Saturday, April 30, 2011

DREAM Act May Become Obama's Campaign Nightmare

The President told them "No, I can't." So the fastest-growing voting demographic in the country may soon be telling him that they can't, either. Latinos are losing patience with the tired old refrain of "the Republicans won't let me."

Presente.Org, one of the nation's largest Hispanic advocacy groups, is asking its members for input on a formal plan to withdraw active support for the president's re-election, in light of his continued failure to exert executive power to defer the deportation of a million DREAM Act candidates.

The action comes on the heels of a letter delivered to Obama earlier this month by 22 Democratic senators. who begged him to draw the same line in the sand against deportations, for humanitarian reasons.  Obama said No, he couldn't. Not without the Republicans.  He invited Hispanic leaders and celebrities to schmooze and absorb his charm offensive in the White House on Thursday.  As much as he is totally cool with  the DREAM act... well, without Republican cooperation -- No, he can't.  He is using the same strategy as that long and winding road to the repeal of DADT. Without that almighty bipartisan support, it would not get done, even though he could have gotten it done a lot sooner and saved a lot of gay troops a lot of heartache. 

From the Presente email:

"Since the DREAM Act was defeated last December, the over one million young people who would qualify have become more vulnerable than ever to immigration raids, deportations, and separation from their families. In fact, DREAMers, undocumented immigrant youth who came to the US as children, are actively being served deportation orders even though the President has said they are not an enforcement priority. At the same time, his administration has been deporting non-criminal immigrants at a higher rate than the Bush administration.President Obama has promised to fight for Comprehensive Immigration Reform and has been a vocal supporter of the DREAM Act. He has repeatedly called on Congress to act on these issues, and Congress has repeatedly failed. We, along with numerous elected officials, religious leaders, and community groups believe the President must use his executive powers to draw a line in the sand, and that that line should be the deportation of DREAM-eligible students.President Obama has said that he does not have the authority to suspend the deportations of a select group like the DREAMers, but that's simply not the case. For this reason, is considering a campaign through which our members would threaten to not actively work on the reelection campaign unless the President uses his Executive Power to stop the deportation of DREAM eligible youth.  Often, the President has asked us to force his hand in advancing progressive policies. We think now is the time to take him up on that proposal, but we need to know whether you are behind us."  (Yes I am and yes we can).

The DREAM Act, passed last year in the still-Democratic House but defeated in the Senate, would allow undocumented immigrants under the age of 30 who were brought to the country before they were 16 and have been living in the U.S. continuously for five years to be eligible for conditional non-immigrant status.

Thursday's White House Photo-Op  -- DREAM on, La Gente

Presente joins a growing number of Latino leaders and groups becoming increasingly vocal in their disappointment with Obama's failure to get immigration reform done.  Despite paying lip service ad nauseum and ad infinitum to changing the system, and insisting he is committed to an overhaul, his  Administration deported a record 393,000 immigrants last year. That is more than during the Bush Administration. Other enforcement tactics during his tenure also have drawn criticism in the immigrant and Hispanic communities.  He recently okayed the use of Drone aircraft to catch people at the border.

Over the weekend, according to AP, Illinois Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who helped rally Hispanic voters to support Obama during the 2008 campaign, told a Chicago crowd he was not sure he could back Obama in 2012 if the president did not step up immigration changes.  This, in the President's home state!

Si, se puede, Obama hollowly promised the crowds of Spanish-speaking supporters during his campaign. Just not right now. And that huge, powerful demographic is talking right back. No nos mienten.

P.S.  All I had heard about this story in the mainstream media was the fact that Eva Longoria came out to meet the press from the Oval Office wearing false eyelashes and a skintight dress. Other attendees fled through back entrances, but as the president's new official immigration adviser, Eva talked about how much Obama cares. If Donald has spokesmodels, why can't Barack? 

New Immigration Adviser, Pictured at a White House State Dinner:  A Tough DREAM Act to Follow

Friday, April 29, 2011

Word Barfs and Dark Alleys

Fighting the Good Fight
 Acting Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Elizabeth Warren doesn't mince words.  Now that the agency is under attack by Republicans at the behest of their Wall Street backers, she is fighting back with a vengeance. If the banksters aren't confusing us with what she calls "word barfs in contracts" they're dragging us into dark alleys and sticking a knife in our ribs.  Watch this clip of Warren talking to Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" earlier this week.

Despite huge popular support, Warren may even be in danger of losing her job as well as the whole bureau. According to a report from Reuters, there are still those within the Obama Administration who think she is too controversial a choice to lead the agency she created.  Translation: they're afraid of her and her growing citizen-backed power.  If Obama has any guts, he'll publicly come to her defense,  forget about a stupid Senate confirmation battle, and name her via a recess appointment  He is kind of in a sticky situation, now that he's running for re-election and trying to hypnotize people into thinking he's a born-again progressive.  Now is his chance to prove it, or at least make a good-faith effort at proving it.  He does know how to use the bully pulpit when he wants to.  Witness his impassioned speech castigating Paul Ryan's roadmap to perdition.  Although a recess appointment for Warren would be temporary, it would give her that much more time to dig in until a Senate confirmation is mandated in another year.

But all is not smooth in The White House. There is disagreement among Barack Obama's aides over whether it would be "wise" for him to take on a highly visible fight over either a recess appointment or a confirmation for Warren in the U.S. Senate.  Not surprisingly, she has run into some really nasty opposition  from Republicans who say she would be too confrontational toward the financial industry.  But there  are also some Democrats in the mix of foes.  Among them, reportedly, is Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who has been pointedly lukewarm toward her from the get-go.  Geithner, former chairman of the New York Fed, has long been viewed as a loyal friend of Wall Street. He has in several interviews damned her with faint praise, with nonchalant remarks to the effect of she is a fine woman... she would make a fine chairman... she is definitely on the short list.  But never a ringing endorsement, not by a long stretch.

So now, anonymous Administration sources are saying, the talk revolves around appointing an "associate" of Warren in yet another Obama Compromise, aka capitulation.But picking anyone other than Warren could be problematic and could lead to an immediate revolt from "The Base", according to Reuters

On the Republican side, there are two bills pending in the House of Representatives that aim to "defang" the agency, Warren says. The first, sponsored by Spencer Bachus (R-AL), chairman of the Financial Services Committee, would transform the CFPB leadership into a five-person board, thus diluting its power. The second, promulgated by Wisconsin Rep.Sean Duffy, would in turn make a bipartisan, separate agency approved by the same Financial Services Committee and Congress the regulator of Warren's agency. They are not even trying to hide their cynical collusion. 

Warren, a Harvard professor who headed a panel that investigated government bank bailouts during the financial crisis, has been mentioned as a possible candidate to challenge Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown, who must seek re-election in 2012.  So far, though, Brown's poll numbers are looking good.  If I were advising Warren, I'd tell her to stay right where she is and fight.  We have her back.  Besides, the Obama administration would probably love nothing more than for her to resign and challenge Brown.... and just go away.  Elizabeth Warren has been around long enough to know how the game is played.  The fact that she's stuck it out this long in the cutthroat world of Inside the Beltway speaks volumes for her power and influence.

