From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
Amid raucous debate, Nevada Republican Party conventioneers on Saturday stripped opposition to gay marriage and abortion from the party platform and endorsed Gov. Brian Sandoval for governor in the June 10 primary despite misgivings by conservatives, his criticism of the process and his absence from the meeting...
...Republicans who sat on the platform committee said they decided not to deal with social issues this year because the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts have weighed in and it doesn’t make sense for the party of “personal freedom” to have the government or the political party get involved in people’s personal lives.
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The way I look at this is someone who comes to our country because they couldn't come legally, they come to our country because their family's dad who loved their children was worried that their children didn't have food on the table, and they wanted to make sure their family was intact.
And they crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family.
Yes, they broke the law, but it's not a felony. It’s kind of -- it's a, it’s an act of love. It's an act of commitment to your family.
- Jeb Bush, Commemoration of Presidency of George H. W. Bush, April, 6, 2014
Most analysts have looked at the statement from a political perspective, grading Jeb Bush's strategy and his calculation of its effect on the Presidential race of 2016. One or two mention a family tradition of tactically including Hispanic voters in political appeals.
I have yet to hear anyone, anyone at all, speculate that he may simply have been saying what he believes is right. I look to another practice begun by President George W. Bush..
There really were not that many things about the policies and practices of the latest President Bush that I can bring myself to appreciate. There are some, of course. He did indeed make honest appeals to Hispanic voters. He initiated programs to save lives in Africa, where AIDS was endangering millions.
I was especially grateful that he stood tall against anti-Muslim bigotry.
The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends. It is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists... and every government that supports them.
- President George W. Bush, to a Joint Session of Congress, September 20, 2001
That “every government that supports them” is striking. It is unfortunate that the Bush administration adopted the cold war view that every significant act against Americans by citizens of other countries had to have a government sponsor. They considered the idea as not worthy of consideration that thousands of Americans in urban centers could be killed by order of a comic book villain in a cave on the other side of the world without some government sponsorship.
There had to be a government sponsor, and the guilty government had to be that of Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
But the distinction between Islam and terrorism is one he made repeatedly in the heated days after the September 11 attacks. Three days before his address to Congress, less than a week after the terrorist attacks, he journeyed to the Islamic center in Washington, DC, to make the same point. We were not attacked by Islam, and our battle is not against Islam.
Through the remainder of 2001, and through 2002, at every public opportunity, he made the same point. Pretty much every visiting head of state was greeted with the same message.
To the the visiting President of Indonesia:
“...the war against terrorism is not a war against Muslims.”
To the King of Jordan:
“...our war is against evil, not against Islam. There are thousands of Muslims who proudly call themselves Americans, and they know what I know -- that the Muslim faith is based upon peace and love and compassion.”
To the Warsaw Conference against Terrorism:
“All of us here today understand this: We do not fight Islam, we fight against evil.”
At a Town Meeting in California:
“this great nation of many religions understands, our war is not against Islam, or against faith practiced by the Muslim people. Our war is a war against evil.”
At dozens of public events, at diplomatic ceremonies involving heads of state, at formal gatherings and political events, he would stress the same theme.
Even in retrospect, I don't find much political benefit in all this for President Bush. He struck me as taking a stand that was good for the country and, more important, morally right.
In what is a constant corrupting competition for votes, we should acknowledge occasional stands of humanity, of doing the right thing when the right thing is costly.
Jeb Bush, the brother and son of Presidents, has not proposed open borders. He has not suggested more than moderate changes to existing law to make legal immigration more available. He is not for relaxing enforcement.
He seems to have suggested what is, or ought to be, obvious to any of us, regardless of what policies we favor.
I don't see much hope for the Republican Party in the long term. The political base that determines nominees is shrinking, driving out those who are thoughtful and tolerant. Those who remain take the party to ever new extremes of disdain for those of different religions or cultures, for those less well off, for those who are desperate for opportunity, for those who have sacrificed their well being in military service to the nation.
