The great GOP impeachment hoax of 2014

palin-impeach-obama-hannityIn what may be his most artless dodge yet, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has asserted an obvious absurdity — that the talk of  impeaching President Obama is a “scam” created by Democrats to raise money and create energy among their base going into the mid-term election. Reality, as we’ll see in a moment, does not favor him.

Boehner’s Boy Wonder, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), quickly backed up his leader, saying:  “I see this sort of a ridiculous game by the president and his political team to try and change the narrative, raise money and turn out their base for an upcoming election that they feel is not going to go their way.”  Having amassed an impressive record of being wrong, Ryan was able to utter these words with a straight face and not a hint of a blush.

Although the Republican Party oath now seems to be “I’m not a scientist,” let’s tackle this issue as if we were scientists — let’s look at the available data.  (Spoiler alert:  Boehner and the Boy Wonder get buried by a mountain of 50 data proving them liars.)

As with most scientific discoveries, this one was predicted.  In October 2010, the New Republic ran an article called “Scandal TBD” that employed the “if-then” hypothesis of formal logic and predicted if Republicans won control of the House, and Barack Obama were re-elected in 2012, then Republicans would try to impeach Obama and use any reason possible as pretext. The hypothesis has been powerfully affirmed by the data.

To be fair, let’s acknowledge that the New Republic writer had a least four data points already in hand when he formed his hypothesis:  Just three months prior, former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Times calling for Obama’s impeachment, and five months prior, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) asserted that the allegation that the White House had offered Pennsylvania Representative Joe Sestak a job to persuade Sestak to drop out of the Pennsylvania Senate primary election against Arlen Specter “is one that everyone from Arlen Spector to Dick Morris has said is in fact a crime, and could be impeachable.”  (Let’s label those Data Points #1 and #2.)  Dick Morris and Sean Hannity agreed that it was a “de facto bribe” and “an impeachable offense.” (Data Point s#3 and #4)

Just days after Obama won his second term, the Conservative Majority Fund launched a robocall campaign in support of impeaching the president. (Data Point #5.)

6. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) told The Hill that Boehner’s lawsuit against Obama was merely “theater” and “a show,” and asked,  “Why not impeach instead of wasting $1 million to $2 million of the taxpayers’ money?”

7. Jones later said he was prepared to attempt to impeach Obama if U.S. military action in Syria reached a certain point.

8. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) said the House would immediately begin impeachment proceedings if Obama unilaterally granted work permits and amnesty to millions more undocumented immigrants.

9. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) said the House should pass legislation with new steps to secure the border, and tell Obama if he didn’t implement it, they would impeach him.

10. In 2011, before Yoho was even elected, he offered six reasons to impeach Obama.

11. When a man told Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) that Obama should be impeached for no particular reason, Bachmann replied, “Well, I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you, I agree, I agree.”

12. Bachmann shared some gossip of impeachment, telling a crowd at a rally that she’s asked every weekend: “Why aren’t you impeaching the president?

14. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK.) said in an interview with “The Rusty Humphries Show” that impeachment over Benghazi — what he called the “greatest cover-up in American history.” — would soon become an issue.

15.  Rep. Michael C. Burgess (R-TX)  claimed the impeachment of Obama “needs to happen” to prevent Obama from “pushing his agenda.”

16. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said on Bill Bennett’s radio show that “impeachment is always a possibility” when discussing the Obama policy on immigration.

17. Rush Limbaugh agreed.

18. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said impeachment was “within the realm of possibilities” with regard to the September 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi, Libya,

19. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) said at a town hall meeting that “you have to establish the criteria that would qualify for proceedings against the president… and that’s called impeachment.” Then added, “I don’t have the legal background to know if that rises to ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ but I think you’re getting perilously close.”

20.  Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) said Obama should be impeached due to issues with Obama’s birth certificate.

21. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI) stated that if he could write articles of impeachment, “it would be a dream come true.

22. The Republican-controlled House Judiciary committee held a hearing that was formally titled “The President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws,” which was seen by many as an attempt to begin justifying impeachment proceedings.

23. The convention of the South Dakota Republican Party voted in a 196-176 resolution to call for the impeachment of Obama based on the release of five detainees from Guantanamo Bay to free Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban.

24. Former Rep. Allen West (R-IL) agreed that the prisoner exchange was grounds for impeachment.

25.  Sara Palin (R-AK) recently proclaimed: “It’s time to impeach; and on behalf of American workers and legal immigrants of all backgrounds, we should vehemently oppose any politician on the left or right who would hesitate in voting for articles of impeachment.” She first expressed her views on, then repeated herself on Fox News and Sean Hannity’s so-called news show “Hannity.”

26.  Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) threatened to impeach administration officials and possibly the president over the botched gun-running investigation, telling Attorney General Eric Holder: “If we don’t get to the bottom of this — and that requires your assistance on that — there is only one alternative that Congress has, and it is called impeachment.

27. A Washington Times columnist called for impeaching Obama after the Boston Marathon bombing because, the writer asserted, Obama fails to realize that “we are in a clash of civilizations between radical Islam and the West.”

28. Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) even said he planned to introduce articles of impeachment over proposed post-Sandy Hook gun regulations.

29. Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL), who said impeachment “should be on the table” and falsely claimed that Obama wants an executive order to “ban guns.”

30. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) charged that the president’s gun-control actions were “illegal” and grounds for impeachment.

31. Edwin Meese, former Reagan Attorney General and current Heritage Foundation official, claimed Obama may have “really tried to override the Constitution itself.” Congress, he said, would have to take action, “perhaps even to the point of impeachment.

32. The head of Gun Owners for America urged Republican lawmakers to stop being “spectators while the country is being torn apart” and impeach Obama.

33. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), then in the House, said that if Obama invoked the 14th Amendment to circumvent the debt ceiling, it would be an “impeachable act.

34. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) promised “Obama would be impeached” if the government defaulted.

35. Newt Gingrich (R-GA)suggested impeaching the president over his decision to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court

36.  Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) hinted at impeachment, too, for the same reason.

37.  Republican advocate James Neighbors started the group Overpasses for Obama’s Impeachment in 2013. The group stands on overpasses, holding signs “documenting” Obama’s impeachable offenses.

38. Glenn Beck, of course, called for impeaching Obama.

40. The conservative American Spectator published an article with the headline, “Of course He Should Be Impeached.

41.  National Review writer Andrew McCarthy’s book “Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment” was published just last month.

42. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) told a local radio host, “He’s just absolutely ignoring the Constitution, and ignoring the laws, and ignoring the checks and balances. The problem is, you know, what do you do? For those that say impeach him for breaking the laws or bypassing the laws. Could that pass in the House? It probably, it probably could. Is the majority the American people in favor of impeaching the president? I’m not sure.”

43. Jeanine Pirro, a former New York Republican star who tumbled out of politics and onto Fox News, was calling for the impeachment Obama over “a story no one wants to talk about.” (Benghazi.)

44. Iowa Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst said Obama had “become a dictator” who should be “removed from office” or face “impeachment.

45. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) said:  “Not a day goes by when people don’t talk to us about impeachment. I don’t know what rises to that level yet, but I know that there’s a mounting frustration that a lot of people are getting to and I think Congress is going to start looking at it very seriously.”

46. Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) said, “The president deserves to be impeached, plain and simple….  I don’t think it’s practical that we impeach him right now. But he definitely deserves it.”

47. Former state Sen. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) said he would back impeaching Obama.

48. Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) indicated that he would support impeaching Obama if the issue came up for a vote in Congress. In his fevered mind, it was a litmus test for conservatism.

49. North Carolina Republican congressional candidate Don Webb called for the impeachment of Obama in a campaign blog post, describing the president as “the bane of freedom-loving Americans.”

50. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R-TX) called for the impeachment of Obama at a Tea Party rally.

(Some day, when we’re feeling charitable, let’s explain to the GOP how what they say does not immediately vaporize, never to be retrieved by people holding them accountable.  Just not now — this is way too much fun.)

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Hobby Lobby fits right in with conservative dishonesty

The graphic you see here was posted by Hobby Lobby on its corporate web site in 2014-07-02-HOBBYLOBBYJeffersonmisquote-thumb (1)celebration of the Supreme Court inexplicably deciding that corporations are people and that corporations have religious beliefs, thereby allowing the corporation to deny its employees whatever forms of birth control (and, presumably, any other medical product or procedure) the owners claim violate the corporations’ religious beliefs.  Take a closer look at the quotations.

The quote from Thomas Jefferson isn’t from Thomas Jefferson. The quote belongs to James Madison.

