Archive for the ‘Political Game-Playing’ Category

Hostage Taking As Standard Practice

April 15th, 2011 1 comment

It’s only been 100 days since the Republicans took the House? It already feels like it’s been more than a year. Geez, this is gonna be a long term.

We’ve already been through a protracted budget crisis where Republicans threatened to shut down government if they didn’t get their spending cuts. It sure sounded like the Dems caved, big-time. But now we’ve been hearing more of the details, and it looks like about half of the cuts were things that were going to be cut anyway–unused census money, for example–and the real cuts are $14.7 billion, not $38.5 billion. Another estimate has the real cuts being only a few hundred million, but that factors in increased war spending, which, if I am not mistaken, Republicans fought to get passed anyway.

Still, we went through a period in which the GOP used a threat of high-powered destructive action–shutting down the federal government–as a means to pressure for what they wanted.

Next up? The debt limit. Which, if not raised, could lead to far more dire circumstances for the nation. Republicans are saying they’ll refuse to cooperate unless they get to attack more Democratic programs.

It’s like being in a car driven by a petty, whining madman who threatens to drive off a cliff every time he doesn’t get to play the song he wants on the radio or stop at the restaurant he wants to–and you get the very strong feeling that he would drive off that cliff, he’s just that freaking crazy.

Is this going to be the norm from now on? Republicans refusing to go along with every major piece of business that could cause major disruption, as a way of getting stuff they want? Because that’s gonna get old real fast, and harder and harder each time to blame on the other guys.

Same Old Same Old

April 10th, 2011 3 comments

The parties are really showing their stripes.

Obama opens by asking for $40 billion in new spending.

Republicans counter by asking for $32 billion in cuts, almost entirely from programs favored by the left.

The Democrats, naturally, compromise.

The compromise: $38.5 billion in cuts. Defense, where waste is greatest, got increased spending.

After the deal, Republicans whine that it’s not enough.

Why does this all sound so familiar?

They REALLY Want a Shutdown

April 8th, 2011 3 comments

Just to punctuate the fact that Republicans really want to shut down the government so they can try to blame the Democrats and have a handy excuse for not accomplishing anything after winning the House, we have the fact that Republicans are lacing the budget with poison pills: take away all federal funding for Planned Parenthood and completely dismantle government regulation of pollution through the EPA, allowing corporations to pollute freely. The abortion riders would defund all family planning at the federal level as well as impact other women’s health programs, and the EPA riders look like a Christmas list for big-time polluters.

This would be like the Democrats attaching riders to rename Reagan Airport and remove any mention of God from U.S. currency. In other words, the GOP knows full well that Democrats–even if they did cave completely on the spending cuts–would still never vote for this bill.

It’s not that the GOP isn’t trying; they are trying–to force a shutdown. The Republicans don’t want the Democrats to agree, and they absolutely want the shutdown to happen.

Even more evidence: the latest emergency resolution to keep government funding going for another week contains $12 billion in spending cuts not germane to the extension, essentially parceling out extra cuts Republicans want in exchange for avoiding a shutdown. Again, a poison pill.

And again, proof that Republicans don’t want to solve anything, they just want every opportunity to say it’s the Democrats’ fault.

We have to create a new adjective: republican. As in, “I can’t believe that he embezzled five million dollars from the charity and then blamed it on that nun. That was so republican.”

Or, a phrasal verb–to “go republican,” as in to “go postal,” e.g.: “Little Jimmy went republican yesterday, taking the ball home in a whining fit so no one could play, and blamed everyone else for it, including the cat. And it wasn’t even his ball.”

Join in. What sentences would best exemplify these new terms?

On Credibility

April 4th, 2011 2 comments

The conservative think tank in Michigan which joined with the Wisconsin Republicans in intimidation attempts against college faculty is reporting bomb threats against them:

The Mackinac Center For Public Policy — the conservative-leaning think tank in the news this week after it requested emails from Michigan labor studies professors regarding Wisconsin and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow — says it has called in the FBI after receiving a series of threatening voicemails that promised to bomb their Midland, Michigan headquarters.

“You are on Main Street,” one of the voicemails said, according to details posted on the Mackinac website. “You are the first place to be bombed.”

If authentic, then the bomb threats are indeed vile, no matter who they came from.

The thing is, I don’t buy it. Oh, I am sure there are those on the leftist fringe who could certainly do such things. However, considering the calls for “false flag” operations and the rather strong attempts by the right wing to create the impression that left-wingers in general and teacher unions specifically are violent, I would not be surprised in the least if this were indeed orchestrated by the conservatives to give themselves some free publicity and give liberals and teachers both a black eye at the same time.

Again, it could be authentic, but the language is just a little too over the top:

[A] female was quoted as saying the following in one of the messages: “Scotty Walker is dead. So are you. We know where you live.” The woman then recited the Mackinac Center’s address and said, “We are coming up to destroy you.” …

In another message, the Capitol Confidential article stated the woman said: “We are going to destroy everybody. We are going to destroy all of you. All of you die. Midland, Michigan. Get ready. We are going to destroy all of you.”

Usually I would not question stuff like this. But the current right-wing efforts in the Midwest simply have lost all credibility, and I would not put anything past them. And I think that needs to be said. By all means, have the police investigate and necessary precautions taken.

But keep your hands on your wallet. These people deserve protection without question, but not our unquestioning faith in their sincerity.

