Posted on 21-05-2014
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

Rousseau’s Confessions refers to a “great princess” who when told that the peasants had no bread responded: “Let them eat brioche.”  The contempt for the modern iteration of the Republican party for the poor is ill concealed – from their last Presidential standard bearer tagging 47% of the country as moochers to Congressmen waxing nostalgically of property requirements to vote.

The brazen cynicism seems to know no limits.  The last few years Congressional Republicans have tried hard to cut food assistance to the poorest Americans.  Yesterday Talking Points Memo flagged a recent House Republican Bill that pared back a modest food assistance bill to exclude urban areas and limit it to rural areas only.  Rural areas of course tend to vote Republican.

Meanwhile in New Jersey alleged fiscal Chris Christie, having blown up his state budget to fund tax cuts for the rich is now trying to pay for the shortfall by raiding public employee pension funds thereby jeopardizing his own plan to fix public pensions.  Christie is not the only Republican governor seduced by the tax cut fairy to believe that tax cuts magically boost growth enough to make up for revenue shortfalls (which has not happened under Reagan or Bush or anywhere else since).

Kansas, home of the oligarchs Koch, adopted their tax cut wet dreams.  The result has been a state starved of revenue that lags the national growth rate whose schools and public services are being slashed.

Then there are all the Republican governors who will cut off the nose of their poor to spite their face.  Obamacare derangement syndrome means that their states are rejecting federal money that for now covers 100% of expenses to expand Medicaid.  Instead of following the Arizona model where the state accepts the funds only so long as the federal government pays for it, they would rather have their poor clog medical emergency rooms instead of getting health care.

They truly have no shame.

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Posted on 19-03-2014
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

The last week has been a fascinating exercise to watch the Republican Party demonstrate its compassion for the poor and discriminated.  It started with alleged policy wonk Paul Ryan misquoting a story to advance his opposition to free school lunches because the kid at the other end would rather have a home made lunch in a brown paper bag.  This in typical Paul Ryan style ignored the possibility that the brown paper lunch bag from home could be empty.

Ryan then followed it up by following the vintage GOP racial dog whistle on urban poverty, ignoring rural poverty.  As Jamelle Blue notes that after decades of pandering to racial resentment the GOP should not be surprised at such a backlash.  However to give Ryan credit he did backtrack on his comments in a fashion few in his party would do. 

Then over last week the GOP has trotted out female representatives to explain why we don’t need statutes to mandate equal pay for women.  Now the extent of the gender pay gap can be debated, but there have been many cases like WalMart where women were paid less for the same work.

However according to Cari Christman, executive director of the Red State Women PAC, a Texas based group that is backing Greg Abbott, the current state Attorney General and Republican candidate for governor women are “too busy” for equal pay laws.  Watch below:

 

Beth Cubriel, the executive director of the Texas Republican Party, followed that up by recommending that “instead of pursuing the courts for action, [women should] become better negotiators.”

According to Minnesota state Rep. Andrea Kieffer (R) legislation to address equal pay and sick leave does not actually help women in the workplace, but makes them look like “whiners.”   Listen below:

 

In an ideal fantasy world like the one State Sen. Phil Jensen (R-S.D.) inhabits, we would not need discrimination statutes.  The ugly reality is that we are correcting centuries of gender and race discrimination and these attitudes still persist.  Laws that mandate equal treatment based on gender or race are not “special rights.”. But the GOP seems to think it is still 1964.  So much for the vaunted Republican outreach to women and minorities.

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Posted on 04-03-2014
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

Republicans appear to have convinced themselves that Obamacare is a disaster.  Horror stories are repeatedly trotted out only to wither in the gaze of scrutiny.  In most of these cases the alleged victim ends up getting better coverage for less money or was not aware of better coverage options (often due to deliberate  misinformation spread by the Republican party).  If Obamacare was such a disaster surely there would be more victims available. 

This brings back memories of the desperate Republican attempts a decade ago to identify the hallowed family farm that would be lost due to estate taxes.  They failed to find one… Probably because American agriculture is dominated by corporate farms and the yeoman farmer is increasingly a relic of history.

The video below shows Stephen Colbert mocking the desperate Republican attempts (now funded by the oligarchs Koch) to identify Obamacare horror stories.

Colbert followed that up with a hilarious satire with Patrick Stewart playing an Obamacare hating Louisiana workman on a fake anti-Obamacare ad. Video below:

Paul Krugman postulated recently that part of the problem is that the few losers are likely to be people in the 1% paying more taxes or healthy young men forced off minimalist policies.  These obviously are not likely to draw much sympathy.

This brings up another point.  Almost 4 years since Obamacare became law the Republicans have yet to unveil their oft promised viable replacement.  Part of the problem always has been the fact that Obamacare was a Republican idea that somehow got tainted because President Obama embraced it.  The other problem is that almost every Republican alternative diminishes consumer protections and would be far more disruptive to the healthcare industry.

As a result it is just easier to peddle faux Obamacare horror stories.  The mendacity (like attacking Democrats for Medicare “cuts”that were part of the Paul Ryan budget) will continue.

