Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tea Drinkers? Really?...

Have you ever heard of Judson Phillips?  (If you read this blog, you probably aren’t the kind of person who would care much about his part of the political spectrum.)  Phillips is credited with being one of the founders of the Tea Party Nation.  He was the organizer of the National Tea Party Nation Convention that was held a year ago that charged a hefty price for admission and paid Sarah Palin an estimated $100,000 to speak.  She later claimed that she would donate her speaking fee to various deserving conservative organizations...
I’ve tried digging around and I can’t find out much about Mr. Phillips’s background.  I believe he is a Tennessean and probably an attorney.  He is certainly very, very politically conservative and has a knack for making headlines for himself.  And, frankly, the more I dig around, the more clearly one can see him as a first-class trouble maker.
One of his latest attacks is against the United Methodist Church which he says is the first church of Karl Marx.  Why?  For openers, the Church supports the Dream Act and considers Hillary Clinton a member in good standing.   Here are some more strikes against the Methodists from the Gospel According to Phillips (his blog):  [Here]
Reading the Methodist social justice manifesto is like reading a socialist wish list.   They want amnesty, they want “economic justice”, they opposed “global climate change” (earth to the Methodists, man isn’t doing it), fighting global poverty (here is another hint, most poverty is caused by a lack of freedom and lack of a free enterprise system).  Not shockingly, the Methodists side with the Islamists against Israel, and of course oppose America in Iraq. 
In throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the Methodists, one gets a sense of how far right Mr. Phillips is and, by indirection, how reactionary the Tea Party Nation is.  
The latest Phillips idea is that one should be a property owner in order to vote.  That notion was rejected in the first half of the Nineteenth Century.  I guess Mr. Phillips has never thought about (and probably never even heard of) Andrew Jackson and the Jacksonian revolution.  (Maybe Glenn Beck hasn’t gotten to Jackson, yet.)  
What is frightening about Phillips and his Tea Party Nation cohorts is that they are actually advocating voter disenfranchisement.  As a Thinkprogress blogger points out [Here] this creates a potential for intergenerational strife and effectively strips the vote away from the young, the urban working class and all renters.  
What Mr. Phillips and the Tea Partyers are advancing are policies which would lead to a seismic change in citizens’ voting rights that would turn back the clock to the Nineteenth Century.  Many of them don’t even want the direct election of the U.S. Senators.  (The GOP controls most state houses which would, in turn, choose the Senators.)
These Tea Partyers are not benign, flag-waving, politically naive folks who like wearing period costumes and just wish to blow off some steam.  Phillips latest rabble-rousing is a list of five groups which he calls “liberal hate-groups.”  Topping the list is the Southern Poverty Legal Center.  The SPLC recently listed the Tea Party Nation as a hate-group and Phillips is simply returning the favor.  
Next on the Phillips hate list is the DHS for: 
 silly political posturing from the most corrupt regime in the history of this country. 
Third is the ACLU which Phillips calls “a hate group with a law license."  Fourth is the SEIU which he says has used violence against employers who have not allowed workers to organize.  Fifth is the NAACP, which the Tea Party Nation simply flings back a charge of “racist.” Phillips wrote: [Here]
To the NAACP, anyone to the right of Karl Marx is a racist.  
No, these Tea Party folks are not benign.  The ease with which they distort history and facts is chilling.  Politics should not be a game of name-calling and an exchange of stupidity.  
I sometimes feel as if I am back in the early 1950’s when political reason had fled the country and fear-mongering had captured the GOP.  
Does Joe McCarthy’s name ring a bell?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Nonsense Begins...

The Wingnuts have begun talking as if control of the lower House of Congress is tantamount to controlling all of Congress as well as the Presidency.  Liberals better be prepared for a rough January as Obama & Co. put together and write his State of the Union Address which is his report to the nation with probably some proposed legislative gems thrown in.  Already CNN is clapping its hands and urging him to move to the center--as if he isn’t there already.
Michael Gerson, the conservative Op-Ed columnist for the Washington Post, started his campaign on Tuesday with this unhelpful article, “Social Security reform is the answer to Obama’s problems--and the nation’s.”  [Here]  Please note that Gerson did not put the word reform in quotation marks.  He simply asserted that Social Security needs reform and frankly he never went much beyond that simple idea in his column.
Gerson started his column reminding us that Obama’s achievements in the lame duck session of Congress were accomplished because he gave up something to get something else.  Gerson gave us just a few examples of what he meant: [Here]
To secure a second stimulus, he [Obama] accepted Republican economic methods.  To pass the New START treaty, Obama offered assurances to Republican senators on nuclear modernization and missile defense. Contrast this with health-care reform, imposed in party-line maneuvers that left an aftertaste of ideological radicalism.
I am not going to try to figure what Gerson meant by “Republican economic methods” except perhaps to guess that he meant the continuation of the huge Bush tax break to the rich.  Gerson went on to review what Obama might propose in his State of the Union Address.  He wrote that it is likely that the President will propose freezing some discretionary spending and the banning of earmarks, but quickly dismissed the notion that Obama would outshine Republicans when it comes to initiating spending cuts.  I guess Gerson figures that Republicans are the champions of government cutbacks--except to the military.
Then Gerson got to the heart of the matter.  He first mentioned possible tax reform but knocked that down because it is such a complicated matter to tackle. (?)  The other option is “entitlement reform.”  (He finally got to it...)  Gerson called it the most politically dangerous, but “the most promising.”  He claimed that Medicare is the main entitlement problem but is a “political nonstarter.”
He went on to argue that Social Security is the place for Obama to start to cut the deficit even though it doesn’t contribute to the deficit:  [Here]
While Social Security is a relatively small contributor to future deficits, reforming it would be a large symbol and a logical place to begin.
(I am not making this up!)  Can you believe this?  Gerson admits that tinkering with Social Security will rile liberals who “... have threatened a serious political revolt if Obama pursues serious reform...”   However, Social Security tinkering would be an “achievable” goal.
His column blows itself out at the end because he has already written himself into a corner.  He cannot really come out and say where his line of reasoning is leading him, viz. if Obama tries this, he will have Republicans dancing in the streets and liberal Democrats marching in the streets.  We must remember that Michael Gerson was a Bush speechwriter for six years and claims [Here] that he invented the term “axis of evil.”  (No one takes credit for “Mission Accomplished.”)  
We also must remember that Peter G. Peterson is probably the éminence grise of any Social Security “reform” commentary in the Washington Post.  Peterson’s conservative, neoliberal Fiscal Times has a current partnership with the Post and shares economic commentary and its anti-Social Security point of view with some of the paper’s writers. [Here]
Tighten your seat belts, folks.  We’re in for a rough January...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tidbits...