Categories: Political Game-Playing Tags:

Disenfranchising Democrats

March 8th, 2011 5 comments

Republicans these days seem to have no shame when it comes to attempts to outright ban Democrats from voting. There have been a large number of scams, from dishonestly padded “felons lists” to far more devious “caging” scams. On a larger scale, they have successfully attacked organizations like ACORN, which help get lower-income Americans registered to vote, and, using fake voter-fraud claims, have tried to institute “voter ID” laws which coincidentally cause far more Democrats to not vote. Voting machines made by corporations vowing to do whatever it takes to get Republicans elected have shown the tendency to make “errors” which just happen to heavily favor Republican candidates. Republicans have even made public statements about suppressing the Democratic vote.

Anyone who pays attention to these stories knows that this is not a side game, a sometimes thing, or just a practice of people on the fringe: illicitly attempting to disenfranchise voters on the basis that they are Democrats is very much a mainstream Republican sport–and one certainly does not hear much from people on the right in protest of these actions.

Now, in New Hampshire, the state legislator is taking yet another new spin on this right-wing pastime. The Republican state House speaker, William O’Brien, wants to limit the ability of young people to vote, because all too often, he claims, they do so “foolishly”–that is, they vote Democratic:

“Voting as a liberal. That’s what kids do,” he added, his comments taped by a state Democratic Party staffer and posted on YouTube. Students lack “life experience,” and “they just vote their feelings.”

This he told a Tea Party gathering–and it’s not just talk. There are bills going through the New Hampshire legislature which would use college and other residency situations common to young voters to keep them from the ballot boxes.

I am serious when I ask, how long will it be when it becomes so blatant that someone will claim that voting Democratic is a sign of mental instability, and will want to disenfranchise voters on those grounds? I am sure that some on the right-wing fringe already do so, but how long until a politician starts venting along those lines? O’Brien’s rant is dangerously close to exactly that.

Going on Full Offensive

February 27th, 2011 3 comments

Emboldened by advances made in many areas, and feeling the wind at their backs, Republicans at the state level are letting go with rapid fusillades against Democrats. Republicans across the country are attempting to decimate unions while empowering corporations. Controlling an unusually large number of state houses, they fully intend to gerrymander the crap out of their states, while instituting measures like voter-ID laws, purported to combat imaginary voter fraud while actually designed to keep Democrats away from the voting booth.

This is not just campaigning for a candidate or a party. It’s not just trying to spin news or events. It’s an attempt to abuse political power and the law itself to grab power, to disenfranchise and cut the legs out from under people who believe differently so power can be maintained by a minority.

Meanwhile, on Fox News, they are panting with fear at the massive crowds in places like Wisconsin; they would be cheering American spirit were they Tea Partiers, but now the sheer number of people who are pissed to no end scares the piss out of them.

Almost comically, they make the comparison to Egypt–as if it is a bad thing–and yet somehow miss the commonality that can be applied best to the comparison: that people can be abused so much that they eventually stand up and say, “no more.” Particularly they miss the part about who is being the hated dictatorial abusers.

Playing for Politics

February 24th, 2011 3 comments

In what amounts to a brazen political attack at a Democratic base, Wisconsin Republicans are trying to incapacitate the teacher’s unions. They claim that it is about balancing the budget, but that claim is pretty much pure BS. Stripping the unions of their collective bargaining rights will not even come close to solving the state budget crisis; instead, the worst culprits, according to Business Week, are “anticipated Medicaid expenses and a court-ordered repayment to a fund that was raided four years ago.” Additionally, Gov. Walker proposes another big chunk–$117 million–to be given to businesses in the form of a tax cut. Somehow, cutting the direct stream of revenue will increase revenue, but paying a fair wage to workers who directly spur business and pay money back in taxes is a revenue-killer.

Meanwhile, despite determined efforts to demonize the unions and frighten a gullible public into viewing them as lazy, greedy, and destructive, public support for the unions is surprisingly solid–a fact which Fox News, of course, shamelessly lies about.

This is not about balancing the budget. Walker and the Republicans are not doing what would be necessary to accomplish that–quite the opposite. This is 100% political. It’s about cutting the legs out from under one of the Democrat’s only remaining base constituencies–workers–while shoveling the state more into debt by further engorging a Republican constituency–business. Walker believes that he’s a Republican hero, setting a trend that will spark a nation-wide conservative revolution. When asked if he would back off on the unions if they agreed to pay cuts, he said no–this is not about money, this is about political support and power bases.

As if to punctuate that, Walker–who is not easy to reach by phone–accepted a prank phone call by a blogger claiming to be infamous billionaire and Tea Party funder David Koch. Walker spent twenty minutes on the call, during which he explained how he planned to lie to Democratic lawmakers, tricking them to coming back so he can ram through his budget. The call also highlighted Walker’s cozy relationship with big business in his state, ending with Walker showing enthusiasm at the suggestion that Koch would treat him to a vacation in Cali after Walker succeeds with his plans.

Because the Lefties Are So Violent

February 8th, 2011 1 comment

You know that someone is definitely playing games with this one:

Former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was scheduled to speak at an event for a Colorado nonprofit group May 2, but the event was canceled the day after it was announced due to “an onslaught of personal attacks” against Palin.

