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A Trojan Horse GOP Tax Bill Advent Calendar

A Trojan Horse GOP Tax Bill Advent Calendar

Trump’s GOP Tax Plan Isn’t What it Seems

Every day I learn something new about the Trump-led GOP tax reform bill, but today I learned a steaming pantload of really frightening things about not just the bill, but also the sneaky Trojan Horse style of politics that seem to be unfolding here.

  1. The Tax Plan is being passed under the rules of reconciliation so that it doesn’t have to reach the 60 vote majority in the Senate.
  2. The Senate has crammed this bill full of language that fundamentally changes the rules on a variety of social issues unrelated to tax reform.
  3. While we focus on the endless stream of clowns coming out of the passenger side of the car, we’re not paying attention to what’s getting in on the driver’s side.

Counting down the days

I’ll try to refrain from weeping into my keyboard long enough each day to keep this updated. And only really sneaky shit makes the list. And I really expect the world to implode some time before Christmas gets here anyway, so don’t expect a novel.

Day 1. The Chained CPI

“the chained CPI was really an attempt to reduce the deficit on the backs of senior citizens” – New Republic

This is pretty insidious. The Consumer Price Index is a measure of the cost of a list of essential items and is used to define things like poverty levels, living wage, inflation, and income disparity. The chained CPI turns it upside down, starting first with the amount of money people can live on and then averaging out which common items one can get on that budget. This calculus includes trade-offs against quality of life, such as buying processed chicken instead of steak, bundling up rather than turning on the heat, and shopping at thrift stores.

Day 2. Concealed Carry

“Anyone in Los Angeles, for example, could get a permit online from VA, without ever stepping foot there. And that would enable carrying a gun in LA every day.” – Adam Winkler (@adamwinkler)

Biggest, boldest move by the NRA since 2004.

Day 3. Religious Politics

“We’re really worried that changing the law in this way would open the floodgates for political contributions to be funneled through all 501(c)(3) organizations, fundamentally changing the nature of houses of worship and indeed our entire nonprofit sector.” – 90.9 WBUR-FM, Boston’s NPR news station

Day 4. Granting Individuality to a Fetus – 

“Nothing shall prevent an unborn child from being treated as a designated beneficiary or an individual under this section” – Brookings Institute, featuring this beauty from Politico: “The proposed tax plan is a huge leap forward for an antiquated tax code, and we hope this is the first step in expanding the child tax credit to include unborn children as well.”

Day 5. Restrict Access to Higher Education

“The ploy appears to be to destroy higher education, to shift the tax burden onto the most educated rather than the most financially successful, and to disincentivize graduate school as a viable option for the majority of people who’d choose to pursue it otherwise.” – Ethan Siegel, Forbes

Day 6. Trickle-down Taxation

“If teachers lose tax break for school supplies, will parents pick up the tab?” – (@mandy_mclaren), Louisville Courier Journal

So what’s covered now? Obamacare gutted by Supreme Court decision on Hobby Lobby?

So what’s covered now? Obamacare gutted by Supreme Court decision on Hobby Lobby?

Mormons: Cirrhosis of the liver – not covered.
Catholics: Unwed maternity – not covered.
Scientologists: Mental health – not covered.
Baptists: Ex-gay therapy – covered!
Shamans: Peyote – covered!
Christian Scientist: Nothing – covered.

Please feel free to add to the list.

Whose healthcare needs do we marginalize next? Which large organization gets to decide which religious beliefs suppress human progress? Which of your friends gets branded a dissenter because the company you both work for disagrees with the decisions they’ve come to with their doctor?

You’re fine because you fit just great with your employer’s religious beliefs. Your friend with a medical dilemma that pits them against even their own religious convictions, takes an option you’d never understand.

But you’d never know any of the details of this private medical issue if your friend hadn’t been blocked from receiving care due to a Supreme Court decision that your employer gets to know how you’re using your health care benefits.

What if Cathy McMorris Rodgers was a Muslim instead of a Christian?

What if Cathy McMorris Rodgers was a Muslim instead of a Christian?

What if Cathy McMorris Rodgers was a Muslim and instead of saying God she said Allah?

I know… if she were, then there’s very little chance she would be welcomed into the Republican party, and even if they did let her in, there’s no way they would give her the opportunity to give the Republican response to the SOTU, but if for some reason they did, there’s no way they would allow her to invoke her god Allah. But just for the sake of argument, what if?

