Rep. John Dingell: Member of Congress for more than a quarter of its history.

September 9, 2014

Rep. John Dingell with President Kennedy, and seated next to President Obama for the signing of the ACA.

Rep. John Dingell with President Kennedy, and seated next to President Obama for the signing of the ACA.

It is Congressional primary day for five states in the US, and the final dash for votes in the mid-terms is hotting up against a backdrop of government shutdowns, threats to sue the President, refusals to work together, and a battle for the heart of the Republican Party. It is indeed an intriguing period of US Congressional history. There is however one story that threatens to go unnoticed this election season; the retirement of 58 year veteran of the House, Rep.John Dingell (D-Dearborn, MI).

Dingell is the longest uninterrupted serving member of the US Congress in its 225 year history, with a tenure spanning more than a quarter of its entire history. It is an incredible achievement and one in which the Congressman from Michigan has witnessed the shaping of the United States in ways in which no other Congressman can claim.

As a teenager in 1941, and a member of the United States House of Representatives Page programme, Dingell was on the floor of the House as President Roosevelt delivered his day of infamy speech following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was later elected to Congress in 1956 – the year the World first heard the name ‘Elvis Presley’, and the Federal Highway Act had not yet been signed into being – and has consistently attained over 60% of the vote – with the exception of just two occasions. He was a member of Congress on that day in November when two bullets struck down the promise of President Kennedy. He was sworn into Congress 12 days after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, challenging the poisonous white supremacist attitudes of the 20th Century United States, and announced his retirement from Congress during the second term of the nation’s first African American President. He supported, witnessed and presided over the House that saw LBJ signing Medicare into law. His tenure saw the rise and fall of the Cold War era, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Watergate, the Reagan years, and both Iraq wars. In recent years, Dingell sat next to President Obama as the ‘Affordable Healthcare Act’ was signed into law in 2010, an achievement Dingell was proud to have been a part of, despite not meeting his desire to see universal healthcare in the United States; a cause he had championed by introducing a universal healthcare bill in each of his terms in Congress.

Son of a ‘New Deal’ Democratic Congressman, Dingell is known to be forceful and intimidating in the corridors of Congress. But he gets the job done. Perhaps Dingell’s greatest legislative achievements have been in promoting environmental protections and regulations, cleaning the air and the water and protecting species in the United States, whilst paradoxically commanding the scorn of environmentalists for his staunch support of the Detroit auto industry (including steerage of the 2009 bailouts). In 1972, Dingell authored the ‘Clean Water Act’ expanding greatly the regulatory framework of the 1948 ‘Federal Water Pollution Control Act’, keeping the waters of the United States clean for decades to come. He played important roles in the ‘National Energy Conservation Policy Act’ in 1978, the ‘Marine Mammal Protection Act’ and the ‘Pollution Prevention Act’ of 1990. He penned the ‘Endangered Species Act’, and he advocated and lobbied for the creation of the ‘Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge’; North America’s only international wildlife refuge. He also spent 14 years as Chair of the immensely powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, between 1981-1994, and again in 2007-2008. Without Dingell, the foundation of environmental protections in the United States might not exist. Indeed, for his work on environmental issues in the 109th Congress, The League of Conservation Voters gave Dingell a rating of 100%.

However, there remains a paradox. Dingell’s place as top-ranking Democrat on the Energy Committee took an odd turn in recent years, when Henry Waxman (D-Calif) challenged and beat Dingell for the chairmanship of the committee, through concerns that Dingell’s financial support from big auto industry – along with previous attempts to defend big auto industry in Detroit from certain sections of environmental legislation – may prove detrimental to Waxman’s desire to cap CO2 emissions. In 2007, Dingell managed to win several – albeit small – concessions for the auto-industry as Democrats worked to raise the fuel economy standard.

Alongside his defence and protection of the auto-industry, Dingell receives criticism from fellow progressive Democrats for his A+ rating from the NRA. It was Dingell who managed to gain an exemption for firearms from the 1972 ‘Consumer Product Safety Act’. A hugely damaging legacy for gun safety in the United States. Following the Columbine massacre the Senate voted to close a loophole that exempted unlicensed gun dealers from conducting any background checks at gun shows before selling a firearm. Dingell disapproved and offered an alternative that included changing the language for what is to be considered a ‘gun show’ to a very limited scope, and reducing the time taken to perform a background check from 72 hours, to 24 hours.

To some, he was a protector of big auto-industry whose ideas ran out long ago, a roadblock to meaningful emissions standards, a staunch advocate of gun ownership, and an advertisement for term limits, but to others he was the Congressional architect of landmark environmental protections that would last decades, a legacy that no other member of Congress comes close to matching. Whatever one may think of Rep. John Dingell, it is hard not to admire a man who has worked at the heart of, and contributed to the shaping of the United States, swimming the murky waters of Congress, and witnessing the transformation of America on so many levels, for close to seven decades. His is a story to be remembered during this election season.


The Imperial President? Not so much…

June 30, 2014

President Obama and Speaker Boehner shake hands at the State of the Union. Photo Credit: By Pete Souza (Executive Office of the President of the United States)

President Obama and Speaker Boehner shake hands at the State of the Union.
Photo Credit: By Pete Souza (Executive Office of the President of the United States)

If you were to add together the average executive orders of President Obama, President Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Monroe, Quincy Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison and Tyler (and the first few months of Polk’s Presidency); they’d still add up to less than President Reagan’s average. And so for a Republican Party with a Presidential hero sporting an executive order average of over 11 Presidents (including the current) combined, alongside its recent history of losing the Senate, losing the Presidency twice, losing the popular vote for the House, wildly abusing the filibuster, and generally considered responsible for the shutdown of the government, you might think the Speaker would be a little humble. You’d be wrong. Instead, he’s choosing to sue the President for use of executive powers.

In lieu of addressing wage disparity, or a jobs bill, or working to solve climate change issues, the Republican obsession with the President has become a pantomime. In his memorandum, Boehner’s case lacks substance, whilst also betraying the true purpose of the lawsuit. One of his points reads:

“There is no legislative remedy”

– What this means is, there is no legislative remedy – from a positive PR perspective – to force the President to give in to the demands of the minority Party, and so they’ll pass the buck to the judiciary, whilst throwing around terms like “Executive Monarchy” in the hope that the public will jump on board. There is of course already a legislative remedy to the overreaching of executive power, and that includes de-funding the executive branch and beginning impeachment proceedings against executive branch officials if they feel they have a strong case. They’re also aware that the judiciary has the power the strike down executive orders if they deem it to be unsupported by the Constitution. The Speaker therefore does not have a strong case, and so neither of the previously mentioned legislative remedies serves the GOP well from a PR standpoint, especially after the constant failure of House Republicans to defund the ACA, the obscene abuses of the filibuster, and the disaster of shutting down the government. They’re therefore ignoring the legislative remedies, as if they don’t exist. It is one big publicity stunt, and as with the shutdown, it will be scrutinised thoroughly and reflect terribly on the GOP.

Further, the ill-fated lawsuit that Boehner seeks to bring against the President, will be filed by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group – a standing body of the House of Representatives – funded by every taxpayer in the US. If the lawsuit fails – which it will, because the President has not issued an unconstitutional executive order, nor overreached executive power – it will be the second time Boehner has used ‘BLAG’ and failed, costing the taxpayer in the process. It must strike most as incredible that a Speaker has been able to get away with wasting taxpayer’s money on constant symbolic attempts to defund the ACA (knowing they’d fail every time), defending anti-liberty discrimination based on sexuality (for which Boehner used BLAG), on shutting down the government, on a publicity stunt to sue the President, all whilst successfully achieving the title of the least productive Congress in history with disastrously low approval ratings.

The Speaker summarised the President’s use of executive orders as the work of “aggressive unilateralism”, and that the President is in fact an “Executive Monarchy”. Echoing Boehner’s summary, the beacon of wisdom Karl Rove – conveniently forgetting the time President Bush aggressively used signing statements to bypass laws and extend Presidential power – said:

““This is imperial power, this is George III.”

– I’m almost certain King George III did not face such a hostile Parliament, to the point where getting basic aides confirmed by the Senate becomes a long drawn out battle. The implication from Rove and the Speaker, is that the President is abusing the use of executive orders beyond anything that came before. The biggest threat to liberty since George III. So, how does that check out. How does the President’s yearly average of executive orders compare with past Republican Presidents? According to research by The American Presidency Project:

President Obama – Democrat – yearly average: 33.58
President Bush – Republican – yearly average: 36.38
President Bush Sr – Republican – yearly average: 41.50
President Reagan – Republican hero – yearly average: 47.63
President Ford – Republican – 68.92
President Nixon – Republican – 62.30
President Eisenhower – Republican – 60.50

– President Obama has a lower yearly average of issuing executive orders, than any previous Republican President since the 1950s. Compared to those Republican Presidents, he’s a beacon of restraint. Indeed, Obama is issuing executive orders at a rate of 0.09 a day, far below the Republican Presidential average of 0.22 a day (which is higher than the Democrat Presidential daily rate).

To find a lower yearly average on issuing executive orders than President Obama, we have to go back to Grover Cleveland’s first term as President, between 1885 and 1889. The highest in my life time, has been small government, Republican hero, President Reagan. In his first term, President Obama issued 147 executive orders. By contrast, President Reagan in his first term, issued 213 executive orders, and Reagan wasn’t faced with the one of the most hostile and obstructionist Congresses in decades.

If 33.58 magically turns President Obama into King George III, I can imagine 47.63 turns President Reagan into King Henry VIII.

Remember those figures as the Speaker wastes taxpayers money on a frivolous party political publicity stunt over the coming weeks.


Madam President: Hillary leading for 2016.

March 5, 2014

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: White House (Pete Souza) (White House) [Public domain].

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: White House (Pete Souza) (White House) [Public domain].

Prior to 2008, Virginia’s electoral college votes were solidly red. Republicans could count on votes from the state of Jefferson and Washington, as much as they could count on the votes of the deep south. Democrats had not taken the state in a Presidential election since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. That changed in 2008. A year in which both parties campaigned heavily, saw the once solidly red Virginia hand its votes to the Democrats by a margin of 6.3%, for the first time in 44 years.

By 2012, President Obama became the first Democratic President since Franklin Roosevelt, to carry Virginia in two consecutive elections. In fact, the margin of victory for the Democrats in 2012, was greater than the margin of victory for the President in the country overall. A year later, Virginia voted to elect Democrat McAuliffe to the Governorship ahead of Tea Party favourite, Ken Cuccinelli. Thanks to the far more progressive areas of Fairfax and Loudoun, and the toxic brand of the Tea Party movement; Virginia is becoming blue.

