Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Taking Us for a Ride

Turn on the TV cable news or glance at the homepage of The Times tonight and what do you get?  Not the collateral damage of murdered children in Afghanistan.  Not the growing crisis of widespread unemployment. Not the Congressional challenge by Dennis Kucinich over the right of the president to wage war in Libya.

Here is what passes for news today, this week, next month.  Only the faces will change.  Because it's all about the personalities of the lunatic fringe political sweepstakes, and everybody is covering this crap.  Somebody who we all thought went away suddenly buys a million dollar house in Arizona and takes a motorcycle ride and goes on a bus tour and has pizza with Donald Trump.  So she is obviously running for president, according to Beltway media insiders whose job is to deflect our attention away from serious issues that might be hurting us.

The Wonderful World of Journalistic Make-Believe

From The Times: "An aide to Mr. Trump said Ms. Palin, the former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate, had sought the meeting, having 'reached out' that morning. Ms. Palin has generated more buzz about a possible presidential bid with the start of her road trip on Sunday — she has visited Gettysburg and the Liberty Bell — did not reveal why she wanted to pay a call on Mr. Trump and his wife, Melania. His own flirtation with a Republican presidential campaign ended last month amid speculation it was all intended to jolt his business interests."

Doesn't take much to generate buzz in their busy little brains, does it?  What are they thinking?  Better yet, what are they drinking?  I think I must be missing something, not to be experiencing that elusive Buzz.

And here is how annoying White House correspondent Chuckles Todd put it in the lead item on NBC's "First Read" email this morning: "Over the next 10 months, the race for the Republican nomination will become the chief political story in America, and that will affect the contours of the general election. We even started seeing it yesterday, with Palin, Pawlenty, and Bachmann taking center stage. 'The Democratic ‘race’ is more akin to watching a single athlete run a marathon,' says Democratic strategist Jano Cabrera."

In the shallow world of Washington journalism, the race is the thing.  Who is tweeting what?  What conservative bad boy hacked a congressman's Twitter account to insert a naughty pic?  Why is Sarah being so coy and hard to get?  Why do they care, why do they think anybody cares?

Of course, the conventional wisdom is that Obama, the cool adult front-man of the Oligarchy, is an obvious shoo-in.  He is so comfortable, in fact, that he just hired a new White House attack dog to tamp down the disaffected base of progressive idealogues.   The job has been given to DNC operative Jesse Lee, whose new title is "Director of Progressive Media & Online Response". He will be responsible for blogosphere PR , as well as squashing any negative stories.

The position is being criticized by both the Left and the Right. Fox News is calling Lee the Administration's new "Pushback Czar."  Sounds about right to me.

The pols and the hacks have our ostensible journalists both coming and going.  It's an irresistably heady mix of propaganda and infotainment.  Keep us alternately dumbed down and titillated and frightened. It's the age of American neo-fascism.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

What Was She Thinking?

To hear the political hacks and lobbyists and experts in diplomacy tell it to The New York Times, Elizabeth Warren has committed the biggest breach of etiquette since Michelle inappropriately touched the Queen. You just don't tell an honorable member of Con-gress that you're fixing to quit the room, especially if you're an uppity liberal female bureaucrat!

Warren, a low-key but passionate consumer advocate, is so despised and feared by Wall Street that the Senate Republicans are refusing to shut down business this week in order to forestall a possible presidential recess appointment behind their backs. Barney Frank is calling the move a slap in the face of democracy.

Meanwhile, a petition with nearly one million progressive signatures, demanding that she head her own consumer agency, is headed for the Oval Office.  Politicians in both parties are being backed into a corner over an appointment none of them has the spine or the stomach for. They are all too beholden to their real masters, the banksters.

So powerful men are doing what powerful men do when confronted by an assertive, powerful woman. They call her a bitch.

Oh, they're being cagey and cunning and oblique about it. They used another woman, a New York Times reporter named Sheryl Gay Stolberg, to get their message out.  According to the Sunday piece, called "The Polite Way to Say No Way," Warren probably blew her own chances for nomination by not being deferential enough to a subcommittee congressman. Stolberg wrote that Warren has committed "a bureaucrat’s brazen violation of a cardinal rule of the Capitol Hill etiquette book: the Congressman Is Always Right."

While Stolberg did give fair comment  to a few Democrats praising Warren, she failed to go beyond treating the story like a TMZ scandal of a gross breach in etiquette.  Nowhere did she mention that the hearing time was changed at the last minute. Nowhere did she mention that Rep. Patrick McHenry had immediately launched into an ad hominem attack against Warren from the outset of the hearing. Like other corporate media outlets, The Times has chosen to dwell on the "sensationalistic" final few minutes of the hearing when words were exchanged.

Stolberg obviously did not watch the hearing in its entirety.( Her usual beat is The White House, so you have to wonder about the provenance of her article.)  Warren remained calm, cool and collected throughout, even as she was accused of lying by McHenry from the outset -- about whether she did or didn't talk to the Justice Department about bank mortgage fraud.  Rarely did he allow her to even answer one of his questions without his own rude interruptions.

Since writing my initial post on the hearing, I have learned a few more unsavory facts about McHenry, other than the most publicized one that he is a shill for the big banks, and that he got away with taking a bribe from Countrywide Financial while he was supposed to be investigating it.  Here are a few more tidbits about this Karl Rove protege, who may have had a hand in the rumor mongering that John McCain had fathered an illegitimate black child during his primary fight with George Bush.

 - In 2008, while on a Congressional visit to Iraq, he threw a hissy fit after being denied access to a gun.  He called a soldier a "two bit security guard" in another one of those name-calling exchanges he seems to be so addicted to.

- He put a video on his campaign website that violated Defense security guidelines by divulging information about Iraq deployments.

- During his  2008 campaign, McHenry called his opponent, Daniel Johnson, "Nancy Pelosi's chosen recruit" with "pockets stuffed with cash from Washington liberals."  He later erased the slur from his website following pressure by his own party.

-  He was one of the signatories in a letter to the IRS demanding  an investigation of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for excessive lobbying and failure to register as a lobbying organization.

- He introduced legislation to put Ronald Reagan's face on the $50 bill.

- During the Mark Foley pedophile scandal, he claimed it was engineered by Democrats.

-He was one of Tom Delay's staunchest defenders when the former speaker was indicted on money laundering charges.

-He proposed a military strike on Iran.

And on and on it goes.  Yet Elizabeth Warren erred in not showing him the due deference he is so eminently entitled to, according to the lobbyists and other hacks The Times used for its source material?

Commenter Jay from Ottawa reports that when he tried to email McHenry demanding that he apologize to Warren, his message was returned because of server overload.  Thinking that perhaps McHenry had rigged his email to reject all references to her, I emailed McHenry with a phony "I Love You" as the subject matter.  No dice.  I got mine back from the Mailer Daemon too.

