Thursday, April 23, 2009

House Republicans to Napolitano: Get out!

According to Politico’s Patrick O’Connor, House Republicans want Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to resign from her post or be fired by President Obama over the release of a department report dealing with potential threats from Right-wing extremists.

The report, titled "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” has enraged conservatives and veterans’ groups, who allege that the Obama administration is targeting political opponents.

“Singling out political opponents for working against the ruling party is precisely the tactic of every tyrannical government from Red China to Venezuela," said Rep. John Carter (R-Texas). “The first step in the process is creating unfounded public suspicion of political opponents, followed by arresting and jailing any who continue speaking against the regime.”

”In particular, conservative members of the Republican Study Committee raised repeated concerns about the report and Napolitano's subsequent defense of its findings on Wednesday, calling on party leaders to raise the issue with President Barack Obama during a White House meeting on Thursday,” O’Connor writes.

The DHS report, which was released earlier this month, warned federal, state and local law enforcement officials that the troubled economy "could create a fertile recruiting environment for right-wing extremists and even result in confrontations between such groups and government authorities similar to those in the past."

“Conservative bloggers and talk radio hosts immediately seized on the report as evidence that the Obama administration was trying to marginalize its critics on the right,” O’Connor adds.

Veterans groups, including the American Legion, accused the report of singling out service members returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last Thursday, Napolitano apologized to veterans who were offended by the report.

"I know that some veterans groups were offended by the fact that veterans were mentioned in this assessment, so I apologize for that offense. It was certainly not intended," she told CNN's "American Morning.” Napolitano also noted that Glen M. Gardner, Jr., national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, defended the report, saying it “served a vital purpose.”

Many conservatives are claiming that the report is “biased,” but do any of them care about the fact that it was initiated during the administration of George W. Bush? Why aren’t conservatives attacking Bush?

Oh, and does anyone not realize that the Obama administration issued a similar report about Left-wing extremism in January? That report, by the way, was also initiated by the Bush administration.

You can read both reports here and here. Take a look at them and tell me if you see any bias. And if you do, then blame Michael Chertoff, not Janet Napolitano.

I know I’ve been picking on conservatives a lot lately, but it seems as though the Right has gone haywire since the election last year. While I don’t relish the prospect of Democrats controlling our government over the next decade or so, the Republicans have not convinced me that they have the wisdom or the maturity to lead this nation again.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Book on Great Depression Finds Favor Among Conservatives

Did President Roosevelt’s New Deal help America crawl out of the economic morass known as the Great Depression? One book is saying “no” to this question – and conservatives are saying “yes” to this book.

According to Andie Coller and Patrick O’Connor of Politico, House Republicans are really digging Amity Shlaes’ The Forgotten Man, a historical critique of FDR’s efforts to fix the U.S. economy during the 1930s.

“Shlaes’ 2007 take on the Great Depression questions the success of the New Deal and takes issue with the value of government intervention in a major economic crisis — red meat for a party hungry for empirical evidence that the Democrats’ spending plans won’t end the current recession,” Coller and O’Connor write.

“There aren’t many books that take a negative look at the New Deal,” explained Mike Ference, a policy aid for House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.). “Republicans are gobbling it up — and so are other lawmakers — because it tells you what they did, what worked and what didn’t.”

Earlier this year, Cantor invited Shlaes to have lunch with him and around two dozen other House Republicans in his Capitol suite. According to sources close to the whip, the main course was a large dish of scrod.

“It’s been suggested as required reading for all of us, I think,” said Erica Elliott, press secretary for Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.).

“Garrett said the book ‘is a good read’ that details, among other things, ‘how FDR engaged in vitriolic demonizing of Wall Street and Big Business to advance his agenda,’” Colller and O’Connor add.

You only need to take a brief glance at Shlaes’ book to see why it’s causing House Republicans to have such huge orgasms. According to Coller and O’Connor, Shlaes, a columnist for Bloomberg News, a senior fellow in economic history at the Council on Foreign Relations, and a former editorial board member at The Wall Street Journal, “presents a vision of the Great Depression that challenges the conventional wisdom that casts Herbert Hoover as a goat, FDR as a hero and the New Deal as the country’s salvation. It also looks at the Great Depression with particular sympathy upon the plight of those who were burdened with supporting the ‘weak members of society’ during the New Deal and endeavors to give a voice to those ‘forgotten men.’”

Naturally, the responses to The Forgotten Man have been polarized along ideological lines. In addition to House Republicans, many conservative authors and commentators have heaped praise upon Shlaes’ book. Steven F. Hayward of the National Review called it “The finest history of the Great Depression ever written.” Liberal scholars and columnists, however, have accused Shlaes of engaging in historical revisionism.

