Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Pence Continues to Blow It, and Blow It BIG

I predict that there will be no 'fix' changing this law; the only adequate 'fix' is repeal.

No Republican candidate, many of whom are embracing the Pence legislation, will ever be elected.

Denver station 7 hits PRECISELY on why this legislation differs from either the federal legislation that Pence keeps referring to, and differs substantially from the other 19 states with the legislation he refers to as well.

First of all, the claim that this was not intended to be discriminatory is not credible.

From abc 7:

Indiana ‘religious freedom' law is different – and here's why

Hobby Lobby paved the way, not Clinton-era law

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The backlash to Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration law is growing but the bill’s opponents are blaming the wrong Hoosier. Indiana-born Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ role is far more important than Governor Mike Pence’s, even though Pence signed the law.
Here’s why:
You probably have heard that 19 states besides Indiana already have “a” Religious Freedom Restoration law and that all those laws “are based” on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. That is true only loosely, only if the words above are in quotes.
Indiana’s RFRA law has new and different language than the other statutes and the federal law. And it has different legislative intent.
States began passing their own RFRA laws only after 1997, when the Supreme Court ruled that the 1993 federal law did not govern state laws.  States wanted to “protect” religious liberty just as the feds had (more on that later).
But all of that came before Chief Justice Roberts ruled last summer in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell.  That was the famous case that ruled that a business, Hobby Lobby, was being burdened in its free expression of religion by a provision of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare to its foes) requiring coverage for contraception. This was a revolution in defining religious freedom in this country.
The Indiana law is the first state RFRA to pass after Hobby Lobby, and it actually codifies its jurisprudence in two ways.
First, it explicitly states that for-profit businesses – and not just individuals – have a right to the free exercise of religion. As The Atlantic points out, the federal law has no such language, nor do 17 of the 19 existing state RFRA statues. In fact, Louisiana and Pennsylvania exclude businesses from being protected by RFRA.
Second, the Indiana law makes explicit that for-profit business’ free exercise of religion is a defense against discrimination claims made not just by the government but also by private parties, something that is murky in the federal law.
So the claim that Indiana’s new law is just the same as a bunch of existing laws is off base.
That claim is also disingenuous and phony in a much simpler way, and so is the claim that that RFRA laws are not being used to try to justify discrimination.

Guess Mike Pence DOES believe in Indiana Discrimination

Shall we start a betting pool on how long before Indiana - and Pence - cave on this?

Shall we be honest that this was always all about gay discrimination, as well as promoting "corporations are people", and that these jerks knew exactly what they were doing. And is it just me who notes these are white guys, and what looks to be pretty much only white guys running this show?

By way of FB

Just sayin' -- bigotry is bigotry is bigotry

Monday, March 30, 2015

Open Letter to Governor Pence of Indiana, and to conservatives in Georgia and in Arkansas

Dear Mike Pence,

You sir, Governor Pence, are a liar and a coward, and a bigot.

Do not pretend, Pence, conservatives, that your legislation is LIKE the federal legislation.  It is not.  Federal legislation supported religious freedom for individuals when infringed by government.  This treats businesses as people -- hello, anti-LGBT Romney -- and it facilitates businesses discriminating in public accommodation against individuals over sexual orientation.  It is not about freedom, it is just about facilitating dumb bigotry.

Let's just cut to the chase, and cut through your bullshit.  Your statement on the George Stephanopolous Sunday 'talking head' interview was dishonest, and it was nothing more than a clumsy tap dance trying to get around the truth.

It is significant that Pence is trying to tar both Bill Clinton (as a proxy for Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama, both of whom support LGBT rights) in advance of a potential presidential run.

ABSOLUTELY, "Hoosiers engage in discrimination." (see the video of the interview at the 10 minute mark); they not only engage in LGBT discrimination, they want it, YOU WANT IT, and they brag about doing it.  Do just give it up on having it both ways; you know this law you signed is entirely about religious anti-LGBT discrimination being given proactive and pre-emptive legal cover to let them do so where previously they did not have such legal advantage for discrimination.

The AFA was right there with you when you signed this; they pushed for it, they're candid about what it is: a pro-discrimination bill to legalize anti-LGBT discrimination. PERIOD. 

So quit lying about it; you're not any of you going to get away with having it both ways, a discrimination law AND not a pro-discrimination law.  You might as well pander to the bigots, Mikey; because you aren't fooling the rest of us.

From Mediaite:

The man, who only identified himself as Ryan, said that as a Christian he understands that some people have a different “lifestyle” than him, but he doesn’t want them coming into his place of business and making his customers “uncomfortable.”

The hosts did not let him off easy, asking directly if he has ever discriminated against gay people in his restaurant. “I have discriminated,” he said openly, explaining that he has pretended there was a problem with his kitchen in order to not serve them in the past.

“That makes you feel OK?” Rachel Bogle asked him. “I mean, when you get a bed at night saying, ‘I’ve discriminated against other human beings,’ you feel at ease with that?”

Ryan said he feels fine about it because he believes he should be able to do whatever he wants in his own restaurant. “We don’t want to have this in our place of business, it’s just not right,” he said. But while the caller was happy to share his story, he would not say the name of his restaurant.

Let me sort this out for you and for your bigot businessman restaurant owner. 'Ryan' wants to be able to tell people they can't eat at his place of business, but he doesn't want to risk losing the heterosexual $$$ of people who would not knowingly patronize the businesses that discriminate.

Let me point out Ryan, let me point out Governor Pence, that LGBT people pay taxes. Those taxes pay for the infrastructure and services that make it possible for this business owner to make money, to operate his business. Our armed forces have gay patriots serving in their ranks protecting this country, so that those businesses may operate, so that state, and all the other states and territories are safe and free.

So unless these businesses want to go somewhere else, outside this country, they have no damned right, no damned freedom to take all the benefits of taxation which includes the LGBT community along with the family and friends who support them being who they are as human beings who were born the way they are. There is no more right to do that, no more ethical or moral justification, no political justification to do that, than there ever was to deny service to a person of color, or a person who is of an ethnicity like being Jewish or Asian, or to deny someone service on the basis of a religion in which they were raised or chose to embrace.

This notion that there is some kind of religious legitimacy to discriminate is one we've seen before, used to try to prop up segregation of races. It was wrong then, and it is wrong now. That belief creates a second class group of citizens, and then tries to smear heaps of lipstick on that pig to pretend it is nothing else.

There will be a severe penalty for you Governor Pence, much larger than I believe you have calculated. Not the least of those penalties, those costs will be to the people in your state who support this law and who elected you. Personally however Governor, you can kiss good bye any hope or dream you might ever have, in 2016 or any other time in the future, to sit in the office of President in our White House.

Bigots are going bye bye. And you gentlemen --- all of you who contemplate and desire to enact laws like this, you damned conservative bigots, are as conservatives always are, on the wrong side of the arc of history. You consistently choose the role of the bad guy, and then you whine about it after you made the choice of your own will. Your values are flawed, your morality and ethics are dirty and ugly. YOU FAIL.

It is only a matter of when, not if, your law will be flushed down the toilet of shitty historic legislation, where it will end up on the dung heap of human hatred.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Conservatives LOVE LOVE LOVE our Constitution, except when they don't - especially the 1 A

If you follow right wing propaganda sources, like the World Nut(Net) Daily or the right wing Townhall, or the speeches by many conservatives, especially those who seek to be conservative presidential candidates, or the right wing nut megachurch preachers, there is a war on Christianity in this country.