Certainly they have expressed intolerance for those from other lands who struggle against restrictive laws to gain entrance.
If I turn out to be wrong, it will be because of conservative leaders who convince moderates that it is okay to express compassion and common sense. That tolerance can be tolerated. That hatred can be rejected outright.
It is a fact that many of those who break laws to gain entrance are struggling to benefit their families, that they are, in fact, acting out of love.
That some conservatives find that idea too offensive to consider tells us something about their strain of ideology.
Capital Comedy in Congress - the Voice Vote (5:42) - Click for Podcast
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Blue Gal leads an hour's discussion that includes the Kissing Congressman, Colbert's new gig, and the new Ayn Rand musical.
Michael Scott at Mad Mike's America relays the latest danger of voter fraud. Kansas Republicans insist the real danger is recently widowed elderly women who have to be prevented from voting in place of their dead husbands.
Last Of The Millenniums reveals the newest rule restricting voting. A large county in Florida will keep voters waiting in long, long lines from using restrooms. After all, Republicans are just innocently trying to prevent voter fraud.
The always insightful Infidel 753 outlines what he sees as the central conflict of our time, the struggle between secular modernity and "malignant traditionalism", which he sees as epitomized by Christianity and Islam..
PZ Myers, writing for Pharyngula, examines the suggestion by Ben Stein that wealthy folks are virtuous and poor folks are lazy.
- The Moderate Voice suggests the common pathways to your door taken by malicious hackers.
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Well the reason that the slaves were eventually freed was the Constitution. I mean, it was like the conscience of the American people.
Unfortunately there were some court decisions like Dred Scott and others that defined some people as property, but the Constitution kept calling us back to "all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights" in the minds of God.
- Former Senator Jim DeMint, Heritage Foundation, April 3, 2014
Sometimes I have to search my heart to know why I react as I do. I confess I don't really know for sure why that interview is so irritating.
It isn't the first idiocy uttered about slavery. In fact, it is similar to earlier presentations by others.
But we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.
- Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN), January 21, 2011
Maybe my white knuckle reaction comes from Senator DeMint's careless conflation of the United States Constitution with the Declaration of Independence. It is not a technical historical point, not to me.
The contest between the Constitution and the Declaration formed much of the debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in 1858. Douglas accused Lincoln of near insurrection in opposing the enshrinement of slavery in the Constitution. Lincoln's central thesis was that, while the Constitution provided the legal framework for the Republic, the Declaration of Independence provided the guiding spiritual light.
Lincoln proposed something many found startling: that the American spirit as articulated in the Declaration showed the direction that those dedicated to freedom should follow within that legal framework.
"All men are created equal" was part of the vision Lincoln saw in the Declaration of Independence. The freedom promised to all formed the spirit that would fill the sterile pages of the Constitution with meaning.
600,000 died in the struggle over that vision. The man who repeated the proposition of universal freedom became President on its strength and later was killed over it. In the end, the focal point of that fight was exactly what DeMint denies. The federal government had the jurisdiction, the right, the obligation, to bring slavery to an end.
I am no more an historian than most folks who occasionally watched the History Channel back when it channeled history. I have just enough engagement with the past to be affected by the near thousand year old injustice of the Battle of Hastings, to be saddened by the Crucifixion of the man I have come to believe to be the earthly manifestation of the Almighty, to be emotional over the American birth defect of slavery, to be grateful for those who fought to end it.
I am less irritated at Michele Bachmann for her ignorance of the Civil War. I am more irritated by Jim DeMint's writing Abraham Lincoln out of history.
I think I know why.
Michele Bachmann represents the same sort of ignorance I sometimes encountered before my drinking days were ended by age and health. Some corner stool at some local bar would host a neighborhood guru, ignorant of his own ignorance. She simply can't help it.