Palin was to speak at the Patriots & Warriors Gala at the Infinity Park Event Center in Glendale, Colo., which was billed as an awards banquet and fundraiser for military families in need and for a grief camp for children who had lost loved ones in combat.

Now, from reading that, it sounds as if they announced the event, with Palin as the headliner, but then were deluged with angry emails and death threats. Certainly that is how right-wing “news” sites are running with the story. However, if one continues reading:

But the event, sponsored by the Sharon K. Pacheco Foundation, was canceled Saturday, a day after it had been announced to the media. A press release posted on the sponsoring organization’s Facebook page reads, “Due to an onslaught of personal attacks against Gov. Palin and others associated with her appearance, it is with deep sadness and disappointment that, in the best interest of all, we cancel the event for safety concerns.”

The press release goes on to say that no direct threats were made against Palin, nor were any made against members of the organization’s staff, but in light of the shooting rampage in Arizona last month, the negative rhetoric “raises concern for her safety and the safety of others despite the call for civility in America.”

“The organization deeply respects Sarah Palin,” reads the release, “and appreciates her willingness to come and honor our military. The organization plans to host the event at some point in the future, featuring another speaker.”

In short, there were no threats. The claim is that they were concerned about her security because of the pre-existing tone of criticism against Palin since the Arizona incident. Which, of course, is BS–if that were the case, they wouldn’t have booked her in the first place.

I looked up the “Sharon K. Pacheco Foundation,” and had a very hard time finding anything. While they do have a web site (“Supporting Military Families & At-Risk Youth”), but it is a flash site on Wix under the name “LP Enterprises,” and is “currently under revision.” A Google search reveals very little. HuffPo describes the organization as a “faith-based foundation” (their graphic reads “For God and Country”) founded in 2002. Their Facebook page (Google cached here and here) won’t come up, maybe taken down for some reason.

So, what the heck is up with this? Palin is not known for making appearances for free and the Pacheco Foundation does not seem to be the kind of organization that could afford her. It would seem odd that an organization which would appear to arrange local toy drives and such would make what seems to be a blazing political game-playing move and then yank itself off the web.

So why cancel the engagement so suddenly with an announcement which sounds like it was written by a rookie spin doctor on Palin’s staff?

It is pointed out in the news stories that the date for the engagement conflicted with a planned NBC/Politico Republican presidential primary debate at the Reagan Presidential Library in California. Which suggests that the Pacheco Foundation may have jumped the gun in publicizing the engagement–and then Palin’s people got angry and told them to roll it back, demanding that the foundation give the bogus press release, forwarding Palin’s idiotic PR stance that she is in mortal peril from left-wingers.

Another explanation is evidenced in a Denver Post political blog:

Further examination of the organization’s tax records show a nonprofit that had barely collected any money over the past five years — raising only $1,000 in 2008 and having net assets of only $2,204 in 2009.

The Palin event had been announced a month ago on the organization’s Facebook page. The $185-per-person tickets had gone on sale Jan. 16.

On Jan. 30, the website offered a $15 off deal. And on Wednesday the organization had slashed tickets in half.

Friday, a press release went out to media outlets to announce the Palin appearance. The Denver Post ran a story about the event in Saturday’s newspaper. Later on Saturday, the event was canceled due to “threats.”

Calls to area authorities on Saturday found that no threats were reported to law enforcement agencies from the organization.

This makes it look like the event simply couldn’t sell enough tickets, with again the same results in how the press release got made.

I swear, if Palin gets past even the earliest hurdles of nomination in the GOP, it will be the mother of all jump-the-shark moments for the Republican Party.

Categories: Political Game-Playing Tags:

I’m “Afraid” They Do

January 15th, 2011 1 comment

I was just looking over some old posts, and stumbled across this from 2004:

But it is a classic political weapon, used down the ages. Make the people afraid, and then tell them you are the one who can save them. … Fear is not only a weapon, it is perhaps the most powerful weapon that can be used in politics.

I was referring to the “terror alerts” that the Bush administration regularly issued throughout the election in order to push up Dubya’s numbers in the polls and to deflate Kerry whenever he was due for a bump. Strange that all of those alerts turned out not leading to anything. And we all remember how, after Bush won the election, we rarely saw any terror alerts again.

I mean, that couldn’t have been a trick, now could it have? Oh, of course not–conservatives would never think of using some scare tactic purely to make people vote for them?

It’s not as if there was a huge scare about some sort of terror mosque being built near Ground Zero that was all over the news last year but then we never heard about it again once the election was over.

No, conservatives never use fear tactics. Just like they never use violent imagery or suggest gun violence is a way to handle political disputes.

Saying It but Not Doing It

January 7th, 2011 1 comment

There’s a rule of thumb which says that the more loudly something is claimed the more likely it’s not true. Fox News is an excellent example, making the loudest claims about how objective it is.

This applies just as appropriately to Republicans in the House, who carried out a big grandstanding stunt by reading the Constitution aloud, in essence implying that it was being ignored by Democrats, and that Republicans were committed to carrying out the letter of the law, all part of their larger movement to emphasize how they are all about rules and order. Following the rule of thumb, one can assume that the implied message is indeed not true.

It did not take long for evidence of this to materialize. Two Republican House members–including the chairman of the Rules Committee himself–participated in debate and votes in committee without being sworn in. Not only against the rules, but against the Constitution itself. Apparently they were too busy reading the Constitution to actually bother to follow the document’s rules. This put them in the embarrassing position of going to the Democrats–specifically, Nancy Pelosi–to beg for an agreement to let the whole incident be ignored by agreement so the GOP could ram through it’s pathetic attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act sooner, without having to take the time to follow the rules properly. (One does not have to guess what the Republican’s answer would be were their positions reversed.)

