Tuesday, October 30, 2012

All In This Together

MSNBC is currently making a big deal out of the fact that Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey has spared no praise for President Obama in his handling of Hurricane Sandy.  People like Christie for that reason; you can count on him to not be afraid to say what is obvious, regardless of possible political outcome.

I would hope that in a similar circumstance, Romney would act in much the same way.  But this is not what you might call "the takeaway" in all this.

The difference between the two is not what they might do in the midst of a disaster.  The critical factor is the groundwork that gets laid -- or destroyed -- prior to a disaster.

Romney and his cut taxes/cut the deficit bunch, Paul Ryan among the ringleaders, would leave us with slashed resources and a decentralized, disorganized disaster relief plan, made worse by privatization (for profit).  First you give over authority to the states.  Then you cut the Federal budget.  Then you cut the Federal staff.  Much as we have been forced to do in the Bush years with Medicaid and education.  The states, already struggling, would never get the same amount of aid if they had to individually create their own disaster relief program.

This morning, I heard one of the owners of the Coast Guard House in Rhode Island give kudos to the Weather Channel for calling this storm so accurately.

Wrong.  It was NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that does the research and provides the incredible and incredibly accurate storm data to the country. Weather Channel and other news centers feed off this free information, paid for by our tax dollars.

These are examples of things entrepreneurs did not build.  Without good centralized emergency management (FEMA) and good national weather forecasting (NOAA), Hurricane Sandy would have left many states fending off floods and blizzards much as the Bush administration left New Orleans during and in the aftermath of Katrina.

So, yes, Governor Christie, President Obama gave you the support you needed.  One could hope that Romney would do the same.  But only if he had the federal funding and well staffed federal programs that we are currently having to fight tooth-and-nail to preserve in the egocentric and short-sighted Congress.

There are some things we just can't do alone.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Not Just About the President

You might think, by watching the "news" that the only important election coming up is that of Obama v. Romney.  And I have to admit, our President could be doing a better job reminding us why those Senate and House races are so important.  Like whenever he is accused of not having done enough in the past four years.

This election season, puppeteers like Karl Rove and the Kochs are busy funneling money into races to defeat those Democrats that have stood the strongest for our democratic values.

But why not?  It's been working for years.

In 2004, Senator Tom Daschle, who was accused by Dick Cheney of being the "chief obstructionist" of the Bush agenda, was up in the polls by 5-7%.  It was reported to be the most expensive Senate race in 2004, and we watched in shock as he was defeated.

This year, Rove's piggybank, Crossroads GPS, has targeted critically important people like Elizabeth Warren, who if elected would surely effect positive change in our financial lives.  Rove, who has gotten away with so many criminal acts, like his part in outing CIA undercover operative Valerie Plame, does not even pretend to fund only "issues ads", which is a requirement of anonymously funded superpacs.

Outspoken and ethical Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio has been targeted by right wing groups which have spent over 17 million to be rid of him.  The radical and powerful Club for Growth is at the top of opponent Josh Mandel's contributors' list, with Senate Conservatives Fund right behind.

We should be hearing more about these Senate races, because they are so important.  Same is true of the House.

Because when it comes down to why the Obama agenda has struggled to succeed, we only need look to Congress.  The Mitch McConnells and John Boehners have twisted and perverted the function of this institution, not just since Obama came to the White House, but since the Democrats won control in 2006.

The proof is in Mitch McConnell's proud goal in the Senate:

where filibusters made it necessary to have 60 votes rather than a mere majority for any bill that reflected the Democratic agenda.

And let's not forget the oft-teary-eyed John Boehner, and his shout-out over the voices of the Democrats in the House over  Obama's health care bill:

Yes, I'm talking about the "jobs, jobs, jobs" John Boehner who began introducing anti-abortion bills to the House on his first day, and only stops to play a few rounds of golf with his moneyed constituents.

If we don't change the composition in our Congress this year, a re-elected Obama will face another four years of frustrated goals.  On the other hand, Romney is getting his rubber stamp warmed up just in case he wins, because, per the king of the tax cut and the Republican Party Grover Norquist, all they will need come November is a president that will sign any bill a Republican Congress will send.

