barbara's blog

How extremists do bidness

February 01, 2012 by barbara

barbara writes

Does this bother anyone else? I’m talking about the return on investment (ROI) that we the people receive for paying Minnesota’s Republican state legislators.

Did some quick math. (Full disclosure: I have not done a line item analysis of an annual report, if such there be.)

Let’s start with the MN state senate, wherein there are 37 GOP senators, constituting a majority:

Base pay: $31,140 per year x 37 = $1,152,180

Allowable pay hike for 3 leadership positions:
12,456 x 3 = 37,368

TOTAL GOP senate base pay = $1,189,548

Per diem: $77/day during session
(assuming weekdays only and a 20-week session)
100 days x $77/day x 37 Senators = $284,900

Defined contribution plan: Senators pay up to 5%
of their salary; state then pays up to 6%; ergo,
1,189,548 base pay x .06 state match = $71,372

TOTAL SALARY EXPENSE: MN GOP Senate $1,545,820 *
*This does not include paid health care nor any
other less obvious benefits

Moving along, the MN State House of Representatives has 72 GOP reps, also a majority; the math is the same as above:

TOTAL MN GOP House base pay = $2,279,448
Per diem = $554,400
Defined contribution plan = $136,766

TOTAL SALARIES: MN GOP House = $2,970,614

COMBINED GOP LEGISLATIVE SALARIES:
GOP legislators only = $4,516,434

So let’s just round up to $5 million dollars to accommodate the unknowns.

• Minnesota taxpayers are providing $5 million annually out of our earnings to pay salaries to a collective group of 109 GOP legislators.
• These GOP legislators meet largely under the cloak of secrecy and have built a firewall between themselves and the people.
• Their entire output for the past year and half has been the following:

No. No to everything. Just no.

People? That's $5 million worth of NO. It appears that the return on taxpayer investment (ROI) in GOP legislators is zero. Governor Dayton is correct that the GOP extremists are not fit to lead.

Let me say this again. The GOP has given us nada for our investment. I, for one, can think of any number of better uses for $5 million in this state. Like, paying reasonable, rational human beings to govern?! And I’m banking (pardon the expression) on the DFL to rout the extremists.

Meanwhile, I believe we should all ask for a refund. Just sayin’.

Posted in

Wishful thinking

December 07, 2011 by barbara

barbara writes

I have a dream. I mean no disrespect to Martin Luther King. But my dang dream won't go away either. Naivete, writ large, I suppose. You decide.

Barack Obama is on camera, reading an important, carefully crafted policy speech from the teleprompter. The words have been chosen to appease the political middle without inflaming the polar political opposites – which, as we all know, is a thankless and largely useless task.

Obama has just smoothly articulated a particularly cogent point. As is his way, he pauses and looks deeply into the camera lens.

He opens his mouth to continue his speech. Suddenly, he looks down, shakes his head, and then looks back up at the camera. The veil of presidential poise and posturing is gone. What’s happening? Is he okay?

Obama speaks.

“I can’t do this. Can. Not. Turn off the teleprompter now. Right now.” He is, after all, the president, and he can say that.

America holds its breath. Is he going to say he’s not running for re-election? Is he resigning? We shush everyone in our TV rooms and listen intently.

“I cannot recite one more scripted conglomeration of high-minded talking points to a nation that is fractured and in pain. I can’t stand up here and speechify right over your heads when you hired me to be straight with you. When I was running for office, I said Washington needs to trust the people. I said that Americans deserve honesty and transparency. However, in 2009, I began campaigning for re-election in 2012, even as I assumed leadership of this country. And walking the middle road became the norm, no matter the outcome.

“You all know what happened after that. The Republicans pledged allegiance to Grover Norquist and John Boehner. They took their marching orders from the Koch brothers and Wall Street. They formed a posse with one primary goal: Bring down Obama. He is black and he has power, neither of which is acceptable to us. Bring. Him. Down. No matter what happens to the United States of America, bring him down. And with him, bring down the liberals and their egalitarian ways.

“Did I say ‘egalitarian’? I did, didn’t I? What I mean is that, in the eyes of the radical right, anything that smacks of fairness and equality is unacceptable. They call it socialism. But what they really mean is that it’s bad for them. Even as they claim to want unity, Republicans thrive on a nation divided. Rich versus poor. The powerful versus the vulnerable. That’s absolutely wrong.

“People, it is time for this president to stop pussy-footing around and speak out for you.”

Obama pauses. He takes off his tailored suit coat and his tie, and drops them on the floor. He rolls up his shirt sleeves. He leans into the podium, grasping its sides with his hands, and looks into the camera again.