And the fact is that the powerful men who are lashing out at her are only serving to betray their own fears and insecurities. They are eminently vulnerable. 

P.S.  Thanks to Kate and Valerie for reminding me to cover this.

P.P.S.  Links in Comments don't work, (thanks again Valerie) so here is where to find the members of the House Financial Services Committee:

Update 4/30 --  The subcommittee hearings on the proposed legislation will be held on May 4 beginning at 10 a.m.  Details can be found here.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The New York Times Princess Diaries

Ross Douthat, token junior conservative at The New York Times, thinks we Americans are aching for a monarchy to keep us down where we belong.  In his blog today, he posits that we the need the pomp and circumstance and sheer stabilizing control of queens and kings, princes and princesses -- and that our current regalization of politicians and personalities just does not satisfy that yearning.

At least The Times has had the good sense to allow Douthat only one full column a week, on Mondays -- and that one goes head to head with Paul Krugman.  So poor Ross doesn't garner all that much attention.  To compensate, he appears to be aiming toward outlandishness.  From writing about fear of hell as being the best reason to be good human beings, to glorifying the monarchy today, this young man is all over the map.  One week he's Cotton Mather in a Brooks Brothers suit spewing watered-down fire and brimstone. Today he's stuck in a Disney princess movie.  And if we common folk can't admit that deep down in our little peasant hearts we don't yearn to be crushed by a bejewelled despot, then we're the crazy ones.

Cinderella Man
 "But even the American experience suggests that the anti-monarchical temper...  is ultimately artificial and unnatural, a triumph of theory over instinct and idealism over human nature. In their hearts, most people want a king and queen."  --- Ross Douthat.

Speak for yourself, Ross.  Better yet, don't speak at all.  Or try to find a job at a Fleet Street tabloid. I hate to clue you in, but the Brits are pretty damn sick of the monarchy themselves. Check this out, Douthat:

"In their hearts, most people want a king and queen..."

Disingenuous Disinvitatons

The King of Bahrain was disinvited from Kate and William's wedding because of violence against his own people. Andrew Breitbart was disinvited from election night coverage by ABC last year when an uproar by activist groups over his race baiting shamed them into it. Birther-in-Chief Donald Trump, as of this writing, has not yet been disinvited by The Washington Post to the White House Correspondents' Dinner, which will also be attended by the President. If Obama even bothers showing up (and I wouldn't blame him if he didn't) I hope he uses the occasion to subject Trump and all the prom-goers to another public shaming.  Since Stephen Colbert is not this year's entertainment, Obama should nevertheless use him as speechwriter.

Ezra Klein tweeted his profound embarrassment at his paper's association with Trump, but other than that, the paper has remained mum.  But really, the entire mainstream press is to blame, even those who continue to half-heartedly debunk the birthers.  When every respectable media outlet follows the debunking with poll numbers revealing that most Republicans don't believe Obama is a natural-born citizen, they are only perpetuating the myth.  Even Lawrence O'Donnell, successor in bombast to Keith Olbermann, keeps the story alive by publicly calling for NBC to fire Trump and then invites loony birther Orly Taitz on his show for the sole purpose of kicking her off.  Even Oprah keeps the story alive by inviting the Obamas on her show and asking "what took you so long?"  Even I am keeping the story alive by blogging about it, so I'll shut up now.  In case you missed them, here are my two New York Times comments on the issue, published today:

One last thought before shutting up:  Obama is coming out of this looking mighty good. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Obama's Enforcer: Pretend Like We Never Hated You

If you're like me, you've remained on various White House propaganda lists and campaign email subscriptions just out of curiosity -- to find out what they're trying to sell us today.

Despite the fact that we're still a year and a half away from the presidential election, Obama's campaign manager. Jim Messina, is wasting no time.  I think he may have an inkling that the president's (former) base is feeling the disenchantment, so he has a solution:  Forget the past.  Let's start all over, shall we?  Pretend we never called you whiners and sanctimonious purists for not getting the Public Option.  Make believe Obama is not an incumbent who sold you out. Imagine he is a brand-new, fresh unknown community organizer again.  Let's make it a resurgent campaign.  Surge like it's a war.  Do the metrics.  Grow some more grass roots!  (actually, being a sometime gardener, I was under the impression that you grow plants from roots, and that roots are either there or they're not.)  Here's what he sent out today. Judge for yourself.

Ari Berman of "The Nation" recently wrote an in-depth piece about the curious choice of Messina as Obama's campaign manager.  After watching the video, I can see why he would rub would-be volunteers the wrong way.  He talks at, rather than to, his audience.

"Messina begins the re-election campaign with a significant amount of baggage", Berman writes. "As a former chief of staff to (Max, D-Montana) Baucus and deputy to (Rahm) Emanuel, Messina has clashed with progressive activists and grassroots Obama supporters both inside and outside Washington over political strategy and on issues like healthcare reform and gay rights, alienating parts of the very constituencies that worked so hard for Obama in 2008 and that the campaign needs to reinspire and activate in 2012. Obama’s fixer has arguably created as many problems as he’s solved.  'He is not of the Obama movement,' says one top Democratic strategist in Washington. 'There is not a bone in his body that speaks to or comprehends the idea of a movement and that grassroots energy. To me, that’s bothersome.' ”

You can read the entire article here:

So....ARE YOU IN, OR NOT?  Messina wants to know, he wants to know now, and he wants it to go viral. NOW! (Nothing like the old soft sell).

Here is my proposal.  If President Obama goes on national TV and swears on the Bible of Lincoln that he will unequivocally support the Progressive People's Budget, support universal health care, stop the wars, raise taxes on the rich -- then I will think about it while remaining highly skeptical  But first he has to show he means it.  Maybe by reversing that signing statement and taking back his order holding Gitmo prisoners indefinitely without charges? That would be a start.  Then he could announce a special surcharge on Wall Street.

Sorry, Jim Messina.  As much as I would like to believe Obama is a born-again fresh candidate, I gave up believing in the tooth fairy a long time ago.  All the words in the world  will not enable him to grow those ephemeral roots in a soil that is barren and depleted.

And no, Bambots -  criticizing Obama is not tantamount to supporting the Republicans. Obama is a Republican anyway, so what have we got to lose? 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

No Peeps at The People's House

Can You Guess Which is the Soft-Boiled, Rolled Over Easy One?
  Are you bummed that you didn't score a ticket to Monday's annual White House Easter Egg Roll?  Not to worry.  You can always go to next Saturday's annual Peep-Off candy fest in Maryland instead, or just stay home and watch one living old pope beatify another dead one in Rome. Then, if you are really bored and have a strong stomach, or just want to laugh at the expense of the rich and self-involved, tune in to the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner.  The WaPo has invited The Donald, and even Bristol Palin will make an appearance.  It's a gala opportunity to watch the Fourth Estate stenographers fawn all over the people they are supposed to cover. As in, give cover to.  Of course, you will probably still be recovering from your 3 a.m. wakeup call Friday to watch the Will and Kate nuptials on all 145 networks.  It is all too much to handle, especially since most of those polled are termininally depressed about "where the country is headed" and have other things to worry about, like eating and gassing up the car.

