Thursday, March 24, 2011

War and Politics

Congress is upset at President Obama for not getting input from them before involving the U.S. in Libya.  That's right, the Congress that did nothing in 2010 until they were threatened with losing Christmas vacation.  The Congress that doesn't think it would necessarily be a bad thing if the government shut down.  The Congress that wants to cut food and health care and heat for the poor out of the budget.

The Congress that takes a week off every three weeks.

The game plan appeared to be the same.  Lay low until Obama does (or doesn't do) something, then howl about how whatever he did (or didn't do) was wrong.  But the media kept going on and on about Obama not consulting Congress before proceeding to war with Libya.

So of course, John Boehner, and assorted Democratic characters, had to take a stand.  They stood up for... debating whether or not we should help the Libyans in their struggle against Gaddafi.  I don't know if as many Libyans would have died while waiting for the debate to end as did during the health care fiasco, but it's a pretty safe bet that we would be leaving the Libyans, as well as our allies, out there hanging from that limb without us for a very long time.

Meanwhile, the hot air rising from Washington would have been more toxic than the radiation on the west coast that is coming from Japan.

So, while our President is willing to stay out of the fight between working class America and our corporate-owned government, at least he appears to be willing to take a stand for what is right on the world stage. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Senator DeMint's Union

Note:  This was written on February 23.
Sadly, some things never get old.

The right-wing Senator from "right-to-work" state South Carolina is fired up about the union activity in Wisconsin.  For DeMint, of course, this is not at all about the rights of government workers.  It is about the freedom of the American people, which in his rhetoric has absolutely nothing to do with the American people who belong to the government employees union in Wisconsin.  DeMint is tossing around all his usual rhetoric, about "out-of-control union bosses" (  He is naming all his usual bad guys, including President Obama, who has notably stayed out of this fight, and the Democratic National Committee, accusing them of "ginning up the opposition", as though the fear of loss of their highly valued workers' rights is not enough.

DeMint's hypocrisy is notable here for two reasons.  First of all, DeMint, whose concern about rising deficits knows no bounds, earns a meager $174,000, which is $11,900 more than he was receiving six years ago when he was first elected to the Senate.  Members of the Senate have the ultimate say in their working conditions, allowing themselves time off and raises as only they would consider appropriate.  The rising deficit did in no way deter DeMint et al. from awarding themselves quite generous raises since he has been a member.

Neither does DeMint's outrage at "generous" government employee pension and health benefits extend to those awarded by his own union, The Federal Employees' Retirement System.  We are paying for a generous retirement and health insurance plan that will allow Mr. DeMint all the time and comfort upon retirement, to be free to travel the country lecturing (for a fee) his conservative colleagues on how un-American it is to provide workers a say in their workplace, a living wage, and a comfortable and healthy retirement.

And while DeMint is commiserating with fellow Tea Partiers and corporate leaders about the evil unions and the control they exert over the electoral process, he is proudly sponsoring his own union, the Senate Conservatives Fund,  which stated goal is to wipe out any republican members of Congress that just are not conservative enough.  Without a bit of irony, among the SCF goals, DeMint lists "Protect Life" followed by "Repeal ObamaCare".

This is a union that America should be afraid of.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

James O'Keefe -- One of the BAD Leprechauns

I would like to take this opportunity to say, "Happy St. Patty's Day".  I don't care how much the holiday reflects stupid stereotypes and alcohol, to me it is a day of celebration.  Of anything.  It is inclusive -- we all know anybody can be Irish on St. Patrick's Day.  There may be St. Patrick's Day sales, but only an idiot would waste the day shopping.  Any other day of the year I can complain about food coloring and other additives  poisoning us for no reason other than to make food look pretty, but on St. Patty's day, I'll take my beer green.

But there is a dark shadow I need to talk about on this March 17, and that is the creepy hero of the right-wing, James O'Keefe.  We liberals don't like to believe that people are evil, but I would pretty much bet that this twerp would take candy from a baby.  And because we don't want to believe in this jerk, he has been getting away, not just with ruining lives, but committing criminal acts.

And then he stands up and takes a bow.

Why not?  It appears he is president of a non-profit organization called Project Veritas -- I kid you not.  There do not exist italics that do justice to the irony of that last sentence.

We all -- even Glenn Beck -- know that O'Keefe sets up phony situations, and then falsifies the phony interview by tampering with the tape.  The kind of set-up he has become famous for may not be illegal, but then falsifying the tape and presenting it as fact is certainly libel.

And yet he was able to provide the impetus for dismantling ACORN, an organization that on a shoestring has done great work organizing the poor and disenfranchised, which, of course, is exactly the point of O'Keefe's harassment.

Even after he was charged with attempting to tamper with Senator Mary Landrieu's telephones, the media still reports his episodes as truth, not fiction.

When NPR executive Ron Schiller was framed by O'Keefe, I would think by this time the media -- especially NPR -- would have taken a closer look.  But once again, it cost good people their jobs, and, given the typical lemming-like behavior of many Democrats, will no doubt result in the eventual defunding of NPR.

And James O'Keefe?  He calls his reporting "powerful" and "honest".  But do we laugh at this pathetic and amateurish character?

Surprisingly, Scott Baker of Glenn Beck's blog, The Blaze, decided that O'Keefe does not in fact practice journalism.  That he lacks the ethical values to which journalists should aspire.