Republican heads would explode.

John F. Kennedy’s “Church and State” Speech Makes Rick Santorum want to Puke

John F. Kennedy’s “Church and State” Speech Makes Rick Santorum want to Puke

Article VI, Clause III of The Constitution of the United States of America.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

 On September 12, 1960 John F. Kennedy addressed a group of Protestant clergymen concerned about the influence of his Roman Catholic faith and whether, as president, he could make important decisions independent of his church.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end; where all men and all churches are treated as equal; where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice; where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind; and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.

 Rick Santorum as reported on by The Washington Post:

In remarks last year at the College of Saint Mary Magdalen in Warner, N.H., Santorum had told the crowd of J.F.K.’s famous 1960 address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, “Earlier in my political career, I had the opportunity to read the speech, and I almost threw up. You should read the speech.”

I just read JFK’s speech, and it reflects exactly how the founders intended our elected representatives to act. Yet upon reading Kennedy’s landmark speech, Rick Santorum found the words so abhorrent that he wanted to throw up – presumably on Article VI, Clause III of the Constitution that follows a clause stating that the Constitution, not The Bible, is “the Supreme Law of the Land.”

What I find abhorrent is that Rick Santorum would not make the same pledge that John F. Kennedy did in 1960, and that Mitt Romney made in 2008. Any candidate who claims to be a Christian and has as narrow a mind as Santorum’s on equality, sexuality, and social issues ought to be the one justifying his religion and guaranteeing that he would not try and impose his dogma on the rest of us. If he can’t do that, then he’s unfit to hold the office of the President of the United States of America.

Ten questions for a Romney White House

Ten questions for a Romney White House

Once the White House is Romney’s home, how will official White House procedure mesh with his religious convictions? Besides the obvious – Will the White House include reproductive health coverage in its insurance package? – as an ex-Mormon, I have a few other questions that have popped up in recent months.

1. Would coffee or tea be served to guests and staff? Would the Romneys keep these items in their home? Will there be religious exemptions (PDF^) to common courtesy when he’s in charge? Will they revise the presidential portraits to reflect the time-immemorial No Smoking policy of the White House?

2. Would he appoint czars posthumously? Would they get back pay? If so, will 10% tithing be surrendered to the Church (as they likely have already been posthumously converted).

3. Will we ever watch a televised address without picturing him in his underwear? Also, is the White House cleaners going to be specially outfitted for handling the family’s special undies?

4. In accordance with not only Church doctrine, but also The Ten Commandments, will he take Sundays off? Will the staff? Not that any other politician who waves the Ten Commandments in our faces every election cycle has ever held themselves to the morals they want to enforce upon the rest of us, but it only takes one theocrat to set a precedent!

5. Does he plan to serve breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner on the first Sunday of each month – “Fast Sunday“? This is the day, once a month, where all Mormon children begin to formulate their opposition to their parents’ indoctrination. So I don’t blame the Romneys if this is one of those tenets they overlook when they’re cherry-picking what to wear on their sleeve and what not to.

6. Is Monday going to remain “Family Home Evening?” I actually liked this part, but it was hard even for my single mom to indulge us with once a week. It’s got to be tough for a busy, busy President.

7. To what extent will he live up to his obligations of service to the Church? Will he be given a political exemption by the Church? Maybe he gets work credit as long as he’s doing LDS leadership curriculum-approved work.

8. Will his Bishop have top-secret clearance in order to hear his confessions? To whom will he confess his war crimes?

9. Will the Church allow non-Mormon Secret Service Officers into the Temple, or will they all be required to be members in good standing, with Temple Recommends? Wouldn’t that violate federal hiring guidelines?

10. And finally, having nothing to do with his White House policies, will he be sworn in on a copy of the Book of Mormon? If so, will it be as it was originally revealed by God to the Prophet Joseph Smith? Or will it be the heavily edited and revised version that Mormons currently call the literal Word of God?

I look forward to finding the answers to these questions and more once our crack journalists and Edward R. Murrow (PDF^) inspired media outlets have  a chance to do their jobs. But now that I think of it, I wouldn’t care about the answers to any of these questions if the media were doing its job.

