Friday, August 31, 2012

Crocodile Tears

Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers corporate front group, has been running in eleven swing states an ad (video, below) in which former Obama supporters express their sadness that Barack Obama has failed to be the superstar they expected.  According to a Wall Street Journal blogger

“In 2008, I voted for President Obama with no reluctance,” says Richard, a silver-haired caucasian.  Talking about the deficit, Richard adds, “He inherited a bad situation, but he made it worse.”

A woman named Robin, wearing a Star of David around her neck, says, “I still believe in hope and change,” an Obama campaign slogan from 2008, “I just don’t think Obama’s the way to go for that.”

A woman named Maria says “I think he’s a great person, I don’t think feel is the right leader for our country, though.”

All three speak with a tone of sadness, not anger, which a Republican ad strategist says won’t “put off” independent and undecided voters.

Mitt Romney is sad, too, if his acceptance speech last night is any indication.   He lamented

This was the hope and change America voted for....Many of you felt that way on Election Day four years ago. Hope and Change had a powerful appeal.... When that hard fought election was over, when the yard signs came down and the television commercials finally came off the air, Americans were eager to go back to work, to live our lives the way Americans always have – optimistic and positive and confident in the future.

Romney added "I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed.   But his promises gave way to disappointment and division.

Oh, boo hoo.      It's hard to believe the former Massachusetts governor, who on November 5, 2008 began his quest to become the 45th President of the United States, was secretly aching for Barack Obama to succeed.  Still, Romney was not in public office and could have little impact on the Obama presidency.

Not so Paul Ryan, then ranking Republican member of the House Budget Committee.  Sam Stein reported in October

As President Barack Obama was celebrating his inauguration at various balls, top Republican lawmakers and strategists were conjuring up ways to submarine his presidency at a private dinner in Washington.

The event -- which provides a telling revelation for how quickly the post-election climate soured -- serves as the prologue of Robert Draper's much-discussed and heavily-reported new book, "Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives."

According to Draper, the guest list that night (which was just over 15 people in total) included Republican Reps. Eric Cantor (Va.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Paul Ryan (Wis.), Pete Sessions (Texas), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Pete Hoekstra (Mich.) and Dan Lungren (Calif.), along with Republican Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Ensign (Nev.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.). The non-lawmakers present included Newt Gingrich, several years removed from his presidential campaign, and Frank Luntz, the long-time Republican wordsmith. Notably absent were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) -- who, Draper writes, had an acrimonious relationship with Luntz.

For several hours in the Caucus Room (a high-end D.C. establishment), the book says they plotted out ways to not just win back political power, but to also put the brakes on Obama's legislative platform.

"If you act like you're the minority, you're going to stay in the minority," Draper quotes McCarthy as saying. "We've gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign."

We don't know whether Paul D. Ryan was a ringleader of the conspiracy to take down President Obama or a mere participant.   But "it's amusing," The New York Times' David Firestone writes, "to hear Mr. Romney declare that Americans should throw Mr. Obama out of office if every day isn't special or exciting."   And it's outrageous that now, after their party did all it could to sabotage the President, some Republicans are feigning sadness and despair that Obama has not been a combination of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hardly Bold

There it was- twice- in Paul Ryan's lecture acceptance speech (transcript, here) last night at the Repub National Convention in Tampa, Florida:   a reference to "responsibility."   Halfway in, Ryan remarked

Ladies and gentlemen, these past four years we have suffered no shortage of words in the White House. What's missing is leadership in the White House. And the story that Barack Obama does tell, forever shifting blame to the last administration, is getting old. The man assumed office almost four years ago— isn't it about time he assumed responsibility?

Near the end, Ryan used the word again, claiming "We will not duck the tough issues, we will lead. We will not spend four years blaming others, we will take responsibility."

After taking apart Mitt Romney as someone who "takes on the really tough issues," as Chris Christie put it the night before, Ezra Klein writes on his Wonkblog

But if you’re looking for a guy who doesn’t duck the tough issues, who never obscures the hard truths, who tells you the unpleasant facts you don’t want to hear, who isn’t deterred by the polls, Romney isn’t your guy. Christie or Ryan may be, but Romney isn’t.

That's being far too kind to the New Jersey Governor (he of the budgetary sleight-of-hand), but  Christie isn't running for anything this year.  Paul Ryan, tragically, is.    The Hill on August 21 reported

Paul Ryan attacked President Obama over looming cuts to the defense budget during a campaign stop at a helicopter museum in Pennsylvania on Tuesday afternoon, saying the president would be responsible for putting at risk "almost 44,000 jobs."

The vice presidential hopeful said "national defense is the first priority of the federal government," framing the sequestration deal as a failing of presidential leadership. The House Budget Committee chairman said Democrats wanted the GOP to choose between "tax hikes on small businesses" and cuts to the Pentagon.

"It's either lose defense related jobs in Pennsylvania or put small businesses further at a competitive disadvantage … I got a good idea – why don’t we take away President Obama’s job and create jobs for everybody no matter what industry they are in?" Ryan said.

In response, Talking Point Memo's Benjy Sarlin noted

Despite Ryan’s new attack, he not only voted for the bill containing the cuts, he went out of his way to tout just how difficult it is to undo them.

“What conservatives like me have been fighting for, for years, are statutory caps on spending, legal caps in law that says government agencies cannot spend over a set amount of money,” Ryan told FOX News’s Sean Hannity shortly after the agreement was reached last August. “And if they breach that amount across the board, sequester comes in to cut that spending, and you can’t turn that off without a super-majority vote. We got that in law.”

Like many Republicans who publicly praised the deal’s passage, Ryan has since joined in condemning the cuts and blaming Democrats for the bill they signed onto.

Even before the final bill, Ryan expressed willingness to put defense cuts on the table in order to bring down government spending.

“You can’t throw $700 billion at a government agency and not expect waste to occur,” Ryan said in January 2011.

It’s not the first time Ryan has attacked his own legislation on the trail in recent weeks. After including $716 billion in Medicare savings in his previous two House budgets, he now routinely condemns the cuts as a devastating blow to seniors in campaign speeches.

If we want someone to tell us unpleasant truths, it isn't Mitt Romney or Chris Christie.  And it surely isn't Paul Ryan, no matter how often he will tell you that is exactly what he's doing.


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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Exceptionalism Misunderstood

Alex Pareene, blogging in Salon, notes

There’s obviously a weird contradiction between the “new American Century” talk and the “face up to the fact that we can’t spend money on things like education and infrastructure and entitlements” message but that’s just how Hard Truth-Tellers roll.