It’s time that we tidied our desktop once again so here we go with some interesting tidbits.
First item:  We were thrilled to see that CNN has been taking special notice of Senator Barbara Mikulski who will be beginning her fifth term as a United States Senator.  She will thus become the longest serving female Senator, beating the record set by Maine’s Republican Senator, Margaret Chase Smith.  When she arrived in the Senate in 1986, she was the first Democratic woman who had been elected in her own right.
This 72-year old Senator from Maryland has broken many, many barriers in her years in the Senate.  One of the first ones was the wearing of pants.  When she alerted Senator Robert Byrd, the Senate Democratic leader, of her intention, they had the Parliamentarian look up the rules and found nothing specifically about the subject.  When she walked onto the Senate floor wearing slacks, she smilingly remembered that “it caused a big stir.” [Here]
Mikulski reported that the Senate gym was another exclusive, all-male area and verboten to women.  
They just couldn't accommodate me and I'm not much of a jock anyway, but that's where they networked and that's where they bonded.
It's an interesting observation, isn't it?  


Senator Mikulski is now the unofficial dean of all the Senate women.  Introducing newly-elected Senators, regardless of party, to the routines and habits of the Senate is a role that she takes very seriously.  
We salute this interesting woman.
Second item: Sarah Palin is still trying to explain away her famous “Refudiate” gaffe.  She wrote her famous malaprop in a Tweet last July: [Here]
Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn't it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate."
 The word was picked up and suddenly became the “Word of the Year” by the New Oxford American Dictionary.”  [Here]  Now Palin is trying to explain it all away by saying it was a typo--that she pressed an “F,” instead of a “P.”   (On my keyboard, I press an “F” with my left index finger and a “P” with my right ring finger.  Maybe they do things differently in Alaska.)  Also, refudiate is not the only thing wrong with the Palin Tweet.
If you believe the Palin explanation, please stay away from folks selling Brooklyn Bridges...
Third Item:  Did you know that both N.J. Gov. Chris Christie AND Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno were out of New Jersey during the recent blizzard and the management of the state’s response to the massive storm was directed by the President of the N.J. Senate?  [Here]  I guess all went well.  The only problem is that New Jersey just changed its laws, creating a Lieutenant Governship, to avoid this very situation.  I guess they just didn't bother to check each other's schedules?
The Governor is in Disney World in Florida and the Lt. Governor is in Mexico.  I guess they couldn’t fly back to handle things because the New Jersey airports are closed. 
Oops!
Fourth item:  Huffpost reported that Newsweek interviewed both former SCOTUS Justices Stevens and O’Connor and wrote that both rejected the Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC.  It’s scarce comfort for all of us who must endure the pouring of corporate money into political campaigns but it’s important to note once again how off-kilter that decision was.  (It’s also painful to be reminded of how a sensible Sandra Day O’Connor was replaced by a rigid, conservative Samuel Alito.)
By the way, when is Michelle Bachman’s First Congressional Constitutional class to take place?  That’s the one that she says will be taught by Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.  [Here]  I can’t wait.  I have my pencil box and notebook all ready.
In the meantime, we are still digging out from the Christmas 2010 blizzard.  Let’s hope that Christie and Guadagno get back safely.  Do you suppose that there’s a Republican private jet service?  Well, if there isn’t, it won’t be long until Michael Steele creates one.
More tomorrow...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Lesson Learned and Then Forgotten...

The British History Channel reminded us of one of the most extraordinary events in modern history. [Here]  h/t to Down With Tyranny [Here
25 December 1914 : The Christmas Truce
 Just after midnight on Christmas morning, the majority of German troops engaged in World War I in the region of Ypres, Belgium cease firing their guns and artillery and commence to sing Christmas carols, including ‘Stille Nacht’ (‘Silent Night’). At certain points along the eastern and western fronts, the soldiers of Russia, France, and Britain even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.  
 At the first light of dawn, many of the German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man's-land, calling out Merry Christmas" in their enemies' native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of football. The truce also allowed both sides to gather and bury their dead with honour. At one funeral, soldiers from both sides gathered to recite a passage from the 23rd Psalm.
The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. There is anecdotal evidence of an informal armistice observed by both sides along the Western front, especially in the latter stages of the war, where artillery shelling was conducted at precise points and at precise times so that casualties were limited. With great advances made in technology in the years between World War I and II, opposing forces no longer had to face each other in the trenches, and thus an informal truce on the scale of that seen in 1914 never happened again.
It is good to remember, isn’t it?....

Friday, December 24, 2010

A New York Story...