This is bad news for the GOP for 2016. The potential field for Republican candidates in 2016 is not particularly inspiring, and no single candidate stands out. A poll out of New England College found that despite having no intention to run, Mitt Romney is favourite among GOP voters for the nomination in 2006. Ted Cruz only manages 10% support, the scandal prone Chris Christie only managing 13%, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio sharing 7% apiece.

Even more concerning for Republican strategists, is a latest poll of voters in Virginia, conducted by Roanoke College this week, showing that any of the leading candidates for the Republican nomination, would face a massive defeat, if the Democrat nomination was Hillary Clinton. If the 2016 Presidential race were between Clinton, and Christie, Clinton would come out victorious at 43% to Christie’s 41%. A race between Clinton and Paul Ryan, would give us Clinton on 53% to Ryan’s 37%. Others include; Clinton 51% to Jeb Bush 38%. Clinton 47% to Rand Paul’s 40%. Clinton on 47% with Ted Cruz on 37%.

In Ohio – an incredibly important battleground state – Clinton commands a firm lead in polls over all Republican candidates. A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut found that biggest challenge in Ohio to Clinton would be from Paul Ryan, who trails by a huge 9 points. Clinton leads by double figures over Bush, Rubio, Cruz, Ryan, and Kasich.

The bad news for Republicans doesn’t end there. Even in the solidly red state of Texas, the Republicans are struggling. In 2012, Romney won 57% of the vote to the President’s 41%. Even with Texas’ changing population, it is still cloaked in red. Yet, according to a poll by Public Policy Polling, of all potential Republican candidates, none manage to win over 50% of the vote if paired off against Hillary. Jeb Bush comes closest with 49% to Clinton’s 42%. Though it’s unlikely that Bush will run. Senator Cruz – the favoured Republican candidate in Texas by a clear margin – only manages 48% to Clinton’s 45%. So, if on the off chance Jeb Bush were to run and win the Republican nomination, he may take Texas, but he’d lose Ohio, and according to another poll, he’d lose Florida too.

The close polling between Republican candidates and Hillary Clinton in Texas, are echoed in Red States like Louisiana. Louisiana last went blue in 1996, voting to help secure a second term for President Clinton. Twenty years later, and another Clinton has the potential to turn Louisiana blue once more. Another poll by Public Policy Polling found that whilst the Republican contenders hold leads over Hillary, the margin is small enough to push Louisiana into the Democrat camp, with the right campaigning from the Clinton team in 2016. Jeb Bush again leads Hillary by the largest margin of 7 points, whilst Christie’s lead is down to just 1 point.

This is particularly problematic for Republicans for a number of reasons. Firstly, as noted above, there aren’t any stand out GOP candidates that one might consider as posing any sort of a threat to a Hillary campaign in 2016. Secondly, the majority of Republican voters are not on the Tea Party fringes, and moderate Republicans might well be tempted to vote Democrat or simply not vote at all; the former is certainly a possibility if the Clinton campaign presents a more moderately conservative message going into 2016. This is of particular worry for Republicans in swing states and states polling low margins between Hillary and Republican candidates. Of Florida, Virginia, and Ohio, the Republicans will need to take two of the three to stand any chance at the White House. As it stands, they may not take any. Thirdly, the majority of US citizens placed blame for the government shutdown on Congressional Republicans, leading to this Congress sporting an all time low approval rating. Congress began 2014 on just 13% approval rating. Republicans in Congress are not popular, this is damaging to any future President campaign, particularly if the prevailing candidate comes direct from an appalling incompetent Congress. And lastly, the Republicans are going to have to spend a large amount of money defending their lead in states that would normally be solidly Republican. They need to do this, whilst also spending vast sums of money to win swing states like Ohio and states recently lost to Democrats, like Virginia. This is one huge uphill battle for Republicans.

Indeed, the uphill battle is of their own making. The loss of Virginia represents the failing message of a Republican Party being dragged to the fringes of the right wing and failing to modernise. Inevitably, a shift to the fringes presents massive election issues for the GOP. In less than three years, they need to craft an entirely new, modern and inclusive message, an electable platform away from the fringes, improving their image especially with minority groups, and women voters. They also need one candidate to rally behind, and present that new message of inclusivity and modernity. A political party that only appears to represent white, middle aged, heterosexual, Christian, business men driven solely by imagined Benghazi conspiracies, is not an electable party.


Republican hero Ted Nugent in his own words.

February 22, 2014

“If he is good enough for Ted Nugent, he is good enough for me!”
– Sarah Palin’s reason for endorsing Greg Abbott’s gubernatorial campaign in Texas.

It’s been a terrible twelve or so months for the Republicans. An objective commentator might point out that the shift too far to the right, or to the left, will always spell trouble for a political party. Most voters are not looking to radically shift the direction of the country to either extreme, and so the more a party appears to offer such a shift, the more voters will turn away. Instead of addressing the issues that Republicans seem to have in connecting with anyone who isn’t a white, middle aged, Christian, heterosexual male, they instead have weirdly chosen to embrace that mentality of exclusivity. An extreme ideological mentality – moulded and set by overly paranoid conspiratorial ‘analysts’ like Limbaugh – that will without doubt see them fall further from electability and harm the party in the long run. Nowhere is this more pronounced than their odious courting and embracing of Ted Nugent by Republican Greg Abbott’s gubernatorial campaign in Texas.

So here is the GOP’s new hero, Ted Nugent, in his own words:

Ted Nugent in 1992 on anyone who wasn’t born in America:

“… Yeah they love me (in Japan) – they’re still assholes. These people they don’t know what life is. I don’t have a following, they need me; they don’t like me they need me … Foreigners are assholes; foreigners are scum; I don’t like ’em; I don’t want ’em in this country; I don’t want ’em selling me doughnuts; I don’t want ’em pumping my gas; I don’t want ’em downwind of my life-OK? So anyhow-and I’m dead serious …”

Ted Nugent on those fighting to break down barriers to gender equality:

“What’s a feminist anyways? A fat pig who doesn’t get it often enough?”

Ted Nugent on the murder of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin:

“Trayvon got justice.”

Ted Nugent’s letter to the girlfriend of a guy he’d met, who wouldn’t let him go hunting:

“I wrote her something and I said ‘Drop dead, bitch’… What good is she, trade her in, get a Dalmatian. Who needs the wench?”

Ted Nugent after explaining how he dodged the Vietnam draft:

“But if I would have gone over there, I’d have been killed, or I’d have killed all the Hippies in the foxholes. I would have killed everybody.”

– Instead, the ‘Patriot’ Ted Nugent worked up a plan to dodge the draft, whilst fellow Americans put their lives on the line.

Ted Nugent on rappers:

“MTV is a liberal lump of hippy snot. They are embarrassing. Those big uneducated greasy black mongrels on there, they call themselves rap artists.”

– Yes. The new hero of one of the two major political parties in the US, referred to people as “uneducated greasy black mongrels”.

Ted Nugent on what constitutes “real” Americans:

“You know what I’m on top of? I’m on top of a real America with working hard, playing hard, white motherfucking shit kickers, who are independent and get up in the morning.”

– In the same interview, and following this quote, when told that African Americans were just as hard working as white Americans, Nugent said:

“Show me one.”

Ted Nugent on President Obama:

“communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel.”

Ted Nugent and Confederacy nostalgia:

“I’m beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War.”

– The South. You know, the region fighting specifically to uphold the institution of slavery.

Ted Nugent on Hillary Clinton:

“You probably can’t use the term `toxic cunt’ in your magazine, but that’s what she is. Her very existence insults the spirit of individualism in this country. This bitch is nothing but a two-bit whore for Fidel Castro.”

Ted Nugent’s violent, misogynistic rant on what he’d like to do with his machine guns and women in politics:

“Hey, Hillary, you might want to ride one of these [machine gun] into the sunset, you worthless bitch. Since I’m in California, how about [Senator] Barbara Boxer [D-CA], she might want to suck on my machine gun. And [Senator] Dianne Feinstein [D-CA], ride one of these you worthless whore. Any questions? ”

Ted Nugent – having exhausted Confederate nostalgia, racism, and misogyny – now turns to repugnant homophobia:

“I got to tell you, guys that have sex with each others’ anals cavities – how can we offend guys that have anal sex?”

Ted Nugent solution to those people crossing the border from Mexico:

“In an unauthorized entry, armed, like they are right now, invading our country, I’d like to shoot them dead.”

Ted Nugent on Hillary Clinton:

“Our politicians check their scrotum in at the door. Even Hillary, but obviously she has spare scrotums.”

After Nugent’s most recent vile Benghazi tantrum, in which he referred to the President as a “chimpanzee” and “subhuman mongrel”, Texas Governor, Republican Rick Perry said that he didn’t take offence at the comment, and:

“That’s Ted Nugent. Anybody that’s offended sorry, but that’s just Ted.”

– A few hours later, it would appear that Perry had a change of heart, when he then told CNN:

“That is not appropriate language to use about the president of the United States.”

– A bit of an odd choice of words. I’d suggest it’s not appropriate language to use about anyone, not just the President. It’s horrendously racist terminology.

The cynic in me might argue that Perry issued this second comment on the controversy, because Nugent’s ‘chimpanzee’ and ‘mongrel’ analogy is incredibly damaging to the Republicans, and to the campaign of Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott. It was perhaps Perry’s way of attempting to create distance between the Republican Party, and a horrifyingly racist, misogynist, homophobic, Confederacy sympathiser. Greg Abbott on the other hand, will be continuing to campaign alongside Nugent. It is frightening that in the US, in the 21st Century, Wendy Davis – a great advocate of women’s health rights – will almost certainly be defeated in Texas’s gubernatorial race, by a Republican candidate who has fully embraced a venomous human being like Ted Nugent.

The love affair between Ted Nugent and the GOP, reflects perfectly the hideous direction the Republican Party has taken in recent years. Indeed, Nugent is the personification of the Tea Party influence on the Republican Party; his violent, misogynistic, racist, homophobic rhetoric, subtly masked with conspiratorial (Benghazi) tones as its weak justification, is the very essence of the Tea Party. It is a brand new Republican Party falling over to the political extremes more and more by the day. It is therefore a Republican Party unlikely to win the White House again in a very, very long time.


Meet Joshua Black.

January 21, 2014

Time ago, calling for the murder of the democratically elected head of state was entirely the realm of those on the watch list of intelligence services. The extreme fringes that plagued Kennedy on his trip to Dallas. Apparently that time has passed, and now includes those running for State legislatures.

