Archive for April, 2011

Birthers take GOP hostage, lock sane conservatives in cellar

As I’ve written before, the Republican Party has been taken hostage by its lunatic fringe — a motley collection of anti-government types, leftover John Birchers and paranoid conspiracy theorists, with a few racists thrown in for good measure — and is likely to be wandering in the wilderness, unable to capture the White House, for years to come.

The latest news from Public Policy Polling confirms that view. It shows Donald Trump leading the pack, having built an instant base from birthers:

Trump’s broken the perpetual gridlock we’ve found at the top of the Republican field, getting 26% to 17% for Mike Huckabee, 15% for Romney, 11% for Newt Gingrich, 8% for Sarah Palin, 5% for Ron Paul, and 4% for Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty.

That just goes to show that if you cotton to folks’ prejudices, they will reward you for it with their support. And the news is even worse than it appears at first glance. (I know — how can there be worse news for the GOP than an early lead by a …

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US spends too much on elderly, too little on kids

“We are eating our seed corn.”

Marian Wright Edelman, Children’s Defense Fund, 2009

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama started the adult conversation over debt and taxes last week — if only barely. In a forthright and feisty speech, Obama defended the traditional social safety net while also acknowledging the need to curb the growth of spending, especially on health care.

But he riled many Republicans by re-introducing an inconvenient truth: Taxes must be raised. The nation simply cannot pay its debts and sustain worthwhile federal programs without more revenue.

While that’s a generally accepted bit of grade-school math in much of the political realm, it has become heresy in the GOP, which has taken up residence in a parallel universe of fairy godmothers, unicorns and Easter bunnies.  In that universe, lowering taxes for the rich magically creates jobs, fills government coffers and spreads prosperity for all.

That’s bunk, of course. George H.W. Bush famously called it “voodoo …

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Abortion is black genocide? Nonsense, of course

WASHINGTON — Johnny Hunter, a black preacher who opposes abortion rights, came here last week to join a protest against federal funds for Planned Parenthood. He stood behind a sign that read: “Planned Parenthood has killed more African-Americans than the KKK.”

Hunter is among Roe v. Wade’s diehard opponents, single-minded activists for whom nothing is more important than repealing a woman’s right to choose. While other voters worry about jobs, health insurance and college loans, Hunter and like-minded reactionaries focus on reproductive rights.

They have support in Congress, too. Last week’s budget negotiations were prolonged by a cadre of Republicans who tried to wipe out all federal funding for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which they wrongly claim is mostly in the business of providing abortions.

They lost that battle, but they never give up. (They won restrictions on abortions in Washington, D.C.) Tireless opponents of reproductive rights are already …

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Cowardice on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial

WASHINGTON — Eric Holder is a genuine American patriot. The Attorney General believes the oft-recited pledges about justice and liberty; he has an abiding faith in the U.S. Constitution; he understands the premises of American exceptionalism.

He has said frequently that holding alleged 9/11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to account in a civilian trial in a federal courthouse in New York City, blocks away from the destroyed Twin Towers, would be an outstanding way to show the supremacy of American values. As he told The New Yorker last year, “Values matter in this fight. We need to give those who might follow these mad men a good sense of what America is, and what America can be. We are militarily strong, but we are morally stronger.”

But Holder is apparently rare among the titans of official Washington. Few of them were willing to allow Mohammed the rights that we insist lesser nations ought to emulate.

So, in an embarrassing reversal, Holder announced last week that Mohammed …

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Government shutdown? It’s the GOP’s fault

As oddmakers set the chances of a government shut down at above 60 percent, it’s useful to go back and remember how we got into this mess, with important services closed and soldiers perhaps not getting paid. Here’s how we got into this mess: Republican leaders didn’t keep their word.

Way back in February, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (now being widely praised for his “courageous” budget proposal for next year) proposed $32 billion in budget cuts for the rest of this fiscal year. Given Ryan’s position in the Republican constellation of  stars, it was perfectly reasonable for Democrats to assume that was the number they were to hit.

So they did. They immediately capitulated and gave Republicans $33 billion in cuts. So, did the GOP declare victory? Did they know how to take “yes” for an answer? No, they didn’t.

Under severe pressure from the hyper-conservative Republican Study Committee and tea party activists, Ryan and Boehner reneged and demanded more. Dems said, …

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We can’t afford to help Americans, but we can help Libyans

WASHINGTON — Each Tomahawk cruise missile fired at Libyan targets in the last several days costs $1.4 million. Given the barrage of missiles, it’s no surprise that the total cost for Tomahawks after the first week was nearly $269 million, according to the Pentagon.

When you add bombers, destroyers and assorted other war machinery, Operation Odyssey Dawn cost taxpayers nearly $600 million in the first week; a scaled-down engagement will continue to cost as much as $100 million a week, experts say. Still, in a country as prosperous as this, that’s not a ruinous amount of money.

But given the current mindset in Congress — where politicians are proposing cuts to Head Start, nutritional aid to indigent mothers and health care for the poor — our Libyan intervention does speak loudly to priorities. How can we afford to save Libyan civilians from the predations of Moammar Gadhafi if we can’t afford to save Americans from foreclosures and disease?

Last week, President Barack Obama laid …

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