Posts from — May 2011
I wouldn’t mention the current crop of losers who hope to run against President Obama next year if something one of them said didn’t tickle my funny bone so much that I just have to share it.
Here is the Huffington Post report, verbatim, so you don’t think I’m making it up:
WASHINGTON — Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is calling Barack Obama “one of the most ineffective presidents” he’s ever seen, and says he can beat him next year.
Romney tells NBC in an interview that while Obama wasn’t responsible for the recession he inherited, “he made things worse. He’s failed.”
Romney also says he thinks Obama lacks “a cogent assessment” of world affairs. The Republican charges, in his words, “The Arab spring came, one of the greatest opportunities we’ve seen in decades, and we’ve been flatfooted.”
Romney, who plans to formally get into the GOP race later this week, says he doesn’t think his Mormon faith will be an obstacle to winning the GOP presidential nod, saying “we’re not electing a pastor in chief, we’re electing a commander in chief.”
There’s more (click here to read it), but I’m sure you get the idea.
Mitt Romney (he uses his middle name because his first name is Willard; wouldn’t you?) says Barack Obama is “ineffective.” This from a man who got a pathetic handful of votes in his previous attempt to win the Republican nomination. Mitt Romney, who has Republicans desperately scouring the planet for a real candidate because they’re so terrified he might get the nomination by default this time.
Talk about ineffective!
And that’s one thing America’s first black president is NOT.
I don’t agree with President Obama all the time. I’m not sold, for example, on his one-America concept. I see this as a nation divided and I don’t think the two sides will ever come close to agreeing on anything.
But if you accept the premise that he is president of all Americans, not just the ones who voted for him, then you have to admit he has done an amazing job.
No, he is not a liberal president.
No, he is not a “black” president.
To me, he is a little on the conservative side, and way too hawkish for my taste.
But to conservatives, he is a dyed-in-the-wool lefty.
To black activists (at least, some of them), he has done too little for minorities.
To conservatives, he has done too much, way too much.
I could go on, but you probably get the picture by now. He is dead center. That’s why he’s taking flak from both sides.
But all that aside, you have to admit he has been effective – despite unreliable Blue Dogs and recalcitrant Republicans obstructing him at every turn and a rabid, lying, scheming pack of Tea Party radicals clawing and kicking and biting at his heels.
Obviously, I don’t have space to list all his accomplishments.
But I’ll just mention two:
The American economy did NOT collapse – despite the Bush Administration’s disgraceful mishandling of it.
And we got Osama bin Laden.
In your face, Willard Mitt. I’ve got a C note that says you can’t beat Obama in the race for president.
Heck, you can’t even get nominated – no matter how many times you try.
May 31, 2011 1 Comment
On this Memorial Day here in the United States, I sit in my quiet den and ponder the savagery of war. Images of battle-ready kids march through my mind, some to their deaths, others to a future without one or more of their limbs, or blind, maimed, mutilated… They’re marching in Afghanistan and – still – in Iraq. And who knows where they will be marching next?
An old song plays in the background:
Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,
Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,
And I was the kid with the drum!
Say, don’t you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.
Say, don’t you remember, I’m your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?
How appropriate that song is – even now, 80 years after it was written (by Yip Harburg and Jay Gorney). Thousands of American vets still face abject neglect and poverty, while politicians mouth hypocritical platitudes about “supporting our troops.” America’s leaders still find wars to fight to grease the wheels of the mighty military-industrial complex.
And the rich get richer, maintaining their power by buying politicians and confusing voters with lies and false promises.
The years have gone by but nothing has changed. They’re marching still, and perhaps they always will. Like so many army ants, programmed to fight and die – or live on in misery and pain.
Today, I grieve with the families of the fallen, and I am filled with rage against the greedy monsters who sent those sons, daughters, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers “slogging through Hell.”
May 30, 2011 1 Comment
Watching a panel of financial experts on television last night, I had one of those flashes I get occasionally, when the veil is lifted and I see what’s really going on. And, no, I wasn’t stoned.
The names of the panelists don’t matter. They could’ve been any of the bigwigs that run or monitor the global goings-on of Big Business.