It doesn't sound like the congressman has any friends left.  His own colleagues are disowning him. His inbox has exploded. Yet the New York Times sources think he is due some respect, just because the sick custom is to call all congresspeople "The Honorable."  Go figure.

Update -- here is the link to the Times article again; apparently it was not showing up well in this post: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/29/weekinreview/29etiquette.html?ref=us

Friday, May 27, 2011

No Warren Recess Appointment

President Obama will not be making his hoped-for recess appointment of Elizabeth Warren to head her own Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, because there will be no Senate Recess.  Republicans blocked it, and Harry Reid caved.  Read the details here.

You have to wonder if this is just what the Obama Administration was hoping for, since not one Democrat is offering an explanation or a complaint.  With no recess appointment of Warren, and the Dodd-Frank Law stipulating a nomination by a July deadline, and the Republicans vowing to block anybody from heading the bureau, you have to wonder if this spells the death of the agency itself.

With the lightning-fast speed of passage of the Patriot Act extensions today without debate, it's pretty obvious we have one unified oligarchic party under the guise of bipartisanship.  Our only recourse is to kick these bastards out come election time, district by district and state by state.

As far as the President is concerned, he's coming back from his World Leader tour this weekend, still basking in the glow of global adoration.  With any luck, this current resurgence of the Obama Personality Cult, the never-ending orgasmatron of the Osama Assassination Celebration will quickly wind down and progressives will again stop fixating on loony-tune Republicans and hold this President's feet to the fire.

Let's face it. He could have appointed Elizabeth Warren a year ago, and chose not to.  It's just too easy to blame the usual easy suspects, the craven Republicans, for this one.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Damned Demagoguing Democrats

Are you as tired as I am of Republican pols and pundits accusing Democrats of demagoguing them?  Do they choose that word because it has a nice alliterative ring? I mean, why not save their breath, and just call the opposition a bunch of mean old DemDems?  Take the gog out of Demagogue, for crying out loud.  Just for the hell of it, I Googled "Demagoguing Democrats" and got over 700,000 hits.

Still not having anything better to do, I went to LexisNexis and typed in "Demagoguing Paul Ryan" and came up with slightly fewer results from the newspaper option. I was aghast and agog reading them, because it seems like these overpaid pundits and columnists and hacks are all getting their marching orders from some centralized Reactionary Word Bank.  Here are just a few of the gems, beginning with Chief Gemstone Paul Ryan:

The tragic irony is that if the Left succeeds in demagoguing to death the only plan that saves Medicare, this political victory will diminish any incentive to avert Medicare's imminent end. -- Paul Ryan, Washington Post op-ed, 8/6/10.

It is an important conversation starter... a broad and brave call for dealing with politically charged issues that Congress and Obama are studiously avoiding or demagoguing. -- unsigned editorial, New York Daily News, 4/11/11.

The Administration just needs to stop demagoguing and join the adult conversation. -- Kevin Ferris, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/22/11.

Paul Ryan has just released a bold and serious plan.... Obama is demagoguing the Ryan Plan. -- Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post, 4/8/11.

Now, I know the Democrats... they have been demagoguing the Republicans on Medicare. -- Donald Trump, via New York Times article, 5/3/11.

Next time you see a politician demagoguing Medicare, ask this: should we be using our resources in the manner of a nation in decline or one still committed to stoking the energy of its people? -- David Brooks, The New York Times, 5/11/11.

Now, can we (meaning you Democrats) just get past the demagoguery? -- Cal Thomas, USA Today, 2/24/11.

Democrats Demagogue Medicare: Liberals Play Politics as the Health Care Plan Goes Belly Up -- headline of Emily Miller op-ed, Washington Times, 5/3/11.

Interestingly, accusing the opposition of demagoguery has been a favorite tactic of conservatives in the past.  Case in point, according to a Wikipedia entry, "in the 19th Century, political reactionaries branded their opponents as demagogues and directed numerous reprisals and censorship against them. Representatives of the German Confederation of German-national and liberal groups were accused of Demagogenverfolgung, subversion and sedition.

A famous usage was by the aging Erich Luedenddorf, an early supporter of Hitler, but who later called him "one of the greatest demagogues of all time. I prophesy to you this evil man will plunge our Reich into the abyss and will inflict immeasurable woe on our nation."

Since Hitler is still conventionally viewed as the greatest/worst demagogue of all time, and his name has become synonymous with the word, and an early tactic of the Tea Party during the health care debate was to carry posters of President Obama wearing a Hitler mustache, it is not too much of a stretch to conclude that the more genteel conservative pundits are deliberately and cynically using the demagogue word as code for something worse -- something extremely hateful.

It's all part of what is called The Big Lie -- some of the Republican pundits are taking their own demagoguery and deflecting it to the Democratic opposition. Again, from Wikipedia:

"The phrase (Big Lie) was also used in a report prepared during the war by the United States Office of Strategic Services  in describing Hitler's psychological profile. His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it."

Hmm... methinks Paul Ryan and Co. are the real, neo-Fascist demagogues in the mix.  The Republicans refuse to compromise, refuse to negotiate, refuse to acknowledge that the deficit was caused by tax breaks for their rich friends and subsidies for the corporations, blame their one person at a time (Obama), even going so far as to question his citizenship and patriotism. And boy, can they ever whine when they don't get their own way.

"Mommeeeee... They Won't Stop Demagoguing on Me!"

The only thing left for Obama and the Democrats to do is to stop negotiating with these Repugnant Republicans and let their demogoguery nonsense boomerang right back at them.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Spanish Inquisition, Republican Congressional Edition

For an obscure subcommittee hearing broadcast on C-Span, it was pretty exciting TV.  It was also a pretty disgusting display of Republican mendacity.  But what else is new?

The title of the latest attempt to sling more mud on Elizabeth Warren and her Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was "Who's Watching the Watchmen?" But Democratic TARP and Oversight member Carolyn Maloney quipped today that it might more aptly have been named "Let's Pretend the Financial Crisis Never Happened."

And the Chairman of the Subcommittee had a typical Republican doublespeak of an opening statement too. "The American people have a right to know," Patrick McHenry (R-NC) was essentially complaining, "if the government is overreaching and unfairly protecting the American people by cracking down on the poor maligned banks and credit card companies!"

 The nature of the Republican questioning of Warren today by Subcommittee Chairman Patrick McHenry (R-NC),  was typically inquisitorial. McHenry's first lame tactic was to accuse her of having the nerve to talk to state attorneys general and the Dept. of Justice over the mortgage fraud settlements, and doing so behind the Republicans' backs, and then committing perjury by omission!  Apparently, he was under the mistaken impression that Warren needs Congressional okay before speaking with any government agency, and that she needs to report such discussions to him.  In person, presumably.  He pretty much accused her of lying to Congress.  He repeatedly interrupted her attempts to answer his questions with the usual prosecutorial "It's either a yes or a no!"

