The right-winged media & the release of al-Baghdadi.

June 22, 2014

The BBC reported today that ISIS have moved to within 90 miles of the Iraq-Jordan border, having taken over the town of al-Rutba. The town sits on the main road between Jordan and Baghdad, and is around 110 miles from the border with Saudi Arabia. It marks an unnerving couple of weeks of very violent extremists spilling over from the Syrian civil war into the new and fledgling democracy to the south.

The past couple of weeks have also produced a plethora of commentators trying to untangle the web of blame, hoping to land at a particular constant (their favoured figure of hate), rather than admit a whole host of variables, like a complex jigsaw, led to the rise of ISIS and the damage it is inflicting upon Iraq. America’s conservatives have spent the past couple of weeks attempting in any way possible to lay the blame for the crisis in Iraq at the door of the President.

Fox News’s Jeanine Pirro told the nation last week, that ISIS’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was in US custody, and released in 2009 during President Obama’s Presidency:

“The head of this band of savages is a man named Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the new Osama Bin Laden. A man released by Obama in 2009, who started ISIS a year later.”

– This came a few days after Pirro called for the President to be impeached for the prisoner swap that led to the release of Bowe Bergdahl.

Fox’s Megyn Kelly went a little further, and described the circumstances under which al-Baghdadi was released:

“We are also learning more about the leader of the terror group, a man described as the new Bin Laden, the heir to Bin Laden. It turns out he had been in U.S. custody until 2009, over in Iraq, when he was then turned over to the Iraqi government as part of our troop drawdown. And then he was released.”

– The implication being that the President has a history of releasing dangerous prisoners, including one who went on to form the group currently slaughtering its way across Iraq. Indeed, Michael Daly writing for The Daily Beast took up the story and went further:

“When Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi walked away from a U.S. detention camp in 2009, the future leader of ISIS issued some chilling final words to reservists from Long Island.”

– The chilling words were reported by Army Col. Kenneth King, the commanding officer of Camp Bucca in 2009 and said to be al-Baghdadi telling the camp as he left, that he would:

“See you in New York.”

– The source of the story, Colonel King goes on to express his anger at the release of al-Baghdadi in 2009:

“We spent how many missions and how many soldiers were put at risk when we caught this guy and we just released him.”

– The story went international, with The Daily Mail over here in the UK taking it up and capitalising the words “set free” for extra effect:

“Revealed: How Obama SET FREE the merciless terrorist warlord now leading the ISIS horde blazing a trail of destruction through Iraq.”

– The UK’s Daily Telegraph proposed their own explanation as to why al-Baghdadi was released in 2009:

“One possible explanation is that he was one of thousands of suspected insurgents granted amnesty as the US began its draw down in Iraq.”

– So to summarise, according to the right winged press and TV networks, Al-Baghdadi – the leader of ISIS in 2014 – was released from US custody in 2009, handed to the Iraqis, probably due to an amnesty granted to insurgents at the behest of the Obama administration. That’s the narrative. And yet, the problem with the entire story here, is it isn’t actually true. Any of it.

Politifact researched the claim and found it to be entirely false, and worse for US conservatives; al Baghdadi was actually released in 2004, when a Republican was President. A year later, a US intelligent report tells us that the Pentagon considered al-Baghdadi to be incredibly dangerous:

“He would kidnap individuals or entire families, accuse them, pronounce sentence and then publicly execute them.”

– Less than one year after al-Baghdadi was released from custody on President Bush’s watch, the US was again searching for him, for the most hideous crimes.

Back to the story. It seems that Michael Daly, the Telegraph, the Mail and Fox all framed their narrative around the story told by Col.King. Interviewed days later on ABC, King told the network that he “could have been mistaken” and that whilst he didn’t know the name of the guy he’d seen at Camp Bucca in 2009, it looked a bit like al-Baghdadi. From what he could remember. Five years ago. And from that, Fox construct an entire anti-Obama rant, with a story of how al-Baghdadi was handed over to authorities in Iraq and then released. Politifact checked with the Department of Defence, who issued the following statement:

“Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim Al Badry, also known as ‘Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’ was held as a ‘civilian internee’ by U.S. Forces-Iraq from early February 2004 until early December 2004, when he was released.”

“He was held at Camp Bucca. A Combined Review and Release Board recommended ‘unconditional release’ of this detainee and he was released from U.S. custody shortly thereafter. We have no record of him being held at any other time.”

– And so it turns out al-Baghdadi wasn’t even released to the government in Iraq, as Fox claimed, let alone in 2009. Nor did Obama release him as part of a “amnesty” as suggested by the Telegraph. Though, had al-Baghdadi been released in 2009 as part of an amnesty, that too would not have been President Obama’s doing. As Politifact notes, it was late in 2008 – toward the end of President Bush’s term in office – that the President signed the Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq, an agreement that binds the US to the following terms:

“The United States Forces shall act in full and effective coordination with the Government of Iraq to turn over custody of such wanted detainees to Iraqi authorities pursuant to a valid Iraqi arrest warrant and shall release all the remaining detainees in a safe and orderly manner, unless otherwise requested by the Government of Iraq.”

– Not only was al-Baghdadi released in 2004, but had he been released in 2009 – as suggested by the right winged media – his release would have been due to a framework signed by President Bush in 2008.

The entire story was false and ridiculously manipulative. It relies solely on an army Colonel remembering a face from five years ago, that looked “very familiar”. There was no fact checking from Fox, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, or The Daily Beast. There was no mention of the US-Iraq agreement. This is how little it takes for Fox to turn a non-story into a familiar national anti-Obama scandal that bears little – if any – resemblance to reality.


