Friday, May 31, 2013

Eye Recommend --- The Wisdom of Bob Dole

THE WISDOM OF BOB DOLE, by the New York Times Editorial Board --
A good analysis of a Republican Party that is so busy thwarting a Democratic president that, in nearly five years, they can't seem to name one positive action they have taken that can be said to have moved this country forward.  
The final two paragraphs provide a lesson new-blood Republicans need to learn and a summary of their non-accomplishments. (Any underlines are mine.)

"Bob Dole no longer recognizes the Republican Party that he helped lead for years.  Speaking over the weekend on Fox News Sunday, he said his party should hang a 'closed for repairs' sign on its doors until it comes up with a few positive ideas...

...'I mean, we weren't perfect by a long shot, but at least we got our work done.'...

...When the time came to actually govern, Republicans used to set aside their grandstanding, recognize that a two-party system requires compromise and (making) deals to keep the government working on the people's behalf.

The current generation refuses to do that.  Its members want to dismantle government, using whatever crowbar happens to be handy, and they don't particularly care what traditions of mutual respect get smashed at the same time.  'I'm not all that interested in the way things have always been done around here,' Senator Marco Rubio of Florida told The Times last week.

This corrosive mentality has been standard procedure in the House since 2011, but now it has seeped over to the Senate.  Mr. Rubio is one of several senators who have blocked a basic function of government: a conference committee to work out budget differences between the House and Senate so that Congress can start passing appropriation bills...

...At long last, this is finally drawing the rancor of (some Senators).  Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said that negotiating on a budget was an 'issue of integrity.'  Roy Blunt, Lamar Alexander and...others have encouraged talks, and Mr. says the Tea Partiers are 'absolutely out of line'...

'We're here to vote, not here to block things,' he said last week.  'We're here to articulate our positions on the issues and do what we can for the good of the country and then let the process move forward.'

Already, the mulish behavior of Congressional Republicans has led to the creation of the sequester, blocked action on economic growth and climate change, prevented reasonable checks on gun purchases and threatens to blow up a hard-fought compromise on immigration.  Mr. Dole's words should remind his party that it is not only abandoning its past, but damaging the country's future."
What will it take for the rabid branch of the Republican Party to realize that you can't govern with your foot on the brake pedal all the time?   Let's hope it happens before the rest of the world  realizes how ineffectual we have become.  

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Republicans Turn Their Fact-averse Attention to Keystone and Big Oil

Last week, the House passed a bill giving Congress the sole power to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

what eye thynk:    This Keystone quasi-bill is a meaningless gesture since the approval or rejection of Keystone is President Obama's decision to make.  It is just another example of the House wasting time, (witness the 37 symbolic votes to repeal the ACA, each taken with the knowledge that a repeal bill would never be presented to the Senate and would thus die along with all its previously Republican birthed brethren). 

And Republican arguments for Keystone are... 

1.  The Energy Independence Argument
Republicans in the House insist that we need the Keystone pipeline if we are to become energy independent. Doc Hastings (R-Washington) and the Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee will tell you that domestic oil production has fallen off a cliff.  The facts say differently, but today's Republican Party doesn't deal in facts.  In order to halt their self-proclaimed oil production free-fall, Mr. Hastings is proposing that we streamline drilling permits. He feels that onerous safety studies required by the EPA are making it difficult for oil companies to earn a permit.  (Just try to sell that opinion in the Gulf of Mexico.)

The truth:  Domestic oil production is at a 21 year high.  The independent Energy Information Administration recently published a report saying that sometime this year, our domestic production will surpass imports.  This is the first time this has happened since 1995.

The Republican attempt to turn the U.S. over to the oil companies by opening any and all waters off American shores to drilling was recently defeated, but the Republicans are forging ahead with other measures.

Scott Tipton (R-Colorado) has introduced a bill that would make developing fossil fuels the primary use of all public land, because, really, who needs trees and parks and wildlife when Exxon and BP are waving money in your face?  Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado) wants to overturn the Obama administration's reforms on oil and gas leases. (Another example of Republicans attempting to lead in reverse).

2.  The Jobs Argument
Speaker Boehner insists that Keystone is needed to create jobs.  He apparently is unable to admit that, without Republican assistance, the President has brought our unemployment rate down to 7.1% from 9.9% over the past four and a half years.  Still too high, yes; but an improvement that Republicans cannot bring themselves to recognize.  And it would go even lower if Republicans would approve the President's infrastructure bill, which would provide jobs while making a positive impact on our roads and bridges; but, again, Republicans are more focused on changing the past than on improving the future.  

3.  The Environmental Argument
Environmentalists fear that the pipeline will adversely affect our plains aquifer.  Republicans view this argument as tree-hugger nonsense; but it appears that Canadians think environmentalists may be on to something.  When the U.S. rejected the original plan for Keystone, Canadian oil companies proposed an alternate route that would have kept the pipeline completely inside Canada, running through their Western provinces to a port in the northern Pacific.  This proposal was soundly defeated by the Canadian people who cited environmental safety issues as their main concern.

4.  The Ownership Argument
Who really owns and who will control the oil sludge that would flow through the Keystone pipeline?

Currently the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company, (the CNOOC), which is 70% owned by China, controls 80% of the world's oil reserves.  That's right, 80% of the world's oil reserves are already owned by The People's Republic of China.

Of the remaining 20% that is still open for development, 60% is in Canada, mostly in the Alberta oil sands area--an area where the CNOOC has recently purchased a 20% stake. A Canada energy executive was recently quoted as saying that Chinese companies are currently seeking information on how many Canadian energy assets they can buy before "eliciting a negative reaction."

Looking at China's record on safety and quality issues within their own country, I find it difficult to believe they would put much dedication into protecting the plains, aquifer or people in ours.

This is a part of the Keystone argument that Republicans seem to like to keep hidden in the shadows.  Perhaps they fear those Americans who don't really care about environmental issues might take exception to a Chinese owned company being given access to and responsibility for the heart of our country. 