But just in case you did score a magical golden ticket to the White House day-after-Easter event, you WILL be checked at the gate. Since the hoi polloi have no earthly idea about proper attire and accessories, the cryptkeepers are laying it out for us:

 "The following items are prohibited and will not be permitted into general public and public ticketed areas: firearm / ammunition of any type, weapon of any type, hazardous materials, chemical materials, radiological materials, biological materials,knives (of any kind), toy guns / toy weapons, fireworks, pepper spray / mace, scissors, razor blades, needles, leatherman brand tools (or similar), screwdrivers (or similar), glass bottles / containers, thermoses, tripods, backpacks / coolers, air-horns, laser pointers, aerosol containers, sticks / poles, chairs, animals except guide dogs, and duffle bags / suitcases."

So, how much fun could it be?  Besides leaving your crochet hooks and leftover radioactive spinach at home, you'd better forget about your stash of Peeps candy too. It's not on the list, but Peeps are known to be dangerous.  Not only are they about 500 percent sugar, (and this is an official  First Lady "let's move" anti-obesity event)  they are potential weapons of mass destruction.  It is estimated that more than one billion Peeps chicks, ducks and bunnies will have been consumed by the nation's children (and their sneak-thief parents) by the time some of them reach the White House lawn on Monday.  We are talking massive sugar hangovers and residual candy buzz. It is estimated that Americans have spent close to $2 billion on Easter Candy this year, and Peeps are second only to chocolate in popularity.  Plus, we have evidence that Peeps smoke and drink: 

(pics from

So, besides the Secret Service, the White House Drug Czar should be at the ready, just in case. Unless, of course, he and the narco squad are busily raiding doctors' offices to make sure sick people aren't getting too many pain meds. 

Happy Easter everybody!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Let the Gaming Begin: Record Profits Despite "Reform"

If you own stock in any of the for-profit health insurance companies, you have reason to rejoice. Shares in UnitedHealth Group Inc's  quarterly profit "crushed estimates, fueled by growth across its health plans and continued benefits from Americans' moderate use of healthcare services, and its shares soared as much as 10.5 percent to a three-year high" according to a Reuters report published Thursday. 

The prognostications of the cynics have come to pass. Despite the much- ballyhooed health care reform law, the for-profit health care system is raking in the big bucks.  They claim that we're just not seeking medical attention like we used to. According to them, we are voluntarily choosing to suffer because we are getting with the austerity program. We are becoming careful and responsible health care "consumers." Fools that we are, we  continue to pay these parasites their skyrocketing premiums, even as we go to the doctor less.  We can't afford the deductibles, the co-pays and all the other out of pocket expenses, analysts concede.  But too bad for us, and hooray for them is the talking point they're not even trying to hide.

 "It was a great quarter," according to one Wall Street analyst, who added that the profits -- amounting to more than $1 billion in income for the United Health leeches -- "pretty much confirms, at this point at any rate, the best hopes that you could have had."

Shares of rival private insurers rose after the report, with WellPoint Inc  up 3.6 percent, Aetna  rising 4.6 percent and Coventry Health Care  climbing 5.3 percent, the Reuters article said. 

The report on profits is the first since provisions in the health care reform law, requiring that private insurers invest at least 80 percent of their profits back into patient care, went into effect at the beginning of the year. It proves that the new law, while ensuring that young people can stay on their parents' plans longer, that you can't be dropped if you get sick, and  that you can't be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions, really benefits large insurers at our expense.  They win, and we lose, albeit just a miniscule amount less than we did before. We continue to pay obscenely high premiums and still can't afford to go to the doctor. "Obamacare" as its Republican critics derisively call it, really is a scam of epic proportions. Progressives and conservatives are in agreement that we should not be forced to buy this "product" that purports to care for our health. The so-called good bits don't go into effect until 2014 anyway. 

And just as we suspected, the private insurers have figured out a way to game the system. They post record profits after they are supposedly reined in.  The irony is delicious.

Meanwhile, more of us are uninsured than ever.  And judging from the massive influx of cash to the venal health care cartel, the coverage we do have is pure  junk.  They still rake in much more than they shell out. 

" The report card is an 'A'," gloats David Heupel, a large-cap growth fund portfolio manager with Thrivent Investment Management, whose fund holds Aetna shares. "It's hard to really find anything here that you can poke at." (Presumably, Heupel doesn't have a worry in the world with his gold-plated health insurance plan and his secure job.)

UnitedHealth blames crappy winter weather for its premium payers not going to the doctor as much as might be expected, though it does acknowledge lower than normal claims even in areas not impacted by severe winter storms. They suspect people will start going to the doctor again once the weather warms up. Huh?  Last I heard, people get sick more in the winter, during cold season.  I suggest we look into claims denials along with the unconscionable rate hikes as  big, huge, glaring factors in their "wow, like we totally didn't expect this" windfall profits.  I also suggest we continue to clamor for Single Payer, Medicare for All and send the private insurers straight to the penultimate circle of Dante's Hell where they belong.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Feel the Pain

Elected officials across the political spectrum are in unanimous agreement.  We are in austerity mode, and the only cure is that we all share the sacrifice and feel the intense, unrelenting pain.  Otherwise, the spending will cause Armageddon and we will all be dead.  Even Standard & Poors, the credit rating agency that said subprime mortgage securities were AAA-OK, is warning of disaster unless we  raise the damn debt ceiling to avoid cracking open our fool skulls and making our national headache even worse.

 And when they say feel the pain, boy, do they ever mean it. Literally. The Obama Administration wants to clamp down hard on the inordinate amount of narcotics being prescribed to a nation of slobbering junkies. They want doctors to undergo special training in order to weed out the addicts from the bona fide legal sufferers. And guess who would provide this special training to the clueless doctors who have already gone through three years of medical school and another three to five years of internship, residency and postgraduate training?  Why, the drug companies, of course! The very pharmaceutical companies which manufacture the pills will be trusted to tell doctors how to prescribe less and vet their patients with a vengeance. They would also be forced to bear the costs of the pain meds classes.  I can just envision the outcome.  Profits are at stake here, people!  Watch out for a merry-go-round of lobbyists and sudden influxes of political contributions from drugmakers to the lawmakers in charge of this noble effort. Watch out, too, for a chilling effect on doctors trying to alleviate the pain of the suffering.  Big Brother DEA will be watching them more closely than ever and monitoring every controlled substances form in triplicate.  Watch out for people in pain being turned away, in droves.

Pain medication is actually being underprescribed by most American physicians, according to a slew of surveys.  Doctors are already afraid enough of being investigated by the DEA. (The only sure way to score a Vicodin prescription, according to one unnamed doctor I know, is to be a police officer with an on-the-job injury.  Then your health care provider is safe from scrutiny.)

