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Toilets, Light Bulbs and Reproductive Rights: Rand Paul Is Pro-Choice For Toilets

The senator gives a stunning rant against energy efficiency — and reproductive choice

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what we are up against. In a diatribe as bizarre and petulant as anything out of Charlie Sheen’s or any recent star of “The Bachelor’s” mouth, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul went on a tear Thursday about how abortion is somehow interfering with his God-given right to incandescent light bulbs. Clearly, there wasn’t one illuminating over his head when he started down the crazy path.

On Friday, Irin Carmon at Jezebel beautifully drilled down the essence of the rant — that “Rand Paul Thinks His Toilet Is More Important Than Your Abortion Rights.” In a mind-boggling display of foot stamping during an energy hearing, Paul asked deputy assistant energy secretary for efficiency Kathleen Hogan if she was “pro-choice,” leading the visibly puzzled Hogan to reply she’s pro-choice on light bulbs. Rand then launched into full cri de coeur mode, comparing the choice of abortion to being “anti-choice on every other consumer item, including light bulbs, refrigerators, toilets. You can’t go around your house without being told what to buy. You restrict my purchases. You don’t care about my choices.” Boo hoo hoooooo!

Who knew that reproductive choice was a consumer purchase? Who knew you could run out to Best Buy and pick up one of them late-term abortion thingies with an Energy Star rating? Paul then went on to overshare that “My toilets don’t work in my house. And I blame you and people like you.” We get it — Rand Paul has a fiber diet and a low flush toilet. “I can’t find a toilet that works!” he blurted angrily again later. So if you’re a pregnant teenage rape victim, maybe you should start thinking about how Rand Paul is suffering to get a little perspective.

Much of Paul’s speech doesn’t even make sense: If he’s so ticked about some perceived limitation of his “choice,” why does his Web page insist “I believe in a Human Life Amendment and a Life at Conception Act as federal solutions to the abortion issue.” You don’t like government regulation? The government regulates abortion. Where’s your free market now, Paul?

The whole piece is a truly remarkable piece of irony-rich rantitude, sure to be included in the next volume of Now That’s What I Call False Equivalencies and White Male Solipism! Paul said he finds it “troubling, this busybody nature that you want to come into my house — my bedroom, my bathroom …” But a woman’s womb, hey, that’s up for grabs.

Yet when he kvetched to Hogan that “I find it insulting … appalling and hypocritical,” it was clear the parallels to how he feels and the sentiments of many of us on the side of reproductive freedom are stunningly similar. Just because Rand Paul has problems with his plumbing, it’s astonishing that he believes he has the right to meddle in ours. But when he declared, “You busybodies are always trying to tell us how we can live our lives better — keep it to yourselves,” I had to admit, Rand Paul, you dismissive, whiny jerk, that I could not agree more.

By: Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon, March 11, 2011

March 11, 2011 Posted by | Abortion, Pro-Choice, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meanwhile…Washington’s Budget Folly

The Senate on Wednesday voted down the House budget bill, with its string of $61 billion in mostly political cuts through Sept. 30. That formally puts an end to the House’s grandstand play. But the Senate also rejected its Democratic leaders’ own plan to cut $6.5 billion. The government’s financing is due to run out in eight days. To prevent a shutdown, the two chambers will probably have to agree to yet another short-term financing bill.

That would be politically and fiscally irresponsible. But the House Republicans will be happy to agree, as long as Democrats agree to a vigorish of $2 billion a week in cuts to vital government programs.

Unless the White House and Democratic lawmakers start pushing back a lot harder — and do a better job of explaining the disastrous effects on the economy and everyday life — the Republicans will win the argument. If it keeps going on this way, they will get the $61 billion they demanded.

The White House again threatened on Wednesday to veto the House bill, and said it supported the Democratic bill that did not even draw a simple majority. It has been hosting what appear to be unproductive talks among legislative leaders; Vice President Joseph Biden Jr., who is nominally in charge of the talks, is now visiting Eastern Europe and tried to mediate by telephone.

President Obama has yet to take a firm public stand and make clear his bargaining limits and priorities. Understandably, he does not want the government to shut down and is hoping that quiet negotiations will produce better results than loud declarations of principle. But there is no sign that the House freshmen have an interest in compromise, or that Representative John Boehner, the House speaker, has any control of his caucus.

A brief shutdown, painful as it would be, would be far less damaging than a sudden withdrawal of tens of billions in government spending from the economy, which would lead to widespread layoffs.

Mr. Obama could well follow the example of Senator Charles Schumer of New York, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, who on Wednesday called for a “re-set” of the negotiating process. The only way to have a meaningful discussion of the budget, he said in a speech, is to consider all of its parts at once over the long term, not for a few weeks or months at a time. That includes all the issues the Republicans wouldn’t deal with in their bill: cuts to the entitlement programs and to the Pentagon budget and ways to raise revenues at the same time.

The Republicans, as Mr. Schumer noted, aren’t really interested in lowering the deficit. If they were, they would never have insisted on $800 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy without paying for them, or on repealing the health care law, which saves $230 billion over a decade.