There is also a contradiction, one common to Republicans nowadays, in simultaneously claiming "exceptionalism" for America while denying its actual existence.

In his keynote address, Chris Christie targeted "an enormous government that has overtaxed, overspent and over-borrowed a great people into second-class citizenship."  Clearly, the Governor, arguing "we stand up once again for American greatness," believes the U.S.A. is not now great, apparently  because we are suffering under the yoke of an oppressive, Democratic government with a president who lacks "leadership."

Predictably, the confused governor does not cite as "great" such things as increasing opportunities for women and minorities in higher education and the workforce; the large numbers of individuals skilled in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics graduating from American colleges; a transportation network accessible to most citizens; or even the nation's unparalleled military strength buoyed by the sacrifice of (mostly) young men and women throughout the nation.

Instead, Governor Christie claims "Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to end the debacle of putting the world's greatest health care system in the hands of federal bureaucrats and putting those bureaucrats between an American citizen and her doctor." Obviously, the traditional service for fee, privately-based health care system places the insurance company between the citizen and his or her doctor.   Christie knows this, but exuding a crude gruffness has gained him an undeserved reputation for candor.

We now have information more current than the World Health Organization study in 2000 ranking the U.S.A. 37th in health care worldwide.   The Atlantic's Brian Fung explains

It's an uphill climb by any measure to argue that the United States has the world's best health-care system, bar none. If the claim were true, then under no circumstance should the United States find itself behind its peers. Under very few circumstances, at any rate, if we're being generous. And yet... Let's start by considering these two facts from the OECD: We spend at least -- at least -- 53 percent more on health care per capita than any other nation in the developed world. We also pay more than three times what the British or the French pay out of pocket per capita on health care -- that's the third-highest rate among all OECD nations.

You might think spending a lot leads to superior outcomes; that might be true in some instances, but certainly not in so many that we could claim first place overall. For instance, we've got the fourth worst rate for infant mortality in the OECD. The United States is third-to-last in terms of mortality for children under 20, and it's 12th from the bottom when it comes to child suicide. We have the second-highest teen birth rate in the OECD, we're eighth from last on overall life expectancy at birth, and we're tied with Slovenia for third-worst place in terms of doctor density -- a count of how many doctors are available per 1,000 citizens

In 2009, we were in fourth-to-last place in terms of health insurance coverage rates (Excel) -- ahead of Chile, Mexico, and Turkey, but behind the Slovak Republic, Estonia, and Poland. As a percentage of total health expenditures, we rank seventh when it comes to prioritizing preventive care; countries that spend more on preventive services include Canada, New Zealand, Slovenia, and Hungary. Our hospital admission rates for heart attack patients alone are astronomical; compared to other Western developed countries, Americans can expect to go back to the hospital after a myocardial infarction a whopping 68 percent more than their foreign-born peers.

Again, we're great in a lot of ways. America has some of the best doctors, the best technology, and an amazing repository of medical and scientific knowledge. But to have an intelligent conversation about the future of health care, we ought to be realistic about what the country has and hasn't accomplished.

Facts, however, don't matter, at least to a guy like Christie.  America, he implies, is great, but not now, a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of American exceptionalism. President Obama, the 112th Congress, or the federal judiciary as currently composed may not be great.   But if the U.S.A. is exceptional- which it probably is, though in ways the GOP does not recognize- it was yesterday, is today, and will be tomorrow, irrespective of the occupant of the White House, the party controlling Congress, or judges currently sitting on the federal bench.   It's a tough concept for those Republicans, such as Paul Ryan, Ann Romney, and Chris Christie, who believe America is great, but only when their guys run it.

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Copying Barack Obama

Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack (Kennedy).

I did not serve with Barack Obama, nor do I know him, and therefore he is no friend of mine.But I know Christopher J. Christie is no Barack Obama.

But Chris Christie thinks he will be Barack Obama II.    Salon's Alex Pareene states what is obvious, but cannot be stated enough:

Chris Christie’s keynote address at the Republican National Convention referenced “Darkness on the Edge of Town” because the thing about Chris Christie is that he is from New Jersey and he loves Bruce Springsteen. His keynote speech was a lengthy tribute to the greatness of Chris Christie, who is not on the ballot this year. I think the idea is to replicate an Obama in 2004 moment, but that moment depends on the nominee losing.

Chris Christie is all about Chris Christie, but in the age of Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and (especially) Paul Ryan, that is not so unusual. Words matter, even when they have little policy implication and are meant to appeal to emotion. On the occasion of his keynote speech (transcript, here) at a party convention in 2004, B.O. declared

It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family: "E pluribus unum," out of many, one.

Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.

Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America.

The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.

We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we've got some gay friends in the red states.

There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq, and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.

We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

Chris Christie tried (transcript, here) to emulate Barack Obama last night but his greatest rhetorical flourish was an uninspiring invocation of the technique of anaphora, in which he proclaimed

I won't be part of the generation that fails that test and neither will you.

It's now time to stand up. There's no time left to waste.

If you're willing to stand up with me for America's future, I will stand up with you.

If you're willing to fight with me for Mitt Romney, I will fight with you.

If you're willing to hear the truth about the hard road ahead, and the rewards for America that truth will bear, I'm here to begin with you this new era of truth-telling.

In other instances, Christie stated "we did it" four times in succession, a variation of "I was her son" five times, and "a second American century" five times four consecutive sentences.But all of it was weak tea compared to Obama's declaration

I believe that we can give our middle class relief and provide working families with a road to opportunity.

I believe we can provide jobs for the jobless, homes to the homeless, and reclaim young people in cities across America from violence and despair.

I believe that we have a righteous wind at our backs, and that as we stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices and meet the challenges that face us.

But though Christie's rhetoric was far surpassed by that of Barack Obama, the Governor exceeded the Senator in one area.     While Obama invoked the word "America" (as in "United States of America," "America," or "American people") 27 times, Christie did so a whopping 33 times.   No politician ever lost a vote referring to America, especially without clarifying it as the "United States of America," which would, uncomfortably, remind voters that there are such places as Central America, South America, and the North American continent.

There was, additionally, the obligatory family history, intended to portray the speaker as humble, and which serves to obscure the reality that the he or she now is wealthy and living a life of comfort and opulence.   For Obama, it was a father from a small village in Kenya, who attended school in a tin-roof shack, and a mother born in Kansas, a state that nearly cries "humility;" a grandfather who served under General Patton and a grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line.  For Christie, it was a father who "grew up in poverty," entered the army, and became "the first in his family to earn a college degree."  And of course his mother "also came from nothing," was "raised by a single mother who took three buses to get to work every day."   She was, though, "tough as nails and didn't suffer fools at all," which excited a GOP crowd for whom the only acceptable feminism is one manifested in aggressiveness and the ability to prevail over the meek.