Abusing the Filibuster: Some Stats.

November 28, 2013

800px-Rand_Paul_Filibuster

It has been an interesting week since Harry Reid invoked the nuclear option to ensure Presidential nominees are no longer blocked by an increasingly power-hungry Tea Party minority. From the right of the Republican Party, there appears to be a constant “We’re a republic! Not a democracy!” odd little tantrum, in a curiously weak attempt to justify their horrendous inability to accept that they lost the election. It should be noted that the US is indeed a republic, framed by the Constitution, which, in the case of Congressional rule changes quite clearly states:

“Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.”
Article 1; Section 5; Clause 2.

– Also, when it comes to Presidential nominees to executive branch positions, the President has that right. As long as those nominees are qualified, they are entitled to be confirmed, with the President shaping his administration as he sees fit. The Senate traditionally is there to advise and consent, to block only in the most extreme of conditions, and not to usurp that power and use it for fringe-partisanship. The filibuster not only gives a voice to the minority (who are entitled to that voice, via debate), it gives that minority far more power than both the majority party in the Senate, and the President combined.

That being said, it’s true that both President Obama and Harry Reid condemned the nuclear option during the Bush administration, whilst Democrats were the minority party in the Senate. But it is equally true, and needless to point out that President Bush wasn’t facing the sheer force of extreme obstructionism facilitated by the filibuster that the Obama White House faces today.

The nuclear option, in short, means that nominees by the executive branch require a simply majority of 51 votes for appointment, rather than the 60 votes needed if filibustered.

So, why did Harry Reid feel that he had to use a procedural measure to prevent further nominee filibustering in the Senate? Well, it’s quite obvious when you look at the past three years.

Let’s start with the most staggering.
Number of Presidential nominees filibustered over the course of US history: 147.
Number of those Presidential nominees filibustered before Obama took office: 68.
Number of those Presidential nominees filibustered since Obama took office: 79.
More than half of all filibustered nominees for executive branch positions – since before the White House was even built – have taken place during President Obama’s five years as President. This stat alone should be more than enough to convince anyone of the need to curb the abuse of power by a minority wing, or a minority party, that could not win the Presidential election, nor the Senate, nor the popular vote for the House. But in case you’re still on the fence, here are a few more stats:

Between 1949 and 2008, 20 cloture votes had been held to end filibusters, and push for a three-fifths majority vote. In 59 years, 20 votes. Between 2008 and 2013 – just five years – cloture has had to be invoked 27 times.

In President Bush’s two terms, the number of cloture votes for Presidential nominees was 7. In President Clinton’s two terms, the cloture votes for Presidential nominees, was 9. By early 2013, 16 of the President’s executive branch nominees had required cloture votes. In one Presidential term alone.

Interestingly, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who seems to have no problem with the obscene amount of obstructionism his party is willing to adopt in preventing the appointment of Presidential nominees, wasn’t too happy with it when the shoe was on the other foot. During the Bush Presidency, McConnell said:

“To correct this abuse, the majority in the Senate is prepared to restore the Senate’s traditions and precedents to ensure that regardless of party, any president’s judicial nominees, after full and fair debate, receive a simple up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. It is time to move away from advise and obstruct and get back to advise and consent.”

– Ironically, McConnell is now the King of the obstruction he harshly condemned in 2005.

Damningly for McConnell, on top of the 16 cloture votes by March 2013, we see the situation getting worse. Between March 2013, and November 2013, a staggering 11 more cloture votes – taking the total to 27 – for executive branch positions were required after being targets of filibusters from Senate Republicans.

75 executive branch nominations, to incredibly important positions, have waited an average of 140 days for confirmation. The obstruction in the Senate, leads to gridlock across agencies. This isn’t just unfair, it is dangerous. There is absolutely no need nor requirement for the Senate to demand a super majority for Presidential nominations.

And that’s just on nominees. Motions to end a filibuster by procedure during George Bush’s term, and when the party in the White House also controlled the Senate stood at 130 over two terms. Over just one term, and six months of President Obama’s Presidency, that number stands at 307. The era of block-over-debate had to come to an end.

These incredibly telling figures represent another wing – after the ill-considered Republican shut down – of the Republican strategy to destabilise the operation of government departments that people count on every day, simply because the election did not go their own way. The nuclear option was both necessary and inevitable. The reaction from the Republican camp to Reid’s decision has been predictable. Harry Reid – they claim – had choked democracy. This was the end of America as we know it. The usual hyperbole.

Strangely, the same Republicans didn’t react with equal venom when on September 30th of this year, House Republicans changed House rules to take the power to end a government shutdown away from all members of the House, and bestow it upon the House Majority Leader only. It’s a curious hypocrisy, but nevertheless completely expected from that section of the delusional right that holds nothing but contempt for democracy when it goes against them.


Kennedy, Obama, and the Tea Party extremists.

November 26, 2013

THISLAND JOHN BIRCH

The intensity of paranoid right winged hysteria that faces everything the President says, everything he does, and everywhere he goes has grown substantially over the past few years. From those demanding a birth certificate, to public office holders invoking the image of slavery and Stalin whenever they disagree with any policy coming out of the White House. It is all anchored by a paranoid fear of an imminent communist take over. The intensity of the vitriol is growing… but it isn’t new, nor are the people behind it.

