“I Would Have The Best Chance Of Beating The Eventual Democrat,” Says Mittens. Then He Quits.

It’s now official. Mittens ain’t gonna do it.

Vladimir Putin must be thanking his lucky zvezdy. Mittens would have no doubt done something terrible to him, had the loser of the 2012 election decided to become president. ISIL leaders are today giving thanks to Allah for this rare bit of good news. They can now safely take over the world.

And all those poor out there in America, who Mittens, as President Obama said, was “suddenly” and “deeply concerned” about helping from the White’s House, are obviously depressed today, having been consigned to a Romney-less future. There will be no Cayman Islands hero coming to their rescue.

It appears that, after today, Rand Paul will be right: Mittens is “yesterday’s news.”

But he couldn’t depart the presidential stage without one more falsehood. In his remarks today, he reportedly said:

I am convinced that with the help of the people on this call, we could win the nomination.

No one, no one in his right mind, would actually quit, if he were really “convinced” he could win the nomination. But he wasn’t done lying to himself:

I also believe with the message of making the world safer, providing opportunity to every American regardless of the neighborhood they live in, and working to break the grip of poverty, I would have the best chance of beating the eventual Democrat nominee…

Again, if he really believed all that stuff, deep down in his Bain-stained heart, he wouldn’t give up before the thing even started. He qualified his statement by offering the opinion that his confidence in winning comes “before the other contenders have had the opportunity to take their message to the voters.” Then he took a shot at Jebby the Bush:

I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee. In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case.

Take that Jebby!

So, all of this leaves us with Bush, Chris Christie, and Scott Walker to fight over who can best represent millionaires and billionaires in the 2016 election. The rest of the potential Republican field, which ranges from Rand Paul to Marco Rubio to Lindsey Graham, with every variety of wingnut in between, will only imagine themselves as being worthy of big-donor dough, the kind of money it takes these days to win the voting allegiance of a tiny sliver of the electorate.

As for Mittens, he did leave the door slightly open for the future, should things get really, really messy in the Republican primary process next year and the party comes running to him for a convention bailout:

I’ve been asked, and will certainly be asked again if there are any circumstances whatsoever that might develop that could change my mind. That seems unlikely.

That does seem unlikely. But there could be such a brutal fight break out in 2016 between the party’s heavyweights that one of the nuts could emerge with enough delegates to throw the whole thing into a tizzy. And Romney, the Master Predator, could be asked to takeover the party and do what he has always done best: enrich himself at the expense of others.

______________________________

[Image: Wisconsin Jobs Now]
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“We Want War!” Say Republicans And, Sadly, A Few Democrats

It’s a strange world in which two Fox “News” hosts are more critical of Speaker John Boehner’s unseemly invitation to Benjamin Netanyahu than is President Obama’s Chief of Staff.

Last week, the Speaker, against protocol and against decency and against our national interests, invited the Israeli Prime Minister to soon address Congress about what both Boehner and Netanyahu see as a misguided attempt to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear ambitions. The Speaker never told the White House in advance, and Netanyahu, up for reelection at home, didn’t bother to notify the State Department that he would accept the invitation. Boehner and Netanyahu are essentially undermining the efforts of the Obama administration to keep us out of another war. For most Republicans, Israeli interests appear to be more important than our own.

Worse than that, a few Democrats are also trying to get us into an honest-to-goodness war. Last week, after Obama’s State of the Union address, in which the President clearly stated that he would veto any legislation designed to interfere with his delicate negotiations with Iran (Republicans and some Democrats want to pile on additional sanctions), Senator Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said,

The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran.

I want to remind you: that wasn’t said by a creepy, crazy-eyed Fox “News” host. It was uttered by a Democrat. In the U.S. Senate.

It isn’t clear to me exactly why that reckless statement would exit the lips of a Democrat, while President Obama and John Kerry are trying to bring a peaceful end to a crisis involving Iran, Israel, and nuclear weapons. But it is a foolish and dangerous statement that is made more foolish and dangerous by the fact that Republicans, who most certainly trust Netanyahu more than the President of the United States, are in charge of Congress and won’t hesitate to do all they can to get us involved in a hot war with Iran, all on the advice of the Israeli Prime Minister.

And speaking of war and misguided Democrats, on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday Diane Feinstein essentially joined warmonger John McCain in calling for more “special operations” troops on the ground in, uh, Yemen. Yes, Yemen. She thinks we need “more than just advisers” there. That’s called panic, folks. Feinstein also hinted that more troops may be needed in other hot spots:

BOB SCHIEFFER: And then, to go back to the Middle East just quickly, do you envision we might have to put more ground troops — or have to put ground troops back into the Middle East?

