Friday Reads

orangesGood Morning!

Well, House Republicans did in fact vote to cut SNAP by $40 Billion.   They seem to think that it’s easy to find a job in country with a persistent unemployment rate about 7.5%.

Right now, there are roughly 47.7 million Americans on food stamps — a number that swelled during the recession and has only recently started to decline.

The House GOP bill would kick about 3.8 million people off the food-stamp rolls over the course of the upcoming fiscal year that begins in October. That includes 1.7 million unemployed, childless adults aged 18-50. It also includes another 2.1 million families and seniors who have incomes just slightly above the federal food-stamp limits. (In recent years, states have been able to extend food-stamp aid to these households.)

Thereafter, the House GOP bill would reduce the rolls by about 2.8 million people each year compared with current law.

Check the graphic at Wonk Blog for the details on how they intend to get folks out of SNAP eligibility keeping in mind that about 1/2 of the folks on SNAP are children and an additional good portion are elderly on limited incomes that were already impacted by cuts in meals on wheels.pears

I’m not Catholic so the actual things that Popes say has no impact on my personal faith.  I also wasn’t raised Catholic so I have no nostalgia or lingering scars or good memories from the growing up Catholic experience that I hear about from so many friends.   I really don’t have many kind things to say about Popes in general since most of them recently have made life very difficult for women and gays and have been shown to enable some pretty bad stuff in their priesthood.  Will this new Pope usher in a new opinion from me and others?  Will he be able to reach out to folks that feel an attachment to the church but a searing disappointment in some of its recent actions and policies?

Six months into his papacy, Pope Francis sent shock waves through the Roman Catholic church on Thursday with the publication of his remarks that the church had grown “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he had chosen not to talk about those issues despite recriminations from critics.

His surprising comments came in a lengthy interview in which he criticized the church for putting dogma before love, and for prioritizing moral doctrines over serving the poor and marginalized. He articulated his vision of an inclusive church, a “home for all” — which is a striking contrast with his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, the doctrinal defender who envisioned a smaller, purer church.

Francis told the interviewer, a fellow Jesuit: “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.

“We have to find a new balance,” the pope continued, “otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

The pope’s interview did not change church doctrine or policies, but it instantly changed its tone. His words evoked gratitude and hope from many liberal Catholics who had felt left out in the cold during the papacies of Benedict and his predecessor, John Paul II, which together lasted 35 years. Some lapsed Catholics suggested on social media a return to the church, and leaders of gay rights and gay Catholic groups called on bishops to abandon their fight against gay marriage.

But it left conservative and traditionalist Catholics, and those who have devoted themselves to the struggles against abortion, gay marriage and artificial contraception, on the defensive, though some cast it as nothing new.

That part of the Pope’s interview was the most newsworthy. However, the part about the Pope’s personal faith was perhaps the most interesting to me.  It’s actually been a long time since I’ve heard a church leader actually sound like he’s gotten in touch with the Jesus I remember reading about in the Bible as a kid. This Pope appears to actually like women for a change.  The analysis is by Andrew Sullivan of The Dish.

This is the core message of the Second Vatican Council that John Paul II and Benedict XVI did their utmost to turn back in favor of papal authority. The hierarchy is not the whole church, just a part of it, in community with all the faithful. And he uses the example of the Blessed Virgin to buttress his point:

This is how it is with Mary: If you want to know who she is, you ask theologians; if you want to know how to love her, you have to ask the people. In turn, Mary loved Jesus with the heart of the people, as we read in the Magnificat. We should not even think, therefore, that ‘thinking with the church’ means only thinking with the hierarchy of the church.

And how we live is the only true expression of what we believe. Here is the rebuke to the theocons and their project:

If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists­—they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies.

And where is real faith?

I see the holiness in the patience of the people of God: a woman who is raising children, a man who works to bring home the bread, the sick, the elderly priests who have so many wounds but have a smile on their faces because they served the Lord, the sisters who work hard and live a hidden sanctity. This is for me the common sanctity. I often associate sanctity with patience: not only patience as hypomoné [the New Testament Greek word], taking charge of the events and circumstances of life, but also as a constancy in going forward, day by day. This is the sanctity of the militant church also mentioned by St. Ignatius. This was the sanctity of my parents: my dad, my mom, my grandmother Rosa who loved ​​me so much. In my breviary I have the last will of my grandmother Rosa, and I read it often. For me it is like a prayer. She is a saint who has suffered so much, also spiritually, and yet always went forward with courage.

Botanical-Flore-des-Seres-et-Des-Jardins-de-LEurope-Tomato-Solanum-sp. vintage printableWhile many journalists appear to be disappointed by the lack of yet another US intervention in the Middle East, most Americans are relieved.  What does this new diplomatic effort between the US and Russia on Syrian Chemical Weapons mean for similar efforts in the future?

It is important not so much for what it could mean on the ground – which remains to be seen as inspectors begin to flow into Syria and, we hope, chemical-weapons stockpiles begin to be destroyed. Rather, the agreement’s main significance consists in the fact that it was struck at all: US Secretary of State John Kerry met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Geneva, that most traditional of diplomatic venues, and cut a deal on an issue of intense mutual interest.

In the days, weeks, and months ahead, the arrangements to remove chemical weapons from Syria will, one hopes, begin a new era in which the US and Russia work together on other pressing global issues as well. A cooperative US-Russia relationship is essential if the international system, now almost dysfunctional, is to work properly in the future.

The agreement on Syria could accomplish something else: Americans might recognize that, lo and behold, there are other ways to solve problems than by dropping bombs. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s clumsy foray into the American debate infuriated many Americans (including me), but it was certainly a teachable moment. Many outside the US thought it was high time that someone offered America a taste of its own paternalism – and even better that that someone was Putin, a politician who has, to put it gently, his own set of foibles.