Senator Obama's keynote speech was much longer on flowing rhetoric than on praise for his party's nominee, John Kerry.    Governor Christie took the same tack, referring to Mitt Romney a mere eight times, after which he returned to speaking about America and himself, between which he cannot distinguish.

The Governor's self-absorption extended to his portrayal of his stewardship of New Jersey. He inferred that he reversed a trend "that led to wealth, jobs, and people leaving the state" and "balanced (three) budgets with lower taxes."

But the New Jersey governor neglected to mention, as Democratic State Senator Barbara Buono has, that he vetoed a millionaires' tax and now wants to reduce income taxes across-the-board, giving the wealthy another huge gift, while residents have endured a 20% net increase in property taxes during his first two years in office.   Nor did he inform the conventioneers that he cut state aid for education, property tax relief for the elderly, and government worker pensions, all contrary to campaign promises.    It's not surprising that he never mentioned once the word "jobs," given that there are 175,000 fewer jobs in his state now than there were in December, 2007.  And New Jersey suffered the greatest employment loss, 12,000 jobs, s in the nation in July.  The state ranked 47th in the nation in economic growth in 2010 and 2011.

Generously, Buono omitted reference to the assault on women's health carried on by her state's chief executive.

Unlike Senator Obama, Governor Christie won't fulfill the objective of his keynote speech. Obviously, his path will be blocked in the unlikely event the guy he ignored last night, Mitt Romney, pulls off an upset in November. Otherwise, he will face opposition from any number of unexpected sources, the 2016 equivalent of Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Herman Cain.   Or perhaps Republican primary voters or the GOP establishment will decide to bypass a belligerent, narcissistic blowhard.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Few Conservative Mouths

What is it with these celebrity conservatives?

(Way) over-the-hill rock performer Ted Nugent earned himself a visit from the Secret Service when in April he exclaimed at a National Rifle Association convention  “if Barack Obama becomes the president in November, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year."  Nugent added “If you can’t go home and get everybody in your lives to clean house in this vile, evil, America-hating administration, I don’t even know what you’re made of."

(Way) over-the-hill actor (who nevertheless deserves credit for acknowledging his time is up) actor Jon Voight, in Tampa for the Gas and Oil Party convention, remarked "Hollywood community is historically conservative, All the people that I so admired growing up were very patriotic and loved the country.”  He says he got involved in left-wing "nonsense" in the 1960s but  “I’m quite ashamed of it, actually. . . I know as much as anybody about this stuff and I know how poisonous it is.”

Apparently, only conservatives are patriotic.   So it's good to know that Rush Limbaugh, who flatly stated "I hope Obama fails" (and later defended the remark); Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who flatly stated "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president"; and congressional Republicans, who engineered a downgrade of U.S. debt in pursuit of McConnell's goal, all are liberals.

Nugent and Voight serve merely (merely?) to move the conversation slightly more to the right and to remind the Tea Party and others on the far right that the GOP is theirs.    But (somewhat) over-the-hill comedian Dennis Miller has a conservative, Republican syndicated talk show.    And last night he told Jay Leno's Tonight Show audience

I don’t think the president does himself any service having that moron Joe Biden fronting for him out there.    They say Paul has six percent body fat. I guarantee Biden’s got eight between his ears....Biden’s so silly they ought to put one of those plastic dog collars they put around your neck, that they give your dog when they snip his balls so he doesn’t hurt himself.

Nothing says love of country more than calling the Vice President of the United States a "moron" who should be treated like a dog.   And then adding an obscenity.   And Miller will continue to be taken seriously by not only the Republican Party but Hollywood and the mainstream media.

There is, appallingly, not much of a disadvantage (or as they now say, "downside") to such outrageous statements.   Not when Mitt Romney spokesman, Andrea Saul, responding to the remark from Nugent investigated as a possible threat to the life of the President, responds "everyone needs to be civil... Divisive language is offensive no matter what side of the political aisle it comes from."

Such remarks, however, are far from uncivil or "divisive."     And they come far more from one "side of the political aisle" than from the other.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

No Concession Left Behind

The Christian Science Monitor noted in May

President Obama says he had already decided to endorse gay marriage sometime before the Democratic National Convention in September, but Vice President Joe Biden forced the issue last Sunday when he spoke out in favor of marriage equality.  
“He probably got out a little over his skis, but out of generosity of spirit,” Mr. Obama said in an interview that aired Thursday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “Would I have preferred to have done this in my own way on my own terms without, I think, there being a lot of notice to everybody? Of course. But all’s well that ends well.”

Obama’s declaration of support for gay marriage on Wednesday, when the ABC interview took place, capped a series of events that appeared to corner the president on a hot-button social issue. On Sunday, Mr. Biden stated, in response to a question, that he was “absolutely comfortable” with gay marriage – though making clear that he was speaking for himself and not the president. On Monday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who is close to Obama, also said for the first time publicly that he supports gay marriage.

It was an easy call for Obama to support the concept of same-sex marriage once his Vice-President and his loathsome Education Secretary came out for the idea (yes, pun intended).He had, after all, been "evolving" (isn't that just precious?) on the issue.   Not so on other issues.

On August 14, Vice-President Biden was speaking to a mostly over 60-crowd at The Coffee Break Cafe in Stuart, Virginia when a patron, as NBC News reported it, "expressed his relief that the Obama campaign wasn't talking about changing the popular entitlement program." Biden responded "Number one, I guarantee you, flat guarantee you, there will be no changes in Social Security.  I flat guarantee you."

But when it comes to income maintenance and health care for the elderly, Obama is not so easily swayed.  On August 7, The New York Times reported (emphasis mine)

The news media have played a crucial role in Mr. Obama’s career, helping to make him a national star not long after he had been an anonymous state legislator. As president, however, he has come to believe the news media have had a role in frustrating his ambitions to change the terms of the country’s political discussion. He particularly believes that Democrats do not receive enough credit for their willingness to accept cuts in Medicare and Social Security, while Republicans oppose almost any tax increase to reduce the deficit.

Following a presidential press conference on August 20, we read in The Huffington Post

the biggest thing Congress could do for the economy is to reach a deal on "a sensible approach" to reducing the deficit, he said. Obama specifically urged congressional leaders to revisit the revenues and spending cuts that were on the table during last year's negotiations on the debt.

"I continue to be open to seeing Congress approach this with a balanced plan that has tough spending cuts, building on the $1 trillion worth of spending cuts we've already made, but also asks for additional revenue from folks like me, folks in the top 1 or 2 percent," said the president. That would give more "certainty" to families and small businesses.

