Tag Archives: Congress

The downgrade

So Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. long-term debt from AAA to AA+ (with a negative outlook). Ouch. Yeah, it’s a bit of a joke. After all, these are the jokers who declared Lehman Brothers AAA a month before they went bankrupt. They rated junk mortgage securities AAA, leading directly to the financial mess we’re in now. And we can argue till the cows come home about whether S&P oughta be in the business of downgrading our credit rating because our political system is so dysfunctional.

Doesn’t matter. What does matter is that they did. They looked at the recently completed debt ceiling debate and determined that although we haven’t defaulted, and probably won’t in the near future, our idiocy is so complete that creditors should think twice or more about extending further credit.

Now, that would probably suit the TeaPublicans just fine. They seem to relish the idea of the United States becoming a backwater country where the majority of its citizens have little to no access to decent health care or education. And why wouldn’t they? Stupid, sick citizens are much easier to bully into submission. And the handful of others who know better? Just throw ’em in jail, shoot ’em if you have to. That’s what they do in places like Zimbabwe, Syria, Yemen and Iran. Never let a little inconvenient truth bother you.

And all of this could have been avoided. We’ve had so many chances. After Reagan put us on this wretched road to ruin, Americans wised up after a term of George Bush Sr. and elected Bill Clinton, at the time branded The Most Liberal Man On The Planet although he was a Blue Dog at best. Never mind, though, he was certainly far better than another four years of GHWB, or, god forbid, one of the other whackos who could have been on the Republican ticket. You know, people like Pat Buchanan and David Duke.

The GOP Noise Machine went into high gear of course, lying and stretching the truth at every possible moment to paint Clinton as Evil Incarnate. It worked to some extent, but it didn’t wholly work because Bill possesses one of those thing the Republicans like in their candidates: He’s Affable. You wanna have a beer with him. So what if he had sex with that woman? I mean — and here’s where the Right Wing Crap Machine worked wonders — look at that bitch he’s married to.

But after two terms and a deficit surplus, the Noise Machine had also done a job on the man who should have been Clinton’s successor, the truly more liberal Al Gore. And Gore was hampered by a tendency to appear rather wooden, plus, it appears that an awful lot of Democrats/liberals/progressives at that time had not caught on to the Republican Bullshit Machine strategy: Lie at every opportunity, and make the other guy out to be in league with the worst things you can think of. And if all else fails, ridicule from the lowest common denominator.

Thus, George W. Bush. Of course, the conservatives needed a little boost from the Supreme Court, but honest to god, it never should have been close enough to go there. The Noise Machine works very, very well, indeed. See Kerry, John – Swiftboating.

After eight years of up is down, black is white and Alice doesn’t live here anymore, it’s a wonder any of us could even walk. But walk we could and unbelievably enough of us had seen through the LSD haze to actually not give the presidency to another Republican. But the Noise Machine had a hand in who did select too. See Clinton, Hillary – Clinton Derangement Syndrome.

Again, we selected a very moderate, albeit black, Democrat who was again portrayed as The Most Liberal Man On The Planet despite no evidence to support that contention. But we, suckers that we are, thought we had a chance. My god, a black Democrat in the White House, majorities in the House and Senate — we’re saved!

Except we weren’t. The right started its anti-anything but them campaign with its most ugly component yet: Racism. Well, they actually tried that with Bill Clinton. Who do you think came up with “the nation’s first black president?” Problem of course, was that Clinton clearly isn’t black.

Barack Obama is, and racism is a ready-made weapon so easy to deny. “Tar baby!” “Oh, I’m sorry if anyone was offended. I didn’t mean that as a racist statement.” And, with our well trained stenography pool ready to bring every utterance to the national media, nobody but us crazies ever challenged the clear bullshit. So while the our so-called journalists bring on birthers to talk about whether or not Obama was born in the United States (doesn’t matter, idiots, his MOTHER was), nobody challenges the racism fueling charges that Obama is from Africa, that he’s Muslim, that he’s anything but a good ol’ boy. Seriously, do you honestly think that conversation would be going on if Obama’s father were named Olsen and he was born in Norway?

But the Machine had done well making sure a natural compromiser was elected president. That’s what community organizers do, yknow. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but when one side deviously plots to suppress the other side and uses good intentions to doom the process from the start, well, that’s another matter.

And then there was the Tea Party, rabidly taken up by my colleagues in the stenography as some kind of populist movement despite the clear evidence that it was and is funded by billionaires and political insiders. Follow the money, my friends. Follow the money.