The Clintons--Bill and Hillary and Chelsea-- were made for New York and they certainly seem to love all the things about it that true New Yorkers love.  Here is a recent story about them that the Times’s City Room ran, titled “Where The Clintons Spent the Night Before the Night Before.”  [Here
Of course, the Clintons move around town with wall-to-wall Secret Service, but they don’t let it get in the way of their pleasure in the city.  They obviously enjoy New York cafe night life and have the taste and the contracts to know where to go.  Remember the blockbuster Streisand engagement at the Village Vanguard where the Clintons were front and center?  [Here]  I must admit, though, that I don’t know how either of them can maintain their incredibly crowded schedules and still manage to show up smiling and enjoying the moment.
The Times article was about all three Clintons stopping by the Carlyle (Café Carlyle) to hear Steve Tyrell sing and to extend their best wishes to Tyrell and his fiance on their upcoming wedding this Sunday.  Tyrell has taken Bobby Short’s place at the Carlyle when Short died five years ago.  I don’t know Tyrell’s music but the Times helped us by quoting their own music reviewer, Stephen Holder:  [Here]
“...a Burt Bacharach protégé with one foot in New Orleans.”
The Tyrell show was scheduled to begin at 8:30 but was delayed because Bill went to the bathroom and on his way back got deep in conversation with folks at the bar.  (You don’t start a show while an ex-President is still talking in the bar.  It simply isn’t done, particularly at the Carlyle.)
Steve Tyrell introduced his version of “Just the way you look tonight” by telling the audience that Chelsea had chosen it for the father/daughter dance in her wedding reception last summer.  It must have been a wonderful tear-filled moment last summer and, probably, also at the Carlyle this week.
We are told that the show ended at 10:30 and that Bill had mouthed the words of every song that Tyrell had sung.  The Clintons stayed another 30 minutes to have pictures taken and to wish the couple good luck.  (Bill lingered an extra 15 minutes.)
What a nice New York/Clinton story.  
We wish them all a Merry Christmas...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gillibrand Admired...

The New York Times finally woke up!  It’s always gratifying to report that the Grey Lady has found her way through a political thicket but this time we must ask what took them so long?  I’m referring to a major article in Thursday’s paper which chronicled New York’s Senator Kirsten Gillibrand efforts to pass the nullification of DADT and health care aid to 9/11 First Responders.  [Here]  
The article was titled, “Gillibrand Gains Foothold With Victory on 9/11 Aid.”  Gillibrand fought for months to repeal DADT and when the Senate finally did the right thing and voted to repeal it, she immediately turned to the health care plan for first responders.  Gillibrand and Schumer worked tirelessly together to get that bit of legislation passed.
Gillibrand has won the gratitude of the LGBT community but also the admiration of the liberal political establishment--no easy task.  As Ilyse Hogue of MoveOn.org was quoted in the Times as saying: [Here]
To have gone from a virtual unknown to being a major player on some landmark legislation in such a short period of time just shows what Kirsten is capable of.
We have written about Gillibrand before, but I wanted to take a brief note of the admiring attention from the Times.  It’s about time that they got this right.  
We have also written before of Gillibrand’s excellent staff work.  I do not know whether some of Hillary’s old staff joined Gillibrand’s office.  There is a level of professionalism and intelligence with just about everything that they do which suggests to me that there must be some connection with Hillary’s old Senate staff,--if not in fact, then certainly in spirit.
  
A personal experience with Gillibrand’s excellent staff work: I read the NYTimes article very early Thursday morning--pre-dawn actually.  Within the hour I was emailed by a member of her staff, calling my attention to the piece.  
I was astounded.  I am not a Gillibrand financial backer, just a interested NY, registered Democrat.  As such, I have been on her email mailing list during the last campaign.  I was so impressed with their email alert that I answered the email with my congratulations.  It was still early in the morning, but I received an instant thank you, using my first name.  In other words, it wasn’t a robo reply.
That, dear friends, is excellent staff work...
Gillibrand will run again in 2012.  Let us hope that the NYTimes remembers how impressed it was with her in December, 2010...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Some Satisfying Wins...

We shouldn’t let today pass without some cheers and shouts of joy.  The Congress passed, and this morning the President signed, the repeal of DADT.  (Good riddance to rotten policy.)  But our cheers shouldn’t stop there, although it is a huge win not only for gay soldiers but also for all Americans who still care about fundamental justice and equality.  There were other wins, too.
In these closing hours of this lame duck session of Congress, the Senate also passed the START nuclear arms treaty with Russia and, also, health care for the 9/11 first responders, many of whom are suffering fatal illnesses from breathing the toxic fumes from the burning twin towers.  We’ve had to endure some of the most extraordinary nonsense from foot-dragging GOP Senators who really didn’t want to give Democrats and Obama any wins to carry them to 2012.  
The wonder to me is that the media has given the negative, often whining, GOPers so much news coverage.  However, the more the negative Senators spoke, the more the media was forced to air background information.  And so, one by one, individual GOPers peeled away from the solid phalanx of “No” that Chairman McConnell and colleagues had constructed.
The current legislative session has had some heros and we should mention them.  But first, let’s not forget Comedy Central's Jon Stewart who devoted his final show of 2010 to the first responders’ health care.  Yes, it was touching.  At times it was funny.  Yes, it was pointed. But most of all, it was extraordinary television.  Stewart called out the major networks for not even mentioning the issue in their news coverage.  [Here]  (After the airing of his show, this changed.  The networks got on to the story.)  If you have not yet seen the Stewart interview of the four dying first responders, take the time now to view the clip.  [Here]  It is an extraordinary moment that you won’t forget.  
Yet, even after this, our NY Senators Gillibrand and Schumer had to fight night and day to rework the bill so that enough GOPers could be persuaded to vote for it.  They even found new tax money (from foreign business) to pay for the coverage.  One by one, Republican Senators were persuaded.  I hope that these GOPers now feel as happy as Senators Lieberman and Collins looked after they had cajoled fellow Senators to repeal DADT.
As the folks in the White House and the President take victory laps for the legislative wins in Congress, there are some other folks that we should not forget.  First, is Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon who had just been diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer.  Yet, he came to the Senate on Saturday to vote for repeal of DADT.  He was operated on Monday.  Then, looking thin and pale, nevertheless was back to vote with his colleagues on Wednesday with Chuck Schumer by his side.  [Here]
Second, in all of the attention the Senate has gotten, do not let us forget the work of the House, under the leadership of the remarkable, able, skillful and politically astute Nancy Pelosi, who held her caucus together and it delivered again and again, while the Senate dithered and delayed.  Congratulations, Madam Speaker.
Third, we must congratulate the work that our New York Senators have done for the first responders and for the repeal of DADT.  Within hours of passage of these two bills, Gillibrand’s staff had sent out emails announcing the news and thanking her constituents for our support.  This is perhaps a small thing but it suggests that Gillibrand has assembled a very effective and able staff.  Congratulations.
Finally, some days ago we talked about Harry Reid keeping Lt. Dan Choi’s West Point ring as a talisman until DADT was repealed.  Here is a video of Reid returning the ring to Dan Choi.  
Warning: have some kleenex handy...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