Meanwhile, the Administration is "absolutely committed to legislation that will make prescriber education mandatory,” R. Gil Kerlikowske, the Obama Drug Czar, announced. He said the White House will push hard for the legislation, and that he has already approached members of congress to discuss and craft it. He wants it done by the end of the year.  Among the drugs to be more strictly monitored are  OxyContin (long-acting oxycodone), fentanyl and methadone.

 "They are considered critical to pain treatment. But they also have been associated in recent years with a national epidemic of prescription drug abuse and addiction, as well as thousands of overdose-related deaths," according to The New York Times. "The F.D.A. has long argued that only Congress has the authority to mandate physician training as a condition of prescribing narcotics, because the legal distribution of the drugs is regulated by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 and the licensing of doctors to prescribe them is overseen by the D.E.A., not the F.D.A."

Kerlikowske, former Seattle Police Chief, is the same guy who got rid of the "War on Drugs" slogan, but he continues to do battle against marijuana legalization.  He's the same guy who threatened to sue the State of California if it legalized weed.  He loves Nancy Reagan's "Just Say NO" anti-drugs campaign, and thinks it worked.  He also has a pretty poor civil liberties reputation. In March 2007, the NAACP called for his resignation, stemming from his alleged cover-up of a police brutality incident against a drug dealer. The case was referred to the FBI and the Justice Department, which found no evidence of corruption against Kerlikowske or the Seattle P.D, despite video footage of the incident. Kerlikowske is  a graduate of the FBI Academy's executive program.

Kerlikowske, who also has a masters degree in criminal justice, thinks our doctors just didn't get enough training about addiction and pain management in medical school.  So, his solution is to legislate the drug companies -- the altruistic drug companies which have only the best interests of the populace at heart and work hard to keep the prices of its United States drugs the highest in the world, and blackmailed the President into backing off drug price negotiations in health insurance reform in exchange for their cooperation - into teaching doctors who already have more education than their overpaid CEOs could ever hope to attain.

Sure, there's a drug problem in this country.  People often self-medicate because they have no health insurance, they're miserable due to joblessness, or they are in psychic pain for any number of reasons.  And the way we have of dealing with it is ass backwards. We don't treat addicts -- we jail them. Only the rich and insured go to rehab. Insurance companies are stingy about covering it. The government's solution is to make both the addicts and the sick suffer needlessly and crack down on doctors instead of cracking down on illegal drug labs and internet sales and the constant barrage of TV commercials actually urging us to pop a pill for any condition, real or imagined. How sick is that?

Take Two Aspirin and Don't Call Me in the Morning

Monday, April 18, 2011

"The Quitta From Wasilla" & Breitbart Booed in Madison

In case you missed this.... here is some unedited raw footage from the Sarah Palin Boo-Fest in Madison on Sunday.  The guy doing the intro is conservative provocateur Andrew Breitbart, the heckuva guy who brought down ACORN and got Van Jones and Shirley Sherrod fired. 

 It was one of the few heavily attended "Tax Day" events in capital cities -- and that is only because the crowd was composed largely of pro-union demonstrators and but a handful of Tea Partiers. 

The video was sent to me by my friend "pvolkov", whose two comments today on Paul Krugman's column perfectly summarized the Madison spectacle. "One could not make out what she was trying to say", Ms. Volkov relates," but the screeching of her voice was like chalk on a blackboard. The intensity of the crowd's response was electrifying." 

As she noted, you didn't see this footage on your TV news. And if you did, it was heavily edited to amplify Palin's inhuman octave levels and to muffle, if not drown out entirely, the sights and sounds of the protesters. CNN went so far as to claim Palin really fired up the crowd!  I am convinced the only reason Palin kept speaking was because her contract stipulated "no finish, no paycheck".

The event was sponsored (naturally) by the Koch Brothers' "Americans for Prosperity" teabagger front group. The mainstream media continues to cover the ever more sparsely attended Tea Party "events" as if it were really still a grassroots movement, and continues to ignore the truly massive protests of progressives occurring nationwide. I guess the TV cable and corporate print media types live in the same bubble as the politicians.  But whether they like it or not, they're going to lose control of the narrative sooner rather than later. The true progressive movement is under the control of no party.  The Democrats have given nary a nod to the demonstrations.  It's as conservative David Frum says: while the GOP fears its own dwindling base, the Democrats seem to despise theirs.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Paul Ryan Shrugged

It's a DoubleStuff version of a Cheez Whiz oreo.  Ayn Rand and Paul Ryan, the Brangelina of nihilistic free market capitalism, are both having career surges this weekend -- she with a movie premiere and he with another gala performance of "Killing Medicare" on the Sunday morning talk show circuit.  So what if one of them is physically dead, and the other is an intellectual flat-liner?  Where there's greed, there's life.... and it goes on and on and on, with the avarice and mendacity chromosomes of the gene pool being carried forward in many a self-interested body.

Star-Crossed Love Object(ivists)

Some people I know had a brief fling with the soap opera fiction of Ayn Rand during adolescence, since her novels seem to satisfy the deep-seated (mainly male) teenage urge to be the center of the universe, have lots of overblown sex, or just be left alone to do their own thing.  Most people do shake off adolescent fads and the rigid thinking of youthful cults and well,... just grow out of it.  But some don't, and Ayn Randism is nothing if not a cult.  Perhaps the most egregious example of someone never outgrowing  Rand's juvenile philosophy of selfishness is former Fed Chairman Al Greenspan.  To make matters even worse, he actually knew the woman in the flesh and was a member of her inner circle of acolytes.  Greenspan is a True Believer in the sanctity of an unregulated free market. The financial world crashed because of his misguided faith.  And no, he has never been indicted or even criticized all that much by the mainstream media.  It doesn't hurt that he's also married to an msm star (Andrea Mitchell). 

And now Paul Ryan is taking up the Rand baton of the free market and the evils of big government.  A mere lad of 12 when his dominatrix died, he nevertheless fell under her spell and has never looked back.  He even makes his staff read her novels as though they were the conservative gospel.

"That Paul Ryan thinks 'Atlas Shrugged' is worth reading (and wasting staff time on) tells you all you need to know about him. He is a non-intellectual lightweight who thinks Ayn Rand's dreadful, fascistic romance novel makes for a good lesson in social engineering and economics," wrote Marie Burns of RealityChex today in response to a Maureen Dowd column that simultaneously shilled and dissed yet another movie premiere.

Atlas Shrugged, so Maureen plugged.  Instead of a grade C remake, I would rather see a movie on Rand herself, something more realistic than that soft porn straight-to-cable biopic starring Helen Mirren more than a decade ago.  If Mirren could play the Queen, she could also play the cold, emotionless Ayn Rand.  She could repeat Rand's testimony before the House UnAmerican Affairs committee on the "red menace" in Hollywood in the 50s.  Another  pivotal scene might be of her famous "Philosophy: Who Needs It?" George Patton-like speech in 1974 to an audience of young West Point cadets. Although it is likely that future General David Petraeus was in the house and met her, that has never been confirmed. But it's only a  movie -- and our current government is Kabuki play-acting, anyway, and the military already calls battlefields and campaigns "theatres."

