Not long ago, Republicans heralded the Tea Party movement that was born out of the February 2009 rant of CNBC's Rick Santelli on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and which quickly aligned itself with the Republican party. The movement helped Republicans score big wins in the November 2010 mid-term elections and seemed to set them up for bigger and more victories.
Randy Weber is doing exactly what he said he would do, oppose every action of our President, unfortunately it comes at the expense of seniors, and middle and low income families. Most Americans believe that any person who works full time should be able to support themselves and their family without being on government assistance, which is why 71% said Congress should raise the minimum wage. Last week Randy Weber voted "no" to raising the minimum wage and yes to the Paul Ryan budget that exacerbates our rising income inequality. While income for the top 20% of American households rose by 1.6 percent in 2012, households in the middle saw declines that helped bring Median household income to 8% below what it was before the recession started. It's unfortunate that even with the stock market making a strong rebound and corporations still making record profits that Americans can not rely on their members of Congress to ensure that hard working people can at least keep up with the rising cost of living.
The Paul Ryan budget is a get-out-of-paying-your-fair-share free card for millionaires, paid for by essential programs for seniors and low income families. It seeks to turn Medicare into a voucher program, raise the Social Security eligibility age from 65 to 70 for those 51, while giving an average tax cut of $245,000 to millionaires. The DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) has their hands full with a Republican majority afraid of the extremist in its own ranks, but it is definitely keeping a close eye on Rep. Weber and his Tea Party sympathies. Emily Bittner of the DCCC released this statement, "Congressman Randy Weber must be living in a different reality than most Americans - one where the rich should pay less, hardworking families should pay more and the biggest sacrifice should come from our seniors-but those aren't the values that made America great,".
Below the jump is a round up of the destructive nature of the Paul Ryan budget:
Smith County Republican Chairman Ashton Oravetz is resigning his post today because, as he sees it, the GOP is "beyond repair."
It's hard to disagree with that.
The fanatical GOP has meandered deep into the thicket of extremism and nonsense. Less than half of Republicans believe in climate change, while nearly seventy percent believe in demon possession. Congressional Republicans have twice threatened the country's credit rating over the debt limit. 150 Republican congressman in the last Congress voted for a bill that would allow abortions only in cases where the woman became pregnant through, "forcible rape" (as if there was any other kind).
But Oravetz , who identified as a Republican for 33 years and served as chairman of the Smith County Republican Party for five before resigning today, didn't resign because he thought the wayward GOP was too radical. He thinks the GOP isn't radical enough. And he told the Texas Tribune he is working to form a third party by 2016.
Check out Ashton Oravetz's full interview with the Texas Tribune's Alana Rocha below.
The Tea Party movement is dead. When an ant mound is poisoned and the queen dies there are still worker ants running around. However for all practical purposes, the mound is dead. That is the current state of the Tea Party.
The con artists that used the fear and ignorance of the Tea Party following minions to make millions of dollars on books, shows, conventions, and rallies are scrambling for the next issues ripe for exploitation. The immigration issue is losing traction. The fear of Obamacare is losing traction as more and more middle class Americans see the actual benefits. They have attempted to jump on the gun control issue. This may now be falling apart as the share violence America saw inflicted on its most innocent overtake the absolutist position of absolutely no gun regulations.
The above are words no Republican would utter even a year ago. As the American population has begun to awaken to the misinformation and outright lies of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, the voices that were too timid or cowardly to speak out will now not shut up. It is like an awakening out of the McCarthy era.
America is a resilient nation. Unfortunately there are times in its history when some would use fear of the unknown or a crisis to either do good (WWII, Moon Landing) or bad (Red Scare, Tea Party's short reign).
Sadly the short reign of the Tea Party has inflicted material harm to the country. The obstructionism they created stalled the recovery by not allowing the institution of real proven Keynesian stimuli. They forced the continuation of tax policies that incentivizes the transfer of wealth from the middle class to the wealthy. Some remnants of this destructive movement remain in the House and Senate, which means progress and recovery from their ill doings will be slow.
The 2012 election made much immediately evident. It showed that Americans are engaging more. They did not accept the misinformation that the mainstream media had given plausibility. They did not allow attempts of voter suppression to inhibit their democratic rights they fought for. They realized that a democracy requires engagement.
On Wednesday, January 23, Republican State Representative Bill Zedler filed House Bill 650 - a birther bill. The legislation would require any candidate for President or Vice-President to submit his or her birth certificate to the Texas Secretary of State in order to be allowed on the ballot. The application to be on the ballot, including the birth certificate, would be matters of public record.
