The Great Right Hopes?

To listen to Teapublicans, President Obama is the worst president in US history. They view him as a foreign-born Muslim who was only elected through massive voter fraud; a socialist or communist or facsist or some sort of –ist who is destroying our economy and our freedoms. From the moment he was inaugurated, Teapublican leaders have made it their top priority to make him a one-term president in order to save our nation and the world.

Given the dire circumstances President Obama has allegedly created for our country, you would expect the Teapublicans to haul out their very best and brightest to defeat him. So who have they chosen to be their potential standard-bearer; their shining knight riding to the defense of freedom? It appears to be limited to one of the following:

– A moderate running away from his long-held beliefs to prove he’s now an electable conservative.  As a result, he can’t answer a single question without contradicting at least a dozen previous statements.

– A former Speaker of the House who resigned in disgrace following 84 ethics violations.

– A crotchety libertarian who appears to like drugs and prostitutes more than blacks, gays and Muslims.

– A Tea Party darling who says such wackadoodle stuff she’d be the perfect stereotype for dumb blonde jokes if only her hair was the right color.

– An undistinguished former senator who so angered gays they named the aftermath of a sex act in his honor and made the definition the top search result whenever you Google his name.

– A tough talkin’ executioner and secessionist who would probably be rejected as too stereotypical for a role on Hee Haw.

– A former pizza CEO who withdrew from the race after being accused as a serial sex offender.

Seriously? That’s it? These are the “Great Right Hopes” vying for the right to unseat President Obama in 2012? After what seems like a hundred televised debates, not one has managed to make his- or herself seem like a reasonable candidate.

It’s obvious the entire process has, thus far, been flawed. So I propose, instead of another debate, we place these yahoos in front of a panel of judges similar to American Idol. Just imagine for a moment if, instead of debate moderators lobbing softball questions at this crew, Simon Cowell was sitting in judgement of these presidential wannabes. How many would survive the first cut? How many would go running from the cameras in tears?

Does anyone doubt that such a panel would call these Teapublican candidates what they really are – circus clowns (with apologies to clowns everywhere). The only things lacking are the rubber noses, oversize shoes, silly makeup, miniature cars and squirting lapel flowers.

Indeed, the only one likely to make the cut is the one Teapublicans have universally ignored – John Huntsman. He’s a successful former governor and ambassador to China. Apparently, the only real strike against him (and it’s a big one) is that he has (gasp) steadfastly refused to speak badly of President Obama.

The Know-Nothing Network.

For many years, those of us who don’t subscribe to the way-off-the-right-wing-cliff ideology have claimed that Fox News Channel is worse than no news at all. Now we have proof:

According to the latest results from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind Poll, which asked people in New Jersey about current events, those who watched Fox News were less informed than those who say they don’t watch any news at all.

For example, people who watch Fox News were 18 points less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew their government than those who watch no news at all. Fox News viewers were also 6 points less likely to know that Syrians have not yet overthrown their government than those who watch no news.

And the news sources that do the most to help people learn about current events? The so-called “lamestream media” that conservatives hate so much. According to the poll, the best informed respondents were those who watched Sunday morning news programs giving them a 16 point greater likelihood of knowing what happened in Egypt. Next were those who read a national newspaper such as The New York Times or USA Today. They were followed by listeners of National Public Radio.

The failure of Fox News to inform its viewers may have as much to do with the style of reporting as the content. “Sunday morning news shows tend to spend a lot more time on a single issue than other news broadcasts, and they are less likely to degenerate into people shouting at each other,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson and an analyst for the PublicMind Poll. “Viewers pick up more information from this sort of calm discussion than from other formats. Unfortunately, these shows have a much smaller audience than the shouters.”

Presidential Backstabbing.

Before President Obama was even sworn into office, our economy and housing markets completely imploded. The economic collapse was labeled the Great Recession – the worst economy since the Great Depression. After the Bush-endorsed bank bailout, President Obama rescued our automotive industry and requested a stimulus bill to get our economy moving again. In requesting the stimulus bill, he said he hoped it would reduce unemployment, holding it to 8 percent or less. Yet despite the stimulus, unemployment soared to more than 9 percent and Republicans denounced the stimulus as an expensive failure.

On the surface, it would seem Republicans were right. However, it is now obvious that President Obama was fighting against a stacked deck – the result of inaccurate reporting. More than two years after Obama took office, the Congressional Budget Office released data showing that the original collapse was far worse than originally reported. More recently, the National Realtors Association admitted that sales of existing homes have been overstated.

