Saturday, February 06, 2010

Tea Party Convention Kicks Off With Racist Clarion Call: Bring Back Jim Crow

Gimme some of that Old Nazi rally feeling . . .

Fomer Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo opened the Tea Party Convention in Nashville with a racist rant ticking off the nativist themes embodied in the Teabaggers’ Struggle for the soul of America: “The race for America is on right now” said Tancredo, warning ominously “the revolution has come. It was led by the cult of multiculturalism aided by leftist liberals all over who don't have the same ideas about America as we do.”

Then Tancredo struck a fatal blow at the very heart of the Tea Party movement:

Friday, February 05, 2010

Al Franken Rips David Axelrod a New One

And steps into the leadership vacuum left by the White House and Harry Reid; the jury's out on Nancy Pelosi, but at least she held her group together and, like FDR, did “welcome the hatred” of her enemies on the right, from Republican obstructionists to Teabaggers. Senator Franken was fed up with the lack of leadership coming from the White House, and proposed a very simple way forward around which progressives can rally. Reconciliation and 50 + 1:
“If we in the Senate pledge to fix those top priorities right away through reconciliation... the House of Representatives should pass the Senate bill. The exact details of this process need to be worked out by the leadership and the President.”
Sounds like a plan. Meanwhile . . . the President continues to send mixed messages -- “we should be deliberate . . . take our time . . . not let the moment slip away” -- zig and zag, which infuriates progressives in Congress, who patiently went to bat for him. Rham Emanuel's “fucking retards”* swallowed concession after concession to get something, anything, done on healthcare. I'll say it again: Mr. Emanuel and his Clintonian strategy of deference to the DINOs, sweetheart deals, and concessions to corporate interests while throwing progressives under the bus, has achieved exactly . . . what? A rerun of the Clinton healthcare debacle of 1995, when Emanuel was in the White House!

The President keeps pushing the “bipartisan” button, which is like trying to accelerate a Toyota Prius and hoping it doesn't stall. Mr. Obama's latest fantasy is to sit down with Democrats and Republicans and healthcare professionals, go over the bills, and have a final vote; on live TV. Not gonna happen; the Republicans WILL NOT participate. How many times, in how many different ways, do we have to say this, Sir, before it registers? “Maybe I’m na├»ve,” mused Mr. Obama. (You said it.) Yes Sir, YOU ARE. Jeez . . .

Of the 40 or so people invited to the President’s Super Bowl party, one Republican will attend: Rep. Joseph Cao, the single Republican YES vote for the House healthcare bill. Now that’s “bipatisanship” we can believe in. Incidentally, DINOs Mary Landrieu and Evan Bayh sent their regrets, but will not attend. Doesn't that tell you something, Mr. President?

Just take Senator Franken's suggestion, Democrats, and GET IT DONE.

*If Rham Emanuel gets this done, he should stay; if he blows it now, he should go. As for the comment, made last year in a closed-door meeting, Mr. Emanuel apologized, as he should have. But Sarah Palin's conduct is the height of hypocrisy. After criticizing Emanuel and calling for his firing, Palin refused to apply the same standard to Rush Limbaugh when he used the term in a more despicable way -- broadcast live to millions (see below). Limbaugh even boasted that Palin's “spokeswoman” called him “in a panic” to say Palin did not use Limbaugh’s name. Sarah “Caribou Barbie” Palin: You are contemptible.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Newest Senator From America’s Modern Nazi Party Sworn in Today

Has anyone read The Plot Against America by Philip Roth? It’s a terrific “what if” novel that imagines what this country would be like had America’s hero, Charles A. Lindbergh, run against and defeated FDR for the presidency in 1940. Lindbergh captured the public’s imagination with his solo transatlantic flight and had the country’s sympathy with the tragic kidnapping and murder of his infant son. Lindbergh was America’s John McCain (heroic aviator) and Sarah Palin (attractive, charismatic vehicle for simplistic nativist emotions) all rolled into one. He was also “a rabid isolationist, Nazi sympathizer, and crypto-fascist.”

