Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Cat Blogging

Tyrannus Rex

So, has Grover Norquist reached his use-by date, like Karl Rove?

I don't think so, but David Horsey does, and so do many others.  This is one of those times I'd love to be wrong.

Norquist has never been elected to anything. Nobody ever said he should be in charge of the GOP’s true religion (although he claims President Ronald Reagan urged him to found his lobbying group, Americans for Tax Reform). But he certainly has been the Republicans’ key political theologian, making opposition to tax increases the party’s central tenet for more than 25 years.

He got 95% of Republican candidates for Congress, the presidency and state offices to sign a pledge never to raise taxes and he enforced it by getting retribution at reelection time on anyone who failed to keep the promise. Now, though, he is facing a dramatic rebellion in the ranks. The country is teetering on the so-called fiscal cliff thanks to Republican-backed legislation from 2011 that will automatically begin slashing the federal budget and raise taxes on Jan. 1 if an alternative plan is not adopted by Congress. This has everyone a bit freaked out, including quite a few GOP senators and representatives who have expressed a willingness to consider revenue increases for the sake of making a budget deal with the Democrats.   [Emphasis added]

I do understand the logic.  Republicans are suddenly faced with a problem of their own making, a big one.  In fact, it's a very big one.  They've just lost an election and, while they still hold the House, they've lost ground in both houses of  Congress and the electorate appears to be in a very pissy mood when it comes to tax breaks for the 1%.

And President Obama, who has that second term Mitch McConnell was determined to deny him, has suddenly gotten a little surly.  He seems to think that he has a little political capital to spend so he's whipping that out against the GOP on the fiscal cliff issues.

House Republicans said on Thursday that Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner presented the House speaker, John A. Boehner, a detailed proposal to avert the year-end fiscal crisis with $1.6 trillion in tax increases over 10 years, an immediate new round of stimulus spending, home mortgage refinancing and a permanent end to Congressional control over statutory borrowing limits.

The proposal, loaded with Democratic priorities and short on detailed spending cuts, was likely to meet strong Republican resistance. In exchange for locking in the $1.6 trillion in added revenues, President Obama embraced $400 billion in savings from Medicare and other entitlements, to be worked out next year, with no guarantees.

He did propose some upfront cuts in programs like farm price supports, but did not specify an amount or any details. And senior Republican aides familiar with the offer said those initial spending cuts might well be outnumbered by upfront spending increases, including at least $50 billion in infrastructure spending, mortgage relief, an extension of unemployment insurance and a deferral of automatic cuts to physician reimbursements under Medicare.

This is a great opening gambit, one that should have been used four years ago when the Democrats had control of both houses as well as the presidency.  It would have made a difference then.  But, no, Mr. Hopey-Changey was all into bipartisanship, and the Democrats for all sorts of reasons played along.  That's why a single payer system or even a public option system for health care were never on the table. 

Gitmo is still open.  We are still operating under Bush rules for reading our emails and checking our library habits.  Oil companies are still drilling in sensitive areas, even after a catastrophic spill in the Gulf Coast.  Our use of drones has been expanded.  Wall Street is still calling the tunes.  No change, and for most of us, no hope.

 So, is the opening gambit a sign that times have changed?

I tend to think not.  Sometime before Christmas, a deal will be reached.  Our current crop of Democrats in the 112th Congress will have their collars tweaked by our owners, as will the President. Social Security will suddenly be on the table, as will Medicare/Medicaid, all before Christmas.  And we know what that means.  In 2014 both Karl Rove and Grover Norquist will be back in action.  With a vengeance.

Like I said at the start, I'd love to be wrong, so I called the DC offices of Senators Boxer and Feinstein and Congressman David Dreier and made my wishes clear.  I figure one for three is the best I'll do, but maybe that will be enough to get us to the 113th Congress.  Maybe we'll have better luck there.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Nod And A Wink

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published 11/27/12 by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Click on image to enlarge and then please come back.)

Most of the news concerning the lame-duck Congress these days has to do with the looming "fiscal cliff" and the apocalypse which will happen if something isn't done RIGHT NOW.  But some of the cannier Republicans, mindful of the solid trouncing they just took in the election, have finally decided their party needs to reach out to the Hispanic vote.  Of course, they are not proposing anything substantive right now, just making noises as if they were.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Three Republican senators introduced an alternative to the Dream Act on Tuesday that would give legal status to young immigrants brought to the U.S. unlawfully as children.

Later this week, the House is expected to vote on a bill that would increase the number of visas for technology jobs, while reducing other legal immigration.

But these efforts are unlikely to become law and amount to little more than political showboating. ...

Retiring Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) introduced the Achieve Act on Tuesday. The bill, also sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), appeared to be an attempt to take some heat off Republicans on immigration.

In a news conference, Hutchison said she believed it would be better to tackle small pieces of immigration reform one at a time because agreement on a large package had proven too difficult.

Fewer young immigrants would qualify under her proposal than would have been eligible under the Dream Act. Unlike the Dream Act, the GOP bill would not guarantee a pathway to citizenship.

Under the Republican proposal, applicants who were brought to the U.S. before age 14 could apply for student visas if they are under 29 and enrolled in a college-degree program in the U.S. Applicants under 32 would qualify if they already held a degree from an American college.

After college graduation, immigrants could apply for work visas that would be renewable every four years for the rest of their lives. Unlike the Dream Act, the bill doesn't guarantee permanent residency. If an employer or a family member sponsored them, they could get in line for a green card and eventually apply for citizenship.   [Emphasis added]

How very serious a proposal.

Of course, it is made by two senators who are retiring and have nothing to lose and one senator who will still be on Sunday talk shows leaking at the mouth no matter what happens for the rest of his life.  But it is intended to show the public that the GOP cares, it really cares about Hispanics.

Yeah, right.  And my real name is Marie and I'm the Queen of Rumania.

