The brown terrorists are coming for you, Barbara

Oh my god! ISIS is in North America! Did you hear that several ISIS militants were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border? Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) said so and I saw it on Fox News! And Rep. Tom Cotton says ISIS is teaming up with drug cartels! Why hasn’t President Obama done anything?!

By the way, these claims are complete bullshit. Just ask both the Department of Homeland Security and the Mexican embassy. The sources these men are citing – far-right blogs and “unnamed” contacts – aren’t worthy of an introductory high-school English course, let alone a member of Congress. But that hasn’t stopped Rep. Hunter from promoting his unsubstantiated claims. In fact, he’s only doubled down on them.

A little context on the U.S.-Mexico border: We’ve militarized the border and are spending a record amount of money to keep it secure from dangerous hordes of women and children looking for better lives. We’ve also made it pretty much impossible for unskilled workers to legally immigrate here. The president has waited on Congress to act on immigration reform for well over a year now. Congress’ response: President Obama is acting like a dictator who doesn’t care about U.S. security. When immigration reform is debated, Congress and conservative super-PACs – pretty much the same thing – always talk about how “we need to secure the border first.” Once it is repeatedly pointed out that the border is more secure than it’s been in years, the discussion shifts to something about how “we should not be rewarding lawbreakers,” and that “they’ll take our jobs.” And the conversation decays into xenophobia.

Insulting tirades against Mexican and Central American immigrants are a staple of the modern Republican Party. When GOP congressmen and senators aren’t busy calling immigrants “wetbacks” and their children “anchor babies,” they’re claiming the border is so insecure that terrorists are invading America. “We have to throw even more billions of dollars at border security! Terrorists are being apprehended!” It’s become the modus operandi to fighting any and all immigration reform AND sticking it to the president.

I wonder why these self-assured men haven’t mentioned the U.S.-Canada border as a potential security risk. The border between our two countries is pretty massive and security isn’t nearly as concentrated as it is in the south. It’s always the lurking danger from Mexico that we’re warned about. “They’re coming for your jobs and way of life…and some are even terrorists!” Why haven’t we heard of any border invasions by dangerous Manitobans and British Colombians with thick Fargo accents? Why isn’t the FBI investigating Justin Bieber and Alanis Morissette?

Oh, yeah, Canada is rich and white.

ISIS hasn’t come to the United States and all credible intelligence sources say they haven’t and most likely won’t any time soon. Rep. Hunter’s claims are, as the DHS put it, “categorically false.” This kind of grandstanding is nothing but irresponsible and reckless. Duncan Hunter and his extremist colleagues should be ashamed of themselves. But in 2014, this idiotic behavior doesn’t get you censured or voted out of office. It only frays more nerves of a gullible public, poisons national dialogue, and excites the right-wing blogosphere. The Islamic State and so-called “illegals” are not coming for you. Stupid governance is.

still from the 1968 classic “Night of the Living Dead”

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Congress Plays with Political Fire…Again

It’s hard out there for a wimp. The 113th U.S. Congress doesn’t waste time proving how inept and ineffective it is and no enemy, foreign or domestic, has changed that.

As President Obama has used executive authority to strike at the heart of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, both House Democrats and Republicans have raised serious and valid concerns over executive power to essentially declare war without declarations from Congress. The founders of the constitution spin in their graves over things like these – they were pretty specific over war declarations. But whether you agree or disagree with the current course of action toward ISIS (personally, I’ve found myself leaning toward the “wipe the bastards out” side), the real issue is – as usual – Congress’ sadly hilarious incompetence.

For a while now, the looming question of U.S. involvement has hung over Mideastern dialogue. Iraq asked us for help in fighting back the spread of ISIS within its own borders. Muslim clerics all over the world – even Saudi freaking Arabia – have harshly denounced ISIS. The world recoiled in collective horror when the Islamic State slaughtered Kurish Yazidis and Iraqi Christians and beheaded journalists on camera.

President Obama joined other leaders in condemning ISIS for what it is: barbaric and bloodthirsty. He was clear about U.S. involvement, too – he wouldn’t act unilaterally until U.S. interests were directly threatened, a cautious approach that is rather refreshing after the Bush Administration. At that moment, House and Senate Democrats got a significant portion of their colleagues to come out in support of congressional debate on the course of action they would authorize the President to take.

And then they convened for recess…for two months.

With the threat of a third Iraq war and more military involvement in Middle Eastern affairs, Congress chose now to go on vacation. I wonder why the public rates them lower than kitchen mold in approval?

With Congress literally out of the picture, President Obama has authorized missile strikes against ISIS. House Republicans’ response: We never got a bill on military action from the White House. Seriously. I’m no expert, but I think it’s the purview of Congress to write bills. Apparently Republicans never watched that one Schoolhouse Rock! video about “the bill on Capitol Hill.”

Congress has become really good at tying the president’s hands. From holding up appointments to passing the least amount of bills in U.S. history, Republican leadership has made it its sole mission to give President Obama headache after headache. They create government crises and then blame the president for government crises. As MSNBC’s Steve Benen pointed out, “congressional Republicans have been almost hysterical about presidential overreach, condemning the White House for alleged abuses that leave Congress out of the policymaking process.” He continues, “In nearly every instance, their evidence has fallen somewhere between baseless and ridiculous.”

It all comes down to politics. Congresspersons and Senators are terrified of being the ones who vote for or against wars (hello, Iraq War 2.0). If you vote for war, it can make you look tough and it pleases neoconservatives and interventionists…but it can also tag your name to a possible boondoggle. If you vote against war, it can make you look like a bleeding heart and please pacifists and isolationists…but it can also make you look weak.

Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA) captured the GOP zeitgeist by openly admitting to the New York Times, “We like the path we’re on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took [Obama] so long.” In case any of you have forgotten, there’s a midterm election coming up in November.

Time to Move On

The Garden State has become the latest state to legalize marriage equality, bringing the total number of U.S. states where equality is the law of the land up to 14, plus Washington D.C. While it is not surprising that the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex couples – given the recent court and legislative victories for equality – it is quite surprising that Governor Chris Christie has decided to drop his appeal of the court’s decision.

Had he gone through with his appeal, same-sex couples would still have been allowed to wed up until early next year, at which point they would possibly have their rights revoked. But, as one of Gov. Christie’s aids told the New York Times, the appeal was a “fool’s errand,” especially since the court’s decision was unanimous and included a justice he considered an ally. Even though he disagreed with the ruling, the governor realized that the tide of history and public opinion was against him. Continuing his irrelevant fight was pointless.

Kudos to the Christie Administration!

Nationally, conservatives could learn an important lesson from Christie’s decision to drop his appeal. Once a legal issue has been resolved either through a court decision or legislative action (or both), that’s the end of the story. It’s done. When one factors public opinion into the equation, it becomes even clearer; you may not like the outcome but it’s here to stay. Time to move on.

We recently went through an unnecessary, sixteen-day government shutdown and near-default on the nation’s credit because House Republicans refused to accept the fact that the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”) was law. The signature achievement of the president’s first term passed both houses of Congress in 2010 and was upheld by the Supreme Court last year, not to mention the fact that the president won a second term with both the popular vote and a large majority of the electoral college. Despite the technical glitches on the federal website (as a result of high traffic), “Obamacare” is not only working but it’s becoming popular.

Apparently, all of that didn’t matter. The GOP, hijacked by the fringe Tea Party, ignored the constitution and democracy itself by bringing the country to its knees because they didn’t like that the ACA was law. They repeatedly refused to meet with Democrats to iron out a budget deal (until the polls started to sour against them) and voted over 40 times to overturn the ACA. Speaker Boehner’s caucus waged a one-house war on the nation and paid the price with a shattered public image and probably the 2014 midterm election.

Christie’s acceptance of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision should remind the far-right that it is pointless to drag out an issue that has already been resolved. Instead of acting like spoiled children – throwing national tantrums, putting hundreds of thousands of federal workers on furlough, dragging down the economy and international markets, trashing the nation’s international credibility – the GOP should take the advice it gave itself after the 2012 election and re-think its strategy. My advice – relegate the extremists back to the fringe and far away from party control. Grow up.

marriage equality - the law of the land in New Jersey

 

Elizabeth Warren Calls Out the “Anarchists” in Congress

…so about that government shutdown…

Progressive hero and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren gave an epic speech on the Senate floor a few days ago in which she called out the far-right in the House for its extremism. House Republicans, hijacked by the fringe Tea Party, literally championed a government shutdown and many of them campaigned on it (“If we don’t get our way, we’ll shut it down!”). To them, Elizabeth Warren had this to say:

“You can do your best to make government look like it doesn’t work when you stop it from working. You can do your best to make government look paralyzed when you paralyze it. You can do your best to make government look incompetent through your incompetence and ineffective through your ineffectiveness. But sooner or later, the government will reopen because this is a democracy and this democracy has already rejected your views. We have already chosen to do these things together because we all know that we are stronger when we come together.

“When this government reopens, when our markets are safe again, when our scientists can return to their research, when our small businesses can borrow, when our veterans can be respected for their service, when our flu shots resume and our Head Start programs get back to teaching our kids, we will have rejected your views once again.

“We are not a country of anarchists. We are not a country of pessimists and ideologues whose motto is ‘I got mine. The rest of you are on your own.’ We are not a country that tolerates dangerous drugs, unsafe meat, dirty air, or toxic mortgages. We are not that nation. We have never been that nation and we will never be that nation”

 

 

Here’s a video of the awesome smack-down – it’s a must-watch:

 

My Two Cents: GOP In Desperate Need of Reinvention

Maybe the GOP needs to self-destruct and implode from its current craziness to rebuild itself.

After all, it is very telling of the party that Rick “Hates Gays” Santorum and Mitt “Soul-less” Romney are the top choices in the Iowa Caucus.

This is was the Party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Ford, the Party of emancipation, conservation, infrastructure and equality. Now it’s the Party of candidates that deny evolution, climate change and civil rights to an entire group of people based on fundamentalist religion. Basically, the modern GOP rejects reality.

I wonder where the Republican Party will be in 10 years, after the Tea Party extremism and the homophobia and anti-intellectualism of the religious-right wing of the party have hopefully faded into distant, painful memories. How will the Party recover from such an amnesia of its roots? Only time, and votes, will tell…

Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson Explains “How the GOP Became the Party of the Rich”

Rolling Stone‘s Tim Dickinson wrote a brilliant article a few days ago with a simple, analogous title: “How the GOP Became the Party of the Rich.”

You cannot truly understand the modern Republican Party without understanding what happened in the late 20th century to the American economy and tax code. Historically, the Republican Party was the party of higher taxes. To pay for the many wars America entered into and investments in infrastructure, education and science, tax rates for the rich were pretty high. When John F. Kennedy (yes, that Catholic Democrat with good hair) cut taxes in the 1960s, the top rate was at 70 percent. In case you forgot, America’s Middle Class boomed in the mid 20th century.

When inflation pushed many Americans into higher tax brackets in the 1970s, fiscal conservatives like Ronald Reagan rose in popularity. Reagan’s image and message resonated with many who became disenchanted with the American Dream in the decade of anti-war riots, vast social change, Watergate and a frightening oil crisis. As Dickinson writes, Reagan “sold the country” on what was called an “across-the-board” tax cut that brought the top rate down to 50 percent.

The Reagan presidency was incredibly expensive to the American people. Defense spending went through the roof as taxes went down overall. Sure, Reagan raised taxes 11 times in eight years to help pay (somewhat) for his tax cuts for the rich and Cold War dominance. In 1980, the top marginal tax rate was 70 percent. By 1990, it was 28 percent. When President George H.W. Bush raised taxes to help close the deficit, he lost his second term, thanks to a man named Grover Norquist.

If it weren’t for the billionaire Koch brothers, who pretty much single-handedly funded the Tea Party movement, Grover Norquist would be the leader of the modern Republican Party. Norquist runs the ironically-named group “Americans For Tax Reform,” an organization dedicated to fighting any and all tax hikes by intimidating Republican politicians into never voting/acting to raise taxes. When President George H.W. Bush lapsed on his promise to never raise taxes, he paid for his N0rquist betrayal with his presidency.

Fast-forward to 2011, where the United States of America is suffering the effects of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. President George W. Bush led America into two wars and enacted expensive policies while at the same slashing taxes to historical lows. In the past, America would raise taxes to pay for things like wars, prescription drug and education programs. But thanks to the anti-tax likes of Norquist, taxes for the richest Americans are at historical lows while the rest of the country suffers through cuts in education, public safety and welfare. Some of the largest American corporations in the world didn’t even pay any taxes in 2010…we actually continue to pay them billions of dollars in tax breaks as they continue to cut jobs. The cost to the US has been trillions of dollars.

As Dickinson explains, tax breaks actually cost more than all that is taken in from taxes, $1.2 trillion to $1.1 trillion. During the last debt ceiling debacle in Congress, Republicans refused to budge in negotiations (thank you, Tea Party and Grover Norquist). Democrats were willing to cut spending and lower taxes for the Middle Class and poor in return for letting the Bush Tax Cuts expire, which would return the top marginal tax rate to what it was under President Clinton, 39.6 percent, and bring in much-needed revenue. Republicans refused because it would “hurt” job creation.

snapshot of Dickinson's Rolling Stone article

One wonders what Ronald Reagan would think of his own party today. GOP presidential candidates love invoking Reagan when talking about how cutting government is always a good thing. Even Reagan’s former budget director, David Stockman, thinks the modern Republican Party exists to service the rich:

“The Republican Party has totally abdicated its job in our democracy, which is to act as the guardian of fiscal discipline and responsibility. They’re on an anti-tax jihad – one that benefits the prosperous classes.”

Dickinson also quoted Bruce Bartlett, one of the architects of the 1981 tax cut (that brought the top rate down from 70 percent to 50):

“Taxes are ridiculously low! And yet the mantra of the Republican Party is ‘Tax cuts raise growth.’ So – where’s the fucking growth?”

Dickinson’s in-depth, brilliantly written article is on Rolling Stone‘s website. If you have the time to read it (it’s long), I highly recommend that you do.

BREAKING: Ronald Reagan Was A Liberal Socialist Who Ate Children!

“We’re going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that allow some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share. Such tax loopholes sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary – and that’s crazy. Do you think the millionaire ought to pay more in taxes than the bus driver or less?”

The following quote comes from Saint Reagan, the GOP saint invoked to end arguments by simply saying, “That’s what Reagan did.”

Politics in this country have shifted so far to the right that what was once considered centrist, even center-right, is now considered “liberal.” *”liberal” said with disdain in the voice*

When an entire political party essentially advances the interests of the rich and declares war on everyone else economically, you know something is wrong. Too much Ayn Rand?