Shadow Network: Media, Money and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right Wing by Anne Nelson – Book

I was attracted to the book Shadow Network: Media, Money and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right by Anne Nelson because I already knew that Evangelicals (white evangelicals in particular) shared Republican ideology, and liked this ideology better as it got more extreme. What I did not know is that Evangelicals, also called Fundamentalists, were prime movers in turning Republican politics into a well-oiled voter turnout machine.

Anne Nelson is on the faculty at the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs. She acknowledges the help of colleagues and students in the end notes. Although I have written on these subjects many times Anne Nelson had access to resources I did not. Her work is important to me because it offers proof that my “cheap seats” interpretations of recent events in our government have merit. It would be more satisfying if the truths did not back up the facts that the church has been meddling in our federal government and that they grew from scratch into a very effective organization, using tools both legal and possibly illegal to get Republicans elected.

Southern Baptists were not leaving the church the way other Americans were. The advent of church-on-TV had given birth to the megachurch phenomenon. Pastors with large numbers of followers became almost religious rock stars. For decades there had been a strong church presence on the radio, especially across the South and Midwest. Stardom can go to your head, at least that seems to be what happened. At first churches met, “convocated,” held conventions, and church leaders talked about the moral decline which they linked to the decline in religious observance in many parts of America. They felt that religion would cure our moral “slippage.” They were angered that it was no longer legal to pray in school. They began to understand that their numbers and their media network gave them power to change the things they did not like about America. Their natural allies were the Republican Party, even more so with the advent of the Tea Party.

Evangelicals began to found a series of social organizations which were ostensibly formed to deal with aspects of America’s slippage, things like the disintegration of the nuclear family, abortion, contraception, the exclusion of religious teachings from school, the increasing concentration of power at the federal level when it could benefit the church’s ability to thrive if power was concentrated instead at the state level (small government).

Evangelicals came to see that if they could get Republican voters to the polls they could get everything they wanted because the Republican agenda matched the Evangelical wish list. They eventually went digital and collected data on a house-by-house basis in places that leaned right.

One problem with this (among many) is that these groups are classified as 501 c3 (nonprofits for religious reasons) and 501 c4 (nonprofits for social welfare reasons). These groups, in order to keep their tax exempt status, are not supposed to be partisan or participate in getting members of any particular party elected. These groups, in an incestuous relationship with the Republican Party and rich Republican donors like the Koch brothers and the DeVos family, were violating their tax exempt status, not to mention colluding to have an outsized effect on our national, state, and local politics. This story is essentially a political thriller, except its real.

Anne Nelson’s very interesting book may not be to everyone’s taste but should be read by anyone who believes that we should participate in our democracy/republic.

NB: This is even more relevant given that an article in Christianity Today backed removing Trump from office.


Do Numbers Count?: Russia/Ukraine/Trump

Do Numbers Count?

We did not have, until now, any way to connect our president, Donald J Trump to any actual criminal conduct in either Russia or Ukraine. We had no concrete proof of high crimes and misdemeanors. The House of Representatives would not have voted to hold a formal impeachment inquiry without considerable evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors. Many Americans have seen the president’s disregard for our constitution, our traditions, and our system of checks and balances as worrisome. Books have been written on the subject, like How Democracy Dies by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. No matter how many times the Republicans say this is all about overturning the 2016 election, there are plenty of Americans who know this is not the case.

But I have to ask, do numbers count? Even without proof that Trump had actually done anything unconstitutional or unlawful the number of connections between Trump’s campaign staff and Russia and Ukraine during the 2016 campaign and immediately after the inauguration, the number of Trump references to Russia, and his interactions with both Russia and Ukraine are extraordinary. America does not usually have a lot of business in this part of the world, the part that was in a Cold War with us, that isolated itself behind an Iron Curtain. It could all be about business, but talk of getting rid of the sanctions on Russia is definitely about politics.

In fact Russia is in the process of invading eastern Ukraine in an attempt to annex (steal) several Ukrainian oblasts (provinces). Still Ukraine has many connections to Moscow and all this activity by Trump’s guys may have been, in part, an attempt to open a back door into Putin’s Russia. Although many attempts were made by many “friends” of Trump to open such a back door, there is no proof that any of these attempts actually succeeded. Perhaps this explains Trump’s continued hyper-interest in Ukraine.  An article in today’s Washington Post suggests that Trump has actual animosity towards Ukraine. Or perhaps Trump has no faith that he can win an election without cheating.

As we approach the 2020 election we again begin to hear more and more references to Russia and those sanctions and to Ukraine right up to the moment of the now famous phone call. (As I write this Jonathan Capehart is reading aloud the transcript of this Ukraine/Trump phone call in front of a crackling TV fire a lá Franklin Roosevelt thus beating Trump to it). You would think with all the hair-on-fire reactions to Trump’s coziness with Putin and Russia and his campaign staff’s many illegal financial ops in Ukraine that Trump would have stayed far away from Ukraine in the run up to this elections.


