Friday, April 17, 2009

Rick Perry's Secession Obsession

Knowing he is going to face a tough primary challenge next year from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Gov. Rick Perry has lately been trying to raise his profile with the conservative base of his party. So it was no surprise that he went out of his way to embrace the recent "Tea Party" protests.
But he may have gotten more attention than he anticipated when he decided to dip his toe into the part of the pool occupied by the most fringe elements of his party - the anti-government secessionists. Just by broaching the topic of secession, Perry put himself outside the mainstream of American politics and gave political legitimacy to the lunatic fringe wing of his party. If this actually helps him in a Republican Primary, it is a sad testament to the pathetic state of the GOP today.
But as the sitting governor it is completely innappropriate and irresponsible for Perry to be raising this issue at all. He is smart enough to know that it is completely asinine and stupid, but apparently still thinks exploiting this intellectually handicapped segment of the population will prove beneficial at election time. I hope he is wrong.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tea Party aftermath

How stupid was that?
I mean, what exactly were these people protesting yesterday? Taxes that haven’t gone up in 10 years and were actually cut just a few weeks ago? Government spending which is currently keeping the economy from falling into the abyss?
I think what we really saw was a great big pity party for a lot of people still upset because they got their butts whooped in the last election. Seriously, isn’t it a little late (or at best way too early) to be threatening politicians with ouster? The election was just three months ago! They lost and now they CAN’T get over it. So at the behest of the shrill rightwing noise machine they marched around yesterday shaking their fists and denouncing the government. Yawn.
At best there were a lot of people who are just a little confused and misinformed about how the world works (and particularly how the government works). At worst you had some extreme elements angry because a black guy (i.e. a “socialist”) got elected president and now they are ready to secede, revolt, whine or whatever. In some ways the protest reminded me of the anti-government militia groups I used to cover in the mid-90s out in the Texas Hill Country before the Oklahoma City bombing sent them all scurrying back into the woodwork.
There was one event that I covered in Boerne sometime around 1994-95 that was called Patriots for Freedom or something like that. It featured a lot of the far-right fringe groups, offshoots of the John Birch Society, secessionist anti-government groups and the militias - gun-toting nutjobs threatening to revolt over taxes. They had all kinds of booths set up with vendors selling automatic weapons and artillery, books on how to avoid paying taxes, lots of literature about how the federal government is illegitimate and, of course, Impeach Clinton bumper stickers.
I imagine that some of the people who went to that Boerne confab were probably at the Tea Party yesterday. The Express-News estimated the crowd to be about 5,000, which is a lot, but apparently not enough for the Tea Party organizers who inflated that number to 16,000 on their web site.
Some people objected to the group using the Alamo as a backdrop for their protest. That doesn’t bother me. The Alamo belongs to everybody. As long as they weren’t relieving themselves on the wall outside or otherwise trashing the place, I have no problem with them holding a civil protest in the vicinity. But the spectacle of these people wrapping themselves in the flag and gushing over the Pledge of Allegiance and God Bless America while at the same time ranting about how much they hate the government and want to secede from the union would have been an embarrassment to our forefathers if they had been here to see it.
I, of course, did not attend the Tea Party. I hate big crowds and avoid them whenever I can. Plus there were much more important things to do last night, like watch the Spurs play. But I’ll be curious to see what the wingnuts do next as the glow of their big party wears off and they recede back into the political obscurity that the 2008 election results gave them.

I just saw this at Daily Kos and had to add it:

So here’s the basic lesson of the teabagging hissy fit. The new Republican “theory” of democracy:
GOP wins: “Mandate! Elections have consequences!”
GOP loses: “Tyranny! Fascism! Revolution! Secession!

A Citizens Guide to Tax Demagoguery

Robert Reich has a great post up that answers and counters many of the bogus claims made by the clueless teabaggers yesterday.

No one likes to pay taxes, so tax day typically attracts a range of right-wing Republicans, kooks, and demagogues, all of whom tell us how awful we have it. Herewith a short citizen's guide (that is, a citizen's guide that's short rather than a guide for short citizens) responding to the predictable charges:

1. "Americans pay too much in taxes." Wrong: The United States has the lowest taxes of all developed nations.