In a November 2008 article titled "Amity Shlaes Strikes Again," New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman charged the author with “misleading statistics.” In response, Shlaes fired back with an article of her own, which the Wall Street Journal ran. In her piece, titled "The Krugman Recipe for Depression," the author said that her statistics actually came from the Bureau of Labor Stastics.

I’m not sure if liberal historian and arch plagiarist Doris Kearns Goodwin has read The Forgotten Man, but my guess is that she hasn’t. Otherwise, Shlaes would probably be sleeping with the fishes right now.

When I was in college, I had to write a paper on the New Deal for a class on modern American history. Our professor, an avowed Marxist (Just kidding! Seriously, he was a brilliant and open-minded man!), had us young scholars (to use the term loosely) read several works on the topic from a wide range of political perspectives.

My own assessment was that FDR’s New Deal programs probably prolonged the Depression, but also brought about a number great things for the American people, including Social Security, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the minimum wage, the 40-hour work week, and much-needed child labor laws. I also concluded that the Second World War was our economic salvation, not the New Deal. I still believe this today.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Have the Republicans Discovered Obama’s Achilles Heel?

Is President Barack Obama a realist, or is he just another naïve liberal dolt?

According to Politico’s David S. Cloud, Republicans think they might have stumbled upon a winning formula in their battle against the president – portray him as “overly apologetic about U.S. misdeeds and naive about engaging unfriendly regimes abroad.”

In other words, the Right is going to try to convince the public that for all his talk of hope and change, Obama is, in reality, nothing more than a repeat of one of America’s worst presidents – Jimmy Carter.

However, in order to counter this image and avoid being Carterized, the president and his homeboys are arguing that the American people voted last November for an administration open to positive engagement with not-so-friendly regimes and taking responsibility for past mistakes. If Americans had wanted to continue the aggressive and confrontational policies of the Bush administration, say Obama & Co., then they would have voted for the Republican candidate in 2008.

”So for now, Republicans may find little political headway by bashing Obama for his cordial handshake with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the release of so-called torture memos and other recent moves that have been criticized by Vice President Dick Cheney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and some Republicans on Capitol Hill,” Cloud writes.

Although Cloud acknowledges that Obama’s humble pie approach carries some risks, he also points out that it could yield some beneficial results as well. In any event, it will be months before we know either way.

Fortunately for the president, the American people are still awarding him high marks for his performance in the geopolitical arena.

“Right now, the weight of public opinion is still with the administration and not with the Republicans,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “Americans are open to the idea that negotiations are part of our future,” although, he added, “they are looking for what comes after the handshake.”

I have mixed feelings about Obama’s approach. Personally, I don’t like the idea of cozying up to Left-wing tyrants like Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega. However, I realize that there are times when it is necessary and even beneficial for a president to reach out to unsavory leaders. Richard Nixon, one of my personal favorite presidents, established a rapprochement with one of the greatest mass murderers of all time, Mao Zedong, and as a result, he managed to exploit the Sino-Soviet rift to America’s benefit.

I also think much of the criticism being leveled at Obama from the Right is monstrously hypocritical. I didn’t hear any conservatives complaining when former President Bush continued and strengthened our government’s alliance (which began during the Clinton administration) with Islam Karimov, the brutal dictator of Uzbekistan. Since September 11, 2001, Karimov has used his position as a close U.S. ally to jail, torture and, murder dissidents and political opponents. No one on the Right made a sound when Bush (and Clinton) gave all kinds of military aid to Karimov, but now conservatives are up in arms because Obama shook the hand of President Chavez.

Some would argue that Karimov may be a son of a bitch, but, unlike Chavez, he is our son of a bitch.

True, but he’s still a son of a bitch. I’m just sick of the hypocrisy. If we as a nation want to support democracy around the world, then let’s actually do it. If we are okay with rubbing shoulders with ruthless dictators who give us what we want, then we should stop pretending that we care about the freedom of others.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Will the Republicans Reverse Their Position on Gay Rights?

Question: What do you call a Republican who supports gay rights?

Answer: A Democrat.

Okay, I can be serious now.

In the ongoing battle between the moderates and conservatives for the heart and soul of the GOP, the ever-contentious issue of gay rights may have just taken center stage. According to FOX News, Steve Schmidt, who served as Sen. John McCain’s chief campaign strategist and advisor during the 2008 presidential election, told an audience of fellow Republicans that the GOP needs to become more receptive to gay rights, including same-sex marriage. Otherwise, says Schmidt, it risks becoming the “religious party.”

