Friday, April 30, 2010

Democratic Plan On Immigration Includes National Identification Card

It seems the Democrat's immigration bill has struck a chord with some, especially regarding a provision regarding a national identification card.

Alexander Bolton wrote an article for The Hill regarding the matter:
Democratic leaders have proposed requiring every worker in the nation to carry a national identification card with biometric information, such as a fingerprint, within the next six years, according to a draft of the measure.

The proposal is one of the biggest differences between the newest immigration reform proposal and legislation crafted by late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The national ID program would be titled the Believe System, an acronym for Biometric Enrollment, Locally stored Information and Electronic Verification of Employment.

It would require all workers across the nation to carry a card with a digital encryption key that would have to match work authorization databases.
There are other provisions to the legislation, but it seems the ID card has taken the lead. Here is what the proposal includes:
1. More Border Patrol officers
2. More Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, worksite inspectors, document fraud investigators and drug-war agents
3. The "installation of high-tech ground sensors throughout the southern border and for equipping all border patrol officers with the technological capability to respond to activation of the ground sensors in the area they are patrolling."
4. More prosecution of drug smuggling, human trafficking and unauthorized border crossing
5. "[I]ncreases in the number of sport utility vehicles, helicopters, power boats, river boats, portable computers to track illegal immigrants and drug smugglers while inside of a border patrol vehicle, night vision equipment, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), Remote Video Surveillance Systems (RVSS), scope trucks, and Mobile Surveillance Systems (MSS)."
6. All prisoners will be checked for immigration status and deported if found to lack documentation.
7. DHS will "identify, investigate, and initiate removal proceedings" against folks who came here legally but didn't leave.
8. The bill would create "a broad-based registration program that requires all illegal immigrants living in the U.S. to come forward to register, be screened, and, if eligible, complete other requirements to earn legal status, including paying taxes."
While civil liberty watchdogs fear the notion of a card, immigration groups appear to be mixed, there seems to be a surprising push back from conservatives, who find the the measure to be an expansion of the federal government. I find their opposition most intriguing, considering their approval of Arizona's new law that allows police to check for immigration papers. Comparatively speaking, the ID card can be seen to be a similar method of tackling immigration problems, minus the police...

Conservatives aren't just upset with the ID card, they are upset with the many other provisions too, like the increase in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and border patrol agents. Joe Wolverton II, argued in his The New American article against the provisions based solely on the federal government's statements speaking positively about the border situation. Wolverton fails to admit that such provisions are exactly what the right have been asking for.

Wolverton writes the following regarding the cards:
The fourth of the eight proposals is perhaps the most pernicious. The proposition has a high propensity for overreaching in direct proportion to its vagueness. The exact wording of the suggestion calls for “improved technology” that will assist ICE in determining eligibility for work in the U.S. While that sounds innocuous enough, later in the document, under the section entitled, “Ending Illegal Employment Through Biometric Employment Verification,” Reid, et al, set forth their chilling scheme to require all Americans to carry a 21st Century version of the Social Security Card. The national identification card will be embedded with biometric data detectable by federal agents. Specifically, the Reid plan will mandate that within 18 months of the passage of immigration reform legislation, every American worker carry the “fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant, wear resistant, and machine-readable social security cards containing a photograph and an electronically coded micro-processing chip which possesses a unique biometric identifier for the authorized card-bearer.”

As if that isn’t enough to freeze the blood of any ally of freedom and our constitutional republic, the Senate sponsors insist that the new identification card will contain the following information, as well: “(1) biometric identifiers, in the form of templates, that definitively tie the individual user to the identity credential; (2) electronic authentication capability; (3) ability to verify the individual locally without requiring every employer to access a biometric database; (4) offline verification capability (eliminating the need for 24-hour, 7-days-per-week online databases); (5) security features that protect the information stored on the card; (6) privacy protections that allow the user to control who is able to access the data on the card; (7) compliance with authentication and biometric standards recognized by domestic and international standards organizations.” Read it and weep, lovers of liberty!
My opinions on the card? I think it is promising, but I would have to wait for more information regarding the implementation. For now I would have to remain neutral on the matter. I don't understand why conservatives are upset with the bill, considering it takes a tough position on immigration, and gives citizens proper identification methods, which presumably could be used by law enforcement to verify citizenship should suspicions arise, without legalizing racial profiling. It sounds like a better approach to immigration the the right-wing approach in Arizona.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Big Government Reverses Argument, Claims Liberals Hate Middle Class, Tea Parties Contain Intellectual Discourse

Read something funny over at Big Government yesterday.

Bob Tyrrell wrote a little piece discussing how great the Tea Parties are versus how bad liberals really are.  Tyrrell had gone on to write the following line:
Further the so-called Liberals hate the middle class. A perfect example of this is the diabolizing of the pulchritudinous Sarah Palin. She is the embodiment of the American middle class—and, what is more, she is very cute.
This was an interesting statement. Lets ignore the fact that Sarah Palin has a multi-million dollar deal with Fox, and that she commands big numbers for her less then stellar speaking engagements. Lets ignore the fact that she abused her power as half-term Alaska governor. Lets ignore the fact that pretty much everything about Sarah Palin is far from being middle-class, after all, how many American middle class families get to jet set on their state's dime and receive dividend checks from the oil industry?

The really absurd statement made by Tyrrell, apart from that whole Sarah Palin thing, is that "Liberals hate the middle class." I guess I forgot when the Republicans stood up for the middle class that was getting pummeled by health care costs, or when the Republicans stepped in to protect the middle class that were getting ripped to shreds by the credit card companies, or when the Republicans decided to advance financial reform to try and prevent the big banks from causing another economic meltdown, bankrupting many middle class families and putting millions of Americans out of work.

Silly me.

I guess I mixed up Democrats with Republicans...

I miss the days when being a conservative and being a Republican actually meant something. Instead, the GOP has decided to throw away their principles and engage in dirty politics, scratching and clawing their way to get back to the top.

I may not agree with everything the Democrats are doing, but at least they are doing something, which is more then what the Republicans are doing.

Here is more of Tyrrell's idiocy:
Yet she and the Tea Partiers have been segregated from normal intellectual discourse. The Liberals who claim to be interested in intellectual give-and-take have no interest in intellectual give-and-take whatsoever. Wherever they can, they stifle give-and-take. The left and the right are completely segregated in American society by the left that does not want to hear from the other side. They are the New Segregationists. On campus, in the media, throughout the Kultursmog they patrol for intellectual purity. I would like to see a little give-and-take in their purlieus of supremacy. I guess you can call me an Intellectual Integrationist.
I guess I missed the speech by Nancy Pelosi calling for the elimination of the Department of Education... oh wait... that was at a Tea Party, and so were the calls against indoctrination of school children, liberal rewriting of history in text books, and pretty much any other argument that can be made against the advancement of education. Shall I even mention science, another intellectual pursuit, or should I just assume that all science is an attack on God, and just ignore any scientific finding as just numerical coincidences and big-word con-jobs formulated by the liberal elite?

HOA Push Poll: "When Do You Want Us To Infringe On Your Property Rights?"

I woke up early today to head off to work when I found the following on my doorstep:


This document, disguised as a survey, is actually a push poll being conducted by the HOA to try and convince homeowners that they need more covenants and restrictions to govern their property.  They obviously don't understand what a survey is.

This poll had come complete with pictures of homes deemed "bad."  I apologize for the quality of the scan - the image is a from a color computer printout.


This push poll comes after the HOA's shame tactic of posting door hangers telling homeowners to put their trash cans behind the house:


Seriously?  I understand that the requirement to shield the public from viewing one's trash bins are in the covenants and restrictions, but some people just have too much time on their hands.  It's not a big deal.

Back to the push poll, I thought their questions to be extremely weighted.  The only thing missing is asking whether or not homeowners would like to live next to a garbage dump.  As for the pictures, I thought that they were a bit misleading.  Take, for example, the "van on blocks" picture.  If you look closely, you would notice that the van has tires, not blocks.  Another example of the HOA misleading the homeowners is the adjacent photo displaying an overgrown yard.  Lime Tree pays for gardeners to mow, edge, and weed-whack every lawn on a weekly basis, so the only time a yard would be overgrown would be if the homeowner's membership was in arrears or if the home was in foreclosure.

