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“An Imaginary Dark Vision Of The Future”: Ted Cruz And His Manufactured Doctrine Of Pretend Paranoia

Texas Senator Ted Cruz has found a new and improved angle with which to push his war against marriage equality in America.

In an interview with Christian Broadcast Network’s David Brody, Cruz raised a full-scale red alert when announcing that gay marriage will put us on the road to placing our First Amendment protections at severe risk.

Seriously. He really said that.

“If you look at other nations that have gone down the road towards gay marriage, that’s the next step of where it gets enforced. It gets enforced against Christian pastors who decline to perform gay marriages, who speak out and preach biblical truths on marriage and that has been defined elsewhere as hate speech — as inconsistent with the enlightened view of government.”

Fearful that my own support of equal rights under the law for all Americans might lead to the loss of my constitutionally protected opportunity to be as offensive, prejudiced, bigoted and disrespectful in my own speech as humanly possible, I went looking for those ‘nations’ Cruz referred to—nations where same-sex marriage has led to the criminalization of free speech.

Fortunately, Glenn Beck’s “The Blaze” was there to show me the way by relaying the sorry tale of Aake Green, a Pentecostal pastor in Sweden who was prosecuted under Swedish law for having some unkind things to say about gay marriage when addressing his congregation.

Writes The Blaze  —

“Green’s plight corroborates the worries that Cruz has surrounding America’s current trajectory. In 2003, the preacher (referring to Green) likened homosexuality to cancer during one of his sermons. As a result, he was brought up on charges over these claims — statements that, in America, would currently be protected by the First Amendment… Mr. Green was convicted in June 2004 but allowed to remain free pending appeal.”

Never mind that Pastor Green was acquitted by Sweden’s Supreme Court as a result of a determination that Green’s speech was protected by the European Convention on Human Rights—the superseding law protecting Green’s right to say any ridiculous thing in public he likes. And given that the laws established by the European Convention take precedence over a Swedish law that was in conflict, the Swedish law under which the good pastor was prosecuted was rendered moot and unenforceable leading to no prosecutions of this nature in Sweden since this one, solitary 2005 case.

For that matter, I can find no evidence of any such prosecutions anywhere in the world, despite Cruz’s assertion that his paranoiac premonition is based on the examples of multiple nations.

While Senator Cruz was unwilling or unable to follow the Swedish case to its happy ending when forming his fears for a future without First Amendment rights in America as a direct result of gay marriage —happy endings don’t fit well into Cruz’s doctrine of pretend paranoia—one might have thought that this one-time Solicitor General for the State of Texas would have been able to research the law of his own nation before making his dire prediction.

In the famous 2011 Supreme Court case of Snyder v. Phelps, the free speech rights of the despicable Westboro Baptist Church—the church group famous for crashing funerals so that they may scream terrible things about gay people at grieving funeral attendees—were upheld by an 8-1 vote in the U.S. Supreme Court. In that case, Chief Justice Roberts, while referring to the behavior of Westboro Church members as “vile”, stated—

“We cannot react to [Snyder’s] pain by punishing the speaker. As a nation we have chosen a different course – to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.”

Could the Chief Justice’s statement possibly be more on point when it comes to contradicting Ted Cruz’s dark vision of a future with same-sex marriage?

And yet, Senator Ted Cruz, a man whose job was once to argue cases on behalf of his state before that very same United States Supreme Court, wants us to believe that he fears that gay marriage puts us at risk of forfeiting our right to free speech.

Nobody should be too terribly surprised as this is but the most recent expression of Cruz’s political formula guaranteed to send a warm thrill up the leg of right-wing extremists everywhere.

It is a formula as simple as it is winning.

You take a political issue that rattles the right-wing to its core, draw a line connecting the legalization of that issue to the possible loss of a constitutional right—no matter how ridiculous and far fetched the connection may be— and…presto…you’ve got one great political pitch sure to get the attention of those who thrive on the Doctrine of Pretend Paranoia.

This is not the first time Cruz has played this game.

Recall, if you will, that day on the Senate floor when Cruz’s suggestion that background checks before purchasing guns would place us on a path to a national registry for gun owners, despite the fact that the legislation under debate—the Manchin-Toomey Bill—specifically barred such a federal registry.

