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.

Our (!!!!) House Of Representatives At Work

I am happy to pass on a report that the U.S. House of Representatives, as part of its ongoing tribute to Tea Party-induced paranoia, has momentarily stopped its futile attempts to repeal ObamaCare and taken on a more important task: prevent the government from getting enough bullets to kill us all, or at least those of us foolish enough to pick a gunfight with the feds.

Via The Hill:

The House late Wednesday voted to stop the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from entering into new contracts to buy millions of rounds of ammunition until DHS reports to Congress on the need for the ammo, and its cost.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) proposed an amendment to the DHS spending bill for 2014 that would require the report to Congress before it can pursue plans to buy 1.1 billion rounds of ammunition. Meadows said the speed bump is a necessary reaction to news of the huge purchase, which alarmed many Americans and prompted conservative groups to suspect that the government was stocking up on the rounds to fight citizens.

How ironic and delicious is the fact that House right-wingers are now afraid of the monstrosity—Homeland Security—that House right-wingers mostly created.

Congressman Meadows is one of those House right-wingers who believes that President Obama’s administration “has trampled on our Constitutional safeguards” and that “our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms is absolute.” Yep, alone among Americans, gun-toters have absolute rights.

Now, most readers of this blog, not being Obama-haters and not having the gun lust, may not know that across the country there has been a shortage of ammo. Some conspiracy-minded folks believe the government is stockpiling ammunition in order to have enough on hand to support Barack Obama, when he finally decides to take over the country by force—which could be any day now, given that Michelle has had it with hecklers.

Others, more sober-minded reactionaries, believe the President is hoarding the lead as part of an effort to make it more difficult for Ted Nugent to get rich selling the stuff.

The truth, though, is that fear and paranoia among gun freaks—much of it generated by Ted Nugent types—is mostly responsible for the shortage. Many of these fearful folks belong to a group of delusively vigilant Americans who call themselves “Oath Keepers.” Yes, that’s right. There are out there a lot of people who swear that when Big O decides to quit trampling on the Constitution and start trampling on people, they,

will not obey unconstitutional (and thus illegal) and immoral orders, such as orders to disarm the American people or to place them under martial law and deprive them of their ancient right to jury trial.

We Oath Keepers have drawn a line in the sand. We will not “just follow orders.”

Our motto is “Not on our watch!”

These folks are serious.  They call themselves “Guardians of the Republic” and claim they “are in a battle for the hearts and minds of our own troops.” And, of course, God must be on their side:

Oath Keepers is a non-partisan association of currently serving military, veterans, peace officers, and firefighters who will fulfill the oath we swore to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, so help us God.

It is unclear how God will help these folks defend the Constitution, should the President declare war on Americans. Because, after all, God also has an obligation to Obama, since, as the Bible declares, Obama wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for the Almighty:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

Whoops! Something has to eventually give here. Either God has to admit He made a mistake in appointing Barack Obama as the Commander-in-Chief, or He has to abandon the Oath Keepers and leave them to the mercy of Obama, after the President fires up those black helicopters and starts shooting.

Since God hasn’t admitted to a mistake since the sixth chapter of Genesis, I’m betting that He won’t repent of appointing Obama as president and that Ted Nugent and the Oath Keepers will have to handle the upcoming battle without the benefit of fire and brimstone from on high.

In the mean time, the Tea Party-dominated House of Representatives will do all it can to save the country from its government, a government once, now laughingly, characterized as “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Limbaughnics, 101

Usually, it is easy to tell when local contributors to the Globe are dittoheads. Besides the strange things they write, the particular language they use is a dead giveaway. For instance, because I have a PhD in Limbaughnics, I detected immediately that Allen Shirley and Richard La Near were dittoheads, simply by the various words or phrases they would use when sharing their conservative wisdom with Globe readers.

A perfect example of Limbaughnics appeared in yesterday’s paper, when Joseph Anthony Yantis, of Pittsburg, wrote in and used the name “Barry” in reference to President Obama. Now, it doesn’t bother me when a contributor to the Globe‘s opinion page refers to Obama by the nickname he has long since abandoned, because it gives me valuable insight into the mind of the writer. It screams: THIS PERSON IS A FLAMING DITTOHEAD.

You see, the only people I have ever heard use the name “Barry” to refer to the president is Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and a few of their inferior imitators. I’m not sure why they use the name, but they seem to think it is rather clever, which, of course, it isn’t, but the bar of wit is not all that hard to surmount in the world of rightwing radio.

But besides the revealing language dittoheads use, there are those strange things they say, like in the case of Mr. Yantis:

The tea parties last week, with an estimated national turnout of 669,000, were a great start and were an educational learning tool…

Dittoheads really believe that it is possible to nail down–at all of the Tea Parties across America–a fairly exact number like 669, 000. But in fact, I happen to know there were only 668,999 people who attended. One gentleman at the Joplin Tea Party, fearful my camera was an FBI surveillance tool, fled the premises after the Official Tea Party Counter logged him in, but before the festivities began. So, I don’t think it is fair to count him, and hopefully Mr. Yantis will write in and correct this outrageous inflation of Tea Party attendance.

Another strange example:

Now it’s time for the American Idol and Jerry Springer generations to get involved and realize that tax increases on the so-called wealthy will also affect you through layoffs and price increases.

Isn’t it amazing that dittohead writers have a tendency to defend the rich? Could it be that all of the propaganda they imbibe comes from wealthy conservatives? And I wasn’t aware of an economic class called “so-called wealthy.” This term is obviously an allusion to Rush’s oft-repeated claim that Democrats think anyone who makes more than minimum wage is “rich.”

Here’s more evidence that Mr.Yantis is a dittohead:

Reagan left us a model of how you get out of a recession by cutting taxes after Carter’s mess; meanwhile Barack Obama wants to do the exact opposite by spending his (our) way out.

While a regular dittohead may not remember too much about Ronald Reagan, since he left office more than 20 years ago, most are familiar with the revisionist history of Reagan through their radio sources. In short, Reagan was God, if you discount the fact that he developed Alzheimer’s and eventually died. And if it weren’t for those two myth-busting facts, conservatives would long ago have erected temples in which to gather and worship this economic genius. Some say the Heritage Foundation is very close to achieving temple status, lacking only an agreement on the proper vestments to wear during services to honor their hero.

In any case, belief in the magic of Reaganomics is required, if you are to remain a faithful adherent of modern conservative orthodoxy, because Reaganomics has become the political equivalent of the Theory of Atonement: Whosoever cutteth taxes on the wealthy, shalt be saved from economic hell.

Mr. Yantis’ accusation that Obama is “spending his (our) way out” of the recession is odd coming from a Reagan devotee. While Reagan, taking office in 1981, did cut income tax rates, he also increased spending substantially. In 1981, the budget deficit was 2.7% of GDP; two years later, after Reagan’s policies had been implemented, the budget deficit was 6.3% of GDP. During the period 1981 through 1989, the national debt rose from 27% to 42% of GDP. And despite the predictions of supply-side economists, the personal savings rate during the 1980s not only did not rise, it fell from 8% to 6.5%, a trend that continued until recently.

And although Reagan’s marginal tax rate cuts are legendary, what is less well known is that payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare) under his administration were raised so that the combined share of income taxes and payroll taxes for middle-income families with children actually increased under Reagan. So much for the legend.

The federal budget, a source of concern now that Obama is president, was almost 70% higher when Reagan left office than when he began, which represented a 22% increase in real terms. Stingy on domestic spending, which increased only 5.8%, Reagan spent real money on defense, doubling the Pentagon’s budget during his tenure.

Now, I happen to agree with those who say that Reagan’s defense spending, to the extent it contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union, was worth going into debt for, which meant passing on the costs to future generations. But those future generations should be grateful that the Cold War is over and the fact that we may have had to borrow money to help end it is just an example of how future generations not only inherit our deficits, but sometimes they also inherit the good things those deficits bought us.

In the present case, all of the best evidence indicates that we were very close to a financial meltdown, and extraordinary measures, including massive government spending, were needed. While none of us mere mortals know whether the crisis was as bad as reported, those in charge, beginning with George W. Bush, believed it was, and Obama still does. Just like the case of the defense buildup in the 1980s, no one can know for sure if the present stimulus spending and expansive budget will prove to be wise investments, through which our children will benefit, or they are just an overreaction to an overblown crisis.

Who wanted to take the chance in the 1980s that the Soviet threat was mostly exaggerated and not spend money we didn’t have to build up our defenses? Mostly liberals.

And who wants to take a chance now that the policymakers are all wrong and gamble with our economic futures by not adequately addressing our situation? Mostly conservatives.

The point is that ideology should not trump prudence, and no one can make an intelligent case that Obama’s stimulus policies are based on anything other than avoiding a perceived–real or not–collapse of our financial system.

Anyway, the final bit of evidence that Mr. Yantis is a dittohead, was this rather lengthy rant:

Now we have the new Department of Homeland Security report, which basically claims that anyone opposing most liberal views might be a potential terrorist and encompasses more than half of us, including our heroes returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The same department formed to protect Americans from Islamic extremists is now being used to prosecute us instead.

An alarming pattern is emerging of nationalizing businesses, Barry’s AmeriCorps, the DHS report, along with a media not reporting anymore. Add in the next battles of amnesty for illegal aliens, the right to bear arms along with free-speech restrictions through the reinstituting of the Fairness Doctrine and this should concern any common-sense American. If you think the tea events were big, just wait until Barry tries to ram these items down our throats and you will see millions voicing their objections.

A regular dittohead is simply not capable of weaving jots and tittles of truth (for instance, there is a Department of Homeland Security and “Barry” was Obama’s nickname) into such an elaborately distorted paranoid fantasy without substantial help from his friends on the radio.

And being an expert on Limbaughnics, I am just the man to point it out.


Anson writes:
Friday, April 24, 2009, 01:10 PM


Well Done. Your critique of the mystic of Reagan based on the observable facts of historical budgets is well put and accurate.

It however, brings up other issues in counter argument. It was a fact that the Soviets had 7000+ nuclear warheads point at us. It was a fact that the Red Army, undeterred by nuclear deterrence could have overtaken Western Europe in a matter of weeks with an army many times the size and strength of NATO. It is a fact that communist ideology advocated the overthrown of democracy. I could go on. And of course the great unknown is would they have used those facts to dominate. Who knows?

I am not nearly as convinced today that without bailouts by either party that the economy would have collapsed. I am not convinced that individual or collective efforts in the fields of health care, green energy or education will produce the desired results. Few can argue the legitimacy of such domestic goals. Many can argue how to pay for it.

While I am not certain, if you add up all the cost associated with Obams’s social agenda and match it in real dollars against Reagan’s military buildup, I am pretty sure the Obama costs would far exceed anything envisioned by Reagan to end the cold war.

And even if the President spent all the money he wants, I am not sure that the benefits to the US would be equal to ending the Cold War. That of course is a question or opinion, not a fact.


Anson writes: 
Friday, April 24, 2009, 02:42 PM
One other point.

The constitution mandates that congress “raise an army and navy”. National defense is clearly a federal government responsibility, constitutionally.

It would take a constitutional lawyer with far greater skills than me to contrive a constitutional mandate to provide health care for all, create green energy, maybe even education. Not at all sure about the last one, but pretty firm that the first two are not covered.

That of course is not to argue that non-constitutionally mandated programs are not worthwhile or even absolutely necessary. But when we stack up our wish list of programs, maybe the constitution is a good place to help us prioritize the list, at least for starters.

Anson, again

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