“From this moment forward, none of this is about re-electing Barack Obama. I won’t play that game any more. It’s about doing the right thing. Telling the truth. Engaging you in this uncivil war that is destroying our country. Taking America back from the brink. I am absolutely serious about this. There is too much at stake to continue playing gotcha. Too much at stake to allow politicians to game the system. Too much at stake to smack down the 99%, over and over again.

“I am through playing this game. You elected me, you hired me, to do right by you. You have my solemn promise that I will try, all day, every day, to do that. And I’ll keep you in the loop.”

Then I wake up.

Posted in

Radical right bile pile

October 18, 2011 by barbara

barbara writes

You know those ugly forwards you get sometimes, generated by the radical right? Got another one this morning. A recycled 2009 piece supposedly (but not really) written by Buddy Hackett's widow (and she is relevant how?). More outright lies and distortions about Obama and Democrats.

Usually, I just delete this crap. But I've re-entered my "silence is assent" mode recently. So I decided to fire off a response to the sender, knowing as I did that I will be dismissed as a left-wing apologist at best and a godless, baby-killing ally of militant black people, terrorists and socialists at worst. Ech! Bring it on.

My response:

Wow, thank you so much for sending this to me. It’s stunning to read the inflammatory stories the radical right makes up about pretty much everything, isn’t it? I find it very, very frightening, and since you sent this to me, I imagine you must feel the same way.

This particular piece has been circulating since September 2009 – imagine that! And Sherry Hackett didn’t even write it. It must bother you a lot that there is so much false, poisonous rhetoric flying around out there. Bothers me, too, actually.

There are so many lies in this piece, I don’t even know where to begin. As I’m sure you know, this is yet another hatchet job by the radical right. Uffda.

I wonder if the radical right will ever stop lying and obstructing, and start offering help and solutions to this country’s problems rather than playing games with people’s lives by saying “no” to everything that really matters.

You and I will probably be dead before our grandchildren have to deal with massive debt accumulated during George W. Bush’s administration that will bury them. Literally.

You and I will probably be dead before our grandchildren have to deal with the radical right’s environmental destruction that will bury them. Literally.

You and I will probably be dead before our grandchildren have to try to unravel America’s decaying infrastructure, kicked under the bus by the radical right, that will bury them. Literally.

Yes, you and I will probably be dead, and we sat through eight years of George W. Bush and now three years of a viciously obstructionist radical right Congress, and we let this happen. Quite a legacy, eh?

Isn’t it interesting that the radical right pretends to be patriotic while waging immoral wars on nations and on America’s most vulnerable citizens – the poor, the sick, the elderly, the unemployed, the disabled, people of color, women and last but not least, war on the American Constitution and the middle class.

Isn’t it interesting that the radical right pretends to be Christian, even as they ignore every important teaching of Jesus Christ? For example, “even as you do to the least of these, my brothers, so you do to me.” They’ve thrown Jesus under the bus, haven’t they? Mighty crowded under there. And so it is that Jesus weeps.

It’s useful to see the depth and breadth of the deadly hatred and bile of the radical right. There is no small amount of evil in that.

Thanks for the heads-up.

Posted in

Radical righteousness

September 11, 2011 by barbara


(Our fanatics don't look dangerous, but....)

Susan speaks: The post I wanted to share is about Homeland Security studying credible threats to the U.S. govt. on Wednesday night by a group of religious fanatics.

(barbara note: In that pretty good spoof that would be funnier if it weren’t so close to the truth, Andy Borowitz writes:

Homeland Security spokesman Harland Dorinson said that the Department did not want to alarm the American people, “but whenever you have a group of individuals threatening to dismantle the US government piece by piece, it has to be taken seriously.”)

barbara says: You know what? Our U.S. teabag fanatics are leading the way in making radical threats and attempting to dismantle the US government piece by piece. Foreign fanatics could actually sit back and let them do their work for them if they were willing to be patient a little while longer. If nothing else, Republicans are a quick study. And 9/11 taught the radical right that if they can keep Americans perpetually fearful about something – pretty much anything, as it turns out – they can enact their agenda, however odious and destructive it may be. Booga booga. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Current list includes, but is not limited to perpetuating fear about: Democrats, a black president, Muslims, Mexicans, the French, the Russians, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan (though not so much), Palestine, Wisconsin; government; gays, Jews, unions, old people, poor people, babies from the moment of birth; social justice, “entitlements,” uppity women not in covenant relationships, the unemployed, climate change experts, economists, Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart, “Catcher in the Rye,” the Clintons, George Soros, and anything even approaching optimism about…well, about pretty much anything.

Susan: Teachers. Don’t forget teachers.

barbara: Right. And philosophers and poets and Michael Moore.