5.  The Benefit Argument
And a final fact that Republicans like to ignore:  the oil sludge that would run through the Keystone XL pipeline would not add anything to our oil reserves or our domestic oil production.  It is destined to be refined in New Orleans, (additional refinery jobs may be the one place where we would profit), and then exported.  

So, essentially, the risk would be all ours and the benefit would be...China's?

Oh, and those Republicans whose campaign funds are augmented by all that oil company money.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Quick Fact(s): Bye-bye, Michele...Hello, Jan

Two Republican surprises to report...

1.   Michele Bachmann announces she will not run for re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives.  

Ms. Bachmann, leader of the congressional Tea Party Caucus, says it has nothing to do with the fact polls are showing she is very likely to lose the next election.  (She barely eked out a victory last November and is currently under investigation by a variety of federal and state organizations including the FBI, the Office of Congressional Ethics, the Federal Elections Commission and a second ethics panel in Iowa for a variety of alleged misdeeds, none of which is likely to help her if she were to choose another re-election bid.) 

One political writer quoted some of her more bizarre proclamations and ideas and ended by saying she has become "a caricature of herself.  Bachman will be missed, but mostly by the nation's comedy writers."
Well, I've never thought of myself as particularly funny, but I know I'll miss her.
2.   Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) puts the brakes on any new legislation until she gets approval for the expansion of Medicaid for her state.

Uber-conservative Republican Governor Jan Brewer recently promised to veto any bill coming from Arizona's state legislature until that body votes to expand Medicaid.  The legislature, which has Republican majorities in both chambers, apparently thought she was bluffing and passed five unrelated bills, sending them to her to sign last week. Ms. Brewer made her threat real and vetoed all five.

Gov. Brewer has been an outspoken opponent of President Obama's ACA from the very beginning; but, apparently even she could not ignore the fact that without the Medicaid expansion, many of her state's poor would still be left out even after the ACA becomes fully active next year...not a good position to be in when seeking re-election. 

The federal government will fund the expansion 100% for the first years, gradually reducing its commitment to around 90%, which would seem to make it a no-brainer; but there are still lots of red state hold-outs.
 I would have expected Ms. Brewer to be solidly in the hold-out camp and I'm not alone.  Her stance has taken quite a few by surprise.  It will be interesting to watch what happens in Arizona as a conservative Republican governor faces off with her fellow Republicans over her support of a Democratic sponsored health care program. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Eye Recommend --- Unexpected Health Insurance Rate Shock


"Every now and again, a political pundit is required to stand up and admit to the world that he or she got it wrong.  

For me, this would be one of those moments...

...(Last Thursday, California) released the premium rates submitted by participating health insurance companies for the three health insurance program categories (bronze, silver and gold) established by the Affordable Care Act, along with the catastrophic policy created for and available to those under the age of 30.

Upon reviewing the data, I was indeed shocked by the proposed premium rates--but not in the way you might expect...

...Everyone...warned that premium shock could be expected to set in once the public began to see the reality of what Obamacare would mean to their pocketbooks.  And, yet, the only real jolt to the system being felt by these...prognosticators today is utter amazement over just how reasonable the California prices have turned out to be...

...'The premiums and participation in California, Oregon, Washington and other states show that insurers want to compete for new enrollees in this market,' Gary Claxton, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation."
Why is this a surprise?  Did these pundits expect insurance companies to say "No, thank you.  We don't want any more enrollees?"  Really?
"These are...states that are actually committed to seeing the program work as opposed to those states whose leaders have a vested political interest in seeing the Affordable Care Act fail...

...For all the negative chatter about how including older and sicker Americans in the health insurance pools would drive up the price for younger participants...what we are now seeing in states like California is that the desire on the part of the health insurance companies to increase market driving prices downward.

That is precisely what the President said would happen."
Some predictions put the cost of a silver plan at $450/month.  In California, the silver plan will cost $276/month with those eligible for federal subsidies paying far less.
Federal subsidies are on a sliding scale.  If your income is less than 400% of the federal poverty level, (currently $89,000 for a family of four), you qualify for assistance.  A more complete explanation of subsidies can be found here:
"If you are among the many Americans who have bought into the fear and loathing that has been the campaign against Obamacare, you just might wish to reconsider.  With every passing day, the various...lies put forward by those with a political ax to grind...or vote to be purchased, are falling victim to the facts...

...Accept it or not, the reality is that the early report card on Obamacare--at least in those states willing to give the law a chance to succeed--is looking pretty darn good."
How Republicans must hate that! 

Monday, May 27, 2013

May 27 - Monday Quote

Something that W. and company never understood.
In honor of Memorial Day...

monday quote:   I think the mark of a great ruler, is not his ability to make war but to achieve peace. (Monica Fairview, author, birth date unknown, still living)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Quick Fact: Conservatives Need a Pettiness-ectomy

From the the conservative New York Post on May 17:

Sarah Palin:  "Mr. President, when it rains it pours, but most Americans hold their own umbrellas."

Move America Forward, a conservative PAC, put out a fundraising e-mail about the President asking a marine to hold an umbrella for him.

The Daily Caller, a conservative news site:  "The commander in chief of the American armed forces today forced a violation of Marine Corps regulations, so he wouldn't get wet." 

Global Post, a conservative news site:  "Here's a fun fact:  American Marines can't hold umbrellas...It's a rule that President Barack Obama obviously didn't know when he asked two strapping young soldiers to hold umbrellas over his head and that of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday."

Other conservative sources called it "shocking and disgusting".  One said the President was trying to "humiliate" the Marine Corps; another said she had "learned of one more reason to impeach the Kenyan imposter."

Well, here's the truth:  Male Marines are not permitted to carry umbrellas while in dress uniform. Female Marines are permitted to carry plain black umbrellas in their left hand.  The Marine manual also says that Marines "shall perform such other duties as the President may direct."

