Blog Archives

And some afternoon humor… The Republican’s Dancing with the Stars:

Found this on Crooks and Liars, and when I stopped laughing I figured I had to pass it on to you. My apologies to Edie Gorme.

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Congratulations to Hal Holbrook…

HANNIBAL, Mo. — Actor Hal Holbrook has been performing as Mark Twain for six decades. Now, he’s getting an award named after the author and humorist. The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum in Hannibal, Mo., said Wednesday that Holbrook is the first-ever recipient of the Mark Twain Lifetime Achievement Award to honor those whose life’s work has furthered the legacy of the literary icon.

Holbrook has been portraying Twain since 1954, and won a Tony award for “Mark Twain Tonight!” in 1966. He authored a memoir, “Harold: The Boy Who Became Mark Twain.”

The award was created in collaboration with the centennial of the Twain home and museum.

I have seen Holbrook play Twain several times, but one of my greatest thrills was to see him play Harry Hotspur (Sir Henry Percy) in Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1 at the Stratford, CT, Shakespeare Festival in 1961. He is an amazing actor.

Researching Robert G. Ingersoll

I have become fascinated by the life and work of Robert G. Ingersoll (1833 – 1899), Civil War Colonel, friend of Walt Whitman and Mark Twain, nationally known lecturer on many topics, lawyer and, if he had not been an avowed non-believer, he could have been President of the United States.

He was known as “The Great Agnostic” and was an early, and liberal, Republican who was a supporter of civil rights, women’s rights and freedom from religion long before the intellects of the mid to late 20th Century.

I’ll be posting transcripts of his speeches and other writings on the Robert G. Ingersoll page I have established on this blog.

Enjoy.

The House of Representatives represents who?

“Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

Mark Twain

One of the options you have when you’re retired like me is to spend time watching the members of Congress debate on C-Span. Indeed, watching them deal with legislation on Budget, Education, Health and other human services is an example of people speaking to each other but not listening to one word the other person says. You get what I mean?

Right now they are debating on “Rules for Changing the Federal Budget Process Bill.” No, they aren’t changing the budget. They are changing the RULES to change the budget as law.

Republicans are saying things like “tax cuts cause higher revenues.” Democrats are saying that “Inflation increases the amount of money needed to carry out necessary programs” like Social Security or Medicare.

At least one (Democrat, I guess) has quoted Grover Norquist‘s favorite statement that he doesn’t want to eliminate government… he just wants to shrink it…until it is small enough to drown in a bathtub. (btw, was Grover Norquist ever elected by anyone, anywhere to serve in Congress as they decide on things like this?)

In the long run, if you are a.) a Democrat proposing legislation or b.) presenting a proposal by President Obama… even if legislation being proposed was sought previously by Republicans… you can assume that the large majority of Republicans will make sure nothing passes. That has been the situation since the 2010 election that brought in all the Tea Party folks.

Do not expect anything to happen this season that will actually solve our very serious problems. Ain’t gonna happen.

Congress is back in session… don’t expect anything new.

“Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

Mark Twain

So now there is a reason to find the day’s comedy on C-Span and C-Span2 once more. Unfortunately, this is no longer comedy, but the essence of our national tragedy.

Tragedies have tragic figures, of course, who fall into the inescapable fissure of their own inabilities. The tragic figures here are not Democrats, not Republicans, not the President,

Mitch McConnell LEADS the Ranks of the Inverted

not Mitch McConnell, not John Boehner, and for heaven’s same not the Tea Party.

We are the Tragic Figures: Americans. Americans who no longer vote because they have  been alienated by one party or the other with the marketing assistance of Corporations and that 1% of the population that controls 80% of the money. Americans who hear politicians say “Put America First” and “Put Americans Back To Work” – yet cancel each other out on their own votes in Congress. Americans who are bought off without even knowing it… have been since Reagan… and who attack their own state of well being while they think they are standing strong.

The major point of tragedies is that they prove their point, but don’t end well. The Tragic Figure dies, or has eyes pulled out, or loses everything necessary to maintain life.