The new data means that the stimulus bill was far from a failure. Rather it was woefully inadequate. Had Congressional Republicans agreed to the original, larger stimulus, we might have seen the economy rebound by now with greatly reduced unemployment. Instead, Republicans fought for a smaller stimulus, and many fought for no stimulus at all!

Moreover, Republicans have blocked every attempt to improve the economy. They have blocked increased regulation of the financial industry to prevent future meltdowns. They have blocked any and every attempt to force the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes. They have blocked every attempt to remove anachronistic tax deductions for oil companies. They have blocked attempts to remove tax incentives for corporations that ship jobs overseas. They have invoked the filibuster a record number of times. They have blocked a record number of judicial and department nominees.

Teapublicans have done everything possible to make President Obama a one-term president, regardless of the harm they cause to the economy and the nation in the process. All of this has become abundantly clear.

The only remaining questions are whether or not American voters are smart enough to recognize the backstabbing for what it is. And whether or not they will make Teapublicans pay.

A Nation Without Government Is No Nation At All.

One of the ideological leaders of the Republican Party and the Tea Party movement, Grover Norquist, famously said, “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it to the bathroom and drown it in a bathtub.”

Ronald Reagan once said, “…government isn’t the solution to the problem. Government is the problem.” He also said, “The most fearful words in the English language are I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

Of course, the Teapublicans have turned these quotes into mantras that drive everything they do.

For those who are inclined to jump aboard the bandwagon of anti-government sentiment, I’d like to pose a few questions. If there is no government, who is going to defend you against terrorists and rogue nations? Who will build your roads and bridges? Check the safety of your foods? Check the qualifications of your doctors? And of your teachers?

Who will monitor the safety of your airlines? Of your drinking water and air? Who will pay the salaries of your police forces? Fight your fires? And help you recover from natural disasters?

We (you and I) created our government agencies to do what we can’t do for ourselves. The days in which we could live without efficient and effective government ended when we ceased living on farms. When we ceased raising our own food and making our own clothes. Government is now as necessary as the air we breathe and the water we drink.

Without effective government, our nation would more closely resemble Somalia, Afghanistan and Columbia than England, France, Germany, Norway or Sweden.

The Grinch…er…Gingrich Who Stole The Party.

Now that serial liar, adulterer and cheater, Newt Gingrich, seems poised to take the Teapublican nomination for president, it seems fitting that his rise in the polls coincides with the holiday season. After all, he’s the Grinch personified – egomaniacal, arrogant and disparaging of everyone else. He dislikes and resents everyone who disagrees with him, which is to say most of the world. And, if elected, he promises to place a lump of coal in everyone’s Christmas stocking by taking away Social Security and Medicare. He also seems determined to bomb Iran and give all of Palestine to Israel. (And you doubted the Mayan 2012 prophecy!)

Yes, this model of lies, meanness and hypocrisy is now the apparent favorite of Teapublicans far and wide. Newt has taken hypocrisy to new levels, even for Teapublicans. You may remember that he led the impeachment of President Clinton for adultery while having his own affair as his wife was fighting cancer. After marrying his mistress, he later dumped her in favor of a new mistress. Yet he still has the balls to talk about “values.”

Swept into power in 1994 as the result of his Contract on America, he succeeded in throwing single moms off of welfare and throwing more people into prisons. He claims to have balanced the budget as Speaker of the House, giving no credit to other members of Congress (including Democrats) and President Clinton who signed the budget-balancing bills.

But Newt’s greatest accomplishment in the House was to be charged with 84 ethics violations for which he was fined $300,000 by a 395-28 vote. He was forced to resign from the House in disgrace – the first time in history that a Speaker was disciplined for ethical wrongdoing – saying “In my name and over my signature, inaccurate, incomplete and unreliable statements were given to the committee.”

And Newt hasn’t lost his knack for finding questionable ways to make money. In addition to his books and speaking engagements, the Grinch was paid $1.6 million as “historian” for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the very institutions he blames for wasting taxpayer money and causing our current financial mess. (Of course, he doesn’t mention that one of the biggest wastes of taxpayer money was his $1.6 million consulting fee.)

