Friday, December 31, 2010

The Lost Decade Ends, The Struggle Continues

A few songs to stiffen the spine and cleanse the soul seem appropriate to celebrate the passing of this lost decade. It began tragically with the 9/11 attacks, the seizure of the people's government by a small clique of  oil barons, plutocrats, corporate predators, and insatiable war profiteers. And it ends with cruel and heartless Republicans trying to deny the heroes of that terrible day the healthcare to treat them, many now terminally ill, from having inhaled the clouds of toxic dust that covered Manhattan.

What kind of country have we become?

And the clueless wingnuts ask, have the terrorists "won"? The terrorists "won" the moment Geroge W. Bush and Dick Cheney were installed as co-presidents by a radical activist right wing Supreme Court, Cheney reveling in his Dark Lord persona as senior partner in the shadows of power manipulating all. Bush-Cheney served their wealthy corporate cronies well, slashing environmental controls to enable BP's assassination of our coastal wetlands and fisheries, and Halliburton's plunder of the U.S. Treasury for profit and corruption in Iraq-Af-Pak as our troops died to defend the corporations' power (not right) to line their pockets with our money, with skyrocketing deficits to starve the "beast" of government and feed the rich and powerfully connected.

Bush and Cheney are war criminals by any reasonable definition of international law, which the United States once pledged to uphold. But President Obama looked the other way. His acquiescence in this venal coverup and in refusing to stand up to the Republican Party, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the corporations so much so that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is dictating policy to them, makes the President an accomplice in this venality and a partner in crime. After he surrendered the tax cuts to the rich and corrupt corporate interests, we are told by stealth DLCer Bob Shrum masquerading as a liberal that we should "trust" President Obama.

I do not and will not. President Obama has lost this liberal. I have gone to the mat for the President once too often only to find that the White House was busily sawing off the limb we were on, giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Maybe Stephen Colbert is right. Maybe President Obama just isn't that into liberals and progressives. Every significant action he has taken has been matched, even surpassed by retreat. President Obama is like Union General Meade after the battle of Gettysburg when Lee's army limped off in slow retreat to the banks of the Potomac. Had Meade pressed his advantage he could have destroyed the Army of Northern Virginia and ended the war in one bold stroke.

President Lincoln, whom Obama admires and has studied (not very well, evidently), was infuriated, writing Meade that he had missed a "goldern opportunity" to end the war. Interestingly, while President Obama's closest adviser is 20-year family friend Valerie Jarrett, a political neophyte who has behaved like one in every way, one senses that Jarrett smothers the President with the kind of protectiveness that is not in the best interests of the nation or the people. She's like the President's shadow. Everywhere he goes she's not far behind. And she's a jumble of facile clichés and meaningless talking points. Last week on Meet The Press Jarrett unctuously asserted that the President "goes to bed at night and wakes up every morning thinking about what's best for the American people." Does this sound familiar? It should, because Jarrett was rehashing word-for-word a Bill Clinton cliché repeated ad nauseum during his particular travails.

One should expect the President's closest aide to be a little more creative, perhaps? But then she announced the President would go on a "listening tour" early in 2011 to listen to the concerns of the American people. This is exactly what the House Republicans did before the midterms. It was nonsense and political atmospherics with not a whit of substance. Their website was a joke. They invited "the American people" to write in with their "concerns" and by far the most popular item was legalizing marijuana. The website was scrubbed. So this is Valerie Jarrett's brilliant game plan? Can the White House spell dis-as-ter?

And another thing. I'd like to know what are the historical examples of lifelong presidential friends  contributing in significant ways to public policy. Either they're ciphers, playing a minimal moral supportive role, in which case no harm no foul, or they're of equal political and intellectual stature. Well, Obama-Jarrett is not Jefferson-Madison. Carter-Lance maybe, and Bert Lance, whose qualities in government only Jimmy Carter could discern, resigned under a cloud of scandal. But they prayed together every morning. Jarrett is supposedly Obama's link to the business community — that turned out well — and known to be partial to Georgetown cocktail parties.

The President needs less highball dilletantes and more close advisers who won't be intimidated to get in his face and tell him some hard truths. It's interesting that the Lincoln model was Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals": Every one of Lincoln's opponents for the presidency — strong wills and egos all — ended up in his cabinet. His biggest rival, Secretary of State William H. Seward, the frontrunner for the nomination and presumptive president, did not think much of Lincoln and tried to sabotage him early on. But in the end, Seward was Lincoln's closest friend. If Hillary ever grows into that role, it will be only with Jarrett's blessing.

The President's team is out of balance. Foreign policy, arguably the least important component, is the strongest with Hillary and Bob Gates running their departments and U.S. foreign and defense policy smoothly in helping the President carry out his objectives. But the most critical component, domestic policy, is a mess. Valerie Jarrett is an incompetent. The invisible cabinet secretaries, with few exceptions (Transportation's Ray LaHood) are weak and have been given little opportunity in the spotlight, which has been hogged by Jarrett and Vice President Biden, whose function seems to be plugging holes in leaky, confused messaging. Biden stands out because he speaks his mind. His harmless gaffes tend to humanize and set him apart from ivory tower operators like the disastrous Larry Summers, perhaps the most fatefully negative appointment Obama made.

So where does this leave liberals and progressives? Where we've been all along: Inside-the-Beltway wilderness but closest to the hearts and minds and souls of the American people. After 30 years of Reaganomics indoctrination, people like Chris Matthews continue to live in the devil's box of Washington power politics and influence, with segments in which he tries to learn from fellow pundits what the "progressive agenda" is. Please. The progressive agenda is America's agenda. You like polls, Chris, then take a look at them. On healthcare, financial reform, protecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, getting out of Afghanistan. That's the progressive agenda — America's agenda. Not what the corporate political shills at POLITICO have to say.

The time for liberals and progressives to fight is now. For Social Security, Medicare, the tattered social safety net, the remnants of the New Deal, financial regulatory reform and the healthcare law. We might not get much support from the President or the power elites that run this country. But this isn't virgin territory for progressives. We've been here before. Many, many times before.

If the people of Latin America can overcome the terror, the murders, the torture of American-sponsored fascism and military dictatorship, and elect true socialists like Lula of Brazil, who raised 19 million people out of poverty (not 2 million, Mr. President) and leaves office with an 80 percent approval rating and a thriving capitalist nation that is more just and free and forward-looking, then so can we.

The People United Will Never Be Defeated. 

Inti Illimani is a great Chilean band. Miraculously, they escaped the terror of Pinochet's bloody overthrow of the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende. This song, "The People United Will Never Be Defeated," is a fitting tribute to President Allende's last radio broadcast as the bombs rained down on the presidential palace:
"May you continue to know that much sooner than later the great avenues throught which free men will pass to build a better society will open. These are my last words. I am sure that my sacrifice will not be in vain. I am sure that it will at least be a moral lesson which will punish felony, cowardice and treason."



This too shall pass.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

No-Brainer (Pun Intended) # 2: Study Suggests Wingnuts (AKA, Conservatives) Have More PRIMITIVE Brains

There is a certain pathetic irony to this since our favorite wingnut rag, the Daily Caller, wasted a lot of bandwidth on a bogus “investigation” trying to “prove” KO suffers from a mental illness. Of course, they do reflect their freakish man-child boss, butterfly-tied Tucker Carlson whose potentially serious identity crisis is he’s a wannabe Keith.

Hmm … Tucker, you might want to check with your staff writer/cum psychoanalyst for a diagnosis of your condition he’s already done the prelim groundwork. Most likely, Tucker’s identity crisis may require the intervention of  kinder, gentler, caring conservatives after he called for the execution of Michael Vick.

Then another staffer named Jeff Poor got into a faux lather over Keith’s accurate tweet, “Fox News is 100%  bullshit” … Poor said indignantly that Keith “threw out some profanity to describe a rival network,” which “profanity” was repeated three times, including in the headline of the Poor spitball blurb.

Infantile, ya think? I think the Poor guy’s trying to suck up to his arrested development boss. Which segues nicely into the story about conservatives being hardwired (President Obama identified it as the “reptilian brain” on The View) and hamstrung with inferior brains compared to the more developed liberal brain. According to a study accidentally commissioned by the actor Colin Firth, who wondered whether there were physiological differences in the brains of liberals and conservatives (OF COURSE there are) ... the results are in:

"[R]ecent studies suggest that our brains and genes may be a major determining factor in the views we hold.