In a recent  Truthout article called “Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult”, Mike Lofgren shows the strategy that Republicans use to carry us further into unending misery:

Far from being a rarity, virtually every bill, every nominee for Senate confirmation and every routine procedural motion is now subject to a Republican filibuster. Under the circumstances, it is no wonder that Washington is gridlocked: legislating has now become war minus the shooting, something one could have observed 80 years ago in the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic. As Hannah Arendt observed, a disciplined minority of totalitarians can use the instruments of democratic government to undermine democracy itself.

John P. Judis sums up the modern GOP this way:

“Over the last four decades, the Republican Party has transformed from a loyal opposition into an insurrectionary party that flouts the law when it is in the majority and threatens disorder when it is the minority. It is the party of Watergate and Iran-Contra, but also of the government shutdown in 1995 and the impeachment trial of 1999. If there is an earlier American precedent for today’s Republican Party, it is the antebellum Southern Democrats of John Calhoun who threatened to nullify, or disregard, federal legislation they objected to and who later led the fight to secede from the union over slavery.”

A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress’s generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.

A deeply cynical tactic, to be sure, but a psychologically insightful one that plays on the weaknesses both of the voting public and the news media. There are tens of millions of low-information voters who hardly know which party controls which branch of government, let alone which party is pursuing a particular legislative tactic. These voters’ confusion over who did what allows them to form the conclusion that “they are all crooks,” and that “government is no good,” further leading them to think, “a plague on both your houses” and “the parties are like two kids in a school yard.”

…and, of course, the resulting action is that65% of Americans at a minimum no longer vote.

And that’s the real tragedy.

Quote of the Day (perhaps the Quote of the Month) from a Congressional Idiot:

Rohrabacher joins the Ranks of the Inverted

“Is there some thought being given to subsidizing the clearing of rain forests in order for some countries to eliminate that production of greenhouse gases? Or would people be supportive of cutting down older trees in order to plant younger trees as a means to prevent this disaster from happening?”

 – Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R – California

Rohrabacher was questioning Todd Stern, the Obama administration’s climate change envoy, on whether the nation’s climate policy should focus on reducing the more than 80 percent of carbon emissions produced by the natural world in the form of decaying plant matter.

And was he serious about this question… it seems like he was. So let’s cut down the rainforests and turn the world into an oxygen-depleted desert. Perhaps he doesn’t realize that forests soak up more than 1/3 of the world’s carbon emissions… and maybe we would do better to not cut down any more forests…ever.

Responding to a NY Times article on Rohrabacher’s statement, a Dallas, TX, reader commented:

Rep. Rohrabacher may not be that far out of the GOP thinking on the environment. It was his fellow Californian Ronald Reagan who claimed in 1981 that: “Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do.”

Is the lack of thinking problem endemic to California? Or to Republicans? Or just to Congressmen in general? As Mark Twain said:

“Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” 

Congress returning this week after a well-deserved time off (When do these guys actually WORK?

“Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”    – Mark Twain

After not being in session for over a week (when do these guys actually WORK?) our Congressmen and women are returning this week (of course, Monday, like Friday, is a travel day … when do these guys actually WORK?) and are going to take on the debt limit.

Geithner, the Treasury Secretary, says that the debt limit has to be raised in May or we will default on our debt payments by July. That will destroy our credit rating and make it impossible to borrow money which the country needs to survive.

Some Republicans don’t agree, however, as was made clear on yesterday’s talking head shows.

Official portrait of Tom Coburn, U.S. Senator.

Senator Coburn... Why is this man smiling?d shows.

Senator Tom Coburn (R -Oklahoma) on Meet The Press:

“The debt limit doesn’t really mean anything because we’ve always extended it. The Treasury secretary has the ability, even if this debt limit is not extended, to continue to pay interest on our loans. The idea that this is catastrophic is wrong — what is catastrophic is to continue to spend money we don’t have.”

And Coburn is a well-known economist..what? He isn’t? Sorry.