We are all fully aware that Republicans have been getting progressively violent and irrational with their rhetoric since the President was first elected. From subtle hints at secession, to happily and effortlessly shutting down the government and protesting the shutdown alongside people waving Confederate flags. But yesterday – Martin Luther King Day in the States – Republican candidate for Florida’s 68th district of Florida’s State House, Joshua Black took the violent rhetoric to its natural conclusion when he tweeted this:

joshuablack

– When questioned on Twitter about the implications of what he was actually suggestion, Black responded with a plain as day clarification:

joshuablack2

– Joshua Black – when he isn’t spending his time at church, as his website tells us – is calling for the hanging of the President of the United States. Let that sink in for a second. A candidate for public office in the US, and a member of one of the two major political parties, has just called for the execution via hanging of the President of the United States.

Once the shock of that utterly crazy situation sinks in, examining the rest of his I’m not sure what the reference to Benedict Arnold was. Arnold wasn’t executed after the revolutionary war, and after his defection to the British. Gout ended his life in England years later. So not only is Black calling for the execution of the President, he’s justifying it with completely invented history.

Of course, Black isn’t new to over-the-top statements:

joshuablack4
– This, he posted the same day as his desire to see the President of the United States hanged. In one day, a Republican candidate for office had compared Bill Clinton to Mussolini, and called for the execution of President Obama. But that’s not all:

joshuablack6
– That’s right. Joshua Black compared women who value the right to their own body, as Nazis. Joshua Black – a Republican candidate for public office – has just compared the systematic slaughter of 6,000,000 Jewish people, to a woman’s right to her own body. This is insulting on so many levels, it’s difficult to know where to start. And he’s not finished with the extreme statements yet:

joshuablack5
– Here, it seems that Joshua Black would also abolish the minimum wage, striking a major blow to the most vulnerable people in the country already struggling. But that’s not all!

joshuablack7
– Joshua Black openly insists that those of us who do not believe in a ‘creator’ have no place in public office. He is vehemently anti-secular, a religious supremacist who believes that he has an inherent right to decide who does and doesn’t qualify as ‘fit’ for public office. He therefore does not accept that atheists share the exact same citizenship and legal rights as himself. He echoes numerous state constitutions that seek to prohibit public office for those who do not affirm a belief in some sort of divine dictator. This horrendous tendency toward Theocratic rule and thus, anti-constitutional religious supremacy is prevalent on the Republican and Christian-right. It seeks to completely override the founding enlightenment principle of secular governance. And the picture that he posts to highlight this, is predictably from Freedomworks.

To summarise, Republican candidate for Florida’s 68th District in Florida’s State House, compared Bill Clinton to Mussolini, those who believe in a woman’s right to regulate her own body as Nazis, insists non-believers should not be allowed to run for public office, and called for the execution via hanging of the President of the United States.

If ever one candidate embodied everything that has gone horribly wrong with the Republicans in the 21st century… it’s Joshua Black.

Provocative and extreme anti-Obama statements, and comparisons to dictators of old, made by those like Joshua Black have been growing horrifically for the past several years. When given credit by candidates to public office, they add fuel to the fire of violent far-right sentiment that sweeps the US. It is viciously dangerous rhetoric. Joshua Black – considered and endorsed by the Republican Party – as a serious candidate for public office, is the natural product of the past five years of the Republican Party moving further to the right with increased vitriol and the fact that the Republican Party has not ended its association with Black speaks volumes about the sinister and dangerous direction that particular Party has taken.

With Florida’s 68th incumbent Dwight Dudley (D) narrowly winning the seat in 2012, it must be said that for the safety of the President, and many many other people, I would hope residents of Florida’s 68th do not elect extremists like Joshua Black to any position of public power.

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Oklahoma’s war on secularism

December 19, 2013

Author: Serge Melki from Indianapolis, USA (Oklahoma State Capitol  Uploaded by russavia)  Source: Wikimedia Commons

Author: Serge Melki from Indianapolis, USA (Oklahoma State Capitol Uploaded by russavia)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

For a nation that enshrined a separation of church and state into its principal founding document in very unequivocal terms, it seems that one of its major parties in 2013 – whilst asking you to “take a stand for freedom” – doesn’t appear to understand the very first amendment to the Constitution:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ….”

– Article 1 of the United States Constitution is quite clear. Your religion has no place enshrined in common law. If that isn’t clear enough, the concept is further elaborated on by Thomas Jefferson, in a letter from 1801 addressed to the Danbury Baptists:

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”

– The Founders quite obviously wished to see religious freedom enshrined, with no one faith supreme, no one faith recognised by the state in any official capacity. There is no special place afforded to Christianity in the cogs of state. Freedom for all beliefs, and freedom from all beliefs.

Over 200 years later, and Republicans in Oklahoma’s state legislature seem devoted to shattering the secular founding document that they so ironically claim to revere.

In 2008 Democrat governor of Oklahoma, Brad Henry, had to veto a bill passed by the Republican-controlled Oklahoma state legislature that was designed specifically to force a woman to have an ultrasound – by law – before having an abortion. A woman seeking an abortion would then have a picture of the ultrasound placed in front of her, be forced to look at it, and be forced to listen to a state-mandated script. If she refused, she’d be denied the right to an abortion. In essence, lawmakers in Oklahoma passed a law transferring ownership of the bodies of all women to the Republican Party, for Jesus.

Ironically, this ‘pro life’ attitude doesn’t seem to extend to any time after the child is born, given that Republicans from Oklahoma – including Republican Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, chairman of the House Agricultural Committee – proposed and voted to cut food stamps for 637,000 residents of the State.

In 2011, the Republican-controlled House in Oklahoma passed a bill – which ultimately failed – that proposed to make stem cell research illegal, and furthermore, illegal for scientists to buy, sell, or transfer stem-cells for research. Research that very recently, led a research team from the University of Queensland to turn an embryonic stem cell into a fully functioning component of the kidney, leading to incredible hope for those suffering an agonising wait for a kidney transplant. The Bill to ban stem cell research was led by Republican George Faught, a Christian supremacist who, back in 2007, attempted to make English the official language of the state, despite strong opposition from native tribes. Faught appears entirely unable to distinguish between the founding documents, and the Bible. On his Facebook page, Faught says:

faught
– Here, we can presume that Faught believes marriage is defined by the Bible. Though he seems to ignore passages like Deuteronomy 21:11-13, which demand a female captive shave her head, before you decide to marry her (she’s given no choice in this). Republican Biblical marriage tradition only appears to extend to cover homophobia. Faught is certain that the US is country founded on the Christian religion. So what did the Founders think of that? Well, Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli, written by 2nd President John Adams, states:

“…the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…”

– Adams reflects the desire of practically all of the founding generation, to separate religion from the power of state. Faught wishes to remarry religion – his religion – to the power of state.

In 2011, under the guise of “academic freedom” Oklahoma Senate Bill 554 was proposed. The purpose of which was to present evolution as a “controversial topic”, opening the gates to creationism in science lessons:

“The State Department of Education, or any school district or school district administrator, shall not prohibit any teacher from informing students about relevant scientific information regarding either the scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses of controversial topics in sciences, when being taught in accordance with adopted standards and curricula. Controversial topics in sciences include but are not limited to biological origins of life and biological evolution.”

– Evolution is only a “controversial topic” to creationists. One of those creationists, is the sole sponsor of SB 554, Republican Josh Brecheen. Having failed with Senate Bill 554, Brechen tried again in 2012, with Senate Bill 1742. This Bill, again, subtly allows creationism to be presented as a reasonable alternative to evolution. 1742 states:

SECTION 2: A. The State Board of Education, upon the request of a school district board of education, shall allow and assist teachers, principals, and school administrators in creating an environment within the public school system that promotes critical thinking, logical analysis, open and objective discussion of scientific theories including, but not limited to, evolution, the origin of life, global warming, and human cloning.

– His motives for the two bills can perhaps be discerned from his previous statements:

“One of the bills I will file this year may be dismissed as inferior by “intellectuals” so I wanted to devote particular time in discussing it’s merits… I’m talking about the religion of evolution. Yes, it is a religion. The religion of evolution requires as much faith as the belief in a loving God”

“I have introduced legislation requiring every publicly funded Oklahoma school to teach the debate of creation vs. evolution using the known science, even that which conflicts with Darwin’s religion.”

– There is no debate to teach. It is like suggesting that a debate exists between medicine and faith healing. Creation mythology – like faith healing – is not scientific; that is, it is not based on observation, nor experimentation. And which creation myth must we teach alongside evolution? Why not the Zuni creation myth with the sun God Awonawilona? Theology and philosophy are separate subjects and should not in any way be confused with science. And yet, here is a State Senator wishing to devalue scientific inquiry by marrying its methods to those of philosophy and theology. This is simply Brecheen’s attempts to perpetuate his mythological beliefs by infecting the minds of the young with his ignorance.

It is also dangerous. We would not allow medical teaching to be compromised by forcing students to have that time taken up by learning faith healing. Similarly, evolution is the basis of medicine, biology, zoology, genetics, and a raft of other vital subjects. Students in science lessons should not have that precious time taken up by mythological guesses.

In the spirit of secularism, perhaps Oklahoma’s Republicans believe all have a right to enshrine their faith into common law in much the same way as Christians seem to be attempting to do? Well no. Republicans in Oklahoma believe in separation of state and religions that aren’t Christianity. In 2013, the state legislature proposed an amendment to the state constitution banning sharia law from any form of recognition in the state (as if Muslim theocrats have decided the place to launch a new Caliphate, is Oklahoma). This, at the same time that House Speaker T.W.Shannon sponsored House Bill 1908 – eventually passed in May – that diverts funds from the vital Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, to an advertising campaign promoting the virtues of Christian marriage. Breaking down the wall of separation, enshrining Christian values, subjugating the religious values of others, and taking vital assistance away from the most vulnerable. This is Theocracy in Oklahoma.

It seems ‘freedom of religion’ to Oklahoma’s Republicans means the freedom to live under the watchful and forceful eye of the state’s Christians. This represents nothing more than a war on secularism, for the promotion of a Christian Theocracy. Regardless, their attempts will always fail at the level of the Supreme Court, because when it comes to the basis of law and structure in the United States, the only document that matters is the secular Constitution. A Constitution under constant attack from Republicans in Oklahoma.

But all is not lost! There is a fight back against Christian supremacy in the state of Oklahoma. In November 2012, a ten commandments monument was erected outside of the Oklahoma State Capitol building – quite obviously endorsing one faith – donated by Republican state representative Mike Ritze. We shall call Mike Ritze, an anti-constitutionalist. By contrast, pro-secular, pro-constitutional opposition to the monument sprang up. Rajan Zed of the Universal Society of Hinduism is petitioning to have a statue of a Hindu god placed outside the Oklahoma State Capitol building. Rajan said:

“We would love to have a statue of Lord Hanuman, who was greatly revered and worshiped and known for incredible strength and was a perfect grammarian.”