So Americans might want to tone down their anti-Putin rhetoric. As a practical matter, Putin certainly does not seem to be suffering any adverse domestic political consequences from his bashing in the US. More broadly, America’s supply of moralistic – and even churlish – advice to the rest of the world has greatly exceeded international demand for it. And its willingness to engage militarily as an early step, rather than as a last resort, has alienated many around the world. No amount of “Muslim outreach” and other public diplomacy alone will change that.

Support for insurgencies is a case in point. Many countries – Syria qualifies as a poster child in this regard – suffer under miserable, brutal governments. But backing an armed rebellion is a major step, especially when the rebels whom one is backing have, as in Syria, started something that they may not be able to finish.

This is not to say that the US should never support insurgencies against established governments; but doing so is almost always a lonely affair, without any realistic expectation of enlisting many partners in the process. Such policy choices should be made rarely, and with a clear understanding that support for the violent overthrow of a government is not very popular around the world.

We are learning more and more about Neanderthals and how they may have been a lot more sophisticated than previously thought.  It was thought they may not have been smart enough to figure out how to fish. However, recent research shows they had fish in their diets.

It has been thought that the varied diet of modern humans may have contributed to an evolutionary advantage over Neanderthals, who were thought to have survived on eating large, herbivorous mammals. But an international team of scientists has been working together at a cave in the Caucasus Mountains, where they have foundevidence that suggests Neanderthals ate fish. To rule out the possibility that the large salmon in the cave had been eaten by the cave bears and cave lions that were also found there, the bones of the large predators were analyzed. The results show that the cave bears were vegetarian, and that the cave lions ate land-dwelling herbivores. “This study provides indirect support to the idea that Middle Palaeolithic Hominins, probably Neanderthals, were able to consume fish when it was available, and that therefore, the prey choice of Neanderthals and modern humans was not fundamentally different,” explained Hervé Bocherens of the University of Tübingen.

It seems that the more that Homo Sapiens try to make themselves exceptional, the more we find out that we are not.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads

victorian girl

Good

Morning!

I really don’t intend this to be a post about Republican crazy but we’re going to start out with that subject.  Let’s hope this post morphs into something else by the time I’m done.

Apparently it took a female Republican to come up with the most vicious way to punish women who had the audacity to get themselves raped.

Wednesday, state representative Cathrynn Brown of New Mexico introduced a bill whose sheer audacity makes Todd Akins look as harmless as an ill-informed teenager groping his way through puberty.

The proposed legislation, House Bill 206, would make it illegal for a woman to have an abortion after being raped because the fetus is evidence of the crime. A women who does choose to have an abortion would be charged with the third-degree felony of “tampering with evidence,” which carries up to a three year prison sentence in New Mexico.

As the bill states:

“Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime.

In other words, Brown just said to rape victims: give birth to this baby or you’ll go to jail.

Crazy Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal says the “GOP is a populist party’ and is the party of the middle class.  Whoa, something in that exorcism must be causing him to have some kind of flash back.  Here’s Tiger Beat on the Potomac:

“We must quit ‘big,’” he said. “We are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes or big anything. We must not be the party that simply protects the well off so they can keep their toys … We are the party whose ideas will help the middle class, and help more folks join the middle class.”

He called repeatedly for a reorienting of the party’s focus from the Beltway to state capitols.

“We believe in planting the seeds of growth in the fertile soil of your economy, where you live, where you work, invest, and dream, not in the barren concrete of Washington,” he said. “If it’s worth doing, block grant it to the states. If it’s something you don’t trust the states to do, then maybe Washington shouldn’t do it at all. We believe solving problems closer to home should always be our first, not last, option.”

Well, he did explain one of the ways he’s made everything worse down here along with that call out to states being able to do what ever they want which sounds remarkably like returning reinstating Jim Crow and expanding Jane Crow.

The Louisiana governor suggested “re-thinking nearly every social program in Washington” in a speech to members of the Republican National Committee gathered here.

“If any rational human being were to create our government anew, today, from a blank piece of paper – we would have about one fourth of the buildings we have in Washington and about half of the government workers,” he said, according to a copy of the speech obtained in advance by POLITICO. “We would replace most of its bureaucracy with a handful of good websites.”

I’ve been caught in one of his website hells as well as the result of his passion for getting rid of every service that a government more efficiently provides. Things have been replaced by endless phone trees and decidedly unhelpful websites.  It ain’t pretty or compassionate.  It’s more like being thrown into Somalia.

So, here’s a good time to talk about some interesting facts about Dung Beetles.   This is from the National Geographic which should send out a crew to figure out if there’s any sign of intelligent life in Republican held state houses through out the country.  Dung Beetles evidently have a keener sense of the right way to go than Republicans as they navigate via the Milky Way.

Talk about star power—a new study shows that dung beetles navigate via the Milky Way, the first known species to do so in the animal kingdom.

The tiny insects can orient themselves to the bright stripe of light generated by our galaxy, and move in a line relative to it, according to recent experiments in South Africa.

“This is a complicated navigational feat—it’s quite impressive for an animal that size,” said il_fullxfull.403267997_ydu1study co-author Eric Warrant, a biologist at the University of Lund in Sweden.

Speaking of moving balls of dung around, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has wimped out on Filibuster reform.Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have come to a deal on filibuster reform. The deal is this: The filibuster will not be reformed. But the way the Senate moves to consider new legislation and most nominees will be.  Here’s an explanation from Beltway Bob errrr Ezra Klein.

What will be reformjfk_relaxing_outside_mouse_pads-p144021643615572926envq7_400ed is how the Senate moves to consider new legislation, the process by which all nominees — except Cabinet-level appointments and Supreme Court nominations — are considered, and the number of times the filibuster can be used against a conference report. You can read the full text of the compromise, which was sent out to Senate offices this morning, here (pdf).