Cut taxes for the rich and cut social services and safety nets for the rest of us.  Gut Medicare, ban birth control, increase spending on defense, and watch the debt rise like we haven't seen since the days of "W".  And send in the Scalia clone to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, because what that Republican Congress wants, is what Romney will give us.

So let's not forget how important all those other people that are running for office on November 6 really are.  Because this is what it really comes down to:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pardon My Cynicism, But I'm Exhausted

I tried watching the third debate last night, I really did.  But let's be honest here, this whole thing has gone on way too long.  We've all heard the same questions, and seen the same tap dances around those questions, way too many times.

It feels like it's been y-e-a-r-s.  Oh, that's right, it has been.

Meanwhile, all those millionaires and billionaires who won't allow a penny to be squeezed out of their tight fists so that a child can get health care have been throwing buckets of cash at -- again, let's be honest -- all the candidates.  Yes, some have been targeted by more of this generosity than others, and we all know who they are.  The Rove's and the Koch's and all those other weasels have been waltzing around tossing hundred dollar bills at candidates like Little Orphan Annie cartoon characters.

Barack Obama has been a good president, probably as good as any we could have gotten in this catastrophic post-W. era.  But he's no 98-percenter, anti-Wall-Street liberal.

And so many of us are supporting candidates who could be heros, if they can only spend enough money to be heard over the sound of all the corporate speech that's going on.  So we give our $5, $25, $100 or more whenever we can and whenever they ask.

And boy do they ask.

Think of all the good things we could have done with that money.  We could have paid down some of our own personal debt.  We maybe could have taken our kids on a vacation.  We could have done a couple of car or house repairs that we can't afford.  We could have had that doctor's visit that we keep putting off.  Or just gotten a haircut.

But we need to keep feeding this god-awful monstrous campaign machine.  How on earth did we get here?  Why do we tolerate this enormous drain on our time, on our wallets, on our country?

And yet, on November 7, those fools in the media are going to start to conjecture on who's going to run in 2016, and damn if it doesn't start all over again.

So last night, after five minutes of same old/same old, I went back to the DVD I had been watching, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, by Martin Scorsese.  I think I made a good choice.

Only one thing might have convinced me to stay tuned to the debate:


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Liars, Inc.

Remember that best friend you had in junior high?  That's right, the one who knew everybody, and was really popular, and you couldn't believe she was your best friend.

She seemed to always be where you were going, wanting to know what you were doing.  Even though she had already done it a thousand times before (roller skating, going downtown to meet boys, buying beer) she was always happy to be doing it with you.  That brand new Beatles movie?  She had special permission to see it before it opened up in the theaters, so she had already seen it six times.  And the concert you couldn't get tickets for?  Not only did she have tickets, but she went backstage after the concert and met the whole group.

Turns out, she was your best friend because nobody else liked her.  Nobody else liked her, not because she got to do all this stuff they didn't do, but because she was a liar.

You were gullible, because you could never imagine someone telling a story about themselves that was totally untrue.  So it must be true, right?

This is the lot of the American voter.  Mitt Romney promises to be our new best friend, even though we heard him say he didn't like 47 percent of us, that he thought we were lazy and not worth him paying attention to.

But now he likes us.  Even though he knows all the important people in the country, and the world, and they all want to know what he is thinking, he likes us best.

Except that all the important people in the world don't particularly like him either.  They pretend to be his friend because he might be able to get him stuff, like tax breaks.  Believe me, they aren't crazy about him either, because they know he is a liar.

Why do they know he is a liar?  Because they are liars too.  Unlike your junior high school "best friend", Mitt had an important family, so he was able to go to important schools, and then become very rich and important.  And being very rich and important makes other people want to be your friend.  Even though they don't like you that much.

And liars lie because they want people to like them.  For Mitt, just as with my old junior high friend, he would say anything to get someone to like him.  And he doesn't have any idea how ridiculous some of those lies are.