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Posted on 26-09-2013
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

They are baack.  With the debt ceiling hike due in a matter of weeks, the Republican caucus is not firmly in the sway of the most batshit crazy component of their base.  With Obamacare exchanges going to go online next week, they have been desperately trying to defund the law.  Of course, other than high risk pools (which are chronically underfunded and have proved meaningless so far) and (you guessed) tax cuts it the Republicans have not yet delivered any meaningful healthcare plan.

Now with the Obamacare strategy in tatters, the weeping orange sitting in the Speaker’s chair has capitulated to his base to prepare a ransom note in exchange for not destroying the economy.  Steve Benen diagrams just how insane it is:

Basically the Republicans want President Obama to implement the economic plan of Mitt Romney, the man he beat handily last November in an election that saw the Democrats hold on to the Senate and win the popular vote in elections to the House of Representatives.

This of course is in the backdrop of a reality where the deficit has significantly dropped and where the country needs to get unemployment lower instead of triggering another recession.

The biggest mistake President Obama made was negotiating with these fanatics in 2011 to begin with.  Back then he was delusionally pursuing his asinine grand bargain with a party whose idea of compromise is for the other party to capitulate.

Alex Seitz-Wald on twitter came up with the ideal Democratic counter-proposal for this lunacy.  See below:

Of course if the Democrats do this they would be rightly pilloried as insane.  Yet establishment hacks like Candy Crowley still wonder why the Democrats will not negotiate with terrorists.

The debt ceiling does not increase spending.  It is a mechanism to pay for bills already incurred.  If push comes to shove, I hope the President declares that the 14th amendment gives him the authority to prevent a default of the national debt or just mints a trillion dollar platinum coin giving these wingnuts the middle finger.  The Republican party is playing Russian Roulette with the economy.  When will they finally be held accountable for their reckless insanity?

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Posted on 18-08-2013
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

The right-wing was outraged a few years back when Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos penned a book referring to them as the American Taliban.  Since then the tea party seems commited to proving him right.  Reality does not intrude into their fantasies and the last few years their definition of compromise has been for the other side to accept their policies without any compromises on their part.  The result has been a legislative logjam and veteran Republicans (Bob Bennett, Dick Lugar etc.) who had the temerity to work with Democrats were primaried out of office.

Now to be fair and balanced, there are many on the left unhappy with the tendencies of certain centrist democrats.  The key difference has been a lot of the ire against the Max Baucuses and Blanche Lincolns was for sabotaging their own party prior to negotiating with Republicans as opposed to the concept of compromise.  In the tea party world any compromise or legislative deal making is a sin.

Witness the gem included in letter sent to Senator Lamar Alexander this week urging him to retire:

Unfortunately, our great nation can no longer afford compromise and bipartisanship, two traits for which you have become famous. America faces serious challenges and needs policymakers who will defend conservative values, not work with those who are actively undermining those values.

How exactly do these nihilists expect any legislation to be passed without compromise and bi-partisanship when the Democrats control the Senate and the Presidency leaving the Republicans with only the House (and the Supreme Court)?  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Republican Party at present does not appear interested in governing.  The House Republicans made fools of themselves two weeks ago when they discovered that Paul Ryan’s budget fantasy left it to them to identify budget cuts – and there are cuts unpalatable to even Republicans (particularly when the Military-Industrial Complex is untouchable).  And now for the third time in as many years the tea party and conservative nut jobs are threatening a default on American debt if they don’t get what they want (the target right now is Obamacare – an originally conservative proposal that has somehow morphed into a socialistic attack on our freedoms).

The tendency of the establishment stenographers to lump both parties together and blame President Obama for not having a magic wand to overcome Republican obstruction has allowed the American Taliban to avoid the consequences of their irresponsibility.  This does not bode well for the fall.

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Posted on 09-05-2013
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

As days go by it is becoming depressingly clear that the Republican Party has no interest in a functioning government.  While they are not trying to crash the economy with nonsensical economic proposals or obsessing on manufacturing a scandal out of Benghazi, the pattern of obstruction of the last five years continues unabated.  No judges have been approved for the D.C. Circuit Court of appeals.  The Republicans have refused to let the NLRB acquire a quorum by not approving the required Republican members to the agency. In an unprecedented hissy fit the Republicans have filibustered the appointment of ANY head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unless the agency is eviscerted. Since the Republican policies of late are unhindered by data or reality, they are now trying to prevent the Census bureau from collecting economic data. After all why would the government want to use data before deciding how to allocate its spending.

Today come two more examples. The Republicans boycotted the committee hearing to confirm the new head of the EPA, preventing a quorum. In their latest effort to prevent the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the Republican leadership has refused to recommend members to to Independent Payment Advisory Board which is supposed to make recommendations to reduce Medicare Spending and may filibuster any appointee. I wonder what it will take for Harry Reid to scrap the filibuster and get a functioning Senate.

Yet according to our establishment media stenographers things would be different if Obama sang Kumbaya and gave the Republicans a hug. The Republican Party is deadly unserious about governing and hostage to economically harmful policies….and they benefit from a natural desire of voters to shrug and call for a pox on both parties.