FEINSTEIN: Well, this is one thing that I have tried to follow carefully, particularly with respect to Syria.

And I don’t see what we’re doing making a difference. So, I think we need to relook at this. And if we are going to tolerate Assad, as McCain said — and I tend to agree — looks like is the case, that’s a problem.

Let me remind you what “McCain said” just before Feinstein appeared on the program. He began by saying that President Obama and his Chief of Staff Denis McDonough “have lost touch with reality.” Then he got to the point of his gazillionth appearance on Sunday television:

MCCAIN: I agree with the director of British intelligence, MI5, who gave a speech last week saying that these young people mainly from other countries that are now in Iraq and Syria will — are a direct threat to the United States of America and Great Britain.

So there is no strategy. It is delusional for them to think that what they’re doing is succeeding. And we need more boots on the ground. I know that is a tough thing to say and a tough thing for Americans to swallow, but it doesn’t mean the 82nd Airborne. It means forward air controllers. It means special forces. It means intelligence and it means other capabilities.

And for them to say we expect them to do it on their own, they’re not doing it on their own. And they are losing.

In case you missed his point, he later reiterated:

In the Middle East, we have got to have boots on the ground.

Whenever you hear someone say that, you are hearing the tempered version of, “Let’s get this war party started!”

While we all should be concerned about what is happening in Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere in the region, and while we all should acknowledge that Israel has reason to worry about an existential threat from Iran, we have to keep our wits about us and not panic and jump, boots first, into two more bleeping wars. Our air attacks on ISIL fighters are helping to keep them in check, whether right-wingers in Congress or war-hungry pundits blabbing on TV want to admit it. And it is unclear what will happen in Yemen, since the Shiite rebels—who apparently don’t want to take over the country—aren’t exactly al Qaeda supporters. In fact, we just killed three more al Qaeda terrorists with drone strikes in Yemen today. Yes. I said today, after all the panic on Sunday’s talk shows.

As a much more sober Fareed Zakaria pointed out on Sunday, we have to keep all of this in perspective. He showed this graphic, based on data from the Global Terrorism Database:

Fareed Zacharia and CNN graphic

Now, if that isn’t enough, look at this graphic, which I pulled from the Global Terrorism Database website:

global terrorism database

Those colored beams represent the number of terrorist attacks in 2013 and the relative deaths associated with them. Look at us and look at other places around the world. We should keep all of this in mind, even as we understand that we are not isolated from what is going on elsewhere. We do have to pay attention to what is happening around the world and do what we can to fight terrorism, Islamist or otherwise. But boots-on-the-ground warfare should be the last resort, not the first.

Thankfully, John McCain lost the election in 2008. Thankfully, Bob Menendez and Dianne Feinstein are in the Senate and not the White House. Thankfully, Republicans only control Congress and can only throw rhetorical rocks at President Obama. And, thankfully, we have a man at the helm who doesn’t tend to panic and get nervous and want to start putting American troops on the ground everywhere, when things start to look a little scary.

And, more important, President Obama understands that there is a big difference between American foreign policy and the foreign policy of a right-wing prime minister of Israel, who seems hell-bent on getting the United States involved in a war with Iran, before all the attempts at diplomacy have played out.

If You Want To Know What’s Wrong With The Country, Look No Further than “Ballghazi”

♦ King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia just died. Because he was relatively friendly toward the United States, he was often a big help to us. And he was one of the most influential figures in Middle East politics, including the politics surrounding the global oil market.

♦ The president of Yemen, one of this country’s most important partners in trying to curb Islamist terrorism, just resigned, along with his cabinet, as Iranian-backed Shiite rebels took over the capital, including the presidential palace, and are setting the stage for a civil war.

♦ John Boehner, giving the finger to the President of the United States, secretly invited Israeli Prime Minister Benejamin Netanyahu to address Congress so that Netanyahu, who is facing an election at home, can also give the President the finger over Obama’s wise attempts to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear ambitions, rather than go to war.

♦ The deadline has passed for the payment of ransom money to ISIL, who has threatened to kill two more hostages, this time Japanese hostages.

♦ The U.S. and Iraq are making plans to retake Mosul this summer, in an effort to push back ISIL forces, who now control the second largest city in Iraq.

Those and other important stories are, if you look hard enough, in the news today. But if you watch TV news, both broadcast and cable, mostly what you have seen the last few days is incompetent, irresponsible coverage of one of the stupidest stories in the history of journalism, something that is now being called “Ballghazi,” the flap over how much air was in a football in an NFL playoff game last Sunday.

It has been a sad week for journalism, and not just the kind of irresponsible journalism that is often found in sports reporting. The disease has spread to the mainstream news outlets, who aren’t supposed to be accusing people of lying without any evidence or wasting valuable time reporting on stories that are more properly fit for cheap gossip magazines or websites. It’s as if Jerry Springer, using some kind of mind control, took over the brains of all the news executives and producers on all the television networks and cable shows. I guess covering Middle East politics, reporting on terrorism and our fight against it, following around a creepy John Boehner and a creepier Benjamin Netanyahu, is just not as much fun as covering a great drama like whether a famous football team, a famous coach, and a famous athlete are all petty cheaters.

All of what I have seen makes me wonder just how many other things, much more important things, reputable journalists are getting wrong each and every day.

On Wednesday night, I almost fell out of my hammock when a very smart Chris Hayes, of MSNBC, started his evening program with the story of whether the New England Patriots cheated the Indianapolis Colts in a 45-7 rout by deliberately not having enough air in the ball that Tom Brady was throwing. Hayes obviously thought Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback in NFL history, did probably cheat. But what does cheat even mean in this context? Nobody seems to know. But we do know now that one of the league’s greatest quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers, actually prefers overinflated balls, and that other NFL quarterbacks doctor the balls to their own particular specifications.

On Thursday night, after press conferences by Belichick and Brady in which they denied knowing anything about what may have happened to the balls after the game started, the network news shows put Ballghazi at the top of their newscasts. (AP)Also that night, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, on a show supposedly featuring “hardball” politics, started off his program with the underinflated ball story, repeating the falsehood, spread by other media outlets, that Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson was the first guy who brought the allegedly deflated ball—a ball he had intercepted when Brady threw a bad pass—to the attention of the officials. Except that Jackson said he did no such thing. He said he had planned on keeping the ball for a souvenir and had no idea it was underinflated, if in fact it was. “I wouldn’t know how that could even be an advantage or a disadvantage,” the linebacker said. “I definitely wouldn’t be able to tell if one ball had less pressure than another.”

From Sean Hannity to Chris Matthews, from Good Morning America to NBC Nightly News, from ESPN to local sportscasts, everyone on TV and radio has been talking about the issue, most of them not having the slightest idea what they are talking about. Yet almost all of them are sure that the Patriots cheated, that Bill Belichick is lying when he says he wasn’t involved in deflating the balls, and that Tom Brady is also lying because, well, just because. I have yet to see presented any evidence that Brady or anybody cheated, nor have I seen much of an indication that journalists covering this farce know what actually constitutes evidence or that they know that there are such things as standards of proof. But I have seen flimsy charges made, followed by even flimsier convictions.

This week I have seen on TV all kinds of people holding footballs, talking about footballs, and throwing footballs. I have seen some of those same people also hurling accusations—again, none of them based on the slightest evidence—that Belichick and Brady are liars and cheaters and should be suspended from next week’s Super Bowl. Some hysterical folks, like ESPN’s Michael Wilbon, are even suggesting the entire Patriots team, if proof of guilt finally materializes, should be booted from the game, replaced by the defeated Colts.

I have seen so much dumb and incompetent reporting (no, Belichick did not “throw Brady under the bus” during his press conference), so much wild speculation about NFL-engineered conspiracies (to hype the Super Bowl game or protect Patriots ownership), so much ignorance of the physics of the whole thing (for instance, measuring the air pressure of the ball inside a warm room, then measuring it later outside when it is colder, will produce a different result, dropping the PSI by a relatively significant amount), that I worry for the future of the country, at least as far as television reporting and commentary will affect it.

Because if the kind of broadcast journalism that I have seen this week gets any worse, then there will be no reason to believe much of anything that comes from the mouths of anyone who puts on a suit or dress and starts talking in front of a camera. In fact, there will be good reason not to believe it.

It’s really been that bad.

The Rich Will Get What They Paid For

Many of the headlines, and most of the chatter, about last night’s well-crafted, well-delivered, not to mention inspiring, State of the Union address had to do Displaying 20150120_231217.jpgwith how feisty President Obama seemed to be:

The New York Times: Obama Defiantly Pushes His Agenda

The Kansas City Star: In State of the Union speech, President Obama pushes an aggressive agenda

Pushes. Agenda. Hmm. I wonder what Republicans thought about the uppity agenda-pusher and his defiant, aggressive agenda? Let’s look:

Republicans dismiss president’s proposals from State of the Union address

The New York Times: G.O.P. Response to Obama’s Sweeping Proposals: ‘No’

Why, of course! After all, we are talking about Republicans. Obviously they don’t like the following proposals Obama made on behalf of working folks and their families:

Raise the minimum wage
Require employers to provide paid sick leave for the 43 million now without it
Increase child tax credits
Make community college free
Give other college students a tax credit
Expand the earned income tax credit

Let me be clear: Republicans don’t hate these proposals because they hate working people. Nope, not at all. Even though sometimes it seems like they do hate working folks, they really don’t. I mean it. They really don’t. They actually appreciate working folks. You know why? Because working class people just keep right on working, harder and harder every day, no matter their pay or their benefits or the cost of raising their kids or getting them through college. They just keep at it. Because they have to. And that’s one thing Republicans appreciate about them.

But they really appreciate the working class when, after having been savaged by the GOP’s voodoo economics, a significant number of politically depressed workers will stay home and not vote for Democrats on election day. And Republicans really, really appreciate those workers who, despite being cursed by the right’s voodoo priests, will run to the nearest polling place and vote for more voodoo.

So, no, it’s not that the GOP doesn’t like the working class. It’s just that in order to do the things President Obama and the Democrats want to do to help them, things would have to change a little bit for some folks and businesses that Republicans really, really love: the wealthy and the big banks. Taxes and fees would have to go up on those two groups in order to pay for the new programs and expansion of old programs that Obama mentioned in his speech.

Thus, we have this rather easy and quite realistic analysis by Nicole Hart, director of trusts and estates at Sontag Advisory, a wealth management firm in New York:

My initial reaction is that nothing is going to happen in a Republican-controlled Congress. Our advice to clients is that we’re not worried this is getting passed.

Not to worry, rich people! Your investments in the GOP have paid off! Republicans are in control! Now the rest of you stiffs out there better get your asses back to work!

“It’s A War Nonetheless”

Have you ever wondered who came up with the arrogant and offensive and inaccurate term “moral majority”? Or have you wondered who brought us the Heritage Foundation, that infamous right-wing group-think tank? Or, worse, who first thunk up the pro-business, anti-worker, culturally reactionary group we all know as ALEC?

coors crossThe culprit was Paul Weyrich. In 1979, the God-bedeviled theocrat co-founded, along with the god-awful telepreacher Jerry Falwell, the Moral Majority, a political action group that first married conservative Christianity to the Republican Party, a gift from hell that just keeps giving. Weyrich also talked Joseph Coors out of some beer money and helped start the Heritage Foundation, an organization that, from Ronald Reagan’s presidency to the present, has done much damage to the country.

But perhaps the most damage done by a group Weyrich co-founded has been done by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is, essentially, how corporations have been able to get Republican state legislators to toss corporation-written legislation into the hopper and eventually make it state law. Here’s how People for the American Way describes the organization:

ALEC’s agenda includes rolling back civil rights, challenging government restrictions on polluters, infringing on workers’ rights, limiting government regulations of commerce, privatizing public services, and representing the interests of the corporations that make up its supporters. 

As you can see, we can thank Paul Weyrich for a lot of what is wrong with 21st-century America. After his death in 2008, the Los Angeles Times noted that Weyrich’s role,

was not just political; it was acutely cultural, concerned with such matters as whether children are taught evolution or creationism in school, or whether homosexuality is portrayed as natural or profane.

“It may not be with bullets and . . . rockets and missiles, but it’s a war nonetheless,” he once said, describing the struggles that began to dominate public discourse in the late 1970s. “It is a war of ideology, it’s a war of ideas, and it’s a war about our way of life. And it has to be fought with the same intensity, I think, and dedication as you would fight a shooting war.”

Bang, bang, in the name of Jesus! Here is a 40-second sample of Weyrich saying something that is quite relevant today:

 

“I don’t want everybody to vote,” he said. And may he rest in peace for his honesty, if nothing else.

But Weyrich was onto something when he said to conservatives, “As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” He was on to something because he knew his political and cultural conservatism wasn’t really part of a “majority,” moral or otherwise. He knew his efforts to shape the country into a quasi-theocratic state would fail if enough people went to the polls. Thus, the idea, then and now, is to keep as many people from voting as possible, specifically targeting those who are tempted to vote for devilish Democrats.

Which brings us to Missouri. Stacey Newman, a Democrat who represents the people of the 87th district (just west of St. Louis) in the Missouri House, posted the following a few days ago:

We were informed that Voter ID bills (HB30 and HJR1) will be heard in a special Elections hearing at 2pm Wednesday, January 21st.

As Rep. Newman points out,

This will be the 10th straight year that the Missouri GOP leadership has focused on making it harder for current longtime voters to vote, even though the Missouri Supreme Court has ruled voter ID proposals unconstitutional.

Ten years and counting. Remember what Weyrich said: “It is a war of ideology, it’s a war of ideas, and it’s a war about our way of life. And it has to be fought with the same intensity, I think, and dedication as you would fight a shooting war.” That’s what it’s all about for these people. We best understand that, all of us who are on the other side of this war. These folks are serious. They won’t give up. Neither should we.

HB 30 is, by the way, co-sponsored by Joplin’s own Bill White. Now, I live here in Joplin and there is no problem, not the slightest hint of a problem, with the locals going to the polls and voting illegally. So, there must be some other reason why Bill White is in favor of voter ID laws, right? Could it be that he is worried about all the voters in other places in Missouri? Places like St. Louis and Kansas City, where a lot of the voters there don’t look like Bill, uh, White?

Paul Weyrich told us all we need to know about the motives of the ID-obsessed reactionaries here in Joplin, here in Missouri, and across the country: “our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

As I said, may he rest in peace for his honesty.

________________________

State representative Newman ended her post with this call to activism (emphasis is hers):

What can you do?  We NEED people to testify, fill the hearing room in the Capitol, and express their outrage to the Speaker.  Contact Speaker Diehl – john.diehl@house.mo.gov and let him know what you think about voter suppression.

Voting rights is not a game.  We cannot afford to remain silent.

Their Father Taught Them Well

Some of us wonder what makes people, appearing to be drunk on religious faith, to kill others in the name of their religion. We wonder how someone starts out their day thinking, “This is the day the Lord hath made, I will rejoice and be glad and in it—and kill infidels.”

It’s easy for Western Christians, particularly Christian Right blowhards here in the United States, to point to Muslims, at least those who terrorize others in the name of Islam, and say there is something inherently wrong with that religious tradition, that its unique Quranic theology endorses, indeed, encourages, violence against both non-Muslims and against those Muslims who deviate from a certain fundamentalist form of Islam. Even decidedly non-Christians like Bill Maher, commenting on the terrorist attacks in Paris, says of Islam:

When there are that many bad apples, there’s something wrong with the orchard.

Yes. There is something wrong. There is something wrong with the orchard of Islam. And what is wrong is in the soil.

But the ground from which the Islamic orchard blossomed also produced Judaism, with its murderous excesses chronicled in the Old Testament. And it also produced Christianity, with its murderous excesses recorded in secular history books. The soil in which the roots of these three monotheistic religious orchards have thrived—remember: Islam embraces the Bible, too, calling the Quran “a confirmation of” and “a fuller explanation of the Book”—has been poisoned by the same toxic idea, an idea found first in the Book of Genesis:

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.

Every warrior for Yahweh, every soldier for Christ, every jihadist for Allah, could point to the idea found in that passage and, with a certain state of mind, find a justification for killing the wicked, the faithless, and the infidel in the name of God.

Or they could turn to another episode in Genesis where God destroyed two populated cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, because of their imputed sin and wickedness.

The Massacre of the Innocents - Nicolas PoussinOr they could turn to the Book of Exodus and learn how God punished the Egyptians for the sins of their leader. Their punishment, among other things, was the killing of innocents, the firstborn sons of all Egyptians, of their slaves, even of their cattle.

Or they could turn to the Book of Numbers and learn of the slaughter of the Midianites, whose alleged sins amounted to their women having sex with the men of Israel, which then caused those men to worship the “false God” of the Midianites, which then meant the men were disloyal to the One True God. Moses ordered the death of every Midianite—man, woman, and child—and confiscated their wealth.

After that orgy of inspired violence and murder and plunder—there is plenty more, of course—it is rather easy for a zealous and disturbed mind to find a book-based justification for killing in the name of God, or Allah. All that is required is to determine just who are the wicked, the faithless, and the infidels.

Unfortunately for the world today, there are a few groups of armed extremists who have so determined, and thus are endeavoring to carry on a tradition recorded on the pages of an ancient book, the same book that conservative American Christians proudly tote to church with them every Sunday, a book that both Christians and Muslims believe is the Word of God.

Keeping Up With The Republicans

Here’s a headline from USA Today this morning:

Obama to propose paid sick leave for American workers

Now try to imagine this headline:

Romney to propose paid sick leave for American workers

I know, I know. You can’t imagine such a thing. There is no way Republicans would put workers on their agenda, except to attack workers’ rights to organize or sustain a union. But Republicans are up to something, right? They’re not just sitting around waiting for Jesus to come back, are they?

Nope. They’ve been busy. But besides saying President Obama is worse than Hitler, and besides saying he should start a religious war against Islam, what is the GOP doing these days? Oh, you know:

♥ The family values party has told Hispanic families to go straight to hell.

♥ And speaking of family values, God’s man in the upcoming GOP presidential field, former Arkansas governor and always a preacher Mike Huckabee, recently criticized the Obama’s for their parenting skills.

It seems Huck doesn’t like Beyoncé or her husband Jay-Z and thinks it is God-awful for the Obama daughters to be exposed to them.  As many have pointed out, though, the Huckster is a friend of Ted Nugent, who wrote a song about raping a 13-year-old girl, which apparently satisfies Huckabee’s lofty standards of moral decency.

huckabee and nugentOh, not only is Huckabee a friend of the draft-dodging Nugent—a man so vile and full of hate that calling President Obama a “subhuman mongrel” is one of the nicer things he has said about him—Huck also had Nugent on his Fox television show, where he played bass for the aging rocker on a nice rendition of “Cat Scratch Fever,” a song Ted wrote about getting laid when he was “just ten years old.” The song, performed before a mostly lily-white audience of like-minded evangelicals, also features this paean to godliness:

Well, I make the pussy purr with the stroke of my hand
They know they gettin’ it from me
They know just where to go when they need their lovin’ man
They know I’m doin’ it for free

Amen. Thank God for Republican family values!

♥ Sen. Rand Paul, who also wants your vote for president, naturally thinks the way to demonstrate his qualifications for the office is by attacking disabled folks. That is in sync with the Tea Party-controlled House of Representatives, which on its first day in session this year passed a new parliamentary rule that will, essentially, hold hostage Social Security disability benefits, as GOP New Deal-haters figure out how much to cut from the program. Because, as we all know, there are tons of people—parasites, all—out there defrauding the system. Except there aren’t. Like most of these things, it is a Republican fantasy that people are lazy and don’t want to work, a fantasy that Rand Paul believes he can exploit for political gain, just like President Romney did.

♥ Speaking of Rand Paul, the man who is now directing RANDPAC, Paul’s political action committee, is John Yob. Who is John Yob? He’s the same man who helped get Dave Agema elected to a position on the Republican National Committee. So what? you might say. Who the hell is Dave Agema? Allow the National Journal to introduce him to you:

In a New Year’s Eve Facebook post, Michigan RNC Committeeman Dave Agema republished an essay from American Renaissance, a white-supremacist newsletter. The article, which Agema said he found “very enlightening,” argued that “blacks are different by almost any measure to all other people. They cannot reason as well. They cannot communicate as well. They cannot control their impulses as well. They are a threat to all who cross their paths, black and non-black alike.”

That ain’t all:

Agema has a well-documented history of making inflammatory statements. He argued that President Obama is really a Muslim. He praised Vladimir Putin for Russia’s brutal stance on homosexuality. He blamed Satan for dividing the Republican Party. He even shared what he called an “eye opening” essay on Facebook that posed the question: “Have you ever seen a Muslim do anything that contributes positively to the American way of life?”

Yep. He sits on the Republican National Committee, even though, finally, the GOP is “censuring” him.

♥ A man the GOP won’t censure, however, is that great American patriot, Louie Gohmert of Texas. Gohmert wishes “our top leaders in this country” had “the courage” of the military dictator—I said dictator—running Egypt. But the Tea Party genius didn’t stop there. He crapped on the efforts of the U.S. military, which has been at war, fighting terrorists, since 2002:

If the story is properly written about Egypt, and one day it will be, they will see that in the last six years, that besides Israel, the country that has been most fearless in standing up for freedom and against radical Islamic terrorism, unfortunately, has not been the United States because of our leadership. It has been the nation of Egypt.

I am sure the families of all those Americans killed, as well as all those Americans who have been wounded fighting “radical Islamic terrorism” for the last six years, appreciate the fact that a Republican congressman has their backs—at least long enough to stick an Obama-hating knife in them.

♥ On a happier note, one of the Tea Party nuts who voters, wisely, tossed out of Congress in 2012 is Joe Walsh from Illinois. Here is a headline about him that appeared on Talking Points Memo yesterday:

Ex-GOP Congressman Hopes ‘Cowards At CNN, MSNBC’ Are Beheaded

I remind you that this crazy man, despite losing to Tammy Duckworth in 2012, still got 45% of the vote.

♥ Oh, Mittens is back and this time he promises he will—really, truly, honest-to-Kolob—worry about the poor. And we know that, just like in the case of Joe Walsh, at least 45% of the electorate will believe him.

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[AP photo: “A bugler plays during burial services for Army Staff Sgt. Scott W. Brunkhorst, Tuesday, April 13, 2010, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.” Staff Sgt. Brunkhorst, who was 25 years old, died “in the Arghandab River Valley, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.”]

Jesus Hebdo

If you were to spend any time visiting Planet Hate, also known as the conservative media complex, you would find these days a lot of pundits and commenters using the following quote from President Obama, which they think makes him sound like he is firmly on the side of the extremist Muslims of the world:

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.

The President said that to the United Nations General Assembly in 2012. But, of course, he said a lot of other things and the quote above is just one among other “the future must not belong to” items he listed, like “The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt.” When have you seen a conservative use that quote?

In any case, I will supply what followed that seemingly Islam-embracing sentence in Obama’s UN speech that conservatives are tossing around like it proves our president is, if not a terrorist sympathizer, at least a Muhammad-loving, Jesus-hating appeaser:

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. But to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see in the images of Jesus Christ that are desecrated, or churches that are destroyed, or the Holocaust that is denied.

So, you can see that really the President was lecturing Muslims about the sins of hypocrisy. Or more strongly, he was saying: If you don’t want your prophet dishonored, then stop hating on Christians and Jews. Obviously, he was not rhetorically siding with one group or another, but was expressing his concept of civility. That was, in essence, what his speech was about—even though I think the President was off-key in some of his remarks.

It all depends on what he meant by “slander” in “slander the prophet of Islam.” If he meant “making false statements” about Muhammad, that is one thing. The president is right about that. People should speak the truth, as they see it, about the prophet of Islam, or anyone else for that matter.

But if President Obama meant any criticism, including harsh criticism, of Muhammad or Islam is out-of-bounds, then he was quite wrong. That is what the entire Charlie Hebdo incident is about. Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, or any religious leader today including the Pope, is fair game for criticism, even fair game for satire, even biting and sometimes offensive satire.

Whatever the President meant when he gave that speech in 2012, we know he is not on the side of those who killed innocents last week in Paris, even though some delusional right-wingers, those who comment on certain articles (like this one), tell themselves that he is (“Sounds like the shooting represents a “mission accomplished” for imam Barry,” says someone using the name “Libslayer”). These are sick people, and the depth of their hatred for Obama, a man they don’t know or understand, is otherwise inexplicable.

Leaving aside the clearly mentally disturbed people who call Obama a “miserable Muslim snake” and “the most evil man in America,” there are some more sober-minded Christian right-wingers who use Obama’s “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam” quote as evidence that his heart isn’t in the fight against terrorism, as Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist suggests. She writes:

The fact is that, when it comes to Islamist radicalism, the Obama administration works to downplay threats. And probably for reasons related to that approach, the administration isn’t going to be the strongest defenders of art that is considered a capital offense of blasphemy by Islamist radicals.

Her reference to “art” is to Charlie Hebdo. All of a sudden, Christian conservatives are in love with Charlie—and they are mad at the “liberal” media because some news organizations are not publishing most of the satirical cartoons or are pixelating the naughty parts of some they do publish. These conservative Christians love Charlie right now because the magazine is unafraid to toss cartoon grenades into Islamic foxholes.

But I want to remind everyone that Charlie Hebdo doesn’t much like fundamentalist or conservative Christianity either. And if there’s one thing we know about right-wing Christians, it is that as much as many of them are now celebrating the lampooning of Muhammad and radical forms of Islam, they can get quite upset when Jesus is the butt of jokes or when Christianity is mocked or when their leaders are attacked (or they can just make up stuff, like the War on Christmas, and get all delirious over that).

I also want to remind everyone that Jesus wasn’t exactly a sheep-toting fan of the dominant religious leaders of his time, nor was he respectful of all the traditions of his faith. In fact, while most of the Jewish zealots in Jesus’ day were focused on ridding the land of Roman infidels, Jesus had a different enemy: Jewish leaders themselves.

He mocked them. He called them bad names. He condemned them. He was relentless in his criticism. If there were a Charlie Hebdo around in first century Palestine, Jesus could have been a cartoonist using sarcasm and satire to make his point about the absurdities of the leaders of Judaism and some of the ridiculous traditions they had established and some of their creative, self-serving interpretations of Jewish law.

I will leave you with a rather lengthy passage from the The Gospel of Matthew that I hope you will read in its entirety. And when you read it, think about all that we have seen and heard over the past week regarding Charlie Hebdo. And then wonder how the Jesus below fits in with it all. How does he and his words relate to the debate over civility, over criticism of religion, and over harsh language directed at powerful religious figures, some of whom, as Jesus himself discovered, are eager to see the execution of someone who has offended them:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.  They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.

“Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’

“Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father.  And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!

“Blind guides! What sorrow awaits you! For you say that it means nothing to swear ‘by God’s Temple,’ but that it is binding to swear ‘by the gold in the Temple.’ Blind fools! Which is more important—the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? And you say that to swear ‘by the altar’ is not binding, but to swear ‘by the gifts on the altar’ is binding. How blind! For which is more important—the gift on the altar or the altar that makes the gift sacred? When you swear ‘by the altar,’ you are swearing by it and by everything on it. And when you swear ‘by the Temple,’ you are swearing by it and by God, who lives in it. And when you swear ‘by heaven,’ you are swearing by the throne of God and by God, who sits on the throne.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens,but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you build tombs for the prophets your ancestors killed, and you decorate the monuments of the godly people your ancestors destroyed. Then you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would never have joined them in killing the prophets.’

“But in saying that, you testify against yourselves that you are indeed the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead and finish what your ancestors started. Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?

“Therefore, I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers of religious law. But you will kill some by crucifixion, and you will flog others with whips in your synagogues, chasing them from city to city. As a result, you will be held responsible for the murder of all godly people of all time—from the murder of righteous Abel to the murder of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you killed in the Temple between the sanctuary and the altar. I tell you the truth, this judgment will fall on this very generation.

Sikkos [sic]

Talking about the terrorist attacks in Paris, Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from Warmonger, South Carolina, said on Fox on Sunday:

I have no idea why the President of the United States won’t call this a religious war.

The Christian Soldier then, quite unbelievably, proceeded to blame Obama for the rise of radical Islam.

Byron York, a reactionary columnist writing for a reactionary news outlet called the Washington Examiner, wrote a piece that was celebrated by MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough on Tuesday. York, among other things, said that President Obama didn’t make a mistake by not attending the big rally in Paris last Saturday. It was all just part of the plan:

The administration no-shows were not a failure of optics, or a diplomatic misstep, but were instead the logical result of the president’s years-long effort to downgrade the threat of terrorism and move on to other things…

So when the president chose not to attend the Paris march, nor to send the Vice President or Secretary of State, the problem wasn’t a tin-ear sense of public relations. It was Obama’s actual attitude toward the terror threat facing not only Europe but the United States. We’ve dealt with the big stuff, Obama has declared, now let’s move on.

Apparently Mr. York’s head has been holed up in Mr. York’s colon for the last six years. Barack Obama, far from moving on from the “terror threat,” has been daily—heck, hourly—dropping bombs on or shooting missiles at terrorists somewhere in the world. For God’s sake, he’s even put troops back in Iraq, where there weren’t any terrorists until George W. Bush and Dick Cheney decided to invade the country.

All that is bad enough, but then there is congressman Randy Weber, who succeeded the nutty Ron Paul in the 14th congressional district in Texas (so you know he’s got his shit together, right?). Weber has previously referred to President Obama in a tweet as “Kommandant-In-Chef”—yes, he said “chef”—and “the Socialist dictator who’s been feeding US a line or is it “A-Lying”—at least he didn’t spell it “dick tater.”

Now Weber has once again not only shown his penchant for avoiding spell check, but his penchant for public displays of stupidity:

randy weber tweet

I get it! Barack Obama is worse than “Adolph” Hitler! How funny! No wonder that’s been Favorited over 500 times.

These people are sick, you know. Nearly every last one of them. And until the Scary Negro leaves the White’s House, I’m afraid they’re just going to get sicker.

 

Muhammad Wept?

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

Jesus wept.

Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

—Gospel of John

Today’s issue of the “irresponsible newspaper,” featuring the caption, “All is forgiven”:charlie cover

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