But even those reforms don’t go as far as they might. Take the changes to the motion to proceed, by which the Senate moves to consider a new bill. Reid seemed genuinely outraged over the way the process has bogged down in recent years.

“What the Republicans have done is turn the motion to proceed on its head,” he argued. “It was originally set up to allow somebody to take a look at a piece of legislation. What the Republicans have done is they simply don’t allow me to get on the bill. I want to go to it on a Monday, they make me file cloture, that takes till Tuesday. Then it takes two days for the cloture vote to ‘ripen,’ so now it’s Thursday, and even if I get 60 votes, they still have 30 hours to twiddle their thumbs, pick their nose, do whatever they want. So, I’m not on the bill by the weekend, and in reality, that means next Monday or Tuesday.”

But the deal Reid struck with McConnell doesn’t end the filibuster against the motion to proceed. Rather, it creates two new pathways for moving to a new bill. In one, the majority leader can, with the agreement of the minority leader and seven senators from each party, sidestep the filibuster when moving to a new bill. In the other, the majority leader can short-circuit the filibuster against moving to a new bill so long as he allows the minority party to offer two germane amendments. Note that in all cases, the minority can still filibuster the bill itself.

Mary Jo White has been appointed to head the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by President Barack Obama.

Currently the head of litigation at Debevoise & Plimpton, a private law firm, Ms White will add a female voice to Mr Obama’s second-term team, which is so far dominated by men. More importantly, the former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York has experience policing Wall Street, which fell under her jurisdiction. Mr Obama has slammed bankers for their role in the financial crisis and ensuing recession. The choice of Ms White seems to signal his resolve in getting tough with the banks.The appointment is not without controversy. Ms White has benefited from the revolving door between public service and private practice. In the aftermath of the crisis, financial firms sought the assistance of former regulators with strong ties to the government. In a scathing article on Bloomberg‘s website, Jonathan Weil notes that Ms White participated in the defence of many people and institutions at the heart of the financial collapse. In October 2008 she was cited in a critical report by the SEC’s inspector general for receiving “relevant information” that was not publicly available. Some will ask whether she is truly a poacher turned gamekeeper or simply setting herself up for another lucrative turn through the revolving door.Mr Obama, for one, is convinced he is getting the “tough-as-nails prosecutor”. By putting Ms White at the SEC, he has suggested that the agency’s priority is enforcement. But a bigger challenge may come from the sprawling Dodd-Frank legislation, and its many gaps and contradictions. Much of the next chairman’s time should be devoted to rethinking how America’s capital markets are structured, and deciding how that vision will be translated into the numerous rules the SEC is required to write under Dodd-Frank’s sloppy mandates. Ms White, in other words, has a big job ahead of her.

Well, today’s post sorta took an interesting turn didn’t it?  It went from crazy Republicans to wimpy Democrats with one little mention of the only smart and honest shit pusher in between.  Well, at least the pictures are fun to look at.

What’s on your blogging and reading list today?


It’s the Messengers and the Basic Message

gop-conspiracy-nutsYou have to wonder if there’s any hope for a political party that has to train its elected officials on what to say about rape and how to talk to women and minorities.  They need more than just simple work on their message, their messengers, and their milieu.  Is it possible to get personality, conscience, and brain transplants for so many people?

Here’s just an example of the insensitivity and tone deafness: “House Republicans Meet at a Former Slave Plantation to Practice Talking to Black People”.  

Besides partaking in discussions about the debt ceiling and gun restrictions, GOP congressmen and women will also be getting schooled in the fine art of how to have “successful communication with minorities and women.”

One might presume that people elected to high office in America have at least a general understanding of how to talk to and about minorities and women without saying unimaginably offensive things, but one would be wrong. Far too many Republicans have a remarkable way of saying the absolutely wrong thing time and again about everything from rape to Kwanzaa. Sadly, a lesson about why it’s wrong to equivocate about a woman being raped or why it’s not a great idea to make all your House committee chairs white men is exactly what the GOP needs.

And what better place to talk about making inroads with oppressed groups than in a room named after a famous Williamsburg plantation, located in the tony Kingsmill Resort, which itself is on the site of another plantation? The GOP has heard your complaints, blacks and Latinos and women, and they’re going to try to suss it out while sitting atop dead slave bones.

The Press hasn’t really had any access but drivel keeps dribbling out of the Williamsburg Back to Recreating Reality and History Fest.  I’m not holding out much hope that they’ll come out of their echo chamber with any radical paradigm shifts.

What we do have: The itinerary of the half-week meting. Among the panels:

- Polling Session (“What Happened and Where Are We Now?”), featuring Dave Winston (who produced Boehner’s poll which suggested that cuts-for-a-debt-limit-hike were popular), Kellyanne Conway, and the Tarrance Group’s David Sackett.

- What is the Role of the Republican Majority in the 113th Congress? with Bill Kristol and the influential-among-conservatives WSJ columnist Kim Strassel.

- American Trends — How Is America Changing?, with election prognosticator Charlie Cook.

- Who Speaks for Middle America?, with National Review’s Kate O’Berine and Ramesh Ponnuru, and EPPC’s Jim Capretta

- How to Communicate Principles in Today’s Media Environment, with Ari Fleischer, Frank Luntz, and onetime Bachmann/Romney debate coach Brett O’Donnell.

Common Ethics Pitfalls, with two attorneys from Wiley Rein LLP.

- Successful Communication with Minorities and Women, with a female moderator (Rachel Campos-Duffy), a female consultant (Ana Navarro), a female congressman (Rep. Jaime Herrera Buetler), and three congressmen who are neithor female nor minorities: Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Rep. Scott Rigell, and Rep. Frank Wolf.