Progress Texas has called on Rep. Zedler to withdraw the bill immediately - and if he should choose not to, for Texas House Speaker Joe Straus to refuse to refer the legislation to a committee, unless Speaker Straus believes there's merit in spending lawmaker's time and taxpayer dollars on a fringe debate that does nothing to improve our public schools, expand our health care, or invest in the future of Texas.
I am asking you to withdraw House Bill 650, the birther bill you have filed. The people of Texas are embarrassed by your actions. You may be one of the last 15 people on the planet (more or less) who thinks President Obama was not born in America.
The manufactured birther controversy was an obvious attempt by extreme Tea Party members to undermine our first African-American president - and by Donald Trump to remain relevant.
Rep. Zedler - a fringe, Tea Party conservative - is not new to crazy ideas. Rep. Zedler once tried to remove official complaints made against a doctor who injected jet fuel into his patients; the doctor also just happened to have given money to Rep. Zedler's campaign (Texas Tribune). Rep. Zedler has also filed legislation to bar discrimination against professors who teach intelligent design (HB 285), and another to outlaw Sharia law in Texas (HB 288).
One of the greatest ironies of the 2012 election is that some who claimed to be the Constitution's greatest defenders were so unhappy with our Republic's choice for President they are now calling for dissolving the Union altogether. Instead of hearing the clear message from voters about their policy positions, Republicans are blaming the electorate as "takers", calling for secession and lamenting the end of America as they knew and loved it. Fox News and friends completely botched the election results but will likely be forgiven by those who just like having their stereotypes of Democratic constituencies validated. The Anger is palpable. Rev. Franklin Graham said by reelecting Obama, America is going further down the "path of destruction", Fox News blamed single women for being single issue voters, Ann Coulter blamed Hispanics for "Ethnic loyalty" and O'Reilly simply announced the end of the "white establishment".
Before going any further let's get this straight - America was first a land of many indigenous nations that was colonized by Europeans who spread from sea to sea with the help of massive immigration. Today's immigrants are no less entitled to the opportunities to make a living off this great land than prior generations, a point well made by The Daily Show's Jon Stewart. Still there is a bitter romanticism about days the "white establishment" ruled the land, particularly the 1950s. An article titled "War on Men" that was just published by Fox News even blamed the 1960s sexual revolution and gender equality saying,
...the so-called rise of women has not threatened men. It has pissed them off. It has also undermined their ability to become self-sufficient in the hopes of someday supporting a family. Men want to love women, not compete with them.
This completely misses the point that most Americans really do care about freedom, the freedom to make their own personal choices and having the economic opportunity to do so. What was so great about the '50s wasn't that Leave it to Beaver represented the typical American family, but that it was a time of reletively low income disparity in the US. Yes, the greatest generation lived during a time when the rich paid their fair share and the highest marginal income tax rate was 91%. People saw the value of organized labor and as recently as the 70s, CEOs only made an average of 26.5 times their employees. Now, CEOs make over 200 times their employee and the Right still vilifies those who fight for fairness for working people. More over, they want you to believe that they earned all that money through “hard work”, yet they nominated a CEO for President who made $20 million this year even though the only thing he has run lately is - a failed Presidential campaign.
Today's Conservative tantrums present a great opportunity for Democrats to reach out to white middle-class male voters, a demographic they continue to struggle with. A successful effort could put the final nail in the national Republican Party's coffin. Unfortunately for the foreseeable future, Texas will not be that final nail. Here, Democrats may be winning the future demographic race but right now their inability to win moderate rural voters is crippling. Democrats share of the vote was less in 2012 than it was in 2008 and far behind Gov. Ann Richards' 49.7% in 1990. The truth is, in Texas there's a messaging gap not a demographic one - Republicans have hurt mostly-White rural Texans with their economic policies just as they have set back minorities across the board with their social policies. Those with a stake in the longevity of the Republican Party know it must change its social and economic image to be a viable institution in the future. The party that had once drawn success from a lock-step approach to legislative victory is now in the throes of an inner party struggle between those who feel the party is purifying itself into nonexistence and those who believe a broader appeal sacrifices their conservative values. This is most evident in the Republican quest to recruit Hispanics into their ranks. Conservatives claim that Hispanics have a natural propensity to be conservative but their voting trends show something much different. Not only did Hispanics vote overwhelmingly for Obama, they are majority supporters of his more controversial policies including the Affordable Care Act and marriage equality. This suggests that even if Republicans managed to cool-down their anti-immigration rhetoric it won't be enough to sway most Latino voters. And, its likely for the same reason they lost the greater election - their economic policies just don't add up to success for the middle class.