A study at University College London in the UK has found that conservatives’ brains have larger amygdalas than the brains of liberals. Amygdalas are responsible for fear and other “primitive” emotions. At the same time, conservatives’ brains were also found to have a smaller anterior cingulate — the part of the brain responsible for courage and optimism.

Rees, who heads up UCL’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, was originally asked half-jokingly to study the differences between liberal and conservative brains for an episode of BBC 4's Today show that was hosted by actor Colin Firth. But, after studying 90 UCL students and two British parliamentarians, the neurologist was shocked to discover a clear correlation between the size of certain brain parts and political views."

Consider the Teabagger lunatics taking over the House of  Representatives next week. Then watch the crazy shit they do, think about this study (there are many others that reach the same basic conclusions) and realize, to your everlasting horror, that the lunatics are running the asylum, whereas before they were just stubbornly refusing to take their meds.

Uh-oh is right.

Healthcare No-Brainer: Most Americans Want a MORE LIBERAL Healthcare Law

Contrary to the corporate politico Idiot Punditocracy spin, most Americans do not “clearly want and expect repeal” as Teabagger Matt Kibbe claimed in a Fox PROP-ed; Americans are actually royally pissed that President Obama caved to special interests and did not deliver a TRUE DEMOCRATIC HEALTHCARE BILL. (My editorial aside because, outside of the Beltway, it’s self-evident.)

Kibbe relied on the findings of a CNN/Opinion Research poll released earlier this week that found Americans opposed the new law 50 to 43 percent (with 7 percent undecided). On closer inspection though, as U.S. News & World Report’s Robert Schlesinger reports, the details of the poll results show that most Americans either support the law or oppose it because it is “not liberal enough”:
Do you oppose that legislation because you think its approach toward health care is too liberal, or because you think it is not liberal enough?”

Favor 43%
Oppose, too liberal 37%
Oppose, not liberal enough 13%
No opinion 7%
Well, D’OH. Never fear: Presidential confidante and den mother Valerie Jarrett has arranged for an Obama “listening tour” early next year to get another chance (and an earful) to RELIVE his idiotic remark that tax cuts for the rich is “[t]his notion that somehow we are willing to compromise too much reminds me of the debate that we had during health care. This is the public option debate all over again.”

Go for it, Mr. President. Who knows, you might learn something.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS, FELIZ HOLIDAYS EVERYONE; LET'S CONTINUE TO BE "PERSISTENT"... AND BE MORE LIKE JESUS

And to to my friends at MSNBC, a big hug and thanks for keeping the faith ... Chris, Dylan and Larry, you'll have to try a little harder. (Note: Click on image to see larger and read funny captions!)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Too Bad They Didn't Tar-And-Feather This Clown With The Lenin Goatee

Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Are you as sick and tired of this bastard as I am?

The 9-11 First responders storm his office to demand he cease his obstruction of the 9-11 healthcare bill. And he did. MEMO to WINGNUTS AND RIGHT WING HAYSEEDS EVERYWHERE: DON'T EVEN TRY MESSING WITH NEW YORKERS. YOU'LL GET YOUR ASSES HANDED BACK TO YOU IN A NEW YORK SECOND.

Unfortunately, we'll be seeing a whole lot more of this DOCTOR!? scumbag's obstruction next year when the crazies take over:

Twelve Republican Hostages Released, Vote to Pass START

Not ALL Republicans are INSANE. The INSANITY BEGINS NEXT YEAR. Look for the President to capitulate on Social Security, Medicare, a potential trojan horse to dismantle the New Deal, as he joins with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan to embrace their Reaganite privatizing agenda. But today at least, the President scored a major victory (which should have been a no-brainer except for the INSANITY of Republicans) with passage of START, 71-26.


Here’s the list of Republican senators held HOSTAGE by Mitch McConnell, who were finally released from TEA PARTY KNOW-NOTHING INSANITY to vote their INTELLECT AND CONSCIENCE:

Lamar Alexander, Robert F. Bennett (defeated by Teabaggers), Scott Brown (2012 reelection, MA), Thad Cochran, Susan Collins, George Voinovich (retiring), Olympia Snowe, Richard Lugar, Lisa Murkowski (pissed off), Mike Johanns, Johnny Isakson, Judd Gregg (retiring).

President Obama’s Risk-Averse Leadership By Study/Commission Gets a Win

Hooray! It was a good day for President Obama. More importantly, it was a great day for the LGBT community, that deserves the lion’s share of credit for repeal of DADT despite Rachel’s amusing speech last night.

Question: Who deserves more credit for repeal of DADT — the Log Cabin Republicans or President Obama? Discuss.

In the twisty-curvy two-year timeline culminating in final repeal of DADT, events and circumstances did not always point to its inevitable repeal. Quite the contrary. Rachel, despite her best ‘aw shucks I’se wrong’ efforts, is no dope. She had a finger on this thing’s pulse and she was skeptical of its passage. Was she wrong to be skeptical?

No.

From the outside looking in, it’s amusing to see how a presidential win gets spun in the best possible light and those aspects of the triumphalist narrative are shunted to the side in favor of the celebratory. All’s well that ends well, and the President deserves credit for having been nominally supportive of repealing DADT all along.

Obama historian Jonathan Alter gave the President backhanded credit — what I had written on this blog as Obama’s “tepid” support — for ending DADT in a recent Newsweek column:
Give some credit to the Obama White House, which angered many gay-rights activists by putting the issue on the back burner last year. As I try to explain in The Promise, Obama and chief of staff Rahm Emanuel applied a policy of "no distractions" in 2009 amid the debate over health-care reform. They also didn't want to roil relations with the Pentagon while policy toward Afghanistan was under review.

Remembering how the debate over gays in the military consumed valuable time and political capital at the beginning of the Clinton administration in 1993, the White House tried to stay focused on what was front and center.”
Hardly a ringing endorsement. I wonder how the ultra-condescending Obama-Emanuel policy of  “no distractions” in 2009 sits with DADT repeal advocates — notice that Alter, who is an Obama booster, refers to proponents of repeal as “activists.” I much prefer Jonathan as FDR historian, but highly recommend his book The Promise as essential reading for anyone trying to understand the often inscrutable Obama presidency. Jon’s bias is easily discerned while his access and inside accounts of policy formulations are invaluable.

Alter knows the President better than most of his colleagues; and his conclusion sounds about right. Indeed, the Obama White House deserves “some credit” for repeal of DADT. The festive Left’s effusive huzzahs to the Prez notwithstanding; fuzzy memory celebrating the downfall of  yet another human rights barrier is totally understandable. Even the usually shrewd Chris Hayes of the Nation suspended analytical skepticism. I’ll bet his boss Katrina didn’t, though.

One LGBT blog was underwhelmed by the President’s efforts:
There are, of course, those who should be ashamed right now. Topping the list is President Barack Obama who did as little as he could to really get this passed, and seemed reluctant to really fight for LGBT rights, but there are those who are worse.
President Obama gave a stirring speech at the repeal signing ceremony. The way he personalized the struggle and silent contributions of gays in the military through history. One couldn’t help but be moved by the President’s vivid description of a gay soldier’s act of selfless bravery during the Battle of the Bulge, saving his buddy’s life. President Obama looked like Reagan.

Curiously, though, in describing this moment the media and assorted observers lost sight of some important, even critical, context to its coming to pass. Take the Log Cabin Republicans. It was this organization of conservative Republicans who were responsible for bringing the lawsuit that resulted in a California judge declaring DADT unconstitutional. This decision came down almost exactly two months ago.

Imagine what the political landscape would have looked like absent the court striking down DADT as unconstitutional. This, despite the Obama Justice Department request that the judge stay the ruling. Her ruling stood and then was appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which granted the administration’s representations for a stay. That’s the legal background. This administration, lionized today for its checkered role in repeal of DADT, was furiously engaged in retaining the status quo.

But the handwriting was on the wall. The Pentagon and the Obama administration could no longer rely on the courts to uphold the constitutionality of  DADT. Secretary Robert Gates, a lifetime Republican government technocrat got a nice, and deserved, round of applause for his steadfast insistence and lobbying of Congress to repeal DADT. Reports of Gates fretting about Congressional foot-dragging on this issue before the new reactionary Congress takes over had a certain dissonance. Had Bob Gates suddenly become a committed progressive?

Not really. Secretary Gates was echoing deep, institutional Pentagon concerns that control of this process would be wrested away from them by the courts and by a do-nothing homophobic Congress. What most alarmed Pentagon brass and Secretary Gates was that they’d find themselves compelled by court order to implement repeal immediately. The disorderly disruption in the ranks caused by a court repeal order scared the shit out of them.