“Well, sure, OK,” you might be thinking, “the attribution may be wrong, but still, it’s a Founding Father making a powerful statement in favor of governments being subservient to God.  I mean, heck, the point is well made.”  Except, no, it isn’t.

The quote — in its unedited form —  says exactly the opposite of what Hobby Lobby tried to make it say.  In fact, it directly contradicts what the SCOTUS Gang o’ Five said in the Hobby Lobby decision.

The quote comes from Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, which he wrote to express his strong objection to a “Bill establishing a provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion,” introduced to the Virginia Legislature by Patrick Henry. Madison was opposing the mixing of government and religion. Madison’s intent is clear when you read the full quotation:

“Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governour of the Universe: And if a member of Civil Society, do it with a saving of his allegiance to the Universal Sovereign. We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man’s right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance.”

Jefferson, by the way, joked about the conflict with Henry in a letter to Madison when he wrote, “What we have to do I think is devoutly to pray for his death.”  And isn’t it odd that Hobby Lobby would try to attach its theocratic position to Jefferson, who is credited with coining the phrase “separation of church and state”?

Hobby Lobby has since corrected the attribution of the quote on its web site, but still uses its truncated form to mislead people into thinking Madison would have supported its mixing of religion and politics — which is, really, the bigger “mistake” of the two.  For emphasis, let’s let Madison expound on his view of religions and their roles in government:

What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not.

In fact, Madison and Jefferson together wrote and got passed the Virginia Statute for Religious Liberty of 1786, which ensured not just a separation of church and state but complete freedom of conscience for believers and non-believers alike.”

I’m not sure how responsible we can hold Hobby Lobby for these (ahem) errors, because misquoting pillars of American history seems to be a malady that’s reached epidemic levels on the Right.

When Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was giving a victory speech after his election, he tried to invoke Jefferson, too, this time as a proponent of Paul’s libertarian ideals:  “Thomas Jefferson wrote, ‘That government is best that governs least.’”   Of course, Jefferson never wrote those words.  They first appear in print in 1837, penned by the editor of The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, and later made popular by Henry David Thoreau.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Rep. Marlin A. Stutzman (R-Ind.) both asserted, in speeches on the House floor, that Jefferson said, ‘The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.’”  Of course, Jefferson never wrote those words, either. (They’re a short-hand form of a much longer and rather inelegant quote from John Philpot Curran.)

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) held up a sign and read a quote he said was from Jefferson:  “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work to give to those who would not.”  This, Coburn said, was Jefferson’s warning about the perils of a welfare state.  Of course, Jefferson never wrote those words.  (They are from a book published in 1986.)

Isn’t odd that part of the Right would go to such lengths to attach itself to Jefferson, while another part of the Right tries to cut him out of American history?  Well, perhaps not, as the Right has been engaged in its own civil war for some time.

Of course, Jefferson isn’t the only Founding Father to be misquoted by the Right. George Washington gets abused, too.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT) tried and failed, in a speech in the Senate, to attach one of his pro-gun arguments to Washington:  “President George Washington said that the right to keep and bear arms is ‘The most effectual means of preserving peace.'”  Alas, no. Washington actually wrote something quite different: “To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) also tried and failed to invoke Washington when he claimed the first president said “Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. It is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”  As you might expect at this point, Washington never said any such thing.

This should come as no surprise, because even as far back as Washington’s second term his conservative enemies were lying about what he’d said.  At one point, they even circulated fake letters trying to convince people that Washington had expressed admiration for Britain’s King George III.  Washington ignored the smear at first, because he thought people knew him well enough to know the quotes were fake.  He was wrong; people believed the lies.

Sometimes, the Right’s apparently genetic inability to make accurate attribution creates unintentional humor — such as when Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) held up his pocket copy of the Constitution and pledged to “stand here with our Founding Fathers, who wrote in the pre-amble: ‘We hold these truths to be self evident …'” and when Rep. Tom Delay (R-TX) claimed that God “wrote the Constitution.”

The Right is so fond of conjuring up fake quotes that they sometimes build entire campaigns around them, sometimes beating the same dead horse years after it’s returned to dust.  The 2012 Republican convention was fueled in part — and with help from their friends at Fox — on the “We built this!” theme, which was a gross and obvious perversion of a quote from President Obama.*  The lie about Al Gore saying he invented the Internet has achieved the status of a sacred myth on the Right. (*Some of us relished the irony of the dishonest theme being used at a convention held in an arena built with public funds and using public funds for security.)

And before you rush to invoke the “both sides do it” defense, let’s put that to rest with the other Rightwing fibs.  Even the Right-leaning PolitiFact can’t spin its way into a false equivalency:

The Center For Media Affairs (CFMA) at George Mason University found that PolitiFact rated Republican claims as false three times more often than Democratic claims. Not only do Republicans lie more often, but Democrats are more truthful. By a 2 to 1 margin (22%-11%) PolitiFact rated Democratic statements as completely true. The CFMA also found that, “A majority of Democratic statements (54%) were rated as mostly or entirely true, compared to only 18% of Republican statements. Conversely, a majority of Republican statements (52%) were rated as mostly or entirely false, compared to only 24% of Democratic statements

So we shouldn’t be surprised when the conservative owners of a corporation celebrate the imposition of conservative religious beliefs through corporations by a conservative Supreme Court majority by misquoting a Founding Father — and then perpetuating the lie when called on it.  Such behavior seems to be a big part of conservative identity.  I don’t think they can help it.

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No, that’s NOT the “traditional” Christian position

The Washington Post made an attempt to show that there is a good bit of diversity among1978797_690952677627695_2191660648340212490_n religious groups’ reactions to the Supreme Court’s decision on the Hobby Lobby case.* Ironically, the paper made the mistake of failing to comprehend how much diversity there’s always been among religions — especially among Christians** — on the issue of abortion. This was the lead:

U.S. faith groups were starkly divided in their reaction Monday to the Supreme Court’s decision affirming the religious rights of corporations, with some seeing a narrow decision protecting the religious liberty of business owners and others seeing a profane intrusion into the beliefs of employees.

Traditional Christians and Jews in particular celebrated Monday’s decision…

Did you catch the error?  The writer and her editors assume that “traditional Christians” think life begins at fertilization of the egg and are opposed to abortion, writing as if this is a widely known and undisputed fact.  It’s not, of course.  What is a fact is that there is an ancient and official tradition within Christendom that contradicts that of the WaPo‘s “traditional Christians.”

(*In its challenge to the misnamed “contraception mandate” of the Affordable Care Act, Hobby Lobby falsely asserted that certain forms of birth control—Plan B, “ella,” and IUDs—cause abortion, thus violating the owners’ religious beliefs.  **For a much deeper exploration of this issue, read Sacred Choices by Daniel C. Maguire and Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics by Jonathan Dudley.)

Since the Catholic branch of Christianity is the oldest, let’s look at the Catholic tradition. What most people — including most Catholics — think of as “the Catholic position” on abortion actually dates from the 1930 encyclical Casti Connubii of Pope Pius XI. Prior to that, church teaching was a mixed bag.

Let’s begin with the 4th century and Saint Augustine. Reflecting the belief in a resurrection of all the dead at the end of the world, Augustine pondered whether early fetuses who miscarried would also rise. He said they would not. The early fetus did not have the status of person, nor would killing it fit the category of murder.

Some of the Christian Penitentials of the early Middle Ages (5th through 15th centuries) prescribed seven years of fasting on bread and water for a layman who committed homicide, seven years of fasting for sterilization, but only one to three and half years for performing an abortion. Abortion was not seen, by the church, as the equivalent of murder. It wasn’t even as bad a sin as sterilization.

Why? Because the prohibition of abortion was not pro-life, it was anti-sexual. The early Christian debate about abortion make clear that a primary reason for the occasional condemnations of abortion in theological sources, including early versions of Canon Law, was that the women who had abortions were assumed invariably to be adulteresses.

The anti-choice position was not seen as “pro-life,” because the fetus was not regarded as a “person,” so aborting it was not regarded as murder. One of the early and dominant ideas in the church was “delayed ensoulment” — the fetus did not gain a soul until the “quickening,” or when the fetus could first be felt moving in the mother’s womb. Before ensoulment, the fetus was not understood as a human person. This was the reason the Catholic church did not baptize miscarriages or stillbirths.