(McHenry, incidentally, has reason to hate and fear Warren. He came under fire last year while he was "investigating" the Countrywide subprime mortgage scandal, and it turned out he had accepted $5500 from the Countrywide PAC for his reelection campaign, and kinda-sorta forgot to let anybody know. But Chris Dodd got a sweetheart deal from Countrywide too, so they couldn't very well give Dodd a pass and then pick on McHenry, could they?)

The hearing had originally been scheduled for Tuesday morning, but was delayed until afternoon because of Bibi Netanyahu's joint session of Congress address.  Warren had another meeting scheduled, but agreed to answer questions for an hour. But when it came time for her to leave, a desperate McHenry (whose bullying questions had failed to break her), accused Warren of bailing out before her time was up.  When she tried to explain that her truncated testimony had already been agreed to by his own staff, he shrilled: "You're making that up!"

As Warren sat there, her mouth agape, Democratic committee member Elijah Cummings calmly noted that McHenry was again accusing her of lying.  McHenry sulkily backed down.

Earlier, Cummings had urged Warren to stay on in her position as head of the agency she had created after the financial meltdown of 2008. "I'm begging you to keep up the fight," he pleaded, noting that the full impact of the chicanery of the big deregulated banks had yet to be felt among his constituents.  Houses are still being foreclosed, the unemployment rate is still sky high, the banks have yet to be held accountable.  Warren's bureau is the only federal government agency to be focused exclusively on the consumer rights of families.

Cummings noted that while the banksters haul in an annual $59 billion in overdraft fees alone, the CFPB operates on a shoestring budget. Warren said that although the spending cap on the agency is $600 million, she expects it to operate for only half that amount next year.

Meanwhile, The New York Times was reporting that certain "Democratic officials" have been urging Warren to run against Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race next year rather than stay on in the Bureau. These officials naturally are anonymous. This might sound like somebody helping her get into politics, but to me it smells more like a gentle nudge under the bus, and a way to make her go quietly away.  Her putative boss, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, has made no secret of his lack of enthusiasm for both her and the bureau.  Wall Street is not interested in consumers.  Geithner is obviously not interested in consumers.  Watch out for attempted "bipartisan compromises" down the road.

And watch out for next week, when Obama will have a golden opportunity to recess-appoint Warren during the Senate vacation.  Congressional Democrats have already written him a letter urging him to do just that.  This is one of those times to hold the president's feet to the fire as he has so famously urged his "base" to do.  And Warren herself has stated she has no plans to run for any political office.  She is staying right where she is.

And well she should. She is as popular in the U.S. as Obama apparently is in Ireland.  Since a primary challenge to him now seems out of the question, there is always 2016. She would win in a landslide. NY State Attorney General Eric Scheiderman might be a shoo-in too. Between the two of them, we have many fat little bankster rolling heads to look forward to. But watch out too for even more Republican smear campaigns while we're waiting for the roll-o-rama. 

She's Not Going Anywhere

Update:  some video from the hearing:


McHenry later told Politico he was shocked at what he called Warren's "blatant sense of entitlement". The MSM, let me add, is spinning this story as a spat between Warren and McHenry.  I watched the whole hearing and can attest that this North Carolina boor of a man had it out for her from the get-go: he essentially called her a liar a few minutes into the testimony, was rude and hardly allowed her to answer a single question.  If anything dragged the proceedings out, it was McHenry's grandstanding.  I don't think I could have been as cool and civil as Elizabeth Warren.  Watch the whole thing on C-Span and decide for yourself.

Update II 5/25 -- here is a petition going to President Obama asking that he recess-appoint Elizabeth Warren:


He's Not Only Nuts. He's a Heartless Tool

I missed this appearance by former Florida Congressman Alan Grayson on MSNBC last Friday.  Grayson, opining on Republicans in general and Paul Ryan in particular, nails it:


Said Grayson, in his inimitable Grayson way: "We’ve got 40,000 Americans under the age of 65 who die every year, because they can't afford to see a doctor when they're sick. And now they want to extend that [tragedy] to the most infirmed, most victimized, sickest part of the population, our senior citizens, so that more will die. I honestly believe that if Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck announced one day that they were in favor of the Black Death, you’d see every Republican primary candidate for President go along with it."

I don't know if Grayson plans on running for public office again any time soon, but just on the basis of this graphic of Ryan (credited to "Blue Gal") in the email he sent me this morning, I will vote for him.  I don't care if I am a legal resident of his state or not.  Maybe he will return to his native New York and run here.  We need him.

And here is a petition to be delivered to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in anticipation of that den of vipers' vote on the Lyin' Ryan Medicare Kill Bill: http://dscc.org/.  Just be forewarned that every time you sign one of these petitions, you will receive daily emails from Democratic senators thousands of miles away begging you for money.  When I signed petitions for Single Payer in 2009, I got appeals for donations from Oregon, Illinois, California -- and even a note from Patrick Leahy's wife asking me to sign his birthday card.  You can, of course, always unsubscribe once all this stuff starts jamming your inbox. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

You Want Paul Ryan to Control Your Thoughts, Says Paul Ryan

There is no official transcript available yet from today's "Meet the Press", but I watched it twice to make sure I heard Paul Ryan right.

Confronted by David Gregory over poll results that show 80 percent of Americans don't want Medicare touched, Ryan replied that he doesn't listen to polls.  "Leaders are elected to lead and are supposed to change the polls because that's what the country wants," he said.

Ryan was essentially making the outrageous claim that once politicians are elected, they no longer need listen to the will of the people.  Well, we already knew that, but somebody finally came out and said it.  Moreover, it is Ryan's job to change what people only imagine they are thinking.  People cannot think for themselves and if they do express a thought, it is the job of Paul Ryan to tell them they are wrong, because deep down, they want somebody to tell them they are wrong.  Paul Ryan is certifiably nuts.  Anybody claiming the whole purpose of his life is to be a general in the "Battle for Fiscal Sanity" is certifiably nuts.  Anybody going on "Meet the Press wearing a day-glo orange tie is certifiably nuts.
But do you think David Gregory actually followed up, and tried to explain the meaning and purpose of polls to this reincarnation of Joe McCarthy?  Of course not.  He was more interested in asking if Newt Gingrich blew it when he called Ryan a right-wing radical social engineer, instead of pointing out that Gingrich was actually right for once in his life, regardless of his intent.

 Ryan blithely went on to pontificate that his plan would spare the current crop of seniors from having their lives disrupted, by generously waiting to privatize kill Medicare until the under-55 crowd reaches retirement.  He remains convinced that the over-55s are a bunch of self-interested old geezers willing to eat their own young in their quest for a comfortable old age on endless life support. And that they will all vote Republican to show their gratitude. In the same foul breath of Doublethink, he claims that the under-55s receiving his fiscally responsible junk vouchers will have the added satisfaction of enriching private insurance companies while giving the finger of contempt to government-run Medicare.  Plus, they are getting their ten-year warning of Endtimes.  And if Obama doesn't fix Medicare today, then he will be killing the current selfish old recipients that Ryan, in his infinite calculating wisdom, had decided to spare!  What was that you said about social engineering?

The Ryan Plan = "Saturn Devouring His Child" (courtesy of the addled artistic brain of F. Goya)

You know somebody is dangerously disturbed when even Newt Gingrich looks reasonable in comparison.  And I finally figured out that the reason the pundits all call Ryan "serious" is because of his facial expression. The guy never cracks a smile, not even a forced politician smile. 

 And he's even leaving the door slightly ajar, down the road, for a possible presidential run?  Bring on the Rapture, quick! 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Obama Facing Democratic Pressure on Warren Appointment

Since the Republicans have made it clear that they will block any nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a group of House Democrats is putting the pressure on President Obama to recess-appoint Elizabeth Warren to head the agency she herself created. Rep Barney Frank (D-MA) was blunt: it's now or never. Not only is the Senate minority vowing a fight, the House Republicans are attempting to defund and disempower the agency.  So Obama must make the choice of either caving to Republican extortion or appointing Warren during the Senate recess the first week in June. Under the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Law, a permanent appointment must be made by a July deadline.

Here's the text of the letter to Obama, now being circulated in the House for signatures:

May 18, 2011
Dear Mr. President,
We appreciate your leadership last year in supporting the strong financial reforms in the Dodd-Frank bill that responded to the financial meltdown on Wall Street that led to the worst recession since the Depression.
A key element of that effort was the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with the goals of making prices clear, risks clear, making financial markets work for families and particularly protecting service members and their families from abusive financial practices. Since you appointed Professor Warren to "stand up" the bureau, she has laid the foundation as a strong advocate for consumers--something that seems to strike fear among those who are opposed to reform.
Regretfully, Republicans in the Senate have now made it clear that they oppose reform. They have vowed that they will not allow consideration of any nominee to head the CFPB until the bureau is weakened. They would rather hold your appointment hostage and obstruct the process than make sure consumers have a strong advocate on their side.
Since Republican Senators have said that no one is acceptable unless the law is weakened, we would urge you to nominate Professor Warren as the CFPB's first Director anyway. If Republicans in the Senate indeed refuse to consider her, we request that you use your constitutional authority to make her a recess appointment. We can think of no better person to be the first Director of this incredibly important consumer financial protection regulator.

The letter was written by Carolyn Maloney of New York, Ralph Ellison of Minnesota and Brad Miller of North Carolina.  The White House, which has been less than enthusiastic about Warren, has declined comment.

 Warren herself is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday. According to The Hill blog, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, said Thursday he had not seen the draft of the Obama letter, but said he had no problem with the president using a recess appointment to name Warren as director.

“Not only no problem, but what’s the alternative?” he said.

Obama is in a squeeze play. He has had a year to make up his mind. His time is up. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Corporate States of America: Toxic Waste Edition

Only in a banana republic can a CEO of an anti-union corporation just found criminally responsible for polluting the earth with radioactive waste suddenly become a government-appointed expert on waste in health care spending.  David Cote has jumped on board yet another Obama Administration PR initiative, this one called Partnership for Patients.

This is the same David Cote, you may remember from a previous post, who locked out a Steelworkers Union local last year after members blew the whistle on dangerous conditions at the Honeywell plant in Metropolis, IL The company was found guilty and paid a hefty fine, but the money and accountability didn't come from Cote or any other human. Nobody went to jail.  In fact, the scandal (which received virtually no coverage in the mainstream media) did nothing to affect his close personal relationship with Barack Obama. Despite cries of anti-unionism from labor leaders, Obama invited Cote to join him on his India trade junket last year.  He had already tapped him for the infamous Deficit Reduction ("Cat Food") Commission which advocated "reforming" Social Security. 

And now, besides being a leader on foreign labor relations and the deficit, Cote is also apparently an expert on health care, and its runaway costs. To prove it, he co-authored, with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius  an editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  At least the opening sentence was somewhat honest, conceding that "many" Americans actually do get health care. I guess his definition of many excludes the 50 million-and-growing uninsured Americans who are just a drop in the bucket  out of a total 300-odd million citizens --  maybe only a fifth or sixth.

But back to PP, which may as well stand for the Public/Private Cabal.  Right off the bat, when you see the words Public/Private, the stench of the neo-fascist corporative takeover of the USA assails your nostrils. And now that the Cat Food Commission and its particular rancid odor has gone into the great circular file destination of all wasteful programs addressing waste, a new one will take its place in the wonderful world of Political Kabuki Theatre. From the editorial:
" That's why the Obama administration and employers such as Honeywell have joined doctors, nurses, hospitals, health insurers, and patient advocates to launch the Partnership for Patients, an unprecedented alliance that will promote innovations to improve hospital care and reduce wasteful spending nationwide".
According to Chilmark, a health care policy research group, PP is just another feel-good publicity stunt to appease the deficit hawks and pump up the Affordable Care Act.  It takes a problem we can all agree needs addressing: the shocking morbidity and mortality levels in American hospitals -- and then spends $1 billion to bring in Honeywell, G.E. and some other conservative-placating corporations to help figure out how to reduce physician reimbursements and trim Medicare and Medicaid costs. This is $1 billion that we can apparently afford to spend, while Home Heating Assistance and block grants to poor neighborhoods were deemed wasteful by this purportedly Democratic White House.  This is akin to the CEO-laden White House Commission on Jobs and Competitiveness taking the place of truly addressing the defacto 25 percent unemployment crisis in this country.

And speaking of jobs, those whistle-blowing Honeywell union members are nearing the first anniversary of their lock-out by Cote.  They recently traveled to New Jersey to confront Cote and the Board of Directors over their status.  From the Steelworkers' website, here is an update with video.

And speaking of Metropolis, home city of Superman, even our favorite comic book action hero is apparently fed up with the USA, and is renouncing his American citizenship.  It apparently has more to do with his disgust with American foreign policy than with the toxic sludge of Honeywell, but I'm sure once he gets wind of this latest public/private corporate hypocrisy he will petition to have the statue erected there in his honor removed as well.

Truth, Justice, and the Corporate Way


Due to a fairly large number of legitimate readers' comments being picked up by Google's automatic spam filter, I have decided to (at least temporarily) go the manual moderation route.  I am not always on the computer, so your comments may not see the light of day for hours, and they definitely won't be published in the middle of the night EDT.  

The moderation will also prevent some of the occasional "flaming" that is rampant on comment boards everywhere.

Meantime, if the system is giving you any other trouble, feel free to email me your comment at kmgarcia2000@yahoo.com.  I apologize for any inconvenience.

