Saturday, June 30, 2012

Bonus Critter Blogging: Caquetá Tití Monkey














(Photograph by Thomas Defler and published at National Geographic. Click on link to learn more about this critter's (and others') impending extinction.)

Mental Health Day














(I'm taking the day off from substantive blogging. I suggest you go visit Libby, Ronni, and Susie. You'll be glad you did.

Bonus Critter blogging will be up at the regular time.)

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday Cat Blogging

Gloating Is Unseemly, But I Don't Care















(Photograph by Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press / June 27, 2012 and published by the Los Angeles Times.)

This picture (which I copped from Hecate) says it all. The Supreme Court finally issued its decision on "Obamacare" and upheld it with very little limitation. It was another 5-4 decision (no surprise there), but the swing vote was that of Chief Justice Roberts (big surprise there).

Democrats are openly rejoicing and Republicans are whining and carrying on as if their party charter had been revoked. I have to admit that the part of me which is petty and vindictive is a whole lot larger than I thought: I am thoroughly enjoying the discomfort of the GOP. And I am really happy that the Chief Justice slapped Antonin Scalia's face on the issue. But in a while, I'll settle down and realize that in the long run, this really isn't such a big victory.

At best, the ACA is a first step, and a timid one. Yes, there are some parts that right now are very helpful to Americans: insurers must cover pre-existing conditions; parents can keep their children their health care plan until age 26; the "doughnut hole" in Medicare Part D will gradually be removed; Medicaid is being expanded; insurers cannot charge women more than men for coverage. And that's just a few of the benefits that came to mind. There are many more.

But insurers are still free to charge whatever they will with very little in the way of actual regulation of premiums, which means there will still be too many Americans without access to health care. And insurers will continue to have the upper hand in determining what treatments are reasonably necessary, again, without much actual regulation, which means treatment will be at least delayed and even denied.

The GOP has already claimed this issue as the main one for the 2012 election. Romney has already promised to repeal it. House Speaker Boehner has promised the same. The press tells us that the Tea Partiers are now energized and plan to turn out in force.

In other words, the battle has been joined. I suggest that we give ourselves a few more hours of cheering and then settle down a bit. There's still a lot of work ahead of us.

Me, I'm going to use those hours trying to figure out what those blotches on Boehner's suit are.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

One Of These Is Not Like The Others


















(Political cartoon by Jen Sorensen and published 6/27/12 at Daily Kos. Click on image to enlarge and then please return.)

I can see the sneers and eyerolls of the corporatists from here: "Why, that's just silly."

Why, yes. Yes, it is silly. Just as silly as trying to run a government or a university like a corporation, which is the whole point.

Once again, for the eleventy-seventh time: a corporation/business is completely different than a government, and completely different than a university. The aims, purposes, and goals are different. The purpose/goal of a business is to make money for its owners/shareholders by providing a product or a service. The purpose/goal of government is to provide for the general welfare of its people. The purpose/goal of a university (or any school at any level) is to educate (not propagandize) its students. Profit is the centerpiece of a business, its raison d'etre. Profit plays no role in government and public education, or at least shouldn't.

In fact, it is not even necessary for a government or university to break even all the time. There will be situations which call for deficits until the money can be found via tax increases or surcharges to cover the difference. This is not to say that schools and governments should not be careful with the public's money. Waste and fraud should be eliminated across the board, whether in education spending or defense spending. But the goal is not profit.

Jen Sorensen is a University of Virginia alum, so her comments on the U-Va scuffle appended to the cartoon are especially pertinent:

While this particular battle may have been won, the corporatization of higher education remains a problem. More than anything, this situation has revealed the dangers of the awesome hubris that can develop among certain wealthy individuals in positions of power. The handful of people behind Sullivan's ouster included a couple billionaire hedge fund managers and a condo developer from Virginia Beach with a soft spot for the musings of David Brooks. Such experience does not qualify one to make sweeping decisions in secrecy about a major public university. Here's a suggestion for those who think their success in extracting wealth from the marketplace means they're brilliant Renaissance People capable of running anything: take a few of those millions and buy some humility. Please.

Yes.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ever See Them In The Same Room Together?














David Horsey has reached Olympian status with this cartoon and post. The man does snark exceedingly well. Go read the whole column. No, really. I'll wait.

This is my favorite section:

On this, as on all other issues, Limbaugh has his loyalists who agree with everything he says. He calls them "dittoheads." Scalia also has his dittoheads. They are the two justices who joined him in dissent on the Arizona ruling, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. The three are the unwavering conservative block on the court, usually joined by Roberts and occasionally by the perpetual swing voter, Anthony Kennedy. ...

Scalimbaugh, it's what we're stuck with.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Just Another Day On The Bench

An odd set of decisions issued from the Supreme Court yesterday. One upheld Citizen's United by voiding a 100-year-old Montana law against corporate campaign contributions. One knocked out a couple of provisions from the Arizona immigration law based on federal preemption, but left the stop-and-demand-papers provision. The third, however, was a little more palatable.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that it is unconstitutional for states to require juveniles convicted of murder to be sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. ...

We "hold that mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on 'cruel and unusual punishment,"' said Justice Elena Kagan, who wrote the opinion for the majority, referring to the U.S. Constitution.
[Emphasis added]

You will note that the decision does not outlaw the imposition of the life without parole sentence, merely forbids its automatic imposition if the defendant is found guilty of murder. In other words, the judge has the discretion on the sentencing, depending the age of the juvenile at the time of the crime and other factors. It will still be possible to impose that sentence. That means the US and Somalia are still the only two countries in the world which allows juveniles to be given that sentence.

It's clear that the US can still continue with its philosophy of vengeance rather than rehabilitation when it comes to justice. Somehow, this allegedly Christian nation doesn't believe in redemption when it comes to criminals, even the youngest of them.

And the decision once again 5-4, with Kennedy as the swing vote:

She was joined in that opinion by Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented.


No surprise there.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Shiny Keys














I guess there are some weekends I should just stay in bed, covers pulled up over my head. This past weekend was one of those in many respects. David Horsey, in his recent cartoon and commentary, gives one of the chief reasons why. Congressidiot Issa (Stooge, CA) is gunning for Attorney General Eric Holder, hoping to nail him with contempt charges for not cooperating with Congress in spilling his guts on the issue of "Fast and Furious" and the nefarious White House plan on taking away our Second Amendment Rights.

The brouhaha over Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. and the contempt of Congress charge brought by U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) are providing new evidence that the lunatics are running the Republican asylum.

Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, would have us believe President Obama’s assertion of executive privilege in the dispute -- “an eleventh-hour stunt,” he called it on Fox News -- is part of a White House cover up of something much more sinister. ...

Just what is being covered up is not so apparent, at least to objective observers. But less-than-objective right-wing conspiracy theorists have a ready answer: Operation Fast and Furious was part of an elaborate plot to undermine the 2nd Amendment and take away citizens’ guns.


Yup. That's it. They want my guns and your guns and the late Charlton Heston's guns, and everyone else's guns so they can hand the nation over to Islamic Jihadists.