Perennial candidates for president on the right, like Santorum, and Huckabee, want to put their extreme and highly controversial version Christian religion into public schools, on the taxpayer dime.

That is not true. The true threat to Liberty and religious freedom is not against Christianity, but from it,, against anyone and everyone who dares to refuse to conform to the religious right's bigotry and intolerance.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
from Conrell University Law School's Legal Information Institute:
The First Amendment's Establishment Clause prohibits the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” This clause not only forbids the government from establishing an official religion, but also prohibits government actions that unduly favor one religion over another. It also prohibits the government from unduly preferring religion over non-religion, or non-religion over religion.

It is consistently conservatives, who give loud but meaningless and empty lip service to loving and supporting our Constitution (hypocrites that they are) who persist in attempting to foist Christianity on the nation, attempting to turn us into a theocracy.

So for example, not only do we have a push for theocracy, we have a push to dumb down education -- PUBLIC education -- by not only a push to repeal testing and standards, but by removing qualified teachers from classrooms and then replacing them with unqualified cheaper babysitters, who could be expected to push garbage, like creationism.

from PoiticusUSA:
Republican anti-education efforts don’t get much worse than the Tea Party’s own Michigan State Rep. Gary Glenn’s (R-Larkin Township) House Bill 4394.
As Michigan-based Electablog explains,
If Glenn’s bill – House Bill 4394 – becomes law, schools can hire anyone they want. The criteria currently used would be tossed out the window. The bill literally strikes out all of the criteria. In addition, it removes the words grades “9 through 12″ meaning that schools could hire anyone they wish, with or without a teaching certificate, for any grade level. No training as an educator required.
And continuing from the same piece in Politicus:

Here is the thing, students who get a quality education -- which should include civics classes, which should include the 1A establishment (of no public religion) DOES create BOTH good citizens AND EMPLOYABLE CITIZENS, who can then support themselves, support their families, pay taxes, and be qualified if we need them to do so to serve in our armed forces. Lack of adequate education is actually a problem for armed forces recruiting -- and serving in the military, which is very much NOT a corporation, is a real and legitimate job choice/ career choice.

Further the notion that one can only be a good citizen if one is indoctrinated in and a current believer in religion -- and let's be candid here, by religion these nutjobs ONLY mean Christianity, they make a fundamentl error. People recognize and understand moral and ethical behavior WITHOUT RELIGION. Further, there are plenty of people who are believers in religion who do bad things, both as private individuals, and in their roles as citizens in the public sphere. So having religion is no guarantee of being a good citizen and not having religious beliefs does not present a risk that someone will be a bad citizen.

That is a right wing fantasy, part of their 'Us vs Them' orientation where they are dishonest about the faults of the 'us' and dishonest and unfair, and just plain bigoted about the 'them' of that equation. So apparently Todd Courser, like his buddy in the MI legislature, Gary Glenn (what is with the redundant consonants?) BOTh fail to grasp the appropriate role of government (which includes providing functional, not religious public education), but which also utterly fails to understand and loyally support the Constitution, notably the 1st Amendment.

This is appallingly unique to conservatives, who present an actual danger by these beliefs to our representative form of secular democratic government and who threaten our very real liberties.

More than that we have the Arizona legislator who would like (but at least does not expect) to coerce everyone in the USA to go to church (again, CHRISTIAN church, none of the Jewish, Muslim, or pagan religions like Hinduism or Buddhism) and again the presumption is this is essential for the success of the nation, and for proper soul-saved citizens. Never mind what the practical results on institutions of religion would be if citizens were actually coerced by the law to attend against their will.

From KREM2:

Arizona senator wants to make church mandatory

Allen, as You know, is a Republican from Snowflake, a Tea Party favorite who wants to pretend Arizona is an independent country rather than a state, and who believes government should stay completely out of people lives -- unless she can use her position to help out a son-in-law who got into some hot water over behavior with some of the inmates he was guarding at a women's prison.
But that's another story.
Anyway, Big Guy, they were debating a gun bill at a legislative committee meeting at the State Capitol this week so, naturally, Allen brought up religion.
(In Arizona, complete lack of logic is natural. But, you know that, too)
This was one of those crazy bills in which lawmakers want people to be able to bring concealed weapons into public buildings. Allen got upset because a few people expressed common sense opposition to the idea. Lawmakers here cannot abide common sense.
Allen said, "Probably we should be debating a bill requiring every American to attend a church of their choice on Sunday to see if we can get back to having a moral rebirth," adding "that would never be allowed."
The problem is that even when these right wing FASCISTS know that what they want is not allowed, as we see in Michigan and other states, they try it anyway. Because they do NOT love the Constitution and they do NOT love religious freedom.  They love coercion, they love religious conformity, so long as it is strictly to whatever shots they see fit to call in their ignorance, bigotry, and intolerance.

Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi (again with the redundant consonants) want to make the Bible their state book.

Mississippi conservatives want to make Christianity their state religion.  So do conservatives in North Carolina.  Both states have had actual legislation to do so, other red states have had discussions about doing so, or at least desiring to do so.

A poll by the HuffPo and Yougov back in April 2013 found that 1 in 3 Americans want to make Christianity the official NATIONAL religion.  Let us be clear, overwhelmingly, regardless of declared party affiliation, this is hugely more a problem from conservatives, attacking actual religious freedom.

From the Huff Po:
Although a large percentage of Americans said they would favor establishing a state religion, only 11 percent said they thought the U.S. Constitution allowed states to do so. Fifty-eight percent said they didn't think it was constitutional, and 31 percent said they were not sure.
...Republicans were more likely than Democrats or independents to say that they would favor establishing Christianity as an official state religion, with 55 percent favoring it in their own state and 46 percent favoring a national constitutional amendment.
We are not a theocracy.  Theocracies created second class citizens, and it has wisely been observed that the pernicious state religious promotion is the new Jim Crow.

Disclaimer, I've written in the past for both IVN and PoliticusUSA.

Friday, March 27, 2015

It's Friday Fun-Day!

And nothing is more fun than Mark Fiore animations. Fiore is easily one of the most brilliant creative minds of our generation with his satirical humor and wit. Cartoons are not just for kids, thanks you Mark Fiore! Since losing the Colert Report for laugh out loud funny bits that have that sting of truth(iness), all the more reason to appreciate Fiore for providing that gratification.

and before you gripe about our members of Congress leaving today for a two week vacation:

and remaining topical, here's Racist E-Z Cash -- if you look at the map in the background of the cartoon, our own Minneapolis is on it, and that is not an accident.

If you enjoyed these, check out Mark Fiore's channel on Youtube!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Laff(er)ing at Ted Cruz and his ridiculous flat tax proposal / end-the-IRS platform

So, now Ted Cruz joins past presidential candidate wanna-bees on the right in proposing a flat tax.  Flat taxes have been proposed by most recently Herman Cain and the Nut Gingrich, but have also been floated in the past as far back as Steve Forbes when he wanted to be the right wing nut candidate.