There was a time when Republicans stood up for workers rights and fought for living wages and the end of exploitation of cheap labor. These are policies that lead to a rising standard of living and the strengthening of the middle class, but now those days are gone. During the campaign the focus was abstract; rich vs poor, 1% vs the 99% but since voters rejected Romney's top-down economic approach the conversation has gotten more specific (Google the debacles of Hostess, Papa John's or Denny's). Fiscal conservatives need to ask themselves - who picks up the tab when full-time employees can not afford basics like housing, food or insurance? Judging by the results of the last election, taxpayers have figured out they're left on the hook and don't much like subsidizing corporate America so they don’t have to pay their employees fair wages. I had a Twitter debate with a policy analyst for the Texas Public Policy Foundation (a right-wing "think tank") about the Walmart strikes. He said he had not heard a good argument for buying local over a mulitinational chain. When I told him, "local retailers return a total of 52% of their revenue to the local economy, compared to just 14% for the nation chain retailers”, he responded, “This is not an important economic indicator.”. That sentiment explains why Texas is so great for business but not so for children and it demonstrates that the loyalty is not to family, community or country but to upward redistribution. If Republicans want to build a coalition of voters big enough to win a national election maybe they should consider bringing some of their own gifts to the Party. In the meantime Texas Democratic leaders need to exploit the Republican's current identity crisis and remind Independents and moderates that the "good old days" were about economic prosperity brought on by policies that focused on growing wealth inside-out, not upside-down.
I'll Leave you with a speech President Eisenhower gave to the AFL-CIO in 1955 (emphasis is my own):
You of organized labor and those who have gone before you in the union movement have helped make a unique contribution to the general welfare of the Republic--the development of the American philosophy of labor. This philosophy, if adopted globally, could bring about a world, prosperous, at peace, sharing the fruits of the earth with justice to all men. It would raise to freedom and prosperity hundreds of millions of men and women--and their children--who toil in slavery behind the Curtain.
One principle of this philosophy is: the ultimate values of mankind are spiritual; these values include liberty, human dignity, opportunity and equal rights and justice. Workers want recognition as human beings and as individuals-before everything else. They want a job that gives them a feeling of satisfaction and self-expression. Good wages, respectable working conditions, reasonable hours, protection of status and security; these constitute the necessary foundations on which you build to reach your higher aims. Moreover, we cannot be satisfied with welfare in the aggregate; if any group or section of citizens is denied its fair place in the common prosperity, all others among us are thereby endangered.
The second principle of this American labor philosophy is this: the economic interest of employer and employee is a mutual prosperity. Their economic future is inseparable. Together they must advance in mutual respect, in mutual understanding, toward mutual prosperity. Of course, there will be contest over the sharing of the benefits of production; and so we have the right to strike and to argue all night, when necessary, in collective bargaining sessions. But in a deeper sense, this surface struggle is subordinate to the overwhelming common interest in greater production and a better life for all to share. The American worker strives for betterment not by destroying his employer and his employer's business, but by understanding his employer's problems of competition, prices, markets. And the American employer can never forget that, since mass production assumes a mass market, good wages and progressive employment practices for his employee are good business.
The Class Struggle Doctrine of Marx was the invention of a lonely refugee scribbling in a dark recess of the British Museum. He abhorred and detested the middle class. He did not foresee that, in America, labor, respected and prosperous, would constitute--with the farmer and businessman--his hated middle class. But our second principle--that mutual interest of employer and employee--is the natural outgrowth of teamwork for progress, characteristic of the American economy where the barriers of class do not exist. The third principle is this: labor relations will be managed best when worked out in honest negotiation between employers and unions, without Government's unwarranted interference. This principle requires maturity in the private handling of labor matters within a framework of law, for the protection of the public interest and the rights of both labor and management.
The splendid record of labor peace and unparalleled prosperity during the last 3 years demonstrates our industrial maturity. Some of the most difficult and unprecedented negotiations in the history of collective bargaining took place during this period, against the backdrop of non-interference by Government except only to protect the public interest, in the rare cases of genuine national emergency. This third principle, relying as it does on collective bargaining, assumes that labor organizations and management will both observe the highest standards of integrity, responsibility, and concern for the national welfare. You are more than union members bound together by a common goal of better wages, better working conditions, and protection of your security. You are American citizens. The roads you travel, the schools your children attend, the taxes you pay, the standards of integrity in Government, the conduct of the public business is your business as Americans. And while all of you, as to the public business, have a common goal--a stronger and better America--your views as to the best means of reaching that goal vary widely, just as they do in any other group of American citizens.