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Posted on 21-03-2013
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

And they are back. Barely a week after the orange hued one said that he would not hold the full faith and credit of the United States hostage to repeal Obamacare, Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell both promised to require a dollar of cuts for a dollar increase in the debt ceiling.

The United Kingdom is heading to a triple dip recession from austerity insanity. Republican congressmen are squealing anytime their sequester cuts show up in their backyard. Yet the Congressional Republican leadership unable to control the extremists in their base has decided to hold the economy hostage for a third time to get unspecified spending cuts.

Don’t look for these deficit warriors to actually identify any cuts. Like Paul Ryan, erstwhile fiscal savant for the establishment media stenographers, they will not identify any unpopular cuts themselves. They will prefer Democrats to do the dirty work to attack them in the next election.

After the Republican capitulation a couple of months ago one had hoped that the Republicans would desist in their attempts to weaken a recovering economy. But a party swept by tax cutting hysteria seems oblivious to the fact that the fiscal deficit has actually been dropping, health care cost increases have slowed and it is essential to continue the task of reducing unemployment to complete this recovery.

But the madness continues. Paul Ryan’s nonsensical budget did not find as welcoming an audience in its second go around. One hopes that a third debt ceiling hostage crisis attracts the derision it deserves.

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Posted on 03-01-2013
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

“Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events.” – Abraham Lincoln February 27, 1860

Lincoln could have been talking about the current members of the so called Party of Lincoln.

The fiscal cliff has been averted for now. But in two months the Republicans in Congress will hold the world economy hostage when it is time to raise the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling itself has nothing to do with government spending. It is a product of spending decisions made when Congress passes the budget and apportions money. For years it has provided an opportunity for Congressmen to pontificate on the deficit by symbolically voting to oppose raising the ceiling.

Things changed dramatically in the last two years when the nihilists controlling the Republican Party threatened to make a symbolic vote a reality. The result was the first ever downgrade of America’s credit rating.

Now smarting after losing yet another election and having to concede the tax issue to President Obama, the Republicans are threatening to blow up the economy if they don’t have their way. It is one thing to have a showdown when the budget is passed. However, the Republican posturing over the debt ceiling is akin to playing Russian roulette with the economy.  Every serious economist, including Republican policymakers and economists not held hostage to the tea party wing for electoral or financial reasons, acknowledge that the debt ceiling must be raised. The Republican politicians promising a hostage crisis have themselves done so in the past.

For now President Obama has indicated that he will not negotiate on this issue. Hopefully he will deviate from his past practice and hold to that pledge. After all America supposedly does not negotiate with terrorists. And make no mistake this is a terrorist threat by a bunch of irresponsible petulant politicians.

And yet the Republicans while proclaiming their desire for a dollar for dollar spending reduction for the debt ceiling increase have not actually identified these spending cuts. The Paul Ryan budget last year had a similar oversight. In the fiscal cliff negotiations the Republicans tried to put the onus on Democrats to come up with the specific spending cuts to satisfy the Republican desire for recession inducing austerity. Why? Because the entitlement cuts Republicans want are deeply unpopular. While Republicans want to shred the social safety net they also want to attack the Democrats for making the cuts, i.e. have their cake and eat it too.

America sorely needs a responsible opposition party. Instead it has a party that abandons its positions the moment the Democrats embrace them – e.g. cap & trade, health care reform. The Republicans are focused on protecting the wealthy while suggesting cruel and foolish “solutions” to cut entitlement spending like raising the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare which do little to reduce the deficit and may actually increase health care costs.

If the Republicans continue in their intransigence it is time to consider the constitutional option or the coin minting option to raise the debt ceiling. America and the world economy cannot continue to be held hostage every time when the debt ceiling needs to be raised. This is not a legitimate political bargaining chip and the Republican Party should not be allowed to pretend that agreeing not to damage the economy constitutes some sort of sacrifice on their part. That is the conduct of terrorists. It is time to end this hostage crisis.

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Posted on 07-11-2012
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

In 1994 California Governor Pete Wilson secured re-election by enthusiastically attacking illegal immigrants with rhetoric that offended Hispanics.  As a result the Latino vote in California turned overwhelmingly Democratic.  The Republican Party in the home state of Reagan and Nixon has withered away and yesterday ceded super-majority control of the California legislature to the Democrats.

That is the demographic destiny that stares the national Republican Party in the face.  After 6 years of virulent rhetoric on illegal immigration and the passage of laws in states like Arizona that threaten anyone with brown skin with racial profiling, a presidential nominee who promised to deal with illegal immigrants by encouraging them to self deport, opposing the DREAM Act, the at times racist opposition to the elevation of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and many such issues the Republican share of the Latino vote dropped from 31% to 21%.  Even Faux News acknowledged this demographic disaster yesterday.  The Old White core of the Republican Party is gradually dying off.  The percentages of Hispanics is surging.  Unless the Republican Party can bottle up the crazies they face a future as a permanent minority party or dissolution like the Whigs.

