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Egypt in danger of becoming Obama’s Iran.
Jan 31st, 2011 by Admin Mugsy

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Republicans LOVE to bash Jimmy Carter. Ridiculing him as an “abject failure” has become sport on the Right. So much so that I took the time last year to write a column clearly demonstrating that, when you look at the numbers, NO ONE holds a candle to the abysmal failure that was the George W. Bush Administration. The only other two that come even close were his father and Gerald Ford, both of whom might have exceeded “Dubya” in the amount of damage done had they of only served a second term. Carter was well on track to having one of the most successful presidencies (see link) before Iran exploded into violence and the “Islamic Revolution” revolted against the American-installed dictator: the Sha of Iran.

Today, we are seeing something very similar shaping up in Egypt. The people are in open & violent revolt against U.S. backed “dictator” Hosni Mubarak (he calls himself “President”, but allows no elections), one of America’s chief allies in the Middle East. Under Mubarak, Egypt has kept Sadat’s peace treaty with Israel, supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, and has generally (and now ironically) served as a calming influence towards the United States in that region of the world.

The Obama Administration is walking a fine line between taking sides in the Egyptian revolts. If we “demand Mubarak step down”, not only do we risk being seen as meddling in Mid-East politics once again and possibly “installing” another puppet dictator, there is also the possibility Mubarak survives this uprising, so any “demand” for his ouster could seriously backfire, costing us an important ally in the Middle East.

On two separate Sunday shows yesterday, neither House Speaker Boehner, nor Senate Minority Leader McConnell were willing to criticize the Obama Administration’s handling of Egypt this past week… which I’m sure they would of loved to have done in an election year… painting President Obama as “naive” or “inexperienced” on the subject of National Security. But they couldn’t because the obvious follow-up would of been, “What would you do differently?”, which opens up a HUGE can of worms for Republicans this electoral season.

So just what must we look out for in the coming weeks in Egypt? First and foremost, the danger of a total collapse of stability in that country. President Mubarak called out the police to quiet the revolts, and the protests turned bloody. Angry mobs turned on the police and sent them packing, so right now there is essentially no police service in Cairo. To make matters worse, a series of mass jailbreaks took place across the country amid the chaos, freeing as many as three thousand inmates from four separate prisons across Egypt, all due to a lack of guards to secure them. People have taken to defending their own homes, storefronts and neighborhoods from looters, and there are almost no police for anyone to call in an emergency. “Martial Law” is not an option because the military appears to be on the side of the protesters. They were called out to keep the peace after the police were driven out, but greeted with cheers and applause. Why? I’m not 100% sure, but my guess is that, as with just about every other small-to-midsized nation on Earth, the bulk of the military is made up of “mandatory service” personnel. Unlike the police where people apply to work for the government “by choice”, immediately upon graduation, every able-bodied Egyptian male between the ages of 18 and 30 are conscripted into the military. So while the danger of “Martial Law” is almost nil, the possibility of a “military coup” is great. Washington knows this.

(It should be noted at this point that the great bulk of American society at both ends of the political spectrum supports the Egyptian people in their protests for a more Democratic government… with only a few minor exceptions from the far Wingnut Right.)

There is a definite possibility “The Muslim Brotherhood” might force out Mubarak and play a lead role in deciding who the next leader of Egypt might be should Mubarak be removed. The BBC’s Katty Kay pointed out on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that that might not necessarily be a bad thing. “The Muslim Brotherhood”… the worlds oldest and largest political opposition group in most Islamic states (founded in 1928), which has (“publicly” at least) denounced violence and condemned Osama bin Laden and the attacks of 9/11, recently chose Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed Elbaradei to be their lead spokesman. Elbaradei is popular in Egypt, but his clout has waned in recent years for having spent so much time outside the country. The backing of him by “The Muslim Brotherhood” could add tremendous clout for his recently declared presidential aspirations. Elbaradei… best known as the former head of the IAEA and the UN’s lead nuclear weapons adviser before, during & after the invasion of Iraq, is also friends with the United States and would almost surely continue Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.

The downside is that the “MB” is also strongly anti-American, wants a return of rule by Islamic & Sunni principles, and has, in recent years, reportedly been turning from its strict “no-violence” roots to becomes a more hard Right fundamentalist group (including reports of MB involvement in some Israeli-Palestinian conflicts). This is to be expected of any group where the median age of the population is only 24 with a growing lack of connection to the past.

In 1979, the U.S. threatened Russia (and eventually followed through) with a grain embargo over its continued support of Iran while it held Americans hostage. Russia, decimated by the embargo, retaliated with its own embargo of crude oil towards the U.S.. The result was that world oil prices “skyrocketed” to an unheard of $25 a barrel, and gas prices jumping to near $1/gal (figures that seem quaint by today’s standards), up from about $12 a barrel and 75cents a gallon. The resulting shock to the economy was devastating. The cost of everything went up as the price of shipping went through the roof. High prices and decreased spending reversed three years of falling unemployment, shooting up nearly 2 points in just one year. And the daily drumbeat reports of the “Iranian hostage crisis” made the Administration look impotent and incapable of protecting its citizens.

The “Iranian hostage crisis” was a result of President Carter giving refuge to the Sha of Iran (I believe that timeline to be correct). After being denied safe harbor by country after country, the ousted ruthless dictator and long-time ally of the U.S. was allowed to seek refuge in the United States. This outraged the Iranian people, who retaliated by storming the U.S. Embassy in Iran and took the few remaining Americans there hostage (It should be noted that on Sunday’s Meet the Press, host David Gregory repeatedly tried to get SoS Clinton to say whether or not the U.S. would offer safe-haven to Mubarak should he flee his country. Clinton refused to say, but if they are any study of history, the answer should be a firm “No”). Yet even after the Carter Administration forced him to leave, Iran continued to hold the Americans hostage “until we returned him” for execution in Iran. The Sha eventually landed in… yep, you guessed it… Cairo, where he died of lymphatic cancer in 1980. (I won’t go into evidence suggesting the Reagan Campaign negotiated with Iran behind the back of the Carter Administration to hold on to the hostages to help Reagan defeat Carter, and upon being sworn in as President, release them… which they did. But it exists. Can you say “Iran/Contra”?)