There is also the matter of the upper right picture, depicting a home with "junk and birds in cages in front yard."  If you look at the picture, you can see that somebody had made a small patio.  The area is bricked in and surrounded by potted plants, with a picnic table, a couple shelves, and a bird cage.  Not everybody finds these arrangements appealing, but the same goes towards Stepford living - especially in a neighborhood with homes valued below $100,000.  Sure, at the height of the boom, some of the houses hit the mid $200,000s, but this neighborhood is far from being a neighborhood like Bay Hill, but obsessive compulsive control freaks who join the board of directors like to think that any change they make will make a difference.  Considering the HOA has been in existence and in the past year alone, some properties declined in almost $40k in property value, it would appear that the HOA really has no control over the greater forces of the marketplace, and for such inexpensive homes, adding increased liability to a property would do just the opposite - expanding covenants and restrictions would most likely reduce property values.

I suggest that the board of directors stop wasting their time looking into ways to take away people's property rights and spend more time looking into the process in which their previous lawyer, Larsen & Associates, converted the association into a mandatory one.  Currently, their methodology is being challenged in the courts involving the HOA of Sand Lake Hills.  The same methods used in that neighborhood were used a few years earlier in Lime Tree.  The HOA had become mandatory without approval of 100% of the neighborhood, and then after changing their covenants, they began to up their assessments, which is odd, because the surrounding villages of Williamsburg have been capable of keeping monthly maintenance assessments to the levels they were years ago.  Lime Tree's assessments have increase by 50% in the past few years.

So, over the past few years, property values have dropped and assessments have raised.  While there are numerous other contributing factors, I can definitely see a correlation...

Crist Splits From Republicans In Race For Senate

Chris Cillizza wrote the following for The Washington Post:
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist announced this afternoon he will run for the Senate as an independent, breaking with the Republican party and setting up a three-way battle in the fall fraught with national political implications.

"Our political system is broken," said Crist at a rally in St. Petersburg. "I believe in democracy and the right to choose."

Crist, who will remain a registered Republican, repeatedly cast his decision as in the best interests of Floridians, saying at one point that the easiest course for him would be to run for re-election as governor but that people across the state had urged him to pursue an independent Senate bid.

"I was never one who sought to hold elective office to demagogue or point fingers," said Crist. "For me, for me, public service has always been about putting the needs of our state and our people first; and every single day, as your servant, I have tried to do exactly that."
This is great news. I hope this sends a message to the rest of the party. I find it interesting that the Tea Party allegedly is separate from the GOP, claiming to supporting both parties out of Washington, but as soon as a Republican decided to run in the interests of his constituents, the Tea Party candidate and the teabag party of choice, the GOP, turn their backs in disgust.

Crist is the logical choice for the GOP, but the GOP doesn't realize that. He can get moderates and independents - something Rubio will have a hard time doing considering he has made a name for himself as the hard-right candidate. Crist also has some cred with the Democrats for supporting the stimulus and being involved in popular environmental policies, such as his support of buying out United States Sugar and his recent shift supporting a moratorium on drilling. Rubio brings with him the far right's baggage...

Come time for the election, Crist will be able to do better then Rubio. Sure, there will be those straight-ticket voters who only pick Republican, and the same goes for the Democrats, but what about those left in the middle? The Tea Party claims to be independent, but there is just no proof. They are marching lockstep with the GOP. The true moderates and independents don't seem to get any coverage these days, and they will be the ones to decide this election.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Conservatives Believe Democrats Courting Puerto Rico For Political Gain, Ignore The Facts


An article from The Washington Times, written by Republican Representative Doc Hastings, discusses the possibility of a bill to change the status of Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rico Democracy Act (H.R. 2499) is intended to provide a federally sanctioned vote to Puerto Ricans, allowing them to change the political status of their nation, to either remain a territory, become a state, or possibly an independent country. According to Hastings, Democrats may be trying to push this vote onto the American island to try and siphon representatives away from other states that may make some gains from the 2010 census.
H.R. 2499 would create a two-step voting process. First, the people of Puerto Rico would vote for either maintaining the status quo or selecting a different political status. If the majority select "different political status," a second vote would be held that would give people three options: independence, free association with the U.S., and statehood. It is said that the results of this plebiscite would be nonbinding, but it could set the stage for a congressional vote on making Puerto Rico the 51st state as early as next year.
Hastings doesn't like the sound of that. It is his belief that nobody fully understands the implications of independence or statehood, and he believes it is his responsibility to detail why this bill is a bad idea, which boils down to the prospect of Republicans losing representation to what may potentially become a blue state.

Hastings is also very upset that Puerto Ricans everywhere will be allowed to vote.
Another troubling facet of this bill is that it expressly permits nonresidents of Puerto Rico to participate in the votes. Anyone born in Puerto Rico and living in the 50 states would be eligible to vote. For example, a person who has been a 30-year resident and registered voter in Ohio, Maine or Tennessee could cast a vote simply because he or she was born in Puerto Rico. This is unprecedented, and it's wrong.
This would be like denying Americans the right to vote should they be overseas at the time of an election. Hastings believes that Puerto Ricans are only Puerto Ricans if they live on the island, and if you have ever spoken to a Puerto Rican abroad, Hasting's comments are the farthest thing from the truth, and are downright disrespectful to our Caribbean citizens.

Robert Moon, of examiner.com, makes the same assertions that Hastings does.
Not only is Puerto Rico already a fully-functioning democracy, but it has also repeatedly rejected attempts to turn it into a U.S. state, for decades.

But still, desperate to create new Democrat voters and elected officials, the left is now aggressively setting the stage for the creation of a 51st state.

Due to its dense population of poverty-stricken minorities, Puerto Rico can be counted on to vote overwhelmingly for Democrats and all their handouts, and their representation will also consequently outnumber that of 25 other existing U.S. states.
To me, it seems that this conservative backlash against the legislation is a discounting of an entire population of America. Moon, like Hastings, is afraid that all four million Puerto Ricans residing on the island will vote Democratic, making it impossible for Sarah Palin to become our 45th president. For the GOP, the only good Latino is a Cuban.

Moon is also worried that should Puerto Rico become a state, they will immediately go on the welfare rolls and the federal government will pump money from the other 50 states to make sure the island meets mainland standards. Also, like Hastings, there seems to be a concern about language. Moon writes that statehood would "force the U.S. to become a bi-lingual country overnight." He sites this Washington Times article by K.C. McAlpin for support.
Statehood supporters say such concerns are unwarranted because Puerto Rico has made both Spanish and English official languages. But even though most well-educated Puerto Ricans speak English, and English is widely taught in the public schools, the island's four million residents are still overwhelmingly Spanish-speaking, according to the Census. And the default language of Puerto Rico's day-to-day government operations is Spanish, not English.

Unless that changes and Puerto Rico agrees to conduct its government operations in English like all the other 50 states, admitting the Spanish-speaking island to the Union will have an immediate impact on this country. Puerto Rico is likely to demand that the federal government operate in both English and Spanish to accommodate its congressional representatives and its Spanish-speaking citizenry. That will give rise to speeches and debates in Spanish on the floors of Congress with simultaneous translation similar to what we now see at U.N. meetings.
No conservative attack would be complete without input from Glenn Beck, of course.  On Beck's radio program today,  he warned his audience that they will "be sewing a new star on your flag: Puerto Rico," and in the special fear-mongering way about him, Beck tries to convince his listeners that Puerto Ricans don't pay taxes, yet reap the rewards of being property of America.  Christine Schwen of Media Matters points out that Beck's statements are false, and that while most Puerto Ricans don't pay federal income taxes, they pay various other federal taxes, and I must give kudos to Schwen on this one, she challenges Beck's understanding of history, stating that Puerto Ricans are citizens of the U.S.
So why is Beck -- who is constantly comparing himself to the Founding Fathers, telling people how the Founding Fathers would vote and how the Founding Fathers would secede, and invoking the Founding Fathers to attack progressives -- supporting (and misleading about) the Puerto Ricans' taxation without representation? 
Randy Haddock also wrote a great article on RedState in response to Hastings' one, stating that the Commonwealth status is a "zero-sum game" and that the bill is not a Democratic initiative, pointing out that Republicans have been the ones who have traditionally supported the push for statehood. Haddock also points out that the majority of the members of the political party that advocates statehood are members of the Republican Party, which is contrary to Moon's claims that the island will overwhelmingly vote Democratic.
Statehood is not being forced upon anybody. When the Clinton and Bush White House Task Forces determined the current “commonwealth” status defined Puerto Rico as a territory under the territorial clause, many commonwealth supporters abandoned it and asked for feasible, non-territorial options. This bill doesn’t force any of these options on the people of Puerto Rico, and it first asks them whether they want to remain a commonwealth, which they are free to do under the principle of ‘government by consent.’