When asked if this meant holding an umbrella for the President, a Marine spokesman answered, "Certainly."

It's not like this is the first time a President has ever been protected by an umbrella held by a member of our Armed Forces.  May I offer this as proof:

Republicans will try to make anything into a scandal, but this takes their pettiness to a new low.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Quick Fact: In Tennessee, They Spell Hypocrite "F-i-n-c-h-e-r"

Representative Stephen Fincher (R-Tennessee) quoted Bible verses as he spoke in the House last week in support of a $20B cut in food stamps.  "We have to remember there is not a big printing press in Washington that continually prints money over and over."

Mr. Fincher, who owns a farm in Frog Jump, Tennessee, and has received $3.5M in federal farm subsidies since 1999, did, however, find it in his heart to vote for an increase in those same farm subsidies.  
Lucky for Mr. Fincher that the Washington printing press didn't conk out until after he got his.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Republican Party's War on Women, Some Good News from Arkansas and Arizona

This is the fifth in a series of articles on the subject of women, abortion rights and the Republican Party. 

Republicans continue to say they don’t have to change their core principles, they only have to change the language they use to get their message out.  One perception they want to alter is the idea that they are running a “war on women”.  Looking at the news over the past few years, I’d say the Republican Party has a long way to go on this subject.

  • Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky): “Talk about a manufactured issue.  There is no issue.” 
  • RNC Chairman Reince Priebus:  “It’s a fiction.”

The Arkansas Front
the facts:  In March, Arkansas' Republican led legislature over-rode Governor Mike Beebe's (D) veto and passed a law banning abortion at 12 weeks.  U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright has delayed implementation of the law stating that the law will "more than likely" be ruled unconstitutional since federal law permits abortion up to 24 weeks.

The Arizona Front
the facts:  Arizona's 2012 anti-abortion law which was to take effect in August of last year and would have prohibited abortion after 20 weeks from a woman's last period or 18 weeks after fertilization--even if the fetus had no chance of surviving after birth--has been permanently struck down by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The Court called the ban "unconstitutional under an unbroken stream of Supreme Court authority, beginning with Roe v. Wade and ending with Gonzales."  The court further stated that viability varies pregnancy to pregnancy and should be determined by doctors, not legislators.

The Republican War on Women is "fiction"?


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Quick Fact: Oklahoma Senator Wants to Hold Tornado Victims Hostage to Republican Budget Cuts

Everyone is aware of the devastation in Oklahoma following the massive tornado that struck near Oklahoma City on Monday.

Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) told CNN that he will vote against releasing any additional federal disaster relief funds unless he gets a corresponding reduction in federal spending.
Good luck with your next election, Senator.
Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), who has a record of voting against disaster relief without the same stipulation, (he and Mr. Coburn both voted against releasing funds for victims of Hurricane Sandy), has voiced his opinion that funds for Oklahoma victims should be released immediately, saying the two situations are "totally different". 
One was a coastal hurricane, the other a prairie tornado.  Other than that, I fail to see his point.
Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) joined the discussion by saying that he thought Mr. Coburn showed "real leadership".
Where do the Republicans find these people? 
Fortunately, the Federal Disaster Relief Fund currently has $11.6B in its coffers so President Obama was able to sign a disaster declaration and release those funds immediately so FEMA will be able to help the people of Oklahoma without having to wait for Mr. Coburn to finish his fight for more cuts to Medicaid.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Eye Recommend --- One School's Catholic Teaching

This is just so sad.  
"Columbus, Ohio -- No one at the Catholic high school that fired Carla Hale in March claimed that she was anything less than a terrific physical education teacher and coach, devoted to the kids and adored by many of them.

No one accused her of bringing her personal life into the gym or onto the fields.  By nature she's private.  And she loved her job too much to risk it that way.

But she lost it nonetheless, and the how is as flabbergasting as the why is infuriating.

Rather suddenly, her mother died, and an hour afterward, she and her brother numbly went through the paces of a standard obituary listing survivors.  Her brother included his wife.  So Carla included her partner, Julie, whom her mother had known well and loved.  Leaving Julie out would have been unthinkable...

...A parent of one of the school's students spotted the obituary, and wrote an anonymous letter to the school and to the Diocese of Columbus, saying that they couldn't allow a woman like Carla to educate Catholic children.

So they don't, not anymore.  In a termination notice, the principal explained that Carla's 'spousal relationship violates the moral laws of the Catholic Church.'  That was the sum of the stated grievance against her, and after more than 18 years at Bishop Watterson High School, Carla, 57, was done."
The cowardice exhibited by the parent who reported the obituary to the school and the Diocese anonymously is bad enough; but the hypocrisy shown by a Catholic Church that protected priests, and, according to a group of nuns and priests calling themselves Catholic Whistleblowers, is still protecting them--read more here:,  is unfathomable.
Just so sad. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Republicans Beginning to Mumble the "I-word"

The White House has been beset recently with some unsettling issues.  The Republicans are trying to use them as political coin. Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) was recently quoted as saying "We may be starting to use the I-word before too long."  

what eye thynk:   Republicans are seemingly at a loss to understand why more people aren't calling for the President's impeachment.  While some of these issues are important enough to warrant further examination, not every issue is scandal worthy and even fewer are likely to raise the public ire.

1. BENGHAZI--Really guys, let it go.  Four Americans are dead and we are still hunting for their killers.  Does it really matter if we know which agency decided whether the word “terror” should be suffixed with an “-ist” or and “-ism” or how many words into his speech the President was when he first used the term?

2. IRS--The focus on organizations with “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their titles who claimed tax-exempt status was wrong, but part of the problem was the Republican’s refusal to confirm any of the President’s nominees to lead the I.R.S.   An organization that large without someone at the top is doomed to make huge and stupid mistakes.  And it should be pointed out that the President has no daily input on the way the I.R.S. is run.  Its very purpose makes it an independent entity.