This delayed ensoulment view was confirmed as Catholic dogma by the Council of Vienne in 1312, and has never been officially repudiated by the Vatican. Pope Innocent III and Pope Gregory IX (ca. 1200) considered abortion to be homicide only when the fetus is “formed.” In 1591, Pope Gregory XIV in Sedes Apostolica recommended “where no homicide or no animated fetus is involved, not to punish more strictly than the sacred canons or civil legislation does.” This is rather startling to learn, because we tend to assume that the Vatican has always affirmed “immediate animation” — life beginning at conception.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, the most esteemed of medieval theologians (13th century), agreed with the delayed ensoulment view. Thus, the most traditional and stubbornly held position in Catholic Christianity is that early abortions are not murder.

Many Catholics, most American Christians and, apparently, most American journalists do not know that there is a pro-choice Catholic saint who was also an archbishop and a Dominican. In the 15th century, Antoninus, the saintly archbishop of Florence, did extensive work on abortion. He approved of early abortions to save the life of the woman, a class with many members in the context of 15th century medicine. This became common teaching. He was not criticized by the Vatican for this. In fact, he was later canonized as a saint and thus a model for all Catholics.

In the 16th century, Saint Antonius de Corduba, a highly influential theologian, said that medicine that was also abortifacient could be taken even later in pregnancy if the mother’s health (and not just her life) required it. The mother, he said, had a jus prius, a prior right.

Jesuit theological Thomas Sanchez, who died in the early 17th century, said that all of his contemporary Catholic theologians approved of early abortion to save the life of the woman. None of these theologians or bishops were censured for their views. Their limited pro-choice position was considered thoroughly orthodox and can be so considered today.

On Sept. 2, 1869, the Vatican refused to decide a case that involved a very late-term abortion. It referred the questioner to the teaching of the theologians, whose business it was to discuss freely and arrive at a conclusion. This modesty and disinclination to intervene and decide is an older and perhaps wiser, more appropriate, Catholic model than that shown today.

In 1968, when Pope Paul VI reaffirmed the view that all mechanical or chemical contraception was sinful, the Catholic bishops of 14 different nations respectfully disagreed and told the faithful that they were not sinners if they could not accept this papal teaching.

Why the mixed messages?  Because the Bible neither approves of nor condemns abortion. The closest it gets is in Exodus 21:22, which speaks of accidental abortion. This imposes a financial penalty on a man who caused a woman to miscarry “in the course of a brawl.” The issue here is the father’s right to progeny.  He could fine you for the misdeed, but he could not claim “an eye for an eye” as if a person had been killed. Thus, the fetus did not have the same status as the mother in Hebrew Law.

Following scripture’s silence on abortion, early church history treats it only incidentally and sporadically. Indeed, there isn’t even systematic study of the question until the 15th century.

The traditional Protestant arm of Christianity is no less diverse on the matter. “God does not regard the fetus as a soul no matter how far gestation has progressed,” wrote professor Bruce Waltke of the Dallas Theological Seminary in a 1968 issue of Christianity Today in 1968. The editor of Christianity Today back then was Harold Lindsell, the infamous advocate of the biblical “inerrancy” idea.

That same year, a symposium of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations produced A Protestant Affirmation on the Control of Human Reproduction that said:

The prevention of conception is not in itself forbidden or sinful providing the reasons for it are in harmony with the total revelation of God for married life” and that the “method of preventing pregnancy is not so much a religious as a scientific and medical question to be determined in consultation with one’s physician.

In 1971, the hyper-conservative Southern Baptist Convention issued this directive to its members:

Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.

So, no WaPo, “traditional Christians” do not share the Hobby Lobby owner’s fatally flawed understanding on fertilization and contraception.  I believe the words you’re looking for may be “conservative,” “uninformed” or perhaps even “fringe,” but it’s most certainly not “traditional.”

Update:  Being Christian, not Jewish, I was unsure of whether WaPo‘s assertion that “traditional … Jews” celebrated this SCOTUS decision was correct.  So, I looked it up.  WaPo is wrong again. (You’re shocked, I can tell.)  From the Biomedical Ethics and Jewish Law:

An unborn fetus in Jewish law is not considered a person (Heb. nefesh, lit. “soul”) until it has been born. The fetus is regarded as a part of the mother’s body and not a separate being until it begins to egress from the womb during parturition (childbirth). In fact, until forty days after conception, the fertilized egg is considered as “mere fluid.” These facts form the basis for the Jewish legal view on abortion….

Turning to talmudic sources, the Mishnah asserts the following: “If a woman is having difficulty in giving birth [and her life is in danger], one cuts up the fetus within her womb and extracts it limb by limb, because her life takes precedence over that of the fetus. But if the greater part was already born, one may not touch it, for one may not set aside one person’s life for that of another.”

…The Talmud also explains that the embryo is part of the mother’s body and has no identity of its own, since it is dependent for its life upon the body of the woman…. This concept of the embryo being considered part of the mother and not a separate being recurs throughout the Talmud and rabbinic writings.

Starts to make me wonder what else we all take for granted is true that isn’t…..


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Joseph Curl’s scandal list cut to ribbons – by Curl, himself, and some pesky facts

liesJoseph Curl, writing for the Washington Times, has a list of so-called scandals of the Obama administration, along with his complaints that no one is ever held accountable (heads should roll!) for them. The problem for Curl is peculiar, because not only do the facts not support him, even he doesn’t support him!

The phone records scandal

This is not an Obama scandal for which heads should roll, according to… wait for it…. Curl himself!   In a column almost exactly a year ago (6/3/13), Curl mocked this non-scandal with, “Turns out the president has been doing — Wait, what? Exactly what presidents have been doing since 1978? Stop the presses!” Curl exposed a number of lies the Right was telling about the issue and declared the activity legal and useful.

Curl also mocked other “scandals,” which hedeclared “not a scandal,” and suggested that the Obama Administration has been crafting this series of non-scandals as a way to distract the media, to allow Obama to remind people of Bush’s failures, and to lure Republicans into making fools of themselves.  Curl wrote:

…Republicans awoke from the slumber long enough to decry — the very thing they supported under George W. Bush. Bonanza.  “Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American,” said Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., author of the excessive and un-American Patriot Act in 2001.

In fact, President Bush went to great lengths to keep the phone spying activity secret:  In a meeting that had no precedent, Bush called the editor of the NY Times to the White House and tried to keep from print an exposé of the NSA’s efforts to monitor phone calls without court-approved warrants.

The IRS Scandal

First, there was no scandal, and his use of the word undermines Curl’s credibility – particularly, since Curl himself said so.

The IRS audit report found that words such as “Israel,” “progressive” and “Occupy” were, in addition to “patriot” and “Tea Party,” used as red-flags for greater scrutiny, but that the auditors had been asked by House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) “to narrowly focus on Tea Party organizations.”  By the way, non-political groups were also flagged for closer scrutiny.

The FBI investigated and stated it found no evidence of “enemy hunting” of the kind that had been suspected, but that the investigation did reveal the IRS to be a mismanaged bureaucracy enforcing rules that IRS personnel did not fully understand.

No heads that rolled?  Curl, himself, said “it’ll end with a few heads lopped off, mostly done already.” So, a year ago, Curl had noted that people had already been punished for this non-scandal.

IRS Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman resigned after his first congressional inquiry on complaints.  On May 15, 2013, President Obama announced that his Treasury Secretary had requested and accepted Acting Commissioner Steve Miller’s resignation. Joseph H. Grant, commissioner of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division, retired on June 3, 2013. Lois Lerner refused to resign, so she was placed on administrative leave. Lerner retired effective September 23, 2013.

The Obamacare website scandal

What scandal?  There were glitches, in some states, in setting up a website for the largest system innovation since the birth of Medicare. That’s expected, not scandalous.  Fifty-five separate for-profit companies built – thanks to conservative laws that force us to worship the false god of privatization—so if there’s a scandal, it belongs to the GOP members of Congress who forced us to bow to this idol.

And, although the president cannot fire personnel at private businesses, the administration did, in effect, “fire” the company the botched the web site creation. The firing of CGI Federal, the principal contractor behind the federal website as well as several similarly troubled state exchange sites around the country, coincides with many officials noting the same contractor’s failure at the state level as well. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is considering suing CGI. Vermont has withheld more than $5 million in payments to CGI Federal, noting that the contractor and others who worked on that state’s online portal have “underperformed at every turn.” (It is also worth noting the CGI Federal and its acquired companies have a history of cost overruns, delays, and failure to deliver products as promised.)  CGI Federal’s parent company, Montreal-based CGI Group, was officially terminated in September 2012 by an Ontario government health agency after the firm missed three years of deadlines and failed to deliver the province’s flagship online medical registry.