To be fair, as the article points out, there has been some bipartisan conferencing about immigration reform, but it is clear that any such reform will come in the 113th Congress, not the 112th.  And the parties to that discussion are keeping the talks confidential, so it's hard to tell just how far the GOP will bend on the issue of what its members keep referring to as "amnesty" for the millions of undocumented Hispanics already here.  We will just have to wait to see what that involves.

We continue to live in interesting times.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Intentional Inattention

You know, one of the things about getting older is that one is not as patient, and for good reason.  There isn't much personal future left, and some of us (including me) are trying to make up for lost time and past sins.  I'm willing to admit that I haven't been as "green" as I could have been in practice, although I did use the vocabulary.  Now I'm looking at storms on the East Coast, drought throughout much of the country, horrible water shortages looming all over the globe, and the loss of millions of species, all because humans, especially in the first world, and very especially in the United States, continue to behave as if there wasn't any kind of problem. 

Look at the shiny keys.

And, frankly, I take no comfort that most people don't see the problem, or at least aren't willing to do anything about it.  In fact, that scares the hell out of me.  David Horsey does a damned good job  in spelling out what that means.

Now, as we grow more aware that we face the worst man-made environmental disaster in the history of the world, we are proving to be no more wise than the imprudent farmers who tore up the buffalo grass. Rather than taking serious steps to curb the carbon emissions that are driving up temperatures everywhere, rather than being shocked by the rapid melting of the polar ice packs and mountain glaciers, rather than seeing drought-driven wildfires and monster storms as portents of things to come, we are redoubling our efforts to extract every last ounce of fuel from the dirtiest depths of the land.

The oil boom in North Dakota is turning that sparsely populated state into an American Arabia. Even bigger is the oil bonanza in western Canada. According to a Los Angeles Times report, recruiters from Alberta are scouring California and other states hoping to lure tens of thousands of workers north to the oil fields.

In a time of high unemployment and high gas prices, this seems like happy, hopeful news. But it is hope built on sand -- the vast deposits of oil sands that give up their black gold only through a process that requires a bottomless supply of water and poses huge environmental risks. The worst comes after the oil is extracted. That is when we burn it all up in our cars and factories and send the resulting emissions into the atmosphere. ...

On Sunday, the New York Times published a set of dramatic graphics showing how several coastal cities will be affected by rising sea levels that will be one result of global warming. Scientists say if immediate, dramatic measures are taken to reduce emissions, the seas may rise just 5 feet. New York City might be able to cope by erecting barriers, but Miami Beach would disappear. If the world hits just the modest emissions targets that have already been set, but largely ignored, sea level will go up 12 feet. That means all that will be left of Miami is a scattering of islands, while nearly a quarter of New York goes underwater.

But if we continue full speed ahead, drilling, fracking and burning it all up, then the coasts will see a 25-foot rise that swamps all of south Florida; all of Norfolk, Va.; big swaths of New York and Boston; every beach in California and, strangely enough, more than 60% of Sacramento.

Of course, this is all many decades in the future, our legacy to future generations. For now, in between the storms and wildfires, we will remain oblivious. After all, until the end actually came, Pompeii was a pleasant town with a fine mountain view.

And that's just in this country.

The horrible part is that our wayward behavior is affecting the entire planet, not just our corner of it.  We are so embedded in the idea of "energy independence" as defined by the oil companies (which are multinational and really don't care about anything other than their own bottom line), that we are willing to put up with fracking and drilling in sensitive areas.  What we refuse to look at is the fact that those oil companies are shipping that oil OUT OF THE US to the rest of the world, which, like this country, will burn it, adding to the problem but also adding to the oil companies's bottom line.

We will continue to drive our gas guzzlers, leave our lights on, consume our plastics, do whatever is comfortable for us because we can.  At least we can right now.

Yet no one wants to talk about the issue:  not candidates for President, not members of Congress, and, really, not too many members of state legislatures.  All of those folks are more interested in keeping the wheels greased with carbon based products for the next election.

One of the things about being an elder is I won't have to see too much of the result.  One of the other things is that my niece and nephews and their children and children all over the world, human and non-human, will.

And that makes me sick.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Things That Make You Go Wow!

The people of a district in Illinois have elected a real hero, a profile in courage, if you will, to be their congresswoman:  Tammy Duckworth.  She beat the incumbent like a drum even though he whined incessantly that she kept referring to her military service.  It would be pretty hard to ignore her service, what with having her legs blown off after which she managed to land the helicopter she was piloting in Iraq.

And then, after a long stint of rehabilitation for her injuries, she entered politics, first as a gadfly and then as a successful candidate.  She's made it clear that her new job doesn't intimidate her (via):

When Tammy Duckworth steps into Congress this January for her first term, she’ll be carried by two prosthetic legs – and the potent notion that if she can survive a grenade blast while piloting a chopper, she surely can endure any political flak on Capitol Hill.

“The worst day for me in Washington on the floor of the House is never going to be as bad as me getting blown up. So bring it,” said Duckworth, a Democrat who represents Illinois’ 8th Congressional District, the suburbs north of Chicago.

One of the first women to fly combat missions in Iraq, Duckworth’s Black Hawk was hit by enemy fire in November 2004 as the aircraft skimmed tree tops at about 135 miles per hour. The explosion vaporized her right leg, smashed her left leg into the instrument panel, sheering it off, and tore away most of her right arm. Before losing consciousness, she used her remaining arm to try to land the sputtering chopper. On Nov. 6, she won election to the U.S. House.

“There’s nothing anyone can say to me or do to me — short of actually pointing a gun and shooting at me — that’s going to be as bad as it was in Iraq and that year I spent recovering. So it’s really freeing,” Duckworth told NBC News. “Had you talked to me 10 years ago, before I served and got hurt in combat, I would not have the courage to do what I’m doing now.”   [Emphasis added]

And if you want to see the picture of self-confidence, click on either of the links above:  it's a photo of Congresswoman Duckworth in a skirt and shoes which almost highlight those remarkable metal prosthetic legs which enable her to walk into her new duties.  The smile on her face should warm even the hardest of hearts.  And it also should scare the crap out of her foes.

