Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) wants to keep the prosecution of sexual assault cases within the chain of command. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) wants the cases to be referred immediately to the JAG Corps. Given some commanders’ penchant for protecting the reputation of their own commands, where would you rather these cases go?
Originally posted on TIME:
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, has been doggedly pushing to give the cases to the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. She has the public endorsement of 54 of her colleagues, five short to avoid a filibuster. Gillibrand, who has the support of most victim’s groups, notes that according to the Pentagon’s own research, more 25% of women and 27% of men who were victims of unwanted sexual contact indicated that their offender was within their chain of command, thus making it difficult for them to report such cases. Gillibrand’s bill would leave 37 serious crimes uniquely military in nature, such as disobeying orders of going AWOL, within the chain of command.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, has sponsored competing legislation that toughens the military’s monitoring and reporting of such cases, but leaves the responsibility within the chain of command. She has the support of the Pentagon—which argues that confusing the chain of command inherently corrupts the system—and the tacit support of the White House. Noticeably, President Barack Obama did not mention the issue in his State of the Union address, and the Administration has quietly helped the Pentagon work against Gillibrand’s bill. McCaskill also argues that other countries that have removed such cases from the chain of command have not seen an uptick in reporting. And a Pentagon panel assigned to study the issue found overwhelmingly that the cases should remain within the chain of command.
There’s little dispute that a problem exists. The Pentagon reported more than 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact in 2012 out of which only 3,000 were reported and 300 prosecuted. The Senate already passed a spate of changes to the system earlier this year as part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act. That has led to a 60% increasing in reporting thus far, according to testimony by Dr. Nathan Galbreath, senior advisor for the Department of defense’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office before McCaskill’s Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel last week.
After reading his own opening statement, House Oversight Committee Chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Cal.) got so ticked that embattled former IRS official, Lois Lerner, was continuing to invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, that he adjourned the hearing. That didn’t sit well with Ranking Member, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) who thought he too should be heard. Even after Issa cut off his microphone, Cummings kept on, for nearly ten minutes, shouting so the media microphones could still hear him.
To view the entire segment, click here. Notice the guy on the right coaxing Issa to leave the dais.
Let’s start with, on the whole, I’m a big fan of Hillary Clinton. She commits. She works hard. She gets thing done.
Her impressive performance as secretary of state made sure that the good ship Hillary never bottomed out, buoyed by a tide of political good will, domestically and abroad. The energy of, let’s call it love, for her direct political style, despite her loss of the 2008 presidential nomination, makes her the overwhelming choice of an overwhelming majority of Americans to lead our country after 2016. I don’t agree with all of the stands she has taken, but unless someone better comes along, I can see myself voting for her.
But let’s be clear: Hillary Clinton is an establishment Democrat, a stalwart, with her husband, of the now defunct Democratic Leadership Council. The DLC made a political calculation, twenty-plus years ago, to tone down the traditional social welfare, pro-labor rhetoric of the Democratic Party, to try to win back centrists they had lost to Reagan and Bush 41.
The strategy, at the time, seemed to be effective. “The DLC hailed President Bill Clinton,” the Wikipedia entry reads, “as proof of the viability of Third Way politicians and as a DLC success story.” (That, of course, is arguable. There are lots of reasons George Herbert Walker Bush lost that election.)
But it was this move away from the political left that brought us welfare reform and the repeal of the strong banking and insurance regulations of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which many believe directly led to the abuses that crashed our economy in the Great Recession of 2008.
The conscience of the DLC was also present when Hillary voted to authorize the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld war in Iraq. And her defense of lobbyists at an appearance before liberal and progressive bloggers, in 2007, got her booed because, as Politco wrote, at the time, “it seemed to solidify the perception of Clinton as a Washington establishment figure in a year when Democrats are eager for change.”
It was more than two years into President Obama’s first term, before the DLC folded, and had its records acquired by the Clinton Foundation. The change that we were eager for seemed to have come.
Now, in the wake of the release of historical documents from the Clinton White House, Republicans are dredging up the 1990s, again. Reports that Hillary Clinton “dissed” the individual mandate the GOP had proposed during the Hillary-care discussions are now fodder for the Right, but their agrument ignores that, like many liberals today, she didn’t approve of that solution because she was working toward a public option healthcare system.
Sen. Rand Paul has even chosen to revisit the Lewinsky affair, and has been referring to President Bill Clinton as a “predator,” in his obvious attempt to splash some taint of the affair onto the former first lady. What Sen. Paul doesn’t seem to realize is that America didn’t care about it then, and we certainly don’t care about it now. Move on.
I mean, let’s not reminisce about the 1990s, or even the Hillary Clinton of 2008. Let’s have a discussion about Hillary, today, the one who is neither a true liberal nor a solid centrist. What Hillary Clinton is, and perhaps always has been, is a pragmatist, and a damn smart one.
