Senator Ron Johnson Fails Again

It should surprise no one that tea bagger senator, Ron Johnson, is a fan of Ayn Rand. He recently gave an interview with the Rand-inspired, Atlas Society, where he made, as you would expect from someone like Johnson, a lot of stupid comments. However, one particular thing he said hasn’t achieved as much attention as it probably should have (skip to 6:37):

For those of you who can’t watch clips at work:

“It’s a real concern,” Johnson said, when asked if he saw examples of the private sector “shrugging”—that is, wilting under the pressure of government regulations. “As I talk to business owners that maybe started their businesses in the ’70s and ’80s, they tell me, with today’s level of taxation and regulation, there’s no way I can start my business today.”

Sigh.

See, this is why it’s difficult to have a grown up conversation with these folk. This is yet another example of a far right douchebag trying to argue his case by once again rewriting history.

So taxes in the 70s and 80s were much more business friendly than under Chairman ObaMAO’s regime? Let’s take a look, shall we? Here’s a list of the historical corporate tax rates from the non partisan Tax Policy Center. A quick glance shows that the top rates ranged from 49.2% in 1970 to 40% through 1987, with the last few years of that decade going at 34%. How does that compare to the anti freedom environment we have today? Currently, the rate is a whopping 35%!

Well, that appears to somewhat undermine Johnson’s complaint. But Let’s continue. What about the capital gains tax rate? The rate seemed to range from 20% on the low end, to as high as nearly 40% in those two decades. Up until the the beginning of this year, the rate under the entire first term for Obama was a crushing….15%?

Hmm.

So how do you suppose Johnson squares this circle? I would imagine that he rationalizes in by one of two ways. One theory is that Johnson may belong to that group of people who subscribe to the belief that numbers worked differently back in the old days before the stupid liberals recruited the homosexuals to write our arithmetic textbooks.

Alternatively, as Johnson has demonstrated quite recently, it could be that he simply just doesn’t care about getting his facts in order.

Unusual New Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage

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Gay Marriage has come a long way over the past years. It seemed the 2012 election especially spelled the turning of the tide toward equality for same-sex couples. The past had been shaky for voting in gay marriage, but finally it won in 3 states, Maine, Maryland and Washington state. Minnesota voters also weighed in by defeating a possible “traditional” marriage amendment. In addition to all that, we elected our first openly gay U.S. senator, Tammy Baldwin.

Factually, the best is yet to come. History seems to be on the side of same-sex marriage. It’s just a matter of time. Advocates have been wondering, though, whether that time would come much sooner than anyone had predicted. Back in December the Supreme Court decided it would take up two separate cases on the matter. One is on California’s Prop 8, which could either accept or reject a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. The other is on the Defense of Marriage Act, the law signed by Bill Clinton that says no state is required to recognize a same-sex marriage from another state, and for federal benefit purposes same-sex marriage is not recognized.

People are wondering whether Chief Justice Roberts will be primarily concerned with his legacy or what one normally thinks of as conservative principles. What makes speculation on this so interesting is that he actually did pro bono work on a landmark gay rights case. That might not mean anything, though. He could have just been representing his clients to the best of his ability. We don’t really know. There’s also a lot of wiggle room to decide. It could push same-sex marriage as a right throughout the country, or rule much more narrowly for California.

The arguments the lawyers defending DOMA and Prop 8 came out last week, and the justification feels especially bizarre. Here’s what Paul D. Clement, lawyer for the House Republicans wrote:

“[Traditional Marriage Laws] reflect a unique social difficulty with opposite-sex couples that is not present with same-sex couples — namely, the undeniable and distinct tendency of opposite-sex relationships to produce unplanned and unintended pregnancies. Unintended children produced by opposite-sex relationships and raised out-of-wedlock would pose a burden on society.”

That’s right, the argument is no longer that same-sex marriage is immoral. It’s not that same-sex marriage would be a menace on our society or a slippery slope to “man on dog,” or marrying a table or a clock. No, now it has nothing to do with the apparent ridiculousness to conservatives of same-sex people being able to fall in love. It doesn’t even have anything to do with the myth that children are better with opposite-sex couples than same-sex ones, something which has been disproven. Now the argument is that opposite-sex coupling is actually inherently so dangerous to society as a whole that we need to incentivize them to bond more permanently. We can’t trust them to figure things out themselves. The idea is, apparently, that same-sex couples have to plan to have a child, and thus they don’t need marriage. Shall we call this the shotgun traditional marriage defense?