Parts of the speech, which included her assertion that the Military Industrial Complex is just a myth,  were later included in the philosophy curriculum of USMA.  Here's a choice tidbit she spouted during the Q & A with the cadets: "Any white person who brought the element of civilization had the right to take over this continent." (or for that matter, any other continent, from Asia to Africa and beyond).  So she was a not-so closeted racist too, which also fits the bill to be a card-carrying right wing ideologue. Only now, racism is disguised as birtherism. And not so disguised, as in Donald Trump's recent boast that he gets along just fine with "the blacks."

The end of the film (I hereby nominate the Coen Brothers to be writers/directors) would depict Ayn sneakily applying for Medicare and Social Security toward the end of her life, when her chain-smoking habit finally caught up with her and she got lung cancer.    I can just picture Mirren haughtily rasping, "I took government welfare only because it was in my own self-interest to do so," before the fade to black.  There might also be a scene of young Paul Ryan getting his Social Security survivors' benefits when his father died, also purely out of   individualistic selfishness.  He certainly didn't need to suck on any of the teats of Alan Simpson's government milk cow, because he inherited a multimillion dollar business. But Social Security isn't means-tested -- though grown-up Ryan would certainly love to change that now. 

Of course, Ryan and Greenspan aren't the only Rand Fans.  The real Brangelina are apparently true believers.  So is Vince Vaughn.  Maybe Dowd could write about them next time.  Of course, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are in the fold. And  CNBC star Rick Santelli, whose on-air rant famously birthed the Tea Party Movement as a means of deflecting blame for the mortgage meltdown from Wall Street to Reaganesque welfare queens, is also a self-avowed Randroid. 

Screeched Santelli on the floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange in 2009: "Why don't you put up a website to have people vote on the Internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers' mortgages, or would we like to at least buy cars and buy houses in foreclosure and give them to people that might have a chance to actually prosper down the road and reward people that could carry the water instead of drink the water!"

He later admitted, "I know this may not sound very humanitarian, but at the end of the day I'm an Ayn Rand-er."   Curiously, despite being an avowed atheist, Ayn Rand is everywhere in  right-wing world. Her novels are enjoying a huge boost in sales.  The Rapture goes secular.

 "For over half a century," writes Jennifer (no relation to Marie) Burns in her new biography,  "Rand has been the ultimate gateway drug to life on the right."

Oh, and here's a scoop, in case you missed it in my Times comment. The TARP program, which bailed out the banksters, really stands for The Ayn Rand Program for troubled capitalists. They just never got around to telling us. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bankers and Other Protected Species

It's official. Gray wolves in Idaho and Montana are now fair game for Sarah Palin and other hunters. Today's congressional budget vote contained the first ever Congressional rider removing an animal from the endangered species list.  Only problem is, the politicians forgot to remove another breed of predator from the protected list: the Wall Street banker.

Several recent reports, in The New York Times and elsewhere, have reminded us that not one of the bankers who caused the meltdown two years ago, destroying the savings and the lives of countless Americans and doing their part to make illegal foreclosures and 20 percent unemployment the new normal, has been indicted or gone to jail. Not a single one.

 In her Times story today, Gretchen Morgenson recounted a meeting in 2008 between Treasury Secretary nominee Timothy Geithner  and then-N.Y. Attorney General (now governor) Andrew Cuomo.  They conveniently decided not to prosecute either banks or bankers for fear of ruining the markets and causing financial Armageddon. Now, where have we heard that scary term before?  Oh yeah, from the boss of JP Morgan Chase, whose profits just soared by 67 percent.  CEO Jamie Dimon personally went to the U.S. government last week to warn of yet another Armageddon, in the event Congress does not raise the debt ceiling next month.  That's the same Jamie Dimon who charged his company a whopping half a mil in moving expenses recently because his million dollar salary and $5 million bonus just didn't cut it.  I guess he wants to fly a private space shuttle to Mars to avoid Armageddon when the debt ceiling collapse explodes the whole planet. Either that, or he's going to move the contents of Fort Knox to an underground mansion paid for by Homeland Security.  (You can probably tell I am really into conspiracy theories today as well as feeling crankier than usual).

Morgenson also blamed the lack of FBI expertise and manpower for the failure to investigate Wall Street bankers. She contrasted the current lack of accountability to the hundreds of prosecutions in the Savings & Loan scandals in the 90s, when the modern day Mr. Potters actually went to the slammer.  Not only do few investigators have the knowledge of the arcane credit default swaps and other financial casino tricks invented by Wall Street, the culprits themselves have trouble explaining exactly what they did to screw us all so royally. They committed crimes so novel there were no specific laws against them. The Securities and Exchange Commission in charge of overseeing the financial world was lackadaisical at best and criminally complicit at worst. Whisteblowers who approached Congress were ignored.  The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, enacted during the Great Depression to prevent the rise of banks too big to fail,  just opened the floodgates of unfettered greed even wider.  Gene  Sperling, a top Obama economic advisor, was one of the architects of that repeal during the Clinton Administration. The so-called financial reform legislation last year co-sponsored by Chris Dodd (himself a beneficiary of a crooked Countrywide mortgage deal) and smooth talking Barney Frank, has teeth made of yellow jello.

But the real wolves have been reined in, proving that Congress, despite the conventional wisdom, can really do things when it takes a mind too.  The wolf population has grown and no longer in danger of extinction.  They apparently have been killing livestock and terrorizing Max Baucus's constituents.  And the National Rifle Association has to have more furry warm bodies as targets for their bullets of freedom.

RootsAction, a group of activist economists, is calling for A Robin Hood tax on Wall Street  Let's see if the president puts his money where his mouth is and fights for it.  Cuomo , himself a puppet of Wall Street, just got rid of the state millionaires tax and slashed the budget on the backs of the poor.  The banks threatened to leave Wall Street unless he did. The corporations and banks are so grateful they are running nonstop TV ads thanking him.  They're calling themselves the Committee to Save New York, and their ad actually features a crowd of pedestrians in Brooks Brothers suits. I am not kidding! No wonder the banksters are raking in the record profits. Even their needy trophy wives get sweetheart zero interest deals from The Fed, according to a recent article by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone. (And for a detailed story on Cuomo's influence peddlers, see "Eyes on the Ties" on my Blog List on the right- hand side of the page).
But it's never enough.  Jamie Dimon is now whining that Senator Dick Durbin wants to put the kibosh on his usurious price-fixing debit card fees.  This guy is insatiable.  His greed goes way beyond normal unmitigated avarice. Since he and his ilk are already de facto owners of the government, any attempt to rein him in amounts to a mutiny, in his view.  It is sheer effrontery for Uncle Sam to say no to Mr. Dimon.
Meanwhile, I  hope all the gray wolves somehow get word that the bullets are going to be flying  and  do the smart thing by emigrating to Canada.  The laws up there actually protect species, both human and animal.  And they even  have strict banking laws that protect ordinary citizens.  I say let's ship Jamie Dimon up there to the wastes of the Yukon Territory or an abandoned Siberian gulag and let him howl all he wants at the moon, alone and far away, where he and other seriously dangerous creatures can cause no further damage. The taxpayers will gladly foot the bill for his moving expenses.