In November 1961, President Kennedy gave a speech in which he warns about the “discordant voices of extremism” on the far right fringes, Kennedy said:

“They equate the Democratic Party with the welfare state, the welfare state with socialism, and socialism with communism. They object quite rightly to politics’ intruding on the military — but they are anxious for the military to engage in politics.”

– Echoing these thoughts, the former President, Eisenhower – a Republican – also in 1961 registered his concern about the growing tide of right winged paranoia and extremism that the President and the country were facing in the early ’60s. He expresses concern over what he calls the “super-patriot” and that they tend to wish to:

“…go back to eliminating the income tax from our laws and the rights of people to unionize… [and those] advocating some form of dictatorship.”

The far right attacks on Kennedy grew during the early ’60s, and by November 22nd 1963, the Dallas Morning News printed this full page advertisement attacking the President:

jfk_24_flyer1
– It is a page dedicated to the subtle hinting that Kennedy was soft on communism and must be resisted by Constitution loving Patriots. For example, one “WHY” on the list reads:

“WHY have you ordered or permitted your brother Bobby, the Attorney General, to go soft on Communists, fellow-travelers, and ultra-leftists in America, while permitting him to persecute loyal Americans who criticize you, your administration, and your leadership?”

– Interestingly, you will note that the name on the bottom of the ad is Bernard Wiessman. During the 60s, Wiessman was a member of the infamous ultra-right ‘John Birch Society’. The society continues to this day. Their website lists Fred Koch – the father of the Tea Party bankrolling Koch Brothers – in its “list of significant figures”. Koch was a founding member of the John Birch Society. The society has played host to some particularly unsavoury characters, not least Fred Koch himself, who laid the seeds for his wealth by building Soviet oil infrastructure, and training Soviet engineers. The Koch family has only ever been interested in increasing its own power and wealth. The same is true today.

Haroldson L.Hunt, the Texas millionaire was a keen member of the John Birch Society during the 1960s. Hunt frequented the radio waves of Texas often to warn of the terrible consequences of President Kennedy’s support for Medicare:

“The plan provides a near little package of sweeping dictatorial power over medicine and the healing arts—a package which would literally make the President of the United States a medical czar with potential life or death power over every man woman and child in the country.”

– According to Hunt – the John Birch member, and someone who clearly doesn’t understand the word ‘literally’ – Medicare would lead to dictatorship, and death panels. According to Tea Party today – including groups with links to the John Birch Society – the Affordable Care Act will lead to dictatorship and death panels.

A ’60s associate of the society, Reverand Billy James Hargis wrote:

“This nation today is in the hands of a group of Harvard radicals who have long ago been “hooked” by the insidious dope of socialism and view human life from the international standpoint – They are a dangerous scourge – and they are so deeply entrenched in power that they can be removed only by a nationwide upsurge of conservatism.”

“They are liberals; liberals are socialists; and Khrushchev himself said that socialism is ‘the first phase of communism.'”

– Hargis headed the fifth annual convention of the Christian Crusade against Communism, which included Robert Welch – the director of the John Birch Society.

In 1961, a report by Congressman Morris K. Udall noted another significant member of the John Birch Society:

“For example, the testimony revealed that Gen. Walker is a member of the John Birch Society, an organization whose leader says former President Eisenhower, John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles and other high officials of our government have been Communist dupes. Also, it was revealed that Gen. Walker made public statements which were derogatory of other present and former officials of our government. Such statements, of course, are wholly out of keeping for a military officer.”

– General Walker – also a guest at the Christian Crusade against Communism convention – was using his position as a General to amplify his far-right, aggressive John Birch Society beliefs. According to further testimony to the Warren Commission by the aforementioned Bernard Wiessman, Walker was driving around with copies of this in his car, shortly after November 22nd 1963:

TreasonFlyer.jpg.CROP.original-original
– Anti-Christian, Communist race rioters, betraying the Constitution, treason. Familiar vitriolic terms you will still note coming out of the same far right, largely funded by the same Koch family in 2013.

On October 18th, 1963 – just over a month until the assassination – the Delaware State News ran an editorial:

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. His name right now happens to be Kennedy. Let’s shoot him, literally, before Christmas.”

– The fear driven, violent rhetoric is the same. But in 2013, the John Birch Society and its Tea Party has just as much – if not more – power than it had in the 1960s. The dangerous conspiratorial tone that a Marxist takeover of government is imminent, now infects legislative bodies across the US. For example, In March 2012, the Tennessee House Republicans drafted House Joint Resolution 587 that read:

“WHEREAS, according to the United Nations Agenda 21 policy, social justice is described as the right and opportunity of all people to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment which would be accomplished by socialist/communist redistribution of wealth”

– The wording is eerily similar to a John Birch Society mock-up Bill which reads:

“WHEREAS, according to the United Nations Agenda 21 policy, social justice is described as the right and opportunity of all people to benefit equally from the resources afforded by society and the environment which would be accomplished by a socialist/communist-style redistribution of wealth”

– When I say “eerily similar”, I mean “exactly the same”.

At a Tea Party rally back in 2010, a speaker from Corpus Christi passionately told the crowd that President Obama’s:

“…goal is to do whatever he can to reinvent the United States of America into the aggressively, militantly, secular socialist and post-Christian state he wants it to be. This means … deconstructing the Constitution however he pleases.