It is the duty of the federal and local governments to make sure there is still consent for the current relationship between Puerto Rico and the U.S. There’s nothing wrong with asking them to vote in reasonable intervals. Specifically since the current status has been declared as territorial, which in layman terms means “colonial”.
Haddock also addresses the issues regarding representatives and language, mentioning that when other states were added to the Union, the size of congress increased, and as for language, there are already other states that have two official languages, like Louisiana or Hawaii.

Haddock's article also puts Moon's claims that statehood will cause "truckloads" of money to be pumped into Puerto Rico to rest. According to Haddock, the Congressional Budget Office puts the costs in the millions, not billions, indicating "the cost would have been $10 million a year under a bill approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and less than $5 million a year under an amendment passed by the Senate Finance Committee."

Jaime Fortuño of The Huffington Post made the same conclusion, asking congress to "let democracy rule":
This is not a Republican or a Democrat issue or bill. Both Bush and Obama have publicly expressed their support for self-determination.
Fortuño seems to have first hand experience with this issue, being Puerto Rican, which gives him a different perspective on the matter then say someone born in Spokane, Washington. "I respect the small pro-independence movement and their right to a voice," Fortuño writes. "I must also respect the will of the colonialists who worship the status quo even when everything around us is corroding because of it."

Out of the three choices, only two seem to grant Puerto Rico the respect that it deserves - statehood and independence. It is only fair that we work with Puerto Rico, then to dismiss them as nothing more then a remnant of an imperialist era. I for one favor statehood, and believe that there is much to benefit from with the admittance of Puerto Rico to the Union, but considering Hastings' article, the time to ignore political differences is never, and it appears the GOP will politicize every little thing supported by the administration, making it a matter of good versus evil, but that is just not the case.

Sarah Palin For Federal Involvement In State Issues

I keep coming back to the matter of states' rights and limited government - after all, that is pretty much all the teabag right loves to talk about. This time, it involves the Oracle of Wasilla, Sarah Palin, attempting to dispel rumors regarding the new Arizona immigration law.

That's right... Sarah Palin is dispelling a myth... well, not really. More like she has decided to pop back up on television, probably to rally her fans after her horrible Fox program debut. Palin goes on the attack, throwing out her little Palinisms about the media, the government, and, well gosh darn, the people.

"Shame on the lamestream media again for turning this into something that it is not," Palin said. "Governor Jan Brewer did what she had to do as the CEO of that state to help protect the citizens of her state she had to do what the federal government has refused to do and that is help secure the borders."

See, this is what gets me so angry about the Tea Party...

They complain about states' rights and big government, but then they get upset that the federal government isn't the border in the state of Arizona. Why should the federal government protect Arizona's borders with the money collected from other states? Where does it say in the constitution that the federal government is responsible for securing the borders? Why can't Arizona secure it's own borders?

Of course I believe the federal government should be the one protecting the national border, but my questions are to illustrate the contradictions of the Tea Party argument...

Why Can't Obama Serve As President?

Sorry to trick all you out there with my headline. No, I didn't become a "birther" overnight.

Chris Kelly (no relation) had written a great piece for The Huffington Post, discussing why Obama doesn't qualify for the position of president... and neither would Ronald Reagan when interpreting the constitution in an Originalist sort of way:
Barack Obama's birthday is tomorrow (or is it?) and in the spirit of gift giving, I've got something for the 28% of Republicans who don't believe Obama was born in America: An invitation to common ground.

Here's the first place we can agree: It would be nice if the president would ask Hawaii to release his original, long form birth certificate.

There are all kinds of perfectly good moral, legal and political reasons why he shouldn't, but, frankly, I'm still tuckered out from all the perfectly good moral, legal and political reasons Hillary Clinton wouldn't release the Rose Law Firm billing records.

I'm not going through that hell again.

Here's the second place we can agree: The rule of law is a good thing.

Lincoln said:

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the character of his own and his children's liberty. Let reverence for the laws be breathed by every American mother to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap - let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges - let it be written in primers, spelling books, and almanacs - let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice.

That goes double for me. Can't get enough of that Constitution and Laws. When it comes to the Constitution and Laws I'm right there, lisping and prattling like Glenn Beck.

My children may not have primers, spelling books or almanacs -- because they go to school in California -- but they understand that we can't pick and chose which laws we obey and which we don't. If we acted like that, we'd be no better than wild animals in the jungle or Dick Cheney.

Here's the third place we can agree: If the Constitution says Barack Obama is ineligible to be president, he's ineligible to be president.

The Constitution is always right because the Framers were infallible, even about slavery and not letting women and Indians vote. The Constitution means what it says and says what it means, not unlike Horton Hatches an Egg, if it had been written 230 years ago by 55 guys.

The Constitution says:

"No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

And that's what it means.

I'm sorry, but I don't think we can get Obama on the "natural born" part. I don't know what it means and neither do you, and neither did the Founding Fathers. I think it had something to do with not letting Louis XVI be president or black people vote, but your guess is as good as mine. And guesses don't count.

The only person I'm absolutely certain is a natural born man is Bo Diddley.

Luckily, we don't have to interpret what they were getting at. That's why God created Originalism and sent us Antonin Scalia.

Originalism forbids interpretation. (Which could lead to thinking.) It says the document is what it is. We'll never know what the Framers meant, so the safest thing to do is exactly what they say.

So we can agree: Every word in the Constitution, no matter how oblique or arcane, is there for a reason and any president who violates it is gone, or our system collapses, strangers steal our mail, and our sons start playing with dolls.

Good. Now let's talk about the phrase "a Citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of this Constitution."

Six simple words that mean exactly what they say. No spin. According to the clear letter of the law of the United States Constitution, Barack Obama can't be president, even if he was born in Hawaii, because Hawaii wasn't a state when the Constitution was adopted.

In 1788.

For their own impenetrable but absolutely unambiguous reasons, the Framers made a rule that says you can only be president if you were born in one of the original 13 colonies.

Sorry Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Dwight Eisenhower, Ulysses Grant, William McKinley, James Garfield, William Howard Taft, Harry Truman, Herbert Hoover, Harding, Harrison and Hayes. A rule's a rule. Get out.

What are you smiling at, Abe? Kentucky didn't join the Union until 1792. Take your almanac, your primer and your lisping baby and scram.

Wait a second. I just had a thought. What if Article 2, Section One of the Constitution couldn't possibly mean what it literally says?

"No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President..."

Read it again. It's not just about where you were born. It says you can never be president unless you were alive in 1788.
See a problem with being an Originalist? I do...

Hypocrisy Alert - John Smithson Cites HuffPost As Proof Midnight Review Is "Marxist" Despite His Use Of "Left-Leaning" Publications

I thought this was interesting.  John Smithson, of the Midnight Review, has made countless accusations against this site.  One of the biggest, apart from plagiarism, was that this site a pushed a "Marxist obstructionist" agenda, and as proof, Smithson pointed to my links page that cited as sources The Huffington Post or CNN.

Ridiculous, right?

Well here comes the hypocrisy.

If you look at Smithson's website, he has links too.  Imagine that!  What is even more surprising is that he tells his readers if they are "left" or "right," which is oddly similar to what I had on my links page.  Based on Smithson's stupid argument, I could make the same accusations against himself. 

Why, just recently, Smithson posted an article citing the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which he wrote was "typically Left leaning."

According to his "top 5+3 information sources" section on his website, he lists what he calls another "left leaning" site - memeorandum. Here is another "left leaning" site - Stateline.org

Why would a self-defined conservative activist cite a "left leaning" source? Maybe Smithson is a Marxist obstructionist disguising himself as a conservative, making silly arguments to discredit the far-right, maybe in the vein of Billionaires For Bush, but not quite satirical...

As a disclaimer, I didn't check to see whether these sites are really left leaning, or just left of Smithson's center, which is pretty far right, considering he believes Michelle Bachman to be just right of center!

