Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Grover Norquist and the John Birch Society – Part 2

Grover Norquist has stated he’d like to see the country return to the 1880’s, before unions were legal, before labor laws, before social security, medicare.

He wants to get rid of unemployment insurance for those that the economy has thrown out of work. 

Nevermind that having a substantial amount of unemployed workers fits perfectly into his (and the John Birch Society, the Koch brothers, Tea Partiers – all one and the same[i]) vision of society.

Grover has worked hard over the past 3 decades or so in achieving the Koch brother’s goals, referred to by William F. Buckley, Jr., no less, as “Arnarcho-Totalitarianism”. He’s done so through his Americans for Tax Reform cell, funded with Koch money.

Norquist is against any tax.

More accurately, he’s against any tax that his friends will have to pay.

He’s also for “Free Trade”, because free trade means ‘no tariffs’, and a tariff is a tax by another name. As we have seen with NAFTA, it also means a loss of high-paying jobs to other countries and that, coupled with already high unemployment, leads to desperate people willing to work for next to nothing.

Which, in turn, leads to an erosion of economic power in the hands of ‘ordinary’ people – those not of the moneyed-class. And that is exactly the goal of his union-busting efforts (witness his interjecting himself in the VW/UAW situation). He knows that economic power leads to political power – and that cannot be tolerated.

One of the reasons that Mr. Norquist is successful in his propaganda, is that like the Koch brothers, transparency is shunned in favor of masking the source of the prolfeed (and funding) that his various organizations issue forth, coupled with using proxies to get the message out.

Norquist has once again used a tactic promoted by the John Birch Society: Public Relations and Marketing. In the book “50 Years of Dissent”, C. Wright Mills says this about the right and how they use media as a weapon:
“Alongside the very rich, and supplanting them as popular models, are the synthetic celebrities of national glamor who often make a virtue out of cultural poverty and political illiteracy. By their very nature they are transient figures of mass means of distraction rather than sources of authority and anchors of traditional continuity.”
(It would be easier to show pictures of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, and the rest of the right-wing media darlings.)

This all points to a situation where the masses are forced to grovel for survival. His vision, or at least what he’s working toward, is a society where there are very few good-paying jobs, many fewer jobs overall than what is required for a healthy society at least, no job security, no relief if you lose your job, no help if you get hurt on the job – all lead to a population that is in constant fear.

The role of the lower-class is to be grateful for the few crumbs you are allowed to have.

He claims he only wants the government to leave people alone, and this is something I think he’s being truthful about: He wants the government to leave businesses alone when they make products that harm you, when they pollute the air you breathe and the water you drink, when it comes time for them to share the burden of rebuilding infrastructure they use to manufacture and distribute their products – and more.

He also wants the government to leave you alone when the business practices of his friends leaves you with no income, no way to feed your children, no way to become healthy again when you fall ill, or when you are hurt in an industrial accident -  because if the government did help you, that would be socialism. 

Yet, he’s apparently fine when his Wall Street friends socialize the risk involved in their economically dangerous schemes to get even richer.

Without saying it, Norquist and his Rabid Right friends want to turn the country into a third-world-class nation, with them and the rest of the clique as the New Barons to oversee their serfs. And, they feel it is only right that it is they who are in charge and make the decisions – after all, they’re the ones with the money – and everyone knows the real Golden Rule.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Grover Norquist and the John Birch Society – Part 1

When the workers at Volkswagen’ Tennessee plant began organizing, with the acquiescence, if not outright encouragement of management, they knew there would be some amongst the workforce that felt differently than the UAW leadership and many other of their coworkers about unionization, and that having the union represent the workers was not a given.

What they couldn’t have anticipated was the resistance from the Governor of the state, Bill Haslam and one of the state’s Senators, Bob Corker, both Republicans. Considering that the management of VW was more than okay with the idea of the workers organizing (in fact, they consider it vital that their workforce be organized in some fashion) and that one of the Republican tenets is ‘local control’, why would organizing be a problem for anyone?

When it started to look like the union would get voted in, both Haslam and Corker sprung into action to thwart the effort, despite the Republican party’s position on ‘less government interference’.

But they weren’t alone. Grover Norquist, he of the ‘No Tax Pledge’, decided that the workers in Tennessee were having trouble deciding for themselves whether they wanted to be represented by the UAW or not. Because, after all, what did those workers know? None of them were the President of any lobbying groups.

An odd development, I thought, since this had nothing to do with raising taxes – because management at VW were going to have their workforce organized in some fashion no matter what anyone else thought about it (and the worker’s panel may insist that no future plants be built in the southern U.S. because of the efforts of Haslam, Corker, and Norquist)

Research into Norquist made it clear: Norquist is, perhaps not officially, but definitely in spirit, a Bircher – as in the John Birch Society. His philosophy mimics the Bircher’s exactly.