It is unclear the Republicans know how to solve this problem.  Talking heads like George Will and Bill O’Reilly suggested the solution was to highlight rising young stars like Florida Senator Marco Rubio.   It is profoundly ironic that the party that rails against affirmative action so eagerly highlights its token minority mascots as a solution to its problem with minority voters.  It is a superficial solution that really does not address the core of the Republican Party’s campaign.  To begin with Cuban Americans like Rubio or newly elected Texas Senator Ted Cruz have limited appeal to non-Cuban Hispanics – a big reason is the preferential visa regime available to Cubans.  Also, while the Republicans have gathered an impressive collection of minority faces in elected office – Governors Martinez (New Mexico), Sandoval (Nevada),   Jindal (Lousiana) and Haley (South Carolina) and former party head Michael Steele – none of this has translated to greater minority support.  The last few Republican presidential conventions appear to have had more minority speakers than attendees.

The simple reason is that the Republican Party’s policies turn off many minorities.  Putting a minority mask on policies the community despises is not likely to garner much support from the community.  So far most minority groups have not embraced the Randian fantasy of no government and do acknowledge that government can play a positive role.

One of the bright stars at the Republican convention was Mia Love.  A woman, African American and a Mormon from Utah she wowed the convention attendees.  She was widely expected to take out the one Democratic congressman from Utah – Jim Matheson.  She lost.  Her campaign was disorganized and extreme views on matters like ending the federal school lunch program did not help, even in Utah.  The more I read about her I get the distinct impression that the Republicans fell in love with a young attractive charismatic but inexperienced mascot who was just not ready for prime time – Sarah Palin anyone?

Expecting tokenism to trump policy is offensive.  Condescending remarks like those from Bill O’Reilly that embrace Mitt Romney’s infamous 47% comments are offensive.  Video below:

Active campaigns carried out by Republican Secretaries of State to discourage minority voting, the series of misleading robocalls directed at minority communities, the habit of sending poll watchers only to minority communities are factors that convince minorities that the Republican Party does not respect them or care about them.  And these are still basic matters of tone.  This does not address the substantive disagreement on bread and butter issues which trump agreement with Republicans on the religious culture wars.

The Republican Party was the party that freed the slaves.  However one of its founding constituent groups was the anti-slavery wing of the Know Nothings who were notorious for attacks on immigrants in antebellum America.  Even though the Republican Party held on to a large portion of the black vote until Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act and Nixon implemented the Southern Strategy, they spent the intervening period pissing off large chunks of every single ethnic immigrant group entering the United States.  So why would it be different for Hispanics?

The Republican Party needs a through rethink on how they approach minorities.  Nominating someone like Rubio is papering over its serious problem with minorities and will not do much to draw support.  They need to adapt to the reality that we are no longer in Bill O’Reilly’s wet dream of an America controlled by the white establishment and stop embracing race baiters like Joe Arpaio.

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Posted on 15-11-2011
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

With his poll numbers finally starting to sink under the weight of sexual harassment allegations, the bubble on the Hermain Cain boomlet may finally be bursting.  It is in many ways a reflection of the current Republican Party that someone so frighteningly ignorant on public policy has been the putative leader in the polls for so long.  But the Republicans have desperately been seeking an alternative for the immaculately coiffed weather-vane from Massachusetts.  Since many of the adults (Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Christ Christie etc.) chose not to run, the party has vaulted an impressive collection of  blowhards (The Donald), batshit crazy (Michele Bachmann) and empty shirts (Rick Perry) to the top of the polls, only to see them dragged down by the dead weight of their absence of gravitas.  For a long time it appeared Herman Cain’s Teflon shield would hold.  Thankfully, this nightmare is now coming to an end.

On its face terming a charismatic and successful CEO and former governor of the Kansas City Federal Reserve a Know Nothing would seem odd.  Alas, Herman Cain like most of the other Republican candidates not named Huntsman, Ron Paul or Romney (on non-foreign policy issues), is an empty shirt.  Rarely has a candidate at the top of the polls expressed such total lack of awareness of public policy (domestic or foreign).  This is compounded by bizarre leaps into bigoted Islamophobia, a seeming willingness to electrocute illegal immigrants at the border (which may or may not have been a joke, since Mr. Cain characterized his comments both ways depending on the audience), an ignorance on the constitutional limitations on restricting Congressional activities and the constitutional amendment process, a bizarre financial plan that may have been lifted from the Sim City game, departures into race baiting when it is convenient and finally a proud ignorance on any matters relating to foreign policy.  Then came a barrage of sexual harassment allegations dating back to the 1990s when he lead the National Restaurant Association.  The flailing response from the Cain campaign (even though they had 10 days to prepare for the story’s publication) demonstrated an operation not ready for prime-time.

Seeing the debacle, it is difficult not to come to the conclusion that the Cain campaign for the presidency is a publicity seeking stunt gone awry.  The candidate did not help dispel such rumors last month by disappearing from the campaign trail for a book signing tour.  After all, a half-term quitter from Alaska has provided a blueprint on cashing political celebrity into millions of dollars.  The Clintons have demonstrated just how lucrative life post-presidency can be.

When challenged on his ignorance, Mr. Cain has a few stock answers.  His critics are wrong, he is right and trust him.

The ignorance on domestic policy is bad enough. (Video below):

Foreign policy is worse.  After repeated attacks on his foreign policy credentials he assured us that he is not as foreign policy dumb “as they think”.  Video below:

 

After making that bold assertion, Mr. Cain provided us the gem below.  This makes Governor Perry’s brain fart pale in comparison and highlights what happens when you get your rote learning jumbled up in your head.  For 5:16 Herman Cain struggles to answer a basic question on a war conducted and concluded in the past six months and to highlight why exactly he opposed Obama’s policy (other than the typical knee-jerk opposition to Obama):

 

To make it worse, his campaign trotted out the excuse (not for the first time) that the candidate was operating on 4 hours sleep.

This sleep deprived soul should not have his fingers on the nuclear trigger and has no business running for President.

The Herman Cain comedy hour may be coming to a close.  The new hope of the anti-Romney brigade appears to be a former speaker whose passionate patriotism drove him to adultery.  Somewhere Saturday Night Live writers are cheering.

If/when Romney does get the Republican nomination, I have his acceptance speech prepared for him. Video below:

 

 

Go for it Mitt…

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Posted on 14-04-2011
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

It must be dispiriting for the Republican Party elites to watch Donald Trump soar in the polls based largely on babbling birther nonsense.  It underscores a deep satisfaction with a field where the “authentic” candidates are bonkers and the credentialed candidates are chameleons (not just Mitt Romney).  So for now I will spare my keyboard and rely on the parody video mocking them below.  Enjoy:

 

 

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Via Joshua Green of the Atlantic: so spoke the only President of the United States to ever lead a union. The reference is to the Solidarity Trade Union that challenged the communist regime in Poland.

This is yet another piece of evidence that the mythology created by the Bircher, Birther and Know-Nothing rump of the Republican Party today does not comport to the reality of their hallowed President.  (Note: In the interest of being fair and balanced one must note that Reagan broke the air-traffic controllers union when they went on strike on the obvious public safety grounds, but as a man who drew his support from blue-collar Democrats did not actively attack the Unions).  The man was no bleeding heart liberal but had the pragmatism to raise taxes when needed, bailed out GM and Chrysler (sound familiar), refused to demonize gays, was willing to cut his losses and withdraw from Lebanon without trying to avenge the dead Marines, was willing to deal with the evil Empire and even Iran, and was willing to genuinely compromise with the Democrats instead of taking a position of “my way or the highway.”  Frankly none of the Republican Presidents since World War II would satisfy the purity test imposed on today’s Republican candidates.

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Posted on 24-02-2011
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

I have little respect for the intelligence of many legislators, but some of the legislation that has been introduced in the last couple of months is truly breathtaking.

It started with anti-abortion Republicans in Congress trying to limit the Federal funding of abortions by attempting to redefine rape.  Then, a legislator in South Dakota introduced a fetus protection bill so loosely drafted that it could have allowed a pregnant woman’s immediate family to kill anyone (including doctors) who tried to provide that woman an abortion with her permission.  Thankfully the legislator saw the dangers of legalizing homicide of doctors performing still legal acts and withdrew the bill.  Undaunted a Nebraska legislator has introduced a similar bill that will grant such justifiable homicide rights to any third party vigilante.

Then you have Republican legislators in states like Montana discovering their inner John C. Calhoun and trying to pass nullification statues.

But this one takes the cake and is truly beyond belief.  Georgia State Rep. Bobby Franklin has introduced a bill that would make women who miscarry felons unless they can prove that there was “no human involvement whatsoever in the causation” of their miscarriage.  Such a felony could be punishable by death.  So much for innocent until proven guilty.  Even the infamously misogynistic Taliban never dreamed up such an obscenity.

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Posted on 23-12-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

As Barack Obama and the Democrats wrap up a successful lame-duck session of Congress, Republicans are howling in outrage that Congress dared do the job for which it collects a paycheck.  Then there is the allegation that the Democrats tried to cram stuff at the last minute.  Of course the last minute cramming was caused by the record number of filibusters that the Democrats had to overcome in the Senate the past two years.

Another thing the Republicans seem to forget when howling about passing lame duck legislation is their impeachment of Bill Clinton in the 1998 lame-duck session after LOSING seats (something that almost never happens to the opposition party in the sixth year of a presidency).  Enjoy the achievements of the most productive Congress in a generation.  The next two years will not be pretty.

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Posted on 21-12-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

Continuing on a theme of giving credit where it is due we come to Jon Stewart.  After the Republicans filibustered a bill to provide health benefits to 9/11 first responders because of cost (while gifting a far larger giveaway to millionaires) , Stewart responded with a take down of the GOP and the media that some have termed operatic.  The targets were some of his usual foils – the news networks who responded to yet another filibuster with silence, Fox “News” whose 9/11 outrage machine seems to have taken an early vacation and the GOP.  Videos below:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Worst Responders
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> The Daily Show on Facebook

The second video is much more sober.  Stewart sits down with some 9/11 responders needing help to pay for their bills while taking some shots at John Kyl for asserting that working on Christmas was somehow sacrilegious and Mitch McConnell’s teary farewell to Judd Gregg.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
9/11 First Responders React to the Senate Filibuster
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> The Daily Show on Facebook

The third video is an interview with former Arkansas Governor and presidential candidate (also a Fox “News” host) Mike Huckabee who urges Republicans to vote for the bill.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Mike Huckabee
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> The Daily Show on Facebook

Stewart’s rage from the bully pulpit seems to have woken up the media and shamed some Republicans.  Below is an unusual video of a Fox anchor breaking the party line and calling out Republicans for their obstruction (other Fox personalities generally blame Congress and not Republicans in the Senate) – well maybe not that unusual since it is one of their rare fair and balanced journalists Shep Smith.

Yet the grinches are still around.  Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn objects to funding the bill by closing a tax loophole and is seeking further review on a bill that has been floating around Congress for most of the year.  He has vowed to block the bill adding to conservative unease on the wisdom of continuing to block the bill.  It also hands Democrats a political softball epitomized by their new video below:

It begs the question whether all this public shaming is sufficient to force Senate Republicans to act rather than merely provide their usual vocal support for 9/11 first responders.

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Posted on 31-10-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

Jon Stewart closed out his rally Saturday with a impassioned speech (video below) on why America needs to work together.  The speech took some digs at the role of cable TV in fueling the polarization (Read this article for how MSNBC and CNN have tried to catch up with Fox in a race to the bottom).

Unfortunately with the Republican Party measuring the drapes, signalling that it will continue its plan of non-cooperation and that its top priority is making Obama a one term President (an understandable impulse politically but also not surprising for a party bereft of fresh ideas), the plea is doomed.  It takes two to tango.

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Posted on 28-10-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

The list of deficit peacocks preening their fraudulent fiscal conservative plumes keeps growing.  It is scary to think that a party so detached from reality will shortly be rewarded with a return to power.   Some more examples are noted below:

  • The original tea partier Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey when asked for specifics on spending cuts retreated to the standard Republican talking points which will do almost nothing to cut the deficit. Video clip is below:

  • Mike Lee the soon to be Republican Senator from Utah wants to slash federal spending by 40% while extending the Bush taxcuts and without cutting Social Security and defense.  Whatever he is smoking must be nice.  It has created a rosy tea party alternate reality.
  • Republicans are unveiling a bold plan to expand the deficit by replacing the Paygo rules currently in effect (requiring tax cuts and spending increases to be offset) with “Cutgo” (requiring only spending increases to be offset).  Even though the empirical evidence under Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush indicates otherwise, Republicans continue to delude themselves that tax cuts do not diminish revenues.

It is going to be a long long two years in Republican Fantasia.

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After eight year lapse when the Democrats controlled the statehouse, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) quietly declared April 2010 to be Confederate History Month.  This was a practice started by former governor George Allen (he of macaca fame).  For some reason the California bred Allen had a predilection for confederate imagery.  While from my perspective the confederates were traitors who tried to tear apart this nation for a disgraceful motive couched in noble sounding words, I have no deep objection to such an acknowledgement as long as confederate symbols are not glorified and the context of the war is understood.  It is after all a part of the history of the South.  What does bother me is the revisionist movement of the past two decades that tries to minimize the extent to which slavery led to the civil war and the pandering of politicians to the racist fringe.

Revisionists would have you believe that the South fought solely for the cause of states rights.  This is bullshit.  Just like politicians ignore states rights when it suits them, the South had no reservations in infringing of the right of the free states to ban slavery.  The antebellum years were full of attempts like the Fugitive Slave Act that overrode states rights in the North.  But heaven forbid the Union attempting to ban slavery.  That was intolerable.  At the time of secession the Southern states made no bones about the fact that the “states right” at issue was slavery.  This is evident from their declaration of causes for secession where slavery dominates the reason of their departure.  See link.  Mississippi went on to declare “[o]ur position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world.”

Even the Vice President of the Confederacy Alexander Stephens in his infamous Cornerstone Speech, parts of which are quoted below, had no doubt of the part slavery played in the civil war:

But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted on 31-03-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

The news media and liberal blogs have eagerly lapped up the story of the Republican National Committee wooing donors at a “bondage themed nightclub” where topless dancers imitate lesbian sex.  See link.  Even though he was not present, it epitomizes the careless way Steele runs the RNC and his inability to control or monitor spending.  The story was broken by the right wing blog The Daily Caller which also highlighted Steele’s expensive habits.  See link.  Fed up donors are now pushing funds away from the RNC to other outlets.  See link.

The gaffe prone Steele was not what the Republican Party wanted when they tried to project an image of diversity by making him the head of the RNC.  And yet in the short run they are stuck with him for the near future.  See link.  Logistically it will be very hard to force him out and the optics of a diversity challenged party dumping its most prominent minority just before an election would be terrible.  It does not help that Steele is on record saying that white Republicans are scared of him.  See link.  But it is hard to see Republicans putting up with the constant drumbeat of embarrassment emanating from Steele all the way till 2012.  I think the clock has begun to tick on Steele’s leadership of the RNC and it will not be surprising to see him eased out next year.  Whether he goes quietly is another question.  Quiet does not seem to be in his DNA.