Let's Give Them a Reason to Howl

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Taking the Centrist Obama Cult Pledge

Now that we are recovering from our paroxysms of ecstasy from listening to President Obama's speech this afternoon, and the afterglow is being replaced (for at least a few of us)  with that old cynical morning-after feeling, the Reelection Campaign is wasting no time in reining in the base.  I just got this odd email from Obama operative and base-hater Jim Messina:

Stand by the President's Vision

President Obama has called for a plan that ensures we can live within our means while still investing in our future. I stand by his vision to:

  • Rein in the deficit while protecting seniors and the middle class, and making the investments we need to win the future;
  • Ensure that the most vulnerable Americans are not the only ones sharing the burden of fiscal responsibility;
  • Keep spending low while strengthening Medicare and Medicaid, and end trillions in tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires who don't need them; and
  • Set aside partisanship in favor of a renewed sense of shared responsibility and shared sacrifice.

I am being asked to sign a pledge or oath of some kind. I hereby promise to be a crusading centrist/compassionate Republican-lite.  Umm.... I don't think so. Just yesterday, I signed that progressive petition telling Obama he could fuggedabout me voting for him, working for him and sending him any more of my dollars.  I even asked him to return the fifty bucks I sent him two years ago because I have to pay my electric bill.  I guess he didn't get the message yet.

These people think a wonderful speech changes everything and we will all just swoon at his feet again when he graces us with that million-dollar smile.  How do you spell c-l-u-e-l-e-s-s?  On second thought, I am probably in the minority. Based on what I am hearing. liberals are celebrating Obama's return to liberal principles.  Fool me once, fool me twice, fool me a hundred times. But ask yourselves this.  Where, in the speech, did Obama talk about jobs, jobs, jobs?  How many times did he utter that corporatist mantra "winning the future?"

Make no mistake.  This was a typical, persuasive Obama campaign speech. It was not a presidential policy speech.  It made a lot of us feel good, have renewed hope.  But, like Glenn Greenwald, I have long given up paying attention to the speeches.  Just keep an eye on what Obama actually does. 

We were all being set up for a disappointing capitulation, but surprise!  He will defend Medicare and Social Security! (no mention of Medicaid. Uh oh). Therefore, we should all be grateful he didn't fall into Paul Ryan's arms in a bipartisan embrace.  Think about this in terms of political theater.  Paul Ryan is the bad cop, the evil character, and whether he knows it or not, the fall guy of the season. Barack Obama is the good cop and the savior who says he will refuse to extend the Bush tax cuts again. But that's not for another two years. Notice that he is not specifically backing Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky's Fairness in Taxation Act, calling for an immediate tax hike on millionaires and billionaires?  Of course, he will take Ryan on -- Ryan is easy to take on, because he is extreme beyond all rationality.  His own party won't back him once push comes to shove.

 I Wantcha Back in My Personality Cult

Jim Messina, a protege of Montana Senator Max Baucus, is a former White House deputy chief of staff whose job was to have weekly meetings with progressive groups to make sure their independent grassroots efforts on health care reform jibed with the Administration's.  He clashed with several progressives over the secret deal with the pharmaceutical industry to back away from reimportation of drugs from Canada.  Read the excellent article by Ari Berman in The Nation to get the full background on Messina, who has been called Obama's Karl Rove.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Theaters of War at the White House

As a group protesting military spending put on a puppet show on the White House steps today to show how money spent on war could be better used to create jobs, fight poverty and fund education, some living breathing puppets were inside the People's House* to put on a show of support for military families.  

A Military-Industrial Complex policy group creepily called the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) is funding Michelle Obama's signature initiative, called "Joining Forces." And joining her today to head the team was fired and formerly disgraced Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal, now embarking on a political version of the Celebrity Rehab Tour in an unpaid (directly) gig to ostensibly lend support to our abused and overused troops.  However, according to an article by Nathan Hodge in The Nation last month called "Coalition of the Shilling", the core purpose of CNAS is anything but altruistic. Founded in 2007 by a group of centrist Democrats, defense contractors and retired military brass, its sole purpose is to keep the wars going and the profits flowing to the MIC.  One of its  trustees is the former CEO of Lockheed Martin, which profits mightily from its military hardware and fighter jet sales - both domestically and to foreign armies.

Hodge writes, "Two former Clinton administration officials, Michèle Flournoy and Kurt Campbell, founded CNAS in 2007 as a way for centrist Democrats to reclaim a place in the national security debate ahead of the 2008 presidential race. It was an expert triangulation: Flournoy, Campbell and their associates staked out a hawkish (or, as they would term it, a “pragmatic and principled”) position on Iraq, opposing early deadlines for withdrawal. After Obama’s election, CNAS would emerge as a key feeder for the new administration’s national security team. No fewer than fourteen CNAS grads would land slots in the Defense and State departments. Flournoy now occupies the number-three post at the Pentagon, and Campbell is the head of the State Department’s Asia bureau.

"How exactly did Flournoy and Campbell conjure up a think tank out of thin air? In addition to support from foundations like the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Ploughshares Foundation, CNAS received heavy backing from the military industry. Its list of donors includes major weapons manufacturers like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon and BAE Systems. It also receives contributions from private security firms like Aegis Defence Services, as well as from KBR, the logistics support contractor notorious for overbilling the Pentagon for its services in Iraq and Afghanistan. And it generates income from research contracts with the Pentagon and intelligence agencies, as do others like the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments."

As military families are struggling to get by on their relatively meager paychecks, defense contractors are getting obscenely rich on weapons systems and military hardware.  And as the troops struggle through tour after exhausting tour in Iraq and Afghanistan, with no end in sight, the White House is utilizing the warm and smiling Michelle Obama as the face of a ramped-up PR campaign of showing the troops our love (and also to make us feel kind of bad for bitching about our own petty problems?) Keep drumming it in: they are sacrificing and getting killed to keep "us" all safe.  Would that it were true and they were not just being used as warm expendable flesh to enrich a few wealthy corporations and defense contractors.

(A sidenote - one of the original alleged participants in the White House project to improve the health of the troops was a former Gitmo psychologist who oversaw the "enhanced interrogations" of prisoners. He was disinvited by the First Lady's staff after Glenn Greenwald wrote an expose on his self-proclaimed participation).

Meanwhile, the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive activist think tank in Washington DC, was one of the sponsors for today's lunchtime event on the White House steps to mark the first Global Day of  Action on Military Spending. (GDAMS - love the acronym).  This protest, along with hundreds of other demonstrations nationwide and worldwide, comes  one day after the release of the 2010 figures for global military expenditures by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. In 2009, the world spent more than $1.5 trillion on the military. Even in the middle of a global economic crisis, military spending has increased, with the United States responsible for nearly half of all such expenditures, worldwide. As IPS director John Feffer explains, what the American defense industry doesn't make for our own wars it gladly sells overseas -- to our allies and enemies alike.  A dollar is a dollar, despite what any treaties might stipulate.