No, not really. You see, one of the guiding principles the JBS claims to adhere to is ‘individual liberty’, and Norquist definitely doesn’t believe in that – at least not when it comes to workers joining a union that is. No matter. The Birchers don’t believe it either. What they do believe, regardless of what they claim to believe, is individual liberty only for those they deem worthy – big money interests.

Like the Koch brothers. Their father Fred was a founding member of the JBS and both brothers were members, at least for a while. Charles resigned at one point over the Vietnam war. But he rejoined, at least in spirit (the JBS doesn’t publish the names of its members).

Koch money, and Norquist’s leadership may not have created the Tea Party (don’t count it out), but Koch money has supported the nascent movement and Norquist provided strategy. And it’s always been that way with the JBS.

The JBS was active in the Goldwater presidential campaign in 1964 (Goldwater’s famous quote about ‘extremism is no vice’ was a shout-out to the Society) and Ronald Reagan’s victory in California[i]. When Reagan took the White House in 1980, he had Norquist nearby and asked the young promising extremist to start what became Americans for Tax Reform.

Norquist has stated many times that he'd like America to return to the good old days of the 1880's. No Social Security, No labor laws, no safety net, no unions. He'd probably like to see only landowners voting as it once was, or some of us being declarred 3/5's of a person. Norquist marches in lockstep with JBS ideology, and it'd be damn hard to be more rabidly conservative than that.

The Society seemed to have gone dormant for years, particularly after William F. Buckley, Jr.’s denouncement of the group. But they’ve never gone away completely. For years, no one heard the name of the group, but that’s has changed.

End of Part 1

[i] James Phalen “Mutiny In The John Birch Society” Saturday Evening Post, April 8, 1967.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Institute E-Verify Nationally - And Do It Now

“The simple truth is that we’ve lost control of our own borders, and no nation can do that and survive.” – Ronald Reagan
1990’s Redux?

The U.S. economy is poised to make a comeback in 2014. Jobs creation has seen an uptick, car manufacturers are doing very well. It’s about time and let’s all hope that the good news we’ve gotten lately builds to a full-out recovery.

At the same time, let’s also prepare for what’s surely to come if the economy does indeed come back strong: illegal immigration.

We know from recent history that when the U.S. economy is in full swing, so is illegal entry into the country by unemployed outsiders looking to take American jobs.

We’ve also seen how these same folks who came here illegally seeking work self-deported when the economy went into recession.

I know what some of you may be thinking: These folks are only here trying to make a better life for themselves!

I agree. Except for the ‘only’ part.

The desire to do better for yourself doesn't give you the right to take something you have no claim to from someone who does have a legitimate claim to it. My neighbor has a better car than I do. My family would benefit from having a better car. Can I take my neighbor’s car? I can, but then I’d go to jail.

Thou Shalt Covet.

Yet, there are those among us who just don’t get it.

Some will argue that illegal immigrants are doing us a favor by taking these jobs, because Americans won’t do them. This is not true, and we know this: Who did this work before the onslaught of illegal workers?

Oh, and by the way…since the Great Recession, native-born employment decreased, while immigrant employment increased![i]

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that Americans won’t do this work, because Americans won’t work for the orchestrated below fair-market wage that’s being offered. So, the artificially low wage is touted as the only wage that can be paid for the labor. Some have even argued that whole crops will be abandoned and not grown if the cost of labor goes up.[ii]

Others say the only reason labor-intensive farming survives is because there are migrants (unauthorized, I presume) willing to work for low wages.[iii]

This is nonsense. The only thing that would happen is what should have already happened and would have already happened, if not for the gaming: The market will correct itself and attain equilibrium for that product.

Another argument for allowing illegal workers into the country is that these illegal workers pump money into the economy by taking these jobs and living in the States.

This too, is poppycock. Anyone who holds any job in the U.S. pumps money into the economy. Illegal immigrants don’t pump more money into the economy – in fact they put far less money in for two reasons:
1.      The jobs a low wage paying jobs, remember? A legal worker would earn more dollars and therefore put more back into the economy.

2.      Much more money would be put back into the U.S. economy if a native worker held that job: An American worker is not likely to send money to Mexico.[iv]

So far, no has been able to explain to me how it can be argued that low wage jobs are good for the economy. Those jobs, now being done by illegal immigrants, were done by legal (native) workers at fair market value wages, would pump even more money into the economy, and none of it would be sent out of the country.