If you do not recall this, you might want to take a look at Cruz’s debate with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) as Schumer highlights the preposterous nature of Cruz’s paranoiac visions of the future.

Just like his efforts to connect same-sex marriage with the destruction of First Amendment rights, in the instance of gun control, Cruz took a piece of legislation that deeply upset his base, despite being popular with the overwhelming majority of Americans, and drew a line to an imaginary consequence.

What happened?

Cruz’s base ate it up and the legislation went down to defeat.

Mr. Cruz’s latest effort to scare the crap out of his right-wing following—no matter how ridiculous the perceived end result of a policy with which Cruz followers disagree with may be—is simply a refinement of the time-honored and highly effective GOP practice of using fear and loathing to inspire votes. All one need do is look at the success of a “death panel” pitch that did so much to skew public opinion against the Affordable Care Act and the effectiveness of this approach is crystal clear.

Of course there was no rational connection between the actual healthcare reform law and the paranoiac prospect of government death panels, but that really did not matter, did it?

Just as Cruz ignored the realities of the Manchin-Toomey background check legislation which specifically barred the national gun registry Cruz claimed to fear, Senator Cruz knew his delusional argument would appeal to the paranoia of his followers; and just as the 2011 Supreme Court case would make Cruz’s paranoid vision of gay marriage leading to the destruction of First Amendment rights nothing short of preposterous, Senator Cruz knows full well that creating fear and loathing, in his own unique style, makes for a reliable game plan as he begins his drive towards the White House.

Let’s hope that, in the final analysis, American voters will see through Ted Cruz’s fully manufactured and dark vision of America—or at least the pretend vision that the Senator wishes to sell us. There are enough ‘real life’ things in this world to be paranoid about without purposely supporting a candidate dedicated to purveying his pretend brand of paranoia in the hopes of frightening Americans into going down dark roads that don’t actually exist.


By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, July 24, 2013

July 25, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Placating The Pyromaniacs”: Don’t Repeal Any Laws, Repeal John Boehner And House Republicans

It would be impossible to name the craziest thing said by a Republican so far this year. This year? This week.

New entrants arrive constantly and the competition is feral. And yet paradoxically they don’t even shock anymore. But one recent Republican remark should arrest you and deserves your contemplation: John Boehner’s statement on Face the Nation Sunday that he and his House Republicans “ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal.”

It’s not an outrageous statement in the Obama-wants-to-impose-Sharia vein, but in its way it’s more disturbing. The Republican Party now sees dysfunction as not just an unfortunate consequence of a set of historical factors, something that they might work every now and again to correct. Now, the Republican Party sees dysfunction as its mission.

This, I think you’ll agree, is new. Let’s put it more emphatically. It’s absolutely new in American history. Well, there exists some precedent back in the 1840s and ’50s (also led then by reactionaries who were mostly Southern). But in our modern history, let’s say, since we solved the problem of the peculiar institution and later became the world’s most powerful nation, we’ve been a functioning democracy. There have been many moments of ugliness and sclerosis. But the particular qualities of the American system have generally produced what you could reasonably call governance.

From the start, we were not a parliamentary system, in which loyalty to the party is paramount and demanded. For a range of reasons, individual House members and especially senators have always had more autonomy than legislators in parliamentary systems do. This, along with the facts of our vast geography and diversity of interests, made our parties more flexible and ensured that cross-party ad-hoc coalitions could get laws passed.

We also had a tradition of legislative deference to the president—on foreign policy most of all, but also on domestic issues to some extent. A president’s top few priorities were always given a hearing, and compromise was usually reached. Tip O’Neill didn’t share Ronald Reagan’s priorities by a long shot, but he saw that Reagan won handily and he didn’t use the Rules Committee or any other trick to prevent the new president from enacting his agenda, though of course he did try to alter it. Even Newt Gingrich, after passing as much of his agenda as he could, sat down and talked turkey with Bill Clinton on a range of issues and struck a deal on Social Security and the budget.