All this as Republicans get on another grandstanding high horse, reducing the budget deficit–as if they are all about reduction and Democrats are about ballooning it. This just weeks after they forced a 2-year extension on tax cuts for the rich which will cost us a hundred or two billion, with the full GOP intent of making those cuts permanent–even though a majority of Americans see raising taxes on wealthy people as the most popular way to reduce the deficit.

How else are Republicans going to “reduce” the deficit? By trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. The problem: the CBO says that doing so will actually inflate the deficit to the tune of $230 billion, and will only get more expensive as time goes on and the ten-year cost-saving estimate of the act begins to encompass more of the money-saving that will come at the far end of that estimate. Republicans predictably responded by calling the CBO estimate an “opinion” while couching the name of the ACA in the obligatory right-wing “job-killing” epithet.

Oh, and the Constitution reading which was ignored by Republicans themselves? That cost about $1.1 million. Not to mention all the time wasted in the health care repeal legislation that they know will just be killed in the Senate or vetoed by the president.

If the Republicans were actually interested in cutting costs, they should have immediately worked to fix a budget error, caused by the Republican obstructionism last year, that forces NASA to spend $475 million on a rocket they don’t need. But that would mean actually doing work that means something, rather than pulling PR stunts that play well to their base.

So, good job, Republicans, in showing the American public exactly how wasteful and stupid you all are.

Republicans Try to Shoot Down START

December 20th, 2010 6 comments

Despite the fact that five former Republican secretaries of state–Powell, Kissinger, Shultz, Baker, and Eagleburger–as well as George H. W. Bush are all on record as saying that the new START treaty is good and will make the world safer, Republicans in the Senate are making sounds about voting down the treaty.

Why? According to Mitch McConnell:

Republican senators are “uneasy” about the treaty, and trying to get a vote before Christmas was not the best way to “get the support of people like me,” McConnell said.

He makes it sound like this was just suddenly thrown at the Senate and they’re flustered about whether or not it’s good enough. Despite having had eight months since the treaty was signed to study the treaty, 18 Senate committee hearings (12 by the Foreign Relations Committee), dozens of witnesses, thousands of questions asked, a National Intelligence Estimate, and a State Department report and analysis all confirming that the treaty is sound and we should sign it. The former Republican president and five Republican secretaries of state endorsing the bill are just the cherry on top.

But Republicans don’t like the timing of how it’s being pitched to them. Bullshit. If they’re not fully briefed on the treaty, then it’s due to their own incompetence. What else?

Their main substantive objection is that the treaty would limit America’s ability to deploy missile defense systems. Ah, well that sounds important, and could be a real sticking point, right? Well, if the objections were based in reality, yes. Of course, they’re not–the Republican claims are thoroughly debunked here.

What Republicans are doing in the Senate smacks of political game-playing. They are trying to get changes made to the preamble of the treaty–which is legally non-binding and would have no effect on our obligations–and other changes that would necessitate going back and renegotiating the treaty with Russia, throwing a rather significant wrench into our nuclear security options.

The fact that the objections are rather transparently false, and the way the Republicans are doing this, suggest pretty clearly that they are not interested in national security so much as they want to deprive Obama of another achievement and create the impression that they were responsible for making the treaty actually work.

“Country First” indeed.

Republicans Try to Kill Nuclear Treaty for No Good Reason

November 20th, 2010 2 comments

The Russians can’t seem to grasp the idea why an American political party, purely to deny their leader an administrative accomplishment, would try to kill an international treaty that makes utmost sense.

Welcome to Right-wing Politics 101. Country Last, Beat Obama First.

What Now?

November 3rd, 2010 5 comments

OK, so the GOP now has control over the House, and the Democrats the Senate. What will that mean?

Some are saying the the GOP will become more reasonable now. That they will not follow people like Issa who want to do nothing in the House but investigate Obama 24/7, using the power to prosecute as a means to dredge up public distrust and hopefully some slime like they did back in the 90’s. These optimists are saying that the Republicans will actually have to deliver something, do something productive in order to stay afloat, which means they may actually have to compromise on a few things.

I desperately hope I am wrong, but I simply cannot imagine that happening. I made that mistake in 2008, naively opining about “Obama Republicans” and how lashing out and going balls-to-the-wall obstructionist would hurt them. Boy, was I wrong. And I have seen nothing to make me believe that Republicans will suddenly change now.

I could be wrong again, but I think it’s a safe bet that we will just see them alter their tactics, not reverse them. I think they will start ramming through legislation in the House just like they did in the Bush years, going back to being far more oppressive to Democrats than the Democrats ever were to them (despite their constant whining that the Dems were worst of all). And the legislation they will pass will be stuff they know will never make it into law–mostly because it will never be intended to become law, but instead will be designed to make them look good and the Dems look bad.

The Republican leadership has already made it clear that their first priority will not be to fix the economy, create jobs, or do anything else constructive. Instead, their number-one priority is to defeat Obama in 2012. That rules out compromise, even if they had not made it crystal clear over the last decade that the last thing they would ever do is compromise. They would sooner scorch the earth.