– Similarly, The Satantic Temple are hoping to erect a monument to Satan on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol, in response to the ten commandments monument. Oklahoma Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon’s spokesman Joe Griffin said that it was inappropriate to have a monument to Satan on the Oklahoma State Capitol grounds. Joe Griffin seems unaware that according to the Constitution, it is equally as inappropriate to have the ten commandments monument on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol. Either all beliefs are recognised equally, or none at all.


The GOP outrage machine: The President’s pies.

November 29, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Lawrence Jackson - Official Whitehouse Photographer (White House - Executive Office Of U.S.A. President)

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Lawrence Jackson – Official Whitehouse Photographer (White House – Executive Office Of U.S.A. President)

After months of shamelessly using the tragedy in Benghazi for political gain that eventually led to no scandal whatsoever, a new scandal took hold. The President was not attending Gettysburg for the 250 year anniversary! When that turned out to be in keeping with every other President since Gettysburg, the Tea Party brigade needed a new scandal. Well, this time, they really outdid all expectations of the crazy we’ve all come to expect; The First Family had NINE pies on their Thanksgiving menu!

For reference, here is the White House Thanksgiving Menu:

Dinner:
Turkey
Honey-Baked Ham
Cornbread Stuffing
Oyster Stuffing
Greens
Macaroni and Cheese
Sweet Potatoes
Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Dinner Rolls

Dessert:
Huckleberry Pie
Pecan Pie
Chocolate Cream Pie
Sweet Potato Pie
Peach Pie
Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Banana Cream Pie
Coconut Cream Pie

– Bare in mind, this is the choice. They didn’t eat every single menu item. My fridge and freezer currently contains enough to make about 9 or 10 different dishes that I could put together. This doesn’t mean I will eat all 9 or 10 dishes. It means I have the choice. This is lost on Tea Partiers, who apparently believe that they must order every item that appears on a menu, when they go out to eat, judging by the feigned Twitter outrage below:

Untitled-1
– Only Commies would dare to employ chefs capable of offering nine pies on a menu! For reference, I’d like to know how many pies is synonymous with freedom loving Patriots?

11
– Actually, he might be on to something. Massive war expenditure, and the wealthiest in society choosing not to pay taxes, whilst the most vulnerable are left to suffer? Sounds much like 1789, and the entirety of the Bush White House years. A corporate Versailles.

10

2

3

4
– The over dramatic whinge, we’ve all become so accustomed to hearing from the Tea Party Right.

5
– I don’t think this guy can go any better than this tweet. ‘Lying Pig’ is surely enough?

5b
– Arrogant! of course! AND RANDOM capitalised WORDS for dramatic EFFECT!

8
– What this means to say is, one per GOP-invented, reigned outrage, non-scandal.

9
– YEA…. wait, what?

6
– I believe Trotsky himself insisted that the proletariat could only be victorious in the great class struggle, if they had a menu with more than eight pies on it.

7
– Well, she did make it up a little bit. They had nine on the menu. They didn’t eat nine. They had a choice. Apparently the White House have chefs that are capable of offering several different dishes!

A restaurant I visited recently, had twelve desserts on the menu. It’s a small restaurant, and not once did I consider twelve desserts to be a clear symbol of communism in the UK. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe freedom lovers are fine paying for President Bush’s countless trips to the golf course, but should not be fine with any more than maybe five desserts, six at most on the White House Thanksgiving menu. Perhaps employing chefs willing to cook more than eight pies, is the very epitome of socialism. I have a lot to learn about this freedom loving thing.


The United States House of Wall Street.

November 25, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Andrés Nieto Porras.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Andrés Nieto Porras.

An interesting vote took place in the House of Representatives at the beginning of this month. A vote completely overshadowed by constant Republican tantrums over the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. A vote that has potentially serious consequences in the future.

The Wall Street Reform Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank) included Section 716, which ensured that banks insured Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, move their ‘swaps’ (a certain derivative) into non-bank arms of the business that aren’t insured by FDIC; not eligible for bail out funds. It ensured protection for the consumer’s savings, and ensured protection for the taxpayer, by enforcing banks to place their more risky derivative deals outside of the realm of Federal assistance.

At the end of October 2013, House Resolution 992 passed the House by 292 votes to 122. The Bill – H.R.992 – or The “Swaps Regulatory Improvement Act” – severely limits the reach of Section 716 of Dodd-Frank, ultimately striking down a key regulation that Dodd-Frank implemented back in 2010. The implication, simply put, is that incredibly risky Wall Street behaviour surrounding the dealing of derivatives could be backed by a taxpayer funded bailout – for exchanges that are not at all related to banking – if it all goes wrong again.

Despite the Treasury raising concerns about striking down such an important provision, the House – including many Democrats – voted to pass H.R.922. But why? What is the motivation? Well, one only has to look at the lobbying on this Bill to understand just how this may have come about.

Contributions to House members from interests groups who expressively support H.R.992 are rather eye watering. On the list of top contributions to House Members, Jim Himes (D-CT4) – a co-sponsor of the Bill – received $437,179 from special interests in favour. More than any other Democrat in the House. The second ranking figure in the Democrat House Leadership chain of command, Steny Hoyer (D-MD5) received $266,510 from Wall Street supporters of the Bill. The most expensive ‘Yes’ vote for Wall Street comes to us via Eric Cantor (R-VA7), who received $525,400. The main sponsor of the Bill Randy Hultgren (R-Ill) received more contributions from the Securities and Investment industry than any other industry, at $136,500.

In all, special interests supporting H.R.992 contributed 5.9 times more to House members than those groups that opposed it. Wall Street has been staggeringly influential in ensuring regulations from 2010 are struck down. Citigroup were among the contributors. Citigroup also wrote ‘recommendations’ that appeared to be reflected almost word for word in the final draft of H.R.992. The Citigroup recommendations reads:

(d) Only bona fide hedging and traditional bank activities permitted. The prohibition in subsection (a) shall apply to any covered depository institution unless the covered depository institution limits its swap or security based swap activities to:
(1) Hedging and other similar risk mitigating activities directly related to the covered depository institution’s activities.
(2) Acting as a swaps entity for swaps or security-based swaps that are structured finance swaps, unless–
(i) such structured finance swap is undertaken for hedging or risk management purposes; or
(ii) each asset-backed security underlying such structured finance is of a credit quality and of a type or category with respect to which the prudential regulators have jointly adopted rules authorizing swap or security-based swap activity by covered depository institutions.

– Unsurprisingly, given just how much money Wall Street has spent buying its Congressional support for the Bill, H.R.992 reads:

(A) Hedging and other similar risk mitigation activities.
Hedging and other similar risk mitigating activities directly related to the covered depository institution’s activities.
(B) Non-structured finance swap activities.–
Acting as a swaps entity for swaps or security-based swaps other than a structured finance swap.
(C) Certain structured finance swap activities.
Acting as a swaps entity for swaps or security-based swaps that are structured finance swaps, if–
(i) such structured finance swaps are undertaken for hedging or risk management purposes; or
(ii) each asset-backed security underlying such structured finance swaps is of a credit quality and of a type or category with respect to which the prudential regulators have jointly adopted rules authorizing swap or security-based swap activity by covered depository institutions.

– Practically word for word. In fact, according to the New York Times, 70 of the 85 lines in the Bill were penned by Citigroup. A Bill that deregulates the risky aspects of the financial industry – and spreads the risk of failure and the obscene costs of such, to the taxpayer if it all collapses again – was written by the financial industry. Welcome to the House of Wall Street.

The Bill passed the House, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs at the end of October. It is unlikely to pass the Senate, though if somehow it does, it is unlikely to be signed by the President. The White House has already registered its opposition to the Bill, though stopping short of threatening a veto. It might be worth noting that Jack Lew – current Treasury Secretary – worked as Citigroup’s Chief Operating Officer between 2006 and 2008, overseeing the Alternative Investments unit that invested in a hedge fund that had bet on the housing market to collapse.

The US is still recovering from the destruction wrought by, among others; Citigroup. In 2013, Citigroup and Wall Street have successfully managed to lobby Congress into ensuring that incredibly risky derivatives deals – that helped to cause the problems in the first place – are now fully exposed to a risk of a future bailout. This, despite the Federal Reserve reporting in 2012 that Citigroup was one of four financial institutions to fail its ‘stress test’; a test of the institutions ability to withstand another crisis like that of 2008. Also in 2012, Citigroup had to settle an investor lawsuit for $25,000,000 for allegedly misleading investors over the nature of its mortgage-backed securities. Why on earth is this institution allowed anywhere near the strings of government, to shape policy that has such far reaching implications?

Under such circumstances, Citigroup’s lobbyists must be in for a huge Christmas bonus. They’ve certainly earned it.


Painting Congress Blue 2014: Focus on Candidates VI.

October 28, 2013

justin kuhnle, indiana's 3rd congressional district, marlin stutzman, republicans, democrats, house of representatives 2014, midterms 2014, indiana

There seem to be two conflicting camps of thought on the House elections for 2014. On the one hand, 17 seats is a big majority to overturn. As noted previously, to do so would represent a post-World War II record for the President’s Party. On the other hand, history teaches us that if a Party moves too far to the left or right – as the Republicans most certainly have this year – they will be punished at the mid-terms. Support for House Republicans is at its lowest in decades, and lower than the 1998 House Republicans who lost five House seats and forced the resignation of the Speaker after self-destructively moving to the right over the Clinton/Lewinsky affair. So whilst it remains a very difficult feat in 2014, it isn’t impossible.

Indiana’s 3rd Congressional District:
The government shutdown may have provided Democrats with an opportunity to retake the House in 2014, but the battle is still to be fought uphill.

Indiana’s 3rd is currently home to Rep. Marlin Stutzman, and considered a pretty safe Republican seat for 2014. Though that needn’t be the case, if we shine a light on Stutzman’s antics as Representative.

Stutzman was right at the heart of the government shutdown, for which the public in general blame his rather nihilistic approach. When asked by the Washington Examiner about the Republican led shutdown and what demands the Republicans wanted in order to reopen government, Stutzman replied:

“We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

– So, whilst voting to ensure the US wipe out at least 0.6% growth to the tune of $24bn (more than the annual GDP of Trinidad and Tobago)…. Rep. Marlin Stutzman had absolutely no idea what it is his Party wanted to gain from such a destructive course. The American people and the people of Indiana’s 3rd were not a concern or priority for Stutzman during the shutdown, the concern was purely Party political and incredibly opportunistic.