For those of you commenting on New York Times op-eds, let me direct you to RealityChex.com, or follow the link called Constant Comments under my blogroll to the right.  Marie Burns has set up a great "Off Times Square" feature for just that purpose.  All of us have experienced burial or outright rejection at the hands of Times moderators, so this is a wonderful way to get our comments published immediately.  Then, if the Times does publish them, you have gotten yourself some double exposure. It's win-win.  Thanks, Marie! 

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Pig Men Cometh

"The pig-man! I saw a pig-man! He was just lying there and then he woke up. He looked up at me and made this horrible sound, eeeeaaaahhh, eeeeaaaahhh." -- Kramer.

" I wish there were pigmen. You get a few of these pigmen walking around and suddenly I'm looking a whole lot better. Then if somebody wants to fix me up at least they could say, 'Hey at least he's no pig-man!'"  -- George Costanza.

Well, George, you are in luck.  We are flush with pig-men these days.  Let's start with just two examples who will make even George Costanza and Seinfeld look like sensitive, post-feminist kinds of guys.

We'll get the newest one out of the way first. In what has got to be the oxymoron of the century, Socialist Banker Monsieur Dominique Strauss-Kahn of the International Monetary Fund  was busted for allegedly attacking a chambermaid in a posh $3000 dollar a night hotel. NYC cops actually dragged him off his cushy Air France first class seat and hauled him in.  Of course, there is always the possibility that he was set up, Eliot Spitzer-style, but the fact that Milord fled the scene without even taking his cell phone does not bode well.  Of course, the story is plastered all over the front page of The New York Times, which usually doesn't do tawdry unless it's elite tawdry.  Remember the Brooke Astor elder abuse case?  When the rich and famous commit crimes, or are victims of them, that gets the front page treatment. But the dozen prostitute corpses dumped on Long Island? Not so much.

What was pretty hilarious is that the Dominique story came out at the exact same time as Maureen Dowd's column on corsets, cleavage and fishnets.  She chronicled the new TV season, which is heavy on retro sexist treatment of women. Sad to say, it seems we are looking backwards. Women are again fair game.

And then there is our own homegrown pig-man, John Ensign of Nevada, who finally quit the Senate when even the Senate couldn't cover for him any more.  The Department of Justice has known for over a year now what he was up to, but didn't prosecute him.  I suppose that it's all part of Barack Obama's Grand Plan of Always Looking Ahead and Winning the Future.... never looking back, or in this case, even sideways.  As an added bonus, there is now a third pig-man in the mix -- Senator Tom Coburn of the C Street Coven or Cabal or whatever right-wing front group lives and operates in that rent and tax-free den of religious iniquity.  Coburn was the alleged go-between in the payoff to Ensign's mistress (victim?) and her husband. Since Tom Coburn is the pig-man who held up the National Women's Museum and many other bills out of pure spite last year, I would love to see his rump in a grinder. It would absolutely distract me from all the other distractions.

Here is the full report in case it's raining where you live and you have an hour to spare.  It is sleazy and quite dramatic, even containing an intro with the cast of characters.  It seems it was much, much worse than your ordinary affair. The woman apparently was coerced into it by Ensign. My only question is what took so long for accountability to come into play.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rancid Fake Mayonnaise on the Table

In the Spirit of Bipartisanship, which Washington politicians cluelessly seem to think is the nirvana of every unemployed, underemployed, uninsured, underinsured, struggling shlub in these United States, the two Senate Whips are going to sit down. At a table. With everything on it. Like adults. Let the nation rejoice while they feast, because just watching them stuff themselves on their own egos is reward enough for us, the little people.

They Put Excitement Back in the Baloney Sandwich!
Here is how it went down in what Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace called a moment of Television Diplomacy. Senator Dick Majority Durbin told Jon Minority Kyl (pronounced Kyle, not Kill, but don't ask me why) that he would discuss not only "improving"  Medicare and Social Security and keeping all the Mexicans behind the border fence where they belong, if only his "friend across the aisle" would agree to talk about the DREAM Act. And Jon said OK, the two of them can have a visit, a prelude to a dreamy conversation.

Never mind that Kyl helped stop the DREAM Act (which would give amnesty to young undocumented immigrants who have lived, worked and studied here for at least five years) in the Senate last year. Never mind that he railed against Obama's "moat joke" during his El Paso visit last week. He called it "mocking demagoguery." 

 Let's face it-- Kyl knows how it feels to be mocked.  Everybody made fun of his own little bit of mendacious demagoguery last month, about that 97 percent of Planned Parenthood abortion business. And still being the junior senator from Arizona at the advanced age of 69? That has got to hurt. So he is taking a premature retirement.  In the Senate, few people have the grace to retire until they die, or are indicted. 

But, mind you, the retirement is only from the Senate. Kyl has taken the unprecedented (and some would say presumptuous) step of announcing he will be a candidate for Vice President in 2012. He is obviously thinking ahead and realizes that whoever gets the nomination is going to be a supreme lightweight. And if by some miracle a Republican nutjob actually wins the election, Mr. Miracle Whip will become de facto president. Dick Cheney proved that this could be done. Junior Senator is demeaning, Vice P not so much. 

Moreover, despite being an semi-lame duck senator, Kyl not only retains his power --  he is increasing it. He was tapped for a new job in current VP Joe Biden's Debt Ceiling Panic Room, which involves walking across the street every day in front of cameras, saying everything is on the table, and that they are having an adult conversation. Nobody is really telling the truth and calling out the "negotiations" for what they truly are: a blatant threat by Republicans to default on the national debt unless the New Deal is dismantled. The mainstream press still deems it politically incorrect to call the GOP an extortionist criminal mob, just as it used to be politically incorrect to call enhanced interrogation techniques torture. This might take a few years, and then there's always revisionist history to contend with.

  Poor Dick Durbin, on the other hand, is the sole token "progressive" on the boring old "Gang of Six." Those senators have been meeting forever, in secret, at Gazillionaire Mark Warner's posh Virginia townhouse over dinners at a very expensive table. From all indications, those discussions are just plain tabled, although they were very, very serious and adult. 

Durbin's sole function these days appears to be placing entitlement programs on rickety back room tables in imminent danger of collapse. They're pretending to improve the recipe after the goose has already been cooked. He sure doesn't sound like such a big major whip to me. Of course, all this talk of bipartisan slashing and lashing makes me wince anyway, especially since the regular people are the ones in chains.

Time to throw out the rotten phony mayonnaise and whip up a new batch from some new, fresh and nontoxic ingredients. These senatorial food byproducts are way past their sell-by dates.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Obama To Go Pure Grassroots, Will Accept NO Corporate $$$!!!

I had to rub my eyes this morning staring at Obama Campaign Manager Jim Messina's overnight email.  In a surprise stealth move, he announced the campaign is going purely grass roots this time.  Here it is, in bold print (his)--

This campaign isn't funded by lobbyists or corporate interests. We rely on donations from people like you. Please donate $15 today!