And would targeting Tea Party organizations be unpopular if put to the American people?  I doubt it.  A recent Associated Press Poll found that less than 25% of Americans now support the Tea Party.  Organizations supporting the Tea Party were granted tax exempt status thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision--a decision which an ABC poll showed that 80% of Americans opposed.  

So the IRS issue swirls around an unpopular movement funded by uncountable money supplied by rich donors whose identity is kept secret by an unpopular Supreme Court decision.  Throw in the fact that liberal groups are now coming forward to say that their tax exempt status was also investigated and I don’t see much hope for rampant public outrage on this subject.

3. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS--Of the three issue now besetting the White House, this is the only one that has any credibility, but to have Republicans leading the parade on this is questionable.  After all, they are the ones who have cried the loudest for more accountability over security breaches.  Their sudden about-face attempt to protect the media--the same media they have loudly scorned as liberally biased for the past five years--does not make a comfortable fit for Republican umbrage.

Republicans may be surprised that these three “scandals” have not warranted a tsunami of public pique, but they have overreached on so many issues over the past five years, (for example Michele Bachmann who called for a repeal of the ACA claiming that it “literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens” and who recently said that it was “reasonable” to believe that the President could direct the I.R.S. to use the ACA to “deny or delay” health care coverage to conservatives), that the public is no longer listening. 

New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow may have said it best in a recent editorial:

“Furthermore, Republicans have exhibited a near-pathological need to say anything, no matter how outlandish, that would invalidate the Obama presidency.  This has left them with little credibility now that there may be legitimate problems.  This is the story of the political party that cried ‘Kenyan’.”

Monday, May 20, 2013

May 20 - Monday Quote

Good question.

monday quote:   I have wondered at times what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress.  (Ronald Reagan, President, 1911-2004) 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Quick Fact: Jesus Personally Endorses Mayoral Candidate?

We have all heard candidates say that "God told me to run"--several failed Republican presidential candidates come to mind; but this lady took that claim a step further.

Taken from Rachel Maddow's blog:

"I've reported on developments at the intersection of religion and politics for a good chunk of my career, but I don't recall ever seeing a politician claim to have been literally endorsed by Jesus Christ.  That is, before Anna Pierre, a registered nurse, made the claim in advance of this week's North Miami mayoral race.

'Yes, Jesus endorsed me!' Pierre said during a stop at the Gwen Margolis Community Center Tuesday morning as the polls opened...Pierre previously claimed she was being intimidated with voodoo tactics...

...Pierre said the endorsement came to her in a revelation while on the campaign trail as she's been competing against six other candidates.

For some reason, local voters were not persuaded--Pierre came in seventh out of seven candidates, getting slightly less than one percent of the vote."

Ms. Pierre's campaign flyer:

Just when you thought Michele Bachmann was the biggest religious nutcase in politics...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Eye Recommend -- The Republican Scandal Machine

THE REPUBLICAN SCANDAL MACHINE, by New York Times Editorial Board --
I had started to write a piece about what I was calling the "Republican Opportunistic Crisis Machine" when I read this op-ed in yesterday's New York Times.  They say it better than I could, so I have reproduced their editorial nearly in its entirety...with comments, of course. 
(This article was published in digital and print Times editions under different titles.  The underlines are mine.)
"When politicians want to turn scandals into metaphors, actual details of wrongdoing or incompetence no longer matter.  In fact, the details of the troubles swirling around the White House this week are bluntly contradicting Republicans who want to combine them into a seamless narrative of tyrannical government on the rampage.

The Internal Revenue Service, according to an inspector general's report, was not reacting to political pressure or ideology when it singled out conservative groups for special scrutiny in evaluating requests for tax exemptions.  It acted in appropriately because employees couldn't understand inadequate guidelines."  
Having an actual head of the IRS may have helped, but Republicans have refused to confirm any of the President's nominees.
"The tragedy in Benghazi, Libya, never a scandal to begin with, has devolved into a turf-protection spat between government agencies, and the e-mail messages Republicans long demanded made clear that there was no White House cover-up. 

The only example of true government overreach was the seizure of The Associated Press's telephone records, the latest episode in the Obama administration's Javert-like obsession with leakers in its midst.

Many of the Republicans who have added this action to their metaphor blender were also the ones clamoring the loudest for vigorous investigations of national security leaks.  But reality simply isn't solid enough to hold back the vast Republican opportunism on display this week...

...'This is runaway government at its worst,' Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, said at a Tea Party news conference on Thursday about the I.R.S. scandal.  'Who knows who they'll target next.'  Representative Michele Bachmann knew.  Standing next to Mr. McConnell, she said the I.R.S.'s next target would obviously be the religious beliefs of people seeking health insurance."
What?!  Thank you, Michele, for bringing your own brand of ludicrous paranoia to the table.
"For Senator Mike Lee of Utah, these incidents proved that the federal budget has to be cut even more deeply...

...(These Republican bloated incidents) obscure the real damage that Republicans continue to do to the economy and the workings of government."
The editorial goes on to point out that while Republicans were chasing Benghazi: 
1.  No one noticed that hundreds of thousands of defense workers were furloughed this week thanks to the "Republican-imposed" sequester.
 2.  Republicans continue to call for more austerity, but fail to notice the huge drop in the deficit reported earlier this week. 
3.  No one seems to think it significant that six months into the President's second term, Republicans are still blocking several of his cabinet nominees.
"For those who are wondering whether this week's political windstorms will hinder Mr. Obama's second-term agenda, here's a bulletin:  That agenda was long ago imperiled by the obstruction of Republicans.  (See Guns. Jobs. Education. And, very possibly, Immigration.)"
This Republican obsession for looking at everything and sizing it up for scandal worthiness has become just another side to their obstructionist form of non-governing.  If the President fails to eat his soup with the correct spoon at the next White House dinner, should we expect the Republican Party to call for an Investigation/Study/Committee-to-evaluate how declining etiquette is bringing about a corresponding decline in American morals which is why there are no many gay people?
I'm sure Michele Bachmann would be first in line for that parade.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Quick Question(s): Washington State Cancer Research Center Studied WHAT?