I reread the above two paragraphs and I see that I sound a bit like a textbook, and a quaint one at that, one printed long ago. Certainly, the words and sentiments are irrelevant to most of the GOP members of the House. They really don’t care about any of those things. Consider this fascinating, and morbid, little fact: of the 230-odd Republican House members, fully half, 115, have served since only 2010 or 2012. They didn’t come to pass legislation. They came to burn the place down.

Boehner is handing them his trusty Bic lighter. Yes, a man wants to hold on to his job, I understand that. And yes, a speaker shouldn’t necessarily tip his hand on how he feels about an issue—immigration, say—until later in the process. But is Boehner being canny, or a coward? Virtually everything Boehner says publicly is designed to placate the pyromaniacs. And if he’s ever said anything behind closed doors designed to challenge them, they’ve kept it an awfully good secret (which would not happen; it would be leaked within seconds to ensure that he felt the lash of the Tea Partying millions).

They have brought us to a place we’ve never been before: post-governance America. Oh, they have to pass some bills to keep Social Security checks going out, defense contractors being paid, that sort of thing. But passing the minimal number of bills needed to keep the economy from crashing to Middle Earth isn’t the same thing as legislating. Or compromising. Those, they won’t do. As Jonathan Chait notes this week, their “negotiating” position with Obama is this: We’ll raise the debt ceiling for the rest of your term. All you have to do is sign the Ryan budget into law and privatize Medicare. Right.

I don’t see any way out of this. We are stuck here for years. In all likelihood, because of the 2010 gerrymandering, the Republicans are going to control the House at least until 2021. That’s eight. More. Years. And Boehner, let us not forget, is the “moderate” among those in the leadership. Say he lets an immigration vote happen and pisses them off, back to Cincinnati (Cincinnati? What am I saying? He’ll become a corporate lobbyist and buy a nice house in Leesburg.) Then we get Speaker Eric Cantor, or Speaker Paul Ryan. I have trouble envisioning what “worse” could be, but it would most certainly get worse under either of those two.

This isn’t a partisan crisis. It’s a historical crisis. And the political system can’t solve it. We need leaders from other walks of life, especially from the various branches of the business world, to stand up and say to the Republicans that dysfunction cannot be your mission. You must govern. Govern conservatively, but govern. And we need, as I’ve said before, big-dollar organizations that can boot some of these people out of office and replace them with a few Dick Lugars. We don’t need to repeal any laws. Repealing a hundred or so people is what we need.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, July 24, 2013

July 25, 2013 Posted by | Congress, GOP | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Fostering Public Ignorance”: Health Care Reform Drives Republicans Stark Raving Mad

If insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, it’s tempting to observe that congressional Republicans have gone stark, raving mad. My own GOP congressman, Rep. Tim Griffin, recently delivered himself of an opinion column boasting about having “voted more than 30 times to repeal all or parts of Obamacare.”

Only in politics does somebody expect praise for sheer futility.

Characteristically, Griffin’s column began by misrepresenting Senator Max Baucus. No, the retiring Montana Democrat didn’t call Obamacare a “train wreck.” In context, Baucus was complaining about Congress’s refusal to adequately fund programs helping people understand the law. With so much disinformation out there, he feared that public ignorance would lead to citizens initially missing out on its benefits.

But then fostering public ignorance is the whole GOP game plan at this point. Having been defeated in the House and Senate, failing to have Obamacare declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, and being rejected by voters in the 2012 presidential election, disinformation and sabotage are all they’ve got left.

In that spirit, Griffin quoted The Washington Examiner, one of those tycoon-funded right-wing propaganda publications reporting that “cost estimates from 17 of the nation’s largest insurance companies indicate that health insurance premiums will grow an average of 100 percent under Obamacare, and that some will soar more than 400 percent.”

Yeah, well the results are starting to come in. In California and New York, the nation’s two most populous states that have set up health care exchanges, premiums have dropped sharply below Congressional Budget Office projections.

According to the New York Times, “State insurance regulators say they have approved rates for 2014 that are at least 50 percent lower on average than those currently available in New York. Beginning in October, individuals in New York City who now pay $1,000 a month or more for coverage will be able to shop for health insurance for as little as $308 monthly. With federal subsidies, the cost will be even lower.”