But it seems that once he gets a bee in his bonnet he cannot let it go and the current bee in his bonnet is a whole hive. Biden and his son Hunter are bees buzzing around in Trump’s brain because he likes to have plenty of dirt on potential political opponents so he can effectively demonize them. Then he is still after Hillary and still trying to help out his whatever, Putin, by pursuing a discredited theory that it was actually Ukraine that interfered in our 2016 election thus getting Putin off the hook and closer to seeing those sanctions go away. Why an American president is so obsessed with Putin, and other dictators and why Americans are traipsing all over Kiev in Ukraine are questions we want to know the answers to.

Here are names connected with Trump and with Ukraine: then and now:

Then: Mueller investigation

Leshchenko, a Ukrainian legislator fighting corruption. He exposed the illegal payments made by Mr. Yanukovych’s party to Paul Manafort, Trump’s 2016 campaign chair

Michael T Flynn – resigned as national security advisor – 1 week earlier a sealed proposal was delivered to his office, outlining a way for Trump to lift sanctions on Russia.

Felix Sater – a business associate who helped Trump seal deals in Russia

Michael Cohen – president’s personal lawyer who delivered the sealed proposal to Michael Flynn. Michael Cohen is married to a Ukrainian woman and tried to help relatives start an ethanol business there so he, at least, had legitimate business in Ukraine. He delivered the sealed proposal which suggested a way to bring peace between Russia and Ukraine, (this was written by a Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Artemenko trying to rise in the political opposition movement in Ukraine with the help of Paul Manafort). This proposal was not sanctioned by the government of Ukraine.

It was thought that Trump possibly wanted to end Russian sanctions and wanted to create a back channel to Moscow through Ukraine.

[As I make this list Rachel  Maddow is talking about a new article by David Ignatius which says president Poroshenko of Ukraine was trying to get a meeting in the oval with the newly installed president Trump. He wasn’t getting anywhere until Giuliani went to Ukraine. Magically, after this visit in 2017, Ukraine stopped an investigation into Paul Manafort and then Poroshenko got his meeting with Trump and his javelin missiles.

Rachel asks, was this a rehearsal for what Trump did recently? Was this a quid pro quo he got away with which emboldened Trump to try again. There have been references to the Black ledger case. This ledger included the name of Paul Manafort and the huge sum he had been paid, but after the “bargain” with Poroshenko the Black Ledger disappeared – poof.]

Back to my list:

Rick Gates – a Trump campaign aide was Manafort’s longtime junior business partner.

Alex Vander Zwaan – London lawyer, had contacts with Rick Gates and another unnamed person based in Ukraine.

Konstantin Kilimnik , Russian/Ukrainian– a longtime business associate of Manafort and Gates.

Sam Patten – Republican operative and lobbyist – pleaded guilty because he was not registered as a foreign agent for his work with “Ukrainian bigwigs”

During the Mueller investigation we learned the following from reporters who investigated the people called in to testify:

“Donald J. Trump and 18 of his associates had at least 140 contacts with Russian nationals and WikiLeaks, or their intermediaries, during the 2016 campaign and presidential transition, according to a New York Times analysis.”

and, in case you are not a New York Times fan,

“There are now more than 101 known points of contact between the Trump campaign and Russian-government linked people or entities, including 23 meetings or calls.”

Now: Impeachment inquiry

Rudy Giuliani and his associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman (these two have been indicted for campaign finance violations.) Rudy Giuliani’s activities in Ukraine on behalf of the president were happening long before the fateful phone call.

“The three amigos” all were busy in Ukraine pushing Trump’s agenda:

Rick Perry was the Head of Energy Department–  after being called to testify before the impeachment inquiry he quit his cabinet position

Kurt Volker – US Special Representative to Ukraine

Gordon Sondland – US ambassador to EU

Bill Taylor – US chargé d’affairs in Ukraine who questioned holding up military aid in exchange for “oppo” information for the 2020 election

Ukrainian oligarch – Dmytro Firtash has been mentioned in connection with these events. There is a current attempt to bring him to America to testify.

Three Ukrainian Presidents involved because each had involvement with Americans connected to Trump:

Petro Poroshenko

Viktor Yanukovych (former president – said to be “stooge of Putin”)

Zelensky – current president of Ukraine

Viktor Shokin – Prosecutor General in Ukraine – forced out for blocking prosecution of corrupt officials and oligarchs

Lutsenko – new prosecutor general – also at war with anti-corruption group backed by

Serhiy Leshchenko – a liberal legislator and journalist who fights corruption

Marie Yovanovitch – US Ambassador to Ukraine recently relieved of her duties for no apparent reason. – She said the new prosecutor was still blocking corruption probes.

