Posts Tagged ‘Republicans’

The latest utter drivel coming from the right in America is that they’re going to impeach Obama for using (well, threatening to use, anyhow, and he probably will) an Executive Order to break the (Republican organised) log-jam on Immigration.

Now, we don’t wish to comment on American immigration policy – too complicated from this distance, and we have enough problems with our own in Australia – but we sure as hell feel able to comment on the idiots who think he should be impeached.

Can you see the difference between Obama and these enthusiastic users of Executive Orders? There are two essential differences.

exec order

Yes, we think you spotted the two differences pretty quickly didn’t you?

Given the staggeringly low level of achievement of both the House of Reps and the Senate since Obama came to the Oval office, and the GOP’s deliberate and unashamed obstructionism which looks set to get even worse, we suggest that #uppittydemocratniggerwhoinsistsonfuckingdoingstuff just about explains the current impeachment push.

And just for the record, in case any of our Republican readers don’t do big three-digit figures, Obama has used Executive Orders less than any of the others except Lincoln.

Frankly, if the hard-right GOP continue to eschew any attempts to create any bipartisan agreement, then we’re hopeful that Obama just presses on and gives the Republicans the regular whacking they so richly deserve. He has been altogether far too polite and reserved with them thus far for our liking. It’s time to give these Tea-Party-led-by-the-nose numpties a lesson in Government. Which is not the same, please note, as Opposition.

In doing so, he’ll give his own party and supporters something to cheer, too. Which they need.

An exceptionally well-researched piece of work by AP and Rachel Maddow which you can read here goes even further than our irritated rant. It points our that at least three former Republican Presidents used exactly this sort of action to grant – yes, you’ve guessed it – protection to illegal immigrants living in the USA, when Congress couldn’t get it’s shit together.

Bizarre. Bring it on, we say.

mitch-mcconnell-glum
Excellent article on Rachel Maddow’s site today, which effectively skewers any idea that the Republican Party somehow now have a mandate to govern. The arguments should be read widely in America today: very good commonsense thinking.

It’s going to be a hot topic in the coming days and weeks. Having taken control of the Senate, is there a new GOP mandate for it to pursue with its new-found control of both houses of Congress?

That’s a question Republicans and Democrats will be debating in coming days, as the GOP makes the case that its election victories add up not only to an electoral “wave”, but to a mandate – a genuine endorsement of conservative policies – while Democrats cast them as something less.

Part of the problem is that we’re dealing with terms that have no specific, generally accepted meaning. For example, was this a “wave” election? Maybe, but there is no actual definition of the word, and because it’s somewhat subjective, opinions vary.

A “mandate,” meanwhile, also seems to mean different things to different people. Traditionally, it’s supposed to be part of a democratic model: a candidate or a party presents an agenda to the public, the public then endorses the candidate or party, and the winners claim a popular mandate. That is, by prevailing in an election, the victors believe they’ve earned the popular support needed to pursue the policy measures they presented during the campaign.

As of this morning, Republicans are predictably claiming just such a mandate, and at the surface, it may seem as if they have a point. The GOP took control of the Senate, expanded their House majority, flipped some state legislative bodies, and fared surprisingly well in gubernatorial races. The result, they say, is an endorsement from the American people that affords them the right to pursue their top priorities.

It’s a nice argument, which just happens to be wrong.

The Republican right can't have it both ways. But they will try.

The Republican right can’t have it both ways. But they will try.

Right off the bat, perhaps the most glaring flaw with the Republican pitch is that the GOP seems to believe only Republicans are capable of claiming a mandate.

Two years ago, President Obama won big, Senate Democrats kept their majority for a fourth-consecutive cycle; and House Democratic candidates earned far more votes than their House Republican counterparts.

Did this mean Dems had a popular mandate for their agenda? GOP leaders replied, “Absolutely not.”

Indeed, the Republicans said the opposite, concluding that Obama and his agenda may have been endorsed by the nation, but it was the GOP’s job to kill the every Democratic priority anyway. They proceeded to be the most obstructionist Congress in history, rendering the nation effectively ungovernable.

Elections have consequences? Republicans have spent the last two years insisting otherwise. It’s laughable for GOP officials to now change their mind and declare, in effect, “Mandates only exist when we win.”

What’s more, the obvious question for those arguing that Republicans have a mandate this morning is simple: “A mandate to do what, exactly?”

Think about the policy platform Republicans emphasised over the course of the last several months. Let’s see there was … well, we can’t forget about … but they certainly pushed … there was a real debate about issues such as … Ebola-stricken terrorists crossing the border from Mexico?

Look, it’s not exactly a secret that the GOP’s priorities, such as they are, do not enjoy broad national support. The party did its best to obscure its unpopular ideas for fear of losing. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) even went so far as to tell reporters the other day, “This is not the time to lay out an agenda.”

Not to put too fine a point on this, but that, in a nutshell, effectively ends the “mandate” debate. A party, no matter how well it does in an election, cannot claim a mandate for a policy agenda that does not exist and was not presented to the people. Vaguely blathering on about smaller government, or using explicitly abusive negativity, (as we said yesterday), doth not a mandate make. What exactly do the Republican Party stand for as opposed to against?

Republicans ran an “agenda-free campaign.” Did it produce big wins? Yes. Unarguably. Did it create a mandate? Very obviously not.

donkeyWe do not consider ourselves to be either Robinson Crusoe or Nostradamus in predicting a poor day for the Democrats today in the USA. It does not require us to be especially prescient to predict a dark day for the centre left, and a big celebration night for the centre-right. Commentary and polls have been running strongly that way in the last ten days.

Many races will be a lot closer than people have been predicting, but in general we expect the Republicans to do better tonight USA time. We are ambivalent on whether they will take control of the Senate: on balance, we have suspected JUST not until very recently, but as the counting continues it is increasingly possible, undoubtedly, especially if the Democrats are in trouble in a swathe of Southern and Western States where they had hoped to hold off GOP challenges, as in states like Arkansas and Colorado.

Why the Republicans are doing well is perhaps more interesting.

A referendum? Maybe. But on much more than just the Presidency.

Barack ObamaThere is a general assumption that the result will be a “referendum” on President Obama, who has been struggling in the polls for some time now, despite a strong bounceback in the American economy.

There is a pervasive view in America that the economy is not doing well: despite a recovery from the depths of the recent recession, markedly higher employment levels and a soaring stock market, the economy remains the top worry for voters, with an overwhelming majority pessimistic that conditions won’t get better soon, according to Tuesday evening exit polls.

When Bill Clinton won the Presidency he famously had a large sign on his campaign headquarters walls that cried out “It’s the economy, Stupid”, to remind him and all spokespeople to focus on the economy as by far the most important issue for voters. Well today, 78% of Americans said they are worried about the economy, according to CNN reporting on national exit polls. Another 69 percent said that in their view economic conditions are not good. Nearly half of voters said the economy is the most important issue facing the country at 45 percent. Health care, foreign policy and illegal immigration are also top concerns, but ranked well below.

Overall, 65 percent said the country is on the wrong track and 31 percent said it’s headed in the right direction, the exit polls found.

The survey of 11,522 voters nationwide was conducted for AP and the television networks by Edison Research. This includes preliminary results from interviews conducted as voters left a random sample of 281 precincts Tuesday, as well as 3,113 who voted early or absentee and were interviewed by landline or cellular telephone from Oct. 24 through Nov. 2. This will bias the results against the Democrat incumbent, as pre-poll votes favour the Republicans, and the poll quotes a sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. Nevertheless, the broad thrust of the poll is essentially right.

But Republicans shouldn’t celebrate too hard

The voters have thoroughly had it right up to their yingyang, according to exit polls released Tuesday evening. The national survey of voters showed broad dissatisfaction with both parties, the Obama administration and Congress.

58% of those casting ballots in the midterms were either dissatisfied or angry at the White House, while just 11 percent said they are enthusiastic with the administration and 30 percent said they were satisfied, according to CNN.

Another 54 percent said they disapprove of President Barack Obama’s job while 44 percent said they approve.

But the winners are winners by default. The Republican leadership does not fare well in the eyes of voters either, with 59 percent saying they are not happy with GOP leaders in Congress.

And as for the parties as a whole, 56 percent view the GOP unfavourably, while 53 percent say the same of Democrats. Hardly a crushing endorsement for the Republicans. More like “a plague on both your houses”.

And a whopping 79 percent said had a negative view of Congress, according to CNN. This statistic has hardly changed since the Republican-led shut downs of Government some time back.

Politics as a whole is the loser

Meanwhile, voters are split on how much the federal government be involved in people’s lives, as 41 percent said the government should do more and 53 percent said the government does too much.

The trust level is also staggeringly low. Sixty-one percent said they trust lawmakers in Washington only some of the time. Democracy itself is under question here. Accordingly, we expect to see some solid swings against incumbents of both parties tonight.

voter IDWe also expect to see a bigger turnout from Republican voters than Democrats, favouring the GOP, and that’s before we factor in the ludicrous “Voter ID” push from the right which may have effectively disenfranchised as many as 7 million Americans, almost all of whom would have voted Democrat. If the Republicans take control of the Senate by less than those 7 million votes in the States that have enacted voter ID legislation then what we will have been watching is little more than a legalised coup d’etat. It won’t be the first time, either. Remember the Gore-Bush fiasco in Florida?

Whatever you believe about the ID laws, the other factor is that GOP voters are currently more motivated to vote partly through their visceral hatred of Obama – some of which is undoubted racially-based, sadly, but also through perceived American weakness on the international stage, and other hot buttons – but also through deep concerns about the size of Government debt, especially on the far right with the Tea Party and its fellow travellers. The other significant factor is that voters that identify as Independents can expect to break heavily in favour of the Republicans, reversing recent trends, and again reflective of the generalised malaise with all incumbents and with Democrats in particular.

There is little question that along with a generalised dislike of Government per se in the Western world at the moment, there is a pervasive concern about the size of Government, and the arguments of small government libertarians have gained some traction with those who feel especially disgruntled. Whether this will turn into a broadly-supported consensus for what a small government democratic society would look like is, to our mind, far less likely. Small government is all very well until they start to abolish the bit you happen to like.

Building agreement to substantially reduce the role of Government following sixty years of mixed-economy high-touch post-WW2 consensus politics will be much more difficult than promising to keep expanding spending inexorably. We suspect pork barreling is not about to disappear anytime soon.

Ye will reap what ye sow. So be careful what you sow.

However, what we see in this election is the net result of years and years of relentlessly negative campaigning by the Republicans, in effect “talking down” the economy, talking down the President’s performance, and talking down confidence generally. In our entire adult life of closely following American politics we do not recall ever having seen such a sustained barrage of brutal criticism, virtually entirely unsupported by any serious policy alternatives.

In reality, apart from the race card, this is due to one factor above all others. Let down, in our opinion, by an inability to strike the right note in promoting their successes, the Obama Administration has actually been one of the more successful in recent American history, in a variety of areas, but this news has completely failed to cut through the miasma of rabble-rousing from the Republicans.

wall streetExamining just one of the key areas of Obama’s activity (there are many we could point to) reveals this to be true.

The economic cataclysm of the Global Financial Crisis can be laid squarely at the feet of two very contrasting Presidents, Messrs Clinton and Bush, who both bowed to pressure to de-regulate Wall Street and American banking practices, which led directly to the economic crisis and cost millions of innocent little folk worldwide their savings, and worse, their homes and jobs.

The resulting “austerity” measures didn’t touch those who played fast and loose with the world’s money, none of which was their own.

What the f*** did Obama ever do for us? Well, this lot, for a start.

In response, in terms of Consumer Protection, the Obama government has been one of the most involved and proactive in history. Just consider, he:

Ordered 65 executives who took bailout money to cut their own pay until they paid back all bailout money.  http://huff.to/eAi9Qq

Along with Congressional Democrats, pushed through and got passed Dodd-Frank, one of the largest and most comprehensive Wall Street reforms since the Great Depression.  http://bit.ly/hWCPg0http://bit.ly/geHpcD

By signing Dodd-Frank legislation, created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau http://1.usa.gov/j5onG

Created rules that reduce the influence of speculators in the oil market.  http://bit.ly/MDnA1t

Fashioned rules so that banks can no longer use consumers’ money to invest in high-risk financial instruments that work against their own customers’ interests.  http://bit.ly/fnTayj

Supported the concept of allowing stockholders to vote on executive compensation. http://bit.ly/fnTayj

Endorsed and supported the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of 2009 that closed offshore tax avoidance loopholes.   http://bit.ly/esOdfBhttp://bit.ly/eG4DPM

Negotiated a deal with Swiss banks that now permits the US government to gain access to the records of criminals and tax evaders.  http://bit.ly/htfDgw

Signed the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act, which closed many of the loopholes that allowed companies to send jobs overseas, and avoid paying US taxes by moving money offshore.http://1.usa.gov/bd1RTq

Established a Consumer Protection Financial Bureau designed to protect consumers from financial sector excesses.  http://bit.ly/fnTayj

Oversaw and then signed a bill constituting the most sweeping food safety legislation since the Great Depression.  http://thedc.com/gxkCtP

Through the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, extended the False Claims Act to combat fraud by companies and individuals using money from the TARP and Stimulus programs.  http://bit.ly/SLTcSa

That’s quite a list. Yet these directly attributable, unarguable and very welcome successes – and this is just one area of government we could look at – have been largely drowned out by the constant cat-calling and nay-saying across the aisle.

No matter how much we support historic measures like Obamacare, the “pivot” towards Asia in foreign policy, and other historic changes, we freely concede as natural supporters of Obama that small revolutions are never without controversy, and even the success of a reform like the new health insurance system in the USA will always be something of a “curate’s egg”. Massive reform always involves partial failure, and results in future trimming of the sails. This is natural, and acceptable.

Just one of thousands of examples of the disgraceful tactics employed by the right to rubbish Obama.

Just one of thousands of examples of the disgraceful tactics employed by the right to rubbish Obama. Just pop “Obama is a Socialist” into Google and see for yourself.

What bemuses us is how so much of our politics has descended into complete opposition to the party in power, and viciously so in many cases, whereas previously the role of Opposition was to oppose with principle, to achieve bi-partisanship where possible, and to propose alternatives where the difference of opinion was unbridgeable.

We condemn this drift into mindless yahoo-ery as unhealthy for society.

The fault is by no means all on one side of politics – indeed there will be those who leap to accuse us of the very same failing, and possible sometimes justly, (we are only human) – but in general the verbal (and sometimes physical) thuggery is demonstrably more common on the right, often hiding behind the cowardly anonymity of the Internet – the modern equivalent of scrawling on a wall – to spread their ridiculous and offensive “memes”. And overwhelmingly, the target for these memes has been Obama himself, and his family. No President in history, even George Bush who was viscerally detested by the Left, was subjected to this level of abuse, vindictiveness, and outright falsehood. As my mother would say, “give a dog a bad name” … Well, it’s worked.

Disgusting "humour" like this is freely available all over the internet. Should concepts of "free speech" protect those who produce it from sanction? In our opinion: No.

Disgusting racist “humour” like this is freely available all over the internet. It seeps into the body politic and corrupts it. Deliberately.

Which is why, as they celebrate their likely successes tonight, we urge thinking Republicans to crow less and think hard that this is a very dangerous furrow to plough.

What we are seeing is a wholesale abandonment of decency and consensus as principles worth following, and that is a very dangerous and unwelcome step.

The GOP need to pause and consider that if they achieve some measure of power tonight by winning control of the Senate, then if they are not careful they will – in due course -find themselves hoist by their own cruel and destructive petard.

Is it too much to hope that faced with the reality of power the right will abandon their childish name calling and rediscover a sense of purpose beyond blind obstinacy and negativity? Yes, we rather fear it is.

We will post comment on the individual races in due course.

The Republican Party in the USA have been at it again this week. Demonstrating they are lurching ever more profoundly into the looney tunes orbit of American politics.

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/arizona-huppenthal-stomp-out-spanish

btobtpcb2s2b4dbkfkceAs you can see in the link above, a frequent GOP blog commentator and schools superintendent in Arizona has owned up to several incendiary anonymous comments.

Among many idiotic remarks, in a late-2010 post on the conservative blog Espresso Pundit, Huppenthal, writing under the pseudonym Falcon9, said that America only has room for English.

“We all need to stomp out balkanization. No spanish radio stations, no spanish billboards, no spanish tv stations, no spanish newspapers,” he wrote roughly a month after he was elected. “This is America, speak English.”

This raises so many issues it’s hardly worth commenting, except to say to the right in America, why be frightened of the growth in Spanish in America? Being a bilingual nation will make it easier for you to trade with South America, where growth will outstrip America this century anyway.

Ann CoulterThis is just typical of the nonsense talked by the right. Ultimately, of course, it doesn’t matter, because within a few years America will be a majority Spanish speaking nation whatever they think. Languages change over time. In the UK Ancient British was replaced by Latin, then Saxon, Saxon was replaced with Norman French. Norman French was replaced with Germano-English and remnants of old British. For heaven’s sake: why can’t the GOP do something more useful than being a bunch of mindless “antis”? Build a bridge, and get over it already.

Meanwhile, achingly dumb commentator Ann Coulter has sparked attention around the world (which is, of course, all she is really interested in), by criticising football just as the USA garners the admiration of the world by getting out of the qualification round of the World Cup for the first time. No American whose Great-Grandfather was born in America could possibly be interested in this “foreign game”, opined the fast-fading right wing hack.

http://www.salon.com/2014/06/26/ann_coulter_no_american_whose_great_grandfather_was_born_here_is_watching_soccer/

Let us be clear what this is. It would be easy to dismiss both incidents as laughably ridiculous, whereas in reality this is, under the rolled eyes of “they’re at it again”, ugly “dog whistle” politics.

By targeting “differentness”, whether it be a different language or the growth of a sport in popularity, what is being done hear is to “wedge” the population. To turn people against people. To leverage the innate fears of “otherness” that fester in the collective consciousness, and to make only one way the right way, if you’ll forgive the pun. And why? To distract people from looking at and tackling real issues that matter, that’s why.

There is a vast right wing conspiracy operating in America to turn one of the legs of the civic society – the GOP – into a party of antis. Anti equality of treatment for gay, lesbian and transgendered people. Anti affirmative action to provide opportunity for women, the poor, and non-whites. Anti social security safety nets. Anti healthcare. Anti “foreign”. And above all, anti-tax, because essentially, the movement is, at its core, anti the very concept of a democratic government that can raise and spend money based on a universal franchise.

This conspiracy is not necessarily conscious – although it may be – but what is undoubtedly being attempted is to coalesce the conservative white population (much of it now working class) into a coherent coalition than can combat the very obvious fact that America is now a multicultural, multi-faith, multi-sexuality and above all urban modern society that is innately not conservative.

America today has many issues to be sure, but it still demonstrates daily that it is essentially a forward-looking nation – evolving, experimenting, changing – as it always has been. This in turn horrifies those who wish to see an endless perpetuation of the position of an idealised white middle-class, by which they really mean the power of the privileged and uber-wealthy to manipulate the political system to preserve their hold over a majority of supine fellow travellers a few steps below them on the ladder.

Ironically, what means they are doomed to fail is that the middle class in America, which has long been the acquiescent lap dog of the rich and powerful, is now in near-terminal decline, as in many places in the world.

The old days of a quarter-acre block with a neat weatherboard home lived in by a nuclear family with a couple of American made cars in the driveway who live and work in a pleasant mid-size town are now utterly behind us. Nowadays more people than ever live in conurbations, and more people than ever live alone. The nuclear family unit has undergone so much change it is now unrecognisable. In the countryside, traditional industries and agriculture have collapsed with the growth of mega-agricultural companies and the disapora of young people to the cities, with the concomitant collapse of small-town retailing. In the cities, rust-belt industries have collapsed under foreign competition, their wealthy workers which once migrated into the middle class now stuck on benefits or in part time work.

What is growing is a large and vocal disenfranchised white working class, standing shifting its feet nervously and threateningly across the street from a still-disenfranchised black working class which looks just as discomforted.

The right wing dog-whistle politics is designed to drag the white portion of that congregation into the GOP’s camp, where previously they might have been expected to steer naturally to the left. The endless anti-big-government whingeing of the Tea Party gives a modicum of intellectual veneer to the process. But in fact, what is being attempted is nothing more nor less to divide America into two nearly-at-war camps, dragging one to the field of combat with a dream of an America that no longer exists and will never exist again.

On the one side, we have the urban community, the professional whites, the urbanised working class and unemployed, the blacks, the bulk of  latinos, and what remains of the contented middle class. On the other, we have the “loser” middle class with declining income and influence, the marginalised working class and non working whites, the upwardly mobile latinos, the old whites, and the Christian extremists. The right believes it can build a coalition that can win from this grouping, all of whom are feeling very “anti” everything they can think of. So they constantly propound dog-whistle “anti” messages. But they can’t. The hard fact is, there simply isn’t enough of them to build a winning national coalition. All they will achieve in building is an angrier and angrier minority, the consequences of which are horrible to contemplate.

If we backtrack a little, the essential post WWII compact between the Democrat and Republican parties ran something like this. “There are certain inalienable rights we have to take care of. We should have as close to full employment as we can create. We love immigration, because we will always need good people. We shouldn’t have too much funny money circulating but a bit doesn’t matter too much. We should support entrepreneurism, because our society is built on it. We should sell as much as we can overseas – we are a trading nation. But while we do all this, we will always look after the poor and needy, because we never want to return to the 1930s.”

Along with this bipartisanship agreement came an essentially conservative social compact. Pride in country. Pride in steady but unspectacular social change. Pride in calm.

That all pretty much changed forever around the mid-late 1960s. American adventurism overseas alarmed and then horrified the youth of the country, (especially when they were told they had to take part), and the sexual revolution galvanised it. Rapid change in the area of civil rights was agreed on all sides, but not because of any great moral conviction. It was rushed through out of fear of a racially-based conflict: the attitudes that lurked behind the change still rankled. Corruption at the highest levels led to an innate mistrust in Government that has never been overcome. The ridiculous levels of expenditure required to fight the Cold War drained the coffers of money that should have been spent upgrading and modernising American industry.

Basically, America fell apart.

The process wasn’t a straight line, but it was inexorable, and it continues. The latest ludicrous forays into the Middle East have merely exacerbated both the discontent and cost burden to the economy.

Now, America faces decades of rediscovering and reinventing itself. Problems that were created in decades will take decades to fix. And the likelihood is that America will never again be as dominant as it was for most of the 20th century. But the eagle can, and should, soar again. America is above all an inventive nation, stable, highly educated, wealthy, and determined. But to get back to the ideal of an America with a strong place in the world will require new creative thinking, and above all it will require unity of purpose as it charts a new course.

There are some signs America has the determination to make the required changes. But what is tragically also obvious is that right now the Republican Party is failing to see the absolute requirement for it to play a full and meaningful part in the compact that will be required to achieve that.

Mesmerised by the types of idiots displayed above, and a few loudmouths in Congress, the leadership of the Republican Party appears unable or unwilling to advance a coherent set of proposals to address the very real difficulties America faces. Where is the new thinking on tax policy, just as one example? Merely “cutting taxes” is nothing more than a mantra. Any attempt to deal with the sovereign debt crisis in America will need a combination of new taxes and lowering expenditure. America needs to approach the fact that it is essentially bankrupt not with ideology but with ruthless pragmatism: the American tax and fiscal system is badly in need of thoroughgoing renewal and revision. But the GOP does nothing but parrot “lower taxes” as a solution. “Lower taxes” is not an answer, is is just an “anti” dog-whistle. And not one, incidentally, that offers any real hope of relief to those that are currently being conned into supporting the whistling. The problem is much more complex than “lower taxes”. It needs America’s brightest and best to work co-operatively to effect profound and lasting change.

As one American commentator David Hawkins noted, it is interesting that in his recent startling GOP primary victory over the expected Tea Party winner, Thad Cochran reached across the aisle to registered Democrats to back him, aware of the unusual fact that in his state voters from either party can vote in the primaries of the other, provided they have not voted in a primary previously. With this timely move, and resisting millions in spending from the far right to unseat him, instead of being tossed out on his ear as the right cheerfully prophesised, he has instead guaranteed becoming one of the most influential players in the coming Congress.

The senator who looked to become the Tea Party movement’s biggest scalp of 2014 is now in position to be the small government conservatives’ worst nightmare of 2015. Cochran’s upset runoff victory has made him a totally safe bet for a seventh term, and also increased by a small notch the prospect that he and his fellow Republicans could win control of the Senate this fall. We don’t think it will, but if that happens, Cochran has not only the seniority but also the vanquished victor’s clout necessary to claim the chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee — where he would surely restore some of the spend-along-to-get-along spirit of bipartisan collegiality that drives insurgents on the right absolutely nuts.

constflagfl2Will the leadership of the GOP take note of the opportunity to resurrect the old bi-party consensus? We are at a tipping point.

If they did, we would see an end to any nonsense about impeaching Obama (who has done nothing impeachable), about any more shut downs of government expenditure, about strangling the Executive of funds, or anything like it. We would see a determination to reform Obamacare so it worked better for a greater number of people, rather than lingering talk of abolishing it. We would see a deal more hard work and effort going into jointly-supported initiatives to create real economic activity, (based on manufacturing, not on paper shuffling), we would see the resolution of currency and trade issues with the fast-growing Indian and Chinese sectors, a deeper engagement with Asia generally, action on developing climate-friendly energy production, innovation in IT and industry, and much more. And we would see a re-working of the American economic system to lift the burden of big government off the backs of those it really hurts most, the very people it is trying to help.

Yes, here will always be differences in emphasis between the Democrat and Republican tribes. But the current split is toxic, and dangerous.

Being “anti” everything is, basically, anti-American, and doomed to fail. It’s called the UNITED States of America, remember?

Someone tell them.

 

 

McConnell v Grimes: forgive our cynicism, but the look of both candidates isn't exactly going to hurt the Democrats either.

McConnell v Grimes: forgive our cynicism, but the look of both candidates isn’t exactly going to hurt the Democrats either. Hey, Kennedy beat Nixon because he was taller, right?

A round of new polls conducted by The New York Times and Kaiser Family Foundation have some good (and surprising, to some) news for a handful of Southern Senate Democrats in key seats. This news may hose down excitement in some GOP and fellow-traveller ranks that the Republicans could win control of the Senate: that now looks less likely, not that we ever thought it was.

The polls, released Wednesday, found Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) leading Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) by a comfortable 46 percent to 36 percent.

In Kentucky, controversial Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – long tipped as a very possible loser in the mid-terms by this blog – just barely leads Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) 44 percent to 43 percent, the poll found.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) is also neck-and-neck with House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-NC) in a hypothetical matchup with Hagan getting 42 percent while Tillis gets 40 percent.

Lastly, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has a commanding lead over Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and the rest of the field in the Louisiana Senate race.

(That finding deserves a caveat: Louisiana’s primary system is something called a “jungle primary” where there is no Republican or Democratic primary. Instead all candidates run together and if no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates face each other in a runoff election. The poll found Landrieu with 42 percent followed by Cassidy with 18 percent. No other candidate managed to get double digits.)

The polls were conducted April 8 to the 15. The margin of error for each poll was plus or minus 4 percentage points for registered voters. In other words, despite “weeks of attacks ads” quoted by one source, Mark Pryor in Arkansas has pulled out to a winning lead (his biggest lead since polling started) and looks comfortable in what should still be a relatively tight race. The other races are all within the margin of error.

We believe incumbency will be a negative for all candidates in November, and even more than usual. On that basis we think McConnell looks doubly vulnerable. We shall see.

Never miss an opportunity to up the ratings, no matter where the truth lies.

Never miss an opportunity to up the ratings, no matter where the truth lies.

 

The appalling Murdoch-owned Fox News, various right-wing Senators and Congressmen, and other Tea Party types like Rush “Pig” Limbaugh and others, have relentlessly tried to stir up trouble for the Obama government about the attack on the American compound in Benghazi which saw four Americans killed.

9 September 2012, Benghazi

9 September 2012, Benghazi

There may, indeed, have been issues surrounding that event that warrant further cool-headed examination, and most likely in the area of how intelligence is handled in the chain of command, and many decent-minded Americans legitimately want those matters discussed.

But it is amazing how similar historical incidents worldwide failed to provoke anything like the froth and bubble surrounding Benghazi.

It surely couldn’t be that the GOP would do anything they can to stop then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton getting to the White House in her own right, could it?

This list of other incidents, including links to coverage, all happened under the previous Administration’s watch. They are reproduced from policymic.com and were originally compiled by Shwetika Baijal who is a PolicyMic columnist and writes for their Millenials and the Media column. She focuses on how the media frames policy and cultural issues, and how the media’s framing of events effects public opinion.

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The incidents below include all kinds of attacks — gunmen on bikes, suicide bombs, car bombs, gunmen shooting outside, and terrorists storming Consulate compounds similar to what happened in Benghazi. During each of those incidents Fox News was only supportive of the administration’s reactions and there were no calls for the removal of Secretary Condoleeza Rice.

The GOP and Fox’s fixation on Benghazi is partisan propaganda. In some of these attacks the State Department had been forewarned about potential threats, unlike Benghazi. Instead of reporting the incident and the recent allegations from a whistleblower, Fox News is hacking together their own version of the events to further convolute the story’s reality.

Check out the timeline of attacks on embassies and consulate compounds during Bush’s tenure that received no similar fine-toothed-combing from Fox.

1.Jan. 22, 2002: Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami Attacks Indian U.S. Consulate

Five policemen were killed and 16 injured in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta because of an attack on the U.S. consulate by militant group Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami. American employees including the consul-general in Calcutta, Christopher Sandrolini, were unscathed, and those injured and killed were all Indians.

2.June 14, 2002: Suicide Car-Bomb Outside U.S. Consulate in Karachi

Twelve people died in an attack outside the U.S. consulate in Karachi when militants exploded a car bomb. A Taliban splinter group referred to as Al-Qanoon, or “The Law,” claimed responsibility for the attacks that also injured 51 people. Two hired guards, a Marine, and five Pakistani staff members were among the injured in the attack that followed then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s visit to the country.

3.Oct. 12, 2002: String Of Bali Bombings Included U.S. Consulate

The U.S. consulate in Indonesia was attacked as part of the ‘Bali bombings’ on a devastating October night. While there were no fatalities at the consulate, seven Americans were among the 202 dead at the coordinated blasts inside a bar and outside a nightclub.

4.Feb. 28, 2003: Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, Attacked For the Second Time in One Year

Gunmen rode up on a motorbike to the U.S. consulate’s security checkpoints and rained gunfire killing two Pakistani police officers. One gunman arrested by paramilitary officers was found to have several rounds of ammunition prepared for what could have been a far more devastating attack.

5.May 12, 2003: 36 People Including 9 Americans Die After Terrorists Storm U.S. Compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

The State Department had warned of a potential strike against the Saudi days before gunmen infiltrated the Al Hamra Oasis Village and two others killing 36 people and wounding 160. This was the most devastating attack on a State Department employees to occur under Bush. The Saudi government cracked down on terrorists group but that did not prevent another attack to occur a year later in Jeddah.

6.July 30, 2004: Islamist Attacks U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Two Uzbek security guards died in a bombing on the U.S. embassy in Tashkent days. Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan claimed responsibility of the bombing after 15 alleged Islamist militants went on trial.

7.Dec. 6, 2004: Five Staff and Four Security Guards Die in U.S. consulate attack in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Gunmen fought their way into the complex, reportedly taking 18 staff and visa applicants hostage for a short time before Saudi security forces stormed the building. The final dead counted four security guards, five staff, and three attackers. No Americans were among the dead.

8.March 2, 2006: Third Attack on Karachi U.S. Consulate Killed U.S. Diplomat

U.S. Diplomat David Foy was specifically targeted in the third attack in as many years on the Karachi consulate compound. He was one of four people killed. The bomb occurred two days before President Bush was to visit Pakistan and also targeted the Marriot hotel in an upscale neighborhood of Karachi.

This was a planned and coordinated attack that nobody covered as more than a news item.

9.Sept. 12, 2006: Four Gunmen Stormed the U.S. compound in Damascus, Syria

Gunmen yellingAllahu akbar ” – “God is great” – fired on Syrian security officers guarding the U.S. embassy. The gunmen used grenades, automatic weapons, car bombs, and a truck bomb and killed four people and wounded 13 others. Condoleezza Rice, then Secretary of State praised the Syrians that defended the U.S. employees: “the Syrians reacted to this attack in a way that helped to secure our people, and we very much appreciate that.”

10.Jan. 12, 2007: Greek Terrorists Fired a Rocket-Propelled Grenade at the U.S. Embassy

An antitank grenade was fired into the empty consulate building by leftist terrorist group Revolutionary Struggle angry at American foreign policy. Even though nobody was in the building at the time the attack was a blatant breach of security and showed enormous security loopholes.

11.March 18, 2008: A Mortar is Fired at the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen

Similar to the Greek attack, a mortar was fired at the U.S. embassy building killing 19 people and injuring 16. This was the second attempt at a similar mortar attack on the embassy. The first one missed the embassy and hit a girls’ school next door.

12.July 9, 2008: Three Turkish Policemen were Killed When Gunman Fired on the U.S. Consulate Istanbul, Turkey

Four attackers drove up to the high-walled compound of the U.S. Consulate and started shooting the security guards. The gun battle took the lives of three of the attackers but the fourth one drove off. No Americans were injured or killed.

13.Sept. 17, 2008: 16 People Including 2 Americans Die in an Orchestrated Attack on the U.S. Embassy Sana’a, Yemen

An arsenal of weapons including rocket-propelled grenades and two car bombs were involved in the second attack on the embassy in seven months. Eighteen-year-old American Susan El-Baneh and her husband of three weeks died holding hands.

Yes. Hardly a stellar list of events.

Anyhow, since their initial flurry of coverage, Fox may be back pedaling just a tad, and so may the right in general. This AP report, from April 10, shows some of the heat coming out of the issue.

GOP chairman satisfied with military response to Benghazi attack.

The GOP chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Thursday he is satisfied with how the military responded to the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.

Republicans are pressing ahead with multiple congressional investigations, but Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., said the military did what it reasonably could during a chaotic night of two separate attacks on Sept. 11, 2012. The assault killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

“I think I’ve pretty well been satisfied that given where the troops were, how quickly the thing all happened and how quickly it dissipated, we probably couldn’t have done more than we did,” McKeon told reporters at a roundtable discussion. “Now, we’ve made changes since then. We’ve got more Marine fast teams that we built up security around the world.”

Republicans accuse the Obama administration of misleading the American people about a terrorist attack weeks before the presidential election by blaming the assault on protests touched off by an anti-Islam video. An independent investigation and a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report earlier this year blamed inadequate security and faulted the State Department.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the Obama administration has not been forthcoming.

“They owe the American people the truth. And when it comes to Benghazi, we’ve got four Americans who are dead. And their families deserve the truth about what happened, and the administration refuses to tell them the truth,” Boehner told reporters at a separate news conference.

McKeon said five committees are investigating. His panel and members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee interviewed retired Gen. Carter Ham, who headed the Africa command, for nearly seven hours on Wednesday. McKeon said he was told lawmakers heard nothing new in the testimony by Ham, who has spoken to investigators at least six times.

“We have been working on this for a long time. We issued a preliminary report,” McKeon said. “At some point, when we run out of people to talk to, or we run out of people to talk to two or three times, at some point, we think we’ll have as much of this story as we’re going to get and move on.”

Democrats have called for an end to the investigations, arguing that Republicans are on a futile search for information to embarrass the Obama administration. Republicans reject those calls and insist there are numerous unanswered questions and that they owe it to the families of the dead Americans to investigate.

The Armed Services Committee’s interim report released earlier this year said the military’s response “was severely degraded because of the location and readiness posture of U.S. forces, and because of lack of clarity about how the terrorist action was unfolding. However, given the uncertainty about the prospective length and scope of the attack, military commanders did not take all possible steps to prepare for a more extended operation.”

The Senate Intelligence committee report described the military’s actions. One unarmed Predator drone was diverted for surveillance, a seven-man security team with two Defense Department members flew from Tripoli to Benghazi to evacuate Americans and then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered two Marine anti-terrorism security teams from their base in Rota, Spain, to Libya.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Panetta have testified to Congress that the lack of intelligence about what was happening on the ground in Benghazi made it difficult to send in jet fighters or other aircraft.

Wellthisiswhatithink says:

The mob is a dangerous thing. Excite it at your peril.

The mob is a dangerous thing. Excite it at your peril.

What we feel is really sad about events like Benghazi – beyond the tragic loss of life – is the way that partisan politics muddies the waters deliberately to whip up fury against those in authority, whoever they happen to be, before it is possible to parse exactly what may or may not have taken place.

We are all for clarity, and transparency. We would never argue that any administration, in any country, should be above scrutiny, and close scrutiny at that.

But neither should anybody seek, by the endless drumbeat of malicious mistrust, to inculcate the view in the general public that whoever is in power are automatically lying, mendacious  types who seek to rule without democratic oversight or who have something to hide. Sometimes, no matter who is in charge, “shit happens”. We need to be big enough to accept that.

The mob is universally poorly informed, easily excited, and it rarely serves any good purpose to stir them. There has been a lot of wanton stirring going on in the bloodsport that American politics has sadly become, where truth appears to be endlessly malleable, and where it seems nothing matters beyond pulling down the other guy to the lowest possible level of public respect.

The key point is that if our democratic institutions become too mistrusted, through continual howling and unreasonable attack, then they will be easily done away with by those who never believed in them anyway …

In our view, the only things that defends democracy from the mob is the endless and truthful repetition of facts; repetition that occurs in large enough doses that it can puncture the vested interests of those who seek to trivialise – and thus marginalise – democracy. You may care to share some of the facts you find in this article.

Every little helps.

John McCainU.S. Sen. John McCain hasn’t decided whether he’ll run for a sixth term, but the former GOP presidential nominee said Tuesday that the Arizona Republican Party’s censure of him over the weekend may just have provided the motivation to seek office again.

The censure vote came during a meeting of state committee members who cited McCain’s voting record as being insufficiently conservative.

The members said McCain has lent his support to issues “associated with liberal Democrats,” such as immigration reform and funding President Barack Obama’s federal health care law.

In response Tuesday, McCain said he has a strong conservative voting record and led the fight in the Senate against Obama’s health care plan. He blames the censure on uninformed “extremist” party elements, and said, if anything, it only bolsters his consideration to run for a sixth term in 2016, the year he turns 80.

“If there’s such a thing as motivation to more seriously consider it, it’s what just happened,” McCain told The Associated Press.

Timothy Schwartz, the Arizona Legislative District 30 Republican chairman who helped write the censure resolution, said the vote showed that McCain was losing support from his own party. But McCain called the censure “ludicrous.”

“It shows that, again, a very extremist element of the party has taken over the party apparatus,” he said, adding that polling shows he maintains strong support in Arizona from Republicans, Democrats and independents.

“I’ve won every race I’ve run and I’m proud of my record, and if I run again, I am totally confident of re-election,” McCain said.

In a Facebook post this week, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and McCain’s 2008 running mate, defended the senator as “an American hero and a friend.”

Palin said McCain has helped lead the fight in Congress against the “far left agenda.”

McCain was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982 and won his Senate seat in 1986.

He unsuccessfully sought the presidency in 2008 then easily won another Senate term in 2010. He has challenged Obama on foreign policy but has worked with Democrats on immigration legislation, noting “70 percent of the people in Arizona want to see comprehensive immigration reform.”

(From AP)

At the Wellthisiswhatithink desk we have been warning for years that the GOP has made itself unelectable by refusing to rein in its wide-eyed Tea Party loons. This is just one more example. For America to prosper it needs a credible opposition, for the health of democracy in the most important democratic nation on earth we need America to have a credible opposition, and the disheartened rump of the old moderate GOP with a lunatic quasi-libertarian right grafted onto it is emphatically not it.

In short: the extreme right in America is seeking to take over the Republican Party because it knows it can never take control on its own. The fight against the Trotskyites in the British Labor Party in the 70s and 80s was an identical process which nearly killed that great party off, and the Republicans face a similar fight to reclaim their soul.

Like any long-term politician, McCain’s record in office is patchy, but there can be no doubt he represents a significant majority of the voters in his home state. He is also old enough and bold enough to tell it like it is. With luck, he and others will face down those who are determined to turn America into a “culture wars” battleground of religious v non-religious, men v women, employed v unemployed, and white v everyone else. America deserves better.

The world deserves better.

LonelyElephant

For some weeks now, we have been predicting that the blame for the US Government shutdown – and any future debt default – will be laid squarely at the feet of the Republicans, and it is only because they are living in their own very badly advised bubble (just as they were at the last Presidential election) that they cannot see the approaching disaster that their behaviour is creating.

This article on recent poll results makes it very clear. Undeniable.

tea party childNo one in their right mind would want to see America become, in effect, a one party state. But that’s the way they’re headed, unless someone in the Republican leaderships starts to bang a few heads together and show some foresight – starting with isolating and ignoring the Tea Party representatives in their midst.

Will the GOP listen before it’s too late? I doubt it.

By Steve Benen at the Maddow Blog
Wed Oct 9, 2013 3:14 PM EDT

Have congressional Republicans been unpopular before? Yes. Have they been this unpopular? Not in recent memory.

 

This Gallup chart shows the parties’ favourability ratings over the last 21 years, and you’ll notice that sharp drop on the right side of the image. That shows GOP support falling off a cliff.

Republicans were deeply unpopular during the impeachment crisis in late 1998, but they’re in even worse shape now. Indeed, the angle that surprised me was comparing Republican favourability now to the party’s standing the last time GOP lawmakers shut down the government — they’re faring much worse in 2013.

 

 

And this is the image showing unfavourable ratings. Note, dislike for Republicans was also very strong at the end of the Bush/Cheney era, but once again, it’s worse now.

It’s obvious from the results that Democrats aren’t winning any popularity contests, but you don’t need to be a professional pollster to see which party is in better shape.

As for whether there are any practical consequences for poll results like these, I think there are.

The 2014 midterms are still a year away, and the prevailing political winds are bound to change direction – more than once – between now and then. What’s more, many Republican districts have been shielded from a voter backlash by gerrymandering.

But when one party’s public standing reaches a generational low – as opposed to, say, a minor downturn – it’s bound to have an effect. For one thing, it matters to the parties’ recruiting efforts, and there’s already some evidence to bolster this point. For another, it affects fundraising, and we’ve seen anecdotal evidence on this front, too.

What’s more, it starts to create a ceiling of sorts. As Republican popularity reaches new depths, it becomes that much more difficult to recover. If the GOP were to somehow add another 10 points to its favorability rating, it’d still be in horrible shape — and there’s nothing to suggest a 10-point boost is on the horizon.

It’s far too early for serious speculation about the midterms, but if Republicans are trying to position themselves for major setbacks in the next cycle, they’re off to an excellent start.

corruption-corruptionblog-blogspot-comIn a minute, you will find a link to a must-read article by blogger Valentine Logar.

But first: wedon’t care what your politics is. This woman is right.

Yes, of course, Val is coming from a Democrat perspective, but she is actually speaking for all Americans who care about the quality of their civil society.

About a truly participatory democracy, with freedom and justice for all.

It’s this simple.

Democracy in America is for sale, and the last chance to prevent it becoming completely corrupted is right now.

If you’re American, read this. Read it now. If you are living anywhere else in the world, but you value a vibrant and growing American democracy as a key bulwark against totalitarianism, read it now. Click now:

Wake Up Citizens.

There is a concerted effort by the extreme right in America – by which I mean the extreme corporatist right, “big business” that is – the 1% – to BUY the American government. Legally. Under the “cover of law”.

corruptionAll of it, not just the Republicans, but Democrats too.

The Republicans apparently could care less – or maybe they are already so controlled they can’t fight back – although I strongly suspect many Democrats are equally compromised – but the people of America, those who value the land of the free, it is the people that must wake up and realise what is happening to their democracy.

The shadow men that have always circulated behind the seats of power obviously no longer think they need to fear people realising what they’re doing. They are using the froth and bubble of the debate over healthcare, and the upcoming possible debt default, to mask far murkier moves.

The land of the free. For all our sakes, bury your differences, before you become the land of the bought and paid for.

Which would make the whole world tremble.

Please, America, the reforms you need are not that difficult:

  • Stop your election funding laws becoming an international joke
  • Stop allowing political parties to gerrymander boundary changes – create an independent electoral boundaries review commission
  • Insert a circuit breaker in your Constitution so that governmental logjams cannot persist forever.

 

PS On a related issue: if you do default on your debt ceiling, America, and throw the entire world economy into chaos again, just please remember who did it. As trade dies, as your jobs disappear, as your prices rise, as your programs are cut, as you can’t afford new roads, or schools, or your armed forces, please remember those politicians who really refused to negotiate. And remember this, too: some people make money in a recession just as easily as they make it in a period of growth. They have the levers, they can throw them whichever way they want, and still buy and sell at a profit.

Just remember, as you hurt, they won’t be.

Alison Grimes

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes – she’s taking on the big one.

One of the more interesting Senate races in 2014 will be that for the seat of Mitch McConnell.

McConnell is now a staggeringly unpopular man for someone with his standing.

As leader of the Republicans in the Senate, he epitomises Washington gridlock, and frequently appears grumpy, curmudgeonly, and stubbornly pleased to be in that position.

That doesn’t mean he can’t get re-elected, of course. He’s a thirty year veteran in his position, and has a strong track record of winning in his Kentucky seat with a mixture of attack ads and connections to a strong grassroots street-corner campaign machine.

But in any two horse race, upsets can and do occur. And the anti-incumbent swing in 2014 is going to be savage.

All that remains is for the Democrats to come up with a candidate who is photogenic, connected, talented and clean. And they have.

As she demonstrated at the traditional campaign starter for Kentucky, the Fancy Farm Picnic, Alison Grimes has got what it takes to upset McConnell in spades.

She’s also a darling of Democrat activists, having used her time when campaigning for Secretary of State to argue against voter Photo ID, believing that it discriminates against poorer voters and people from racial minorities.

As these stories indicate, Grimes is galvanising the Democrat base – including with an hilarious and pointed performance at the Picnic – perhaps her funniest line was “If doctors told Senator McConnell he had a kidney stone, he’d refuse to pass it.” – and generally doing an excellent job of making McConnell look tired and out of ideas. She can expect an influx of workers and cash now she’s looking competitive.

http://www.politicususa.com/2013/08/03/alison-grimes-storms-fancy-farm-turns-mitch-mcconnell-paranoid-man.html

And opinion polls showing her neck and neck or hitting the front have excited much attention.

http://democracyforamerica.com/blog/728-this-probably-isn-t-the-week-mitch-mcconnell-wanted?t=C_fb_080213b

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/08/02/1228419/-Two-Dem-polls-show-Grimes-leading-McConnell-Cook-moves-Kentucky-Senate-race-to-toss-up

The last one includes video of an appalling poor McConnell attack ad which clearly didn’t resonate with voters. If that’s the best he’s got then he’s in even deeper trouble than it looks on the surface.

Well, of course, part of the fun of following politics is picking winners.

And picking them a long way out is more fun than we can resist. We think Grimes is in with a real shout.

"Things happen in American politics in the political center. If the President will meet us in the center, there are things we can accomplish." How's that going for you, Mitch?

“Things happen in American politics in the political center. If the President will meet us in the center, there are things we can accomplish.” How’s that going for you, Mitch?

But of course, if a week is a long time in politics, then between now and the 2014 elections is a positive aeon. Nevertheless what is certain is that McConnell now has a real fight on his hands.

And top guys can and do lose their seats.

Remember, Australian Prime Minister John Howard was turfed out in 2007 as part of his party’s overall loss.

It’s also worth recalling that Grimes beat a sitting Democrat to get into the Secretary of State race which she went on to win with a huge lead.

The number of attractive photographs of the candidate on the internet show that her camnpaign managers know full well that her looks are an asset.

The number of attractive photographs of the candidate on the internet show that her campaign managers know full well that her looks are an asset.

She’s got form as an anti-incumbent candidate.

Did I mention she’s cute?

And if you don’t know how that can help when up against a somewhat … less cute? … an older man, then sorry, but you just don’t get modern politics.

So we she’s one to watch.

If she beats McConnell, or even wounds him badly, then the sky is the limit for this woman.

Relatively inexperienced Junior Senators can go far, remember.

PS Meanwhile, in breaking news, it has been confirmed a few minutes ago that Australia will have a General Election on September 7th. Given that 80% of the readers of Wellthisiswhatithink are Americans, I apologise in advance that we will be mentioning it from time to time, and especially to those of you who couldn’t give a monkey’s bum what happens down here in God’s own country. Or as we like to call it at WTISIT, the Land of the Long White Lunchtime.” 

Eisenhower

Eisenhower

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.”

Dwight Eisenhower, speaking to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953

In my opinion, American defence spending is bloated beyond belief, beyond anything necessary to fulfil either a defensive or offensive role in the world, and this is the result of an active and ongoing conspiracy between corrupt politicians (perhaps I should say, a corrupted political system) and the military-industrial complex.

Remember, American defence spending is greater than ALL of the next ten biggest defence budgets in the world, and that includes Russia and China.

And who pays for this? American taxpayers.

The role of the military-industrial complex is hardly new - as this 19th century cartoon exemplifies. Isn't it time we really tackled it?

The role of the military-industrial complex is hardly new – as this 19th century cartoon exemplifies. Isn’t it time we really tackled it? Over to you, taxpayers.

See, I cannot understand, for the life of me, why Americans – and especially those who detest taxes and Government waste of public money – do not rise up and demand that their defence budget is radically trimmed.

I cannot understand, for example, why Tea Party activists – almost universally anti excessive taxation – do not target defence spending first.

Just why is defence spending protected from cuts that are clearly necessary?

Why does the right wing demand defence spending be exempted from cuts?

Is it somehow a measurement or reflection of some deeply ingrained macho-psyche bullsh*t?

Is it merely that the political forces are so deep in their trenches that they cannot move from ossified positions?

Is it simply  that defence is a dog-whistle topic for the GOP base, and it’s better to try and make cuts to needed social security spending, despite the harm it causes, than to seek to educate their own supporters?

In which case, shame on them. And shame on the Democrats for letting them get away with it.

Yes, I understand that decisions about what items to cut are always complex … I have heard persuasive arguments from friends in the US Navy that they believe expenditure on capital ships has fallen to dangerously low levels. But I am talking here of the overall budget. Someone needs to get to it with a serious knife and cut deep, hard and long. It’s time.

There is another good reason for America to get it’s defence spending under control. Without excess (and excessive) forces, they will be less inclined to engage in military adventures overseas that are both morally and legally dubious. Iraq – and the 500,000 subsequent dead – would never have happened. And Afghanistan, in the absence of Iraq, would have been a two year event, and a much more likely success, rather than the morass it has become.

So – it’s over to you, American taxpayers. We are all relying on you. Are you really happy with the way things are going?

Feel free to cut and paste this on your Facebook page, blog, etc

Feel free to cut and paste this on your Facebook page, blog, etc. It is from the excellent “Ethical Reporters Against Faux News” Facebook page, a source of regular facts that need to be known.

Yes, before someone upbraids me, I know US military spending IS tipped to fall. From $638 billion this year to $538 billion by 2020.

But it’s not enough. And anyway, if pressure is not kept on, who says if that goal will be met?

Do I think it is beyond the wit and wisdom of Washington insiders to dream up another false-flag reason to suddenly ramp up spending again?

No. Sadly, I do not. Do you?

Oh, and Ike? He was a Republican. The type of moderate, thoughtful Republican that doesn’t seem to exist any more, more’s the pity. He was hawkish against communism, expanded America’s nuclear arsenal, but also launched the Interstate Highway System; the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which led to the internet, among many invaluable outputs; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), driving peaceful discovery in space; the establishment of strong science education via the National Defense Education Act; and encouraging peaceful use of nuclear power via amendments to the Atomic Energy Act.

In social policy, he sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, for the first time since Reconstruction to enforce federal court orders to desegregate public schools. He also signed civil rights legislation in 1957 and 1960 to protect the right to vote. He implemented desegregation of the armed forces in two years and made five appointments to the Supreme Court. He was no captive of extremists – he actively and adroitly condemned the excesses of McCarthyism without upsetting his own right wing – in marked contrast to the current leadership of the GOP, he articulated his position as a moderate, progressive Republican: “I have just one purpose … and that is to build up a strong progressive Republican Party in this country. If the right wing wants a fight, they are going to get it … before I end up, either this Republican Party will reflect progressivism or I won’t be with them anymore.”

He was a talented politician. He prevented the GOP from collapsing into extreme-right irrelevance, and became, in doing so, wildly popular with both Democrats, independents and Republicans.

In summary, Eisenhower’s two terms were peaceful and productive ones for the most part and saw considerable economic prosperity except for a sharp recession in 1958–59.

So why was Eisenhower so chary of military spending?

Further comment superfluous.

Further comment superfluous.

Perhaps it was because, unlike most politicians today, he had actually witnessed the effects of that spending at first hand.

Not just the theft from those who needed the money spent on them, but also the carnage that war let loose really entails.

He walked the beaches after D Day.

He had ordered into battle legions that he knew would suffer 50%, 60%, 75% casualties.

He spoke with those men, face to face, hours before they left for France, knowing that most were just hours from dismemberment, disablement, or a  grisly death.

For him, every bullet fired, on both sides, was a disaster. But that understanding did not prevent him being one of the greatest military commanders in history.

And it didn’t stop him being a Republican.

In Michigan, the Republican-controlled legislature succeeded in passing a new “right-to-work” law, which weakens unions’ ability to negotiate and has serious negative implications for all workers in the state. They had no public meetings, no debate, no time for review, and most offensively had Republican staffers sit in seats in the gallery to block interested citizens from even being in the room to hear about it.

So this guy decided to say something about that.

Whatever your view of the legislation, (and I think it stinks), don’t you just ache to have someone representing you who speaks from the heart like this, eschewing all the weasel words and obfuscations?

This man will go far. Brandon Dillon, Democrat, Grand Rapids. Remember the name.

If you want to tell him what you think, try tweeting with the hashtag #brandondillonrocks, or tweet him direct @brandondillon75.

 rape victims

“I can’t say it’s your own fault any more, so we’ll blame it on God.”

The following article, from the excellent Emily Hauser, argues quite correctly that this Republican politician has done the world, and America voters, a great service.

From Todd Aiken to here is a straight line. Because here, for once, unambiguously, is the argument laid out for all to see. And that argument is: if you get raped, and you get pregnant, then it is what God intended, and you are honour-bound to carry that child to term and give birth. (No word yet on whether God intended you to bring the child up as well.)

This is nothing new: the recent kerfuffle in the news about Todd Akin was simply because he said out loud what he and his colleagues think but aren’t supposed to say.  Todd Akin simply said out loud what his voting record and the voting record of his conservative colleagues  showed for years.  Three weeks before he walked straight into a shit-storm 203 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to prohibit abortions even in cases of rape or incest. And earlier this year the Republican party didn’t want to extend funding of $455 million a year for rape crisis centers that already are being funded on the books.  They felt it was excessive use of government spending and an over-reach in the size of the federal government (source); it only passed when the Republican leadership said that this would damage the GOP politically.

And in February of this year – Fox News said the Pentagon was spending too much money to defend women soldiers from rape (source) even though a woman soldier is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire (source).

Well, turning to this story, I have a degree in Theology, I am a democrat (note the small D, despite my feelings about this particular election), and I am a man.

On all three counts, I respect this man’s right to express his point of view.

But I also unalterably and completely reject his nonsense as yet another product of the Neanderthal extremist hyper-religious right in America, typified by lunatic old neo-fascists masquerading as Roman Catholic archbishops, raving “pastors” of mainly Southern extreme Protestant cliques, and all the rest of the literalistic fundamentalist Christians that America delights in nurturing.

Just let’s consider this argument carefully. ” Rape is something God intended to happen.”

Apart from how I feel that insults God, it’s only a very small step from that complete abrogation and abnegation of intellectual responsibility to argue that “Slavery is something God intended to happen.”  Or “the Holocaust is something God intended to happen.”

The inevitable result of blaming everything on God is we don’t NEED to improve the world ourselves. Well, we can try, of course, but if we happen to fail, well, fuck it – it’s God’s will that we fail, and we can all just accept the consequences.

My dear old Mother would have had a response to that. She would have said, in her delightful Welsh brogue, ” Well, Stephen, God helps those who help themselves.” Meaning, not that we are all supposed to become uber-rich by asset stripping companies, but that God does not, in fact, carefully orchestrate every lifetime moment of every human being on the planet, and he looks to us to look after not only the planet, but ourselves, and our societies.

Hell yes there’s a reason to vote for Obama in this election, and it is to keep nut-cases like this guy and his comrades out of power. And out of your bedroom, and out of your bodies.

Women of America: don’t say you weren’t warned …

Romney/Ryan, abortion, and the humanity of women. (And church and state, too).

Yesterday I had the honor of being on a panel with Daniel Ellsberg on HuffPost Live, and the good fortune to be given the opportunity to talk about how, in fact, the little matter of which party sits in the White House is hugely important to American women, because there’s one party that treats 50% of this nation’s citizens as autonomous people, and one party that doesn’t.

Then a little later in the day, this was reported:

Defending his stance that abortion should be illegal even in the case of rape, [Indiana Treasurer/candidate for US Senate Richard] Mourdock explained that pregnancy resulting from non-consensual sex is the will of God.

“I’ve struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God,” Mourdock said. “And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

And I honestly found it refreshing. Because Richard Mourdock said, out loud and for all to hear, that which so many of these anti-choice culture warriors carry in their hearts: This is God’s will, and if you abort any pregnancy, regardless of its provenance, you are acting to thwart the Almighty Himself.

This isn’t about compassion for the poor witless woman who might not know what she’s missing out on if you don’t force her to undergo state-sanctioned rape in the form of a trans-vaginal ultrasound; this isn’t even, really, about human life. This is about the will of God, and the belief held by a great many people that humans are required to bend to that will — and that for women, there’s a lot more will to go around:

Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man…. [A man] the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 1 Corinthians 11:3 & 7

To be clear: There are millions upon millions of Christians who have grappled with verses like those I’ve just quoted and come to an understanding of their faith and Scripture that support women’s equality and our right to bodily autonomy. (And just to be clearer still: I believe that all modern-day monotheism, including my own, requires this kind of grappling, because none of our Scriptures are without ugliness).

But the Christians standing at the head of the American right wing are not that kind of Christian, and they’re the ones we’re facing.

God is above man, and man is above woman. If you were raped, that’s not cool (in no small part because rape is equated with sex, and a woman’s sexuality belongs to the man she married/will marry), but if that rape made you pregnant? Well, that’s what God wanted. And women who attempt to thwart God’s will are not only making God really really mad, they are upsetting the natural order of things, and that cannot be allowed.

I think it’s helpful to be told flat-out that this is what we’re battling. Many anti-choice activists may honestly believe that they’re acting to protect children (though I might argue that if they really want to protect children, they might consider the needs of the fetus after it becomes a baby, but I digress), but leaders of the anti-choice movement are acting to protect what they know to be the Divine order.

But I live in a secular nation. I live in a country where the separation of church and state is written into law. I live in a place where your knowledge of the Divine order should have absolutely no legal bearing on my life.

There is one party that agrees with that notion, and one party — the vice-presidential candidate of which stands behind some of the most extreme anti-choice bills on the American scene – that does not.

One party that is working — however fitfully, however imperfectly — to protect the right of half of this country’s citizens to be legally recognized as humans with autonomy over their own bodies, and one party working to declare zygotes legal people, to require physicians to lie to patients about the established medical facts of abortion, and to allow hospitals to deny abortions to women even when their lives are in immediate danger.

This is not about the medical procedure called “abortion.” This is about the separation of church and state, and it is about allowing women to be human.

Don’t tell me the parties are the same. 

Update: Mitt Romney taped an endorsement for Mourdock on Monday, but his campaign told TPM yesterday that Mourdock’s views do not reflect Romney’s. And yet for all that, the campaign has said today that it has not asked Mourdock to pull the ad. So.

There’s that.

Poll: Obama widens lead over Romney despite weaker jobs data – see the end of this article for 17 Sept update confirming trend is in Obama’s favour.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in Ashland today

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in Ashland today. I think Ryan looks too young to run. Oh, sorry, my bad. (Photo credit: tvnewsbadge)

As predicted in the pages of Wellthisiswhatithink a few days ago, Obama has done better out of the conference season than Romney. The scheduling of the Democrat convention immediately after the Republican one may come to be seen as a strategic masterstroke when the experts parse the result of a Democrat win in November.

The President widened his narrow lead over Republican U.S. presidential challenger Mitt Romney in a new Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Saturday.

The latest daily tracking poll showed Obama with a lead of 4 percentage points over Romney. Forty-seven percent of 1,457 likely voters surveyed online over the previous four days said they would vote for Obama if the November 6 elections were held today, compared with 43 percent for Romney.

“The bump is actually happening. I know there was some debate whether it would happen, but it’s here,” said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark, referring to the “bounce” in support that many presidential candidates enjoy after nominating conventions.

Obama had leapfrogged Romney in the daily tracking poll on Friday with a lead of 46 percent to 44 percent.

The president’s lead comes despite a somewhat mixed reaction to his convention speech on Thursday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Friday’s government data showing that jobs growth slowed sharply last month.

Obama’s lead over Romney is comparable to Romney’s former lead over the president after the Republican National Convention finished last week, Clark said.

“We don’t have another convention now to turn our attention to, so (Obama’s bounce) may maintain,” Clark said. “How big it’ll be and how long it will last remains to be seen.”

I am frankly surprised that the candidates aren’t closer this week, and in my opinion, as I explained the other day, the bounce will become slightly more pronounced next week, as this week’s averaged polls drop off polls from when Obama was in a comfortable lead.

From that point on, it is Obama’s election to lose. The difficulty for the Republicans is that the next major opportunity for them to draw blood is the debates, and these will almost certainly favour Obama, as, regardless of one’s political bias, he is clearly a stronger candidate than Romney – more charismatic, more likeable, and despite the mixed scorecard for the first term of his Presidency, appearing more capable. This is born out when one analyses the poll’s investigation of specific qualities of the two candidates.

Obama increased his lead over Romney in certain favorable characteristics. Asked who was more “eloquent,” 50 percent of the 1,720 registered voters questioned in the poll favored Obama, compared to 25 percent for Romney. Asked about being “smart enough for the job,” 46 percent sided with Obama compared to 37 percent for Romney.

In fact, Obama led Romney in a dozen such favorable characteristics, such as “represents America” or “has the right values.”

The only such category in which Romney had an advantage was being “a man of faith,” as 44 percent picked Romney, who is Mormon, compared to 31 percent for Obama, who is Christian, but who is dogged by rumours spread by his opponents, completely unfounded, that he secretly a Muslim.

The Democratic National Convention itself received a rather muted response in the poll. Of those registered voters who had heard, seen or read at least something about it, 41 percent rated it as “average” and 29 percent as “good.”

The Republican National Convention that wrapped up August 30 in Tampa, Florida similarly was rated slightly worse: “average” by 38 percent and “good” by 27 percent in Saturday’s polling results. Although these two results seem “nip and tuck”, this is actually further evidence of a setback for the republicans, who needed to attract a couple of percentage points from the very small group of “undecideds” in order to be competitive.

This election is close, but barring a disaster, should be won by Obama with a reasonable margin. As Harold Wilson said, however, “a week is a long time in politics”. That makes nearly two months a veritable aeon, in a world where the effect of banana skins are amplified tenfold by the voracity of the media.

In any two horse race, either can win, because one can falter or fall. But as we speak, Obama looks like he is a few furlongs from home with a handy lead.

Material sourced from Reuters. The precision of the Reuters/Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

UPDATE 17 SEPTEMBER 2012 10.50PM AEST

As predicted – almost to the day – by this column, Obama’s bounce has solidified in key battleground states this week. Here is the data:

As the Monitor’s Liz Marlantes reported last Friday, Obama’s post-convention bounce apparently endures, most significantly in key battleground states.

According to a new set of NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls, Obama is now leading Romney by 7 points in Ohio and 5 points in Florida and Virginia, and the RealClearPolitics polling average right now has Obama up by 4.2 percentage points in Ohio, 1.3 points in Florida, and 0.4 points in Virginia.

(Note, if Romney does not win Florida then he needs a clean sweep of all the other battleground states to beat Obama – highly unlikely.)

A Philadelphia Inquirer poll released Saturday has Obama leading Romney in Pennsylvania, 50 percent to 39 percent, reports Politico.

“Pennsylvania Democrats are more consolidated behind Obama, with 77 percent in favor of Obama and 13 percent in favor of Romney, while Republicans are 18 percent in favor of Obama and 71 percent in favor of Romney,” according to the poll press release.

“Following the conventions, Obama’s favorability rating has increased by 3 points, while his unfavorable rating has decreased by 6 points. Opinions of Romney have improved slightly following the conventions, but he still has a net negative personal popularity rating among voters in state, with 46 percent favorable/48 percent unfavorable rating.”

Politico also reports on an internal Republican poll that has Romney behind by 4 points in Ohio, not as bad as his 7-point deficit in the NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls but behind in the key battleground state nonetheless.

“The numbers underline Romney’s longstanding problems in Ohio, where he’s taken a beating from Obama’s campaign and liberal groups,” writes Politico’s Jonathan Martin.

“But it’s actually a sign of the depth of Romney’s hole in the state that the results were greeted favorably by Republicans. Polling in Ohio before the conventions last month showed Romney with an even larger deficit, closer to double-digits.”

The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll of likely voters has Obama widening his advantage to 7 points, a gap that’s been increasing since the Democratic convention. “What that really means is that Obama is in good shape,” said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark.

“Thursday’s online poll also found far more registered voters preferred the incumbent’s policies and approach on taxes (41 percent picked Obama, 30 percent Romney), healthcare (44 percent Obama, 28 percent Romney) and Social Security (39 percent Obama, 27 percent Romney),” Reuters reported.

Obama appears to be winning in foreign affairs, too. “Asked which of the candidates had a better plan, policy or approach to the war on terrorism, more registered voters again favored Obama: 39 percent to Romney’s 25 percent.” (Note that the poll was taken two days after the attack on the US consulate in Libya.)

One sleeper poll that may have particular importance given the tension between the US and Israel over drawing a “red line” regarding Iran’s nuclear facilities: Obama has extended his lead among registered Jewish voters to 70-25 percent, according to unreleased Gallup daily tracking poll data reported by BuzzFeed.

“The data, obtained through a Democratic source, shows Obama up from leading 64-29 in polling this spring – and on par with his 2008 performance at this point when he led 69-25 over John McCain in Gallup polling,” reports BuzzFeed.

Kansas

Kansas: for a moment there something nearly happened. False alarm.

A Kansas man who filed an objection with the state to President Barack Obama appearing on the state’s ballot is withdrawing his objection.

Joe Montgomery’s decision, which he communicated in an email to the secretary of state’s office Friday afternoon, ends a process that caused the all-Republican Kansas Objections Board to vote unanimously Thursday to seek further information before making a decision on whether Obama could be on the ballot.

Montgomery told The Huffington Post Friday afternoon that public reaction to the complaint led him to decide against continuing. He declined to say exactly what was said in the calls and emails he received, but indicated that people who knew him both personally and professionally were also contacted about the complaint.

“I didn’t file this objection with the desire to involve anyone else. This is me expressing myself on a personal political level,” he said. “I would appreciate it if people would not call anyone associated with me, whether a personal or professional association.”

Montgomery, who works at Kansas State University, filed the objection Monday, claiming Obama was not a “natural born citizen” because his father was a citizen of the United Kingdom and Kenya, and that U.S. citizenship is conferred “primarily” through the father.

He also said that Obama has not shown “valid, certified documentary evidence” of being born in the United States.

Montgomery wanted to start a dialogue with his objection, he said. “I have not been successful in that objective,” he told HuffPost. “Not in achieving a constructive dialogue.”

The state Objections Board — consisting of Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer and Attorney General Derek Schmidt — voted to delay a final decision, saying it needed more evidence and would reach out to Hawaiian officials for certification of the president’s birth certificate, along with officials in Arizona and Mississippi. The board expressed concern that Obama’s campaign did not appear before the board and only sent a letter with its position. Obama’s campaign attorney Kip Wainscott wrote the board that Montgomery’s objection was “baseless” and that Obama’s eligibility has already been determined by state and federal courts.

The board’s decision has led at least one Democrat, state Rep. Ann Mah (D-Topeka), to accuse Kobach of pandering.

“It is a little disappointing that a board that has two out of three members as attorneys who should understand the Constitution made this decision,” said Mah, the ranking minority member of the House Elections Committee.

“But we are in Kansas, and Kobach has been waiting for this moment for a long time. The pretense that this has any validity and needs further investigation is ridiculous. Kobach seems to enjoy this type of thing. It panders to his base of “birthers”.”

Kobach, an informal adviser to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, said at the board meeting that he was not acting in a partisan role, but rather wanted as much information as possible before the board made a final decision.

Mah said she believes the episode has hurt the state’s reputation. “They are making Kansas a laughing stock again,” she said, referring to Kobach, Colyer and Schmidt.

UPDATE: 7:06 p.m. — The Kansas secretary of state’s office sent out a statement Friday saying that the state Objections Board will meet as scheduled Monday morning. The statement said the meeting, which starts at 10 a.m. CT, will consider Montgomery’s complaint and his decision to withdraw the objection. Kobach’s spokeswoman, Kay Curtis, told the Topeka Capitol-Journal that the withdrawal is “unprecedented” and the meeting would be held to accept it.

The Objections Board was formed more than a century ago by state law and is considered a quasi-judicial agency that meets when objections are filed to candidates on the ballot. The board has held more meetings than usual this year, due to objections filed after the state’s redistricting process. During Thursday’s meeting, the board heard three other objections in addition to the to Obama, including disqualifying comedian Roseanne Barr from the state’s presidential ballot.

I think this is a meaningful, timely and heartfelt article that we would all do well to read. I urge you to click the link below, right now:

http://valentinelogar.com/2012/06/20/generations-lost/

Grinding poverty, poor social provision, perpetual disadvantage. These are the unseen people, and they are our children. Unseen, not because we can’t see them, but because we don’t look. We choose not to look. We look away.

This is what America’s election in 2012 should be about, not pettyfogging issues of who gets a tax break, who pays for a woman’s contraception, or all the other nonsense.

This is a FACT. Millions of American children are abused, or are injured or die unnecessarily, or remain essentially uneducated, or have basically zero life opportunities, in the world’s wealthiest nation.

The world’s WEALTHIEST nation. Consider this simple NCCP stat: 21% of children in the U.S. live in families that are considered officially poor.

Oh yes, and the average age for the sexual exploitation and trafficking of a runaway child in America is 13.

Well done, Val, keep it up.

obama in church

Obviously a Muslim. You can tell. Aren't his eyes a bit too close together?

More than half – you heard that right, more than HALF – of likely Republican voters in Mississippi say they think President Barack Obama is a Muslim, according to a survey conducted by Public Policy Polling.

Fifty-two percent said that Obama practiced Islam, while just 12 percent said he was a Christian. Thirty-six percent said they were not – really – not sure.

Obama, whose father and stepfather both came from Muslim backgrounds, is, however, a practicing Christian and was a member of Trinity United Church in Chicago before he was president. Indeed, his membership of that Church was frequently criticised by – yes – Republicans, because of the nature of the sermons preached there.

The poll, conducted by telephone of 656 likely Republican voters in Mississippi on March 10 and 11, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

In Alabama, the same poll found that 45 percent of likely Republican voters believed Obama to be a Muslim and 14 percent said they considered him a Christian.

The group conducted the polling in advance of the Republican presidential primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, which will be held on Tuesday.

On the left, an apparently typical southern Republican voter. On the right, an alien captured yesterday in Jackson, Mississippi. You be the judge.

Well, thinking about it, I think more than half of intending Republican voters in the deep south are obviously aliens.

I have no reason for believing this whatsoever, of course, just bigoted blind opinion, but I ask you to look at the evidence. I just think they clearly bear no relation to what I understand as even minimally educated adult humans.

Accordingly, I demand that they should all produce birth certificates before being allowed to vote. Before being allowed to leave home, unattended, actually. And those certificates should need to be stamped “tested: human”, not just identify where they’re from.

I repeat: I have no evidence for this point of view, but if I say it often enough, and with enough faux indignation, then obviously people will come to believe it.

Next week: your fearless reporter reveals the truth. “Rick Santorum is actually the anti-Christ”.*

*We have no evidence for this whatsoever, either, it’s just a really fun thought. Spread it around.

Meanwhile, in case any Republicans care to argue that Obama really is a Muslim, they might like to consider his words from 2007, regarding his enthusiasm for Christianity.

“Around this time that some pastors I was working with came up to me and asked if I was a member of a church. “If you’re organizing churches,” they said, “it might be helpful if you went to church once in a while.” And I thought, “Well, I guess that makes sense.”  

So one Sunday, I put on one of the few clean jackets I had, and went over to Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street on the South Side of Chicago. And I heard Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright deliver a sermon called “The Audacity of Hope.” And during the course of that sermon, he introduced me to someone named Jesus Christ. I learned that my sins could be redeemed. I learned that those things I was too weak to accomplish myself, He would accomplish with me if I placed my trust in Him. And in time, I came to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world and in my own life.  

It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany. I didn’t fall out in church, as folks sometimes do. The questions I had didn’t magically disappear. The skeptical bent of my mind didn’t suddenly vanish. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth and carrying out His works.”

Barack Obama, June 23rd, 2007

Mother and baby

The richest country in the world ...

As the follow Reuters report shows, the Obama scheme to provide a wider range of healthcare options for Americans is desperately needed.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/09/17/us-usa-healthcare-deaths-idUSTRE58G6W520090917

Let us hope the White House is watching, and serves this report up to the Republicans long, loud and often during the coming election. After all, Harvard is about as good as academia gets. These are the facts, no matter what political spin the GOP chooses to put on it.

Only the right in America could possibly think the private health system there actually works. For the richest country in the world to see families ripped apart through lack of adequate health insurance and poverty is a disgrace. A simple disgrace.

Obama deserve re-election if for no other reason than he showed the political will to tackle the issue against huge odds, no matter how flawed his scheme.

Oh, and any Republican readers who are about to rail at me because Obamacare forces them into a public scheme and away from their existing treasured private health insurance? Er, no. It doesn’t. Stop lying.

Let’s just rehearse a few facts. Although statistics vary, somewhere between 40 and 50 million people in America have no health insurance.

And if they are really, really unlucky, they’re homeless, too.

According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, there were 643,067 sheltered and un-sheltered homeless persons nationwide as of January 2009. Additionally, about 1.56 million people used an emergency shelter or a transitional housing program during the 12-month period between October 1, 2008 and September 30, 2009. This number suggests that roughly 1 in every 200 persons in the US used the shelter system at some point in that period.

1 in 200. The greatest country in the world? Cut the crap, America, and get it sorted. How we look after the weakest and poorest in our society is a measure of how great we are. As things stand, your society stinks to high heaven.

And that’s from a fan.

A political candidate quoting Jesus Christ and meaning it. Whatever next?

To the bemusement of viewers all over America, and all over the world, Republicans in the audience for the South Carolina Fox/Twitter Presidential debate loudly booed the Golden Rule in the context of foreign policy January 16.

Libetarian Texas Congressman Ron Paul was talking about respecting the sovereignty of other nations when it comes to American military action:

“My point is that if another country does to us what we do to others, we are not going to like it very much. I would say that we maybe ought to consider the Golden Rule in foreign policy. Don’t do to other nations what we don’t want them to do to us. We endlessly bomb these countries, and then we wonder why they get upset with us?”

Why, indeed? Yet Rep. Paul’s remarks set off some of the loudest “boos” of the evening from the Republican audience, as well as mockery from his Republican opponents.

The Golden Rule is a key part of Christianity and all other major world religions. Perhaps the key part. In Christianity, Christ commands the Golden Rule twice, most noticeably in Matthew 7:12 but also in Luke 6:31. In Matthew 7:12, Christ says, “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.”

The controversy which resulted in the massive booing of the Golden Rule originated with a misleading accusation by Fox News anchor and moderator Brett Baier. Baier asked (or rather stated):

“In a recent interview, Congressman Paul, with a Des Moines radio station, you said you were against the operation that killed Osama bin Ladin. You said the U.S. operation that took out the terrorist responsible for killing 3,000 people on American soil, quote, “showed no respect for the rule of law, international law.” So, to be clear, you believe international law should have constrained us from tracking down and killing the man responsible for the most brazen attack on the U.S. since Pearl Harbor.”

Rep. Paul responded that Baier was mistaken about his assertion:

“Obviously, no, and that’s why I did not say that. After 9/11, I voted for the authority to go after him.”

Paul clarified that he believed that Pakistan would have turned over bin Ladin to the United States alive if the Obama administration had requested him.

“KSM, (Khaled Sheik Mohammed) his colleague, was in Pakistan. And we communicated with the government of Pakistan and they turned him over. And what I suggested there was, if we have no respect for the sovereignty of another nation, it will lead to the disruption of that nation. Why can’t we work with the government?”

Paul followed with his Golden Rule statement, suggesting we wouldn’t want other countries such as China coming to the United States in search of dissidents and bombing us.

He also suggested that the United States follow its own constitutional requirement to give a trial by jury whenever possible:

“Think about Saddam Hussein. We captured him, the government tried him and he got hung. What’s so terrible about this? What’s this whole idea that you can’t capture people? Just think, Adolph Eichmann was captured. He was given a trial. What’s wrong with capturing people? Why don’t we try to get some information from him?”

(A very important point, in my opinion, that has been virtually ignored in the celebration of Bin Laden’s death.)

Watch Paul’s comments here:

But Rep. Paul’s Republican opponents pounced on his advocacy of the Golden Rule as a sign of foreign policy “weakness.”

“He’s not a Chinese dissident. The analogy that Congressman Paul used was utterly irrational,” Newt Gingrich responded to Paul, suggesting that trials and honouring the 6th Ammendment to the U.S. Constitution are unnecessary. “Andrew Jackson had a pretty clear idea about America’s enemies. Kill them.”

The 6th Amendment, to save you looking it up, reads “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”

Essentially, it establishes the right to a trial. It is one of the most important things that all Americans are supposed to hold as an inviolable concept, to be defended at all costs.

Yet, “Speaker Gingrich is right,” Mitt Romney agreed. “Of course, you take out our enemies, wherever they are. These people declared war on us. They’ve killed Americans. We go anywhere they are and we kill them. And the right thing for Osama bin Ladin was the bullet in the head he received. That’s the right course for people that are killing American citizens.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry (who with breathtaking idiocy also chose to condemn the elected government of NATO ally Turkey as “Islamic terrorists” at another point in the debate, and later confirmed that this was, in fact, his view) continued the mockery, saying to Baier (about Paul), “I was just thinking that the noise you were looking for was a gong.”

As Thomas Eddlem at the New American pointedly asks, “With Republicans so resoundingly booing the Golden Rule, one really has to wonder: Whatever happened to the religious right part of the Republican Party?”

A very good question. And the answer of course is simple. Politicians in the United States are religious when it suits them, and not when it doesn’t. And primarily, when it doesn’t is when standing up for principle might cost them red-neck votes.

Of course, this distasteful behaviour is not just evidenced by Republicans, and nor is it limited to the United States. It is just more obviously demonstrated by the bulk of the buffoons that the “Grand Old Party” – to their shame – currently have standing for the Presidency.

Whilst I don’t think Ron Paul has a snowball in hell’s chance of winning the Republican nomination, (and nor should he, as his economic ideas are delightfully lunatic), his confronting and ruthlessly honest candidacy is the most refreshing thing to happen to American politics in years. And yes, that includes the election of Obama.

Those standing against him should consider what comes next in Matthew’s gospel.

“Enter through the narrow gate;for the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.

How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.”

I think Ron Paul found the narrow gate last night. And they hated him for it.

(New American and others)

 

4813th antigay Republican congressman outed as gay « skepgineering.

Wandering the blogosphere I came across this blog from a guy who rails righteously against hypocrisy generally but especially the extreme idiocies of Christianity (like beating your children to death in the name of Jesus) and the farcical cant of virulantly anti-gay crusading Republicans who neeedless to say turn out to be gay themselves, and he’s posted these extraordinarily funny series of satirical songs by American satirist Roy Zimmerman … I’d never heard of him till today,  but I’ll be tracking down his work now. Have a look at Skepgineering’s blog, and these songs really are very clever and pointed. To find out more about Roy Zimmerman you could click here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Zimmerman_%28satirist%29