Here's the problem I have, however. I am damned sick and tired of this White House and the White House before it raising the issue of executive privilege whenever there's been a screw-up. I would feel far more comfortable with an executive branch saying that the plan was flawed, was executed poorly with lousy oversight, and we will be doing some serious review with Congress to make sure it never happens again. Instead, the Obama folks, like the Bush folks before them, are taking the position of "Nanny, nanny boo-boo, certainly sucks to be you."

But wait, there's more. Horsey's column appeared on Friday. Issa got to bloviate on Sunday with the bobbleheads. He backed down a little, but not much.

House oversight committee chairman Darrell Issa said Sunday that he has no evidence the White House was involved in what could be a Justice Department "cover up” to contain fallout from the botched “Fast and Furious” operation.

In a series of interviews on the political talk shows, the California Republican repeatedly accused Justice Department officials of lying to Congress about the gun-trafficking sting operation and withholding documents from congressional investigators.

But Issa acknowledged his committee has seen no evidence the White House was involved.

“And I hope that they don’t get involved,” Issa said, speaking on “Fox News Sunday.” “I hope that this stays at Justice, and I hope that Justice cooperates because, ultimately, Justice lied to the American people on Feb. 4, and they didn’t make it right for 10 months.”
[Emphasis added]

So, what's going on?

While I admit it's hard to tell when you're dealing with inarticulate illiterates like Darrell Issa, I think Nancy Pelosi just might have it right, even if Horsey somewhat downplays her assessment:

As an answer, House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has her own conspiracy theory. She asserted in her weekly press briefing that the Republicans are gunning for Holder with the clear aim “to undermine the person who is assigned to stop the voter suppression in our country. I’m telling you, this is connected. It is no accident.”

To be honest, I think Pelosi has nailed it in one. Issa and his owners needed some shiny keys as Holder and the DOJ actually filed suit against the Florida voter-list purge ordered by the governor. The contempt citation is the "shiny keys" we are expected to fall for.

Hey! But what do I know. I'm just an old woman sucking on the teat of Social Security. I'll go back to bed now.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday Poetry: A.E. Housman

To an Athlete Dying Young


The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields were glory does not stay
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl's.

--A. E. Housman

Sunday Funnies














(Editorial cartoon by Lee Judge / The Kansas City Star (June 20, 2012) and featured at McClatchy DC. Click on image to enlarge.)

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bonus Critter Blogging: Gecko













(Photograph by Lee Grismer. NGM Maps and published by National Geographic. Click on image to enlarge. Click on link to learn more about this psychedelic critter.)

Two Different Trials

This past few months two criminal cases have riveted my attention. Both involve allegations of unspeakable acts. Both have received huge press coverage all over the world. And both are now in the hands of those who must make the decision. What is so interesting to me is that the two are taking place in different countries, each with their own system of jurisprudence and penalties.

The first is the trial of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky for allegedly molesting young boys for decades. He has pleaded innocence. He is facing 48 counts, and the case went to the jury (which was immediately sequestered) on Thursday. Shortly after the sequestration, a report that Sandusky's adopted son had come forward and volunteered to testify as to his own molestation by his adoptive father. After several weeks of devastating testimony from other victims and a 'trial balloon' defense of mental illness, the defense was reduced to attacking the veracity of the prosecutor's witnesses and suggesting they were only in it for the money they could receive by suing Penn State.

Last night the jury issued its verdict: guilty of 45 of the 48 counts. Sentencing will be done several weeks from now. Sandusky is 68. After appeals, if he loses, he will in effect have a life sentence.

The second is the trial in Norway of Anders Behring Breivik for the killing of 77 people in that country. Breivik has admitted that he killed all of those people, claiming that he committed these acts to save his country from the ravages of multiculturalism and Islam.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Final arguments in the trial of Anders Behring Breivik, the self-confessed Norwegian killer of 77 people, ended Friday, and the question of his sanity was in the hands of a five-judge panel expected to rule in August.

Breivik has admitted that he carried out last July's bombing of a government building in Oslo that killed eight people and later the same day shot 69 people to death at an annual gathering of the Norwegian Labor Party's youth group on the nearby island of Utoya.
[Emphasis added]

Now, here is where it gets interesting for us Americans. Norway does not have a death penalty, so that is not in issue. What is in issue is Breivik's sanity, only instead of it being raised as a defense by his attorneys, it is being raised by prosecutors because of the penalties which apply.

He faces a maximum allowable sentence of 21 years in prison, which can be extended indefinitely if he is considered a danger to society, or commitment to psychiatric care until deemed safe for release.

Breivik claims he acted out of political idealism to defend ethnic Norway from multiculturalism and Islam and should be judged as a sane human being.
[Emphasis added]

If he judged sane, the most Breivik would be sentenced to is 21 years, with a hearing thereafter to determine whether he could be safely released. If he is judged insane, he could be held longer, even indefinitely, until he is deemed safe to release. His attorneys argued for his sanity and for a minimum sentence.

But the point is that the Norwegian system leaves room for rehabilitation, something which does not often (if ever) enter into sentencing decisions in this country. While I must admit that I doubt that Breivik will ever be safe to return to society, I think there is always a chance that he might actually be rehabilitated. That's not an option in the US. With this many murders, in a state with the death penalty, he would receive it. In a state which no longer has the death penalty, he would receive the sentence of life without the possibility of parole. That's because our system has devolved to one of retribution, of revenge.

I think I like the optimism of the Norwegian system better, but then I'm a soft-headed old woman.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Cat Blogging

The Power Of One
















(Editorial cartoon by Tom Toles and published 6/21/2012 in the Washington Post. Click on image to enlarge and then please return.)

The big news this election year is the huge amount of money being generated for campaigns thanks to Citizens United. It is conceivable that $1 billion will be spent by the two presidential candidates and their supporters. Amazing.

There is this, however: at least with the SuperPACs and with the campaigns, we can learn who is paying all of this money. The FEC has pretty stringent reporting requirements. Unfortunately, that reporting is not required of the other players in this game, those who have "charitable organizations" known as 501(c)4 groups. Those donors get to hide, and certain members of Congress want it to stay that way.

Open Secrets reminded us of that after they looked at some of the reports just filed.

Ever since the Citizens United and Speechnow.org court rulings, super PACs have been at the center of debate surrounding campaign finance. But nonprofit social welfare groups actually outspent super PACs in 2010, and could do so again this year. Those groups, called 501(c)(4) organizations under a section of the tax code, can accept unlimited individual contributions without disclosing their donors and air political ads as long as their primary purpose is to advance the public welfare.

What "social welfare" means in the eyes of the IRS has not always been clear, though, and enforcement actions have been scant. However, as Roll Call reports, the IRS may be taking a more aggressive stance on 501(c)4 groups which act as de facto political committees -- a move that is facing pushback from GOP congressional leaders.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and ten other Republican senators sent a letter to the IRS attacking the agency's request for detailed donor information from a list of conservative nonprofits. The letter echoed a common argument for keeping contributions anonymous: That disclosure of donors could lead to their intimidation and the chilling of speech. The letter follows a speech by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY).


Some argument, that. Why should donors to the 501(c)4 worry about the disclosure? Contributors to SuperPACs and bundlers don't seem to have a problem.

