You lie

According Public Policy Polling (via Balloon Juice via No More Mr. Nice Blog) 41% percent of Republicans think Benghazi is the “biggest political scandal in American history”.

Most of you 41%ers are lying. I’m sure plenty of you believe that there was some kind of big cover-up involving Benghazi, but I don’t believe that most of you think it’s “biggest political scandal in American history”.

As for the third of you who don’t even know where Benghazi is, including the 6% who think it’s in Cuba, I’m not sure if I should count you among the liars or not. If you don’t even know where Benghazi is the proper answer to “Do you think Benghazi is the biggest political scandal in American history, or not?” probably should have been “Not Sure”. On the other hand, you are extremely low information voters who form opinions based on little or no evidence, so maybe “It is” was indeed your most honest guess.

As for the other two thirds, most of you know that Benghazi isn’t the biggest scandal in U.S. history. A lot of you know that it’s not even a real scandal. Maybe you’ve somehow convinced yourself that Obama is a murderous Islamic fundamentalist who loves homosexuals more than he loves God and in that frame of mind you’re willing to accept the most outrageous accusations. But convincing yourself of a lie in order to spread more lies is still lying.

The only scandal is the wild accusations and the obscene partisan effort to use the tragic deaths of four Americans to achieve a political victory for ideas which could cannot be won on their own merits.

Sequester Blame

This graphic that’s been going around lately had me scratching my head, having said many times that the sequester deal was a bi-partisan agreement and that Republicans are full of shit trying to blame this mess on Obama or Democrats.

Crying Boehner with text: Who voted for the sequester?  Democratic votes -0 Republican votes - 218

The bill which is about to kick in was passed in the house 269 to 161, with strong Republican support and half of the House Democrats voting for it. The figure in the graphic comes from an earlier version, which was killed in the Senate.

It’s dishonest to suggest that no Democrats supported the sequester when some Democrats eventually did, but it’s not nearly as outrageous as blaming it on Democrats who never supported it as strongly as Republicans. It’s also outrageous to blame it on Obama, who’s team only came up with the idea to keep Republicans from pushing the country into default.

Romney’s 25 Years Means Nothing to Me

Am I being too simple if I point out that Romney’s ability to balance the budget of a financial firm which made huge profits buy buying, destroying, and selling pieces of other companies has nothing to do with balancing the budget of a government which, in theory, is not actually supposed to sell any product or make any profit from its customers?

Bain capital had a large pot of money and was able to decide how to spend it in order to make more money. Romney did a good job with that. If you gave me a big pot of money and told me to buy companies, fire employees, and sell the remains, I wouldn’t be able to do so with such efficiency and effectiveness.

But the U.S. Government doesn’t have the option of only putting its money into profitable ventures. We can’t just say, “You know, the Coast Guard (or the FBI or FAA, etc) isn’t really returning much of a profit, so let’s just fire all the personnel and sell off the assets.” Running a government is about providing the most important services with the available resources so your customers can flourish. It’s not about making the most money from your customers so that you can flourish.

There are no actual facts to support Romney’s economic plan. Romney’s proposal doesn’t add up when analyzed by experts, he makes the rather bizarre promise that he’ll cut taxes but also cut loopholes to make his plan revenue neutral, he falsely claims that six studies support his plan, and he refuses to answer questions about which loopholes he’ll close.

We only have Romney’s assurance that he knows how to balance a budget because he’s been balancing budgets for 25 years. Millions of Americans have also been balancing budgets year after year, with more pressure and tighter margins than Romney ever had to juggle. Mitt Romney’s 25 years of balancing budgets means nothing to me. I want him to stop dodging questions about his plan and explain why the Tax Policy Center and the Joint Committee on Taxation say his plan doesn’t add up.

A moron or a liar, but certainly a racist, plays to a cheering crowd.

A friend posted on facebook a link to Hank Williams Jr. bashes Obama at Iowa State Fair, and added,

“We’ve got a Muslim president who hates farming, hates the military, hates the U.S., and we hate him!” (and the crowd goes wild with applaud)

Hank Williams Jr can’t seem to get it right. In order to stay relevant some people will say anything to get attention. This guy’s top venue–is performing at “state-fairs”. He (along with a select group) are still on the “President is a Muslim” trip. Let’s not laugh at little Hank-hank, maybe he will go away.

Personally I don’t think hoping he’ll go away will be enough. I’d rather call the miserable low-life and his peers out on their lies and their warped beliefs.

First, Obama and Democrats have done plenty to support the military, while Republican leaders talk about supporting the troops while voting against military benefits, pay raises, and jobs programs for veterans. Republicans in congress love the military the way McDonald’s loves cows, and I’m getting sick of military members being lied to about their “support”.

Second, as a commenter on the article asked, “And who is holding up the Farm Bill?…”

Third, I wish we could move from “Obama isn’t a Muslim” to “It doesn’t matter if he’s a Muslim because the United States Constitution is absolutely clear about ‘No Religious Tests‘”.

Hank Williams is a moron or a liar, but certainly a racist, and hoping his type will go away isn’t going to help this nation break out of the gridlock caused by bigotry and ignorance.

The Mandate is No Big Deal. Defeating it Would Have Been

I keep reading that requiring us to do something, as opposed to requiring us to not do something, is a new step, and conservatives are sounding alarms all over the internet that freedom died as a result of the Supreme Court upholding the health care mandate, and that we’ve crossed a line into government mandated oblivion. But the health care mandate is not the first mandate. Several months ago the story of George Washington’s gun mandate was making the rounds. Other examples are in a discussion about the draft, posted by Greg Sargent, and in a post in Daily Kos about a railway case, which quotes NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel (1937):

The decree which we affirmed in that case required the railway company to treat with the representative chosen by the employees and also to refrain from entering into collective labor agreements with any one other than their true representative as ascertained in accordance with the provisions of the act.

In other words, the railway company was required to do something, and face penalties for not doing it.

With all of the power that the federal government already has, much gained with the support of right wing ideologues, the idea that this power to enforce a mandate represents a bold new step seems petty and hypocritical. The court didn’t grant any new power, it affirmed power that already exists and refused to carve out a special exception. It should have affirmed this power under the commerce clause, as argued by the administration. As a Kos commenter noted, referencing Gonzales v. Raich:

Growing pot on your patio to smoke yourself is clearly interstate commerce, but a central issue facing any effort to reform a sector that occupies 18% of our economy, well that’s just going too far.

But instead, the Supreme Court affirmed the power as falling under the power to tax. Either way, the power was there.

If freedom died, it died long before the Affordable Care Act. It was dead on or before 1942, when Roscoe Filburn was told that he couldn’t grow his own wheat for his own use because doing so interfered with interstate commerce. So don’t blame Obama.

Abuses of eminent domain and laws against personal use of home-grown medicine are examples of overreaching government that I’m all for rolling back, along with all of the Monsanto and factory-meat friendly laws which make it almost impossible for a small farmer to legally sell his product. But I don’t want to go back to the days before equal rights, national fire codes, child labor laws and environmental protection.

Unlike eminent domain abuses, invasive drug laws, and overregulation of home-made produce and meat, the Affordable Care Act won’t prevent us from doing things that we’re free to do. There are plenty of examples of over-regulation and abuses of federal power. But we didn’t suddenly become unfree last Thursday and we didn’t cross a line into new territory.

There are plenty of ways for Americans to become freer. Allowing health care companies to keep increasing the cost of health care isn’t one of them.

So-Called Christians are Making me Mad

I was subjected to ‘The 700 Club’ because someone had it on at the rec center, and I saw a segment about church goers who might otherwise support the president but are now having reservations because of the gay marriage thing. You folks make me sick.

You want a be good Christian? Vote for the guy who wants to help the jobless make it through hard times. Vote for the party that didn’t present false information in order to justify a war. Vote for the guy who is concerned about the land, the water, the air, and the creatures over which God gave us dominion. Vote for the party that didn’t put the Catholic Worker on a terrorist watchlist because they’re against violence. Vote for the guy who didn’t earn millions putting others out of work, and didn’t hide his money in a foreign bank to avoid rendering taxes to his own nation. Vote for the guy who actually is ‘Concerned About The Very Poor’. Don’t vote against most of your believes just to support a man who is more interested in proving how Christian he is rather than doing the good deeds that Jesus asked us to do.

Of all of the Christian rules to put above the others, this is one of the stupidest. Jesus said nothing about homosexuality. And based on what he said about marriage, if we don’t allow gay marriage then we should outlaw adults living with their parents, and outlaw men remaining single. Homosexuality is only forbidden in the Old Testament, not the New, But enforcing Old Testament rules would mean no bacon, no lobster, no work on Saturday, and bringing two doves to temple every month to atone for menstruation.

Does God want us to enforce a two thousand year old set of rules or does God want us to understand the morality and responsibility that he was trying to teach us with those rules? When I was raising my children, I had rules about what we watched on TV, when we ate dinner, who was allowed in the house. I also taught my children to be compassionate and responsible. It was not specific rules that I was trying to teach them. I would be disappointed if my children adhered strictly to old rules; I want them to make their own rules, as long as they do so with compassion and responsibility in mind. Here’s another analogy; imagine a mother leaves with strict instructions not to get water on the new carpet. But then a fire breaks out, and the baby sitter grabs a bucket of water to douse it while the children yell, “No, Mom said ‘No Water’!” God hasn’t sent us a babysitter in a long long time. The circumstances have changed. Perhaps God expects us, by ourselves, to start acting like adults.

To push my idea further, Jesus came and said that the old laws are still in effect, but then he went and changed them, which is why Christians can eat pork and lobster. I’m not Christian, but I believe in the wisdom that Jesus taught. What is meant by not changing the laws while changing them? I say it’s that some laws must be changed for others to remain. God gave Man dominion over the earth and also told us to be fruitful and multiply. But today overpopulation, consumption of resources and pollution are our biggest threats. Perhaps in order to maintain God’s commandment of dominion we must change the rule about men taking wives and producing lots of children.

Whether you agree with my conclusions or not, you cannot legislate all of your beliefs. And you shouldn’t fool yourself into thinking that either Obama or Romney will let you do so. Pat Robinson said, “you don’t have Jesus running against someone else. You have Obama running against Romney.” In his perverse way, he’s spot on. We have a choice between two men, each of whom will satisfy some of your Christian desires. One will shout to the world what a Christian nation we are with high-profile displays of Christian rule enforcement. The other will help feed the hungry, care for the sick, and try to ensure we don’t destroy the planet over which we have dominion.

I know my choice, but I’m not Christian. You have to make yours. Make the right choice.

Southern Democrats Should Support Marriage Equality, As Should We All.

Here in Southern Virginia, I’m baffled and depressed by the number of Democrats who wax conservative when discussing homosexuality, and cite Jesus as the reason for doing so. But there are plenty of Christian laws that we don’t enforce in this country. In the Bible, Jesus said, “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife”. But there is no law against being single, and no law against living with your parents, so why should there be a law against gay marriage?

Those who discriminate against homosexuals do so not because they love God but because discriminating makes them feel superior. The rules that we naturally love are the ones that we can easily follow while others struggle to do so. Those of us who are straight men are not straight because we’re law abiding or disciplined or moral. We’re straight because we like pussy. Does that make us more godly? Closer to Jesus? We share a quality that we share with most roosters, billy goats, and male dogs. I can think of no quality that I share with a billy goat that makes me feel morally superior to people who don’t share that quality. I might if I were a vegetarian.

Discriminating by sexual preference is as abhorrent as discriminating by race. Supporting laws against homosexuality doesn’t make you a good Christian, supporting religious doctrine doesn’t make you a good American, and liking pussy doesn’t make you a good man. All Americans, and especially Democrats, should support the president, support marriage equality, and stand against discrimination.

The President’s Warning

It’s been almost a week and I keep reading about the president’s unprecedented warning to the Supreme Court.

Copied from Real Clear Politics, here’s what the president said in response to a question about health care and the Supreme Court:

With respect to health care, I’m actually — continue to be confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the law. And the reason is because, in accordance with precedent out there, it’s constitutional. That’s not just my opinion, by the way; that’s the opinion of legal experts across the ideological spectrum, including two very conservative appellate court justices that said this wasn’t even a close case.

I think it’s important — because I watched some of the commentary last week — to remind people that this is not an abstract argument. People’s lives are affected by the lack of availability of health care, the inaffordability of health care, their inability to get health care because of preexisting conditions.

The law that’s already in place has already given 2.5 million young people health care that wouldn’t otherwise have it. There are tens of thousands of adults with preexisting conditions who have health care right now because of this law. Parents don’t have to worry about their children not being able to get health care because they can’t be prevented from getting health care as a consequence of a preexisting condition. That’s part of this law.

Millions of seniors are paying less for prescription drugs because of this law. Americans all across the country have greater rights and protections with respect to their insurance companies and are getting preventive care because of this law.

So that’s just the part that’s already been implemented. That doesn’t even speak to the 30 million people who stand to gain coverage once it’s fully implemented in 2014.

And I think it’s important, and I think the American people understand, and the I think the justices should understand, that in the absence of an individual mandate, you cannot have a mechanism to ensure that people with preexisting conditions can actually get health care. So there’s not only a economic element to this, and a legal element to this, but there’s a human element to this. And I hope that’s not forgotten in this political debate.

Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress. And I’d just remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is, the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint — that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law. Well, this is a good example. And I’m pretty confident that this Court will recognize that and not take that step.

I’ve read this a few times but I keep missing the big warning.

Of course a warning can be implied, like a boss telling an employee, “I’m confident you’re not going to use the company car for personal business”. But unlike the boss and his employee, Obama can’t fire the Supreme Court. He can’t get Congress to fire them and can’t get the American People to fire them. There is nobody in the world with better job security than a Supreme Court justice, and few who are as unaccountable for their decisions.

So I can’t figure out what hundreds of Right wing politicians, reporters, pundits, and bloggers have in their heads whey they accuse President Obama of “warning” or “trying to intimidate” the Supreme Court.

The president’s words are not unprecedented either. As the Daily Beast aptly points out:

In words echoed by Obama this week, Reagan reminded Americans that “in our democracy, it is the elected representatives of the people, not unelected judges, who make laws.” And Reagan warned what would happen if justices ignored that civics lesson: “If that happens,” he said, “the words of the documents that we think govern us will be just masks for the personal and capricious rule of a small elite.”

In those quotes, President Reagan was not referring to a specific ruling, but those words were still as much a description of the president’s expectations as Obama’s were.

President Obama did, by the way, correct his mistake about the precedence of the Supreme Court overturning congressional law, and explained that he was referring to laws concerning the commerce clause. Without that modification, the suggestion was absurd.

But despite that slip, there’s nothing unprecedented about a president stating how he expects the Supreme Court should act. His words were mild compared to some of those before him, and all this nonsense about the president’s warning is another dishonest effort to invent nefarious meanings hidden behind the president’s actual words.

Trolling about Health Care at NRO

Trolling at the NRO is frustrating because it takes so long for comments to appear. On the other hand, I should admit that I was wrong In an earlier post when I suggested that my comments would be replied to by excessively nasty and low-class remarks.

Charles Krauthammer wrote a post about the Affordable Care Act in which he begins re-telling the easily and repeatedly debunked lie about the 1.76 trillion cost estimate from the CBO. Then he gives the old slippery slope warning, suggesting that if the Supreme Court approves Obamacare, there won’t be any limits on federal power. Finally, he writes about Catholic organizations being forced to pay for contraception, which they’re not actually being forced to do, as an unprecedented denial of religious freedom, when actually it’s tame compared to oppression that the Supreme Court has approved of in the past.

I wrote a reply, but it probably won’t appear until tonight or tomorrow.

The 1.76 trillion figure is part of a calculation that has been taken out of context from a report (pdf) in which it’s very clearly not being used as a final estimate. One conservative lied about it and it spread through the internet at an amazing clip. Mr. Krauthammer undercut his usual low standards by repeating a lie that not only has been debunked by multiple organizations, is pretty easy for anyone to debunk on their own. The report isn’t too hard to read. The report actually says, on the first page, that the CBO’s new estimate is lower than previous estimates for the same period of time. But when not using the same time period, which is what happens each year when the CBO produces it’s ten-year projections, the cost will rise as more of the ACA is implemented. This is a well known fact but Mr. Krauthammer sounds the alarm as if he’s just uncovered a secret plot. But 1.76 trillion is false even with the new, increased estimate.

The health care mandate is in keeping with current powers of the federal government. A commenter on National Review suggested that if Obamacare passes then everyone over 18 should be mandated to purchase a gun. I don’t know if the commenter is aware that a similar mandate was passed during the presidency of George Washington. Washington’s mandate was never challenged in the Supreme Court but 1942, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government can use the commerce clause to put limits on wheat production even if the production is for private use. More recently, the court overrode state law by outlawing marijuana for medicinal purposes, and Justice Antonin Scalia supported the power of the commerce clause in that case. Charles Krauthammer wants to know, if the mandate passes, is there anything the commerce clause doesn’t allow the federal government to do? George Washington’s mandate was never challenged and the two cases I just mentioned are far more overreaching than the health care mandate, so whatever the federal government can and can’t do now, it won’t change with approval of the health care mandate.

The recent accommodation for Catholic institutions means that those institutions will not directly pay for contraception. If it’s unconstitutional for Catholic organizations to be forced to pay indirectly for something they don’t believe in, than all taxes are unconstitutional because they may be used indirectly to pay for things that citizens don’t agree with, such as war, subsidies for farms which produce pork, and even Medicare, since some people don’t believe in medicine.

Mr. Krauthammer writes,

Today, it’s the Catholic Church whose free-exercise powers are under assault from this cascade of diktats sanctioned by — indeed required by — Obamacare. Tomorrow it will be the turn of other institutions of civil society that dare stand between unfettered state and atomized citizen.

But the federal government has a long history of trampling over religious beliefs when doing so supports a national agenda. One good example, also supported by conservative Justice Scalia, is the religious use of controlled substances, which the Supreme Court has determined can be disallowed. Mr. Krauthammer has access to high level archival databases. Surely has access to wikipedia.

Conservatives, including Mitt Romney, New Gingrich, and the leadership of the Heritage Foundation all supported the individual mandate before defeating the mandate became something that could used to damage the Democratic party. That’s another inconvenient fact that Mr. Krauthammer has to ignore in order to paint Democrats as Socialists for their support of Obamacare.

A nobody like I can be forgiven for acting like a passive element and mindlessly repeating lies that are bouncing around the internet. Someone with Mr. Krauthammer’s resources should know better.

Precedent vs Ideology will be important in the Health Care Decision

From TPM:

Since [ the new deal era ], the high court has overwhelmingly supported congressional authority to make economic regulations — from the 1942 Wickard v. Filburn case, which upheld laws restricting wheat production for personal consumption, to the 2005 Gonzalez v. Raich ruling, which decreed (with the help of Scalia and Kennedy) that Congress may override state laws permitting medical marijuana patients to grow cannabis for personal use. The administration will argue that both laws reflected broad exercises of Congress’s power on the scale of mandating insurance coverage.

But..

Despite the favorable precedents, progressives have a nagging fear that the five Republican-appointed justices will hand down a partisan decision on the scale of Bush v. Gore, to deliver a blow to President Obama. After that unprecedented 2000 ruling, some liberals take little comfort in scholars’ view that political pressure doesn’t usually carry the day in the chamber, that the high court’s longstanding tendency is to make gradual, not radical, shifts in jurisprudence on core Constitutional questions.

A Supreme Court decision in favor of the health care mandate would reflect a century of precedent. A decision against it would reflect the same philosophy that resulted in the 2000 decision to stop Florida from recounting its own votes, which is that federal power over states’ rights can only be used to enforce conservative ideology.

US Supreme Court