This anti-Affordable Care Act stance from Stutzman, despite the fact that key Affordable Care Act findings for Indiana’s households show that every household income bracket, other than those earning over $250,000 a year, will be better off in five years time due to the Affordable Care Act, than under the old system.

affordable care act, affordable care act indiana, indiana's 3rd congressional district, obamacare, marlin stutzman

– It seems the only reason to so viciously oppose the ACA in Indiana, is because it works, and running an election campaign on the back of two years worth of scare tactics in order to repeal a law that benefits the majority of the citizens of Indiana, other than the very wealthy, isn’t going to impress too many voters.

Neither is the fact that whilst Stutzman expressed his desire to see SNAP cut by an eye watering $30bn over the next ten years, he was receiving farm subsidies to the tune of $998,000 since 1995. Almost $1,000,000.
Stutzman then tried to plead innocence by suggesting that the Federal government is actually forcing him to take almost $1,000,000 in subsidies that he doesn’t need:

“we can’t say no.”

– The US Department of Agriculture disagrees:

“It’s a voluntary program, You can refuse payment on the farm.”

– So, instead of working to end welfare for the wealthy – including himself – Stutzman is spending his time trying to ensure that Indiana’s residents pay more in health costs, and that the most vulnerable are hit devastatingly hard by horrifying cuts to SNAP. It is no surprise that Stutzman was absolutely fine with splitting SNAP from the farm subsidy program.

Marlin Stutzman isn’t too keen on the Constitution. Introduced by Louie Gohmert (currently worried about cross dressing Satan worshippers invading Church’s as a result of gay marriage), Marlin Stutzman co-sponsored a H.RES.211 in 2011. The Bill states:

“Expressing support for designation of the first weekend of May as Ten Commandments Weekend to recognize the significant contributions the Ten Commandments have made in shaping the principles, institutions, and national character of the United States.”

– The text of the Bill goes on to recognise:

“Whereas the sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, declared the Ten Commandments to be `laws essential to the existence of men in society, and most of which have been enacted by every nation, which ever professed any code of laws'”

– Unsurprisingly, the quote by John Quincy Adams was manipulated by the Gohmert Bill. Adams actually wrote:

“The law given from Sinai was a civil and municipal as well as a moral and religious code; it contained many statutes adapted to that time only, and to the particular circumstances of the nation to whom it was given; they could of course be binding upon them, and only upon them, until abrogated by the same authority which enacted them, as they afterward were by the Christian dispensation; but many others were of universal application — laws essential to the existence of men in society, and most of which have been enacted by every nation, which ever professed any code of laws.”

– Quite clearly, Quincy Adams was suggesting that many of the ‘laws’ of the OT including those given to Moses, were for the time in which they were given only. Gohmert’s Bill omitted that part of the quote. Strangely, the Bill doesn’t note that John Quincy’s father – the 2nd President of the United States – had written that:

“The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

– Equally as strangely, the Bill doesn’t note that the Constitution quite clearly states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..”

– And yet, here we are, in the 21st Century, witnessing far-right Republicans attempting to pass into law the establishment of one particular religion. The same far-right Republicans, who, in an apparent spirit of Christianity, vote against the reauthorisation of the Violence Against Women Act (Stutzman was the only Indiana member of Congress to vote No on reauthorising VAWA), and vote to cut Federal help for the most vulnerable.

Stutzman voted against Amendment 3 of the Back to Work Budget that would have eliminated tax loopholes, raised taxes on billionaires, brought education investment up, funded jobs programs for poorer areas, and cut defense spending to 2006 levels. Stutzman voted against all of those.

Stutzman is anti-women, anti-jobs, Theocratic, anti-education, and works to further enrich the wealthiest few. He wastes an inexplicable amount of time and effort attempting to defund an established law – a law that actually helps the people in his State – and then announces that he has no idea what his side expects out of the damage they caused.

Indiana’s 3rd Congressional District can do better.

Opposing Rep. Marlin Stutzman for Indiana’s 3rd in 2014, is Democrat challenger Justin Kuhnle. And his website makes a very bold pledge:

“If the unemployment rate of northeast Indiana on average holds at 7.25% or higher for the 13 counties represented in Indiana’s 3rd district, I will withhold accepting 50% of my salary and instead refer these wages to local community development projects.”

– In one declaration of intent, Kuhnle has made the wellbeing of the people of Indiana’s 3rd, his key concern. This is how you put the people at the front and centre of a campaign.

Whilst Stutzman is busy abusing the Constitution, and the democratic process through Theocratic ventures, and government shutdown… Kuhnle is promising to fight for the fundamentals of a market democracy; education, and collective bargaining. On education, Kuhnle says:

” To be successful, we need to invest in our children’s future and invest in our teachers that given their all day in and day out. We need to invest in our education system and the teachers that have dedicated their lives to educating our children. Too often they end up being the scapegoat for what is wrong in education, when it’s the politicians and corporate greed that are to blame. As an elected politician, I will devote all my energy to give our children and parents the choices they deserve to give our next generations of children the fighting chances that they deserve as well as skills necessary to compete on a local and global scale without doing any further cutting to education’s already thinned budget.”

– Kuhnle rightly notes that state funded education, is the most important investment a generation can make in the future. Education is a key ingredient in lifting people from poverty, and providing them with the critical faculties a democracy requires. It seems that whilst Republicans work to reduce spending on education (currently stands at 6% of the Federal Budget, whilst Defense spending stands at a staggering 57%), Kuhnle notices just how important it is to invest in the future of the United States; its children.

Kuhnle also neatly summarises the failings of a fundamentalist approach to free market economics, by stating exactly whose side he stands on:

“I will stand with our workers, both unionized and independent, to ensure that their rights of working a living wage, a safe working environment that is not just physically safe but mentally and emotionally safe, and productivity standards are not skewed to extremes that put workers at a disadvantage.”

– He isn’t dedicated to those earning over $250,000 a year – like Stutzman is seemingly dedicated to – Kuhnle is promising the huge task of working to rectify the deficiencies of the system. The increasing cost of living, the erosion of worker rights, a lack of consideration for those suffering psychologically, and safety in the workplace.

Kuhnle is right to point out that low wages are an issue for Indiana, that Stutzman is failing miserably to address whilst busy trying to defund a healthcare law that actually lower living costs for families in his own district. Kuhnle notes:

“To grow our families stronger, we need to focus on increasing the opportunities of earning a living wages”.

– Kuhnle appears to be more in-tune with real people, and their real concerns about education, fairness in the workplace, and healthcare costs, than his Republican counterpart. The Indiana Institute for Working Families echoes Kuhnle’s concerns:

“Given the new economic reality that families across Indiana face, including stagnating wages and the increasing costs of supporting a family, targeted work supports are more important than ever.”

– Indeed, only Democrats have so far co-sponsored the ‘Fair Minimum Wage Act’. Whilst Kuhnle appears ready to govern for Indiana, Stutzman appears to me to be a Tea Party opportunist whose concern is not for his district, but for his ideology. If the people of Indiana want a Congress that works, it is useless to elect a candidate whose ideology is more important to him than they are. It is useless to elect a candidate who will throw a stick into the wheels of government unless that government does exactly as his small group of extremists demand. Indiana’s 3rd can do far better than that.

It will be a tough campaign for Kuhnle, but it is most certainly possible. He is a much needed voice in Congress. Click here if you wish to help the Kuhnle campaign, and help to paint Congress blue in 2014.

Vote Justin Kuhnle for Indiana’s 3rd Congressional District in 2014.

See here for FD’s focus on Florida’s 2nd, and Illinois’ 13th Congressional Districts.
See here for FD’s focus on West Virginia’s 2nd, and Colorado’s 6th Congressional Districts.
See here for FD’s focus on California’s 1st, and California’s 25th Congressional Districts.
See here for FD’s focus on Wisconsin’s 5th Congressional District.
See here for FD’s focus on Florida’s 19th Congressional District.


Stimulus: GOP Letters of Hypocrisy.

October 22, 2013

The Republican hypocrisy machine has been in full swing for quite some time. For the past forty years, it has been Republicans pushing for employer and individual health insurance mandates. Just nine years ago, anti-universal healthcare Republicans were proclaiming the necessity if a US funded universal healthcare system in Iraq. Just three years ago, House Republicans were expressing their staunch opposition to attaching legislative vehicles to Continuing Resolutions. It would also seem that four years after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed, Republicans are still highlighting their “No” votes, as a sure sign of their fiscal responsibility, and evidence for the President’s ‘socialist’ credentials.

With 2014 fast approaching the GOP talking point appears to be “getting spending under control” insisting that only Republicans can achieve a fiscally responsible future. And so the hypocrisy machine is back in full swing.

Congressman Pat Tiberi of Ohio’s 12th District was a vocal critic of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009. The entire idea of stimulus angered him to his very core. He announced that:

“it’s loaded with Nancy Pelosi’s grab bag of big spending wishes.”

“What the Democratic Stimulus does include is unprecedented, record-breaking spending that saddles future generations with mountains of debt. Americans deserve better.”

– In public, Tiberi was so incredibly angry with the stimulus package put forward in early 2009, that by September 2009 in private, he signed a letter of support for the TIGER programme built into the stimulus package for a Federal grant for his district, with which he notes would:

“…not only continue the ongoing economic development in the region, but enhance mobility and liveability in the communities in and around Columbus…”

“… enhance economic competitiveness in the region…”

– The grovelling letter continues in that tone for another few paragraphs. But don’t take my word for, here is the final paragraph, and the Congressman’s signature, to see for yourself:

Untitled-1

Rep. Tiberi is of course not the only one. Here is a brief summary of before-stimulus, and after-stimulus GOP statements:

Rep Gus Bilirakis (R-FL 12th) called the stimulus the worst bill he’d ever voted against, adding:

“Congressional Democrats have produced a bill that does nothing to aid small businesses and will not spur economic growth according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.”

– In September 2009, Bilirakis penned this letter:

Gus Bilirakis, stimulus, 2009, obama, republicans, gop hypocrisy, usa economy
– In less than a year, Bilirakis went from publicly insisting that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act would not spur economic growth, to producing a letter insisting that stimulus funds to his district would spur economic growth.

The ex-Representative for Ohio’s 7th district, Steve Austria blamed Franklin Roosevelt – elected in 1933 – for the Great Depression – began in 1929 – and used this as a reason why he voted No on stimulus, stating:

“When Roosevelt did this, he put our country into a Great Depression. He tried to borrow and spend, he tried to use the Keynesian approach, and our country ended up in a Great Depression. That’s just history.”

– Given how catastrophic (and wrong) Steve Austria believes a Keynesian approach to economic struggle would be for the US, it seems odd that he’d become a part of that predicted catastrophe, by suggesting the opposite is true:

steve austria, gop hypocrisy, stimulus 2009, obama stimulus
– Interestingly the “Republican Liberty Caucus” voted Austria 84% for his support of what they see as economic liberty. An 84% economic liberty rating, despite Austria begging for stimulus funds that the “Republican Liberty Caucus”, in 2009, deemed to be:

“Marxist stimulus”

– I guess that would make Steve Austria 16% Marxist.