I would have liked to write this column on April Fools' Day, but it couldn't wait.  However, in the spirit of April 1, I end by observing that, indeed, Beck's blog is today advertising St. Patrick's Day sales.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Time for Something Completely Different

I am burned out.  Tired of trying to feel hopeful.  Sick of people with money running the country.  Tired of the democrats pleading to be let in, even when they are the ones in charge.

I have of late been avoiding my blogs, avoiding MSNBC, avoiding the Sunday morning talking heads.  Don't want to hear from Obama, nor do I have any patience for his defenders.  I want Obama to act like that idiot Bush, and speak with conviction; after all, if an idiot can be sure of himself, why not a guy with some intellect.

We seem to be losing the war, because it is so easy for the greedy and powerful to divert our attention from them to... each other.  The  comfortable middle class will turn on anyone, teachers, nurses, firefighters, but everyone is willing to turn on the working poor.  You know, those folks who have to constantly decide whether to get a haircut or go to the doctor.

Obama is not in their court.  He doesn't even mention the working poor.  All those neat-o tax cuts he and his republican buddies were handing out in December?  The working poor saw their taxes go up.  Even Bill Maher and Gloria Steinem are in agreement that the aging population can work a few more years before getting social security.  Tell that to a Wal-Mart worker.

So I've been feeling a bit agitated, to say the least.  It's a beautiful day, I've finished an enjoyable spy novel, as well as the narrative of the shameful Clarence Thomas hearings, which I talked more about yesterday.  What to do with the remainder of this beautiful day?

Donald E. Westlake, who I sorely miss, wrote a book called Thieves Dozen, unusual because it is a short story collection about his morose, unlucky theif, John Dortmunder.  I only just began to read the introduction, which is a wonderful, rambling tale of how he and his friend, Dortmunder, ended up with eleven short stories (eleven, thieves, get it?).

And I began to feel happy, and hopeful, and even like I wanted to write.  So now you know what I'll be doing today.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Strange and Obscene

Another discouraging look at the dictum, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

It was 1991, and George Bush the First had orchestrated the ramming through the Senate the confirmation of Clarence Thomas in order to appease his rabid right-wing supporters.

Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson wrote Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas in 1994.  In that time, they were able to interview on the record scores of individuals on both sides of this battle.  What they ended up with was a detailed narrative of this travesty.

Democrats in control of the Senate, but afraid to take a stand, else they might seem partisan.  Republicans organizing and plotting in Washington and around the country, manipulating public opinion with money and slick PR.  And, as women attempted to come forward, most notably Anita Hill, there was no trick too dirty for the republicans, and no hurtle the democrats were willing to surmount.  Joe Biden's attempts to appear fair ended up blocking the efforts of women taking great risks to come forward, and enabled the trashing of those women by the republican spin machine.

And here we are with a justice on the Supreme Court who is not that bright, but angry enough to make up for it.  A partisan who lied to get ahead, and has acted on his rage and bias with alacrity.  And to end with the sentences that conclude the book,

"...Thomas himself vowed on the day of his confirmation, at the age of forty-three, that he intended to spend the next forty-three years of his life as a Supreme Court justice.  It would take that long, he told friends, to get even."

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Biggest Bargain in The Country -- Or Is It?

When I looked at my property tax bill in December, I was flummoxed.  With funding cuts to important services like libraries, and essential services like police and schools, my property taxes had gone down.

South Carolina does it again.  If there's a problem here, goes the common wisdom, it can be solved by cutting taxes.  And if taxes go down for the poor and middle class, you can be sure there are even bigger bargains for the wealthy -- corporate and individuals alike.

There is an eye-opening article on the SC Progressive Network website, written by Dr. Holley Ulbrich, which details the immoral aspects of our tax code here in South Carolina.  Now, the wealthy are indeed pillaging and plundering our government services throughout the country, but there is a special place for us here in SC:  our taxation rate ranks 47th out of 51 (including the District of Columbia) as percent of income, and an impressive 51st in taxes per capita.

Governor Nikki Haley would have us think that the pitifully low taxes would attract business to South Carolina, but in actual fact, many firms take their business to states where there is a better educated work force, better transportation, better government services in general.

Whether or not businesses locate here, the fact is that our legislators' philosophy of government in general is immoral.  Governor Haley does not believe it is the responsibility of government (read, taxpayer) to fund schools.  Let the churches pay for educating the poor; the wealthy, well, the wealthy can take care of themselves, although Haley et al. are happy to help out with government assistance whenever possible.  And if education gets bad enough and joblessness, crime and illness are on the rise, we can turn to our corporate bedfellows and just privatize.

The geniuses that own this philosophy, from DeMint to Haley,  just don't have to think past privatizing, but if they did they would come up against the fact that it takes government -- taxes -- to pay corporations to run prisons and hospitals.  And when corporations take over government services, the cost skyrockets, and services plummet.  Call this the Blackwater/Halliburton syndrome.

And that, folks, leaves us with the kind of debt that our country inherited from the Bush years, where tax cutting and privatizing ruled the land, as well as Afghanistan and Iraq.

It may be that corporations are the way to go for goods, but when it comes to services, our government is the best bargain in town.  And that means taxation.

There are protests here in South Carolina, demanding that Governor Haley adopt a "moral budget".

We need to step up and be heard.  South Carolina can do better, but it will take the people of this state to stand up and make the legislators accountable.