You go, girl!

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Twinkie Offense

(Editorial cartoon by Joel Heller for the Green Bay Press-Gazette and featured at Ladysmith News.  Click on image to enlarge and then buzz on back.)

I must admit that I've been amused by all the reminiscing about Twinkies the past couple of weeks.  Oh, I've had a few in my youth, but I don't recall actually eating one in the last 45 years or so.  When I was  attending a small Mid-Western college, the English majors would gather in the school coffee shop ("The Pit"), take over several tables, and engage in "Twinkie Punching," an activity that involved buying a couple of packages of the delectable dessert, placing them in the center of the tables, and bringing our fists down on the packages to see if we could get the cream filling to escape the packages.  A juvenile activity?  Of course, but we didn't actually eat the product.

What I have not been amused by is the news reports on the demise of the Hostess Company via bankruptcy (the second in less than ten years), all of which linked the company's failure to the unions involved.  Michael Hiltzig was just as unamused as I am.  Here's some of what he had to say in his latest column.

Let's get a few things clear. Hostess didn't fail for any of the reasons you've been fed. It didn't fail because Americans demanded more healthful food than its Twinkies and Ho-Hos snack cakes. It didn't fail because its unions wanted it to die.

It failed because the people that ran it had no idea what they were doing. Every other excuse is just an attempt by the guilty to blame someone else. ...

Hostess management's efforts to blame union intransigence for the company's collapse persisted right through to the Thanksgiving eve press release announcing Hostess' liquidation, when it cited a nationwide strike by bakery workers that "crippled its operations."

That overlooks the years of union givebacks and management bad faith. Example: Just before declaring bankruptcy for the second time in eight years Jan. 11, Hostess trebled the compensation of then-Chief Executive Brian Driscoll and raised other executives' pay up to twofold. At the same time, the company was demanding lower wages from workers and stiffing employee pension funds of $8 million a month in payment obligations. ...

The company had known for a decade or more that its market was changing, but had done nothing to modernize its product line or distribution system. Its trucks were breaking down. It was keeping unprofitable stores open and having trouble figuring out how to move inventory to customers and when. It had cut back advertising and marketing to the point where it was barely communicating with customers. It had gotten hundreds of millions of dollars in concessions from its unions, and spent none of it on these essential improvements. ...

As management experts such as Peter Drucker have observed, the goal of a successful business must be to find and serve customers. Do that, and the numbers take care of themselves. The Hostess approach was entirely backward — meeting the numbers became Job One, and figuring out how to grow the business became Job None.   [Emphasis added]

In other words, the executives and owners had squeezed out just about every last dollar they could from the company and decided to shut it down, blaming the unions for the problems.  Shades of Bain! 

Hiltzig goes into greater detail with respect to the dealings with the unions and with the other shenanigans of the company's leaders, and his column is worth reading in its entirety.

It's just a shame that most of the rest of the mainstream media decided to take the easy way out and report the news based on the company's blast faxes.  As far as most Americans can tell, this is just one more case of the unions over reaching. 

And that really pisses me off.

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday Poetry: Hildegard of Bingen

"Who are the prophets"

Who are the prophets?
They are a royal people,
who penetrate mystery
and see with the spirit's eyes.
In illuminating darkness they speak out.
They are living, penetrating clarity.
They are a blossom blooming only
on the shoot that is rooted in the
flood of light.

--Hildegard of Bingen

Sunday Funnies

(Editorial cartoon by Jim Morin / Miami Herald (November 21, 2012) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge.)


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bonus Critter Blogging: Turkey Vulture

(Photograph by Max Waugh.  For more information about this cool critter, also known as a Turkey Buzzard, go to National Geographic.)

Heart Hurt

There are times when a "feel-good" story actually makes me feel worse.  While I'm glad something nice happened, it's something that should be common place, not a news story.  This is one of those times.

Ernie Maas could not help choking up as he took his first look around his new home Wednesday afternoon, a simple one-bedroom, federally subsidized apartment on North Glebe Road in Arlington County.

Maas, 61, who served in the Navy for seven years during and after the Vietnam War, has been homeless for about two years, living much of that time under a bridge on Four Mile Run. ...

Maas’s new home represents a happy turn, but it is also one that illustrates some of the challenges facing advocates as they try to find housing for homeless veterans, whose numbers are estimated at more than 60,000. It took Arlington social workers helping Maas nearly a year to secure a federal housing voucher under a program for veterans, a waiting time advocates say is not unusual, particularly in cases where identification has been lost. ...

The social workers recognized that Maas would be an ideal candidate to get housing through HUD-VASH, a program run by the VA and Department of Housing and Urban Development that provides permanent supportive housing to homeless veterans, including those with serious mental illness, substance-abuse problems or other issues.

Under the Obama administration, more than 37,000 veterans have been placed in permanent supportive housing, assigned to case managers and provided with access to VA health care. Veterans pay 30 percent of their income to rent, and HUD’s Section 8 voucher covers the remainder.   [Emphasis added]

Mr. Maas does have a bad back, which cost him his last job, but his real problem is that he lost his identification after several moves.  Without that, getting benefits anywhere is impossible.  Fortunately, social workers took on the task  to fill in that missing link, but it took almost a year to move Mr. Maas from under the bridge into an apartment.  And he's an easier case than many:  he doesn't have any mental illness or substance abuse problems.  Still, somebody reached out and helped.

It becomes more problematic when serious disabilities are present, and part of the problem is that the Veteran's Administration programs still aren't reaching those who need them, much of the time because returning veterans (or veterans who returned years ago) are unaware of their existence.  And the VA system still is filled with mysterious vagaries which make for different results, depending on region or even office.  And, thanks to two unnecessary wars, there is a crushing need for those benefits which is overwhelming the VA, leading to extensive delays.