The Right-Wing Myth Of Liberal Textbooks

I'm sure we have all heard the arguments against textbooks and education coming from the fringe of conservatives. I really shouldn't say fringe, since popular conservative voices and leadership have adopted this belief that America's education system was infiltrated by progressives seeking to create an army of mindless Marxists. Just consider the politicization of textbook content that took place in Texas not to long ago, when conservatives hijacked the Texas State Board of Education, to inject a little dose of conservative history.
Many on the board, which is made up of 10 Republicans and five Democrats, seem to have concluded that Texas' classrooms have been infected with a liberal bias.
Some of the issues that were addressed included upping the content on Christianity, the conservative resurgence of the 80s and 90s (including reference to the Moral Majority), and viewing Sen. Joseph McCarthy in a more positive light. While there were less controversial changes, it seemed the conservatives struck a chord with certain changes. The measure unfortunately passed.

Factions Of The GOP

I was surfing the internet, reading about political parties and came across this excellent Wikipedia article outlining the various factions within the Republican Party.  I thought this article was excellent and would provide some interesting reading and some background on the current political environment.  The post is rather lengthy, so I have implemented a jump break to allow for continued reading.

Crist Backs Off Florida Oil Drilling

From a CBS News article regarding Florida Governor Charlie Crists change of position involving off shore oil drilling:
Crist was awed - and not in a good way - at the huge oil spill spreading from a damaged rig off the Louisiana coast and had nightmare visions of the same situation in Florida.

"Clearly it could be devastating to Florida if something like that were to occur. It's the last thing in the world I would want to see happen in our beautiful state," Crist said. "Until you actually see it, I don't know how you can comprehend and appreciate the shear magnitude of that thing. It's frightening."

Crist, who opposed drilling off Florida's coast until softening his stance over the past two years, said there is no question now that lawmakers should give up on the idea this year and in coming years. He has said previously he would support drilling if it was far enough from shore, safe enough and clean enough. He said the spill is proof that's not possible.
Crist's recent comments aren't a full reversal, but more like putting the car in first gear while backing out of the driveway.

Crist has never really been for drilling, but never really against it, but now it seems he is opting for the latter, and this change of heart seems to be brought on by the recent explosion on an oil rig on April 20th. With the threat of future disasters weighing heavily on people's minds, Crist has decided the best way to avoid disaster is to avoid doing anything at all.

In someways, I believe Crist's recent comments to be political, and are doing more to hurt his standing with the GOP base, which he needs to defeat Tea Party darling Marco Rubio in the Republican primary, but, should Crist continue to tackle issues with an on-the-fence approach, he might just be able to win the senate race should he jump the conservative ship and run independently...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"This Song" Is Dedicated To The Midknight Review

I was listening to "This Song" off of George Harrison's 1976 album Thirty Three & 1/3, and I couldn't help but think of the accusations made by John Smithson of The Midknight Review. "This Song" was written after Harrison unsuccessfully argued that his song "My Sweet Lord" was not based off of the 1963 Chiffons hit, "He's So Fine."
After he lost the case, Harrison wrote "This Song", which released his frustration of the infringement case in the form of an uptempo, piano-driven boogie. "This Song" was released as the leadoff single for Thirty Three & 1/3 and reached #25 on the American pop charts. It features Billy Preston on piano and organ, and Monty Python's Eric Idle calling out a falsetto "Could be 'Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch'", "No, sounds more like 'Rescue Me'!" interjection right before the instrumental break.
I love this song, although I am not to fond of the Python-esque falsetto call outs, but putting that aside, I thought this would be a perfect song to dedicate to Smithson, who has repeatedly accused myself of plagiarizing my site from his.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy the song. The video does not allow embedding, but if you would like to watch the video that appeared on the November 20, 1976 episode of Saturday Night Live, you can find it here. Also, if you'd like to sing along, I have posted the lyrics beneath the video.



Here are the lyrics:
This song has nothing tricky about it
This song ain't black or white and as far as I know
Don't infringe on anyone's copyright, so . . .

This song we'll let be
This song is in E
This song is for you and . . .

This tune has nothing Bright about it
This tune ain't bad or good and come ever what may
My expert tells me it's okay

As this song came to me
Quite unknowingly
This song could be you could be . . .

This riff ain't trying to win gold medals
This riff ain't hip or square
Well done or rare
May end up one more weight to bear

But this song could well be
A reason to see - that
Without you there's no point to . . . this song
Hope you enjoy!

GOP Don't Like "Orderly Liquidation Fund." What Do They Like?

Donny Shaw wrote an interesting piece on the "orderly liquidation fund," found in the Restoring American Financial Security Act, for OpenCongress, in which he states some interesting contradictions regarding the Republican opposition to the $50 billion provision.
The ironic thing about the Republican opposition to the orderly liquidation fund, which appears to be winning at getting the Democrats to drop it, is that the costs of winding down a failing mega-bank without the fund would end up going to taxpayers. Earlier this week, the Congressional Budget Office said that the bill, as written, would reduce the deficit by $21 billion over the next ten years because the collections of finance-industry assessments into the $50 billion orderly liquidation fund would “exceed the expected cost of liquidations during the capitalization period.” That means that without the fund, taxpayers would be $29 billion in the hole.
Even worse, the CBO estimated that in at least one of the next four 10-year periods beyond 2020, the costs of winding down failing banks would exceed the income from the assessment on banks into the orderly liquidation fund by more than $5 billion. Without having a bank-paid fund in the bill, the cost of winding down failing mega-banks sounds mighty expensive. This of course begs the question: if the Republicans are opposing the orderly resolution fund and they’re opposing the bailouts, are they going to support more radical approaches, like an expected amendment to reduce the size of the big banks?
I would like to know what exactly the GOP is thinking?  They are against making the banks pay for their own failures, but they decry the use of taxpayer money for bank bailouts.  In fact, they are against the entire concept of bailouts altogether, misinforming the public by claiming this liquidation fund would essentially allow for bailouts to become the norm on Wall Street, so really, I am at a loss for words when trying to figure out where the conservatives stand on this issue.

I for one am open to the idea of the orderly liquidation fund.  I don't mind other people paying for the shutting these banks down.  While critics believe this fund will discourage safe practices because bankers will see it as a safety net, and continue to operate business as usual, the banks know what this legislation means - shape up or ship out.  The only difference between now and later is that now, when a bank fails, someone else foots the bill, which I think would do more to prevent bankers from doing the right thing.  Under this bill, the banks "too big to fail" will be responsible for funding their own failing, giving them more incentive to not fail.

Let's say that the critics are right, and the banks still engage in risky behavior.  When they fail, and lets say they overwhelm the fund, the blow to taxpayers is still less then had it not existed in the first place, and as Shaw points out, if the GOP is opposed to the fund, will they oppose other solutions to the problem?  My thinking is that they will never be satisfied, which is bad for the party that claims to be fiscally responsible...

Republicans need to get back in the game and start hammering out the details with the Democrats on the senate floor for all to see, otherwise they will appear to be weak on the economy, which in my opinion, I believe they still are, considering they want a return to the failed policies of the past...

Monday, April 26, 2010

What Did The Iranian Say To The Jewish Baker?

Here is a joke that my friend and I had written a few years back, when Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in the news for making statements denying the holocaust.

GOP Hypocrisy: Continue Closed-Door Negotiations...

Ryan Grim wrote the following for The Huffingtonpost today:
For the better part of a year, the GOP has blasted Democrats for legislating "behind closed doors" and making "secret deals." On Monday afternoon, the Senate will vote on a motion to proceed to debate Wall Street reform in public on the Senate floor.

Yet Republicans say their 41 members are united and will oppose the motion, in order to encourage Democrats to continue negotiating with them behind closed doors.

Condemning closed-door negotiations yet voting to prevent public debate is the height of hypocrisy, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) told HuffPost on Monday. "By voting against cloture, Republicans are voting to keep Wall Street negotiations behind closed doors, demanding changes to the bill without public scrutiny. Instead of closed-door deals, they should support open floor debate," said Merkley.
For over a year, conservatives have blasted Democrats and the Obama administration for not having open debate about health care reform, constantly playing Obama's campaign promise about televised debate on C-SPAN, but now, when it comes to financial reform, Republicans want to continue secret negotiations instead of bringing debate to the Senate floor.

Why is that?

I am sure that if the bill is hammered out in private, Republicans can avoid a messy situation on the campaign trail this year when confronted with questions regarding financial reform, and I am sure some Republicans will even point the fingers at Democrats for unpopular measures in the bill, much like the critics of the stimulus packages who had gone back to their home districts touting the benefits of the bill.  If debate is brought to the Senate floor, Republicans just might have to take a greater stance against Wall Street to maintain their image with their constituency.