Even with the lack of reporting available, however, Open Secrets still managed to do an amazing job in untangling one man's interlocking network of 501(c)4 groups:

[Howard] Rich, 72, made his fortune in Manhattan real estate, but since at least the early 1970s, his passion has been libertarian politics. He decamped from the Libertarian Party in the 1980s to establish his own network of like-minded think-tanks and publishing companies.

Rich is also prominently attached to leading national libertarian groups -- he sits on the boards of directors of the Club for Growth and the Cato Institute. Yet he remains a mysterious figure, rarely interviewed and almost always several steps removed from any direct action.

Still, an examination of the publicity-shy mogul’s efforts makes several things clear. He is deeply committed to his ideological values -- willing to spend massive amounts of money to push projects even in places where he has little apparent personal or business connection. He is single-minded in his approach, willing to lash out at conservatives as quickly and as viciously as he will go after liberals. And all indications are that he believes the ends justify the means, sometimes using money as a blunt force object to get his way. ...

According to Internal Revenue Service records analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics, from the early 2000s at least through 2010 Rich was the linchpin holding together a confusing, swirling array of political organizations -- all of them nondisclosing nonprofit groups -- that spent heavily to influence state and federal politics around the country. The constellation of organizations that operate out of a handful of Rich-related addresses is constantly changing, but some of them are well-known: Rich, in his role as chairman of U.S. Term Limits, a 501(c)(4) group under tax rules, has for years been the driving force of the movement to curtail how long elected officials can stay in office. He's also the chairman of a 501(c)(4) group called Americans for Limited Government, which spent $1.02 million in 2010 targeting Democrats running for Congress and distributed millions more to other groups.


That's just one man, a man with plenty of connections and access to plenty of cash, his own and that of others.

Go read the entire article to get the extent of Rich's influence. And then go take a walk to get your blood pressure down.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

But ... But ... They're Illegal














On Tuesday, I snarked a bit about the uncomfortable position Mitt Romney, Sen. Marco Rubio, and the Republican Party found themselves in after President Obama's executive order ceasing deportation of young people brought into this country illegally when they were children. Republicans had been trying to reach out to Latinos when the news hit and they were faced with repudiating the order (and losing whatever chance they had for gaining Latino voters), or with nodding sagely (and losing their base).

Republicans settled for screaming about the unseemly, inappropriate, and illegal use of the executive order for what should have been left to Congress to hammer out. It's an argument that might ordinarily have some merit, but at this point in the election year the damage was already done. Obama picked up some support from independents. In fact, most people actually support the Dream Act because punishing kids for the sins of their fathers just doesn't seem fair. Furthermore, since many of those kids have been educated here, it only seems practical to take advantage of that education by allowing them to use skills they picked up here where it counts.

David Horsey has updated and amplified his views on the issue in his 6/20/12 cartoon and column.

Republicans seem befuddled by President Obama’s decision to halt deportation of young people brought into the United States illegally by their undocumented parents. Mitt Romney is gobsmacked, Speaker of the House John A. Boehner is exasperated and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is totally bummed out. ...

According to new polls, the new policy is quite popular with most voters — independent voters in particular. The one segment of the electorate that hates it is the Republican base. This leaves Romney and company in a quandary. If they flat out condemn the president’s action they will please the majority of their party, but they will further alienate Latino voters who are already turned off by the hard line, anti-immigration rhetoric Romney employed to get himself to the right of his conservative opponents in the GOP primaries. An attack on the policy could also hurt Romney’s appeal to the independents whose votes he absolutely needs if he hopes to be president.


OK, nice summary, but from here, Horsey introduces a couple of new elements, both of which are very pertinent to the discussion by all parties.

This latest kerfuffle over immigration policy comes at a time when the dynamics of immigration are shifting so quickly that old arguments are quickly becoming obsolete. Tirades in favor of a border wall become less relevant in light of statistics that indicate 1.4 million Mexicans headed back to Mexico between 2005 and 2010, an out-migration that may be accelerating. While many of these people were deported through stepped-up efforts of the federal government, many are voluntarily leaving because of tougher state laws and the slump in employment. The self-deportation that Romney says he favors may actually be working.

There is also the interesting news that immigrants from Asia who come with a high level of education and highly marketable skills now outnumber Latino immigrants. Unlike the Mexicans who were taking jobs that Americans did not want to do, the new Asian immigrants are snapping up high-paying positions for which too many American kids lack training.

It is way past time for the immigration debate to move beyond hysterics about a Mexican invasion and on to the new challenges. One of those challenges, which is also a huge opportunity, is to utilize the talents of hundreds of thousands of smart young people who have grown up in the U.S. but lack legal status. Helping them realize their dreams in the only country they call home would be an act of simple common sense.
[Emphasis added]

Yes, and yes.

The hysteria about immigration has been rooted in the racism which sees Mexicans as simply unworthy. Now that they are leaving (with the resulting increase in food prices because no "Americans" can handle the work), such hysteria is seen for what it is.

And the rapid increase in Asian immigrants, many of whom come here on visas sponsored by companies who want their talents at a wage less than they'd have to pay American, seems not to bother Republicans at all. I'm still waiting to hear any kind of response from anyone with the GOP which doesn't start with, "They're here legally. That's different."

I'm sure unemployed American workers are satisfied with that answer.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

There Be Monsters














(Editorial cartoon by Pat Oliphant 6/14/2012 and found here. Click on image to enlarge and then please return.)

Vladimir Putin has been getting plenty of ink and electrons since his return to direct power in Russia. He has cracked down on dissidents and now is showing his support for bad-guy Bashir Assad of Syria by shipping Russian military helicopters to the Syrian government to help put down dissidents there. Further, Putin has effectively hamstrung the UN by vetoing any measure which would isolate and weaken Assad enough to stop the massacres.

Pat Oliphant hasn't been the only cartoonist to portray Putin. Jim Morin has a nasty cartoon dated 6/18/12 and featured here. David Horsey has a more cerebral one published 6/14/2012 here.

The column appended to Horsey's cartoon makes explicit what I think is implicit in the other cartoons and in the coverage of Putin in general.

Putin is letting his Russian soul show through quite openly these days, particularly with his support of Syrian President Bashar Assad's brutal crackdown on opponents of his regime. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton complained this week that the Russians were sending helicopter gunships to Syria, a step that would "escalate the conflict quite dramatically."

The United Nations, the Europeans and the U.S. have been trying to build a united front against Assad, but the Russians -- with their Security Council veto -- are blocking any meaningful step in that direction. Their great idea is to bring Iran into the discussion, which is a bit like bringing in a fox to guard a henhouse.

All of this -- plus Russia's belligerent reaction to a proposed European missile defense system -- is reminiscent of the bad old days of the Cold War. Of course, there are differences; Russia is not the superpower the Soviet Union was and Putin, for all his ruthlessness, is not a pathological tyrant and mass murderer like Stalin. But certain patterns are the same. The Russians are still picking their friends among the world's most repressive regimes. They are still paranoid and certain the West is ready to gang up on them. And, like the communist apparatchiks before them, Putin and his team assume everyone is as diabolical, power-hungry and duplicitous as they are.
[Emphasis added]

It is hard to fault Horsey's argument, especially since Putin's behavior since he declared for the presidency has pretty much matched the description put forward in the column. The argument does raise some questions in my mind, however, and one in particular: why did Putin return? He was safely ensconced in a position where he could still exert some power on his government.

I don't pretend to be a foreign policy expert, nor have I ever played one on TV, but I suspect this new/old scenario is playing out against the back drop of ten years hegemony by the US. Unrestrained by the Soviet bogey-man, the US has increased its influence in the Middle East and Africa and in central and eastern Europe. We have increased our military and intelligence presence all over the globe, and we feel perfectly comfortable sending in our drones to assassinate those we perceive as terrorists in places such as Yemen. And that's just the stuff which has been reported in the Western press.

If Putin's return to power was intended as a response to all of that US activity, then we may very well find ourselves back in a Cold War, one in which the stakes are high and the military budgets even higher. And then we really are screwed.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Eleven Dimensional Chess














(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published 6/19/2012 by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Click on image to enlarge and then please return.)

I almost feel sorry for the GOP. Here they've been working hard to pivot from the harsh hard-right anti-immigration stand they've held for decades in order capture the ever growing Hispanic vote in this country, and they get out-maneuvered by a well-timed executive order which goes half-way to the Dream Act.

One Republican who's less than pleased with President Obama's announcement is Florida Senator Marco Rubio who had hoped to pose an alternative to the Dream Act that Republicans would support. Unfortunately, he never got around to finishing it.

In the latest aftershock from President Obama’s move to bar the deportation of some young illegal immigrants, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has apparently abandoned his plan to offer a conservative alternative to the Dream Act. ...

Rubio said it would be hard to argue with fellow lawmakers when they say to him: “Why are we going to need to do anything on this now? It has been dealt with. We can wait until after the election.” The first-term senator made the comment in an interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Neil King.


And Mitt Romney? Well, he was kind of hoping that Rubio would provide him with a plan he could take to Latino voters to show all of the harsh rhetoric of the primary season could just be forgotten.

Romney is attempting to narrow Obama’s advantage among Latino voters, after spending the primary season running to the right of his main GOP rivals on the immigration issue. Polls have shown the president with a lead over Romney among Latinos even larger than Obama's lopsided advantage over John McCain in the 2008 election.

In an effort to reach out to Latinos, Romney has repeatedly sought cover from Rubio, a charismatic young conservative.

In recent months, Romney had hinted that he would back a Rubio proposal to help young, undocumented immigrants—assuming the senator could come up with one that gained wide Republican support—while declining to discuss the issue in detail. Last Friday, after Rubio responded coolly to Obama by warning that the president was making it harder, rather than easier, to resolve the problem, Romney echoed Rubio’s words in commenting publicly on the president’s move for the first time.


Republicans are all screaming that the president engaged in a blatantly cynical campaign ploy. Well, yes. Yes, he did. And it worked. Additionally, it was the right thing to do, but I don't assume that was high on the list of reasons for changing the deportation policy.

So Mitt Romney might want to keep a close eye on the people who do the yard work at his various mansions. He might get a lawn cut he won't be happy with.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Kingbirding















(Photograph by Steve Creek and published at his wonderful blog, which is filled with great photography and worth a visit or a hundred.)

Last week I posted on the terrific example the Eastern Kingbird in noblejoanie's neighborhood provided us.

Nature notes: Watched a tiny eastern kingbird assail a bald eagle who must have done some nest robbing. Irate little bird actually surfed the back of the eagle furiously pecking his head for about 1000 feet. Saw similar outrage directed at a raven. Tough day for nesting kingbirds.

Yes, a tough day, but my response to their action was the obvious one:

I consider that an excellent metaphor for the very least we can do, so much so that I've created a new label, "Kingbirding." I suggest that as often as we can we peck mercilessly at the heads of the rapacious thieves stealing from our nest for as long as we can. If nothing else, it will annoy them, causing them to spend their oh-so-precious-time trying to shake us off.

And then this weekend I got the perfect example of what I meant. After 21 years of house detention, Aung San Suu Kyi finally got to deliver her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize awarded for her work to restore democracy to Burma. The full text of this great woman's speech can be found here. I encourage you to sit down with it when you some time. I think it is illuminating. In the meantime, I am going to provide some excerpts and gloss from the Los Angeles Times which got posted shortly after her speech was given.

“When I joined the democracy movement in Burma, it never occurred to me that I might ever be the recipient of any prize or honor. The prize we were working for was a free, secure and just society where our people might be able to realize their full potential,” Suu Kyi said. “When the Nobel committee chose to honor me, the road I had chosen of my own free will became a less lonely path to follow.”...

She recalled learning that she had won the 1991 Nobel Prize by hearing news of it on the radio in Burma, also known as Myanmar. With her movements restricted by the country’s ruling military junta, she was unable to receive the award in person; her now-late husband accepted it on her behalf. But the recognition helped ease her isolation.

“It had made me real once again. It had drawn me back into the wider human community, and what is more important, the Nobel Prize had drawn the attention of the world to the struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma,” Suu Kyi said. “We were not going to be forgotten.” ...

Her belated speech Saturday was made possible because of the Burmese government’s recent political liberalization, which has earned praise from around the world.

“There have been changes in a positive direction,” Suu Kyi said. “Steps towards democratization have been taken. If I advocate cautious optimism it is not because I do not have faith in the future, but because I do not want to encourage blind faith.”

Rather, all sectors of Burmese society must actively participate in and support the reform process, she said. And in the only part of her address to be interrupted with applause, she called for the release of other political prisoners in her country.

“I am standing here because I was once a prisoner of conscience. As you look at me and listen to me, please remember the oft-repeated truth that one prisoner of conscience is one too many,” she said. “Those who have not yet been freed, those who have not yet been given access to the benefits of justice in my country number much more than one. Please remember them and do whatever is possible to effect their earliest, unconditional release.”
[Emphasis added]

In other words, Aung San Suu Kyi isn't done kingbirding, but at least she is now free to invite her compatriots and the rest of the world to join her. Like Archbishop Tutu in South Africa while Nelson Mandela was silenced by imprisonment, like Rosa Parks who just refused one day to move to the back of the bus, Ms. Suu Kyi calls us to reclaim our rights, our due. They won't just be handed over, and we will have to struggle, but in the end I believe we will prevail.

And in the interim, we have an opportunity to drive those rapacious eagles crazy by our head-pecking.

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sunday Poetry: Maya Angelou

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

--Maya Angelou

Sunday Funnies














(Political cartoon by Matt Bors and published 6/15/2012 at Daily Kos. Click on image to enlarge.)

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bonus Critter Blogging: Owl Monkeys


















(Photograph by Luis Benavides, AP, and published at National Geographic. Click on link to learn about how important owl monkey dads are in raising the young.)