Disabled veterans face difficult challenges when applying for benefits. The application backlog can take more than a year and bureaucratic confusion often results in mysterious benefit denials.

Despite their enormous sacrifices, disabled veterans who come home after serving abroad often face yet another daunting and demoralizing battle: applying for disability benefits.

Due to the enormous backlog of applications, many veterans must endure a long wait without government assistance. Inconsistencies between government offices also leave some veterans in the lurch by suspiciously denying benefits. All of this adds up to a frustrating and difficult experience for many returning soldiers.

And it's not just housing and medical benefits.  It's also educational benefits and home purchase benefits.  The word isn't getting out to those who served, and apparently isn't getting out to the people at the VA who are supposed to make certain those benefits are provided.

We as a society made promises to these men and women, and we're not keeping those promises.  That is just wrong and it needs to be rectified.  If it takes an overhaul of the VA and the people running it, make the overhaul.  If it takes additional funding, then put the money into the budget, deficit be damned. 

These men and women did what we asked, now we need to do our job.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday Cat Blogging

Black Friday

(Click on image to enlarge and then hustle back.)

David Horsey really nailed this "Black Friday" nonsense beautifully.  It's really hard for me to even nitpick the man this time.

Admittedly, I am a guy who generally dreads the thought of plodding through a shopping mall on any day of the year, but to me the encroachment of Black Friday into Thanksgiving evening seems not only insane but also disturbingly unpatriotic. ...

Over the years, though, retailers have pushed the starting time for this mad dash earlier and earlier until now it is bumping up against the slicing of the pumpkin pie at the Thanksgiving dinner table. This does not seem right.

I pity the poor retail workers who have to leave home and hearth and turkey dinner on the most venerable national holiday of the year. Instead of giving thanks for the opportunity to be confronted by a greedy horde of bargain hunters, I suspect most of those workers are cursing the store owners who decided to ruin the day with their own lust for a dollar. I think it is safe to assume the guys who own Target or Best Buy or the other big retailers will not be manning the cash registers. No, they will be sharing a leisurely Thanksgiving repast with their heirs in the peace and safety of their gated communities.

In 2013, it will be exactly 150 years since Abraham Lincoln set aside the fourth Thursday in November as a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens." Obviously, traditions shift over time, but let us hope that by next year those who put making money and spending money above all other values will not have totally desecrated what was once an all-American day like no other.

What is so disheartening is that so many American consumers are only too willing to go along with the retailers pushing the shopping day into Thanksgiving itself, thereby giving permission to the retailers to push even further.  And the kicker is that prices will be just as low, perhaps even lower, as the shopping season progresses.  All the retailers have done is to trick us into one more shopping day before Christmas.

I think Florence at Ruminations expresses my attitudes perfectly:  "No Thanks, Not For Me."

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Of Turkeys And Such

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published 11/21/12 by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Click on image to enlarge and then return.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

May your plate be filled with turkey, dressing, whipped potatoes, and whatever vegetables you wish, and may your table-mates be cordial and well-behaved.

Speaking of turkeys, Republicans are still being stupid and whiny.  Their latest target is N.J. Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, who committed a sin by saying nice things about President Obama for his handling of Hurricane Sandy.  James Rainey had some well-chosen comments about the GOP reaction in his political column for the Los Angeles Times.

Republicans seem to have no lack of understanding about how badly their presidential nominee, Mitt Romney,  damaged the party brand by demonizing a good chunk of the electorate as “victims” and “gift” grabbers — the slothful masses who just can’t wait to take a government handout.

The party faithful might also want to reconsider their recent demonization of one of their previous favorites, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, if they hope to recapture the heart of America. And have a better shot in the next presidential election. ...

...this is one of those moments when tried-and-true partisan hackery and the thoughts of average Americans diverge in a big way. The rapprochement between Obama and Christie  — who praised the president’s Sandy response as  “outstanding,” “incredibly supportive” and a “great credit” to leadership — pleased a lot of ordinary people. Exit polls found  that roughly 1 in 4 voters called Obama’s response to the giant storm an “important factor” in their vote. Christie’s warm embrace of the president presumably went a long way toward affirming that Obama acted presidential, not political, during the crisis.

And that outraged Republicans.  One of their own praised the president before the election for doing his job.  It apparently didn't matter that Gov. Christie was engaged in doing his job as governor at a particularly rough time for his state.  Nope, Christie committed a major sin for which he must pay.

As John Cole put it at Balloon Juice, "A real Republican would have let his state drown while berating Obama."

Does this mean that Christie hasn't a chance at the 2016 presidential race?  I doubt it.  If the GOP gets clobbered again in 2014, they might finally wake up to the fact that even right of center Americans are fed up with the party that seems only interested in winning, not in governing.  At that point, the boisterous and flamboyant Christie just might be a welcome and refreshing candidate.

But who knows?  Those yahoos are still shooting themselves in the feet at every opportunity.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Bump In The Road

(Click on image to enlarge and then be kind enough to return.)

I have to admit, I am not too terribly worked up about the looming, dooming "fiscal cliff" so many people are concerned about.  Yes, yes, I know:  if Congress doesn't act by the end of the year, there will be drastic cuts to some of the programs I would just love to see cut, but also to programs I don't want to see cut any further.  And I appreciate that some of those cuts will add to the economic problems we currently face.  It just seems to me that it's about time Congress and the President face the music for their joint refusal to take care of business, and the rest of us face the music for letting them get away with it.

David Horsey's cartoon and column makes the same point, although he is far more concerned than I am.

The reason we are where we are is because our elected leaders put us here. The fiscal cliff -- a set of automatic draconian budget cuts and tax increases that will start taking effect on Jan. 1 -- was purposely created as a way to force the squabbling Congress and president into a budget deal. It is part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 that grew out of the near-disastrous debt ceiling showdown between President Obama and House Republicans.

