Sunday, October 31, 2010

Restoring Sanity

It was great fun watching a rally featuring rational people, also people with a sense of humor—a scarce commodity in these troubled days. It is perhaps a bit sad that it took a couple of comedians to host such a rally, but I guess that is the state of our nation. How pathetic.

I wonder how the Faux News Network (“we lie so you don’t have to”) will cover the event—a lot of mouth frothing I imagine. Maybe Beck will even cry for us. Rupert must have been pissed to observe ordinary Americans behaving normally, that is, civilly. I always imagine Rupert having been born somewhere in the Outback, with nobody with whom he could speak. So, now he wants to control all public dialogues, whether In Oz, here, or in Britannia. Maybe Rupert imagines himself being crowned King someday by the hordes of stupid people he seems to own.

I keep hoping that someday, someone will tear apart the curtain currently shielding Rupert from public view, and the people will gasp and suddenly understand that they have been had by this pathetic little rich man. We have had many rich people in this country. Many have given back great riches to the country. Rupert and his buddies the Koch brothers stand apart as something we might call Rich White Trash.

May they rest in peace someday soon, sooner rather than later.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


So, it turns out that the Koch brothers are the ones who own the Tea Party. And here, all along, I thought it might be Rupert. He, I guess, is only their devoted head cheerleader. An interesting recent take on the teabaggers is available through the Guardian – see The Tea Party movement: deluded and inspired by billionaires, by George Monbiot of the Guardian.

The central question for me, raised by his article, is why this fairly public knowledge has not been broadcast across America. It is not exactly a secret that the Koch’s and Rupert are the central supporters of the Tea Party—an “astroturf” organization as characterized by Mr. Monbiot—astroturf being the term of art to designate fake grassroots organizations. His article says, in part:

“The Tea Party movement is remarkable in two respects. It is one of the biggest exercises in false consciousness the world has seen – and the biggest Astroturf operation in history. These accomplishments are closely related.

An Astroturf campaign is a fake grassroots movement: it purports to be a spontaneous uprising of concerned citizens, but in reality it is founded and funded by elite interests. Some Astroturf campaigns have no grassroots component at all. Others catalyse and direct real mobilisations. The Tea Party belongs in the second category. It is mostly composed of passionate, well-meaning people who think they are fighting elite power, unaware that they have been organised by the very interests they believe they are confronting. We now have powerful evidence that the movement was established and has been guided with the help of money from billionaires and big business. Much of this money, as well as much of the strategy and staffing, were provided by two brothers who run what they call "the biggest company you've never heard of".

Charles and David Koch own 84% of Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the United States. It runs oil refineries, coal suppliers, chemical plants and logging firms, and turns over roughly $100bn a year; the brothers are each worth $21bn. The company has had to pay tens of millions of dollars in fines and settlements for oil and chemical spills and other industrial accidents. The Kochs want to pay less tax, keep more profits and be restrained by less regulation. Their challenge has been to persuade the people harmed by this agenda that it's good for them”.

So, knowing this, what gives? How can this group of people allow themselves to be led around as though they are a herd of sheep being led to the slaughterhouse (or to a nation controlled by the Koch’s). Two possibilities occur:

1. The teabaggers are actually that stupid, perhaps they really have been rendered stupid by religion; or

2. They are willing participants in this game of selling the nation to the highest bidder, perhaps because they believe they will be personally rewarded by the Koch’s and others of their ilk; which probably also suggest profound stupidity

It is inconceivable to me, though, that the Liberal establishment has not been broadcasting this relationship in every venue in which they have appeared. Are they that timid, or also that stupid?

Stay tuned to see what November 2nd brings us. We will know then what kind of nation we have become.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Juan Williams Show

“So, Juan, Fox News would like to hire you and we have a $two million contract waiting for you to just say yes. So, what do you say?”

“Hmmm, sounds like an offer I can’t resist. I will have to give my NPR employer notice, however and that might take some time to arrange.”

“We have a better idea, Juan.”

“We would like you to get yourself fired by NPR. That way, we won’t have to wait. Plus, your firing will also be a cause for the network to attack NPR and attempt to get them defunded by the Feds.”


“Here’s the deal, Juan.”