Friendly Persuasion

I'm still in a snit over Jamie Dimon's visit to the Senate last week. It was like old home week, and, all things considered, I guess that's understandable. Dimon has given plenty of money to campaigns (mostly Democrats), and his company, the one that lost $2 billion gambling at the paper casino, has also been very generous to various congress critters. Open Secrets provides some details on that generosity and other connections the Wall Street bank has with Congress, especially the Senate Banking Committee.

Combined contributions from JPMorgan Chase PACs and employees favored Democrats from 2002-2008, before trending Republican in the 2010 elections and, thus far, in the 2012 cycle as well. Those numbers do not, however, tell the full story, as donations from JPMorgan Chase's PACS -- which are officially on behalf of the corporation -- typically swing Republican. JP Morgan's main PAC for candidate contributions has favored Republicans each year since 1996, with the exception of a near-tie in 2002. A second company PAC has focused on contributions to Republican-aligned PACs and party committees in 2010 and 2012.

JPMorgan Chase has been relatively non-partisan in its giving to Banking Committee members, however. Its PAC money has found its way to all but six of the committee's senators. While Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Herb Kohl (D-WI) are both retiring and have no need for campaign funds, Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Michael Johanns (R-NE) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) have all faced reelection from 2008-2012 and have had to do without support from JPMorgan Chase's PACS.

Besides campaign contributions, JPMorgan Chase has other ways to grease the wheels with the committee: Naomi Camper, currently the co-head of the bank's federal government relations group, was an aide for committee Chair Tim Johnson from 2001-2004. Additionally, Kate Childress -- who The New Republic credited for spearheading a campaign to weaken the proposed regulation of derivatives during the 2009 debate over financial reform -- was a staff director for the panel prior to joining JPMorgan Chase as a lobbyist.


That's some history, eh?

No wonder we can't get any decent regulation of Wall Street and the banks.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Cat Blogging

Epic Fail












(Click on image to enlarge and then please return.)

OK, I'm back. My burn-out lifted with a few extra hours of sleep and this cartoon and column by David Horsey.

If life were a movie, the president of the United States (probably played by Will Smith) would be leaping into action to save humankind from the calamity that a new scientific report says is about to befall the Earth.

A paper prepared by 22 international scientists and just published in the journal Nature warns that overpopulation, environmental destruction and climate change have pushed the world toward a tipping point beyond which lie irreversible, frightening alterations in the biosphere that supports life on this lonely planet.

Of course, since this is not a movie and is, instead, just another surreal election year, the scientists’ alarming analysis will go unheeded. If the report is addressed at all by Republicans, it will be dismissed as another attempt by fiendish environmentalists to destroy the American economy by reining in polluting industries. If Democrats take note, they will tout their green jobs program as a panacea and quickly move on to a different, less disturbing, subject.
[Emphasis added]

Yes. And yes.

Part of the problem is that Americans are by and large an impatient people. We insist on immediacy: immediate "solutions" to immediate problems and instant gratification. Deficit getting out of hand? Cut social welfare programs and taxes on the wealthy who purportedly provide jobs. What do you mean I can't have cheap gas to operate my beautiful new guzzler? Give tax breaks to the oil companies to provide more gasoline and roll back regulations on drilling operations. A national debate on environmental issues pre-empting "Dancing With The Stars"? Screw that. A long term investment to restore natural habitats and forests? What? That would have an impact on the next quarter's profit. You must be mad.

A larger part of the problem is a failure of leadership at all levels of government, which Horsey notes quite clearly. For every Bernie Sanders there's a Dianne Feinstein and a Max Baucus in the Democratic party, some 35 other Dems who keep checking their campaign funds, Joe Lieberman of the Joe Lieberman Party, and 47 Republicans. The numbers are even worse in the House, where other than the few members of the Progressive Caucus we are represented by two parties owned by the corporatocracy.

And the one institution which could bridge the gap has abdicated its responsibility. The mainstream press may have published articles about the report contained in Nature, but most, if not all, "balanced" the argument with the truthy responses of those who do not want their immediate interests impaired, the rest of us and our grandchildren and great-grandchildren be damned (as they surely will be). The only exceptions have been the cartoonists such as David Horsey. And that's one of the many reasons why I've taken to posting editorial/political cartoons as often as I can.

So, where does that leave us?

Well, in a conversation yesterday morning at Eschaton, noblejoanie posted this:

Nature notes: Watched a tiny eastern kingbird assail a bald eagle who must have done some nest robbing. Irate little bird actually surfed the back of the eagle furiously pecking his head for about 1000 feet. Saw similar outrage directed at a raven. Tough day for nesting kingbirds.

I consider that an excellent metaphor for the very least we can do, so much so that I've created a new label, "Kingbirding." I suggest that as often as we can we peck mercilessly at the heads of the rapacious thieves stealing from our nest for as long as we can. If nothing else, it will annoy them, causing them to spend their oh-so-precious-time trying to shake us off. Faxes, letters, emails, telephone calls, vigils, letters to the editors: they may be just momentary distractions, but at least we are doing something.

And we are bound by honor to at least try.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Cross My Heart














(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich dated 6/15/2012 and published by the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Click on image to enlarge.)

I'm glad to see Mike Luckovich is back. I hope the one week hiatus was just a vacation. We need his work desperately right now.

That said, I'm a little burned out. Jamie Dimon's "testimony" yesterday, wearing his French cuffs and presidential-seal cufflinks, presumably a gift from Obama, was a little bit too much for me, so I'm taking the rest of the day off.

Unless, of course, I find something that pisses me off even more.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sad, But True














OK, I admit it: David Horsey is a bit more fair than I would have been on the issue. The Democrats really did set themselves up for the "turn-about is fair play" move by the Republicans when it comes to quoting the candidates out of context in his latest column and cartoon.

Get used to hearing the phrases “out of touch” and “out of context” in the coming days as the Obama and Romney presidential campaigns try to paint each other from the same can of ugly-colored paint. ...

...could anyone really expect the Republicans to be any more fair-minded than the Democrats who ripped out of context some of Romney’s so-called gaffes?

The answer is, “Not in a million years.” We are at the stage in this campaign when both sides are fervently engaged in the task of creating a negative image of the opposing candidate. Whether that image is accurate or false is beside the point. This is how the game is played in 21st century U.S. politics. The odd twist this time is that each campaign has latched onto the same point of attack: “This guy is out of touch!”
[Emphasis added]

Some of Romney's "gaffes" have indeed been ripped out of context, just as the latest attack ads against Obama have been. Romney's statement that he "likes to fire people" came within the context of a government which is not delivering what it promises, even though it is being paid to do so. Of course, Mr. Romney has given the Democrats plenty of ammunition for such tactics, given his relationship with Bain, his wife's love of very expensive dressage horses, and his multiple dwellings with car elevators, but still, Roosevelt was wealthy, as was John F. Kennedy. Both had enormous family wealth which allowed them to successfully run for public office. Both had multiple dwellings which were not exactly one-room apartments or even single family dwellings. Both men are still liberal icons.

That said, I just wish David Horsey had made explicit which I suspect was vaguely implicit in his column: this is where democracy depends on a free press which takes its job seriously. The White House mouthpiece who suggested that the press should have taken note of the context of the speech was on the money. When this kind of negative attack is made (if not before,but even I am not naive enough to believe that our current press is willing to make the effort),we should see articles that traces back the comment to the entire speech in which it appears. Shame may not resonate with the principals, but it still does with a lot of people.