The claim that illegal workers add to the economy is true, but it also true that if the same work was done by legal workers even more money would be put into the economy. Other kinds of illegal economic activity goes on, such as drug dealing, car theft and so on, and the same argument could be made: that it adds to the economy. 

Opponents of E-verify are arguing that it should be okay for a business knowingly hire an illegal worker. They should be allowed to break the law, because laws are for regular people, not the elite.

In Arizona, they passed a law making E-Verify mandatory. SB 1070 goes further, providing for the license revocation of any business that knowingly hires illegal workers. It’s called the “Business Death Penalty” and revokes operating privileges on the second offense. This, of course, has some folks up in arms as being too harsh of a penalty. Do you know of another law that you have to break twice before you face the consequences?

There’s a couple of things that get lost in all of this:
  • The U.S. economy does not exist to bail out the Mexican government’s failure to provide a sufficiently robust economy for its own citizens[v]
  • We have plenty of our own unemployed to deal with, we don’t need anyone else’s unemployed competing for jobs.
  •  Illegal immigrants commit other crimes while here, beyond the initial crime of entering illegally: Fraud, Forgery, and Theft, Conspiracy to Commit Fraud (with the employer being the other criminal party).[vi]
  •  We don’t have a shortage of unskilled unemployed workers; we don’t need more.
  •  No one, not anyone from Mexico, Central or South America, no one from Europe, Africa, Asia or even Antarctica or Alpha Centauri, has a right to immigrate here, and no immigrant has a right to a job here! Mexico feels the same way about their illegals.[vii]

If you think that this is all a bit harsh, take look at how Mexico treats their illegal immigrants. If you enter Mexico illegally, you are considered a felon.[viii]

Along with this is the sense of entitlement shown by some illegal immigrants. They not only have no problem breaking our laws, they actually think this is their country.

Yet many of these same people have nothing but scorn and derision for America.[ix]

Too many of these folks don’t come here to become American, they come here for what they can take from America. Yet, we are to welcome them with open arms, educate their children, and provide them with rent assistance, food stamps, medical care, and so on, otherwise we are racists and xenophobes. All so that they laugh at us behind our backs.

The real culprit? NAFTA. 'Free Trade" has forced many who are here illegally off their own land, because the Federal Government is so generous with subsidies to Big Ag that it's cheaper for Mexico to import agricultural products than it is to grow their own.

It’s particularly sickening how our politicians pander to this crowd.

So what is to be done?
  • Remove the incentive for illegal immigrants to come here.
  • Deny illegal immigrants rent assistance, food stamps, access to medical treatment (except in emergencies), and education for their children.
  • Punish companies that hire illegal immigrants, use E-Verify to do it, and use it nationwide (Arizona is a good model).
  • Repeal so-called 'Free-Trade' agreements that are the root cause of illegal immigration. No one WANTS to leave their country and their family just so they can make a living. Because the U.S. subsidizes American grain producers to the point that it is cheaper for Mexico to buy grain from us than it is to produce it themselves forces their farmers off the land and into the U.S.

There are many opponents of E-Verify that complain that the program is too costly[x]. Well, if it is, it’s their own fault. The program itself is free. The only cost to any business are the administrative costs of transferring information already being collected (I-9 Form) to the E-Verify program.

So, if your company isn’t any good at administrative functions, then I guess it could be expensive. But, whose fault is that? Why should native workers and legal immigrants suffer because some businesses aren’t managed well? Stop promoting your cousin and hire someone competent. Or, consider that maybe you shouldn't be in business if routine administrative tasks are beyond your ability. Remember this: no business is guaranteed easy profits.

And, really, this is truly a red herring: In those states where it is mandatory, it is because it is the law. It becomes the cost of doing business, and costs are always passed on to customers. Econ 101.

However, even in states where it isn’t mandated, companies are using E-Verify voluntarily.[xi] How bad can it be when companies are doing it on their own? I think that makes it a good thing!

The argument that E-Verify is too costly, too onerous of a burden is coming from those who don't really care as much for this country as they do for lining their own pockets easily and quickly. They want the easy road, the path of least resistance. They are not patriots. They are parasites.

The time to standardize E-Verify is now - before the next onslaught of illegal immigrants is already inside our borders and doing jobs that Americans need.