What they were saying is that the world economy is working to make poor countries richer, so that by the end of this century there will be a kind of global equality, where people in all countries (or most of them, anyway) enjoy a similar standard of living.
What they didn’t say was that there’s an obverse side to that picture: People in the rich countries are going to get poorer.
That includes America, of course.
With their enormous and ever-expanding resources, the global corporations have been able to buy influence in governments around the world to produce policies that enrich the corporations even more – often at the expense of the people those governments are supposed to represent.
Why would they want to impoverish Americans and improve the lot of people in China, India, Bangladesh or other poor countries? Do you think the corporations have a heart, after all, and want to improve the lives of the people of the poor countries?
Of course you don’t.
Neither do I. What I believe is that the fat cats who run the big corporations envision a worldwide “middle class,” which would provide a hugely profitable market for their goods and services.
Now, don’t think for one minute that the global “middle class” will be anything like the middle class that America is rapidly losing.
I’m afraid that America’s middle class is gone forever.
It was too good to last. The American – and European – middle class has always been among the most pampered in the world.
But that’s changing, the see-saw is swinging the other way now. And as one side goes up, the other is coming down.
Eventually, there will be a new social structure in America – and the rest of the world. There will be the super-rich, with assets around the globe, and a “service” class to keep their books, wait tables at their restaurants, look after their homes and children, police their streets, put out fires at their homes and businesses, and so on.
And there will always be the poor, as the Bible reminds us. And from where I sit, those wretches are in for a rough ride.
When I shared this vision with Sandra, she was skeptical.
She was pleased that the poor people in other countries might have better lives, but she couldn’t believe the American standard of living would have to be eroded to achieve that objective.
“Aren’t our politicians supposed to be looking out for the interests of this country?” she asked. “Why would they go along with a plan like that?”
Good question. The answer might just be that politicians need money to run election campaigns, and they get most of that money from the big corporations.
In other words, they’re selling out their country to keep their jobs.
May 29, 2011 1 Comment
When we lived in Bull Savannah, Renel, the yard boy, (do they still have yard boys in Jamaica?) used to play his guitar in the twilight and sing for us children. One of his favorites went something like this:
One Saturday night when I come home, drunk as drunk can be,
I saw a horse was in my stable, just where my horse should be,
I called to my wife, now darling tell me, please,
What manner of horse is in my stable just where my horse should be?
You’re a damn fool, a stupid ass, drunkards cannot see,
It’s only a little nanny goat your grandmother send for me.
Now all the world I’ve traveled, I’ve traveled the whole world o’er,
But nanny goat with horse’s mane, I never seen before…
And so on. In the end there was a man in the drunk’s bed “just where his body should be,” and his wife repeated her claim that he was too blind drunk to know that it was just a little baby boy his grandmother had sent her. The song ended with the poor old drunk quite perplexed because “a baby boy with long mustache” he had never seen before.
The song came to mind this week when I read how the Republicans responded to Vice President Joe Biden’s gleeful comments on the fact that Chrysler had repaid $5.9 billion in U.S. loans and $1.7 billion in loans from the governments of Canada and Ontario.The vice president was especially pleased because the repayment came six years early.
You will probably recall how the Republicans clamored for President Obama to let the American auto industry die when the Detroit Big Three ran into financial trouble a few years back. And you’ve probably seen those Tea Party signs accusing the president of being a Socialist (and sometimes a Nazi) for buying GM shares with government money in order to help the giant automaker survive.
As it turned out, GM has done well enough to buy back the shares and has just announced that its Detroit Hamtramck factory in Michigan will run three shifts for the first time in its 26-year history.
So Joe understandably did a little gloating when he gave the administration’s weekly radio address (President Obama is traveling in Europe).
“Because of what we did, the auto industry is rising again,” Biden said. “Manufacturing is coming back. And our economy is recovering and it’s gaining traction.”
You would think the Republicans would reply with a big, Oops! and admit they were on the wrong side of history when they demanded shutting down an industry that was producing a million jobs directly and indirectly.