Similar savings have been achieved in California. They can be expected anywhere that large numbers of Americans can be persuaded to buy into the program and quit playing health care roulette.

But then that’s how insurance works—auto insurance, life insurance homeowners’ insurance, all insurance. By spreading the risk, you lower the cost to individual customers.

That’s the basic insight that led Benjamin Franklin to found the Philadelphia Contribution for Insurance Against Loss by Fire back in 1752. The more people purchase private health insurance through Obamacare, the lower their premiums and the lower the eventual cost to taxpayers.

Not to mention the enormous gain in personal freedom to individuals who can no longer be denied coverage due to “pre-existing conditions,” bankrupted by unexpected medical conditions, or forced to keep a job they dislike for fear of losing health insurance. Under Obamacare they can take it with them.

A certain kind of Republican, however, still doesn’t get it. Here’s GOP patriarch Ronald Reagan in 1961 inveighing against the dangers of “socialized medicine.” Unless Americans rejected it, he predicted, “one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.”

And what was Reagan talking about? Medicare. Should it be enacted, he warned, the plan to provide for Grandma’s medical bills would lead to government seizure of all doctors’ offices and hospitals. An all-powerful state would dictate where Americans would live and what their jobs would be.

Of course the Gipper was only an actor, reading a tycoon-approved script. After he became president he vowed to protect Medicare, already one of the most popular and successful government programs in U.S. history—along with Social Security, another threat to freedom as the scripted Reagan saw it.

Some still do. A local Republican politician of my acquaintance once suggested that if I liked Obamacare so much I should leave the country. I responded that as the losing party, maybe he should emigrate.

And good luck finding a country without universal health insurance and with indoor plumbing.

It’s true that with Red State politicians dragging their feet and Republican congressmen whose offices routinely assist constituents to work out Medicare and Social Security problems telling reporters they’ll refuse to help with Obamacare, the short-term rollout could be bumpy.

Over time, however, the Republican right is setting itself up for epic failure. Partisan passions aside, people want and need reliable health insurance. Doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies need it as well.

This too: never mind the politicians. Health insurance companies are going to market Obamacare bigtime. Since the law mandates that 80 percent of premiums must be spent on benefits, the only way the insurance industry can enhance profits is by finding more customers.

It’s the American way.


By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, July 24, 2013

July 25, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Being Mrs. Carlos Danger”: Subjected To A Storm Of Contempt

As America basks in the comedic glow cast by Anthony Weiner’s dirty little keyboard, made so hilarious by Weiner’s use of the online pseudonym “Carlos Danger,” many are asking, what about Huma? That Weiner is a dirtball is pretty clear to all at this point, and given that a year after he had left Congress over the first incarnation of the sexting scandal he was still playing these games suggests something compulsive about the behavior. An ordinary person, particularly one who wanted to stage an eventual political comeback, would say, “OK, I had my fun, but now I’ve been caught and humiliated—no more of that.” But who the hell knows what was going on in his head? Maybe the possibility of getting caught was the whole thrill.

If you want to read the texts, they’re here. My absolute favorite is when, in the midst of all the Penthouse Forum dirty talk, Weiner sends this plaintive text to his digital paramour: “I’m deeply flawed.” You can say that again, Carlos.

Huma Abedin is just the latest in a long line of women who had to stand before the press while their husbands discussed their betrayal. Each one handled it differently—Elizabeth Edwards was supportive in front of the cameras but raged at John privately, Jenny Sanford dumped Mark like a rock—but as Garance Franke-Ruta notes, if we assume Weiner and Abedin are telling the truth that she’s known about Sexting II: Sext Harder for a while, then they had prepared for this moment for some time.

I didn’t find much wrong in the statement she gave; it was blunt about how difficult it was for her to stay married to Weiner, said in the end their marriage is private, and expressed her belief in his political career. In other words, it was exactly what you’d expect. What was she going to do, slap him across the face in front of the cameras? I’ve seen many people react negatively toward Abedin’s statement (here’s an exception), which I think isn’t so much about what she said at the press conference but more a reaction to the fact that she hasn’t packed her bags. We can all say, “How can she stay with him?”, particularly when the two of them were posing for People magazine talking about all the progress they’d made at the same time he was starting up a new online relationship. The trouble is that it’s hard to find a good reason Abedin would stick with this. Is being the mayor’s wife really that great?