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The Changing World and the Rise of Drones

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Before we begin, you might be wondering where I stand on the issue. I understand the need for it, but I also understand its concerns. To say it is right or it is wrong will mean that I have the answers. I do not. I neither promote nor condemn it, because it is not a black and white issue with clear cut answers. I could think of ways to reduce its usage and make everyone happy in the process, but it’s not that easy. Every one of us should deeply think about its place in today’s warfare and come up with at least a little bit of understanding on its usage. My article seeks to do that by expounding on its use in today’s global political climate.

In the light UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ review of American Military’s usage of Drone strikes, I think it’s apt to understand why modern warfare has changed. The inquiry was sponsored by Russia, China and Pakistan.

In my opinion, the 2003 invasion of Iraq will be the last time we will see a “traditional war”. Even though Russia, Pakistan and China have launched the anti-American policy inquiry, we will never go to war with them. Iran and North Korea are the only two countries on earth that are still remaining in our “Axis of Evil” list created by President George W. Bush. Despite the war cries from the likes of Sen. John McCain, there won’t be an Iran invasion partly due to the realization of drain on the economic health of a country, but mostly due to globalization. In the past 30 years, the world has become more open due to commerce, diplomatic efforts and citizen journalism. The last bastion of dictators has been wiped from South America, Eastern Europe and now Middle East, which always hosted some of the most ruthless rulers in modern history. Apartheid has failed. The walls have been shattered, revolutions have sprung, democracies incubated and voices heard. This era of transformations will continue our Global Village Project forward.

Moving forward, the greatest challenge the west faces is not sovereign countries, but non-state actors. Though there is always the possibility that a fringe group could successfully attempt a coup d’etat on a country like Russia or Pakistan and start a traditional war, the likelihood of that happening has been shrinking due to shared intel and joint operations between countries. Now I’m not saying that we will never ever see a large-scale war. We will, at some point in time. But it will be something like Operation Allied Force or more recently, Operation Unified Protector.

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Glenn Grothman is a Terrible Human Being

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The man who represents me in my state of Wisconsin is a terrible human being. You’ve probably heard his name more than a few times. I know I did before I moved here and had to accept the fact that he’s now my link to my state government. It seems every time Republican state Senator Glenn Grothman opens his mouth he promptly puts his foot in it. Usually he doesn’t stop with just the foot. Nope, he goes whole-hog and shoves the entire thing in until he’s left coughing, wheezing, and spouting nonsensical noises some people apparently seem to misinterpret as rational speech. I say some people, because I clearly can’t distinguish anything remotely close to rationality coming from him, but I suppose butt cheeks tend to muffle speech patterns when your face is sandwiched between them. Maybe some people have better hearing than I do. I don’t know. I do wonder how he breathes from up there, though.

Here he is the other day suggesting that Planned Parenthood is a racist organization that targets Asian Americans for sex selective abortions because… well, apparently they just hate minorities!

Sure Planned Parenthood operates in minority neighborhoods a lot of the time, but you don’t think that might have something to do with minorities being disproportionately poor? As their mission statement says, “Planned Parenthood believes in the fundamental right of each individual, throughout the world, to manage his or her fertility, regardless of the individual’s income, marital status, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, national origin, or residence.” Now, who do you think has a harder time managing their fertility? Who do you think needs more resources than the poor? Who do you think has a harder time driving distances in order to get these resources? That’s right, the poor. This has nothing to do with being racist and everything to do with locating yourself where you’re most needed.

And what does Planned Parenthood actually say specifically about sex selective abortions? They condemn it:

“Gender bias is contrary to everything our organization works for daily in communities across the country. Planned Parenthood opposes racism and sexism in all forms, and we work to advance equity and human rights in the delivery of health care. Planned Parenthood condemns sex selection motivated by gender bias, and urges leaders to challenge the underlying conditions that lead to these beliefs and practices, including addressing the social, legal, economic, and political conditions that promote gender bias and lead some to value one gender over the other.

This isn’t the first time Glenn Grothman has been completely and utterly wrong, as you can probably tell from my contempt up in the first paragraph. No, I reserve that level of contempt for people like Glenn who consistently prove beyond a shadow of a doubt they don’t have the brain cells it should take to converse and sympathize with their fellow human beings. Let’s look at what else Glenn has proudly proclaimed from inside his backside.