Susan: Another thing. Could we all stop calling the Republican contenders and other Ayn Rand devotees “conservatives”? I know we can’t get away with calling them dangerous dumbf**ks in the public forum, but could the media handle “radical right” or just “radicals”?

Once again, we Dems fail at the messaging thing. If a group on the left proposed the dangerous stuff that they are, the Repubs would have named them something like the O-bomb-O-Crats and every pol and pundit would be repeating it. Anyone care to take a stab at naming them?

Posted in

What exactly did they promise us?

August 17, 2011 by barbara

barbara writes

Once the campaign hoopla ends and the term of office begins, precisely what do those who were elected to serve this country solemnly swear to do? Nowhere do I see that the oath of office is "hell, no," btw. My follow-up questions appear after the oath of office data below:

Oath of office: U.S. Congress

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

Oath of office: President of the United States of America

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Constitutional Oath of Office: Its evolution

As noted below in Article VI, all federal officials must take an oath in support of the Constitution:

"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."

The Constitution does not provide the wording for this oath, leaving that to the determination of Congress. From 1789 until 1861, this oath was, "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States." During the 1860s, this oath was altered several times before Congress settled on the text used today, which is set out at 5 U. S. C. § 3331. This oath is now taken by all federal employees, other than the President:

"I, _________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

Judicial Oath of Office

The origin of the second (judicial) oath is found in the Judiciary Act of 1789, which reads "the justices of the Supreme Court, and the district judges, before they proceed to execute the duties of their respective offices" to take a second oath or affirmation. From 1789 to 1990, the original text used for this oath (1 Stat. 76 § 8) was:

"I, _________, do solemnly swear or affirm that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as _________, according to the best of my abilities and understanding, agreeably to the constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God."

In December 1990, the Judicial Improvements Act of 1990 replaced the phrase "according to the best of my abilities and understanding, agreeably to the Constitution" with "under the Constitution." The revised Judicial Oath, found at 28 U. S. C. § 453, reads:

"I, _________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as _________ under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God."

The Combined Oath

Upon occasion, appointees to the Supreme Court have taken a combined version of the two oaths, which reads:

"I, _________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as _________ under the Constitution and laws of the United States; and that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

Question: What constitutes a domestic enemy? The Tea Party? The Koch brothers? Something to consider….

Question: Who determines “best of my ability” criteria and when? It seems a highly risky proposition to discover after the fact that the president's ability is insufficient for the job, as history so painfully illustrated.

Question: Ultimately, accountability (Supreme Court excepted, in that it has lifelong leeway with no accountability) is via elections. But when egregious actions are taken that seem to fly in the face of these oaths, undermining the country and its Constitution, and in a system that does not allow for national recall, what then? And yes, I am looking squarely at the radical right and its evil twin, the religious radical right.

Sources:

- Office of the Clerk of of the U.S. House of Representatives
- United States Senate web site
- Supreme Court of the United States web site

Posted in

Either/Or: The ambiguity stops here

August 15, 2011 by barbara

barbara writes

Dear Marcus Bachmann:

I have a question for you about your marriage to The Petite Michele. (I assume that’s her legal name, since that’s how she’s being referenced now by the media).

I know, I know. You imply that the nature of your marital relationship is none of our business. Love that little bit of hypocritical irony, you two!

The Petite Michele flung this “submissive wife” thing into the arena her very own self. But now, both of you are dodging questions about her submissiveness. You say it’s irrelevant. Wow. So scriptural imperative is irrelevant in your universe? I think not. By virtue of your strict adherence to the centuries-old book authored by authoritarian men in a patriarchal society, you cannot have it both ways.

Simple question: The Petite Michele either IS or IS NOT submissive to you. Which is it?

It is not prurient interest that leadeth me to inquire. No. Many of us harbor deep concern about who would be The Decider in the unlikely event that The Petite Michele should wake up in a White House bedroom with you in January 2013.

While waiting for your next evasion, I believe I’ll do a little Bible study on truth and the telling of it.

Cordially,
Weary, Wary American

Posted in

Are we invisible down here?

August 07, 2011 by barbara

barbara writes

Another day without a call from Barack Obama. (sigh)

Like every other keyboard genius, I figure he ought to pop in for some real-people advice.

Like every other keyboard genius, I most likely would blink and babble and fail to articulate my brilliant thinking while he speaks eloquently but incompletely.

I’m feeling no small amount patronized and discounted by my president. My pattable little head is no longer pretty, if ever it was. But its worry capacity has expanded over the past few years, with good reason.