While looking for information on how the implementation of the ACA is going, I came across this unrelated gem:

A study by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington has found that people with cancer are twice as likely to file for bankruptcy as people without cancer.
Several questions come to mind:
1.  Considering the high cost of cancer care, did this really surprise anyone? 
2.  Which bureaucrat thought this study was a good use of time and resources?
3.  Wouldn't that money have been better spent in the search for a cure?
(Just sayin'.)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Quick Fact: GOP $10M We-Heart-Minorities Campaign Takes Another Hit

Less than two months ago, the RNC trumpeted a $10 dollar campaign to improve their relationship with Hispanic and other minority groups.  

This week, Pablo Pantoja, the RNC's State Director of Florida Outreach has resigned from the Republican Party to become a Democrat.  In his resignation letter, Mr. Pantoja cited Republican intolerance: 

"It doesn't take much to see the culture of intolerance surrounding the Republican Party today.  I have wondered before about the seemingly harsh undertones about immigrants and others.  Look no further; a well-known organization recently confirms the intolerance of that which seems different or strange to them."

The organization Mr. Pantoja refers to is The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank whose website boasts, "Conservative ideas are making an astonishing comeback--thanks in part to the ceaseless efforts of The Heritage Foundation."  Former Heritage scholar, Jason Richwine recently released this zinger: "No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against."

At the same time, conservative Republican Senators have announced that they are readying "poison pill" amendments to the soon to be debated Senate immigration bill--amendments designed to weaken support for the bill as a whole.  

Mr. Pantoja joins former Florida Governor Charlie Crist who left the Republican Party and changed his party affiliation to Democrat last December. 
Note to the RNC:  When you have U.S. Senators trying to derail new immigration laws before they are even debated and you fail to convince your own Outreach Director that your intentions are good, your campaign to appeal to minorities may be in trouble.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Quick Fact: And Minnesota Makes It an Even Dozen!

On Tuesday morning, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed that state's marriage equality bill into law making it the twelfth state to legalize same sex marriage.  Same sex couples are expected to be able to marry as early as August 1 of this year.

SATIRE ALERT (The following is not real news, folks...just a very funny take on Ms. Bachmann and her virulent anti-gay views):

On Monday, U.S. Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann (R), threatened to leave the state if Gov. Dayton signed the bill into law.  
Anybody want her?
"It breaks my heart to think that Democrats are willing to play politics with the lives of so many Minnesotans.  And I hate to leave so many of my constituents behind, but I urge them--please, please--follow my example and get your loved ones to safety before it's too late."

More here:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Confused Sen. Rubio Calls for Non-Existent Commissioner of IRS to Resign

The IRS has been in the news lately over their apparent targeting of non-profit groups with the words "Tea Party" or "Patriot" in their names for special scrutiny.  

Senator Marco Rubio, (R-Florida) sent a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew demanding that the IRS Commissioner resign immediately.  "...It is clear the IRS cannot operate with even a shred of the American people's confidence under the current leadership.  Therefore, I strongly urge that you and President Obama demand the IRS Commissioner's resignation, effectively (sic) immediately.  No government agency that has behaved in such a manner can possibly instill any faith and respect from the American public."

what eye thynk:    First, the IRS targeting of specific groups for political reasons is wrong...period.  At the same time, so many new non-profits popped up following the 2008 election--all claiming to be non-political groups but many, under closer investigation, found to actually be funding Republican candidates and causes--that I can't fault the IRS for being interested.  Their methods were wrong, but the thought behind them, well...

Second, leaked details of a report on an investigation into this issue run by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George says that top officials in the IRS knew about the apparent targeting as early as 2011.  If this is true, why didn't the then Commissioner of the IRS, who was a George W. appointee and a Republican, stop it?  

You have to look at the fact that, despite IRS scrutiny, it took federal circuit court judges to void the tax exempt status of some of these "non-profits".  Judges in Maine in particular outed groups for claiming non-profit, social welfare status  while actually using their funds to promote conservative Republican causes.  It does make me wonder if W's appointee knew about the results of these IRS inquiries but chose to ignore them for his own political reasons.  (That is my first attempt at creating a conspiracy theory.  I am ashamed...sort of.)

And finally, let's look at the way Senator Rubio made a fool of himself with his poorly formatted letter to Secretary Lew--mainly by calling for the immediate resignation of a person who doesn't exist.  W's appointee left the IRS in November of last year.  Since then, Republicans in the Senate have refused to approve any of President Obama's nominees for the post.  And perhaps we should forgive Mr. Rubio for being a little blurry on the status of the IRS Commissioner since his fellow Republicans have systematically refused to approve so many of the President's nominees that, by now, they have probably all begun to run together.  

The President responded to the IRS issue by calling it outrageous.  "If you've got the IRS operating in anything less than a neutral and nonpartisan way, then that is outrageous.  It is contradictory to our traditions, and people have to be held accountable."

Just not the non-existent Commissioner of the IRS.  Please, somebody tell Mr. Rubio.

Monday, May 13, 2013

May 13 - Monday Quote

Michelle Bachman has spent considerable time lately promoting the need for a "National Day of Prayer and Fasting" to be held on September 11 of this year; an event she says is necessary because God has passed "judgement" on us.  Her proof is that the World Trade Center attack and the Benghazi attack both happened on the 11th of September, eleven years apart.