"If you put public policy issues to a religious test, you risk becoming a religious party," he said. "And in a free country a political party cannot be viable in the long-term if it is seen as a sectarian party."

Why, you may ask, is Schmidt still alive after telling members of his own party this? The answer is because he was speaking to the gays and lesbians in the GOP – all two of them.

Okay, okay, I’ll stop with the jokes. I wear!

In his first political appearance since his former boss received an electoral ass-whooping courtesy of President Obama, George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, and the Gordon Gekkos on Wall Street, Schmidt addressed a Washington, D.C. convention for the Log Cabin Republicans last Friday.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the LCR, it’s a grassroots group composed primarily of sane homosexuals within the GOP – as opposed to twisted ones like former Sen. Larry Craig and former Rep. Mark Foley.

While Schmidt acknowledged that it would be impossible to convince the Republican base to accept same-sex marriage anytime in the near future, he said Republicans should at least endorse civil unions for now, and quit using the Bible as a rationale for opposing same-sex marriages.

"If the party is seen as anti-gay, then that is injurious to its candidates" in Democrat-leaning and competitive states, he said.

Give up the Bible? You might as well tell Osama Bin Laden to give up the Koran, or Nancy Pelosi to give up Botox.

“Schmidt predicted gay marriage will create a bigger and bigger divide between the GOP and the electorate in the years ahead,” FOX reports. “He said that as young voters age, they may adopt conservative views on the economy and national security -- but they will not abandon liberal, social beliefs. This would put the Republican Party at odds with a swath of voters, Schmidt said.”

Steve also added that social conservatives were still an "indispensable part of the conservative coalition."

During his speech, Schmidt talked a little about his lesbian sister and her relationship to him and his family. “On a personal level, my sister and her partner are an important part of my life and our children’s life,” he said. “I admire your group and your organization and I encourage you to keep fighting for what you believe in because the day is going to come.”

In related news, Meghan McCain, the (grand?)daughter of Sen. McCain and a rising star among gay conservatives, spoke to a group of Log Cabin Republicans on Saturday evening. In her address, Ms. McCain took shots at what she called “old school Republicans,” saying they were “scared shitless” of the country’s changing landscape.

"I feel too many Republicans want to cling to past successes," she said. "There are those who think we can win the White House and Congress back by being 'more' conservative. Worse, there are those who think we can win by changing nothing at all about what our party has become. They just want to wait for the other side to be perceived as worse than us. I think we're seeing a war brewing in the Republican Party. But it is not between us and Democrats. It is not between us and liberals. It is between the future and the past."

As an independent RINO-lover and a person with a minimal level of tolerance, I can generally agree with this. If the Republicans want to focus on legitimate issues like the president’s gargantuan budget and present realistic alternatives, that’s totally fine with me. But they need to ease up on the gay thing. I can understand why some people might have principled concerns about same-sex marriage, but much of the anti-gay rhetoric I hear coming from social conservatives strikes me as ignorant and mean-spirited.

Okay, I got to end with one more joke!

Question: What’s the difference between a gay Republican and a straight Republican?

Answer: One just wants to screw his or her partner, while the other wants to screw everyone else.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Were the Tea Party Protests Carefully Staged Events, or Did They Represent a Genuine People’s Revolt?

According to various news sources, the recent tea party protests have attracted hundreds of thousands of Americans in cities all across this great land of ours.

It was quite a sensation. Angry and frustrated citizens carried signs with Revolutionary War slogans on them, bags of tea were hurled over the White House fence, Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann got to open their cavernous mouths a little wider, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry threatened to have his state secede from the rest of the country (Whoo-Hoo!).

Before I continue, I just want to say that if the good governor does us all a favor and delivers on his threat, the new flag of the Lone Star State should feature a bible and a rifle soaked in petroleum.

Now back to the tea party. As can be expected, the responses to this event have been split largely along ideological lines. Many conservatives claim that the protests represent a mass, spontaneous revolt on the part of a large cross-section of Americans who are fed up with incompetent lawmakers in Washington and their gluttonous spending habits. Many liberals, on the other hand, claim that the protests are nothing more than carefully orchestrated Right-wing temper tantrums.

And then there are liberals like pop culture celebrity and Air America veteran Janeane Garofalo, who said on MSNBC’s “Countdown” Thursday that those who took part in the tea party protests are nothing but a bunch of intellectually challenged bigots who used this event to go after President Obama simply because he is black.