Conspiracy theory – Lutsenko said that George Soros was involved with Biden and Hunter Biden. He said that Yovanovitch gave him a list of people not to prosecute, which she says did not happen.

When did we ever spend this much time and energy and have this many Americans who were not spies interacting with Russians and Ukrainians and bugging Ukrainian presidents? (Right now on my TV Louie Gomert – (Rep.) is threatening Civil War if Democrats impeach Trump, which makes me nervous because Democrats are not the ones who have been stockpiling guns. Don’t they sound a bit desperate?) (Michael Steele (who has distanced himself from the Republican Party, asks, would we really have a Civil War over this man, over Trump, really?) This Russia-Ukraine-Impeachment is obviously incendiary.

Ukraine is known to be a very corrupt country, which means that the government protects oligarchs who basically steal from the Ukrainian people and the treasury like a bunch of crooks. Trump seems to many of us to be our most corrupt president ever, perhaps because he is  so crude and so blatant about it. Is this simply a case of crooks of a feather flock together? Except this is like a flock of crows that wants to pick our government clean and leave it as road kill. This amount of interaction with a nation which governs by fear and intimidation, a nation with a system of government we have fought against (Vietnam, Korea) losing the lives of our young men and women, should be problematic to all Americans. Why isn’t it?

And Ukraine is fighting for survival right now, both survival from corrupt and selfish men, and in an actual military operation to repel Russia from its threatening position within its borders. Despite Ukraine’s internal struggles we find Trump’s “troops” all over Ukraine selfishly “phishing” for Trump’s dirt on an opponent to “fix” the 2020 election (and possibly end those sanctions on Russia by blaming election interference in 2016 on Ukraine, not Russia). Since when have we been so cavalier about a nation so at risk. Given all of this it is not really out of line to hope that Trump gets stung by one or more of those bees he can’t seem to get out of this bonnet.

After I posted this article two more interesting reads came up in online news media:

 Michelle Goldberg’s article explaining more Ukraine complexities.



Photo Credit: From Google Image Searches – New York Post

Bop Bag Politics

Our president is basically a human bop bag. If he gets knocked down he pretends it is due to his magnanimity as a leader (an emotion he does not possess) and then he just pops back up. This bop bag toy works as a symbol for a lot of politicians; but it may just be the quintessential symbol for Donald Trump, not just as a politician but also as a businessman.

Ending the shutdown is a victory for many Americans who spoke up about the everyday repercussions of working without pay; a victory over a president’s empty words about one-sided loyalty. Nancy Pelosi probably never intended to gloat. She used the power of her office, which she understands completely, and the power of the Constitution, to help put an end to the shutdown. The only extraordinary thing about it is the skill with which she wields the gavel. Gloating does not have good outcomes given Trump’s pathologies. He hates losing and will stubbornly hold his ground.

It is entirely possible that Trump only decided to end the shutdown for three weeks so he could give his State of the Union address in the House chambers amidst the pomp and spectacle of regular order in these times that are anything but regular.

However Trump could have decided to do the authoritarian thing and force his way into the House chambers and he didn’t. Perhaps he realized how quickly opposition might escalate if he used that play from the authoritarian playbook at this particular moment, if he sidelined a Congress that now shows some promise of offering the checks and balances that signal a healthy democracy/republic. Don’t be too comforted; this play is still available for future use.

In the Rose Garden he made a formal announcement of a temporary (3 week end) to the government shutdown but he did not back down at all from his insistence on the necessity for a wall on our southern border.

“Trump’s quest for at least some portion of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is not over, however. Friday’s agreement only temporarily reopens the government, providing a three-week period for Congress to negotiate a longer-term spending agreement. The president said he would continue advocating for his signature campaign promise and threatened to again shut down the government or declare a national emergency to use his unilateral powers to build the wall if Congress does not appropriate funding for it by Feb. 15.

‘Let me be very clear: We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier,” Trump said Friday. He also tweeted in the evening that his decision “was in no way a concession.’”

He does seem, however, to be willing to accept pieces of wall as opposed to sea to sea wall. He also seems willing to accept a steel barrier rather than a monumental medieval concrete wall that can be seen from space. (Although perhaps with his push to get to Mars while he is still President, he will have to leave some kind of monument that will be visible from space.)

So the bop bag we call Donald Trump is now back in the upright position. What will happen next? Will it be some money for barriers and will Nancy Pelosi and her Dem peeps accept a bit of defeat gracefully? Will it be the declaration of a National Emergency, which promises to damage our constitutional democracy “bigly”? Will it be another shutdown after Trump gets to deliver his SOTU address?

