Monthly Archives: January 2013

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

So we’re expecting over the next 22 months to be the focus of this administration as they attempt to annihilate the Republican Party. And let me just tell you, I do believe that is their goal – to just shove us into the dustbin of history. I’ve been in these spots before. I remember November of ’06, January of ’07 — we’ve been through these periods before. And you know, our members get down, our supporters get down.  – Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Right disHonorable, John Boehner

aka Chicken Little, Mr. Overly Dramatic.

However, I do wish it would happen.  It would be really nice if, at this point, the Republican party would cease to exist.  We have one major right wing party.  We have multiple fringe extreme right wing parties for those who are too far right for the Democrats.  Perhaps then, we could get an actual, viable, functioning and active liberal party in America.  Maybe we could pull the political center back to the actual center.

The Republican party is certainly in disarray right now.  The Tea Party faction is pushing them further and further to the right, and despite how far the politics of America has been pulled to the right, this is making more and more of America uncomfortable, as witnessed by the last election.

Even the mainstream of the Republican party is starting to fight amongst itself.  Chris Christie, as recently as the nominating convention was hailed as a rising star in the party – the next big thing even – has openly “rebelled” against the party leadership for their failure to act when they chose instead to play partisan games.  Christie was slammed by the party heavyweights for giving compliments and thanks to the President for his assistance and bipartisan efforts following Super Storm Sandy hitting the New York and New Jersey area in October 2012.  That’s what putting aside party politics and focusing on doing your job will get you from conservatives!!  Remember that, kiddies.  It’s not about right or wrong from these folks.  There are higher values.  It’s about the party second.  Their dollars first.  You are, at best, a distant afterthought to be considered while enjoying drinks and cigars in front of the fire.

Bobby Jindal, Republican governor of Louisiana, is perhaps openly mocking the party’s superstar and most recent vice-presidential nominee, Paul Ryan.  Perhaps, he’s only challenging him.  Either way, he’s clearly challenging the established pecking order.  How dare a non-white, non-hispanic Southern Republican think he might have a shot at any power within the ordered good ol’ boy network that is the GOP?

Sarah Palin (remember her?) is not having her contract renewed on Fox.  Her time is up, even there.  Now she can either return to obscurity or she can go the route of Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh, who are only listened to by hard core right wingers, and those who are keeping tabs on them.  Otherwise, they are completely irrelevant.

So, what happens from here?  Realistically, it is highly unlikely that the party goes away.  Not yet.  It does, however, face a real crisis, and personally, it will come as no surprise to anyone who has been reading along that I think this is a fantastic thing.  They will either realize that it is not how they have been communicating, as many of their top talking heads have been trying to paint their failures.  It is, in fact, the message itself.

In his remarks on Friday, Mr. Priebus said the party needed to improve its technology to compete with Democrats, but also focus on returning to the basics of building a strong get-out-the-vote operation. He did not talk specifically about the divisions inside the party over fiscal and social issues, but he urged Republican officials to be driven by their overarching goal: winning elections.

No, Mr. Priebus, the issue is that your overarching goal is to win elections.  That is, in fact, the perfect summation of your problem.  You have lost sight of anything other than the pursuit of power.  (The problem is that the Democrats are only marginally better.  They too, by and large, have lost sight of anything other than the pursuit of power.)


Pay No Attention To The Squid Under The Toupeè

I would like to share some observations with you this week.  This will be a bit different than most posts here in the SCIAMAGE column.

I have been listening to a lot of FAUX News and CNN HLN News on SiriusXM radio over the last three months.  The other morning my subscription ran out, and I have no intention of renewing it.  It’s okay.  It was a freebie that came with my car, rather than something that I had intentionally chosen.  I figured while I had it, I might as well use it, right?  Anyway, I started off listening to a lot of their POTUS channel.  That’s supposed to be “unfiltered political talk,” but wound up being mostly the same boring talk radio drivel I could get on AM radio in the afternoon drive time.  At lunch time, the Press Pool show was reporters interviewing each other, and the morning was about as interesting as listening to grass interviewing acorns about the life of squids.

It wasn’t long before I settled into a routine of listening to FOX News and flipping over to CNN.  Occasionally I would divert over for some music.  I didn’t listen to their NPR option, primarily because it wasn’t the news shows, but the “human interest” shows.  While those can be fascinating, I really wanted the news and politics in the limited time I spend in my car.

FAUX News really likes to present themselves as out of the mainstream.  They consistently refer to all of the other news sources as the “mainstream news media”.  I suppose from one perspective, they’re right.  They are not mainstream news, in that they’re really not news.  They are infotainment in the same sense that Ron Popeil was.  However, there are a lot of people who consider them news, and in that sense, their claims are simply more lies.  Last year, for the 11th straight year, they dominated the cable news viewership with an average of 2.071 million in prime time.   In fact, for their category, they dominate in every time slot.  Every day.  That is the very definition of mainstream.