The idea was that Republicans and Democrats would finally put differences aside and reach a budget compromise because both sides would be motivated by dread of automatic across-the-board cuts and tax hikes that would almost certainly hit the U.S. economy like a wrecking ball. ...

Many folks who claim to be political experts say this is mere posturing and that both sides will give up something to get a deal done -- with Republicans giving up more because the president is in a commanding negotiating position having just won reelection. Perhaps they are right, but the kind of hardheaded political calculation that used to get deals done in the days of Lyndon Johnson or Tip O’Neill has given way to ideological purity.

Congress is now filled with people like tea party cheerleader Michele Bachmann who has said that maybe it would not be such a bad idea to let the country go over the fiscal cliff. Boehner will have a tough enough time cajoling Ryan into any kind of compromise; he is unlikely to ever get crusaders like Bachmann and her hyper-conservative compatriots to give him an inch or a vote.

Hard-line liberals will also be difficult to move, especially if a proposed deal threatens the status quo in Social Security or Medicare. What is needed in the House and Senate is a bipartisan effort of folks in the center. That's where all the work used to get done in the old days, but it has been a long time since anyone has pulled together a coalition of rational compromisers.

While I agree that it is lamentable that our elected officials cannot seem to get any kind of deal done, I disagree with Horsey that it's because both far ends of the spectrum are to blame.  I mean, c'mon, David:  the "hard-line liberals" haven't had any kind of voice for over 20 years at least.  Our two parties keep moving further and further to the right thanks to the DLC, Blue Dog, and Third-Way Democrats who are perfectly happy keeping our owners perfectly happy.  The rest of us, all 99%, have been hung out to dry for a long time because we can't write the big checks come election time.

And it's not like THE DEFICIT is such a big deal.  Really.  It wasn't a big deal in 2000 when the GOP took power with the SURPLUS Bill Clinton handed it.  It didn't take long for the Bushies to run through that surplus in various ways, including fighting two wars off budget.  Deficits surely didn't matter then, and, truth be told, it really doesn't matter now.  Adjust a few things and we can offset a lot of the damage.

First of all, we should damned well take Social Security and Medicare off the table.  Social Security has absolutely NOTHING, zero, zip, nada, to do with the deficit.  It is a user-funded program which for too long has been used as an ATM by Congress.  If folks are so concerned that 35 years from now Social Security will go into red-ink, then raise the payroll tax from its current level.  Cap it at $130,00 or remove the cap entirely.  Medicare has the potential for being a drag on government spending, but there are ways to short-circuit that, including adding funds to the DOJ for slamming the fraudsters who are ripping the program off.

Next, end the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.  It finally looks like President Obama and the Dems got the message from the election that the rest of us are tired of that 1% getting more breaks than they are entitled to.  Michele Bachmann and Paul Ryan may throw a snit-fit, but both had a harder time than expected in returning to Congress.  And the rest of the GOP, smarting from the last election, is hardly in any position to object too vigorously if it wants to continue as a viable party.

I'd also end the "middle class" payroll tax break.  All that did was undercut Social Security and Medicare funding.  Instead, provide real tax breaks for those of us with incomes below, say $250,00.  Avedon Carol has an excellent idea, one that hadn't occurred to me: raise the standard deduction from the laughable $3,800.  Go read what she has to say about that.  And then put real money into people's pockets by lowering rates.

Then tax all income, regardless of the source and regardless of the recipient.  Make corporations actually pay taxes.  To those who say that would affect job creation I would reply "Bovine Excrement!"  I didn't see any jobs being created by those tax breaks.  All I saw was outsourcing and offshoring.  The only "trickle down" we've seen has been of the decidedly urine-based  fluids raining down on all of us.  Those corporations who object and threaten to move out of the country can pay for their own damned security.  I'm sure Eric Prince and whatever his mercenaries are called these days will be happy to oblige.  We, then, can apply tariffs to the imports.

And that's just for openers.  I don't have any hard and fast rules for cutting "the fat" out of government programs, but, then, neither does the GOP beyond killing Big Bird and FEMA.  I do think cutting the junk contracts of the Pentagon is long over-due, as are outsourced programs in Homeland Security and the State Department.  Let government do the job the Constitution gave to it.

But I'm not sure we have enough stiff-necks and strong spines to accomplish this.  If not, there's always 2014.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

That River In Egypt

Poor Mitt Romney.  I almost feel sorry for him.  He's being consigned to the GOP "black hole" like George W. Bush was, and Romney never even got to be president.  Like I said, though, I almost feel sorry for him.  If he'd have kept his mouth shut after the election, say, for about a month, he might not have been the target of barbs from the likes of Newt Gingrich and Bobby Jindahl.  He might even have achieved some respectability like John McCain has, crazy as he is, and been invited regularly to the Sunday Morning Bobbleheads.  But, alas, no.  Romney had to keep yapping to his buddies, as David Horsey pointed out in this column, giving ammunition to those in his own party and the Democrats.

As many pundits have noted, Romney's characterization of government programs as gifts was an echo of his earlier disparaging remarks about the 47% of Americans who pay no income taxes. On both occasions, he was speaking privately with a bunch of fat-cat contributors and reinforcing their demeaning stereotypes of less fortunate Americans. It seems that Romney cannot help but be himself when he is around rich people.

The so-called gifts Obama gave included partial forgiveness of student loans, a provision of Obamacare allowing young people to stay on their parents' healthcare plans to age 26, suspension of deportations for immigrant children who have grown up in the United States and healthcare for people who otherwise do not have it or cannot afford it.

What Romney calls gifts, others call lending a hand -- no different than helping people hit by a hurricane. They are programs aimed at providing opportunities for people struggling to get a start in life or rise up from chronic poverty. They are a means to end dependency and create more productive citizens. Other Republicans apparently understand this. As Los Angeles Times reporter Morgan Little described in a Sunday article, several prominent GOP leaders have taken hard shots at Romney’s elitism in recent days.