Also in the more recent past, Republican darling Ron Paul was not only the first chairman of ‘Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE)’ which was founded in ’84 by David and Charles Koch, and is now ‘FreedomWorks’ – he was also a key speaker at the John Birch Society’s 50th Anniversary celebration in Wisconsin in October 2008. Interestingly, one of ‘FreedomWorks’ 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. 50 years of Koch family promoted vitriol and paranoia, through their hired mouthpieces in Congress.

The opposition to both Kennedy and Obama from the fringe of the right wing has never been a reasonable opposition built on democratically scrutinising ideas. Their brand of opposition has been consistent for the past 50 years; to present any policy slightly to the left of father Koch, as ‘unamerican’, as ‘communist’, as a threat to the fabric of American society, needing to be dealt with outside of the democratic process if necessary, and to spend an obscene amount of money sponsoring candidates and running “Welcome Mr Kennedy” ads to help spread the paranoid fantasies of one far-right family, whilst presenting itself as “grassroots”.

The Tea Party in 2013, and to a growing extent – the Republican Party in 2013 – is the John Birch Society of the 1960s. The same meaningless yet vicious and provocative manipulative and paranoid phrasing, bankrolled by the same family for the sake of the power of that one family, and working to inspire the same reactions from those who suffer the most from its manipulations. They inhabit the realm of paranoid fantasy that is usually considered fringe. It has been key to the far-right’s 50 years of manufacturing false and delusional hysteria, and as of 2013, the power of John Birch-style extremism had the power to shutdown the government in September. That’s a worrying development.


President Obama & the Tea Party Gettysburg non-scandal.

November 19, 2013

gettysburg address, snub gettysburg, obama gettysburg

It is 150 years today that President Lincoln gave perhaps the most important, and brilliant speech he would ever give. A speech that defined the era, and solidified the ideals on which the United States was born. The Gettysburg Address is one that rings as true today as it did in November 1863.

Predictably, conservatives over the pond have used the anniversary as a platform to launch yet another misleading and absurd attack on the President. This new line of attack comes in two parts; both equally as absurd. Firstly, that the President “snubbed” the Gettysburg Address memorial at Gettysburg, and secondly, that the President omitted the words “under God” when reciting the Gettysburg Address earlier today. Both – as expected from this current crop of conservatives – are entirely misleading, and represent a complete lack of respect by those on the American Tea Party right who will use anything to concoct bullshit to aim at the President.

Nothing is sacred to the Tea Party conservatives. It seems that they have decided it is acceptable to abuse the memory of Gettysburg, in order to launch a cynical and misleading attack on the President, today. Let’s look at their two claims in a little more detail:

gettysburg address, gettysburg address snub, president obama gettysburg address, "under god"
– “Stunning snub!” The hysteria couldn’t be more feigned and ridiculous. And not least because it’s entirely misleading. The President did not ‘snub’ the Gettysburg Address anniversary today. He just didn’t attend it. Like every other sitting President since Lincoln – with the exception of Taft – hasn’t attended a Gettysburg Address anniversary. This includes Kennedy in 1963, at the 100th anniversary. This includes conservative hero President Reagan who did not attend the 125th Gettysburg Anniversary. I have searched thoroughly and cannot locate any media outlet from the 125th anniversary, that feigns outrage over the “stunning snub” by President Reagan. Strange that.

We should also be keen to note that the President has quoted Lincoln, and paid tribute to Lincoln plenty of times in the past. Both of President Obama’s inaugural speeches mention Lincoln, he was sworn in on the Lincoln Bible and he consistently refers to Lincoln as his inspiration as President. This, in contrast to Republicans, who invited Ted Nugent to the State of the Union, despite Nugent having said:

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

And then there’s the second claim:
This is just as ridiculous as the first, and used as nothing more than another cynical attempt to launch an ill thought out attack on the President:

gettysburg address, obama snub gettysburg address, under god gettysburg address
The Library of Congress website states:

“Of the five known manuscript copies of the Gettysburg Address, the Library of Congress has two. President Lincoln gave one of these to each of his two private secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay. The other three copies of the Address were written by Lincoln for charitable purposes well after November 19.”

It is those three “well after” November 19th that contain the words “under God”. The two in the Library of Congress – one of which Lincoln brought to Gettysburg itself – given to Lincoln’s secretaries, do not include the words “under God”.

As part of a documentary, President Obama was today asked to read from the Nicolay copy. The Nicolay copy does not include the words “Under God”. Therefore, the President did not omit the words “under God” from the draft of the address. Lincoln did. The other three copies were used for fundraising purposes. The second written version of the address, is called the Hay draft, and was the draft handed personally to his secretary John Hay upon Lincoln’s return from Gettysburg. The first version, also not including the words “under God” is called the “Nicolay draft”. President Obama today, was asked specifically to read the Nicolay draft copy by the documentary crew – headed by the brilliant Ken Burns – filming it. This, he did. There was no snubbing.

It would be of great service to the increasingly Confederate-like Tea Party conservatives, if they read the words of the Gettysburg Address and worked to put them into practice. “…that all men are created equal”. As opposed to their own version of that statement of equality, that seems to consistently preclude gay people, women, the least wealthy, non-Christians, and anyone with a slightly darker skin tone. It would do conservatives great service to ponder the idea that all are created equal, rather than focusing entirely on the word “God”. And whilst they’re at it, perhaps stop following the President around with Confederate flags.