So, yes, heads did roll, despite Curl’s assertion.

The spying scandal

Curl is trying to make his case by padding it – this is not a scandal.  The German chancellor’s feelings might have been hurt, but the fact is that for at least the past 50 years, the US has been spying on foreign leaders.  Nearly a century ago, long before the NSA existed, there was the Black Chamber, founded after World War I, — formally called the Cipher Bureau and disguised as a commercial company — existed to crack the communications codes of foreign governments.

By the way, they’re spying on us, too:

“Let’s be honest — we eavesdrop too. Everyone is listening to everyone else,” former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told France Info radio. If the NSA earns special scorn, he added, it’s because “we don’t have the same means as the United States — which makes us jealous.”

The Fast and Furious scandal

A Fortune investigation reveals that the ATF never intentionally allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. How the world came to believe just the opposite is a tale of rivalry, murder, and political bloodlust. The six-month Fortune investigation reveals that the public case alleging that ATF agents walked guns is replete with distortions, errors, partial truths, and even some outright lies.

Irony abounds when it comes to the Fast and Furious scandal, but the ultimate irony is this: Republicans who support the National Rifle Association and its attempts to weaken gun laws are lambasting ATF agents for not seizing enough weapons—even ones that, in this case, prosecutors deemed to be legal. Also, according to the DOJ. the idea for “gun walking” — allowing illegal sales of weapons on the border — originated under the Bush administration in 2006, long before Eric Holder took office in 2009. Holder  actually moved to replace the ATF’s management and instill reforms.  The OIG report found “no evidence” that Holder knew about Fast and Furious before early 2011 and no evidence that previous attorneys general had been advised about gunwalking in its predecessor, Operation Wide Receiver.

Conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer appeared on Fox News and tried to temper the network’s flogging of the story, saying it made Republicans look bad and predicting leaders would “get off this train as soon as they can.”

Curl’s claim that no one was held accountable is an enormous lie.  Several  high-ranking officials resigned, apologies were made, and numerous lower ranking officials were punished.  But oh those pesky facts have tripped him up:

  • ATF Agent Vince Cefalu’s employment was terminated;
  • William Newell was reassigned (i.e., demoted);
  • David Voth was reassigned (i.e., demoted);
  • William McMahon was reassigned (i.e., “demoted”);
  • Acting ATF Director Melson was been reassigned to the Justice Department;
  • U.S. Attorney Burke announced his resignation;
  • Patrick Cunningham, who was the criminal division chief at the Phoenix office of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona and has since resigned;
  • ATF Deputy Director William Hoover retired;
  • the DOJ Inspector General’s report recommended 14 federal officials for disciplinary action; and
  • Gary Grindler, Eric Holder’s chief of staff who was faulted in the OIG report, left the Justice Department.

The Benghazi scandal

Curl’s claim that “Obama and his minions refused to comment for months” fails when lined up with the public record:

The day of the attack, the White House contact Youtube about it, asking Youtube to take down an inflammatory video.;

  • Just 14 hours after the attack, President Obama was on 60 Minutes, commenting on the attack;
  • the day after the attack, Obama spoke on the attack twice, and Jay Carney and Hillary Clinton both made statements;
  • two days after the attack, comments were made by President Obama, the State Department, and a high-ranking administration official;
  • three days after the attack, Hillary Clinton spoke publicly about it, as did Jay Carney (who spoke of it on 9/18, 9/19 and 9/20);
  • five days after the attack, Susan Rice was on Face the Nation, commenting on it, and she spoke about the attack on the Sunday morning news talk shows that weekend;
  • three days later, Matthew Olsen addressed the matter with Congress;
  • on 9/20, the president addressed it on a Univision Town Hall;
  • Obama spoke of it again on ABC News on 9/21 and again on The View on 9/25;
  • on 9/26, Carney had more to say;
  • Joe Panetta  and Fran Townsend spoke of it on 9/17;
  • Shawn Turner commented on 9/28;
  • the State Department commented twice on 10/1; and
  • on 10/3, Clinton had more to say.

I could go on at length, but you get my drift:  Curl is either profoundly ignorant or a liar.

The VA scandal

Curl’s attempt to pin the scandal on President Obama is worthy of special derision.  First, there’s the current hypocrisy – the Republicans, just  three months ago, blocked a bill to increase spending meant to address the veteran care backlog – and historical hypocrisy — while this president hasn’t done enough to end this backlog, ALL of the previous presidents hadn’t done enough to end the backlog and to end poor treatment of veterans.  As traditions go, mistreating our veterans is a fully bipartisan endeavor. As comedian Jon Stewart pointed out:

  • Under Reagan, the VA instructed its people to lie about their mortality rates;
  • The Reagan administration denied liability in the Agent Orange contamination cases and suppressed evidence of harm to Vietnam veterans – a scandal that wasn’t rectified for another 20 years
  • In 1932, 10,000 WW I veterans marched on Washington DC to demand the war bonuses they’d been promised 15 years earlier – when the protest swelled to 20,000 Hoover sent in the Army which came in with bayonets fixed and sabers drawn, followed by tanks, and blood was spilled and lives were lost;
  • In 1783, soldiers took Congress hostage to try to get the money the government had promised them; heir leaders were sentenced to death (the sentences were later commuted).

One less charitable than I might suggest that Curl’s employer could view this level of incompetence as scandalous and conclude that “someone” needs to be held accountable.


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Answers to the Teapublican Benghazi questions

ULxPgTo save you time, here’s the short version:  All of the questions the Teapublican fringe on asking again have already been repeatedly answered.  If, however, you have that crazy uncle who won’t let it go and you need responses, read on.

Q. Why won’t the White House allow Congress to talk to Benghazi eye witnesses?

A.  Actually“Two of the Justice Department’s key witnesses in last year’s terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, were summoned to Capitol Hill this month and grilled for hours in separate legal depositions” by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA).  Alsomultiple CIA officers who were in Benghazi at the time of the attack have already testified before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Q.  Why hasn’t Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had to face questions about Benghazi?

A.  In fact, she has.  Clinton confronted those critical of her actions during the attacks. She also testified for five hours in front of hostile Senate and House committee members — testimony that was covered extensively in the press. During her testimony Clinton faced almost 150 questions from Democrats and Republicans

Q. Where was President Obama on the night of the attacks, and why won’t the White house release a photo showing us where President Obama was, and what he was doing, that night?

A.  A photo that has been availapres 9 11ble for more than a year on the White House Flikr page shows President Obama in the Oval Office during the September 2012 attacks.  Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey were meeting with President Obama when they learned of the attack and the president responded immediately.

Q.  Why did the administration lie about outrage over a video being the cause of the attack?

A.  Senate Select Committee on Intelligence found that “some intelligence suggests” an inflammatory video linked to violent protests around the region led terror groups to conduct “similar attacks with advanced warning”:

It remains unclear if any group or person exercised overall command and control of the attacks or whether extremist group leaders directed their members to participate. Some intelligence suggests the attacks were likely put together in short order, following that day’s violent protests in Cairo against an inflammatory video, suggesting that these and other terrorist groups could conduct similar attacks with little advance warning. [Review Of The Terrorist Attacks On U.S. Facilities In Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012, U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 1/15/14]

Slate chief political correspondent John Dickerson wrote that while the newly released documents “clearly show that the White House pushed the video story,” they also show “proof that the White House believed the story they were pushing,” given that the CIA “made spontaneity its first and most durable claim that weekend” by initially blaming the video. [Slate, 4/30/14]

Q. Why did the president delay in sending help?

A. Actually, the president and the military bushs benghazisdid everything they could.  The tin-foil hat conspiracy theory, beloved by so many on the Right, that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to give a “stand down” order to military support units on the night of the attack. This bit of follishness was debunked by Republicans, the military, and the Senate Intelligence Committee report, which found no military assets were in place to respond in time.

The Senate Committee on Intelligence review of the Benghazi attacks also found no evidence of a “stand down” order given to responding units during the attack:

The Committee explored claims that there was a “stand down” order given to the security team at the Annex. Although some members of the security team expressed frustration that they were unable to respond more quickly to the Mission compound, 12 the Committee found no evidence of intentional delay or obstruction by the Chief of Base or any other party. The Committee has reviewed the allegations that U.S. personnel, including in the IC (Intelligence Community) or DoD, prevented the mounting of any military relief effort during the attacks, but the Committee has not found any of these allegations to be substantiated….