“Clinton is positioning herself perfectly,” wrote Brent Budowski, in the Hill, recently. “If the politics of the [healthcare] law get better for Democrats, she can play it cool. If the politics of the law become worse for Democrats, she can escalate her calls for change and tell voters — accurately and honestly — that she was against the mandate then and that she was right and Republicans wrong.”
If you want to join the mania over Hillary 2016, by all means, jump aboard. Just remember that the direction of United States policy is larger than the promises made by, and the personality of, one politician. It has always been up to the people to steer the course. Don’t just stand on the sidelines, watching MSNBC and reading blogs. Stand for something. Work for something, as if the future of your country depends on it, because it does.
Two days after most of the country marched and served their neighbors in celebration of the legacy of equality and civil rights preached by the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., thousands gathered in Washington, DC, to protest the forty-first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s pro-choice, Roe v. Wade decision.
Both events sprung from a time in this country when people came together, showing solidarity and common purpose, in order to affect change. Dr. King’s legacy was as “a drum major for peace,” who worked for the advancement of all segments of society. Roe v. Wade was the culmination of a struggle for women, who won the right to decide what to do with their own bodies. But neither outcome sat well with the movement that spawned those who marched against choice, Wednesday. Their demonstration showed that, for the culture warriors of the Right, the fight against even decades-old, settled law is never over.
Conservative culture warriors never stay buried. They do go underground, however, and like a dormant seed, they wait until conditions are right for their reemergence. Fertilized by the rotting carcasses of shamed John Birchers, nourished by the spiteful rhetoric of the Tea Party and their 1% puppet masters, they awoke to find themselves in a Grand Old Garden Party. They celebrated with and were lauded by leading Republicans like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and former presidential candidate, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA).
Not that long ago, though, at the time the high court sent down its historic abortion decision, the Republicans who are now their benefactors looked at the beliefs of the hard right as an anathema to party unity, wrought with political poison. Pat Nixon, who was first lady when the decision came down, was pro-choice. Betty Ford was also pro-choice, and she came out in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment. And even the arch-conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), who ran for president in 1964, told the Senate, in 1981, “I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C’ and ‘D.’ Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?”
The Bipartisan Flat Line
According to some scholars, that was during a very rare era in American politics, when bipartisanship was at its peak. Writing in the Washington Post earlier this month, political scientists David W. Brady, of the Hoover Institution, and Hahrie Han, from Wellesley College, point out that, for most of our history, there is little to no bipartisanship between the parties in Congress. They reached that conclusion by counting the number of lawmakers who are ideologically opposite the vast majority of their own party, and who are even closer to the other party’s ideology than 10% of that party’s contrarians.
In other words, they looked for a time when the most conservative Democrats in Congress “overlapped,” or were more conservative than, 10% of the most liberal Republicans. What they found validates the feelings of a lot of people growing up in 1960s and 1970s, that people actually worked together, then, to get things done.
According to Brady and Han’s data, the politicians who came up in post New Deal, post war America have the highest amount of aisle crossing cooperation in our history. Before that, and since, bipartisanship has been “a flat line.”
“In the post-WWII period, the number of legislators from each party in the overlap region spiked upwards and persisted until the early 1970s, when the numbers began to decline…
“By the 1980s, however, we are back to a flat line. There are no Democrats or Republicans in the overlap region…
“Taking this view, we realize that it is the immediate post-WWII era that is really unusual.”
Why did the lawmakers of that era act in that “unusual” way? Perhaps the camaraderie of the foxhole that the Greatest Generation shared, and the pitching in on the home front, allowed for the rare occurrence, where cooperation and unity of purpose were essential tools for survival.
So partisanship, then, is our political norm, and it just falls short of the expectations of Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, who may not know the times they long for were the exception in our country’s history, and not the rule. That means it’s just by relative comparison that we call it “hyper-partisanship,” so maybe we should just relax and lose the hyperbole. It’s just partisanship.
If that’s the case, that our country flat-lines bipartisanship as a matter of course, why not be fearless about promoting our core beliefs? The two major political parties in the United States certainly need the extremists in their relative bases, but what happens when once extreme positions go mainstream? Will the pols follow?
A More Liberal America
Democratic strategist Steve Rosenthal thinks they will. “America is becoming more liberal,” exclaims an op-ed he penned in the Washington Post, this month. In it, Rosenthal goes through a laundry list of causes in which, he points out, polls demonstrate that “evolving” national sentiment favors the positions of the left. From marriage equality to immigration to pot to climate change, even income inequality, he looks at the numbers and concludes “the United States is steadily becoming more progressive.”
And, Rosenthal says, liberals need to keep pushing their agenda. “Progressives have an opportunity,” he wrote, “not only to come into the mainstream but also to lead — and shape public opinion.”
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) agrees. “We’re going to have four or five issues that we choose and they must be examples where government is clearly needed to do good,” he told a group at the Center for American Progress, Thursday, reflecting on the tactics Senate Democrats plan for 2014. Arguing that his party needs to stay on message, Schumer went on to tell the liberal audience “[T]he prominence in the issues of government’s ability to restore and build the middle class, provides us with a golden opportunity to expose what has always been a fault line in the tea party. The obsessive anti-government philosophy of tea party elites does not meet the actual needs of tea party membership.” In other words, the Democrats are going to say that government has helped, and can continue to help, everyone, even the tea party rank and file.
Yes, we are all individuals. Yes, we are all different.
Despite Schumer’s assertions, some Democrats running for office in red states seem to be gun shy, as far as promoting an aggressive liberal policy. Republicans, though, have no qualms about voicing their own agenda. Maybe that’s because the GOP hardliners think everyone is in the echo chamber with them, while liberals believe no one can ever completely agree with their unique opinion, even others with a similar social philosophy. That’s what science says.
According to a recent study by researchers at New York University, and reported in Scientific American (and re-posted on Salon.com), “Conservatives overestimated how similar their preferences were to those of other conservatives, while liberals underestimated how similar their preferences were to those of other liberals.”
The authors liken the “false uniqueness” liberals feel to this clever scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian:
Conservatives may believe that they can easily agree with each other, the study concludes, but, “It remains to be seen whether the conservative false consensus effect can lead to any real consensus in the GOP.”
Just ask Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH), who quipped with Jay Leno, the other night, “I like to describe my job as trying to get 218 frogs in a wheelbarrow long enough to pass a bill. It’s hard to do.”
Boehner’s frustration with his caucus boiled over, last month, when he told the press he couldn’t believe it when one of the principle players in the GOP government shutdown, last fall, went on television and said, “We didn’t expect it to work, anyway.” That caused Boehner to give the press a stridently plaintive, “Are you kidding me?”
But the extremists don’t kid. They expect fidelity to the conservative cause, even though, as the NYU study says, that means different things to different people, and the definition of “conservative” seems to change over time.
“Republicans are being driven to identify in all ways with their tribe,” economist Paul Krugman wrote in a New York Times op-ed, at the beginning of the year, “and the tribal belief system is dominated by anti-science fundamentalists. For some time now it has been impossible to be a good Republicans while believing in the reality of climate change; now it’s impossible to be a good Republican while believing in evolution.
“And of course,” he continued, “the same thing is happening in economics. As recently as 2004, the Economic Report of the President of a Republican administration could espouse a strongly Keynesian view, declaring the virtues of ‘aggressive monetary policy’ to fight recessions, and making the case for discretionary fiscal policy too.” Using government money to stimulate the economy, you see, sounds too much like what a Democrat would do, so now, of course, only supply-siders are welcome to the tribe.
The tribal, cultural divide is being played out, early in this midterm election year, over the issue that brought all those conservatives to D.C., Wednesday: abortion, and its sister issue, birth control.
In a preview of the event, the New York Times seemed surprised that the issue was even in play, this year:
“Abortion is becoming an unexpectedly animating issue in the 2014 midterm elections. Republicans, through state ballot initiatives and legislation in Congress, are using it to stoke enthusiasm among core supporters. Democrats, mindful of how potent the subject has been in recent campaigns like last year’s governor’s race in Virginia, are looking to rally female voters by portraying their conservative opponents as callous on women’s issues.”
So the GOP is going back to the 2004 playbook, when it used anti-gay marriage ballot measures to get their base to the polls. Since consensus on that issue has shifted, they’ve turned to abortion and birth control, which, the conventional wisdom goes, they’re trying to turn into an economic issue, rather than a cultural one.
But when former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee got up in front of the National Republican Committee meeting, Thursday, it was the cultural side of the teeter-totter he dropped a load on. “The Democrats,” he said, “want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government.”
In an excellent article in the Atlantic, Molly Ball points out that Democrats are missing the bigger picture, if all they do is gleefully point to the shiny object of another misstep by Republicans in their efforts to reach women. It may seem like easy pickings, when the RNC’s own 2012 postmortem, the Growth and Opportunity Project, advised a “need to use language that addresses concerns that are on women’s minds in order to let them know we are fighting for them.” Yet, Ball writes:
“The RNC has been raising money at a record clip, enabling Chairman Reince Priebus to fulfill his goal of staffing an unprecedented national political operation. There are more than 160 field staffers living and organizing in 26 states, and they’ll be in all 50 by the end of the year.”
Add in outreach to Hispanics and young people in several states, and investment in digital resources, and it becomes apparent that the GOP is not about to change its stripes, just how it shows its colors to communities it is trying to reach. Ball also points out, there are observers who are predicting a better than 60% chance of the GOP winning in 2016. Her advice is cautionary:
“Democrats roll their eyes at these efforts—see, they say, Republicans think they can dress up the same old ideas with fancy Facebook doodads and slick new slogans, but they’re not fundamentally changing what it is they’re offering in policy and philosophical terms. But to Republicans, the idea that they would change what they stand for was always oversold. The Growth and Opportunity Project’s only policy recommendation was immigration reform—which, granted, hasn’t happened, blocked by House Republicans, though it still could get done this year. The bulk of the report, though, focused on changing the party’s image and effectiveness through rhetoric and tactics.”
They’re still conservative, still tribal. “That’s the way it is and that’s the way it’s going to be,” Mississippi’s Henry Barbour, who was part of the group involved in the 2102 postmortem, told Ball. “We said we need to articulate conservative principles in a way that’s inclusive and loving as opposed to shrill and strident. That doesn’t sell.”
There’s a danger of complacency for Democrats who stand on the sidelines like the hare, pointing, laughing and shaking their heads, while the Republicans plod past the finish line and take the Senate. Conservatives are talking up their brand, not changing it, and trying to reach more people with it.
Schumer’s call of “bringing back a renewed faith in government’s ability to do good,” is a worthy start at demonstrating the liberal brand sells, too. The best way to do that is to harken back to a time of solidarity and commitment to common purpose for the common good. We don’t need bipartisanship in Congress to make that happen. We need Americans.
In his opening remarks at talks aimed at halting the years of violence and killing in Syria, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry insisted that there is only one way for things to move forward in the war torn country. “[W]e see only one option: a negotiated transition government formed by mutual consent.”
That means, he said, Assad must go:
“We really need to deal with reality. Mutual consent, which is what has brought us here, for a transition government means that that government cannot be formed with someone that is objected to by one side or the other. That means that Bashar Assad will not be part of that transition government. There is no way – no way possible in the imagination – that the man who has led the brutal response to his own people could regain the legitimacy to govern. One man and those who have supported him can no longer hold an entire nation and a region hostage. The right to lead a country does not come from torture, nor barrel bombs, nor Scud missiles. It comes from the consent of the people. And it’s hard to imagine how that consent could be forthcoming at this point in time.”
Kerry repeated the call in the Geneva communique issued following talks in June, 2012, and called for “a peaceful roadmap for transition. And,” he added, “the only thing standing in its way is the stubborn clinging to power of one man, one family.”
Iran, which backs the Assad regime, had its short-lived invitation to the talks rescinded by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, after Tehran refused to acknowledge Assad’s departure as a precondition. According to other reports, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani issued a statement, saying the powers that want to see Assad go are “are behind instability” in the country.
Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reportedly told a state news agency, Tuesday, that allowing the rebels to have a voice in deposing Assad “would legitimize the terrorists,” who, he claims, “are being supported by the Zionist regime of Israel and the arrogant powers and reactionary governments.”
Israel, however, while not fond of Assad, insists that they know how to deal with him, and are reluctant to deal with another new regime at its border, especially a Jihadist one. As one unnamed Israeli intelligence officer told The London Times, last spring, “Better the devil we know than the demons we can only imagine if Syria falls into chaos, and the extremists from across the Arab world gain a foothold there.”
Despite Kerry’s stated hopes for “a resolution that can provide peace to the region and peace to the people of Syria,” Israeli Defense Forces say they believe the U.S. and her European allies know better. “The West has come to the realization,” one IDF official told a regional news site, “that the alternative to Assad is worse.”
“There is a longing in America for the recovery of our deepest moral and Constitutional values in public policies, policies people know that hurt the poor, children, women, the sick, and voting rights…
“We know our politics can be moral. Our politics can be merciful. Our politics can be kind, caring, loving and just and fair and equal.”
- Rev. William Barber, of Moral Mondays, North Carolina, helping to launch Georgia’s Moral Monday efforts, January 13, 2014
It’s a great movement. A moral movement. Not merely a moment captured in clever alliteration. Moral Mondays is a movement started in Raleigh, North Carolina, last year, motivated by the extreme actions of a newly elected governor and state legislature whose “policies are constitutionally inconsistent, morally indefensible, and economically in shame.”
Rev. Barber said those words in front of the Georgia Capitol, in Atlanta, Monday, not just to point a finger at North Carolina and Georgia, but at every state, he said, “that divides people by race and extremist propaganda.”
“Justice,” protester Rod Mack called it, as he held a hand written sign calling to replace Georgia’s Republican Gov. Nathan Deal with Democrat State Senator Jason Carter, this fall.
Barbara Adle, a participant in the Atlanta rally who would benefit from Medicaid expansion, agreed. “Justice means, to me, equal access to affordable housing, health care, food, jobs. Until every person has equitable access to get their basic needs met, there is no justice.”
Mack said the injustice in Georgia comes from Gov. Deal having “no interest in making sure that 650,000″ uninsured Georgians are covered under the Affordable Care Act. “Our state is so far behind in a lot of things,” he lamented. “We need to catch up.”
Another protester, Chris “Cholu” Bondurant, who describes himself as “a frequent flyer” in the local health system, also pointed to Deal as the one person who could change things, but is unwilling to do so. “I have ongoing healthcare problems,” he said, “and would appreciate it if the governor would quit kowtowing to his right wing ideologues and do what is best for the working class people of Georgia.”
Of course, Georgia and North Carolina aren’t the only states where this is an issue. On Tuesday, Rev. Barber and the thirty members of his home state’s Moral Monday Coalition who took a bus to Atlanta, headed to Columbia, South Carolina, to rally with that state’s Truthful Tuesdays protesters.
As he said in Atlanta, “We need state movements to have national implications. It’s the only the way forward.” He called this state-by-state movement away from the politics of fear “a new Southern Strategy.”
That term, “Southern Strategy,” was originally a Republican plan started by Richard Nixon’s campaign for reelection, where the idea was to drive a wedge between white southerners, and the Democrats’ cultural base, by reenforcing the notion of white privilege and exploiting Southern Man’s worst fears about minorities and federalism. That Rev. Barber co-opted it for the growing Moral Monday movement is not surprising, because, he says, the so-called Religious Right, who are the cornerstone of the Republican strategy, ignored the principal of providing for “even the least of these,” and adopted, instead, what he called a “Pharisetical” and “heretical” morality of hate and exclusion.
“If you really want to have a moral discussion,” he challenged the far right, “bring it on, baby!”
Some took a more humanistic approach to the moral questions of fairness. “I think of it as an ethical issue,” said Adle. “If we don’t have a ‘common good’ theme or practice, that’s how you end up with what we have, the split between the haves and the have-nots.”
What was most encouraging about the first Moral Mondays Georgia rally, was that it showed that all Georgians are stakeholders, because it brought out not only seasoned activists and sign waving liberals, but also young Millennials for whom this cause resonates.
Joanna Petolillo and Sarah Walling are twenty-five-year-old women who have been best friends for eight years. They finish each other’s sentences. Their birthdays are both in November, and they both fear what will happen when they are no longer able to be on their parents’ health insurance policies. They found out about the rally through Facebook, and this was the first time either of them participated in political activism.
Walling, a nursing student at a school in Forsyth County, Georgia, said that talking about current events was important to her, and her contemporaries. “You’d be surprised how many times I’ve gone out to just grab a drink with friends and we end up talking about the political policies in place and the ones they’re trying to put in place, and just how it’s going to have a negative effect on us and our economy and our ability to move forward.”
And what will she do with what she learned, Monday? “We can go back and be a voice to our friends and our communities and our co-workers and expand it beyond just ourselves,” she said.
Petolillo said they chose to participate, not just because of their own futures, but for the futures of the children they plan to have. “Just the possibility of our kids getting up to better status than we were able to,” she explained.
Walling agreed. “As my dad always says, we want to leave it better than when we came into it.”
Moral Mondays Georgia will participate in the Martin Luther King, Jr., Holiday march, Monday, January 20, 2014. The next rally at the State Capitol is scheduled for January 27, at 4pm. See moralmondayga.com for details.
“Thank God for the Koch brothers…Pull your head out, man…The rich carry this country.” - excerpts of several tweet exchanges from a self-described “Capitalist, Libertarian,” directed at @proseandthorn, after sharing the news of the Koch founded group, Americans for Prosperity, opening a Louisiana branch to defeat Sen. Mary Landrieu (D)
I don’t want to encourage the RWNJ who tweeted those words, and more, by publishing her name here, but you can read her tweet-raid, where she calls me a “liberal hack,” and warns that if the Senate remains in Democrat control, “we will be officially a communist nation,” on my Twitter feed.
Happy New Year. It’s less than a week into 2014 and the partisanship that divides Congress once again cleaves a gulf between American activists as we bounce down the rutted campaign trail of our respective candidates, to November. Expect there to be billboards – bought by folks like the Kochs and the Heritage Foundation – every ten feet, on the right side of the highway, talking about the Affordable Care Act’s shaky roll-out and Obama’s misleading sales pitch.
Louisiana is only one state where Americans for Prosperity is applying pressure to unseat an incumbent Senate Democrat. They are also attacking New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Sen. Kay Hagan, in North Carolina. The year wasn’t even 24 hours old when AFP released a television ad across the Tar Heel state, attacking Hagan for her Obamacare vote, where someone whose policy was cancelled (for reasons the ad doesn’t explain) blames Hagan, and says, “She just doesn’t get it.”
Similar ads were aired by the Koch-backed group against Landrieu and Shaheen, in their home states.
Meanwhile, Heritage is using the lawsuit of Colorado nuns against the law’s birth control mandates for its own purposes, publishing stories sympathetic to the Little Sisters of the Poor, who, they say, the law “punishes…for holding beliefs that spur them to compassionate service.” It’s an interesting choice of words for a group like Heritage, which fights banking regulations that protect all Americans from exploitation, calls the New Deal policies that put millions back to work during the depression “an all-out assault on liberty,” and refers to progressivism as “a pseudo religion that must be soundly defeated.” Compassion, indeed.
While the Right attacks incumbent Southern Democrats for their support of the ACA, the open U.S. Senate seat in Georgia provides more of a dilemma for their machine. With a crowded field of Republicans trying to out-Todd Aiken each other for the conservative base, it gives a moderate Democrat with name recognition and no Senate vote baggage, Michelle Nunn, an opening to win in a reliably red state.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Nunn raised $1.6 million last quarter, meaning she has raised $3.3 million since she announced her candidacy last July. While “80 percent of those donors gave less than $100,” the AJC notes, the campaign also received an as yet unknown amount from former Virgina Sen. John Warner, a Republican.
Georgia Republicans insist that Nunn cannot win. “[T]his is not a purple state,” state Republican chair John Padgett recently told supporters, according to the AJC story. “And the Georgia GOP is not going to fall down on its duty to you and the rest of the country and let this state turn into a purple state.”
That’s reassuring, I suppose, to my Twitter heckler, who sees a Democrat led Senate, representing at least some of the Old South states, as the equivalent of a Communist America. Certainly, it indicates that the Right views conservatism as an essential “duty to the country.”
Let me pull my head out long enough to point out to them that they have bought into, and are in support of, a mythical country, a picture drawn in Sunday schools and the Fox News echo chamber. I’ll pull my head out long enough to point out to them that one day they and the people they love may have to rely on the government programs they rail against – Medicare, Social Security, Food Stamps. I’ll pull my head out to admit, yes, I love government, because I love and care about my fellow Americans – even the ignorant – who I alone do not have the resources to help feed and clothe, and I don’t trust the rich to carry anything but their stock portfolios.
But what do I know? I’m just a liberal hack.
“Well the protester I think is a very powerful thing. It’s basically a mechanism of democracy that, along with capitalism, scientific innovation, those things have built the modern world. And it’s wonderful that the new tools have empowered that protestor so that state secrets, bad developments, are not hidden anymore.”
Microsoft founder, Bill Gates
Spy agency bean spiller Edward Snowden has once again embarrassed the US National Security Agency, and sent shockwaves through the capitals of our allies, with revelations that we have been monitoring the phone calls of their citizens and leaders. Whether you think Snowden’s actions have been heroic or criminal or both, they point to a breakdown in our intelligence community, one that happens when we start compromising the integrity of our civil rights laws, and sacrifice the art of discretion for the expediency of widening the boundaries of classified secrecy.
In other words, we’ve decided to say more things are secret because it’s easier than trying to teach people about the value of being discrete. Secrecy is a one or a zero, on or off, depending on who in whichever agency has a right to know. Discretion is more nuanced, taking a kernel of information from what one knows to be a secret and using it, without revealing it, either to find out more information or, otherwise, to turn the circumstances to one’s advantage.
Let’s take the classic analogy that the media has been bandying about, recently, from the film, “Casablanca.” In that movie, Claude Rains’ character, Caption of the Police, Louis Renault, feigns surprise when the Nazis force him to shut down Rick’s Cafe, telling Humphrey Bogart, “I’m shocked, shocked to find gambling going on in here,” as he pockets his winnings. The media uses this to say that the leaders of Europe and Latin America who are professing outrage already knew things like this have been going on, and are just feigning surprise for the benefit of their people.
But it goes deeper. The secret, as Renault fully well knows, is there is something much more serious than gambling going on. There is sedition. The discretion is that, in order to protect his friend, Rick, Renault uses gambling as an excuse rather than revealing that secret to the Nazis.
So is our intelligence community less smart than the operatives of the past, despite its “new tools,” or perhaps even because of them? Possibly, but it could have more to do with the fact that there are thousands more classified secrets, now. In December, 2012, the New York Times reported on a study presented to the White House that said, in part, “Present practices for classification and declassification of national security information are outmoded, unsustainable and keep too much information from the public.”
That came more than six years after the NY Times reported on President George W. Bush’s “accelerated” reclassification of documents that were unclassified in the Clinton administration:
“The restoration of classified status to more than 55,000 previously declassified pages began in 1999, when the Central Intelligence Agency and five other agencies objected to what they saw as a hasty release of sensitive information after a 1995 declassification order signed by President Bill Clinton. It accelerated after the Bush administration took office and especially after the 2001 terrorist attacks, according to archives records.”
And with contractors handling the important task of data gathering, these days, maybe it was just easier to tell them to gather it all, distill it all, from everywhere they can, and call it all “classified.” Everyone understands “classified.” Not everyone understands “discrete.”
To which this statement from Thomas Jefferson (in an 1820 letter to William C. Jarvis) might apply:
“…if we think [the people are] not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”
And maybe that’s what Snowden and Chelsea (nee Bradley) Manning have been trying to do – inform our discretion.
“The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society,” President John F. Kennedy told a group of newspaper publishers, in 1961, adding, “We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it.”
Think of Snowden what you will, but blame the government for its lack of discretion, here. It’s not about secrets, but about how and why they kept them, even from the commander-in-chief. President Obama’s admission that he was not informed about the surveillance of our allies until this summer is part of the problem, for a key component of discretion is oversight, and that was obviously absent in this case.
White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, told the press, Monday, in his daily briefing, “…the president clearly feels strongly about making sure that we are not just collecting information because we can, but because we should.” That, finally, is discretion, but is it enough?
“If it hadn’t been for the church, we wouldn’t have the country.”
- Evangelical revisionist historian David Barton, claiming, in 2011, that the Constitution purposely incorporates Old Testament principles to reenforce the Christian beliefs of the Founders
“The Constitution would not have been written by Freemasons. They [the Freemasons] go against God. You cannot serve two masters.”
- House stenographer, Dianne Reidy, in an outburst from the dais during the vote to reopen the U.S. government, October 16, 2013
Rulers are elected, inaugurated and anointed. There’s holy power imbued in the one who wears the crown. After all, the millennia of primogenital Western monarchies are all geared to the unification of God and Kingdom, and being the one who stands at the walls of Jerusalem to open the gates for Jesus. And that’s just who Michele Bachmann, Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin and other extreme politicians envision themselves to be – paving the way to God’s glory, through His strongest kingdom on Earth, the United States of America.
For those who endorse this pantheon of false prophecy, Sen. Ted Cruz is the anointed one. He is the one they have chosen to be the head of the Kingdom of Government, one of Seven Mountains of Influence they believe they must rule. The other six are business, media, arts and entertainment, education, family and religion. As David Barton described it, “if you can have those seven areas, you can shape and control whatever takes place in nations, continents, and even the world.”
While that might just sound like a political philosophy and not necessarily the Machiavellian plan of a secretive group of extreme Christians, Barton put it more plainly:
“Now that’s what we believed all along is you got to get involved in this stuff. Jesus said ‘you occupy ’til I come.’ We don’t care when he comes, that’s up to him. What we’re supposed to do is take the culture in the meantime and you got to get involved in these seven areas.”
Still, there are others in this movement who think just to occupy and wait isn’t enough. They want to hasten Judgement Day, which they characterize as bringing God’s “mercy.”
“I think the process of mercy,” evangelist David Lane told a right wing radio host, this past summer, “looks like probably car bombs in Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Des Moines.”
Both Barton, a former Vice Chairman of the Texas Republican Party, and Lane were two of the many participants in a laying-on-of-hands, prayer ceremony in Des Moines, this past summer, where Cruz was prayed for as “the heritage of the servant of the Lord.”
That heritage, say observers like writer Bruce Wilson, includes a ministry where, according to Cruz’ evangelical father, Rafael, “it is through the kings, anointed to take dominion, that that transfer of wealth is going to occur.”
The Senator’s success as a young lawyer in the 2000 election Supreme Court fight, in getting George W. Bush elected, or “anointed” by SCOTUS, argues Wilson, led to Bush’s establishing a Faith Based Initiative, where “billions of dollars” from the U.S. treasury were “funneled” to some of the largest Evangelical churches in the country. To the dominionist pastors who pray for Ted Cruz, that is the fulfillment of the “transfer of wealth” prophecy.
“We need to rejoice, Maranatha, come Lord Jesus, His day is at hand,” said Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn) in an interview with a Right Wing, Christian radio show, earlier this month. She was referring to President Obama approving aid to some of the Syrian rebels fighting Bashir al-Assad, because, to her, “the leaf is on the fig tree and we are to understand the signs of the times… we are to understand where we are in God’s end times history.”
This holding of being “in God’s end times history” is the driver of the extreme Right’s political agenda, evidenced in its Dominionist leaders.
When the reports of Christian extremism began to come out during the 2012 Republican presidential primary season, the participants dismissed it as a conspiracy theory. Like other conspiracy theories, the one about the End Times only has as much power given to it as those who believe in it allow. And these guys really believe in it.
It has become, for them, an ideology, one that crosses the boundary dividing Protestants and Catholics. “My God,” exclaimed Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in an interview with New York magazine, “Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil?”
Scalia asserted to the reporter that “of course” the Devil is “a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.” But is it right for a Supreme Court justice to use that doctrine of faith as part of his Constitutional ideology, where he says, for example, that the “democratic right” of religious people to despise gay marriage trumps any ability of a court to “mandate” marriage equality?
Perhaps that is what the pope meant, the other day, when he warned of the danger of such “rigid” thinking.
Their “ideology does not beckon,” Pope Francis said in his daily Mass, last Thursday. “And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought…
“But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh?”
- Ted Cruz Is A Grifter Who Believes In Divine Wealth Transfers (crooksandliars.com)
- Obama nurtures his faith away from the spotlight (AP, via myrtlebeachonline.com)
- Harry Reid: Ted Cruz is “a laughingstock” (salon.com)
- Chamber President: Maybe Ted Cruz Could Sit Down And Shut Up (talkingpointsmemo.com)
“The American people expect in Washington, when we have a crisis like this, that the leaders will sit down and have a conversation.”
- House Speaker John Boehner, Sunday, on ABC’c This Week with George Stephanopoulos
Really, Mr. Speaker? That may be true if it were a crisis caused by uncontrollable or unforeseen forces, but this is a crisis you created, by allowing a small number of stubborn, unfit-to-govern conservatives to push you into holding the government hostage over your party’s profound dislike for President Obama and his signature healthcare law.
Polls show sixty-five percent of the American people, including half of the ones who identify themselves as Republicans (a group which has lost considerable support since the 2012 election), are overwhelmingly against Congress using its power to control government funding as leverage against the Affordable Care Act. There’s no doubt who the American people see as being responsible for this crisis, Mr. Boehner – you and the Republican led House of Representatives.
Yet the latest GOP proposal, revealed Thursday, to lift the debt ceiling for only six weeks, still precludes resolving the ten-day-old government shutdown without talking to the White House and Senate Democrats about making changes to Obamacare, and other GOP budgetary pet peeves. Boehner calls it “a good faith effort on our part to move halfway, halfway to what [President Obama has] demanded.”
Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters at the White House daily briefing, Thursday, the president still insists keeping government agencies shuttered on the condition of agreeing to cuts to the Affordable Care Act and entitlement programs, and changing the tax code, amounts to paying a “ransom in exchange for the Republicans in the House doing their job,” something Obama has, so far, said he will not abide.
There is a political trap in Speaker Boehner’s “good faith” proposal, for Democrats, and it’s one based on what many Americans may understand about what’s going on in Washington, right now. Although we would all prefer to think otherwise, there’s a good chance the American people do not, for the most part, understand the difference between the government shutdown and the debt ceiling. To them, the distinction between the two is wonky nuance (even though they are completely different things), and they’ll assume that with the GOP offer, Boehner’s “crisis” is over.
After all, part of the DC cacophony the last two weeks has been the Senate Democrats screaming that they have been calling for a conference for months to reconcile, in “regular order,” their own budget, which they passed earlier this year, with the bill passed by the Republican House around the same time. If President Obama insists he will not sit down with Republicans to discuss changes to the budget until there’s a continuing resolution, it could be that people will then view Obama and the Democrats as being the chief obstructionists, and shift the blame to them.
According to Politico’s report of Thursday night’s White House meeting between Obama and Republican House members to discuss Boehner’s proposal, that may be the only way the GOP has to claw its way out of the corner in which it has painted itself:
“House Republicans told Obama at the White House that they could reopen the federal government by early next week if the president and Senate Democrats agree to their debt-ceiling proposal. After the debt ceiling is lifted, a House GOP aide said they would seek some additional concessions in a government funding bill.
“Obama repeatedly pressed House Republicans to open the government, asking them ‘what’s it going to take to’ end the shutdown, those sources said. The meeting was described by both sides as cordial but inconclusive.”
Read that as “no change,” except that even House Republicans are trying to find a way out of the disapproval of the majority of Americans.
To be sure, some of the more reasonable voices are the ones getting the least attention in this mess, and I don’t mean those, like Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who see repealing the ACA’s medical device tax as a way toward compromise. (That’s not reasonableness; that’s pimping your vote for an industry.) Still, at least they see the value of trying to find a solution to the shutdown as well as raising the debt ceiling.
“I’d like to do both,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) told reporters. “I don’t think we’re serving any policy or political goals by keeping the government shut down.”
The Senate has already passed a non-binding resolution that would require budgets be passed on a biennial basis, in odd number years, so they avoid election year grandstanding. Yes, 2013 is an odd number year, and there is definitely some grandstanding going on, but that’s because no budget has passed both Houses of Congress in years. The Republican sponsor of the Senate proposal, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), calls this inevitable quagmire a “conundrum.”
“It’s the right way to do business and it ends the necessity of having continuing resolutions at the last minute because you didn’t do our job,” he said. “Let’s face it: We’re here today in the conundrum we’re in because we did not do our jobs.” At least some Senate Republicans don’t have trouble finding agreement with the president. Now, if they can only convince their comrades in the House to do their own job.