An Interesting Historical Footnote...

Amidst all the sturm und drang over repeal of DADT this past week, the internet was alive with interesting posts.  I’m proud of the liberal/progressive bloggers who wrote intelligently on the subject and kept up the pressure  until the job was accomplished by the Senate.  It’s now up to the President to sign the bill on Wednesday morning.  I’m sure that the photo op surrounding the signing will be stupendous with everyone represented from those men and women who have been strong advocates for repealing the discriminatory law to those who dragged their feet.  I guarantee that all will be smiling into the cameras.
There were hundreds of interesting posts, some hopeful and many angry.  Whatever their mood, I hope that they all get remembered and saved.  
One of the most interesting posts was the following from Donkey Mountain that reprinted two letters. written in 1779 in the midst of the American Revolution.  [Here
Cold in my professions, warm in friendships, I wish, my dear Laurens, it might be in my power by actions rather than words to convince you that I love you.  I shall only tell you that till you bade us adieu, I hardly knew the value you had taught my heart to set upon you.  Indeed, my friend, it was not well done.  You know the opinion I entertain of mankind and how much it is my desire to preserve myself free from particular attachments and to keep my happiness independent of the caprice of others.  You should not have taken advantage of my sensibility to steal into my affections without my consent.
The second letter:
I have written five or six letters since you left Philadelphia and I should have written you more had you made proper return. But, like a jealous lover, when I thought you slighted my caress, my affection was alarmed and my vanity piqued.
We are told that this correspondence, later published by the author’s son, continued until 1782 when John Laurens was killed by the British.  When the author’s son later published his father’s letters, he wrote in the margin of the first letter, “I must not publish the whole of this.” [Here
The author was Alexander Hamilton...  
Let’s not tell the Tea Party folks...   

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hard Times, the Wall Street Way...

The NYTimes ran a piece on Monday about Wall Street’s annual bonuses which was not a good thing to read the week before Christmas.  [Here]  I suppose it would have been fine if one were a Master of the Universe, but I’m not and have no plans to become one.  
It’s not that the news is bleak for the Wall Street folks--far from it-- but given the persistently high unemployment rates across the country, the moaning and groaning from lower Manhattan seems very out of place.  In fact, to my aging ears, it sounds downright un-American.
But then again, we are living in a time when the senior Senator from Illinois, Dick Durbin, couldn’t answer a question from the press about how the White House stood on the Zadroga Act, the bill to fund medical treatment for first responders. [Here]  I’m certain that Obama is for the bill but he sure isn’t beating the drums and blowing the horns in support of it.
What the Times reported was that there appears to be a new group on Wall Street.  As the Times put it: [Here]
Bonus season is fast approaching on Wall Street, but this year the talk does not center just on multimillion-dollar paydays. It’s about a new club that no one wants to join: the Zeros.
Drawn from a broad swath of back-office employees and middle-level traders, bankers and brokers, the Zeros, as they have come to be called, are facing a once-unthinkable prospect: an annual bonus of ... nothing.
Before you extend one second of sympathy for the Zeros, the article pointed out that immediately after 2008 when the real estate balloon burst, many of the large firms and banks raised the base salaries of these mid-range employees.  At Goldman Sachs the base salaries rose from $300,000 to $500,000 and at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse from $200,000 to $400,000.  Not bad, eh?
Contrast this picture with the national unemployment rate of almost 10% and consider that many of those unemployed have been looking for work for months and months.  Recall also how the GOP has screamed and yelled about extending unemployment benefits for a few more months.  The arguments against continuing unemployment payments are so heartless and--yes, I’ll say it--unChristian-- that it almost hurts to repeat them.  
Here are some examples of heartless bone-stupidity: Newt Gingrich has blamed the nation’s problems on the “leftist news media, Hollywood tenured academics [???], overpaid federal workers and unemployed people.” [Here]  (I am not making this up.  Can you imagine blaming unemployed folks for the country’s problems!?!)  Sen. Jim DeMint (R, SC) told a television audience that “We can't just keep paying people to stay at home.“  Judd Gregg (R,NH) said that these benefits mean that people are “encouraged not to look for work.” [Here
The Times article also points out that 2010 has been a boom year for the big houses.  The Street is headed to outearn the $20 plus billion that was estimated by New York City’s government predictions. [Here
One final word from the Times about Wall Street and bonuses. [Here]
“This year, Wall Street’s five biggest firms have put aside nearly $90 billion for bonuses.”
Enough said...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

On to the Zadroga Act...

It’s the day after, isn’t it? 