What can the president possibly say in his SOTU address that anyone but loyal Republicans will want to listen to? We have not yet reached the point where Americans can be forced to watch the address. Someone will tell us what he said after the fact. If you are a person who sees through this man you will probably have to tune out the SOTU address to save your TV from mayhem. Perhaps you could order a bop bag to take your frustrations out on. Remember also that a bop bag can be put down permanently; all you have to do is take the hot air out of it.

Photo Credit:

I Apologize

Too many people are asking for too many donations
from too many citizens with too little income. Above my article is a picture of
the pile of letters asking for donations which I have received in January and
February. All of these requests represent worthy causes, causes I would be
happy to make a donation to if I could. What is so disheartening is how few
organizations I can actually afford to make donations to.
All it takes to get on someone’s mailing list is to
give to any affiliated group, and the connections between groups are almost
impossible to trace. If you give a few dollars to a few political action
groups, you are suddenly swamped by anyone with even the most tenuous
relationship to the Party of your choice.
Giving dollars to charities also causes your mailbox
to bulge with letters, envelopes, free things like address labels, fancy
stationery, free book marks, pens, nickels, dimes, not just once a year but
every month, over and over again. No one ever sends us money. Beyond these
inexpensive freebees there are no surprises.
One advantage of this deluge is that, hopefully, it
helps keep the post office in business. I haven’t heard people threatening
lately to close down the US Postal Service, although they might just be waiting
until after the election to continue the campaign to close up an American
institution that people actually like.
The sheer bulk of the mail perhaps has the added
advantage of producing more than enough donation money to offset all that is
spent on the packets to solicit the donations.
I have trouble throwing this mail away. I set it
aside thinking that perhaps I will be able to squeeze out of my budget a small
donation for each group, until several months go by and I reluctantly toss the
lot. I am just venting and sharing the guilt I feel about being unable to
contribute and yet harvesting those address labels and nickels and dimes. I
have invented a new rationalization. When I use those address labels it is as
if I am advertising for the group that sent them. Should we feel guilty about
accepting a totally unsolicited free gift? Probably not, but I believe we
receive the free gift so that we will feel guilty enough about keeping it to
make a donation.
Please accept my apologies for not answering all
your pleas. Keep the mail coming because I might be more affluent one day, and
because of the post office thing.

By Nancy Brisson

Our Flawed Immigration System, Our Bad

I hear Americans making many of the following points
about immigrants, most of them false. They say:
Immigrants take our jobs.
The government is using our tax dollars to provide
benefits for undocumented immigrants.
Illegal immigrants vote fraudulently and they
usually vote for Democrats.
Undocumented workers will work for very low wages
and they therefore drive down wages of American workers.
White people would not be outnumbered by minorities
if illegal immigrants were sent home.
We put illegal immigrants who break the law into
American jails at taxpayer’s expense.
people have large families and all of their children are born at no cost in
American hospitals and automatically become citizens.
All illegal immigrants are from South of the Border.
Undocumented and legal immigrants exclude us by
refusing to learn our language.
When we see women in scarves or even long garments
like burqas or hijabs we think in our heart of hearts that this is not an
American form of dress. We want women to take off these garments which to us
seem like symbols of female submission and enjoy American fashion. We are
afraid that people with such strong beliefs will impose their beliefs on us.
They will bring Sharia law.
We will find ourselves becoming a Muslim nation.
 I could go on
and on. These are all things we think about immigrants, especially immigrants
without legal documents.
However, if we are perfectly honest it is America’s
shoddy systems that allow people to come into our country and live and work
with no documents, or stolen documents, or illegally obtained documents. Last
week officials admitted that we have no system for tracking people here on
visas if they decide to stay when their visa expires. I read an interesting book
called Americanah (it won prizes) a
few years ago by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian woman who came to America
and had to stay until she could earn enough money to return home. She describes
what she had to do to work in America without proper documents.
Another story, The
Book of Unknown Americans
by Cristina Henriquez is about a family that came
to America legally from Mexico and describes their less-than-hospitable
experience here and the great tragedy it lead to.
Some of the things we think are true of immigrants,
both legal and illegal, have been researched and have been found to be false or
mostly false. But statistics do suggest that America will not be a majority
white nation for much longer or white people may have already slipped into the
minority. Caucasians do not seem to be the wave of the future and it may be too
late to reproduce a way back into ascendancy.
Deep down we feel good old American guilt over all
these unfriendly or even hateful feelings. We are supposed to be the great
melting pot where everyone shares the American Dream, deposits a few new
wrinkles that make for a tasty cultural stew, and then puts nose to grindstone
to climb the ladder of success.
We have dealt with groups that don’t see owning
things and amassing wealth and fitting in as important goals. But these groups
have been small and scattered and have not had an enormous effect on the
American work ethic or our materialism. Recent groups do not seem as
interested in assimilating (although assimilation can take generations). To us
it seems as if they cling to the language and culture of their nation of
origin. This was true of previous groups also, such as the Irish and the
Italians. I think that this time people are worried that America is not strong
enough to shake off these new influences and maintain its European/Caucasian
flavor. Will our grandchildren speak Spanish? Will they bow to Mecca? Some of
these things we can’t know.
Welcoming people and treating them well is more
likely to keep America as is than treating people with isolation and hostility.
But it seems counter-intuitive to many to accept strangers and it seems just
plain wrong to accept people who came without going through the proper routes
and who do not possess the proper papers. Although we don’t rely much on fancy
identity papers in America.
I don’t know if these new immigrant groups will take
over America (given that the Dream has gotten a bit thin for all of us) or if
they will blend into and enhance American culture and the only way to find out
is to wait and see what happens.
How can we deport people who simply took advantage
of a very lackadaisical visa system or borders that are not secured (and, my
guess, cannot be secured)? We should leave these poor people alone, grandfather
them in, give them papers now or after ten years, or whatever punishing delay,
and then create a system that works. That probably will involve doing some very
un-American thing like using an electronic tracking system or eyeball-ID at
points of entry and exit.
We are a nation of people who love to look for
loopholes and then use them to our advantage. These are obviously people after
our own hearts. So make sure that in the future we close the loopholes (not
with walls; they make me claustrophobic) and recognize that whatever system we
create in this age of jets will most likely not be perfect. Perhaps we will all
have to put up with some kind of chemical or electrical ID markers in the
not-so-distant future. However this has one big problem – the greater the
control, the less our privacy.
Our leaky immigration system is our bad; it is on
us. How can we blame those who use our mistakes to seek material gains or to
find a better life for their children? We would do exactly the same thing if we
had to.
By Nancy Brisson

