Thursday, September 30, 2010

Catfood Commission Sprays Wider Swath

Recall that President Obama's debt commission was created to find ways to address the federal debt. Stopping the endless wars and the obscenely expensive military-industrial complex would seem to be a good start, but remember there are Republicans involved. Recall also that Democrats in Congress did not support the debt commission, and voted it down. Obama created it by issuing an executive order, and now you have Republicans on the commission, including the duplicitous co-chair, Alan Simpson, talking about the need to "reel in" social security.

Credit is due to Dems who saw it coming and refused to enable Obama's enemies. Obama either did not see it coming (possible), or did see it, and thought it a good idea (more likely). You know, bipartisanship and all. Either way, Obama has a lot of explaining to do to those irresponsible whiners who put him in office. You know, the ones who actually voted for him.
Now the catfooders want to go further. Republicans on the commission want to use it as a platform to argue for, wait for it, additional corporate and capital gains tax cuts. At least they are consistent. All their efforts to maintain the status quo involve retaining benefits for the rich, such as extending the Bush tax cuts for all, and every effort to cut spending is done on the backs of the working class.

This election season is like a parody, especially Republicans. I mean, how blatant does it have to get?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Slouching Towards Stockholm

The disconnect between the values of a majority of Americans and what Republicans claim those values to be has always been substantial. And with the Republican leadership, goaded by deeply conflicted teabaggers, lurching ever further to the right, that chasm is wider than it has been in generations. Paul Rosenberg has written on the jarring disparity between what conservatives say they value, and thus who they vote for, and the actual economic policies they support. Have a look and see what he says about conservative identity. And see Cenk Uygur's take on why Washington is more right-wing than the rest of the country.

Succinctly put, many Republican voters identify with the visceral appeal of Republican candidates, the imagery, the bravado, and the symbolism, complete with flags, uniforms, bald eagles, and feel-good homilies. They admire and usually vote for candidates that project strength and certainty.  It can be nutty nonsense, but for many conservatives, that seems to be beside the point. I'm looking at you, Sarah Palin.

But as Rosenberg shows, most Americans, and even a majority of Republicans, prefer Democratic economic policies; not candidates, mind you, but the actual policies. Take, for example, the demands of confused teabaggers that government keeps its hands of "my medicare".

It is thus very instructive to see that according to researchers at Harvard and Duke, an overwhelming majority of Americans, 92 percent, would prefer a society with far less income disparity, opting for one much more like Sweden. That is generally true for young and old, Repubican or Democrat.

The study also indicated that Americans generally are not aware of how profound the wealth disparities in the US really are. When asked, most estimated the distribution of wealth in the US to be rather modest, once again providing figures that more accurately represented Sweden.

You know what is galling about this? The inability of Democrats to get these points across to more Americans. Republicans keep offering policy prescriptions that favor the rich, while telling the working class they must sacrifice. And Democrats stand there, wring their hands, and wonder how they should campaign.

It's like neither party really wants to win.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Republicans Will Win, If You Let Them

According to a recent AP-GfK poll, Americans may not hold Democrats in high regard, but their view of Republicans is even worse. Only 38% approve of Democrats in Congress, but that is better than the 31% the Republicans can muster. And 59% expressed dissatisfaction with the Dems, but the figure for Republicans is 64%. President Obama may not be polling all that well, but, you guessed it, Republicans get even lower marks.

The reason why Republican candidates may gain seats, and we have been hearing this for a while, is that their base, especially the Teabaggers, is more fired up, and thus more likely to vote. Perhaps, though I have learned to be wary of the memes the mainstream media throws out. And I am detecting a slight shift away from this script, in part because Dems seem to be coming out of their stupor and are connecting a few dots.

We'll see, though it is beyond me how any Democratic voter cannot feel motivated, especially after watching someone like Sharron Angle or Christine O'Donnell speak. Never mind how some Dems have disappointed you. Look at the alternative. And you say you are going to sit this one out because Obama and Company have not addressed all your concerns? Give your brain a chance.

The supreme irony is that if progressives and moderates sit out this election, the people the public regards most unfavorably, Congressional Republicans, will be the ones that win. And it will all be because Teabaggers and other right-wingers bothered to vote, and the rest of us did not.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Christine the Crook?

Christine O'Donnell has received a lot of press attention ever since she beat 9-term Representative, Mike Castle. To say the coverage has been harsh and incredulous would be an understatement. The latest making the rounds is her admitted dabbling in witchcraft.

Yeah, whatever. That is like calling some guy a prophet just because he is prophesizing some shit will happen. And the astrologer divines your future, too, huh? No prophets, no witches, only those claim so.