This is the day after DADT started down the road to the dustbin of history.  We are being told that it will take about two years for its repeal to be implemented fully.  I admit that I don’t quite understand this point and the attendant administrative problems, but I hope that it doesn’t mean that pending charges against individuals will be pursued.
I also admit that I’ve not paid much attention to John McCain’s rants, except to feel very sorry for him.  For his distinguished career to end this way is a shame.      
I’ve been bemused with the various reactions in the media.   The Washington Post has had extensive and excellent coverage of the Senate actions and the reactions in the military stationed around the world.  [Here]  Ed O’Keefe of the Post asked for comments and he certainly got some lulus. [Here]  Some, unfortunately, were the usual bigoted stupidity, a mixture of rightwing hatred, village lore about gayness, and name-calling.
I was surprised, though, at the number of gay service personnel who bravely wrote in.  For obvious reasons, they had been following the story from their posts all over the world.  Even with the Senate’s action, the President has not yet signed the bill and it has not yet gone into effect.  Let’s hope that Obama picks up his pen soon!
In the meanwhile, at least two more issues are left to be settled, the nuclear arms treaty (START), and the funding of medical aid to the first responders, the Zogroda Act.  Mitch McConnell said on Sunday that he couldn’t support START. [Here]  He was quoted by CNN saying that he felt “they” were rushing the treaty through the ratification process.  No doubt McConnell does not want to spend the Christmas break remembering too many major pieces of legislation successfully passed by the Democratic majority.
Let us hope that the nuclear treaty does not end up under the bus along with the DREAM legislation.  These Senate Republicans utterly baffle me.  Their collective eyes are fixed on 2012 and, unfortunately, they are viewing every issue through that prism.  Doing the right thing for undocumented immigrants who have been here for years and are thoroughly “Americanized” appears to have no meaning for them.  Their eyes are only focused on the 2012 Presidential prize, even though there is no clear (or impressive) Republican candidate on the horizon.
Yet, with all of this said, the GOP Senators’ most flagrant violation of legislative responsibility lies in their filibustering a bill to pay for medical aid for the 9/11 first responders, the so-called Zadroga Act.  Do you remember the sight of those firefighters and police who rushed into the burning and toxic caldron to save lives?  Those are the people who now need help from the long-term environmental effects of those acts of heroism. 
The msm has been curiously quiet about this issue.  It took Jon Stewart [Here] to break the log jam.  Also, Shep Smith let loose with Chris Wallace on Fox News.  [Here]  NY Senators, Schumer and Gillibrand, have been working tirelessly to get the votes to break a possible GOP fillibuster.  The Republicans were complaining about the cost of the bill at the same time they were passing the tax breaks to the wealthy.
According to press reports in Newsday  and the NYTimes, Gillibrand and Schumer have found ways of funding the bill that they believe will be acceptable to enough Republican Senators to break the magical number of 60.
Let us all hope that the bill will move forward before the Christmas break.  What a fine holiday present this would be for those extremely ill heros.  
Before we close, we should mention how proud we all should be of the untiring and intelligent work that our two NY Senators, Schumer and Gillibrand, have done in these last few weeks.  As we bid farewell to Gov. Paterson as he leaves office, we should remember that Gillibrand was his controversial choice to fill Hillary’s vacant seat.  He took much flak when he made his decision, but time has shown that his judgment was superb.  Kirsten Gillibrand is a Senator to be proud of.  
Let’s remember to thank our retiring Governor.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

“DADT”--Good Riddance!

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been repealed by the Congress of the United States and the bill now awaits the President’s signature.  Already the punditry is racing to divvy up the credit.  The final vote was 65 to 31 with 4 Senators not voting, 3 GOP and 1 Dem.
The NYTimes has one of its superb national maps with the Senate's voting results. [Here]  It’s always interesting to view a vote this way and to see how the issue played out in the Senate representation across the country.  The northeast stood tall and bipartisan, voting yes with the exception of retiring Judd Greg who didn’t cast a vote.  The Senators of both parties from the West Coast, the northern tier states, and Alaska and Hawaii also voted for repeal.  It was down in the deep South with the exception of a divided Florida and in what I call the desert West--Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, and Arizona--that the GOP stood firmly against repeal.  Orin Hatch abstained, as did the new Democratic Senator from West Virginia, Joe Manchin.  (In fact, Joe Manchin was out of town and missed all the crucial votes of the day--DREAM and DADT.  He claimed that he had a prior obligation to party with his family...)
It was certainly mighty fine to see happy, smiling, and, yes!, victorious faces after the Senate vote.  [Here]  It was particularly fine to see such happiness on Democrats and Republican faces.  In fact, there was one shot of Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins, both grinning widely, as they walked to the press.  I haven’t seen either of them look so relaxed and joyous in a very long time and certainly not in the same camera shot.  That’s what can happen when one does the right thing.
Huffpost has posted a statement from the activist Lt. Don Choi that reminds us that there is still some work to be done: [Here]
President Obama, you are not off the hook.  The compromise bill passed today puts the moral imperative squarely on your desk. Sign an executive order instituting a full non-discrimination policy throughout the military.  If you do not, if you drag your feet and politicize this with your theoretical calculations as you have these past two years, you will be guilty of abetting those who loudly proclaim homophobia from their platforms and pulpits. Provide them no shelter or safe haven.  Institute justice now...
Choi also wrote: 
The mission is not finished; it has only just begun. The most critical mission is supporting and encouraging closeted soldiers to finally access their full integrity, dignity, and humanity...”
...I intend to rejoin the military and serve in any capacity I can be of best use. I intend to marry and have a family of my own. We are living in a truly historic moment...We are one team with one goal: Equality in our lifetime. I do not intend to waver or retreat in pursuit of this new life purpose and mission, and neither should any American who loves justice.
This statement by the extraordinary Dan Choi puts him in line to come face to face with DOMA and all the other discriminatory anti-gay marriage laws.  We might have to wait a moment while this current conservative plutocracy blows itself out, but I doubt that Choi and others who fought and beat back the military establishment will stand back and be silent.
Remember when Choi gave Harry Reid his West Point ring at Netroots Nation?  Here is a video of that wonderful moment.  Reid promised to keep the ring in a safe place and return it when the law was repealed.  What a fine moment the return of that ring will be.   
Let us hope that there will be cameras present.  That is one moment that deserves to be memorialized.
Our gratitude and congratulations to both of these fine men...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Updates...