Not Allowed to Act; Not Responsible

Everyone wants to say that these children coming over our southern
borders would not be in America without Obama’s dispensation for the
“dreamers”, but Republicans seem dead set on denying that the law passed in the
Bush years to protect children from sex trafficking has anything to do with the
fact that this journey is being sold in South America. John Boehner is beside
himself, red in the face with the power of his shock that Obama is, as he says,
not willing to take responsibility for anything even though he has been the
President for five years. I guess he forgets that the American people have been
around for these same five years.
What many Americans believe is that the President does not have to
take responsibility for very much at all because Congress, and especially John
Boehner, have not let him do anything. You can’t obstruct Obama, put him in a
strait-jacket and then make him responsible. You, Congress, and especially Republicans
will have to take the blame for everything. If you had let the President off
the tight leash you have him on then he would clearly be responsible if he
passed bad laws. Since he is unable to pass any laws the onus falls on you all,
especially if you are in the House of Representatives.
Our Congress is a scandal. The hateful things members of our Congress
say every day are harmful to America. These hateful things are coming from
Republicans, almost exclusively. They are tearing us apart with constant
attacks, insults, accusations, all made for political reasons (but also backed
by true animosity). They are even beginning to look like evil villains. I know
that whenever certain Republicans open their mouths they will do so to shoot ever
nastier arrows into the heart of our sitting President, at least half of the
American people, and our temporarily (I hope) moribund Democracy.
Republicans in Congress should be tried for sedition for ignoring
their duties as enumerated in our Constitution. We should start a grassroots
movement to impeach Congress. There isn’t such a law yet, but we’ll make it one.
We can all be thankful that Obama does not have a hot temper. He takes
the time to deliberate even when his enemies/opposition are trying to goad him
into precipitate or unconstitutional action. He doesn’t seem vengeful like
Nixon was (or like I would be). Here he is with all these South American
children on our border and everyone is telling him to go to the border for a
photo-op. They are saying that he is acting like Bush during Katrina (except
Bush was scared of his own American people and I doubt very much that Obama is
afraid of these children). But Obama holds his own counsel and draws his own
conclusions. Obama has been accused of being lawless by the truly lawless crowd
and in this he is only following the law – the law passed in the Bush years.
Today Boehner announced that Congress will sue Obama for postponing
the health care individual mandate for businesses which they claim involved
overstepping his executive powers. We chafed under Bush. We would have
impeached him in a minute and we had a lot better reasons than this crew.