For me it is a bit beside the point. What matters for her is how voters, especially the Republican right, will perceive all this. Many will not like it, though Republicans have a way of forgiving the wayward if they wrap themselves in enough Jesus talk.

I will let conservatives decide how hysterical they want to get on the witchcraft stuff; remember, she didn't join a coven. What is more interesting is what Karl Rove, of all people, aired publicly regarding O'Donnell's past. He says he is troubled by all the gaps in her background, especially her inability to explain employment, income sources, disposition of debts, etc. That didn't prevent him from coming around, in a matter of hours, and endorsing her. Guess those concerns were all cleared up.

Others are not so forgiving. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) reported on Sept 20 they filed complaints with the Delaware U.S. Attorney's Office and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against O'Donnell. CREW alleges that O'Donnell misused campaign funds, lied about expenditures to the FEC, and thus committed tax evasion. As Melanie Sloan, CREW Executive Director states, "Christine O'Donnell is clearly a criminal, and like any crook she should be prosecuted...Ms. O'Donnell has spent years embezzling money from her campaign to cover her personal expenses."

Yikes, that's pretty serious stuff. Of course, that doesn't make it true just because people at CREW allege it. But when even Rove publicly disavows a fellow Republican, those are some serious red flags on that woman. And since CREW's action is a legal complaint, O'Donnell will not be able to blow it off so easily.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Shady Past Matters Only if You're a Democrat

Karoli asks the question on the minds of many of us; "What do Florida Republicans see in Rick Scott?" The short answer why Scott has the inside track to be Florida's next governor is that he is perceived as a successful businessman, and who better to run a state than a rich businessman? An even shorter answer is he is the Republican candidate. That is all the reason some need, apparently.

It doesn't seem to matter to Florida Republicans that Scott was forced to resign from the giant health care provider, Columbia/HCA, in 1997, or that the company paid massive fines for fraud.

More recently, Scott created Conservatives for Patients Rights, one of the most visible of the anti-health care reform groups, and led the opposition to the health care reform bill. You surely saw the TV blurb his outfit ran incessantly in the runup to the health care vote.

So Rick Scott enriches himeself building up the giant Columbia/HCA, gets booted because of wholesale fraud at the company while he is CEO, and then tells us how we cannot trust government to play a role in health care.

Do Florida Republicans not care, or have they already forgotten?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Warren Appointed

After much delay, Elizabeth Warren has been nominated to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Good news? Maybe, but many progressives are uncertain of the significance. Some have labeled the move as a "triumph of the money party," noting that Warren's role has "been downgraded" to special adviser, and that she must report to Tim Geithner.

Ugh... If that proves to be the case, the cynics will surely be correct. Geithner will act as gatekeeper who will work to ensure Warren's voice is muted if not completely drowned out.

But is is uncertain just how their respective roles will play out. I don't expect much cordiality between Warren and Larry Summers. He is a neoliberal to the bone, and a prickly, sexist, SOB short on interpersonal skills to boot. And both he and Geithner will likely feel threatened by an adviser who refuses to be part of their Wall Street protection racket.

Perhaps it is a very big deal. Warren's supporters, of which there are many, say she has been able to extract promises regarding her role and her access to the President. Julia Rosen at Crooks & Liars has written a very positive interpretation of the President's decision. She notes the strong grass-roots campaign that essentially told the President that he needed to do the right thing or watch his support collapse. See the story and the several good links she provides.

The howling from Republicans will continue, and Chris Dodd, obviously bucking for a plum job on Wall Street upon his retirement, will keep braying and bitching as long as he thinks it will impress his benefactors. 

I am cautiously optimistic.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Federal Deficit is Down

You know the script; Obama's reckless spending will doom us all. Rein in the deficit, slash spending while we can, stop the federal government takeover. The perception of an ever-increasing deficit, abetted endlessly by Republican operatives, is what fuels teabaggers' visceral fear, of which they have many.

So it is interesting to see that the federal deficit is actually declining. OK, color me surprised, too. According to Bloomberg, the deficit was down 13% because of rising tax receipts. Does it need explaining that tax receipts go up when there is economic growth? And no, don't start that shit about how Obama raised taxes, because he didn't.

Bloomberg goes on to say that the still-large gap is "...down 13 percent from $103.6 billion in August 2009, according to a Treasury Department report issued today in Washington. The gap for the fiscal year that started in October was $1.26 trillion compared with $1.37 trillion last year at the same time."

At issue here is not just the decline, as welcome as that may be. I am not a deficit hawk, so I understand that the federal stimulus was always intended to be temporary and that Obama had no viable alternatives. Some want us to forget the magnitude of the steaming pile Bush handed Obama in January, 2009.

The primary take away on this story is that the right wing harangue against federal spending has been upended by the facts. Will this even register with teabaggers? It will be interesting to see how they respond, assuming they even hear it, as we head into the November elections.