It's going to be a long slog to November, and I don't think popcorn is going to cover it.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Frackin' Morons

It's hardly comforting to know that the California state legislature is just as prone to cut deals with lobbyists as our representation in Washington. My latest sense of outrage was provoked by Michael Hiltzig's latest column.

Fracking has a lot of friends these days. There's the oil and natural gas industry, which spends more than $4 million a year lobbying in Sacramento. And there's Halliburton Co., which pioneered the technique in the 1940s and remains a huge player in the field. The company's former CEO, ex-Vice President Dick Cheney, got Congress in 2005 to exempt fracking from regulation under the Clean Drinking Water Act, and it employs one of the best-connected lobbying firms in the state.

Now, I hadn't realized that fracking had been going on here in California for quite a while, since the 1960s according to Hiltzig. Unlike the current use of the process to tap into natural gas, the California fracking has been used to get at oil deposits too hard to reach by the normal procedures. Apparently state regulators weren't keeping up either. They knew there were some fracking 'wells', they just didn't know how many or where they were. Nice, eh?

All of the came to light when another company (Veneco) wanted to use fracking in the Monterey Shale region. State Sen. Fran Pavey (a Democrat) wanted to find out more about current regulations only to discover that there were none and the state agency which is supposed to have oversight had no information. Apparently the agency was content with "self-regulation" by the oil and energy companies.

So Sen. Pavey introduced a very modest bill, and it never made it out of committee:

The slain bill, introduced by state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), would have done nothing to actually regulate fracking. It merely would have required that drillers notify local property owners and water authorities in advance that fracking was going to take place, and that groundwater be tested before and after the drilling so that any damage produced by the drilling could be pinpointed. The idea, Pavley says, is that "if there's nothing to worry about, let's go through a thoughtful monitoring and reporting approach to address the concerns the public has."

Nevertheless, whether out of ignorance or misplaced solicitude for a well-financed industry, the state Senate killed the bill in a bipartisan 18-17 vote. Another bill, much watered down, remains on life support in the Assembly.
[Emphasis added]

Mr. Hiltzig is being too generous. The industry doesn't want any regulation and its members don't want the public to know what chemicals are being used because they don't want to get stuck with the costs of cleaning up the mess they will undoubtedly make. That industry got their message across to state legislators. I guess we'll have to find a way to get our message across. November is coming up.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Everything Old Is New Again
















(Political cartoon by Matt Wuerker and published at Daily Kos. Click on image to enlarge and then please return.)

One of the reasons I hang out at Eschaton is that the regulars are very generous about posting links to blog posts and new articles they think some of us might miss. Thanks to Stuckinlodi no more, that's how I got to this news article:

Mitt Romney is hoping business owners will "make it very clear" to their employees what their political views are and how the November election results could impact their jobs.

At least that's what he told about 100,000 members of the National Federation of Independent Businesses during a Wednesday tele-townhall. ...

"I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections," the Republican presidential nominee said. "And whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama, or whatever your political view, I hope you pass those along to your employees."
[Emphasis added]

He's not even pretending anymore. Nor is he bothering with code words. He's just telling folks that the little people who work for employers need to be clear on what's best for business because their crummy little jobs may depend on it. Not much veil on that threat, eh?

Nice of Mitt to make our decisions for us, don't you think?

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sunday Poetry: W.B. Yeats

THE SECOND COMING

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

--W.B. Yeats

Sunday Funnies
















(Editorial cartoon by Tom Toles and published 6/7/2012 in the Washington Post. Click on image to enlarge.)

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Saturday, June 09, 2012

Bonus Critter Blogging: Manatee














(Photograph by Brian J. Skerry and published at National Geographic. Click on link to learn more about these mammals.)

A Closer Look













(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett / Lexington Herald-Leader (June 8, 2012) and featured at McClatchy DC. Click on image and then please return.)

The cost of higher education has skyrocketed over the past several decades. College students (and graduate students and professional degree students) are starting off their careers with student loan debts measured in the tens of thousands of dollars and some even in the one hundred thousand dollar range. That's bad enough, but right now, the job market is such that most can't find any work, much less work in their field. The best they can hope for is an internship, usually unpaid, to fill in any potential gap.

So why the huge expense? Why are graduates facing such daunting debt? As I've noted above, the costs of tuition, books, room and board, and fees have all risen over the years. And four years in and then out is no longer the norm: the number of class offerings has dropped, which means students are taking five and even six years to meet graduation requirements. Well, this isn't exactly new news, but I don't think I've seen much to explain in hard terms what precisely is going on.

That is, until today.

The University of Minnesota decided to take a close look at this issue and to actually crunch the numbers.

Leaders of the University of Minnesota got answers Thursday to a question they've been posing for years: How much does it cost to educate a student?

The short answer: $12,055 in 2009-10, on average, for an undergraduate. But the full cost of instruction -- including everything from faculty salaries to electricity -- varies by college, campus and level of study. For undergrads, tuition rarely covered the full cost.

The new analysis is the most precise accounting the university has ever done and will fuel debate between the Board of Regents and President Eric Kaler about where and how to become more efficient as state funding falls. Kaler called the new data "absolutely critical."
[Emphasis added]

The University of Minnesota, like most state university systems, has multiple campuses, so the study extended to each:

On the Twin Cities campus, the most expensive undergraduate degree to provide is in the Carlson School of Management: $16,049. The least expensive is in the College of Education and Human Development: $9,625. Those in charge of the analysis were surprised by the relatively low cost of the College of Science and Engineering, with its many labs: $10,721.

There, courses are set, with a predictable number of students. "The curriculum is a little more lockstep," said Lincoln Kallsen, director of financial research.

Other variables include faculty salaries, cost of equipment and how many courses are taught by teaching assistants.


But wait, there's more: the University has also looked at administrative costs in a more honest way than it had been viewed in the past:

The presentation about costs followed another about the U's plan to redefine employee groups.

Last year, the board debated an internal report that showed a 52 percent increase in the number of jobs labeled "administrative." The report showed 2,157 full-time administrative positions, up by 742 since 2001. Meanwhile, total employment at the U grew less than 11 percent.

But university leaders argue that "professional and administrative" definition is outdated, unreliable and imprecise. They have proposed seven new job categories -- including "direct academic providers," "organizational support," and "university leadership."
[Emphasis added]

Go read the entire article for more detail, it's well worth the effort.

What the University of Minnesota has done is admirable. It has also set the standard for other state systems to do likewise. It's clear to me that one of the biggest problems facing higher education is the lack of financial support from state governments and the federal government. The excuses given are no comfort: we don't have the money.

Well, that won't wash, not when the two candidates for president can raise $135 million in one month and a governor in a smallish fly-over state can raise $6+ million to fight a recall election. There's money out there, just not for the education of our young people.

And that is shameful.

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Friday, June 08, 2012

Friday Cat Blogging

Bargain Basement














(Click on image to enlarge, then return.)

No, I'm not actually re-visiting the Wisconsin re-call election, merely using it as an example, much the way David Horsey is in a recent column. It's clear that because of Citizen's United our elections are essentially being bought by those that have.

I was reminded of that again yesterday when reports came out that Romney and the GOP raised over $76 million in May and Obama and the Dems raised $60 million. Forget the disparity. What's important is that nearly $150 million dollars was raised in just one month for the November elections. This at a time when Congress is fussing over deficits but can't bring itself to raise taxes on the wealthy which might ease, perhaps even wipe out the deficit. This at a time when most of us are having trouble paying our bills and putting food on the table because so many of us are unemployed while employers sit on tons of cash because of "uncertainty." But the game goes on.

The Citizens United decision does not apply to big corporations alone; it also frees unions to give as much as they want. But the fact is unions do not have ready access to money on the scale of the billionaire boys club. When just one man, casino king Sheldon Adelson, can write a couple of checks and fund Newt Gingrich’s entire presidential campaign, you know the craps table of electioneering has been tilted in favor of candidates who look after the concerns of the mega-rich.

And guess what? Most of those candidates, just like most billionaires, are Republicans.

Occupy Wall Street enthusiasts can camp out on the sidewalk and conduct their exquisitely egalitarian group discussions. Anarchists can gleefully smash windows at Bank of America and Starbucks. Union members can set up phone banks and carry picket signs. But as long as elections are there to be bought, a handful of billionaires will have a far louder voice in who runs the country than all the activists on the left combined.

As evidence, I offer exhibits one and two: David and Charles Koch, the billionaires Democrats love to hate. These oil magnates are generous sugar daddies for the "tea party" and conservative candidates all over America. According to the Obama campaign, the Koch brothers have pledged $200 million to defeat the president in November. Others say the Kochs are only putting up $60 million. Either way, that is a big chunk of change from just two voters.

The vanity of rich men used to be stoked by buying yachts and racehorses and baseball teams. Now, the indulgence of choice seems to be the purchase of governors and congressmen and -- who knows? -- maybe even a president.
[Emphasis added]

While I admit to being discouraged, I haven't quite reached the depths that David Horsey implies in the post appended to his cartoon. I think there's still room for hope, but it will not blossom unless we start working now. Even then it may be decades before the first buds form, if only because it will take that long for a constitutional amendment to get through Congress and the states. And that assumes we'll manage to elect some actual liberals to Congress.

Still, I think we have a chance. I'm re-reading Charles Williams' novel War In Heaven and I am struck by the very banality of evil. Yes, that evil is a destructive force, drastically affecting the lives of other, but it is always, at root, exercised for really childish personal gain. That is what is happening to us (and the rest of the world) right now. And we don't have to let it prevail.

It's not only about what 'they' are, it's also about who we are. We can throw up our hands and admit defeat and accept our yokes, or we can stand up to it, fight it. I'm old and weak, but I still prefer the latter.

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Thursday, June 07, 2012

On To November


















(Political cartoon by Jen Sorensen and published 6/6/2012 at Daily Kos. Click on image to enlarge and then return. Please.)

OK, I've got nothing further to say about Tuesday's recall election in Wisconsin (at least for the time being), and I'm ready to return to November's general election. We've seen the lengths that the Masters Of The Universe are willing to go to keep progressives out of office. It's now time to fight back (there are, after all, 99 times more of us), and I have a few suggestions.

The first suggestion, and it's a big one, is that we should not be sending money to the DNC or any of its subcommittees. They are only going to send it to the favored few who hew to the party line of protecting the wealthy. Instead, I recommend we send whatever money we have after paying the bills to candidates who will represent us. If we don't have money, and many of us don't at this point, we should consider volunteering to assist in their campaigns.

I've got three candidates who come to mind for such support. There are undoubtedly others, and I would appreciate your listing them in the comments section. I'll follow up in a future post.

The first is Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic candidate for the Senate from Massachusetts. Jen Sorensen has done a mighty job of showing why she should represent the Bay State (and I would urge you to click on the link and to read her comments appended to the cartoon). She's a noob, having never run for elective office before, but it's clear she scares the shorts off The Powers That Be. She has been the target of unremitting attacks from her opponent (incumbent Scott Brown) and from the mainstream media since announcing her candidacy. The latest is a really sad and tattered complaint that she got her job as a college professor because she claimed to have Native American heritage. I guess she would've been given a pass if she claimed to have been related to Strom Thurmond.

At any rate, here's a little about Ms. Warren from her web site:

In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, Elizabeth served as Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Her independent and tireless efforts to protect taxpayers, to hold Wall Street accountable, and to ensure tough oversight of both the Bush and Obama Administrations won praise from both sides of the aisle. The Boston Globe named Elizabeth Bostonian of the Year in 2009 for her oversight efforts.

She is widely credited for the original thinking, political courage, and relentless persistence that led to the creation of a new consumer financial protection agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She led the establishment of the agency, building the structure and organization to hold accountable even trillion-dollar financial institutions and to protect consumers from financial tricks and traps often hidden in mortgages, credit cards and other financial products.


If you've a mind to contribute money or time, here's the place.

Next up is Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. Ms. Baldwin is currently a member of Congress from Wisconsin and is running to replace Sen. Herb Kohl, who announced his retirement. She has the backing of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, as well she should, given her record in the House.

From her bio:

In 1998, Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District shattered the state’s glass ceiling and elected Tammy Baldwin as the state’s first female member of Congress and the nation’s first openly gay challenger sent to Congress.

Shortly after she was first elected to Congress, at a time when both parties were supporting de-regulation of the financial industry, Tammy stood up for Wisconsin taxpayers. She voted against letting Wall Street and the big banks write their own rules — one of only a handful of members of Congress who voted no on repealing the Glass-Steagall Act.


Since then, she has stood with other women in Congress on issues crucial to the health and well-being of all women.

Here's where to go for contributions to Tammy Baldwin.

Finally (for today) is Kirsten Gillibrand, the junior senator from New York. She filled Hillary Clinton's spot by appointment and then by special election. She is running for a full term in November.

From her bio:

Kirsten was first sworn in to the U.S. Senate in January 2009 and was elected in November 2010 with more than 63 percent of the vote to fill Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's seat. In 2012, Kirsten will run once again, this time for a six year term to serve as New York’s US Senator.

Even in the face of steep challenges, Kirsten hit the ground running – leading efforts to bring more transparency and accountability to Washington and helping pass landmark legislation to repeal the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy that bans gays from serving openly in the military, and provide health care and compensation to the 9/11 first responders and community survivors that are sick with diseases caused by the toxins at Ground Zero.


Ms. Gillibrand also has been leading the battles on women's issues, including reproductive freedom and equal pay. To assist her in her re-election campaign, go here.

There. That's a start.

Again, if you have some other candidates worthy of our attention, dollars, and hours, let me know in the comments section.

It's time to fight back.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Forward
















(Editorial cartoon by Tom Toles and published 6/4/12 in the Washington Post. Click on image to enlarge and then return.)

It's late and not yet official, but it appears Gov. Walker survived the recall vote. Needless to say, I am very disappointed. It doesn't help that he managed to survive by having a huge war chest filled by the 1%. It also didn't help that the DNC did little to assist Wisconsin Democrats. Whether that will have ramifications in November remains to be seen.

One thing is certain, however. The political landscape has been altered by the liberals in Wisconsin, altered in very significant ways. Perhaps the best analysis of that alteration comes from Katrina vander Heuvel in a column written for the Washington Post before the election results were known.

On Tuesday, all eyes will be watching to see whether Wisconsin voters will keep labor-bashing right-winger Scott Walker (R) in the governor’s mansion. But win or lose, the real story is the 15 months of people power leading up to this day. The real lesson lies in more than a year of progressive organizing, petitioning, canvassing and campaigning for the cause. The real result is a progressive movement that is deeper and broader than before. ...

By attacking labor unions, flooding Wisconsin with outside cash and trying to cleanse the electorate of people who don’t look, earn or think like him, Walker has taken aim at more than a single campaign cycle or a series of policies; his real targets are the pillars of American progressivism itself. With the Romney campaign gearing up, and super PACs taking to the national airwaves, we face an unprecedented, well-funded assault on our basic values.

But progressives aren’t backing down. They’re just getting started.

So when the results come in, reflect on the vast organizing effort that brought Wisconsin to this moment — and imagine where it still has the potential to go. Elections are over in a matter of hours, but movements are made of weeks, months and years. ...

And in the last 15 months, Wisconsin’s progressives have shown us that the battle against bankrolled austerity can be bravely waged by an army of dedicated people committed to protecting working families. They’ve reminded us that good organizing is our only chance to withstand the blitzkrieg of corporate funded advertising — and better yet, leave a lasting mark. Their movement, with thousands of new Wisconsin activists mobilized, energized and educated, can be permanent — and it can keep growing.
[Emphasis added]

Yes. This.

Hecate, another wise woman, pointed out just how important the work of Wisconsin liberals has been to the nation in that it provided the necessary conditions for the birth of the Occupy movement. I would supplement that comment even further and suggest that thousands of Egyptians massed in Tahriri Square provided the necessary conditions for the birth of the Wisconsin movement. The lineage is a noble one, and it is one to be celebrated as we recognize that the 99% exist all over the world.

So, all things considered, yesterday was indeed a victory, but it is a re-birth that will need to be nurtured for the years to come. We can do no less if we are all to survive.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The Big Tuesday















(Political cartoon by Matt Wuerker and published June 3, 2012 at Daily Kos. Click on image to enlarge and then return.)

Well, today's the day for the big recall attempt in Wisconsin. As Mitt Wuerker's brilliant cartoon points out, big money turned out for Governor Scott Walker. All the recall forces could count on were grassroots small contributions and volunteers to get out the vote. As of Sunday, Walker was ahead in the polls, but turnout will be crucial. It would have been nice if the DNC had forked over some cash to offset the 20 to 1 ratio, but apparently the president and national party leaders didn't want to get involved. And that's a shame. No, wait: it's downright shameful.

I understand the argument that Mr. Walker was elected and can be de-elected when his first term is up, and that recalls should be limited to felonious behavior. I understand the argument, I just don't agree with it. The people usually making that argument were the same sorts to lead and fund the successful recall efforts of California Governor Gray Davis a decade ago. I guess it depends on the party of the sitting official. And I don't think my old home state can stand another three years of this bozo.

What has intrigued me about this election, however, are the numerous questions raised by it. Has Wisconsin turned red over the past four years? Has the country? Can elections be bought by big-money and non-stop political commercials? Should out-of-state donors and volunteers have that big a part on local elections? What role should national parties have on local elections?

And then there's the whole issue of what a victory for either side portends for November. It's clear that President Obama thinks that it really will have no bearing on the national election. He thinks he can still carry Wisconsin even if Walker escapes with a victory. The GOP thinks a Walker victory gives Romney and all Republican candidates a wedge for November. I'm not so sure on either assessment.

What I am reasonably certain of, however, is that some speculation is downright weird, and the best example of that is Marc Thiessen's recent column in the Washington Post.

...there are a significant number of independents in Wisconsin who support both Scott Walker and Barack Obama. The president does not want to alienate those voters by getting into a fight with Walker. The last thing Obama wants is to force those Walker-Obama independents to choose.

But there is someone who would love to force them to choose: Mitt Romney. And that is precisely why Romney may put Scott Walker on the GOP ticket this November.

A victory tomorrow would make Walker the instant front-runner for the GOP vice presidential nod.
[Emphasis added.]

Apparently Mr. Thiessen hasn't paid attention to news reports: Walker just might be indicted in the reasonably near future. Several of his "employees" while he was Milwaukee County Executive have already been indicted and are cooperating with investigators. Walker has transferred over $100,000 from his campaign funds to his legal defense fund. He is tainted with a capital T. But, hey! That's irrelevant to Republicans, I guess.

So: today I will be holding my breath and lighting candles and doing some old fashioned God-bothering. It may not do any good, but it will get me through the day and early evening. And, once the results are in, I guess I'll just have to take a deep breath and start looking toward November, regardless of the results.

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Monday, June 04, 2012

A Breath of Sanity

It's been an interesting news weekend on several fronts. George Zimmerman is back in jail, his bond revoked for misleading the judge on his financial status. Governor Scott Walker has now transferred $100,000 from his campaign funds to his legal defense funds, apparently out of concern that he will be indicted shortly after the election. And in the best news of all, Florida state elections commissioners, have decided to hold off on any further purging of the official voter eligibility lists.

From Think Progress:

On Thursday, the Justice Department demanded Florida Governor Rick Scott end his extensive purge of registered voters from the rolls because it was in violation of federal law. Scott still hasn’t formally responded but his county election supervisors have already taken action.

The Palm Beach Post reports:

Florida elections supervisors said Friday they will discontinue a state-directed effort to remove names from county voter rolls because they believe the state data is flawed and because the U.S. Department of Justice has said the process violates federal voting laws...

The Justice Department letter and mistakes that the 67 county elections supervisors have found in the state list make the scrub undoable, said Martin County Elections Supervisor Vicki Davis, president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections…

Ron Labasky, the association’s general counsel, sent a memo to the 67 supervisors Friday telling them to stop processing the list.

“I recommend that Supervisors of Elections cease any further action until the issues raised by the Department of Justice are resolved between the parties or by a Court,” Labasky wrote.


Previously, the State of Florida indicated they intended to accelerate the purge. Florida has until June 6 to respond to the Justice Department.


Like many states with a Republican governor or Republican majority in the legislature, Florida wants to suppress voter turn-out by making it difficult to impossible for elders, the poor, and people of color from voting. Most other states are doing it by requiring state issued identification cards which can only be obtained with a birth certificate or proof of naturalization. Florida Governor Rick Scott, however, found a trashier way: he'll just declare those voters ineligible unless they can prove otherwise within thirty days of receiving the state notice.

When the Department of Justice threatened the law suit, Scott responded by ordering the purge ramped up. Even state employees involved in the process admit that the lists they were working from were so error-ridden that they really couldn't do the job properly, much less expeditiously.

It will be interesting to see what happens this Wednesday when Florida has to respond to the DOJ notice.

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