I’ve decided that a lot of their problems have to do with the fact that most of them have blind faith and think that’s a good thing.  They keep offering up things that have never worked and will not work.  Blind faith suggests you should just do it regardless of anything but blind faith.  As long as they operate from this frame,  they have no hope of ever becoming relevant again.

All you have to do is look at various quotes on evidence from great minds and you’ll get the major difference between a great mind and today’s crop of republicans.  This is one of my favorite quotes on the difference between those really seeking the truth and solutions and those that just cling to whatever belief they really, really, really want to believe.

In scientific study, or, as I prefer to phrase it, in creative scholarship, the truth is the single end sought; all yields to that. The truth is supreme, not only in the vague mystical sense in which that expression has come to be a platitude, but in a special, definite, concrete sense. Facts and the immediate and necessary inductions from facts displace all pre-conceptions, all deductions from general principles, all favourite theories. Previous mental constructions are bowled over as childish play-structures by facts as they come rolling into the mind. The dearest doctrines, the most fascinating hypotheses, the most cherished creations of the reason and of the imagination perish from a mind thoroughly inspired with the scientific spirit in the presence of incompatible facts. Previous intellectual affections are crushed without hesitation and without remorse. Facts are placed before reasonings and before ideals, even though the reasonings and the ideals be more beautiful, be seemingly more lofty, be seemingly better, be seemingly truer. The seemingly absurd and the seemingly impossible are sometimes true. The scientific disposition is to accept facts upon evidence, however absurd they may appear to our pre-conceptions.

Thomas Chrowder Chamberlin

Republicans have faith in pre-conceptions that-even when proven wrong continuously–they believe just require a little cosmetic messaging makeover so the rest of us will see where they are coming from and embrace their ideology.  They don’t seem to understand that those of us that find blind faith to be defined as “embrace of complete ignorance” don’t find anything they say the least bit compelling as a result.  They assume they just need to become better dog whistle whisperers and the dogs, the cats, the dolphins, and all manner of animals will come.

nyt-cartoon-gopPaul Ryan came out of the snakepit long enough to dribble the usual economic memes that completely deny economic theory, evidence,  and policy needs.  They continue to link the debt ceiling increase–which is necessary because they’ve already spent a lot of money–to spending less money on things they hate which usually gives them hard little willies.  They want to punt yet again on the debt thing until they figure out a way to get their way without looking like the jerks the really, truly are.

The House’s Republicans, assembled at a retreat outside Williamsburg, Virginia, are discussing the “virtues” of passing a short-term increase in the federal debt limit.

So says Rep. Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman from Wisconsin.

“We are discussing the possible virtues of a short-term debt-limit extension so that we have a better chance of getting the Senate and White House involved in the discussion,” Ryan told reporters outside the private meetings.

So, Politico thinks they have all the answers to the GOP’s problems.

Internal GOP polls back the GOP image problem: A mere 11 percent of respondents thought national spending and deficits were the most important issue facing the American public. Thirty-five percent pegged the economy as the top issue. The GOP has had a tough time connecting the two.

Yes, the GOP has a tough time connecting the two because every one knows their austerity pogrammes have nothing to do with creating jobs and economic well-being and everything to to do with their faith based economics which basically keep enriching and empowering their billionaire donor base and corporate overlords.   Perhaps, as Tiger Beat on the Potomac suggests, they need to focus on a bigger question?

Times have changed for Republicans. For much of the past decade, they have been rallying around making permanent the Bush-era tax rates. Now, many have voted to let those rates lapse on high-income earners while keeping low middle-class rates. Now tax reform — long a Republican mantra — seems a distant possibility.

The fractured majority, the last bastion of power for Republicans in Washington, faces a more existential question: What does it mean to be a Republican during a second Obama term? How can they exact legislative victories from Obama while driving forward their own agenda in a town where they have just a sliver of control?

And what exactly is a Republican agenda at a time when complicated fiscal issues — on which Republicans used to have a distinct polling advantage — are at the fore?

Let me suggest something here.  Repugopunity1blican policies hurt every one but the extremely wealthy.  They declare very long wars with very large, unpaid bills for non-US Defense related purposes and none of them die for any of it.  They assign women, minorities, and GLBTs to less-than-equal citizen status based on specific religious whims and allow the proliferation of assault weapons while they hide up in gated fortresses.  The force us to rely on dirty, climate destroying fossil fuels all the while ignoring the extreme weather around us and the resulting disasters.  They give their friends monopoly profit from death, pestilence, and war. None of this makes the majority of Americans happy and the majority of Americans want none of it if you actually poll them honestly.   None of this brings economic prosperity.  None of this increases US median incomes, quality of life, or public safety, health or security.  In short, we continually get the same agendas that have been proven disastrous and costly over and over and over again.  We tell them no in elections and polls. They just regroup to find better ways to tell us just have a little more faith.  Then, their rich asshole benefactors like Pete Peterson and the Koch Brothers spread money around trying to convince every one in the country that up is really done.  We’ve seen this repeatedly since the 1980s. A lot of us have wised up to it.

Here’s another Tiger Beat on the Potomac Report from Williamsburg on what Pollsters told House Republicans.  Be sure swallow all liquids  before reading this.

House Republicans heard it loud and clear Wednesday: They are unpopular, and need to change their ways.Speaker John Boehner’s House Republican Conference is more disliked now than when it took the majority two years ago, lawmakers and aides here found out. After taking a bruising in the 2012 elections, the Republican Party needs an image makeover and the GOP must learn to relate better to voters.

Ya think when polls show that communism in America is more popular than House Republicans that all they need is an image makeover?