It should be noted that Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the JCS, is a genuine hero in ending DADT. When Admiral Mullen chastised Senators Graham and McCain, telling them his commitment to DADT had nothing to do with any presidential directive, the deer-in-the-headlights reaction from McCain in particular, accustomed as he was to suck-up military brass — it was a singular moment. It was an epic Gary Cooper High Noon slam by Admiral Mullen, which had progressives thinking, “gee, if only the President…”

President Obama, in his inimitable risk-averse, delegating style started the ball rolling on a two-year strategy of repealing DADT. The first year, as we have learned, would countenance no “distractions” of the cultural kind. The distractions would come instead from back-room dealmaking with corporate special interests and largely thankless legislative heavy lifting by Pelosi and Reid, as many of the President’s health care supporters walked the plank with little presidential leadership.

The President determined in meetings with the Pentagon brass what they were comfortable with, and set the schedule accordingly. Let’s do a study, they said — the ultimate bureaucrat’s answer to change and action — dragging our feet for one year. Gibby would handle the thorny questions from real journalists (as opposed to ass-kissers) like adorably cheeky Ana Marie Cox:


Naturally, the President was well aware of that lawyer’s axiom, ‘never ask a question for which you don’t know the answer’. So it was pretty well established that the study would come back with the rank-and-file saying, by wide margins, they were OK with repeal. Admiral Mullen and Gates knew this to be the case, so the President says, ‘make it happen.’

That’s pretty much it. Scheduling this thing for the end of the legislative session was a political necessity.  The President correctly calculated that nothing could be done before the midterms. Nor would he expend any political capital, for DADT or actually leading his party to repeal tax cuts for the rich. That would be too, well … Trumanesque.

Finally, like Reagan, President Obama got lucky. The court ruling was a major blow to opponents of repeal. Nor could he have omnisciently divined Traitor Joe Lieberman reinventing himself as a gay rights champion. But he was there in the end to sign repeal and take more of his share of the credit than he deserves.

PS — Rachel, Rachel … interesting how Rachel dedicated little more than a sentence or two to the Republican’s defunding of  everything passed the last two years — health care, financial reform, the Consumer Protection Agency, and on and on. She mused whimsically that now the President and Democrats must defend and protect their accomplishments. Yeah, right.

Guess what, Rachel. No funding, no NADA. Remember when you asked rhetorically, ‘who put Alan Simpson in charge of the commission looking into Social Security and other entitlements!?’ And I replied: THE PRESIDENT!

What’s next? Our “progressive” President will use his reactionary-conservative commission’s findings as political cover in the State of the Union to propose massive cuts to Social Security and other entitlement programs as his best buddies Mitch and Paul chortle away while Democrats look on in horror. Just you watch.

Hope I’m wrong. But I don’t think so.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Unknown NY Giants Coach Explains Most Calamitous, Catastrophic, Cataclysmic, Disastrous ...

... Defeat in The Team’s Past And Future History.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, And The TV Machine

The Good — This week the Senate got off its collective dysfunctional obstructionist ass to pass historic legislation: The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. For anyone who’s been living in a cave for the last 15 years, DADT was the military doctrine enacted in another time in another craven “compromise” by President Obama’s “transactional” hero — not FDR, not Lincoln — Bill Clinton, in lieu of ending military discrimination against gays in the military. Clinton could have spared thousands of ruined military careers and the Mephistophelean choice of silence about themselves left to the gay men and women who chose a military career in times of war and peace so that we may be safe.

Bill Clinton could have ended discrimination against gays in the military with the stroke of a pen. He could have followed Harry Truman’s example, the Democratic Party’s profile in courage, when Truman signed an executive order ending institutional racism in the U.S. military, integrating the armed forces. In sealing their new alliance with a Clinton White House show of support for the latest broken campaign pledge by a Democratic president, the ironies abound for President Obama.

Certainly not Clinton nor, it would seem, President Obama are made of the stuff of Truman. Balls, backbone, and courage are not in their presidential vernacular. In fact, the “new normal” for this White House is “triangulation,” worshipfully uttered by Andrea Mitchell, a term championed by Fox “News” resident creep (consider his company) Dick Morris, Bill Clinton’s toe-sucking triangulation Svengali in all matters political and otherwise. Speaking of Andrea, the next time she calls on Rachel to decode the exotic breed known as “liberal” Rachel should say, “Sure Andrea, if you can explain to me your husband's rationale for contributing to the economic catastrophe that got us into this mess. Blame it on Ayn?”

And yet, although tepid in its support (as is their MO) for repeal of DADT, the White House and the President stand ready to reap credit for it on the basis that 90 percent of life is showing up, i.e. it happened on the President’s “watch.” Ironic, yes, considering the President walked a Clintonian tightrope on this issue (as is his MO), that he favors civil unions and opposes gay marriage. [Parenthetically, Mr. President, the wingnuts still think you’re a Muslim, and the rest of those GOP scoundrels who vowed to destroy you politically will continue to stoke the culture fear wars.]

President Obama — “I get along just fine with ‘Mitch’ and ‘John’”— has made all the right noises re: repeal of DADT to the right audiences, then left it up to Robert Gibbs to sort it out with the intrepid WH Press Corps. “Look” says Gibby, as if lecturing nine-year-olds, the President is 1,000 percent behind repeal  but there’s a “process” that must be followed.

Whatever that means.

It could mean Gramps McCain venting his homophobic spleen while giving fellow GOP homophobes political cover. It’s not as if the President is willing to take names as Truman and LBJ did. Needless to say, the Beltway Idiot Punditocracy is hailing this as a great victory for the President. Given the 24-hour news cycle attention span of its audience, whether they’re right “over the long haul” or keep that “North Star” in sight is not the important thing. They’re all good craftspeople, good nuts-and-bolts types, who know how to spin and establish the credible 24- to 48-hour “narrative.” Hey, it’s a two-percentile living. Long live the narcissistic personality. Not to mention the Beltway zombies.

Tonight, Rachel Maddow will host a special on the repeal of DADT. Watch it. If ever there was an unsung hero (among many, I know, but she deserves special mention) in this struggle for basic human rights, Rachel is it. Being who she is, a “great American” rightly said one of her guests, Rachel’s focus on this issue day after day, how she kept it on the front burner with her show as the catalyst to change an unjust policy, had a decisive impact on educating the public and prodding, cajoling, compelling the people’s representatives finally to do the right thing.

Rachel, we tease you because we love you.

New York Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, visibly upset after the
GOP defeated the 9-11 healthcare bill; for those who think all senators are like Republicans.

Another small miracle is about to take place in the Senate when it reverses itself and votes before this Christmas session ends to provide life-saving healthcare to the 9-11 first responders. Jon Stewart dedicated an entire show to shaming the Republicans into passing the law. And it seems to have worked. Those of us who watched Jon Stewart’s evasions and dissembling on Rachel’s show — some bullshit about being a “sidelines” jock … recalling Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi — perhaps Rachel succeeded in shaming Stewart into action as well.

Bad Stewart: Narcissistic Washington rally leads to forming of  “No Labels” movement led by well-heeled conservative Republicans and Democrats; should anyone named “Kiki” McLean be taken seriously? Or Rachel’s delusional friend, Mark McKinnon? Then again, they may have a powerful ally in President Obama.

Good Stewart (as long as his vacation doesn't get in the way): Taking a page from Rachel’s constructive activism and standing up for healthcare for the 9-11 heroes. Regarding the great ‘unmentionable’ for obvious Pandora’s Box reasons in Rachel’s interview of Stewart, sidekick Stephen Colbert — he can take his selfish nihilistic libertarianism and put it where the sun don’t shine.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Obama's Dunkirk: Even Churchill Couldn't Stop The Loss of Empire

The President's political maneuvering through this craven tax deal with Republicans was impressive. No doubt. Obama booster Chris Matthews called him "the comeback kid." How original. Actually, that's the title of Krauthammer's column. He gave the Beltway pundits the "narrative," to coin one of their overused buzz words, the hook for the President's "win:"
"Now, with his stunning tax deal, Obama is back. Holding no high cards, he nonetheless managed to resurface suddenly not just as a player but as orchestrator, dealmaker and central actor in a high $1 trillion drama ... Even as they were near unanimously voting for this monstrosity, Republicans began righteously protesting $8.3 billion of earmarks in Harry Reid's omnibus spending bill. They seem not to understand how ridiculous this looks after having agreed to a Stimulus II that even by their own generous reckoning has 38 times as much spending as all these earmarks combined ... But don't be fooled by defensive style or thin-skinned temperament. The president is a very smart man. How smart? His comeback is already a year ahead of Clinton's."
Others were not so impressed by Krauthammer's argument. Writing for "The National Interest," Jacob Heil pointedly asked, "Why is Charles Krauthammer afraid of Obama?"
"Krauthammer focuses on the politics, arguing that Obama's base has nowhere else to go. But it could. It could, in fact, go nowhere. On election day. That alone could jeopardize Obama's reelection chances. The real question is whether Obama is going to morph into the slayer of old-time liberalism.