So in your new national organization, as well as in your many constituent organizations, you have a great opportunity of making your meetings the world's most effective exhibit of democratic processes. In those meetings the rights of minorities holding differing social, economic, and political views must be scrupulously protected and their views accurately reflected. In this way, as American citizens you will help the Republic correct the faulty, fortify the good, build stoutly for the future, and reinforce the most cherished freedoms of each individual citizen. This country has long understood that by helping other peoples to a better understanding and practice of representative government, we strengthen both them and ourselves. The same truth applies to the economic field. We strengthen other peoples and ourselves when we help them to understand the workings of a free economy, to improve their own standards of living, and to join with us in world trade that serves to unite us all.
In the world struggle, some of the finest weapons for all Americans are these simple tenets of free labor. They are again: mart is created in the Divine image and has spiritual aspirations that transcend the material; second, the real interests of employers and employees are mutual; third, unions and employers can and should work out their own destinies. As we preach and practice that message without cease, we will wage a triumphant crusade for prosperity, freedom, and peace among men. To close, it is fitting that we let our hearts be filled with the earnest prayer that, with the help of a kind Providence, the world may be led out of bitterness and materialism and force into a new era of harmony and spiritual growth and self-realization for all men. Thank you very much.
The saga continues in Kountze, Texas over cheerleaders using religious scripture on football banners. Governor Rick Perry and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott say they support freedom of all religion but their actions show their intent is to establish a defacto Christian government claiming there's a "moral basis for the legal code" outlined in the Ten Commandments. The truth is as more nonpartisan groups review the facts in this case its increasingly beginning to look like the cheerleaders are being exploited for political gain. The KISD legal council and Texas Association of School Boards have backed the Freedom From Religion Foundation in their opposition to the banners, and now the Anti-Defamation League and Jim Walsh managing editor of the Texas School Administrators Legal Digest have also joined their ranks. In his letter Walsh pointed out that the superintendent made the right call the first time. He made the distinction between a place kicker making the sign of the cross and "words placed on a banner, held by cheerleaders in school uniforms," It was reference to a comment by Greg Abbott that sought to equate the two in defense of the students' activities as individual religious expression. Walsh continued regarding the superintendent:
He sought legal advice. Then he followed it. The legal advice he got was right on the money. It took courage and integrity for Superintendent Weldon to act on that advice—courage that neither Governor Perry nor Attorney General Abbott have displayed. They chose to play politics when they should have provided leadership. Leadership involves respecting the law of the land whether you agree with it or not.
The two state officials held a joint press conference in which they tried to out do each in other in their show of support for the cheerleaders and their disdain for atheists. Perry broadly referred to atheists as a "very vocal and litigious minority" who are hell bent on silencing religious expression. In an impressive feat of double speak the Governor said, "We're a nation thats build on the concept of free expression of ideas…and the concept that the original law is God's law outlined in the Ten Commandments." Perry then went on to thank AG Abbott and his staff for "efforts to support and liberate the people of our state to be able to worship." Abbott for his part upped the anti-atheist rhetoric saying:
We will not allow atheist groups from outside the state of Texas to come in to the state, to use menacing and misleading intimidation tactics to try and bully schools to bow down at the alter of secular beliefs.
Catch his religious metaphor "alter of secular beliefs" to describe atheists' agenda? He gave several examples of his office defending religious liberty that all involved a Christian complainant. Its a shame to see two of our top state officials exploiting young cheerleaders who are not constitutional scholars but rely on adults and authority figures for guidance. Now they are being taught they are victims. The result has been stories of intolerance including median signs that read, "If you don't like it leave, we believe". Some community observers worked up the gumption to bring banners to the stands showing support for the separation of church and state, and were told by a football player's parent that they dare not hold the sign up when he son crossed the field. They reported the incident to a nearby police officer who spoke to the parent. Apparently that resolved the issue and the parent apologized. But, to the point, should that be necessary and are their others who remain silent for fear of retribution? And are we experiencing real leadership on this issue or is this simply being used as a pandering opportunity? One group that understands true religious intolerance is the Anti-Defamation League. ADL was started to end the defamation of Jewish people in 1913 but the organization now fights on behalf of civil rights for all. This is where the Governor and AG should take note. In a recent statement ADL called support for the cheerleaders activities, "misguided", "highly problematic", and in violation of the Establishment Clause. In a letter sent to Abbott prior to the decision they argue that the school cheerleading squad qualifies as "school-sponsored activity" giving the district the right to prohibit the banners. Addressing the Governor and AG's confusion between tolerance and establishment ADL wrote,
Our perspective in no way reflects hostility toward religion. Rather, it is based on a profound respect for religious freedom and an appreciation of the extraordinary diversity of religions represented by the students in our public schools.