But no, here’s what the news report said:
The Republicans’ weekly address focused on the party’s plan to create jobs. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said boosting employment requires cutting taxes, reducing regulations, completing bogged-down trade agreements with several countries and expanding energy exploration in the United States.
How many times are we going to hear that song? Time and again, we see the old trickle-down policies fail, and progressive policies succeed. Yet Republicans look us in the eye and tell us that it just ain’t so.
They must think we’re too blind (or stupid?) to see.
May 28, 2011 2 Comments
The way I see it, nothing is more important than food. So I can understand why President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced government subsidies to farmers back in the 1930s. Like so many government policies that are around today, it was supposed to be a temporary measure. The objective was to bail out American farm families who were in dire distress at the time.
But that was then and this is now.
And now the dwindling number of families still operating farms in America are not in dire distress. Indeed, they’re doing better than most in these hard times.
Furthermore, over the years big business has swallowed up American farms. Global corporations own most of the agricultural operations in this country today.
The result is that American taxpayers are subsidizing millionaires and billionaires – many of them living in such faraway places as Saudi Arabia.
Here’s what one group that analyzed farm subsidies reported:
Despite the fact that farm households are doing as well or better than others, the federal government targeted some of those households for billions of dollars in government payments. In 2008, that total amounted to more than $12 billion, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. (That’s slightly more than the total computed by EWG, not including crop insurance subsidies.) These payments went to only 39 percent of all farms, and the average payment was $11,922.
The skewed distribution of subsidy payments is even more striking when you compare the amount of subsidies received to the household income of the farming operations receiving them. The average household income of farms that received $30,000 or more in government payments was above $210,000 in 2008, more than three times the average U.S. household income that year. Farming operations that received between $10,000 and $29,999 in subsidies earned $110,368 in total household income, 61 percent more than the U.S. mean household income. And the household income of farms that got between $1,000 and $9,999 in subsidies was $70,117, still above U.S. average.
The analysis concluded that:
Large and profitable commercial farms are the big winners in the current distribution of farm subsidies. The ERS data indicate that large commercial farms collected 62 percent of all federal payments. A further breakdown of the data shows that small farms averaged $4,430, though a large share of this came from conservation programs as opposed to commodity subsidies. However, less than 30 percent of small farms received any payment at all. In contrast, 70 percent of commercial farms – which have much higher incomes to start with – received an average payment of $30,483, with direct payments constituting the major component.
Considering the changes in American agriculture since FDR, I think it’s high time for farm subsidies to go. The money can be much better spent to preserve other domestic programs our representatives are looking to slash as they seek funds to pay down the national debt.
Surprisingly, the big shots who agree with me include the folks at the Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation.
This is one time that conservatives are lining up with liberals in the demand for agricultural reform. At a time when politicians in Washington can’t even agree to end the obscene subsidies to oil corporations, which have become the world’s most profitable ventures, a lot of Republicans and Democrats are in agreement on this issue.
But the agricultural giants are sure to resist any attempt to take away their tax subsidies. And corporations have a stranglehold on Congress.
So will Washington do the sensible thing this time?
We’ll have to wait and see.
May 27, 2011 2 Comments
An H.G. Wells character said it more than a century ago: “We’re all Socialists nowadays.”
And he was right. Even back then, the vast majority of people in the civilized world believed in Socialism to some degree. And they still do.
Yes, even Americans who recoil in horror at the label.
To support my claim, I offer the results of last night’s special election in upstate New York. You will hear a lot of reasons for the shocking defeat of the Republican candidate in a district that always elects Republicans. But the truth is that even in the reddest of red states, most people want some of that Socialism. They just don’t know it.
One thing the voters of upstate New York obviously want is Medicare.
And Republican candidate Jane Corwin (photo above, left) said she would have voted to replace Medicare, as proposed by Congressman Paul Ryan and adopted by Republicans as their official policy. Ryan – and the rest of the Republican Party – would abolish the present system and instead give vouchers to old people, who would then have to bargain with insurance companies for health care.
Polls show that 80 percent of Americans think that’s a really bad idea.
And the election of Democrat Kathy Hochul (photo above, right) in a traditionally conservative district backs up the polls.