On July 28th 2009, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA’s 1st) spent his time in the House Chamber asking:

“Mr. President, where’s the stimulus package? Where are the jobs? […] Mr. Speaker, this is not the change the folks in Coffee County, Georgia, can use. They need jobs.”

– On the same July 28th 2008, the same Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA’s 1st) sent out two Press Releases taking credit for almost $250,000 worth of stimulus money toward hiring new police officers and combating violence against women, and internet crime involving children:

“We’ve seen from experience that local initiatives go a lot further toward solving local problems that policies set in Washington. This funding will provide tax relief by savings local tax dollars and, under the stewardship of Chief Livingston, will go a long way to fight crime more effectively through community policing.”

– What he means by “local initiatives” is “the Bill I am currently shouting down in the House”. Not only that, but less than two months later, the same Jack Kingston was back again, asking for even more stimulus money. According to a Press Release on his own website:

Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA/01) announced today that the City of Savannah is the recipient of a series of grants from U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The city will receive a community development block grant (CDBG), an emergency shelter grant (ESG) and a HOME grant to support affordable housing.

“This series of funding is essential in helping the city strengthen its low-income communities” Congressman Kingston said. “The money enables the city to give continued support to the agencies in the area that support that mission which is even more important during this tough economic period.”

– Needless to say, the Press Releases does not mention that this package comes almost entirely from the stimulus package he spent July insisting wouldn’t work, wouldn’t create jobs, and wouldn’t help the people of Georgia at all. But Kingston was finished there. After claiming credit for stimulus funds directly benefiting his constituency whilst simultaneously fighting against stimulus, he also penned this letter demanding more:

jack kingston, stimulus 2009, president obama stimulus, gop hypocrisy

It would appear that as long as you keep up the bravado of being anti-government, anti-spending, fiscally responsible to a conservative audience who are under the odd impression that the President is some sort of reincarnation of Joseph Stalin, you can simultaneously be as pro-government, pro-spending as you wish in private in the hope of taking credit for the outcome of that spending. Your district can then be shown to be job and wealth creating during difficult economic periods, whilst maintaining an anti-government spending mask, rather than telling those who benefitted from the created jobs that you fought to make sure it couldn’t happen in the first place. It is an unjustifiable, insincere rhetorical device and grave hypocrisy.


The Republican Party: Dreams of the Confederacy.

October 15, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: By Donald Lee Pardue (Flickr: Still Waving).

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: By Donald Lee Pardue (Flickr: Still Waving).

Conservatives are out in force on social media this week after a Tea Party protest included protestors waving Confederate flags at the White House of the first African American President. The conservative response has typically taken two directions; either the suggestion that the man with the flag was planted by a devious Democrat Party in an attempt to undermine the Tea Party and paint them as racist…. or that it is just one man who does not represent the Tea Party in general. Both presuppose that this is an anomaly. It isn’t.

In June this year, Rand Paul – potential Presidential candidate for 2016 – had to fire the co-author of his book, and his 2012 campaign blogger Jack Hunter, after Hunter penned an article with the by-line “Abraham Hitler“, in which he compares the Lincoln Presidency to the Third Reich. In it, Hunter neatly rewrites history to make the Confederacy seem freedom loving, State’s rights protecting heroes with a goal to be proud of:

“Dissuading the South from seceding by promising to protect slavery didn’t work, because the issue was secondary to the primary issue of constitutional government and states’ rights.”

– This is simply untrue. The Southern States seceded, because of the issue of slavery. There is no other way to spin it without completely disregarding the actual history itself. Any other ’cause’ was simply a device to win over more moderate forces. We know this, because Mississippi’s Declaration of Secession states:

“Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world … a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”

Perhaps most tellingly of all, is the Confederate Constitution. Section 9 of which states:

“(4) No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.”

– This shows how little the Confederacy cared about State’s Rights. The State’s have no right to abolish Slavery. No individual State can pass a law impairing the right of property in slaves. The Confederate Federal Government did not care for State’s Rights. They cared only about maintaining and spreading African American slavery.

Hunter isn’t the first to express sympathy for the Confederate cause. In 2009 – and only a month after the inauguration of the United States’ first African American President, Rep. Bryan Stevenson (R) of the Missouri State House said in reference to the Freedom of Choice Act:

“What we are dealing with today is the greatest power grab by the federal government since the war of northern aggression”.

– Yes, a Unite States, State Representative genuinely referred to the war that ended the hideous institution of owning human beings as slaves, as ‘northern aggression’.

Four years later, House Republican for Texas’s 36th District, Steve Stockman invited Ted Nugent to the 2013 State of the Union, noting in a press release:

“I am excited to have a Patriot like Ted Nugent joining me in the House Chamber to hear from President Obama.”

– We should perhaps then examine just what credentials Republican House Representative Steve Stockman believes a ‘Patriot’ must have. In 2012, the ‘Patriot’ Ted Nugent said of anyone that supports President Obama:

“Pimps whores & welfare brats & their soulless supporters have a president to destroy America.”

In a 1995 interview, the ‘Patriot’ Ted Nugent said:

“I’m on top of a real America with working hard, playing hard, white motherfucking shit kickers, who are independent and get up in the morning.”

– In the same interview, when asked why he specifically mentions white people, and if he believe African Americans are equally hard working and independent, the ‘Patriot’ Ted Nugent responded:

“Show me one.”

In 2012, the ‘Patriot’ Ted Nugent told us all just how much he adores the United States, in the Washington Times:

“I’m beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War.”

In 2000, during controversy over the displaying of the Confederate flag at the South Carolina State House, Nugent said that those objecting:

“Can take the flag down, but I am going to wear it forever.”

– A “Patriot” to Tea Party Confederates & Republicans like Steve Stockman, wave Confederate flags, wishes the South had won the Civil War (thus upholding slavery), believes African Americans are not hard working, that only white people are true Americans, and anyone who votes Democrat is a “whore” and “Welfare brat”. Sentiments like that spewed by Nugent are not condemned by Republicans as completely unacceptable, offensive, vile, and entirely contrary to the American sense of justice and liberty; but are instead treated with either complete indifference, or promoted as the words of a Patriot.

On January 22nd 2013, whilst Sen. Henry Marsh (D) – a veteran of the Civil Rights era – was attending President Obama’s inauguration, Senate Republicans in the 20-20 split Virginia Senate sneaked through a redistricting bill essentially ensuring a Republican Senate in 2015. Republicans in the Senate went even further that day. Not only did they manipulate the absence of a civil rights veteran to ensure a majority in 2015… they called a halt to the day’s proceedings with the following announcement in the minutes of the day:

“On motion of Senator Stosch, the Senate adjourned in memory or [sic] General Thomas J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson at 4:10 p.m. to convene Tuesday, January 22, 2013”

– They called a halt to proceedings not because the President had just been re-inaugurated a day before, but instead to honour a Confederate general. Furthermore, Senator Henry Marsh was a lawyer during the Civil Rights days. His law practice focused on civil rights cases. At the same time, Virginia’s Republican Senators were organising resistance to desegregation. That was the 1960s. In 2013, the children of those Republicans use his absence to advance their cause, and pay their respects to a Confederate general. Times change, attitudes and sentiment apparently don’t.

The spectre of the Confederacy follows the 21st Century Republican Party everywhere they go. The Tea Party Confederates aren’t just one man outside the White House waving a flag, it is a growing number of Party members in general, with an apparent air of Confederate nostalgia attaching itself to everything they do and everything they say. A man outside of the White House waving a flag, is simply a drop in the ocean of the thoughts, words, and actions of the Tea Party dream of Confederacy.


The Throne of King Cantor: How House Republicans changed the rules.

October 11, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Mjw23.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Mjw23.

It seems democracy isn’t an obstacle, the Constitution isn’t an obstacle, the judiciary isn’t an obstacle, and now House rules aren’t an obstacle to the Tea Party juggernaut steaming its way across the American political landscape, flattening everything its path.

As we’re all aware, the Bill for a Continuing Resolution complete with defunding Obamacare attached to it passed the House, and was subsequently rejected by the Senate, thus ending up back at the House on the evening of September 30th. At this point, under House procedures, any member of the House can bring forward a vote on the Senate’s amended Bill in order to end the impasse:

“When the stage of disagreement has been reached on a bill or resolution with House or Senate amendments, a motion to dispose of any amendment shall be privileged.”

– This exists to prevent the minority extorting the majority with threat of shutdown, for policy they weren’t able to achieve through regular democratic process.

But that rule was soon to change. Late on September 30th – with only two hours remaining until the government shut down began – an Amendment was quickly passed – H.J. Res. 59: Continuing Appropriations Resolution – by House Republicans, to the procedural rules of the House. The Amendment ensures:

“Section 2 of the rule provides that any motion pursuant to clause 4 of rule XXII relating to H.J. Res. 59 may be offered only by the majority Leader or his designee.”

– Meaning that the only person who can now bring a vote to the House floor on a clean resolution during an impasse in Congress, is Eric Cantor. Eric Cantor has assumed powers traditionally assigned to all members of the House. They have all lost a right that has guaranteed to them, and transferred to the Republican Minority Leader. This not only disenfranchises House Democrats, it does so for moderate House Republicans too. It is as if Tea Party House Republicans have voted to bestow ’emergency’ powers on the Majority leader, to ensure continued shutdown.

When pressed on this in the House by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD 8th District), the Speaker pro tempore didn’t seem to want to answer:

Van Hollen: “Mr. Speaker, under the regular order of the House, would any Member of the House, including myself, be able to call up a motion to immediately send the CR to fund the government to the President of the United States, to immediately call up and have a vote on that?”
Speaker: “The Chair will not respond to a hypothetical.”

Van Hollen: “Mr. Speaker, the rule that has now been placed over the House in substitute for the standing rules of the House gives only the majority leader or his designee the ability to move up and ask for a vote on the clean Senate bill that would go to the White House; is that correct?
Speaker: “The Chair will not respond to a political characterization and will state again: Under section 2 of House Resolution 368, that motion may be offered only by the majority leader or his designee.”

Van Hollen: “Mr. Speaker, it seems pretty clear that we have taken the normal rules of the House, Mr. Speaker, and substitute in its place a provision that says, ‘only the Republican leader can make a decision’…”
Speaker: “The gentleman has not stated a proper parliamentary inquiry.”

– Van Hollen is quite right, House Republicans have wilfully rigged House rules to prevent anyone from opening the government, other than the Majority Leader. House Republicans have vested more power over the running of the US Government in Eric Cantor, than the President, the public, the entire legislature, and the judiciary.

