Sunday, December 26, 2010

...And It Still Is...

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is a tradition in my home.  It is the only time of the year that I will sit through three hours of marketing.  When the kids were small, there was no (very loud) heckling.  Now that they are grown, we do our own little version of MST3K.

The Macy's Day Parade really does highlight the worst of the worst of Americana.  This year, for example they even isolated their diversity segment -- no Native Americans or Hispanics scattered throughout the parade; they were all collected about 3/4 of the way through.

But every year, they have one awesome event.
This year there was Arlo Guthrie singing This Land Is Your Land. Arlo is a Thanksgiving tradition, and if your family doesn't listen to Alice's Restaurant on Thanksgiving, then you might as well not have turkey.  And his father Woody Guthrie wrote the freedom songs of the 20th century.

And this year, when the Supreme Court has declared corporations to be individuals, and Congress refused to increase the national debt by funding medical care for 9/11 first responders, there was Arlo reminding us that this land, indeed, was our land.

He even sang a verse that I believe was a new one, and spoke to us in 2010.  But I could not provide it here; Macy's blocked out the you-tube videos, due to copyright infringement.

Irony abounds, and while this land still does belong to you and me, we need to continue to fight for it, and I am thankful that Arlo was there to sing it to us.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Democrats Reframe!

I don't get why the voters don't get that the rich need to pay more taxes.  And that the wealthy shouldn't get to pass on their wealth to kids that haven't earned it.

I believe it really must speak to our indoctrination of what we believe America should be.  The land of the free means we get to keep what we got, which is why the charge of "socialism" is so heinous.

We can't seem to fight back by pointing out that people are dying from lack of or inadequate health care, or that people have lost their homes because they lost their jobs because corporations are buying cheap labor in third world countries.

Morality doesn't seem to have anything to do with this fight.

Whenever the republic party senses that they are losing a battle, they immediately sic their promotional/advertising powerhouses on the problem.  They have lots of them, and they are highly motivated to solve this problem, because the problem has everything to do with power and money, and this is what they do, and, as Mike Steele would say, how they roll.

We are always, always caught running behind in these fights.  Take the abortion battle.  We had to come up with pro-choice after the anti-abortionists framed the battle as being "pro-life" (which made us "anti-life").  Pro-choice just doesn't compare dynamically with pro-life.

And then there was the estate tax, which brought to mind, well, estates.  So it became the "death tax", which brings to mind images of the grim reaper taking your life savings along with your last breath.  And we haven't come up with a better way to advertise the estate tax.  If you talk to plain old ordinary people, i.e. voters, about this tax, they will probably refer to it as the "death tax", because it's just simpler than the phrase "estate tax".  We are all familiar with death, less so with estates.

So we have voters who are terrified of the national debt, and more terrified of taxation.  At this point, I don't think the republic party has come up with a catchy phrase for their side.  They are just repeating ad nauseum the threat that if taxed, the wealthy won't be able to give us jobs.  It is lame, and it doesn't have a catchy ring to it.

Now is the time to get our best and our brightest to work on this problem.  Ex republicans like David Brock and Arianna Huffington would be able to grasp the problem in an instant.  We need some private meetings in some smoke-free rooms.  And then we need to spread the word, the word being the bright new liberal catch-phrase for taxing the wealthy.  We need to make sure that everyone from Harry Reid to Keith Olbermann to Stephen Colbert to Ben Bernanke to Oprah has that phrase on their lips.  We need to make it a household word.

Because what we should have learned by now, is that it is not about the issue, it is about the packaging.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

So You Say You Want a Revolution...

I have been getting emails from the South Carolina Democratic Party asking for my input via questionnaire, sending me the message that they want to change.  We can do it!

Well, I know they are sincere, and yes the words sound right, but I am skeptical.  Looking back on this last embarrassment of an election season, I would like to put forth a few ideas of my own.