There is a problem with the Fat Tax.  It doesn't work, in that it does not offer the promised benefits in tax revenue or growth.  What it DOES do -- and why we should expect it from the right wing, hand maidens to the wealthy, is to benefit the rich and to expand wealth and income inequality.  It also tends not to have provided adequate revenue -- much the way the Bush tax cuts failed to produce adequate (much less increased) revenue and economic growth.  The flat tax also does not promote adequate revenue or optimal job growth, much the way we have seen the tax cuts in regressive states like Kansas and now Wisconsin have not produce either economic growth or job creation and increases in business growth.

There has been experimentation with the flat tax, mostly in formerly eastern bloc European countries and Russia.  Many of those countries, after implementing a flat tax, DID see economic growth, but for other reasons than the flat tax, and those countries have been hit hard by the 2008 global economic recession.  And another factor not generally noted - most of the countries that have implemented the flat tax have also been widely regarded as highly corrupt, with Russia being regarded as the MOST corrupt - one of the most corrupt in the world, which should be considered in any reference to increased tax compliance.

This is significant because Cruz also wants to abolish the IRS, making compliance apparently entirely on the honor system.

Yeah, like THAT is going to work.

So lets start with the famous IMF study of flat tax implementation and success / failure from 2006 -- before the big global economic collapse.  At that point the range of time during which there was evidence on the implementation of the flat tax ranged from ten years to two years in the countries examined.

From the 2006 IMF study of the flat tax
One of the most striking tax developments in recent years, and one that continues to attract considerable attention, is the adoption by several countries of a form of “flat tax.” Discussion of these quite radical reforms has been marked, however, more by assertion and rhetoric than by analysis and evidence. This paper reviews experience with the flat tax, seeking to redress the balance. It stresses that the flat taxes that have been adopted differ fundamentally, and that empirical evidence on their effects is very limited. This precludes simple generalization, but several lessons emerge: there is no sign of Laffer-type behavioral responses generating revenue increases from the tax cut elements of these reforms; their impact on compliance is theoretically ambiguous, but there is evidence for Russia that compliance did improve; the  distributional effects of the flat taxes are not unambiguously regressive, and in some cases they may have increased progressivity, including through the impact on compliance;  adoption of the flat tax has not resolved common challenges in taxing capital income; and it may have strengthened, not weakened, the automatic stabilizers. Looking forward, the question is not so much whether more countries will adopt a flat tax as whether those that have will move away from it.

So for those of you who either have forgotten the lessons of your economics classes or never took them, let's first review the significance of that bold typed part of the above study excerpt.  What is the Laffer curve and Laffer-type behavior? This is key to the selling of a flat tax by Cruz and other right wingers; it is the fundamental premise and promise of the flat tax, in  exactly the same way that it has been the promise for tax cuts generating economic growth and increased revenue -- in other words, a CON, a SCAM, a FRAUD, a HOAX, a LIE.

Conservatives are HYPOCRITES

I have to give Donald Trump credit for consistency at least, as an idiot birther. Wrong. But consistent.

Much as I hate to give him credit for anything, at least a few folks on the right are at least consistent in their birther insanity.  It should be fun to watch those same birthers struggle with the internal conflict in what they believe.......but they seem simply to ignore it.  THAT is the hypocrisy in the conduct and the ideology of the right, the blithe inconsistency, the overt and the incipient bigotry of it.  The application of a double standard of conduct is intolerable.  This is not a unique pattern to the legitimacy of President Obama.  It is systemic on the right.

Or perhaps 'the Donald' is just as much a bigot towards the Latinos as well as 'the blacks', as he calls them.

I couldn't have put it better than this image via Facebook via The Blue Street Journal. I can only wait for Hillary (or someone else from the left) to point this out should the opportunity arise (and it will) in 2016.

When, oh when, do we hear again from bat shit crazy Orly Taitz whinging away that Cruz cannot be President?  crickets....

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Ronald Reagan won the Cold War about as much as Harry Truman won World War 2

Whenever I confront my conservative friends about their hero, and the man they claim was the best President since World War II, it generally goes down two lines.

First, they make claims about the economic expansion of the 1980's.  I remind them that in fact that expansion was fueled on debt, that Reagan tripled the US debt in eight years, and that it also rested on a false run-up in real estate which ultimately culminated in the savings and loan scandals of the late 80's.  I then remind them he made deals with the Iranians, supported amnesty for undocumented immigrants, and was far FAR to the left of their current party's platforms.

Well, then they remind ME that he "won" the Cold War.

Sure he did, and I'm the Queen of England (nice to meet you, we think you're very funny).

First, the fall of the Soviet Union was decades in the making, few if any scholars of the Soviet system deny this.  The failings were myriad.  The initial successes of drawing a vast "serf" class out of abject poverty turned into a system which didn't do enough to reward innovation or stand-out work.  It did too little to bring basic goods to its people.  Its people saw the west having better cars, better refrigerators and better blue jeans.  Those systemic failures came from an underperforming, unimaginative system in the main, but also from sixty years of economic isolation. 

At the same time, the Soviets suffered proxy defeat after proxy defeat in hot and cold wars in Korea, Angola, the Congo, Yemen, Egypt, Greece and even Vietnam where it wasn't the Soviets but instead Ho Chi Minh's North Vietnamese Army, fueled partly by the Soviets but also by the Chinese, which pushed the US out.  The Soviets were generally beaten in the space race, in the naval race, and were understood, internally as well as externally, to have inferior forces on a one-for-one basis.  It was a model they understood, but it still lead their people to feel their military forces were "not up to snuff."

And then came Afghanistan.  A war which sapped their moral authority, their national will, and their treasury.  A simple (or supposedly) little nation of "backward" people beat them, and beat them badly.  They suffered tens of thousands of young boys killed, millions injured, and the army they were told was a powerful juggernaut against which the arms of the west could not stand, fell to an army of rag tag rebels who were given arms NOT by Reagan (certainly not at first) but rather through the pluck and guile of Charlie Wilson.  Wilson had to convince a very reluctant Reagan DOD to help the Mujahedeen.  Afghanistan ultimately became the capstone to the Soviet people of  utterly failed  model.  Regan deserves credit for giving the Afghanis stinger missiles, a very important weapon that changed the dynamic of the war, but thinking Afghanistan was the root of the problem is something like blaming the attack at Ft. Sumter for the Civil War.  The people of the USSR had enough of the failures and demanded change - change in the form of Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev was already moving to decrease his army and pull back from the Warsaw Pact (WarPac) states when Reagan pompously told him to "tear down this wall."  The wall was a decaying symbol that had already failed and the collapse of East Germany was already well underway and Reagan knew it - he just grandstanded to take credit for something which many other people had caused to happen - people other than Reagan.

And the thing is, no one I know of gives Harry Truman credit for "winning" WW2 because he decided to use the atomic bomb, yet, many, even most Americans will give Reagan credit for bringing down the Soviets when all he did was preside over the funeral. 