Jim DeMint heads up the Heritage Foundation, the one organization that once formed the intellectual backbone of conservative thought. He has taken that once creative force into the shadowy depths of the deep, deep Bachmann valley. It now has its offices in the corner bar.
The spreading Conservative denial is as predictable as winter frost on my windows every December morning. So many in that icy realm deny racism exists. They deny that Barack Obama was legitimately elected as President. They deny climate science.
The faith-based denial of history now extends from a our evolutionary biological heritage to more recent times.
Bachmann has faith that the Civil War, being an unnecessary event, never happened.
DeMint has faith that Abraham Lincoln, and the triumphantly powerful government he led, never existed.
Such is the condition of contemporary conservative thought.
From Agence France-Presse:
An Italian court on Wednesday recognised a gay couple as married for the first time in Italy, which does not have any form of official acknowledgement of same-sex unions.
The court in Grosseto in Tuscany ordered the city council to list the couple, who had their wedding in New York in 2012, as married in a ruling that was immediately hailed by gay rights campaigners as historic.
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Terri Lynn Land (R-MI) explains that women are more interested in other job related issues.
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I’ve seen a lot of dumb things, but I’ve never seen anything quite as comical as this.
- Representative John Dingell (D-MI), March 27, 2014
As vaudeville goes, it wasn't really up to Three Stooges level. But it was kind of entertaining for those who like policy procedures and think Congress, as currently constructed, is a passel of comically tragic people.
Medicare has a fatal flaw. It puts serious caps on what doctors will be paid for treating Medicare patients. Nobody can get the votes to fix those rates permanently, so Congress keeps passing temporary fixes. The fixes last for a few months, sometimes even for a full year. But no permanent fix has the votes to make it into law.
The next best thing is a temporary fix.
Everyone knows the next best thing needs to be done, so it gets done every year without controversy, kind of like bills dealing with the debt ceiling used to be passed.
You getting my drift yet?
Each year there is a bill that lets government pay out what it owes for Social Security, and highway repair, and breakfast programs, and ammunition for soldiers under fire in combat zones. It's called the debt ceiling bill. If that bill doesn't pass, the government shuts down, along with a significant part of the US economy.
In recent years, Republicans had gotten into the habit of using the debt ceiling to get concessions. Last year, they demanded a partial dismantling of Obamacare. If they didn't get it, the government would shut down, the country would go into default, and the economy would go into a tailspin for years.
For once, President Obama said never again. He held firm, and pressure built on Republicans to cave. They eventually did. Big money people, with deep pockets for Republican candidates, might scoff at the poor, but they don't much tolerate the entire economy sinking. It would tend to take them down with it.
So Republicans folded. They also suffered for a while at the polls until the Obamacare website crash drowned out the GOP crash.
So now, Republicans are a little like a pet cat having experienced sitting on a hot stove. The cat won't sit on a hot stove ever again. Or ever on a cold stove, either.
The Doc Fix didn't much look like a stove, so Republicans got the notion this year to hold Medicare hostage instead of the debt ceiling. They demanded that Obama hold off on essential provisions of Obamacare for five years. Otherwise, they would destroy Medicare by refusing to pass this year's Doc Fix.
Doctors tend to support Republicans. At my age, medical people are a part of my life. Sitting in offices with courtesy televisions, I see more of Fox News than I care to endure. But a fellow has to live, so I watch climate denial, Obama bashing, and the ridicule of people struggling against poverty.
Only one thing will turn doctors against Republicans. Money. Politics is everyone's passion when you dig deep into their bank accounts.
Doctors put the squeeze on Republican members of Congress. But so did the extremist Republican base. So Republicans could lose because doctors put their money on another team. Or they could lose because the base stayed home instead of voting for them this November.
The hostage taking was quickly forgotten as Republicans in Congress tried to figure out how to take the money and not lose their primaries.