For example, Mitt's "binders full of women" was not just a case of Bush-era word-mangling.  Fact is, the story was a lie.  And whether you are a one-percenter, or the rest of us, Mitt Romney will lie to you.  Those one percenters know that, which is why most of them didn't support him till he was the only game in town.

But the sad thing is, a lot of the rest of us really want Mitt to like us.  And since we don't lie, as a rule, we can't imagine that Mitt would lie to us.  So we conveniently forget what he said to the other guys just days ago.  And even though the other guys are rich and important, they pretend he is not telling us how much he likes us right now.  Because they know that liars like Mitt fool a lot of the people a lot of the time.  And, lets face it, he only has to fool us until November 7.

Oh, and his new best best friend, Paul Ryan?  Didn't like Romney either.  But we are finding out pretty quick that Ryan doesn't mind telling a lie either, whether it's about Medicare or his best marathon time, or stopping by the soup kitchen to help out.

So step back, take a deep breath, and make your choice wisely, because if we choose wrong we may regret the best new friends we have for the next four years.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Don't Fall Asleep!

We should not be surprised, after Romney's "reboot" into "copycat Romney", to hear Ryan last week, and then Romney last night, refer to "trickle down government."

After all, the new strategy is to mirror Obama.  The new Mitt is the old, liberal Mitt, who was liberal because he was running against liberal Ted Kennedy for the Massachusetts Senate in 1994.  Boston being Boston, and Mitt being a smart and unscrupulous businessman, he ran for governor as a liberal, only to -- surprise -- become more conservative while in office.

Our Mitt is as comfortable stealing ideas as he was stealing companies, or as Mitt referred to it, "harvesting."

Which, not only being harvest season, but since it is also  Halloween season, also puts me in mind of that scary movie wherein "They Come from Another World..."

Yes, it's a world where it looks like Mitt, and even has Mitt's voice, but the words aren't his.  Words like "trickle down," which means that those fat cats at the top, if allowed to get fat enough, will zip open their flies and let some of it flow onto the rest of us.

If you recall your scary movies, the pod people don't think, they just open their mouths and say whatever will cause you to follow.  Which is why the Romney-pod's "trickle-down government" doesn't really make sense.  It's an almost-mirror-image of a concept that has actually been in place since our other old pod-president sold it to us back in the 80's.

You might wonder, then, why we should fear.  It's because the pod has no needs, other than to possess you; no conscience, motivated only by the instinct for self-preservation; and no brain, parroting only what his masters, those extraterrestrials from that far-away income bracket, command him to say.

And that is the scary story for this Halloween season.  So, whatever you do, don't fall asleep until after November 6, or, as Samuel L. Jackson might say,

Friday, October 12, 2012

Nice Guy Mitt

Somebody told Mitt that people like it when you tell a story about some plain old person you met.  If it has a tragic ending, it's even more better.  So he and Stepford VP Paul Ryan have taken that message to heart.

So every now and then, when asked a question, say about tax cuts for the wealthy, they may reply with a story about a plain old person, hopefully who came to a tragic end.

The thing that makes this odd and not just creepy is that the anecdote really has nothing to do with the subject.  The story is really all about Mitt, and what a good guy he really is.

To give a really stark example, Romney recently told about meeting a Navy SEAL who was later killed in the recent Benghazi attack.  Why?  To let people know that it made him sad.  Needless to say, the young man's mother took exception with Romney's use of her son to make political hay. 

Last night, when Biden brought up Romney's crass and stupid comment about the lazy 47% who pay no taxes, Ryan came back at him with the story of Mitt Romney helping a family whose two sons had been seriously injured in a car crash.

Wrong on so many levels.  Besides being totally irrelevant.

First, there's the fact that Joe Biden had lost his first wife and a child in a car accident.  Fully displaying the sensitive side of the Romney/Ryan team.

Secondly, we all know how generous our Mitt is.  Especially with those in the Mormon Church, to which this family belonged.  Romney, who hides much of his wealth, believes charity should take the place of social programs.  This way people like him can give only to those they believe are deserving.  Oh, and take the charitable tax deduction as well.