And the politicians, never ones to take any kind of principled stand (with rare exceptions. See Sanders, Bernie – Socialist, Vermont), bent and twisted any which way the wind blew to make sure they stayed in office.  Then came 2010, and the intentionally ill-informed won big in those places where once more moderate conservatives might have flourished. And now, the stage was set.

A barely Democratic president, a Senate with a narrow Democratic majority, a House full of full-on crazies with little to no understanding of anything beyond Well, sheeit, I’m a US Congressman now! and a House constituency of the ignorant masses who don’t realize Medicare is a “socialist” program nor that their champions have every intention of destroying it.

Oh, and the completely out in the open No. 1 goal of the Republican party: Get rid of the black guy in the Oval Office in 2012 if not sooner.

So despite Standard & Poor’s culpability in the our economic morass, somebody there had the sense to realize that the United States was indeed on a slippery slope and it isn’t one to socialism. It’s sliding into what’s much closer to the corporate-run colonies of the British, Portugeuese, Dutch, Spanish and French empires. Seriously — they were all about profits and coopting some local group to give their corporate rulers some legitimacy. And the corporate rulers, of course, answered to the crown back home.

In America, though, we’re dispensing with the crown. The corporate rulers answer to no one.

And that’s very, very dangerous, something even Standard & Poor’s can’t ignore. The debt ceiling fight, then, was our last chance before someone outside started taking action. Obama must have known. That’s where the Grand Bargain came from. It was the only adult proposal made, one that in all likelihood would have satisfied S&P that we were seriously about fixing the economy. Of course, just lifting the fucking debt ceiling and focussing on a jobs plan probably would have worked too, but the TeaPublicans would have none of that and instead pushed for this showdown, a playground battle royale.

So Obama offered the Grand Bargain and the TeaPublicans, so enamored of their rich overlords that they cannot conceive of taxing them one penny more than they already are, poor over-taxed bastards, said no fucking way. And the pitiful “debate” that followed showed S&P, and every other sane person on the planet, that the lunatics indeed have taken over the U.S. government, and no one is safe.

The reasoning, which people who aren’t TeaPublicans actually note contains criticisms of both Republicans and Democrats, is far more damning to the GOP. Here’s the full report, go read it. You can be sure the TeaPublicans won’t. They were satisfied with the press release. But here’s the key passage. S&P says the recently completely debt ceiling deal is a step in the right direction, but is not sufficient to correct the slide. Previously assessments have given the United States the benefit of the doubt, S&P says, assuming that reason will overcome the pitchfork-bearing masses. No more:

Compared with previous projections, our revised base case scenario now assumes that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, due to expire by the end of 2012, remain in place. We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act.

And there you have it. If those tax cuts don’t expire, S&P says, the credit rating will likely slip to AA. Killing those tax cuts off might — might — “stabilize” the rating at AA+.

So what’s it all mean? Basically, we’re screwed. And the Republicans and Democrats are to blame. The Republicans for all their lying and bullshit and the Democrats for showing their bellies every time the GOP or Fox News yells “Boo!” And that dysfunction, which is what S&P is talking about, isn’t likely to change, because our politicians are too addicted to being in Washington to see what’s really going on in the world around them.

Instead, they’ll take what S&P says and make further cuts into “entitlement” programs, along with things like education, public safety, environmental regulation, banking regulation — basically anything that a civilized society needs to thrive — keeping only enough to maintain the military dictatorship the Teahadists so desperately yearn for.  Austerity times 1000. This is how Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq, and we really do have weapons of mass destruction.

I don’t pretend to know why the rich want it this way (even less why the lied-to masses work so hard to make it happen), but I do know this is how they want it. Follow the money. At the end you’ll find people like the Koch Brothers whose only goal, for some unfathomable reason, is to get richer.

I also know it will get better. But not, apparently, before it gets a whole lot worse.

There’s something Vichy about Senate Democrats

If the Republicans are Nazis (and I’m not saying they are — this is just a hypothetical) but if they are fascists, then the Democrats, particularly those of the Senate,  are the Vichy regime of America — collaborators of the first rank.

I can tell by the sound of crickets chirping that some of you don’t understand the reference. I mean, it is a World War II-era reference, waaaaaaaay back to 1940s.

Vichy, France, was home base for France’s German-collaborating puppet government after Germany occupied France. Collaborators. Doing the Germans’ dirty work for them.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say Barack Obama is Marshal Phillippe Petain, the French prime minister and World War I hero who was head of the Vichy government (and 84 years old when he got there, thus becoming France’s oldest head of state). That would more likely be some Blue Dog like Ben Nelson, so-called Democratic senator from Nebraska, who helped make the Affordable Care Act the almost useless mess that it is. Nelson and others like him (Joe Lieberman comes to mind) wouldn’t go along with the more progressive parts of the bill (the ones that would really help people) so those were dumped in favor of Republican proposals that they refused to vote for anyway.