Conservatives Politicize Prayer

Conservatives Politicize Prayer

Greg Saunders has a post up over at The Talent Show about how much the Presidential Prayer Team website has changed since Barack Obama was sworn in as president. 

The organization used to claim to be non-partisan, but I could find no such claim on their website today. 

The Saunders’ post includes archived screen shots from the past that prominently feature photos of President Bush, including one with images of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington photoshopped in standing next to Bush and touching his shoulders as their heads are bowed in prayer.  Another archived page shows the site used to mention Bush and Cheney’s name on the front page.  Today’s front page has no photo of President Obama or anyone else in his administration and it does not mention his name.

The Bible quote that used to be displayed in the masthead has been moved to the “About Us” page where it is displayed in very faint grey font against a white background.  One gets the feeling that they don’t really want you to read that part.

Go to The Talent Show now for more about this.

Donald Rumsfeld’s Holy War Briefings for Bush

Donald Rumsfeld’s Holy War Briefings for Bush

GQ Magazine has posted about a dozen cover sheets for Department of Defense briefings that were published during the Iraq War.  The briefings depict U.S. soldiers as Christian crusaders fighting a Holy War against Muslims. 

The A.P. reports:

For a period in 2003, at least, the daily reports prepared for President George W. Bush carried quotes from the books of Psalms, and Ephesians and Peter. At the time, the reports focused largely on the war in Iraq.

The Bible quotes apparently aimed to support Bush at a time when soldiers’ deaths in Iraq were on the rise, according to the June issue of GQ magazine. But they offended at least one Muslim analyst at the Pentagon and worried other employees that the passages were inappropriate.

This is exactly the kind of response that bin Laden hoped to get from the U.S. so that he could claim we are fighting a Holy War against Muslims.  And he got it…  six years later.  He’s most likely seen these by now and is no doubt preparing a response and a call to arms for his Muslim crusaders.  “Bring ’em On!”

Rumsfeld and his staff had to have known that this stuff would eventually see the light of day.  It always does, so it’s really amazing and scary that top officials in our government can be so audaciously rigtheous and stupid.

Conservative Christians of Lincoln County, Missouri

Conservative Christians of Lincoln County, Missouri

During the drive in to work this morning I listened to a story on NPR about how polls in rural Lincoln County Missouri show that the presidential race there is a toss-up.  NPR reported that the outcome of the Lincoln County vote has mirrored the national vote in the past twelve presidential elections. 

The reporter interviewed several voters for the story, but the two that really got my attention were Thomas Burkemper, a lawyer in the Lincoln County seat of Troy and chairman of the county’s Democratic Central Committee; and Carol Wessel, a real estate agent who serves as chairwoman of the Lincoln County Republican Central Committee.

“Locally, people were afraid to run as a Republican. But nationally they would vote Republican,” says Carol Wessel. …  “They would come up to me and say, ‘Carol, I’m really a Republican. But … because I want this position, I’ve got to run as a Democrat.'”

Wessel says local Democrats and Republicans share strong conservative beliefs opposing abortion, gay marriage and gun control.  They also share values based on religion.  They’re Catholics and Baptists, and they go to church.

And the newcomers “increased substantially the church attendance,” according to Burkemper, who asks and answers this question:

“How hard will the churches come out and swear that we either vote for McCain or go to hell? I don’t think that the churches are going to cut the same swath in this election as they did in 2004 and 2000.  Because the people are hurting. … The people are angry about the economy.”

Wessel has confronted conservatives who cite the economy when they tell her they won’t vote for Republican John McCain.

“I tell them ‘I’m a Christian first,'” Wessel recalls. ” ‘And if you vote your true Christian values and vote for the candidate that you think is ethically right and has the [right] values, that will take care of the economy.”

Aren’t these conservative Christians the same people that voted for George W. Bush because he professes to be a born-again Christian and supposedly shares their values?  Hasn’t the Bush Administration been in charge for the past eight years?  Aren’t we now facing the worst financial crisis since The Great Depression?  Does Carol Wessel even hear herself when she speaks? 

Howard Berkes, the NPR correspondent, didn’t bother to ask her these questions or if she shared some of the same values of Barack Obama, also a Christian.

I’ve never met President Bush and I hope I never do, so I can’t judge if he is sincere about his religious beliefs.  All I can go by is what he says and how he governs, and he governs like a man with the morals of a laughing hyena.