Uncork the champagne and blow up the balloons! (bold print mine).  Obama has seen the light.  He will not be accepting any dirty money from Goldman Sachs, no filthy lucre from G.E., no slimy checks from Big Pharma as payback for that back room deal that took the Public Option off the table.  He has listened to We the People at long last!  We held his feet to the fire about his big sell-out to the Oligarchy and he hopped up and down with the pain of our wrath. He will not let 2012 become the agony of defeat. He became humbled, and he had an epiphany.  Or FDR paid him a midnight visit in the Lincoln Bedroom.  I don't know and it doesn't really matter.  He has changed, transformed and become a card-carrying member of We are the Ones We Can Believe In!

Huh?  What was that you said?  Bait and switch?  There are TWO Obama re-election campaigns?  One for the little people, called MyBarackObama.com?  And the other one that really means something, where the President travels around and charges $50,000 a plate to do his charm offensive schtick and glad-hand the wealthy? Like the trip to Austin, TX last week where regular voters got barely a wave and a nod as he breezed into his fund-raiser?  And that new DNC group called Priorities First that allows anonymous corporate donations just like the Republicans do and so totally embraces the wisdom of the Supreme Court Citizens United decision?

Oh.  Never mind.

My Barack Obama.Con:  "Cmon Baby, Just Try and Light My Fire"

(PS: Kate Madison left a comment on the Messina Missive under the Breitbart Hoax post, below.  She was actually awake when she got the 2:35 a.m. email, titled "Something Happened".  Nothing like getting an email in the middle of the night with the subject "Something Happened" --  I was like, "who died?".  Anyway, read Kate's comment. It says it all.)

(Correction:  Kate lives in Oregon, PDST, so she got her Messina email at 11:35 p.m., not the middle of the night as I previously "misspoke".  I did not mean to imply that Kate was staring at her computer in the middle of the night.  I, on the other hand, occasionally do get up in the middle of the night just to check my email. I probably need help.) 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Snake Oil and Water

It's enough to make grown men (and women) cry -- with gleeful satisfaction.

First, we have a group of gazillionaire oil barons weeping to the Senate Finance Committee today that taking away their tax subsidies will just cut that whole "Drill Baby Drill" mantra off at the knees.  USA won't coddle them any more?  Then they'll just leave and find a new country to drill into.  All those windfall profits go toward investing in new sources of oil for the greater good, by golly!

And then there are the 42 Republican House freshmen who are sorely regretting their adventures in Mediscare and are begging -- begging! -- President Obama to make the Democrats stop rubbing it in already.  They wrote him a letter whining that "as the freshman class, we have the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and fulfill the mandate set by the people to strengthen our country for future generations — not continue the petty politics we have seen in the past, which only creates an environment of stalemate."

They want us to forget they voted for Young Serious Gun Paul Ryan's plan to kill Medicare by transforming it into a junk insurance voucher system for seniors.  They want us to forget the wrath of their constituents at Town Halls.  They can dish it out, but they sure can't take it.

NY Rep Nan Hayworth of affluent Westchester County, NY was among the freshman Tea Partiers decrying the nasty tone of the Democrats at a news conference Wednesday. She complained that the President was "playing politics" with entitlement reform.  As an ophthalmologist who gave up zapping  cataracts and had no trouble accepting a fortune in Medicare payments for same, she does the crocodile tears act supremely well.  And that familiar Republican facial expression that falls somewhere between a pout and a snarl...what elitists call a moue -- where have we seen that before?

Update: Victim of Breitbart Hoax Gets His Teaching Job Back

Ralph Giljum, the University of Missouri labor professor who was summarily dismissed by his school after professional provocateur Andrew Breitbart smeared him in a doctored video, has been invited back. Public pressure got the University to change its mind.  But the professor's union, while acknowledging that Giljum was victimized, is still not fighting back against Breitbart, or even mounting a vigorous defense. To the contrary, they forced Giljum to resign from the AFL-CIO to placate the Republicans of the Show-Me State.

While the Missouri AFL-CIO claims to be "incensed that we have scoundrels who go out and character-assassinate good people in our community" any further statement beyond denying that trade unions endorse violence would only "fan the flames" of anti-union sentiment, according to union official Herb Johnson.  And despite his characterization of Giljum as“a great trade unionist” he was pressured to resign -- just days before he was due to retire anyway. 

The union made haste, however, to issue a statement that it did not advocate violence, as Breitbart's hatchet job made it appear the teacher was doing. 

The video, which is no longer available because it was posted without permission of the university, was so clumsily and choppily edited that it showed Giljum magically wearing different shirts during the same purported lecture. Despite the obvious hoax, University officials announced they would not be inviting him to teach next semester.  

 But then came the public blowback. The United Association of Labor Education  led the charge with a petition and letter. University faculty and students launched an email campaign in Giljum's behalf, and the university quickly backed down.

 UALE member Steven Ashby of the University of Illinois said, “It’s no coincidence this attack comes in the wake of the biggest workers’ upsurge in 30 years, in Wisconsin.”

And Breitbart has made it no secret that he is launching a fullscale attack against teachers and unions. It's all part of the corrupt Republican plan to demonize public sector workers, destroy collective bargaining and turn American education into a dumbed-down, for-profit enterprise for sale to the highest bidder.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear-Mongering

I was struck last night by the difference between the lead stories on MSNBC and CNN in their 8 p.m. news slots. The first 15 minutes of the liberal-leaning Lawrence O'Donnell show were devoted to the continued Assassination Celebration and the Obama bump. Over on (centrist? conservative?) CNN, Eliot Spitzer was giving full coverage to John Boehner's insane talk to the Economic Club of Wall Streeters in which he threatened no debt ceiling agreement unless tax increases are off the table. To his credit, O'Donnell did mention the Boehner rant later in his newscast, once he got the Obama as War Hero vs. The Bush Torture Failures out of the way.  MSNBC, you will recall, is owned by G.E., whose CEO is the Obama Jobs Czar, who has continued to ship more of those jobs overseas and all the while avoids paying taxes.

In light of nine percent official unemployment and as much as 25 percent defacto unemployment, the Democrats have deflected attention away from our domestic ills and embraced the Politics of Fear as their own.  Hope and change didn't work out all that well, so they have co-opted the tried and true panic button of the right to make fear of terror trump fear of job loss, fear of going hungry because of crazily rising food prices, fear of going homeless because of the continued foreclosure crisis and scandal, fear of getting sick because that much vaunted health care reform has somehow lost its luster now that more of us are uninsured and underinsured and jobless and broke than ever before.

They are milking the Bin Laden assassination for all it's worth.  It took a week of suspense for the president to give his exclusive interview to Sixty Minutes.  Dribs and drabs and thrilling details emerge daily.  Today The New York Times is breathlessly reporting that we almost got into a war with Pakistan over it!  We were ready to fight our way out, guns blazing.

Meanwhile, the terror level has risen to a new high and our politicians have sunk to a new low in the scuzzy art of fear-mongering.  Take my own senior senator from the State of New York, Mr. "I never met a camera I didn't like" Chuck Schumer, for example. Now he wants to establish a "no ride" passenger list for trains, since some of the senile ramblings of Osama contained explosive trainspotting fantasies.  So, Schumer apparently believes that terrorists who blow up trains via cell phone remote control or do it the old fashioned way and boobytrap the tracks, will then get on those very same trains to take a leisurely ride.

Conductor Chuck: "Papers Please!"

Actually, he doesn't really believe that.  He is not a stupid man. But he and his wealthy Wall Street buddies want to make us so afraid of "the Other" that we forget all about how Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and Bank of America are still robbing us blind, and that none of the real terrorists -- the ones who gamble away the wealth of a nation with impunity -- get any unwanted attention.  The Democrats are using the very same tactics perfected by the Republicans.  Why not just call a spade a spade and rename Homeland Security The Ministry of Fear?  Because that's what it is.  Our bloated security state does nothing to keep us safe, as has been well documented in the cases of the Underpants and Times Square bombers.  It's usually regular citizens who thwart the bad guys.  The so-called terrorists our spy agencies actually "catch" are usually the victims of FBI provocateurship.

The Fear Crusade in the wake of the assassination appears to be working.  In New York City yesterday, the bomb squad blew out the windows of a van left idling outside a hospital because it contained some suspicious looking foam tubes.  It turned out the driver was a windshield installer who had rushed into the emergency room for treatment of a severe asthma attack, and the tubes were just tools of his trade.

On a New York to California flight Sunday, a Yemeni man pounding on the doors of the plane's cockpit was tackled to the ground by passengers.  It turned out he thought he was banging on the restroom door because he had to go, really bad.  In another instance, a pilot refused to take off because an Iman headed for a conference on Islamophobia was on board.  The cleric was kicked off the flight.

Of course, these events make for great pictures and must-see TV. The Patriot Act is coming up for review, and it needs some PR to keep moving. Paranoia is a great way to help us all feel connected. Forget about the class war here at home and feel as one with Lloyd Blankfein as we battle the evil menace from over there.

And Now He's a Sank Engine

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Winning the Future is Losing Today

Work Work All Week Long, Good Times, Happy Days are Here Again. Yada Yada Yada

President Obama just doesn't seem to get it.  Rather than addressing our current jobs crisis, he is persisting in ignoring it.  Here is what he said during an Indiana factory tour yesterday -- the same day we got news that unemployment has again risen to nine percent: 
"This is the kind of company that will make sure that America remains the most prosperous nation in the world.  See, other countries understand this.  We’re in a competition all around the world, and other countries -- Germany, China, South Korea -- they know that clean energy technology is what is going to help spur job creation and economic growth for years to come.
And that's why we’ve got to make sure that we win that competition.  I don't want the new breakthrough technologies and the new manufacturing taking place in China and India.  I want all those new jobs right here in Indiana, right here in the United States of America, with American workers, American know-how, American ingenuity."

I don't know anybody who actually thinks we are still the most prosperous nation in the world, or that we care about being in some imaginary competition with other countries. This is not the Jobs Olympics. This is not about patriotism or American exceptionalism. Other countries are not looking at the USA and thinking "Holy crap!  They're gaining on us!  Whatever shall we do?"  This president may have succeeded in killing Osama bin Laden, but he has his head in the sand about jobs.  The guy is starting to sound more and more like a G.E. commercial every day.  It's probably no coincidence that one of his former campaign managers, David Plouffe, spent a year and earned over $1 million at G.E. before coming to work at The White House in January.

"This is where the jobs of the future are at," Obama enthused during his factory tour.  That ephemeral, distant future.  Only problem is, people need to eat today.

And he is still buying into the Republican deficit hysteria, still comparing the United States government to a family trying to tighten its belt and live within a budget:

"If we’re going to win the future, we’ve got to cut out the things we don't need, but still make investments in the things that we do.  That's what you do at home.  If somebody in your family loses a job, if your hours get cut, what do you do?  You may stop going out to a restaurant to eat.  You may decide we’re going to put off buying that new furniture or taking that vacation.  But you’re not going to stop fixing the boiler or the hole in the roof.  You’re not going to stop making sure that you got enough money to help your kids go to school.  Those are the things -- that's like your seed corn.  You don't eat that."

Is he kidding?  People who don't have jobs are losing the very roofs over their heads and he talks about still having money to fix a hole in the roof?  You can lose a job, yet still save money to help your kids go to school?  I know he has been living in a bubble the past few years, but this is obviously a very clueless man who thinks every American family has thousands of dollars set aside for that rainy day.

The cognitive dissonance grows ever more jarring. Next thing you know, he'll be appearing in one of those scary-cheesy G.E. Ecomagination line-dancing commercials.  If he really wants a taste of reality, I suggest he hold his next town hall/campaign pit-stop at an unemployment office.  The people in line there are definitely not dancing. Somebody has to get him to change his tune. Maybe a John Philip Sousa March will take him right to Congress for some fist-banging and arm-twisting and soaring oratory for raising taxes on the rich to fund a New Deal-type jobs program.

Work, Work, Work...Countin the Days....For a Good Time

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Senator from Hell

Shelby (center) Tours Tornado-Devastated Neighborhood
Richard Shelby is the 15th richest United States senator from the 9th poorest state in America. According to The Great Class War plan of attack, he's getting richer with every passing year, while his Alabama constituents slide ever deeper into poverty and despair.  The fact that a sizeable chunk of the state was flattened by a series of damaging storms last month will only hasten that slide.

 True Republican senator that he is, Shelby wants to make sure his position in the kleptocracy stays secure by protecting predatory bankers from government oversight.  He wants to make sure that the Alabamans he supposedly represents remain confused by abusive credit card practices and mortgage companies as they struggle to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives. Even as his state is reeling from death and destruction, Senator Shelby flew back to Washington this week to do his real job: screwing the little guy.

Shelby happened to be in his home state during the Congressional recess  when the deadly tornadoes hit. "This is hell," he proclaimed after touring the debris-ridden streets of Cullan, AL  "This looks like a war zone. I have seen some of the damage in the rest of the state, but this is some of the worst that I have seen."

So he rushed back to Washington and wasting no time, penned an urgent letter to President Obama. He and forty-odd of his closest millionaire Republican senator friends don't want the fledgling Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to get off the ground.  They admit consumers might need a protection or two, but it should be on their terms and the bankers' terms.  They think one person - the dreaded Elizabeth Warren - would be too powerful and just too damned undemocratic.  They want oversight -- oversight by them.  They want checks and balances. (checks for them, fair and balanced for Fox News). And if they don't get their way, they'll throw a big old filibustering tantrum.