First of all, we need to do something about the rotten primary system in this state.  The rot gets worse every election season.  The worms are in the voting system, and we can argue from here to tomorrow whether or not Alvin Greene really was nominated legitimately or not.  Fact is, we repeatedly allow people to get nominated who do not at all represent the ideals of the democratic party.

I believe that the easiest way to avoid the process called raiding is to have closed primaries.  Yes, democrats choose democratic nominees and republicans choose republican nominees.  Is that really a bad thing?  It is, after all a primary election, which purpose is to choose the best party affiliated nominees.  No, it does not give a person the freedom to go into a voting booth and choose the candidate most likely to be a laughingstock of the opposing party, which I have actually heard people admit to doing.  If you want the most honest primary possible, this is the way to do it.

Next most important move is going to be for the South Carolina Democratic Party to post, publish, advertise, disseminate, information regarding all democratic primary candidates.  It would not have taken volumes of information on candidates Vic Rawl and Alvin Greene to change the results of that primary, that is, if the primary itself was not corrupted.  If, as some say, the voters just gave it their best shot, which apparently was ABC order, we need to make their best shot a lot more informed.

Finally, after the primary is all said and done, the South Carolina Democratic Party needs to espouse democratic ideals.  We need to stop putting forth candidates that are afraid to say that businesses and the wealthy need to pay a reasonable share of taxes, and to have the data that proves that massive tax cuts for businesses neither considerably increase the number of jobs nor the quality of employment opportunities.  We need to be willing to prove that taxes do good stuff, that government jobs improve the standard of living of South Carolinians.  That good schools and libraries are a better idea than more jails.  That privatizing has cost the taxpayer more for less service.  That businesses need to act with responsibility, and their primary responsibility is to be a member of the community, and not merely to their bottom line.

And our good candidates need to unite; they need to pool resources and get in front of the people of South Carolina, with a united message, and they need to support each other.

In this last shameful election, we had good people who ran because the primary system didn't work, and they were good democrats who were abandoned by the South Carolina Democratic Party.  This is why we lost.  Because we were unable to think our way around this problem.  We could not come forward and support someone like, say, Tom Clements because he was running as a Green Party candidate.  And we couldn't have, say, Vincent Sheheen, another good candidate, form an alliance with this other good candidate.

So here we are, with Nikki Haley and Jim Demint.  Who are not afraid to do whatever it takes to convince voters that they are where the power lies.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Real Tears

Steven Loeb's headline is "Weeper of the House".  I wish I had thought of that.   Rachel Maddow's article on John Boehner's propensity to burst into tears was interesting and welcome.  Yes, there is nothing wrong with crying.  Yes, we do have to listen to the words as well.  In some cases, though, we need to also pay attention to the tears.

Boehner continues to speak emotionally of his rough childhood, his hard work climbing up the ladder to success.  The getting choked up business, though, means that he has lots of issues surrounding this fact of his life.

Many of us have to fight our way up.  Many of us fight hard and don't make it.  Many of us make it and lose it, often through no fault of our own.

John Boehner has never gotten past the narcissistic narrative of his having fought and won.  In fact, he treats each battle as another that he has to win in order to succeed.  The battles are not about the middle class, or those who have suffered through a bad economy through no fault of their own.  The battles are about fighting for those who have fought and won.  In other words, the battles are for John Boehner.

This is why Boehner is passionate about the government not taxing the wealthy.  It is HIS money, and he worked hard for it.

John Boehner is incapable of empathy, although he does tend to use the word without shedding a single tear, as he did in July when he stated that three of his eleven brothers were unemployed, although he did not know for sure whether they had found jobs yet.

Okay, folks, read that last part again.  Millionaire John Boehner throws out the word "empathy" as in, "See, I empathize with you unemployed because have three brothers who are unemployed."  Period.  End of concept of what John Boehner thinks is empathy.  Because he follows that bit about three unemployed brothers with the totally unironic statement that he has no idea if they are currently employed.