I think that the first thing they will do is to start in on the tax situation. They know Obama will fight any attempt to reinstate Bush’s tax cuts for the rich, but with control over the House, which they will strictly maintain with harsh discipline (again, as they have in the past), they will only allow tax bills to pass with the Bush cuts included. Then expect a rabid campaign where they will claim that Obama and the Dems are raising your taxes, blocking middle-class tax cuts, because all they want to do is penalize small businesses and tax them into oblivion. Yes, I know that the opposite was clearly demonstrated before the election, but the Republicans excel at remaking reality and rewriting history, and the American people have amply demonstrated that they can be easily fooled in this way. And Democrats will likely again fail to get their point across.

What we may in fact begin to see is big pressure against blue-dog Democrats, maybe even nullifying the Democratic majority in the Senate, even perhaps forcing Democrats to either begin filibustering legislation here and there (which Republicans will inevitably make big noises about), or allowing legislation to pass for Obama to veto.

And the legislation, as I indicated, will be designed to look great–but if passed, would sink the economy. It will be filled with tax cuts and other assorted right-wing goodies that the Republicans know the Dems will never go for, but they will look attractive and the Republicans will use them as cudgels, claiming the Democrats are the obstructionists and the Republicans were prevented from fixing the economy. A lie which they will not hesitate to scream from the rooftops, a claim that would have been true had Democrats run under it this year but they somehow fumbled and cowered into corners as usual.

As I said, I hope I am wrong. I would be happy to see Congress actually address issues in a spirit of actual bipartisanship and compromise. Obama has been all too willing to go there, and the Democrats too weak-kneed to do much else. Republicans, however, by their actions and rhetoric, have given no indication that they would even consider such a thing.

A Lemon of a Pledge

September 24th, 2010 6 comments

The new Republican “Contract on America” “Pledge to America” is out. Guess what? Republicans are promising to do all the things they have been promising to do for years, but didn’t do despite having control of the House, Senate, and the presidency for several years.

And what Republican legislative proposal would be complete without a pledge to cut spending without specifics as to how they’ll do it? Oh, and they also won’t promise to stop using earmarks, the GOP’s signature spending-spree tool when they had control last time. Whee!

Of course, they say they’ll restore jobs, like they did when they drove unemployment up to 10%. And they had strong words of condemnation for Obama’s job-creation skills:

Mr. Boehner described the administration’s policies as “job killing” and said “the American people are asking, ‘Where are the jobs?’ ”

Well, let’s take a look at the jobs reports from that last half year of the Bush administration followed by the first year or so of the Obama administration:

Oh, hey, there are the jobs!

They were created by the stimulus, although the stimulus was–as predicted from the outset–too small, and so it ran out of gas before the job was completely done. And who cut the stimulus down in size? The Republicans! Yeah, let’s put them in charge of creating jobs!

In fact, the Republican plan actually says it will kill the remaining stimulus funds! The same funds that Republicans have been trying as hard as they can to take credit for with their constituents!

Yes, I am sure that keeping taxes for millionaires lower than they’ve been in living history while the government starves for revenue will do the job perfectly. After all, if you don’t repeal the Estate tax and Paris Hilton gets only a ginormous fortune instead of an even more ginormous fortune, millions of Americans will lose their jobs.

Let’s see some of their proposals:

“Stop job-killing tax hikes”–that would be the Republican-mandated return to tax levels we had during the 90’s, when we had the greatest job creation surge in recent history.

A “small businesses tax deduction”–Hmm, interesting, as the Republicans did their best to kill a $30 billion tax cut for small businesses just a few weeks ago. Sounds like they’re dedicated to this.

“Require congressional approval for any new federal regulation that would add to the deficit”–you mean, like the hundreds of billions of dollars they added to the deficit and the trillions they added to the debt? Yeah, that’ll happen. Especially since they’re going to bring back earmarks full-force.

“Repeal and Replace health care”–yeah, because the Republican health care plan we saw last year was so great, costing way more than the Democratic plan with far fewer benefits. Good idea.

…you get the idea. The rest of the list is here, along with the full text and link to the PDF of the whole thing.

All of this is BS, of course; the GOP won’t pull off a two-house takeover, and they only thing they’ll do is (a) start time- and money-wasting investigations and hearing over Obama’s birth certificate and equally lame stuff, (b) make empty legislative gestures they know will never get anywhere but they can claim were great things killed by Democrats, and (c) obstruct even more than now, even to the point of shutting down the government.

That’s their actual agenda, no matter what crap they claim in their latest PR scheme. And I promise you this: it will kill jobs, not create them.

The answer is as it has been, bolstered by real, actual numbers:

Afraid of Journalists

September 22nd, 2010 Comments off

Especially in the 2008 elections, Fox made a pointed claim: if a Democratic politician did not grant Fox full access, or if Democrats refrained from joining a debate hosted by Fox (essentially placing themselves in the hands of a network dedicated to destroying them and giving every advantage to the other side), they were “afraid of the media” and unwilling to answer honest, straightforward questions. If the Democratic candidates didn’t appear on Fox talk shows as much as Fox wanted them to, then they were afraid to “talk to journalists.” Even when Obama gave unprecedented access to Fox, appearing on Bill O’Reilly’s show (can you imagine Bush or McCain going one-to-one with Olbermann or Maddow?), he was still “afraid to come on Fox” because he didn’t give them more chances to take swings at him live on the air.