Mr. President, I am having heavy-duty abandonment issues. It’s lonely for me down here in the little people trenches. Lonely and pretty darn scary. I have to climb very high up the political leadership chain – I have no representatives in the state legislature nor in the U.S. House – to find anyone in government who represents me. That boils down to Al Franken. After Al, there’s nobody, far as I can tell. Are you there?

There's a fierce battle of concepts and words going on down here about you. You're a sly fox. No, you've lost your mojo. You're going to unleash an amazing counter-attack on the domestic terrorists. No, you're spineless and bland. You care deeply about the people of this country. No, you're a politician who cares only about being re-elected. You're smart and savvy. No, you're naive and you've been rolled.

That kind of thing.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Someone (Barack Obama?) said that a distinguishing feature of Democratic leadership is the belief that citizens can be trusted with the truth.

So here’s my question, Mr. President. What the hell is really going on with you? Seriously.

Posted in

Who are we now?

August 03, 2011 by barbara

barbara writes

For the past week, nearly all my waking hours (and no small number of supposed sleeping hours) have been invaded by thoughts of Washington, DC. You, too, I imagine, since you’re here, reading this.

As I spin myself into the ground like a crazed corkscrew on a daily basis, I realize that my list of things about which I’m furious is now longer than a Jim Thome home run. And yeah, the Twins have made my list, too.

Pick a topic. Any topic.

Blatant racism. Bully politics. Slimy schemers. Mitch McConnell’s face. John Boehner’s tears. Blue Dog Democrats. "Real" Democrats. Shrill Obama loyalists. Shrill Obama attackers. Tea, which I will never drink again. Maybe. Rich people. Lawyers. Legislators. Legislators. Legislators. Barack Obama and the horse he rode in on (on which he rode into the presidency). Crappy faux journalism. Promises broken. Tight shoes. Bridge in the Mississippi. Michele Bachmann. Milk that sours before its expiration date. Geese that poop on my patio. Which brings me full circle to the radical right’s dangerous Tea Partiers.

I had coffee with friends today, which spilled over into lunchtime. And at one point, I heard my own thought coming out of someone else’s mouth.

“I just feel sad,” she said.

Oh, yeah. Sad. I get that. I really, truly get that.

Now y’all know I can morph into righteous indignation in a heartbeat. But what I can’t seem to mitigate against this week is my consuming sadness about my country. The one some pundits have been likening lately to a banana republic. The United States of America, in thrall to a band of reprehensible terrorists who have held our government and 300 million people hostage for the past several weeks.

And this has happened on the watch of my president – our president. The guy I (along with others) busted my butt to get elected because he said he could make things better. Granted, he was (as we are fond of saying) dealt a losing hand from the get-go. And no one with even a shred of optimism or hope ever dreamed or nightmared this kind of catastrophic unraveling that has culminated with the USA perched on the brink of economic and social disaster. Hyperbolic? Actually, not so much.

And who’s to blame? I can’t take that on today. I’m just too discouraged and too sad. And there you have it.

Posted in

How long has this been going on?

July 29, 2011 by barbara

barbara writes

I was chatting with LeftyMN this morning about the emerging, relative sanity of Republican pundit David Brooks. After today’s Paul Krugman column, the NYTimes noted: “David Brooks is off today.” It was an open invitation, but I paused, mid-snark.

Over time, I’ve had published a few letters in the NYTimes about Brooks, with whom I historically take issue. Fundamentally, we will never agree, David and I. But as I said to Lefty, Brooks (like Krugman) seems to think, ponder and then speak – a radical difference from the radical right’s reflexive spewing.

Here’s what Lefty has to say about this:

Brooks represents what a large portion of the Republican party was prior to 1970.

For all intents and purposes his ilk (intelligent, moderate, but certainly filled with noblesse oblige) are marginalized in the party. They share the strain of low taxes and unfettered regulation that allows them to live.

A very nice life indeed…. But the party has essentially become (as Wege notes) the Southern Democratic party that existed prior to 1970. Now in bed with the Know-Nothings of the Tea Party who are essentially the radical states rights-libertarian, up with the bootstraps, nativist real American group that has been with us since the 1700s.

They trace their ancestry back before Shay’s Rebellion but essentially they are the heirs of the Scotch/Irish protestant western settlers of the 17th, 18th and early to mid 19th centuries. They thrive like hothouse tomatoes under the 24 hour news cycle and offerings of cable tv and the unlimited internet.

A friend said in response to this that it is the media making the extremist credible that has created the problem. And for this, I think historically it is cable tv and the internet to blame… if you think back to pre 1965-70, neither the John Birchers nor the radical leftists were given credibility by anyone and certainly not within the two major parties.

It was Nixon’s Southern Strategy and the cable tv news phenomenon that changed things, in my opinion.

Posted in