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Opinion: Socialist Politics – Aim for a Quiet Revolution

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Socialism. Its a word that when people hear they either jump up in joy or run for their lives. There are none that are in between when it comes to this word, you either have a clear opinion of it or you do not. I personally cannot blame people to much. Over the twentieth century so many things used the socialist title that its pretty diluted from its true meaning. Socialism is defined as the means of production being in the public hands instead of the private. In laymans term this means that industries such as your local energy company and your job are under your control. Usually through democratic means. In theory it often involves a mixture between the common persons control over their work-life and how resources are allocated through the nation. Unfortunately far left, and just leftist policies in general have been succumbed to witch hunts in recent years and all have but completely left the political frame work.

There is still very much a reason for focus on empowering the modern worker and giving them much more control over the elite. The growing inequality in the first world, the handling of the Great Recession, the growth and power of the modern corporation. All these things need no explanation.

However it is incredibly obvious that performing such a change in a rapid manner can be very dangerous as demonstrated throughout history. I feel that I do not need to explain the horrors that occurred in many of the iron curtain nations. Yes you can say “Well that was hardly socialism” or “It was just a flavor of it”, but I think what people should take away from the iron and sickle era was the dangers of mixing untested extreme ideas with groupthink. A bloody revolution may sound cool and sexy, but at the end of the day modern history has shown that this isn’t how things should be done.

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Saturday Morning Cartoon – Benghazi Edition

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It’s time for another Saturday Morning Cartoon! This week, Ramirez drew this brilliant cartoon criticizing Hillary Clinton for her wording during the Benghazi testimony the other day. The names on the gravestones are, of course, those killed in Benghazi, and he’s trying his hardest to imply that she’s saying their lives don’t matter. She’s dismissing them as she sits atop their dead bodies. Not only that, though, but the bottom line implies that it was directly responsible for their death, that their lives could have been saved if there had not been confusion over what happened.

Instead, if you just see or hear the full context of that quote, it brings things into a completely different light. “We were misled that there were supposedly protests and something sprang out of that, an assault sprang out of that” Ron Johnson (a man who didn’t even go to the Benghazi briefing) had accused her at the hearing, “and that was easily ascertained that that was not the fact.”

This was her full response to that:

With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, senator.  (Video 2 on this page)

As you can see, she very much believes that those four dead Americans matter. You can hear her voice crack as she speaks of their funerals and talking with their families. They do matter to her, and the heart of the real fight right now, for her, is making sure that it doesn’t happen again.

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Obama’s mentioning of the LGBT in his Inauguration speech was a pivotol moment

 

On Monday during his Inauguration speech, President Barack Obama did what no President had before him and that was to link the ongoing struggle of the LGBT community to that of Women’s Suffrage and the Civil Rights Movement for African Americans. This comment simply reflects the great strides that have been made by the LGBT, especially in the last four years. From achieving hospital visitation rights, the repeal of DADT, and more. The shackles of being treated as second class citizens has been loosened more so than at anytime before and hopefully the cuffs will be fully removed this year when the ban on gay marriage is struck down by the Supreme Court.

For too long gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender citizens of this country have been forced to hide who they are in all arenas of life. From their employer, their friends, and even their families. Our country has been dragged kicking and screaming (as we unfortunately usually are) when it comes to recognizing that the problem doesn’t lie with the persecuted group (in this case the LGBT community) but rather the problem lies with the rest of us.

Children have been persecuted by their classmates just because they have two mothers or two fathers. They are bullied because they may happen to be attracted to boys instead of girls. Athletes are forced to go to far lengths to prove their heterosexuality to their teammates and fans just so they aren’t kicked off of their team or lose their endorsements. Just until last year, this country’s hero’s who voluntarily enlist in our military and lay their lives down for the rest of us were forced to hide that they were gay.

When the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was being debated in Congress, if you’d have been listening to folks like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or Laura Ingraham, you’d have thought that such a repeal would mean that the very foundation of our society was being threatened. Oliver North even argued that by repealing DADT, we would be inviting NAMBLA (North American Man Boy Love Association) into the military. Once the beacon of Republican modernism and sanity, John McCain said this regarding the DADT repeal, “I hope that when we pass this legislation that we will understand that we are doing great damage.Today is a very sad day.” The amount of fear-mongering and vitriol that went around was simply horrifyingly depressing. In the end, no freedoms were stolen, rather equality was provided.

The LGBT community has pushed so hard and has traveled so far in spite of the rest of society trying to stand in its way. By not only mentioning the LGBT in his speech on Monday but linking them to the Women’s Suffrage and Civil Right’s movements – communities who didn’t wait for the society to supply them with equality but went out and claimed it – the President proclaimed what the rest of us need to recognize. The LGBT community is here to stay and it’s our job as their brothers and sisters to recognize them as such.