Lindbergh ran under the Republican Party banner. To find out what happens you’ll have to read the book. The point is, this same Republican Party which has a dark history of close association with real German Nazis is, similarly, teeming with crypto-fascists –- who harbor hidden, and not-so-hidden, sympathies for an authoritarian ideology that
  • subverts civil liberties in the name of national security (Patriot Act, domestic surveillance, terrorist fearmongering, torture, military trials);
  • promotes U.S. hegemonism through military might and wars (PNAC/Heritage neoCon/Fascist think tanks, Iraq/Af-Pak wars);
  • incites hatred and racism in its base to intimidate the “ruling” party into rejecting the program on which it campaigned, with lies (corporate attack ads) and propaganda talking points from its contemporary Joseph Goebbels (Frank Luntz);
  • employs right wing hate radio (Limbaugh and acolytes) and Fox broadcasting network (Roger – I’m into ratings, not news – Ailes, Beck/O’Reilly/Hannity et al) as its communications arm, to mobilize the Teabagger storm troops/including corporate agitators to disseminate the fascist agenda, and
  • embraces the right wing Judiciary’s putsch against government of, for, and by the people, legalizing the total corporate takeover of our government, resulting in the creation of a ruling oligarchy and permanent underclass.
Kiss the political parties goodbye –- good thing? Consider this: Henceforth elections in this country will be, e.g., between corporate factions representing oil, coal, and gas industries vs. Wall Street bankers, with the green energy folks standing in for the old Green Party. But wait, unlike more civilized countries, we don’t have campaign finance laws that restrict corporations . . . It’s already happening; only now the corporations can be open and out front about it. Hmmm. A boon for Frank Luntz and the so-called “optics” consultants trafficking in political propaganda. The people lose.

How’s that for the America of your dreams, right wing/Tea Party tools? It's always amusing to see multimillionaire sophist tycoons such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh liken Democrats to Nazis. The charges are so absurd that only morons in the so-called Tea Party movement take them seriously. But that’s enough, for purposes of the corporate owners in their ivory towers manipulating the street agitators with those crude racist signs. Nazi Germany had its Brown Shirts, a paramilitary mob whose charge was to intimidate the political parties and identified enemies of their (“minority”) state. Eventually the Brown Shirts were purged after they had exhausted their usefulness to the Nazi Party.

Such purging is already underway in the internal sniping among Tea Party factions and in the confiscatory price of admission to the so-called “Tea Party Convention” just to catch a glimpse of their very own Sarah “Lindy” Palin. She is pocketing $100,000 of the Teabaggers' hard-earned cash for her (no doubt) “inspirational” keynote speech. At this moment, the corporate elites are trying to harness and bottle the Teabaggers' diffuse energy to serve their aims. Can you spell “patsies” and “tools,” Teabaggers? Write it out in big kindergarten block letters across your T(ea)-shirts.

Today the Massachusetts everyman elected by the people, in its infinite wisdom, was sworn in to occupy the Senate seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy. To be sure, Scott Brown is no Charles Lindbergh. He has distanced himself from the Teabaggers, denying any knowledge of Palin’s congratulatory call. Although Brown ran to the right in Massachusetts to attract the Teabagger vote, he is on record as having voted for Massachusetts’ comprehensive healthcare coverage, is pro-choice and has earned a top rating from the environmentalist Audubon Society.

But that hasn’t stopped the right from claiming Brown as one of their own. Scott Brown is the empty vessel into which people’s aspirations and frustrations will be poured. He is the model stealth candidate, who purged any mention of the Republican Party from his literature, used the blue Democratic colors in his website, and falsely, outrageously, wrapped himself around one of the Democratic Party’s and Massachusetts’ iconic figures: JFK.

Now that Brown is a working member of America’s national fascist party, the question of his political independence is most relevant. As long as he makes no waves, he will fit right in. What’s more, Brown’s moderate image will help the GOP immeasurably in masking its hard-right agenda. Since Brown has self-identified as “Brown 41” -– the 41st vote necessary to sustain a filibuster –- the expectation is he will be a loyal GOP soldier, cementing the party’s obstructionism of Democratic governance and paving the way for a fascist corporate takeover of America.

This isn’t Glenn Beck tinfoil hattery; it’s simply an observation. When it comes to seducing the public with imagery and volks-messaging, few do it as well as Republicans, who have learned and internalized the lessons of Nazi propaganda better than most.

Consider these images from Scott Brown’s campaign compared to Hitler's. The first is a poster of Hitler wrapping himself around Hindenburg, one of the few iconic hero-figures in Germany at the time; the little-known Hitler needed the legitimacy with the German people that Hindenburg provided. Next to it is Scott Brown’s notorious JFK-Scott Brown morphing ad, in antique black-and-white with identical details. Just like JFK’s New Frontier evokes memories of a mythical last century Camelot, so had Nazi ideology appealed to romantic notions of a lost 19th century German greatness and the myth of Nietzsche’s “superman.”

The next image is Scott Brown, regular guy, in his black pickup truck contrasted to Hitler in a Volkswagen, which means, literally, “people’s car.” These are strikingly similar images, right down to the vehicles’ color.

Coincidence? Perhaps. Certainly, this is not meant to equate the Republican Party with the Nazi Party’s most heinous crimes; only to point out the similarities and effective use of its propaganda messaging techniques by the GOP. And one thing is clear: Once Scott Brown looked like he had a shot to win, the RNC sent some of its top operatives to Massachusetts, while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce dumped a ton of cash into Brown’s campaign, effectively nationalizing it. Heil Brown?

Progressive Slogan of the Day

“Buy American. Keep your eyes on the rearview mirror and hope you don’t see a Toyota.

The Ed Schultz radio show – Chicago’s Progressive Talk, 820-AM

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Jarring Pun About People in Vegetative States

The New York Times today had a fascinating story that patients once thought to be in a permanent vegetative state may actually have vestiges of consciousness and the capacity to communicate. The very last sentence of the article, almost a throwaway, quotes a skeptical neurologist warning against equating brain activity and identity:
“Physicians and society are not ready for ‘I have brain activation, therefore I am,’ ” Dr. Ropper wrote. “That would seriously put Descartes before the horse.
Is it just me, or is this stupid pun in a medical journal about something with such profound ethical implications, not to speak of unfathomable suffering for those trapped inside paralyzed bodies -- so utterly inappropriate as to be beyond tasteless?

Stoopid State of the Union: Inside the Fox Viewer's Head

By the time these pasty, diseased white guys (below) are finished brainwashing scared, low-information voters --

Beck: “They are taking you to a place to be slaughtered!” / Limbaugh: “There’s gonna be a retard summit at the White House.” / Hannity: “Liberals should adopt someone who needs healthcare.” / Ailes: “Well, he was talking about Hitler and Stalin slaughtering people.” / Bill-O: Four-year trial at $200 million a year equals “almost a trillion dollars.”

This is the end result:
A poll taken by Daily Kos/Research 2000 gives us a disturbing glimpse into the dark underbelly of the GOP beast.
  • 39 percent of Republicans believe Obama should be impeached, 29 percent are not sure, 32 percent said he should not be voted out of office.
  • 36 percent of Republicans believe Obama was not born in the United States, 22 percent are not sure, 42 percent think he is a natural citizen.
  • 31 percent of Republicans believe Obama is a Racist who hates White people” -- the description once adopted by Fox News's Glenn Beck. 33 percent were not sure, and 36 percent said he was not a racist.
  • 63 percent of Republicans think Obama is a socialist, 16 percent are not sure, 21 percent say he is not
  • 24 percent of Republicans believe Obama wants the terrorists to win, 33 percent aren't sure, 43 percent said he did not want the terrorist to win.
  • 21 percent of Republicans believe ACORN stole the 2008 election, 55 percent are not sure, 24 percent said the community organizing group did not steal the election.
  • 23 percent of Republicans believe that their state should secede from the United States, 19 percent aren't sure, 58 percent said no.
  • 53 percent of Republicans said they believe Sarah Palin is more qualified to be president than Obama.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Election Day in Illinois

And we’ve got snow, which could depress turnout or excuse the enthusiasm gap among Democrats, if it should manifest itself today.