Representative Joe Walsh (R-Illinois) on Face The Nation:

Rep. Walsh... He looks like he knows...

“Over the course of those few months when the debt ceiling wasn’t raised, Armageddon didn’t hit, the government paid its bills — we’ve got enough government revenues to certainly pay, to service all of our debt. And the administration knows that. The administration’s got to get serious and recognize that we’re not just going to give them a vote to raise the debt ceiling unless they fundamentally change the way this city works.”

Walsh, as you may know, is actively campaigning to extend the Bush tax cuts… is that how we get enough money to pay the debts? Don’t think so.

It’s interesting that, during the Bush administration, that when the debt ceiling was raised 7 times, no Republican objected or said ANYTHING (when do these guys actually WORK?). That shows their collective economic knowledge must have been recently earned… perhaps they read about it in a magazine.

And it begins again… this time in the Senate

 

“Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

Mark Twain

As I settled in this afternoon awaiting a coming ice storm (the first of these just missed us last night) and curious about what’s going on in Egypt where around 2 million people were demonstrating today for Hosni Mubarak‘s resignation (in a speech this afternoon he said he would not run for reelection and would be out of office by the Fall… as you might guess, this does not seem good enough for the demonstrators who want him out now) I wondered what was happening on C-Span 2.

I thought I’d watch the Senate debate the FAA Funding Bill and what do you think happened? Senate Republicans have attempted to repeal last year’s sweeping health care law via an amendment to a FAA funding, proposed by the beloved Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Not since the Earth’s creation some 6000+ years ago, when men and dinosaurs peaceably shared the world, have I heard such idiocy.

So, instead of solving the major problem of supporting and improving Airline regulations, we are listening to Republicans tell us that most Americans are opposed to the Health Care law (although recent polls indicate that an average of 80% of those Americans DON”T WANT IT REPEALED!) They are adamant that 50 million people who became covered due to parts of the Affordable Care Act should be dropped from coverage… and at the same time they will continue to waste our time and money with this kind of folderol. I thought Harry Reid was going to keep this crap off the floor.

I guess this is going to be Mitch’s strategy… no matter what bill is proposed, Mitch will see to it that an amendment to repeal Health Care will be included. And we will look on in disbelief. Maybe we need 2 million Americans to stand outside of Congress until Mitch and his pals decide to take an early vacation.

 

Morning with the House of Representatives…

“Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

Mark Twain

I’m having a morning of amusing television watching the House of Representatives on C-Span debate the extension of the Bush Tax Cuts. Well, right now they are debating the rules by which they will debate the subject (which is funny enough in and of itself).

The Democrats are pushing to extend the cuts to 98% of Americans who earn less than $250,000 a year while restoring the taxes on Millionaires and Billionaires. Republicans are threatening a standoff… either give tax cuts to everyone, including the wealthy, or have the vote held up and watch it die in the Senate.

The republicans are, essentially, wasting as much time as possible with the goal of getting into the next Congress and passing  return to the Bush tax cuts as a return legislative move.

Of course, the thing that would work now is the Democrats in the House pushing this through and the Senate finding two Republican votes to get the filibuster-ending 60 votes which would pass the legislation before everyone trots home for Christmas.

Is this likely to happen? Probably not. There is also the notion that the President has already agreed to a temporary extension for everyone and the wealthy would be taxed again a couple of years down the road. With change in control of the House, this would be highly unlikely…the Republicans, supporting the wealthy, would seek permanence of the extension.

While a fifteen minute vote on the first House rule is going on in the House, I switch to the Senate to listen to Byron Dorgan (D – North Dakota) compare the untaxed Wealthy with the middle class soldiers who get up this morning to get shot at by Afghanistanis. I don’t think anyone is listening (the Senate floor seems to be empty). I’m often curious if Senate speeches accomplish anything at all.

Back to the House where Democrats are voting for the rule and Republicans are voting against it. Surprise, surprise. Wouldn’t it be amazing if Congressfolk voted according to actual values rather than party lines?