When the vote came, news outlets were ready for a train wreck. For one thing, the vote for the Doc Fix would require suspending the rules. So it would need a two thirds vote. No way could that happen in the Republican House of Representatives. A majority, yes. But two thirds? Keep dreaming.
But Republicans kept meeting all day long. Sometimes the leadership would dash on out to gather with Democrats.
Finally, it looked like the end of the road. Everyone knew there was no hope of a Doc Fix this year. Just like football fans sometimes leave early when their team is way behind or way ahead, members of Congress began heading for the door. Why wait for the inevitable?
Then it happened.
"So many as are in favor say aye."
"Those opposed no."
"In the opinion of the chair, two thirds being in the affirmative, the rules are suspended, the bill is passed, and without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid on the table."
Uh, huh, uh huh, they passed by a voice vote that only required the subjective judgment of the fellow with the gavel.
Democrats, of course, had no objection. Conservatives winked and nodded to each other, then shouted angry shouts of defiance.
It was only later, that reporters found out that there was an additional provision hidden in the fine print. Republicans had agreed to some improvements to Obamacare that would lower costs for small businesses offering group policies.
Apparently the President had been negotiating Republicans out of their hostage-taking and into a corner. Congressional Conservatives provided their own paint for the floor around them.
Gamesmanship in the halls of the national legislature is frustrating to those of us who care.
But every once in a while, watching the shenanigans can be fun.
Or as one long term member put it, I’ve seen a lot of dumb things, but I’ve never seen anything quite as comical as this.
I mean, there's a high school graduate in this race, okay? I'm sorry, but these issues are so much broader, so complex. There's only one candidate in this race that's ever lived outside the United States.
How can you bring value to a debate about the economy unless you have any understanding about the free enterprise system and how—what it takes to compete in the global economy?
- David Perdue (R-GA), US Senate candidate, January, 2014
Obamacare is Working
Uninsured rate declines most among blacks and lower-income Americans
by Jenna Levy
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In the U.S., the uninsured rate dipped to 15.6% in the first quarter of 2014, a 1.5-percentage-point decline from the fourth quarter of 2013. The uninsured rate is now at the lowest level recorded since late 2008.
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Anyone can have a bad day or a totally horrific moment. Car accidents are major candidates in that category. A distant relative was killed walking on a railroad track a century or so ago. Misjudgments are a part of the human condition. When those moments are not fatal, we hope they do not become a pattern. We hope to learn.
We used think of candidates for public office as kind of calculating, modifying every syllable to fit the political theme of the moment. In 2008, Governor Sarah Palin kind of blew that image, I suppose, when she was asked to name a newspaper.
Columbia, Tennessee promotes itself as the mule capital of the world. Every year around the end of March and beginning of April, they hold an annual celebration. Thousands of people come from all over to join in bluegrass, gospel, country music, with dancing and events. This year they tried a sort of take off on a rodeo, with guys riding sticks made up to look like heads of mules. It was like Monty Python for mule lovers.
They also have an annual mule parade. Four years ago, a local Republican candidate for Congress, a tea party favorite, was scolded by a parade organizer for some sort of safety violation committed by his campaign the previous year. The candidate, Zach Wamp, got really steamed. He was reported by the Nashville City Paper to have said a couple of things that make campaign managers attempt to fly from tall buildings.
"I make my own rules!" and "You can’t tell me what to do!"
Yikes. Way to go, Zack.
There were all sorts of shouting matches that year. Another Republican endorsed an opponent and got a blistering phone call from Zach Wamp. Others who supported candidates other than Zack have been on the receiving end of verbal attacks. It's gotten kind of traditional.
This year, Zack's son, Weston Wamp, is running for Congress. It seems the current conservative representative, Republican Chuck Fleischmann, is not conservative enough for some in the base.
Another conservative, Scottie Mayfield, ran against the incumbent last time. If Mayfield joined forces with young Weston, Zack's son, then maybe it would be enough to replace the incumbent with a real conservative. That might not have been as easy as it sounded.