In the Governor’s race, for what it’s worth, Governor Pat Quinn gets the nod. Last year, then Lt. Governor Quinn ascended to the governorship at a difficult moment for the state after the Rod Blagojevich corruption scandal and impeachment. He restored honesty and openness in government, passed ethics reform (recognizing that more needs to be done), and stabilized the state’s finances.

On Illinois’ long-term structural deficit, Governor Quinn is the only grown-up in the race, giving the voters –- and reluctant legislators –- straight talk that we’re not digging ourselves out of this hole without raising taxes and targeted budget cuts.

Governor Quinn has had a distinguished career as an exemplary public servant. From his days as a grassroots activist (which mirror President Obama’s public service in many ways), his fight against corrupt government and special interests, his campaign on behalf of the people of Illinois against utility rate price gouging, and his steadfast support for Illinois veterans and their families make him a true people’s champion in the Illinois statehouse.

There’s much more to be done to restore integrity to state government and economic prosperity to the state. Governor Quinn has a vision for Illinois that includes campaign finance reform, lobbying restrictions, sunshine laws, rebuilding the state’s infrastructure, investing in green jobs and education for our children, and promoting science and technology in our leading universities to spur innovations for the economy of the future.

Governor Quinn likes to say that politics, like democracy, is not a spectator sport, it’s a participatory responsibility. Let’s elect Pat Quinn for his own term as governor of Illinois.

In the Senate Democratic race for President Obama’s vacant seat, former Chicago inspector general David Hoffman, 43, is surging. Hoffman built his reputation rooting out corruption, waste and mismanagement in Mayor Daley’s administration and making a dent, at least.

If Hoffman’s insurgent campaign succeeds in toppling machine pol and bankrolled (in more ways than one) state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, it will be a clear indication that the voters’ angry mood extends far beyond the right fringes of American politics.

In a sentence, Giannoulias’s claim to fame is having played pickup basketball with Barack Obama; Hoffman’s is giving Mayor Daley hives.

Get out there and vote.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Negotiating With Republicans is a Waste of Time, Mr. President

Better than Leonidas at Thermopylae, Obama at Baltimore faced off against 140 House Republicans in their aptly named “retreat” and vanquished them. Said the President, flexing his muscles, with a wry grin and a steely gaze: “They didn't send us to Washington to fight each other in some sort of political steel-cage match to see who comes out alive.”

Could’ve fooled me. When the dust settled and the smoke cleared, the President was the only one to come out alive from this political steel-cage. It was a singular moment in American history of unscripted political combat, somewhat akin to Prime Minister’s Q&A, except that in the parliamentary system the PM gets to field an equal number of softball questions from the ruling party.

This was President Obama going toe-to-toe against the House Republicans, and he beat the crap out of them. One GOP aide lamented later that allowing cameras to roll was “a mistake.” Too late, sparky. Watching the carnage unfold, Fox News (We distort; then we decide what you can handle) pulled the plug on the broadcast and switched to the familiar tones of its racist Obama-bashers.

The President politely accepted the GOP booklet of legislative proposals -– “I've read your legislation. I mean, I take a look at this stuff; and the good ideas we take” –- then called their bluff: “But specifically it's got to work. I mean, there's got to be a mechanism in these plans that I can go to an independent health care expert and say, is this something that will actually work, or is it boilerplate?”

In an exchange with Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the President became irritated by the right winger’s political posturing –- “Jeb, I know there's a question in there somewhere, because you're making a whole bunch of assertions, half of which I disagree with, and I'm having to sit here listening to them. At some point I know you're going to let me answer. All right.” -- took the gloves off for a moment, perfectly framed their hypocrisy, and blew the Republican Party away:
“Jeb, with all due respect, I've just got to take this last question as an example of how it's very hard to have the kind of bipartisan work that we're going to do, because the whole question was structured as a talking point for running a campaign.

The fact of the matter is, is that when we came into office, the deficit was $1.3 trillion. -- $1.3 [trillion.] So when you say that suddenly I've got a monthly deficit that's higher than the annual deficit left by the Republicans, that's factually just not true, and you know it's not true.