And yet, since Sarah Palin more or less blacked out the media for the most part of the 2008 elections, it now seems to be the standard with the new brand of conservative politicians to do exactly that: block out the entire mainstream media, and only speak through Fox News. And it’s not just restricting themselves to Fox–because there are perhaps a few people even on Fox who might not be 100% sympathetic–but certain personalities on Fox. Christine O’Donnell canceled out on a Fox interview last weekend because it was Chris Wallace, who sometimes will challenge right-wingers. So instead, O’Donnell is going to appear on Hannity, who is well-known as a go-to guy for cases like this.

Even more to the point, Palin even spelled out this strategy publicly, encouraging O’Donnell to do exactly that, to “speak through Fox News” and avoid the rest of the media.

And, of course, we have not heard more than the slightest peep about candidates being “afraid of the media” or unwilling to “talk to journalists” from Fox or the other right-wing sources that shouted about Democrats being that way in 2008. Even the rest of the media is somewhat mute: Palin’s outright statement of this practice was virtually ignored by the major outlets, appearing mostly on political blogs.

Since this is now becoming a new standard for right-wing politicians, it should be pointed out more. Avoiding a “news” organization that is so biased that it would be politically damaging to put yourself in their hands is one thing. But to speak only to news sources biased in your favor is something completely different–something which I am certain right-wingers–and probably more than a few on the left–would agree with if, say, a Democratic politician only agreed to appear on TV if it was with Maddow or Olbermann on MSNBC.

There has always been an attempt to cow, maneuver, and manipulate the media, but it has been a two-sided game, with the media at least usually trying to fight back. But now the game has changed, and with it the fundamental aspects of political answerability to the public.

The press is supposed to be our bulwark against tyranny, as it is in principle unafraid to challenge politicians and speak truth to the people. Thanks to Fox, right-wing politicians now have an out: their very own “news” media arm willing to campaign for them and against their opponents. And our primary defense against tyranny crumbles.

Hitler As a Rule

September 19th, 2010 6 comments

And the crazy keeps on coming. Glen Urquhart, the GOP candidate for Castle’s vacated House seat, said this:

Do you know, where does this phrase ‘separation of church and state’ come from?“ Urquhart asked at a campaign event last April. ”It was not in Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists. … The exact phrase ‘separation of Church and State’ came out of Adolph Hitler’s mouth, that’s where it comes from. So the next time your liberal friends talk about the separation of Church and State ask them why they’re Nazis.

Urquhart has since tried to back away from it a bit, and I myself think the accusation that Urquhart said that Hitler “invented” separation of church and state is unfair–he was claiming that it more significantly came from Hitler, not originally in terms of who said it first or who created the concept. Not that he had a point–he was being a real ass in saying what he did, intellectually and politically dishonest.

It used to be the common idea that “whoever mentions Hitler first, loses,” meaning that invoking the image of Hitler was by and large a bogus scare tactic used when one had nothing more of reason to say. However, that rule seems to have disappeared as scores of Tea Partiers now use Hitler in an almost steady stream of comparisons to anything and everything they dislike.

The whole Hitler thing is a bit complex. The man was hardly consistent, and things he said or did were not always clear in their sincerity or motive. One could probably use him to cast aspersions on a wide variety of groups, even opposing ones. Over time, he made or was said to have made statements for and against religion; you can find many examples where he persecuted Christians but also made rather clear attacks against atheism.

So when we see statements like Urquhart’s, or the endless “Obama is Hitler” claims by his compatriots, it’s easy to fall back on the “whoever mentions Hitler first, loses” rule of thumb. This is true in a variety of arguments, about religion, gun control, and a broad range of other topics where Hitler analogies use distorted logic, out-of-context examples, or just plain ad hominem spew to attempt to use perhaps the most potent historical demon to bolster one’s point.

The problem is, then, because of dickheads abusing the Hitler analogy, we stand to lose one of the richest and most valuable historical lessons available to us. Just because Hitler is used so much as a fallback false analogy does not mean that cogent and authentic comparisons cannot be drawn and the lessons bringing us wisdom. I remember that back in the early Bush administration, when the drumbeat to war in Iraq was in full force, a very apt Nazi analogy was made, one echoed just today by a commenter, and one I made back in 2003, along with many other people who saw the parallels with this Hermann Goering quote:

“Why of course the people don’t want war … But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship … Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.”

This wasn’t some knee-jerk “Bush is Hitler!” ejaculation, it was noting something that was all too real and relevant. In the state of fear after 9/11, the country was maneuvered into war in Iraq, using exactly the tactics Goering outlined. Furthermore, the analogy was not drawn to say that Bush was a Nazi, or that the Bush administration was identical in any other way to the Nazi regime–but rather to simply make the point that this is a dishonest manner of manipulating the public, used effectively by some very bad people. And yet this analogy got shot down under the “whoever mentions Hitler first, loses” rule.

The sad point is, as I was reminded upon Troy’s reiteration, we still see echoes of it today, in statement’s like Gingrich’s Sharia ban proposal. We’re being attacked by Islam, and the people who are defending these terror mosque jihadists are putting us in danger. I would not go so far as to suggest that Gingrich is going to suggest forcing all Muslims to wear a star-and-crescent armband or something of that nature. But to note that a certain tactic is being used is quite instructional, in terms of how it is used and to what ends. It is instructional in that people should remember, understand, and be immune to its effects. After 9/11, Republicans discovered that this tactic–the combination of stoking fear, claiming ownership of patriotism, and accusing the other side of being traitors who are endangering the country–won elections. And they have not given up on it.