He was elected on the expectation that he would revive the Democratic party. But what if he does it by completing the Clinton revolution? It's worth asking what will be left of liberalism after one, or especially two, terms of Obama. Obama is talking about using the tax cut program deal as a template for reaching other compromises with the GOP on issues such as reforming Social Security.... But whether this really turns him into the cunning chameleon that Krauthammer purports to see is another question. The blunt fact is that Obama can do all the trimming he wants, but if unemployment remains at 10 percent he's most likely a one-term president."
Paul Begala, who knows a thing or two about triangulation, expressed the frustration oft-repeated by progressives that the President's vaunted political skills were rarely in evidence to fight for the issues he had pledged to champion during the campaign:
Former Clinton aide Paul Begala, while admitting that the president has been “impressive,” echoed the sarcastic reaction of many of Obama’s fellow Democrats who wanted him to take on the fight against the GOP’s insistence on extending tax cuts to the rich.

“Imagine what he could have done to sell a position he wholeheartedly believed in,” Begala said, adding that it “confirms my own belief that if President Obama had chosen to fight, he would have won. “He could have forced the GOP to cave, created more jobs and done less damage to the deficit. First shotgun wedding I ever saw where the groom held the gun to his own head.” 
Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings may well have written the epitaph of this so-called "compromise" which is in essence a Republican bill: “The game is rigged in there,” he said, pointing to the door leading to the House floor. “We’re walking into their trap.”

So why is Chris Matthews favorably comparing this tax bill so-called "compromise" to the British evacuation at Dunkirk in World War II? For all of his giggly giddiness, Matthews has his historical analogies totally wrong. To say the President made a "strategic retreat" like the British did at Dunkirk is ridiculous. The Brits staged an all-out evacuation to save their hides from annihilation by surrounding German forces. In so doing, they cut their French allies loose.


Matthews took the opportunity to smear the French résistance with a broad brush of silly historical revisionism. His snarky remarks about French collaboration with the Nazis utterly disregarded the bravery of French resistance fighters, including François Mitterand, the late great French Socialist president. But that's the side show. According to Matthews's reading of history, the British evacuation "saved the British Army to fight again; they avoided catastrophe." Fair enough, but they also became very junior partners to the mighty Americans.

It can reasonably be argued that the downfall of the British Empire began at Dunkirk. Less than two years later — ironically, roughly the same time frame that President Obama negotiated for this tax deal before its provisions expire at the height of the 2012 election — the fall of Singapore to the Japanese became "the largest surrender of British-led military personnel in history. About 80,000 British, Australian and Indian troops became prisoners of war, joining 50,000 taken by the Japanese in the Malayan campaign. Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the ignominious fall of Singapore to the Japanese the "worst disaster" and "largest capitulation" in British history."

Fleshing out Matthews's analogy, the British averted disaster at Dunkirk but in the process they ceded the offense to the Germans. After their "strategic withdrawal" to fight another day, for the next year the British were literally fighting for their lives — an existential struggle against the German war machine that became their "finest hour" in the Battle of Britain, as the RAF beat back superior German air power to head off the invasion of the British Isles.

Through the worst of it, the British could not have survived without the vast supplies and war materiél "borrowed" from the United States. In a brilliant stroke of political genius to bring along the reluctant American people, FDR declared the U.S. the "Arsenal of Democracy." The program was called "Lend-Lease." In 2008 U.S. dollars the sum total borrowed on very generous terms by Great Britain (which received most of the aid), the Soviet Union, France, and other allied nations was equivalent to $759 billion, or about $100 billion south of this package of tax cuts funded with borrowed Chinese money.

In the short term, for all the bravery of the RAF flyboys, it was the massive infusion of U.S. aid that ultimately saved Great Britain from capitulation to Nazi Germany. The aid was delivered by perilous convoys running the Atlantic corridor teeming wih "wolfpacks" of German U-boats. In the long term, it presaged U.S. entry into the war as Britain's senior partner and the world's preeminent superpower in a transformed global post-war landscape that would usher in a new world order.

Actually, Chris Matthews hit the nail on the head with his WWII comparison of Britain's "strategic withdrawal" from Dunkirk to Obama's tax "compromise," presumably so the President can get some wins for the American people and survive politically to fight another day. Dunkirk was a "strategic withdrawal." The Battle of Britain was a major victory. The fall of Singapore was a major setback. Then the United States entered the war and FDR became head honcho and chief strategist.

Left to Right: Speaker of the House, John Boehner, Senior PATRON Hu Jin-Tao, Junior 
Partner President Obama, and Senate Military Governor Mitch McConnell. (Democratic Party, RIP.)

 Although Chris didn't say it — he didn't have to — President Obama was being giddily compared to Chris's hero, Winston Churchill. But even if the President's political skills are of Churchillian dimensions, it would be well to remember the history. All of it. Churchill's patron and banker, FDR, increasingly called the shots. Despite Churchill's indispensable leadership during Britain's darkest hour, at war's end Britain was bankrupt and the fabled British Empire, upon which "the sun never set," was in shreds. Then the unthinkable (to American observers who revered Churchill as a great man) happened. Churchill lost the election of 1945 to a no-name bread-and-butter candidate from the Labor Party.

Mr. Matthews should take heed of that old Chinese proverb, "beware what you wish for." If President Obama is Winston Churchill and the signing today of the so-called tax "compromise" with borrowed Chinese money was his Dunkirk, then it will have been a short-lived Pyrrhic victory presaging the final fall of American Empire. It was a great run, from the Battle of Midway in the Pacific in 1942 to the cut-off date, the election of 2012, when the bills come due. As for Obama's FDR, his patron and banker's initials are HJT. They stand for Hu Jin-Tao, President of China.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"My Generation:" Rachel Maddow Fesses Up to Her Psychedelic Trippy Hippie Phase!

Rachel's shocking revelation on Letterman: "I think GLENN BECK was the most talented radio personality of my entire generation ..." [PRIMAL SCREAM PAUSE: AAAARGHHHEEEOOWW!]


On the other hand, if Rachel was tripping off the Far Side of the Moon while absorbing in her mind's EYE "incredibly performative... he inhabited all these different characters, he would do all these voices, it was very entertaining, really funny, really fast-paced, very unpredictable, surprising, very good."— Rachel, Are you EXPERIENCED?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Strange Juxtaposition: Senate Passes $858B Tax 'Compromise', Government Shutdown Looms

How's that for a pregnant metaphor of everything perceived to be wrong with Washington?

There's an omnibus appropriations bill coming up, which would keep the government running for another year. If it isn't passed by Saturday, GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, their side's chief negotiator of the $858B tax 'compromise' deal warned the government runs out of money this Saturday. Naturally, the 'compromising' Republicans rejected both the Democratic omnibus bill and a House continuing resolution; they want their CR passed — or else.

Senate Republicans are in a box, having passed a measure against earmarks, under pressure from the Teabaggers. Now they must defend their own earmarks and posture against the Democratic bill.

Meanwhile, back in the House the shifting sands of opposition are blowing the Republicans' way; if the rumors of Teabagger opposition are to be believed. Now that they've lost their Koch brothers and Chamber of Commerce funding, their deafening silence may actually signal the withering on the vine that typically fates faux astro-turf groups whose usefulness to their corporate masters is expended.

Republicans want President Obama to own these tax cuts so they can blame him for any veto pushbacks on  making permanent the tax cuts for the rich and the temporary Social Security-raiding payroll tax cut (a clear and present danger to Social Security). It's a cynical political calculation; but if it's worked before, what's to say it won't again. The President has made noises that he'll stand fast against Republicans on these issues, but we haven't seen it yet. Hope is a four-letter word, too.

American history professor Joseph A. Palermo articulates the view progressives take on this very political craven tax 'compromise':
"Bush's tax trap set nearly a decade ago sprung right on schedule to ensnare a Democratic president. It's slightly ironic that a President who big corporations have targeted with hundreds of millions of dollars to destroy would turn around and give them and their CEOs everything they ever wanted. Stuffing more cash into the already bulging pockets of billionaires and millionaires, after a 30-year period that has created Gilded Age levels of inequality, is unwise public policy sure to come back to bite Obama later. Yet he skips happily into the mouth of the wolf.