Personally, I think she ought to lay off the Numerology, but today's quote works too:

monday quote:   Puritanism. The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy. (H.L. Mencken, writer, 1880-1956)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Quick Facts: Republicans Want to Reduce Health Care Costs--Until They Don't and Minnesota is Poised to Join the Same Sex Marriage Family

1.   Representative Eric Cantor (R-Virginia), on May 8, 2013:  "The House will vote next week for a full repeal of Obamacare."  

House Republicans have now tried this at least 35 times, (some media sources put the count nearer to 40).  If you consider the hours spent on their vain attempt to repeal what in 2012 Speaker John Boehner called "the law of the land", our cost conscious Republican congressmen have wasted 80 hours at a cost of approximately $50M on this.  They claim, in part, that the ACA is too expensive.

At the same time, Republican congressmen in both houses have long called for reducing the cost of Medicare.  This past week, President Obama asked Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to recommend some of their fellow Republicans to a 15 member, independent panel charged with finding ways to restrain the growing cost of our existing Medicare program. 

On May 9, those same two Republican leaders sent a letter to the White House informing the President that, not only will they not recommend anyone to the President's Independent Payment Advisory Board, but that they want the panel repealed.
There is no logic to be found here, only a continued childish game of we-hate-the-President-so-we-aren't-going-play-with-him.

2.   On a brighter note...the Minnesota House approved their same sex marriage bill by a vote of 75-59.  The Senate  is expected to pass the bill next week and Governor Mark Dayton (D) has said he will sign it.  Same sex couples should be able to wed in Minnesota beginning in August of this year.

An interesting side note to this bill's movement through Minnesota's legislature is that in last November's election, just 6 months ago, the people of that state voted down a Republican supported amendment to their state constitution that would have defined marriage as between one man and one woman.  During that same election, Democrats were voted into the majority in both legislative chambers.
Let's hear it for the people of Minnesota!

Friday, May 10, 2013

LaPierre and the NRA - Who is Exploiting Whom?

Last week, the NRA held its annual convention.  The theme this year:  Stand and Fight.  

Wayne LaPierre gave the keynote speech exhorting the members to "remain vigilant, every resolute and steadfastly growing and preparing for the even more critical battles that loom before us."  He claimed that gun control supporters are led by the "media elite" and are "conspiring right now, regrouping, planning, organizing" to exploit "the next horrific crime".

Mr. LaPierre also brought up previous gun related tragedies:  The Senate bill "wouldn't have prevented Newton, couldn't have prevented Tucson or Aurora and won't prevent the next tragedy, and then asked "How many Bostonians wished they had a gun two weeks ago?"

what eye thynk:   There are so many things wrong with Mr. LaPierre's dramatically over-the-top speech, so many things wrong with exhorting your members to protect their firearms while admitting that there will be a "next horrific crime" probably involving some of those same firearms.  There are so many things wrong with calling those who would stand up and attempt to prevent more tragedy exploiters.

Mr. LaPierre, you claim that the Senate bills wouldn't have prevented Newton, or Tucson or Aurora; but I have to wonder.  If assault weapons were banned, would the Aurora shooter even have had one?  If magazine size had been limited, would some of those Newtown children have escaped? 

But the one quote that really grabbed my attention was this one: "How many Bostonians wished they had a gun two weeks ago?"  

Mr. LaPierre, I'm simply going to throw one of your arguments right back in your face...the Senate bill wouldn't have prevented Boston.  No one saw the bombs being placed, so at whom were all those gun toting heroes going to shoot?  

Boston is a tragedy; but it has nothing to do with guns--controlled or otherwise--and using it to support your fight for more guns, in more places, wielded by more people is simply, well, exploitative.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Eye Recommend --- The House Prefers Chaos to Order

THE HOUSE PREFERS CHAOS TO ORDER, by  the New York Times Editorial Board --
In March of this year, the U.S. Senate called the House's bluff and finally passed a budget.  Nearly two months later, Republicans are in danger of being the ones caught with egg on their face.
On Sunday, The New York Times Editorial Board printed an excellent analysis of the phony promises of co-operation that John Boehner and his House Republicans promised after the 2012 election.  It shows just how dishonest their calls for budgetary order really are.
 (The underlines are mine.)
"'Regular order!'  That has been the demand of House Republicans for three years, insisting on a return to the distant days when Congress actually passed budget resolutions and spending bills, instead of paying for the government through shortsighted stopgap measures.

'Senate Democrats have done nothing,'  Speaker John Boehner said on Meet the Press on March 3, referring to the Senate's failure to pass a budget since 2009.  'It's time for them to vote.  It's time for us to get back to regular order here in Congress.'  The two chambers could try to resolve their differences in a conference committee, he said, 'and maybe come to some agreement.'

But a funny thing happened a few days after those comments were made:  the Senate agreed to that demand and actually passed a budget.  Suddenly all those Republican cries for regular order stopped...  

...A few days ago, when Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, tried to appoint members of a conference committee, Republicans refused to allow it, saying it would cause 'complications for the House'...
Complications?  When did hearing debate, considering compromises and actually allowing a vote become "complications"?  
...(With the creation of a conference committee) Republicans would have to compromise.  The Senate would have to agree to some of the House's spending cuts, and the House would have to agree to some of the Senate's spending increases and the tax increases on the rich to pay for them.  As the country has learned in recent years, House Republicans are incapable of compromise on those issues.

Being intransigent in a formal budget conference, however, would put Republicans in a bind...If a conference did not produce an agreement in 20 days, members could offer 'motions to instruct' the committee that require debate and a vote, which the speaker could not use his usual powers to stop....

House leaders are stalling by insisting on a 'preconference,'...Clearly what is frustrating Republicans is that they do not have an imminent crisis to exploit to get their way...

...The demands for regular order were hollow and dishonest.  The only way House Republicans can achieve their extremist agenda is not through preserving order, but by causing chaos.
The ball is in the House's court.  It will be interesting to see how they justify their failure to act.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

11 Down, 39 to Go!

Rhode Island and Delaware have joined nine other states in legalizing same sex marriage.

what eye thynk:  Welcome to the family!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Republican Party's War on Women, the Iowa Front

This is the fourth in a series of articles on the subject of women, abortion rights and the Republican Party. 