What are the GOP afraid of?

Open debate should bring out the best ideas from both sides of the aisle and benefit America as a whole, unless conservatives are afraid of what they accused the president of doing with the SEC's investigation of Goldman Sachs - biting the hand that feeds them.  Are the GOP in Wall Street's pocket, or atleast more so then the Democrats?

HOA's Charge Buyers Fees On Property Creating Disproportionate Share Of Expenses

Here is an interesting article from The Orlando Sentinel, regarding the Stoneybrook homeowners associations in Winter Garden:
Homeowners associations have been struggling to make up for thousands in dues lost when homes sit empty for months, waiting for foreclosure.

Two Orange County golf-course communities have decided to make their new neighbors foot that bill.

Buyers in Stoneybrook West in Winter Garden and Stoneybrook East in east Orange County have to add $4,000 to closing costs, mostly for dues that went unpaid by previous owners while the house was in foreclosure for more than a year.

The so-called "resale capital contribution" doesn't sit well with real-estate agents and bankers, some residents and a group that advocates for homeowners' rights against HOAs. Usually, buyers in those communities would pay $1,000 to move in, but the fees increased as the housing crisis deepened.
These fees are another example of why homeowners associations should be heavily regulated.  Proponents of these fees imposed on new buyers claim it is a method used to protect responsible homeowners from facing increased costs, but to me, that opinion seems to be based in unfairness, because while current homeowners don't have to face the risks they bought into, newer homeowners will have to take on not only a burden of their own, but of past homeowners as well.  These fees place a disproportionate financial burden on newer residents.

These fees are provide a real life example in economics.

"Our association was being restricted in cash flow resulting from foreclosures languishing in court for excessive periods of time," said John Santaniello, president of the Stoneybrook Master Association of Orlando at Stoneybrook East, so their solution is to punish new homeowners, but representatives of various other industries attack the fees as keeping homes empty for longer periods of times, which would make sense when taking into consideration supply and demand.  Essentially, the increased liability the Stoneybrook neighborhoods are placing on properties is decreasing the number of potential home buyers, and that in turn hurts everybody involved in the process - homeowners, real estate agents, bankers, and yes, the HOA.

"It's like you going to a restaurant and buying chicken and getting a bill for others who ate before you and didn't pay for their food. How is that fair?" said Alex Sanchez, president of the Florida Bankers Association, a group that represents more than 400 banks and financial institutions in Tallahassee. "These associations have to understand the backlog of foreclosures that we have in our state. Bankers are not delaying foreclosures because they want to."

Of course, that is not how the HOA sees it.  They believe the banks are lazy and homeowners are just "thumbing their noses" at the association.  A commenter on this article, REOgirl, made an interesting point:
Please don't make it sound like these HOAs are totally the victims here. When they sell the property the bank will pay them for 12 months of maintenance prior to the foreclosure date and then the fees due to them going forward until the property is sold. So if the property goes to foreclosure within the 9-12 month range they are making out by collecting from the banks (seller) and the new buyers. They've got quite the racket going. They are also charging the banks for interest, late fees, cable fees, and outrageous attorney fees. You'd also be surprised how many times the monthly maintenance fee goes up when they find out the bank owns the property. Many of the HOAs also now have more than one HOA that is collecting for the one property.
While I do not know if this is true for this particular neighborhood, I know that this is a common problem throughout the state.  You have incidents where associations raise the prices to compensate for foreclosures, but they never reduce the amounts after new ownership comes in, and you do have situations with associations and master associations essentially double dipping on one property.  The whole business surrounding HOAs is corrupt and balanced in favor of the association, not the homeowner, and legislators need to take an honest look at these corporations and step up the regulation to protect the property rights of homeowners.

The HOA business model is inherently flawed and is one in constant need of "bailouts."

John Smithson's Stance On Race And Islam

This post is a follow up to a previous post I had made regarding coservative activist John Smithson, of The Midknight Review, who had used his website to continually smear my name and this site.

Smithson had challenged me to intellectual debate, and I had initially refused.  Smithson took this as support for his claims and continued to attack myself on his website, so to clear my name and do some damage control (this site is ranked higher then Smithson's and receives more traffic), I had decided to respond to the radical activist, engaging the questions he had asked of me and posting questions of my own for him to answer.  Smithson had gave responses, but seeing that I had offered up actual intellectual rebuttals to Smithson's claims, Smithson has disappeared.

He claims that he doesn't frequent this site, and that he was going to "ignore" my site on his, which is interesting coming from the man who attacked this website as being plagiarized from his, and then stating a "cease and desist" letter will be in the mail.  Maybe it is because I had warned him numerous times to stop making libelous comments and that he realized, after seeing my responses to his claims, that I was in fact right, and Smithson could not win in a debate, so it was best to tuck his tail in between his legs and walk away.

Just because Smithson cowered at the thought of actual intellectual debate does not mean that my job is done.  There are still two questions left that I had asked Smithson of that I had not offered any rebuttals to, and those questions were:
  • Do you deny being a racist, and accept those of African descent to be your equals?
  • Do you believe Islam to be an "evil" religion?
Here were Smithson's intellectual response to both - "Of course."

So based on that simple answer, Smithson claims that he is not a racist and that Islam is "evil," which seems to be in line with popular conservative thought, as we can see from recent news regarding Franklin Graham, son of famous Christian evangelist Billy Graham.

I will focus on Smithson's view of Islam first.

Smithson had written countless articles regarding faith - after all, he is a fundamentalist Christian minister and activist, who believes that Jesus Christ is our savior.  But I think what is more interesting is what he has written in the past about other faiths, and while his original spam site had been deleted by Google, there are still plenty examples of Smithson's "ends justify the means" philosophy in regarding religion.  Smithson will attack Islam, but defend Judaism, and why one may ask?  It appears that Smithson subscribes to the foreign policy of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

I one particular article, Smithson wrote that "Obama has sold Israel down the river," which is a reference to American slavery, describing the practice of northern slave owners selling troublesome slaves down the Mississippi River to the south, where plantation conditions were much harsher (I only reference this because of Smithson's claim that he believes those of African descent to be his equal).  That particular article Smithson wrote, he cites a Times Online news article that refers to Obama's meeting, or lack thereof, with Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel.  Smithson ends his article quoting an unnamed source that Obama had treated the Israeli leader with "the treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea," and that alone is very interesting because Smithson had also referred to another article in another post that states the president gives preferential treatment to the African nation.  Smithson obviously felt Obama had treated our ally very poorly, but I would have to say that his article's title was pretty appropriate, comparing Israel to a troublesome slave, considering much of the problems regarding America and the Middle East stem from Israel's interactions with it's neighbors.

Smithson's hatred for other faiths doesn't stop there.  He has stated that "it is the opinion of Midknight Review that if you are not a Christian, you are an atheist."  He is also of the mind that the president is a Muslim, which would lead to the logical conclusion that Smithson believes Obama to be "evil," and by association, all of Obama's policies.

In an article Smithson had written last month, he tries to connect the dots, in a remarkably similar way that right-wing darling Glenn Beck does, by insinuating that Obama adheres to a "Marxist/Muslim black theology," point to as evidence that Obama is a Muslim, a small statute of the president as a child that was removed from a public park in Jakarta, Indonesia, and moved to a school that the young Obama had attended.

"All was well and good except for one thing: this darned statue. Now why do you suppose there is a statue of a 10 year old Obama if he did not attend school there, in Jakarta, Indonesia . . . . . an excluvely Muslim nation?" Smithson wrote.

But how exactly does Obama's childhood play into Marxism/socialism?  Smithson then references Obama's attendance at the Trinity United Church of Christ and presence for some of Reverend Jeremiah Wright's sermons, but as Smithson points out, that church is not a Christian church, but "steeped in the traditions of Islam."  Smithson doesn't really go into details, but implores his readers to "Google" Black Liberation Theology.

I had come across this interesting piece written by Professor Terry Matthews, of Wake Forest University, and in particular, the foundations of Black Theology of Liberation:
To develop a theology that speaks to African-Americans, black liberation theologians such as James Cone begin with the person of Jesus, and specifically the Jesus revealed in the Gospel of Luke. In Luke's gospel, Jesus has a concern for the oppressed that does not always come through in the other gospels. Luke's Jesus begins his ministry with this announcement:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. (Luke 4:18-19)
From this text, Cone draws a fundamental lesson about Jesus: his "work is essentially one of liberation." Jesus inaugurates "an age of liberation in which 'the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the good news preached to them.'" (Luke 7:22) "In Christ," Cone argues, "God enters human affairs and takes sides with the oppressed. Their suffering becomes his; their despair, divine despair."