They are trying to make us forget the sins of 43 by pinning them on
Obama. We will never forget the lawless crap that happened in the Bush years
however, so if you Republicans are doing this because you hope to erase the
past for the good of the Party, you can give it up right now. It won’t work. We
will always remember that it was the GOP that lied to us about nearly everything,
but especially Iraq, and we will always remember how many American sons and
daughters lost their lives or limbs for what; money? Republicans, back off
Obama. Stop spending our tax dollars on this mean politics. 
Just one more point – imagine a southern border where people could walk back and forth with minimum hassle, like our border with Canada. I wonder what that would be like?
By Nancy Brisson

How Small is Small?

So when some of the American people long for small
government we have to ask ourselves how small is small? Grover Norquist, who
has been real quiet since he granted the GOP dispensation to roll back the Bush
tax cuts for the very wealthy, famously has been quoted as saying that he “wants
government so small you could drown it in a bathtub.” That’s pretty small. How
do you think America will do with a government this small? My opinion – Yikes!
Many on the right say that they want to close the
Department of Education and just send vouchers or block grants to the states.
There would not be any attempts to standardize schools across America and, it
seems, educational credentials for both teachers and students might no longer
be accepted as people moved from state to state. How will that help anyone? Do
you think this is a good idea?
Another national office that the right would like to
close is the Department of Energy. Conservative states hate the regulations the
Federal government has passed to rein in the energy companies; rules for safety
standards and rules to protect some areas from drilling or mining and rules for
carbon emissions. Should we close the Department of Energy and let oil
companies, frackers, coal miners have their way in each state as allowed by
that state government? What will happen in the case of companies who need to
cross state lines as in the Keystone pipeline? Without the Energy Dept. who
will study these decisions? How many people in America favor this hefty
government cut?
We just got renewed access to Consumer Financial
Protection, but the right would like to close that agency also. Think about
just the laws that have been passed to help us with our credit cards. Think of
the fact that we finally have someone tackling budget-sucking student loans.
How willing are you to do without these protections once again? Do you think
that we can trust lenders to treat people fairly without oversight?
Does the loss of these three behemoth agencies make
our federal government a size you would be happy with? Are these the cuts you
would choose?
Let’s keep going.
The right wants to get rid of the social safety net,
all the programs that fall under Health and Human Services. Welfare – gone. OK,
I sense many Americans think this is a good idea, even though this program is
much smaller than it used to be. What about SNAP food cards? Is the program too
large? Who should be cut from the program? Who should be kept? How about the
free school breakfast and lunch programs? Should we raise the standards until
the program is cut in half? Should we cut it out completely? Should we keep it
the way it is? Do we even know what would be best?
Is the Federal government small enough yet?
There are many more programs such as WIC (Women,
Infants, and Children), SSD – Social Security Disability, Medicaid. Should we
cut these completely? It sure would make the Federal budget smaller, but what
will our neighborhoods be like? Will we still have some measure of safety and
public health? Will gangs roam the streets all over America; gangs of people
who can’t eat or pay rent or wash themselves and their clothing. With our
weather turning more violent and unpredictable will people have to live in tent
towns in America? That sounds like fun (sarcasm). Do we want a government this
small? We’re really getting down there.
OK, seniors – do we agree that the Federal
government should give vouchers to seniors for health care and phase out Social
Security? How will we like America then? What’s left in the budget – salaries for
those in government, Defense spending, (the IRS will be gone), and the NSA. How
does a Federal government like this serve the American people? Will we begin to
resemble Iraq rather than the USA, splitting into factions who war with each
other? How small do you think our Federal government should be?
Actually there are so many government agencies that
no one even knows the actual number. Clearly there must be things that could be
cut or agencies whose spending could be curtailed. Cutting big important
agencies because your political ideology favors corporations and big business
and a free marketplace should not be the method we adopt to get smaller
government. It only favors the views of less than half of Americans for one
thing. Carefully considered cuts don’t seem possible given the level of work
involved to come up with such a plan. Perhaps a series of well-spaced across
the board micro-cuts would be doable but the last round of micro-cuts and not
so micro-cuts was very painful.

Really small government – I hope you will consider this idea very carefully
before you sign on because I believe you will see more downside results than
upside solutions. This is one of my major bones of contention with
Conservatives. I think that if we want our Federal government to be smaller
then budget concerns will serve us better than Federalist ideas that were never
actually written into the Constitution. While the idea of those who were for
and against Federalism are historically interesting, even our forefathers could
not agree about the powers that should belong to the states and those that
should belong to the Federal government or even about how the power should be
divided. Purity may be touted as the issue here, but the right is serving a
master that lives outside our Constitution. If you don’t think they are
controlled by big business puppet masters just follow the recent decisions of
the Supreme Court. 
By Nancy Brisson

Democrats: Wusses or Saviors of our Nation?