So, what the Obama Administration must do now is avoid a repeat of history. Simply the outbreak of protests in Egypt caused world oil prices to jump on Friday (up to nearly $100/barrel again). And I argue that $148/barrel oil and $4/gal gas was the beginning of the end for the Bush Administration and the start of the worldwide Recession we are living with today. High oil prices once again spiked unemployment, which inadvertently sparked a flood of home foreclosures as people were unable to make the payments on their homes. Mortgage rates spiked and everyone learned the dangers of “Adjustable Rate Mortgages” and “banking deregulation” the hard way. The consequences of Bush’s “saber-rattling” in the Middle-East, destabilizing the entire region and the resulting spike in oil prices got us where we are today. And four years on, we are still dealing with the consequences. (The economic disaster unleashed by the Bush Administration quickly went global. High unemployment in Egypt is a key factor fueling the riots there… giving you some idea of the scale of the problem President Obama is facing. Is it any wonder, given the size of the problem, that unemployment has continued to rise two years on, and how little power any one single country has to fix this problem on its own?)

If the chaos that started in Tunisia and has since spread to three other countries… Egypt being the largest so far… spreads to any oil-producing nations, the chances of $5/gal gasoline by mid-Summer is a very real possibility, and any fragile recovery that might have begun under the Obama Administration would be wiped out in an instant. The fact the Obama Administration is taking advice from President Carter’s National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski gives me pause. I only post this video as an oddity in how history plays out. I do not share Kristol’s views or opinion:
 

Kristol sees Obama/Carter parallels at start of campaign.

 

Let’s just all hope and pray that Kristol isn’t right. Fortunately, his record making predictions isn’t very good.
 


 
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A Tale of Two State of the Union addresses: 2007 and 2011
Jan 26th, 2011 by Admin Mugsy

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Special Edition:

I prepared for this review of President Obama’s second State of the Union Address by rewatching President Bush’s 2007 State of the Union Address (the things I do for you people). I chose that particular address because it was the first following his 2006 mid-term “thumpin'” at the polls where voters swapped control of BOTH Houses of Congress over to the Democrats, where last night’s address similarly followed a switch in control of the House with Republican gains in the Senate. And it is likely because of that “thumpin'” in 2006 that the first 20 minutes of President Bush’s speech sounded remarkably Progressive in apparent acknowledgment of the country’s dramatic shift to the Left:

  • He opened by addressing health care. He said “Government has an obligation” to care for “the disabled and the elderly.”
  • He proposed using Federal Funds to help states provide health care “to the poor and uninsurable” (or was that simply “uninsured”?)
  • He addressed “immigration”, both legal & non, calling for a “temporary guest worker program” to help cut down on illegal immigration.
  • He then spent a considerable amount of time on the need to invest in “clean energy programs” like “solar, wind and nuclear energy”.
  • He urged increased funding for “bio-diesel and ethanol”.
  • and topped it off with a challenge to “Cut U.S. oil consumption by 20% in 10 years”, of which he said all these changes “would reduce our dependence on foreign oil by three-quarters” by 2017. Among his reasons for doing so: to “help us confront the crisis of Global Climate Change”.

Listening to President Bush’s Address, I couldn’t help but imagine how the Tea Partiers and the current Republican Congress would react to a speech like that coming from President Obama. He would be blasted for “pushing his Socialist Agenda”, branded a “Marxist” and possibly even “an environmental extremist” by the likes of Rush Limbaugh.

To my surprise, President Obama’s speech started out quite similar… though it should be noted that, unlike President Bush, President Obama never even mentioned “Global Warming” or “Climate Change” in his speech. How depressing is that?

The first thing I noticed was that the introduction of the President was made by just one person again: The Sergeant At Arms. When Nancy Pelosi became Speaker, I noticed that two people now introduced the President. This bugged me, as I felt as if it were some sort of slight to Speaker Pelosi not to mix the words “Mad’am Speaker” with the words “President of the United States”, but in reviewing the 2007 Address, I learned that the new format was at Pelosi’s request, honoring the “Democratic Floor Manager” with sharing the introduction. So, the return to a single introduction was not evidence of any slight.

Just as President Bush did in 2007, President Obama opened by congratulating the opposing Party for its electoral gains in Congress and welcoming the new Speaker. It was all very deja’vu-ee. In 2007, President Bush praised “both Parties” for “working together to pass No Child Left Behind”. In 2011, President Obama talked about both parties passing tax reform during the lame duck Congress. From there, President Obama started talking about America losing its lead in technology and in “jobs of the future”. He called this “Our Sputnik moment” and called for greater “investment” in education and research. That’s where the two speeches started to diverge.

It was known before the Address that President Obama would talk a lot about “investment”, so the GOP’s flying monkeys took to the air to disparage the idea of “investment” as simply code for “more spending”. Well, No. “Investing” doesn’t always equal “spending”. You can invest your “time” and “resources” too. Just because you spend money doesn’t make every purchase “an investment”. The analogy I like best is the difference between “buying lunch” and “buying a new kitchen” so you don’t have to waste your money on expensive lunches with nothing to show for it afterward. I think the country likes the idea of “investing in America” and will reject the notion of equating “investing” with pointless “spending”.

However, later in the speech, President Obama called for a “freeze in domestic spending”… an item from the Republican playbook, after spending 30 minutes calling for an increased “investment” in infrastructure, communications and high speed rail. What’s wrong with this picture? The only way to “invest” in new programs without increasing spending is to massively cut something else from the Budget. What that “something else” would be, President Obama didn’t say. The only place one could find THAT level of money is from the Defense Budget, and all reports are that President Obama has taken cuts to Defense “off the table”, choosing instead to focus on “non-defense discretionary spending”, which is less than 25% of our Federal Budget, and includes things like Eduction… which he just said we need more of. Money for “infrastructure” projects ALSO come from that sliver of “non-defense discretionary spending” that he has set aside exclusively for cuts. You can’t make your piece of the pie bigger by slicing wedges off your own piece of pie and adding them back later.

President Obama said America was likely to “become the first country with a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015” and set a goal of “80% of America’s electricity to come from clean energy sources” by 2035. I was reminded of President Carter in 1979 calling for the creation of “the Nation’s first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20 percent of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000″, and President Clinton (in 1996 iirc) setting a goal of “5% of all cars on the road to be zero-emissions vehicles by 2006 (again, iirc)”. In 2003, President Bush spoke of investing in “hybrid vehicles” and the danger of “our dependence on foreign oil” two months before launching “Operation Iraqi Liberation”… O.I.L..

My favorite line of the night was President Obama urging Congress to “end subsidies to oil companies”, noting that they seem to be doing well enough on their own without needing more money from taxpayers. Cutting corporate welfare to oil companies, massive factory farms like ADM, and the “Military Industrial Complex” would more than pay for all of the president’s “investments” without adding a cent to the National Budget. But just TRY and convince Republicans to cut Corporate Welfare. They’d rather abolish Medicare and give you a coupon to go and buy insurance on your own, before they’d vote against giving “poor farmers”… like ADM (Archer Daniels Midland) and Tyson… Billions in “farm subsidies”.

I was also pleased to hear the President say, “We simply can’t afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.” Better late than never I guess. If nothing else, that lays the foundation for campaigning against making the tax cuts permanent in an election year. But he really should of thought of that before he agreed to an extension that expires right after the election, making it a campaign issue and almost impossible to repeal.

President Obama then disappointed by co-opting yet another Republican big lie that “The United States has the highest corporate tax rate in the world”. Nonsense. As a percentage of GDP, the United States ranks 28th among the top 30 industrialized nations in Corporate taxation, just behind Poland and Turkey (the largest, most profitable corporation in America, Exxon/Mobile, paid NOTHING in income taxes in 2009, and two out of every three major corporations paid NOTHING in income taxes at least once between 1998 and 2005). President Obama then called on Congress to “lower the corporate tax rate w/o adding to the deficit.” Might I suggest a “flat tax” of 18% with “no exemptions”? Republicans LOVE the idea of “flat taxes”, and while 18% would certainly be a substantial reduction from the current 32% rate, eliminating those tax loopholes would mean a substantial increase in revenues. I like to tell people that just before Enron went under, they were paying the accounting firm of Aurthur-Anderson $350 Million dollars a year”… nearly $1million dollars a day… to avoid paying ANY income taxes each year.

Another Republican idea co-opted by the president: Earmark reform. “If a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it”, declared President Obama. All earmarks do is specify where already-appropriated money is spent. It doesn’t stop Congress from appropriating the money in the first place. Eliminating earmarks may… MAY… cut down on the frivolous use of tax dollars, but it doesn’t save you one red cent, so I can’t decide if co-opting this Republican idea was “shrewd” or just pointless.

When President Obama reached the topic of Health care, I couldn’t help but notice… not the fact that Speaker Boehner stopped applauding (his applause was tepid & sporadic most of the time anyway)… but the issues he deliberately chose not to applaud. Boehner didn’t applaud when President Obama lauded “New rules to prevent insurance companies from exploiting patients”, sat on his hands when the President mentioned an “end to preexisting conditions”, and he didn’t applaud when the president touted the ability of “children up to the age of 26 staying on their parents coverage.” Take from that what you will.

After the speech, former Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA) noted that the issue of “gun control” was absent from President Obama’s speech (Adviser David Plouffe assured Rendell that the president “will address issue later this month in another speech.”) Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) also observed, “No mention of Mental Health” in President Obama’s speech, despite spending a significant amount of time on both health care and the absence of Congresswoman Giffords, who was shot in the head by a mentally deranged lunatic.

Seven-term Congressman (that’s 14 years) Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), whose only claim to fame thus far is his ridiculous “Roadmap for America” that fellow Republican panned far & wide in favor of their own ridiculous “Pledge to America”, gave the Republican Response. Ryan continued the day-long Republican bash-fest of “investing”, claiming it was simply code for “more spending”, and citing the “failed Stimulus”. He then went on & on… as Republicans do nowadays… whining endlessly over the size of the National Debt and the Deficit. Did I mention that Ryan is a SEVEN term Congressman the served through George Dubya’s two terms, which saw the National Debt explode from $5.2 Trillion to $10 Trillion in just six years (the years the GOP controlled both houses of Congress)? The same Congress that voted seven times to raise the Debt Ceiling under President Bush with nary a word of concern, is now concern-trolling over the size of the National Debt. So it should come as no surprise that Ryan was sure to add: “No one person or Party is responsible for it [the size of the Debt].” When your share of the blame is SO great there’s no point in even TRYING to deny it, you know you have no credibility.

On the subject of Health Care Reform, Ryan stuck to the GOP script and insisted HCR “hurt job creation” (he was careful not to say “job killing”) and “would bankrupt the nation” (directly contradicting the CBO that has repeatedly stated that HCR will SAVE the country “nearly a Trillion dollars over ten years”.) But Republicans… who often cite the CBO when it suites them… have their own numbers on this one that tell them what they want to hear.)

Ryan then went through the list of promises the Founding Fathers made to the country in the Preamble to the Constitution: “establish justice”, “provide for the common defense”, “ensure domestic tranquility”. Notice anything missing? How about “Promote the general welfare”? That one must have slipped his mind. Dude, just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean you can pretend they didn’t say it.

As if one Right-wing response wasn’t enough, almost as if to highlight the fracture and disarray of today’s Republican Party, Rep. Michele Bachmann delivered the “Tea Party” response to the President’s speech. I didn’t see it (the corporately owned “Tea Party Express” webstream crashed before her speech even began), but in an interview on NBC afterward, Bachmann seemed to be in total agreement with Rep. Ryan, denying that giving a separate response was any indication of a break from the GOP. And who exactly appointed Bachmann head of the Tea Party? Apparently, she appointed herself. The “Official” Tea Party is none too happy that Bachmann has taken it upon herself to supplant Queen Sarah in the name of the corporately run astroturf “Tea Party Express”, which “asked” Bachmann to deliver their response.

That ’bout says it all, doesn’t it?
 


 
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The Mind of a Conservative: a personal aside
Jan 24th, 2011 by Admin Mugsy

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I am pleased to announce that there are no more “Republicans” in the state of Texas. None. Nada. Zip… at least, not among the general public. The governor, Rick “Good Hair” Perry is a Teabagger that has become a national embarrassment every time he opens his mouth with talk of “succession”, and the Texas state Legislature now has a Republican Super-Majority thanks to two Democratic defectors, but the last time I personally met a self-described “Republican” was way back in 2000. Not because I’ve lived a sheltered life or live in a deep “blue” state or because they’ve been vanishing like ST:TNG crew members (yes, I’m that geeky). No, I have lived in Texas almost my entire life and probably know more “Conservatives” than “Liberals”. But something interesting I’ve noticed is that while I proudly tell everyone “I’m a Liberal Democrat”, It has been roughly a decade since I’ve met a Conservative that will own up to being “a Republican”. They ALL claim to be “a Libertarian” or “an Independent”, yet someone keeps voting these Republican idiots into power. Apparently, the label “Republican” carries a “stink” they don’t want to be associated with. And can you blame them?

Senator Al Franken (D-MN), back when he was still doing his radio show on “Air America”, gave the best distinction between the two ideologies I’ve ever heard:

“Democrats love America like adults. Republicans love America like a child loves Mommy. Mommy can do no wrong, and no one dare say anything bad about Mommy even when she goes on a drunken rampage. Democrats can criticize their country and still love it because they want their country to be better. Republicans say, ‘My country, right or wrong’ like it were, ‘My mother, drunk or sober’.” – Al Franken

I would expand on Franken’s excellent analogy by adding that Republicans think that if you don’t agree with your Party 100% of the time on Every. Single. Issue, you’re not a “Republican”. Democrats like myself can (and often do) disagree with their Party on major legislation, and still call themselves “Democrats”. It’s why Will Rodgers famously said:

“I belong to no organized political Party. I’m a Democrat.” – Depression-era author & humorist, Will Rodgers

Probably 80% of the “friends” on my personal Facebook page are self described “Conservatives”, and as you know, I like to post the occasional “Lefty” link to see what they’ll have to say. Last week, the Forbes Magazine website posted a story revealing that not only is the health insurance mandate in “ObamaCare” NOT “unconstitutional” or the antithesis of what the Founding Fathers believed like the Tea Party and the GOP claim, but in fact, in 1798, Founding Father turned President John Adams signed into law a bill (see full text of law here) that ordered the building of maritime government-run hospitals for privately employed Merchant mariners, funded by mandating that those sailors purchase private health insurance. Reason: because the country was SO dependent upon imports/exports, that having sailors constantly out of work due to work-related injuries was a threat to the American economy. And if that weren’t enough, the Senate Majority Leader that pushed through the bill was Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, while the Speaker of the House was Founding Father Johnathan Dayton (the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence). Bam. The Republican argument that the Founders would of opposed both “socialized medicine” and “insurance mandates” wiped out in one fell swoop. (The argument that the Founders would of opposed the Federal government “mandating” you purchase anything was already debunked weeks ago as well when the fact President George Washington, at the end of his first term, mandated “every able bodied male citizen purchase a gun, powder and ammunition” under the Second Militia Act of 1792.)

So what do you think the response was among my Righty friends, suddenly faced with yet another core belief sent into its death throes when confronted with facts: suddenly, what the Founding Fathers believed was unimportant. I was accused of “cherry picking” an example and that supported my position and told that Thomas Jefferson… who passed the bill as Senate Majority Leader… actually OPPOSED this policy. His proof of this? Silly you if you’re waiting for an example. And “cherry picking”? No. That’s like claiming we’ve never had a president named “Chester”, then when you mention “Chester A. Arthur”, you’re accused of “cherry picking” a single name while ignoring the 43 others that “prove their point”.

Comments to the videos in our Official YouTube collection also provide me with an abundance of examples of Conservative stubbornness in the face of facts. Last week, a Rightwing YouTuber going by the moniker “FreedomInAmerica” (gee, I wonder if he’s a “Conservative”?) tried to argue that “President Clinton did NOT leave a Surplus” but instead “added $1.4Trillion to the National Debt over eight years.” When I pointed out the obvious, that he was confusing the “Debt” with the “deficit”, rather than concede his error, he doubled down and argued with me for the next four days that he was “NOT” confusing Debt with deficit, and directing me to read his website. I then tried to give him an out, suggesting that maybe he was arguing that “since we still had a Debt, we couldn’t technically claim a budget surplus”, but that wasn’t good enough to satisfy a Republican confronted with the facts. After he started spewing about “borrowing from Social Security”, I tossed him a second lifeline that perhaps he was suggesting that “because the Republican Congress had to borrow from Social Security, that technically they really never balanced the budget?” But no, that too was unacceptable. He steadfastly insisted Clinton never passed a Balanced Budget (he did. Twice. In ’99 and 2000). And this is no kid, if the age on his YouTube profile is to be believed, this numbnut is a “39” year old man.

The Republican controlled House wants the U.S. Budget to “return to 2008 spending levels”. The teanuts want to go one further and “return to 2006 spending levels” (before Democrats regained control of Congress). Are they going to return the U.S. population to 2006 levels as well? The population of the United States in 2006 was 299,398,484. This year (2011), the estimated U.S. population (as of July 1st when the “official” estimate is taken) will be over 311 million people. In “this new era of civility” maybe I shouldn’t suggest that is why the GOP’s first act upon regaining control of Congress was to try and bring back the insurance companies’ “Death Panels” & denials of care for patients with “pre-existing conditions”? Any looney-toons out there reading this, that was NOT a call to violence, capisce’?

Check out this comment from outgoing Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson on ABC’s “This Week” yesterday on the subject of repealing “ObamaCare”:
 

HCR hurts job creation because employers are telling her they (falsely) believe
   they will be hit with “big fines and big expenses”, but she’s not about to correct them:

If Republicans simply pointed out to concerned employers that they would be eligible for tax credits and Federal funding to cover their costs if they can’t afford it, that small businesses can file a waiver if providing health insurance would cause an “undue hardship”, or if you’re a large established company, you are probably already providing health care and should see their rates go down as a result of these reforms, they might not be so afraid to start hiring again and instead help get this economy moving. But instead, Republicans would rather let these employers remain misinformed and not hire any new employees because of it, rather than ally their fears and spur job growth by providing employers with accurate information. This pretty much tell me everything I need to know about today’s GOP (BTW, if you’re wondering, “No”, no one corrected or challenged Sen. Hutchinson after her comment.)

One last thought: I’m still hearing… mostly from Conservatives that deny they are Republicans… that “there’s no real difference between the Parties”. Sadly, I’m finding too many examples of President Obama enacting Conservative policies, kowtowing to the Right, and appointing Conservative advisers that talk him into giving in on budget-busting tax cuts and/or cutting services (only to then have Republicans use the resulting economic disaster to justify dismantling his agenda), to support that belief. But when it comes to the voters, the differences between The Right and The Left couldn’t be more clear.

(Editor’s Note: I hope to post a “Special Edition” analysis of Tuesday night’s State of the Union Address Wednesday.)
 


 
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Bring Back the Ban on Extended Clips.
Jan 17th, 2011 by Admin Mugsy

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I must have changed topics for this weeks Op/Ed four times. I started out writing about how the Republicans in Congress, who lambasted President Obama for “wasting time” on Health Care Reform last year instead of focusing on unemployment, campaigned on how they would “Repeal and Replace ObamaCare”, despite KNOWING anything they did would be “a waste of time” with NO CHANCE of surviving a presidential veto. And while they chant “Repeal AND REPLACE“, no one on the Right has yet to say what they would replace ObamaCare with. So much for rolling up their sleeves and focusing on getting people back to work. Then, upon retaking control of the House of Representatives, their first act was to waste a week reading the Constitution aloud on the floor of the House (don’tcha think maybe they should of taken the time to read The Constitution BEFORE running for Congress?), and even then, skipping the inconvenient parts about “slaves” as “3/5th of a person”. So much for hollow complaints of “wasting time” during an economic emergency.

Then came the shooting in Arizona by some nut with a history of mental health issues, who was able to buy a semi-automatic pistol, extended clips that hold TWICE the number of bullets intended for that particular weapon, and bullets purchased at the SECOND Wal*Mart he had visited that morning AFTER employees at the first Wal*Mart refused to sell him any ammunition “because of his strange behavior”.

I also considered taking up the challenge of Right Wing Talkers who, in the wake of the tragedy, immediately went on the defensive to claim THEY were not responsible for the recent climate of hate and incivility permeating the national discourse, challenging people to provide them with evidence of “violent rhetoric” coming from the Right (“Who? Us? Angry?”). Finding examples of Right-Wing hate is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel (Hell, how many example can one find in a single Tea Party Rally? Then there were those raging “Health Care Town Halls” in 2009.) I may still publish a massive list of Right-wing vitriol in the near future, but after digging up more than 50 examples just since the Arizona shooting, I decided to put that Herculean task off for another day.

We’ve all seen the disturbing booking photo of the shooter (it is not a mugshot), grinning following his murder of six people including a 9-year old girl. Half in jest, I posted a popular PhotoShopped split-image, half Glenn Beck, half the AZ shooter, to my personal Facebook page. My Rightie friends HOWLED in protest. “How DARE I” compare Beck to the deranged Arizona killer! “Beck never killed anyone!”, I was told (to which I directed them to Google “Beck Tides Foundation“) You’d think I posted a photo of the president in a Hitler mustache! Needless to say, once again, I found myself staring blatant Republican hypocrisy right in the face… a daily event in this line of work.

There was also the story of Sarah Palin’s “Blood Libel” speech. Did she or didn’t she know the anti-Semitic origins of that phrase? I’m inclined to think No. What about her speech writers? Again, likely No. But once the Media started to report this overlooked fact, Palin should immediately have fired her speech writer. Did she? I can find no reports that she did. But EVEN IF insertion of the phrase was an innocent mistake (sometimes used to mean “falsely accused”), don’t you think Palin should of questioned use of the words “BLOOD Libel” in a speech denouncing overheated rhetoric and hate-speech? I think that goes beyond poor judgment for a potential presidential candidate (and as Fox’s Brit Hume pointed out yesterday: “Why release a highly staged and scripted speech to the nation at all unless you plan on running for president?”)

But in the end, the only real topic this week is those lives lost in Arizona and how to prevent it from happening ever again.
 

Republican Congressman Peter King of New York, in a surprise move, actually proposed legislation “banning the possession of firearms within 1,000 feet of a government official“… a suggestion that was instantly dismissed by Speaker Boehner. While I applaud Congressman King’s sudden embrace of gun control, simply banning guns around elected officials seems a bit self serving. What about the rest of us? And such a law would of done NOTHING to prevent last weeks’ shooting other than to give police one more charge to file against the shooter. Would such a ban have prevented ANY political assassination in the last 200 years? Would it of stopped Oswald? Booth? Of course not. King’s idea, while laudable, would solve nothing.

As you know, I’ve repeatedly openly questioned how someone like the AZ Shooter was able to legally obtain a firearm. And MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow revived Chris Rock’s infamous “$5,000 bullet” routine on her show last week:
 

Chris Rock on “Gun Control” and the $5,000 bullet

 

However, as rational as the “$5,000 bullet solution” might sound, too many gun owners pack & load their own ammunition, and there is an endless supply of source material to where you could never make bullets so unaffordable criminals couldn’t obtain them.

No, the only practical thing we can do is simply slow them down by restricting the size of ammunition “clips”… also called “magazines”… that hold the bullets and allow for fewer reloads. The Arizona shooter was tackled and disarmed when he stopped to reload. The clips he was using were twice the normal size for that particular gun (holding 30 rounds instead of the typical 15), meaning his subduers had to wait twice as long for the shooter to stop and reload. Had the original Assault Weapons Ban on extended magazines had been renewed by President Bush, there is a very real possibly half as many victims might of been wounded.. or killed… that day.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), whose husband was shot and killed by a deranged man on the Long Island railroad in the early ’90’s, and Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), have both proposed reinstating the ban on extended clips that was part of the Assault Weapons Ban first passed by President George HW Bush in 1989 and expanded by President Clinton in 1994. President George W Bush (43), despite campaigning on renewing the Assault Weapons Ban during his 2000 campaign, instead allowed it to expire on Sept. 13, 2004:
 

President Bush (43)’s record on Gun Control

Bush ban support #1Bush ban support #2

 

There really is no rational argument for keeping extended clips legal. Being able to fire more bullets without having to stop and reload is simply a matter of convenience. And if a little inconvenience is the price for limiting the amount of damage a deranged killer can do in one sitting, that’s too freakin’ bad.

I’ve heard the argument, “If you ban extended clips, they’ll just use two guns instead of one.” Yes, but they can use two guns NOW. Which would you prefer? Two guns carrying 31 bullets each, or two guns carrying 16 (one magazine each plus one in the chamber)?

Another argument: “People will simply stock up on extended clips if you ban them.” As a matter of fact, they already are. Gun lovers are already buying the gun itself… a Glock 9mm… out of some baseless, ridiculous fear that President Obama will try to ban them. The gun nuts have been paranoid that President Obama will try and “take their guns away” since before he was elected. And yet, the only gun legislation he has passed is to make it easier/legal to carry a gun into a Public Park. This president has a phobia against proposing any limits on gun ownership in fear of the inevitable overreaction by Republican gun owners across the country. (two years in office and still they are “stocking up” on weapons an ammunition because they believe President Obama would be able to single handedly violate the Second Amendment and pass legislation that would attempt to “take their guns away”. Even with a Republican House, so deep is their paranoia and hate for government that they feel the need to “stock up”. So you can see why he doesn’t want to do anything that might, even tangentially, confirm their fears.)

But banning “extended clips”? How does one make a convincing argument that law-abiding citizens NEED to be able to fire more than 16 bullets without pausing to reload? Because “if you ban extended clips, only criminals would have extended clips?” Dude, if you can’t hit your target with the first 16 shots, maybe you have no business owning a firearm in the first place.

Or do you argue that “if you ban extended clips, there are so many out there, buyers will continue to have a steady supply for years to come.” True, but that supply will eventually run low, and the simple act of banning their manufacture will drive the cost of EXISTING extended clips out of the price range of your average kook.

If there is a legitimate rational argument for keeping “extended clips” legal, I haven’t heard it. The Second Amendment doesn’t protect gun owners against “inconvenience”.
 

BTW: To bring this Op/Ed full circle, while everyone questions the ability of a “deranged” man with “obvious mental health issues” to obtain a handgun, Republicans still spent the day yesterday on the Sunday shows advocating “the repeal of ObamaCare”, which includes, incidentally, funding for Mental Health Care, including counseling (H.R. 3962, the Reconciliation bill, adds extensive support for Mental Health services.) The people over at The Washington Times posted a single readers comment claiming “ObamaCare CUTS funding for Mental Health care services”, simply telling readers to “checkout ObamaCare’s changes” as his “proof” (I did, the Reconciliation bill is full of added funding for Mental Health Care). With nothing more than this one stray comment, a site entitled “ObamaCare411” cites “a concerned citizen” to The Washington Times claiming “ObamaCare cuts mental health care”, posted to their front page less than a week after the tragedy. This is all they’ve got folks.
 


 
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Arizona shooting tells us nothing… and everything
Jan 10th, 2011 by Admin Mugsy

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  (Note: Apologies to subscribers that received a notification of a three year old post on the 2008 election. Notification was due to an error on my part after referencing it below. Sorry. – Mugsy)
 

SarahPAC gunsights mapThe shooting of 19 20 people during a public appearance of Arizona Congresswoman Rep. Gabrielle Giffords by a mentally unbalanced 22 year old kid (who, as per my policy, shall go nameless here) last Saturday has everybody in the Media wondering what “political” motivation might of been behind the shooting rampage that left six people dead, including a 9 year old girl, born on 9/11/01, that was brought to the event by a family friend. But if there is one thing I’ve learned, you don’t try to apply “rational thinking”, such as policy disagreements, to the actions of mentally unstable people. The people we should be focusing on are the (arguably) “sane” people that CREATE this climate of overheated rhetoric that help push the insane over the edge, rather than the thought processes of someone who thinks the voices in his head are the after-effects of a government monitoring his thoughts. No, our focus needs to be on “who is creating this climate of violent anti-government extremism” coupled with how a documented mentally ill person is able to LEGALLY obtain a semi-automatic pistol?

Pima County (AZ) Sheriff Clarence Dupnik summed it up perfectly during a press briefing that same afternoon:
 


“I think it’s the vitriolic rhetoric we hear day in & day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business…” (…)
“Arizona has become a Mecca of prejudice and bigotry.” – Sheriff Dupnik

 
 
You know what I was doing just before this story broke? I was responding to a quote on Facebook by “a friend” that posted a quote (falsely) attributed to Founding Father Thomas Jefferson:

“Those who hammer their guns into plows will plow for those who do not.” – Thomas Jefferson

Knowing what I know about Jefferson… a pacifist that railed against “standing armies in peacetime” in favor of “a well regulated militia”, and supported the invention of the “U.S. Armory system” (which we still have today) where guns are held “in case of emergency” (arguably, once intended to provide civilians with guns should we be invaded again), and author of the “Jefferson Bible”… it seemed highly unlikely that he would specifically contradict a noted Bible passage in favor of “gun rights”. So I checked the Official Jefferson wiki page, which notes that, while there is no proof Jefferson didn’t say those words (try proving a negative), the quote appears nowhere in ANY of his writings. And if Jefferson… a prolific writer and author of our most treasured documents (Declaration and the Constitution), felt this way, he surely would of expressed those beliefs in some document somewhere. He didn’t. And I’d bet everything I own he never made the above quote.

These new “Patriots” (actually, “Nationalists“) don’t care. If they can justify their extremist rhetoric by tying it… either to the Bible or a Founding Father… then truth & facts be damned. But I find this particular quote disturbing because it justifies repudiating of a celebrated Bible quote on the subject of “peace” (Isaiah 2:4 – beating swords into plowshares) by (mis)attributing it to a Founding Father. For “Bible-thumping gun rights advocates”… a group that exists only in some moral black hole from which reason can neither enter nor escape, it’s okay to contradict the Bible if a Founding Father says it. Apparently, “Founding Fathers” trump Jesus when it’s convenient. I find it disturbing… though never surprising… how far these “Super-patriots” will go to defend their violent extremism.

The quote was followed by the usual “Right on’s” and “Attaboy’s” one might expect from like-minded “government is the source of all evil” anti-establishment fetishists we’ve come to know and loath since the days of Bill Clinton. (I’d be interested in the reaction of these “Patriots” if we were to find out the quote was actually attributed to Mussolini or Napoleon. Would they continue to defend it? Would the “Right on’s” and “Attaboy’s” continue? I suspect not. Attributing the militaristic quote to someone like Jefferson gives them “moral” cover.) I wrote about this way back in 2007. But the REAL problem is: Just WHO is fostering this climate of… as Congressman Emanuel Clever so perfectly put it on Meet the Press Sunday… “I’m good. You’re evil!

Everyone over the age of 30 remembers “Waco” and the more than a month-long standoff between a gun-running religious cult and Federal ATF officers in the dawn of the Clinton Administration’s first term. But what most people forget is that this was NOT THE FIRST INCIDENCE of a standoff between a well-armed anti-government isolationist and the Federal government. For that, you must go back to the last year of the Bush-41 Administration and a violent conflict known as “Ruby Ridge”, where Federal agents shot and killed the wife of a White Separatist as she stood on the patio of their home while holding their baby son. The anti-government gun-rights movement was essentially born at that moment, but it was so small and had such little impact, that the entire incident flew in under the radar of most Americans until the incident in Waco the following year.

For the remainder of the Clinton Administration (and to this day), people with their own agenda and most certainly know better, deliberately and knowingly (imho) falsely attribute “Ruby Ridge” to the Clinton Administration, and use those early 90’s “government vs. The People” incidents to label DEMOCRATS as the “anti-gun, excessive use of government Power” Party… a label that takes us to today, or specifically, last Saturday, when a mentally ill kid not old enough to remember “Ruby Ridge”, Waco and “Oklahoma City”, motivated to violence against the government for reasons best left to Glenn Beck and the rantings of the insane, was able to legally purchase a firearm and start shooting people attending a political rally.

This violent “government is evil” rhetoric has become a part of our culture today. The Media is trying to claim “both sides are to blame for the ‘recent’ rise in vitriol that led to Saturdays shooting” (read David Niewert’s excellent thoughts on that subject over on “Crooks & Liars”). And while we can’t apply “political motives” to the rantings of an insane gunman, I CAN argue that YOU CAN & WILL NOT FIND ANY EXAMPLES OF HIGH-PROFILE DEMOCRATS USING ELIMINATIONIST RHETORIC AGAINST THEIR POLITICAL OPPONENTS.

Last March, Rep Giffords’ local office HQ’s window was shattered in protest over the Health Care Reform debate. Here’s a look back at the level of open hostility at the time, trumped up… and even openly encouraged… by the Republican Party towards Democrats that led directly to outbreaks of violent protests and rampant incivility:
 

March 21, 2010

Limbaugh: “We need to defeat these bastards. We need to wipe them out.”

Political motivations of the shooter aside, this violent climate belongs to Conservatives and Conservatives alone. Deal with it.
 


 
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Understanding “Global Warming” in 30 seconds.
Jan 3rd, 2011 by Admin Mugsy

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Global Warming for RepublicansHappy New Year! You may have noticed that precious little attention has been paid to the subject of “Global Climate Change” since the Obama Administration took office. A few minor policies here and there. But where is that desperately needed “Green Jobs Program” when unemployment is pushing 10% and the nations weather patterns are going to Hell in a hand-basket? Over the past couple of weeks much of the North East has been hit hard by the worst snowstorm that part of the country has seen since… well, since last year. Last year, headlines were bleating titles like “Snowmageddon!” and “The Snowpocalypse!”. Republican Senator and lead anti-Global Warming denier Jim Inhoff was positively giddy, building a feux “igloo” in the front yard of his grandchildren and calling it “Al Gore’s Summer Home”. Jokes flew about how “the snow would not stop until Al Gore cried Uncle!” I wrote about this tireless march of stupidity coming from Climate Change deniers several times last Winter. Where did all those idiots think all that moisture was coming from? Suddenly, here we are once again, just 12-months later, reporting “record breaking” snowfall, “history-making” catastrophic weather, and suddenly, the critics all seem to have fallen silent. Oh sure, Glenn Beck said the caving in of the MetroDome roof in Minnesota two weeks ago under the weight of all that snow was “Proof!” that “Global Warming didn’t exist!”, and some Republicans are threatening to drag Climatologists before Congress and force them to explain… in what is sure to be a humiliating experience for Washington skeptics… just how warm weather creates snow. But for the most part, the subject of “Global Warming” is barely a blip on the Media’s radar this Winter.

I was more than a tad bemused that NOT ONE of the Network Sunday Talk Shows this week brought up “Global Warming”. I wasn’t sure if it was because they’re starting to understand that one doesn’t necessarily negate the other, or if it’s because they’ve come to a private consensus that the threat of “Global Warming” is over-blown, “long debunked” following two years of wild Winter weather? Either way, when the subject of the record snowfall came up, the topic was “how bad it was for the politicians”… Bloomberg (NYC) and Christie (NJ)… who had an insufficient response (Donna Brazile on “ThisWeek” did point out the obvious that, “this is what you get when you cut city budgets for snowplows and city workers to deal with emergencies.”) It is painfully easy to deny “Global Warming” when you don’t understand the science, and I have nothing but harsh words for “climatologists” that can’t sum up their work in a 30 second soundbite so deniers can’t just tune them out. Republicans no likey math & science. Science hard! So let’s see if I can’t explain this in a way you can deliver it in a 30 second elevator ride with some Climate-Change denying assclown snickering in back after digging his car out of “6 inches of Global Warming” that morning:

First, as I note on top, “Where do you think all that moisture came from?” Snow is “moisture”. It evaporated from somewhere. While it is Winter here, it is Summer below the equator. Record heat =  record evaporation. That moisture turns to snow when it reaches the North and falls in the form of a record amount of snow. ThinkProgress reported last week that 2010… the hottest year on record… saw a record number of “killer climate disasters”. From a string of Winter tornadoes in Missouri, Arkansas, and now Illinois, to torrential rain in Australia flooding an area the size of Texas.

Deniers love to conflate “Global Warming” with “Summer in the Wintertime”. No, “Global Warming” means exactly that: this big ball of dirt we call “Earth” is actually “warming”… a fraction of a degree on average (from 7-8 degrees at the poles to less than one degree at the equator), but enough to affect the planet’s ability to regulate temperatures from season-to-season… so that we don’t have 113′ Autumn’s in Los Angeles followed by massive snowfall on the East Coast that Winter (you may have noticed that both are becoming more common. “Hellooo!”) The planet’s inability to regulate temperatures from season-to-season means a change in global weather patterns. That’s “Climate Change”.

It is sorely tempting to point to a single weather anomaly like last weeks’ blizzard and “blame Global Warming”. But there is a difference between “Climate” and “Weather”. We all know Miami has a warm climate, and if it snows in Miami one Christmas, no one is going to start claiming Miami has a “cold climate”. However, if it starts snowing in Miami every Xmas, THAT is “probably” a sign Florida’s climate is changing due to Global Warming. Get it?

And it’s that word: “probably”, that causes Climate Scientists so much trouble. There really is no way to “prove” a “predictable” change in weather is “proof” of “Climate Change” any more than you can argue finding a man standing over a dead body with a bloody knife is “proof” they committed the murder. If that were the case, we wouldn’t need trials. But the likelihood the two events are connected is about as close to 100% as anyone’s going to get. And any “Denier” demanding “100% absolute proof” has no business being taken seriously on ANYTHING because there are few things in life as complicated as Climate Science that can be “proven 100%” to where even Rush Limbaugh can’t deny it.

So, to sum up: “Global Warming” doesn’t mean “no more snow”. If the Earth warms up THAT much, we’ll all be dead before Winter arrives anyway. “Global Warming” refers only to a fraction of a degree. “Climate Change” is what happens when the Earth starts having trouble regulating its own temperature. You may have noticed that “Global Warming Deniers” NEVER use the term “Climate Change”. That’s because it’s harder to make fun of. They think the two terms can be used interchangeably. They can’t. In fact, the two terms refer to two completely different phenomena. Not unlike “voting” vs. “legislating”. One has a direct effect on the other, but you can’t substitute one word for the other.

It’s really quite simple, but as a wise man once said, “It is much more difficult to convince someone of something if their job depends upon NOT knowing it’s true.” There are a LOT of people out there whose job depends upon Climate Change either NOT being real, and/or convincing you that to be the case, and they’ll spend untold amounts of money trying to “complicate” a subject that takes just 30 seconds to explain & understand.
 


 
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