Larry-O The TV Screenwriter Tries Political Fiction ‘Rewrite’ On His Show

The caustically obnoxious, incessantly boastful, and unfailingly myopic Lawrence O’Donnell must have felt that liberal bug prick his triumphalist ego with misplaced hubris as he slouched toward a self-indulgent yawning segment of ‘backstage drama’ involving the Clinton-Obama get-together per Robert Gibb’s ‘TRUE WEST WING STORIES’. Watching the rambling, back-slapping gabby Gibby powder-puff interview wind down I thought, considering my own prediction that this must be another Larry-O vehicle to boast yet again, “Is it possible, having dropped the hint-hint ‘West Wing’ reference O’Donnell will actually NOT assault the viewers with another self-serving reference to his TV screenplay for the fictional political show?” No such luck.

(“As *I*! PREDICTED,” INTONED Larry-O earlier about a most predictable tax deal outcome … think Keith doing Larry-O’s wingnut Fox alter ego, Bill-O the Clown, with the pitch-perfect pompous voice of vain and incompetent faux news anchor, Ted Baxter.)

Right at the end, Larry-O got his plug in: “HAHAHA … WELL, YOU KNOW, IN THE ‘WEST WING’ WRITERS ROOM THERE WERE PLENTY OF WRITERS WHO WERE MORE TALENTED THAN *I*! WAS (NOT!) WHO WOULD COME UP WITH IDEAS LIKE THAT, AND *I*!’D BE THE FIRST ONE TO SAY, ‘NO-O-O IT CAN’T HAPPEN, WE CAN’T DO IT, AND *I*! WOULD HAVE BEEN WRONG YET AGAIN (NOT!)” … Pass the Barf Bag.

The Ted Baxter moments kept on coming:

LARRY-O (channeling Ted Baxter with Keith doing the voice-over): “STEN-NEE, WERE YOU SURPRI-I-I-ISED BY THE OVERWHELMING! NUMBER OF DEMOCRATIC VOTES IN THE SENATE ...?”

Steny Hoyer: “I was surprised at the number of votes (in the Senate), but not that it passed pretty handily …”

LARRY-O (channeling Ted Baxter) IMPERIOUSLY INTERRUPTUS: “NOTHING! SURPRISING ABOUT IT FOR *ME*! *I*! SAID A WEEK AGO THAT *I*! THOUGHT IT WOULD MOOVE THROUGH THIS WAY!”

But the most comical segment (for those still watching) was Larry-O the TV Screenwriter trying to get his guests to admit President Obama had ‘hoodwinked’ Republicans based on a widely touted (in Idiot Punditocracy circles) Charles Krauthammer column whose dubious claims and unverified numbers made for predictable Beltway consensus: The President’s ‘brilliant’ triangulation prospects for his 2012 reelection confirmed, he rolled willing Republicans, slammed angry progressives, as only wingnuts and Teabaggers — and Charles Krauthammer — smelled a rat.

Unfortunately for Larry-O, his guests didn’t exactly buy into the premise.

Bob Greenstein said, paraphrasing, ‘it all depends on how the economy performs, and whether the President can hold the line’ against Republicans. It sounded so much like the progressives' argument all along that Larry-O X’d the segment! Then John Fund of the Wall Street Journal declared victory for conservatives: “This agreement is a major philosophical shift for liberals; they’re not acknowledging it, they won’t acknowledge it, but it happened.” Seeing as things weren’t going so well for his POV, Larry-O declared unilateral victory for the President and Krauthammer’s premise; moving right along …

On last night’s program, O’Donnell quoted Ghandi, of all people: “There is nothing that wastes the body like worry.” Ya think, Larry-O? It’s easy to speculate from one’s comfortable ivory tower that politics is the ‘worry’ wasting the body. But no one can actually survive on politics. For most Americans not of such privileged station, surviving day-to-day, finding a job, feeding their families, and keeping a roof over their heads is the genuine ‘worry’. Not surprisingly, O'Donnell omitted the second clause of that Ghandi quote: “…and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever.”

O’Donnell inadvertently stumbled upon the RADICAL RIGHT Jim DeMint Republican position: Starve the beast of government with unsustainable deficits, and for all those middle class Americans treading water, seniors dependent on Social Security and Medicare, Medicaid transplant patients in Arizona (a precursor of things to come nationwide as more states make massive cuts in Medicaid) denied life-saving transplants, the unemployed — well, they’ll just have to fend for themselves and have FAITH THAT GOD WILL DELIVER. This is a song about when God, the "joker", doesn't deliver. As Brazil pulls itself out of the misery hole of poverty (halved by President Lula), it seems that Arianna Huffington's Third World America is sliding backward toward Brazil.


This isn’t a knock on Ghandi. He was one of the great figures of the 20th century. I studied him in college. Ghandi preached asceticism and advocated for Indian independence from the British Empire (what the Teabaggers refer to as a "tyrannical government") through satyagraha, nonviolent civil disobedience, noncooperation, and economic boycotts. As with our Civil Rights movement, Ghandi’s civil disobedience may have tactical applications for oppressed Americans, e.g., refusing to “cooperate” with bank foreclosure orders — but it is hardly a sustainable model short of all-out revolution. The Last Word is the President and the Democratic Party are still, symbolically at least, on the people’s side.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Back to The Future: Joan Walsh Called The Swindle of The Decade

It takes something of a ‘Beltwaytologist’ to sort out the Washington Beltway politics of tax cuts for the rich and let us eat cake for everybody else. ‘Fascinating’ even, if not for the fact that millions of real people’s lives are at stake. When Chris Matthews tells a guest he or she is “really smart!” it means the opposite. Without fail. Not that his fellow pundits from POLITICO or the Times or WaPo are stupid. They’re not. But any opinion they may impart to elicit this reaction from Chris amounts to Beltway conventional wisdom.

JOAN WALSH of SALON: "I'm With STUPID."
Joan Walsh of Salon, an infrequent guest on the Matthews show, hasn’t heard those words from Chris. She's one of those really smart people, a class act who seems to unnerve Matthews and, hilariously, other guests like buttoned-up Republican operative Ron Christie and Tea Party Don, Dick Armey — hence Matthews doesn't have her on very often. Joan should wear it as a badge of honor. In 2001, as Congress was poised to pass our ‘lost decade’ Bush tax cuts, this is some of what Joan wrote. You can read the entire article here. These are the highlights:
“[P] perhaps Buffett's attack on Bush's proposed repeal of the estate tax will breathe some life into the demoralized, strangely listless Democrats (the Gilded Age meets the Gelded Age), who don't appear to understand how crucial it is to beat back Bush's brazen tax proposal.”