David Winston, a top GOP pollster and close adviser to Boehner, unveiled the House Republicans’ most recent favorable rating based on his own analysis: It came in at a barrel-scraping 27 percent.

House Democrats’ numbers are a full 19 points higher at 46 percent. Winston’s analysis: Neither party is popular, but the GOP is less so. The lawmakers heard that the way to turn things around is for the party to pivot squarely to the economy and jobs — the chief concerns of most voters.

After an election dominated by a steady stream of gaffes by the GOP’s presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, and some of its highest-profile candidates, some of the speakers at Wednesday’s retreat counseled the GOP on how to turn things around. Doing so will be paramount as the party enters a period of tense conflict with President Barack Obama over fiscal matters like the nation’s debt ceiling and the sequester.

Domino’s Pizza CEO J. Patrick Doyle explained to House Republicans how he remade his company’s brand.

At the tail end of a panel, Winston and fellow Republican pollsters Kellyanne Conway and Dave Sackett urged the GOP to work hard to relate better to voters. That’s why, the pollsters said in a question-and-answer session, Romney lost his bid for the White House — because no one identified with the aloof-seeming wealthy former venture capitalist whom Democrats painted as way out of touch with the average voter.

Romney may not have been likable but his message–that 47% of us are grifters–was even more unlikable and the voting public resoundingly defeated all of that.  I’m still waiting to hear the results from this panel:   the National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru, journalist Kate O’Beirne and James Capretta of the American Enterprise Institute will explore “Who speaks for middle America?”.  It’s going to be a bit like watching Marlon Perkins describing what it’s like to wrestle a tiger by standing in front of the video showing some one else doing it.   Can any one think of three people less likely to get the middle class than those three?  Maybe they could’ve gotten George Will, Tom Brokaw, and David Brooks to do it less believably than that.  I’m actually thinking Romney could probably do a better job.  At least, he never spent most of his days in the Washington DC beltway elite bubble.

I’m still of the opinion that the Republican party needs to go the way of the WHIGS.  I can’t see them ever rising above representing any one but the American Equivalent of the Saudi Royal Family and the Taliban ever again.  But then, I’m a researcher so I always test my hypotheses against evidence rather than begging you all to just take it on blind faith.


The Seeds of a Poison Fruit

puppet peopleMany of you may know that I was a Republican back in the day and that I even ran for office as a Republican.  I was continually sent to county and state conventions  by women’s groups to try to stop the party from systematically eliminating its historical positions on the ERA, reproductive health,  and just general civil rights positions that once were the hallmark of the party. The position of Senator of the Nebraska state unicameral is nonpartisan which is how I got marginally beat by a combination of Michelle Bachmann/Sarah Palin whacko that had  lived in the state less than a year and ran one the nastiest campaigns in the state’s history that was primarily fought from church and parish pulpits.  She was brought in by the fetus fetishists who were in full on purge mode by the early 1990s.  Nearly every elected official I spoke to was not very big on them but feared them and said they agreed with them just to make their re-elections easier.   Having two catholic parishes, two big barn evangelical churches and some Southern Baptists run a religious witch hunt on you is absolutely traumatizing.  It’s worse than dealing with the Taliban because at least the Taliban wear beards and are easy to identify.  No one wants to believe they have  a whacko living next to them in a suburb and that’s the hardest thing to fight about them.  They used to use code words and they tried to fit in.  They looked normal.  After 20 years of plotting take overs and purges in state after state with no one really taking them very seriously we arrive at the position we are in today.  They’ve broken their strings and no longer serve plutocrats that empowered them. We have a democracy that is a duopoly of two parties.  One of our parties has gone insane.  The result is complete dysfunction.

It’s not like the establishment republicans don’t deserve this.  They really let it happen.  They laughed at their crazies and gave them just enough lip service that they thought they’d keep them in their little corners.   Now, they’ve been cornered themselves and there doesn’t appear to be much they can do about it.  Andrew Sullivan has an eloquent piece about about the unhinged among them.  Really, the rise of the unhinged is the poison fruit of the tree of greed.  The establishment never thought they’d have a revolt on their hands. They always thought those little puppets were so dumb they would never attack their corporate establishment masters.

Between the humiliating and chaotic collapse of Speaker Boehner’s already ludicrously extreme Plan B and Wayne La Pierre’s deranged proposal to put government agents in schools with guns, the Republican slide into total epistemic closure and political marginalization has now become a free-fall. This party, not to mince words, is unfit for government. There is no conservative party in the West – except for minor anti-immigrant neo-fascist ones in Europe – anywhere close to this level of far right extremism. And now the damage these fanatics can do is not just to their own country – was the debt ceiling debacle of 2011 not enough for them? – but to the entire world.

Those of us who have warned for years about this disturbing trend toward ever more extreme measures – backing torture, pre-emptive un-budgeted wars, out-of-control spending followed, like a frantic mood swing, by anti-spending absolutism of the most insane variety in a steep recession, vicious hostility to illegal immigrants, contempt for gay couples, hostility even to contraception, let alone a middle ground on abortion … well, you know it all by now.

But the current constitutional and economic vandalism removes any shred of doubt that this party and its lucrative media bubble is in any way conservative. They aren’t. They’re ideological zealots, indifferent to the consequences of their actions, contemptuous of the very to-and-fro essential for the American system to work, gerry-mandering to thwart the popular will, filibustering in a way that all but wrecks the core mechanics of American democracy, and now willing to acquiesce to the biggest tax increase imaginable because they cannot even accept Obama’s compromise from his clear campaign promise to raise rates for those earning over $250,000 to $400,000 a year.

deranged

The worse thing is that most of the deranged think some kind of magical being is on their side and they can’t believe they’ve lost the last election and lost it badly.  This has caused a lot of deranged behavior that’s hard to fathom in a first world country.  If there is a gawd, she’s obviously not on their side.  They don’t like the outcome and an insurrection is the only answer.  Most of them have neoconfederate mindsets any way so they think bringing down our government is some how a patriotic duty.

Though it has been 45 days since voters emphatically reaffirmed their faith in Mr. Obama, the time since then has shown the president’s power to be severely constrained by a Republican opposition that is bitter about its losses, unmoved by Mr. Obama’s victory and unwilling to compromise on social policy, economics or foreign affairs.

“The stars are all aligning the wrong way in terms of working together,” said Peter Wehner, a former top White House aide to President George W. Bush. “Right now, the political system is not up to the moment and the challenges that we face.”

House Republicans argue that voters handed their members a mandate as well, granting the party control of the House for another two years and with it the right to stick to their own views, even when they clash strongly with the president’s.

And many Republicans remember well when the tables were turned. After Mr. Bush’s re-election in 2004, Democrats eagerly thwarted his push for privatization of Social Security, hobbling Mr. Bush’s domestic agenda in the first year of his second term.

New polls suggest that Mr. Obama’s popularity has surged to its highest point since he announced the killing of Osama bin Laden. In the latest CBS News survey, the president’s job approval rating was at 57 percent.

But taken together, events suggest that even that improvement in the polls has done little to deliver the president the kind of clear authority to enact his policies that voters seemed to say they wanted during the election.

A group of tin pot congressmen from gerrymandered districts appear unwilling to work the system.  They want to follow the mandate of the craziest among them and drown our country in their personal bathtubs.  The GOP is in utter chaos and its taking the country down with it. We can’t get even the slightest bit of sane policy.  If you look at the state level, its even worse as Republican governors and legislatures work hard to bring their local school systems, health systems, and economies down to enrich their ALEC donor base.

Disarray is a word much overused in politics. But it barely begins to describe the current state of chaos and incoherence as Republicans come to terms with electoral defeat and try to regroup against a year-end deadline to avert a fiscal crisis.

The presidential election was fought in large measure over the question of whether some Americans should pay more in taxes. Republicans lost that argument with the voters, who polls show are strongly in favor of raising rates for the wealthy.

But a sizable contingent within the GOP doesn’t see it that way and is unwilling to declare defeat on a tenet that so defines them. Nor are they prepared to settle for getting the best deal they can, as a means of avoiding the tax hikes on virtually everyone else that would take effect if no deal is reached.

When Boehner tried to bend even a little, by proposing to raise rates on income over $1 million, his party humiliated him, forcing him Thursday night to abruptly cancel a vote on his “Plan B.”

“We had a number of our members who just really didn’t want to be perceived as having raised taxes,” Boehner said Friday. “That was the real issue.”

It’s hard to predict what will come of all of this.  It’s pretty clear that Republicans in congress and in many states are about as interested in serving their electorate as a devout Theravadan Buddhist monk would be interested in a well cooked steak and a hooker.   It’s going to take awhile to purge statehouses and congress of these problems.  Some of the more obvious nuts–like Allen West–were ousted.  Still, Michelle Bachmann  snuck through feeling strong enough to run for speaker of the house and emboldened by the crazies in my old haunts.  Can you imagine a person that out of touch with reality being third in line to the presidency?

Yes.  The Republicans have  problem that started with Pat Robertson’s run for the presidency and the embrace of a major political party of the American Taliban and Fascist movements in the name of garnering enough votes for greed that’s best characterized by the likes of Santorum, Perry, Buchanan, and Romney.  But, it’s had a lot of negative impact already. There are a lot of folks that would be Nixonian Republicans running for office and holding office in the Democratic Party.  Senator Ben Nelson comes to mind.  The Republican party wanted none of him so he and the dead animal on his head went to the welcoming arms of the Democrats.  His votes were still reliably Republican.  Now he’s been placed by a tea party whacko.  So, these are our choices these days.  Republians running as democrats or theocratic fascists running as republicans.   Just think of it.  Eight years ago Dubya Bush was trying to ‘reform’ social security and none of us wanted any party of it.  What’s going on today?  We have the American Heritage Plan Health Care Law and a president who has no qualms chopping into key Democratic legislative and judicial battles from the past.   The Democratic Party has become home to the Richard Nixon Republicans.  This has virtually left us with a center right party and a party of the extreme right.   Our discourse on policy is extremely limited.  I had to choose the lesser evil but it truly sucks that we never have a better choice

So, it’s nice to think about bringing out a bowl of popcorn and watching the internecine republican fight of the century.  However, living with the results of this chaos are going to be much more far reaching.  I’m not sure the party will go the way of the Whigs but I’m pretty sure we’re going to be dysfunctional for at least another two years.  Given the weakish state of the economy and the craziness going on in the Middle East, we just might find ourselves increasingly irrelevant in the world.  After all, it’s usually by check and military might that we throw ourselves into every world event.  Now, it seems there will only be a bath tub,  a group of nuts, and our government trying not to drown.


Friday Reads

Good Morning!!!

Well, the brain of Fox Propaganda network is all on wars these days.  First, there’s a “war on white men”  and of course, women–those emasculating bitchy feminists–are in charge of it all.  The Colbert Report has a nice send up of this side splitter.

Women are far more interested in getting married than men, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center .

But who’s fault is the discrepancy? Last night, Stephen Colbert teamed up with his buddy at Fox News, Suzanne Venker, to explain why the sisters are doing it to themselves.

With biting irony, Colbert praises Venker’s argument, which claims that since the sexual revolution “men haven’t changed much …. but women have changed dramatically. In a nutshell, women are angry. They’re also defensive.”

Plus, as Colbert can testify firsthand, men want to work out of the house, pushing paper for the Man while crammed into a tiny cubicle.

“What man wants the woman to provide the money while the man stays home to do what? Witness his child take the first steps? I’ve witnessed people walk before, and frankly babies aren’t that good at it,” said Colbert.

And yes, it’s time for Bill O’Reilly to reignite the War on Xmas.  If only it were true!  It would be great to go to the store without having your senses assaulted by songs, sales, and crap related to national Crass Consumerism Season, wouldn’t it?  Yes, atheists are stopping xmas celebrations all over the country!!  It’s a huge atheist conspiracy!!!  Plus, O’Reilly doesn’t understand the first amendment issues surrounding it at all since christianity is just a philosophy!  Tear down those philosophical nativity scenes in front of all those churches, gawddammit!

Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly was more than happy to bloviate about the topic on Wednesday’s “The O’Reilly Factor,” getting into a near shouting match with David Silverman, president of American Atheists.At first, things started out cordial between the two as they discussed “this year’s Christmas controversy situation.”

“You’re an atheist, a nonbeliever, and I respect that, that’s fine. I don’t look down on you,” O’Reilly told Silverman. But later, after Silverman attempted to define what O’Reilly cared about, the caustic commentator characterized Silverman’s point of view as “insane” before flat out calling him a “fascist.”

Interestingly enough, during the course of the interview, O’Reilly also said, “It is a fact that Christianity is not a religion. It is a philosophy.”

So there you have it. Bill O’Reilly calls the leader of an atheist organization a “fascist” over “philosophical”—but not religious—differences.

Yes, it’s an atheist, fascist, philosophical kinda conspiratorial war thing!

So, just when you think the crazy can’t get any crazier … you find out that it’s DEMON sex that makes one gay!   Wow!  Isn’t scientific inquiry wonderful?  Out, out damn demons!  Quit making all people gay with your bad, bad demon sex!

The reigning scientific consensus on sexual orientation is that it’s an inherited, biological trait, but that’s just because scientists don’t know how to party. A far sexier explanation has been offered up by Christian magazine Charisma, which conducted its own investigation into the origins of homosexuality to reveal the real culprit: sex with demons.

“Can demons engage in sexual behaviors with humans?” the magazine asks. Why yes, they can! At least according to the article’s primary source, a former stripper-turned-ministry leader named Contessa Adams. Adams shares her decades-long struggle with demon sex, sparing no horrible, sexy detail …

Hey, just tell your parents a Demon made you do it!!!

So, more irrelevant Republicans are making pronouncements about fiscal policy.  Newt Gingrich thinks the Congressional Republicans should not negotiate with the President since Republicans are the majority. Is it just me or are Republicans just really bad at math?  Seventeen Republican Congressmen out the door in 2 years and we say hello to Speaker Pelosi again.  All it takes is 25 House Republicans right now to wake up and care about the country.

“One of the things I would say to House Republicans is to get a grip,” Gingrich said in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

“They are the majority. They’re not the minority,” he said, enunciating the words as if explaining the concept to someone who did not understand it. “They don’t need to cave in to Obama; they don’t need to form a ‘Surrender Caucus.’”

“So my number one bit of advice to the congressional Republicans is simple: Back out of of all of this negotiating with Obama. The president is overwhelmingly dominant in the news media. You start setting up the definition of success finding an agreement with Obama, you just gave Obama the ability to say to you, ‘Not good enough,’” Gingrich said.

The onetime presidential hopeful ridiculed the idea of the fiscal cliff, saying it was a manufactured crisis.

Rushie Limbaugh–who makes tons of money off of stupid–tells the Republicans to just walk away too.  I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t know that the deal cut by republicans that caused the fiscal cliff deadline hurts them worse than it hurts the dems.  Tax rates go back up to the Clinton years and we get a big ol’ fat cut in military spending.  Hey, I’m just fine with that.  The question is why are Mr. Limpballs and the Newt?  Perhaps its because they’re part of the right wing outrage entertainment business and they’re probably out shorting US equities as I write this.

Would somebody explain to me how the people who elected Obama, who support Obama, who love Obama in the media, in the universities, who write the history, are going to write anything critical of the guy no matter what happens?  Even if there is a second term recession, you’re gonna need a telescope to find it reported, just like you need a telescope to find Oprah’s network now.  It won’t be reported as a recession.  So what is the leverage that the Republicans have?  To my mind the only leverage they’ve got is to walk away from this, to stop playing, to stop talking, to stop playing this game.

The Republicans lost.  Now, they still control the House of Representatives but Boehner still runs the show there.  But the only leverage that I can see that they’ve got is to back out of this and make sure that whatever happens, they don’t have any fingerprints on it.  I know what you’re saying, and you’d be right.  You’re saying, “But, Rush, but, Rush, no matter what the Republicans do, they’re gonna get blamed for it.”  Yes, totally true.  No matter what happens. If there is a reported recession, in fact, it will be said to be the Republicans in the House fault. No matter what happens, that’s going to be said, and no matter what happens, as we sit here now, the American people, the majority of whom, are gonna believe that.

So back out of this and make sure you don’t have any fingerprints on this at all.  “But, Rush, but, Rush, aren’t your fingerprints going to be on it if you back out?  Couldn’t the case be made that Republicans backing out and letting Obama have his way is, in effect, allowing this transformation to happen, can’t you say there would be fingerprints there?”  Yes.  But I’m telling you there’s another aspect to this that Obama is attempting to pull off here, and if the Republicans aren’t careful, it’s going to happen.  Not only is he not worried about a recession in the second term, ’cause even if there is one, it will not be reported as such.

Part of Obama’s transformation of America is wiping out the Republican Party.  And anyone who fails to understand that that is also part of Obama’s agenda at this moment, anybody who fails to understand that is really not paying attention and is too caught up in traditional conventional wisdom about, “Well, it was just another election. Well, yes, Obama won. Yes, we marshaled our forces, but we need to stand for pro-growth policies and all that rotgut.”  Yes, we do.  There’s no way we’re ever gonna be tied to pro-growth policies if our fingerprints are on this coming disaster.

For the life of me, I cannot in any way shape or form figure out what is wrong with these people.  I just see vendettas and personal power grabs.   As Harry Reid said yesterday:  “I don’t understand John Boehner’s brain”.   I swear they all must be sots like Boehner.Even the normally reasonable Republicans seem bonkers these days.  I think they’ve all just gone nuts on ODs.   They’re not even making sense.  Susan Collins has decided that a Secretary of State or UN Ambassador should never go on a Sunday Show because it’s too “political”.  John McCain and Lady Lindsey Graham think that giving misinformation on Sunday Shows–like say, Saddam Hussein definitely has massive amounts of WMDS and deserves to have his country invaded because of them--should be removed from consideration for any office.

Here’s a good example of crazy  from Senator Jim Inhofe:   Benghazi Will ‘Go Down As The Biggest Coverup In History’.   Obviously, he’s forgotten the Iran-Contra affair which would have been a whopper had our president not been so damned senile during his last term.  Then, there’s Watergate and oh, the crap they made Colin Powell tell the UN about Iraq.  But, oh, no …Benghazi is a cover up and the worst.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) on Wednesday made a strong claim about the Obama administration’s handling of the Sept. 11 anniversary terrorist attack on an American compound in Benghazi, Libya, declaring that it was a conspiracy of historic proportions.

“This is gonna go down as the biggest coverup in history,” Inhofe predicted during an appearance on Fox News. “The administration deliberately covered this up and misrepresented what happened in Benghazi.”

He later stood by his claim when pressed by Fox News’ Bill Hemmer.

Does having black people in office make these guys lose their marbles?  How do they all seem to have such a tenuous grasp on reality?  Is it they see that the 1950s or the 1850s are finally gone?  WTF is it with these folks?  They LOST.  THEY LOST.  They lost by A LOT!!!

What can you do with pretzel logic like this?  Republican Rep. Chris Gibson says he won’t be bound by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist’s pledge not to support any tax increases because his congressional district number changed.  Yup, the pledge only was good for one set of geography and not the new one.

I wish that I was a world famous fantasy or SF author so that you could think this was all satire, or Huxley-like, or some kind of dysfunctional dystopia novel, but it ain’t and I’m not.  This is the ONE of TWO political parties that call the policy shots in our country.  Nope, Republican office holders have turned our country into the Great Zombie Wasteland.  They are all completely delusional.

And, now for yet another result of Fox convincing all the white men of Angry White Menistan to think the country is against them … one more old angry white man shoots a young black teenager.This time its about loud music coming from a car in a convenience store parking lot. He’s going all in for the Stand Your Ground defense.  Yes, this is the dysfunctional dystopian American created by the likes of the Southern Strategy, the repeated meme that some foreigner stole the presidency, and there are wars on Xmas, Guns, and White Men.  Don’t like some one’s music?  Shoot now and say you saw a gun later.  Don’t ever think we solved a lot of this with the the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement.  We’re taking their freedom to stomp us all under their boots.  Seventeen year old Jordan Davis is dead because some drunk white dude felt put out by a car stereo in a parking lot.

In what could become another test of Florida’s broad self-defense law, a software developer charged with killing a Jacksonville teenager said he reached for his gun and fired eight rounds only after he was threatened with a shotgun.The suspect, Michael Dunn, 45, of Satellite Beach, was arrested Wednesday on charges of second-degree murder and attempted murder.

Dunn told his lawyer that the victim, Jordan Davis, 17, who was parked at a convenience store in Jacksonville on Friday night with three other teenagers, pointed a shotgun at him through a partly rolled-down window, threatened to kill him and began to open the door. The shooting occurred after a dispute over loud music coming from the teenagers’ sport utility vehicle.

Davis, a junior at a Jacksonville high school who had moved from Georgia two years ago to live with his father, died after being shot twice.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said officers had not found a shotgun in the car.

Dunn and his fiancee, Rhonda Rouer, fled the convenience store in his Volkswagen Jetta after the teenagers left because he was afraid they would return, his lawyer, Robin Lemonidis, said. He did not call the authorities; the police arrested him the next day, finding him because a witness noted his license plate number.

This is what we get when folks like Limpballs, Jim Imhofe, Susan Collins, Bill O’Reilly, the Lady Lindsey, McGrumpy and the lot of those so-called conservatives lie their customers into angry paranoia.

Susan Rice.  Eric Holder. Van Jones.  Lisa P. Jackson.  Valerie Jarrett.   Shirley Sherrod.

What do these folks have in common?

They are all black public servants appointed by Obama and  witch hunted by Republicans on completely bogus story lines.   Sixty Six percent of that list are also women.

How much crazy do we have to put up with?   You’d have think the last election would’ve told Republicans something loud and clear but it obviously didn’t.  Some people never learn.

Meanwhile, Fox says there is no war on women and Mississippi is one JUDGE away from ensuring women can’t access their constitutional right to abortion.  Virginia Republicans are likely to nominate Ken Cuccinelli, Va. Attorney General for Governor next year.

IN THREE YEARS as Virginia’s attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli II (R) has demeaned his office by using it as a blatantly partisan bully pulpit to attack Obamacare, illegal immigrants, homosexuals and climate-change scientists. Now he has managed to bully Virginia’s Board of Health into a stance — unprecedented in state history — that could force most of the commonwealth’s 20 or so abortion clinics to close.

The fight is not over yet. Not by a long shot. Some constitutional rights are more equal than other.  Two legs good.  Three white legs better.  What is on your reading and blogging list?