Democrats are being shafted because they are unwilling to give up on the
Constitution and the American government. Who knows better than the Democrats
how seditious the Republicans have been. They have damaged our Constitutional
government by grinding it to a halt, or nearly a halt. They have done this by
refusing to bring any important bills to the floor of the House. Since the
filibuster rule was relaxed (somewhat), some judges have been sent to fill
federal benches. However, the filibuster rules were not relaxed for important
bills, so not many things have passed the Senate either. If a bill happens to
get through the Senate it can’t even get considered in the House because John
Boehner will not bring it to the floor for a vote.
This is not
some temporary strategy. It has been in force for the past four years, since
the Democrats lost the House in 2010, and if the Democrats are unable to turn
things around this strategy will be in force for the next two years. The
Democrats could probably bring Republicans up on charges of sedition, but they
have held back. They believe America can be saved and that when the Tea Party
fever breaks the country will go back to having two parties that agree once
more to wheel and deal and compromise.
I respect
the Democrats for pretending that everything is fine, for holding back, for
protecting our history as a great nation, but I am afraid that the Republicans
have no such compunctions and will go for the juggler if they get a clear
chance. Perhaps they will try to impeach Obama if they win the House and the
Senate in 2014. I believe that this would be a terrible mistake for all
Americans and the fallout might bring about that very civil war we seem to be
headed for. If we cannot reconcile the agenda of the left and the agenda of the
right, if one party will risk nullifying the Constitution because either they
want their power back or they believe so strongly in their ideological policies that they will trash the Constitution and commit seditious acts to get
their way, then we are screwed.
believe that the next election is their ticket to having everything they ever
dreamed of and they believe that they have stacked the deck enough to ensure
that the election outcome will go their way.

Should the
Democrats keep backing off the Republicans to save America? Will backing off
the Republicans save America as we know it? Should we finally just go ahead and
get tough, shake the stuffing out of these folks, bring charges against them
and have the whole argument hauled right out into the open. The Republicans,
especially the Tea Party Republicans, have been waltzing really close to the
treason line and Democrats have cut them lots of slack. Republicans have even
gone over the line a few times or why would we have the militias. 
So either we
need to give the Democrats props for keeping to regular order as much as
possible or we have to disparage them as wusses and throw in our lot with the
right wing crazies. Since the entire world is full of nations warring over
internal political divisions why not just join in rather than pretending that
we are saner than everyone else. This is a very sad chapter in our nation’s history.

By Nancy Brisson

Bergdahl is Home – Impeach Obama?

Here is a diagram of the political spectrum or
continuum as it was taught to me. I am looking at the top half of this chart.
These days this is considered too simplistic as the left and right wings often
switch ends on the continuum depending on whether you are talking about
socio-cultural issues or economic issues. (See the Wikipedia entry for
political spectra for more about this last bit.) For my purposes at the moment
this classic version is the most helpful for making my point.
It was all too predictable that a howl would echo
forth from the usual political suspects on the right about President Obama’s
stunning/shocking/surprising (pick an adjective, any adjective) release of five
Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo to Qatar in exchange for one “iffy” POW, Bowe
Bergdahl, who may have actually felt that he should express solidarity with the
Afghan people, who may have believed that our “enemies” were being unfairly
attacked and badly treated by America, who may be a deserter or a just a
conscientious person who believed it would be the right thing to do to walk
away from his buddies and try to save Afghans. We all agree that he has lots of
questions to answer when he is well enough because when you are a soldier you
take an oath to act as a soldier and not as an individual.
However, it is the end of a war and prisoner
exchanges often occur in the final months before the opposing parties retreat
to their corners (although our retreat is not total). And, obviously, the
Qatari leader attending his son’s graduation from West Point must have made
Obama an offer he could not refuse. The military have also been making the
point that we don’t leave our soldiers on the battlefield or in enemy hands.
John Stewart pointed out how ridiculous everyone sounds mouthing platitudes at
each other, but I have heard these platitudes before in many different
administrations and if other Presidents can be trite why not Obama? Being trite
is not in itself an impeachable offense.
Those five Taliban men do look quite grim and
imposing and they may want revenge, and, although we are done fighting in
Afghanistan, we are not done fighting terrorists so we see that there are real
risks here. I get it. I get the fears we have of reprisals. But we can’t leave
these prisoners in what basically amounts to a POW camp for these particular Taliban
men/soldiers/enemy leaders forever and we all know that. And if the Democrats
and Republicans were not at loggerheads we might have worked out a solution to
this national shame in this time of Obama, something we are not being allowed
to do.
But, and this is where that political spectra diagram
come in, if you look at the far right end of this continuum, the place where
the Tea Party resides, you see the term reactionary. This almost old-fashioned
term best captures the Republican Party we have today. They do not act; they
react, and they always react negatively. Every time anyone gives a Republican
access to a microphone s/he will tell us how bad Democratic policies are and
will spew hate for Obama. I just did not foresee the strength of their vitriol
on this issue. I did not know about the 30 day notice that Congress was
supposed to get before the release of anyone from Guantanamo. Now the
Republicans are accusing Obama, once again, of breaking the law. But Presidents
when acting as Commander-in-Chief have always been given lots of leeway and the
benefit of the doubt. I am so tired of the rudeness that we have seen so
consistently from the right. I am so embarrassed that they feel the need to air
all of America’s laundry, both clean and dirty, in front of the entire world.
They do more to undermine Obama and America’s power around the world than
anything Obama could manage to accomplish from his position under the thumbs of
the Congress.
It is easy to sit back and just lean in every once
in a while with a highly critical reaction. It is maddening to see these
“obstructers”; these peddlers of bizarre policies, call for the impeachment of
a President who has kept his temper in the face of extreme antagonism and who
has set himself the task of accomplishing as many agenda items as he can of a
drastically curtailed agenda that he knows comes nowhere near what he would
like to have achieved. It is all extremely disheartening and we feel helpless
to unravel the impasse. I do believe that if Republicans manage to impeach this
President, which they may be able to do if they control Congress in 2015, then
we the people will make our displeasure felt.