What is at the bottom of all those tears, then?  Could it be rage, that there are others out there who have not worked as hard, or succeeded as well, yet want the government to help them out?  I'm totally imagining a family in which you either made it, or you had hell to pay.  No handouts in the Boehner household.

And now the House is the Boehner household.  So don't expect any handouts.  Or sympathy.  Or especially empathy.

And for pete's sake, stop crying.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Who Wants to Be a Superpower?

A few days ago, after passionately writing herein about President Obama's caving to the republic party regarding tax breaks for the wealthy, I attempted to email Keith Olbermann.  Time after time, the email came back as unreceivable, and when I investigated further, I found that the address I was sending,, was being read as something different.  I tried to alert MSNBC, but apparently being too big to care, I never heard back from them, but at least that email wasn't returned.  And then I stopped trying to send the original email because, to be honest, I was a little spooked.

And then the threats from WikiLeaks, that they would attack any institution that attempted to mess with them.  And then word that they had, apparently attacked.  DOS, denial of service, attacks were reported to have occurred at PayPal, VISA and MasterCard, seemingly in retaliation for those companies refusal to accept donations to WikiLeaks.

Let me urge you to read Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It by Richard A. Clarke.

The threats that Clarke describes are not around the corner; they are here.  While we argue about whether the wealthy and the country's largest corporations should be allowed to die with their wealth intact, China, Russia, North Korea, and independent hackers are studying vulnerabilities in US cyber networks.  And we have a lot of vulnerabilities.

Caught in the debate around privacy issues versus the right of the government to access our access, we do nothing.  Yet we surely know that hackers are in and out of our systems constantly.

Big banks and other private industry resist developing cyber security measures because, in the style of Scrooge McDuck, they prefer to deny the threat in order to have more pennies to pinch.

The utilities that represent the half-dozen or so major internet service providers also provide the gateway to internet access, and internet hacking, yet refuse to come together to find a system to protect the country from cyber attack.

And of course, all of the above want the government to stay out of their business,  a policy which our presidents, democrat and republican, honor.

So, what it comes down to is that this huge superpower is very vulnerable, and unwilling to face that vulnerability.  The psycho-state of North Korea, by virtue of not having any internet, also lacks vulnerability.  Ironically, that gives North Korean government-sponsored hackers control that a nuclear weapon could never wield.

So what are our options?  I could get really crazy paranoid, I guess, and that would do no good.  I could continue to live in the state of denial, where I would have lots of company.  The middle ground is to continue to try to be heard, writing and calling legislators, sending letters to the editor, blogging.

With a Congress that is more concerned with tax breaks for the wealthy and keeping gay men and women out of the military, I don't hold out a great deal of hope for intelligent legislation on cyber security.

Perhaps our president will stand up and demand regulated, monitored and safe cyber security.

And if that doesn't happen, Italy and England seem to have done okay since their demotion from being superpowers.  How bad can it be?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Reality Check

President Obama prepares to
face 112th Congress

I thought I had heard it all.  Chris Matthews and Lawrence O'Donnell haranguing members of Congress for wanting to fight Obama's conciliation on tax cuts for the wealthy.  When I heard that Bernie Sanders, independent Senator from Vermont and my hero, and Jim Demint were fighting on the same side on this issue, and in fact received emails encouraging me to write Demint supporting his position, I thought my head would explode.

Time to step back.  It was not that long ago that we had a republic congress, a congress that would not even approve an increase in the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour, not even when gas prices went to $3.00 and over.  The party of no was in power, and why were we surprised when they lost power that they only yelled louder.

The problem back in 2009 was that the most powerful Democratic Congress in my lifetime refused to use that power to its advantage.  Instead, each individual considered its own little piece of power, and assisted the republic party in blocking important legislation, in order to demand ridiculous concessions.  The health care bill was the epitome of self-defeating behavior.  Bart Stupak insisting on anti-abortion legislation, while allowing people to continue to die without coverage.  Ben Nelson's "cornhusker kickback" which was more egregious for not including Medicaid funds for all states than for the insistence on funds for Nebraska in return for his support of the bill.  Blanche Lincoln, blue dog to the end, which came for her on November 2, when she lost to a real republican, insisted on gutting the public option from the bill.