2. "The rich pay too much! The top ten percent of income earners pay over 72 percent of all income taxes!" Misleading: The main reason the rich pay such a large percent is they've become so much richer than the bottom 90 percent in recent years. If you look at what they pay as individuals -- the percent of their incomes over and above the highest rate below them -- you'll see a steady decline over the years. When Republican Dwight Eisenhower was president, the marginal rate on the highest earners was 91 percent (after deductions and tax credits, closer to 50 percent); by 1980 it was still up there, at 70 percent (an effective rate of closer to 45 percent); under Bill Clinton, it was 38 percent (an effective rate closer to 28 percent).

Look at the after-tax earnings of families and you'll see what's really going on. Between 1980 and 2000, the after-tax earnings of famlies at the top rose more than 150 percent, while the after-tax earnings of families in the middle rose about 10 percent. The Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 raised the after-tax incomes of most Americans by a bit over 1 percent -- but raised the after-tax incomes of millionaires by 4.4 percent.

3. "The bottom 60 percent pay only 3.3 percent of the taxes!" Misleading again. Most Americans are paying more in sales taxes than they ever have. Property taxes have also been rising at a steady clip. And Social Security taxes have also risen (thanks to the Greenspan Commission), while earnings over about $100,000 aren't subject to Social Security taxes. So-called "sin" taxes (mostly beer and cigarettes) have also skyrocketed. All of these taxes take a bigger bite out of the paychecks of people with lower incomes than they do people with higher incomes.

4. "Obama is raising your taxes!" Wrong. Obama is cutting taxes for 95 percent of Americans, by about $400 per person a year -- not a whopping tax cut, to be sure, but not a tax increase by any stretch. Only the top 2 percent will have a tax increase, but even this tax increase is modest. Basically, they go back to the rates they were paying under Bill Clinton (their deductions will be limited to 28 percent, which is only fair). And they won't start paying this until 2011 anyway.

5. "The huge debts we're wracking up will cause your taxes to rise!" Wrong again. When it comes to the national debt, as I've said before, the relevant statistic is the ratio of debt to the gross domestic product. The only sure way to bring that debt down and make it manageable in future years is to get the economy growing again -- which requires that, in the short term, the government spend a lot of money (because consumers and businesses won't). In the long term, the biggest source of concern is rising health-care costs. And that's something Obama and Congress are aiming to tackle.

6. "We have a patriotic duty to stand up against Washington taxes!" Just the opposite. We have a patriotic duty to pay taxes. As multi-billionaire Warrent Buffett put it, "If you stick me down in the middle of Bangladesh or Peru or someplace, you'll find out how much this talent is going to product in the wrong kind of soil. I will be struggling thirty years later." President Teddy Roosevelt made the case in 1906 when he argued in favor of continuing the inheritance tax. "The man of great wealth owes a particular obligation to the state because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government."

An acquaintance from law school, now a partner in one of Washington's biggest and wealthiest law firms, explained to me one day over lunch how he and his partners use tax rules to create offsetting taxable gains and losses, and then allocate the gains to the firm's foreign partners who don't pay taxes in the United States. That way, they keep the losses here and shelter their income abroad. I noticed he had an American flag lapel pin. "You're supporting our troops," I said, referring to his pin. "Yup," he replied, entirely missing my point.

True patriotism isn't cheap. It's about taking on a fair share of the burden of keeping America going.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tea Party program

Anyone curious about who is going to speak at the big San Antonio "Tea Party" in front of the Alamo? Here is the agenda from their website:

6:00p.m.-6:10p.m. - Prayer/Welcome (Adam McManus)
6:10p.m.-6:15p.m. - Pledge of allegiance (Seth Alfaro and Gavin Carmona)
6:15p.m-6:20p.m. - “God Bless America” (Jean French)
6:20p.m.-6:30p.m. - “The Alamo: A Line in the Sand” (Julia Hayden)
6:30p.m.-6:40p.m. - Opening Remarks (Glenn Beck)
6:40p.m.-6:50p.m. - National Anthem (Ted Nugent)
6:50p.m.-7:00p.m. - “An Immigrant’s Story” (Katharine Moreno)
7:00p.m.-7:10p.m. - “The Duty of a Citizen” (Edward Jaax)
7:10p.m.-7:20p.m. - “The War on Economic Freedom” (Phil Pepin)
7:20p.m.-7:40p.m. - “Texas for Sale” (Terri Hall)
7:40p.m.-8:00p.m. - “Freedom at Risk” (Doug Phillips)
8:00 p.m.- 8:15 p.m. - “What You Can Do Now
8:15 p.m. - “We Must Take America Back” Steve Vaus

