The House Of Babel

Let them be ashamed and confounded that seek after my soul; let them be turned backward and put to confusion that desire my hurt.”

—King David in Psalm 70:2, or Barack Obama today

Going right up to the brink of a total Homeland Security defunding, the House of Representatives, led by that pusillanimous patriot John Boehner, approved a bill that funds our nation’s mammoth security agency for, uh, one week.

And the truth is that without Democrats even the one week Band-Aid wouldn’t have been timely applied to an embarrassingly self-inflicted wound. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, curiously, wrote a letter to her members urging them to pass the short-term bill:

We are asking you once again to help advance passage of the Senate passed, long-term funding of DHS by voting in favor of a 7-day patch that will be on suspension in the House tonight.

The speculation is that Democrats only went along with this nonsense because they were promised a vote on a clean funding bill in the coming week, one that would keep the agency running until the end of the fiscal year in September, without any provisions that would limit the president’s executive power on immigration law enforcement.

Still, the fighting among Republicans—the utter confusion and disarray—was something to behold on Friday. All of it was related to the right-wing’s obsession with President Obama’s deferred action on deportation. Since immigration law enforcement is part of Homeland Security, the zealots decided that they would hold funding for the agency hostage unless Democrats in the Senate—who have been using the filibuster with Republican-like efficiency—caved in to their demands to include provisions in the law that would prevent Obama from using his executive power to pick and choose just whom he would deport.

All of this befuddlement reminded me of a tactic God used in the Old Testament. In case you don’t know, God had a habit of using confusion to get his point across, to realize his divine desires, to prevent mankind from doing what he didn’t want them to do. Most famously, in Genesis there was the Tower of Babel incident in which God feared that “the people are one and they all have one language…now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.” So, God said, “let us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 

That is what happened on Friday in the House of Representatives. Confusion. Republicans not understanding one another’s speech. And all of it was over whether the U.S. government ought to have an aggressive policy of deportation, dividing paperless immigrants from their paper-proper family members. The Shrub Part 3 Jeb Bush once said, before he was trying to court haters in his party:

The way I look at this is someone who comes to our country because they couldn’t come legally … and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work, to be able to provide for their family, yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love, it’s an act of commitment to your family.

That Jeb Bush, the one who sensibly talked about undocumented immigrants in the context of  “an act of love,” will decrease, and a meaner Jeb Bush will increase. That is the nature of the case, when it comes to Republican primary politics in the age of the Tea Party. But all those reactionaries, those who believe the Bible is their guide to salvation, ought to pay attention to Deuteronomy 28:

But if you don’t obey the Lord your God’s voice by carefully doing all his commandments and his regulations that I am commanding you right now, all these curses will come upon you and find you:
♦ 
You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the field.

♦ Your basket and kneading bowl will be cursed.
♦ 
Your own fertility, your soil’s produce, your cattle’s young, and your flock’s offspring will be cursed.
♦ 
You will be cursed when you are out and about and cursed when you come back.
♦ 
The Lord will send calamity, confusion, and frustration on you no matter what work you are doing until you are wiped out and until you disappear—it’ll be quick!—because of the evil acts by which you have abandoned him…

♦ You might get engaged to a woman, but another man will have sex with her.
♦ 
You might build a house, but you won’t get to live in it.
♦ You might plant a vineyard, but you won’t enjoy it.
♦ Your ox will be slaughtered while you watch, but you won’t get to eat any of it.
♦ Your donkey will be stolen right out from under you, and it won’t come back.
♦ Your flocks will be given to your enemies.
♦ No one will save you…
♦ The immigrants who live among you will be promoted over you, higher and higher! But you will be demoted, lower and lower! They will lend to you, but you will have nothing to lend to them. They will be the head of things; you will be the tail.

On Friday, and so many times since Tea Party members started renting space in John Boehner’s head, we have seen “the tail” wag a very confused dog.

Unions Have Long Memories

I just heard a conservative on Fox say that Scott Walker’s comparison of union members to ISIS beheaders was a “fake gaffe.” He said that this will be “forgotten next week.”

Oh, yeah? Betcha.

Walker responded to a question during his appearance on Thursday at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference—an event that demonstrates the surprising truth that turds can talk—about how he would handle ISIS:

I want a commander-in-chief who will do everything in their [sic] power to ensure that the threat from radical Islamic terrorists do not wash up on American soil. We will have someone who leads and ultimately will send a message, not only that we will protect American soil, but do not take this upon freedom-loving people anywhere else in the world. We need a leader with that kind of confidence. If I can take on a hundred thousand protesters, I can do the same across the world.

Overhead view of hundreds of people wearing red for the teachers' unions, protesting against Walker's bill.If you can restrain yourself from puking up your lunch, you may recall that Walker’s efforts in Wisconsin to destroy public employee unions wasn’t exactly popular with working people, and thousands came out to protest and show their disapproval. It is those protesters—working men and women—whom he compares to Islamist zealots and psychopaths who have committed unspeakable crimes against humanity.

And if anyone thinks that working people and the unions who represent them will forget Walker’s remarks, look out. Even without that stupid and offensive comparison to fanatical killers, union folks will be stirred up in 2016 against what has become an obvious Republican hatred of collective bargaining rights for workers. But throw Walker into a general election, with his claim that “taking on” protesting working people qualifies him to fight ISIS freaks in Iraq and Syria, and you will see an effort to defeat Walker like you have never seen.

It has become quite clear that Walker is the favorite among the worst of the worst on the far right. One of the reasons he is their favorite is his aggressive anti-union stance, something he highlighted in his well-received CPAC speech on Thursday. Comparing union protesters to Islamist killers will only endear Walker to the legions of union-hating freaks on the right, and should Walker wrestle the Republican nomination from the well-funded third leg of the Bush triumvirate, Walker can absolutely count on one thing: union people won’t forget what he has said and, more important, what he has done.

Jon Stewart On Right-Wingers: There Is No Satisfying “The Beast”

The Washington Post’s Eric Wemple reminds us that after Jon Stewart announced his upcoming retirement from “The Daily Show,” the on-air talent at Fox “News” wasn’t exactly sad about it:

Most notably, prime-time host Megyn Kelly riffed as follows: “I can tell you my own feeling on Jon Stewart, while I enjoy consuming his news product — this fake news product, you know at home and laughing at it,” said Kelly. “I don’t think overall he’s been a force for good. Because I think especially in his later years he got a little nasty. I think he got a little burnt-out. And I can speak personally to a lot of the attacks that were levied on me, had no foothold in the facts.”

stewartIt is beyond ironic that a Fox “News” host claims to sit at home and laugh at a “fake news product,” especially when so many people get a kick out of watching the Sultans of Fake on Fox do their best Colbert imitation day after day and night after night, as they pretend they are presenting the news.

I, however, don’t have much fun watching Fox and its stable of propagandists and, in some cases, liars (hello, Billo!) for the conservative movement. Rather than make me laugh, it depresses me to know that so many of my fellow citizens embrace the hate and misinformation that makes up so much of Fox’s programming day. It is obvious to me now, as a former conservative and “dittohead,” that America became a dumber and meaner place after right-wing zealots took over talk radio in the late 1980s (thanks to Ronald Reagan).

But since it’s appearance on the media scene, the Fox “News” Channel has taken dumber and meaner to new heights, or, more accurately, new lows. And some people have a hard time understanding why it is that so many Americans embrace, with a jihadist’s enthusiasm, such mind-dumbing and heart-numbing programming. But Jon Stewart pretty much gets it.

On Wednesday night, Stewart once again directly took on Fox by, first, playing a loop of “50 Fox lies in 6 seconds.” He noted that there were “plenty more” lies but his time was limited to 22 minutes. The entire 10-minute bit was the best stuff Stewart has done in a long time. It was hilarious. But it was more than that. The segment was insightful.

After playing a clip of Rush Limbaugh claiming that “Jon Stewart had helped to polarize the country by poisoning the Republican brand,” Stewart then played clips of Limbaugh saying a series of stupid and hateful things and followed those with the following observation:

How do you poison a cyanide factory? But see the little game that they play here is, “The only reason the right looks bad is that these guys are unfair liars to us”…My point is that we don’t lie. We don’t distort…The point is that on the right they’re pretending that our truthfulness is what’s really important to them, which ironically is not true. What matters to the right is discrediting anything that they believe harms their side. That’s their prime directive…

Look, this mission drives their attack on all the institutions that form the foundation of the country they purport to love so dearly. And what, pray tell, is wrong with these institutions? [He plays clips of Fox personalities or guests decrying “liberal bias and anti-Americanism” and “the cancer of liberalism” and the like.] …Each institution suffering from the same malady of liberalism  and what can be done?

This is their genius. They purport to want to fix things, but conservatives are not looking to make education more rigorous and informative, or science more empirical or verifiable, or voting more representative, or the government more efficient or effective. They just want all those things to reinforce their partisan ideological conservative viewpoints. Because in their minds, the opposite of bad isn’t good; the opposite of bad is “conservative.” The opposite of wrong isn’t right…it’s “right-wing.” They judge solely on the level of conservative content in everything. It’s their only litmus test…

He then played clips of Fox personalities blaming liberal Hollywood bias against Clint Eastwood for the fact that Eastwood’s film “American Sniper” did not win “Best Picture” at the Oscars. Stewart took on that “stupid shit” and then began his criticism of those who try to appease the right-wing lying machine:

You know the saddest part of all this? Republicans, conservatives, are so fucking relentless in their drive for ideological purity, that those institutions they complain about continue to cave for the same reason, I guess, that you always seem to end up going to the same restaurant the four-year-old wants to go to: “Fine! We’re going to get Fribbles again! Just stop crying!” 

Stewart went on to mention that “15 states have approved voter ID laws in the absence of any meaningful evidence of voter fraud.” He noted that in Oklahoma a “House committee voted to ban A.P. History for not sugar coating slavery enough” and that “Abstinence is approved sex education, and scientific fact isn’t reported now, it’s debated.” Then he says to all those who should know better but who are tempted to cave in to the demands of the ideologues:

So, let’s just stop. Let’s stop pretending that these concessions to the right will at any point sate the beast…So let’s just stop giving in to them. Guys, take it from someone who’s been watching what they do for a blessedly-almost-over 16 years or so. Their chronically angry war for ideological purity, where every aspect of life becomes a two-dimensional battle for America’s soul, it ages you…

As a former conservative, as a former fan of right-wing media personalities like Rush Limbaugh, as someone who spent much more time than Jon Stewart listening to and watching this stuff—as a true believer and a repentant critic—I can say that he’s right about the “chronically angry war for ideological purity” and the “two-dimensional battle for America’s soul.” There are no fifty shades of gray with these people. There is no gray at all. It’s black and white. You are either with them or against them. Thus, as Stewart says, there is no point in making tactical concessions to them.

You simply cannot satisfy the beast.

Donkey Shame

Rather than boycott a controversial appearance by the Israeli prime minister, most Democrats plan to be there when Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to a joint session of Congress on March 3.

If that’s not bad enough, Democratic senators Dianne Feinstein and Dick Durbin invited Netanyahu to a closed-door meeting with Democrats in order to, they said, “maintain Israel’s dialogue with both political parties in Congress.” Netanyahu said no thanks, amazingly claiming that to meet with Democratic senators “could compound the misperception of partisanship regarding my upcoming visit.”

The truth is, of course, that there is no “misperception” of partisanship related to Netanyahu’s visit. It is clearly quite partisan. Speaker John Boehner invited him to speak so that he could dope-slap President Obama in front of Americans and undermine any potential deal with Iran over its nuclear weapons aspirations.

And if Netanyahu were to meet with Democratic senators, that would piss off his Republican benefactors in Congress, who sometimes have a hard time understanding that Israel is not our fifty-first state, or, like some Democrats, have a hard time telling the difference between Israeli interests and our own.

We all should keep in mind that if we fail to make a deal with Iran, if we fail to find a diplomatic way to keep them from developing nuclear weapons, that may quite likely mean war at some point. And a U.S. war against Iran seems to be what Netanyahu, and some Republican members of Congress, want for us and our future.

We now know that not only has Netanyahu been selectively leaking misleading details about our negotiations with Iran, but during his 2012 U.N. speech—the one in which he wielded a weird cartoon bomb drawing worthy of The Road Runner Show—Netanyahu misrepresented the truth about how close Iran is to making a nuclear bomb. He told the world then:

“By next spring, at most by next summer, at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move[d] on to the final stage. From there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.”

Except that top-secret documents leaked to the press show that Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, believed at that time that Iran “does not appear to be ready” to enrich uranium “to higher levels.” And because that is Netanyahu’s  home-controlled source of intelligence on the matter, he clearly knew what the intelligence assessment was and chose to mislead the world about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Worse than that, Netanyahu has played this game since 1992. Back then, twenty-three years ago, he said Iran was three to five years away from nuclear weaponry. And according to the Christian Science Monitor, Republicans also joined in the hysteria:

The same alarm bells were already ringing in Washington, where in early 1992 a task force of the House Republican Research Committee claimed that there was a “98 percent certainty that Iran already had all (or virtually all) of the components required for two or three operational nuclear weapons.”

Thus it is that some people have been pushing us in the direction of war with Iran for some time now. And we should be able to count on Democrats in Congress having President Obama’s back when he is trying to avoid such an outcome by using diplomacy to find a solution to the potential problem of a nuclear armed Iran.

But we apparently can’t count on that, as it appears that most Democrats will legitimize Netanyahu’s untimely speech to Congress by showing up and listening to him. The right-wing prime minister is clearly trying to undermine President Obama’s foreign policy—a policy that thankfully includes the principle that war is the last resort—and Democrats shouldn’t help him do so.

However, on March 3, they will sit and listen and some will applaud, as Netanyahu essentially tells us why avoiding war with Iran is a bad idea.

Radical Hope

“Language figures in human life in many ways. We inform, we request, we persuade, we interrogate, we orate, and sometimes we just schmooze. But the most remarkable thing we do with language is learn it in the first place.”

—Steven Pinker in The Stuff of Thought

Psychologist, cognitive scientist, and linguist Steven Pinker says that language is the greatest of our human faculties, “ubiquitous across the species, unique in the animal kingdom, inextricable from social life and from the mastery of civilization and technology, devastating when lost or impaired.” 

I’m going to take a break from the rather depressing domestic and international political scene and present to you a couple of really remarkable, and remarkably uplifting, stories via YouTube. Both of the videos below have to do with forms of human communication and interaction and will together take you less than 20 minutes to watch. I promise it will be worth your time.

Last night 60 Minutes paid tribute to a journalist’s journalist, Bob Simon, who was killed in an auto accident in New York City recently. One of the featured stories was one I had not seen before. Simon reported on a place called Cateura, which is a town in Paraguay that was essentially built near a large landfill so that its residents could rummage through the garbage and harvest something of value. Needless to say, Cateura is one of the poorest places in South America.

But what Simon’s story reveals is just what amazing creatures we human beings can be, especially when someone with an idea—and the will to carry it out—comes on the scene and brings the light of a radical and transformative hope, a hope that a better, fuller life is within reach. You will hear the words that summarize the work of Favio Chavez: “Go on, send us your garbage. We’ll send it back to you as music.” Watch:

The next story, only four minutes long, is equally inspiring. Before you watch it, let me give you a basic definition of the word “language”:

the system of words or signs that people use to express thoughts and feelings to each other

“To express thoughts and feelings to each other.” But what if you had never had that experience? What if you were 15 years old and had never expressed any thoughts or feelings to anyone? In the video below you will meet a young man named Patrick Otema, who was born deaf in a remote part of Uganda. You will also meet a saint of a man, Raymond Okkelo, who, like Favio Chavez did in Cateura, Paraguay, also brought the light of radical hope to desperate people. In the face of Patrick Otema, you will literally see what that radical hope looks like:

In both of these stories you can see how Favio Chavez and Raymond Okkelo are really doing the same thing: bringing the gift of higher humanity, of civilization, to their fellow human beings. And after several days of listening to Republicans question the patriotism and religious beliefs of Barack Obama, after years of listening to them tell me how much he wants to destroy the country, I needed some inspiration.

Racist Rudy And The Republican Party

“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.”

—Rudolph W. Giuliani, at a fat-cat fundraiser in New York for Governor Scott Walker

Thanks, Rudy!

Rudy Giuliani, who now has finally qualified to have his own hate-talk radio show, has done what years of liberal commentary could not do: he has outed the GOP as not only the Stupid Party, but as the official home of 21st-century racists. I personally have spent six long years trying to do what the former mayor of New York City—and a very establishment Republican—did in about a minute. That’s efficiency!

After uttering his stupid and racist comments on Thursday, and after Scott Walker refused to condemn them, and after Bobby Jindal, who has his own history of bigotryjoined in on the fun, Giuliani told Fox’s Megyn Kelly last night:

I’m right about this, I have no doubt about it, I do not withdraw my words.

Bravo! No sense backing away now, Rudy! No sense jeopardizing your future as Rush Limbaugh’s replacement. What next? Are you going to call “Moochelle” Obama a slut? Offer her an aspirin to put between her knees? No sense pretending that you didn’t mean to slander our African-American president. And there really is no sense in denying the obvious, although you told The New York Times:

Some people thought it was racist — I thought that was a joke, since he was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people. This isn’t racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.

Let me see. What Rudy said couldn’t possibly be racist because Obama has some good old white blood in him! Thatta boy! Pure genius!

obama and giulianiPerhaps the saddest part of this whole episode is that what Giuliani said should come as no surprise to anyone who has paid attention to Republican politics since 2007, and particularly since The Scary Negro took up residence in the White’s House and the angst-ridden wingnuts starting hanging teabags from their hats.

We have heard this stuff before, and on Fox last night Rudy, after studying all day, rehearsed many of the old lies: Obama is a Frank Marshall Davis communist; he “worked under Saul Alinsky”; he listened to Reverend Jeremiah Wright say “goddamn America!” and stayed in his church; he prefers Muslims over Christians, Islam over Christianity.

When asked about the civility of his remarks, he told Kelly:

I think it was perfectly civil. I think that is a perfectly reasonable opinion, but the president and his comments, if we look at all of his rhetoric has not displayed the kind of love of America, the kind of love of American Exceptionalism that other American presidents have displayed, that he has gone abroad and criticized us over and over again, apologized for us. Every time he does it, it embarrasses me.

Yes, it “was perfectly civil” and “a perfectly reasonable opinion”—for a Republican these days. And that is the point.

I have seen a local Joplin Globe right-wing columnist refer to Barack Obama as a “monkey.” Yet you can still find his columns in the paper.

I have heard convicted felon and conservative writer Dinesh D’Souza say the most vile things about our president—just the other day he tweeted racist remarks—yet many of his ideas are embraced and repeated by Newt Gingrich and other conservatives and D’Souza and Gingrich are still major “intellectual” figures on the right.

I have heard Mitt Romney’s top campaign surrogate, John Sununu, call the president “lazy,” by which he obviously meant to suggest “lazy nigger.” No condemnation from Romney.

I have heard Ted Cruz, a United States Senator for God’s sake, say that President Obama is “an apologist for radical Islamic terrorists.” And Ted Cruz is a hero to a vicious cult of Obama haters in Congress, not to mention his popularity among citizen teapartiers.

I have heard a Republican congressman from Arizona claim that Obama is essentially pretending to want to destroy ISIS. I heard a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania say that our president, the president of our country, is “really working collaboratively with what I would say is the enemy of freedom and individual freedom and liberty and Western civilization and modernity.” He went on to say that that he is reluctant to give President Obama “the authority and power to take action” against ISIS because “he actually might use it to further their cause.” Not a peep out of John Boehner.

I have heard radio and television commentators, night and day, make ridiculous and racially-charged comments about the president, and the money keeps rolling in. Racism, or something very close to it, pays very well on the right, as Rudy Giuliani will likely find out.

In the mean time, President Obama has endured a staggering amount of disrespect from his utterly disloyal opposition and yet he presses on, head held high. It’s as if he knows that, in the end, when the history of his times are written, he will look very big and the Rudy Giulianis and Rush Limbaughs and the other pathetic Obama-haters on the right will look like the pint-sized pricks they are.

The Roots Of Gay Oppression Are The Same Here As There

Let’s start with this lede from a recent NBC News story:

ISIS has released images that appear to show gay men being hurled off buildings and then stoned to death, part of the militants’ self-professed mission to crack down on “sexual deviance.”

That unspeakable horror, committed by people whom President Obama suggested have a “twisted” interpretation of Islam, happened in a land far, far away from Missouri. But let’s look at an event that happened a lot closer, courtesy of a recent article in The Los Angeles Times:

In a move that shocked progressive advocates in Kansas, the state’s Republican governor on Tuesday issued an executive order to remove discrimination protections for gay, lesbian and transgender state employees.

State employees in Kansas can now legally be fired, harassed or denied a job for being gay or transgender, critics said.

Now consider this lede from an article in The Washington Post posted just a few days ago:

The Republican campaign against gay rights continued last week, when Arkansas legislators passed a bill barring local governments from protecting gay people against discrimination.

Lest we Missourians think we are above our neighbors, we’re not. Our state does not have laws that protect people from employment discrimination or public accommodations discrimination that is based on sexual orientation. We have a constitutional amendment that prohibits gay marriage. In so many ways, people who don’t have sex the way evangelicals and other Christians say they should have it are second and third class citizens.

So what is the link between hurling gay people off tall buildings and booting gay people off their jobs? It’s that whole cracking down on “sexual deviance” thing. One way to crack down on the deviance is to kill the deviants. Another is to deprive them of their constitutional rights.

Sure, the tactics used here in America to fight what conservative Christians—just like ISIS and other groups of zealots—call sexual deviance are much, much kinder than the methods used by fanatical psychopaths in Syria and Iraq and elsewhere. We can all see and appreciate the fact that reactionary fundamentalism here in America is expressed much differently than in places controlled by ISIS and other similar hate groups and death cults. Here it is expressed mainly through Republican legislators and governors. But make no mistake about it: we are talking about the oppression of people based on their sexual orientation. And we should admit that although the methods of oppression are thankfully different, the roots from which such oppression grows are remarkably the same.

ISIS is obviously making a show of killing homosexuals and has a “rationale” for doing so. As The Advocate puts it:

By “clamping down on sexual deviance,” ISIS says it will save the Muslim world from the “downward spiral” of morality that the West has allegedly suffered since the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

When I was an evangelical I heard that same sentiment about the “downward spiral” of morality expressed countless times. Here is how the so-called Traditional Values Coalition puts it:

The Bible clearly condemns all sexual behaviors outside of marriage between one man and one woman. Homosexual behavior is explicitly condemned in both the Old and New Testaments as an abomination and a violation of God’s standards for sexuality. We oppose the normalization of sodomy as well as cross-dressing and other deviant sexual behaviors in our culture.

Often, our brand of religious reactionaries also tie such “normalization” to the ’60s. Here are a few excerpts from a Conservapedia article on “Moral decline“:

The decade of the 1960’s would begin the most dramatic moral change in America’s history…The rejection of Biblical and traditional sexual laws and promotion of sexual promiscuity and homosexuality would result in a greatly increased incidence of infectious diseases and premature death, with a half million of Americans dead because of AIDS.

You get the idea. Bad things happen when you don’t follow God’s way. In fact, that is the whole reason the infamous Westboro Baptist Church exists: to warn people of what will happen if they continue to accept or embrace Bible-condemned behavior. That particular group of haters says it will be at the Academy Awards in a few days:

Image result for westboro baptist church and sam brownbackWBC will picket the Oscars at Dolby Theater to remind this nation that God hates your idols! america [sic] has turned the Hollywood scene into one of her favorite idols.  Shame on you!  We will warn you to flee from the show business perversion machine that embraces sinful filth at every level including promoting such abominations as fag marriage.  You play with fire when you allow such base men to lead you down the path of destruction, just as they did in the days of Noah…Instead of worshiping men, you should be spending your time and energy obeying your God!  Cast down these idols and OBEY TODAY!  Repent or Perish!

As I said, at least these American religious fanatics aren’t throwing the “fags” off buildings and pounding them with rocks if they survive the fall. But their theological justification for picketing the Oscars or discriminating against homosexuals in the workplace or refusing them the rite of matrimony is exactly the same.

Family Values My Ass

George W. Bush’s time as president is, in so many negative ways, still touching our lives today. We see it clearly in the Middle East, as the repercussions of the Iraq invasion and occupation have profoundly destabilized the region, which has led to thousands of deaths and millions of refugees, not to mention the unspeakable horrors we have witnessed lately.

But we also see the negative effects of Bush II’s compassionate conservative presidency here at home, even though they are sometimes harder to see. With the Great Recession now clearly behind us, maybe we are tempted to think that the gift that was George W. Bush has finally quit giving.

Not so.

Enter Andrew Scott Hanen. He’s the federal judge in Texas—appointed by George W. Bush—who gave the finger not only to President Obama and his executive action of deferring the deportation of millions of paperless immigrants, but he gave the finger to families. That’s an odd gesture for a political party that, quite falsely, prides itself as being the party of family values.

Illinois congressman Luis Gutiérrez was on television this morning and he got it right. What Judge Hanen and the Republicans who brought the lawsuit against Obama’s executive order have done should be characterized as “an attack on families.” There simply isn’t any other way of describing it.

In his own way, President Obama said the same thing:

…keep in mind that this is something that we necessarily have to make choices about because we’ve got 11 million people here who we’re not all going to deport.  Many of them are our neighbors.  Many of them are working in our communities.  Many of their children are U.S. citizens.  And as we saw with the executive action that I took for DREAMers, people who have come here as young children and are American by any other name except for their legal papers, who want to serve this country, oftentimes want to go into the military or start businesses or in other ways contribute — I think the American people overwhelmingly recognize that to pretend like we are going to ship them off is unrealistic and not who we are…

We should not be tearing some mom away from her child when the child has been born here and that mom has been living here for the last 10 years, minding her own business and being a important part of the community…

That’s what it is all about. Tearing moms from their children. Separating families. That is the policy position of the Republican Party. That is what the party proudly—proudly!—stands for these days. They are so proud of it they are willing to deny funding to the Department of Homeland Security in order to achieve their goal of dissecting families.

As Congressman Gutiérrez said this morning to Republicans: “This will come back to haunt you.” Whether it will be in the 2016 election, as Hispanics punish them at the polls, or whether it will be when the God who family values Republicans allegedly worship dispenses his own justice, it will most certainly come back to haunt them.

 

Some Liberals, And Too Many Other Americans, Are Adopting The McCain Doctrine

Hysteria. That’s what I am witnessing. Plain hysteria.

It is one thing for John McCain and other Republicans to go on television, time after time, and argue that we need to do more to defeat ISIS, by which they mean defining the effort in terms of a religious war and bringing in American combat troops to fight and die in that war. I have come to expect such talk from warmongering right-wingers.

But it is another thing altogether to hear liberals arguing for the McCain Doctrine, a strategy that if followed to its logical conclusion would have us occupying several more countries, losing thousands more lives and spending trillions more dollars.

Last night I heard Ed Schultz on MSNBC say that the beheading of Egyptian Christians by ISIS zealots in Libya “amounts to a religious war” and that “what we’re doing isn’t strong enough, isn’t working.” He offered this criticism of Obama’s declaration about combat troops:

As I see it, the United States is going to have to have continual review of its strategy. We can’t sit back here and watch hordes of people get their heads cut off. And why would we tell ISIS there’s no way we would ever put ground troops in combat situations?

Shultz wasn’t alone on MSNBC. Later Chris Matthews chimed in on the mass murder of Coptic Christians in Libya:

What can we do? Can we do nothing? …We can’t see people killed like this in our face and simply flip to the sports page or the financial news or what’s at the movies or who’s going to win the Oscars and act like America, our country, is not being morally humiliated, because it is, with the lives of at least some of these people, who must, in their last minutes, have to be wondering if there’s any chance the people in the United States could be coming to their rescue because that’s how we were taught that we conduct ourselves. We don’t leave people behind.

I don’t know where Matthews has been. I don’t know what Ed Schultz has been smoking. But we are doing something about ISIS. It’s not like ISIS is some powerful, unconquerable army having their way while we, the United States, are ignoring them. We are killing the bastards every day from the air. We, along with Kurdish fighters and others, are helping to stop their advancement.

But I’m afraid ISIS is succeeding in doing what it is they want to do in another, perhaps more important, sense: they are slowly convincing people that we should see this as a religious war and that we should send American and other Western troops to fight them so they can, as their apocalyptic theological nonsense informs them, usher in the end of this world.

CNN’s National Security Analyst, Peter Bergen, explains:

A key window into understanding ISIS is its English language “in-flight magazine” Dabiq. Last week the seventh issue of Dabiq was released, and a close reading of it helps explains ISIS’ world view.

The mistake some make when viewing ISIS is to see it as a rational actor. Instead, as the magazine documents, its ideology is that of an apocalyptic cult that believes that we are living in the end times and that ISIS’ actions are hastening the moment when this will happen.

The name of the Dabiq magazine itself helps us understand ISIS’ worldview. The Syrian town of Dabiq is where the Prophet Mohammed is supposed to have predicted that the armies of Islam and “Rome” would meet for the final battle that will precede the end of time and the triumph of true Islam.

In the recent issue of Dabiq it states: “As the world progresses towards al-Malhamah al-Kubrā, (‘the Great Battle’ to be held at Dabiq) the option to stand on the sidelines as a mere observer is being lost.” In other words, in its logic, you are either on the side of ISIS or you are on the side of the Crusaders and infidels.

When American aid worker Peter Kassig was murdered by ISIS in November, “Jihadi John” — the masked British murderer who has appeared in so many ISIS videos — said of Kassig: “We bury the first crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the rest of your armies to arrive.”

In other words, ISIS wants a Western ground force to invade Syria, as that will confirm the prophecy about Dabiq.

Unfortunately, public opinion has been swinging in the direction of giving ISIS what it wants. A recent CNN/ORC poll found that 58% of Americans now think, quite wrongly, that our military action against ISIS is “going poorly.” That’s up from 49% last October. But here is CNN’s scariest and most troubling graphic:

ground troops pollAs you can see, the country is divided on the matter of ground troops. However, back in September of last year, only 38% of respondents favored “sending ground troops into combat” against ISIS. Something has obviously happened to change minds. And if you think it is the way journalists, particularly on television, have reported on ISIS and its evil doings, you are right.

ISIS manipulates the news cycle at will. These terrorist freaks are doing everything they can to bring about their imaginary end-times apocalypse, and that involves broadcasting, or getting others to broadcast, horrific images or stories about horrific murders all over the world. And if we put American combat soldiers into the mix of actions we are undertaking to destroy ISIS, we are playing right into the freaks’ deluded strategy. And if President Obama starts officially referring to this as a war against a form of Islam, as many people are suggesting he do, then we are characterizing the fight exactly the way the jihadists want us to.

Beyond all that, all those people out there who are itching to send in American soldiers to die in a ground war with ISIS should be required to tell us just exactly what will come next. What will come after we have defeated ISIS? How long will we occupy Iraq and Syria and Yemen and now Libya in order to make sure they don’t come back? What other countries are we prepared to occupy, after radical religious zealots pop up and start murdering elsewhere? And how many dead Americans will it take before we are no longer “morally humiliated” by a band of Islamist fanatics with guns and little else besides small slices of territory here and there that they are constantly having to defend?

The truth is that we are right to fight ISIS. A lot of the reason there is an ISIS is because of a colossal mistake we made in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq, which triggered destabilization across the region. But our fight shouldn’t involve ground troops. As many have said, there are plenty of reasons for the regional parties to get involved with combat troops, many of them existential reasons. We shouldn’t let them off the hook by doing the job for them, especially since it will inevitably be a never-ending job.

A Moonly Man From Missouri

Midway between Joplin and Springfield you will find Missouri’s House District 157. Interstate 44 cuts right through the rural paradise.

Representing this rustic district is an extremist Republican farmer (you guessed that, didn’t you?) named Mike Moon. In a special election in 2013 that enabled him to get his foot in the legislative door, Lunar Mike got a whopping 3,668 votes, compared to 2,507 for the Democrat. He trounced his 2014 opponent 76% to 24%. Apparently the locals liked either his style or his substance. Let me give you an idea of what kind of substance Lunar Mike is made of:

Loves Jesus. A lot.

Homeschools his five kids.

Filed an article of impeachment against our Democratic Governor.

He says“I do not believe that global warming exists.”

He believes that “the responsibility of providing welfare to persons who have true needs” belongs “to churches, companies, and individuals.”

He offers this as his position on “State Sovereignty”: “We do not need the permission of the Federal government to take action as a sovereign state.”

As far as a woman’s reproductive rights, he is emphatic: “Abortion is wrong!” (I invite you to follow this link and look at his reasoning; it is nothing short of Onionesque.)

Now we come to ObamaCare, courtesy of RawStory today:

State Rep. Mike Moon sponsored a resolution that calls on lawmakers to “insist that each member of the Missouri Congressional delegation endeavor with ‘manly firmness’ and resolve to totally and completely repeal the Affordable Care Act, settling for no less than a full repeal.”

Reaching back to the Declaration of Independence and our spat with King George III, Lunar Mike determined that “manly firmness” was appropriate language to apply to Missouri’s three women in Congress, two of whom have voted thousands upon thousands upon thousands of times to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The other unmanly member of Missouri’s congressional delegation, Democrat Claire McCaskill, handled Lunar Mike with womanly firmness:

“I don’t think you prove your manhood by kicking folks off their health coverage and once again letting insurance companies discriminate against women and sick people.”

McCaskill apparently knows nothing of Republican manhood. Doing such things is exactly how today’s Republicans, man and woman, prove their manliness.

In any case, McCaskill’s press release pointed out that Moon’s flacid manhood “would strip more than 200,000 Missourians of health insurance coverage, and—according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office—would raise the national deficit by billions of dollars.”

But Lunar Mike continued flexing his turgid limb and was unmoved by the plight of a couple hundred thousand of his fellow Missourians:

We just want them to know, every man and lady who is representing us, that we are demanding, as citizens of Missouri, that Obamacare be repealed and make it clear we don’t want a replacement.

Manly. No, Moonly.

 

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