Lastly, in 1981 it was clear the grain failures of the late 1970's (and the grain embargo imposed by the US after the Afghani invasion) were bankrupting the USSR.  We had to know, HAD TO, that the Soviets could not and in fact WERE NOT competing with us militarily any longer.  If you don't believe me, please look at the paucity of actual numbers of new planes, ships and tanks built by the Soviets in the 1980's.  They fielded new designs, but damned few actual weapons.  In short, we didn't need the vast upgrade in forces Reagan undertook.  He spent trillions on defensive weaponry we basically never needed and would never use.  The war in Iraq in 1991 could have been and would have been won with 1/4 the number of weapon systems as we had in 1991 overall.  We have the wrong kind of army now, in great part due to the hold over of the Cold War mentality that heavy mechanized forces are needed in the modern battlefield and we built that army in the 1980s.  That expense ballooned our debt and set us up to demand we have the most high-tech, most complex systems, and THAT along with the foolish privatization push, have brought us to a point that we have the most expensive military in the world but due to its own heritage of belief in systems over tactics, it is still incapable of winning low intensity conflicts.  So, while Reagan didn't bring down the Soviets, the focus he and his neo-con offspring have on a government for and of and by the military, as well as their misunderstanding of what brought down the Soviets, may well imperil our own economic future and cause us to continue lose conflict we insist on fighting with the wrong tactics and the wrong type of army.  If you want to hang a legacy on Reagan, hang the commitment to a bloated, unwieldy, politically dysfunctional military.  If you feel that won the Cold War, then you may call  me your Highness.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Republican Economic Policy : Epic Failures

From the Center for Media and Democracy on FB:

In contrast, Minnesota, with Democratic/progressive policies is exceeding the national economic performance, notably in job creation.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Bibi Wins big -- big Butt-hurtz

Bibi Netanyahu's not having a good time after his Likud party victory in Israel.

Bibi got that win by peeling off other extreme conservatives from minor parties, by claiming he would oppose and obstruct a two state solution, ie a separate Palestinian state.  He and his party also ginned up a lot of fear through robocalls  that "Arab Israelis were being bussed to the polls in droves".  His foreign minister has made claims that Israeli Jews should engage in genocide, beheading Arab Israelis with axes as we noted last week.  That party is again at the core of any coalition government Netanyahu could assemble.
Lieberman, leader of the Yisrael Beitenu party that is based on Russian immigrants, has a long record of inflammatory statements toward Arab Israelis, including a recent comment that suggested Israeli Arabs with sympathies toward Palestinian Authority be beheaded. “Those who are with us deserve everything, but those who are against us deserve to have their heads chopped off with an ax,” he said last week.
All of that did not sit well with President Obama, given that the U.S. has been acting in the U.N. on the premise that Israel was acting in good faith when Netanyahu claimed he supported a two state solution. There has been criticism for years that ol' Bibi was never honestly in support of that solution, as shown by his actions in moving more Jewish settlers into the west bank, as well as the racist legislation supported by conservatives in the Knesset that would further limit the civil rights of Palestinian Israelis.

If Bibi thought his winning the election would somehow force Obama to capitulate in some way after the disastrous Netanyahu speech to Congress, he was wrong. The executive branch is still responsible for directing our foreign policy, and Obama has stated he will no longer provide cover for ol' Bibi's dishonest lip service about a separate Palestine state solution.

Bibi's response was to try to claim there was no contradiction in his statements, but clearly, both his statements, his government's actions, and his choice of allies in that coalition government show otherwise. And now Bibi has to contend with the reaction at home to his flip flopping, which could alienate those very right wingers he cultivated to win the election. That could make it difficult if not impossible to form a government, which could give the office of Prime Minister then to Herzog.

And this is getting a lot of attention in Israeli media.
From the Times of Israel:
The statements angered the Obama administration and the president told Netanyahu during their call that the US was reassessing its approach to Israeli-Palestinian peace, a White House official said. The White House had swiftly dismissed Netanyahu’s new, more moderate comments to US media.

The White House official said Obama also raised Netanyahu’s critical comments about Israeli Arabs voting in disproportionately high numbers on election day, which the administration has denounced as a “cynical” effort to mobilize voters.

Asked whether the subject came up in the phone call, the official said, “In his phone call with Prime Minister Netanyahu, the president made the same points in private that the administration has been making in public.”

Just because Likud won more seats, doesn't mean Herzog and his opposition coalition don't have even more power and influence than they did in the past. Herzog is angry. As noted by the Jerusalem Post:
Herzog: 'I don't want to clean up after Netanyahu'
In first interview after election, Zionist Union leader accuses Netanyahu of winning with lies, statements against Israeli Arabs.

The current opposition leader stated that Israel will face the same challenge and the same problems with the incoming government as it did with the previous one.

"I'm don't want to clean up after him [Netanyahu]," Herzog told the radio station. "If the people want a far-right government for a limited time then we will challenge it. "

That's just part of the opposition facing Bibi from within Israel.  There are also complaints being filed about intimidation of Palestinian Israeli voters.

J-post also reports additional pressures than those from the Obama White House from OUTSIDE ISrael.
'EU report urges sanctions against Israel over Jerusalem policies'
The report, which was leaked to the British newspaper 'Guardian,' comes just days after incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu handily won re-election.

The European Union has produced an explosive new report recommending sanctions against Israel over its construction policies and security measures in Jerusalem, the British daily Guardian reported on its website on Friday.

The leaked report, which comes just days after incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu handily won re-election, describes Israel's capital as a city gripped by the worst "polarization and violence" since the Second Intifada of a decade ago.

The document, which is an amalgamation of recommendations prepared by European diplomats stationed in the region, accuses the Israeli government of exacerbating tensions in the city by accelerating construction in the contest eastern part of the capital.

According to the Guardian, the city has been beset by a “vicious cycle of violence … increasingly threatening the viability of the two-state solution." The report goes on to say that Israel's “systematic” construction of housing in “sensitive areas” has compounded the problem.

The EU report also takes Israel to task for what it describes as "heavy-handed policing and punitive measures" against Palestinians in the city, "including eviction and home demolitions by Israeli forces."

More significantly, the document prescribes a series of measures aimed at curbing the distribution and sale of products manufactured beyond the 1967 Green Line.

The report urges restrictions against "known violent settlers and those calling for acts of violence as regards immigration regulations in EU member states."

European government are also encouraged to label settler products while also warning EU businesses of the perils of engaging in trade with Israeli firms stationed in the territories.

Bibi's won a pyrrhic victory, and a lot of butt hurtz.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Just NUTZ! Right wing nuts.

Actor Slim Pickens, riding a nuke to destruction
in Dr. Strangelove, or How I learned to stop worrying
and love the bomb

The right 'wingaloos', via Wonkette, because the right really IS crazier than anything you could make up.  Sadly, this is increasingly the norm on the right.
Rick Santorum took a few questions from the audience at last weekend’s South Carolina National Security Action Summit, an annual Gathering Of The Wingaloos sponsored by conspiracy theorist, rightwing hack, and Islam-panicked freak Frank Gaffney. So it’s not too surprising that Santorum got this long “question” from a nice lady named “Virginia.” She started by explaining John Boehner’s secret deal with Obama to let illegal aliens into the country, and eventually built to a beautiful crescendo of Pure Weird.

Nuking Charleston?

What the HELL? 

That this woman was a teacher explains a lot about why red states drag this nation down in comparison with other nations educational outcomes. It's not the only reason, but it is a contributing factor. The party of Stupid is dumbing down America.

So where did THIS insanity come from this time? Sane people want to know who's feeding the crazy.

And sure enough, it's the right wing propaganda machine.