“You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.” – Abraham Lincoln

[ii] James S. Holt, “Farm Labor Shortages and the Economic Evidence of the Declining Competitiveness of U.S. Fruit and Vegetable Producers: A White Paper,” Agricultural Coalition on Immigration Reform, 2008, http://web17.streamhoster.com/ddc/ACIR/20080429/James_S_HoltPhD.pdf
[iii] Alex Nowrasteh, “The Economic Case against Arizona’s Immigration Laws”, CATO Institute Policy Analysis, Sep. 25, 2012 http://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/economic-case-against-arizonas-immigration-laws
[v] Talk to Pat Buchanan. He knows all about this stuff. http://www.americasfuture.net/bookmonitor/2007/2007-1-07.html
[vi] Nowrasteh, P.9
[vii] Michelle Malkin, “Police State: How Mexico Treats Illegal Aliens”. http://michellemalkin.com/2010/04/28/police-state-how-mexico-treats-illegal-aliens/
[ix]Thomas Sowell, “Ever Wonder Why People Who Hate America Live In America”.  http://capitalismmagazine.com/2004/07/ever-wonder-why-people-who-hate-america-live-in-america/
[x] Nowrasteh, P.11
[xi] “Employer Use of Federal E-Verify Program on the Rise”. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2009-06-23-everify_N.htm

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

If Peter Pan and Ayn Rand Had A Child...

According to 60 minutes, Norquist got the idea to “Brand the Republican Party as the party that will never raise your taxes” when he was 12 years old and volunteering for the Nixon campaign.

“If the parties would brand themselves the way Coke and Pepsi and other products do…”

Strange in and of itself. There’s nothing wrong with it, just damn odd. How many 12 year-olds think that way?

In the piece, 60 minutes goes on to say:
“Many Republican congressmen fear retaliation from Norquist if they even suggest that a tax increase for the wealthiest of Americans should be up for discussion…”
Emphasis mine.

This really is no secret, that the opposition to tax increases applies only to the wealthy and not to Joe six-pack, and is demonstrated clearly in Norquist’s silence about taxpayer funding for a new sports facility for the Milwaukee Bucks basketball Corporation.

Norquist is most known for his ‘Pledge” that he forces republicans to sign, promising that they will never vote for a bill that raises taxes. In fact, it’s not enough to sign the pledge once, as Mitt Romney learned. And woe be to any who refuse to sign, as defeating them will become Norquist’s new mission.

Former Senator Alan Simpson, Co-Chair of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, considers Norquist to be “megalomaniac, an ego maniac". Simpson is what is referred to as an ‘adult’ and understands that in the real world, compromises need to be made and that stomp-your-feet-and-hold-your-breath-till-you-turn-blue demands are not how responsible adults operate.

Norquist wouldn’t know much about that, never having a position of real responsibility. Unless, you consider writing speeches and making threats real responsibility.

According to www.nndb.com, Norquist equates taxing rich people with the holocaust. To paraphrase, Norquist says that it’s not right or okay to do something to a group of people just because you’re not doing that thing to everyone.

Yet, this philosophy doesn’t extend to the non-wealthy. Grover, genius that he is, can’t seem to grasp that when he fights for and wins tax breaks for the already wealthy, a greater tax burden falls in those less able to pay them.

In an article in Mother Jones, Ralph Nader says Norquist’s quest is:
“the most powerful, nihilistic movement in Washington…It is such a cold-blooded atmosphere it would sustain icicles.”
And it shows. Willing, if not eager, to strip the needy and elderly of any semblance of a social net, all so that the wealthy prosper further.

The article adds:
Norquist calls it[1] the “Leave-Us-Alone Coalition,” a grouping of gun owners, the Christian right, homeschoolers, libertarians, and business leaders that he has almost single-handedly managed to unite. The common vision: an America in which the rich will be taxed at the same rates as the poor, where capital is freed from government constraints, where government services are turned over to the free market, where the minimum wage is repealed, unions are made irrelevant, and law-abiding citizens can pack handguns in every state and town. "My ideal citizen is the self-employed, homeschooling, IRA-owning guy with a concealed-carry permit,” says Norquist. “Because that person doesn't need the goddamn government for anything.”
This is the Tea Party agenda, word for word. Or, it would be if the Tea Party had a standard platform. It doesn’t because there is no one Tea party. That may be by design, because then you can’t target them. It becomes political Whack-A-Mole.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Mr. Norquist is that he knows how to win. The vision for America that he adopted back when he was 12 years old is coming true – pick up any paper, visit any news website, and it’s all there.

Norquist wants the country to return to the status quo of yesteryear – the ‘gilded age’ minus the economic prosperity (because economic power leads to political power) for common folks, the era of the Robber Baron. The only cure for this dystopian Randian vision is to use the same tools that progressives used 100 years ago: educate, organize, and vote.

[1] The ‘Wednesday morning group’.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Triple-Foul

I’ve read that soon, print newspapers will be a thing of the past.

I know of one that few will miss: The Milwaukee Urinal-Journal Sentinel.

The reason that prompts me to make such a statement is that the only good thing about the paper is the local section.

Most of the editorials are predictable, even laughable.

Case in  point: the April 20th editorial regarding the soon-to-be new Milwaukee Bucks Basketball Corporation facility.

In the editorial, the Journal’s editorial board makes the argument that, since it’s a foregone conclusion that taxpayer money will be spent to fund a new arena (and maybe more), the community should step back, take a deep breath, and think about the big picture.

In their minds this means consideration for a number of other things, such as maybe some kind of museum, or stores, or whatever that ‘we’ might want to include in this new facility.

But not, for instance, any tie-in to mass transit. The Journal says that’s another conversation. I disagree.

Since it’s inevitable that public money is going to help the new millionaires who bought the team make even more money, and that it’s likely that this public money will come in the form of a sales tax, and that many of those who will end up paying this new sales tax use mass transit to go the low paying jobs that provide the income that will be taxed, providing improvements such as more routes into suburban industrial parks and the like should be at the forefront of the discussion, and is not ‘tangential’ as the board suggests.

Where are all the anti-tax conservatives? Why haven’t we heard the usual hew-and-cry from the Tea Partiers, Neocons, and the rest of the Rabid Right? Where’s Grover Norquist?

Norquist, he of the “No Tax Increase Pledge”, insinuated himself into the Volkswagen-UAW flap over the union’s effort to organize workers at the VW Tennessee plant, which had nothing to do with tax rates anyway. Where is this self-appointed slayer of bigger government, this Champion of the 'Leave Us Alone' mantra? Why doesn’t it bother him that the people of southeastern Wisconsin are about to be oppressed by a new layer of taxing-authority government?

I keep forgetting that people like Norquist don’t really care so much about taxes, what they care about I that their friends aren’t taxed. And since this new Bucks tax will be paid by those with little to no political clout whatsoever, all is fine.

It probably does irritate Norquist that the new owners have pledged $100M to help build the facility. Fools. Don’t they know they could get that money from taxes as well?

We have our own local version (kind of) of Norquist in the person of Christian Schneider, columnist for the above mentioned newspaper and avid Scott Walker lapdog. The only reason Schneider hasn’t gone batshit crazy over the impending new tax is because his LordMaster™ Scott Walker hasn't yet made an edict regarding the issue.

He does, however, find it within him to make such funny jokes about how the team could come up with the rest of the money for the facility without raising taxes. While Schneider’s column is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, it really is foot-in-mouth.

First, the math. While not meant to be realistic, they betray how the right thinks about people’s money. Not big corporations or the very rich, but regular people’s money. The numbers don’t reflect any sort of reality because they don’t need to. Not in the context of raising taxes for a new basketball temple or when lowering the tax rates on the very wealthy, which the not very wealthy at all end up paying so that the much-more wealthy can enjoy themselves during their much-more frequent downtime. The only thing that matters to Schneider or Norquist is that no one with money is going to have to pay anymore tax. King’s don’t pay taxes, their subjects do.

Once again, those on the right (The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Grover Norquist, and Christian Schneider, in this case) demonstrate that they don’t have to actually live the values they proscribe for others, as long as the proletariat does.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

With Grover Norquist, Everything Old Is...Still Old

I recently came across a book written by Grover Norquist, the right’s self-appointed taxpayer watchdog. I was interested because this guy stuck his nose into the Volkswagen-UAW organizing issue in Tennessee.

At the time, I was wondering what business he had inserting himself into the fray in the first place.

I had heard his name many times over the last three or so decades, knew he was all about reducing taxes, and really had, nor have, any problem with that concept per se. But, I couldn’t help but wonder where he got off sticking his nose in an issue that had nothing to do with tax rates, but it might have something to do with this.

More to the point, I did, and still do, wonder why the authorities let him interject himself. Would I get the same entrée if I wanted to have a say in the matter? Would you? Of course not. If someone from the political left had come to Tennessee to try to steer the issue, you would have heard the hew and cry from the right regardless of what part of the country you were in.

Why didn’t anyone, especially the actual duly elected authorities in Tennessee cry foul when this happened? That’s a question that wont get answered at this time, but, it has been noted.

What I’d like to bring to your attention is the book Norquist wrote shortly after the Republicans took the House of Representatives in the 1990’s. The book, “Rock The House”[1] is little more than Grover gloating over the win, and proclaiming that this new order will last until the very end of time, because people, finally, got things right for once:

“The Republicans capture of the House of Representatives is the conclusion of a 40 year struggle by a conservative nation to overthrow a liberal political elite that has used gerrymandering, incumbent protection laws, and taxpayer dollars to stay in power.”
Nevermind that once in power, these pure-hearted patriots did exactly the same things.

When discussing liberals, Norquist has this to say:
“Those who have viewed the tax dollars of the American people as their own bank account, have despised those they would rule, and who have built up myths to obscure and defend their policy failures, have lost.”
Nevermind, again, that these defenders of crony capitalism immediately rigged the tax code in favor of the already wealthy – transferring even more wealth from the middle class to the already well-off – which, if nothing else, demonstrates their disdain if not outright hatred for the poor and struggling.
And if that’s not enough, consider how these same gallant republicans take to name calling when describing the needy as ‘takers’, while the rich aren’t greedy, they’re ‘job creators’.
Perhaps the liberals did think of taxpayer money as their own bank accounts. However, the right has actually made taxpayer dollars their own, through subsidies for already profitable companies and ever lowered individual and corporate tax rates.
Grover continues his love letter:
“Republican control of the purse strings will cut off hundreds of thousands of parasites who would live off the work of others.”
Again with the name-calling.
Seriously, Grover, there simply are not that many Alice Waltons.
He adds a statement that is plain disturbing, forewarning us of how these defenders of American Freedom plan on governing:
“New Republican’s are a new breed of political leaders who view the politics of campaigns and the work of governing as a seamless garment.”
Too bad no one read this book when it came out. It could have saved the people of Wisconsin, among others, a lot of trouble.

Norquist informs his readers “Why The GOP Took Back The House In 1994”, and provides 7 reasons, one of them, Reason #3 – he cites the role of ‘coalitions’. This begs the question: Why, when it’s on the right it’s a ‘coalition’, yet when it’s on the left, they are ‘Special Interests”? the answer is that this is nothing more than tried-and-true semantics in action. Norquist owes Frank Luntz a beer.
But I’ve saved the very best of Norquist’s attempts to persuade for the last.
This is the part I’ve been waiting for.
“The mandatory recycling laws passed so cavalierly…involve enormous expenditures of time and energy by families and individuals”
Grover must be the absolute laziest Son-Of-A-Birch ever. Really? Throwing that empty bottle into the other bin that’s right next to the one for garbage is an ‘enormous energy expenditure’?
We know you’re fat, Grover, but come on!
All-in-all, if you haven’t read this book, you haven’t missed anything, regardless of what your political philosophy is. It's little more than a love letter to the right, and to himself. He could have saved a lot of time, paper, and ink and just fellated the whole crowd.

[1] Rock The House, Grover Norquist, VYTIS Publishing Company, Ft. Lauderdale, FL. 1995

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

One Thing the John Birch Society Got Right

While the John Birch Society has long been discredited for its paranoia and oppressive approaches to society at large, there is one area that they got right.

At least one of the founding members of the JBS, Clarence Minion, advocated for a constitutional amendment referred to as The Bricker Amendment, named after Senator John W. Bricker, who sponsored the amendment.

The proposed amendment dealt with U.S. sovereignty issues[1] with respect to treaties made with foreign countries, specifically prohibiting any treaty that violated the constitution and/or subordinated U.S. law and policies to an outside entity, as the Trans-Pacific Partnership would do.

If the Bricker Amendment had been adopted, the concern about fast-tracking the TPP would never have materialized.[2] We’ve learned from fast-tracking NAFTA that entering into treaties, even trade agreements leads to a usurpation of national sovereignty.

Considering the scope and reach of the current Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement being discussed in Congress, this amendment may be exactly what we need in this modern era of Free Trade.

Some provisions rumored to be included in the TPP is the ability for foreign corporations to be able to sue over lost profits due to local laws that, say, prohibit dumping pollution into streams and rivers, thus increasing costs for that corporation.

The Bricker Amendment would prohibit any President or Congress from considering any treaty that would supersede the Constitution of the United States, particularly in areas of trade, as the TPP would most certainly do.

Of course, it’s difficult to determine exactly what the TPP details are, due to the secrecy of the document. Even members of congress don’t know what’s in the treaty, and that alone should be enough to dismiss the proposal out of hand.

It’s strange to suggest that an idea born from the paranoia of the John Birch Society would come to the aid of ordinary people who would otherwise have nothing whatsoever to do with anything connected to these Rabid-Right Wingnuts, but there you have it.

[1] http://www.antiwar.com/essays/bricker.html
[2] http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Bricker_Amendment?rec=1398

Monday, April 7, 2014

How Many Half-Walkers Make One Lie?

Wendy Davis, the darling of women’s rights crusader’s for her dramatic filibuster in opposition of curtailing abortion services in Texas, has come under fire for making some ‘inaccurate’ statements regarding her struggles as a young single mother.

First of all, let’s get this out of the way: No two ways about it, being a single mother at any age is difficult. Couple that with recent family-unfriendly policies adopted in many states and the country overall such as shifting tax burdens onto the backs of the poor; large, super-profitable businesses hiring people for part-time as opposed to full-time work to avoid paying higher wages and providing benefits such as paid time off and healthcare, etc. and the basic and necessary work of parenting becomes harder than people who’ve never had to deal with those burdens could know.

I am not knocking Wendy Davis because she was a single mother.

I am knocking her because, like far too many public servants,  she's played with the truth.

She’s had to backpeddle from initial statements that portrayed her more sympathetically than the truth can support. We’ve seen this too many times in the past to let exaggerations, embellishments, and (in some cases) outright lies to slide past us and into our social sub-consciousness:
  •  One President wasn’t a crook, and then was;
  • A different one didn’t trade arms for hostages, and then, yes, he did;
  • Another one didn’t have sex with ‘that woman’, and then, did;
  • One isn’t gay, just has a ‘wide stance’;
  • This politician claimed a world-class marathon time, but not really;
  • Another closed a bridge, didn’t close a bridge, just found out about it, and knew about it all along. Very, very, busy, man.

The point of the list is that we, the people, have heard this sort of thing too often to fall for it anymore. We should never accept it from anyone.

We know that politicians have smart people around them advising and parsing each utterance to be spoken. So, how do we drill down deeper to more fully understand why this happens?

When “It is What It Is” isn’t enough, exaggeration and embellishing follow. And politicians are people too. I think. However, they need to be accepted more than your average person-on-the-street.

They need it because they need votes. Joe Six-pack doesn’t need your vote.

Yet, for myself, whenever I hear someone in office or running for office make a factually distorted remark (I call it pulling a ‘Half-Walker’), I immediately rethink my thinking regarding prior thinking about that person. Or so I think.

If I (or you) can’t trust someone to report accurately about things that are easily discovered independently, how can I (or you) trust them to do the right thing when the public eye is not focused on them? I can’t. Can you?

Now, I know that some will see this as an attack on Wendy Davis because she’s an advocate for women’s issues. There is nothing I can say to dissuade them otherwise. And, really, it’s not so much a criticism of Ms. Davis as it is a criticism of the way we, the public, are seemingly never satisfied with a regular story of overcoming obstacles.

The backstory now has to be larger than life.

The thing that gets me the most is that Davis really didn’t need to embellish anything. Raising a child is hard work under the best of circumstances with a fully committed partner and several magnitudes harder by yourself.

We need, more than ever before, honesty and integrity in our leaders. We need our leaders to strive for excellence and to lead by example. Wendy Davis has failed that test. She tried to pull a Half-Walker. To her credit she has admitted as much, yet her admission speaks of ‘tightening’ her language, another Half-Walker.

It’s been said that the truest test of character is when you do the right thing even when know is looking.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Charles Koch's Pity Party

In a shocking and unexpected turn of events, Charles Koch defended his War on America in an opinion piece Wednesday, in The Wall Street Journal.

It’s barely more than a ‘stop picking on me’ screed in which Koch tries to convince people that he’s really one of the good guys, and anyone who says otherwise is stupid and just being mean.

Let’s unpack what this Son-of-a-Bircher, who owes a measure of thanks to the former Soviet Union (a well-known anti-American group) for his inherited wealth, has to say.

The very first sentence sets the tone for the entire piece when Koch says “I have devoted most of my life to understanding the principles that enable people to improve their lives”.

If this is true, then you've failed. Epically. Queue faceplant picture.

That is, unless you think that the principles that enable people to improve their lives are the purchasing of a political party which you then use to reshape the political landscape of a once-free country to your own personal fantasy, then okay. Otherwise, no.

Charles, not everyone inherited a fortune from daddy. What that means, Chuck, is that most of us don’t have the means to buy an entire political party. Weird, eh?

Prince Charles adds “Unfortunately, the fundamental concepts of dignity, respect, equality before the law and personal freedom are under attack by the nation’s own government”. This part is true, at least since him and his brother, the other Son of a Bircher pretty much are the government at this point.

Chuck says that “the fatal conceit of the current administration is that you are incapable of running your own life…” Wrong again, Chuck. The real fatal conceit is that you think you should be able to decide whether or not we are able to decide what kind of society we want to live in.

Since you seem to enjoy giving advice and life-lessons, Chuck, here’s one for you: we, the people of the United States of America, a long time ago, had already examined the landscape of political philosophies and then we decided that the one that would serve all of us was the democratic model. As this model is unfamiliar to you, allow me to provide a synopsis for your personal edification.

In a democracy, Chuck, the people get to do this thing called voting (this is where each person gets his or her own little say in how things should be run, very different from what you like best, buying entire political parties fully packaged in your own Bircher image).

It is often the case in a democracy, Chuck, where the way you wanted (the guy you voted for) isn’t the way most other people wanted. This is called ‘losing’. When that happens, as an adult, you accept it for what it is and prepare for the next vote, where your preferred way may prevail. But what is considered poor sportsmanship (for lack of a better term), is instructing the politicians that you’ve paid for to fight reality and refuse to do any of the people’s work unless and until you get your way. We don’t tolerate that kind of behavior from children, Chuck. That’s one reason why you draw so much criticism.

You, Chuck, a Son-of-a-Bircher, have the nerve to decry character assassination, but only when it’s directed at you. Otherwise, you’re okay with the tactic, and have given money to your surrogates, sycophants, toadies, flatterers, bootlickers, brownnosers, grovelers, cronies, underlings, juniors, subordinates, subjects, pages, minions, and assistants, (directly or through the web of quasi- and pseudo-political groups you give money to), to do so. Paul Ryan’s (a known hypocrite) lamenting of the ‘takers’, Ted Cruz (a known hypocrite), Scott Walker (a known hypocrite), Rush Limbaugh (a known hypocrite), Sean Hannity (a known hyp…oh, enough!), Bill O’Reilly, etc., etc.

Then, and this, for me, is the best part, you accuse those who do not agree with you of not understanding what you’re trying to accomplish. You state that your critics would have us believe (hey – pay attention, Chuck – we are your critics), that you’re “un-American”, are trying to “rig the system”, and are against “environmental protection”, and finally, eager to “end workplace safety standards”. Good for you, Chuck, you got something right!

You cite Sen. Moynihan and his well-known quote about opinions vs. facts. You say that people are not entitled to their own facts. Not yet. That will have to wait until you and your brother are done buying the country, then you can focus on purchasing individual facts.

Yea, we think that. Because there’s overwhelming evidence that’s exactly what you’re doing. Oh, to be sure, you personally don’t do these things. No, you have your toadies to do that for you. What else are toadies good for anyway?

Then you spend some ink in talking about how many people you employ and how good your businesses are for the economy, as if it’s some charity you’re running. We know better.

By the way, this isn't the first time one of the people-should-be-more-self-reliant-and-earn-for-themselves heirs to a fortune that was made in the USSR by their father, a staunch anti-communist has complained about being 'a whipping boy'.

Finally, you state that “If more businesses (and elected officials) were to embrace a vision of creating real value for people in a principled way, our nation would be far better off…” I agree with that statement, Chuck, I really do.

So, why don’t you start doing that?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Paul Ryan: April's Fool

Paul Ryan has produced yet another budget plan, this one supposedly will balance the federal budget by 2024.

The budget, says Ryan, is “consistent with America’s military goals and strategies”.

Who’s to say that even if he has somehow been able to place the stylus at the right spot in the groove, that a new administration won’t change records once elected?

For this budget to make any sense, however, it relies on repealing the ACA. Cheese and rice, Ryan, don’t you understand that the ACA is here to stay? Can’t you wrap your mind around the fact that you and your republican blinder-wearers have lost this battle? Forty, maybe 50 votes that failed to repeal the act and you still seem to think it could happen?

Hell, there are countless ways any of us would like to turn back time, as Ryan is trying here. Personally, I regret that first cashew I had. Things have never been the same.

This is something I think is the as yet unspoken desire – to undo what some would call progress, like unemployment compensation, or even job creation mature enough to actually create jobs. I mean in this country.

I guess it could happen. Right after Ayn Rand rises from the dead and becomes his running mate.
The budget does provide for increased military spending, there’s no surprise there, considering that this generation of republicans seem only interested in going to war, and staying there. Care to place any bets on whether there’s increased funding for veteran’s benefits?

There are some things, according to the New York Times article, that I can live without: subsidies for the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Corporation for Public Bradcasting. I’m not thrilled about it, but I can deal with it. But not eliminating funding for the Clean Technology and Strategic Climate Fund.
Ryan says of the latter that it is “not a core U.S. foreign policy function”. Neither is corporate welfare subsidies, and I say if we have yet even more money for that, we can spend some money on clean air and water.

This is how we live now because of the tantrums thrown by this generation of republicans. Remember how, even with their different philosophies, there was always a core set of pols from either party who would, after a spate of jockeying, would sit down like adults, accept that you can’t always have everything exactly your own way and that you might have to live with a compromise, and actually do the people’s work?

But none of any of this matters one bit, as this last incarnation isn’t really a serious budget plan, it’s more like making a wild bluff at the start of a poker game, it’s meant only to throw your opponents off their square, to place them en prise.