So, since 2010 Republicans have been beating the drum of shutdown to win major policy concessions that they were not able to win electorally. Since early 2013 at the very least, a memo circulates from Freedom Works, signed by major Tea Party donors that reads:

“Conservatives should not approve a CR unless it defunds Obamacare. This includes Obamacare’s unworkable exchanges, unsustainable Medicaid expansion, and attack on life and religious liberty.”

– And when that plot was doomed to fail due to the lack of moderate Republican support in the House for such a dangerous tactic, the extreme wing of the Republican Party resorted to changing the rules of the democracy that they live, in order to force a shutdown that would have been prevented under regular House rules.

It is quite horrifying the lengths the far right of the Republican Party are willing to go to circumvent the democratic process when it provides results that they don’t like. For Republicans, the American people, the ballot box, and the law of the land, are simply obstacles that the Elephant has every right to trample.


Obamacare: The new myths in town!

October 10, 2013

Understanding the Affordable Care Act

As it slowly becomes evident that death panels – with President Obama dressed as the grim reaper in a Che Guevara t-shirt – just aren’t going to happen; as it slowly becomes clear that there will be no ‘forced home inspections’; when all evidence points to full time work not at all destroyed in socialist flames by the Affordable Care Act… then it becomes predictable that new myths begin to take shape. New poorly constructed, desperate myths that nonetheless go unanswered attach themselves to the general ‘understanding’ of the Affordable Care Act, and so are given time to fester in the collective mind of the United States. There are two new myths in particular that are so easy to discredit, that this will likely be my shortest article in a very long time.

Healthcare.gov costs the taxpayer $634mn!!
One new myth that has sprung up and instantly perpetuated by Tea Party writers this week, is that Healthcare.gov has cost $634 million to build. $634,320,919 to be exact. In fact, it’s been reported by news agencies around the World. News Max reported it as fact. The Daily Mail here in the UK reported it, and the story also appears on the ironically named “Examiner”. If they’d have lived up to their name, they’d soon realise that the story is in fact, false.

According to usaspending, the figure of $634,320,919 to CGI, Inc, was paid over a period of five years – between 2008 and 2013 – for 114 different transactions. One of those contracts was Healthcare.gov worth $93.7 million when originally won. There is no mention on whether the cost was over or under budget on that one transaction. But the fact remains, Healthcare.gov did not cost $634,320,919.

The Tea Party website referenced above perhaps gives us a glimpse of just why they’re beginning to invent new rumours, backed by weak research, in order to undermine a law that – coupled with the shutdown and an ever decreasing Republican polling number (they are now polling 1% lower than the percentage of Americans who believe in Bigfoot) – could very well lead to a Democrat House elected in 2014. It is desperation:

“Unlike some Americans, I actually want the Obamacare exchanges to succeed. I’ve given the state-specific options a try (there are 15 of them, including Washington D.C.’s) and they seem to greatly simplify the process of buying healthcare. And the rates do appear to come in far lower than what many people without health insurance from an employer have had to bear until now. It’s not government-run healthcare. There are no death panels. And, from what I can tell, the world will not end if more people have health insurance – quite the opposite, in fact.
What I cannot stand is a nation that has vast technological resources in its citizenry spending $600 million of our collective money to slap together a product that, thus far, has only managed to waste people’s precious minutes.”

– Here, they admit that under the Affordable Care Act rates are far lower, it isn’t government-run, there are no death panels, and it is working to help people. All of a sudden, they’re fine with all of that, and they laugh the myths off as almost whimsical (despite spending three years insisting that those Obamacare myths would burn America to the ground), but now it’s the cost of the website that they’re truly opposed to, having spent….. no time whatsoever concerned about it until yesterday.

Less than 10 people have signed up for Obamacare!
Yesterday, Buck McKeon (R-CALIF) told CNN that he’d heard rumours (always good to be thorough in your research) that fewer than 10 people had signed up for Obamacare. He’d read it somewhere. And so on that basis, he thought he’d tell the entire Nation, regardless of how true that claim was. Predictably, much like the Healthcare.gov cost rumour, this one is also completely false.

As of Wednesday, Kentucky, Maryland and Washington State released data showing that over 16,000 had so far signed up. Connecticut has 1,426 applications, New York officials report 40,000 have signed up. 16,311 had completed applications, and another 27,305 have partially completed applications in McKeon’s own state of California.

In fact, Washington State, despite having a lot of glitches on roll out day for its Washington Health Plan Finder marketplace, the state had 9,452 sign up rather quickly, with a further 10,497 submitted applications but not yet enrolled. 20,000 in less than a week.

Now, maths has never been a particularly strong point of mine, but I am quite sure, after conducting lengthy sums, that we can conclude that more than 9 people have signed up on the healthcare exchanges so far. And they still have five months and three weeks to sign up. Republicans appears to be shocked that 30,000,000 didn’t all sign up on day one. It’s an odd planet they inhabit.

So you see, whenever a new Obamacare myth surfaces, instantly posted on ‘reputable’ media outlets, and is left unchallenged, it grows misplaced anger and fear which inevitably leads to genuine concern among certain sections of the US population who simply do not see any reason to doubt six or seven media outlets seemingly confirming what their Representatives are saying, and suddenly, Ted Cruz is elected and the government is shut down. It stems entirely, from misrepresentations and completely invented logic. The shutdown is therefore a product of misplaced fear, constructed by a constant stream of right winged opportunists. And with polls showing a Republican slide into oblivion, there is only one thing to say: Congratulations GOP… you built that.


The Tea Party: In the shadow on the Confederacy.

October 10, 2013

The Signing of the Constitution. By Thomas Rossiter.

The Signing of the Constitution. By Thomas Rossiter.

As the days turn into weeks, the US shutdown edges no closer to being resolved. Polls consistently show that the public believe the Republican Party shoulders most of the blame for the chaos and the threat of default. Moderate Republicans join the growing chorus of disapproval of the shutdown and takeover by a small fringe group of well funded Tea Party Senators and House members. But it isn’t just the public, Democrats, the President, the courts, and moderate Republicans who blame the Tea Party faction for the shutdown, the Tea Party doesn’t seem to have the Constitution on its side either.

The Constitution of the United States is a work of genius. Largely influenced by James Madison’s brilliance for applying enlightenment philosophy to practical politics, and moderating the thoughts of Jefferson (who wished for the Constitution and all laws to be replaced every ‘generation’; 35 years) and the ideas of Hamilton (who pushed for a President elected for life); the Constitution ensures the minority cannot and should not be allowed to dictate policy on threat of economic or political catastrophe. The delegates to the Constitutional convention knew that the Constitution must be adaptable to the progress of US society beyond their own lifetime, and so amendments were the answer. The Founding generation – though they knew the threat loomed heavily – could not have accounted for the Constitutional issues that would arise when a Civil War eventually proved the biggest threat to the Union. One of which, was the debt.

The Fourteenth Amendment is one of those Constitutional Amendments that isn’t ambiguous. There isn’t much room for discussion or debate over its legitimate meaning. Section 4:

“The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

– The validity of public debt shall not be questioned. The Amendment was passed in 1868, as a result of political wrangling in a Congress worried that the public debt would be used as a weapon by southern States for reconstruction concessions in social and economic spheres of influence. The 14th Amendment put a stop to that threat. The South reacted bitterly to all of the 14th’s provisions (including section 4), refusing to ratify it. They wished to use the threat of the debt, to force the US government to bend to their will, despite losing an election, and a war. The South was eventually forced to sign up, with threat of exclusion from representation in the United States Congress, if they refused. The 14th Amendment was an attempt to prevent the minority – and those who lose elections – from seeking to rule on their own terms. And it worked, until today.

It would appear with the threat of default looming on the horizon, the Republican Party has decided that the wording of the 14th is not clear enough, choosing instead to openly and proudly use the public debt as a weapon to extract concessions that they didn’t manage to win through the electoral process. It took over 140 years, but we cannot be under any illusion; as they move further to the right, the Republicans have spent the past few years channelling the spirit of the Confederacy when it comes to voter suppression, when it comes to subtle hints at secession upon the election of a candidate they didn’t like, and now in seeking to use the debt ceiling as a way to defund and delay an established, Constitutional law.

On the validity of the 14th Amendment, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes wrote in 1935:

“While this provision was undoubtedly inspired by the desire to put beyond question the obligations of the government issued during the Civil War, its language indicates a broader connotation. Nor can we perceive any reason for not considering the expression ‘the validity of the public debt’ as embracing whatever concerns the integrity of the public obligations.”

– It is all embracing. It isn’t questionable. It should not be used as a tool for partisan point scoring.

Section 5 of the 14th Amendment tells us exactly which branch of government is in charge of ensuring the 14th Amendment is carried through:

“The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”

– It is Congress’s job to ensure that the validity of the public debt of the United States is not questioned. The historical context of the Amendment is such, that the Amendment was specifically designed to prevent the threat of default unless concessions are met. This isn’t new money the President is asking for, it is money already spent, debts already incurred. It is House Republicans refusing to pay the bills unless they get what they want. And whilst Speaker Boehner is right in that the debt ceiling has been used by both parties as a bargaining chip before, it has never been used to threaten closure of government and default on debts.

The President has no power to invoke the 14th Amendment to unilaterally incur and pay the US’s debts. The constitutional crisis caused by such a move by the President, may well prove to be more damaging than the threat of default itself. The President has been clear; the 14th Amendment does not allow him the power to raise the debt ceiling himself.

To this end, the Republicans know just how dangerous the course they have chosen is. This isn’t a negotiation. This is a threat of force. In 2011 Standard & Poor’s Credit Rating Agency issued the following statement:

“Since we revised the outlook on our ‘AAA’ long-term rating to negative from stable on April 18, 2011, the political debate about the U.S.’ fiscal stance and the related issue of the U.S. government debt ceiling has, in our view, only become more entangled. Despite months of negotiations, the two sides remain at odds on fundamental fiscal policy issues. Consequently, we believe there is an increasing risk of a substantial policy stalemate enduring beyond any near-term agreement to raise the debt ceiling. As a consequence, we now believe that we could lower our ratings on the U.S. within three months.”

– They are quite clear. The debt itself is not what will lead ratings agencies to lower the US’s Credit Rating. It is the politics of the debt ceiling and continued threat of political instability. This instability is driven by a small group of highly financed Republicans, distrusted and disliked not just by the American people and the Democrat Party, but also by their own colleagues. Whilst this is true, the instability is also the product of a lack of clarity on just which branch of government is responsible for ensuring payment of public debt, and if it is constitutional to use the payment of the public debt as political leverage. It is quite clear that the Republicans are using that lack of clarity for political posturing and to circumnavigate the democratic process that didn’t go the way they wanted. If this isn’t the use of force to extract concessions and hinder the stability of Constitutional, democratic government, the entire economy, and the will of the people in the United States, I don’t know what is. In theory, a law exists to deal with that threat:

18 USC Chapter 115 – TREASON, SEDITION, AND SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITIES:
“If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.”