"Let's be very honest about what this is about,” Garofalo told “Countdown” host Keith Olbermann, a liberal commentator who also happens to be a monstrous dick in a cheap suit. “This is not about bashing Democrats. It's not about taxes. They have no idea what the Boston Tea party was about. They don't know their history at all. It's about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up and is nothing but a bunch of teabagging rednecks. There is no way around that."

On April 8, Media Matters for America, a liberal media watchdog organization, accused FOX News of actively promoting the tea party protests, saying “Despite its repeated insistence that its coverage is ‘fair and balanced’ and its invitation to viewers to ‘say “no” to biased media,’ Fox News has frequently aired segments encouraging viewers to get involved with ‘tea party’ protests across the country, which the channel has described as primarily a response to President Obama's fiscal policies.”

FOX News commentator Bill O’Reilly, another monstrous dick in a cheap suit, shot back by saying that his network was merely covering a newsworthy event, while other networks were ignoring it altogether. Media Research Center, a media watchdog organization run by a conservative named L. Brent Bozell III, has charged MSNBC and CNN with covering the tea party protests in a biased manner.

In a piece titled “Radical Right-Wing Agenda,” Lee Fang of Think Progress, a liberal blog, says that local tea party events were organized by two lobbyist-run, Right-wing think tanks named Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works. “The two groups are heavily staffed and well funded, and are providing all the logistical and public relations work necessary for planning coast-to-coast protests,” Fang writes.

He then elaborates on this claim:

FreedomWorks staffers coordinate conference calls among protesters, contacting conservative activists to give them “sign ideas, sample press releases, and a map of events around the country.”

Freedom Works staffers apparently moved to “take over” the planning of local events in Florida.

Freedom Works provides how-to guides for delivering a “clear message” to the public and media.

Freedom Works has several domain addresses — some of them made to look like they were set up by amateurs — to promote the protests.

Americans for Prosperity is writing press releases and planning the events in New Jersey, Arizona, New Hampshire, Missouri, Kansas, and several other states.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman also accused conservatives of “astroturfing,” writing in an article Sunday that, “The tea parties don’t represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. They’re AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects. In particular, a key role is being played by FreedomWorks, an organization run by Richard Armey, the former House majority leader, and supported by the usual group of right-wing billionaires. And the parties are, of course, being promoted heavily by Fox News.”

Rachel Maddow, a liberal host on MSNBC, also weighed in, saying, “One of the controversies about the teabaggers is the fact that insider D.C. corporate-funded PR shops and lobbying groups have done a lot of the organizing and promotion for these events. That‘s controversial because it‘s astroturfing. It‘s disguising a formal top-down organized paid for things as if it‘s some spontaneous grassroots event.”

And media figures aren’t the only ones making this claim. On April 15, a day that saw the largest number of tea party protestors in the streets, House Speaker and Botox poster girl Nancy Pelosi told an interviewer for Fox TV in San (Short for “Sanatorium”) Franpsycho that, “This initiative is funded by the high end... it's not really a grassroots movement. It's astroturf by some of the wealthiest people in America to keep the focus on tax cuts for the rich instead of for the great middle class.”

Tea party participants and their supporters on the Right vehemently deny that the protests were the work of astroturfers. Chris Good of The Atlantic Monthly wrote on Monday that members of the three conservative groups responsible for guiding the movement – FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, and dontGO – say that the event’s grassroots foundation is indeed genuine.

“The movement is not tied to the Republican Party, group spokesmen said, despite a report that at least 10 House Republicans will be speaking at events across the country,” Good writes. “Eric Odom, founder of dontGO, has infamously turned down a request from Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele to speak at the group's Chicago event.”

Adam Brandon, a spokesman for FreedomWorks, pointed out that his organization and others like it were simply employing the activist network model that has been used to great effect by Left-wing activist groups such as

"Activists in general have learned a lot from the last election," Brandon told Good. "You'd see 50 people standing outside a gas station. We feel just as strong about our issues."

”Progressive groups have employed that strategy in support of the same economic agenda the tea party protests seek to overturn: groups like ACORN and Americans United for Change have utilized their e-mail lists of supporters to organize field events across the country in support of the stimulus,” Good writes.

In other words, if FreedomWorks is guilty of astroturfing, then so is MoveOn and other groups on the Left.

With regard to charges that the tea party movement is nothing more than an elaborate ploy to bolster the fortunes of the GOP, Mr. Odom says he rejected the RNC chairman’s request to speak at his group’s event in Chicago in order to make it clear that dontGO’s goal is “not to promote Republicans at all.”

“I voted for Bob Barr,” he adds.