“That proposal, which gives a staggering 43 percent of its largess to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans (though they pay less than a quarter of the taxes), is the foundation of his new world order, a bold attempt to shape the nation's social, economic and political dynamics on behalf of wealthy conservatives for many years to come.”
In the following passages remarkable for her crystal ball-like prescience, Joan predicts exactly what happened when the George W. Bush regime took power. It should be noted that President Obama’s model is Clinton, with the notable exceptions that Clinton raised taxes to pay down the debt, and used the fiscal discipline bludgeon to compel Republican “compromise” on expanding programs for the poor listed below. President Obama’s “compromise” is adding to the deficit and placing tremendous pressure on slashing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid as Republicans pivot to blame him for the red ink. Especially those incoming (literally, to use the military metaphor) newly-elected reactionaries who did not vote for the deal. But even those who did will brazenly flip and blame the President for the deficit on the time-honored GOP theory of blind faith in the public's attention deficit disorder.
“Clinton paid down the Reagan-Bush deficit by raising taxes slightly on the top brackets, while slowly but steadily (even a little stealthily) expanding programs for the poor, working and middle class, delivering almost $70 billion over five years with such programs as the expanded earned income tax credit, new child health programs and extra subsidies and tax breaks for college tuition.”
This paragraph, in a nutshell, describes what Bush should have done, but didn’t:
“Now, with surpluses looming, a new president has no excuse for failing to tackle the remaining problems of our winner-take-all economy — shoring up Medicare and Social Security before the baby boomers stampede toward retirement, fixing our broken health insurance system, and expanding and reforming Head Start and other education programs for poor kids. No excuse, that is, unless he gives away the surplus to his wealthy friends, risking enormous deficits in the process.”
Not surprisingly, Democratic capitulation to Republican demands on outrageous tax cuts is not a recent phenomenon:
“But it wasn't until the Dems inexplicably rolled over, announcing they would be willing to support an $800 billion tax cut (Vice President Al Gore had proposed only a $500 billion cut), that it began to seem inevitable. ”
Reaganomics Redux under Bush-Obama. Only this time David Stockman is not aboard:
Naturally, Republicans always try to disguise the fact that it is the ultrawealthy who are the main beneficiaries of their tax cuts. In 1981, after the passage of Ronald Reagan's first tax-slashing federal budget, Reagan's budget director, David Stockman, shocked Washington by admitting that the administration's tax reductions for middle-class Americans were "a Trojan horse" to disguise massive cuts for the rich. The statement wasn't a shock; Stockman's honesty was.”
President Obama’s recipe for Clintonesque triangulation is spelled out in Joan’s analysis of the Reagan years. It’s trickle-down Reaganomics, right out of the disastrous Reagan playbook. Can you spell ‘double down’, anyone?
“[T]he Reagan tax cuts served as a Trojan horse, masking their most dramatic, and intentional, long-term impact — beggaring the U.S. Treasury in order to force program cuts and spending freezes the Republicans didn't have the political clout to achieve directly. By 1984, the Reagan tax cuts had created a $200 billion budget deficit (Reagan and Stockman had promised the budget would be balanced by then); in total, Reagan and Bush quadrupled the deficit between 1980 and 1992. They screwed the economy, but they triumphed politically, by ruling out new government spending and depriving the Democrats of their traditional means of appealing to their core constituencies — problem-solving new social programs — turning them instead into the party of deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility.”
What she said, back in 2001, came to pass ten disastrous years later:
“When the Democrats — and the nation — might have reaped the benefits of fiscal discipline, with a responsible series of programs aimed at curing America's social ills, along comes another Republican president who doesn't even bother with a Trojan horse to disguise his goals of handing the surplus over to the rich, to make sure the nation can't afford new social spending … And we may well wind up with Republican budget deficits, too.” [BINGO!]
How about this … sound familiar?
Like Bush, Reagan insisted his tax cut was just the right medicine for what the Great Communicator called a "soggy" economy. The Reagan camp insisted that massive tax cuts would lead to a balanced budget, or even surpluses — despite their plans for huge new military outlays — because the rich would invest more of their money, and earn more, leading to higher tax revenues. Reagan and his team called their new plan "supply-side economics," though skeptics like George H.W. Bush, running for president in the 1980 Republican primary, called it "voodoo economics," and GOP congressman turned independent presidential candidate John Anderson predicted it would lead to massive deficits. They were both right.”
President Obama had better make sure there’s ink in his veto pen, because he’ll need it to try and stem the coming Republican onslaught against the poor, the disadvantaged, the unemployed and structurally unemployed, students, Social Security and Medicare recipients, healthcare. What Joan describes below, the cruel heartlessness of Republicans, is exactly what will play itself out if this last-gasp massive tax cut gamble does not improve the economy more than many economists predict. How secure should we feel about holding the line on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, student loans, and a host of other programs that benefit the middle class and the working poor? With this President’s penchant for ‘compromise’… it isn't disloyal purist sanctimony for Democrats to be very concerned.
“They achieved almost $40 billion in budget cuts in their first year — eliminating the CETA job training program, affordable-housing subsidies, the poverty programs of the Community Services Agency and legal services for the poor — and made sure Democrats wouldn't be able to restore the cuts, or enact new social programs, for many years to come. They didn't get everything they wanted on that score — Stockman proposed "zeroing out" Head Start, for instance, the program now beloved by even Republicans.”
The picture becomes clearer once historical context blows aside the fog of news cycle politics. I love history because it’s so critical to our understanding of who and where we are, and where we are going. In order to understand where we are NOW, we must also understand HOW we got here. Joan closes the circle with this 2010 essay:
Winner-Take-All Politics delivers its message in neon-bright numbers, but they are numbers all the same. The charts depicting the increasing gap between the uber-rich and the rest of us will blow your mind — if you like charts. The narrative is lively, yet wonky. If you want to get its wisdom, you're going to have to sit still for some statistics. Here's what I thought was most important:
  • The richest 1 percent of Americans now take in almost a quarter of national income, up from about 8 percent during the Carter administration.
  • Their after-tax income rose 256 percent in that same time, while the middle fifth of the country saw its after-tax income grow by about 20 percent.
  • In roughly the same period, the percent by which taxes and government benefits reduced inequality dropped by a quarter.
  • Had national income grown the way it did in the generation after World War II, that middle fifth would have earned $12,300 more income; the top 1 percent would have earned almost $700,000 less.
The Gilded Age gave us the Progressive Era; the Depression yielded the New Deal, and that approach to blunting capitalism's sharp edges and expanding opportunity persisted, ironically,  through the Nixon administration. Obama and the Democrats had an epochal opportunity to change the terms of the political debate and begin another era of renewal in 2008, and they haven't managed it yet. They still have a chance, but the window is closing, and voters are losing faith that Democrats are up to solving the nation's problem. How Obama handles the GOP's tax challenge could determine his party's fortunes, and the country's, for many years to come.

The party has been caving to the wealthy since the Carter administration. Will anyone stand up for the rest of us?”

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Someone Who LOOKED Like ED SCHULTZ Hosted The Ed Show From White House Lawn Friday!

Just Funnin' Big Eddie With a You-Know-What Theme:
SCREEAAARGHRAIEEEEAAAARGHUUUUH! ! !

Sign of The Times: Huff Post's Deceptive Lead Headline of The Day

If you were to take a wild guess against the backdrop of the President's craven compromise with Republicans and subsequent pushback from House Democrats, what would you say this Huffington Post headline is about? If you said progressive Democrats are 'warming' to the President's position after much fence-mending with his liberal and progressive base, and sweeteners added to win over recalcitrant votes in a rekindling of the spirit of 2008 — you would be WRONG.


The story actually is about UN consensus and agreement on climate change, with the subhead: "UN Summit Inches Forward on Climate Change." Although ... next week's Beltway political headline could well be: "House Democrats Inch Forward on Tax Deal." Meanwhile, our planet is going to HELL in a Teapot.

What Ishmael Reed Doesn't Understand About Progressives

In a New York Times op-ed today, distinguished American poet, essayist, and novelist Ishmael Reed argues that progressives are upset at President Obama for “keeping his cool” where progressives would like “the president to ‘man up’ in the face of the Republicans. Some want him to be like John Wayne. On horseback. Slapping people left and right.”
“One progressive commentator played an excerpt from a Harry Truman speech during which Truman screamed about the Republican Party to great applause. He recommended this style to Mr. Obama. If President Obama behaved that way, he’d be dismissed as an angry black militant with a deep hatred of white people. His grade would go from a B- to a D.”
The clip in question was played by progressive radio host Thom Hartmann. President Truman was not screaming when he said, “the Democrats are for the people. The Republicans are for the special interests. They've always been for the special interests.” It is a simple statement of fact. It is stunning for Mr. Reed to argue that in 2010 our President must be constrained from repeating this Truman truism — even if he quotes it without the air quotes used to say Democrats felt “quote unquote betrayed”— because he happens to be African American.
Mr. Reed noted, “I pointed out to a leading progressive that the Tea Party included neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers — and he called me a “bully.” He believes that the Tea Party is a grass-roots uprising against Wall Street, a curious reading since the movement gained its impetus from a rant against the president delivered by a television personality on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.”
This passage is absurdly unrepresentative of liberal and progressive values and of how fiercely progressives have pushed back against Tea Party racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and xenophobia. It is, for Mr. Reed, an unseemly smear of progressives. In the center-right political spectrum occupied by the Beltway elites, progressives and liberals are the sole ‘outlier’ speaking truth to power and upper class privilege to the gilded media millionaires tasked with disseminating the New American oligarchy's message.