They are only interested in slashing government, no matter the cost to the country. It is time for the president — and responsible Congressional leaders of both parties — to reject their tactics and their goal.

By: Editorial, The New York Times, March 9, 2011

March 11, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Deficits, Economy, Federal Budget, Government Shut Down, Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

State Crises Mean New Language Of Deceit

For most of history, we had undebatable definitions of words such as “bailout” and “bankruptcy.” We understood the former as an undeserved public grant, and the latter as an inability to pay existing bills. Whatever your particular beliefs about these concepts, their meanings were at least agreed upon.

Sadly, that’s not the case during a deficit crisis that is seeing language redefined on ideological terms.

“Bailout” was the first word thrown into the Orwellian fire. As some lawmakers recently proposed replenishing depleted state coffers with federal dollars, the American Conservative Union urged Congress to oppose states “seek(ing) a bailout” from the feds. Now, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., says, “Should taxpayers in Indiana who have paid their bills on time, who have done their job fiscally be bailing out Californians who haven’t? No.”

Ryan, mind you, voted for 2008’s TARP program — a bank bailout in the purest sense of the term. But one lawmaker’s rank hypocrisy is less significant than how the word “bailout” is being used — and abused. Suddenly, the term suggests that federal aid would force taxpayers in allegedly “fiscally responsible” Republican states to underwrite taxpayers in supposedly irresponsible Democratic ones.

Aside from stoking a detestable interstate enmity, this thesis ignores the fact that state-to-state wealth transfers are already happening. According to the Tax Foundation, most Republican-voting states receive more in federal funding than they pay in federal taxes, while most Democratic-voting states receive less federal money than they pay in federal taxes.

That means traditionally blue states like California are now perpetually subsidizing — or in Ryan’s parlance, “bailing out” — traditionally red states like Indiana. Thus, federal aid to states could actually reduce the state-to-state subsidies conservatives say they oppose.

Congressional Republicans will undoubtedly ignore these facts. Their proposed solution to the budget emergency could instead be a Newt Gingrich-backed initiative letting states default on outstanding obligations by declaring bankruptcy. Again, the word is fraught with new connotations.

Whereas sick or laid-off individuals occasionally claim a genuine inability to repay debts and thus a need for bankruptcy protections, states can never legitimately claim such a need because they are never actually “bankrupt.” Why? Because they always posses the power to raise revenue. The power is called taxation — and destroying that authority is what the new bankruptcy idea is really about. It would let states avoid tax increases on the wealthy, renege on contractual promises to public employees and destroy the country’s creditworthiness.

Blocking state “bailouts” and letting states declare “bankruptcy” are radical notions, especially in a bad economy. One would result in recession-exacerbating public layoffs; the other would institutionalize an anti-tax zealotry that destroys tomorrow’s middle class in order to protect today’s rich. That’s why advocates of these ideas have resorted to manipulating language. They know the only way to make such extremism a reality is to distort the vernacular — and if we aren’t cognizant of their scheme, they will succeed.

By: David Sirota, Syndicated Columnist, Sun Journal-published March 8, 2011

March 11, 2011 Posted by | Bankruptcy, Budget, Deficits, Economy, Politics, State Legislatures | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

McCarthyism Revisited: Peter King’s Modern-day Witch Hunt

“There is nothing radical or un-American in holding these hearings,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) claimed Thursday as he launched his McCarthyite probe of American Muslims. He could not have been more wrong. If King is looking for threats to our freedoms and values, a mirror would be the place to start.

Here’s why. Imagine a young man, a Muslim, who changes in troubling ways. His two best friends become concerned, then alarmed, as the young man abandons Western dress, displays a newfound religiosity and begins to echo jihadist rhetoric about the decadence of American society. Both friends suspect that the young man has become radicalized and might even attempt some kind of terrorist attack.

One friend is Muslim, the other Christian. Does the Muslim friend have a greater responsibility than the Christian to contact the authorities? By the logic of King’s witch hunt, he does.

The Homeland Security Committee hearings that King has convened are billed as an inquiry into “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community’s Response.” In other words, King suspects that the Muslim community is somehow complicit. Individuals of one faith are implicated; individuals of another faith are not.

As Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), one of two Muslims in Congress, said in his moving testimony, King’s premise assigns “collective blame” to American Muslims. “Demanding a community response . . . asserts that the entire community bears responsibility,” Ellison said.

In his pugnacious opening statement, King noted that his plan to hold these hearings had been criticized by “special-interest groups and the media,” which he said had gone into “paroxysms of rage and hysteria” at the prospect. “To back down would be a craven surrender to political correctness,” he said. In case someone missed the point, King later said it was our duty to “put aside political correctness and define who our enemy truly is.”

King asserted that “this committee cannot live in denial.” He then went straight there – into denial – by paying no heed to the witness best situated to answer the committee’s question.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca testified in opposition to King’s premise, citing figures demonstrating that radical, extremist acts of crime are committed by non-Muslims as well, and that seven of the past 10 known terrorist plots involving al-Qaeda have been foiled in part by information provided by Muslim Americans. Baca said his officers have good, productive relationships with Muslim leaders and citizens. Law enforcement officials from other jurisdictions where there are large Muslim communities could have given similar testimony, had they been invited.