But the best way to summarize Newt is by quoting his former colleagues. Former New Hampshire governor and George H.W. Bush chief of staff John Sununu called Gingrich “inconsistent, erratic, untrustworthy and unprincipled.” Sen. Tom Coburn, called Gingrich’s leadership “lacking,” and reportedly told his Oklahoma constituents that Mr. Gingrich was “the last person I’d vote for for president of the United States.” Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal offers an even better description of the GOP’s leading presidential candidate. She wrote that Newt is “a human hand grenade who walks around with his hand on the pin, saying, ‘Watch this!’”

It’s bad enough when we discover an official’s character flaws after they’ve been elected to office. What does it say about a party if it’s willing to nominate someone like Gingrich despite his many known character issues? What would it say about our country if he’s elected?

The Continuing Destruction Of Our Two-Party System.

Destroy limits on corporate political donations – check. Marginalize President Obama – check. Block Democratic presidential appointments – check. Block all attempts to improve the economy – check. Destroy ACORN – check. De-fund Planned Parenthood – in progress. Destroy labor unions – in progress. Suppress minority voters in key swing states – in progress. Destroy confidence in mainstream media – check. De-fund Public Broadcasting – in progress. Destroy the Environmental Protection Agency – in progress. Destroy confidence in government – check.

I will probably be dismissed as a leftist conspiracy crackpot for writing this. But if you think these things are unrelated, you’re wrong. More than 40 years ago, right wing Republicans along with conservative Christians set out to change the political landscape. They pushed moderate politicians from their party, labeling them RINOS (Republicans In Name Only). They attacked the media for daring to publish any story counter to their beliefs then eliminated the Fairness Doctrine to allow right wing media to lie as much as they want.

They focused on judicial appointments to replace moderate “activist” judges with conservative “activist” judges. Evangelist “Christian” Pat Robertson prayed (or should it be spelled preyed) for the death of moderate Supreme Court justices so George W. Bush could appoint “true” conservatives. They even attacked science for daring to teach such “leftist” ideas as evolution and climate change.

As a result, politics in this country have undergone a dramatic shift to the extreme right. Many traditional Republicans have switched parties or left politics altogether. Many moderate Democrats are former Republicans. And traditional Democrats are relegated to the Progressive Caucus and dismissed as extreme lefties.

In many states, thanks to the 2010 census and lack of Democratic voter turnout in 2010, Teapublican legislatures are hard at work gerrymandering congressional and legislative districts to benefit their candidates. But the most disturbing development of the Conservative/Religious alliance is the current attempt to suppress minority votes.

In 38 states (particularly swing states), Teapublicans are busy pushing bills to eliminate “voter fraud” by demanding photo IDs for voters. Nevermind that confirmed instances of voter fraud are virtually non-existant. In some states, it’s estimated as many as 50 percent of minority and elderly voters do not have driver’s licenses. Many of those people will find it difficult to obtain photo IDs. So Teapublicans are hoping that they won’t make the effort. And who will it help to suppress minority votes? Certainly not President Obama.

Our two party system and, as a result, our middle class have never been more at risk. If you think that’s accidental or the product of circumstances, think again.

Teapublican Lie #26.

“The Housing Collapse was created by Democrats, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”

If you listen to Teapublicans, you’d think Democratic Congressman Barney Frank was almost solely responsible for the collapse of the housing market aided by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And they’d have you believe that the collapse is further evidence of an out-of-control federal government that forced banks to loan to the poor then guaranteed loans that could never be repaid.

Yet it was legislation authored and passed by Republicans that led to the collapse.

For example, in 1986, the Reagan administration eliminated tax deductions for credit card interest. Since interest on mortgages was still deductible, that encouraged many Americans to use their homes as credit accounts through home equity loans and refinancing.

The Republican-sponsored Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 excluded capital gains taxes on home sales encouraging speculation on real estate investments.

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 deregulated financial institutions permitting banks to risk their customers’ deposits on risky investments.

Finally, Republican deregulation contributed to mortgage brokers and financial institutions writing questionable sub-prime loans in order to collect the origination fees. The loan originators then packaged the loans into mortgage-backed securities selling them to investors. They were even able to mitigate their risks through credit default swaps that allowed them to pass much of the risk onto other institutions such as AIG.

The result of all this was to encourage Americans to view their homes as investments. Those who did not already own a home felt that they could be shut out of the housing market if they didn’t act soon.  That encouraged them to overlook the looming balloon payments of Adjustable Rate Mortgages.

By 2006, the US housing market was a house of cards ready to collapse. And it did.