Via Bloomberg News Whoa, Conspiracy Theories:

That's easy. In September 2013, the conspiracy news site InfoWars published an "exclusive" story, citing "a high level source inside the military," about the transfer of nuclear warheads to the East Coast. The story was shared nearly 25,000 times on Facebook, aided by a video introduction by Alex Jones and by a follow-up that quoted South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham's worry that a military build-up would lead to nuclear weapons moving through the port of Charleston. "This ultimately reeks of yet another false flag being orchestrated by the United States government in order to send us into war," Jones wrote in a follow-up.

In October 2013, the European Union Times—a "news" site that combines real stories with rumors -- cited a "Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) report circulating in the Kremlin today" to report that a nuclear weapon had been detonated off of Charleston's harbor, as proven by an Oct. 8 earthquake that happened hundreds of miles from the coast. This, according to the website, was a botched "false flag" attack, which was carried out, strangely, in the middle of the government shutdown. On Reddit, discussion swirled that the "false flag" attack led to the dismissal of US Navy Vice Admiral Tim Giardina, US Air Force Major General Michael Carey, Major General Charles M. Gurganus and Major General Gregg A. Sturdevant.

The appearance of those names in the story recalled the scam in Paper Moon, in which the names of the recently deceased were used by a salesman to sell Bibles to the surviving family members. Giardina was sacked, but this was later found to be related to a poker-rigging scheme that had been uncovered by the Navy's Inspector General. Carey was removed from his job after an investigation into a drunken bender that took him around Moscow; though Carey remains a special assistant to the commander of Air Force Space Command. Gurganus and Sturdevant were forced into retirement in September 2013, after a yearlong investigation into a Taliban attack on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. Both men were removed, in other words, before the alleged "false flag" attack—and neither had anything to do with nuclear security.

And it goes without saying that the "false flag" attack, according to an alleged Russian intel report as translated by a fringe site, happened fifteen months ago, hundreds of miles from America's coastline. Santorum's questioner swore that it had happened "a few months ago" and "in Charleston." If the potential 2016 candidate was wondering if he missed a major news event, he shouldn't. He didn't.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Netanyahu & Likud Cheat to Win Election; Rush Limbaugh Lies about the Cheating

Rush Limbaugh must not read the Jerusalem Post. I doubt Rush reads anything that doesn't rubber stamp his particular version of propaganda and lies. From earlier this afternoon:
The Drive-Bys Lash Out at Bibi
In fact, I've had people ask, "Rush, Israel is filled with Jewish ... names by the New York Times, and the election is characterized as turning ugly. And it didn't turn ugly! There weren't any allegations of cheating.

The factual, non-propaganda story from the 'J-Post' is quite different:
Likud forged recording of Kahlon support

Kahlon called the recording "criminal" and asked Central Elections Committee Judge Salim Joubran to open a criminal investigation into it.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party admitted to forging a recording of Kulanu leaders Moshe Kahlon promising to support Netanyahu, according to a Kulanu spokesman.

The party distributed the recording to potential voters on Monday evening, but Central Elections Committee Judge Salim Joubran ordered the group to halt using the recording at Kulanu's request.

Kahlon called the recording "criminal" and asked Joubran to open a criminal investigation into it.

"We are pleased that Judge Joubran stopped the Likud from continuing to distribute this untruthful recording," the party said. "It is sad that the LIkud party, in a moment of desperation, chooses to deceive the public."

Joubran fined the Likud NIS 20,000 over the forged recording.

And from Arutz Sheva, the national news television in Israel:
Likud Admits Misconduct in Kahlon Recording
The Likud party admitted Tuesday morning that it was indeed behind a faked recording of Moshe Kahlon which was distributed to hundreds of thousands of people Monday night.

Kulanu, Kahlon's recently established party, claimed Likud had acknowledged the misdeed in a conversation with the Central Elections Committee Chairman, Judge Salim Joubran.

They claimed, however, that the tape was not misleading as voters were smart enough to realize it was an old tape.

Consequently, Kulanu has turned to Joubran to open a criminal investigation against those Likud activists behind the tape's recording, editing, and distribution.

The Central Elections Committee (CEC) issued a temporary ban Monday night on Likud's distribution of the tape, which features the former Likud minister putting his support behind Likud and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during the 2013 elections.

While Likud hoped that by persuading their radical conservative base that Kahlon no longer OPPOSED Likud and Netanyahu in the 2015 election. And Netanyahu and Likud still NEED Kahlon to form a coalition government. The robo-call fraud is likely to have only FURTHERED the opposition of Kahlon rather than encouraged cooperation with them. If that proves to be the case, then Netanyahu may very well have won the election -- and lost the government and the office of Prime Minister.

One of my ongoing objections to conservatives has been, whether US or foreign, they embrace short term gain at the expense of prudent and successful, rational, long term governance, as well as their willingness to compete dishonestly.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Radical Right Wing Jews Engage in Voter Intimidation in the Israel 2015 Elections

Isn't the threat of axe beheading voter intimidation?

Israel has been increasingly an intolerant, racist apartheid-practicing theocracy rather than a genuine democracy. Palestinians comprise >20% of the population, with a higher birth rate than other demographic groups, yet they are consistently under-represented in both the Knesset and in the Israeli court system.

In the face of looking likely to lose the election, conservatives are lashing out against anyone who dares to vote their preference rather than conforming to the increasingly militant and extremist right, including Likud, reminiscent of southern Jim Crow. Netanyahu and the Israeli Jewish conservatives long have been accused of bigotry and apartheid conduct. As noted here, from noted professor and middle east expert Juan Cole via Truth Dig:
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, under extreme pressure over the real possibility that he will lose the March 17 elections, has made a powerful appeal to his far right wing constituency by openly admitting that he will never allow a Palestinian state and that he intends to flood Israeli squatters into East Jerusalem and its environs to make sure this Occupied territory never returns to the Palestinians.

Millions of Palestinians whose families were violently expelled from their homes by Jewish settlers in Mandate Palestine in 1947-48 remain stateless. These include the people of Gaza, the West Bank (four million) and a million or more in diasporas in Lebanon, Syria, and other countries. A million Palestinians are now citizens in Israel, and others have rights of citizenship in far-flung places like Chile and Honduras, as well as the United States. But I figure five million at least remain stateless.

The Palestinians are the last major stateless population. Stateless people do not have rights as most people understand the term. Their situation in some ways resembles slavery, since slaves also were denied the rights of citizenship. Stateless people’s property is insecure, since people with citizenship rights have better access to courts and to ruling authorities. Palestinians never really know what they own, and Israeli squatters routinely steal their property with impunity. Squatters dig tube wells deeper than those of the Palestinian villagers, lowering aquifers and causing Palestinian wells to dry up. Squatters go on wilding attacks, chopping down entire olive orchards (a prime source of Palestinian income) or beating up Palestinians. If Palestinians assemble peacefully to protest the loss of their farms to ever-expanding squatter settlements, the Israel army arrests them, including, often, children, who are taken away from their families and put in jail. Palestinians can be held for long periods without being charged. The prisoners are sometimes tortured.

Netanyahu and the Israeli right-of-center say they want to keep Palestinians homeless and without citizenship rights in a state because they fear a Palestinian state will make claims on Israel and present a security challenge. Netanyahu said Sunday that if Israel relinquished the West Bank it would become a bastion of Muslim radicalism (but West Bankers are substantially more secular than the Jewish population of West Jerusalem).