It's quite clear that Romney's elitist comments really were a turn-off  to a lot of Americans during the campaign, and several of his wife's comments (like "You people ...) grated on folks as well.  The fact that he kept changing the message to fit the audience didn't help either, because the American voter isn't always as stupid as Republicans think.  And that's the part that fascinates me right now.

The Morgan Little article cited by Horsey (see the link in the quote) is really quite telling in a lot of ways.  The GOP has decided that Republicans need to make nice to the electorate, or at least sound like it.  They are now willing to at least talk about immigration reform.  Apparently someone shoved a census report in front of party leaders and coughed loudly.  But as far as I can tell, that's about all that's been changed in the rhetoric.  Black people, the poor, the elders, gays, even the Middle Class are still not terribly important. 

The reports on the "fiscal cliff" and how the lame duck session and even the next Congress will deal with it makes it clear that Republicans are still only interested in keeping the fat cats fat and on a weight-gain program.  Fighting the Democrats on every issue and fighting the President on every appointment is still uppermost in the Republican plans.

Of course, it doesn't help that at least at this point the Democrats haven't unsheathed their swords and probably won't.  Social Security and Medicare are still being talked about as "entitlements" and compromise is still the word of the day. 

I guess I'll just have to wait for the 113th Congress and the 2014 campaigns to see what changes are possible.  I hope I have the stamina and the popcorn for that.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Laughter Really Is A Good Medicine

(Editorial cartoon by Tom Toles, published 11/12/08 in the Washington Post, and found here.  Click on image to enlarge and then hustle on back.)

Did you ever have occasion to come across an hysterically funny satire, one which has you screaming with laughter because of its Onionesque proportions, and then discover that the author was not being satirical but was being serious, thereby moving you from gales of laughter to an outright Depends Moment?  That's what happened to me on Saturday after reading this op-ed piece by Charlotte Allen.  It'll be hard, but please try to keep in mind that Ms. Allen is totally serious.

The Republican Party has been doing a lot of hand-wringing and finger-pointing since the presidential election. Half the conservative columnists and bloggers say the GOP lost because it overemphasized social issues such as abortion and gay marriage. The other half says the party didn't emphasize them enough. And everyone denounces Project ORCA, the campaign's attempt to turn out voters via technology.

But I've got a suggestion for cutting short the GOP angst: Sarah Palin for president in 2016. ...

In 2008, Palin, running as my party's vice presidential candidate, was widely supposed to have cost John McCain the election. But that wasn't so. A national exit poll conducted by CNN asked voters whether Palin was a factor in their voting. Of those who said yes, 56% voted for McCain versus 43% for Barack Obama. ...

Gabriel Malor, writing for the New York Daily News' blog, pinpointed another reason: By focusing his campaign mostly on serious economic and political issues such as the national debt and tax incentives, Romney failed to take into account the fact that large segments of the electorate neither know nor care much about serious economic and political issues. What they — a group sometimes euphemistically called "uninformed voters" — do know and care about are the tugs on their emotions, fears, revulsions and heart strings provided by hours and hours of uninterrupted television watching. ...

Palin can more than keep up with the Democrats in appealing to voters' emotions. Hardly anyone could be more blue collar than Palin, out on the fishing boat with her hunky blue-collar husband, Todd. Palin is "View"-ready, she's "Ellen"-ready, she's Kelly-and-Michael-ready.

A Palin "war against women"? Hah! Not only is she a woman, she's got a single-mom daughter, Bristol, to help with the swelling single-mom demographic. On social issues, Palin, unlike Romney, has been absolutely consistent. And let's remember that most Americans, whatever their view of choice, disapprove of most abortions.

So, there you have it.  A huge swatch of Americans are uninformed and don't care about economic issues.  They just watch television.  They don't worry about being hungry or not having any safety net.  They just want an emotional jolt of some kind.  Palin can deliver that.

It doesn't matter that she has no leadership qualities, no ability to stick to a job where she might actually have to do some work.  She can field-dress a moose.  She can use her kids for object lessons.  She doesn't need to know the ins and outs of a complicated global economic system.  She doesn't need to know where Syria is, or Lebanon, or even Mali.  She can outsource that, I guess.

But the fact that she is unqualified to be President is irrelevant.  She just needs to win the election for the GOP.  That's all that matters to Republicans.  Winning.

I'm just surprised that Ms. Allen didn't go all the way and select a running mate for Palin, someone like ... oh, I don't know ... maybe Akin?

That's the ticket.

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday Poetry: W. S. Merwin


There are threads of old sound heard over and over
phrases of Shakespeare or Mozart the slender
wands of the auroras playing out from them
into dark time the passing of a few
migrants high in the night far from the ancient flocks
far from the rest of the words far from the instruments

--W. S. Merwin

Sunday Funnies

(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett / Lexington Herald-Leader (November 14, 2012) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge.)


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Bonus Critter Blogging: Gobies

(Photograph by Joao Paulo Krajewski and published at National Geographic.  Click on link to learn more about these fish and their role in keeping the coral reefs healthy.)

Manly Men

It isn't often that I think David Horsey misses the point, but his most recent column sure fits in that category.  While what he has to say has some truth to it, he is overlooking some pretty sizable issues.  Ironically, his cartoon hints at those issues, but his column completely overlooks them.

After discussing the World War II affair which General Eisenhower, later to become President Eisenhower, had with Kay Summersby, Horsey laments the current state of affairs in this nation.

This is all fabulous news for media gossip mavens, but not so good for the country. The sudden subtraction of Petraeus’ leadership skills and international expertise is a real loss. There are few, if any, other countries in which a romantic fling would force a man of Petraeus’ stature into retirement. Of course, we can be proud of insisting on such high ethical standards and probably, in the long run, our military and our government institutions are better for it. Still, this is a case where the price for rectitude seems especially high.