And what is true is that we came in already with a $1.3 trillion deficit before I had passed any law. What is true is we came in with $8 trillion worth of debt over the next decade -- had nothing to do with anything that we had done. It had to do with the fact that in 2000 when there was a budget surplus of $200 billion, you had a Republican administration and a Republican Congress, and we had two tax cuts that weren't paid for.

You had a prescription drug plan -- the biggest entitlement plan, by the way, in several decades -- that was passed without it being paid for. You had two wars that were done through supplementals. And then you had $3 trillion projected because of the lost revenue of this recession. That's $8 trillion.

Now, we increased it by a trillion dollars because of the spending that we had to make on the stimulus. I am happy to have any independent fact-checker out there take a look at your presentation versus mine in terms of the accuracy of what I just said.”
Game, set and match. President Obama exposed the Republican hypocrisy of the lost decade of the 21st century, and took no prisoners. For nearly a decade, with Republicans in control of the presidency and Congress, they had a chance to implement their so-called “better solutions” and they did nothing. Nada. Nein. Jobs growth Zero. Except explode the deficit for future generations so they could waste our surplus giving tax breaks to the super-rich.

The party of NO tried to spin this as the President acknowledging Republicans had ideas. Sure, and they were included in the healthcare package -– hundreds of amendments and ideas –- taken from Mike Enzi to Chuck Grassley, Olympia Snowe to Eric Cantor. But as President Obama schooled them in Democracy 101, “If there's uniform opposition because the Republican caucus doesn't get 100 percent or 80 percent of what you want, then it's going to be hard to get a deal done. That's because that's not how democracy works.”

Mr. Obama reminded them that his plan is similar to the one proposed by Bob Dole, Howard Baker, and Tom Daschle last year –- “not a radical bunch” –- and to the Republican alternative to the plan President Clinton proposed in 1995. The point being that most, if not all major concessions, were made by liberal and progressive Democrats in the interest of achieving that bipartisan chimera so important to the President.

When it came time to vote on the “centrist” reform package that included those ideas, the extremist pull of the Republican Party dominated by teabaggers and reactionaries forced erstwhile “moderate” Republicans to vote NO en masse to ensure the President’s “Waterloo” and “break him,” just as progressives had predicted all along.

That is amazingly shameless behavior for a political party whose criminal negligence in “governing” the nation was punished by the voters with a historic smackdown leading to the loss of the presidency and its majorities in Congress. Instead of stepping aside and allowing the Democratic Party to govern, the “loyal opposition” was anything but: In the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, one that the Republican Party had enabled and helped create, Republicans reverted to the same criminal behavior of obstructionism, demonizing President Obama, and inciting racist anger from its white know-nothing base to block the bill.

Once again, Republicans have sided with corporate interests to defeat healthcare reform as the nation barrels toward a healthcare meltdown that threatens to bankrupt it. Even Ronald Reagan, who started this nightmare, was responsible enough to make a deal with Tip O’Neill to extend the life of Social Security. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled giving corporations unfettered spending power over our elections, the window to pass meaningful healthcare reform is closing fast. Unless Democrats move to act fast it will be shut for years and decades to come.

Today’s Republican Party more resembles the Nazi Party of 1930s Germany than a legitimate conservative party, such as exists in Britain and Canada. These parties support and helped introduce universal healthcare in their countries. Like the 1930s Nazis, this Republican Party is a minority regional party populated by ideologues and crass opportunists bent on seizing power no matter the consequences to the nation. It has roughly the same level of popular support as the Nazis did when they took power.

In contrast, the Democratic Party behaves more like a traditional center-left party, which is part of its problem. The ruling majorities have made Democrats timid when they should be bold. As President Obama said, “I don't believe that the American people want us to focus on our job security. They want us to focus on their job security.” The Democratic Party has not adjusted nimbly to the Republican Party’s obstructionist tactics, thuggish behavior, and Frank Luntz talking points propaganda.

The Republicans have nothing to offer. The CBO found that the so-called alternative introduced by John Boehner would extend insurance coverage to about 3 million people by 2019, while leaving about 52 million uninsured. What a fraud.