It is also another example of the risk of a political party sanctimoniously prosing on about morality.  Once again it brings to mind the paraphrased (the original quote is in Hamlet Act III, Sc. II) Shakespeare quote “Methinks thou dost protest too loudly.”  For example there have been a number of vocally homophobic right wing legislators outed for being gay lately.  For one of the latest see here.  It would be far better if politicians focused on doing their job honestly and stopped using personal morality as a political football.

Meanwhile, the latest RNC scandal was low hanging fruit for Jon Stewart to pick off and he has done so with glee.  Given the subject matter the sketch is a little more risque than usual.  Enjoy…

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
2 Girls 1 GOP
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Health Care Reform

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Posted on 05-02-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

One of the more amusing (yet sad) events in the past few months has been to watch Republicans preening as they proclaim their new found desire to trim the budget deficit (ignored in all of this is their contribution in the past 8 years to creating the fiscal straitjacket the country finds itself in).  Of course it is all talk with no plan rooted in reality.  Republicans and Democrats are committed to no cuts in social security and Medicare, an understandable political impulse since pissed off old folks actually vote.  Republicans go further in wanting absolutely no cuts in the military budget (whether the United States can keep spending as much as the next five nations combined is a debate for another day) and absolutely opposing any tax increases (and actually wanting to cut taxes some more).  Somehow the trillion dollar deficit is to be magically erased by trimming the small remaining faction of the budget devoted to discretionary spending.

But as the President pointed out earlier this week, Republican commitment to cutting discretionary spending wanes when Republican districts are impacted.  After bloviating about the stimulus before the revelation of his extra-marital affair, South Carolina governor Mark Sanford is now heading to Washington to get more stimulus funds (formerly known as pork) for his state.  See link. But the cake goes to Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama who seems to be trying to validate the caricature of the Party of No by blocking all 70 pending nominations President Obama sent to the Senate for confirmation.  The administration has drawn the Sentor’s ire by axing a couple of home state projects.  See link. As the article shows this is not the only time a Republican Senator has held up a nomination for issues unrelated to the nomination and to secure pork funding (I am sorry, critically needed funding for a dire emergency) in their state.  Shelby has tried wrapping his decision in the flag by citing the national security importance of funding his pet Alabama projects.  But how exactly is national security protected by placing intelligence and diplomatic positions on hold?  See link.

Holds and filubusters have been a problem in the Senate for the while, but lately they have gone out of control providing even more evidence that the Senate is broken.  Shelby’s actions have caused Paul Krugman to bring comparisons to the liberium veto that destroyed the Commonwealth of Poland (See link) causing my brother to joke that the Nobel laureate must have read my blog (See previous blog post on the liberium veto).

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Posted on 29-01-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

It is in many ways a sad reflection of the nature and structure of American politics, when the televised event that occurred today when the President visited the Republican Party retreat is news in large part because it actually occured (and before the cameras no less).  Others (notably transplanted Briton Andrew Sullivan) have noted the major difference between American democracy and the one in Westminster, where the Prime Minister has to show up for question hour and defend his or her policies to the questions raised by the opposition.  Unfortunately the monarchical trappings of American democracy run deep and many Presidents probably felt it beneath their dignity to subject themselves to a grilling of this sort (which is still light compared to what happens in a parliamentary democracy).

There already has been some chatter that Republican operatives think it was a mistake to give President Obama a chance to call out Republican misstatements in front of the camera. See link.  Hopefully such considerations will not prevent events like this that allow a debate of a rare genuine debate of policy issues (in contrast to the histrionics that are inevitable in the tit for tat cable TV soundbite process) from happening in the future.  After all the Republicans also get their chance to call out the  President for his misstatements, and some did try today.  In other news Fox “News” appears to have cut away more than 20 minutes before the event ended to start playing the Republican party meme that the President was lecturing, leading a good deal of mockery on the liberal blogs.  Cannot wait to see the inevitable Jon Stewart spoof.

A few cherry picked comments I am glad the President managed to get in his response (link to transcript and embedded video is at end of post): Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted on 24-01-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

James Fallows from The Atlantic posted this interesting chart of Wikipedia showing the expanding level of obstruction by the Republican Party.  See link.

Cloture Voting in the United States Senate

The blue line shows how often the filibuster was invoked and the greenish gold line at the bottom shows how often it was overcome.  With the almost doubling of the filibuster’s usage since the Republicans lost the Senate and then the Presidency (and as has been noted previously in this blog for relatively innocuous items like the military budget) the main stream media like the Chicago Tribune have bought the line that all of this is the fault of Democrats failing to negotiate with Republicans rather than a deliberate Republican strategy of obstruction, epitomized by Republican ideological heavyweight Rush Limbaugh who welcomed Barack Obama into office by wishing for his failure.

If this somehow brings the Republicans back into a Senate majority, as Yglesias notes, the template has been established for the Democrats to return the favor.