We will of course never know whether or not Lincoln said “under God” at Gettysburg. But if he did it certainly wasn’t in the drafts of the speech leading up to Gettysburg, and only appeared written down after the 19th, for charity purposes. Regardless, President Obama was specifically asked to read a specific draft of the address, for a documentary. This he did. To complain or to invent a scandal, is nothing more than to attempt to hijack the day, for political purposes from a regressive Republican Party that has absolutely no connection to its roots with the Republicans of Lincoln. Given that the US Tea Party right wing has attempted to hijack the Benghazi tragedy for political purposes, has shut down the government for political purposes, and consciously chosen to horrifically compare the Affordable Care Act to slavery, for political purposes… it is no surprise that they’re willing to abuse the memory President Lincoln and the solemnity of Gettysburg with equal contempt.


A list of things Obamacare leads to…

November 11, 2013

A few months ago I wrote on the absurdities that conservatives tend to invoke when they’re losing an argument that they’ve staked their reputations on. Back then, it was gay marriage. The list of terrible, World ending catastrophes that same-sex marriage was going to inevitably lead to, according to conservatives, was extensive and staggering. But now they’ve moved on to a new subject. And so I thought I’d present a comprehensive list of the most outlandish and absurd suggestions that US conservatives have decided are the product of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act:

  • A Communist takeover of government and the end of the Catholic Church in the US. Here.
  • Following the path of Hitler (you know, the guy who killed 6,000,000 Jewish people in gas chambers, and tried to establish a “racially pure” empire) and Stalin. here.
  • Worse than Watergate. Here.
  • Worse thing since slavery. Here.
  • Armageddon. Here.
  • President Obama killing a variety of old people. Here.
  • Kids having secret abortions at school ‘sex clinic’. Here.
  • The most dangerous piece of legislation EVER passed. Here.
  • President Obama starting a race war. Here.
  • The death of all prosperity. Here.
  • Mandatory microchips implanted into all Americans. Here.
  • The destruction of the institution of marriage. Here.
  • The work of Satan seeking to destroy freedom. Here.
  • Obamacare causes cancer. Here.
  • The reintroduction of Feudalism. Here
  • The Government murdering people based on how productive they are, and children with Down Syndrome being judged by a panel on whether he or she can live or die. Here.
  • Conservatives sent to concentration camps. Here.
  • The US becoming a leading outpost of an Islamic Caliphate. Here.
  • Health insurance companies going along with the Affordable Care Act, are no different to Jews boarding the trains to concentration camps. Here.
  • Systematic genocide. Here.
  • As destructive to personal liberty as runaway slaves being forced to go back to their masters. here.
  • A racist tax against white people. Here.
  • Worse than the Boston bombing. Here.
  • A gay man going to prison because he has no money, and is forced to play roulette, because of Obamacare. Here.
  • Schools preparing children to accept Death Panels. Here.

    Naturally none of them mention the exact part of the bill that lead to their outlandish claim.

    When I began this, I didn’t expect the list to be as long as it eventually turned out to be. We are apparently a generation that is gifted with access to information and fact on a level no previous generation has enjoyed. And yet, it seems that facts and reasoned debate are often drowned out by a deafening constant screech of absurdity that creates an atmosphere in which Michelle Bachmann and Ted Cruz are trusted with political power. They represent nothing more than a comprehensive failure of education and access to accurate information in order to form rational and well rounded democratic decisions. What a waste of a wonderful gift.


  • 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.


    The Boehner Predicament: Resignation or Resignation.

    October 7, 2013

    Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: By Gage Skidmore (Flickr: John Boehner).

    Source: Wikimedia Commons.
    Author: By Gage Skidmore (Flickr: John Boehner).


    “This never had a chance to work, and people are still out of work, and the government is still shut down.”
    – Rep Pete King (R-NY).

    The Speaker of the House is in a dire political position. It is perhaps the most unstable that his unstable leadership tenure has been. There is no leadership control. It appears to have been conceded the far right of his Party who now apparently control the strategy of the GOP entirely. Unless Democrats suddenly cave to Tea Party demands – which they have no reason to, especially given that the majority of the public blame Republicans for the shutdown – then there is no victory for Speaker Boehner. There is only catastrophic failure for his legacy as Speaker of the House. One that has no real end game for him, but resignation.

    In interviews this weekend, the Speaker attempted to shift the narrative from a shutdown over the Affordable Care Act, to a shutdown over the debt limit. It seems Boehner’s original plan had been to pass a clean CR, and to then use the debt limit as leverage for spending cuts. This plan was thrown into the flames not be the Speaker of the House, but by a junior Senator from Texas who had no end strategy, no plan to ensure coverage for the 870,000 uninsured children in his own State, but instead spent time reading Dr Seuss. The Speaker is completely at the mercy of the Cruz Republicans.

    We know that John Boehner believes Republicans like Cruz are entirely to blame for the shutdown, because in March 2013 the Speaker said:

    “Our goal here is to cut spending, not to shut down the government. I believe trying to put Obamacare on this vehicle risks shutting down the government.”

    – Boehner publicly (and rightfully) announced that attaching the Affordable Care Act to an unrelated vehicle risks government shutdown. Six months later, he changed that position and decided that attaching rejected-at-the-election policy to an unrelated CR was perfectly reasonable, and in fact rejecting it would risk shutting down government. It is a complete u-turn. Speaker Boehner in March 2013 would agree that Speaker Boehner in October 2013 was responsible for shutting down government. Similarly, House Republicans in 2010 would agree, given that they signed a letter addressed to the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which read:

    “The CR should not be used as a vehicle to carry unrelated items in an attempt to circumvent the regular legislative process and avoid offsetting the costs of such legislation.”