And that is what makes this story doubly interesting. The mainstream news does not seem interested in covering it. Bloomberg, yes. But at other major sites, it is still crickets chirping. We'll see if that picks up in the next few days. Perhaps Republicans need more time to spin this one.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Weekend Linkage

Rick Perlstein, who wrote the magisterial Nixonland, reminds us that society's fringe element has always been good at drawing attention to itself. The mainstream media usually obliges.

Will Rahm Emanuel quit his gatekeeper role at the White House and run for Mayor of Chicago? That would be one of his best ideas yet. Go ahead, Rahm; you might as well resign now to get a head start. Theyoungturks run down a few reasons why so many progressives loath Emanuel (via MyDD).

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hanabusa for Congress

On Thursday I got myself down to the Hanabusa for Congress campaign HQ for some volunteer work. It was my first visit. I spent a few hours working the phones and generally enjoying myself. Colleen Hanabusa will hopefully take back Hawaii's first congressional district (HI-1), the one held for years by Neil Abercrombie and now held by Republican back-bencher Charles Djou.

It may seem improbable a Boehner yes-man would represent such a blue state as Hawaii, but remember, the Dems badly split the special election vote last May; the party establishment and DLC crowd leaned towards Blue Dog Ed Case, while the party rank and file, and what Robert Gibbs considers the "professional left" favored Hanabusa.

Hawaii generally does not have this much drama; Democratic candidates generally do well, and our two congressional districts had been blue for a long time. Abercrombie held HI-1 since 1991. This year is different. Given their track record, it is inexplicable why anyone would want Republicans back in control. But these are bizzare times.

You can visit Colleen Hanabusa's web site at Hanabusa2010.  Emily's List has a nice write-up on Colleen here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Facts Trump Ideology (this time)

Now this is a little different. Fidel Castro blasts Iran's loathsome Ahmadinejad, telling him to knock off the Holocaust-denying crap. The aging dictator says Ahmadinejad should stop slandering the Jews and consider the consequences of anti-Semitism. He added: "The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours. There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust."

Castro's irony meter may sometimes run low, but he is spot-on about this. The Iranian regime does not care when we say it, but if a few others like Castro, who is not exactly a US puppet, care to speak out, it could help relations.

Too bad the media is paying more attention to that idiot pastor who plans to burn copies of the Quran. No irony there either.

Monday, September 6, 2010

More on the Catfood Commission

Here's some more background on the catfood commission and why we are inching towards oligarchy. First, Sabrina1 has some good commentary on the 18 members. The original article appears in Business Insider. Not surprisingly, corporate America is well represented, Wall Street in particular. Look through that list and see if you find anyone who is unequivocably for America's marginalized, poor, or handicapped. Any union members, farmers, or unskilled laborers? Main Street USA? You know, the very people who pay into SS and need it.  There is Andy Stern, that is one for labor, but even he is considering partial privatization.

It is breathtakingly obscene to see three things converging; the first is that most Republicans are insisting that social security, long thought to be an untouchable third rail, should be curtailed (if not outright repealed); second, these same people actually campaign on making the Bush tax cuts permanent; and the third is that most observers sense that Republicans may gain enough seats in November to regain control.
So, let's see: the argument is reduce SS benefits to help fight the deficit, though it would have no effect, and keep tax cuts for the rich, though doing so unequivocably will add deeply to that same deficit, and of course, the national debt. Bear in mind they are not implying this, and we are not inferring or reading between anyone's lines: Republicans are saying this explicitly; they are running on it.

These SOBs should be laughed out of the building, but they are dangerously close to returning to power. If that is not a motive to support Democrats, then our fate is sealed.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Warren Waits and Waits...Warren Who?

President Obama is still stalling on the Elizabeth Warren nomination to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Presumably there is a Vegas line on her chances of receiving the nod. Cynics are suggesting the chances are slim and none. For others it is virtual line in the sand: If the President doesn't nominate Warren, who is clearly best-suited for the job, then it is the final proof that the fix is in. Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers and the rich guys on Wall Street don't want her for one simple reason: They are afraid she is incorruptible, meaning she will actually do her job. They want their gravy train to continue and to hell with the rest of us.

Me, I think he will nominate her, though I am far from convinced. One could argue he is dragging this out as long as possible so the public, what with its chronically short memory, will forget why so many wanted her in the first place.

I mean, shit, forgetfulness is a plague on our public discourse.  According to the Pew Research Center, nearly half of Americans think the Troubled Asset Relief Program was Obama's creation. Only 34% realize the massive bank bailout program started under George Bush. I bet Fox News is not going out of its way to point this out to teabaggers.