“Bill here is going to attack Muslims for their 911 attack on the US. That always gets us good feedback by our viewers. They love it when we are politically incorrect. That’s our trademark. So, Bill will say some attack dog thing. Then, we will invite you onto the O’Reilly Show, and you can say something supportive. We suggest something like, “Bill, I think you were right in your commentary. I have to tell you, when I get on an airplane and I see someone in Muslim garb, I get this very uneasy feeling. I know it’s politically incorrect, but I can’t help it. They attacked us, and now I wonder whether they will do it again.”

“Hmmm, I guess I could do that.”

“Yeah . . . then we are guessing that NPR will be furious and want to fire you. “

“After they are securely in the trap, we will invite you back onto the O’Reilly Show and you can say something like, “NPR has wanted to fire me for a long time, because I don’t fit into their liberal mindset.” They really don’t like and don’t know how to manage true conservatives. We make them uncomfortable. So, they just used this Muslim remark as a pretext for doing what they wanted to do anyway.”

“How does that sound, Juan.”

“Hmmm . . . I like it. And $two million? Really?? When do we get started . . .”

And so began the Juan Williams Showtime . . .

Remember their motto folks:

“Fox News . . . we lie so you don’t have to.”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Presenting the Republican Party of the 21st Century

This upcoming election could prove to be the most important one since, um, I don’t know . . . ever? It could define who we are as a Nation. And given many of the recent polls, who we are as a nation is beginning to look scary.

The current Republican Party has really recreated itself during the past two years:

Leadership – we have a shadowy field of putative leaders, with currently no clear winner. Michael Steele remains as the defacto chair of the party, but he seems to have been muzzled and is now on a very short leash by the shadow leadership. Karl Rove operates as he always does, in the shadows, but pulling the strings of his various puppets, as he raises money from the carefully hidden corporate donor base made possible by the republican justices on the Supreme Court. John Boehner continues to make noises within the government as he pretends to Congressional leadership, while answering only to his corporate donor base to which he is tightly tethered. John McCain is, well he remains old, very old.

It is tempting to make either too much or too little of Sarah Palin. She always seems to be striving for leadership, but mainly she continues to strive for billionaire status.

The true shadow party, and the wannabee shadow government, again thanks to the Supremes, is a hidden cast of corporate CEOs. We know about Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers who are at least out front about their attempts to return this nation to the early 18th century. We don’t know about the other corporate types who are currently pouring money into the congressional races, and will certainly pour even more money into the 2012 presidential campaign.

The Tea Party has taken on the look and feel of the party’s attack dog system—perhaps they are the Roman Legions of the Republican Party, willing to do anything, say anything, and promise anything to get back into power.

The Party has its own propaganda mechanism in the form of the Faux News Network, Mr. Murdoch’s personal PR machine for the party.

And then we have its brand new 18th century policy agenda. The Republicans have decided apparently, that almost everything enacted into law over the past 150 years is simply unconstitutional. So, they may well attempt to eliminate:

Social Security – privatize it, thereby giving control of all that money to the folks who brought us the Great Depression II in 2007. Alternatively, the newly formed “tenthers” within the party want to give over Social Security to the states—making it a state option to provide, or not to provide.

Similarly, Medicare will be up for elimination or turned over to the states.

All Department of Education programs will be eliminated, including things like student loan assistance, Title I grants to poor school districts, Pell Grants, and other current assistance to states and localities.

Sarah’s friend Joe Miller up in Alaska wants to eliminate child labor laws, as well as the federal minimum wage law, and unemployment insurance. Rand Paul wants to eliminate laws against wage discrimination, and other bans on segregation. Remember the whites only lunch counters? They were fun, weren't they?

Finally, although they have not yet proposed it, I am wondering whether the Republican Party of the 21st century would also consider reinstating slavery as a state’s issue. It could happen . . .

And this is the party of God, American Patriotism and freedom for everyone. Perhaps they have learned too much from observing Afghanistan’s inability to build a national government. And perhaps the Taliban-controlled system of warlords and strict sharia laws that existed before we intervened is their model for a system of (Christian) religious-based laws and local control.

Maybe Fox News will be the first network to bring you a real live stoning.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Tea Party Fantasy

I read an article recently in the Los Angeles Times by a Mr. Timothy Rutten. The article was well reasoned and an interesting take on the Tea Party. The problem is that I have a different take on that unhappy group.

Mr. Rutten argues that the Tea Party is both anti-politics and anti-government, and resembles in many important aspects religious fundamentalists. They adhere to a theory of government that is aligned with the original US Constitution, similar perhaps to a religious fundamentalist’s literal reading of the bible. He may be correct, in that the Tea Party appears to display a view of the world that nowhere exists any longer. He argues further that, given the philosophical differences within the Tea Party, they are likely to come apart in the not too distant future.  Fond hope springs eternal . . .

However interesting is that view, I think that it mischaracterizes the Tea Party.

On the view that they are both anti-government and anti-politics, I would argue that they are explicitly and hyper-partisan political. They represent to me the fascist wing of the Republican Party. Unlike, say, the Green Party, or even the Libertarian Party who nominate their own candidates on their own party line, Tea Partiers always nominate and support Republicans, and only hard right Republicans at that.

They represent the same types of "conservatives" as partied aboard the National Review-sponsored cruise, as described by Johann Hari in his 2007 article: " Neocons on a Cruise: What Conservatives Say When They Think We Aren't Listening", by Johann Hari, Independent UK. Posted July 17, 2007.
Mr. Hari begins with this summary:
"The Iraq war has been an amazing success, global warming is just a myth, and Guantanamo Bay is practically a holiday camp. The annual cruise organized by the National Review, mouthpiece of  right-wing America, is a parallel universe populated by straight-talking, gun-toting, God-fearing Republicans."
In another passage, he describes a startling conversation:
"I lie on the beach with Hillary-Ann, a chatty, scatty 35-year-old California designer. As she explains the perils of Republican dating, my mind drifts, watching the gentle tide. When I hear her say, " Of course, we need to execute some of these people," I wake up. Who do we need to execute? She runs her fingers through the sand lazily. "A few of these prominent liberals who are trying to demoralise the country," she says. "Just take a couple of these anti-war people off to the gas chamber for treason to show, if you try to bring down America at a time of war, that's what you'll get." She squints at the sun and smiles. " Then things'll change."

Given the rage inherent among Teabaggers, this description would not seem farfetched.
So, anti-political, or anti-government??

I would argue instead that they are are simply "anti-being out of power." Their protestations about our out-of-control government spending, and our out-of-control government fail to ring true. They watched for 8 years without comment while Bush went on a spending rampage, building deficits never before contemplated, by cutting taxes to his rich friends. They watched without comment while Bush's government carried out a war under false pretenses, spied without warrants, imprisoned without trials, and tortured without regret. They watched without comment while Bush's laisse faire approach to commerce created the greatest economic crash since 1929. Yet, almost immediately, upon the election of a Black Democrat, they erupted in fury, demanding to take back their country.

I believe the closest approximation to their rage is what we observed in Germany during 1933, when Hitler roused the populace, blaming Jews for their having lost the war and their need to make reparations under the Armistice.

In this case, they are also rallying against "the devils", although in their case they have selected Obama, a Black president, and his "liberal" supporters instead of Jews. So, liberals (read Democrats), Blacks, and immigrants are to blame for all the ills that have befallen America.

They are not so much immune to data (even a casual reading of the facts would suggest to them that republicans are the prime cause of the nation's current plight) as capable of ignoring it--they perhaps epitomize Orwell's "double-think" approach to life. They are explicitly Republican. They lack only an actual, visible leader. Currently, their leaders remain hidden even from them. I would hold that the leadership of this fascist movement is Rupert Murdoch and others of his ilk (the Koch brothers come to mind). Someday soon, a real, flesh and blood and highly visible leader will move into their little world and they will follow him . . . or her . . . eventually to all our regret.

Here, once again, we must all be careful what we wish for.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Banker’s Mess

It’s hard to know what to make of this mess we call mortgage banking. I was already of the opinion that bankers were generally a beer or two short of a six pack—kind of like Bush-Lite. Perhaps they too spent their college years snorting illegal substances to the point that their brains resemble turkey jerky.  But this latest thing, where nobody even read the foreclosure paperwork before they started to evict people really goes beyond mere intellectual shortfall.  I guess they were so busy trying to calculate their next bonuses, that they neglected to instruct their subordinates that the “paperwork” part of mortgage banking IS mortgage banking, and that it is to be taken seriously.
So, really, folks, NOBODY read the paperwork? People signed off on foreclosures—you know the formal, legal notices that result in people being kicked out of their domiciles—without understanding or even reading what it was they were signing? Surely that falls into the category of criminal negligence, no??? Surely, even beyond the fines, the involved bankers need to be spending time in a Federal prison.
But if we fine them to the max, then the entire banking system collapses?
Well, ok, then it’s time to reinvent the banking system--you know, make it less like a college frat party, and more like, oh I don't know . . . a business.
It’s clear to everyone by now that our current crowd of bankers should not be given any public money to play with—none . . . nada . . . zilch.
Perhaps, an appropriate penalty should be that the people should be allowed back into their homes under, say, IMF approved loan terms, or maybe the World Bank should be placed in charge of our home mortgage business. And the Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and all the other mortgage banking institutions ought to be placed on permanent leave from anything to do with mortgages—that’s
anything—no direct mortgages, no mortgage derivatives, no mortgage hedge funds. Perhaps banks should be moved way back in time to where they accept people’s money in savings accounts and checking accounts—full stop. Because maybe that’s as far as we can trust American bankers.
And on yet another planet, the conservative (Republican) NYTimes columnist David Brooks thinks that the financial problems occurring within most states now are the result of greedy unions and those nasty public pensions--nothing to do with rich, greedy bankers and that financial collapse thing. Way to go David.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Yoga is Spooky?

Al Mohler of the Southern Baptist persuasion is warning his constituent believers to avoid yoga, and Pat Robertson thinks that yoga is “spooky” . . . hahahahaha. Here is a putz who goes about telling  people that he speaks with an old white bearded guy somewhere up in the sky and that ethereal guy listens and responds(?).  And he thinks yoga is spooky?
With all this talk about Christian church leaders wanting to somehow ban yoga, I ask myself, why? Why would they find this simple and, by most accounts, useful relaxation technique threatening?  And it isn’t even simply Christian church leaders. Now, Muslim clerics are getting in on the act, too.  They want yoga somehow banned from the universe.  Now, one could simply dismiss these crackpots as paranoid schizophrenics acting out, or they are up to something else.  That they seem delusional is obvious to even the casual observer, since they all profess to some direct connection to a Godlike creature, who at least advises them what to do.  Hearing voices is, I think one of the surer signs of a schizophrenic.
But, suppose, they’re just charlatans, and don’t really think that they hear anything from a higher authority. Suppose they just make believe in order to extract money and authority from ordinary folks who apparently need to believe in something beyond their own miserable existence.  Then what could they be up to in this instance?
Well, it’s at least possible that these doofuses need to periodically scare their target audiences into thinking that “the other” is threatening to their belief system. That “the other” should be stopped, or at least walled off in some way—“the other” in this case being those poor sods who actually like yoga as either just a simple relaxation technique, or as a way to become better in touch with themselves—their inner being as it were.
But why can’t the Pat Robertsons and Al Mohlers of the world just leave people alone? If somebody wishes to practice yoga, what’s the harm?
Well, that’s the thing with weird religions like Christianity and Islam. They’re so terminally weird that they need to protect their boundaries at all times. Anyone doing anything that suggests there are other ways to achieve inner peace is viewed as a hostile, mainly because others within the weirdo cults might suddenly decide that their cult is just too weird and maybe they’ll look to this other practice for their inner peace.  So, Pat & company would then be out of work, and might have to find a real day job. And none of these bozos have any actually useful skills. If they can’t con you out of your money by promising you really weird things, then what else could they do?
So, apparently this yoga thing defines just how insecure the religious weirdos of the world are.  And remember these are the same guys who want government out of their lives . . .
so that they can be the sole judges of officially sanctioned behavior.
Now that’s a really spooky thought.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

To Pay or Not to Pay

There has been a spate of articles lately about a fire department in Tennessee that refused to put out a fire at a burning house, because the owner had opted out of paying the annual $75 fee.  This “event” has given rise to many articles and comments about the issue, virtually all of which are on strongly opposing sides:
Side One – the owner gambled, he lost, tough shit.
Side Two – what kind of community fire department would stand there and allow a house to burn down? Of course they should have intervened.
Whether in this instance the fire department had a moral obligation to intervene is, to me, not clear cut.  The department was operating according to the rules set by the community itself. But it raises a host of other similar moral questions.
Suppose someone who could pay for health insurance makes a conscious decision to go without, and then becomes sick. Does the health care system have a moral obligation to care for him? In our current system of care, that question is answered generally in the affirmative. The health care system asks about insurance, but will engage the patient even if no insurance is present. Hospitals then try to get reimbursed from the uncompensated care fund, paid out of Medicare. But many would argue that the health care system should not be forced to subsidize the uninsured.  The trouble in health care is that the uninsured are not always uninsured by choice.
The central issue, for me, raised by this fire department policy is how a community could decide to so “privatize” the fire department function? What is it the community as a whole expected from this policy, and did they ever debate the situation that actually occurred (and that occurrence was inevitable)? I have difficulty imagining how this policy was moved from an idea to a final community policy. Did they, for example, only debate the positive side of this concept (assuming there is one)?  Did nobody raise the scenario that a fire department and a group of neighbors would be forced to watch someone’s house burn down? It is troubling greatly to consider that an entire community could have debated such an issue and then voted to adopt such an approach. What kind of community would do that, and would I ever want to live in such a community?
I find it troubling precisely because that fire department policy defines, on a small scale, where our political process is heading us. It defines the Tea Party, for example, and what I perceive the Republican Party has become—perhaps they are the “pay to play” party.  No, that is wrong. Republicans never actually want to pay for anything. But they do seem intent on denying a bunch of “other people” services that have become an accepted part of American community life.  They want to “privatize” social security, returning us to the system under which my grandparents operated, and under which they ran out of money, mainly because the depression robbed them of their savings. They want health care returned to the purely private sector, eliminating any chance of providing access to care for all of our people. They seem to want to “privatize” education, if their insistence on charter schools is any indication. 
The central problem with privatizing is that, eventually, the privateers will figure out ways to maximize profits by denying services to some subset of people. It isn’t a question of whether, but only when they do that.
And that raises the question of what kind of nation we will be if we consistently opt for increasing private profits over the general welfare of the people.  Perhaps the election of 2008 will answer that question.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

To Vote or not to Vote

wonder whether the good folks at, you know, just plain old folks who live and work and vote in America, will approach this upcoming election? The right wing press—the Faux News Network folks—seem to think it’s all over and we really don’t have to vote at all. They’ll be happy to tell us how it is going to turn out, so it probably isn’t necessary to actually vote. The Tea Party wins and everyone else can go to hell.  
According to them, Christie O’Donnell will finally have a job and can pay her bills. And of course, those good folks of the right persuasion, people like Rand Paul, and Joe Miller, and Sharron Angle, and of course Michelle Bachman, will be leading the charge, right after the election, to impeach President Obama, roll back ObamaCare, cancel Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, provide the Koch bothers and Rupert Murdoch with their coveted tax break, and, of course, outlawing masturbation.
So perhaps, we of the “other persuasion” should begin thinking about moving to another country. I mean, since the group in charge, Rupert’s people, seem to hate anyone not like them, we might not be welcome any longer. The question then becomes, where do we go? Who wants a bunch of old people with limited income (remember, no Social Security) and relatively high medical bills?
The obvious first choice is Canada—we can drive there, so no big travel bills. But I would imagine they might balk at the idea of 50 or 75 million old people and the great ranks of the currently underemployed, arriving at their doorstep. We could try the “give us your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to be free” speech as we try to gain entry, but I suspect that would get old pretty fast. I can see the door closing smartly and firmly.
It’s a daunting thing to consider.
Maybe, instead, we ought to consider first, actually voting. Perhaps the Faux News Network’s polls aren’t as accurate as they claim? Who knows . . . crazier things have happened, huh? Maybe after real people actually vote, Christy O’Donnell can go back to flipping burgers, or Reality TV, or whatever she did before deciding she should be President, or senator. And Sarah Palin can go back to her million dollar job at Rupert’s, move to Manhattan, and start hunting moose in Central Park.  And
maybe that crazy ass Rand Paul will be hired by Rupert to work at the Wall Street Journal. I mean, it’s not a real newspaper any longer anyway, right?
And then Obama can get back to work trying to salvage what remains of the United States after the Bush wrecking crew debacle. Who knows, maybe we’ll catch up to Greece economically.
It could happen . . .