The Committee has reviewed the allegations that U.S. personnel, including in the IC or DoD, prevented the mounting of any military relief effort during the attacks, but the Committee has not found any of these allegations to be substantiated. [Review Of The Terrorist Attacks On U.S. Facilities In Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012, U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 1/15/14]

The Senate Committee on Intelligence also found that military assets were not in place to respond in time:

According to Major General Darryl Roberson, Vice Director of Operations for the Joint Staff:  There were no ships available to provide any support that were anywhere close to the facility at Benghazi. The assets that we had available were Strike Eagles loaded with live weapons that could have responded, but they were located in Djibouti, which is the equivalent of the distance between here [Washington D.C.] and Los Angeles. The other fighters that might have been available were located in Aviano, Italy. They were not loaded with weapons. They were not on an alert status. We would’ve had to build weapons, load weapons, get tankers to support it, and get it there. There was no way that we were going to be able to do that. Unfortunately, there was not a carrier in the Mediterranean that could have been able to support; the assets that we mobilized immediately were the only assets we had available to try to support….

There have been congressional and public questions about why military assets were not used from the U.S. military base in Souda Bay, Crete. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 7, 2013, that (1) the military asset in Souda Bay, Crete, “wasn’t the right tool for the particular threat we faced;” (2) ” … the aircraft were not  among the forces that we had at heightened alert;” and (3) the “boots-on-the ground capabilities” that DoD deployed would have arrived too late, so they did not deploy to Benghazi. [Review Of The Terrorist Attacks On U.S. Facilities In Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012, U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 1/15/14]

An October 25 article by CBS News and the Associated Press reported that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters that the U.S. military “was prepared to respond” to the Benghazi attack “but did not do so because it lacked what he called ‘real-time information.” The article quoted Panetta as saying, “You don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on … (We) felt we could not put forces at risk in that situation.” Panetta also told reporters, “It was really over before we had the opportunity to really know what was happening.” [CBS/Associated Press, 10/25/12]

10247230_630423143717410_6024926905045640239_nIn an interview, Former Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya Gregory Hicks said that a flight that special forces were scheduled to take, but did not, would have taken off after 6:00 a.m., local time — approximately 45 minutes after the attack at the CIA annex that killed two people.

Even Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz (UT), a member of the House Oversight Committee who has actively pursued investigations into the Benghazi attacks, told The Washington Post that the special forces team “would have arrived after the attack.”

Q.  Why was security lacking during the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the U.S.?

A.  The Senate Intelligence Committee actually conducted an investigation that addressed this issue. The unclassified report, released in January, concluded that the attack was “likely preventable” if the State Department had heeded repeated requests for increased security in what was later determined to have been a “deteriorating” situation. It also faulted the State Department for ignoring incidents that should have served as red flags.

The report further noted that U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who was killed in the attack, twice rejected offers for military protection a month earlier.

Q.  Who was behind the orchestrated effort to present two different talking points that were based on lies — or why were references to “terrorist” and “attacks” edited out of the Obama administration’s talking points?

A.   Former CIA acting deputy director, Michael Morell, testified that the change was recommended by CIA operations officers and was made before a senior analyst sent the talking points to the office of congressional affairs.

Morell also noted that “one of the things that we’ve learned on this process is that the words we use internal to the CIA aren’t always the words that people outside of the CIA understands. So, to us, the word extremist was a synonym for the word terrorist. Not only for the analyst, but also our operators.”  Appearing on CNN , Morell said, “In editing the talking points, I never changed ‘terrorist’ to ‘extremist’ and I never changed ‘attack’ to ‘demonstration,'”

The Senate Committee on Intelligence review determined there was no effort by the administration to cover-up or alter the talking points for political purposes:

The Majority concludes that the interagency coordination process on the talking points followed normal, but rushed coordination procedures and that there were no efforts by the White House or any other Executive Branch entities to “cover-up” facts or make alterations for political purposes.  Indeed, former CIA Director David Petraeus testified to the Committee on November 16, 2012, “They went through the normal process that talking points-unclassified public talking points-go through.”  In fact, the purpose of the National Security Council (NSC) is to coordinate the many national security agencies of the government, especially when information about a terrorist attack is flowing in and being analyzed quickly-and the NSC used this role appropriately in the case of the talking points coordination.  Furthermore, such coordination processes were also standardized, often at the urging of Congress, following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks with the explicit goal of reducing information “stovepipes” between and among agencies. [Review Of The Terrorist Attacks On U.S. Facilities In Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012, U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 1/15/14]

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Paul Ryan’s “inarticulate” statements on Progressivism

1525183_10151880043956275_635628498_nProgressivism is a “cancer” in America: so says Glenn Beck, and so agrees Rep. Paul Ryan, a Radical Right Republican from Wisconsin.  Ryan says his goal is to “indict the entire vision of Progressivism” which he says is “a complete affront of the whole idea of this country.”

He says he wants to “flush out progressives” and that he knows about them because he grew up in Janesville, WI, “just 35 miles from Madison,” as if Progressivism is, and has been, some secret cult hiding in Madison that he’s now revealing to us and from which he must save us. He’s on this (ahem) courageous mission “so people can actually see what this ideology means” and “how it attacks the American idea.”  Just how un-American is it?  Ryan tells us that “this stuff came from the German intellectuals to Madison” and that the “Austrians” were its “founders.”

In a speech he gave in January 2010, Ryan said:

….there was the Wisconsin Deal. In my home state, the University of Wisconsin was an early hotbed of Progressivism, whose goal was to reorder society along lines other than those of the Constitution.

Let us now count the ways in which Ryan is wrong.

Let’s go first for the dumbest thing he tried to say.  Germans!  Austrians! Oh my! Progressivism (we’re supposed to think) must be linked to that most famous of Austrians who was the most famous of German leaders — Adolph Hitler!

Really, if you’re going to try to frame an issue in such a way as to evoke a reflexive response — in this case, linking Progressivism to the nearly universal revulsion for Hitler — you have to be less transparent.  Subtlety in framing is especially important when you try to pair two entirely unrelated things, like Progressivism and Nazism.  The only people who would not giggle at this bit of silliness are those who either desperately want to believe there is such a connection (and so delude themselves) or who are stone-cold ignorant.  (Stone-cold ignorant is something with which Ryan is intimately familiar.)

By the way, not only were the Germans not the originators of Progressivism, they were rather late to the party.  As the Wisconsin Historical Society notes on its web site:

Germans and organized labor, who had not supported the Progressive movement in its early years, became important later as the composition of the movement changed.

Second, it was called the Wisconsin Idea, not the Wisconsin Deal.  Cripes! Ya’d think ya’d know that growing up and “raising your family” in in da nort’ here, eh.  C’mere once.  Let me explain.

And what was that Wisconisn Idea? According to the University of Wisconsin’s web site:

First attributed to UW President Charles Van Hise in 1904, the Wisconsin Idea is the principle that education should influence and improve people’s lives beyond the university classroom.

The notion that the intellectuals at state universities should do something to bring concrete benefits to people living outside of academia is bad in Ryan’s view?  That’s un-American? This is an “affront to the whole idea of the country”?

(A)s early as the 1880s, the university began summer Farmers’ Institutes to introduce state farmers to new techniques and technology. These classes, along with research breakthroughs such as Stephen Babcock’s butterfat milk test, helped a poor, struggling state move beyond its single-grain farming and establish itself as a national leader in dairy and other agricultural industries. During the latter part of the 19th century, the university began similar programs for teachers and engineers, all with the goal of leveraging university knowledge to improve the quality of life in Wisconsin.

This “Wisconsin Idea” actually predates political Progressivism by many years.

As early as the 1870s, UW president John Bascom taught his students — La Follette and Van Hise among them — that they had a moral duty to share their expertise broadly.

Were either John Bascom or Charles Van Hise “Germans” or “Austrians” who brought their horrifingly un-American ideas to Wisconsin? Bascom was born in New York, was educated in Massachusetts and died in Massachusetts. Van Hise was born in Wisconsin, was educated in Wisconsin and died in Wisconsin (his mentor, by the way, was Roland Irving, who was born in New York, was educated in New York and died in Wisconsin).

Third, to assert that progressivism was created “to reorder society along lines other than those of the Constitution” is what, back in the day, we called a bald-faced lie.

The progressive movement originated in the late nineties as a protest against railroad and machine dominance of Republican politics.  In 1900, just 30 years ago, Robert M. La Follette lead it to its first victory…. La Follette characterized progressivism as a war against monopoly.

Catch that?  Progressivism was created by Republicans as a reaction to the corruption of other Republicans.