So it is with Vichy regimes. Petain changed France’s motto from  “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” (“Liberty, equality, fraternity”) to the more fascist “Travail, famille, patrie” (“Work, family, fatherland”).He was later sentenced to die for treason, but his protege Charles de Gaulle must have felt sorry for him, so he commuted the sentence to life in prison, where he died in 1951, completely senile and requiring constant care. So it is with reactionaries.

France, though, has a strong right wing element, and once they stole Petain’s coffin from the cemetery on the prison island where he died, demanding that he be buried in some place of honor. He was reburied with a presidential seal on the coffin, but back at the burial ground on Ile d’Yeu.

De Gaulle, in case you want to know, fled to Britain as Petain was handing France over to Hitler. He formed a government in exile there, but alas, the allies, including the United States, recognized the Vichy government as the rightful government of France until the 1944 liberation. Typical, don’t you think, for the United States to recognize the right wing government, even if it is controlled by the very people you’re fighting a world war against?

End of history lesson. The Democrats, most of them anyway, are the Vichy government of the United States, rolling over and caving to Republicans every chance they get. Mustn’t make waves. I’m not sure why they do it. Petain was a reactionary, right wing asshole. Maybe Democrats really are, too.

They sure do like the money that pours in from the same big corporations and lobbyists who fund the Republicans. And real progress in this country won’t happen until that’s stopped. The Vichy-crats drag their feet on making it happen, although they occasionally talk the talk. They just don’t vote the vote.

We’ve got some big fights coming up in Congress — the debt ceiling (whether we’ll let the government default) and Paul Ryan’s lunatic budget. Democrats in the House, most of whom aren’t Vichy-crats, what with the defeat of most of the Blue Dogs last year, pulled a good one on the Republicans the other day.

The GOP put forth an amendment that made Ryan’s budget look like a walk in the park. Normally, these things are defeated by a coalition of Democrats and a handful of  “moderate” (read; not completely insane) Republicans. But this time, all 170-something Democrats voted “present,” and since the House passes such things by a majority of the votes cast, a bunch of conservatives had to change their votes to “no” to keep the damn thing from going to the Senate. Now the TeaPublicans can’t go say it was the Democrats who beat them, because it wasn’t.

Don’t know why they didn’t take their chances with the Vichy-crats on the other side of the Capitol. They might have gotten somewhere there.

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away

I sure hope you didn’t expect one of those year end round up things from me. Aren’t there enough of them already? What could I do that hasn’t been done over and over? Most Valiant Effort to Save Our Sorry Asses?

That would be Alan Grayson, the Florida congressman who told the truth over and over again and lost his seat for his trouble. Maybe Sorriest Excuse for a Financial Regulation Bill? I’ll go out on a limb and say the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010, basically about the government’s substantial largesse toward rich bastards at the expense of everyone else.

Hmmm. Maybe I should reconsider. This could be fun. Maybe Nunzia’s Most, Least and Sorriest of 2010 isn’t such a bad idea.

Ah, but Nunzia’s Most, Least and Sorriest for 2011 might be even better. Like Sorriest Excuse for a Congress. The Republican-led House alone will guarantee the U.S. Congress gets that award, but conservative “Democrats” strangling the Senate mean there’s more than enough on that side of the Capitol to bring the trophy to Washington.

Or Least Likely to Accomplish Anything Useful. The U.S. Congress again, which will also pick up the award for Most Useless Political Body.

Can you tell I have little hope for the 112th Congress? And why would I? Darrell Issa has promised to convene investigative hearings on anything he can think of. Paul Ryan has his eyes on ripping up Medicare. Steve King wants to repeal the health care reform bill and reinstate Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Eric Cantor aims to help the lot of ’em out, plus use all his power to protect Israel and its nuclear arsenal from a bunch guys with rockets they can’t aim and a lot of rocks. John Boehner, he’ll I have on idea what he’s gonna do, except maybe cry a lot and make sure no tanning salons lose their federal funding.

And the whole lot of ’em have pledged to make sure that no filthy rich bastard ever pays more than his fair share of taxes, fair share being defined as “as close to nothing as humanly possible.”

How far will they get? As far as they wanna go in the House. In the Senate, depends on how many Democratic senators actually believe the reason so many Republicans won in the House was that Americans actually want a return to the era of the robber barons. And after that, whether the president remembers why he was elected. I’m not holding my breath on any of it.