As the President made a grand photo op of his signing of the controversial omnibus tax bill on Friday afternoon, Mitch McConnell certainly looked as if his stocking had been stuffed by a very benevolent Santa.  [Here]
The $858 billion Tax Bill will be spun by both sides as a legislative win, but frankly the only folks who will be dancing in the streets are the uber wealthy.  The unemployment payment extension, which is part of the bill, will tide some folks over but the checks aren’t fat enough for feasting.  Also, both sides of the aisle have agreed on funding to keep the government operating, but the total budget that the Appropriations Committee has labored over for more than a year was not passed, leaving Senatorial good humor and holiday cheer in tatters on the Senate floor.
The Russian-American nuclear treaty (START) will probably be passed but we do not know when.  The Dream Act which will allow children of illegal immigrants to obtain a green card if they complete two years of college or join the military will have to survive the threat of a GOP filibuster.  It is scheduled for an airing on Saturday.  
It is also likely that DADT will come up for a vote in the Senate before the Xmas recess.  With so much blood on the floor already and with the pro-GOP tax bill passed, let us hope that some Republican Senators will listen to their consciences and vote for repeal.  What a fine Christmas present it would be for the gay men and lesbians in our armed services who are willing to give their lives for their country (and us), but are not allowed to speak of their personal lives.  (For shame, America!) 
(Brian Beutler at TPMDC [Here] has a rundown on how this legislative agenda is playing out in a blog titled, “A Primer On The Fallout of OmnibusFAIL.”  It is the best short update that I have found.  (Warning: The NYTimes’s Michael Shear, unfortunately, never quite got under and around the story, but he did quote extensively from the ultra conservative Washington Times and a rightwing lobbyist for opinion. [Here])
Little noticed inside the White House, I am certain, was the anti-war protest outside its gates.  Daniel Ellsberg was among those who were arrested.  [Here] It is good to know that Ellsberg remains a living anti-war conscience for us.
In the meantime, Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army private who allegedly sent documents to Wikileaks and supposedly was the source of the leaked “collateral damage” video which shows a shocking and fatal machine gun attack on civilians via a U.S. helicopter, has been in solitary confinement for 5 months in a marine brig in Quantico, Virginia and, before that, for 2 months in Iraq. 
Manning has not been tried for any crime nor has he been convicted of anything.  Yet, he is held in solitary confinement, allowed only an hour of physical movement outside his cell.  He has no bed sheets or pillow and is under 24-hour surveillance, lest he even try to exercise in his cell.  He has been given anti-depressant drugs to offset the effects of such confinement, a tacit admission that such prison conditions are akin to torture.  [Here
I am not arguing for or against Pvt. Manning’s guilt or innocence, but I am arguing for our affording this man decent treatment.  Our system of law is part of a thousand years in a tradition of justice that must be given to all and delivered humanely and equally.  It is shocking that our military will not extend the same minimal standards to all of its prisoners, regardless of the charge or of his/hers guilt or innocence. 
What is most shocking is that we are not shocked.  We will demand humane treatment and conditions for a serial killer, but not even think to extend the same humanity to a young man who is a controversial whistleblower. 
These conditions will continue until we demand change... 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gathering Bits and Pieces...

We have some scattered odds and ends today.
In our Tuesday’s post, “Some Further Bernie Sanders Thoughts,” [Here] we wondered whether President Obama would invite Jeffry Immelt, the CEO of GE to his White House Business Summit that was scheduled to meet on Wednesday.  Remember that in his nine-hour Senate speech, Bernie Sanders mentioned that Immelt had rhapsodized about the virtues of outsourcing in “China, China, China, China, China”?  Sanders quoted Immelt as saying that GE could build an 18 cubic foot refrigerator in China and deliver it back in the U.S. for less money than to build it here?  Sanders then added that when GE needed an $18 billion dollar bailout, they came to the American Fed, and not to China, China, China, China, China.
The answer to my Tuesday’s musing is...Mr. Immelt was indeed invited to that business roundtable that met at Blair House. [Here]  While at that meeting with President Obama and the other CEOs, I wonder if Immelt put in his plug for outsourcing in China, China, China, China, China?
The companies represented at the meeting were indeed an impressive and varied lot: Intel; Google; American Express; Dow Chemical; PepsiCo; Cisco, Comcast; UBS Group Americas; IBM; UPS; Dupont; Motorola; Honeywell; Centerbridge Partners-(a private equity firm); Kleiner Perkins-(venture capital firm); Eli Lilly; Pritzker Realty Group; Duke Energy; NextEra Energy.  And I am sure that they all know about outsourcing in China.  
I wonder what Obama promised them?  I also wonder how much money those 20 firms pumped into the last election?  Probably for the GOP.
By the way, of the 20 corporations that were invited, there were 3 female CEOs: Indra Nooyi of Pepsico, Ellen Kullman of Dupont, and Penny Pritzker of Pritzker Realty Group.
As the Senate dithers about Obama’s Compromise Tax Bill, the repeal of DADT stands waiting in the wings for a Senate vote.  The NYTimes’s Caucus Blog claims that there are enough votes to pass the repeal, but only if it can come to a vote in this lame duck session.  In the last few days, Republicans Scott Brown from Massachusetts, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and both of Maine’s Senators have announced their support for repeal.  Another bit of interesting news is that incoming GOP Senator-elect Pat Toomey has announced his support for repeal, too.  
Wouldn’t it be splendid if the support for repeal grew on both sides of the aisle?  Yes, I know there is a group of GOP Senators who are strangers to intelligence, sanity, fairness, decency and either the Twentieth or the Twenty-first century, but we can hope, can’t we?
The Times also ran a sad story about Congressman Patrick Kennedy, Ted’s son, packing up his office and preparing to leave Congress.  You may remember that he chose not to run for re-election this year.  Patrick’s leaving will mean that there will be no member of the Kennedy family serving in national elected office.
It’s hard for me to write this, but the Times reporter, Michael Shear, is made of sterner and probably different political stuff.  Shear pointed out that the next political father-son team left in Congress is Ron and Rand Paul.  Shear quoted a political scientist at the American Enterprise Institute who indicated that this shift from liberal Democrats to Libertarians was “the kind of sea change we are going through.”
Reporter Shear also quoted a Mr. Darrell West from the Brookings Institute who said that the Kennedy family’s only elected official now was Bobby Shriver, whose mayoral term of Santa Monica, California, had just ended, although he still sits on the City Council.  Mr. West commented that this was “...a pretty dramatic fall, and it’s symbolic of the decline of liberalism.”  [Here
Wow!  At least Mr. West confined this “dramatic fall” to liberalism and not to all of Western Civilization, but then he wouldn’t have allowed himself to be quoted on such an hysterical note, would he?  After all, Brookings describes itself as non-partisan...
Mr. West and Reporter Shear should take note:  I just read that Patrick Kennedy’s nephew, Edward Moore Kennedy 111, announced at age 11 that he intends to run for Congress when he grows up.  He’ll be 13 next February.  
I can’t wait...   