One very striking difference between FAUX news and CNN when listening to them though is this, CNN is more like your local news station.  That is, they spend a lot of time covering “human interest” stories and sports.  They’ll cover fashion and entertainment.  FAUX news doesn’t do this except to a very limited degree.  Fox is very message driven.  If the story doesn’t support their overall message of fear, the Democrats are evil, the president is the anti-Christ, and that the country has gone to hell because of that, then it doesn’t make it onto their air waves.  They are very hard hitting.  The facts they use are questionable at best, though sometimes accurate.  Much in the same way that it has been said that the devil uses the truth.

CNN HLN, on the other hand, remains so fluffy and devoid of substance as to be nearly useless.  Seriously, it may as well be E-TV these days.  When CNN started back in 1980, it was actually 24 hour news.  Certainly there were human interest stories and a little bit of the sports stories.  I remember that I first heard about the Blue Man Group on CNN back in 1993.  It was a short segment in the last 5 minutes of the hour, when it might have gone over to local affiliates, except that it didn’t here.  Mostly though, they had actual news on.  The stories were short, and lacking in any real depth, but they were actual news.  Those days are gone.  CNN does its best to be the national version of Every Town, USA’s local news.  As a result, it fails to delivery real, substantial news of the national scale that is needed from a national cable news outlet.

Roll up your sleeves, put away the toys, and lets do this!

Do you ever get tired of having the same conversations over and over again?  That overwhelming déjà moo striking you like a ton of bricks?  I know I do.  There are legitimate reasons to repeat a conversation.  For example, when there are new conditions, new facts, or if one has new students and needs to teach them.  However, this is so often not the case.  Particularly when the topic and context is our national political scene.

So, we discuss “gun control”, again, and one loud segment screams “You can have my guns when you pry them from my cold, dead hands,” as though confiscation is what reasonable people mean when they’re discussing gun control.  Reasonable people start to discuss ways that we could try to keep guns in the hands of responsible, sane people, out of the hands of insane, impulsive people, and from needlessly killing innocents.  And, yes, I suppose that there is likely a small segment who does advocate for the collection and destruction of all of the guns.  Though, honestly, I can’t find them anywhere other than in the ravings of the lunatic right-wing paranoiacs.  We go through this dance every few years, but the truth is that nothing has really changed in regards to guns themselves over the last half-century or so.  There has been some technological improvement in the ammunition and some in the firing rate, but essentially, we are still using the same guns we were using nearly a hundred years ago.  In fact, in some cases, we are literally using the same guns.  So, what has changed?  That is where our real focus needs to be, but as with so many things, we can’t get past the trees to see the forest.

Besides, that would mean looking in the mirror and taking responsibility.  That would mean, that we stop blaming the “schools”, the “government”, “Hollywood”, etc and accept our own personal responsibility in the choices that we have made as individuals, as parents, and as a society.  I am going to come back this in a moment.

It’s not just with guns that we keep having these same discussions, is it?  How many times in the last 15 years or so have we had national conversations about reforming the electoral process or campaign finance reform?  How successful has that been?  Why?  Because the people we send to do the job really have no interest in doing the job, and we, as a society, have not maintained any real interest in achieving a result either.  Think about where you work.  Let’s assume for the sake of discussion, and because I am sure that you are a responsible person, that you diligently work throughout the day, as you should.  When you look around though, I am sure you see a number of your co-workers who are frequently not.  They’re talking to others, taking extra breaks, surfing the internet, filing their nails, etc.  At a larger scale, this is essentially what happens with campaign finance reform, and all of the other things that we send our “leaders” to Washington, state capitals, and even the local county and city halls to change and address.  We send them there, and then there is no real oversight, so they get side-tracked with the perks or games playing.  The few who may care are incapable of accomplishing much because the others are too busy playing.  Until the deadlines approach.  At that point though, now all eyes are on them, and they have to seem to be doing their jobs to the best of their ability.  Which, sadly, they have been all along.

Push The Lemmings Off The Cliff

The so-called “fiscal cliff” came and went and a bogus deal was reached, as many of us knew it would be.  A tiny increase in taxes on those making more than $400,000 a year was passed while these rest of us “get to keep” a tax break.  Meanwhile, we continue to have the same problems in the country that we’ve had for years.  They remain wholly unaddressed.  Does anyone remember the last time that our “leaders” discussed education?  How about real attempts to address mental health issues such as support for the families and care for the patients?  When is the last time you heard anything positive coming out of NIH about AIDS research, or anything else for that matter?  Remember the space program that we, as a nation, allowed to die?  Remember the unemployment rate that is sitting at 7.8% nationally, according to the December report, but will likely go back up when the seasonal jobs go away?  Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

US Constitution, Amendment 14, section 4

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.{emphasis added}

Let me translate and shorten that for you.  “Once congress has approved, and the President has signed, the budget, we pay it, period.”