King is trying to peddle the hooey that moderate Muslims do not speak out against extremism. It took Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) to note the irony that among the committee’s witnesses were two devout Muslims – one Syrian American, the other Somali American – who were there to speak out, quite loudly, against extremism.

King, in effect, was demanding to know why he didn’t see what was taking place before his eyes. Perhaps he was distracted by the need to maintain constant vigilance for any hint of political correctness.

That’s really what King’s grandstanding is all about. The purpose of these hearings isn’t to gather information. If it were, officials of the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security would have been asked to testify. In addition to inviting Minneapolis-based Abdirizak Bihi, a Somali American whose nephew was recruited by the terrorist organization al-Shabab, King could have brought in police from the Twin Cities to testify about cooperation by the Somali immigrant community.

King’s intent is theatrical, not substantive; he’s not trying to elicit facts, he’s inviting catcalls – and cheers.

It should not be so, but Islamophobia is a powerful force in American politics. There are those who will applaud King for associating the phrase “American Muslim community” with the phrase “who our enemy truly is.”

But decency is a powerful force, too. The hearing’s indelible moment came when Ellison broke down in tears. He was telling the story of Mohammad Salman Hamdani, a young Muslim who rushed into the World Trade Center to try to rescue victims just before the towers collapsed. His remains were found in the rubble.

Hamdani was not just a Muslim, Ellison said, fighting to choke out words that no one could dismiss as politically correct. He was “an American who gave everything for his fellow Americans.”

By: Eugene Robinson, Op-Ed Columnist, The Washington Post, March 10, 2011

March 11, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Congress, Democracy, GOP, Homeland Security, Islam, Islamophobia, Justice, Muslims, Politics, Religion, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Destruction Of Middle America: Karl Rove’s Secretly-Funded Crossroads GPS Attacks Unions

Karl Rove’s secretly-funded Crossroads GPS is spending $750,000 airing a terribly misleading ad attacking public-sector labor unions. With declining support for the GOP’s anti-union stance, Rove’s group is looking towards the 2012 elections and aiming to counteract that slide by unfairly demonizing unions.

The ad also attempts to lay the blame on President Obama and tell viewers to tell him “you’ve had enough.” The group spent at least $17 million in the 2010 midterm elections, and along with Rove’s American Crossroads PAC, is planning to spend $120 million in the 2012 elections. Here is what the ad says, and why it is wrong:

“Why are Democrats shutting down state capitols to protect a system that pays unionized government workers 42% more than non-union workers?”

False.  As CMD has reported, an Economic Policy Institute report finds that, when controlling for education, and taking benefits into account, “full-time state and local government employees in Wisconsin are undercompensated by 8.2% compared with otherwise similar private sector workers.” In other words, it is unfair to compare compensation for an unskilled worker with a teacher who holds a master’s degree.

“A system that collects hundreds of millions in mandatory dues to back liberals who support government unions . . .”

False. See the U.S. Supreme Court decision Communication Workers of America v. Beck, 487 U. S. 735 (1988): nonunion employees cannot be required to pay dues to support political activities. In a unionized workplace, employees who choose not to join the union still reap the benefits of union representatives bargaining on their behalf, but they can only be required to pay dues towards that representation.

“One union boss explains . . .” the ad says, quoting from a July 2009 speech by National Education Association General Counsel Bob Chanin that, taken out of context, makes unions sound like money-sucking power-hogs.

False–through misleading editing.  The full quote is actually a reminder to teachers that their interests and those of their students will not be guaranteed by the dignity of the profession, or their passion for teaching:

So the bad news, or depending on your point of view, the good news, is that NEA and its affiliates will continue to be attacked by conservative and right-wing groups as long as we continue to be effective advocates for public education, for education employees, and for human and civil rights. And that brings me to my final and most important point. Which is why, at least in my opinion, NEA and its affiliates are such effective advocates. Despite what some among us would like to believe, it is not because of our creative ideas. It is not because of the merit of our positions. It is not because we care about children. And it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power. And we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year because they believe that we are the unions that can most effectively represent them, the unions that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees.

In light of the present attack on educators and other public employees by the likes of Scott Walker and Karl Rove, Chanin was correct. The integrity of public education is not being protected by good ideas, sacrifices by teachers, or by widespread recognition that education is an investment in the future. The primary defenders of public education and public educators are unions.

The same goes for unions defending the integrity of other public services against right-wing attacks. The real motivation for Rove, Walker, and the like is to crush union political power.  Wisconsin’s Senate majority leader has boasted about this partisan political strategy today. And in our post-Citizens United world, the only counterweight looking out for middle-class interests are labor unions. And only labor unions are powerful enough to attempt to counterbalance corporate interests and speak on behalf of working people in the election process. Despite losing one battle today, the fight to protect America’s middle class andw working people has only just begun.

By: Brendan Fischer, Center For Media and Democracy, March 10, 2011

March 11, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Democracy, GOP, Income Gap, Middle Class, Politics, Unions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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