Cone continues his line of argument with a force that cuts to the marrow of contemporary American Christianity: "Jesus had little toleration for the middle- or upper-class religious snob whose attitude attempted to usurp the sovereignty of God and destroy the dignity of the poor," Cone writes, "The Kingdom is not for the poor and not the rich because the former has nothing to expect from the world while the latter's entire existence is grounded in his commitment to worldly things. The poor man may expect everything from God, while the rich man may expect nothing because he refuses to free himself from his own pride. It is not that poverty is a pre-condition for entrance into the Kingdom. But those who recognize their utter dependence on God, and wait on him despite the miserable absurdity of life are typically the poor, according to Jesus."

When black people hear this message, Cone insists, they discover a message that resonates with their experience of life. Their experience of struggling for liberation is the same as the struggle of Christ himself. And if Jesus was resurrected, and is now alive, then he is now fighting for the very same things, working against the structures of injustice.
Black Liberation Theology is not an Islamic teaching, but a way of interpreting the bible to make the teaching of Jesus Christ more relevant for African Americans.  By Smithson's logic, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be a Muslim, and by association, the entire civil rights movement an exercise in socialism.  Shows how much Smithson thinks of African-Americans history.

This whole belief feeds into Smithson's hate.  On March 26th, he had warned that "you must understand that Black Marxist leaders in this country hate the Jew," and by Smithson's definition, Obama is a Black Marxist Jew-hater.  That same article also states that many hard-working "blacks" disagree with Obama's "Black bias."  If you haven't noticed, it is hard to delineate between comments Smithson has made about Muslims and about African-Americans.  He seems to reference both with a bit of disdain and condescension.

Moving more towards the racial aspect of The Midknight Review, I look at an article Smithson had posted regarding an altercation on a bus between what Smithson calls a "black thug" and an older white man, but Smithson fails to look at the entire picture.  The Young Turks had made a great review of the video, looking at both sides of the story, but it is obvious which side Smithson takes without knowing the full scope of the story.  I'm not siding with either side of the situation, but Smithson hypocritically does what he had criticized the president for doing - take into consideration Obama's comments regarding the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  Obama had spoken before knowing the entire story and spoke out against the police.  Smithson writes of this event in a blog post made on April 26th, claiming it was racially motivated, and then takes it one step further, claiming the president is "race baiting" to increase racial tensions, and possibly using such divide to ignore term limits and remain in power indefinitely.

Now I am going to take Smithson's word when he says that he believes African-Americans to be his equals, but I find little evidence in his writings that prove otherwise, and I have combed through his site.  Just consider this little piece from April 8th regarding net neutrality and the recent FCC ruling, where Smithson states that had the decision been in the FCC's favor, conservative media would have to be balanced out with "liberal talk, Latino talk, African American talk, Marxist talk, and whatever additional ethnic/political 'talk' that might exist," but Smithson's flawed logic fails to recognize the impact on the various other types of talk, using his own argument of course.  Not only is he confusing "net neutrality" with "The Fairness Doctrine," liberal media, which I am sure Smithson believes is the prevalent form of media (a.k.a. Mainstream Media), would have to be balanced out with conservative opinions, which would seem to advance his agenda.  This is just another example of Smithson making little sense.

Now, here is the last example I will offer involving Smithson and race, and I cite his April 5th article titled "Will African anger become a part of our political process? Not if we see the dangers of Democrat race-baiting."  The article is in reference to racial violence in South Africa and the murder of Eugène Ney Terre'Blanche on April 3 of this year.

"African Blacks deeply angry because of past wrongs, choosing to react with violence over perceived wrong doing on the part of whites," Smithson writes, stating that such violence can be seen here with "Blacks rioting in protest to perceived white racism." Being from California, is Smithson referring to events like the the 1992 Los Angeles riots that stemmed from the acquittal of four Los Angeles Police Department officers accused in the videotaped beating of African-American motorist Rodney King?

Basically, we know where Smithson stands on Islam, or essentially any other faith that does not believe in Jesus Christ as their lord and savior, but his stance on race is another issue.  It sounds remarkably similar to Franklin Graham's comments and backtracking regarding Islam, where to dispel rumors of Islam-hating, Graham gave the "I have Muslim friends" response, which is similar to what people say when accused of being racist - "I have black friends."  Smithson's articles never clearly condemn racism towards African-Americans, and actually blur the lines between race and Islam, which he has acknowledged believing as evil, and by default, anything associated with the religion being evil as well.

So, the real question is, is John Smithson a racist?  Let it be known that I am not accusing Smithson of racism, and I am certain that he will probably attack this article as another example of leftist Marxist race baiting, but the fact of the matter is Smithson has done nothing to prove he is not a racist.

Longform.org

This site came to me via a friend who shared an article from Slate regarding it on Facebook.  A site dedicated to to collecting and sharing long-form journalism sounded to good to pass up, and after checking it out, I believe it is worth keeping around.

From the Slate article:
"The early inspiration for the site was a passionate, slightly one-upmanship-based search for amazing long-form stories that went on over the last couple years, since myself, Max, and a few others ... got iPhones," says Lammer, a writer and Web developer, who is 28. "Everyone has that one standout piece that gets seared into their skull, so it was exciting, when someone mentioned one, to actually be able to track it down and pass it around. For me, the process echoed the early days of MP3s, when out of print and ultra-rare recordings that had been stuck in record industry purgatory all started making the rounds. Except with long-form stories, the whole thing is amplified, because most of these pieces have totally dropped off the map."
I share the reader's sentiments about Longform - while the site is new and promising, I will keep my expectations to a minimum, but keep hope above that.  The one thing that I look forward to regarding this site is that journalism now has seemed to have been corrupted by sound-bite reporting.  To capture an audience's attention and increase total traffic for the hopes of making a quick buck, media outlets have dumbed down their reporting, shortened their stories, and sacrificed credability for marketability.  I hope this site brings intellectual, well thought out journalistic pieces back to the forefront of the indunstry.

Republicans Use Violent Symbolism In Anti-Obama Advertisement

From an article by Sam Stein from The Huffington Post:
The Republican Governors Association has released a new web ad attacking President Barack Obama whose theme borrows heavily from a story glorifying domestic political terrorism.

This past weekend, the GOP group unveiled the website RememberNovember.com that gleans graciously from the symbolism of Guy Fawkes, the early 17th Century British radical who attempted to blow up the House of Parliament and kill King James I. In the RGA video, of course, Obama is cast in the role of King James and the Republican Party adopts the Fawkes cause.

The ad isn't explicitly or implicitly promoting the adaptation of political terrorism, just borrowing from a story that lionizes it (Fawkes was introduced to modern audiences in the film 'V for Vendetta' and popularized, politically, by the backers of then presidential candidate Ron Paul).
Consider all the violent rhetoric that has been thrown around, the attacks on members of congress, the lies and misinformation spread for over a year by conservative media outlets and "astroturf" organizations, and then tell me that making a website that seems to riff on the story of Guy Fawkes is not intended to draw some symbolism for the conservative movement to unseat Democratic officials...

For those of you who have never heard of Guy Fawkes, here is a popular little rhyme about the Gunpowder Plot:
Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, 'twas his intent
To blow up the King and the Parliament
Three score barrels of powder below
Poor old England to overthrow
By God's providence he was catched
With a dark lantern and burning match
Holloa boys, holloa boys
God save the King!
Hip hip hooray!
Hip hip hooray!
As someone commenting on The Huffington Post pointed out, look at what happened to Guy Fawkes - after being found guilty, he was to be hanged, drawn, and quartered.

Fox News Supports Restaurant Owner With Tea Party Marquee

I had heard about this story on Fox News but never tuned in. It was in regards to a restaurant owner, Ed Malin, who had decided to use his restaurant's marquee to post the following message:


I just saw it pop up on Media Matters, where MMFA showed the clip from Fox & Friends with Gretchen Carlson and Brian Kilmeade, and I got a chance to watch the segment. I thought there was something of interest in the "fair and balanced" report, and it was towards the end when they started talking about taxes. Here is the video clip:




Now the part that interested me was when Kilmeade told Malin that "you work 90 hours a week and you figure out that 65% of your income was going to some taxes," and Carlson added that he is "fighting for the middle class.  Then shortly after, Malin told Carlson and Kilmeade that he had just entered the 33% tax bracket this year.  Carlson adds that he is "fighting for the middle class."  I thought it was interesting that these numbers were thrown out there - 65% and 33% - because Kilmeade and Malin obviously don't understand what they mean.