The Republicans were the party of Lincoln and the Union Army, and in the decades following the Civil War, they held a virtual monopoly on state government by organizing and satisfying the needs of Civil War veterans. Until the 1890s, a few party leaders tightly controlled Wisconsin’s legislative agenda. At the same time, the rise of big business after 1870 had concentrated economic power in the hands of a few privileged individuals. These two groups, party leaders and business leaders, often overlapped, personally and pragmatically, as the interests and actions of government and business converged.

Progressive Republicans, in contrast, believed that the business of government was to serve the people. They sought to restrict the power of corporations when it interfered with the needs of individual citizens. The progressive movement appealed to citizens who wanted honest government and moderate economic reforms that would expand democracy and improve public morality.

Progressivism applied the Wisconsin Idea — that smart people should share the fruits of their studies and intelligence with the rest of us — to governance and sought the advice of academics on the problems of the day.

The Wisconsin Idea, as it came to be called, was that efficient government required control of institutions by the voters rather than special interests, and that the involvement of specialists in law, economics, and social and natural sciences would produce the most effective government.

One of the leading proponents was John Commons (born in Ohio, educated in Maryland and died in Florida — so, also neither a German nor an Austrian):

Commons … believed in a theory of gradualness and democratic competition in the labor movement rather than class conflict and revolution. He refused to accept the easy generalizations of the Marxists….

La Follette, according to the Historical Society:

….developed the techniques and ideas that made him a nationwide symbol of Progressive reform and made the state an emblem of progressive experimentation. The Wisconsin Idea, as it came to be called, was that efficient government required control of institutions by the voters rather than special interests, and that the involvement of specialists in law, economics, and social and natural sciences would produce the most effective government.

According to the US National Park Service’s web site, the people of the progressive movement (that predated its political expression):

…were people who believed that the problems society faced (poverty, violence, greed, racism, class warfare) could best be addressed by providing good education, a safe environment, and an efficient workplace. Progressives lived mainly in the cities, were college educated, and believed that government could be a tool for change.

…They concentrated on exposing the evils of corporate greed, combating fear of immigrants, and urging Americans to think hard about what democracy meant. Other local leaders encouraged Americans to register to vote, fight political corruption, and let the voting public decide how issues should best be addressed (the initiative, the referendum, and the recall).

A group of reporters, later called Muckrakers, fueled the movement by revealing the dangerous conditions that threatened the nation at the time.

Lincoln Steffens unmasked the corrupt alliance between big business and municipal government; Ida Tarbell published a devastating factual expose of the Standard Oil Company; Muckrakers roasted the beef trust, the “money trust,” the railroad barons, and corrupt fortunes; Thomas Lawson, a speculator, laid bare the practices of his accomplices in “Frenzied Finance”; David G. Phillips wrote The Treason of the Senate—senators represented companies not people.

The most effective fire of the muckrakers was directed at social evils such as prostitution, slums, industrial accidents, subjugation of American blacks, and abuses of child labor.

In summary, the progressives came together politically to fight monopolies, the political corruption of big business special interests and the ability of big business to crush the common folk, as well as to promote honesty, public morality, education, democracy, and the use of smart, educated people to address the nation’s problems.  And this is what the Radical Right is against?

Wisconsin’s 1911 Legislature produced the biggest yield of progressive reforms, creating, among other things, the nation’s first effective workers’ compensation program to protect people injured on the job, laws to regulate factory safety and limits on child labor.  They fought to give women the vote, to create “mothers pensions” and, eventually, led the fight to create Social Security.

And this is what Radical Right is against?

Progressives were anything but the anti-Constitution radicals Ryan claims, drawing their first and main support from the middle class, including business people, clergy, doctors, teachers, lawyers, President Theodore Roosevelt and President William Howard Taft (both Republicans).  Other notable progressives included steel magnate Andre Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, William James, Walter Lippman, John Mott, John D. Rockefeller Jr. and  Upton Sinclair.

These are the people Ryan must “flush out”?  These are the people who embraced and promoted a “vision” that is “an affront to the whole idea of this country”?  These are the people who germinated the “cancer” from which Ryan must save us?

Let’s consider Taft: the only person to ever be both president of the United States and chief justice of the United States Supreme Court; US secretary of war; acting secretary of state; governor-general of the Philippines; the youngest-ever solicitor general of the United States; governor of Cuba; one of the supervisors of the construction of the Panama Canal; judge on the 6th district US Court of Appeals; judge on the Ohio Supreme Court; Chancellor Kent professor of law and legal history at Yale Law School; president of the American Bar Association; author of a series of books on American legal philosophy; chair of the National War Labor Board; founder of the League to Enforce Peace; an explorer of Alaska; and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Yale.

Let’s consider someone outside of politics. Williams James: was a giant in psychology and philosophy (is often referred to as the father of American psychology); was fluent in three languages; earned an MD from Harvard; taught anatomy, physiology, psychology and philosophy at Harvard; and was a scientific explorer of the Amazon River.   Although he gained his widest respect for his 1,200-page Principles of Psychology, a non-exhaustive bibliography of his writings consumes 47 pages.  All this he did despite the  lifelong obstacles of poor health and depression.

And Paul Ryan?  He has a bachelor’s degree from Miami of Ohio (which he paid for with Social Security benefits — ironic).  He worked as a “marketing consultant” at his great grand daddy’s construction firm, briefly tried to run his own consulting firm, and as an aide and speech writer to four politicians, two forgettable, two embarrassing.  Oh, and he’s the congressman from a sparsely populated and unremarkable district in a small Midwestern state. He’s in his seventh term in Congress and has introduced just two bills that have passed.  In other words, he’s done next to nothing.  (Someone less charitable might point out that Ryan has been living on someone else’s dime for most of his life: the tax payers [Social Security], family money, and the tax payers again [Congressional salary]).

Paul Ryan is to the few progressive leaders listed above what bumper stickers are to philosophy.  Comparing Ryan’s intellect, ability, accomplishments, sacrifices, and contributions to the nation to the intellect, ability, accomplishments, sacrifices, and contributions of these progressive leaders is akin to comparing a speck of sand to the Sahara Desert.  Ryan hasn’t yet earned the right to pull the weeds on their graves, much less to speak so contemptuously of them and their vision.

Come to think of it, a lot of what the progressivism was created to combat is sounds really familiar.

Big Oil screwing everyone?Check.

Senators owned by big business? Check.

Big biz walking all over us? Check.

Wealth amassing into the hands of a few? Check.

Dishonesty in government? Check.


Growing poverty?  Check.

Unsafe working conditions?Check.

Bad conditions for working people? Check.

Corruption in voting?Check.

Middle class getting crushed?Check. Double check.

So, yes, Mr. Ryan, please do “flush out” progressives and reveal what it is they were all about, because we could sure as hell use a whole bunch more of them right about now.

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GOP rebranding: Clean out the crazy!

not-sure-if-onion-headline-or-republican-saidThe Republican Party has been talking a lot about rebranding itself in response to losing the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections.  They’ve mainly talked about changing their image (without changing their policies or attitudes) among racial minorities and women.  I’d like to suggest another effort that might help restore the public’s comfort level with the GOP: Clean out the crazy.

What I’ve gathered here are mostly examples of insanity expressed by Republicans actually holding or running for public office or important party position.  I’ve excluded most of the army of preachers, pundits and broadcasting “personalities” that fuels much of the fever on the Right.

I’m not saying the Left doesn’t have its crazies — it does — just that the crazy usually gets filtered out before it reaches elective office. You rarely see Democrats in office embracing ideas from the fringe.  The Right, however, seems to have lost its filter, and the crazy flows quickly from the fringe to Congress.

Favorable ratings for and party ID with the GOP (and its Tea Party wing) are at historic lows, as polling shows people think the party is out of touch and wrong-headed. The irresponsibility of the government shutdown hurt the GOP brand, but the brand also suffers from the constant drip of craziness  —  climate denial, evolution denial, birtherism, anti-immigrant nativism, death panels, Black Panthers, fraudulent claims of voter fraud and “creeping” Sharia law, denying that rape can lead to pregnancy, etc, — that occupies their time instead of jobs and economic growth makes the party sound cold-hearted, irresponsible and just plain nuts.  What follow are, in comparison to what’s available, just a few examples:

Captain crazy  Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) labeled evolution a lie from the “pit of hell.”  He also said:

  • funding NPR and Planned Parenthood is “unconstitutional”;
  • federal employees don’t have real jobs (does Broun not realize he is one?);
  • the Civil War was a “war of Yankee aggression” that’s just like health insurance reform;
  • we should repeal the 16th and 17th amendments to stop the “socializing” of America (putting aside the fact that “socializing” simply means gathering with others and communicating, Broun was under the impression that allowing Americans to freely elect their Senators and allowing those Senators to levy an income tax will have us heading down the road to the Soviet Union); and
  • the federal government will be calling you every day to make sure you eat your vegetables.