Republicans continue to say they don’t have to change their core principles, they only have to change the language they use to get their message out.  One perception they want to alter is the idea that they are running a “war on women”.  Looking at the news over the past few years, I’d say the Republican Party has a long way to go on this subject.

  • Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky): “Talk about a manufactured issue.  There is no issue.” 
  • RNC Chairman Reince Priebus:  “It’s a fiction.”
The War in Iowa 

the facts:  Last Wednesday, the Iowa House passed a bill that cuts all Medicaid funding for abortion providers if they choose to continue to provide abortion services.  The bill includes an exception for hospitals: a hospital providing abortions would still receive Medicaid money for other services to the poor, but would not be reimbursed for any abortions they perform. Any private doctor or clinic performing abortions would be dropped from the Medicaid program completely.

Current Iowa law allows Medicaid to pay for abortions in cases of rape, incest, severe fetal abnormality or when the life of the mother was threatened.  In 2012, Iowa’s Medicaid program paid for 22 abortions that fell under those constraints; five of those were the result of rape.  Under the proposed law, these exceptions would be eliminated.

Republican State Representative Matt Windschitl argued for the elimination of current exceptions saying that “As more people have become involved in the discussion, they’ve come to the realization that life begins at conception”.
Mr. Windschitl could have added “especially if the 'people' you’re talking about are Republicans.”
Part of the Republican argument for restricting the poor’s access to abortion was that a 16 year old who sees her mother getting an abortion is likely to become promiscuous.  
The bill passed with a vote of 52-46 mainly along party lines with just one Democrat voting for the Medicaid abortion ban.  The bill now goes back to the Senate.
This is quite possibly the oddest and least thought out restrictive abortion law I've encountered.  I can't decide whether it is an attack on social services masquerading as abortion legislation or vice versa.  And remember, this came about because of just 22 Medicaid funded abortions in 2012.  In order to eliminate those 22 abortions, Iowa Republicans are willing to deny medical care to all Medicaid patients.
In essence, they are saying that abortion is still legal as long as you can afford it. Prohibiting the poor from using a Medicaid provider for abortion services essentially creates a health care caste system in Iowa.  If you can afford to pay for your own abortion, you'll be taken care of.  But if you're poor, and your doctor accepts Medicaid patients and continues to provide abortion services, he or she will lose funding and have to stop caring for ALL Medicaid patients, no matter what their care involves--be it diabetic care, heart care, pediatric care or even simple flu shots. The new bill would prohibit all female Medicaid patients from receiving women's wellness exams at clinics like Planned Parenthood. This seems more like blackmail than thoughtful legislation:  Play by our rules or only paying customers will get health care.
It could have been worse, another Republican sponsored bill that would have re-defined murder as knowingly "killing an individual human being, without regard to age of development, from the moment of conception" has been dropped.  This bill could have put any woman receiving an abortion, as well as her abortion provider, (including procedures performed and paid for legally in hospitals), in jail for homicide.
I have to wonder, since the whole conservative movement seems hell bent on cutting social programs that care for those not fortunate enough to be financially secure, how these Iowa Republicans plan on caring for the unwanted babies that could be born in Iowa if the bill passes the Senate as written.
Do I wish women who can't afford to raise their children would stop having them? Absolutely!  But taking away the option to end an unwanted pregnancy isn't a solution.  It only adds to the need for long term and even more expensive social programs.  
And, perhaps the most important argument against Iowa's proposed restrictions: Abortion is legal under U.S. federal law, a fact that seems to keep slipping from the Republican mind. 

The Republican War on Women is "fiction"?


Monday, May 6, 2013

May 6 - Monday Quote

Something to think about...

monday quote:   If a word in the dictionary were misspelled, how would we know?  (Steven Wright, Comedian, 1955-     )

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Eye Recommend --- In New Hampshire, Senator Finds Her Vote on Gun Bill is Hot Topic

I have wondered how Republican Senators are being received at home since the gun control votes of last month.  It turns out that, in New Hampshire, things are a little bumpy. 
An ad created by Americans for Responsible Solutions is currently running there.  Part of the text asks: "Are you serious?  89 percent of the people in New Hampshire support universal background checks.  She just ignored us?"

"WARREN. N.H. -- It was 45 minutes into Senator Kelly Ayotte's town hall-style meeting here...and the local Republican official screening question topics had allowed just one query on gun control...

...'You like to regulate that,' shouted Eric Knuffke, 72, a resident of nearby Wentworth who rose to complain about the way (those being chosen to ask questions) were being cherry-picked. 'But you don't want to regulate guns.'...

...In an effort to settle the room down, Ms. Ayotte turned to Erica Lafferty, whose mother was one of the 27 people who were killed in the shootings in Newtown, Conn." 
(Not the best choice, as it turned out.) 
 "Ms. Lafferty, 27, asked the senator about a previous remark that background checks could burden gun stores.  'I'm just wondering,' she said...'why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the halls of her elementary school isn't as important?'...

...Through a spokesman, (Ms. Ayotte) declined a request for an interview.  Though her office organized a series of town meetings across the state this week, it barely publicized them.  On her way out of the meeting here, she ignored reporters' questions."
The article goes on to say that Ms. Ayotte's supporters say that those expressing pro-gun control opinions are from a coalition of liberal groups trying creating "noise" and it is questionable if Ms. Ayotte will be convinced to change her mind on the issue.  The case of former Senator Dick Swett is used as an example to explain why Ms. Ayotte must remain steadfast in her opposition to gun control.   Mr. Swett was a third-term Democratic congressmen when he voted in favor of the U.S. 1994 ban on assault weapons.  He was defeated in the next election. 
In other words, no matter what her constituents say, Ms. Ayotte will continue to use her vote to protect her job instead of the people who elected her.
We can only hope that those 89% of New Hampshire-ites who support gun control will vote on the next election day and show Ms. Ayotte that this is no longer 1994. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Eye Recommend --- RNC Attacks President Obama for Not Passing Gun Reform Bill

Just when you think the Republican Party has gone as far off the reality highway as they can possibly go. 
"File this under 'You just can't make this crap up.'  The RNC recently put out an ad which includes an attack on President Obama for not passing--

Wait for it--

Gun reform.