    – And so the Speaker had two choices. To either continue with the original plan, to be consistent with his own and House rhetoric over the past three years, which would entail refusing to attach an attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act to a CR, thus risking a showdown with Senator Cruz & Tea Partiers in the House. A strategy that might well have resulted in an attempt to oust Boehner as Speaker. There is no other reason why the Speaker will not allow a clean CR vote in the House, especially given that at least 21 House Republicans are willing to back it, and Republicans in marginal seats are naturally worried about their re-election prospects in 2014.

    The Speaker has a real concern that his position may be weakened in his own Party (the country is not top of his considerations), given that attempts to oust him as Speaker at the beginning of this year came short by only five necessary votes. The attempted coup was led by the completely ungovernable Tea Party Republican Rep. Justin Amash from Michigan’s 3rd District, which includes Grand Rapids (one of the few cities in the US I’ve visited!). Amash was stripped of his role on the Budget Committee in late 2012 for what his own Republican colleagues say:

    “their inability to work with other members”

    – In response to his removal by Republicans who considered him unable to work or to compromise with other members of his own Party, Amash said that Republican leaders in the House:

    “…are in a lot of trouble.
    “They’re going to have to make amends, or there will be a new leadership team in place, it may not happen right away, but it will happen.”

    – Making good on this threat, Amash then went on to hold one-on-one talks with fellow House Republicans to stage a coup against the Speaker in January this year. The coup only failed because they had no one in mind to replace the Speaker, choosing instead to vote for several different members, or just not voting at all. So Boehner knows his position is almost completely in the hands of a few fanatics who consider him a puppet rather than a leader. This is a new development, in that usually a fringe group of a Party need to remain on the leadership’s good side for such formidable influence, but as it stands now, apparently the opposite is true; the leadership is working to stay on the fringe groups good side, to hold onto power. Republican House strategy is no longer shaped by the Speaker, but by a Tea Party fringe. The consequences for the Party will be reflected in 2014.

    Not only his position weak when it comes to his choice to continue down the Tea Party laid path, but if Boehner suddenly decided to allow a vote on a clean CR, and 21 of his own House Republicans – worried for reelection in 2014 – voted alongside House Democrats and ended the shutdown, it is a resounding confirmation that Republicans could have ended the shutdown days ago. It is also a victory handed to the President by House Republicans, who simultaneously disprove Boehner’s insistence that there aren’t enough votes in the House to pass a clean CR (On a side note, there weren’t enough votes in the House to repeal Obamacare 43 times… but it never seemed to stop them trying).

    So Speaker Boehner has a choice; continue down the Tea Party route, thus putting jobs at risk, the economy at risk of default and recession, and ultimately ensuring that his own Party – currently sliding heavily in polls – is now a Party of a right wing fringe inevitably resulting in losing the House in 2014…at which point, he’d have to resign. Or, call a vote on a clean CR, watch as House Republicans join House Democrats to end the shutdown, accept that he could have done this days ago and saved a lot of panic, hand a major political victory and concession of political leverage to President Obama & the Democrats, and then resign for such a catastrophic failure of leadership and judgement.

    There is nowhere for the Speaker to turn. He has to go.


    21 House Republicans willing to vote for clean CR.

    October 4, 2013

    Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: By Diliff (Uploaded by Diliff).

    Source: Wikimedia Commons.
    Author: By Diliff (Uploaded by Diliff).

    As the US Dollar continues to fall due to the continued shutdown of the US Government, Speaker Boehner has the power to put a stop to it all today if he chooses to abandon Tea Party demands, and sides with Republicans willing to accept defeat.

    It now appears that the government would re-open if a vote was put to the House today to pass a clean funding bill without attaching legislative ransoms to the back of it. Along with House Democrats, a full 21 House Republicans are now willing to vote to re-open government, which is four more than necessary to end the shutdown. Speaker Boehner still refuses to let a vote come before the House.

    Those 21 Republicans are:

    Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.), Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ.), Rep. Peter King (R-NY.), Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ.), Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY.), Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.), Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.), Rep. Jon Runyan (R-NJ), Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa), Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.).

    Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa) released a statement on his website in which he attempts to deflect blame for the catastrophic mishandling of the situation by House Republicans, onto the Senate and the President for not caving to unjustifiable Republican demands:

    “It is time for Congress to vote on a budget bill that gets the government back to work providing all of the services already paid for by the hard-working taxpayers in my District and across the country. If a bill comes to the floor to accomplish that goal, I will vote for it.

    I have joined my colleagues in the House six times during the last two weeks to pass bills that keep the federal government open while defunding or delaying ObamaCare. Each attempt to eliminate funding for the law, repeal the $30 billion medical device tax driving jobs overseas or treat all Americans equally by giving them the same one-year reprieve from the law’s mandates that the President gave big businesses has been rejected by the President and Senate Democrat leaders. The President and Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid seem perfectly content keeping the “Closed” sign on the Liberty Bell, Valley Forge National Park and Gettysburg National Battlefield. I am not, and I look forward to voting to put government back to work serving the taxpayers very soon.”

    – Through all the weak, self serving justifications for House GOP actions over the past seven days in attempting to defund an established Constitutional law that they lost the 2012 Presidential Election on, and a Supreme Court Case on, and the popular vote for both the House on, Gerlach signaled his intent to end the government shutdown as soon as a vote is called.