Reductio ad absurdum VP candidate and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) wants to do more than outlaw all abortions:  “We don’t want a country where abortion is simply outlawed. We want a country where it isn’t even considered.”  After all, he says that rape is just another method of conception.

We want our bullets back!  Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) introduced bills to stop government agencies from buying ammunition because he thinks Obama is trying to prevent others from getting it by hoarding it himself.

Government murder  New Hampshire state Rep. Stella Tremblay (R) believes the government planned the bombing at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured more than 150 others.

The slippery slope of marriage  Republican candidate for the US Senate Matt Bevin says if same-sex marriage becomes legal, parents will be able to marry their children.

Charles Dickens, we need you! West Virginia Delegate Ray Canterbury (R) suggested having poor school children work for their lunches.

Two crazies for the price of one  Rep. Steve Stockman’s (R-TX) campaign bumper sticker reads “If babies had guns they wouldn’t be aborted.”

See no evil  Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal refused to even respond to students who asked for an end to racially segregated high school proms.

Is our children commies yet?  Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) claimed that an effort to make a more uniform framework of standards and benchmarks in schools, Common Core, is actually a plot by the federal government to “indoctrinate” students, breed “socialism,” “control opinions,” and weaken American exceptionalism.  Being right for all the wrong reasons must take a lot of effort.

Nothing to see here, move along  The House GOP won’t even let the Paycheck Fairness Act come up for a vote.  If we pretend to see unfairness, we don’t have to fix it.

You thought it would go over better the second time?  Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) said Mitt Romney was correct in his infamous “47 percent” statistic, adding that Americans need to pay taxes to participate in the political process.

God’s name is James Madison?  Former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) said  “…God created this nation [and] that He wrote the Constitution…”

Because we all want to work more and get paid less?  GOP leaders are introducing measures to destroy  the weekend and weaken overtime protections.

Zombie lies.  Benghazi!

This ought to be embarrassing. Republicans have made so many attempts to repeal “Obamacare” that the scorekeepers have lost count. (It was 67 times in July 2013.)

Hitting too close to home?  They even oppose even Michelle’s fight against childhood obesity?  The definition of a conservative being, of course, a person who’s too cowardly to fight and too fat to run.

Because grief-stricken parents are irrelevant?  After the slaughter at Sandy Hook, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) told reporters that the coming debate on gun control will have nothing to do with the families of the victims from Newtown.

Planning for your future is just so radical!  Kansas State Rep. Dennis Hedke (R) introduced legislation that would ban Kansas state and local governments from spending public funds on sustainable development.

Was it jealousy?  Virginia Attorney General and candidate for governor Ken Cuccinelli tried to outlaw oral sex.

Do you swear to tell the lie, the whole lie, and nothing by the lie?  Legislators in Kansas’ Republican-led state House and Senate passed a draconian anti-abortion bill, including provisions that order physicians to lie to their pregnant patients by telling them that breast cancer is a risk of abortion — a hoax that has been debunked.

Love the second amendment, but no so cool with the first  If you introduce legislation to set up a state religion and have states nullify federal laws, people are going to suspect the quality of your thinking and judgment.

Be careful who you worship. If your philosophical framework is formed by an artless novelist who thought greed was a virtue, most folks are going to think you’re crazy (and if you’ve also lived most of your life on a government check, they’ll also think you’re a hypocrite).

Maybe if he looked beyond the country club gates…  Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) said he couldn’t find any unemployed people who were not on drugs.

How dare you ask cruel people to be held accountable!  Tennessee state Rep. Andy Holt (R) described the Humane Society as radical and accused it of promoting rape-like tactics against farmers after the Human Society had written to ask him to oppose legislation that would criminalize activists who exposed animal abuse on factory farms and in slaughterhouses:

“I am extremely pleased that we were able to pass HB 1191 today to help protect livestock in Tennessee from suffering months of needless investigation that propagandist groups of radical animal activists, like your fraudulent and reprehensibly disgusting organization of maligned animal abuse profiteering corporatists, who are intent on using animals the same way human-traffickers use 17 year old women.”

“You work for a pathetic excuse for an organization and a pathetic group of sensationalists who seek to profit from animal abuse. I am glad, as an aside, that we have limited your preferred fund-raising methods here in the state of Tennessee; a method that I refer to as ‘tape and rape.’ Best wishes for the failure of your organization and it’s true intent.”

Please tell me this man’s genes have not been passed on…. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, told a group of Tea Party supporters on a conference call that gay marriage would be a slippery slope to polygamy and bestiality:  “When you say it’s not a man and a woman anymore, then why not have three men and one woman or four women and one man? Or why not, you know, somebody has a love for an animal or…? There is no clear place to draw a line once you eliminate the traditional marriage.” Gohmert has a special knack for wearing the tin foil hat, having stated that wide gun-ownership is needed to protect against Sharia law, that Obama intervened in Libya to allow al Qaeda to spread, and that the president is seeking to take credit for starting a new Ottoman Empire.

Uh… OK, what is it with the GOP and sex with animals?  Presidential candidate and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) equates marriage equality to bestiality and pedophilia: “In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever, to my knowledge, included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing.”

At least she didn’t mention any animals.  Sue Everhart, head of the Georgia Republican Party. declared gay marriage “not natural” and predicted it would lead to Americans engaging in sham weddings to obtain benefits. An opinion piece in the Atlanta Journal Constitution satirized Everhart’s comments: “Sham marriages, of course, would be an entirely new and different thing in the human experience,” wrote political columnist Jim Galloway. “Lord knows how we could cope.”

Let them eat cake! And more sex with animals.  Missouri state Rep. Steve Cookson (R) thinks poor kids who don’t have 90% attendance at school shouldn’t be able to eat (following the lead of Republicans in Michigan and Tennessee). He also introduced a bill to ban the word “gay” in public schools s a way to prevent students from learning about the “homosexual agenda” and bestiality.

Cutting ties with Crazy Shelly.  When you send this level of crazy to Congress, expect the nation to be skeptical of everything else you do.

Whatever happened to “local control” being a conservative value? Wisconsin State Rep. Chris Kapenga wrote a bill to preempt local living wage ordinances that apply to employees whose work is even partially funded by state funds.

He does know the South lost, right? Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-MS) uses Twitter to promote white supremacy, neo-fascist groups, Southern nationalism, secession and claims of black oppression of whites. He also blames gun violence on hip hop music and attended at least one neo-Confederate conference.

An apt name.  The “suicide caucus” of House Republicans was willing to both shut down the government and force the government into debt default, endangering the global economy, unless everyone else agreed to reverse health insurance reform.

There’s no such thing as a liberal Christian?  That’s just crazy.

Because discrimination is such an American value….? Arizona actually passed a law saying it’s OK to discriminate against people because you don’t like who they love.  In Kansas, State Rep. Charles Macheers (R), one of the leading proponents of a bill that would “allow any individual, group, or private business to refuse to serve gay couples if ‘it would be contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.’ Private employers can continue to fire gay employees on account of their sexuality. Stores may deny gay couples goods and services because they are gay. Hotels can eject gay couples or deny them entry in the first place. Businesses that provide public accommodations – movie theaters, restaurants – can turn away gay couples at the door,” said the proposal would “prevent discrimination” and would put Kansas “on the right side of history.” This he said with a straight face.  Tennessee state Sen. Brian Kelsey (R) sponsored a bill that would allow business owners to refuse service to gays.

It was about slavery, OK?  You know it, we know it, everybody knows it.  The sooner you give it up, the sooner you’ll clean the crazy from your party.

No, this isn’t slavery, OK? Rep. Allen West (R-FL) said welfare is “the most insidious form of slavery remaining in the world today…”  This guy is a wealth of crazy.

Hint: hypocrisy hurts your image  Virginia Republicans proposed a new plan to expand Medicaid under Obamacare — while touting that they’ve rejected the law’s expansion of the health care program.

Ibid.  Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) says that he is prepared to make “all available resources” available from the federal government to assist in the recovery after an explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas — but the senator voted against aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy earlier because he said it was “pork.”

Ditto.  After demanding that the Senate pass a budget, the House GOP refused to enter budget negotiations.