Yes, you've read that correctly.  The RNC has put out an ad which attacks President Obama for not passing the very same gun reform which 41 Republican Senators voted against a couple of weeks ago--defeating the bill."
According to the RNC, it was the President's lack of leadership that sank all the gun control bills last month.  The Republicans who voted against them were just innocent bystanders, caught in the mire.
"(Last week) Republican Senator Pat Toomey flat out admitted that many Republicans vote against legislation simply because it's what the President supports."
You can read more about Senator Toomey's admission in my post from yesterday: TOOMEY'S CANDOR SHEDS LIGHT ON POST-POLICY PARTY
"So how the hell can this man lead, and get things passed, when the measuring stick Republicans use on whether or not they support a bill rests not on what's in the bill, but whether or not Obama supports it?

The entire ad is simply pathetic."

Friday, May 3, 2013

Eye Recommend --- Toomey's Candor Sheds Light on Post-Polity Party


"When Senate Republicans (recently) killed expanded background checks on firearms purchases, they were taking a political risk...

...So why did GOP senators put aside common sense and popular will?  According to Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who co-authored the bipartisan measure, it wasn't just about the gun lobby--some of his Republican colleagues didn't want to 'be seen helping the president.'

'In the end it didn't pass because we're so politicized.  There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it,' Toomey admitted on Tuesday in an interview with Digital First Media editors in the offices of the Times Herald newspaper in Norristown, Pa...

...(This) puts the debate over gun reforms in a fresh light.  You'll recall that two weeks ago, much of the political commentary surrounding the Senate vote focused on holding President Obama responsible--he didn't 'twist arms' enough; he didn't 'lead' enough... Blame the White House, we were told, for Republican intransigence.

According to Toomey--who presumably has a pretty good sense of the motivations of his own colleagues in his own party--the media's blame game had it backwards.  No amount of presidential arm-twisting can overcome the will of lawmakers who want to defeat the president's agenda because it's the president's agenda...

...Indeed, according to Toomey, some Senate Republicans might have considered simple steps to prevent gun violence, but it was more important to them to play a partisan game--they were invested in pure politics, positioning themselves vis-a-vis the president, and the GOP was unconcerned with any particular outcome for the country.

This is unsustainable.  The American system of government is dependent on a series of compromises--between the two parties, between the two chambers of Congress, between the executive and legislative branches--and governing breaks down when one party decides policy no longer has any value and there's simply no need to consider concessions with those on the other side of the aisle.
Mr. Benen's final paragraph says it all.  And I have to put the blame squarely on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who not only condones this kind of "anti-governing", but has actively encouraged it beginning with his 2010 interview in the National Journal when he said "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president". 
 The Republicans have become a one-note party with Mitch as the band leader.  And the country be damned.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Republicans Want Lobbyist Contact Made Public. (I'll Show You Mine If You'll Show Me Yours.)

On Monday, Senators James Inhofe (R- Oklahoma) and David Vitter (R-Louisiana), neither a supporter of environmental issues, wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency with an interesting proposal.  They now feel that Congress needs to know how organizations like the Sierra Club or Greenpeace effect environmental policy.
"The American people deserve to understand the process EPA follows when crafting the environmental policies under which they must live.
 It is important for Congress to understand the relationship between EPA and nongovernmental organizations, particularly as it relates to the coordination and influence over public policymaking...Accordingly, releasing the correspondence between the EPA and these entities is in the public interest."

what eye thynk:   I am sure that the Sierra Club and Greenpeace both employ lobbyists and those lobbyists undoubtedly contact officials at the EPA as well as members of Congress on a regular basis to promote their positions on environmental issues.  There is nothing nefarious about this.  It is simply government business as usual.

But, maybe these two conservative Senators have a point; and perhaps, to demonstrate how this transparency idea would work, they would like to share the information exchanged when organizations like Exxon or BP send their lobbyists to meet with members of Congress to effect their own "influence over public policymaking"?  

After all, since Senators Inhofe and Vitter are so concerned about protecting the public interest, I'm sure they will want their new transparency standards applied to ALL lobbyists. 

And really,  I'd like to know how much  cash  data was exchanged between my senator and NRA lobbyists before the recent votes on gun control. How about you?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Republican Party's War-on-Stupid Steps On Another Land Mine.

Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campbell:
"Most people realize that AIDS came from the homosexual community--it was one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men...My understanding is that it is virtually--not completely, but virtually--impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex."
Jacques Pepin, Canadian infectious disease specialist and author of THE ORIGIN OF AIDS states that DNA evidence now shows the first known case of monkey to human transmission of HIV occurred in Africa sometime in the 1930s when a hunter was infected while butchering a monkey for food and the monkey's blood came in contact with an open cut on the hunter's hand.  

HIV was transmitted for decades in Africa via heterosexual vaginal sex which--despite what Mr. Campbell claims--our Center for Disease Control, along with all public health experts, calls a "high risk activity".  Today, the majority of the world's people infected with HIV are heterosexual and were infected through heterosexual sex.

what eye thynk:  Really, Republicans, before you go spouting off on a subject, why not send one of your peons to do a little fact checking?  The truth shouldn't be that scary.  As Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has said, Republicans have to "stop being the stupid party."

This is the United States of America, so bigots like Mr. Campbell are free to form their own opinions on any topic.  But, Senator, creating your own facts to support that position is just, well, stupid.