The noontime White House protest  featured poetry, puppets, and graphic  representations of military spending. Representatives of national and local peace and human needs organizations presented "flash facts" to demonstrate how the money spent on defense could be used for other things, such as education, jobs and anti-poverty programs.

We don't know if Barack and Michelle Obama,or Joe and Jill Biden,or Stanley McChrystal,or the CNAS crowd looked out the window at the protesters in a break from their own military love-in, lunch and photo ops, or had any thoughts or comments on the bloated defense budget.  Nothing was said about our brave men and women in uniform coming home, permanently. We do know that the President smiled a lot and Michelle hugged everybody. And Michelle made the big announcement that military family members who work at Walmart will get transferred to another Walmart store if their spouses are transferred. Yippee. Way to go, Walmart!  Hire American and support our troops, but sell Chinese!  And Goodwill promised to hire military families to help sell used clothing to other poor people!  And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will hold military family job fairs.  Fairs, mind you -- no jobs quite yet, all that trickle-down from their record profits and tax breaks hasn't quite reached down that far.  But it'll be fun, and maybe now Obama won't pick on them and their anonymous political donations so much.

We also don't know if Mary Tillman, who tried and failed to have McChrystal held accountable for the cover-up of her son Pat's death by friendly fire, had any reaction to his big White House comeback as a caring father figure of the troops. She was not included on today's guest list.  Nor was Anti-War Mom in Chief Cindy Sheehan -- who should maybe think about setting up a new campsite on the White House lawn as a refreshing change from Bush's ranch.

There is now every sign that all those supposedly noncombat troops in Iraq will be on permanent assignment. And especially now that the U.S. is being kicked out of Pakistan after the CIA murder scandal and the collaterally damaging drone attacks, Afghanistan is not only the longest war in U.S. History, it's aiming to be one of the longest in world history, too.  There is money to be made, weapons to be manufactured to boost the economy Military Industrial Complex, political offices to win, billions of dollars worth of minerals in those mountains, poppy fields to keep populations anesthetized and cartels in the black, private security firms to profiteer.
Les Screwed-Up Priorities
 Is it any coincidence that the 2012 Democratic National Convention is being held a stone's throw from Fort Bragg, North Carolina?  This is one war-loving Administration with one hell of an ironic Nobel Peace Prize winner.

* Update/Correction 4/13 -- Since writing this post, I learned that the "Joining Forces" Obama event was actually held in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, not the White House as originally announced. I apologize for the error -- and will add that it now seems obvious the officials could not and did not see the demonstrations.

Update II 4/14:  Mary Tillman has told Jake Tapper of ABC that she is outraged at McChrystal's appointment, and she thinks it makes Obama look "silly."

"I’ve come to learn through this journey that there are many other families that have been lied to by the military about their sons and daughters and so we feel that what happen to Pat is pertains to other people, not just us. I think it’s a slap in the face to all soldiers to appoint this man, to be on this committee," she said.

 Amir Bar-Lev, the director of the critically-acclaimed documentary "The Tillman Story" was nothing if not blunt: “Putting Stanley McChrystal in charge of a commission on military families is a little like putting Bernie Madoff in charge of a commission on pensions," he told Tapper.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Obama Deconstructed

The following post was written by Kate Madison of Depoe Bay, Oregon, in response to Paul Krugman's column today questioning the whereabouts of President Obama.   

..."What have they done with President Obama? What happened to the inspirational figure his supporters thought they elected? Who is this bland, timid guy who doesn’t seem to stand for anything in particular? "
You have not really asked for a psychological "autopsy," but that is what I am inclined to give--rather than a "they did it" answer.

First of all, Barack Obama never knew his father--met him twice in his life. He was raised and influenced mainly by strong women, his mother and grandmother. Grandfather was a nice guy, seemed to finish last and had a hard time keeping a job-- not an inspiring male role model, to be sure. His mother was an effective mediator and organizer;  her life's mission was to bring understanding and economic power to 3rd world women. One can see how the torch was passed to his sister, Maya, who is doing the same kind of work in Hawaii.  Read her profile in last week's Nation magazine to see that the "apple does not fall far from the tree."

About Barack Obama--a more difficult situation, obviously. He was encouraged and educated in the best schools mother and grandparents could afford--and was so smart he got full scholarships. Still......there is the ghost of his father--a brilliant, aggressive, ambitious, but irresponsible drunk, who later died in a (probably alcohol related) car accident.

Barack, the son, has both his father, mother and grandmother in him--incompatible,  impossible ghosts, one might say. He is ambitious and a brilliant orator, but also (first and foremost), like his influential mother, comfortable only in his role as a mediator.  So....that is who we have for a President. A basically good man,  but so inclined to mediate and reconcile that he does not possess other options about how to function.  Yet he has tremendous ambition. You might say it is in his genes. Would that the world operated in a saner way.  We know it does not. I believe that is why Obama has hired such aggressive, psychopathic operatives to keep the path open. He cannot do it himself, but does not hesitate to find those who can do it for him.

Kate is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who had a private practice in  Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland from 1973 to 2004. She studied Family Systems theory with Murray Bowen at Georgetown University, and became interested in the inter-generational transmission process of emotional issues in families.  Though Kate is officially retired from full-time practice and currently living on the Oregon Coast, she remains active in the field, and is presently supervising therapists in the D.C. area in family systems thinking and application. She frequently contributes to the comments boards of op-ed pieces in The New York Times.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Serious Scalpels and Mendacious Machetes

I'll Give It to the Republicans.... 200% of What They Want!

I knew there was a reason my email from the President announcing his re-election campaign got jammed next to a Proactiv ad in my spam folder last Monday.  It's because he is going to be proactive for a change, and give a speech on the deficit in just three more days!  We don't know the details yet, but his point-man, David Plouffe was all over the TV jabberfests this morning to tout it.

I just looked over a written transcript of Plouffe on "Meet the Press" and was able to formulate a rough idea as to the predictable uplifting vagueness (inspiroratory) we can expect. Plouffe used the words "moving/going forward" a total of nine times, and "come together" for a grand tally of seven -- in just the first few minutes.  Therefore, we can rest assured that the Obama speech will contain lots of winning the future and bipartisan bullshit.  We'll hear more sermonizing on shared sacrifice, historic cuts, visiting our national monuments and national parks, marriage counseling tips to stop all the bickering, lots of ideas on lots of tables, as well as a bit of David Brooksian S&M drivel on the joys of pain and belt-tightening.  And it will not be complete without some philosophical hovering above the fray, with Obama talking about Democrats and Republicans as if he were not partisan himself.  Actually, he is, but it's Republican-lite, and that is not an official party (yet). But I am counting on at least one pointed, blaming dig at Congress and how "the American people" are fed up and sick of "the way things are done (by others) in Washington".  And that "we" (meaning they) will do better, because that's why we/they were sent to Washington, to do better.