    Another House Republican who has wasted significant legislative time and money voting 42 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act is Mario Diaz-Balart. He appears to have been lied to in order to secure his support for a Federal shut down, and now he’s come to his senses:

    “When they brought the idea of defunding Obamacare, House Republicans were told we could get Democratic votes. So I voted for it. But it didn’t happen. Then we tried again. And it didn’t work. The third time, it was like: Look, this isn’t working. Let’s try something else.”

    – The implication being that a clean bill would have passed and government kept open, had leading Republicans not lied about the level of support they had for attaching a legislative proposal onto a budget. A further implication being that Diaz-Balart blames House Republicans for a shutdown that in his own words, isn’t working.

    On the subject of being lied to in order to support a Federal shut down, Ted Cruz met with Republican Senators at a private lunch to discuss strategy yesterday. One Republican Senator told Politico:

    “It’s pretty evident it’s never been about a strategy—it’s been about him. That’s unfortunate. I think he’s done our country a major disservice. I think he’s done Republicans a major disservice.”

    – The rest of us knew this before the shutdown. Republicans are now coming to terms with just how badly this has turned out for them, and the dangers of letting a small group of extremists dictate Party tactics.

    As early as the 28th September, Charlie Dent (R-Pa) said:

    “I’m prepared to vote for a clean CR. I don’t want the government to shut down.”

    – Again, the implication being that to vote for anything but a clean CR, would mean you are responsible for government shut down. Charlie Dent is subtly blaming the Republicans for a shut down. He joins House Republicans in 2010, who said:

    “it is simply unacceptable to use a must-pass CR as a legislative vehicle ”

    – So that’s 21 in 2013 prepared to pass a clean Continuing Resolution, as well as 2010 House Republicans.

    Most surprisingly, Peter King (R.NY) told The National Review that two thirds of House Republicans would vote for a clear CR if the vote was allowed to take place:

    “If it was on the floor, they would do it. Put it this way, two thirds want a clean CR.
    Including some of the people who got elected as tea-party candidates from the South. You talk to them, they think this is crazy.”

    – Another Republican Congressman implying that House Republicans are to blame for the shut down. They believe it is crazy to ransom the entire government, for the sake of a battle over an established law that they don’t like.

    So with 21 House Republicans all willing to vote for a clean CR, with Democrats proposing a clear CR, and with the President happy to sign a clean CR, what’s stopping a vote in the House on a clean CR? It isn’t Harry Reid. It isn’t the President. It isn’t the 21 Republicans all wishing to reopen government. It’s a Tea Party led group ensuring that Speaker Boehner does not allow the Representatives of the people of the United States – within his own Party – to vote to keep Federal workers in their jobs. For every hour that inches closer to economic meltdown, Speaker Boehner becomes more and more culpable for this entire miserable episode.


    The Privilege of Dan Riehl.

    July 20, 2013

    Conservative commentator Dan Riehl is apparently more annoyed at the President for speaking out on the fact that he has experienced being followed in shops simply because he is black, than he is that the President has experienced being followed in shops simply because he is black.

    He also didn’t get this angry when Donald Trump and the Tea Party faction demanded the President’s birth certificate, in one horrendous display of racial profiling.

    Yesterday, President Obama stood in the White House Press room, and shared his thoughts on the Trayvon Martin ruling. The President said:

    “I think it’s important to recognise that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away. There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience in this country, of being followed when they’re shopping in a department store. And that includes me. There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street, and hearing locks click on the doors of cars. That happened to me. There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator of a woman clutching her purse nervously. Those sets of experiences inform how the African American community interprets what happened one night in Florida.”

    – For what it’s worth, I rate this as the President’s most important speech. It was impromptu, and that gave the speech its honesty. It was personable, heartfelt, and it struck right to the heart of the privileges that do not face the average white American every day, yet affects the average African American every day.

    Predictably, conservatives across America react nonsensically, not wishing to know the feelings the first African American President has toward race relations in the country. Typically, as conservatives tend to be with women, with minorities, with the gay community the message coming from them is loud and clear; “we don’t want to know, shut up and deal with it.” Dan Riehl, rather oddly, says:

    Untitled-1
    – Apparently President Nixon’s Southern Strategy; a strategy designed to provoke racial tension in the south thus attracting white supremacists over to voting Republican, isn’t considered racist. Nixon is also on tape saying:

    “There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white, or rape.”

    – Apparently considering a child of mixed-race to be as terrible as rape, doesn’t qualify as racism.
    Apparently, President Lincoln’s thoughts on race relations being:

    “I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races – that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people.”

    – is not racist. Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, and many more US Presidents owned slaves. Apparently, this isn’t racist. Nor Ronald Reagan’s subtle racial remarks on “Welfare queens” and his strategy to appeal to “George Wallace inclined voters“. But, President Obama sharing his experiences of a post-civil rights culture slowly trying to shed its racist past, makes him the “first Racist in chief”. The President was not suggesting the creation of a brand new social and economic system, based on black supremacy. The President was highlighting racial inequality and ingrained cultural racism.

    Dan Riehl believes that any African American suggesting that America might still have race problems, or highlighting that racism, are themselves a racist for doing so. Dan Riehl is under the impression that the status quo, as long as the cracks are kept silent, is acceptable. He can enjoy the privileges afforded to him by virtue of his skin colour, without having to think too much of those that the system leaves behind.

    So what are those unearned privileges afforded to Dan Riehl?