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Posted on 11-01-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

The revelation of Senator Harry Reid’s use of the “n” word while describing Barack Obama’s strengths as a candidate has set off the typical Washington fire storm.  While President Obama has accepted his apology and the Democratic caucus has rallied around Senator Reid the Republicans are crying foul.  They point to the double standard on race that forced them to jettison Trent Lott of Mississippi a few years back (though a lot of the pushing came from the White House in that one).  As others have pointed out,  the situations are not analogous.  Se here, here and here for a detailed explanation on the subject.

But the Republicans are right in that there is a double standard.  It seems unfair but they can look in the mirror for why Republicans (particularly southern Republicans) get so little leeway on race.

As the heirs to the Whigs, the Republican Party was born in its opposition to slavery.  After the civil war the Party of Lincoln could count on the support of the freed slaves.  However, things started to changed under FDR.  The New Deal created a blue collar coalition that included black voters.  By 1956 the Republican share of the black vote was 40% and has been heading down ever since.  However, the addition of Black voters to the Democratic coalition and the resulting push for civil rights fractured the Democratic Party

Southern Democrats who had reestablished control over the region after reconstruction and disenfranchised large portions of the African American population bristled when Northern liberals started preaching civil rights.  The breaking point came during the 1948 Democratic convention when Minneapolis mayor Hubert Humphrey urged the Democratic Party to “get out of the shadow of states’ rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.”  Outraged Southern Democrats walked out and nominated Strom Thurmond as the presidential nominee of the States’ Rights Party (aka Dixiecrats).  Things got worse for them with the election of John F. Kennedy.  But the unkindest cut of all came when one of their own, former Texas Senator Lyndon Johnson rammed through the Civil Rights Act.  According to legend when Johnson signed the Act into law he remarked, “We have lost the South for a generation.”  He was right because the Republicans were waiting in the wings.

Richard Nixon made some clumsy attempts to court black voters in 1960.  After that Republican presidential tickets actively started courting the Southern white vote.  Barry Goldwater stumped against the Civil Rights Act in 1964, Richard Nixon deployed the Southern Strategy, or Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign kicked off in Philadelphia, Miss., site of the ”Mississippi Burning” murders with the message of “states rights” (though as noted in the link some have disputed whether Reagan’s appeal was targeted at Southern whites).  It worked.  By the 1990s the South had turned Republican.  On the flip side, by then the Republican share of the black vote had dropped to the low teens.  By 1992, the Party of Lincoln was the Party of Pat Buchanan and Jesse Helms.

Next the Republican Party turned its attention to destroying its share of the Hispanic vote.  Pete Wilson eagerly embraced Proposition 187 to secure reelection in the 1994 California gubernatorial election.  He won  the battle but the Republican Party lost the war and the Hispanic vote in California.  The home state of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan with its 54 electoral votes is now solidly Democratic.  Even though George W. Bush tried to win  (and in his own elections won) back the Hispanic vote, the racially tinged rhetoric unleashed by the opponents of immigration reform locked up the Hispanic vote for Barack Obama.  Had John McCain not been on the ticket, the Republicans would have lost Arizona in the 2008 Presidential Elections.

This is the current breakdown of minorities in the Republican Congressional caucus:

  • African Americans  – zero
  • Hispanics – 3 (three Cuban-Americans from South Florida, and even that once loyal Republican community is trending Democratic)
  • Asian Americans – 1 (Joseph Cao elected by fluke last year and who will almost certainly lose next year)

For a party that actively courts the Jewish vote, it has only one Jewish member in Congress (Eric Cantor).   Read the rest of this entry »

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“[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”  Article VI of the United States Constitution

The text of the constitution does not help with the realities of Republican Party politics today, as Alabama Republican gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne found out.  In a desperate kowtow to the faithful and to stop attacks by his opponents, Mr. Byrne clarified the following “heretical” quote: “”I believe there are parts of the Bible that are meant to be literally true and parts that are not.”

Also submitting to the wrath of the faithful was grocery chain Piggly Wiggly, which felt the backlash from anonymous Internet posters like the following quote in the article linked above: “”Just got a call from a person at my Church letting me know about this.  My family will not be shopping at Ragland Piggly Wiggly stores anymore or anything else they own…. I don’t shop at places that think it is OK to stand next to people who don’t believe the Bible is all true.”

As noted earlier, this is another example of the just how far the theocrats control the conservative movement and the Republican Party.  This does not happen merely in Alabama.  For all the complaints about the assault on Christianity by people like Britt Hume, can you even imagine the furore if a President today emulated John Quincy Adams and took his oath of office on a book of American laws?

The theology is suspect too.  See previous post on the three kings of the nativity here as an example.

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Posted on 08-11-2009
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut
  • Frank Rich on the perils to both parties from last week’s elections.
  • In spite of Republican demagogue Michelle Bachmann rbinging a mob to intimidate Congress, the House passes health care reform.
  • The Washington Post sounds off on the Virginia political system that promptly renders each new governor into a lame-duck.
  • A blueprint for how a conservative Republican can win an election by adopting a centrist mask.
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