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Michelle Bachman, Wingnut Rampant...

With our attention and admiration focused on Bernie Sanders and his nine-hour speech last Friday, we almost overlooked Michelle Bachman’s latest dingbat idea.  If you haven’t heard about it, you are in for a super treat.
Here’s Bachman’s idea which she carefully explained on the air to Lou Dobbs and which we found out about from Josh Marshall’s talkingpointsmemo.com. [Here]
We’re going to do what the NFL does and what the baseball teams do: we’re going to practice every week, if you will, our craft, which is studying and learning the Declaration, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
That’ll set the tone for the week when we’re in Washington...[She is] hoping all the members of Congress will partake--it’s bipartisan.
And to kick off the event, Bachman told Lou Dobbs that Associate Justice Scalia “...has graciously agreed to kick off our class.” 
Aren’t you thrilled that the members of Congress will get a chance to learn what is in the Declaration of Independence. as well as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?  (I bet it’s going to surprise them that the Bill of Rights is already in the Constitution.  In fact, many of the states, perhaps their own, wouldn’t have originally signed on to this new, upstart nation without those ten amendments.)
I can’t bear to hear what Associate Justice Scalia has to say, can you?  We’ve already heard too much from him about the First Amendment in Citizens United v. FEC.  But then again, it might be useful to hear another, simpler explanation as to how a huge, multi-national corporation, worth billions or even trillions of dollars, should be considered as an individual person under the First Amendment’s freedom of speech. 
Michelle Bachman takes my breath away.  What about you?  She’s the one who claimed a few days ago that those tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires wouldn’t add to the deficit because the money stays with the people who already own it.  The government deficit is something else entirely.  She actually said the following on CNN in an exchange with John Roberts and quoted in TPM: [Here]
And remember it's a deficit to government but it's not a deficit to people who get to keep their money.  So it's how you frame it.  I don't think letting people keep their own money should be considered a deficit.
In 2012 let us try to remember that she said when she spins off how terrible the national deficit is. 
It’s hard to believe that Michelle Bachman has a college degree and graduated from law school.  (She was in the final graduating class from Oral Roberts Law School. [Here])  Her biography tells us that for five years she was a U.S. Treasury Department Attorney, prosecuting hundreds of folks in the St. Paul area who had not paid or underpaid their taxes.  Gulp.  She stopped to become a full-time mother to her five children and 23 foster children. 

It will be interesting to see what happens to Bachman’s latest project.  If the Scalia lecture happens, I wonder who will be next on the list?  
What about Glenn Beck?  But maybe the pay isn’t good enough...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Some Further Bernie Sanders Thoughts...