    Well, it starts with education. Naturally, when a particular minority has spent 200+ years discriminated wildly against when it comes to standards in education, as well as healthcare, housing, justice, opportunities; they are at a disadvantage from birth. It is institutional. To alleviate those disadvantages, there must be a concerted effort to increase standards through funding among other things. Half of all public school funding, comes from property taxes. And so, the poorest areas (and those who have already suffered discrimination in housing, for decades) are disproportionately underfunded. Dan Riehl’s facebook page, tells us that he studied at Steinert High School in New Jersey. New Jersey is ranked second highest for graduation results, test scores etc……. New Jersey is also the second highest spender per pupil, spending on average $15,000 per pupil. Whereas Mississippi for example (which has an African American population 23% higher than New Jersey) is ranked 48th for student success, and spends just $9,708 per pupil. Dan Riehl is privileged simply by being born in a State that for white, economically advantaged students, is an educational haven.

    Of course, had Dan Riehl, during the 90s, and right up until 2003, drove through New Jersey, he would have had the privilege of not being suspected of being a drug kingpin, and pulled over, in the nationwide scandal in which officers in New Jersey testified that they were told by their superiors to racially profile motorists on the New Jersey Turnpike and Interstate 95.
    Most drug users in the US, are white. In fact, only 13% of drug users in the US, are African American. And yet, 74% of those sentenced to prison for drug use in the US, are African American. African Americans are on average, 11 times more likely to be imprisoned for drug use, than white Americans. If Dan Riehl wanted to use drugs, he will experience the privilege of being far more likely to get away with it, simply for the colour of his skin. In fact, he could have happily driven trucks full of heroin through New Jersey, and been able to do so, because officers were busy watching out for African Americans.

    The denial of white privilege by those who gain the most from it, is not new. Currently, it seeks to turn any sort of alleviating of institutional racism into a sort of privilege for African Americans. For example, over here in the UK I often hear the claim that a Pakistani person got a job ahead of a white British person. As if that’s inherently wrong. Similarly, in America I often read claims that a white person didn’t get into a particular college, because, despite getting lower grades, the place was given to an African American person (not forced, just given). In both cases, the white person claims to have been the victim of some sort of reverse racism. And in both cases, neither bother to accept that not only does affirmative action not force a company or school to “put aside” places for people of different races (it is race neutral), but they also don’t seem to understand that white people have also been given a place ahead of them.

    For example, A study by the American economic review between July 2001 and May 2002 entitled “Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination” found that job applicants with a white sounding name are 50% more likely to be asked back than an applicant with a black sounding name. It proved that regardless of credentials, African American applicants were 50% less likely to get a callback than a white applicant. And so the claim that work placements or college placements should be “based on merit” is fine, but isn’t the case in reality. In October 2012, the African American unemployment rate was around twice as high as the white unemployment rate. In fact, in one in six industries, white and black segregation has increased since the 1980s. Dan Riehl is privileged, simply by having a white sounding name.

    In 2001, Gallup reported that 40% of white people believe that African Americans are treated the same as white Americans in the US. By contrast, only 9% of African Americans believe they are treated equally. Similarly, in 1962, 95 of white Americans believed African Americans had the same opportunities to get a good education, as white Americans. 1962. Prior to the civil rights act, and in the midst of Apartheid America. Dan Riehl has the privilege of being able to say “sure, they’re treated fine“, whilst never having to experience what it’s like for 91% of African Americans who completely disagree.

    But white denial (which I characterise as a defence of white privilege; a way to try to ensure that ‘white‘ must come first) goes much further back. The philosophy employed in attempts to defend slavery in the south prior to the Civil War was full of denial.
    The American Social Theorist George Fitzhugh argued that the Capitalism of the north would disproportionately affect African Americans, given that they were, in his mind, less able. And so slavery, according to Fitzhugh, actually protected African Americans. Fitzhugh comments:

    “We do not set children and women free because they are not capable of looking after themselves, not equal to the constant struggle of society. But half of mankind are but grown up children and liberty is as fatal to them as it would be to children.”

    – Suddenly, we have a philosophy of white, patriarchal denial. The privileges bestowed upon white Americans, defended as philanthropic. As if beaten, and immiserated African American slaves, treated like animals, should thank their ‘Masters‘ for the kindness of protecting them, from being free. Obviously, they have no choice in whether they wish to be enslaved or free in the first place. Perhaps they should have thanked their ‘Masters‘ for that too. The justification from Fitzhugh for slavery is as filled with a defence of white supremacy, as it is with denial. And it continues. Generation after generation, conservative white people insist that there is no problem. Fifty years later, they admit, there might have been a problem fifty years ago. During the antebellum period, any attempts to suggest an abolition of slavery, or African American civil rights, was met with conservative anger and derision by which it claimed those policies were in fact, anti-white. During the civil rights era, any attempts to equalise education, transport, housing, for African Americans was met with conservative anger and derision, by which it claimed those policies were in fact, anti-white. Today, it is no different.

    Today, as then, those arguments simply reflect a desire to uphold a system of unearned, racial privilege and barriers that perpetuates a lack of opportunity, suspicion, fear, and poverty. The sort that President Obama was absolutely right to touch upon, and the sort that plenty of white President’s have used to their advantage in the past.

    Dan Riehl will never accept, nor even understand the privileges that have allowed him to get to a position in which he refers to the nation’s first African American President, as ‘racist‘ simply for describing the prejudice he has faced in his own life. Riehl isn’t concerned about losing rights. Riehl is concerned about losing privilege.

    Conservative America apparently doesn’t like to accept that there is an ongoing race problem in the US. What a completely new and original response from them.