These narcissists did not just vote against the bill, they voted to prevent the bill from being brought up to the floor for debate.

Makes a person proud to be a Democrat, yes?

And at the helm was a new young president who truly believed that if you treated Congress like adults they would act like adults.

So who is to blame for this current mess of a deal?  The republic party appears to be the only group that is showing consistency.  They may be in the pockets of the corporations, but they can be relied on.

Which is what the voters seemed to have wanted all along. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Conciliator

I have been so confused about the President I thought I had voted for, and the President we apparently got.  So I have thrown myself into reading about candidate Obama, and have learned that we actually got the guy who ran.

Barack Obama believes in reconciliation.  The "not a blue America or a red America thing" -- he really believes that.  Just as we all heard ad nauseum about Lincoln's "team of rivals", initially through the admirable research and writing of Doris Kearns Goodwin, and then after Obama's election, as we liberals were dealt one shocking Obama choice after another.  The first shock I recall was the Rev. Rick Warren, who represented none of the social ideals that Obama claimed he would defend.

Then there were the bizarre appointments and attempts at appointments:  Timothy Geitner, Judd Gregg, Lawrence Summers, please stop me.

Obama, I believe, was in his element during the Beer Summit, bringing together a police officer who had definitely overstepped his authority and the African American victim of that act for what must have been an extraordinarily awkward command performance.

When I hear Barack Obama attempting to find common ground with people who have clearly and repeatedly not just disagreed on all points but called for his demise, I think of his two incredible daughters, for whom reason and compromise has no doubt worked much better than it ever could with his political adversaries.

What it comes down to is priorities.  For Barack Obama, reconciliation is more important than winning.  However, it is apparently also more important than doing what is right.

In the remaining two or six years of Barack Obama's administration, I believe we will not see the following:

We will not see the United States become a wholehearted participant in restoration of the environment.  Nations with as many hopes as I had have been just as confused by Obama's unwillingness to take matters in hand and fight for measures to reverse the effects of global climate change.  Those of us who believed Obama could lead our economy to the forefront of environmental technology will be greatly disappointed.

We will not see a lessening of the chasm that separates the rich from the poor.  That our President sees us as hostages, and bargains away our future because he is afraid we are in danger, gives me chills.  There are reasons why we do not negotiate with hostage takers.  The fallout from this sellout will be huge.  President Clinton figured out that sometimes it takes calling their bluff, and not beling too afraid of the consequences to stand up to bullies.

We will neither see great gains in regulation of industry, nor certainly an era of corporate responsibility.  The most important result of the Wall Street bailout was not that we got our money back; it was that our government allowed itself to be used by corporate bankers, who used us happily without condition, without a promise to change, without shame.

We, the American people, Congress, corporate America, the nations of the world, heard the rhetoric and believed we were not only getting a President with strong ideals, but with the strength to stand up and fight for those ideals.  Instead, he left us stranded, from Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders, to the small business owners looking for real relief, to those of us who will not have affordable health insurance, or a living wage, or hope that our children will live better than us. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Okay, Then, Let's Make a Deal

I am discouraged that we are allowing corporations and Wall Street bankers to dictate the debate on tax cuts.  But as long as our elected representatives are going sing a song of tax cuts for the wealthy, and pretend that they even believe our civilization would crash without them, it is time to put some conditions on the tax cuts.

We have been hearing about how tax cuts for the wealthy are what is needed to create jobs; I have heard some brave souls asking, "If that is true, why have we not had job growth over the past ten years?"  And then I hear the echo of nobody answering.  And the media ignoring the question.  And worst of all, I don't hear our President taking up this important question.

I believe jobs have been held hostage pretty much since the 2006 Democratic Congress; the trend had been going on over the years since Reaganomics and downsizing, when profit became more important than quality, jobs, and even the survival of the company.  And the country allowed capitalism to become a beast where profit was the only motive, and ethics were irrelevant.  The government sold out to those who claimed deregulation was the key to the economy.  And tax cuts were the only thing that would create growth.  And when the Democrats came into power, and the beast felt threatened, it brought our economy to a standstill, hoarding its gold and intimidating our elected leaders with its power.

Aren't we all gullible?  We Democrats, from the President on down, have all been cowing under the Republican flag of tax cuts, when it has been proven, dramatically, that continuing to feed the beast just makes it hungrier.

The voters, terrified of losing jobs and savings, have been afraid to see the obvious.  Major media outlets representing large corporations make certain that their reporting does not wander into confrontational or controversial territory.  Our Congress mostly does what it's told; they aren't the bad guys, they are the puppets of the bad guys.  And our Supreme Court has also sold out, allowing corporations even greater control with absolutely no responsibility.

So I believe that this deal that is going down should have some contingencies, just as did the auto bailout.  Jobs need to be proof, in two years, that the tax cuts are working, and under no condition will they be renewed in two years (another election cycle) unless there are jobs and economic improvement to show for them.  It is time that the wealthy were given something other than free reign and ownership of our government.  It is time that we all start expecting something back for the wealth they owe to this country, the people and the government.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Model Senators

I've been listening to the Don't Ask Don't Tell hearings on C-SPAN.  I was impressed with the spirit of honor and pride shown by all the military officials giving testimony.  Basically, the consensus of our military is that implementing the repeal of DADT can and will be done, with little disruption of the military.

John McCain, who appears to grow crazier by the day, was the one holdout of the committee members, grabbing onto the few statements indicating support of not repealing the policy at this time, even though there was agreement that it would be repealed with little fanfare at some future time.

McCain is an angry man, the more impotent he becomes, the angrier he gets, and I'm not talking about his sex life, because he has excellent, government provided health care.  It amazes me that he continues to get reelected, although he is from Arizona, and I believe he ran on the same ticket as Jan Brewer, the Crazy Hate Ticket.  It was an ideal match:  paranoid delusions of headless Mexicans crossing the border with drugs hidden in unmentionable places, which must have excited McCain's homophobic fantasies.

I wonder what it must feel like to be John McCain, hearing your old words played back to back with your new words every day.  I imagine the need for rigid denial must be great, so that it has become ever easier to ignore reality in order to appease his crazy voices.

I could go on forever, but that would be mean and pointless.  The point is, however, that a crazy and mean person, with fragile psychological defenses, has the power to prevent our government from functioning.  He has the power to make our legislators waste valuable time and resources on debating whether we should maintain a ban on gays in the military that other civilized countries have long abandoned.

In short, he has caused our military to suffer through painful ambiguity that could easily and professionally be resolved, with a stronger military as a result.

So, as I listened to each member of the military brass, in turn, state that they are positive that they could effect the transformation to including gays in the military with little negative effect, and in fact that our servicemen and women would act honorably and professionally, I had two reactions.

I was filled with pride, and

I wished it were possible to allow these men to serve as adjunct members of the Senate, where they could model grown-up behavior to our current legislators.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

That's the Spirit

Joseph Shamie, CEO of Delta Children's Products, was quoted on Friday's NBC Nightly News:  "In order for Delta to start hiring, we need to know where our taxes are going, where health care is going."

As he owns a relatively small family business, I would have liked to ask him in which direction he was hoping to see taxes and health care going.  Sadly, this was left out.  Until I did a little research at Reference USA I assumed this was some big businessman rooting for tax cuts and the death of the health care legislation.  Now I am thinking that either he is misguided and assume he doesn't know that tax cuts would apply to him as a small business owner, and that health care legislation would benefit him, or he is in fact rooting for Democratic tax cut legislation to pass as well as preservation of the health care legislation.

Again, what is doing in the Democrats appears to be misinformation, inadequate information and  poor reporting.