Nothing Obama has done rises to the level of an
impeachable offense and even if the people don’t rise up to express their anger
should such an action be taken, history won’t take very long to register
condemnation for those who take such action. Unless President Obama does
something much worse than bending rules which have been bent before, he should
be left alone to finish out his second term. To be surrounded by angry enemies
prodding you with words like swords and arguments that are beyond ridiculous;
this must have made just about the toughest two terms any American President
has ever experienced. No shame devolves to Obama, rather the shame is on us.
By Nancy Brisson

How Curious Are We? Curious Enough to Try the Conservative Way?

You say you think you would like to see what it will
be like if we let the Republicans have their way with us. You like the idea of
lower taxes. It has already been tried in a couple of red states and has
produced huge budget shortfalls; but that could be a fluke, couldn’t it?
You say you think privatizing schools might be a
good idea. After all those charter schools seem to be doing a good job and a
parent could pick a school that suits the child. So what if these schools can’t
teach Evolution, only Creationism. So what if the school fees stop being paid
by the federal government and keep going up and up. So what if these schools frequently go belly up and force parents to shift their children from one school to another.
It might be good to go all Fundamentalist with our
Christianity. The rest of the world is going Fundamentalist. If we can’t beat
them, maybe we should join them.
Going Fundamentalist on the Constitution might also
be interesting. Trying out a federal government that has less to say about our
lives and a state government that has more to say might be interesting. We
already know that free speech costs money and the more money you have, the more
free speech you are entitled to. That’s pretty new and interesting. We already
know that everyone fears the NRA and the various militias that have been
formed, like the Oathkeepers, so we’ve gone pretty Fundamentalist on the 2nd
Amendment already. Red States have been working on voting rights. But we still have a
number of Amendments left to “fundamentalize”.
Limiting healthcare to only those who can afford it
is another new idea we could take for a test drive. Wealthy people, who can
afford to buy healthcare, will live longer, and poor people will not. This will
also help out with our Social Security crisis because the people who would have
needed Social Security in their old age will have already died.
And now that we know that poverty is caused by
assistance from government we can save money and end poverty at the same time.
I will be very curious to see how this works. (I’m guessing it will work much
the same as the way we would solve our Social Security shortfall.)
We will all just assume, of course, that the climate
changes we think we are seeing are just natural meteorological fluctuations so
we can continue to keep our energy sources exactly as they are and that way we
will not inconvenience any members of the 1%.
Things will be a little different for women because
if we have children we will have to stay home with them and we will have to be
married and part of a nuclear family so that will take a bit of getting used to
again, as will being submissive to our husbands, but all us women will be
curious to see if this part of our right-wing social experience straightens out
America and gets rid of mental illness, ends violence and brings back that
idyllic American experience which we had last time nuclear families were in
I am not sure what we will do to get rid of
diversity in America but if we follow the right wing way there will not be any
– policies will ensure homogeneity somehow. We don’t need to be too curious
about how this is accomplished but we will certainly be curious to see if it
makes everything all hunky-dory.
Of course, I and others will need some drugs, some
happy drugs. We may need to start right now to stockpile some fairly hefty
tranquilizers so we don’t get ourselves in too much trouble, but I promise to
stay sober every once in a while to check in with you all. (Canada, if I gave
you the impression that I felt anything but love for you then I apologize right
here and now. I, of course, heart Canada.)

I do warn you, however, after all these speculations
and this curiosity about the brave new far right wing Conservative Way, to
remember what curiosity did to the cat. Yikes!
By Nancy Brisson