Would America be better off if Ike had been brought down by his stolen kisses in time of war?

Yes, yes, yes.  Our puritanical nation loves itself some sexual scandals.  This time, however, there is a bit more going on, and I'm not talking about the "compromised security" bovine excrement. 

First of all, the emphasis of the coverage has shifted from Petraeus and Allen to Broadwell and Kelley, the latter of whom is referred to as "Tampa Kardashian."  The seductresses are getting the blame.  What chance did these poor men have under such sieges?  In other words, it's the women's fault, not the four-star generals' fault.  The women were asking for it, yes?

Tell that to the service women who have been raped and sexually assaulted by soldiers and, yes, major officers (including other generals and admirals), and who have been sexually harrassed up and down the chain of command.  The misogyny is palpable, and such coverage seems to give justification for it.

Which leads me to my second point:  these four-star generals are supposed to be the cream of the crop, the exemplars by which all other officers and service people are judged.  They are supposed to be leaders, with the self-discipline to embody the qualities we expect from our military.  Instead, with feet of very soft clay, they embody entitlement, a sense of "I'm in charge here, and I get what I want," the rules be damned.  This is not disciplined leadership.  It's massive fail.

So, a couple of careers are wrecked? 


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Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Cat Blogging

(Click on image to enlarge.  It's worth it.)

Sometimes The Truth Will Surface

I thought about titling this post "Keep Digging, Mitt" but I decided that since his political career as a candidate is effectively over, that wasn't necessary.  Still, however, Mitt Romney isn't quite ready to exit, even though he's made several brave exit speeches, the latest of which was to his real supporters, the ones he really cared about.

James Rainey captured the tone and intention of that speech (which was actually apparently a conference call) quite well with his post/column in the Los Angeles Times.

 The onetime private equity magnate would have an “optics” problem if he wanted  to run for office ever again. But since he’s done with politics, his latest moment of unintended public candor goes down, instead, as testament to how little Romney understood politics and the American people.

“The Obama campaign was following the old playbook of giving a lot of stuff to groups that they hoped they could get to vote for them and be motivated to go out to the polls, specifically the African American community, the Hispanic community and young people,” Romney told hundreds of donors during a telephone town hall. “In each case they were very generous in what they gave to those groups.” ...

Romney couldn’t be expected to acknowledge that he offered up “gifts” of his own: extended tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, a shredding of the regulations that would keep big investors from running amok, unfettered access for big energy companies to America’s wildlands.   [Emphasis added]

The problem is that more than those groups voted overwhelmingly for Obama; the rest of the 47% decried by Mitt as "takers" did as well, primarily because they believed that Obama represented them more than the rich, entitled, white boy who made his living flipping companies and raiding their pension plans.  They trusted Obama more than the guy who kept changing his spiel, depending on the audience.  They wanted more than a guy who used his etch-a-sketch rather than his brain and his heart.  They rejected his cold and uncaring dismissal of them as useless.

Rainey nailed it in his conclusion as to why Romney lost and lost so decisively:

Romney’s best self—the one that gave tirelessly and deeply to his fellow parishoners in the Mormon church and who worked with opponents to make progress in Massachusetts—made an appearance now and then. But that Mitt Romney didn't seem, often enough, like the one who was running for president.

So in what may be one of his final words on campaign 2012, the candidate explained how he understood the price of everything. And ended up looking like he knew the value of very little.

Rainey is much kinder than I am.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Day Off

I've been feeling pretty punky the last couple of days, so posting anything substantive isn't possible.

Maybe tomorrow.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

All In

(Editorial cartoon by Kevin Siers / The Charlotte Observer (November 13, 2012) and featured at McClatchy DC.)

And that's pretty much all I have to say on the subject, at least at the moment.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Stupid. Crazy. Evil.

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

It's been amusing on some levels to hear the weeping and wailing of those unhappy with the election results.  On other levels, however, it's been downright spooky.  I mean, suddenly the world is askew because the election didn't turn out the way it was promised by Fox and the GOP.  David Horsey took a look at some of the whining in Monday's column.

President Obama’s reelection has caused right-wingers to become completely unhinged. They are purple-faced and apoplectic, convinced that an ignorant horde of government-dependent social leeches has destroyed traditional America and banished God from the country. ...

All of this doomsday blather hearkens back to Romney’s infamous characterization of 47% of Americans as “victims” who only want to be coddled by government. As it was when Romney said it, this portrait of America is not only demonstrably false, it is a scurrilous slander with a racist tinge.

The most numerous voters dependent on government to keep them economically afloat are retirees who receive Social Security and Medicare benefits. This was the cohort that went most heavily for Romney. The people who put Obama over the top in the electoral vote, on the other hand, were autoworkers in Ohio; not exactly a dependent bunch.

They were also young people who do not grow faint at the thought of gays getting married or women using birth control. They were middle-class white Americans – as many as voted for Bill Clinton, by the way – who think it is unfair that all the economic benefits in this country flow to the richest 1%.
From Ted Nugent to Sarah Palin to Franklin Graham to Rush Limbaugh:  all see a future in which America slips into a Godless-Communist state run by storm troopers rushing to herd most of us into death camps and/or gay marriage and forced pot-smoking.  This once proud hard-working Christian nation is now being run by takers who simply want something for nothing.  What's worse, they are not White.

Still living in their reality-defying bubble, the Right Wing cannot handle what happened.  That their idols were rejected is inconceivable.  Horsey's conclusion suggests the reason this is so.

Right-wingers will not let go of their own misleading mythology. They have a constricted vision of who the “real Americans” are and who they are not. Until election night, they still believed that people like themselves constituted a majority in this country. Now that they are faced with the truth of their own diminishing numbers, they are rejiggering reality. Incapable of accepting that the millions of people who voted for Obama are overwhelmingly hardworking, family-loving, patriotic Americans, they have to imagine them as the “takers” that Ayn Rand warned them were coming.

