the investigations she had to endure regarding shady campaign operations, or her total loss of mainstream credibility, or her claim that homosexuality is a “choice” that can be cured if gays will simply submit to her and her husband’s clinic for “prayer therapy”, or that the founding fathers abolished slavery, or that the FDA-approved HPV vaccine causes metal retardation…or the fact that she has the highest “Liar, Liar, Pants-on-Fire!” rating of anyone on politifact.com . Check it out. It’s well worth the click!
Nope. She based her decision no to run, so she says, solely on the fact that the US Constitution’s 22nd amendment limits the president to two terms, or eight years of service. Thus, Bachmann justifies her decision on the basis of an amendment that does not apply to her as a congresswoman.
Actually, the idea of term limits for congress seems particularly attractive in this hyper-partisan times. But it doesn’t exist yet, Michele.
Bachmann is an attractive woman who studied tax law in college and became a tax attorney. She became opposed to the American income tax code that is now more than 80,000 pages of lobbyist- and special-interest-promoted special exemptions. However, she chose the wrong road to correct the problem. For instance, instead of blaming GW Bush’s out-of-control spending on two unfunded wars and idiotic tax breaks for the rich when she was elected. she instead decided to eliminate as much government. That’s akin to the idea that if your child gets his clothes dirty while playing, we should ban all clothes and/or all playing.
Bachmann’s decision o not run is one of those rare actions that causes mixed feelings.
From the republican perspective, the credit/debit balance probably looks something like this:
On the minus side: Bachmann, was a lightening rod for ultra-extremist-religious-right-fundamentalist conservative issues, such as imprinting the bible verbatim onto the government. She was a founder of the Tea Party Caucus in the US House of Representatives, and believes that you don’t need proof or facts…only faith…to back your statements. She was very successful in galvanizing the ultra-extremist right-wing base of what used to be the republican party. But she repelled most mainstream republicans and almost all independents and undecided voters. At election time, it was a big liability that the republican party could do without, and their mostly invisible leadership knew it.
On the plus side: Bachmann was relentless in keeping the extreme right wing republican base intact.. She reinforced the concept that if you say something often enough or in front of the right audience (mostly EXTREME right), you’ll gain brownie points and increase your influence within the internal workings of the GOP. The base LOVED her and hung on her every word.
Interestingly, the democrats have similar mixed feelings about Bachmann’s planned departure, kind of in reverse. On the plus side, they see at least SOME possibility that a democrat can win her seat in 2014, After all, she barely won re-election in November 2012. Her opponent in that race claims he will run again for the seat in 2014. The hope is that with Bachmann gone, the democrat will have an easier time of it. Additionally, Bachmann was a pain in the ass congresswoman who would NEVER compromise on ANYTHING with congressional democrats. As a popular tea party lunatic, she brought all the congressional tea party loonies together. Good riddance, those democrats who were closest to her say.
In the minus column for democrats is that once she’s gone, they can no longer use her frequent idiot statements of untrue fantasy about the world around us to win support of the indecided voter. With her regularly spouted idiotic statements no longer reverberating, the dems will have to settle for the less frequent idiotic statements and proclamations of other less verbose congressional tea party conservatives for their political ammo. Without Michele’s wide-eyed diatribes on how the tooth fairy hates Obama, and in the process her casting a witch’s shadow on the credibility of the GOP, the dems will have that much less to demonstrate why the GOP is dangerous for the USA.
But the worst result of her departure is this: We, the PEOPLE!! won’t have her endless fodder to write about.
And that’s a real loss.
Over the past two weeks, the GOP-controlled US House of Representatives began hearings on the non-issue of the non-coverup regarding Benghazi. Additionally, we learned of the IRS targeting of tea Party groups seeking Tax-Exempt (TE) status, and witnessed the revelation that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) wiretapped phones of the Associated Press (AP) regarding a national security leak of secret information. Like the piranhas they are, the GOP smelled blood in the water.
Oh, and the stock market kept hitting new high points as if it was a nympho hooker in a a multiple orgasm contest (more on the stock market later).
The House of representatives also scheduled a vote to repeal Obamacare for the 37th time!!
Your American taxpayer tax dollars at work, courtesy of the “reduce spending” GOP.
But perhaps most significant for the future health and welfare of all Americans was Angelina Jolie‘s announcement yesterday that she had a double mastectomy in February as a preventative measure to reduce her extremely high risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer, which killed her own mother. Jolie made the decision to undergo the preventative procedure after undergoing a genetic test for a defective form of a pair of genes called BRCA 1 and BRCA 2. People with inherited defective BRCA 1 genes have an 87% risk of developing breast cancer, which is extremely high. By undergoing the double mastectomy, Jolie reduced her risk of contracting breast cancer to under 5%.
Jolie bravely decided to go public with this information in an Op-Ed in the New York Times the day before yesterday in an effort to save lives. It is a riveting narrative in her own words of what she went through and why. And she also reveals some extremely significant facts that make clear that all women are not equal under the present for-profit health insurance system in the USA. These facts also demonstrate how the monopolies run and nurtured by big corporations do not care who lives and who dies, as long as the profits keep rolling in. This is about as close to conservative ideology as one can get.
It turns out that the genetic test that Angelina Jolie submitted to is a blood test to determine whether or no one’s BRCA 1 and/or BRAC2 genes are normal or defective. The test is simple, but the cost is still $4000 per exam. The reason for the outrageous cost is that only one company has the patent to conduct the test on the BRCA 1 & 2 gene. That company is Myriad Genetics. The patent they hold has been legally challenged by, among others, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and is now in the US Supreme Court awaiting a decision.
What’s worse is that before Obamacare, many (if not most) health insurance companies would not cover the cost of this exam because it was considered “medically unnecessary” as most preventatives were. Obamacare has forced this companies to cover preventative services, much to the opposition of the republican party. After all, the GOP doesn’t believe that anyone unable to fork over $4000 to the monopolistic company which presently owns the test patent should be getting “free stuff”. They also believe that the free market should be allowed to operate without government regulation or interference of any kind. They see nothing wrong with Myriad Genetics patenting a blood test which probably costs perhaps $50 dollars to collect the blood sample and process the results, but charges $4000, for a profit of $3950 per test.
Poor people obviously cannot afford the test. But who wants poor people living next door, anyway? And besides, poor people don’t buy a lot of consumer products from rich people because the poor can’t afford that stuff. So who needs poor people anyway? They don’t even vote republican!
The truth is that republicans and their lunatic supporters are panicking over the prospect of Hillary Clinton running for president in 2016. Let’s face it: The continued witch-hunt over Benghazi is nothing more than an extremely thinly-veiled attempt to find something…ANYTHING…that they can use against her in 2016. Their only problem is timing. By 2016, this is going to be old news. Unless they can uncover premeditated criminal activity and/or gross negligence on Clinton’s part, it is going to play out like their prediction that the stock market would crash if Obama won a second term. And speaking of the stock market…
The GOP screamed repeatedly during the 2012 presidential election that big business and the economy would tank if Obama was re-elected. Couple that with the age-old advice about selling off your stocks in May. Now look at the stock market, which keeps banging out new high records day after day. Now ask the GOP to answer the following question:
Over the past two weeks the world bore witness to the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombings, the death of one bomber and the capture of another. Additionally, the world witnessed the collapse of a known defective factory complex in Bangladesh which killed more than 300 and perhaps as many as 500 workers, simply and obscenely because the factory owners refused to heed the clear warnings by government inspectors to close the building, and instead ordered their employees to show up for work.
These and other sudden shocks to the global human psyche over the past two weeks diverted attention away from more mundane issues such as the insane budget sequester that the USA committed upon itself. it seems that the (former) “government of the people” is now largely controlled by the same interests that are responsible for the Bangladesh disaster…the very rich and very powerful capitalist for-profit corporate folks.
Capitalism, properly regulated, is a very good economic system with some very desirable characteristics. But unregulated/unbridled capitalism has the potential to create very wealthy and powerful owners and very impoverished, endangered and abused workers. Capitalism alone, unconcerned with safety inspections, is responsible for the factory collapse in Bangladesh and the resulting deaths.
The GOP, having been kidnapped by the Tea Party, espouses the concept that the more breaks and perks they give to the very wealthy and powerful, the better off everyone will be. Thus, the GOP refuses to allow taxes to rise on the very wealthy and powerful, not even to the point that their percentage of tax paid would equal that of the average middle-class wage earner. In a way, the GOP is correct: The more they protect the very wealthy and powerful from a tax increase, the better off the GOP and its elected officials will be. And why?
Because the very wealthy and powerful repay their GOP minions with huge political campaign contributions, which they then get to write off their taxes as a business expense, further decreasing their tax burden!
Armed with this knowledge of basic math, one can understand (and still disagree with) the stubborn “no more taxes on the very wealthy and powerful” stance that the GOP stands by, which resulted in the sequester. More precisely, $85.4 billion in across-the-board meat-cleaver budget cuts went into effect in March, but weren’t really felt by anybody until April. And during that interim, the GOP kept claiming that no one would even notice the cuts. They gloated about their victory in reducing government spending. That is, until the GOP started to suffer themselves, or more precisely, their very wealthy and powerful masters started to suffer because of sequestration.
You see, the very wealthy and powerful frequently fly. They need to attend meetings in the Cayman Islands (where the bulk of their money lives) and elsewhere, after all. Some own their own corporate jets, while others are perfectly content to fly commercial airlines (first-class, of course; however, it is a myth that first-class that passengers arrive at their destinations sooner than passengers in coach, but don’t tell them!). Nonetheless, whether in corporate jets or commercial airliners, ALL planes flying in the US National Airspace System must be controlled and kept safe by Air Traffic Controllers, who are generally staffed to traffic demands.
The proper number of Air Traffic Controllers working to keep all those airplanes full of the very wealthy and powerful safely separated was reduced because of sequestration, which forced a 10% reduction in Air traffic Controller staffing nationwide. That translated roughly into a 10% drop in airspace capacity on each air route. This caused 10% of aircraft to be delayed as demand increased at 8am. That multiplied throughout the day until during afternoon or evening rushes, the delays were now be 3 hours or more at busy airports. Three hour delays are unacceptable to the very wealthy and powerful.
The very wealthy and powerful duly complained to their GOP (and even some democrat) congresspeople. In a bizarre act of bipartisanship, congress overwhelmingly passed legislation granting the US Secretary of Transportation the power to restore full funding to end the air traffic controller furloughs so that the very wealthy and powerful could return to their normal schedules and flight arrival times. Nice.
Of course, this primarily benefited the frequently flying very wealthy and powerful and their congressional tea baggers, who astutely left Washington DC immediately after passing this excuse for legislation. They had no concern for, nor did they fix, the locked-out project Head Start kids, or the unemployed, or seniors dependent upon “Meals on Wheels” or countless other “people” programs that the very wealthy and powerful and their congressional puppets have no use for.
After all, a poor, destitute, hungry unemployed senior or a pre-schooler can’t possibly provide them anything like the political campaign contributions of gazillions of dollars, endlessly flowing from the very rich and powerful like a supercharged sewer pipe on steroids during a flood.
Today (April 10, 2012) is a good day to watch the United States Congress. It is about to put on a show that has all the trapping of a hit film epic:
Twists and turns;
And of course, Hollywood’s best device to capitalize on maximum profits,
The senate will be voting tomorrow on opening debate on a gun control bill that makes already-existing federal background checks on gun purchasing from licensed gun dealers universal to all gun sales. The legislation exempts gun transfers to friends and relatives.
Congress will also be exploring the president’s budget proposal which includes some modest (and unpopular) adjustments to Social Security and Medicare, in exchange for closing tax loopholes used by huge corporations and very wealthy private citizens. it also includes an increase in taxes for the very wealthy who typically pay a lower income tax rate (typically 15% or less) than their middle class employees making 100 times LESS than these gazillionaires.
The gun background check legislation is backed by perhaps 90% of Americans, and yet has a less than total chance of passage in the senate. Even assuming that it does pass the senate, it’s destiny in the GOP-controlled US House of Representatives is even LESS secure. The reason for this are multiple, but perhaps the biggest problem is that corporate America is slowly but surely “buying” control of the US government through super-pacs and campaign contributions.
There are democrats from conservative states that will face a re-election challenge in 2014 if they vote for the background checks from GOP candidates financed by these corporate-funded super-pacs. Equally, some republicans in the House face a challenge in the form of a forced primary election campaign against a very-well financed tea party candidate. Either way, corporate America, which make huge profits on everything from oil to guns to ammo to drugs to insurance to banks to power generation, etc. will line the moneybags of the super-pacs with endless massive funding for folks willing to promote their “Profits before safety…ANY safety” agenda.
President Obama took a VERY bold (and for him, a very dangerous) step by proposing a budget that addresses how yearly cost of living allowances are calculated. He proposed a long-sought-after GOP idea to tie the yearly annuity CPI increase to a “chained” Consumer Price Index (CPI), instead of the standard CPI. This “chained” CPI” is a mathematical calculation device invented for the sole purpose lowering CPI payments. It’s premise is that as certain consumables increase in cost, seniors will simply find cheaper substitutes, or not buy them at all.
Conservatives say that the present CPI is not realistic because seniors don’t buy a lot of what the CPI is based on. And while there may be some truth to that, the “chained” CPI is even LESS realistic because seniors on social security are probably already buying the cheapest items they need. Liberals point out that certain important items such a housing, medications and medical equipment are not realistically available in “cheaper” brands.
Thus Obama, in one fell swoop, has managed to piss off people on both extreme sides of the aisle, which begs the question: Why would Obama, who is an intelligent man, do such a thing?
The answer to that question might be strategic genius on his part. First, he has placed reductions in spending on programs like social security and medicare are on the table as long as tax increases on the very rich are also there. Second, he demonstrates that his proposals favor neither conservatives nor extreme liberals, thus showing his balanced approach. Both work in his favor and against extremism.
But what is most likely is that he and his advisers realize that there is absolutely no way republicans in either the senate or the house will accept any new taxes on the wealthy, nor the closing of obscene and insane loopholes that only the very wealthy corporations and gazillionaires enjoy at the expense of the rest of the country. By showing that he is willing to compromise and upset the most liberal arm of his own party, while republicans STILL say “no way!”, sets republicans up as extremists, and that fact can be politicalyl exploited during the 2014.
Remember that EVERY congressperson in the House is up for reelection next year, and if the GOP still looks as extremist, big-business-oriented and anti-middle class as the Ryan budget is, and as many Americans thought they were during the 2012 presidential elections, they may well lose control of the House and their filibuster capabilities in the senate in 2014.
So…if this is the real Plan behind the Plan, it will be akin to providing enough rope to the GOP to hang themselves. Or put another way, they will screw themselves to death. Either way, it’s got what every great movie has….violence and sex.
Ya gotta love it…..
Yesterday and today (March 27, 2013) the US Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases regarding same-sex marriage and its subsequent legal benefits.
The first case was a challenge by a coalition of anti-gay rights groups including private citizens and religious institutions from California. They are challenging the striking down as unconstitutional California’s 2008 Proposition 8 by a US Appeals Court. “Prop 8″ was voted in by a majority of California voters in 2008. It amended the California state constitution to ban marriage between same-sex couples. California state officials refused to oppose the striking down of the ban, so the aforementioned coalition led the challenge to the Supreme Court.
Based upon the questions raised by the Supremes when listening to the arguments yesterday, many expert observers believe that the court will attempt to stealthily slide away from a strong national all-encompassing decision one way or the other. Instead, it is possible that the court will either rule that the pro-ban plaintiffs, being private groups, have no standing to present their challenge, which will let stand the lower appeal court decision of unconstitutionality, or they may narrowly rule in some other way that only affects California.
The second case involves a challenge to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act . The operative portion of this federal law states that the federal government only recognizes man-woman marriages for any and all legal purposes and benefits, such as tax issues, estate issues and so forth. Fully eight appeal courts have already found that provision of the law to be unconstitutional.
This case (United States vs. Windsor) is unusual because the US Department of Justice (DOJ), which would normally be defending the law, actually now also agrees that the law is unconstitutional. Bizarrely, a little-known group called the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the GOP-controlled US House of Representatives (BLAG) has petitioned to defend the constitutionality of DOMA before the Supremes.
The expert observers believe that DOMA has a better chance of being overturned by the Supremes as being unconstitutional. In fact, it is even possible that they may also rule that BLAG has no standing to present arguments in favor of DOMA.
That would be a blow to the GOP in general and the ultra-conservative base of the GOP in particular. Through BLAG, the GOP-controlled US House of Representatives has put the US government in the bizarre position of both defending and opposing DOMA. This agenda was pushed by the socially conservative religious far right wing base of the republican party. They are the same folks who are largely responsible for lunatic laws like the one recently passed and signed in North Dakota against a woman’s right to choose abortion once her fetus reaches six weeks or when a heartbeat can be detected (whichever occurs sooner), which in many cases is before many women even know they are pregnant. Such repressive laws spring up wherever the extreme religious right can muster a majority of votes in state legislatures. That has a tendency to occur in states with a high proportion of rural white residents, such as North Dakota.
The bad news for the GOP is that according to the latest polls, 53% of Americans support gay marriage:
Put another way, at least 53% of Americans DO NOT support the traditional religious definition of one man-one woman marriage ONLY. And more bad new for the GOP’s base: Only22% support the Tea Party movement!
The Supremes are divided between between 4 conservative justices and four liberal justices, with one justice, Anthony Kennedy, considered the swing decider in many 5-4 decisions. Still, despite the questions they ask of petitioners via oral arguments in open court, the nine justices meet in private and discuss the cases they hear. They seem to be able to work together even if they ultimately will disagree on the final decision they issue forth. And as the third branch of the US government, they co-exist with the other two branches. One never hears of the Supremes bashing the administration or each other.
On the other hand, the GOP congress bashes everyone and everything that disagrees with them. Consider the following GOP war list:
War on women;
War on gays;
War on immigrants;
War on atheists;
War on all non-Christian religions;
War on government;
War on unions;
War on public employees;
War on minority voters;
War on the environment;
War on regulations;
War on infrastructure;
War on taxes;
War on science;
War on logic;
War on minority voters;
And, of course, war on the first US African-American president.
It is therefore easy to imagine that if the Supremes rule in favor of gay marriage, even in a limited way, and/or find DOMA unconstitutional, the GOP will want to get even with those who decided to legislate from the bench, a.k.a. those “activist judges”. So get ready to watch their
War on the Supremes!
The big wait and suspense are now over. The new pope has been elected by the cardinals in their conclave in Rome. Archbishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who now becomes pope Francis I.
The key to the future of the Roman Catholic Church, from the point of view of the cardinals who elected him, seems to be that Francis I has just the right combination of humility, experience and outsider characteristics to rescue the church from itself, i.e., the church-wide revelations of clergy sexual abuse of children, the violation of celibacy in general, the internal cover-ups and corruption, and the fact that most of the world’s catholics pick and choose which rules church rules to follow and which to ignore.
Whatever Francis I’s best intentions are, he is doomed to failure.
He will not fail immediately and not everywhere at the same pace. But regardless of the fact that he is a Jesuit and has lived a lifestyle more in tune with his followers than with the luxurious lifestyle of those at and above his level in the church hierarchy, he is still committed to some of the oppressive church mandates, such as opposing contraception and same-sex marriage, or even gay relationships. This means that regardless of any reforms he would be apt to institute within the church, these two most prevalent and invasive rules will probably have zero chance of being reformed.
There are several other factors which must considered when evaluating the chances for real modernization (and thus survival) of one of the world’s largest and most structured organizations. One of those is that the Roman Catholic Church, like so many large global corporations, is replete with people who have risen the corporate ladder based upon their skills and their desire for greatest status (and the personal power that comes with that). It is a human characteristic that the achievement of power and status begats a desire to achieve more power and status. As such, it also triggers a desire to protect the power and status that already exists. Some might call this politics.
The church hierarchy has been solidifying its power and status for centuries. That hierarchy is made up of individual members doing the same thing. It is a self-propagating process. Thus, the hierarchy, as a group as well as individuals, has no motivation to see such radical change acceptance of birth control and same-sex relationships instituted. Those radical shifts in basic church dogma would have unpredictable consequences in the minds of the church movers and shakers. It would definitely shake up the status quo, something that the self-protective church hierarchy would probably fear more than death.
In that same vein, as more and more people come forward with allegations of having endured sexual abuse by church clergy, the church has been extremely reticent about opening up its vast store of documents relating to clergy sexual abuse. Some believe that the documents would reveal a culture of abuse and church coverup and tacit acceptance spanning the entire 2000 year existence of the church. Through unacceptable to many who believe in justice and disclosure, at least one can understand why the church would guard this information to prevent the erosion of its influence and power. Thus, the less of the political evils for the church hierarchy is to endure the criticism and potential loss of membership over time, as opposed to being revealed as a corrupt, sex-starved, abusive, money-hungry egocentric group that has committed countless crimes against humanity.
Deeper still is the root cause of this abuse and subsequent coverup: vows of celibacy, which defy and deny normal human sexuality, and the refuse to provide equal status to women in all aspects of the church and its structure. This is akin to telling a dieter that he can only eat spinach and broccoli for the rest of his life while being continuously exposed to the wonderful aroma of steak grilling next door, every day. Sooner of later, many (most?) people in that situation will weaken and seek to bite into that Filet Mignon.By denying the human sexual drive, the church set itself up long ago for deviant behavior caused by its deviant celibacy vow. That led to the ignoring of the vow, which result in the church first ignoring the defiance, then accepting it and covering it up, until it hit a critical mass a few years ago.
Despite the church’s massive wealth and investments, it cannot forever endure the continuing loss of members and their financial support. if the church cannot truly modernize and soon, it may go the way of those dinosaurs that Adam & Eve rode around on.
After all, even the church agrees that no dinosaurs exist today. So maybe there is yet hope.
But don’t count on it.