You see Zach's daughter, Weston's sister, was thought to have recorded an awkward moment in the last campaign, when Mayfield was running. Mayfield had a moment of difficulty answering some question in a town meeting type event. She posted it on YouTube with a scornful comment.
This year, Weston heard that maybe Mayfield was going to endorse the incumbent. So Weston paid a visit to talk him out of it. Apparently the conversation got a little heated. But Mayfield decided to remain neutral.
After that is when it got weird.
Weston decided to make sure Mayfield wouldn't change his mind about staying neutral. So he let Mayfield know he had secretly recorded the conversation. He had Mayfield's promise on tape that he would stay out of it. After all, you wouldn't want to endorse someone and then be proven in public to be a lying backstabber.
We can guess that Weston didn't realize that there could be other ways to play it.
It's quite possible to make a promise about endorsements and then have a change of heart, especially when you can present a plausible reason for changing your mind.
Mayfield had a compelling reason.
I never dreamed somebody would walk into my house with a bug on. I don't want to say negative things about people. But I just don't think that's correct behavior.
- Scottie Mayfield, former candidate for Congress, March 29, 2014
But young Weston, Zach's son, knows the human heart.
In a respectful face-to-face conversation with Mr. Mayfield on Saturday, I was disappointed to hear that a grudge he holds against my younger sister from our last campaign influenced his endorsement decision more than his actual support for Congressman Fleischmann.
- Weston Wamp, in the Times Free Press, March 17, 2014
Lessons to be learned in Columbia, Tennessee, the mule capital of the world:
Traditions sometimes become family traditions.
A jackass is not a mule.
Will Massively Wealthy Elites Save the Republican Party (6:14) - Click for Podcast
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How the Republican Party Plans to Survive and Prevail (7:10) - Click for Podcast
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Max's Dad has an pretty good idea of the vital legal principle the Supreme Court has affirmed in removing limits on corporate political contributions.
PZ Myers, writing for Pharyngula, sees the good news that much of Mississippi is going toward sex education for the kids. The bad news is that the central message of sex education is that sex is really, really dirty.
At Blue gal, surveys the spectrum of supporting and opposing reactions to a multicultural advertising campaign and suggests the campaign itself is over-the-top. Nearly satiric in hitting every interracial and same sex combination.
Glenn Beck named an injured victim of the Boston bombing as one of the terrorists. Glenn also suggests that President Obama is an accessory after the fact, a sort of co-conspirator. News Corpse reports on the resulting lawsuit by the bombing victim against Beck for defamation.
Ryan at Secular Ethics is inspired by the Hobby Lobby suit against Obamacare to raise a few questions about religious exemptions from law.
- The Moderate Voice speculates on all the speculation that Colbert might be the next Letterman.
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When Bill Clinton won the Presidency in 1992, conservatives looked for whatever comfort they could generate from his low share of the vote. It had been a three candidate race, and Bill Clinton won with 43 percent.
George Will reacted with some degree of scorn, not toward Clinton, but toward Clinton's critics. He mocked the "delightful Republican attempt to build confidence on a rickety scaffolding of little numbers."
He stated two obvious facts.
One was that the President-elect would have won with a substantially larger share of the vote had the third candidate, Ross Perot, not engaged in a campaign that was self-financed by equal parts big money and big ego.
The other was that Clinton had ... well ... won.
"Clinton`s strong number is: He won 100 percent of the White House."
Unless you are Chris Christie making a ruthless run toward national Republican prominence, that 100 percent of any elective office means you would not be willing to block lanes or break heads to get a few more points past 60 percent. As long as you get enough past half to avoid a nail biting recount, who cares?
That's why it was hard for me to take seriously the Huffington Post headline a few days ago:
The growth in Republican acceptance of gay marriage is impressive. It's now at about a third of the base. A third of the most conservative major political party in my lifetime is in favor of gay marriage. That is amazing news to me, probably to most folks of my generation.
I grew up in an atmosphere of bigotry so pervasive none of us then recognized it as bigotry. It just seemed like the natural order of things. There were normal people and there were those from whom polite society would avert its gaze.
Today, a comfortable majority of the public at large supports gay marriage. All other things being equal, if two candidates were to run in a representative general election, one for gay marriage and one against, who would be favored?
But two facts stand out for Republican candidates. They can never get to a general election if they cannot win a Republican primary. And most Republicans are representative of those who elect them.
To win 100 percent of a nomination, candidates need support from substantially more than a third of those Republicans who will vote. The fact that supporters of marriage equality compose one third of the base, rather than one tenth or one fiftieth, will not make any difference at all.
If we get a lot closer to half, and those who reject the bigotry I grew up sharing feel strongly enough about fairness for it to affect their vote, a different crop of conservative Republicans will win primaries and get to the general election.
The Republican base is accelerating toward extremism on most issues. Ending entitlements (that would be Social Security), letting the uninsured die outside hospital doors, ending breakfast programs for little kids, letting bridges collapse, and allowing climate to go asunder, denying minority citizens the right to vote are all issues that the base embraces.
Gay rights is the one issue on which the party seems to be headed in the right direction. Today one third, tomorrow the arc of the moral universe bends toward a tipping point, even in the Republican base. A Republican polling expert is quoted in the Huffington Post article: "Everybody's moving on this."
In fact, you cannot name any demographic that has not shown a growth in support for this over the last 10 years, whether it's Republicans, Republican primary voters, conservatives, evangelicals. Everybody's growing. So while 30 percent, 33 percent may seem very low, the movement that we've seen there is just remarkable. And it's going to keep growing.
- Alex Lundry, chief data scientist at TargetPoint, March 31, 2014
Too bad that the one third beginning is so far behind the rest of the nation.
But this is the Republican base. You can't have everything.
In response to Burr Deming's Will Massively Wealthy Elites Save the Republican Party?
It is possible that moneyed moderates will guide the unwashed masses toward a more enlightened future.
There are difficulties with that vision. One is that the mega-donors do not seem at all united in resisting the rightward trend. They do not resist the revolutionary right. They are very much a part of it.
And there is the bottom line.
I am willing to be wrong on this, but I don't think I am.
The unwashed masses seem to be in no mood for the sort of lather with which more moderate rich folks may want to bathe them.
- Burr Deming, April 2, 2014
One has to wonder how it will come about that the nearly half of Americans now calling themselves Republicans will, one day soon, no longer be staunch conservatives.
Most conservatives get their "data" from conservative sources. They are not going to embrace the Democratic Party or its sources; and if they do, it will mean the end of the Democratic Party, not the end of the GOP.
There is precedent for this. For an example, see the Republican Party du jour, and what happened to it when the conservatives conservatized it.
Here is what will not happen:
The GOP will not collapse and we will not all be liberals. You can cook up a powerful argument that the GOP is doomed (and you have). However, I see no argument to suggest that conservatism is in jeopardy. America has long been on a plutocratic path. I believe that ultimately only the Supreme Court can steer it in a different direction, and currently, it has a conservative majority. I don’t think the Legislature will ever be liberal enough to pass meaningful campaign finance reform.
The conservative movement is not going anywhere, despite your astute observations. One of the following will happen:
The pendulum will swing and radical conservatism will rule America.
The GOP will become more moderate, but not as moderate as it used to be. Conservatism can be, once was, and well may be again, intellectual. This is my guess at the outcome.
The GOP will "collapse." Moderate conservatives will run as democrats. Soon, most conservatives will run as democrats. The Democratic Party will, by today's standards, be a conservative body.
- The GOP will collapse, allowing a third party to emerge, and the conservatives will migrate to it. “A rose by any other name, would still smell,” (or something like that).
John Myste is a frequent, thoughtful, contributor to our debates. He never bites, although his entertaining wit often does.