The first thing that strikes me is that it is going to take a half hour just to get through the prayer, pledge of allegiance and "God Bless America". Then they foolishly think that Glenn Beck and Ted Nugent are both going to give up the microphone after just 10 minutes.
But who are all these other people speaking at this "non-partisan" event? I did a little Googling and this is what I came up with...
Edward Jaax appears to be a graduate of something called Patriot Academy, which bills itself as the "premier conservative political training camp in the nation" and "a five-day political training program where students age sixteen to twenty-five learn about America's system of government from a Biblical worldview." It sounds creepy to me.
Next is Phil Pepin, a Ron Paul supporter who is connected with something called CampaignForLibertySA. So this must be where the "non-partisanship" comes in. The teabaggers range from far-rightwing Republicans to far-rightwing Libertarians.
Next is Terri Hall who I am assuming is the person associated with the Texas Toll Party, a rightwing activist group opposing toll roads.
Doug Phillips must be this guy. He apparently sells books and other merchandise targeted toward homeschoolers. This is from his website:
Everything on our site is an expression of our mission: to rebuild Christian family culture. At Vision Forum, we are unabashed advocates for the historic, biblical ideal for motherhood and fatherhood; we rejoice in the revival of biblical education promoted through the home school movement; and we dare to believe that it is still noble and virtuous to train our sons to hold the doors for our daughters...

OK, then.
And finally, it looks like attendees will be subjected to a song from Steve Vaus.
It all sounds like sooooo much fun!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A very balanced panel of judges

A three-judge panel in Minnesota has looked at all the evidence and the arguments surrounding the tedious, lengthy recount of the Senate election and has determined unanimously that Al Franken is the winner.
And yet, Republican Norm Coleman is still going to appeal the results to the state Supreme Court.
So was the three-judge panel not good enough? Were they biased against Coleman? What was the political makeup of the panel?
It turns out the panel was exceedingly well balanced with one judge appointed by a Democrat, one judge appointed by a Republican and one judge appointed by an independent (Jesse Ventura). You can’t get much more balanced than that. And did I mention that they were unanimous in their decision?
But none of that really matters to Coleman or the Republican Party which at this point is simply trying to keep Democrats from getting another vote in the Senate for as long as possible.
One question that I have. Since Franken was elected to a six-year term in the Senate, when does the clock start on that term? When he finally gets sworn in? Or has it already started back on election day?
It hardly seems fair if that is the case.
Here is hoping that the Minnesota Supreme Court will bring this to a rapid conclusion and I hope the voters in Minnesota won’t soon forget how Republicans screwed them out of representation and seniority in the Senate.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Of Puppies and Pirates

I was having to defend President Obama this weekend over his supposed mishandling of the pirate hostage crisis off the coast of Somalia. We apparently weren’t being tough enough and were sitting around holding hands and singing Kumbayah or something. But before the day was over I learned that we were doing a bit more than hand-holding and hymn-singing. Three of the four pirates ended up with holes in their heads courtesy of Navy SEAL sniper fire and the captain of the vessel who was taken hostage was free and unharmed.
You really couldn’t have asked for a better ending, unless of course you are a fanatical, far-rightwing Obama-hater like this guy.
Beldar, who I lost all respect for long ago, is not satisfied with this outcome. His thirst for blood is not satiated and he wants the fourth pirate, now in captivity, to be put to death. He also goes on to spit at Obama and try and twist the story to make it seem like he was guilty of intentionally prolonging the crisis. The rightwing radio yakkers quickly followed suit. It was truly ridiculous and people who are not wrapped up in the cult could see that it wouldn’t have mattered what Obama did or didn’t do. He could have swum out there and personally slit the throats of all the pirates and STILL would have been criticized by the wingnuts as being soft on terrorism or piratism or whatever.
Obama’s recent trip to Europe was nitpicked at every opportunity for percieved improprieties or lack of protocol. They sniped about the gift he gave the Queen. They complained about Michelle Obama breaking protocol by hugging the queen. They went completely nuts when Obama bent down to grasp the Saudi King’s hands saying it was a “bow.”
With the economy starting to turn around, the stock market beginning to recover and banks starting to pay back their TARP loans, it’s like the right has become extremely desperate to find something - anything! - to bash Obama over the head with.
That became even more evident when Newt Gingrich grumped that the news stories about the Obama family’s new dog were “fairly stupid” and whined that nobody cares where the dog came from.
What was really stupid is why the news media keeps interviewing Newt Gingrich. Who cares what he has to say?