He pushed through tax cuts for his extremely wealthy base.  He started an unnecessary war and lied about why he started it.  He hasn’t raised one tax to pay for the trillion dollars it has cost so far.  He authorized the use of torture.  He suspended habeus corpus for anyone he used his unitary executive power to label an “enemy combatant,” and he authorized secret renditions of innocent people to foreign countries where they were secretly tortured.

This is a man who shares the values of conservative Christians in Lincoln County?  I don’t really think so, so I hope they vote their economic interests this time, because their morality based votes haven’t worked out so well for them.

Oh, and shortly after hearing that story, I read today’s Progress Report that was centered on the story of Joe the Plumber.  The article reports on how the Right jumped on the story to promote the myth that average people do better under Republican economic policies than Democratic policies.  The article then points out:

President Bill Clinton decided early in his term in office that expanding the middle class — not tax cuts for the rich — would be the engine of economic growth, while his successor, President George W. Bush, argued the opposite. But the as the results have shown, a progressive tax policy enacted by President Clinton achieved far superior results for the economy. By the end of Clinton’s second term, unemployment stood at very low 3.9 percent while today it has risen over 6 percent. The poverty rate was lower in 2000 than it is today. The median household income (adjusted for inflation) was over $3,000 higher eight years ago. Bush inherited a $237 billion federal budget surplus, which he has turned into a $482 billion deficit (and growing fast).

Politics and Religion… and Race

Politics and Religion… and Race

Mr. Fish illustrated the unnatural combination of politics and religion perfectly in this week’s comic featuring a caricature of Barack Obama.  Go read it now and then come back here.

Mr. Fish could make the same point with any of the candidates running for president.  All he’d have to do is replace Obama with McCain and add statements made by James Agee, or replace him with Clinton and mention her former pastor who was recently convicted of molesting a seven-year-old girl or her membership in The Fellowship.

All the candidates would be well advised to lay off each others’ ties to religious figures and religious organizations.  Counter attacks are too easy and, no matter how much the media chooses to focus on it, religion isn’t supposed to have anything to do with who we choose to be our president.  What’s supposed to matter is what the candidates themselves say and do.

The real story isn’t that these candidates are Christians and attend churches.  The real story is about how the media’s coverage is driven by race.

Read E. J. Dionne, Jr. today.

God-O-Meter

God-O-Meter

It was in the late 1940s when, as a pre-teen,  I first heard the word “bigotry.”  Washington State had restrictive liquor laws.  No Sunday sales.  You could not carry a drink in a bar.  If you wanted to change tables you had to call for a barmaid (hey, it was 60 years ago) to take your beer to your new location.  Few places had liquor by the drink.  I can remember my folks going to the old Dick Parker’s dance hall in north Seattle where they would set a bottle of liquor under the table, order set-ups from the house and enjoy an evening of dancing to Duke Ellington’s band. 

Well, an initiative was placed on the ballot to liberalize the laws and create a “Class H” license whereby liquor by the drink would be readily available.  Although I was a constant captive to the church’s message that this was the work of Satan I was struck by the theme of the pro-initiative forces who called the church groups bigots, which they defined as “I don’t like it so you can’t have it!”  The initiative passed and some still contend that Satan prevailed.  They have a hard time separating “secular” and “Satan.”

Yesterday we had Huckabee echoing the illustrious Ellen Craswell in his statement to the effect that the Bible trumps the Constitution.  The evangelicals captured the Republican party in Washington a few years back and Craswell was nominated to run against Gary Locke–his good fortune.  She repeatedly proclaimed that she would use the Bible as her guide if there were a conflict with the Constitution.  She was trounced.  Huckabee’s religious belief that the wife should be subservient to the husband should make him a good target down the line. 

One of my favorite defining court rulings was by the California Supreme Court when it ruled that a school board, which had banned a book from its district libraries because “it offended Christian values,” had acted unconstitutionally.  It noted that books could be deemed inappropriate but not on the basis of religious considerations.

All of this is an introduction to the God-O-Meter  Earlier today on MSNBC I viewed an interview about it.  Go to the site and start wondering who the bigots are in this country.

H. L. Mencken noted:  Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority.  The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right  and what is wrong.  All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them.  The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant, in this field as in all others.  His culture is based on “I am not too sure.”