It’s not just Medicare that the vast majority of Americans would fight to save. They might not know it, but they like the Socialism they have (most of it, anyway). How many Americans would abolish public schools? The FBI? Interstate highways? Airports and train stations?
Not to mention Social Security!
I think the Republicans miscalculated the public mood because of their success in the 2010 elections.
Here’s how Salon’s Steve Kornacki explains what happened:
When they retook the House in their midterm landslide, Republicans ceased to be the default protest vehicle for voters. This was the role they played for all of 2009 and 2010, and it was easy. With Democrats running the White House and Congress and with economic anxiety soaring, all Republicans had to do was shake their heads and ask voters, “Is this the kind of change you can believe in?” They didn’t need a platform, they didn’t need strong candidates, and they didn’t need much money. In the climate of 2010, any generic Republican could win just about any competitive race.
I believe the Republicans misinterpreted the election results as a mandate for “free-market economics,” in other words the law of the jungle. But they were wrong. Nobody wants to eat meat that has not been inspected. Nobody wants to do away with stop signs and air traffic control. Nobody wants to be left to die if they get sick when they get old. Or to eat cat food to survive if they haven’t been able to save for their old age.
And – here’s the heart of the matter: Very few of us would want that for our family, friends and neighbors. Or even fellow0citizens we do not know. Who would send anybody’s children to bed hungry in order to give big corporations tax subsidies?
Republicans, with their vast financial resources and slick propaganda machine, have succeeded in making the word “Socialism” anathema to a lot of people, but they have not succeeded in vanquishing the natural human instinct for mutual cooperation, self preservation and – yes – compassion.
The word may be in disrepute but the principles of Socialism live on.
Even in America.
May 25, 2011 1 Comment
I am sure you would agree that peace is a “good thing.” Not always, of course. When British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from Germany in 1938 and proclaimed that he had ensured “peace for our time,” it turned out to be catastrophic. The price of that “peace” was Hitler’s rampage through Europe, the slaughter of six million Jews and a litany of horrors too numerous to list.
But, generally, people of good will seek peace.
As President Obama is doing – seeking peace in the Middle East.
Surely, that would be a “good thing.” Hamas rockets would cease raining death and mutilation down on the Israelis and Israeli jets would cease massacring men, women and children in Palestine. There might even be a peace dividend as blockades fall and trade improves.
But from the reaction of the right-wing Israeli government and America’s Zionist hawks, you would think the president had called up Chamberlain’s ghost.
President Obama’s “sin” was suggesting that peace talks should start with a return to Israel’s 1967 borders, before the Six Day War with the Arabs. He has emphasized repeatedly that he was talking about a “start,” that “land swaps” would be required to accommodate the realities of development since that time. But the Zionist right and the Israeli hawks are not placated. They want the president’s head on a platter.
Click on the map above to se Israel’s borders before and after the Six-Day War.
You may have noticed that I use the word “Zionists” and not “Jews.”
This is an important distinction, one that too many people do not recognize.
Today, I received a request from an organization called J Street to sign a petition to Congress supporting President Obama’s position. Here is an excerpt:
Did you see President Obama defend his pro-Israel, pro-peace policies at AIPAC yesterday?
What a sight. The President of the United States making a strong and compelling case about the urgency of bold American action to achieve a two-state solution to thousands of pro-Israel activists, who by and large applauded the President’s words.
But many political opponents of the President are ginning up opposition to the President’s sensible approach on Capitol Hill – and some are even spreading lies about the speech without bothering to actually read what the President said. We need to show our support for the President’s vision, including his call for two states “based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”
Why am I telling you about the petition request? Because the organization that sent it is Jewish. It calls itself the “political home of pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans.” And the Jewish people who run J Street describe its activities this way:
The organization gives political voice to mainstream American Jews and other supporters of Israel who, informed by their Jewish values, believe that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is essential to Israel’s survival as the national home of the Jewish people and as a vibrant democracy. J Street’s mission is two-fold: first, to advocate for urgent American diplomatic leadership to achieve a two-state solution and a broader regional, comprehensive peace and, second, to ensure a broad debate on Israel and the Middle East in national politics and the American Jewish community.