On Monday night on her MSNBC show Rachel Maddow had a long comment about the beltway’s media coverage of Bernie Sanders's 9-hour filibuster-like speech on the floor of the Senate last Friday.  She predicted that since the speech was made by one of the most liberal of United States Senators, little of substance would be reported about the speech itself beyond the fact that it was very lengthy.  
I have great respect for Maddow but this comment seemed a mite over the top to me so I set out to disprove it...  I failed.  Completely.  Maddow was totally accurate in her prediction.
The best that the NYTimes could do was a fluff, background piece on Bernie Sanders himself. [Here]  The Times tells us that Sanders started his day last Friday with oatmeal and a cup of coffee.  Also, his voice became scratchy as the hours went by and his legs cramped because he had only a fixed mike and thus had to stand in one place for all that time.
The Times reporter did tell us that before the speech Sanders went over with his staff the ten-points that he planned to talk about but the writer never revealed what those points were.  (Wouldn’t they be interesting to know?)  The most we learned from reporter Katie Zezima was that the Sanders speech was a “marathon riff against the Obama Administration’s plan to continue the tax plan of George W. Bush.”  Period.
The Washington Post only included a short snippet of Bernie’s speech in a video accompanying a longer article titled “Washington Post-ABC News poll finds broad bipartisan support for tax package.”  [Here] (No!  I’m not making this up.)  How's this for fair and balanced coverage?
Frankly, I had not been aware how the beltway media had shut out reporting of all things liberal.  I was aware that the word had virtually disappeared and the leftwing is now referred to by the word “progressive,” which, frankly, doesn’t roll off my tongue very easily and seems tepid and dated.
To learn more about liberal matters, we must go to bloggers.  One long quotation from the Sanders speech that you certainly will not see written in any of our national papers is this beauty from Emptywheel at Firedoglake.com.  It comes complete with a video and the following transcription from the Sanders Senate speech. [Here
GE is of course one of our major corporations, and in fact this recent disclosure pointed out [that] the taxpayers of this country, through the Fed, provided $16 billion in bailout to General Electric during the recent crisis. This is what the head, CEO, of General Electric, Jeffrey Immelt, said in 2002, December 6...
‘When I am talking to GE managers, I talk China, China, China, China, China.  [Five Chinas]  You need to be there.  You need to change the way people talk about it and how they get there.  I am a nut on China.  Outsourcing from China is going to grow to 5 billion.  We are building a tech center in China.  Every discussion today has to center on China.  The cost basis is extremely attractive.  You can take an 18 cubic foot refrigerator, make it in China, land it in the United States, and land it for less than we can make an 18 cubic foot refrigerator ourselves.’ (December 6, 2002)
Gee! When GE had, a couple of years ago, some really difficult economic times, they needed $16 billion to bail them out, I didn’t hear Mr. Immelt going to China, China, China, China, China. I didn’t hear that. I heard Mr. Immelt going to the taxpayers of the United States for his welfare check. So I say to Mr. Immelt, and I say to all these CEOs that have been so quick to run to China, that maybe it’s time to start reinvesting in the United States of the America.”
We should remember that the Times announced that this Wednesday Obama will meet with “about 20 corporate chiefs” in a roundtable format from companies such as American Express, Cisco Systems, Dow Chemical, Google, Motorola, Intel, UPS and PepsiCo.  We can be certain that the setting will be carefully filmed and well-packaged for the media.  (I wonder if Mr. Immelt from G.E. will be there.)  
I also wonder how much money these same corporations gave to the GOP to defeat the Democratic agenda and candidates just a few months ago.  Isn’t it just grand?  They get rewarded with a White House invitation.   
It isn’t pleasant to watch the White House lurch more and more openly to the right.  Sometimes it seems as if they are running to the right...
More odds and ends tomorrow... 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mid-December Odds and Ends...

My desktop is filled with odds and ends and all of them are worthy of sharing.  So here we go:
First, we have often written that the new conservative movement is not about saving or conserving what exists, but really about dismantling social and economic programs and returning to a specific “Golden Age” in the past that they wish to bring back.  This is the definition of a reactionary and I wish that we’d get in the habit of using that name for them.  
A good example of pure reactionary thinking is from the Governor-elect of Ohio, John Kasich.  The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer’s Reginald Fields reports that Kasich wants to throw out the state’s collective bargaining laws as they apply to public employees.  As the law now stands, police and firefighters cannot strike but have binding arbitration to settle contract disputes, but all other public employees, such as teachers, may strike.  Kasich wants to throw it all out.  As he is quoted as saying, [Here]
 If they want to strike they should be fired...They've got good jobs, they've got high pay, they get good benefits, a great retirement. What are they striking for?  
Kasich has said this will be a top priority for him when he is inaugurated.
Yes, sirree.  March back into the past with Kasich!  Pure Reactionary thinking.  Unfortunately, we can expect more of its kind in the near future!
Second.  We can’t let Dan Froomkin’s piece in Monday’s Huffpost go unnoticed. [Here]  The title of the article, “Larry Summers, Unapologetic To The Bitter End,” describes Summers’s remarks on Monday morning to the Economic Policy Institute.  Summers has been head of Obama’s National Economic Council and these will be the final public remarks that he will make before stepping down and returning to Harvard.  (Why does Harvard want him back?)  
Froomkin reminds us that: [Here]
After stepping down from the Harvard presidency, Summers was paid $5.2 million for his part-time work for a massive hedge fund in 2008. He also took in more than $2.7 million in fees for speaking engagements at such places as Citigroup, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs -- including one visit alone that netted him $135,000 from Goldman Sachs.
Is Larry Summers apologetic or sorry for how the economy behaved during his WH tenure?  No way.  Froomkin reported that the “passive conditional past subjunctive” was Summers’s closest brush with introspection and apology.  This is the parsed sentence: [Here
That's where one would have liked to have seen more rapid progress.
It’s guilt-free governance, isn’t it?  My question is: Who will hold the pan of water for him as he washes his hands of any guilt when he steps out of the White House's front door for the last time?  Maybe they’ll give the job to Valerie Jarrett or even Michelle.  After all, Larry Summers thinks that’s what most women are best at...
Before we say good-bye to Larry, we should remember that he has not ruled out future cuts, slices, and shaves of Social Security.  This leads us to the third item we must mention.  Many liberal commentators are afraid that the next confrontation in Congress will be over Social Security and they fear that it will be the stage for the most major cave-in of the Obama presidency.
Robert Kuttner, the co-founder and co-editor of the liberal American Prospect, lent his fears to all of ours in an article that also appeared on Huffpost, titled “Social Security: The Coming Cave-in.”  Kuttner joins others who have predicted that the Deficit Commission’s recommendations were a first step to soften us up.  The current extension of the Bush tax-cuts to the wealthy will cost us almost 900 billion over the next decade.  [Here]  Next, enter the deficit hawks, screaming that the sky is falling and let’s go back to those Golden Years of Herbert Hoover and Calvin Coolidge. 
Kuttner wrote that many people are predicting that Robert Altman, yet another investment banker, will probably succeed Summers.  Instead, Kuttner suggests that Elizabeth Warren be chosen.  Even reading about the suggestion was a cheerful thought, although we all know that it would never happen.  
That’s the last O & E for now.  More tomorrow...