They’re all gaming for a government shutdown, because they think it’ll work this time. Unlike Newt Gingrich’s total meltdown in 1995. Newt orchestrated this big win in 1994 and then blew it completely by shutting down the government the next year, thus guaranteeing Bill Clinton’s re-election.

But this time, the GOP thinks they’ve got the kinks ironed out. For one thing, they think they’ve convinced their dupes that government employees — who are hurt far worse than the rest of America by a government shutdown — make far more money than the rest of America. They don’t. They’re just represented by a union, and we all know how Republicans feel about unions. They also think they’ve convinced America that the administration and the Democrats are all about spending. They’ve done this by openly painting a picture of an American poor that is undeserving of assistance, that the assistance that goes to help the poor comes at the expense of everyone else. It doesn’t. It’s really just at the expense of the rich bastards, and we just can’t have that.

Best of all, they’ve convinced my colleagues — who, after all, are the ones who feed the party line out to the rest of America — that the deficit, The country’s debt, is the single most important problem facing us. It doesn’t matter that America doesn’t believe that, just that my colleagues do and will dismiss any attempt by anyone to say otherwise. And since Congress pays no attention to actual Americans — only the echo chamber matters — even those members who might otherwise have a clue will vote to send us down the path of no return: more tax cuts for rich bastards who have more than enough of everything and more service cuts for those who desperately need help.

In the end, we’ll be back in some high-tech feudal system, which, ironically, is what my spell check used when I misspelled “federal” earlier. Federal, feudal. Not too far apart right now, soon to be merged. And they will really own us then.

Is it a forgone conclusion? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s starting to look good. There’s very little left now between this and that.

Something major’s gonna have to shift to stop the inevitable

Congressional subterfuge

The Republicans let the 9/11 responders bill pass the Senate, meaning Obama only went down on two major items during this not so lame duck session of Congress.

One of those — the DREAM Act — was never gonna pass, and is never gonna pass until more people let go of their prehistoric fear of the other and learn a little something about compassion. That act was about immigrants, particularly the brown ones from across the Southern border, and brown immigrants are the new Gay.

But the other one is much more ominous — and could bring about the final unraveling of what’s left of our fragile democracy.

The Democrats tried to fund the government for another year only to be rebuffed by the Party of No, which sabotaged the bill with earmarks and then refused to vote for it because of — you guessed it — earmarks.

Now, it’s true that the Democrats put a few in there too — like some emergency funding to states to make up for funds the Republicans stripped from other bills. But the Republicans crammed much, much more into the bill — billions, in fact. And then, motherfuckers that they are, they scuttled the bill.

Think about that for a little while. The fuckers loaded the bill with bullshit and then they refused to pass it because of the bullshit. Why do you think that is?

Because they’re going after the biggest prize of all — a complete government takeover.

They’ve convinced the American People that they’ve seen the light and that we must cut government spending. They used the Democrats’ own spending bill to prove that the Dems are all about spending — spending they loaded into the bill. And now they’re promising to strip governmnt bare.

That means defunding health care reform, accepting an austerity plan put out by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson — the cat food commission chairmen — and pumping even more billions into “defense” for weapons systems (and wars) nobody wants.

A little word about Simpson and Bowles and their plan, which calls for Social Security cuts and even more tax cuts for the rich and the like. See, here’s the thing. Simpson and Bowles pre-empted the actual commission’s report when they issued their own. They did so because the commission’s report wasn’t going to recommend Social Security cuts and tax cuts for the rich. And they couldn’t have that. So they put out their own report, which Republicans are now calling the commission’s report.

Lying fuckers.

So the big push is going to be to accept this austerity plan — which benefits only the rich and screws everybody else entirely. And the Republicans plan to hold us hostage to get it.

Come March, they plan to threaten a government shutdown if they don’t get their way, kinda how Newt Gingrich did the same thing back in 1995. It put Bill Clinton over the top and guarantees his re-election. It doesn’t necessarily mean the same will happen for Obama.

The GOP learned a valuable lesson back then — Don’t do something stupid until you’ve got the public completely snookered. Looks like they’re doing a great job so far.

Obama may have won a few Republicans over on some social issues. But on the big financial matters, the GOP and its lies, as usual, resonate with the uninformed and the fearful as well as they do with the just plain stupid. That means that in March, the nervous nellies in the Democratic Party will be under heavy pressure to go along with the Repubs, and that pretty much means all the Dems who aren’t already bought and paid for by Wall Street.