The House Democratic bill extends health benefits to roughly 36 million people over the same time period, leaving about 18 million uninsured. The cost of the House Democratic bill was about $1.05 trillion over 10 years, while the Republican bill would cost just $61 billion. The President exposed their fraud: “If you say we can offer coverage for all Americans and it won’t cost a penny, that’s just not true. You can’t structure a bill where suddenly 30 million people have coverage and it costs nothing.”

Indeed, the President emphasized that you can’t get something for nothing:
“The easiest thing for me to do on the health care debate would have been to tell people that what you’re going to get is guaranteed health insurance, lower your costs, all the insurance reforms. We’re going to lower the costs of Medicare and Medicaid, and it won’t cost anybody anything. That’s great politics. It’s just not true.”
The Republicans had no argument. They are liars and frauds. They have no intention of working with President Obama to solve America’s critical problems. They will posture, pretend, delay, and hope that their bait-and-switch obstructionism can translate into multiple Massachusetts-like wins that will propel them to the majority in Congress.

So every second, every minute and hour Mr. Obama devotes to the illusion that Republicans and Democrats can work together is time irreversibly lost doing the people’s business. The President’s best approach is to isolate them, call their bluffs, and destroy them, as he did at their “retreat.” The question is, has the President learned the hard lessons; are his eyes wide open?

The President seemed genuinely frustrated by Republicans’ redusal to recognize the reasonableness of working constructively on behalf of the American people. That, by itself, is a puzzler. The Republican Party is a captive of its far right wing. Intellectually the President knows this. His analysis of the problem is right on the mark:
“I mean, the fact of the matter is, is that many of you, if you voted with the administration on something, are politically vulnerable in your own base, in your own party. You've given yourselves very little room to work in a bipartisan fashion because what you've been telling your constituents is, this guy is doing all kinds of crazy stuff that's going to destroy America.”
Even if the moderate Republicans who would fit in a phone booth wanted to, they could not work with Mr. Obama. The backlash and challenge from their extremist base would be immediate. They have voted NO even on bills they should support, such as PayGo. Conservatives are suspect as the party lurches further to the right. In Florida, the Tea Party candidate, Marco Rubio, has pulled ahead of Governor Charlie Crist in the GOP primary for Senate, and in Arizona John McCain’s approval ratings are the lowest they’ve ever been. He faces a challenge on his right from a wingnut radio talk show host.

Following his spot-on analysis of the GOP’s runaway right flank, President Obama needlessly softens his tone:
“And I would just say that we have to think about tone. It's not just on your side, by the way -- it's on our side, as well. This is part of what's happened in our politics, where we demonize the other side so much that when it comes to actually getting things done, it becomes tough to do.”
With all due respect, Mr. President, you are wrong, and you know it. The worst game Democrats can play is to cede the argument to the other side by accepting the false parallelism of what each side does, not in the interest of the truth but to accommodate the adversary.

Democrats have a reflexive need to be fair and tolerant and bend over backwards to their political opponents as if somehow the Republicans will suddenly decide to change their stripes. It makes Democrats look weak and indecisive conceding the “politics as usual” turf to Republicans. That is one lesson unlearned; a major reason voters have lately punished Democrats at the polls. Voters don’t like apologetic, programmatic Democrats. They don’t like appeasement and excuses. They can handle straight talk and the truth.

As a community organizer, Mr. Obama frequently negotiated with corporate and moneyed interests from a position of weakness and had to use every power of persuasion in his quiver to bring them around. As state senator from a blue state, the President forged alliances with Republicans who were far more moderate and pragmatic than those in Congress in order to craft legislation that would pass muster both with a Democratic assembly and a Republican governor. A much different dynamic exists within the national Republican Party.

President Obama said he is not an ideologue. But they are. As he noted, “If you were to listen to the debate and, frankly, how some of you went after this bill, you'd think that this thing was some Bolshevik plot.” Precisely. The President’s appeal for Republicans to “close the gap a little bit between the rhetoric and the reality” is not going to happen. He should heed Harry Truman’s words:
“Whenever a fellow tells me he's bipartisan, I know he's going to vote against me.”

“I don't give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them and they think it's Hell.”
As for the Republicans, this is the only language they understand: