Tuesday, February 26, 2013

GOP - Ginormously Obstructionist Party

Oh, Man, what a way to run a country. Crisis management. As I write this, we are three days away from the sequester going into effect. This is rather like performing delicate brain surgery with a butcher knife. Chances are the patient is going to be much worse off than before the operation. Of course, this was never supposed to happen because both sides thought the other would back down in the face of such a horrendous outcome.

I guess we shouldn't really be surprised. This is the way we have operated since the Republicans took over the House in 2010. I've forgotten how many debt ceiling threats and fiscal cliffs we have endured since then. I think it is seven. And now we have the looming sequester and after that, another debt ceiling and another fiscal cliff.

So, America, supposedly the greatest country on earth, lurches from catastrophe to catastrophe and the Republicans call it governing.

Yes, I do blame the Republicans. Obama and the Democrats ran on exactly what they are proposing now. Raising taxes on the rich and closing tax loopholes on the wealthy and corporations that allow them to get their taxes down to near zero, strategic budget cuts in social programs and defense while protecting social security and Medicare from harsh cutbacks. Obama won that election. The Democrats won more votes and picked up more seats in the Senate. The Democrats won more votes in House races although the Republicans gained seats because of gerrymandered districts. It seems pretty clear that the American people sided more with the Democratic vision of budgetary matters than the Republican one.

But, nevertheless, the Grand Old Party remains in its obstructionist dream world. Driven by an irrational hatred of Barack Obama, it appears they'd rather take the country down, and perhaps themselves along with it, than admit defeat. Surely, there must be some rational Republicans left but if so, they are overruled by the wild-eyed crazies like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and....I could go on and on.

And meanwhile, while we face the prospect of extraordinarily stupid cuts in our military readiness, the Republicans deny the country a Secretary of Defense, not over anything he has or hasn't done, but over a side issue that has them all in a snit - Benghazi, (something Chuck Hagel had absolutely nothing to do with) by filibustering his nomination...something neither party has ever done before in our entire history.

The strangest thing is that we have a template for what the Republicans want to do. If we want to see the results of austerity, we can simply look to Europe. We are growing out of our recession quicker than any of the "austerity first" countries (Britain just had its bond rating downgraded). We would be doing even better if the Republicans hadn't stonewalled a jobs/infrastructure bill. This isn't rocket science, it's Econ 101. We've known forever how to jump-start the economy out of recession and it always involves putting people to work as the first priority and worrying about deficits later, when economic growth would take of much of the problem for us.

Meanwhile, the Republicans see themselves on the wrong side of almost every issue - gay rights, reproductive rights, health care, taxes, immigration, energy, climate change -  (I would say foreign relations and defense but I have no idea what their stance is on those things anymore).

So on America's highway to the future, the Republicans are standing at the side throwing nails in the road to try to slow our momentum. I wish someone could explain what they believe the end game will be.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Republican Death Wish

Do the Republicans have a collective death wish? They remind me of the little band of Anglos huddled inside the walls of the Alamo as Santa Anna's army comes sweeping toward them. They seem to see themselves that way too. They are the courageous Jim Bowie and Davey Crockett and Sam Houston holding off the flood of brown-skinned Lesser People trying to encroach on white America's natural right of dominance.

You can be glad that Texas eventually became part of America (well, mostly...except when you're listening to Ted Cruz and Steve Stockman and Rick Perry...oh, well, never mind) and still see that there were two sides to the Alamo story. But that's where Republicans are these days. There are never two sides to any story. There is only their side, the right side.

Their favorite weapon if you try to have a discussion with them on Facebook is holier-than-thou condescension. They know they have a problem with women but they can't help themselves. Question them and you get the - "how dare you have the nerve to disagree with me, you ignorantly pathetic little woman?" It simply isn't possible in their eyes that you've studied an issue and know as much about it as they do but you simply arrived at a different conclusion.

This is not a good debating strategy if you are actually trying to convince people to come over to your side but bullying seems to be the only tactic they know.

Which is why they find themselves in an increasingly untenable position regarding voters. They have alienated women, African-Americans, Latinos, gays, Asians and young people, along with lots of older white men, of course. They have retreated behind the walls of their fort, becoming more even more strident and rebellious as they go.

They lost the presidency, the Senate and got a million fewer votes than Democrats in the House, holding their majority only because of gerrymandered districts. All that would have been even more so if everyone in every state who wanted to had gotten to vote.

This is their new method of trying to win elections - make it harder for people to vote, twist congressional districts into pretzels to ensure that Republicans win, try to change the rules to allocate votes to presidential candidates based on House districts....but, of course, only in states that would favor Republicans. Forget actually trying to win over voters on the strength of your message because these crabbed old white men don't have a message they can sell to anyone but themselves and those they can persuade to be terrified that Obama, the gays, the browns and yellows and black, the women, the youth are coming for them.

The NRA's Wayne LaPierre gets on television and illustrates this theory perfectly. "Huddle in your house if a storm hits 'cause those people will get you if you go out!" Actually, he sounds like a raving lunatic to most of us but not one Republican congressperson has the nerve to say so.

Texas' Steve Stockman invites Ted Nugent to the State of the Union address. That would be Ted - "suck on this, Obama, you piece of shit, as he waves an assault rifle around" Nugent and so far as I know, not one Republican criticized either Stockman or Nugent.

Ted Cruz (another Texas Ted...geez, Texas!) slimes Chuck Hagel, a genuine war hero, in the scummiest piece of political theater I've seen in a long life of watching political grandstanding. Granted, Cruz turned the stomach of even a few Republican diehards with his shameful performance.

So, to sum up, the Republicans make America look ridiculous by denying us a Secretary of Defense in a time of war by filibustering his nomination, something that has never been done before in our entire history as a nation!

This was after they made us a laughing stock to the world by allowing our credit rating to be downgraded, dragging their feet about paying debts that they ran up. Now they are probably going to allow the sequester to proceed which is the most idiotic way of managing our national finances that could be imagined.

Twenty-two of them vote against the Violence Against Women Act, legislation that has passed on a bi-partisan basis since 1994. Why? For the Republican sin of being too inclusive...having added some victims in the U.S. illegally, members of the lgbt community and Native American women on reservations.

They refuse to bring the Pay Equity Act to the floor.

They practically fought to the death to ensure that millionaires didn't have to pay more taxes and they killed legislation that would have ended oil subsidies for oil companies making record profits.

Oh, man, I could go on and on.....

I would truly appreciate it if anyone from the other side could explain where they think they are going with their scorched earth policies (if you can do it without patronizing me, that would be even better). Do they honestly believe this is the way win over voters?  Do they believe if they sacrifice themselves at a political Alamo, time will bring them victory?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ted Nugent - Conservative Hero


Ted Nugent is going to attend the State of the Union address tonight as a guest of congressman Steve Stockman, the newest entrant in the Republican Crazier-Than-Thou Sweepstakes -  and the Tea Party types are loving it. Approving posts are rampant on Facebook. Yeah, by God, that'll stick it in Obama's ass, all right! Ah, the conservatives - you gotta' wonder at their total disconnect from reality, don't you? They call themselves the Christians. They call themselves the Patriots. They declare themselves the morality police for the whole nation. I guess Uncle Ted is who they hold up as a role model for our kids to emulate.

One of the elements of gun control we almost all agree on, liberals and conservatives alike, is that guns should be kept out of the hands of mentally ill people, especially violent and paranoid mentally ill people. I'd submit Ted Nugent as Exhibit A. If ever anyone met that criteria in spades, it's Ted.

Of course, a lot of his foaming at the mouth behavior could just be a publicity stunt. He's built more of a fan base as a right-wing lunatic than he ever had as a musician.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Political Terrorists

Just when I think I can't detest the Republicans anymore than I already do, they come up with some new obstructionist trick that makes me loathe them even more. What to do? What to do? They don't want Chuck Hagel confirmed as the Secretary of Defense, both because Hagel, as a Republican, isn't sufficiently extremist to suit them, and of course, just on the general principles of being a thorn in Barack Obama's side at every available opportunity.

There's danger lurking in how they handle this though. The Democrats just passed up an opportunity to change the rules regarding filibusters which the Republicans have used so effectively to stonewall everything from nominations to legislation to debt ceilings to fiscal cliffs. I thought this was gutless on Harry Reid's part myself. Once again, the Democrats act as the party of reason and get screwed for their efforts. This filibuster compromise happened because Ole Harry and Mitch McConnell reached a "gentleman's agreement" - ha!ha! No, that's not a joke, although I know it seems like one.

That agreement could fall apart if the Republicans filibuster Hagel's nomination, so the Party of No had to find a more devious way around their problem and they did. They insisted on being given information regarding income from foreign sources that they know Hagel isn't at liberty to provide because of confidentiality agreements with the entities involved. This is standard operating procedure as these bigwigs move in and out of government service. The Republicans also want every transcript and even Hagel's personal notes on every speech he has ever given. This requests are unprecedented, having never been asked of any nominee for Secretary of Defense before in our nation's history! Donald Rumsfeld, for instance, would have never passed this particular litmus test (which, granted, might have been a good thing but still...the rationale used to be that a president deserves the Secretary he wants).

Now the Republicans are holding up a vote on Hagel's confirmation in feigned outrage and indignant protest that their unreasonable requests are not being complied with. You've got to give the Republicans credit. If there is a slick and slimy technique they haven't found yet, I don't know what it is.

And who is their standard bearer in this noble fight? Why none other than the latest contestant into the Republican "Most Wing-Nuttiest of Them All" Sweepstakes. Chickenhawk Ted Cruz. Ted "no, I haven't been sucking lemons, this is my actual smile" Cruz. Ted "no matter how crazed you are, I'll call and raise the ante" Cruz.

Actually, this underhanded strategy is becoming common practice with the Republicans. They just lost us Saturday mail delivery because they foisted off impossible-to-meet obligations on an already-struggling post office that no actual business in its right mind would ever agree to....namely, paying the next 75 years of pension payments in advance in only ten years.

In red states, they use the same method of demanding abortion-performing doctors receive certifications from regional hospitals, while ensuring that their applications will be rejected.

See how easy that is? Don't bother with the hard work of legislating the old fashioned way by debate and convincing your fellow representatives to vote your way because of the strength of your argument. Instead, simply place an impossible to surmount obstacle in front of your opponent, then shrug and say, "oh, well."

The problem is that in the war of politics, the Democrats are going by the old out-moded rules of two recognizable armies meeting on the field of battle, face-to-face, and may the best general carry the day. Meanwhile, the Republicans long ago switched to the politics of terrorism. IEDs where you least expect them, damn the women and children and the Red Crosses.

The Democrats better be investing in a bunch of drones...fast. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sadly, This Is America Now

A long-running Facebook thread just petered out when my opponent was reduced to calling me "senselessly ridiculous" because I didn't agree with his assessment that missing the calls for action prior to 911 (August Presidential Daily Brief - "Bin Laden determined to strike inside U.S.") and getting the intelligence utterly wrong (either purposely or not) on Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, paled - paled - in comparison to Benghazi! Thousands of deaths on 9/11, more thousands in Iraq, 4 in Benghazi but my FB "friend" truly believes that , at worst, the former two included a few minor errors in judgement while the latter was deliberate and called for the firing of the Secretary of State and possibly, putting the president on trial for treason.

His conviction on Iraq is that George Bush, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, Don Rumsfeld and Colin Powell may have made a few innocent misstatements regarding yellow cake and enriched uranium and aluminum centrifuge tubes and chemical weapon factories, but in Benghazi, Obama and Hillary covered up and lied!

Sadly, this is America now. I watched in dismay as Republicans savaged one of their own during Chuck Hagel's hearing on his nomination for Secretary of Defense. It reminded me more of the trial of a war criminal than a Senate confirmation hearing. John McCain will always deserve a certain amount of respect for his service to, and suffering for, his country, no matter how far off the rails he goes - and these days, he goes way far - but by God, his fellow soldiers deserve the same respect!

They don't get it from the Republicans who flatly refuse to honor that concept. You can have served as a grunt in Vietnam, received Purple Hearts in the process, still be carrying shrapnel in your body, like Chuck Hagel, but none of it means anything now. It's all about "what have you done for me lately?". Swift-boating is good enough for you if you didn't reach the same conclusions as John McCain and his merry little band of arrogant and sanctimonious flunkies. Seriously? Ted Freakin' Cruz gets to stand in judgment on Chuck Hagel? That's like PeeWee Herman standing in judgment of  Dwight Eisenhower. It's like a Chihuahua, protected behind the Senate hearing desk, growling bravely at a Great Dane chained in a pen.

The same thing happened when John Kerry ran for president. The Swift Boat bunch took the truth and turned it upside down, trashing Kerry's reputation, turning his service into something tarnished and devalued and ugly. That's how much the Republicans' much-trumpeted love of our military means in real time. (Although this is the Senate and that was then and this is now, so John Kerry is back in their good graces, all is forgiven, and he received an almost unanimous confirmation vote as Secretary of State,except for the aforementioned Ted Cruz, who evidently has a hard-on for war heroes).

There were serious, legitimate questions the senators could have asked Hagel - like how does he foresee modernizing the military when two wars are ending and deficits need to be cut and what steps does he think we should take in getting out of Afghanistan with the best possible outcome - and what does he think about women in combat - and how would he move to vastly reduce the rapes and assaults on female soldiers. But, no, McCain is still fixated on Iraq and outraged that Hagel had doubts about the necessity and the effectiveness of a surge that's long over. Oh, and they tried to paint him as not a staunch offender of Israel because he believes Bibi Netanyahu is our partner, not our boss. Although not even all Israelis agree with Bibi's strategies, as proven by the weakening of his support in that country's last election. In actuality, we all know, don't we, that Hagel's big sin is being nominated by the hated Barack Obama?

You can always tell when an interrogation isn't legitimate. That's when the questioner demands yes or no answers because complex issues can almost never be reduced to simplistic yeses and nos. Another clue is when the interviewer uses all his time on a long-winded showboating narration that doesn't allow any time for the witness to respond. See, that way, they have to send written answers later, ones the public will never see, so all we got was the actor's star turn. Clever, huh?

 I have many friends who served in Vietnam, including my husband who was a combat medic there. They returned home with different views of that war. Some were still gung-ho about it's rightness. Others were more cynical and disillusioned about its purposes. Jim himself was more in line with John Kerry's thinking. He thought our leaders had totally lost sight of whatever their original reasons were for going and allowed thousands to die because their own egos were so invested in not losing.

When you fight, you have a right to believe whatever you damn well want to about the war you engaged in. For puny little pipsqueaks like Ted Cruz and the rest of McCain's Mad Puppy Patrol to question the patriotism of any soldier who served his or her country in combat makes me sick. They don't even know the meaning of loyalty.