Liberals and progressives are unique in not legitimizing the so-called ‘Tea Party’ as a mainstream political movement, any more than the American Nazi Party or the KKK are mainstream. We see the so-called ‘Tea Party’ for what it truly is: an ultra-conservative unrepresentative political movement populated by the self-same extremist elements Mr. Reed describes. Some of us prefer “Teabagger” with a capital ‘T’ as the more accurate designation. The reason is simple: If you belong to an organization that has in its ranks racists, anti-Semites, birthers, xenophobes, and homophobes, who or what does that make you?
Mr. Reed continues his misguided critique against liberals and progressives with the offensive inference that we are spoiled whites: “Unlike white progressives, blacks and Latinos are not used to getting it all ... When these progressives refer to themselves as Mr. Obama’s base, all they see is themselves. They ignore polls showing steadfast support for the president among blacks and Latinos.”
With all due respect to Mr. Reed, liberals and progressives have earned for ourselves the appelation of President Obama’s “base” because our liberal activism and militancy was crucial to his election in 2008. Furthermore, it was not liberals and progressives who stayed home in the midterm elections, but the blacks and Latinos Mr. Reed speaks of in the President’s 2008 coalition. Despite Mr. Reed’s mistaken belief, progressives and Latinos are not mutually exclusive.

 As for the constant, condescending Beltway refrain, “where are progressives going to go” the honest answer is, it depends. If the economy tanks in spite of the so-called ‘Stimulus II’— absent the transfer of wealth to the rich funded by borrowed Chinese money — with anemic job creation and economic recovery, there might well be a primary challenge to the President, regardless of what progressives do. Likewise, an independent challenge to the President, from right or left, remains an open possibility, regardless of what progressives do. It all depends on the pace of job creation and economic recovery, not on the transient politics of who pisses whom off or who’s up and who’s down that so fascinates the Idiot Punditocracy.

Contrary to the Beltway elites’ self-indulgent and self-congratulatory predictions, their economic IQ is about a 9.8. In his best-case scenario, Paul Krugman predicts the economy will do “okay” in 2011. Unemployment could dip between a half to one point. Once the short-term tax cuts end going into an election year in 2012, what are the chances the President will fight to (a) end the tax cuts for the rich, (b) end the outrageous (Paris Hilton) estate tax 35 percent giveaway to what it would have been absent the craven compromise, 55 percent, (c) permanently extend the middle class tax cuts, and (d) get another one-year extension in unemployment benefits?

Knowing this president’s MO, he’ll probably make the half-loaf argument, that two-out-of-four ain’t bad. In dollars and cents biggest bang for the buck, the 50-50 formulation just won't add up. Not even close. If it’s options (c) and (d) it’s pretty much curtains for the embattled middle class “over the long haul,” as the President likes to say.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Palace Coup: Bubba Takes Over as President Heads For The Punch Bowl

President Clinton briefs the press on why Democrats should back the current President's tax deal with Republicans, as if ... well, as if he never left!


Chris Matthews hosted Clinton insider Mark Penn, aptly described by Howard Fineman of Huff Post as "the geometry professor of triangulation." President Obama isn't the second coming of FDR; he's already pivoted to Clinton triangulation as the best Republican president Democrats can get. The economic policy is trickle-down Reaganomics. House and Senate Democrats will get few concessions. Even in endorsing it editorially the New York Times described it as "odious." Here are a few reasons why:

The tax cut for millionaires and billionaires, always advertised as essential for job creation actually resulted in a net loss of 600,000 jobs lost between 2001 and 2007, before the economic collapse. As Bernie Sanders noted, it's just a payoff by Republicans to their rich donors, and they should admit it. The unconscionable estate tax, as Senator Sanders indicated, benefits exactly 3/10 of 1 percent of families; 99.7 percent of American families will pay not a nickel on their estates. ONLY 39,000 VERY EXCLUSIVE families (the Waltons, Paris Hilton) will get a total tax windfall of $27 billion. It's an outrageous transfer of wealth to America's oligarchy. The deal actually raises taxes on the poor and seriously threatens the solvency of Social Security beyond Mr. Obama's possible second term.

As Bernie Sanders said to the "hypocrites" on the other side. "Don't you dare lecture us on deficits" any longer, after thrusting an odious tax cut for millionaires and billionaires down our throats that rips a $900 billion hole in the deficit with modest stimulus but serious structural economic damage to the poor, the elderly, and the middle class built in to the President's negotiated "framework."

White House Deploys The Bubba Weapon, Flips Tiny Eddie

While Bernie Sanders was fighting the good fight on the Senate floor with his "long speech" (technically not a) filibuster, President Obama trotted out the Big Bubba weapon today to sell his craven tax compromise. MSNBC's Ed Schultz was there. He did his show from outside the White House, looking well fed, and not uttering one negative word about the tax deal. Instead, he stressed how "passionately" people at the White House, from the President on down, care about the unemployed. So what, Ed? Nobody disputes that. You can ask any Republican that, and they'll say the same thing.

But the most obvious, and glaring omission, was not a single mention of Bernie Sanders' 8-hour (and counting) filibuster. I remember Ed asking the Senator last week, directly, if he would filibuster this deal, then giving him words of encouragement, to "keep up the good fight." Now that he has, not a word from Ed. It looks like the White House flipped Big, er Tiny Eddie, the self-described "fighter for the middle class" and turned him into a little lamb. Ed, they might have turned you with the VIP treatment but you can't fool your audience. You know that.

Stand With American Patriot Bernie Sanders!

Send the President a message: NO DEAL WITH HOSTAGE TAKERS!

MoveOn.org has a petition drive to block the millionaire bailout. You can sign it here. Other progressive groups are mobilizing to support Bernie's courageous FILIBUSTER of the President's craven tax cut for millionaires and billionaires. (Six hours and counting, as Bernie Sanders gives the American people a lesson in civics, democracy, history, and the REAL politics of class warfare being waged on multiple fronts against the middle class — Bernie Sanders speaking TRUTH to power.)

Here's The Ransom Note to The American People From The GOP Leadership.
Join Bernie in saying ENOUGH! No craven compromise with the hostage-taking Senate Republican leadership, behind closed doors, with no input from the President's party, let alone from the American people. Let your senators and congresspersons know how you feel about this deal.

Senator Sherrod Brown (the GOOD Senator Brown) of Ohio is supporting Bernie's historic filibuster with an "Open Letter to President Obama" urging the President to stand his ground with Senate Democrats and fight the  Republicans. Senator Brown is willing to stay in session for as long as it takes to get a JUST deal for the American people. Sign Sen. Brown's letter here.

GO BERNIE, GO, GO, GO!

BERNIE SCHOOLS THE NATION ON THE REPUBLICAN MISERY INDEX

The U.S. has the HIGHEST child poverty rate in the industrialized world; check our RED LINE MISERY INDEX FOR CHILD POVERTY, THANKS TO REPUBLICANS:

AMERICA'S SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS, INDEPENDENT OF VERMONT, TAKES A STAND!

At this hour, Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent socialist of Vermont, is filibustering the craven compromise, Obama's tax cut bill. When was the last time a Democratic senator (Bernie caucuses with the Democrats) filibustered a bill on the Senate floor, a bill negotiated by his President? This is a historic moment. The C-SPAN caption says: "SEN. SANDERS BEGAN WHAT HE CALLS A TAX CUT FILIBUSTER AT 10:25am ET."

"Now there's another issue I'm going to touch on, and I'M GOING TO SPEND A LOT OF TIME ON THIS AGREEMENT BECAUSE I DON'T THINK IT GOT THE ATTENTION IT DESERVES. WE HAVE A JOB TO DO; IF IT MEANS STAYING HERE THROUGH CHRISTMAS, NEW YEAR'S, THAT IS OUR JOB!"

GO BERNIE, GO, GO, GO!
Bernie BLASTS the Estate Tax Cut Giveaway to Paris Hilton; BLASTS corporate "citizen" EXXON that raked in $19B in profits and is getting
a $150M tax cut from the U.S. Treasury, but a DISABLED VET cannot get a miserable $250 dollars from the Republican Senate.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

What Price Leadership

Why are progressives blaming President Obama, asked the caustically obnoxious “socialist” Lawrence O’Donnell. Simple. President Obama isn’t just the titular leader of the Democratic Party; he is the leader of the Democratic Party and most significantly the leader of our nation as its highest elected official.

Some people, O’Donnell included, may find all this redundancy a distinction without a difference. The President himself said he had to think of what was best for the country in reaching his craven compromise with Republicans, in which the still-majority Democrats were left out of the negotiations, in the cold. That by itself is bush league politicking that calls into question the competence of the President’s political advisers.


The White House negotiators included Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner who had actually enabled the Bush trickle-down policies which got us to this place. In another ironic twist, Obama’s economic pied piper Larry Summers, another Clintonian facilitator of our current economic woes, issued an Olympian pronouncement that failure to capitulate to his Bush-era tax policies will result in a double-dip recession.