– There are several reasons here why I would argue that the Republicans in Congress have already openly played loose with this law. Firstly, the use of the tactic of closing down the government, by attempting to hinder, and delay the execution of the Affordable Care Act – a law passed by Congress, signed by the President, and upheld by the Supreme Court. Secondly, by attempting to prevent, hinder, or delay the payment of debts that the 14th Amendment insists shall not be questioned, and shall be enforced by Congress. And thirdly, the word “conspire” is key, especially given the months of planning that this shutdown has seemingly involved. The legal framework of the United States has been completely disregarded by a very small fringe right-winged movement that cannot abide elections that they did not win, and constitutional laws that they do not like.

Whether or not the Republican Party has broken, or cleverly maneuvered its way around Federal laws, is up for debate. The period of reconstruction attempted to set straight the Southern treat of using the debt as a bargaining chip, with the 14th Amendment. Today that democratic idea is being challenged by the children of the Confederacy. Reason dictates that if a small band of fringe Congressional representatives are able to close down the government, threaten economic disaster, unless a concession is made to defund or delay a law that the American people largely voted on in 2012, that was passed by Congress, signed by the President, and upheld by the Judiciary – all three branches of government – then something is seriously wrong with a democratic framework that allows for such a vicious tactic.


The US Government Shutdown: A coup in all but name.

October 9, 2013

Closed Lincoln Memorial. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: By Emw (Own work).

Closed Lincoln Memorial.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: By Emw (Own work).


“I hope we shall crush… in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”
– Thomas Jefferson.

In an interview on ‘Face The Nation’ with Republican Senator for Texas John Cornyn, host Bob Schieffer asked:

“How is it that you wind up with a freshman Senator, who’s been in office less than a year, becomes the architect of this thing that has the two sides so gridlocked that nobody seems to know a way out of it? How did that happen?”

– Whilst it’s a fair question, it makes one critical mistake. Senator Cruz wasn’t the architect of the shutdown. Of course one freshman Senator doesn’t have the power or influence to shut down and gridlock the entire US government. But his wealthy contributors and backers certainly do.

When President Obama was reelected in 2012, democracy had spoken. A government of the people, for the people, and by the people had been chosen, with Obamacare a key policy in the minds of voters as they had their rightful say in voting booths across the country. Recently, Republican Senator John McCain accepted and reiterated this:

“We fought as hard as we could in a fair and honest manner and we lost. One of the reasons was because we were in the minority, and in democracies, almost always the majority governs and passes legislation.”

– But notoriously, democracy and people are never equipped to be able to compete with vast amounts of money from very wealthy backers. Knowing this, “Freedom Works”, a major donor to the ‘Freedom Works For America’ super pac and affiliated with the Koch empire produced a memo on a strategy to disregard the democratic process, and defund the Affordable Care Act by any means necessary. The memo read:


“Conservatives should not approve a CR unless it defunds Obamacare. This includes Obamacare’s unworkable exchanges, unsustainable Medicaid expansion, and attack on life and religious liberty.”

– The memo goes on to suggest strategy (identical to the tactics used during this shutdown):

“A mere “date-change CR” is unacceptable. Although the Obama administration and others will argue the CR is not the appropriate legislative vehicle to defund Obamacare, it is easily done through a series of appropriation riders. Because the CR represents one of the best vehicles possible to delay the implementation of Obamacare, it must not be used to bargain on the upcoming sequester.”

– This was shortly after President Obama’s re-election. The plan was always to use the threat of government shutdown, to defund a law that had just been ratified by the American people via an election, for the sake of the policy of one organisation rather than the votes of millions of American people. There was to be no backing down. The authority of the voting public and the Supreme Court of the United States were to be overridden. Democracy hadn’t worked for them, so they produced a solution to completely disregard the democratic process. For this sickening, entirely anti-democratic goal, they needed a candidate. Well, during the 2011 primary for the Texas Senate race, Freedom Works said:

“After evaluating the candidates in this race, we believe that Ted Cruz will best serve the interests of hardworking Texas taxpayers by advocating the principles of lower taxes, less government and more individual freedom”

– They chose a candidate likely to run at the White House in 2016. One of “Freedom Works For America’s” main financers is Crow Holdings, LLC. Crow Holdings has contributed $20,000 to Senator Cruz so far for 2014. This, on top of the $25,000 from Koch industries. One of the those who signed the Freedom Works memo above was Chris Chocola, President of “Club for Growth”. “Club for Growth” has contributed the most of all Cruz’s campaign contributors at a staggering $705,657. Another signee was David Bossie, President of Citizen’s United. Citizen’s United have so far contributed $15,000 to Cruz.

Of course, it helps that alongside campaign finance, those wealthy backers can afford to produce widespread and misleading ads in order to convince people to vote for their bought candidate. Generation Opportunity is a legally “nonpartisan” organisation funded by the Koch brothers, that produced the despicably misleading ‘creepy Uncle Sam’ anti-Obamacare ads in which Uncle Sam pops up between a woman’s legs during a gynecological exam. On a related side note… Ted Cruz voted no on reauthorising the Violence Against Women Act.

So if you were wondering what constituency Ted Cruz is in the Senate to represent…it isn’t a ‘grass roots movement’, it’s the extremely wealthy Freedom Works For America & associates. Big business bought their candidate at the primary stage of the Texas Senate race, a candidate willing to do the bidding of ‘Freedom Works For America’ and its associates; a candidate who would not worry about the Speaker of his own Party; a candidate willing to disregard the will of the American people, and represent good value for money by ensuring that he use the CR to infect the entire country with the policy of a very small fringe movement.

Polls across America show that the public blame the Republicans for the government shutdown, far more than they blame Senate Democrats & President Obama. And that reflects reality. It is difficult to blame any group other than the Republican Party, when even Republicans blame their own Party for the shutdown. Fox News analyst Dick Morris before the shutdown joyfully insisted:

“Now there’s gonna be, there’s going to be a government shutdown, just like in ’95 and ’96 but we’re going to win it this time!”

– The same Dick Morris that predicted a landslide Romney Presidential win in 2012 appears not to have noticed that the prediction he made, was so wildly off mark. On his website, he acknowledges that Speaker Boehner is the one who is responsible for the continued shutdown. Morris says:

“The dye is now cast. The battle lines are drawn. Boehner has refused to reopen the government or raise the debt limit without concessions from Obama. What began as a foolish government shutdown to try to end ObamaCare is now morphing into a serious, and likely successful, attempt to rein in the ObamaCare cost, cut government entitlements, and hold the line on taxes.
Finally, the Republicans in the House have gotten it right.
They deserve our full support.”

– Yes. The Republicans have chosen to disregard the legislative process, and the public’s rejection of their 2012 platform, by just choosing to pretend 2012 didn’t happen, and relying on candidates wholly owned by big business. Dick Morris fully acknowledges that there would be a forced GOP shutdown, and that Speaker Boehner is the one who could end it.

In 2010 – three years ago – Senator Mike Lee of Utah was asked if he would endorse a government shutdown over the debt limit. Lee replied:

“It’s an inconvenience, it would be frustrating to many, many people and it’s not a great thing, and yet at the same time, it’s not something that we can rule out, it may be absolutely necessary.”

– This is how very wealthy members of Tea Party sect of the Republican Party view a shut down. As simply an ‘inconvenience’ for those furloughed. Here, Lee accepts responsibility for the government shutdown that is happening right now, three years ago.

New York Republican Rep. Peter King has been a vocal opponent of his Republican colleagues shut down tactic. A day after a House Republican private strategy meeting, King appeared on MSNBCs Hardball and said:

“This was a fool’s errand that was started by Ted Cruz. But we can’t just blame him. We have to also blame his acolytes in the Republican Conference—30 or 40 of them who stood with him, who were willing to undo what John Boehner wanted to do, which was to pass the CR, move this along. They insisted on going this route of attempting to defund Obamacare and threatening to shut down the government if it wasn’t done, we got locked into this. Let me just say we are where we are, and I blame Ted Cruz and his supporters for doing that.”

– King’s point here has two important features. Firstly, Ted Cruz and a small group of Tea Partiers are entirely to blame for the government shutdown. Secondly, Speaker Boehner didn’t plan on taking this route. Which suggests, he is now just a puppet on a Tea Party string. The Republican Party is in the midst of a civil war.

King is adamant that there are a lot of moderate Republicans willing to vote on a clean CR, and who oppose the Cruz tactic bought by the Koch Empire. 21 House Republicans so far. But most aren’t willing to go public with how they disapprove of the Koch-led tactics to bring government to a close, for the simple reason that they will get primaried. They are willing to admit it too. Greg Walden (R-OR) said:

“We have to do this because of the Tea Party. If we don’t, these guys are going to get primaried and they are going to lose their primary.”

– And he’s right. It isn’t just the President, Democrats, and the American people in general under attack at the moment. It’s Republicans themselves. The ‘Freedom Works For America’ website openly targets Republicans who they do not consider Tea Party enough:

“The 2014 race for control of the Senate has already begun. Establishment Republicans are beginning to recruit moderate Big Government candidates in races across the country in a typical top-down approach. This approach has led to moderate losing candidates like Tommy Thompson (WI), Rick Berg (ND), and Danny Rehberg (MT) in 2012. We can’t let these opponents of fiscal conservatism win!”

Another Tea Party favourite, Texas Representative Louie Gohmert (who is no stranger to ridiculous remarks) said in 2010:

“Listen, if it takes a shutdown of government to stop the runaway spending, we owe that to our children and our grandchildren. I don’t have any grandchildren yet, but if we don’t stop the runaway spending – even if it means showing how serious we are –okay, government is going to have to shut down until you runaway-spending people get it under control. And if you can’t get it under control, then we just stop government until you realize, you know, yes we can.”

– Gohmert sees no alternative but to shut down the government unless Republicans get their way. He fully acknowledges that this is a viable Republican tactic.

They acknowledge the tactic in 2010, they acknowledge it again in 2013, they threaten Republican colleagues not tied to wealthy far-right backers and who privately (and some publicly) blame this small sect of Tea Party Republicans for the shutdown. There is no debate over who is to blame for government shutdown. A framework for shutdown was articulated by Republicans – sometimes excitedly – in 2010, and codified by a wealthy conservative fringe group and their associates in 2013. It is a coup in all but name.