One more time.  When the Bush administration actually politicized federal law enforcement during the U.S. Attorney purge scandal, Senate Republicans couldn’t have cared less. Now that some wingnut activist is indicted for campaign-finance violations, they’re interested?

Dragging us backward several centuries  Missouri State Rep. Rick Brattin (R) has introduced a bill requiring schools to notify parents if “the theory of evolution by natural selection” is being taught at their child’s school and a bill that would allow the state to to execute condemned prisoners by firing squad.

He’s kidding, right?  In North Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory’s (R) thinks fossil fuels may be an infinite, renewable, natural resource — and, no, he’s not kidding

When the word “nobody” means “I”  Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says “nobody cares” about redistricting reform.

Priorities!  Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s staff quips “nobody cares about crazy people,” assuring then-candidate Walker that the starvation death of a mentally ill woman in a facility for which Walker was responsible wouldn’t hurt his chances.

The company you keep does matter.  Attorney General Greg Abbott of Texas, the leading candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, has the racist, sexist, sexual predator of underage girls* Ted Nugent campaigning for him, just a month after Nugent called President Obama a “communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel.” In 2007, Nugent performed at Gov. Rick Perry’s inaugural ball in Austin wearing a T-shirt with the Confederate flag. Nugent has referred to Obama with a term a term the Nazis often used when referring to Jews, called Hillary Clinton a “worthless b-tch” and a “c-nt,” said that “piece of sh-t” then-Senator Barack Obama should “suck on [his] machine gun,” told Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to “suck on [his] machine gun,” called Sen. Dianne Feinstein a “worthless whore,” and has a lengthy history of vile misogynist commentary. (*These statutory rapes he calls “beautiful.”)

Pandering to faux victims and claiming victim status

Despite the traditional conservative rhetoric about taking personal responsibility for our lives, the Right has made victimhood a political art form.  Telling people they’re victims, or making them fear they’ll become victims, is a favorite political ploy on the Right.  The goal is to make people feel persecuted and then see you as the white knight who will ride in and save them from their oppressors.  As Corey Robbins noted in his book The Reactionary Mind, “…victimhood has been a talking point of the right ever since Burke decried the mob’s treatment of Marie Antoinette.”   Conservatism enjoys a particular appeal among people who once had power and think they are losing it, so it’s a natural fit.

Obama will kill me!  Conservative hero and part-time GOP campaigner Ted Nuget predicted his victimization, saying in 2012 if President Obama was re-elected “I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”  As of February 2014, Nugent is still alive and free. (I can’t decide which is crazier here, the paranoia or the delusion of grandeur. Does he really think the president gives a moment’s thought to the bile that oozes from a has-been pop singer?)

The FBI is coming for me! The Dinesh D’Souza conspiracy theory, which claims his indictment for campaign finance fraud is retribution for being an outspoken conservative, tarted with Alex Jones and Drudge, was then picked up by Limbaugh, then Fox News, and now four Republican senators.

Obama is stealing our guns! Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in Texas, Todd Staples, ran a TV ad that showed him opposing marriage equality and environmental protection, pretending the president is acting like “a king,” and pointing guns and then concluded with “So Mr. President, if you still want to mess with Texas, we’ve got a saying for you. Come and take it.”  Asked whether they believe the Obama administration is coming to take their guns away, 62% of Republicans answered “Yes.”   This, despite the fact that no gun legislation of any impact whatsoever has shadowed the president’s desk since he took office.

Save the babies!  RNC Chairman Reince Priebus lambasted the mainstream media for “covering up” Planned Parenthood’s “support for infanticide.”  Of course, he was lying. Planned Parenthood doesn’t support infanticide and there was no cover up.

Save the grannies!  Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) warns — errantly — that the Affordable Care Act will make it harder for Grandma to get her cancer surgery.  (Hint: Grandma is covered by Medicare.)

The sky is falling!  Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) about why he opposed raising the debt limit:  “America is going to be destroyed by Obamacare, so whatever deal is put together must at least reschedule the implementation of Obamacare,” he says. “This law is going to destroy America and everything in America, and we need to stop it.”   America?  And everything in it?  Oh my!

We are victims of the gays!  Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema defends his decision to share a pseudoscientific “research” paper that alleges gays and lesbians are gonorrhea-riddled social deviants responsible for “half the murders in major cities.” After expressing surprise that people found the “research” and his subsequent comments to be hateful, Agema equated being gay with being an alcoholic.

Save the kids from the gays!  Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) insists gay people are bad parents, so we need laws to protect the kids from them.

Guns — now with Nazis and Rawanda! Former governor of Arkansas and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee warns that universal background checks for gun purchases — an idea supported by 92% of America — will allow the most centrist president in the post-WW era to confiscate all guns and set up a Nazi-like dictatorship. Not to be outdone, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) took the fearmongering over gun reform to new levels in a Facebook post that compared expanding background checks to the Rwandan genocide.

Fear the immigrants!  Rep Louie Gohmert claims Al Qaeda has camps on the Mexican-US border and is training Islamic radicals to act like Hispanics.

Thin skin in NC?  After he became the (ahem) victim of a gay grocery clerk who quipped “Thanks for nothing,” North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) got the clerk fired. Before that, the Central Carolina Community College stopped airing “The Rant,” a weekly radio political program, after North Carolina State Rep. Mike C. Stone (R) objected to its commentary.  Voters get turned off when you look this weak.

Fear the UN! The GOP’s tin foil hats were on a bit too tightly when the Senate Republicans voted against ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, a treaty that describes the obligations of ratifying countries to promote, protect, fulfill, and ensure the rights of persons with disabilities. The treaty embodies the American ideals that form the basis of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): empowering persons with disabilities to be independent and productive citizens. Ratification was endorsed by the US Chamber of Commerce and every major veterans organization, and former Sen. Bob Dole (R). All but eight Republican Senators voted against it because former Sen. Rick Santorum (R) spewed conspiracy theories about the convention threatening US sovereignty and letting the United Nations dictate how people raise their kids.

Obama and his friends will kill your neighborhood, our nation, and God!  Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) claims  “elites” are waging a “silent war” on religious liberty that “threatens the fabric of our communities, the health of our public square and the endurance of our constitutional governance.”  As (cough cough) proof, Jindal points to the Hobby Lobby case, in which it’s being asserted that corporations are people with their own spiritual beliefs. It seems that, in Jindal’s mind, if you don’t give corporations the legal status of people worshiping God, you’re the enemy of religious liberty. Jindal had tried the same tactic earlier, when he asserted victim status for a guy who damaged his employer’s product.  Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) did the same, in a pointedly hypocritical moment, as did Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Palin is particularly fond of playing the victim.  She says she’s a victim of the “lamestream media.”  She cashed in on the victims of the phony war on Christmas by writing a pandering book about their victimization (and superiority).  She — a former governor, former national candidate and then star of her own TV show — complained that her privacy was being invaded.  When she was embarrassed by her own remarks about the Pope, she made both herself and the Pope out as victims.  (It’s much easier to claim victimhood than to consider whether your message, values and tone turn off most Americans.)  She posed as the victim of sexism, accusing critics of chauvinism against a strong woman. She claimed status as a victim of class prejudice, calling the Bush family “blue bloods” and whined that the snobs targeted her because she is “not so hoity-toity” and that the “sacrifices” she made for serving the public were “brutal.”  And, of course, according to Palin, tax payers are the ultimate victims, the equal of slaves.

Viral victimhood.  Presidential candidate Mitt Romney hinted, echoing a wingnut chain email and a stunt by the GOP House, said that President Obama planned to remove “In God we trust” from our currency.

Save us from the Girl Scouts!  One of Indiana’s GOPers says the Girl Scouts sell cookies, sex, abortion, Communism, and a lesbian agenda – in cahoots with Planned Parenthood and a “radically pro-abortion” Michelle Obama.

Pity the rich!  Presidential candidate Mitt Romey’s 47% quip was of way of saying we rich folks, the supermen who create the wealth, are victims because the wealth we create gets confiscated to pay for the losers.

Pity white men!  People of color are taking revenge, via Affirmative Action, against innocent whites.  Republican lawmakers in Oklahoma proposed the Affirmative Action Ban Amendment to their state constitution, to prohibit affirmative action policies in state employment, education, and contracting.

I want my country back!  Republicans believe they are “real Americans” whose country is being taken away from them. They see themselves as the victims of women, gays, non-whites, non-evangelicals and non-conservatives who are transforming the country by demanding their fair share of political power, rights, respect, opportunity and wealth — in other words, their American birthright that has been denied to them for centuries by political and cultural institutions now being dismantled.

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