Personally, I sympathize with some of the protestors' grievances. I believe that our government’s fiscal policies are horribly misguided. Of course, I’m no economist and I could be wrong about this, but that’s just my gut feeling on this issue.

But a question has been nagging my brain ever since I first learned of these tea parties: Where were these protestors during the spend-till-you-drop years of the Bush administration? If anyone deserved a tea party, it was our own King George.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Grannies’ Protests Against Afghan War Falls on Deaf Ears

Where have all the flower children gone? What happened to all those ‘60s wannabes who accused the American president of being in league with the devil and were all too ready to believe that our servicemen and women were mass-murdering psychopaths?

Since the inauguration of President Barack Obama, the once-notable antiwar movement has all but dissolved. Sure, there are still a few peaceniks left, but they are quickly finding themselves on the brink of irrelevancy. Mainstream liberal groups such as, which spent eight years slamming the war policies of George W. Bush, have zipped up their collective lips as our new president draws down American forces in Iraq and increases their presence in Afghanistan. The few remaining antiwar groups are beginning to realize that silence is not so golden after all.

Take the Granny Peace Brigade for instance. This group made news a couple years back when 11 of its members pulled a publicity stunt by attempting to enlist in the U.S. military, not realizing that they could have gotten in if they had only waited a few months. According to Sebastian Smith of Yahoo! News, the grannies are now trying to organize protests against the Afghan war.

Unfortunately for them, no one is listening.

"It's pretty pathetic," said Joan Pleune, one of the grandmothers. "We've done all these symbolic actions. We get arrested here and there, but it's symbolic. We need masses in the street."

“The absence of those masses reflects significant change in the United States, where the occupation of Iraq drew fierce opposition, but the escalating deployment in Afghanistan retains broad support,” Smith writes. “Iraq fatally tarnished the presidency of George W. Bush. In contrast, Barack Obama won the White House promising to win in Afghanistan, something he soon backed up by ordering a 50 percent increase in US troop levels to 59,000.”

Well this makes sense. After all, the terrorists who planned and carried out the 9/11 attacks in the US were being harbored in Afghanistan by the Taliban regime. People like the Code Pinkers and these grannies need to realize that while you may look noble to many people when you oppose an unjust war, you look stupid when you oppose a war against a nation that actually aided an attack on America.

Of course, all of this could change if things go badly in Afghanistan and Obama takes the blame for it. Until then, the grannies will have to be content with the silent treatment.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Crackpot Jackpot

Sarah Palin may be avoiding the political fundraising circuit, but the political fundraising circuit is certainly not avoiding her.

According to Politico’s Kenneth P. Vogel, the Alaska governor and former vice presidential candidate has become a veritable cash cow for Republicans and Democrats alike. Call it the Crackpot Jackpot, if you will. The mere mention of Palin’s name is enough to get diehard Leftists and Rightists foaming at the mouth and tearing open their wallets.

”The candidates and causes that have climbed aboard the Palin gravy train include, but aren’t limited to, abortion rights foes and supporters, environmental groups and political committees supporting both Republican and Democratic candidates,” Vogel writes. “It’s a testament not only to her star power but also to the strong feelings she generates among partisans.”

Due to her time-consuming work with the Alaska legislature, Palin herself has been largely AWOL from the fundraising scene. Even SarahPAC, the committee set up by the governor in January to raise money for members of her staff and conservative Republican candidates, has not done a lot of business.

”But that hasn’t stopped others from seeking to fill their own coffers by pillorying her in direct mail, piggybacking on her stances and symbolism, hinting she might appear at their fundraisers and sometimes even falsely implying contributions will go directly to Palin,” says Vogel. “With some groups, it’s not entirely clear what the overarching goal is other than to tap into the Palin cash pipeline.”

One such example is the now-defunct entity called “Sarah Palin’s Defense Fund.” When told by a lawyer working for Palin that all references to the governor must be removed “pending written approval,” the owner of this “defense fund,” a conservative group called Free American Citizens, simply discontinued this legally questionable enterprise and started another one called “Sarah’s War Chest,” whose primary purpose is to gather contributions “to encourage her to run in the upcoming election.”

SarahPAC spokeswoman Meg Stapleton says that regardless of how many groups cash in on her name to solicit financial contributions for their own agendas, the governor will still be able to be a successful fundraiser.

“If we find that other people have had a chance at the dollars first, that’s OK,” she said. “We’re not really concerned about diluting any message. It’s just we’re concerned about people thinking the dollars are going for her or her vision or her philosophy or values when it may just be going for a big-screen TV.”

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