In West Virginia, a Changed Political Landscape

2012 Presidential Election in West Virginia
2012 Presidential Election in West Virginia

Less than a month after being re-elected to the House of Representatives for the seventh time in West Virginia’s second congressional district, Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito (R) announced that she plans to run for the United States Senate seat currently held by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D). Senator Rockefeller was first elected to the United States Senate in 1984 and has been re-elected with relative ease since then.

West Virginia spent much of the twentieth century being a stronghold for Democrats. In the seventeen Presidential elections from 1932 to 1996, West Virginia only voted for the Republican candidate three times. The last time a Republican was elected to the United States Senate for a full term in the state was when they elected W. Chapman Revercomb in 1942. Of the six elected positions in the executive branch, five of them are Democrats. Senator Joe Manchin was also recently elected to a full term with more than 60% of the vote.

But things have changed in West Virginia over time.

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The Problem With Republican Policies: Abortion Edition

On Tuesday, Chris Matthews had on his program Marjorie Dannenfelser, of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony Foundation. During the interview, there was one portion that really stuck out to me (Can’t Embed the Video at the moment, sadly),

So Matthews spends the last few minutes of the show to try and get an answer from Dannenfelser on what law she would like to have in place regarding abortion. Matthews asks her roughly thirteen times, and Dannenfelser either ignores, deflects, or offers nonsensical, meaningless answers (she kept yammering on about achieving “common ground”, whatever that means).

This exchange reminded me of a line from the always brilliant LOLGOP, roughly paraphrased as: The secret to Republicans winning elections is to pray that the voters have no idea they’re actually voting for Republicans.

(Sadly, I can’t find the actual quote, as it was said it a much more elegant fashion than my somewhat mangled recollection.)

The point being is that Republican ideas are generally horrific when actually clarified and elaborated. This is why they’re always vague, and rarely offer any specific policy proposals (ex. “Cut spending! But we won’t tell you where we want to cut!”). Matthews repeatedly asked Dannenfelser what the punishment should be for someone who commits an abortion, offering suggestions like prison sentences, which Dannenfelser insisted she didn’t support.

Look, I realize abortion is a very serious topic. While I personally am pro-choice, I can totally respect a pro-life person’s opinion that they feel there’s no difference between a fetus and a baby. However, we have to also realize that by accepting that line of thought, it leads to some very uncomfortable, and very dangerous roads. Things like, as Matthews said, imprisoning women who have an abortion, or forcing raped women and girls to have their rapists’ child.

Also, I know most of my fellow lefties aren’t big fans of Chris Matthews, but I always love it when he has moments like this.

The U.S. Military Takes a Step Forward – Women are Now Allowed in Combat Roles

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The U.S. military is now ending its ban on women in combat positions. Did you have to read that sentence again? I still do, and I just typed it …and heard it on NPR this morning, and I heard it on the television last night. I still feel like it’s not something I should be hearing in 2013. No, I’m not talking about the lifting the ban part, I’m talking about the ban to begin with. It’s been nearly 100 years since we gave women the right to vote (and I’m hoping it was equally bizarre to at least some people back then that they didn’t have that right before 1920), and just now can women die fighting for that right, at least officially and directly.

Women have already been dying and getting severely injured in wars for years now. Tammy Duckworth, a disabled veteran currently serving in the House is great proof of that, and proof what kind of a hero a woman can be. The helicopter  she was co-piloting was hit by a rocket propelled grenade in Iraq. Tammy was in the air, though, and a lot of the ban was on ground troops. Still, that proves that devotion and strength of character of women aren’t in question, nor should they ever have been. After all, there are plenty of women buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Even on the ground, though women have been in the line of danger for quite some time.  As CNN points out, too, “More than 800 women were wounded [in Iraq and Afghanistan], and at least 130 have died.” War now is quite unlike war in centuries or even decades past. There isn’t really a defined front line anymore. Developing new strategies to fit into this truth is part of our struggle in Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s also part of the struggle to figure out what our policies and strategies should be in the continuing ‘War on Terror.’ Like it or not, we don’t fight just one clearly defined enemy in a clearly defined space anymore. Our enemies are vast and spread out. As such, women in military roles are already basically in combat roles. As Joe Davis, director of public affairs for the Veterans of Foreign Wars points out, “The current DOD policy is to not assign women to combat units, yet irregular warfare, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan, places those in combat support or combat-service support units in just as much risk as the infantry.” In Afghanistan women are also used as outreach to locals. At any point an assignment like that can already morph into a combat mission.

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