Finally, besides being despicable and creepy, bringing up stories having to prove what a nice guy Romney is, is just irrelevant.  Because the way he uses his wealth, the way he hordes his wealth, and his proposed policies, speak for themselves.

So please, Mitt (and Paul), no more anecdotes.  They are just sad.  Those kinds of stories should be left to people who really do care about others; then they might not land with such a resounding "clunk."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Price of Oil

Could I have been the only person in the world who heard about the outrageous hike in gas prices on the West Coast and thought:  ENRON???

It wasn't that long ago that the price of gas was dropping and the headlines were predicting low gas prices through the beginning of 2013.  Of course, it doesn't matter how little we use, or how much of a surplus is stored, unless the oil and gas companies are allowed to pollute and destroy the environment with old refineries and new fracking sites, there will always be a justification for raising gas and oil prices.

Is anyone else tired of getting yanked around by the fuel companies?

Our media outlets alarmingly spout whatever line the fuel companies pass down about the cause of whatever hike is going on:  an exceptionally cold winter, a warm summer, a big hurricane season, a drought, a flood, too much gas guzzling, an unusually warm winter, and my favorite current scapegoat:  the refineries.

Yes, the oil industry has made big profits from failing to keep up their refineries, much less investing in improved infrastructure or more efficient (and clean) production methods.

And this go-round, the goal is obvious.  This time, the oil companies are going to hold the consumer hostage until every last vestige of clean fuel regulation is gone.  It started with Governor Jerry Brown lifting the restriction that does not allow a dirtier "winter grade" fuel to be blended and sold until November 1.  Of course, while our media talks about how soon this will lower gas prices, they are also reporting that "it depends."

It depends on "pipeline issues."  To me that says that it's time to squeeze the politicians, just before the election, and scare the voters, who will then elect those in favor of the tried-and-true "drill baby, drill" mantra.

It also depends on what kind of winter we have.  Except that it doesn't.  Because the price of gas will continue to go up until people scream bloody murder, and then will creep down, till we all jump back in our cars in relief, and then it will stabilize at a higher price than the last time we played this game.

Why do we continue to allow the oil industry to make ungodly profits while running down their refineries and passing the cost of their negligence on to us?

This is the hostage situation that big business has thrived on for decades.  Politicians pass on the threat to consumers that if we don't ease regulations, cut taxes, increase corporate handouts, the (name-your-industry) will be forced to pass the higher prices on to us.

And when they do that anyway, their politicians and the media report that there are extenuating circumstances that can be fixed with -- that's right -- deregulation, tax cuts and increased corporate handouts.

So my heroes Henry Waxman and Dianne Feinstein are calling for investigations.  But those heroes in Congress are few these days.  Which means that the funds for regulators, and the clout that they have, continue to be eroded.  The investigations will be short and meaningless.  Should the cry become too loud and the findings threaten to go public, the price of gas will drop, for a short time.  And when we take our eyes off the ball, which we will do, the fuel industry will repeat the cycle, until they've made another healthy profit, and their hostages -- us -- start to squeal again.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Because Big Bird Can't

Apparently, the folks at Sesame Workshop have asked the Obama campaign to take down the hilarious ad featuring Big Bird.  But it needs to be seen, so here it is:

It needs to be seen because it's a rare funny moment in a really grim political season.

Of course, we all know that neither Big Bird nor Jim Lehrer are allowed to defend their jobs from the likes of Mitt Romney, because they are funded by the government.  And the minute either of them indicated that they even had an opinion, the Republicans in Congress would descend on them, well, like a flock of angry birds.  There goes your funding, Big Bird.  There goes your job, Jim.

Because it is not about the funding of public broadcasting and the national debt.  It is about the funding of any public program, no matter how much it has already been depleted and how miniscule it's budget, and especially no matter how much it contributes to the public good.  And it is certainly not about the debt, not when billionaires are clutching every penny they ever earned, or hiding it in offshore accounts.

It is about the mythical 47%.  The actually 99%.  Those are the ones that are driving the one percent up the wall.  The nerve, expecting millionaires who have come up the hard way, or whose parents have come up the hard way, or, uh, whose grandparents have come up the hard way, whatever, to pay for something someone else is enjoying for free.

It's truly about the unconscionable greed we are seeing in 21st century America.  The folk who count the pennies that are spent on food stamps, and defend the oil barons and their government handouts.  Those who see a way to profit from a woman's cancer, her children's schooling and her father's retirement years.  They fight to privatize the roads we drive on and the water we drink.

There is no safe hiding place for people like Jim Lehrer and big yellow birds.  Because it's hunting season, folks.  And these guys aren't allowed to defend themselves against the predators.

So at least we all can take a moment to laugh at the absurdity before we must reflect on the cruelty.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Back to Basics

The politicians agree that it's a "great country."  And the Supremes have told us that corporations are people.  I wonder if there continues to be a place for the actual humans who live here.

Because if we still have a place here, there are a few things we need.  In fact, things I always assumed I would have.

We need to be healthy.
We need to know that there will be food on the table and a roof over our heads.
We need to be productive, to do good work and be paid fairly for that work.

Each of us needs to know that our children will have those guarantees throughout their lives.

And we each need to be assured that our parents will have the same, the means to live their lives to the fullest, until the end.

But in this country, we struggle constantly to maintain those assurances.  And we struggle against those for whom capitalism is not just a way of living in this democracy, but the end itself.  When corporations have become people, we have become mere tools to a corporation and its profits.

And look at where it has taken us.

As the wealthy few own more and more of us and our country, our standard of living has sunk ever lower.  We of all civilized nations have determined that health care should be a commodity, in other words, for sale and not for certain.

Our system of education erodes as the rich attack the high cost of teaching our children.  Educating children, once thought of as a worthy investment in the future, has become one more item the corporation would like to snatch away, for a profit.

And sing praise to high productivity, which means corporations get more and more from each worker, who in turn is forced to concede wages, vacation, benefits.  Because it is no longer a source of pride that a corporation treat its workers fairly.  Somewhere along the Reagan years, we were all told that a corporation has no obligation to be moral; it's sole obligation is to increase profit.  And so it does.

So when the young man from Occupy Charleston said a year or so ago that it really is no longer about who wins the next election, he was right.

But this coming election does offer us a chance to change our path.  The choice is clear:  we can continue to allow corporations to profit from our lives, or we can demand that our lives be respected.  We can choose those who will be sure that our basic needs are not snatched from us by the powerful, for their profit.  And after that election, we must keep our eyes on that prize:  our liberty and our dignity.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Who's Mitt?

Well, last night we got to see the real Mitt Romney.  The storm-the-boardroom guy who smiled as he ran companies into the ground at Bain.

Obama's problem is that he doesn't like street-fighting, and that's why he has lost against Congress, and that's why, last night, he lost against Mitt.

The thing about Romney is, he is facile at being all things to all people.  He is able to promise no tax cuts at the debate, and then speak at a corporate fundraiser and assure them (after checking for mikes I would assume) that he's got their backs.

The irony of the night was when the two candidates became one, over health care.  They were both responsible for the health care we have now, Romney in Massachusetts and Obama for the rest of us.  They both love it.  They took turns delineating all the wonderful features of the plan, and swearing how they wouldn't change a thing.  Obama was so thrown by the Romney shape-shifting routine that he wasn't able to address the fact that leaving it to the states would give Massachusetts (blue state) a great plan, and throw anyone in a red state under the bus.

That was the most stark example, but throughout the night I was put in mind of an old Popeye cartoon:

Obama is going to need to actually be a couple of steps ahead of Romney for the next debate, because Romney wants the presidency far more than Wimpy wanted a hamburger.  The first thing he needs to do is replace John Kerry with someone who is quick on his feet and knows how to say anything to get what he wants.  I know that's harder to find among the Dems, so he may have to look on the other side.

The other thing Obama needs to do is get angry, pull the mask off Romney's face to show the audience that guy that criticized the British for their competence in hosting the Olympics, the guy who will attack Palestine in order to pander to Israel while stirring the flames of hate.  You know, the guy that doesn't feel he needs to take care of the lazy 47%.

As Popeye says, "You can steal me looks, but not me goil."