With such staunch support for Israel on the campaign trail by Perry and his Party, it's a wonder he and the Attorney General can't show more respect for religious minorities in their own state.
Today a Governor Perry appointed District Judge in Hardin County extended a temporary restraining order allowing Kountze cheerleaders to display religious banners in their official capacity during football games, at least until Oct. 14th.
The controversy started a few weeks ago after a complaint was filed with KISD officials about the signs. After consultation with the district's attorney, backed by Texas Association of School Boards, the district banned the banners per the US Supreme court decision in Santa Fe ISD vs. Jane Doe. At today's hearing the superintendent for KISD now claims he received bad advice from the district's attorneys and that banning the signs violated district policy. The ban does not, despite claims by the Washington Times, extend to individual student activities in the stands. The original complainant remains anonymous but an amicus brief has been filed on behalf of the school district by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin based advocacy group for the separation of church and state.
Just last week after the first temporary restraining order against the school district was granted, Texas Attorney General sent a letter in support of the cheerleaders and their right to freedom of religion. This morning prior to the hearing I asked the Attorney General if he would have sent that same letter of support to Islamic or other religious minority students. Abbott said, "Texas supports religious freedom". When pressed by Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith for a more direct answer the Attorney General gave a defacto yes and concluded his support for religious freedom is not limited to any particular religion. He specifically compared the right of cheerleaders to a kicker who makes the sign of the cross before a field goal or pointing to God after a touchdown, asserting no difference between an individual act of religious expression and a group display. He gave no specific example of his office defending the rights of an Islamic individual or group as the question asked.
Changes have been made to reflect the evolving situation...
UPDATE: Today Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott sent a letter to Kountze ISD Superintendent stating, "That these students chose to express their religious viewpoint at a school function does not violate the Establishment Clause." Abbott informed the KISD official that he was being misled by the Freedom From Religion Foundation as well as the Texas Association of SChool Boards. The letter concludes, "my office stands ready to file a brief with the court protecting the cheerleaders' religious liberties."
The Liberty Institute whose mission is to “defend and restore religious liberty across America — in our schools”, provided some high-powered help to cheerleaders and their parents after Kountze ISD officials banned scripture based run-throughs during football games. The evangelical group with close ties to Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council, has now started a petition to demand Texas Attorney Greg Abbott support the cheerleaders’ right to “cheer on their football team without government censorship”.
This may be some insight into how Republicans plans to posture themselves politically next session as the legislature will be considerably more conservative. The cheerleaders have already received the public support of their State Representative and Tea Party doll James White. Earlier this year White beat out a more moderate but favorited Republican Committee Chair after they were paired in redistricting. That loss, as well as Cruz’ defeat of Dewhurst, show the achilles heel of the Texas Republican establishment - there is no middle ground. The establishment has been chipped away at from the inside and within its own primary, pushing even state-wide officials to the right. Groups like Texans for Fiscal Accountability that have challenged RINOs and Moderates in the Republican ranks, now have groups like Stop TLR challenging even their conservative credentials. This poses a problem for Republicans who placated to the Tea Party to win their primary but think they can get reelected without taking strong stances on controversial social issues.
The Liberty Institute and the Family Reseach Council have recently started a new website called ReligiousHostility.org to document what they feel are attacks on religious freedom across America. The groups have been promoting alarmist ideas of Christian victimization stating, “attacks are increasing at an unprecedented rate”. Choosing to exploit people’s faith for political gain could prove disasterous for the Republican Party if moderates, attracted by an economic message, become ostracized. The cheerleaders, their parents and even members of the football team profess to be the victims of government overreach but they are now facing growing opposition and an active letter writing campaign in support of the district's decision. A secular group of students from nearby Vidor High School spoke out against the official display religious banners. Junior Darren Mattox told KFDM News,
My initial thought was that I do support it, but when you dig deeper into it, you realize that they are representing the school and that it's not really Constitutionally right for them to represent the school in that manner,
The national Freedom From Religion Foundation is the organization that sparked the controversy when it sent a letter to Kountze ISD on Sept. 17th calling for an end to the "serious and flagrant violation of the First Amendment." The group said, "No Student should be made to run through a religious banner. The practice offends non-Christians and non-believers alike." The actions of the students violate the law as interpreted in Sante Fe Independent School District vs. Doe in which the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that speech,