Alas, the very people who should be sitting up and taking note are the same ones who scream about Obama being the New Hitler because he wants to nudge health care a few inches more towards a public model.

The Hitler rule, apparently, is now amended: “Whoever mentions Hitler first to denounce liberals, wins.”

Obama on Vacation! Again! What a Slouch!

August 23rd, 2010 6 comments

Republicans are making hay out of Obama’s 10-day vacation, of course. Saying he is the “Clark Griswold” president, a reference to National Lampoon’s Vacation movies, and that he doesn’t “deserve” a break. After all, after this vacation ends, Obama will have spent a total of eighty days on vacation so far! How lazy can you get?

Let’s see. At this point in his presidency, Ronald Reagan, also facing a long, worrying recession, was in the middle of a 17-day vacation, having spent a total of 77 days at his ranch alone, and a total of 110 days altogether, if you include Camp David and his 5-day vacation in Barbados.

At this point in his presidency, George H. W. Bush, immediately after Iraq invaded Kuwait and after he sent troops into the field, took off on a 4-week vacation at Kennebunkport, having racked up a total of 91 vacation days thus far.

And let’s not forget that at this point in his presidency, George W. Bush, as our troops were on the ground in Iraq, and as Bush was trying to gin up evidence and ramp up the call to start the ultimately disastrous Gulf War, took a full-month-long vacation, having racked up an impressive 225 total vacation days.

Of course, all opposition parties make political hay of the presidents’ vacation, and we all know that presidents work through these “days off.” It’s the image that makes for good political attack fodder.

The thing is, Obama has taken the least time off than any other president in recent history (not since that evil guy Carter took less time off during his campaign to destroy America), and the last president, a Republican, took so much time off that it makes Obama look like he has a pretty strong work ethic. As a result, Republicans are looking even more like hypocritical doofuses than they usually might.

Categories: Political Game-Playing Tags:

Issue Clean-up: Near the Sacred Ground of Zero

August 14th, 2010 13 comments

So, having a mosque community center with an inter-faith chapel built by peaceful, anti-terror Sufi Muslims within a few blocks of Ground Zero is not OK, but having these establishments within a few blocks of the same site is just fine (several are NSFW):

Pussycat Lounge & Hamilton Room
A-1 Metro Parties
Adult New York Escorts
New York Dolls Gentlemen’s Club
Male Strippers
Adult Models Dating and Escorts

I wouldn’t be surprised if at least a few of those places started business after 9/11. I’m pretty certain that if another strip joint or escort service were to go up in the area, no one would object.

Glad we have our respectfulness for the sacred nature of the site in order.

Also, it was found last week that since 9/11, Muslim prayer sessions have been held regularly in an inter-faith chapel within the Pentagon.

Along the same lines of my comments of the repeal-the-Fourteenth-Amendment movement, whether or not you agree with the idea of Muslims of any stripe keeping a respectful distance, the fact remains that such feelings are not what this discussion is about. This is election-year politics. If the demagogues felt that the community center was not a good target and the strip clubs were, then it’d be all about the strip clubs. The public row is fueled not by indignation, but by stark, aggressive, uncaring opportunism.

Addenda: I forgot to mention that the Imam behind the NY project was tapped by Karen Hughes of the Bush administration for overseas tours representing a more moderate Islam. Also, Obama finally threw his hat in, probably now seeing the matter as being resolved enough for his comments to not inflame things and wants to help put the matter to rest.

What Were You Saying About Confirming Judges?

August 3rd, 2010 Comments off

This chart shows what is perhaps one of the most under-reported stories in D.C. today:


Remember when Democrats refused to confirm Bush’s most extreme judges, and right-wingers screamed about how the filibuster was unconstitutional, and all that crap? Yeah, I know, this is old news–the GOP is being hypocritical as hell, yet again. The filibuster was toxic and traitorous and so on, but now Republicans use it virtually all the time, breaking records year after year, so that now a 60-vote majority is virtually required for everything.

Republicans acted like confirming judicial nominees was even a more important matter, the courts were tied up and it’s the president’s right to get anyone he wants approved by the Senate, no matter what their politics, and (again) so on and so on… and now Republicans are blocking nominees like never seen before.

Right now, the Party of No is blocking pretty much anything coming down the pike–even a tax cut for small businesses, which Republicans claim is their forte, they voted against as a bloc. Health care for the heroes who worked at Ground Zero and now suffer? Screw them!

What excuses are given? The goddamned DemocRATs didn’t allow us to attach huge tax cuts to the rich and every other thing we ever wanted tacked on to these bills as amendments, they wanted to force us to vote on these issues up-or-down! After all those years WE were in power and let Democrats add as many amendm… uh, OK, well, we shut them down and treated them like they didn’t exist, but now they’re fascist bastards anyway!!!!

Stuff like this, in addition to the we-love-fat-cat-bankers, the we-love-BP, we want to give Paris Hilton billions but the jobless are lazy and don’t deserve relief, and the fact that the GOP is going even more extreme as time goes on… even with people hating incumbents this year, it is still astonishing that people cannot see who is causing the damage.

You want Congress to do something about jobs? If Republicans get more than 40 in the Senate (they won’t retake the majority, that’s for sure), then you can bet that the near-total filibuster marathon will become an all-out standstill, or worse, Democrats will start to cave and things will start to roll back to the Bush years.

They have made it clear: as long as the Democrats hold the White House and a majority, they are determined to grind D.C. to a halt and make the country fail.

What really astonishes me: the Democrats and left-leaning independents don’t see this as a clarion call to march to the polls in droves. The Stimulus, Health Care, the auto industry revived and profitable, Wall Street reform, credit card reform… all despite near-monolithic opposition from the GOP, the Democrats have managed to get through as much big-ticket legislation in two years and others get through in four or eight. If you’re a liberal, it would be hard to claim that they haven’t accomplished anything, or as much as they could have. But if you fail to get out the vote, you’ll see either nothing or a hard, sharp turn to the right.

The alternative, should the Left fail to do the right thing: Democrats scrap the filibuster. In hindsight, they clearly should have taken the GOP up on this when the “Nuclear Option” was being threatened a few years back–it would have made no difference then, but a huge difference over the past two years. And if the Democrats do toss out the filibuster, and hang on to a majority in the House and a 4- or 5-vote margin in the Senate, with the filibuster gone they could accomplish even more.

And the Republicans could not even criticize the Democrats, because they themselves vilified the procedure and came up with the whole idea of killing it off, so they would have to be silent.

Ha! Gotcha! Of course they’d be hypocritical and blast the Dems. But the Dems should have the guts to ignore them and push ahead.

It’s Not About Religion, It’s Not About 9/11; It’s About Politics

August 1st, 2010 4 comments

A few days ago, I posted about the “mosque” being built “at” Ground Zero–actually, it’s a community center, and there’s a multi-faith chapel and prayer area, not a mosque, and it’s not on the WTC site, but rather two or three blocks away… but hey, when it’s an election year and you’re trying to make people mad, these things don’t matter. What’s more, as came out in the discussion, the group that wants to put up the center is one that has condemned the 9/11 attack and terrorism in general “in the most unequivocal terms,” and plans a memorial for the 9/11 victims in the center. The Imam heading the initiative, a Sufi Muslim, has worked together with Israelis to promote peace between the nations, and has jointly proclaimed with them for both Palestinians and Jews “to live with freedom, security, dignity, respect, and self-determination.” So this is no radical organization, not a group raising funds for terrorists or smearing Jews, but a progressive, peaceful organization trying to mend relations, build awareness, and bring Muslims and others to a reasonable, respectful, and peaceful place.

And yet, look at what controversy has been brought. Now, this probably would not have been such a big deal were it not for people like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich seeing a fantastic red-herring issue intended not to legitimately address grievances or to right wrongs, but instead to inflame (and defame) so as to rally political strength to their campaigns. Without the politicians using this as a prop to get media attention, there would have been a few protests from the families of the 9/11 victims, a few people from the community raising a fuss, but it would have stopped there, the protests drowned out by others pointing out that the group is far from objectionable, the project is positive and constructive by nature, and religious freedoms should be observed and no one group be unfairly maligned or hindered.

But this is a critical election year, and the temptation of making hay by distorting the facts and playing on people’s fears and indignation is just too great.

One interesting perspective is to imagine it having happened a different way: what if Obama himself had announced support for this project? As far as I can tell, he’s stayed a mile away from the issue, and for good reason: the right-wing has made the “Obama is a Muslim who wants to attack Christianity and destroy America” one of its prominent memes; Obama announcing public support for the center near Ground Zero would be like Christmas and Easter wrapped up in an orgasm for these people.

Imagine what the reaction would be if, now that Obama is president, the Pentagon started building Islamic prayer centers just like the one that they’re proposing near Ground Zero? The Pentagon, itself a victim of 9/11! Forced to build mosques!! Whoo boy! That would set off a firestorm of protest! There would be no end to the indignation, the claims that Obama is anti-Christian, the calls for impeachment, cries that anyone who would be insensitive and anti-American enough to build mosques at U.S. military installations must be a traitor of the worst stripe!!! The media would jump right on the bandwagon, “reasonably” asking questions like, “Is it really appropriate for the president to do something like this? Is he not sensitive to the feelings of the families of the victims as well as Americans everywhere? Should we be spreading Islamic fervor within the ranks of our own military?”

What if, on top of that, President Barack Hussein Obama hosted an Iftar, and Muslim celebration of Ramadan, within the White House itself? Everyone would go insane!!!

Well, if you know me, then you can probably see where I’m going with this. In 2006, five years after 9/11, The Pentagon started building Islamic prayer rooms. A few right-wing bloggers got their panties in a bunch, but no one else much minded or even noticed. And Bush hosted Iftars more than once. Bush was not branded a traitor, no brouhaha, the world didn’t end.

What this shows is that this is mostly about politics, mostly about smears and attacks and defamation and using our emotions, our fears and sensitivities against what is reasonable and for what is wrong with politics today.

One last thought: Jonathan Chait at The New Republic makes an interesting point: did you feel that it was proper to allow Salman Rushdie to publish The Satanic Verses, or for a Danish newspaper to publish a cartoon of Muhammad? You see the relation to this–freedoms of religion, action, and speech versus the sensitivities of those who may be offended.

Categories: Political Game-Playing, Religion Tags: