Monday, February 28, 2011

Why Republicans Are Wrong on International Affairs, Especially Military Actions

"In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should 'have his head examined,' as General MacArthur so delicately put it.

“The odds of repeating another Afghanistan or Iraq — invading, pacifying, and administering a large third-world country — may be low,” Mr. Gates said, but the Army and the rest of the government must focus on capabilities that can “prevent festering problems from growing into full-blown crises which require costly — and controversial — large-scale American military intervention.”

ROBERT M. GATES, the secretary of defense.
addressing West Point Cadets, Friday February 25, 2011
New York Times, February 28, 2011

"U.S. Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman said they support creating a no-fly zone over Libya and that more should be done to oust Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

“Now is the time for action, not just for statements,” Lieberman said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. Both McCain, the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Lieberman, an independent panel member, said they support sending arms and humanitarian aid to the anti-Qaddafi government and recognizing that government.  "
John McCain, February 27, 2011
Meet the Press, and

Apparently failed presidential candidate Senator John McCain is not aware that using our air support and presumably our navy, by way of air force carriers from which to fly them, IS a military involvement.  Moreover, an involvement which has not been requested by a Libyan opposition government, which has yet to form.

To rush in without invitation, most especially in the areas where there is no active ongoing conflict and where oil production and oil shipping has resumed as of Sunday 2/27/'11, is folly.  And that is why McCain and his fellow too eager militant fellow Republicans and Tea Partiers have disastrous notions about U.S. foreign policy generally, and military intervention decisions specifically.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bad Time: the Wee Hour Speed Vote in Wisconsin - the Hard Questions

Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.
Theophrastus (372 BC - 287 BC), from Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers

UPDATE:  I'm adding the video for the voting, so that readers can view it for themselves, and see how extraordinarily brief the actual few seconds of the vote were. It seems probable that the Republicans had decided between themselves to do this in this way, to deprive Democrats of voting.

On Friday, February 25, 2011 the Republican majority in the Wisconsin State House of Representatives passed a bill at 1 a.m. in a manner of seconds, cutting off some Republicans and most of the Democrats in an effort to prevent them from voting. Twenty-eight representatives were present, and attempting to register their vote, most of them Democrats.  All of those twenty-eight were elected to represent Wisconsin citizens, who were denied that representation by Republicans and Tea Partiers.

Let me be clear - it was not fair for Democrats to rush through legislation in previous years without time for discussion and debate.  To your credit Republicans, you did allow that.  But the Democrats did allow everyone present to vote in a reasonable and properly declared time, and by that measure, they were far more fair than you were, by a large margin.

Why do it? What was the purpose of such a move?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A 2nd Amendment Justification - Is Violent Opposition to Dictators Obsolete?

"The best thing in life is doing things people say you can't do."
Jennifer Moore (b. 1972),
U.S. college student and ROTC midshipman captain.
As quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education, p. A5 (April 21, 1993).
Said by the Boston University senior who was the nation's highest-ranking woman member of the Navy ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps).

I love the site, including their word of the day, and their hotword, which is why both are linked on our blog roll; I wish I could find a way to link their quote of the day, source of the above quote.  

Gene Sharp
The quote, including noting it came from 1993, prompted me to write this post, after I had begun reading online From Dictatorship to Democracy, a Conceptual Framework for Liberation by Gene Sharp  also written in 1993, as part of my following of the revolutions in the middle east.  It is a fascinating work, and I would encourage readers of Penigma to give it a look - it's free, by the way.
Not to long ago I made the observation on commenter MikeB's blog that the argument made by gun proponents and some of the more fringe extreme right wing which posited we all should have guns for the purpose of overthrowing our government if it became despotic.  I think the notion that it is despotic currently under the administration of President Obama is so lacking in factual support, or reason, as to be ludicrous, but even the premise that violent opposition and overthrow of the United States government is obsolete. I'm not arguing that we should therefore abandon the 2nd Amendment, only that armed opposition in this era of very different military equipment is unrealistic.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Rumsfeld & the Right Are Wrong: Fact Checks Revisionist History by Former Sec.Defense Rumsfeld,

Rummy continues his efforts to diminish the effectiveness and improvements of the Obama administration, while apparently trying to re-write the history of the Bush administration to improve a deplorable presidential legacy, of which he was a part.  Seems kind of self-serving to me, and typical of the Right's refusal to give Obama credit in world affairs where credit is due.  This provides an interesting context to evaluating Obama's handling of the upheavals in the middle east, and conservatives efforts to try to sabotage a second Obmama term.
Rumsfeld on the World’s View of America

February 21, 2011
Donald Rumsfeld wrongly denied that the U.S. is viewed more favorably under President Barack Obama than it was under President George W. Bush. In fact, residents of several nations including Britain, Germany, France and China view the U.S. more favorably, according to a survey released last year by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project.
Rumsfeld, who served as Defense Secretary under Bush, told CNN’s Candy Crowley that he didn’t think there was any evidence to support claims that residents of other nations have a more favorable opinion of America than they used to:
Crowley, Feb. 20: The president’s supporters say that in two years he has been able to return this country to a status of being liked across the world in a way that America was not liked during the Bush administration, that he has once again made America a beacon. Do you agree with that? Do you think that the U.S. is now looked at much differently than it was, and much more positively than it was during your tenure?

Rumsfeld: No, and I don’t think there’s data that supports that. I think he has made a practice of trying to apologize for America. I personally am proud of America.

Crowley: Well, he seems to be quite popular overseas in a way that President Bush was not. The streets aren’t full of people burning him in effigy. There does seem to be a new — a chance to look at America in a different way than it did during the Bush administration. You don’t think that’s true.

Rumsfeld: I don’t think that’s true, and I don’t think that there’s data that would support that.
But there is support for such claims. Pew reported in June 2010 that President Obama was pretty popular around the world. "In turn, opinions of the U.S., which improved markedly in 2009 in response to Obama’s new presidency, also have remained far more positive than they were for much of George W. Bush’s tenure," the report said.

In fact, in 16 out of 19 nations (not including the United States), those surveyed had a more favorable view of America in 2010 than they did in the last year of Bush’s presidency. Here is the Pew Research Center’s chart:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ian Murphy : Identity Theft? Governor Walker: Anything Illegal, or at Least Unethical on His Side of the Conversation?

Yesterday I posted a youtube recording of Ian Murphy making a prank phone call to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on  Murphy pretended to be mega-donor to the Walker campaign (both directly and indirectly), David Koch.  The recording went viral very quickly.

In the popular excitement over the content, other questions and concerns occurred to me, in no particular order, in addition to the ones getting all the attention.

1. Does this conversation represent a pay-to-play situation?  There are numerous legislators on the democratic side of the aisle, and union leaders, not to mention ordinary not-billionaire, not 'well-connected' citizens who cannot get to speak or meet with Scott Walker, much less 20 minutes worth of his time during a supposed legislative crisis.  Walker was reported to have been EAGER to speak with David Koch.

2. On the right, there is a lot of agitation that Ian Murphy, by pretending to be David Koch, committed some form of identity theft, or fraud, by pretending to be someone he was not.  I don't know what the legalities are in this situation, but I find this to be the most blatant hypocrisy on the Right.  They certainly had no problem whatsoever with someone misrepresenting who they were when it was done by James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles trying to entrap ACORN, or others.  Either this kind of deceptive conduct is wrong, or it deserves a standing ovation; the right doesn't get to have it both ways - something to applaud when it is done by someone on the right, but condemned when it is done on the left. Additionally, it does not appear that Ian Murphy altered the recording or added anything to it to create an impression other than what results from hearing the unaltered, nothing-else-added-afterwards recording.  THAT cannot be said for O'Keefe or Giles, or any of their imitators on the right.

3. Making a recording without announcing he was doing so was wire fraud or some other related crime by Ian Murphy for not telling Governor Scott that he was being recorded.  I'm not a lawyer, and I don't play one on tv, but someone else has researched the answer to that one for me, explaining it is not a crime and why:
NPR's Frank James writes :
"By the way, it appears the recording would be legal if the call originated in New York because both that state and Wisconsin are "one-party consent" states in which only one person on the call, the recording person in this case, need to consent to the recording."

Maybe They Were Right to Call the Governor 'Hosne' Walker in an Unflattering Comparison to Mubarek from Egypt; The Right Attempts to Block Opposition Organizing by Shutting Down an Internet Site

Dear Wisconsin protesters:
You are already being compared to the protesters in the middle east, particularly Cairo.  So follow their example!  Organize on facebook and with twitter.  I doubt the paranoid conspiracy theorists who are trying to gut your collective bargaining rights are going to shut down the entire internet.  But hey! There are always other options.  Just keep up that in-person pressure.
Best of Luck! Dog Gone,
I have been following our penigma account, noticing that we have been getting an unusually higher number of hits, or reads, from Wisconsin, and to a lesser extent, from other states where there are efforts to stamp out the unions, both public service sector unions as in Wisconsin, and private sector unions, like the ones in Indiana where their democratic legislators have also gone on the lam to Illinois.  Some of them are originating from state government internet connections like this one (ip redacted for privacy):
Madison, Wisconsin, United States
State Of Wi Dept. Of Administration ( [Label IP Address]
A Penigma - a mystery, under a pseudonym: Scott Walker Punked by Buffalo Beast Pretending to Be David Koch
I tend to pay particular attention to 'reads' from government offices in other states (or congressional offices etc. in DC), and from the offices/headquarters of political parties or other organizations.  There has been an increase in that demographic readership.  Sorry protesters, we're just a blog, we can't do much to help with organizing - but we're delighted you're reading! (That goes for you conservatives too.)

This seems a particularly interesting phenomenon, given that at least Wisconsin has begun to censor the access by internet to the opposition organizers.  I'm going to be curious to see if this trend is followed in those other states where we have been privileged to have readership - and to see if it applies just to those using the Madison, WI state house wi-fi, or if it applies to the actual government office computers as well.

This follows the Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate shutting off the microphones of the Democratic Senators prior to their leaving to prevent a quorum.  I'm pretty safe in guessing that those Republican Senators are big on 2nd Amendment Rights, and maybe on 10th Amendment Rights, but apparently - judging by their actions - they're not so supportive of 1st Amendment Rights to  Freedom of Speech, at least, not for dissent or opposition.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

News on the Gun Legislation Front

Logo belonging to Mayors Against ILLEGAL Guns
I offer this as a PSA, not because I am against 2nd Amendment Rights or anti-gun, but because I am anti ILLEGAL guns, and guns in the hands of drug users, dangerously mentally ill persons, felons, illegal aliens, stalkers and domestic abusers, and children who are too young to have the judgement to safely use a gun.  I hope Penigma readers will sign this petition. - DG
One of the highest-ranking members of the Senate just announced new legislation to fix our broken background check system. This is a huge moment, and now is the time to build support to Fix Gun Checks.
The legislation announced today by Senator Chuck Schumer, would take the two key steps we’ve been calling for to stop dangerous people from getting guns:
Get all the names of people who should be prohibited from buying guns into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

Require a background check for every gun sale in America.

Our National Drive to Fix Gun Checks is already on the road, gathering petition signatures and raising awareness of the 34 Americans murdered with guns every day. But this new bill demands that we redouble our efforts in calling for reform.

That's why we're asking you to forward this email to 34 friends. Ask them to sign the Fix Gun Checks petition and support our campaign to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.

43 years ago, after the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, Congress passed the first legislation to stop dangerous people from purchasing guns.

Congress added a background check system two decades later to strengthen this landmark law. But the flaws in the system have been exposed again and again -- in the massacres at Columbine and Virginia Tech, and last month at the tragedy in Tucson, Arizona.

Now, this legislation can fulfill the promise Congress made 43 years ago and help stop the senseless shootings that leave 34 Americans dead each day.

Please forward this email and ask 34 friends to add their names to the Fix Gun Checks petition:

Scott Walker Punked by Buffalo Beast Pretending to Be David Koch

This provides an interesting insight into the political workings of Governor Scott Walker, and what he finds both credible, and acceptable - and gives an idea of his alleged relationship to the Koch brothers.


Republicans Hate Unions: Are They Right, Or Just Right-Wing? What the Budget Facts Show

An analysis of the relationship between State Budgets that have unions, and those which do not (the pertinent part is about 3 - 3.5 minutes in) from Chris Hayes, guest host, the Rachel Maddow Show 2/22/'11:

So, is it ONLY public sector unions - the majority of union membership - that is the problem for Republicans (and Tea Partiers)? No, because in Indiana, the Right-wing is going after PRIVATE sector unions!  Keep watching - about 6 minutes in.  Watch the whole video to understand the full nature of the relationships going on.

I tracked down that graph in the video here:
Just saw this story on Maddow, and decided to post. Basically, the data renders false the argument being made by Republican Governors that public union largess is somehow a significant factor in their budgetary shortfall. These representatives are not basing any of this on fact but pure ideological nonsense. From the graph, a couple examples were noted: NC and AZ do not have collective bargaining, but are among the highest deficits (as a % or budget). Conversely, states like ID, SD and even NY which have comparable or higher % of public union employees are actually running lower deficit factors. Also providing the list of states with their collective bargaining policies for your further analysis and edification.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Governor Walker Caught by Telling Pants-On-Fire Lie About Union Busting

When the truth doesn't work, dishonest people try getting their way by telling lies.  Governor Walker was busted by the Wisconsin truth-o-meter telling an alleged pants-on-fire whopper last Friday (bold / enlarged print for emphasis by me - DG): photo of
Governor Walker
 The Truth-O-Meter Says:'s
pants-on-fire logo

Says under his budget-repair bill, "collective bargaining is fully intact."
Scott Walker on Friday, February 18th, 2011 in a radio interview

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says his budget-repair bill would leave collective bargaining “fully intact”
Share this story:

If Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker isn’t trying to strip most collective bargaining rights from public employees, then why do workers keep pouring into Madison by the thousands to demonstrate against him?

Many state, local government and public school employees -- including those represented by the largest state workers union -- have said they would be willing to pay more for pensions and health insurance, as called for in a budget-repair bill introduced by Walker.

But the workers continue to protest provisions in the bill that would restrict most public employee unions to bargaining only over wages, and then only within caps.

It’s the central issue in the protests, which have drawn national attention.

And yet on the morning of Feb. 18, 2011 -- a day after Democratic state senators fled to Illinois to prevent a vote on the bill -- Walker made a startling declaration in a Milwaukee radio interview.

At the turn of the 19th century, the Republican governor told conservative talk show host Charles Sykes, Wisconsin adopted the "strongest civil service protections" in the world.

Walker then added:

"Those fully remain intact. Civil service does not get altered by the modest changes we’re talking about here. Collective bargaining is fully intact. You’ve got merit hiring, you’ve got just cause for termination and for discipline. All those things remain."
In the middle of that statement is the eyebrow-raising remark.

Collective bargaining would remain "fully intact"?

Possible Corruption: Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin and the Koch Brothers in the Union Busting Legislation

From the union-busting proposed legislation - something else which has a bad possibility for the state's resources - this time, property owned by the state (my emphasis added) . Note that not only does this provide for no competition by bidding, it also does not have any provision for real valuations of property prior to a sales price being set; there is absolutely no public input to the process; there is no provision for cost benefit analysis; there does not appear to be any campaign promises about privatization of public power plants anywhere that I could find by Governor Walker leading up to the 2010 election; nor has this provision of the legislation been publicized for public input - of any kind, Republican or Democratic. The Koch Brothers were major campaign contributors to Governor Walker, and stand to benefit by such sales. It certainly leads me to believe that the whole union busting aspect of this bill was intended at least in part purely as a distraction from the special interest campaign-pay off / corporate give away suggested by this provision - that to me looks a lot like potential corruption.:
16.896 Sale or contractual operation of state−owned heating, cooling, and power plants. (1) Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state−owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).

Anyone who would like to know the nature of the pandering to special interests that Governor Walker of Wisconsin is accused of should read it here:

AlterNet / By Joshua Holland
What's Going on in Wisconsin? Latest Developments and Analysis on the Democratic Uprising Against Gov. Scott Walker
Here's a run-down on events and key analysis on the fast-moving events in Wisconsin's state capitol.

February 21, 2011

The drama unfolding in Wisconsin is now in its second week, and as tens of thousands of workers and their supporters ring the state's capitol expressing outrage over Union-busting Republican Governor Scott Walker's bill, the impasse doesn't appear to be headed towards a resolution anytime soon. AlterNet is staying on top of this momentous story, and here are the latest developments.
A major protest is being organized in Columbus, Ohio this afternoon. Ohio Dems:

Now is the time. If ever there was a time to show up, stand up and let our voices be heard, it is now. The fate of Ohio’s middle class is on the line at the Ohio Statehouse.

[Today,] the legislature is scheduled to move on Senate Bill 5, a bill that would strip away collective bargaining rights, hurt the middle class, kill jobs and destroy communities. I want to invite you to come to the Statehouse in Columbus on Tuesday to voice your opposition to this bill. Please click here and let us know that you can attend.


It's day 2 of labor's show-down against "right to work for lower wages" legislation in Indiana. As they have in Wisconsin, Democratic lawmakers have left the state to prevent a vote. According to the Indianapolis Star-Tribune, Democrats are headed to Illinois, though it was possible some also might go to Kentucky.

They need to go to a state with a Democratic governor to avoid being taken into police custody and returned to Indiana.

The House was came into session this morning, with only two of the 40 Democrats present. Those two were needed to make a motion, and a seconding motion, for any procedural steps Democrats would want to take to ensure Republicans don’t do anything official without quorum.

Hundreds of workers are reportedly staging a sit-in outside the capitol building.


Wisconsin Dems say Walker has cut off internet access to opposition websites in the capitol building. Maybe calling him "Hosni Walker" isn't so uncivil after all.


The more we learn about Scott Walker and his proposal, the clearer it becomes that this has little, if anything, to do with balancing Wisconsin's budget.

Governor Walker's Failures in 2009/2010 Union Busting in Milwaukee with a Fake Budget Emergency - and What It Will Cost

"The county did not have a true budget crisis at the time and county officials failed to give the union representing the security guards an opportunity to make some alternative cost-saving proposals before laying them off, according to the decision from arbitrator Amedeo Greco."
Steve Schultze, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gates:
At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the LORD, and it be sin unto thee."
Deuteronomy 24:14,15
Old Testament, King James Bible"

"The laborer is worthy of his hire.
1st Timothy 5:18
New Testament, King James Bible

The hypocrisy of the Religious Right, who continue to try to make us a theocracy rather than a secular nation, never ceases to amaze me.

I recall growing up the adult lesson taught me by my parents that there are good frugal decisions, but that there are also some bad outcomes from the wrong cost cutting measures, that trying to get by 'on the cheap' can often come back to bite you in the backside - sometimes HARD. 

It was part of my parents' lectures on being penny-wise and pound-foolish - as Wisconsin Governor Walker appears to have been.  He also appears to be power grabbing and dishonest, and guilty of what I usually term 'Republican Math" where the numbers just never add up, to the detriment of everyone.  Well, everyone loses, except a few top percentile wealthy who always seem to benefit, almost miraculously, unless you believe it was planned; (becaues it is usually planned).

This seems to be the case as news is coming out across the nation - and presumably across Wisconsin - about the really bad and dishonest 'executive decisions' of Governor Walker while he was in charge in Milwaukee.  What a shame this decision was not available to the citizens of Wisconsin last fall before the election; they would have had better information on which to vote.

Because I like to go to the local sources whenever possible, here is what the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published back in January 2011:

Milwaukee County must offer to reinstate courthouse security guards

Arbitrator rules against Walker's privatization  By Steve Schultze of the Journal Sentinel

Milwaukee County must offer to reinstate 26 courthouse security guards who were laid off nearly a year ago when then-County Executive Scott Walker replaced them with private guards as an emergency budget measure, according to an arbitrator's decision issued Monday.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fact checking and Myth Busting the Holiday of President's Day and Presidential Myths

First of all - the actual name for the holiday we're celebrating today is NOT President's Day; it is, and has been Washington's Birthday (born February 22nd, 1732 in colonial Virginia) since 1885 when little known President Chester Arthur signed the date as a holiday into law.  For a fascinating history of the holiday, I refer you to this intriguing bit of research by  The Snopes piece also corrects the myth that we celebrate Presidents Day, celebrating all Presidents, because of executive order 11582 by Richard Nixon that was part of creating three day holidays for federal employees, but that executive order actually still affects the celebration of Washington's Birthday, the notion that it was a name change or a change of who we celebrate actually comes from a newspaper spoof of the time, and is not fact.

While many states have separately celebrated Lincoln's birthday, it has NEVER been a federal holiday!

Top Ten Myths about George Washington - for more details, please see this excellent link:

1. George Washington cut down a cherry tree with his hatchet as a boy, and then told the truth about his action.   False.  It is an historic myth. and the link has the details of how it became a widely circulated story.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Three Lies

Since 1981, Republicans have held the Presidency for 20 of 30 years. They've held a majority in one or both houses for 26 of those 30 years. During that time, a monumental shift to the right in American politics has occured, including the agreement to changes in the Fair Labor Standards Practices Act which effectively gutted protections for workers against being made to work more than 40 hours without additional comensation, and further including incentives to move jobs overseas, take massive risks with other people's money, and the effective disolution of the oversight power of the SEC.

There were three distinct stories told to the American public about why they should agree to such changes, they were:

1. High tax rates on the wealthy were an irreparable and highly unfair burden which stiffled on-shore investment.

2. Lower tax rates would result in higher tax revenues as receipts increased due to more numerous and higher paying jobs which would result from on-shore investments stimulated by those lower rates.

3. Union workers were causing US companies to fall behind Japanese (then other) competitors due to unmeetable burdens (especially in the steel and auto industries).

In 1981 the highest marginal tax rate was 70%, and the wealthiest 10% of Americans contributed roughly 19% of all taxes paid. In 2011, the highest marginal rate is 38%, yet the wealthiest 10% of Americans pay almost 37% of all income taxes. How is it that the wealthy pay double when the tax rate was essentially halved? Simple, their portion of total incomes quadrupled while the average American earns 7% less.

China has a progressive tax structure far more skewed than in the U.S. with all income above $100k taxed at 45% with few deductions, making their marginal rate roughly double that of the US. Corporate rates, while not double, are about 5% gross and there for 20% relative higher than in the US on income and capital gains, further, again the ability to dodge such taxes through shelters is very limited. In the US, 60% of Fortune 500 companies paid NO inccome tax at all (as of 2006 tax data).

Union participation in the US has fallen from about 36% (as a high) in 1975 to rougly 11%, e.g. more than a 66% reduction in membership in many respects due to propoganda about the ills of unionization (that competence is immaterial, that union workers are lazy, that union wages and benefits cause companies to fail and so on), yet when analyzed, large US union employers have in fact prospered when the business decisions they've made were sound - US automakers made a lot of money in the early 2000's selling SUV's, their downfall came as a result of decisions to abandon automobile design and advancement in favor of selling pickups and SUV's. Ford has proven unequivocally that US automakers can prosper making cars, while Toyota and Honda have shown that even minor labor protections driving them to build plants in the US have been WILDLY successful using US workers, workers who are no different than their Ford or GM counterparts in demography or job-skill. Truly, automobiles can and are manufactured very profitably in the US.

ARE the Unions Really the "Budget Bad Guys"? Multiple Economic Analyses and Comparisons Says NO!

It is a well-circulated, oft-quoted false fact on the political right that somehow the public sector employees, particularly those who are unionized, are overpaid, or paid distinctly more than their counterparts or equivalent employees in the private sector.  This is the justification the Right likes to use, to go after the unions (both public and private) as somehow being greedy, and as the cause for their outsourcing jobs.  What they really want to do is to damage the Unions as the largest competing donors to Democratic causes.  And to give cover to their making unfunded tax benefits to corporations.  The Washington Post notes that such a claim was advanced this past Saturday by Rupert Murdoch's newspaper, the Wall Street Journal:
The Wall Street Journal has a chart showing that "state and local government workers" clearly do better that "private-industry workers." According to the Journal, state and local government workers make $26.25 cents an hour, compared to the $19.68 an hour that workers in private industry average. This chart clearly feeds the narrative that public-sector workers are - depending on you point of view - "better-paid" or "overpaid."
It is not true.  Such a shame; the WSJ used to be a reliable source for honest journalism; not so much any more. From the New York Times - the venerable 'gray lady' presents a more accurate picture:

For the real story, an analysis and comparison was made by the New York Times on Saturday, February 19th, 2011, which makes a much more accurate - and frankly a much more HONEST apples to apples look at the employees in Wisconsin that are at the center of the current national controversy.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A PSA In Defense of Women in the Face of the Anti-women Republican Culture Wars

The recent activities by Republicans (and Tea Partiers) that would set our country back to another age - to somewhere between 1850 and 1950, to stay-at-home women dependent on men, and a male dominant society where women are not equal partners in marriage, or in the workplace.  [bold type/underline reflects my emphasis added, DG]  Sadly, too few people seem aware of the devils in the details of the legislation that has been proposed by the Right in Congress.
Dear MoveOn member,

It might seem hyperbolic to say that Republicans have declared a war on women.
Sadly, it's not.
Just take a look at the top 10 shocking, crazy things Republicans have proposed in recent weeks. If you think this constitutes a war on women, please share this email far and wide—forward it, and post it on Facebook and Twitter.
I wish I could say these were the only examples of the Republican war on women. But it's just a sampling, and more is sure to come—unless we raise a ruckus and call them out. So please, share this email today.
Top 10 Shocking Attacks from the GOP War on Women
1) Republicans not only want to reduce women's access to abortion care, they're actually trying to redefine rape. After a major backlash, they promised to stop. But they haven't.
2) A state legislator in Georgia wants to change the legal term for victims of rape, stalking, and domestic violence to "accuser." But victims of other less gendered crimes, like burglary, would remain "victims."
3) In South Dakota, Republicans proposed a bill that could make it legal to murder a doctor who provides abortion care. (Yep, for real.)
4) Republicans want to cut nearly a billion dollars of food and other aid to low-income pregnant women, mothers, babies, and kids.
5) In Congress, Republicans have proposed a bill that would let hospitals allow a woman to die rather than perform an abortion necessary to save her life.
6) Maryland Republicans ended all county money for a low-income kids' preschool program. Why? No need, they said. Women should really be home with the kids, not out working.
7) And at the federal level, Republicans want to cut that same program, Head Start, by $1 billion. That means over 200,000 kids could lose their spots in preschool.
8) Two-thirds of the elderly poor are women, and Republicans are taking aim at them too. A spending bill would cut funding for employment services, meals, and housing for senior citizens.
9) Congress voted yesterday on a Republican amendment to cut all federal funding from Planned Parenthood health centers, one of the most trusted providers of basic health care and family planning in our country.
10) And if that wasn't enough, Republicans are pushing to eliminate all funds for the only federal family planning program. (For humans. But Republican Dan Burton has a bill to provide contraception for wild horses. You can't make this stuff up).

Friday, February 18, 2011

Update 2 on the Wisconsin Legislature Crisis - another factcheck!

Here is an elaboration on the misstatements by both sides, courtesy of my beloved source,, covering 233 items comprised of 41 stories, 178 statements, and 14 promise updates.

(Sheesh, they've been busy!)

I would suggest readers who would like to follow the factchecking might want to start with this one about the Governor's relationship to the budget deficit.

As is usually the case, there are truthful and utterly false statements on both sides, and plenty more that fall somewhere in between true and false.  The devil is in the details; and boy oh boy! are there details AND devils aplenty to go around on this!!!!


So, DID the Wisconsin Legislature Spend $140 Million Dollars for "Special Interests"? Politifact says NO - but there is more to it!

This came out about the alleged ties Governor Walker has to the Koch brothers, and a possible end run to slip this past the legislature while everyone else is paying attention to the union bashing.  It appears to give some credence to the allegations of special interest pandering / payoffs.

While, gave the claim, made in a "One Wisconsin Now" press release it's most sever rating for factually inaccurate statements a 'pants on fire' rating for this statement:

"Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled state legislature have added over $140 million in new special interest spending" did note that this was not totally something new that was just 'made up' by the Democratic opposition to the recent legislation:
"David Riemer, who was budget director under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, said the concept of a "tax expenditure" dates back some 50 years to Stanley Surrey, an assistant U.S. treasury secretary. The idea, Riemer said, is that tax breaks with a particular purpose that could be accomplished by direct spending should be considered expenditures."
So, this is not an apparent attempt to deceive anyone.  I would like to note here that based on multiple news sources which referenced 'special interest spending', I too am guilty of incorrectly using that term - and will be more accurate going forward.

In response to the challenge by, they made a change in how they describe the spending, which still amounts to $140 million dollars that the Wisconsin legislature doesn't have, and is seeking to recoup by attacking unions:
Update: ... One Wisconsin Now executive director Scot Ross modified the way he described the three tax break bills. Rather than calling them spending, he said in a news release issued by the liberal Citizen Action of Wisconsin that the bills are "deficit-hiking corporate giveaways."
Here is the link to that press release, and the most salient paragraphs:
Most of the bills being rushed through the Legislature have no direct connection to jobs, and the ones that do are costly corporate tax breaks which are too small to encourage job creation. According to the Fiscal Bureau
[note, DG - the Fiscal Bureau is the Wisconsin state non-partisan equivalent to the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office]
the tax credit for companies moving to the states only provides $2700 per year, which is not enough even for one person to relocate let alone a business. The tax credit for job creation only provides between $79 and $269 net credit per job, not nearly enough to encourage job creation. Yet the initiatives will cost millions of dollars that could of have been used to fund real job creation measures.

“The job creation claims for the legislative package careening through the State Legislature are preposterous on face. Proponents cannot even meet the most minimal public standards of proof that any jobs will be created,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “No evidence has been offered that this harmful mix of corporate give-a-ways and meager tax credits can put a dent in the Wisconsin jobs crisis, let alone put us on the road to creating 250,000 jobs.”

"Wisconsin was promised by Gov. Walker and the new conservative majority that job creation would be job one,” said Scot Ross, Executive Director of One Wisconsin Now. “Instead, we have gotten deficit-hiking corporate giveaways and elimination of basic protections for Wisconsin citizens."

“The biggest issue for our members in Wisconsin is jobs – jobs that pay a family sustaining wage and include job quality supports that ensure workers can care for themselves and their families without fearing loss of that job,” said Amy Stear, Wisconsin Director for 9 to 5, National Association of Working Women. “Our elected leadership should be focused on creating jobs and supporting people who desperately want work. Instead, time is being spent on an agenda inspired by business lobbyists who don’t represent the interests of most people in our state.”
It does however appear to still be correct that without the legislation referenced above, there would be no need for a budget 'repair' bill that disadvantages the members of unions, and that there is no actual budget change created by the attempts to remove the collective bargaining privileges granted in prior legislation and that this is a largely Republican contrived budget crisis.

About this [] statement:  Published: Tuesday, February 1st, 2011 at 9:00 a.m.
Subjects: Health Care, Small Business, Taxes
One Wisconsin Now, news release, Jan. 28, 2011
Interview, Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now executive director, Jan. 28, 2011
E-mail interview, Cullen Werwie, Gov. Scott Walker spokesman, Jan. 28, 2011
Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Health Savings Accounts bill memo, Jan. 18, 2011
Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, job creation tax breaks memo, Jan. 20, 2011
Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, economic development tax credit, Jan. 7, 2011
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Walker signs bill limiting court awards in injury cases, Jan. 27, 2011
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Walker signs HSA measure; budget repair bill planned, Jan. 25, 2011
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tax cut for job creators advances, Jan. 25, 2011
Wall Street Journal, Why I’m not lining up for stimulus handouts, Feb. 28, 2009
The New York Times, The stimulus plan: How to spend $787 billion, Jan. 29, 2011
Interview, Ron Shanovich, Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau analyst, Jan. 31, 2011
Interview, Rick Olin, Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau analyst, Jan. 31, 2011, Walker signs bill that eliminates taxes for relocated businesses, Jan. 31, 2011
Congressional Budget Office, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
Interview, David Riemer, former state budget director under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, Jan. 31, 2011
Interview, George Lightbourn, former State of Wisconsin Department of Administration secretary under Republican governors Tommy Thompson and Scott McCallum, Jan. 31, 2011
Written by: Tom Kertscher, Researched by: Tom Kertscher, Edited by: Greg Borowski

Update on the Wisconsin Right Wing Crisis in their Attempt to Dismantle Unions

Today (Friday, 2/18/'11) marked the shutdown of the Wisconsin legislature and the largest demonstrations in opposition to Republican lawmakers so far this week.  While democratic lawmakers are ''on the lam'' in the vicinity of Rockford, IL, just over the border (but safely out of the reach of the authority of the state police to compel them to return).

While the state police is unable to locate the absent legislators (supposedly - one wonders how much effort, given the union issues, that they may be putting into the search) it has been perfectly simple for the left wing media to locate them, and for the democratic legislators to do multiple interviews.

There is conflicting information as to the return of the legislators - some reports have them returning for a session on Saturday, other reports have them out of the state, holding up the determination of the legislation indefinitely.  Meanwhile the one independent legislator has indicated he would make up the one additional person that is needed for a vote, conditional on unspecified changes being made to the legislation.  Even if those changes are not made, if that independent legislator, Bob Ziegelbauer, a former democrat until last June (2010) when he won over both a Republican AND a Democratic challenger, returns, the Republicans will be able to pass the opposed legislation with or without making changes to his satisfaction.

It will remain to be seen if Ziegelbauer follows through on his decision to give up his advantage of caucusing with his former colleagues, if the demonstrations and protests continue to expand and intensify.  Meanwhile a variety of religious groups are offering sanctuary to the oppositional Democrats, and the AFL-CIO is promising to continue to fight the legislation, even if it eventually passes.

My best guess is that the voters for these Republicans did not anticipate their actions, and certainly a lot of people in the state, which has a long history of contributing to the development of unions, including for government employees, will not be re-electing them in 2012, given the hostility being expressed now.  Once again, in exceeding whatever mandate they might have genuinely had in the last election, they are over-reaching, and will find themselves back on the outside in the next round of elections (if not sooner). Republicans are waging a misplaced war on the middle class and working classes.  They are likely to regret that action, no matter how much corporate money they take in as payment (or pay offs?)_ for their legislation.

Right Wing Media Deceptive Statements about the Wisconsin Budget 'Crisis'

First of all, there is - or was - no budget crisis in Wisconsin until those big talking opponents of government spending on the right, the ones who like to make loud bellicose claims about earmarks and pork spending, contradicted their stated objections to spending and did just that - pork spending, special interest spending, to the point that it put the Wisconsin budget out of wack and in debt.

Just like the Bush years, the Republicans ONCE AGAIN took a surplus and gave money to their cronies to such an extreme degree that they created a completely avoidable crisis.  As regular Penigma readers already know, I like to look at local sources wherever possible to get the most accurate information, information that you will NEVER find on the right wing media sources from Fakes News to Rush Limbaugh, or from right wing politicos.  I have hammered repeatedly - with factual sources - how the right wing media, including the blogosphere, likes to disinform and deliberately misinform their consumers.  Sadly, rather than being fact based or reality oriented, those right wing consumers LIKE being fed inaccurate propaganda that feeds their toxic political ideologies, and the facts be damned!

Except that when those facts are ignored, sooner or later, they return and bite those politicos and pundits and bloggers in the ass.  The extraordinary capacity of the right, news, commenters and pundits - and bloggers - to avoid updates and corrections where the facts contradict their widely distributed false accusations is truly astonishing, and it is what separates the propagandists from genuine journalists, and other more legitimate political commenters and observers.

I dearly love our sister state of Wisconsin; some of my relatives live there, I have visited there often over the years, and I'm even a Wisconsin Synod Lutheran, so I have a sort of religious tie to the state as well.  When I think of Madison, I think of well-educated people with a tremendously well-informed but down to earth sense of humor.  The Onion, first a newspaper, now also a cable TV production and radio organization, originated there (for a brief history of the Onion - read here).  Contrary to the way that the Right, including the blogosphere, is portraying this, what this conflict is really about is partisan politics of the worst kind, not  genuine fiscal responsibility.  The right has used one of their hypnotic buzz words to try to gain support by their base who hate to fact check to see if such claims are truthful.  They're almost never factual OR truthful, and they're routinely anti-union, making false conspiracy theory accusations (see the snow plow slowdown in NYC as an example).  Not because unions are bad, but because unions are not Republican.  They make exceptions, as they did in Wisconsin, for any Republican or Tea Party union support, exempting them from their partisan attacks (at least, for now; any union supporting a Republican is simply facing a delay in being attacked, not an actual exemption or reprieve).

When I think of Wisconsin politics, I think of the 'Pail and Shovel Party' (which could do a better job than the current batch of Republicans and Tea Partiers in the Wisconsin Legislature) and their amazing statue of liberty on Lake Mendota:

Wisconsin is a state where their politics can be simultaneously hilarious, and very serious.  I find the bugging out of the Democrats to Illinois, spiking the attempt by the Republicans to perpetrate a travesty to be precisely such a move.  But the longer the humorless conservatives are in office, the more they will become a target, for serious political opposition, and for humor.  I can wait, and I will watch.

photo by Debra Drower, Flickr
 Because a state like Wisconsin, where they had to paint a cement giant moose orange because of people shooting at it (Black River Crossing) HAS to have a sense of humor.  I just wait for that humor (not guns)  target to turn on those Republicans, not with bullets, but with laughter by those Superbowl winning Cheeseheads.

Because tyrants and conservatives don't do well when attacked with humorous outrage.  An example would be the backing down of Republicans and Tea Partiers after Jon Stewart and the Daily Show ridiculed them for their attempts to define rape as only forcible rape.

This is shaping up to be fabulous political theater!  I can't wait to see what comes next, and I especially can't wait to see tonight's production of the Onion's Network News on cable tv!

Congresswoman Betty McCollum Receives More Death Threats, Another Cascade in the Avalanche of Violence

Minnesota's Six Term Congresswoman for the 4th Congressional District, Betty McCollum, serves on the House Appropriations and Budget Committee.  Equally attractive and of a similar age to the more notorious and crazy extremist Congresswoman from Minnesota, Michele Bachmann, McCollum is everything Bachmann is not - including far more reality based, and able to pass a fact-checking test.  Unlike Bachmann, who has ZERO true fact checks (and some pants on fire lies) McCollum has two 'true' ratings.

McCollum, a Democrat, is receiving death threats, for trying to save money by making more sensible and sane budget cuts in proposed Amendments to bills in Congress.  A good case can be made that the Republicans and Tea Partiers are not so much interested in actual budget balancing and fiscal conservatism as they are in attacking agencies and programs which benefit the middle and less affluent demographics of our society who are more likely to vote democratic.  It is not so much fiscal responsibility as party warfare in that guise, with Republicans acting like wolves in sheep's clothing.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Another PSA from Mayors Against Illegal Guns

It’s tough to focus our public discourse on reducing gun crime. But in the wake of the Tucson shooting, a quarter million Americans have come together to sign the petition to Fix Gun Checks and stop dangerous people from getting guns.
Yet even as momentum builds for critical, common sense reforms, 34 Americans are still murdered by guns every day. Now is the time to demand the nation’s attention and shine a spotlight on the need to fix our broken background check system.

Lying about WMD - the Curveball Admissions and How it Relates to Current Events in the Middle East

I read, see and hear claims that 'liberals' and 'lefties' like to make use of crises for their agendas all the time.  Realistically, right or left or center, tumultuous public events do provide occasions for more dramatic, less incrementally small changes, for the better or for the worse.  This is a lesson of history, and it is not unique to any segment of the political spectrum.  That it is practiced and endorsed by the Right is evidenced by Iraq and 9/11.

Well, it turns out that with this most recent recanting of claims of WMD, along with admissions by former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld which contradict his previous public denials that Bush was interested in going after Sadam Hussein even before the events of 9/11, and used the terrorist tragedy to promote that agenda over the protests of the military.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fact checking......Trudeau and.Doonsebury? and Guns! is expanding it's repertoire.

Using the CDC data base, the site used by Trudeau for this February 13th cartoon (that's  longtime character Mark Slackmeyer):
"What are we like as a people?" Slackmeyer muses to himself in his studio. "Nine years, ago we were attacked -- 3,000 people died. In response, we started two long, bloody wars and built a vast homeland-security apparatus -- all at a cost of trillions! Now consider this. During those same nine years, 270,000 Americans were killed by gunfire at home. Our response? We weakened our gun laws."

Here is what found about this Doonesbury comic  found:
We began by contacting Garry Trudeau, the cartoonist who has drawn Doonesbury for more than four decades. He got back immediately with a summary of his methodology.

A New Era of Dirty Tricks by the Right Wing - Nixon Era Redux?

The more things change, the more they remain... insane.
Michael Fry and T. Lewis,
Over the Hedge,

According to the American Bar Association, in their Law Journal in an article
Law Firms
E-Mails Suggest Law Firm Considered ‘Dirty-Tricks’ Plan to Discredit Chamber Critics
Posted Feb 15, 2011 7:40 AM CST
By Debra Cassens Weiss
The Hunton & Williams law and lobbying firm considered proposals from three data security contractors to undermine opponents of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, according to e-mail released by hackers angered by the CEO of one of the security firms. 
The Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post have stories on the e-mails, first revealed last week by the liberal blog ThinkProgress. According to the Post, the e-mails reveal plans for a “dirty-tricks-style campaign” against Chamber critics. The security firms, which called themselves “Team Themis,” hoped to win a $2 million Chamber contract with their proposals.

Hunton & Williams declined to comment when contacted by the Washington Post. According to ThinkProgress, the law firm earned $1.1 million from the Chamber in 2009.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fact checking Valentine's Day

A happy Valentine's Day to Penigma readers.  As our valentine to you, I thought it would be fun to fact-check the day, and some of the symbols associated with it.  Beginning with the classic heart image found in heart shaped boxes of chocolates, jewelry, cards, etc (from Wikipedia).:
"The heart () has long been used as a symbol to refer to the spiritual, emotional, moral, and in the past also intellectual core of a human being. As the heart was once widely believed to be the seat of the human mind, the word heart continues to be used poetically to refer to the soul, and stylized depictions of hearts are used as prevalent symbols representing love."

Friday, February 11, 2011

Yes! We Can! and Yes! We DID it!

Did WHAT, you may ask.  We did this:
AMERICAN exports of goods rose 21 percent in 2010 to $1.28 trillion, as the world trading system shook off the effects of the financial crisis, according to figures released on Friday.

It was the sharpest rise in American exports since 1988, and it enabled the United States to pass Germany and again become the world’s second-largest exporter, behind China. The margin between the United States and Germany was only $16 million, a difference of just 1.2 percent, and could vanish as preliminary figures are revised.

But assuming the difference holds, it was the first time since 2002 that United States exports exceeded those of Germany when both were measured in dollars. A major reason for that was the weakness of the euro during the year as Europe was forced to bail out first Greece and then Ireland. Germany’s exports rose 18 percent when measured in euros, but just 13 percent in dollars.

Tears, Real and Fake; Tearing up the Rightwing Weepers

I came across this fascinating article about the resignation of the very naughty Republican Congressman from New York who was busted lying and trying to cheat on his wife on Craig's List.  What is it with these Republican exhibitionists anyway?  We have the shirtless Christopher Lee, the Cosmo naked centerfold Senator Scott Brown.

And we have of course the prominent public weepers on the right, for which there is no equivalent on the left, Weeper of the House John Boehner, who blubbers at the drop of a hat on cue.  This uncontrolled emotion, or at least sham emotion, from the third in line to the Presidency? (Can you imagine the criticism that she would have received if Nancy Pelosi had done that?)  And the legendary hoaxer and absolutely crazy conspiracy promoter Glenn Beck cries like a baby pretty much daily, (Beck is who other crazies on the right like Michele Bachmann claim inform the right wing majority of congress, which would explain a lot.)

Don't get me wrong; I'm enlightened enough to appreciate that it is appropriate and perfectly manly for a man to cry when the circumstances justify it.  I applaud anyone who is psychologically healthy by being in touch with their own emotions; it is a good thing. But as often as these two do it would annoy me coming from any man, woman or child, and they do it when the circumstances don't seem to justify it.  That to me smacks of manipulative, dishonest behavior.

But it seems evident to me that Boehner and Beck both cry crocodile tears, and cry them often.  I don't find a moment of their blubbering to be sincere, a completely different reaction than the one I have to the tears of honest men of any political conviction.  So it seems a perfect opportunity to test the theory of PhD candidate Leanne tenBrinke  of the Centre for the Advancement of Psychology and Law, at the University of British Columbia, published in a recent edition of Law and Human Behavior.  Here is her study, because sadly too often the media misrepresents science in their attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator, so it is worthwhile to go to the source.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

South Dakota Intruding on Women's Rights with Mandated Medically Inaccurate Information

Conservatives claim they are passionate about defending our freedom, adamant about keeping government small and not intrusive.  They consistently act in direct contradiction to those claims.  I have a particular objection, a passionately stubborn problem, with conservative efforts to provide false, misleading medically inaccurate information.  I object to it being included in abstinence only sex ed curriculum's where false information is provided about contraception, such as wrong information about condom usage and success.  I object to false information being mandated by state governments to women that abortions cause breast cancer and sterility.

Women, and their families, deserve honest medical information.  Women who are making decisions about their reproductive health deserve an accurate and factual basis on which to decide.

Update and Correction to the Fact Check of the O'Reilly/Obama Interview

It was brought to my attention by one of the lawyers for an involved party that the number of health care cases dismissed is incorrect.  The number dismissed should be corrected to 11; with the twelfth one pending.  The most recent court document that I could find (and I do not claim my search is either exhaustive or complete) shows a filing for summary judgement by the defendants on January 24, 2011.  I have not so far found a ruling on that motion, and the attorney for the U.S. Citizens Association informs me that they are currently in a pleading cycle on that summary judgement motion.  I appreciate having the error brought to our attention.  Unlike the notorious right wing media and blogosphere, we do update and make corrections.

Therefore the list provided to by the White House was incorrect, and I would like our readers to be aware of the correct information.  Three of four claims by the U.S. Citizens Association were dismissed, one was allowed to go forward.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Not So Fast with That Patriot Act! Ellison and Grijalva Stand Up for Freedom!

courtesy of
More votes that are not about jobs. 
"Taking away liberties and spying on our citizens is not what the American people voted for last November," Ellison said. "Instead of focusing on job number one -- jobs -- the Republican leadership has chosen to take away our freedoms with one hand while handing out pink slips with the other."

News Release from the Progressive Caucus, actually standing up for Freedom, not just giving it lip service:
Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Hail Defeat of PATRIOT Act Reauthorization on Feb. 8 House Vote After Whipping Against Legislation   FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 9, 2011

Washington, D.C. - Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva and Keith Ellison, co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), today hailed the Feb. 8 defeat of a measure to reauthorize major portions of the PATRIOT Act.

Non Sequitur, February 9, 2011

For my friend and colleague Pen, who I suspect sometimes feels like this (I know I do sometimes too).

By way of Yahoo!comics:

MN HF7: Still Don't Believe There Is a Deliberate, Comprehensive Culture War Against Women by the Right? Look at This!

The legal phrase is res ipsa loquitur, the thing speaks for itself.  Here is HF7, sponsored by 22 Republicans (no Democrats) which would repeal the 1984 Local Government Pay Equity Act, which made government jobs less discriminatory against women in earning, but did not completely eliminate such disparities.

How does the right justify this? By proposing that if paying women less than men helps balance the budget, that makes discrimination by gender against women acceptable. Because a bunch of mostly white men don't mind taking money away from women, so long as they don't take money away from men who have more money than others.  And because there is apparently,  an underlying notion about returning to those 'glorious days of yesterear' when the world was ordered more to their liking: women were submissive to male 'headship' or domination, and minorities were submissive, subordinate, and knew their 'place'-----instead of getting themselves elected to the Presidency.  (shocking!)

The Culture War, against women, by the political right (the Republicans, the Tea Partiers) is occurring at all levels of government - the local, the state, and the federal.  How organized it is would be hard to qualify, but it is fair to say that there is a concerted attempt to remove every gain for equality and gender fairness that has taken place in the last half century or more.  Who is doing it?  For the most part, men, although as this from the Minnesota Progressive Project notes, there IS one woman co-sponsor of this bill. 

Why in the world would the political Wrong-on-the-Right ever think they could succeed in putting this genie back in the bottle?  Here's why; it's because Justice Antonin Scalia says so.
The 14th Amendment's equal protection clause doesn't prohibit discrimination against women and gays, according to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. "Nobody ever thought that's what it meant."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Raggin' on Reagan - the Reality of His Legacy versus the Revisionist History

Reagan Worshippers,
image by Mike Licht,
Notions Capital
Well done Mr. Licht, you've
captured it perfectly - and a thanks
to Mike B for helping me find this.
On his 100th birthday, could Ronald Reagan, the secular, political patron saint of the right gotten elected in the era of the tea party and right wing culture warriors?

Let's take a look: Ronald Reagan raised taxes.  Not just once either, but 11 times. While some might protest that NPR is a lefty source for an opinion, you won't find any criticism, much less factual reporting on the Reagan era on the right at all.  Per an  NPR news interview:
Former Senator ALAN SIMPSON (Republican, Wyoming): Ronald Reagan raised taxes 11 times in his administration. I was here. I was here. I knew him. Better than anybody in this room. He was a dear friend and a total realist as to politics.

HORSLEY: Simpson's recollection is spot on, says historian Douglas Brinkley, the editor of Reagan's diaries.

Professor DOUGLAS BRINKLEY (Rice University): Ronald Reagan was never afraid to raise taxes. He knew that it was necessary at times. And so there's a false mythology out there about Reagan as this conservative president who came in and just cut taxes and trimmed federal spending in a dramatic way. It didn't happen that way. It's false. Fact-checks the O'Reilly Interview with President Obama

As regular readers know, I am a big fan of  Here is their latest on the weekend's chat between Faux News' Bill O'Reilly and the POTUS.  I emphatically agree with the distinction that makes between procedural dismissals and wins or losses on merits.  But I also agree with the Obama side that those 12 losses add to the win side of the administration for the health care reform legislation.  I'm betting that this WILL survive the eventual SCOTUS decision. Too few Americans are aware of those twelve decisions on the plus side, so I'm glad to see them provided here - with links no less.  You're usual good job!
Twelve judges have thrown out legal challenges to the health care law because they rejected "the notion that the health care law was unconstitutional."

A Second Supplemental Post on the GOP Culture War on Women - Bobby Franklin

Not at the federal level this time, in the state of Georgia, a Republican legislator is trying to change a different part of the definitions relating to rape.  No, he's not going after the term forcible; he's trying to remove the word victim from the term rape victim - and he's throwing in the crimes of domestic violence and stalking as bonus crimes for which you aren't a victim if the crime happens to you, you're an 'accuser'. If you're a victim of any other crime, you're still referred to as the crime victim. These are the only crime exceptions.

The Non Sequitur Cartoon from February 4th, 2011

There is humor in taking "bear arming" too literally, even if the word play is a little trite.  Because sometimes, we just need a little humor for perspective on serious issues. Because, if we're not going to participate in the NCIS data base to keep convicted felons, drug users, illegal immigrants, and dangerously crazy people - why should we prohibit bears either?

Republican Dictated Tax Policy Results in "Hemorrhaging Revenue", Not a Balanced Budget

"The current state of the tax code is simply indefensible," says Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. "It is hemorrhaging revenue."
Republicans use the same buzz words over and over and over again when referring to the need to cut high taxes.  Except............the taxes AREN'T really high, certainly not income taxesApplause to the AP article for this :
Actually, as a share of the nation's economy, Uncle Sam's take this year will be the lowest since 1950, when the Korean War was just getting under way.

And for the third straight year, American families and businesses will pay less in federal taxes than they did under former President George W. Bush, thanks to a weak economy and a growing number of tax breaks for the wealthy and poor alike.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Why Aren't Just the Facts Enough?

I came across this on the January 30th 2011 CBS Sunday morning, and was utterly intrigued by the premise. I think understanding the amygdala and hippocampus as complimentary parts of the limbic system offer a lot of insight into our current events, especially politics. The notion of a belief 'hardening' goes a long way towards explaining the birthers, tenthers, truthers, illegal union actions, and of course the voter conspiracy fraud believers too.

Facts do not dissuade them, their beliefs are hardened beyond the reach of fact or reason or presentation of any objective evidence.

This would seem to go a long way towards explaining why Fox News or any other Rupert Murdoch media outlet has even one consumer.  Because, consistently they are not about 'selling' the facts; they are about selling what Stephen Colbert is all about - not the truth, but truthiness, about the apocryphal narrative which is not true or factual, but which they believe should be true, making it believable for that audience.

Like this segment of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart where various Fox News talking-heads deny the blatantly clear evidence that they have used, over-used, and outright abused references to Nazis and their political opposition, not to mention all the other clips in Stewart's brilliant, factual, and funny calling to account of Faux News and the other Rupert Murdoch propaganda flunkies:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
24-Hour Nazi Party People
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

I'm going to try to explore the research behind the 'The Fast Draw' segment to see if it helps make our modern political exchanges, and the attendant propaganda, any more comprehensible. In the meantime, no one does it better than Stewart and his staff in appealing to the emotions and the intellect at the same time, in defense of facts.

A special thank you to mikeb for his help in ironing out a problem I was having getting videos to work in the blogging software. Thanks Mike!