Paul Krugman, who was pretty dismayed by Friday's Democrat capitulation on the budget, writes on his blog that he dreads the speech and wouldn't put it past Obama to call for privatizing Medicare.  Since that is what Paul Ryan wants too,  Obama might do what Obama does best, and start negotiating by preemptively offering Republicans twice what they're asking for and then settling for 400 percent. He still hasn't figured out his job description.  But many are calling him Mediator in Chief, and those are the ones who are being kind.

The only thing we are being told is that Obama will use a selective scalpel to slice and dice, as opposed to the vicious machete of Paul Ryan and the Austerian Hordes.  Paul Ryan was also on TV this morning, and he was every bit as vague as Plouffe.  And yes, the pundits are still calling his plan to privatize, and thus kill, Medicare "bold."  I think it's only because they don't know how to spell, or pronounce, chutzpah.  H-u-t-s-p-a.  Here are some more synonyms the vocabulary-challenged chattering class might consider for Ryan's budget plan:  reckless, overreaching, brazen, overweening, rash, unmitigated gall, mendacious, nasty, brutal, vicious, moronic, math-challenged, politically suicidal.  It sure makes whatever death by a thousand sterile incisions Obama is planning under the anesthesia of his rhetoric seem painless in comparison.  But maybe that's the whole plan. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Was the Shutdown Threat All About S-E-X?

In the wake of the near-shutdown of the government, it is becoming crystal clear that the fight was never about money and austerity and deficits. It's about ideology. The cause celebre this go-round was Planned Parenthood and abortion. But it goes beyond reproductive rights. It goes to the heart of the arch-conservative mantra that Sex is Bad.  It's particularly bad, in their view, when it involves the unmarried, the transgender, the gay, the unemployed, the minority.  Let's face it. People like Mike Pence and Rick Santorum and all the goons of Right Wing World don't like the idea of taxpayer money being used, even obliquely, to help people have fun, particularly when it comes to their sex lives.

Title X is a government program that gives about a quarter of its funds to Planned Parenthood, and the rest to other clinics for low-income people throughout the country.  It specifically does not fund abortions, because that is illegal under federal law.  What it does pay for, however, are family planning for both men and women, STD screening, HIV/AIDS, Diabetes, hypertension and cancer screening.  The services are for  ALL people -- married or single, gay or straight. Planned Parenthood offers all of these in addition to abortion services that it funds through private means, adding up to only about three percent of its total program. 

Title X pays for birth control pills on the taxpayer dime and Planned Parenthood does not demand a marriage certificate when women come in seeking the pill. Thus, in Republican World, they are promoters of promiscuity and orgies. Planned Parenthood is also known for its compassionate treatment of transgender patients.  Planned Parenthood supplies free condoms to its clients, thus promoting even more unrestrained sex.  See where this is going?  Way, way beyond the right to life movement. 

Since the radical right culture warriors are also anti-gay and many seem to have sexual phobias of all kinds, could the threatened government shutdown have been about homophobia as well as misogyny? Nobody's telling, but it wouldn't surprise me. 

 Christian fundamentalism as a force in American politics has never died.  The religious fanatics still haven't gotten over the repeal of DADT. Their dogmatism and their demogoguery trump rational thought. It wouldn't shock me if they actually thought that the "X" in Title X stands for X-rated, instead of the number 10.  The right wing crowd probably never studied Roman numerals in school because those numbers are un-American.

The Radical Right is Easily Confused & Obsessed With Sex 

And speaking of Rome, if I didn't know better, I'd swear the Vatican might have a hand in this too.  The American bishops tried to kill the affordable health care act due to abortion issues.  Could this be payback time from the mighty lobby of men in mitered hats?  Nothing would surprise me at this point.  If you'd told me a week ago the government would be shut down over Pap smears, I wouldn't have believed it either.

And then there's the cultish Abstinence Movement, which espouses just saying no as the proper right wing method of birth control. Bristol Palin, teen mom, is the poster child of that movement, or revirgination campaign or whatever you want to call it.  Conservatives even have weird debutante-type affairs called "Purity Balls" in which fathers parade out their daughters in some vaguely creepy chastity sweepstakes.  Daddy's Little Girl is Daddy's Little Girl until marriage do them part.

Not a Planned Parenthood Alumna
And if you still don't believe how far right we've come as a country, take a gander at what President Nixon wrote when he signed Title X into law one Christmas Eve long, long ago: (and Dickie, from all accounts, was one repressed Oedipus "my mother was a saint" Complex dude):

He Put the Planning Back in Family Values
ON JULY 18, 1969, I sent to the Congress a message proposing the creation of a Commission on Population Growth and the American Future. The Congress acted promptly on my proposal and the act establishing the Commission was signed by me on March 16, 1970. The Commission is now functioning: its interim report will be due in the spring of 1971, and its final report will be submitted in the spring of 1972.
At the same time, I called for a national commitment to provide adequate family planning services within the next 5 years to all those who want them but cannot afford them. It was clear that the domestic family planning services supported by the Federal Government were not adequate to provide information and services to all who want them on a voluntary basis.
To implement this national commitment, I asked for expanded research in contraceptive development and the behavioral sciences, reorganization of family planning service activities within the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and legislation which would help the Department to implement this important program by providing broader and more precise legislative authority and a clearer source of financial support. The National Center for Family Planning Services was established in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare shortly after my message.
The bill before me today, the "Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970," completes the legislation I requested in my message on population. This measure provides for expanded research, training of manpower, and increased family planning services. In addition, it provides for the development of family planning and population growth information and education.
It is noteworthy that this landmark legislation on family planning and population has had strong bipartisan support. I am confident that by working together-at Federal, State, and local levels--we can achieve the goal of providing adequate family planning services within the next 5 years to all those who want them but cannot afford them.
I am proud to affix my signature to this important legislation and share this pride with so many who have worked so hard toward its enactment."

Wow.  A Republican president proposed what would today be called a socialistic public health law and it was promptly approved in a bipartisan manner by Congress. If Tricky Dick were in office now, Mike Pence would be calling him a Marxist.  No, wait.  Mike Pence would never have been elected to anything except maybe treasurer of some tiny local chapter of the John Birch Society.  And amazing, isn't it, that presidents actually thought up bills to send to Congress all on their own and didn't just shrug and tell them to hash it out among themselves and stop acting like children?

And now we have another down-to-the-wire save, passage of a budget nobody even had the chance to read before voting. And it is merely a stop-gap "bridge" cure, a massive kick-the-can down the road for another week.  At the rate we're going, we won't have a real budget till it's time to vote for next year's. And these hard-right fundamentalists who seem to have a spooky sway over the Democrats who outnumber them aren't going away.  The Democrats are rapidly becoming superfluous in this whole mess we call a government.  The Culture Wars have joined the Class War in what increasingly appears to be a descent into fascism.