Joan Walsh of Salon said, in effect, we are “enshrining” the Bush tax cuts, George W. Bush’s signature legislative accomplishment. More than that, we are enshrining three decades of disastrous Reaganomics 1.0, 2.0, 3.0. It’s a big deal. And for the President to negotiate it all away behind closed doors with Republicans, then tell his Democratic Congressional allies, ‘you have no choice but to swallow this deal, hook, line and sinker' is a HUGE political blunder of Jimmy Carter proportions. Part of the test of successful presidential leadership is navigating the political waters with competence.

The White House’s failure to anticipate the reaction of House Democrats is baffling. Rep. Peter DeFazio said the entire Democratic House Caucus, not just the Progressive Caucus, voted “with near-unanimity” to reject the President’s deal. Even if it’s a nonbinding resolution, this united front by House Democrats is a shade more serious than what the White House might expect.

Interesting how those who stand to get a tax cut windfall will presume to lecture progressives on our motives. And while the Lamborghini red “socialist” proffers to speak for the lowest bracket from his perch atop the highest, the dispossessed of this society, the armies of the 99ers, give or take seven million, stand to gain nothing. What about them? Has anyone asked a 99er whether he or she supports the craven compromise, the Bush-Obama tax cuts?

The answer might be different: Let’s end this trickle-down madness right here, right now and course correct. The alternative is crushing debt to foreign creditors China, Japan, and Saudi Arabia, slashing entitlement programs, defunding healthcare before it has even had a chance to take hold, and spiraling poverty among all demographic groups, including seniors, in the middle to lower classes.

For what — not enduring short-term economic pain, but at least shared sacrifice? Because the true measure of leadership, FDR- or Truman-style, would be to ask the American people to sacrifice in the short-term for the nation’s long-term health and prosperity and take this fight to the ballot box. The President’s “preferred option” however, is Clintonian triangulation.

Different times. For Americans who suffered through a Great Depression and a world war with casualties not in the thousands but in the millions, taking a tax bracket hit (back to the days of our greatest boom cycle economic expansion, the Clinton years) or a short-term cut in unemployment insurance is pain that can be endured.


Americans do not support this deal. Most polls show this and the President has conceded as much. Standing on principle and asking all Americans to share in the sacrifice to put our economic house in order is not playing an economic game of chicken with Republicans. This is not something FDR or Truman would have shied away from.

Interestingly, the President became publicly angry for the first time in his presidency, not at Republicans or the Tea Party, but at progressives. What an honor, however dubious and unfulfilling. We know the history. Gibby grousing about the “professional left” and before that Rhambo’s lovely parting shot. But even if the anti-progressive outbursts of locos like Lawrence O’Donnell take on the character of a barroom brawl — the fact is, we were right all along.

Our advice to the President was right, on the politics and on principle. Recalling the President’s indifferent support for the public option, the Nation’s Ari Berman said, “The Obama administration’s posture on the tax cuts is eerily similar to its stance on the public option during healthcare reform — the president says he wants the policy, but does absolutely nothing to fight for it, either through his own bully pulpit or on Capitol Hill.” Bingo.

Mr. President, please cut to the chase. Instead of pretending to “pick a fight” with a Republican Congress and dysfunctional Senate, just make your tax cuts for the rich permanent. Period. Take ownership of them: The Obama Tax Cuts. Then you won’t have to force a Republican veto override of permanently ending the Bush-Obama tax cuts for the rich. No theatrical reelection gambit. Run a ‘I told-you-so’ campaign blaming Republicans, having caved to every single one of their “hostage-taker” demands. The American people are an understanding bunch.

And should your modest tax stimulus for the middle class work, you might want to embrace the Frank Luntz talking points and just go with the Republican party line that the filthy rich “job creators” ultimately drove this recovery all along. They might even give you that cherished second term to play War Chief. As long as you agree to a little Republican-style infrastructure spending: erect a statue to Ronald Reagan on the capital mall. And of course, relegate that distant slogan — “change we can believe in”— to the dustbin of history.

Where Are Progressives Going to Go? I'll Tell You

In view of the largely symbolic vote of the House Democratic Caucus in opposition to the President's craven compromise, one beltway pundit carrying water for the President, asked smugly, "where are they [progressives] going to go?" I'll tell 'em. The Idiot Punditocracy tends to think in linear terms about politics, reflecting the narrow Washington milieu in which they ply their useless chatterbox noise. Regarding the extension of the Bush-Obama tax cuts for the rich and favorite sons (and daughter Paris Hilton):

Idiot Punditocracy Myth No. 1 — A Democratic primary challenge against a sitting president results in a split within the party and ultimate defeat of a President, wounded and weakened politically by a bitter challenge from the party's left flank. The template for this particular scenario is Ted Kennedy's challenge of  President Jimmy Carter in 1980. The problem with drawing generalizations from the 1980 contest between Kennedy and Carter is that it was, first and foremost, a bitter grudge match. The two men did not like each other and made no bones about it. The result was a knock-down, drag-out fight that indeed split the party and facilitated Ronald Reagan's election.

What the idiot pundits fail to cite is the other race of the 1980 campaign on the Republican side, because (a) they just don't know the history that well (likely), or (b) this particular model doesn't comport with their far more dramatic narrative involving party revolts, sound and fury on the Left, and various lines in the sand. The candidate was, by today's standards at least, a liberal Rockefeller Republican: Rep. John Anderson of Illinois. Anderson wanted to provide a center-left alternative to a GOP that he felt had strayed too far to the right. He waged a campaign of ideas and gained instant popularity when, unlike the other candidates, didn't evade the question of what was his biggest regret. Anderson said flat-out it was his vote for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, leading to the bloody and divisive Vietnam war without a formal declaration of war from Congress. (Ironically, we saw this scenario play itself out in 2008, like a ghost from the past, with Hillary trying to explain her vote on the Iraq invasion.)

Anderson had some success in the primaries, finishing second to George H.W. Bush in Massachusetts, and in Vermont to Ronald Reagan, losing both contests by fewer than 1,000 votes. After Carter defeated Kennedy, Anderson launched an independent third-party bid with support from prominent progressives, as an alternative to the two major party contenders. But his campaign fizzled once Kennedy endorsed Carter. Still, he finished with 7 percent of the vote and was a precursor of the campaign of ideas waged decades later by Ron Paul from his (solo) libertarian GOP perch.

Liberals, progressives, the netroots are highly organized, and it was this organization that delivered the election for President Obama. The notion of waging a symbolic "challenge" to the President that is at the same time substantive, a campaign of ideas in which progressives unite behind one candidate that could best articulate core principles and ideas, to carry the message, appeals to progressives. The primary process would be a means  of discussing progressive ideas and priorities, and ensuring that the President engage in the debate with specifics, not generalities, all the way to the convention. It would be like holding the President's feet to the fire at every step along the way while having a respecful debate, discussion, and conversation about the future course of the nation.

Idiot Punditocracy Myth No. 2 — The President's approval rating is 80 percent among Democrats, therefore liberal base disaffection with him is a small sampling of the "silent Democratic majority." What the idiot pundits fail to recognize is that progressives can have an argument with our President on core principles and still support him in the main, though perhaps with less enthusiasm. Three words: Supreme Court appointments. Do these idiots think we're going to ditch the President willy-nilly? No. Have they ever had a family argument? Yes. Has the final result been a permanent break? No. End of story.

Idiot Punditocracy Myth No. 3. — "Where will progressives go?" This is typical of the condescending attitude toward progressives that permeates the beltway elites, from the White House, that sets the tone, to the media noisemakers and chatterboxes. Essentially, this is the nuclear option. Unlikely, but possible. Probable even, depending on what New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg decides to do. He says he's not running. For now. But that could change at any moment. It will hinge, as they say, on political conditions on the ground. Today, those conditions are more favorable than before November 2.

A Mike Bloomberg independent bid for the presidency is not some pie-in-the-sky scenario. All the necessary ingredients are there: A twice-elected big BIG-city mayor with creds, gravitas, UNLIMITED FUNDS, and the best campaign team money can buy. Furthermore, he is articulating a "third way" in politics outside of the two major parties, intended to have broad appeal, emphasizing results, pragmatism, fiscally responsible and socially liberal, with a ready-made slogan derived from the phrase "political centrism." Nothing about Mr. Bloomberg's recent moves says "quixotic" or "book tour."

Mayor Bloomberg is in an exploratory phase, but it's a serious exploration. Most progressives would still prefer to cast a vote for President Obama's reelection. Yet very few would consider a vote for Mike Bloomberg one for which they'd have to hold their noses.