Now, what does that mean?  What it means, in effect, is that the political kabuki theater of the debt ceiling is nothing more than a show put on to scare and confuse.  The constitution supersedes any and all laws in the country.  Whether you like that or not, it is the fact.  As a result, regardless, of what congress does, or doesn’t do, the Treasury department is required to pay the debt.  America, canNOT default on its debt.  What it is not required to continue doing is paying the new spending.  That is why the silly memes that go around “Why does the president always threaten to stop Social Security checks and paychecks to the military?” make so little sense.  As with so many internet memes, they are made and spread by people who either don’t understand, don’t care to understand, or are intentionally using people who fall into the first categories in order to confuse and abuse you.  While SS checks ought not stop because those are debts owed, checks to employees of the government would stop for just that very reason, they are new spending.

Oh, but it does get better.  You see, part of this the reason that you never heard about this until recently is that it was an act that was never put on for you before.  It isn’t that you weren’t paying attention, or that you’ve forgotten.  It just wasn’t done.  This, too, you can thank the far right wing for.  No, really.  Not even conspiracy theorists are needed to make these things up.  These are just simply the facts.  You see, until the Repugnicrats, under Newt Gringrich, suspended the standard practice of simultaneously passing a budget and making any necessary raises to the debt limit in one vote, this political hostage taking couldn’t take place.  They couldn’t play these games with our economy, our money and our lives.  So, the Repugnicrats create the game, then, while their guy is in office, they pass the raises as though it’s no big deal, matter of normal business.  Suddenly, their opposition takes office, and it’s the end of the world, the sky is falling, all hell is breaking loose, cats and dogs sleeping together…

The US has had debt from our very outset.  We incurred over $75 million in debt during the Revolution.  We had no debt ceiling until 1917.  The whole point of the debt ceiling was to give more flexibility during World War I.  It was meant to be a constraint, but more than that, it was meant to give a semi-open check.  Prior to that, congress authorized any necessary borrowing at the same time that they authorized the budget.  The debt ceiling was intended to allow for additional borrowing in case of need, up to a specified limit.  It’s like saying, you need to go grocery shopping, but you don’t know how much it’s going to be, so here, take $300.  Now, congress is using it in a truly irresponsible way to authorize spending that they know will exceed the debt ceiling, and then trying to use that as a negotiating tool.  What congress is doing now is akin to saying, spend $600 on groceries, spend $500 on new tires, spend $300 on new clothes, but don’t spend more then $1000.  Then, when the government runs out of money and comes back and says, “Please authorize us to borrow the rest”, then the Republicans are saying, “Well, we could, but first we need you to kiss our ass.”

Guess what, boys and girls.  Their debt ceiling is likely unconstitutional and certainly unnecessary.  There is a constitutional argument to be made that the act of approving the budget, approves the borrowing itself, via the 14th amendment.  As such, the debt ceiling law is unnecessary, and its application to prohibit previously authorized spending  would be unconstitutional.  Any conflict between a law and the constitution, as you will recall, means the law must be discarded.  The only way to resolve that, of course, is for the courts to decide.  The only way for that to happen is for the law to be challenged, and the only way for that to happen is for the center right to show some testicular fortitude and call them out on this.  Just as I had advocated for going over the so-called “fiscal cliff” at the New Year and though we are just about two months away, I am telling you now, you should be telling your friends, your family, call your Senators, your Representatives, and your President.  Tell them, “Just say, ‘Do it’.  Raise the debt ceiling or don’t.  It doesn’t matter, but pay the bills, and keep on chugging.  Ignore the idiot Repugnicrats.  Let’s get this issue behind us, and if necessary, we’ll settle it in the courts.”

Let us be proactive about this one.  Make no mistakes, the far right is already gearing up for this one.  How do you want to play it?  As victim?  Or, are you finally ready to take the little toads by their throat and say, “No!  Enough is enough!!  Get out of my house!”?  Which will it be?  You do, in fact, have the power.  Each and every one of you.

I love my country, and I am tired of the word “patriot” being used as cover by those who would destroy it and all that we have worked to build.  They have been too successful over the last 40 years.  It is well nigh past time we fight back.  It is long past the time we continue what our fathers and mothers, uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters started before us.  It is time the anger and strength of the left came back.  Not with violence, because that is really not the path of the liberal.  That is the path of the conservative fear mongers.  Those who are too afraid to stand on their own two feet.  It is time to stand up, look those who are chipping away at what is good in the eye and say, “No! Stand aside!”  It is time to repair that damage.  Heal what can be healed.  Build what new is needed, and move forward.

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