And that may be the most despicable thing about what Weiner did. Not just that he betrayed Huma in this way but that he asked her to accompany him on his mission to become mayor of New York, all the while taking this enormous risk that would not only put that bid in jeopardy but also mean that at some point, she’d have to come before the cameras and do what she did. Forcing his wife into that public humiliation, even knowing it would inevitably subject her to a storm of contempt, was, for him, worth the price of Carlos Danger having his fun (or feeding his addiction, or however you want to think about it).

It can’t be said too often that none of us knows what goes on between them or what is in her head. But I picture Huma going down to the basement every night, where there’s a punching bag on a chain; she puts on the gloves and goes to town, eyes narrowed, teeth clenched, sweat pouring down her face. The sound of her punches echoes up the stairs to where Anthony sits reading campaign memos, each thwack a reproach that he knows he should feel worse about than he does. After a while she climbs the stairs, panting, and stops in the doorway to stare at the back of his head. Knowing her eyes are on him, he turns and puts on a smile. “Good workout?” he asks. She pauses an extra second before answering, just to let him know she knows how full of it he is. “Yes.” Then she turns and heads for the shower, while he lets out a big sigh and returns to his computer.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 24, 2013

July 25, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Too Inept To Lead: Steve King Fills A Vacuum Left By John Boehner

The Democratic Party’s general approach to immigration policy is pretty straightforward: create a legal process through which millions of undocumented immigrants already in the United States can become legal citizens, while taking concrete steps to improve border security. The Republican Party’s position on immigration is … less clear.

GOP officials are divided, confused, and overwhelmed by uncertainty. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was asked over the weekend for his personal opinion on a pathway to citizenship, and the Republican leader was so overwhelmed by weakness and fear that he refused to give an answer.

This in turn creates a vacuum within the Republican Party, which is filled by folks like Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). Watch on YouTube

For those who can’t watch clips online, here’s what the GOP lawmaker told a right-wing website about Dream Act kids:

“There are kids that were brought into this country by their parents unknowing they were breaking the law. And they will say to me and others who defend the rule of law, ‘We have to do something about the 11 million. Some of them are valedictorians.’ Well, my answer to that is … it’s true in some cases, but they aren’t all valedictorians. They weren’t all brought in by their parents. For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert. Those people would be legalized with the same act.”

In case facts still matter, King’s assessment isn’t even close to being accurate.

But even if we put that aside, King’s offensiveness reinforce a larger dynamic in Republican politics that party leaders are eventually going to have to address.

To be sure, House GOP leaders eventually got around to criticizing King’s comments last night, just as they did in March when another House Republican lawmaker used the “wetbacks” slur.

But soon after, King doubled down on his remarks, appearing on an Iowa radio show to say, “It’s not something that I’m making up. This is real.”

And while King keeps talking, and party leaders keep wringing their hands, it’s worth appreciating the political circumstances that have brought us to this point. Note, for example, that the right-wing Iowan may come across as a racist buffoon that the American mainstream finds repulsive, but at this point, he’s winning — King has been fighting to kill comprehensive immigration reform, and by all appearances, House Republican leaders intend to hand him and his allies the outcome they prefer.

In other words, as ridiculous as Steve King appears, he and his kooky friends are shaping the House Republican caucus’ position on immigration policy, largely because Boehner and his friends are too inept to lead.

What’s more, the dynamic is getting worse, not better. As Jon Chait explained back in April, “A drawn-out immigration debate commanding center stage will simply create more opportunities for conservative Republicans to say offensive things about Latinos. And make no doubt: however diligently their consultants coach them not to, they will say offensive things about Latinos.”

That was nearly four months ago, and Chait’s prediction is holding up quite well.

If Boehner wants to make this nightmare go away, the Speaker is going to have to try to pass immigration reform. Unfortunately for his party, the weight falls on Boehner’s shoulders, and he may not be up to the task.

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 24, 2013

July 25, 2013 Posted by | Bigotry, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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