As for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, their only apparent role in the collapse was through the Community Reinvestment Act that encouraged banks to reduce discrimination by writing loans to borrowers in low and moderate income areas. But, in 2006, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac insured only 24 percent of subprime loans and the Community Reinvestment Act affected only one out of the top 25 subprime lenders.

So Teapublican anger about the housing collapse is entirely misdirected. They have almost no one to blame but themselves.

Ummm…Actually, It’s A Pagan Tree.

This week, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee unintentionally angered Christians by announcing the lighting of a “holiday tree” in the Rhode Island State House. Fueled by Fox News Channel, a group of carolers interrupted the lighting ceremony by singing O Christmas Tree. They were quoted as saying that they felt Chafee was trying to put down Christianity.

Instead of singing, they should have picked up a history book or simply searched the subject on their computers.

Had they taken the time, they would have found that the display of an evergreen tree or an evergreen branch at this time of year actually originated as part of the Pagan celebration for the winter solstice. Indeed, many historians believe that early Christians even changed the celebration of Christ’s birth to coincide with the solstice to make it easier to attract converts to their fledgling religion.

The carolers also might have discovered that, in the Old Testament, there is a passage in which the prophet Jeremiah condemned the ancient Middle Eastern practice of bringing trees into the home as Pagan. Of course, that was centuries before Jesus was born.

In Early America, William Bradford, the Pilgrim’s second governor, tried to stamp out the practice of decorating trees at Christmas-time as “Pagan mockery”. It wasn’t until 1851, that a “Christmas tree” was placed in an American church by Cleveland Pastor Henry Schwan. Even then, he was condemned for resorting to a Pagan practice and threatened with harm.

My point is this: It’s all too easy for people to find offense at some perceived slight or disrespect. It’s much more difficult to seek tolerance and to search for true understanding. If the carolers had made the effort, they might have actually learned something about the history of their own faith. And they might have understood that Chafee was not attacking Christianity.  He was merely trying to include all of his constituents in the season’s festivities as his Republican predecessor had done.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Teapublican Lie #25.

“Climate change is a figment of Al Gore’s imagination.”

When Al Gore produced his highly successful An Inconvenient Truth, Republicans dismissed the movie as a liberal lie concocted to push renewable energy and to undercut the federal subsidies to the oil and gas industries. They also feared that increased environmental concerns would reduce the profits of their corporate masters.

Republicans claimed there is no evidence of climate change, and even if there were there is no proof that it is caused by human activities. Every time there was a large snowfall, they mocked climate change by saying, “Where’s your global warming now?”

Oil companies cited conflicting studies to raise questions about climate change. And Teapublican contributors even commissioned their own studies to refute the opinions of most of the world’s climate scientists. One such study was commissioned in part by the Charles Koch Foundation, whose founder has contributed large sums to conservative causes, has confirmed the findings of mainstream climate scientists. The study by a long-time skeptic of climate change, Richard Muller, found that the earth’s surface is 1.6 degrees warmer than in the 1950s – numbers which match those of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.

“There is no reason now to be a skeptic about steadily increasing temperatures,” Muller wrote in The Wall Street Journal. Although Muller’s research did not address the cause of global warming, he said it makes sense to reduce the carbon dioxide created by the burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal. He said that greenhouse gases could have a disastrous impact on the world.

Indeed, the World Meteorological Organization just released a report showing that global warming gases have hit record levels in the world’s atmosphere, with concentrations of carbon dioxide up 39 percent since the start of the industrial era in 1750. The report shows that CO2 levels have increased from about 280 parts per million to 389 parts per million. And WMO Deputy Secretary-General Jeremiah Lengoasa said, “…even if emissions were stopped overnight globally, the atmospheric concentrations would continue for decades because of the long lifetime of these greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

The WMO report cites fossil fuel-burning, loss of forests that absorb CO2 and use of fertilizer as the main culprits for the increase. And carbon monoxide may be the least of our worries. The methane being released by the thaw of the Arctic’s permafrost is potentially 23 times as powerful as carbon dioxide when it comes to global warming. This is why many climate scientists refer to a cascading effect that will cause irreversible changes that include the flooding of major cities and entire islands that will result in the displacement of millions of people.

The Teapublican refusal to acknowledge the possibility that humans have played a significant role by burning fossil fuels may already have taken us so far down the climate change road that our very existence is threatened.