Whether reducing the deficit would profoundly improve the economy in the long-term is plausible, though hardly certain. "Tough spending cuts" clearly are not the way to pull the U.S. economy out of the pit of a slump, notwithstanding Obama's perspective.  

Just so there is no confusion and the voters understand where he is going with this, the President in an interview on August 25 with the Silicon Valley Mercury News stated

I don’t think it would be a good idea to pursue an approach that voucherizes Medicare and raises taxes on middle-class families to give wealthy individuals a tax break. So if that’s the mandate that Republicans receive, then there’s still going to be some serious arguments here in Washington.

But what I’m offering the American people is a balanced approach that the majority agrees with, including a lot of Republicans. And for me to be able to say to the Republicans, the election is over; you no longer need to be focused on trying to beat me; what you need to be focused on and what you should have been focused on from the start is how do we advance the American economy—I’m prepared to make a whole range of compromises, some of which I get criticized from the Democratic Party on, in order to make progress. But we’re going to need compromise on your side as well. And the days of viewing compromise as a dirty word need to be over because the American people are tired of it.

The President suggests if Republicans "pursue an approach that voucherizes Medicare," he will recognize it as a "mandate that Republicans receive."   Therefore, he is not "poised to oppose their dangerous scheme" nor will he tell them to "hit the road."   Instead, Republicans beware:   we will hit you with "some serious arguments."

And Barack Obama will pursue a "balanced approach."    Congress approves the Budget Control Act of 2011, in which sequestration would provide a cut in spending of $917 billion in ten year, $487 billion in defense, the rest in non-discretionary social spending.    The GOP, not surprisingly, is fine with the reduction for the middle class and the poor but is squealing about the defense cuts.  But surveying the landscape, the President tells the Mercury-News his "message" will

resonate not with every Republican, but I think with a lot of fair-minded Republican legislators who probably feel somewhat discouraged about having served in one of the least productive Congresses in American history.

And I hear—not in public, but in private—that many of them would like to go ahead and get some stuff done because they recognize that our children and our grandchildren have a stake in us being able to get this work done.

Following the President's press conference of August 20, Digby commented

I don't have a clue how to stop this train.  Having the zombie eyed granny starver on the ticket hasn't changed their view that the Grand Bargain to slash 4 trillion in government programs in the middle of an epic slump is still great policy and even better politics.  But don't worry.  They'll ask millionaires to "pay a little more" so it's all good. I'm feeling more "confident" already.

Basically we have a choice between the Republicans dystopian hellscape or the Democrats' long slow jobless recovery with even more insecurity for the poor and middle class. Or actually, it's more likely to be a "compromise" between the two.  After all, these are the opening bids.

Barack Obama is either being dragged, kicking and screaming, into accepting the GOP agenda or he really aims to be a transformative President, like the 40th President he so admires.    And this is the better option in November.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Fire From Heaven

Mike Huckabee is wiser than we- or even he- thought.  According to Politico

This could be a Mount Carmel moment," said the former Arkansas governor, referring to the holy battle between Elijah and the prophets of Baal in the book of Kings.  "You know, you bring your gods.  We'll bring ours.  We'll see whose God answers the prayers and brings fire from heaven.  That's kind of where I'm praying: that there will be fire from heaven, and we'll see it clearly, and everyone else will too."

Reverend Huckabee, who chose a reference to "fire from heaven" when speaking of Representative Todd Akin's remarks about abortion,  may have been speaking more literally than he thought.

The National Research Council has projected (map below) the increase in wildfires with a map which "shows the percent increase in expected wildlife burn areas" based on a conservative assumption of a 1% increase in global average temperatures and relative to the median area burning from 1950 to 2003.

Or perhaps the "fire from heaven" recognized by the ordained Southern Baptist minister is less literal, but more immediate, than wildfires breaking out at unprecedented levels fueled by drought brought on by climate change.  The Chicago Tribune reports

"Due to the severe weather reports for the Tampa Bay area, the Republican National Convention is going to convene on Monday August 27th and then immediately recess until Tuesday afternoon, August 28th," (chairman Reince) Priebus told reporters in a telephone briefing.

He said members of the RNC, the Romney staff and officals who are running the convention made the decision unanimously in light of the weather situation.

Tropical Storm Isaac storm has pummeled Haiti, killing at least four people and has now moved onto Cub.

Fueled by warm Gulf waters, Isaac was forecast to strengthen into a Category 2 hurricane with 100-mph (160-kph) winds and hit the U.S. coast somewhere between the Florida Pahandle and New Orleans around midweek.

In 2004, the GOP cut short its convention in St. Paul, Minnesota because of Hurricane Gustav in the Gulf.    Senator McCain recognized climate change and campaigned as a supporter of cap-and-trade.   Since then, however, Republicans have become increasingly suspicious of science and far fewer of their elected officials and political officeholders have acknowledged the existence of global warming, let alone the human contribution to it, than have denied reality.   This year's party platform is reputed to be silent on the issue.

One party, in the presence of increasing heat, drought, wildfires, and extreme weather events, pretends nothing is happening as it has been forced to change the schedule of its national convention for the second time in a row.   In the presence of increasing heat, drought, incidence of wildfires, and extreme weather events, it bows to its corporate benefactors and averts its eyes.   Politicians suspend belief and the national media looks the other way.    God, however, is not so blind, and not amused.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Jews And Israel And One Republican

A Protestant minister once told me, as well as I can remember, "Conservatives dislike Jews and love Israel."    In today's context, the remark may seem a mere observation- but it was made 25-30 years ago.

Mitt Romney has not been sparing in his fulsome support of the tiny Mideast nation.  While the Administration maintains its "capital should be determined in final status negotiations between parties," Romney contended in an interview last month on CNN "A nation has the capacity to choose its own capital city, and Jerusalem is Israel's capital... I think it's long been the policy to ultimately have our embassy in the nation's capital of Jerusalem."

In October of last year Romney, who views the President's support of Israel as unacceptably lukewarm, remarked "I believe our relationship with Israel, a nation which shares our values and is our best friend in the Middle East, should be of support and confidence rather than criticism and blame."   Taking another swipe at Obama, the presumptive GOP nominee while in Jerusalem last month argued "We cannot stand silent as those who seek to undermine Israel voice their criticism. And we certainly should not join in that criticism.  Diplomatic distance in public between our nations emboldens Israel's adversaries." 
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, defending in late June Israel's right to attack Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons, praised President Obama and noted "several years ago the (2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate) raised some questions.  Now there are no differences between our intelligence."   Nevertheless Romney, coyly slamming Administration's policy, said in Jerusalem "we must not delude ourselves into thinking that containment is an option."   A senior foreign policy aide stated "If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing the capability, the governor would respect that decision."

The backing granted Israel by the former Massachusetts governor is convenient, given that his biggest financial supporter is casino mogul, likely criminal, and radical Likud supporter Sheldon Adelson, who has pledged to spend at least $100 million to elect the GOP nominee.   Still, it has been, at least rhetorically, all-encompassing, while his fondness for the people of Israel is questionable.    BuzzFeed found that at a fund-raiser in Chicago after his return from the Holy Land, Romney contended 

It’s individuals and their entrepreneurship which have driven America.  What America is not a collective where we all work in a Kibbutz or we all in some little entity, instead it’s individuals pursuing their dreams and building successful enterprises which employ others and they become inspired as they see what has happened in the place they work and go off and start their own enterprises.

David Nir of DailyKos comments

For a lot of American Jews, especially those who've had the chance to visit one themselves, the kibbutz is a special cultural touchstone. Though its origins date from before the Second World War, kibbutzim are a vibrant symbol of the pioneering, selfless spirit that allowed the state of Israel to rise from the ashes of the Holocaust. To attack the institution of the kibbutz is to attack something very close to the heart of many Jews.

Romney's statement hardly qualifies as anti-semitism, unlike use of an ethnic epithet or application of the term "Holocaust" to women's reproductive freedom, not uncommon with some on the cultural right. Still, his consistent advocacy for the nation of Israel, coupled with an undisguised distaste for an institution intrinsic to the maintainance of the Jewish state, suggests that, a quarter of a century later, many conservatives remain far fonder of Israel than of Jews.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Paul Ryan, For It Before He Was Against It

Bill in Portland, Maine, a regular at Daily Kos, quips

John McCain chose as his running mate a mama grizzly. Mitt Romney chose as his running mate a papa weasel.

He doesn't explain what he means by "papa weasel" but the Urban Dictionary defines "weasel" as a "shifty, schemeing (sic) person that will do whatever they need to to escape whatever they fear in the moment."

That'll do just fine.   Los Angeles Times' blogger Michael Finnegan recently wrote

Ryan’s plan to revamp Medicare – which included Obama’s $716 billion in cuts to the projected growth of Medicare – was a central feature of a federal budget proposed by the congressman and passed by the Republican-controlled House in April. Romney has said he would sign it as president. The voucher system would begin in 10 years...

On August 15, though, the presumptive vice-presidential nominee argued "what I don’t think he’ll be telling people is that the president took $716 billion from the Medicare program — he raided it to pay for Obamacare.”

Actually, the President's cuts are Medicare savings rather than benefits to recipients.   They include primarily" reduced payments to hospitals, discounts on Medicaid prescription drugs, and pay cuts to private insurers under Medicare Advantage," according to Talking Points Memo's Salil Kapur.   Ryan's cuts would have been used to lower taxes further for the wealthy.   But now that the serious thinker from Wisconsin , the guy who was going to focus all of America's attention on Medicare funding, has joined the Romney team, he opposes the reductions, which had been central to his Medicare plan.   Obama has "raided it to pay for Obamacare," for luxuries such as prescription drugs (closing the doughnut hole) and preventive care (such as cancer screening).

Oh, but not just Medicare.    A year and a half ago, Representative Ryan teamed up with Representative Akin to propose "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act."   Michelle Goldberg explained

Since 1976, under the Hyde Amendment, there’s been a ban on federal funding for abortion, which applies to Medicaid recipients as well as federal employees and military families. In 1993, though, Congress legislated an exemption for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Such pregnancies are not uncommon—according to the Guttmacher Institute, at least 9,100 women seek abortions after forced sexual intercourse each year. H.R. 3 would prevent many of these women from using their health insurance to pay for abortions, whether their plan is public or private.

Under H.R. 3, the only victims (sic) of “forcible rape" would qualify for federally funded abortions. Victims of statutory rape—say, a 13-year-old girl impregnated by a 30-year-old man—would be on their own. So would victims of incest if they’re over 18. And while “forcible rape” isn’t defined in the criminal code, the addition of the adjective seems certain to exclude acts of rape that don’t involve overt violence—say, cases where a woman is drugged or has a limited mental capacity. “It’s basically putting more restrictions on what was defined historically as rape,” says Keenan.

Recently, however, Mr. Akin has gotten into a bit of hot water- not for trying to bolster government control over women's bodies- but for an absurd comment, including suggesting that victims of "forcible rape" are unlikely to get pregnant.   So the Political Editor of KDKA in Pittsburgh had a little conversation with Akin's ideological blood brother:

Delano: “You sponsored legislation that has the language ‘forcible rape.’ What is forcible rape as opposed…”
Ryan: “Rape is rape. Rape is rape, period. End of story.”
Delano: “So that forcible rape language meant nothing to you at the time?”
Ryan: “Rape is rape and there’s no splitting hairs over rape.”
As for the president’s claim that Romney-Ryan will restrict birth control, Ryan calls that ridiculous.
“Nobody is proposing to deny birth control to anybody,” says Ryan.
Ryan says women won’t fall for these side issues.
“And I don’t think they’re going to take the bait of all these distractions that the President is trying to throw at them

With little knowledge outside of the "pro-life" community, Paul Ryan once thought there was a)rape, and b)forcible rape, which apparently excluded women victimized by incest or a "date rape" drug.   Conveniently, now, "rape is rape and there's no splitting hairs over rape."    And adds with testosterone: "rape is rape, period.  End of story."

But it isn't only Medicare and abortion.    Last year, Representative Ryan threw in his lot with defense cuts, when, as Daily Kos' Joan McCarter describes, he

voted for the Budget Control Act, the law that sets up an automatic trigger, or sequester, to cut spending on defense and other domestic programs. The cuts were included in the act to try to force Congress to come up with alternative cuts through a bipartisan supercommittee. But House Republicans, including those on the supercommittee, have been so focused on abortion, repealing Obamacare, and naming post offices, they didn't actually succeed in coming up with those alternatives.

That was then, and this is now, and now that he is running for Vice-President, Ryan implies that he is opposed to defense cuts, blaming the planned reduction in Pentagon funding on the President and declaring  "national defense is the first priority of the federal government."

But it isn't only Medicare, abortion, and defense.   In January, 2002, he stated at a town hall meeting in his district "You have to spend to grow a little.  What we're trying to do is stimulate that part of the economy that's on its back."   On February 14, 2002 he was on the House floor when he defended President Bush's proposal for a stimulus package:

What we're trying to accomplish today with the passage of this third stimulus package is to create jobs and help the unemployed. What we're trying to accomplish is to pass the kinds of legislation that when they've passed in the past have grown the economy and gotten people back to work. We want to make it easier for employers to keep people employed. We want to make it easier for employers to invest in their businesses, to invest in their employee and hire people back to work...

and on top of it, for those people who have lost their jobs, we want to help them with their unemployment insurance and with health insurance. What we are trying to accomplish here is the recognition of the fact that in recessions, unemployment lags on even well after recovery takes place.

However, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he piously intoned upon convening a meeting of the Budget Committee he currently chairs, is "out of the discredited economic playbook of borrow and spend Keynesian policies."   It was not so discredited, though, that he was deterred from writing the Department of Labor, and later the Department of Energy, to request stimulus funds for his congressional district.   Not to worry, however; Ryan recently denied asking the federal government for money.   Then when he was caught lying, the young Wisconsin congressman, bursting with integrity, blamed it on his staff:  "I didn't recall the letters earlier.  But they should have been handled differently..."   Classy, Paul.

All of this, of course, makes the House Budget Committee chairman a fitting help-mate to Mitt Romney.   One is tempted, further, to ask "will the real Paul Ryan please stand up?"  But the real Paul Ryan is probably more cunning and dangerous then he even has revealed.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Appears Stupid, Is Extreme

David Ferguson reports

On Tuesday’s edition of “Morning Joe,” host Joe Scarborough vented his frustration with Missouri Rep. Todd Akin (R)’s refusal to drop out of the race for U.S. Senate and said that he’s tired of his party being the “Stupid Party.” Akin is the Republican congressman who said in an interview earlier this week that a woman’s body can stop conception in the instance of a “legitimate rape,” thus obviating a need for exemptions from abortion restrictions for the victims of rape and incest.

On Monday, Scarborough said that Akin was evidence of a Republican party that had placed ideology ahead of actual electability and fitness to govern. On Tuesday, with Akin (thus far) refusing to get out of the race, Scarborough made it clear that, to his thinking, the mortally wounded Akin campaign could be spoiling the chances for Republicans to take the majority of seats in the Senate....

Scarborough said that he’s less interested in the question of whether or not the Republican Party should be a moderate or a conservative party, “I’m just tired of the Republican Party being the ‘Stupid Party!’” he said, “Stupid people saying stupid things and scaring off independent voters and swing voters!”

As the video (below) reveals, Scarborough exclaims "Do I want it to be a conservative party? Do I want it to be a moderate party?  I'm just tired of it being the stupid party.  I'm tired of us being stupid and saying stupid things and scaring off independent and swing voters."

Republican senatorial nominee Todd Akin is guilty of bad strategy, bad science, and bad politics.   But Scarborough's is less the stupid party than the party of extremism.    Last year, Representative Akin co-sponsored HR 212, the Sanctity of Human Life Act, by which Congress would declare

* The life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, irrespective of sex, health, function or disability, defect, stage of biological development, or condition of dependency, at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood
*The Congress affirms that the Congress, each State, the District of Columbia, and all United States territories have the authority to protect the lives of all human beings residing in its respective jurisdictions

Conceivably, the bill would outlaw in-vitro fertilization, though more likely imperil its practice.  Bioethicist Art Caplan explains "it would not allow any destruction of embryos and since nearly all IVF depends on the overproduction of embryos the law would drastically alter how IVF is done, raising the cost of doing it and hugely decreasing the success rate."  Kevin Drum notes that the bill provides no exception for eggs fertilized by rapists or by your own father and therefore

has the plain intent of effecting a policy that allows states to ban abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest.

In fact, if this bill were passed and the Supreme Court upheld it, I'll bet that a rapist could go to court and sue to prevent his victim from getting an abortion.  He'd argue that the fetus was legally a human being, and the court has no power to discriminate between one human being and another.  He'd probably win, too.

Scarborough is aghast that the cat is out of the bag, that the reasoning and perspective behind the Sanctity of Human Life Act and personhood amendments proposed in a few states have been put on display.   Transparency can be so inconvenient, the consequence being numerous conservative Republicans calling for Akin to step down, with few repudiating his views.

Little harm will come because of such alleged stupidity, but much can come because of the policies Todd Akin advocates.   They are the policies of the Republican Party, which is set to approve a platform plank with comprehensive antiabortion language, including urging "legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children."   And they are especially the policies of presumptive vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan, who co-sponsored HR 212 and has exhibited, absent scrutiny, a fanatical anti-choice record.

"Extremism in the defense of liberty," the late Arizona senator and presidential nominee Barry Goldwater once declared, "is no vice."   It may be no vice- but continue in that vein, and talk show hosts will brand you "the stupid party."

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Ignoring The Elephant In The Room

Chris Beneke and John Fea are academics, historians, and authors who recently penned (penciled? typed? e-mailed?) a commentary in The Philadelphia Inquirer examining the religious test for office in the U.S.A.

That would, of course, be a de facto, rather than de jure, test.     Article VI of the U.S. Constitution stipulates "no religious Test shall ever be required a a Qualifcation to any Office or public Trust under the United States."  Still, as Beneke and Fea point out, President-elect Eisenhower in 1952 argued "our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don't care what it is.... With us, of course, it is the Judeo-Christian concept, but it must be a religion with all men are created equal."     Accordingly, few people care that the current Vice-President of the United States is a Roman Catholic, either of the two men who will serve in that office the next four years is a Roman Catholic, or that of the nine sitting Supreme Court Justices, none is of the majority American religion, Protestantism.

Of course, no Muslims or atheists need apply.    Beneke and Fea conclude

So here's an update of our unofficial religious requirements for the presidency:   An unprecedented array of traditions, including Protestantism, Catholicism, Mormonism, and, probably to a slightly lesser degree, Judaism, now qualify candidates for the office.  But Eisenhower's Judeo-Christian criterion clearly abides.

This is not the founders' religious test for office, or even your parents'.   But it's a religious test all the same.

And so it is.   But Beneke-Fey could get great odds in Las Vegas betting on their suspicion "if recent eletions are any guide, Romney and Ryan  must maintain a steady drumbeat of God-fearing, Jesus-soaked expression until November."

While both Republicans will refer periodically to God, neither will allow his statements to be immersed in references to Jesus.   The Christian right will march in lockstep with the ticket anyway, less so because of a suspicion that Barack Obama is a Muslim than because Romney and Ryan pledge fealty to conservative policies.   And heaven forbid any candidate for national office even hint at a fear of God while appealing to voters, most of whom are convinced they're good people, have nothing to fear from God, and will be presented upon death with a deserved one-way ticket to heaven.

In particular, though, the religious views of Romney, once a Bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, has presented a dilemma in his two presidential runs.    He could have publicly embraced his faith, asserting its importance to him in his family life and perspective toward politics and culture.  Or he could have, just as courageously, gone the JFK route, assuring the public that he would decide issues strictly on the basis of their merits, without regard to his religious affiliation or perspective.

We shouldn't be surprised that, faced with two options which would have boldly opened to discussion among the American people the role of religion in American life, Willard Mitt Romney has chosen neither.

Notwithstanding a speech during his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, Romney has ignored the issue this cycle.    He has instead subtly raised the matter of religion, telling a town hall audience that the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are "probably inspired"- i.e., directly or indirectly, likely emanating from God.

It's safe in a Repub primary to imply that our founding documents have received more than a divine vote of confidence.    It might come as a surprise to individuals stuck under a totalitarian government that rights come from God.   However, most of them aren't of a Christian denomination (nor are they Jewish, for that matter) and few conservatives would conclude that those folks are quite our equals, anyway.  With a figurative nod and a wink from Romney, most conservatives recognized what he was saying; others probably disregarded the remark. It was a clever way of injecting religion into politics, but in such a manner as to permit the candidate plausible deniability, if necessary.  Which it wasn't.

Presidential candidates are never shy in exploiting their background, especially their family, to create their own narrative as to how their lives have been shaped and their views come to fruition.  (This is especially true with Paul Ryan, now shamelessly using his mother to campaign with him.)   But Mitt Romney has temporarily forgotten his prior life with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.    Consequently, Helen C. Whitney, who produced the PBS series The Mormons, and Gregory Prince, a practicing Mormon who consulted on the documentary, have posed the following nine questions they believe Romney should address:

1. How have your early experiences within the Mormon Church -- particularly your two-year proselytizing mission to France and your service as Bishop and Stake President -- shaped your character and your worldview?

2. How does Mormonism's boundless optimism, which transcends even death in a manner unlike any other religion, shape your vision of America's present and future?

3. All religions have fabulous foundational stories. The Mormons are no exception. The difference is that their theology is younger and famously literal. It tells us that God has a body, that there is a plurality of Gods who eat and drink and mate as we do, that the golden plates were real, and that when we die there is a concrete and specific heaven where families are reunited. How has the singular physicality of your faith shaped your view of the world, not only as a private citizen but as a national leader?

4. When Mormons are asked about Joseph Smith's powerful final vision about man becoming God, "God-like" is almost always substituted for becoming God. But Mormonism's oft-quoted tenet is unambiguous: "As God is, man may become." Can you explain this core belief in a way that addresses the charge of blasphemy made by other religions?

5. Why do your new positions on immigration, social welfare, gay rights and abortion differ from official positions of the Mormon Church? Can you place these differences in a context that reassures Americans that Mormonism is not a philosophical monolith -- that indeed there is ample room within the label of "devout Mormon" for people as diverse as you and Senator Harry Reid?

6. What your church labels "sacred" is frequently termed by others "secret" or even "sinister," leading many to conclude that Mormons may not always be telling us what they truly believe. How can you assuage these suspicions by articulating your beliefs?

7. Given that your church's highest leadership councils consist entirely of white males, that it denies its lay priesthood to women and that it played the decisive role in the passage of California's Proposition 8, how can you assure the American public that the composition of your administration and the policies that you would pursue would be reflective of, and responsive to, the diversity that is the foundation of this nation's strength?

8. When asked about the part of his Baptist faith that meant most to him personally and as the nation's leader, President Clinton spoke movingly -- and in his words --about "the God of second chances." Human fallibility and the possibility of divine redemption -- these were Clinton's themes. What element of Mormon history or theology has had special resonance for you and has shaped your view of human nature, and of God?

9. Of all the misconceptions surrounding your religion, which one has offended you the most? Or, to interject a lighter note, what misinformation or stereotype has caused you to roll your eyes and even laugh when you are with your Mormon friends?

Whitney-Prince cite the candidate's "reluctance to be open about his religion" and assess a willingness to respond to the questions as "an opportunity for him to begin to emerge from obscurity."   Romney obviously will not address these, but he hardly can be blamed for not opening a Pandora's box that would likely lead to his defeat.   More importantly, the media will continue to please the presumptive Repub candidate by ignoring the issue.     This may not be a conscious attempt to favor the GOP but rather a skittishness at considering religion at all.   The media, however, play a major role in setting the terms of debate in an election.    And in  an electorate which knows far more about Reverend Jeremiah Wright than about Joseph Smith, those terms are lopsided.

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Republican Media- No. 35

Campaigning at The Villages, an enclave of elderly people and golf carts in Florida, Paul Ryan, campaigning with his mother, contended

What's worse is the president's campaign calls this an achievement.  Do you think raiding Medicare to pay for 'Obamacare' is an achievement? Do you think empowering a board of bureaucrats to cut Medicare an achievement? Neither do I. Medicare should not be used as a piggy bank for 'Obamacare.' Medicare should be used to be the promise that it made to our current seniors. Period. End of Story.

As The Incidental Economist explains, the Affordable Care Act creates the IPAB, a board of 15 full-time members who are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.     The Patients' Choice Act, introduced by "small-government" advocate Ryan in May, 2009, creates not one, but two, boards.    The Health Services Commisssion consists of five full-time members, also appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.   The Commission in turn would appoint a 15-member board to be called the Office of the Forum for Quality and Effectiveness in Health Care.

So Paul Ryan was against a board of bureaucrats before he was for them. The larger problem, however, is Ryan's claim that President Obama uses Medicare "as a piggy bank for Obamacare."   Add to that Ryan's claim "Our solution to preserve, protect, and save Medicare does not affect your benefits."   Then add the media, all agog over the hip and healthy congressman, buying the story uncritically.

Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, and Romney-Ryan all have pledged to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. While Romney charges President Obama with "robbing" elderly people with the reduction, Ryan terms the $700+ billion cut a "piggy bank for Obamacare."

Most of those savings, however, are plowed back into health care for the elderly, eliminating the prescription drug doughnut hole and providing preventive care without co-pays or deductibles.   Representative Ryan proudly maintained the same reduction in his own proposal. They would not bolster health care of the elderly, but rather, Ryan boasted, "extend its solvency" (destroying the village in order to save it).     He criticized the President's plan, saying it "takes that money from Medicare to spend on Obamacare"; "robbing" it, in his running-mate's words, to spend on health care for the elderly and for the poor, through an expansion of Medicaid.

Still, some in the media are, to be generous, confused.    Tim Curry of NBC News asks himself "If you are 65 years or older and now receiving Medicare beneifts, would Ryan's Medicare proposal affect you?  If so, how would it affect you?"

It's a good question but, remarkably, Curry replies to himself "No- if you're receiving Medicare benefits now, Ryan's proposal would not affect you."  But of course it would.   Ryan's proposal takes out the same money as does the ACA- and then makes sure it doesn't go to the elderly (or the poor).

These are confusing times.   A Democratic president enacts "historic" health care reform which builds upon a proposal of the Heritage Foundation.    Republicans then attack the legislation, in part for the cost controls it contains.    Their presumptive presidential candidate selects as his running mate a guy who ran interference for President Bush's Medicare privatization scheme, a boon for the high-stakes gamblers on Wall Street.   That same guy now pledges to "preserve, protect, and save" Medicare by slashing benefits for nearly all recipients except those now elderly.   It doesn't take a biased or liberal media to lay bare the dishonest claims of the GOP ticket.  Only an attentive one.

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At Least He's For Smothering Regulators

Annie Lowrey of The New York Times writes

Much has been written about Mr. Ryan’s intellectual influences: canonical conservative thinkers like Friedrich von Hayek, the Austrian economist, and Ayn Rand, the novelist and philosopher. Mr. Ryan’s enthusiasm for themdates at least to his days as a precocious undergraduate at Miami University in Ohio.

But since first coming to Washington in the early 1990s, Mr. Ryan has been closely tied to an intellectual world more concerned with the political agenda of low taxes, light regulations and small government than philosophical ruminations on work and freedom.

There is no denying Paul Ryan, captive of the banking and  insurance industries, is fond of light regulations.   But as the chart below, from the Tax Policy Center indicates, the budget proposed (and passed by the House) by the House Budget Committee chairman would increase income taxes of households under $30,000 while reducing them 12.5% for households with income over $1,000,000.    On average, the latter would save $300.000.

Ryan's support for "small government" is even more selective than his support for "low taxes."    He voted for the Iraq War, TARP, the Medicare prescription drug benefit, the 2005 highway bill, and (this, at least, to his credit) the auto rescue plan.    According to the Center for American Progress, "From 2001 to 2008, Congress passed legislation that increased the national deficit by a total of $4 trillion- the number grows to $6 trillion if you add in how much those policies have cost through 2011.  Ryan voted for 90 percent of these deficit increasing bills."    Or as CAP illustrates it (immediately below) graphically from the CBO:

And of course the biggest factor in running up the deficit has been the Bush-era tax cuts, consistently a favorite of Representative Ryan, as illustrated by the graph above from Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Ryan is willing to compromise his principles for his larger, corporate-centric goals.   Nevertheless, his extremism still must be taken seriously.   As Digby, responding to the Times article, notes

But he's a politician with a radical agenda.  I think it makes good sense to take him at his word about what that agenda really is but for some reason the Villagers all want to believe that he's only posturing.  Sometimes I think the GOP cognoscenti who all love him so, believe that too.    He isn't.  He means it.

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Salvation By Faith In Mitt Alone

Controversy seems to follow Michelle Obama.  On April 13, the First Lady had the nerve to proclaim

But this election is also a choice about the health of our families.  Now, the fact is that over the past century -- all right, 100 years -- there have been so many Presidents who have tried and failed to meet the challenge of health care reform.  But fortunately your President was determined.  Fortunately he was driven by the stories of people he'd met.  We all know these stories -- the grandparents who couldn't afford their medications; the families going broke because a child got sick; the woman dying of cancer whose insurance company wouldn't cover her care. And let me tell you something, that's what kept Barack going day after day.  That's why he fought so hard for this historic reform. 

Media Matters caught Fox News contributor Deroy Murdock alleging "We've got President Obama's supporters and even Michelle Obama saying that if you vote for the Republicans, people will get cancer."   Another Fox News contributor, syndicated columnist/author Michelle Malkin, claimed Mrs. Obama was suggesting "that somehow, if Republicans are elected to the White House, that all of these people are going to die, die, die."

Obviously, Mrs. Obama said nothing of the sort.    Murdock and Malkin act as if unaware that the Affordable Care Act closed the infamous prescription drug doughnut hole in Medicare, prohibited denial of coverage of children under 19 based on preexisting conditions, eliminated lifetime limits on insurance coverage, and prohibited insurance companies from rescinding coverage by choosing to deny services to a covered individual when he or she gets sick.   Mrs. Obama simply chose a more graphic means to demonstrate the impact of reforms such as these in the PPACA.

Malkin tried to draw a parallel between the Obama comment and the controversial ad produced by Priorities USA about the death from cancer of the wife of a worker who had lost his job because of Bain Capital.    No parallel between Michelle Obama's statement and any ad exists- but Malkin could have drawn a straight line between another of Obama's comments and one by the woman anxious to succeed her as First Lady.

During the last presidential campaign four years ago, Michelle Obama remarked "People in this country are ready for change and hungry for a different kind of politics and... for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback."     Accordingly, she brought down upon herself a torrent of abuse, presumably because she seemed proud of her country only because its people were considering electing to the presidency her husband.

Selective outrage is clearly prevalent in today's Republican Party.   Politicians, pundits, and others were simply aghast at Mrs. Obama's attitude.   There was no such outpouring of disgust, however, when  earlier this summer the heartthrob of the GOP Young Guns exclaimed "On Tuesday we save Wisconsin.   On November 6th we save America."

Nor has there been a backlash against Queen Ann Ann Romney, who in March said her husband "is the only one who can save America" an this week told NBC News' Natalie Morales (segment transcript, here)

We have a reason why we're running and it's because I believe in my heart that Mitt is going to save America. That economically we are in such difficult times and that he is the person that's gonna pull us through this. And it's propelled me through the negative criticism. And I am stalwart and steadfast and positive and confident that still to this day Mitt is the person who's going to save America and he's gonna get us back on track. 

As Bill Maher noted on HBO's Real Time in referring to Mrs. Romney's remarks, America does not need "saving."    The nation is not irretrievable, lost without the redemption that can come only by Willard Mitt Romney.    It need not be salvaged from the trash heap of Mrs. Romney's imagination, but instead will survive any Democratic, or Republican, administration without need of rescue.

Perhaps the increasing reference by conservatives to the need for the country to be "saved" comes from the religious impulse of many individuals in the Gas and Oil Party.   If so, it is an odd perversion of Christianity, seeing man (or woman, as long as she's a conservative Republican), rather than God, as savior.

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This  is a reasonable question. If going to a predominantly Jewish neighborhood to harass and intimidate Jewish people at a synagogue is no...