I have no doubt that big corporate interests are refusing to hire because, a) it increases profit, and b) it holds the U.S. Government hostage by so doing.

The more I hear Boehner and McConnell and the members of their chorus in Congress, the more rote and unconvincing sound the words.  Tax cuts for the wealthy make no sense.  While most in Congress would gain considerably from an extension of these cuts, I believe they are more controlled by threats from Big Business than by the dollars they themselves will enjoy from the extension.

Business controls us in ways we can't even imagine, although it would be to our best interest to try to understand the behind-the-scenes manuevers.  For wealth, Ken Lay knowingly ran Enron into the ground, the Wall Street bankers gambled on the US economy, and big food conglomerates are willing to risk the safety of the American people.  And every day our Congressmen and women are meeting and greeting the leaders of industry and their lobbyists, and being told in no uncertain terms that it will bode ill for them and our country if they do not tow the line on tax cuts, as well as relief for the middle class.

We need to recognize that the welfare of this country is being decided in board rooms and by lobbyists, and that for the past four years they have determined the "Just Say No" strategy of our Congressional republic leaders.  Because we need to know not just who is mouthing the words, but who the puppet masters are.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Only that Simple

During a moment of frustration at work today, actually, as the frustration built up, as I learned more and more dicta and policy changes that were coming down from on high, I imagined a day when I wasn't dependent on my job.  I imagined walking up to the director and saying, simply, "You know, you're really kind of creepy."

I got just enough pleasure from that thought to make it through the day.

And as I was catching up on news a little while ago, as Rachel Maddow was talking about the DADT perpetual state of idiocy, I imagined having the opportunity to walk up to John McCain, and just as he was about to shake my hand (thinking I was a voter of course), looking him in the eye and saying, "You know, you really are a jerk."

Then I thought about John Boehner, who has apparently in solidarity to those of us who are not millionaires given up the tanning beds, and what I would say to him:  "You know, you really are a whiny spoiled brat."

Jim Demint:  "You know, you really are dumber than dirt."

I know, that last one wasn't as constructive a criticism as the others, but why toss your pearls before swine, if you know what I mean.

Well, I feel a lot better now, even though we still have all those self-absorbed idiots in high places.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Public Property

At a time when our bodies are no longer private, but subject to x-ray, our emails are "read" for advertisement content, national id is just around the corner and RFID is a marketing tool, isn't it time for corporations, who are after all individuals, to share as well?

I understand that Comcast is claiming it has the right to charge NetFlix for using their cable, and a pharmaceutical company can own the rights to a person's genes.  Car manufacturers can buy the rights to the great oldies and sell their metal pollutants to songs that remind us of our youth.  Amazon has records of every book I've ever bought, and lets me know it with a smiley face that says, we'll take care of you, we'll tell you what you want to buy next.

So how is it that corporations get to own stuff and keep it secret, but we don't?  Why is every single thing I do available to corporations and the government, but pharmaceutical companies get to hoard their research findings, prohibiting further research and competition?  Why does a cable company get to lay down cable through my neighborhood, and then own the rights to it forever?

And why is a corporation allowed to benefit from government research, investment, subsidies, with absolutely no obligation to us, the American people?

Why do we continue this fantasy that a corporation does so much good that it owes nothing?  That in and of itself, a corporation has the right to merely serve itself?  Capitalism for its own benefit spawns greed and stagnation.  Capitalism is at its best with solid government regulation, because the theory corporatism espouses is not just amoral, it is immoral.  Capitalism which injures innocent people for profit (health insurance), which prohibits research and growth (pharmaceutical), which inhibits or prohibits access to information (internet neutrality, free wireless access), these are all immoral.  When our government has to provide airports as well as airport security, while the airlines are charging for everything but use of the restroom (wait, it's coming), we need to rethink what capitalism is, and what a democracy should be in relation to it.

I don't need to hear one more time about how we need to be giving corporations tax breaks for the privilege of making profit from our communities.  I believe it's time our government rethought to whom it was responsible:  the citizen or the corporation.