Kilmeade's figure of 65% is just way out there, and with Carlson backing him up, saying that Malin is "fighting for the middle class," then one would come to the logical conclusion that the middle class are paying 65% of their income to taxes, and this can't be farther from the truth.

Malin's figure of 33% is only the tax bracket, not the tax iteslf, and his use of the bracket shows that he really doesn't understand what taxes are, and I would probably say that the same goes for most Tea Partiers.  Malin stated on the program that he had attended a Tea Party gathering and was inspired by the anti-tax message, but really, what was the anti-tax message?

The Tax Day Tea Party that Malin said he attended, as also indicated on his Facebook page, was organized by the First Coast Tea Party, Inc.  According to their website, First Coast is a "nonprofit, grassroots group" that is not "affiliated with any political parties or interest groups," but a little digging revealed that the non-profit was co-founded by Billie J. Tucker, a member of FreedomWorks.  As we all know, FreedomWorks is the same organization championed by Dick Armey, and as we have seen in the past, Armey and FreedomWorks have supported the Taxpayer Choice Act, which if passed, would create two tax rates - up to $100K at 10% and 25% for everything above.

Malin had stated on the program that he is in the 33% tax bracket, and since seeing from his Facebook that Malin is married, lets do the math and figure out what Malin really pays in taxes when filing jointly with his wife, as opposed to his angry Tea Party rhetoric.

I found this great little tax calculator at MoneyChimp, and I think it will be perfect for illustrating my point.

The 33% tax bracket ranges from $209,250 and $373,650.  Since Malin said they had worked himself into the bracket, so one can presume that he was in a lower bracket the previous year. so taking that into consideration, lets look at the lower end of the spectrum.  Lets say Malin earned $230,000 last year.  According to the tax calculator, he would be paying 23.34% in taxes, which is less then the 33% he probably thinks he's paying and far lower then Kilmeade's ridiculous 65%.  It is also lower then the Tea Party supported flat rate of 25%, so I am not quite sure why Malin is upset.  Malin also lives in the state of Florida, which has no state income tax, so where do these guys get their numbers?  If you consider First Coast's view on taxes, you may have a better idea.

First Coast Tea Party had posted questions for political candidates, written by Paul Beaird, author of "The Freedom Philosophy."  When regarding taxes, here is the question First Coast would like everyone to ask:
The US Constitution expressly prohibited the federal government from imposing a direct tax on persons until this was changed by the 16th Amendment. Will you propose legislation to repeal the 16th Amendment and the income tax?
I think this argument against the 16th Amendment by itself doesn't solve the problem teabaggers have with taxation, because should they read the rest of the constitution, they would realize that the federal government has the power to levy income taxes on the population.  Their problem is that they misunderstand taxes in general, and utilize this misunderstanding to advance their political agenda.  Fox News knows this fact all to well, and this is why their hosts repeatedly misinform their audience about taxation - to effectively rile up the base.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

17th Amendment Attacks States Rights Too? More Right-Wing Hypocrisy

I was on Big Government when I noticed this comment to a post made:
This progressive/socialist have been trying to change this country for over 100 years, in slow and incremental steps. Instilling the Hegalian/Marxist dialectic arguments as the basis for scholarship in the late 19th Century, Progressive era reforms, (17th Amendment clearly taking away state sovereignty and instituting a ever increasing centralized national govt.), new deal takeovers, Johnson's great society, compassionate conservatism, and now fully acknowledged change to socialism. The founders warned of the dangers of being a democracy, which is why they set up the country that is a Republic and were implicit in their message that the Constitution was a concrete document, not a squishy breathing constitution.
I thought this comment, written by KristineFromNYC, was ridiculous, because it seems to be all over the place, and what surprised me the most, if you couldn't tell from the title of this article, is that Kristine seems to believe the 17th Amendment is an attack against states rights and its sole purpose was the centralization of the federal government.  This claim is interesting, because it is not based in reality, which leads to my little ramble (sorry, but I am in a hurry because a lightning storm approaches and I need to turn off my computer).

Just consider the 17th Amendment:
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.

When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.

This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.
Apparently, changing the constitution to allow the direct election of representatives, instead of allowing the state legislatures choose who will represent the people.  I assume the reason why Kristine believes it is an attack against the states is because the states no longer get to choose their representatives, but when you consider that the residents of the states get to choose their representatives, the control still lies within the boundaries of the state, and I don't see how the federal government plays a role in this decision, unless Kristine is implying that the majority of people are federalists, and therefore they will elect people interesting in consolidating power in the federal government, but then, I still don't see how this amendment makes a tremendous impact, because those very same people involved in the electoral process were still involved in the original system. The only difference is that the middle man, who was also elected by the people, has been removed. This would seem to fall in line with the theory of limited government, because by having the state legislature selecting state representatives, the role of government is actually expanded and is one more degree separated from the people who are governed.

Just consider the appointment process of Roland Burress if you would like to see why the appointment process is flawed, and why I would think that particular provision should be changed, requiring a special election to be carried out by the people. The 17th Amendment still allows appointments to be made in the case of a vacancy, so if conservatives are really concerned about the assault on states' rights, all they would have to do is win an election by the people and then immediately step down so that an appointment can be made.

I also love the notion that "compassionate conservatism" is a "progressive/socialist" concept, considering that President Bush had campaigned on that - would that make Bush a socialist?

Here is a quote by a founding father, Thomas Jefferson, that I think applies to this right-wing assault against this nation:
"Every nation is liable to be under whatever bubble, design, or delusion may puff up in moments when off their guard." --Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816. ME 14:381
While I am sure teabaggers can use this quote to prove their point as well, I think it is not representative of this administration, but of the Tea Party movement and modern conservatism.

Here is another quote by Jefferson:
"We are to guard against ourselves; not against ourselves as we are, but as we may be; for who can imagine what we may become under circumstances not now imaginable?" --Thomas Jefferson to Jedidiah Morse, 1822. ME 15:360
This again can probably be used by either argument, but again, I think it is applicable to the Tea Party movement.  We must defend ourselves from the Tea Party, which is attempting to turn America into some theocratic republic.  Where are the proposals from Republican members of congress to repeal these amendments?  Instead, conservative legislators are attacking health care reform, financial reform, and immigration reform, and call for Americans to utilize the 17th Amendment to make a change.  Essentially, conservatives have been hypocrites and have made countless ignorant attacks against this great nation, not to benefit America, but to advance their own agenda.

Not all conservatives are bad, but it seems that conservative representatives have come under the influence of the ignorant, and manipulated, masses.

Imagine a repeal of the 17th Amendment.  Then right-wingers will be mad when traditionally liberal, and populous, states are able to appoint a majority of the legislators, who would most likely be liberal.  Then I would be certain that they would argue that the repeal of the 17th Amendment was a progressive invention to increase the centralization of the federal government...

Nixon's 1968 GOP Nomination Speech Similar To Democratic Talking Points Under Attack By Conservatives Today

Here is an interesting quote:
When the strongest nation in the world can be tied up for four years in a war in Vietnam with no end in sight, when the richest nation in the world can't manage its own economy, when the nation with the greatest tradition of the rule of law is plagued by unprecedented lawlessness, when a nation that has been known for a century for equality of opportunity is torn by unprecedented racial violence, and when the President of the United States cannot travel abroad or to any major city at home without fear of a hostile demonstration - then it's time for new leadership for the United States of America.
Can you guess who said this?

These words were spoken by Richard Nixon on August 8, 1968, at his acceptance of the Republican Party nomination for president.

I'm sure people like Glenn Beck can point to this quote as proof President Obama needs to go, saying that a Republican was the one who ended Vietnam, and it will be a Republican who will end Afghanistan and Iraq, but that is not why I am posting this quote.

I am posting it in support of the current administration because of the things that Nixon had mentioned. America has been bogged down in two foreign wars for years, over a decade of deregulation and radical conservative economics have almost decimated the American economy, the federal government had seemed to turn a blind eye to the Constitution, considering the dangerous rhetoric echoed on the right and the recent increase in violence towards Democratic legislators, and considering the low approval ratings President Bush had towards the end of his presidency, the message is pretty obvious - Nixon's GOP speech seems to read like an endorsement for Obama.