Dave Dayen of Firedoglake thinks Shelby may have just shot himself in the foot with his demands, inadvertently providing the impetus for President Obama to finally, at long last, recess-appoint Warren.  Under the Dodd-Frank Law, the bureau must be made permanent by July.  Time is running out.  Obama himself may have been backed into a corner by the sly Republicans, well aware that Warren enjoys broad popular support and that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is probably just as opposed to the bureau as they are.  They can then either accuse the President of sidestepping the Senate confirmation process, or let him face the wrath of his progressive base if he continues to waffle. But if, as now seems likely, Warren does get in via recess appointment, it'll be ten times as hard to get rid of her next year, no matter who has the majority.  People -- even the constituents of Republicans -- appear to be waking up and not taking any more crap.  When Paul Ryan has to be police-escorted out the back door of a Town Hall, that is reason to rejoice.

But back to Shelby.  He has to at least give the appearance of fighting the Warren appointment and the existence of the whole bureau.  His major campaign contributors are from the financial services sector. Among his top donors have been JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.  He lists his net worth at a conservative average of $7.5 million, but as high as $30 million.

And to say that as ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee he has conflicts of interests is to be putting it kindly. Much of his wealth comes from his real estate holdings and their financing.  He came under heavy scrutiny during the 2008 mortgage meltdown when it was revealed that he had financed an apartment complex he owns in Tuscaloosa with a $5 million loan from Freddie Mac, the same government-sponsored mortgage company falling under  his committee's  oversight. He owns a real estate title company valued at $1-$5 million. His earmarks sent federal dollars toward construction of the new $60 million science building at the University of Alabama -- which he humbly named after himself and wife Annette.(It kind of reminds me of Monticello). Tens of millions in additional earmarks have helped the college expand its enrollment.  His apartment complex houses mainly university students. The banks make billions in college loans. And round and round the great world spins.

What Being a Senator Will Buy You

And Now For Something Completely Different.....

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Another Doctored Breitbart Video Costs Teacher His Job

Right-wing provocateur Andrew Breitbart just can't kick his nasty habit of doctoring videos to get good people fired.  This time, he spliced together some footage of a professor of labor studies to make it appear that the teacher was advocating union violence.  And even though the Univerity of Missouri acknowledged the video was a sham, they're getting rid of the professor anyway, out of fear.

Don Giljum co-taught a course called "Labor in Society and Politics" at the St. Louis campus with Judy Ancel, director of UMKC’s Institute for Labor Studies. Spliced footage of their lectures originally appeared on Andrew Breitbart’s conservative Big Government website and showed the instructors talking about industrial sabotage. Giljum is also a former union business manager. The videos, which also appeared on YouTube, were later yanked because they were posted without the permission of the school.

Breitbart is a master of smearing people and organizations he doesn't like through the creative editing of videos.  He did it with voter registration advocacy group ACORN and again with Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod.  Now he's turned his ugliness against teachers and unions.

According to the Labor Notes blog, "In one Breitbart-distorted section, Ancel explains how neoliberal governments use crises to 'shift power dramatically.' This lecture was actually in an entirely different course. But Breitbart inserts the sentence into a lecture on union contract campaigns, so it looks as if Ancel advocates unions causing a crisis."

Another section of the Breitbart video has Giljum saying, 'Labor can’t deny its violent past in response to the repression that was perpetrated on it. It’s hard to say that was not appropriate at that time; it might have been. I don't believe those tactics are going to work today and I think they would do more harm than good."  Breitbart spliced out the words in italics to make his false point.

Chillingly, while acknowledging the video was a fake, neither Giljum's union nor the university is jumping to his defense.  The school has already informed him he won't be rehired next semester. (He was an adjunct professor without tenure).   Herb Johnson, Missouri AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer, told Labor Notes he prefers not to “fan the flames” by mounting a too-vigorous defense of Giljum. (The Missouri Legislature is apparently crafting an anti-union "right to work" bill). But as if to make up for its wimpiness, his Board passed a resolution denying that unions condone or endorse violence. And to placate those real and imagined critics, the attorney for the Missouri AFL-CIO, Ron Gladney, called Giljum’s international union and asked officials there to pressure him to resign from his local and international positions.  They did, and Giljum handed in his resignation -- just days before he was scheduled to retire anyway.

This is all so reminiscent of Breitbart's success in getting powerful people to panic and act before investigating.  In the Department of Agriculture's haste to get rid of Shirely Sherrod, they fired her while she was driving to work, lest she show up and embarrass the Obama Administration.  Their apology and chagrin were too little, too late.  In Giljum's case, it's even worse.  His superiors knew Breitbart's video was a hoax, but they buckled anyway.  So Breitbart got his way.  His terrorism did the trick.

Letters of support for Giljum may be sent to University of Missouri-St. Louis Chancellor Thomas F. George, chancellor@umsl.edu, with a copy to Deborah Baldini, Associate Dean for Continuing Education, BaldiniD@msx.umsl.edu.  Ancel asks that letters should ask for Giljum's rehiring in future semesters and "question his forced resignation with no investigation, no due process, and violation of his academic freedom."

Meanwhile, Breitbart continues with impunity on his crusade of hate, lies and videotape.  And he is not even that good at it - his doctored  video actually shows Giljum miraculously changing shirts mid-paragraph!  But the mainstream media loves outrageousness, and even MSNBC invited him on last week to plug his new book.

James Rucker of ColorofChange, which successfully got the Huffington Post to drop Breitbart from prominent display on its site, has complained to MSNBC about Breitbart's appearance on the Dylan Ratigan show last week. Rucker said:

"At ColorOfChange, we had been contemplating a campaign to demand that MSNBC stop treating Breibart as a credible commentator. Breitbart's appearance on Ratigan's show seemed to be another case of a mainstream news organization lending Breitbart legitimacy -- and thousands of ColorOfChange members have taken action in the past to stop this from happening at ABC and Huffington Post. But in this case, when we reached out to Ratigan and MSNBC, they responded quickly and indicated they would not treat Breitbart as legitimate in the future.
We'll be keeping our eyes open to see how MSNBC deals with Breitbart moving forward. But while I still believe it was a mistake for MSNBC to host Breitbart in the first place, Ratigan and his producers deserve credit for being receptive to our concerns, agreeing with our assessment of Breitbart, and committing to treat him as the liar and race-baiter that he is."

MSNBC, while considered the liberal-leaning opposite of Fox, has a penchant for inviting crazy right-wingers on ita shows because they are sitting ducks and require little to no legwork or research to "expose" them.  Lawrence O'Donnell recently hosted Birther Queen Orly Taitz and allowed her to spew her nonsense before self-righteously kicking her off the show.  When will these pundits learn that provocateurs crave negative as well as positive attention?  Giving them a platform in order to humiliate them only perpetuates their martyr complex and ensures their continued survival.