But in fact, Netanyahu and the right are dedicated to Greater Israel, to annexing the West Bank territory and finding a way to expel the Palestinians from it. The Palestinians are not a security challenge– they are like the guard at a bank getting in the way of bank robbers. The bank robbers feel a need to knock him out or kill him, remove him from the scene.

But it is shameful to have Israel preside over 4 million stateless people forever. This is Apartheid.
So far today we have these accounts of threats and intimidation reported from Israeli news media and US media.

From the AP via MSN:
Meanwhile, police said they arrested an Israeli soldier on suspicion of incitement of violence. The soldier wrote on Facebook that if a leftist were to rise to power, the soldier would follow in the footsteps of Israeli extremist Yigal Amir, who assassinated dovish Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.
and we have threats of right wing Jews beheading Palestinian Israelis as well, from Haaretz, by way of the ibtimes:
Lieberman, leader of the Yisrael Beitenu party that is based on Russian immigrants, has a long record of inflammatory statements toward Arab Israelis, including a recent comment that suggested Israeli Arabs with sympathies toward Palestinian Authority be beheaded. “Those who are with us deserve everything, but those who are against us deserve to have their heads chopped off with an ax,” he said last week. (bold is my emphasis added - DG)

The Zionist Union, a center-left alliance between the Labor and Hatnuah parties that represents Likud’s main opposition, said Netanyahu’s statement amounted to racism. “No other Western leader would dare utter such a racist remark,” wrote high-ranking Zionist Union member Shelly Yachimovich on Twitter, according to the New York Times. “Imagine a warning that starts, ‘Our rule is in danger, black voters are streaming in quantity to the polling stations.’”

Happy Saint Patrick's Day to our dear and gentle readers (also the rest of you)

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! I love the intricacies of Celtic knotwork, like the image here, part of the rich and creative heritage of Ireland.

In order to celebrate the day other than by imbibing, I present to you our readers a challenging quiz about Ireland and St. Patrick. Answers are at the end of the quiz.

1. What was St. Patrick's birth name.

a. Patrick
b. Maewyn Succat
c. Bill

2. St. Patrick was born:

a. Armagh, Ireland
b. Mont St. Michel, France
c. Cumbria, Britain

3. St. Patrick's Day celebrates/ commemorates:

a. his birth
b. the day he performed his most prominent saintly miracle
c. his death
d. his official sainthood

4. St. Patrick was a Christian before going to Ireland, and brought Christianity there as a missionary.
True or False?

5. There appear to actually have been TWO St. Patricks, in Ireland, both missionaries, both performing miracles, around the same time, (and neither of them were actually named Patrick).
True or False?

6. Which of the following are famous relics of St. Patrick?

a. St. Patrick's bell
b. the Angels gospel
c. a goblet
d. all of the above

7. St. Patrick is credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland, into the sea.
But there were never any snakes in Ireland in the first place.
True or False?

8. St. Patrick was 120 years old when he died.
True or False?

9. The Battle for the Body of St. Patrick, approx. 493 AD, was resolved how?
a. through a miracle, each side thought THEY had the actual body
b. through a miracle, the body rose in the air, and picked which side won custody of it
c. through a miracle (spontaneous combustion), the body burst into flame, scaring both sides into making peace
d. dividing the body in half, like the baby in the Bible story about Solomon, after which the dead body regenerated the missing halves

10. St. Patrick spent time as a captive not only in Ireland, but in what other country?
a. France
b. Scotland
c. Iceland
d. Spain

1.b 2.c 3.c
4. TRICK QUESTION! BOTH true & false; he was a nominal (baptised) Christian, son of a Christian priest, before experiencing a subsequent profound conversion in Ireland
5.True (and too strange for me to make up)
6.d 7. & 8. True
9.a 10.a

Monday, March 16, 2015

Bibi's Bummer Rally

At 8 pm this past Sunday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu headed up a rally in Tel Aviv at the same square where Anti-Bibi protesters of the Likud regime  had shown up in roughly double numbers (15, 000-20,000 for Bibi, 30,000-40,000 against).

If Bibi and his far right Likud party lose the election, Bibi has been openly threatened with losing his party leadership. So, like conservatives DO, Bibi’s solution is to be a one-trick pony, doubling down on a strategy that isn’t working. Not only have many voters left Bibi and his party, but many of his political allies are fed up and bailing on him as well. Nobody likes to be tainted with the stink of failure, and the disapproval following Bibi’s congressional speech on Iran (criticized as lies by his own head of Mossad, siding with the opposition in Israel at the bigger rally) is just the latest, not the ‘onliest’ failure that stinks.

The only message Bibi had to offer — don’t-let-in-the-lefties, and fear-fear-fear-fear-fear, topped with a dollop of “I’m the only hero who can save you”. Add to that, allegations and investigations that government tax dollars have been misused, including to fund the campaign, including the Sunday night rally. All part of Bibi’s government-for-special-interests- problem with voters. As noted by Salon, back in a February article:
A Shapira spokesman told the Israeli daily Haaretz that the comptroller sees sufficient evidence to consider a criminal investigation.

Like the boy who cried wolf, the anti-Iran, everybody-is-against-us, it’s-always-someone-else’s- fault message is wearing thin, resulting in a fear fatigue.  Further, like the conservatives here in the US and elsewhere, conservative policies in Israel have produced poor economic outcomes, with a large part of the economic problems directly caused by excessive military spending (just like here in the US). As noted by Paul Krugman:
Economic happiness is not the usual mainstream story we hear about Israel. The country is a high-technology powerhouse and its economy has grown rapidly, barely affected by the worldwide recession starting in 2008. But the spoils of that growth have gone disproportionately to Israel’s own version of the one percent. According to Krugman, since the early 1990s,
Israel has experienced a dramatic widening of income disparities. Key measures of inequality have soared; Israel is now right up there with America as one of the most unequal societies in the advanced world. And Israel’s experience shows that this matters, that extreme inequality has a corrosive effect on social and political life.
Consider what has happened at either end of the spectrum — the growth in poverty, on one side, and extreme wealth, on the other.
According to Luxembourg Income Study data, the share of Israel’s population living on less than half the country’s median income — a widely accepted definition of relative poverty — more than doubled, to 20.5 percent from 10.2 percent, between 1992 and 2010. The share of children in poverty almost quadrupled, to 27.4 percent from 7.8 percent. Both numbers are the worst in the advanced world, by a large margin.
And when it comes to children, in particular, relative poverty is the right concept. Families that live on much lower incomes than those of their fellow citizens will, in important ways, be alienated from the society around them, unable to participate fully in the life of the nation. Children growing up in such families will surely be placed at a permanent disadvantage.
At the other end, while the available data — puzzlingly — don’t show an especially large share of income going to the top 1 percent, there is an extreme concentration of wealth and power among a tiny group of people at the top. And I mean tiny. According to the Bank of Israel, roughly 20 families control companies that account for half the total value of Israel’s stock market. The nature of that control is convoluted and obscure, working through “pyramids” in which a family controls a firm that in turn controls other firms and so on. Although the Bank of Israel is circumspect in its language, it is clearly worried about the potential this concentration of control creates for self-dealing.
The widening inequality in Israel, like that in the U.S. is the result of policy decisions, not just some naturally occurring phenomenon that free marketeers like to claim. Shockingly, according to Krugman, “Israel does less to lift people out of poverty than any other advanced country — yes, even less than the United States.” Now that is saying something. And those living in poverty are not just Israel’s oppressed Arab population and ulta-Orthodox Jews.
Israel’s oligarchs, like Russia’s, managed to gain control of businesses that were privatized in the 1980s. That control enables them outsized influence on policy. Works every time. Netanyahu is a big advocate for policies that keep them sitting pretty, and like New Jersey’s Chris Christie, the Israeli P.M. enjoys sitting and traveling pretty himself, often on the taxpayer’s dime.
Putting it all in simpler terms we’ve heard before, harkening back to Bill Clinton: “It’s the economy stupid.”

It is truly amazing how in lock-step conservatives are, here in the US and in Israel.  In both, for example, we have Sheldon Adelman spending obscene amounts of money to control politics that cater to special interests.  That is never good for ordinary people, but it has been the blubbery  kiss of death for right wingers for a while now.

Funny, but also sad and scary that people are so DAMNED gullible

This should tell us something important about what people believe and how they come to believe; the reality is both funny, and more than a bit scary. It explains why we need a column of statements with boxes to check off titled "No, really -- HOW DUMB ARE YOU PEOPLE?".

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Happy Birthday, Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Happy Birthday, and may God bless and keep you for years to come so that you may bedevil your conservative fellow Justices on the SCOTUS with the legitimacy and value of your legal opinions and your righteously funny sense of humor.  Thank you for your service to the Supreme Court, and thank you as well for the exceptional example you provide to the girls of this nation as a role model.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Ronnie Ray-gun, and the Right Wing Hypocrisy about Iran

Remember when? History shows the right has been the party that were bad when it came to Iran.

Ah, the stink of right wing hypocrisy! Remember this, the next time you see those claims about Obama 'shredding the Constitution' or being EeeeeeeeeeeVIL for dealing with Iran.

It will be sweet to see what the documents show Reagan knew, when those documents are finally declassified.  He is clearly a liar; the only remaining question is how incompetent he was if he did NOT know what was going on in his own administration.

Buh-bye Bibi; more Conservative failure

Republicans did a dumb thing, they badly miscalculated, when they invited Bibi Netanyahu to speak to Congress.  Then the right made an even more foolish move on top of that mistake in writing their 'just kidding' letter to the Foreign Minister of Iran.

Conservatives have failed ideas, old ideas, and are consistent failures at governing.  And now they have contributed to the likely downfall of their fellow extremist conservative in another country, while aiding the hardliner conservatives in Iran. 

Another epic double failure of conservative thinking.

Back in February, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz noted :

Poll: Nearly 2/3 of Americans say Netanyahu Congress speech a 'bad move'

CNN/ORC survey says 63 percent of Americans disapproved of the invitation without coordination with the White House while 33% thought it was `the right thing to do.'

And the New York Times noted this morning:

PM Netanyahu's Party Trails in Polls Before Israel Election

JERUSALEM — The last polls just days before Israel's election show Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party trailing behind the center-left opposition.
Poll results in the Yediot Ahronot newspaper on Friday gave the Zionist Union, comprised of labor and a center-left party, 26 seats over 22 for Netanyahu's hawkish Likud party.
It polled 1,032 people with a margin of error of 2.5 percent. Other polls had similar results.
The March 17 election is widely seen as a vote of confidence in Netanyahu, whose campaign mainly focuses on security. But after years of rapidly increasing living costs, many Israelis are turning to dovish and centrist parties that focus on social and economic issues.

And as Reuters noted yesterday:

Netanyahu's main challenger widens lead in Israeli pre-election polls

(Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched a last-minute media blitz on Thursday to counter what appears to be a rising tide of support for his main opponent in next week's election, the centrist Zionist Union.
The latest opinion polls show momentum shifting to Zionist Union after weeks of running neck-and-neck with Netanyahu's right-wing Likud, and the premier again warned voters who have abandoned his party for like-minded challengers that without their votes, he could lose.
Forecast to win up to 24 seats to Likud's 21 in the 120-member parliament, Zionist Union hopes the gap will be wide enough to persuade Israel's president to ask its leader, Labour party chief Isaac Herzog, rather than Netanyahu, to try to form a coalition government after Tuesday's balloting.
"If we don't close the gap in the coming days, there is certainly a risk that Tzipi Livni and Bougie Herzog will be the next prime ministers," Netanyahu told Channel 2 in one of two primetime television interviews, using Herzog's nickname.
Under his Zionist Union alliance with centrist Livni, Herzog would serve as Israel's leader for two years and then hand over to the country's most prominent woman politician for the remainder of their government's slated four-year term.
Netanyahu also ruled out the possibility of forming a broad coalition after the election that would include a leadership rotation between him and Herzog.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Propaganda 2: Old Glory, More right wing emotional flag-related deception, dishonesty, and manipulation of the ignorant

We have laws defining what constitutes an actual American flag -- what size, proportions, etc.

It's not a free-form flag, where anyone can make up their own version. It is quite specific what is and is not a proper United States flag.  We have a body of law that defines how that flag can be displayed, and a body of court decisions regarding those laws.

In April 2008, the Congressional Research Service updated these into a single handy reference pdf, which can be found here.

USFlag.org lists the actual legal basis for what defines the flag - and what is excluded, like blue lines or bars, hose nozzles, and any lettering.  (scroll down to US Code, Title4, Chapter 1 The Flag).

Not a flag, and not consistent with flag law

First, the real news, factually reported, about judges conscientiously following flag law:

From Viriginian Pilot, Portsmouth/Hampton Roads, Pilotonline.com :

Flag made of firehoses sparks dispute in Portsmouth
At first glance, the display in a courthouse security office looks like an American flag.
Alternating red and white firehoses comprise most of the piece. A thin blue line runs through its middle in support of law enforcement and emergency personnel. That makes it a work of art, said Chief Circuit Court Judge Johnny E. Morrison.
Sheriff Bill Watson wanted it to hang in a courthouse hallway, but the city’s four circuit judges put a stop to it. They filed an order to remove the display from public areas of the judicial center.
Now it hangs in the window of a courthouse security office that looks out on the commons area. Watson is fuming that the display – which he says is a flag – can’t be hung in the commons area, said department spokesman Capt. Lee Cherry.
“To say he can’t put up an American flag is just blowing everyone away,” Cherry said. “Bill Watson is about as much a true American as you can be. ... If you cut him in half, he bleeds red, white and blue. This just drove him nuts.”
Watson hung up the phone when reached by The Pilot on Wednesday.
This brought out the right wingnut pseudo-super-patriots in hysterical droves. All across the right wing propaganda bubble there was forced, faked expressions of outrage, including -- as usual -- Fakes News, the Washington Times, the Inquisitr, the Daily Caller, the Blaze, etc .  Watson told Fakes News:
Watson said, “I just can’t believe that they don’t want to display the American flag in a courthouse, I mean that’s the most asinine thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”
And we have Megyn Kelly, one of the dumb blondes on cable Fakes News reporting the sheriff  telling anyone who will listen how he's willing to go to jail over this (but not talking to the actual courts involved):
The Sheriff countered saying he would prominently display Old Glory on his office’s window, asserting he would be willing to be incarcerated over the flag dispute.
Let's be clear here; there are proper U.S. flags ALL OVER the courthouse, and there is a U.S. flag in every court room.  So claiming the judges object to the display of the American flag is patently false, a lie, right wing nut propaganda that follows a continuing theme of false claims and propaganda.  It is not an isolated incident.

To continue with the FACTUAL reporting:
Cynthia Morrison, Portsmouth’s Circuit Court Clerk, said she considered the display art, not a flag.

It bore a sign that read “In support of public safety,” she said.

Judge Morrison said Watson asked Rae Oliver, who is in charge of building maintenance, to hang the firehose display in the commons area. Oliver told Watson he had to get the approval of the judges to do so.

The judges deemed the piece to be artwork in support of a specific group – law enforcement and emergency workers – and not a flag.

“He can ask City Hall to hang it, he can go to a fire department and ask that they hang it, he can hang it in his own office, but a judicial complex should not advocate for any particular group,” Judge Morrison said.

People rightly expect neutrality from the courts, said Cynthia Morrison.

“People come to the courthouse for justice, we have to maintain ... neutrality. If someone comes with a lawsuit pending against police and saw that, would they feel as though we had a preference for police over citizens? Courts can’t do that,” she said.Cherry countered that the court allows a display of a picture of members of the city’s bar association.

“That is something totally different,” Judge Morrison said. “I would think that he has more intelligence than that.”

The photo depicts lawyers in the local bar association and does not support a group that might come before the court in a case, he said.

Judge Morrison said he tried three times to reach Watson earlier this week. Watson did not respond. That’s why the court order was issued Wednesday, Morrison said.

American flags hang throughout the courthouse, including in each courtroom. It’s wrong to insinuate that the judges are trying to remove an American flag, he said.

“I don’t know why the sheriff or someone in his organization would call the public or media to intimate that judges asked him to remove a flag from the court building,” Judge Morrison said. “It’s not a flag.”

Morrison said he has no problem with the display hanging in Watson’s office.

“I don’t report to Lee Cherry,” Judge Morrison said. “He needs to get his facts straight. We did not ask him to take down a flag. We all know what a flag looks like and he should know, also.”

We have the sheriff grandstanding to every local media that will give him time and a microphone, but neither he nor the right wing media is correctly reporting the decision. Then additionally, we have this sheriff refusing to answer the phone when the judges try to contact him, adding to the childishness of his little temper tantrum, and his implied threat that now he and his staff will refuse to do their duty in responding to threats against the judges or in their courtrooms. He should be removed from office for this threatened refusal to do his duty, the duty he took an oath to perform and for which he receives a taxpayer funded compensation.  Further, it appears that the Sheriff is a tad bit confused over who has final authority over decisions, and who does not.  Hint -- it is NOT the sheriff.

The court knows the law and follows it.  So should the sheriff.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The GOP got spanked, by Iran Foreign Minister Zarif
And the right embarrsses us all,

Right wing opportunistic, ignorant, unpatriotic dumbasses.

Clearly, the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China, who are negotiating the agreement (it is not a treaty) with Iran are not happy -- as noted by the Voice of America. The actions of the GOP pretty much spit in the faces of our allies (and in a few cases, frenemies) in the negotiations.

That Iranian foreign minister Mohammed Javak Zarif understands our constitution better than the GOP members of the senate do is just an added humiliation. But then, Zarif is better educated than most of the right wingers in the Senate, having been educated in both the US and the UK.

From the wikipedia entry on Zarif:
At age 17, he left Iran for the United States. Zarif attended Drew College Preparatory School, a private college-preparatory high school located in San Francisco, California. He went on to study at San Francisco State University, from which he gained a BA in International Relations in 1981 and an MA in the same subject in 1982. Following this, Zarif continued his studies at the Graduate School of International Studies (now named the Josef Korbel School of International Studies) at the University of Denver, from which he obtained a second MA in International Relations in 1984 and this was followed by a PhD in International Law and Policy in 1988. His thesis was entitled: "Self-Defense in International Law and Policy".
Who else is meddling in our foreign policy? Oh, lookeeee. The big money behind the right wing nut jobs. From Voice of America:
The fallout from the open letter sent by 47 Republican senators to Iran’s leaders reverberated worldwide Wednesday from Washington to Tehran.

In Iran, Tehran’s Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) criticized Republican Senator Tom Cotton’s "insulting" address to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

"Now it is clear that Cotton does not know that the Iranian foreign minister has been a U.S. educated figure since young age and he knows English language and the U.S. power structure better than Cotton," IRNA reported.

On Monday, Zarif’s initial response was to describe the letter as a "publicity ploy" that "contradicts international law."
Foreign ministers involved in the P5+1 talks will meet Sunday in Switzerland as they try to reach a political framework for a nuclear deal with Iran by March 31.

Other members of the P5+1 group – China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany – were mostly silent in their reaction to news of the letter to Iran. There were no official statements regarding the letter.

In London, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told members of parliament Tuesday that the Republican letter could throw "a spanner in the works" at the negotiations and will have an "unpredictable effect" on the government in Tehran.

And the Tehran Times reported that Zarif said the U.S. senators were “ignorant of international law.”

On Wednesday, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State John Kerry said lawmakers cannot modify any nuclear agreement struck between the United States and Iran despite threats by Republican senators that they can.

Kerry said he responded with "utter disbelief" at the letter threatening to undo any nuclear agreement reached between Tehran and Washington. The letter endangers global trust in America, he said, adding it "risks undermining the confidence that foreign governments in thousands of important agreements commit to.

“It is incorrect when [the letter] says that Congress can actually modify the terms of an agreement at any time. That is flat wrong,” Kerry said.

What besides normal ignorance could be driving such actions. Oh, yeah -- right wing money is behind it. From the same Voice of America article:
Israel Hayom, a newspaper owned by Sheldon Adelson, an American billionaire who has supported several Republican presidential candidates, used wire and staff reports under the headline: Republicans warn Iran nuclear deal with Obama may not last.
CLEARLY, the GOP doesn't know or doesn't care about how agreements work or how the constitution divvies up the powers of government between the three branches. And the right is conveniently omitting how their secular saint, Ronnie Ray-gun negotiated similarly with Iran for the hostages.

A cynical person would think that this was a cheap move to try to gain political advantage in the 2016 election, at the expense of serious nuclear disarmament, and at the expense of American relationships with our allies (and frenemies).

To outline what an abject failure the whole GOP action was, NOW they're trying to pretend it was just all a JOKE. Yeah, because that makes this ok, and that undoes somehow the abject failure of the signers of the letter to understand the Constitution OR International Law?

Apparently it was time for another demonstration that the GOP is the stupid party, via Kabuki political theater.

NO! Wrong! Bad!

From the Daily Beast:
Republican aides were taken aback by the response to what what they thought was a lighthearted attempt to signal to Iran and the public that Congress should have a role in the ongoing nuclear discussions. Two GOP aides separately described their letter as a “cheeky” reminder of the congressional branch’s prerogatives.

Jon Stewart gets it mostly right. Pelosi's meeting was actually quite different from this stunt.