While that is not the theme of the speech, for Obama was only 7 years old at the time, I find the similarities interesting, especially since there have been numerous comparisons between now and the 1960s, and I'm not just talking about the wars overseas, either. Just consider Glenn Beck's recent programs, where he compares himself and the Tea Parties to the civil rights movement, or from the left, when the Tea Partiers yelled racial epithets at members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

There were other elements of Nixon's speech that resemble things Obama has said, and that the modern right has attacked. Take this line, for instance:
And let us accept this challenge not as a grim duty but as an exciting adventure in which we are privileged to help a great nation realize its destiny and let us begin by committing ourselves to the truth, to see it like it is and tell it like it is, to tell the truth, to speak the truth and to live the truth. That's what we will do.
and this one:
Never has so much military and economic and diplomatic power been used so ineffectively. And if after all of this time, and all of this sacrifice, and all of this support, there is still no end in sight, then I say the time has come for the American people to turn to new leadership not tied to the mistakes and policies of the past.
If this line was spoken today and by a Democrat, conservatives would have been all over this as Nixon stating that America was "weak."

How about this one:
And so tonight I do not promise the millennium in the morning. I don't promise that we can eradicate poverty and end discrimination and eliminate all danger of wars in the space of four or even eight years. But I do promise action. A new policy for peace abroad, a new policy for peace and progress at home.
Sounds like Obama's campaign slogan.  Promise of peace abroad would be attacked as "naive" and a policy of "progress?"  The far-right has attacked the very notion of progress.

Here is a keeper:
And now to the leaders of the Communist world we say, after an era of confrontations, the time has come for an era of negotiations.
Sounds similar to Obama's plan to engage nations not friendly to America?

I can go on, but the point I am trying to make is that the talking points from the left that conservatives have been attacking are the same talking points once spoken by the right.  There have been claims by conservatives that this nation has been infiltrated by subversives, and that progressives have been assaulting America for over 100 years, but considering these words were spoken by a Republican, it sort of punches a hole in the conservative argument.

Bob Cesca's Perfect Article Detailing Glenn Beck's Insanity

Bob Cesca wrote an astounding piece for The Huffington Post on April 21st, about the televangelist, Glenn Beck.
During yesterday's Glenn Beck radio show, Beck delivered a 10-minute monologue in which he hit all of his phony-baloney touchstones -- some of them, as I've been writing for the last several weeks, are dangerous and some are simply ridiculous. But primarily, Beck was in full televangelist mode about God and something about a "plan" and, in the process, he dovetailed into a little McCarthyism and, as usual, a little historical revisionism. He even shrunk into a defensive bit refuting the accusations that he's a faker who's conning his audience.

Now, before you listen to this epic clip courtesy of Media Matters, I should warn you to turn down your speakers, because the over-the-top levels of audio compression and EQ on Beck's voice (say nothing of the half-dozen or so Beck sound-alikes who also occupy his studio) will absolutely blow out your speakers.

Most radio stations employ some sort of digital processing to make the host or disc jockey sound more resonant, but I've never heard a talk show with this much compression. Clearly, the BOOM! is there to enhance Beck's voice in a way that augments his level of psychological persuasion -- the deeper, diaphragm-vibrating low end increases the physical connection between Beck and his audience. A more subconscious aspect of his scam.

The overarching theme of this monologue is that God is speaking directly to Glenn Beck and giving him the plan. It's classic televangelism, which is commonly seen as nothing more than an exploitation of religious naiveté with the goal of making the televangelist rich. Listen to me. I have the answers. Because God is speaking to me. So give generously if you want to hear what God's plan is.

Right off the bat, there's the very recognizable televangelist delivery. You'll notice the characteristic melodrama and pathos -- the theatrical tone of voice. The pregnant pauses, the slight quiver in the voice and, as I mentioned, the artificially-enhanced resonance. These are all acting techniques we recognize from infamous televangelists like Oral Roberts, Jim Bakker, Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart -- not to mention the even more nefarious Benny Hinn faith healer school of persuasive speaking and gimmickry.

As for the content, it's always simultaneously vague and grandiose. He describes a lot of his crazy theories, which we often see illustrated as fact on his chalk board, as things that he's "felt but didn't understand." Or as Stephen Colbert once said, "Anyone can read the news to you. I promise to feel the news at you."
Cesca details Beck's act and points out the idiocy. It amazes me that people find Beck to be educational and inspirational, especially after things like this:
Now, see if you can figure this one out. Beck says in his monologue, "Do not accept coincidence in your life. Look for the answers of your life -- look for your answers in your life through coincidence. Because there's no such thing as coincidence." It sounds as though he's saying, there's no such thing as coincidence, but look for the answers in your life through coincidence. Okay, so is there coincidence or not?
I'm sure that if you were to question Beck supporters, they would defend him on his comments, and if you listened to Beck's program, Beck himself predicts people will attack him over these comments, and tries to preemptively dismiss such attacks. Why would he do such a thing unless he knows his comments are blatantly idiotic? This is classic Beck. Make a statement and attack the opposition before they even are aware of the statement. That way, Beck will seem to be some sort of prophet to his supporters, cementing his position as a leader of the fringe...

Manfred Mann's Earth Band, The Grahams, And President Obama

I love music, and have a large collection of compact discs, spanning centuries worth of sound. Recently, I was listening to one of my favorite artists, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, and the song "Resurrection" came on. One of their best, and catchiest apart from their cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Blinded By The Light," the song "Resurrection," from their 1979 album Angel Station (probably their second to last great album), has some great lyrics that are both simple and thought-provoking.  The song essentially discusses the hypocrisy found by televangelists and evangelicals who preach the word of god but live an opulent life style, hence the references to Billy Graham, and considering the time this album was released, the lyrics are were also quite prophetic considering the emergence of the religious right as a political powerhouse and piggy bank for the GOP.  While the future implications of religion and politics might not have been considered at the time this song was authored, I still find it relative to the political climate of today and is a perfect example of why religion, in its modern incarnation, is a contradiction of the values and lesson claimed to be taught.

Here are the lyrics:
Jesus Christ you've come out of hiding
Just sign here on the dotted line
I'll see you're OK
I'll say to you expenses are high
Seeing you've made it before
I'll take 20% and no more (Gross)
Oh, tell me Lord did you happen to bring with you
A saleable piece of the cross
Crown of thorns
A disciple or two
We'll sell them Jesus hats
Jesus socks
Jesus coats
We'll sue the Pope
Jesus shoes
Jesus dirty books too
I wonder what will Billy Graham do
Let me say how much I respect your wish
To feed the multitude with 5 loaves and a fish
But I'm sure you'll see by going on the road with me
Will make the needy pay
There's more money that way
We'll sell them Jesus hats
Jesus socks
Jesus coats
We'll sue the Pope
Jesus shoes
Jesus dirty books too
I wonder what will Billy Graham do
I think these lyrics can relate to the bastardization of religion for political gain as well and shows the corrupting force power brings.

What makes this song all the more interesting to me, when considering current events, is that President Obama met the 91 year old Graham at his home in South Carolina today to discuss various things and pray.  This news comes after Graham's son, Franklin, has been in the media for being banned from the performing at the National Day of Prayer event at the Pentagon on May 6th for his comments against Islam (resembling those of conservative activist and fundamentalist Christian John Smithson), calling the religion "very evil and wicked."

Richard Cohen wrote the following sarcastic article found on The Washington Post:
Graham’s upcoming visit was revealed and denounced by the indomitable Mikey Weinstein, a former Air Force officer who naively accepts the Constitution at face value and believes in the separation of church and state. His organization, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, is protesting the Graham visit, apparently not realizing the invitation to speak is part of yet another plan to drive our enemies crazy. It follows, in fact, the clever operation at Abu Ghraib – weren’t those pictures wonderful? And the inadvertent use of the word “crusade” by former President Bush to describe what the U.S. was attempting to do in the Muslim world. Some Muslims apparently felt that the several crusades back in the Middle Ages were more than enough. They had a point, and Bush, to his credit, apologized.
I don't know what was discussed on the mountaintop, but I hope Obama had brought this question up to the elder Graham, but I doubt he did.  This seems more like a PR visit - one obligatory for sitting U.S. presidents.  As a side note, I wonder what those conspiracy theorists, who believe Obama to be a Muslim, are saying about this meeting...