But they’ll be walking a mighty fine line. Know who really suffers if the government shuts down? Two guesses and one hint — it won’t be us.

But the only real way to stop that is to get the blinders off the eyes of the believers — the ones who listen to Faux News and the radio gasbags for all their news and wouldn’t know the truth from their own asshole. Good luck with that, especially since the Obama administration and the Democrats in Congress seem to have no teeth in that fight.

And, there’s two fights that pretty much cover the same issue — this one, and the one to raise the debt ceiling so we can borrow enough money to keep the government running.

On the other hand, I gotta say that DADT repeal was masterful. Maybe the two most disappointing Democrats in Washington, Barack Obama and Harry Reid, can pull another rabbit or two outta the hat.

Of course, it won’t really matter much since the Republicans now own the House.

I’m guessing we may be going nowhere until 2012.

This way and that

Man, Cosmo Sen. Scott Brown is really dissing his Tea Party backers, the ones who helped him beat Martha Coakley’s really shitty campaign for the “Kennedy Seat” from Massachusetts.

Not only did he vote for the repeal of the military’s odiferous policy banning gay and lesbian service members from serving openly, but now he’s gone and voted for cloture on the ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

That means that later on today, the U.S. Senate is going to ratify the agreement despite vociferous opposition from the most conservative of Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who announced a couple of months ago that the primary purpose of the GOP for the next two years is to make sure that Barack Obama is not re-elected.

Not to help the American people, or to get the country back on the right track, but to get back in power. Fucktards.

Anyway, joining Scott Brown in voting for cloture were fellow Republican Sens. George Voinovich, Lisa Murkowski, Thad Cochran, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Richard Lugar, Lamar Alexander, Robert Bennett, Johnny Isakson and Bob Corker.

Yes, Bob Corker. The very Bob Corker who warned just before the DADT repeal vote that START would be in trouble if DADT is repealed.

That’s gonna be a pretty big loss for McConnell and Jim DeMented, and a pretty big win for Barack Obama. It’s interesting, though. Eleven Republicans broke with the leadership — McConnell, Jon Kyl, John Cornyn and the like. That’s more than the eight who voted to repeal DADT and more than the six who voted for cloture on DADT. Eleven Republicans not only broke with the leadership, but they flipped the TeaPublicans the bird while they were at it.

This lame duck session of Congress has been awfully production — and it’s been productive because of the willingness of some Republicans to break ranks.  Could this be the end of the Party of No?

I won’t be holding my breath on that one. But y’gotta admit, it’s does a heart good to see Republicans voting “yes” on Democratic pieces of legislation.

It all started, of course, with that “tax deal.” The extremists opposed it, but the leadership really didn’t, so it passed pretty handily. The DREAM Act failed, but it was not without GOP support. DADT, history. And now, START.

So guess which Republican senator has voted in favor of all of those? No, not the ladies from Maine.

Lisa Murkowski, the Alaska senator who waged a winning run-off campaign to retain her seat after the Tea Party and Sarah Palin-backed liar Joe Miller beat her in the Republican primary.

Now, Murkowski’s warned not to read too much into these votes, that she’s not gonna be a sure vote for Obama. But I don’t think that’s the signal she wants to send anyway. Her message is for the Republicans. The National Republican Senatorial Committee gave her only tepid support during the primary, and went all out for Miller in the general. Then it asked folks to donate to help Miller challenge Murkowski in court. Nah, Murkowski’s message is this: Fuck you, GOP. I’ll vote the way I damn well please.

Maybe she and Joe Lieberman can form their own party — Senators In The Wrong Party Party.

Murkowski voted against cloture on the 9/11 responders bill, but now she says she’s “leaning toward” voting for it. That is, if Oklahoma’s Tom Coburn doesn’t go through with his threat to block it. Coburn wants to pay for the bill by slashing funding for somebody else. And by the way, he’s a doctor.

It’s a beautiful world we live in.

Hold your horses there, cowboy. We’ve got some thinkin’ to do.

The Republican catch phrase as the 111th Congress winds down appears to be “rushing this thing through,” or something similar. It’s an accusation that the Democrats are “ramming this thing down our throats,” or some such, and the implication is that the poor Republicans just don’t have enough time to do their jobs. I mean, read all these bills.

It’s true, they’ve used the same phrase in the past, but it’s about every other phrase coming out of their mouths these days, the other being “ignoring the mandate of the American people.”

Never mind that (a) several of them are on record saying they want to stall so that the bills they fear will pass will have to wait for the 112th Congress, which will be populated by more of them, (b) several of these bill have been languishing around for months now, and (c) these are the same whiners who’ve filibustered every goddamn bill the Democrats have tried to put through.

Didn’t work with Don’t ask don’t tell, now did it? And that’s a curious thing. Eight Republicans — including two who voted against cloture — voted to repeal that disgusting policy. The extremists on the right (most of them, these days) are howling in despair and predicting disaster for the U.S. military. Tell that to Alexander the Great. But really, what they’re howling about is something entirely different. That one little vote — the disaster it portends is for the extreme right and homophobes everywhere because it proves that progress does indeed happen, regardless of how much you try to stop it.

For some reason, though, the radical rightists didn’t try the “we don’t have enough time to read the bill” thing with DADT. Maybe “repeal the damn thing” was actually simple enough for them to understand.

But they killed off the bill providing aid to the first responders on 9/11 — these uber-patriots who use “9/11” to stir up fear and question the patriotism for everyone else. They didn’t have time to read the bill. Never mind that it was introduced in February. February 2009.

And they don’t have time to read the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which was completed in April.

They just killed the DREAM Act outright, though. It was about immigrants, and they never had any intention of reading that one.

I suppose Harry Reid could file for cloture on the 9/11 bill again, and probably cause more howling of outrage from Republicans who don’t like the idea of working the week before Christmas like the rest of us. Jeez, these guys get more vacation time than I do, and I get a mountain of it.

Chuck Shumer says there will be another vote and that they’ve rejiggered it to make more Republicans happy. But when has that ever gotten Republicans to vote “yes” on something?

And the real reason they’re stalling on the START is because they don’t want the United States to limit its nuclear arms in any way whatsoever, which made Bob Corker and Lindsey Graham look like total idiots when they threatened to fuck with it because Reid was gonna make ’em vote on DADT. They were gonna fuck with it anyway, let’s be real. They think that if the United States cuts back on its nuclear weapons, it won’t have enough to blow Iran off the map. And maybe North Korea, although you’d think they already woulda done that. What keeps ’em so quiet about North Korea, I wonder? They’re hatred of Kim Jong-il doesn’t even make the shadow of their hatred for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The leader of this madness is Arizona’s junior senator, Jon Kyl. Combined with mean old man John McCain and Arizona’s nutty governor, Jan Brewer, that state’s starting to look like the Mississippi of the West.

Kyl is the Senate Minority Whip, meaning he’s responsible for whipping up the insanity to a fever pitch, and he was just named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. Of course, Time also named the guy who started Facebook as its Man of the Year, so take that for what it’s worth.

Kyl’s another one of those who is calling Harry Reid sacreligious for making the senators work this week. Say, did you happen to notice that Joe Lieberman, who is Jewish, said not one work about working on the Sabbath to repeal DADT? And Kyl, named by distributorcap as the 2010 Douchebag of the Year — sure spends a lot of time on the Sunday morning talk shows and not in church.

But he also said something about Christmas being one of the two most sacred days to Christians, the other being Easter, and the two taken together being the only two times in the year many Christians grace the inside of a church.

The other 363 (364 in Leap Year), you’d be hardpressed to tell they were Christians at all, unless, of course, you happen to believe that Christians are all about making money and screwing everybody else.

Regardless of all that, the end of the 111th Congress is nigh. It accomplished a lot actually, but also caved a lot to the threats and machinations of the Bully Party. The 112th Congress isn’t likely to accomplish jack shit, what with the Republicans’ Number One priority being to keep Obama from being elected.

So, the big question will be who’s to blame for the gridlocked Congress.

You and I know the answer to that. But what about the rest of America? Will they finally get it? Or will they go along with the Republicans and blame the black guy in the White House?

Only time will tell. But I know which one it’ll be if a certain somebody doesn’t get off his ass and show some gumption. Getting DADT repealed was quite a coup. But we need to see more.

Much more.

A tale of two votes

Saturday, December 18, 2010 — A day many of us won’t soon forget, and for different reasons.

I watched C-SPAN in the afternoon as the Senate slammed John McCain and the rest of the homophobes by overwhelmingly voting to repeal the military’s noxious policy requiring gay men and lesbians to lie if they want to serve their country in one of the armed services.

It was an historic civil rights vote, and one that we weren’t sure would ever take place almost up until it did.

But while I was watching C-SPAN, I was also watching my Twitter feed, and in between the nearly giddy huzzahs for DADT’s death knell were Tweets of bitter disappointment about another vote, one held just a few hours earlier.

The DREAM Act, which would have given a path to citizenship for children brought here illegally, failed because of a filibuster by Republicans who had a little help from their Democratic friends Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

They needed that help because Republicans Bob Bennett of Utah, Richard Lugar of Indiana and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska all voted to get on with the vote. The cloture vote failed by five — the number of Democrats who voted not to vote.

What is it with these people that they hate children so much? This bill wasn’t about rewarding illegal activity, unless you think that, say, a six-month-old infant brought illegally across the border by his or her parents gave assent to risking life and limb to get here.

That’s what the bill addresses — kids brought here illegally. Kids who may not even know they came here illegally, but whether or not they do — or understand what it means — this is only home they have ever known. The DREAM Act would have given them an avenue to the American Dream, to be an American citizen.

There were rules. The act didn’t just say, oh hey, since you’re already here, you can be a citizen! Not  at all. Here’s how it would have worked:

  • First, the immigrant in question had to have come to the United States at age 16 or under and have lived here for five years.
  • S/he had to graduate high school or get a GED and demonstrate “good moral character.”
  • If those conditions were satisfied, the immigrant in question would be granted a six-year conditional status, during which s/he would have to satisfy the rest of the conditions:
  • Complete two years toward a bachelor’s degree or serve in the military for two years and pass a background check.

But that didn’t stop Republicans from doing what they’ve done for years when it comes to civil rights for gay people — you know, how giving rights to gays, like, say, marriage, means that next we’ll be having people marrying their pets and so on.

If we pass this amnesty, we will signal to the world that we’re not serious about the enforcement of our laws or our borders. It will say, you make plans — you can make plans to bring in your brother, your sister, your cousin, your nephew, your friend, into the country illegally as a teenager, and there will be no principled reason in the future for the next congress then sitting to not pass another “dream” act. And it will only be a matter of time before that next group illegally here will make the same heartfelt pleas that we hear today.

That was Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, because he knows all those little brown people down in Mexico or Honduras or wherever are always plotting ways to get around America’s immigration laws. Got news for you, Jeff. They’re coming here anyway.

White boys like Jeff are just scared because they know it’s only a matter of time before they are the minority in this country, the way they already are on the continent. They’re trying to stall the inevitable, which is what they’re doing with gay rights too.

And after they dashed the dreams of young people trying to better themselves just because their parents broke a law, they moved on to another inevitable fight and repealed don’t ask don’t tell. This time, the story was different.

Sixty-three senators voted to end debate and have the real vote, which came Saturday afternoon as I watched on C-SPAN. Sixty-five senators voted to repeal. The two extra were Republicans who voted against cloture. Weird, huh? But this is a critical vote — a watershed event.

The sole Democrat who would have voted against repeal — Joe Manchin of West Virginia — skipped the vote (and the DREAM Act vote too) for a Christmas party.

Republicans Richard Burr of North Carolina, Mark Kirk of Illinois, John Ensign of Nevada, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, George Voinovich of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine voted to repeal.

Burr and Ensign, by the way, are the two who changed their votes.

John McCain complained bitterly. It was a sad day for America, he said.

I hope that when we pass this legislation that we will understand that we are doing great damage. And we could possibly and probably, as the commandant of the Marine Corps said, and as I have been told by literally thousands of members of the military, harm the battle effectiveness vital to the survival of our young men and women in the military.

Thousands? Did they just not bother to fill out the Pentagon survey about it? Because a pretty big majority said the opposite.

Here’s what I got to say to John and Lindsey and the rest: Cry me a fuckin’ river. That pansy-assed Marine commandant who’s too scared to serve with openly gay people seemed not to regard what his bosses, the secretary of defense and the chairman and vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said — that the worries about morale and military readiness (the same bullshit excuses used 17 years ago) are overblown.

And this, this repeal of dadt, is a campaign promise fulfilled. President Obama got this one done, and he got it done they way he wanted — by Congress, not the courts and certainly not by and executive order that could just be overturned by the next homophobic president.

But I gotta hand it to a couple of my most unfavorite senators, too — Harry Reid and Joe Lieberman. Reid has disappointed me time and again, caving to the Republicans. Not this time. Even when they threatened to fuck with the nuclear arms reduction treaty, he stood his ground. “How’s that for statesmanship?” he quipped about GOP senators like Bob Corker of Tennessee and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

And Lieberman — god rest his soul. After endorsing John McCain for president and running around acting so much like a Republican I wondered if he was gonna jump parties, Lieberman pulled together the Republicans who voted for repeal. And were immediately vilified by the Christian right. Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association called them “turncoats.” I’m sure Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council will have something equally wonderful to say, and probably already has.

But for a while now, I’ve suspected that immigrants were the next on the list of “people we can discriminate against without too much backlash.” And the DREAM Act vote settled it, if it wasn’t before that.

Especially now that Congress so overwhelmingly passed a gay rights bill.

Problem is, discrimination against immigrants — particularly the brown kind from below our southern borders — isn’t going to be socially acceptable much longer.

Maybe not even in 2012.

Ask and tell, and do it proudly

Dare I say it? Dare I even think it?

Hell yes! The Senate has voted to repeal Don’t ask don’t tell.

Here’s what I was thinking early this morning when it finally seemed possible.

My congressional correspondent phoned in to update the story on the “don’t ask don’t tell” debate — the debate over repealing the military’s repulsive policy requiring gay men and lesbians to lie if they want to serve their country in one of the armed services.

The update? Four Republican senators — who had previously said they would vote to repeal only if the Senate passed a spending bill to keep the government running — now say they will vote to repeal no matter what happens with the spending bill.

The House and the Senate, of course, passed a continuing resolution to fund the government through Tuesday — the funds would have dried up Saturday otherwise. But Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Scott Brown — yes, the C0smo senator — have all committed to vote yes on the repeal.

And Joe Lieberman, the Democrat-turned-Independent senator who usually acts like a Republican except, inexplicably, on this issue — says he thinks he has a couple more “yes” votes from the Republican side.

But just those four are enough to invoke cloture.

See, my colleagues often shorthand voting in the Senate to say that the Senate requires 60 votes to pass a bill, but that’s not true. It requires 60 votes to end debate and vote. But the Senate still only requires a simple majority to actually pass the bill.

The Party of No, of course, has determined that they will stop Democratic measures any way they can, and that, ironically includes refusing to allow debate to end and a straight up or down vote to take place. Ironically, because just a few years ago the Republicans howled like mad men if Democrats tried that trick.

But anyway — can it possibly be true that sometime on Saturday, 60 senators will vote yes to cloture — setting up the repeal vote that will almost certainly pass?

Dare I say it? Dare I even think it? Are we really on the verge of the first gay-positive civil rights vote in years?

Republicans seem to see the writing on the wall, so they’re doing what comes natural to them — they’re threatening to screw up something else to keep Congress from doing the right thing. In particular, Sen. Bob Corker (go ahead, make any joke about his name you want) is threatening to fuck up the START vote, which quite a number of Republicans are trying to mess with anyway.

Years ago, in my other life as a journalist with the lesbian and gay press, I covered this debate when it first crashed down on us. Bill Clinton made a move to end the military’s policy of not allowing gay men and lesbians to serve at all and ended up enshrining what was already going on — that gay men and lesbians served in silence — in the code of law.

So many protests, rallies. Gay veterans proudly wearing their colors. To no avail. Sam Nunn, the supposedly Democratic senator from Georgia who headed the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, would have none of it. “Don’t ask don’t tell” — and it’s rarely mentioned and rarely enforced third part, “don’t pursue” — was the law of the land, and the gay illuminati turned their attention to marriage.

And now … and now … In a few hours, the Senate will take that cloture vote. Is it possible that for once in their sorry lives, the Democrats won’t cave to Republican bullying and do what they should have done years ago? Is it possible that by this time next week, “don’t ask don’t tell” will be confined to the proverbial dustbin of history?

It’s hard to fathom. It’s hard to believe. And Lieberman, the sponsor of the bill in the Senate (it’s already passed the House), is being “cautiously optimistic,” that favorite phrase of my colleagues when they don’t want to say for sure what’s going on.

I’m very optimistic at this point. But we know it ain’t over til it’s over and until all the votes are counted.

Meghan McCain said her daddy would filibuster this bill. John “Mean Old Man” McCain just can’t bear the idea of faggots and dykes in his military, never mind that we’ve been there for centuries. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said about the policy.

Well, John, it is broke. Gay men and lesbians are forced to lie to serve their country. That’s about as broke as it can get. And John, enough of your fellow Republicans disagree with you that your filibuster will amount to nothing.

I hope. I sure as hell hope. It’s about goddamn time.

The homophobia that has kept this policy in place is what’s out of place. And if this really does come to pass, it’ll be a stark reminder to the regressive Republicans that progress happens, whether they like it or not. All they can really do is make it harder.

Our full and complete civil rights — and this is one huge step toward that — are non-negotiable. We’ve come too far now. There is no putting that genie back in the bottle.

But is it really going to happen now? Dare I think it? Dare I even say it?

The only people saying no are a bunch of homophobic politicians and a marine commandant.

Yes. Yes, I think. This time, the answer is yes.