Obviously, opposing Israel’s current government is not the same as opposing Israel. And it is definitely not antisemitic. Indeed, in my book it is pro-Israel and sympathetic to the Jewish religion, culture and ethnicity. After all, what could be more pro-Israel than trying to find a way for Jews to live peacefully in their ancestral homeland?
May 24, 2011 2 Comments
Here in Florida, with Republican governor Rick Scott and a heavily Republican legislature, the conservative theory of belt tightening as a remedy to recession is being showcased. Florida is not the only state delivered to the Republican hatchet wielders by the 2010 elections; so the parsimonious policies unleashed here are being repeated across America. But I think the Florida picture gives as accurate a depiction of the situation as any.
It’s a complex situation, hard to make sense of. So much is disputed, so many “facts” are contradicted. But if you do the math and apply what we’ve learned about human nature, the eventual result seems clear.
As I understand it, Florida’s main source of revenue is its sales tax. There is no state income tax. And Scott and his allies are slashing corporate taxes in the belief that this will attract new business.
So the government’s revenue will be drastically affected by the volume of commerce in the state.
Already, there is a noticeable reversal in migration trends; more people will be leaving Florida than moving here. I believe the trend is going to accelerate – and sharply.
The governor and legislature are cutting back on services and laying off public workers as they grapple with a shortfall in revenue. They have even rejected federal stimulus funds because of their commitment to fiscal austerity.
And, being Republicans, they are also enacting draconian social legislation – making it as difficult as possible to have an abortion, for example.
Obviously, people like teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters and other professionals who lose their jobs, will have to move to other states to find work. Obviously, people who resent being told how to live their lives will also seek a more comfortable environment. Not all, of course, but enough to make a difference – a big difference.
And a lot of folks who might have been planning to move here will surely be discouraged by reports of poverty, crime, trash piling up in the streets – and other inevitable results of state cutbacks. In my view, the idea that corporate tax cuts will bring new business despite the severely damaged quality of life is absurd. My experience is that company executives choose locations where they can have a pleasant lifestyle.
Who wants to live in Dogpatch, anyway?
The decline in population will have severely adverse effects. Politically, there would be less representation in Washington and dwindling federal funding because both are population based. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The real blow will be economic. Fewer people mean lower sales, and that means less revenue from the state sales tax.
You can see how this triggers a self-perpetuating downward spiral. Skinflint policies produce population reduction, which produces less revenue, which brings more skinflint policies… and so on.
The formula works in reverse, too. States that find ways to generate more revenue – and to make living there more pleasant – will attract more population, and the spiral will perpetuate itself upward instead of downward.
That is as long as they don’t get so fat and foolish they forget the roots of their prosperity and vote in a bunch of Republicans.
May 23, 2011 3 Comments
The media give us the “news” in unrelated smidgins like the blind men in the fable reporting their separate encounters with the elephant. And the bits and pieces are scary enough.
But if you stand back, waaaay back, and try to see the picture as a whole, the best that we can hope for is that the Rapture really is coming tonight.
On every front, a corporate assault on democracy is raging.
Consider these developments:
In the U.S. Congress, corporations have become so almighty that the “Democratically controlled” Senate couldn’t muster the votes to end $2 billion a year in taxpayer subsidies for the five biggest U.S. oil companies, which have become the most profitable enterprises in the world. The oil companies earn about $3 billion in profits every week, yet – inexplicably – get $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies every year.
To nobody’s surprise, the Republican controlled House had already voted to continue the oil subsidies.
If Congress had approved the bill, the oil-subsidy funds would have been used to reduce the national deficit.
Meanwhile, the Republicans are proposing to dismantle Medicare and eventually do away with the rest of America’s social safety net as a way of dealing with the nation’s tide of red ink.
Republican controlled states are laying off public workers and slashing services while enacting tax breaks for business – big business. The small-business folks can go fish. Congress is even taking away their health-insurance tax credits.
Funds for waging war are untouchable, of course, and America’s wars seemingly have no end. The huge war industry – arms manufacturers, defense contractors and the myriad business interests that profit from war – prospers as thousands perish in conflicts that make no sense.
On every hand, “democracy” is being thwarted. Under Republican rule, state after state is enacting laws to limit the voting rights of minorities, the poor and other demographic groups that traditionally support Democrats. The oligarchs are taking steps to ensure the levers of power can never again fall into the hands of “the people.”
Republican controlled states are also attacking organized labor and passing laws designed to keep the masses from uniting against them – laws on such hot-button topics as abortion and gay rights.
And the U.S. Supreme Court is issuing rulings to strengthen the hand of the corporate elite.
None of this is secret.
Yet nobody seems able to do anything about it.
The corporate manipulators have built a mighty force over the years, funding politicians, creating “think tanks” and university departments, buying up the media, and even stacking the courts. Now, the crusade is paying off.
To counter this top-down revolution, Democrats will have to work harder than ever before. They will have to fight the new voting laws in the court, for example, and if the suits fail, they will have to make sure that voters have the required photo identification and other paperwork required by the legislation.
And they will have to cleanse the party of politicians who side with the Republicans. They will have to take the primaries seriously – as the Republican activists are doing.
The 2012 election will test the nation’s spirit. If organized labor holds back, as it’s threatening to do because of lukewarm Democratic support, and if disappointed progressives go off in a corner to sulk, the war may be lost forever. Their only hope of a better future is to work harder.
Do they have the stomach for it?
May 21, 2011 2 Comments
I’m sure you’ve heard of Rupert Murdoch. He’s the guy who owns Fox News. He also owns the New York Post, the Times of London, the Wall Street Journal and dozens of other print and TV outlets around the world. Of course he’s a billionaire. A multi-billionaire.
Here’s what puzzles me about the Australian-born media mogul: Why is he still driven to amass more power and more money? The guy’s 80 years old and a prostate cancer survivor. You would think he would be trying to make peace with the Almighty – help cure AIDS and world hunger, that kind of thing.
I’m only 77, and the last thing I would want to do with the years I have left is stir up war, help oppressors deceive the downtrodden and crusade against the world’s poor and sick.
Yet that’s just what Murdoch is doing with his vast power.
Here’s one description I found on the Internet:
In recent years, Australian-born billionaire Rupert Murdoch has used the U.S. government’s increasingly lax media regulations to consolidate his hold over the media and wider political debate in America. Consider Murdoch’s empire: According to Businessweek, “his satellites deliver TV programs in five continents, all but dominating Britain, Italy, and wide swaths of Asia and the Middle East. He publishes 175 newspapers, including the New York Post and The Times of London. In the U.S., he owns the Twentieth Century Fox Studio, Fox Network, and 35 TV stations that reach more than 40% of the country…His cable channels include fast-growing Fox News, and 19 regional sports channels. In all, as many as one in five American homes at any given time will be tuned into a show News Corp. either produced or delivered.” But who is the real Rupert Murdoch? As this report shows, he is a far-right partisan who has used his empire explicitly to pull American political debate to the right. He is also an enabler of the oppressive tactics employed by dictatorial regimes, and a man who admits to having hidden money in tax havens.
The report details Murdoch’s history of inciting war, supporting dictators, spreading far-right propaganda, busting unions, manipulating politicians and, in general, supporting the world’s darkest side.
Murdoch’s latest abuse is forcing Al Gore’s “Current” TV station off air in Italy because the station is launching Keith Olbermann next month.
I don’t know this man personally, but his photos portray him as a twisted sourpuss who would enjoy grinding his heel on the neck of the unfortunate.
Why? I wonder.
Is he scratching some psychological itch because his father didn’t love him (as some biographies report)? Who could blame the father? What’s to love about Rupert?
Or does it enrage him to see his reflection in the mirror?
Or was he just born wicked?
There’s a lot of stuff about Murdoch on the web. But I can’t find anything that explains why he acts so wretchedly.
Perhaps he just enjoys it.
I would be interested in your theories. It’s a fascinating psychological topic.
May 20, 2011 2 Comments