This is a necessary self-deception. Otherwise, conservative crazies would have to face an inconvenient truth: On election day, a majority of real Americans rejected them.

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Monday, November 12, 2012


(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution 11/11/12.  Click on image to enlarge and then return.)

Republicans (at least some of them) have done a little analyzing of the results of the election and are suddenly making noises about some changes in their approach.  Given the overwhelming vote for Obama in the Hispanic community (he tied for the Cuban vote in Florida which traditionally votes Republican) and given the rising number of Hispanic voters, some are even moving towards the idea of an immigration reform bill.

The first hint of this movement came surprisingly from the punditocracy.  Amazingly, Fox News appears to have shifted gears, as noted by Media Matters.  I must say that hearing Sean Hannity call for a new look at immigration reform rather stunned me, especially since he also said his new view is an "evolved" one.  Shocking!

But some elected Republican officials have chimed in as well, as noted by The Hill (via The Impolitic):

...Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said a “comprehensive approach” on the issue was “long overdue.” ...

 The comments from Boehner and other Republicans suggesting movement on immigration reform reflect broad fears within the party that it is cutting itself off from the fast-growing constituency.

Warning signs for Republicans in terms of its future with Hispanic voters could be found not only in the election’s results but in exit polls that found Romney tied Obama even among Cuban Americans in Florida, who have traditionally been a strong GOP constituency.

Further, on yesterday's bobblehead shows, another Republican spoke to the issue and even suggested some details to get around the "amnesty" objection.  From the AP:

Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who promoted similar proposals on separate Sunday news shows said that no path to citizenship would be available until the country's borders were secure.

Only then could those in the U.S. without authorization "come out of the shadows, get biometrically identified, start paying taxes, pay a fine for the law they broke," Graham told CBS' "Face the Nation." ''They can't stay unless they learn our language, and they have to get in the back of line before they become citizens. They can't cut in front of the line regarding people who are doing it right and it can take over a decade to get their green card."

Is this just talk or are Republicans serious?  It's hard to tell.  A couple of Republicans in California have been screaming for some movement on the issue since 2010 when the Republicans were shut out of all constitutional offices.  Things didn't fare any better for them in this last election.  It appears the Democrats have won super-majorities in both houses of the state legislature, which makes raising taxes possible.  Another blow-out election on the national level in 2014 could result in the loss of the House and further losses in the Senate for the GOP.  The fear of that happening might be enough to get things moving.

It's almost enough for me to go out and buy some popcorn.


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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday Poetry: Langston Hughes

Will V-Day Be Me-Day Too?

Over There,
World War II.

Dear Fellow Americans,
I write this letter
Hoping times will be better
When this war
Is through.
I'm a Tan-skinned Yank
Driving a tank.

I wear a U. S. uniform.
I've done the enemy much harm,
I've driven back
The Germans and the Japs,
From Burma to the Rhine.
On every battle line,
I've dropped defeat
Into the Fascists' laps.

I am a Negro American
Out to defend my land
Army, Navy, Air Corps--
I am there.
I take munitions through,
I fight--or stevedore, too.
I face death the same as you do

I've seen my buddy lying
Where he fell.
I've watched him dying
I promised him that I would try
To make our land a land
Where his son could be a man--
And there'd be no Jim Crow birds
Left in our sky.

So this is what I want to know:
When we see Victory's glow,
Will you still let old Jim Crow
Hold me back?
When all those foreign folks who've waited--
Italians, Chinese, Danes--are liberated.
Will I still be ill-fated
Because I'm black?

Here in my own, my native land,
Will the Jim Crow laws still stand?
Will Dixie lynch me still
When I return?
Or will you comrades in arms
From the factories and the farms,
Have learned what this war
Was fought for us to learn?

When I take off my uniform,
Will I be safe from harm--
Or will you do me
As the Germans did the Jews?
When I've helped this world to save,
Shall I still be color's slave?
Or will Victory change
Your antiquated views?

You can't say I didn't fight
To smash the Fascists' might.
You can't say I wasn't with you
in each battle.
As a soldier, and a friend.
When this war comes to an end,
Will you herd me in a Jim Crow car
Like cattle?

Or will you stand up like a man
At home and take your stand
For Democracy?
That's all I ask of you.
When we lay the guns away
To celebrate
Our Victory Day
That's what I want to know.

GI Joe.

--Langston Hughes

Sunday Funnies

(Editorial cartoon by Tom Toles and published 11/08/12 by the Washington Post.  Click on image to enlarge.)


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Bonus Critter Blogging: Blackback Gorilla

(Photograph courtesy Virunga National Park/ICCNN and published at National Geographic.  Click on link to learn more about this particular critter.)

A Planet Where The Sky Is Yellow

There is still a lot of election postmortems being churned out, probably justifiably so.  One of the most perspicacious is that of David Horsey in the Los Angeles Times.  He notes that not only is the GOP bedeviled by crazies and extremists, it still persists in believing that if Republicans just keep repeating a phrase often enough a new reality is created.  This election gave the lie to that belief.

Here is what the facts turned out to be:

• Romney predominated only among older white men; Obama won 55% of women, 93% of African Americans, 71% of Latinos and 60% of voters ages 18 to 29.

• Rather than there being an enthusiasm gap, Obama pretty much replicated his winning 2008 coalition.

• The Obama campaign gurus in Chicago were not lying; they had the money, time and energy to get all their voters to the polls.

• The “enthusiasm” of the tea party and the religious right proved to be a detriment to the Republican cause. Their wacky candidates, including Richard Mourdock in Indiana and Todd Akin in Missouri, were disasters and their demand for ideological purity turned the GOP primaries into a clown show and their eventual nominee into a pandering hypocrite.

• The Republicans’ silly scare stories about voter fraud were used to justify restrictions on voting that black Americans, in particular, perceived as a threat to their hard-won right to vote. As a result, those folks were willing to stand in long lines for hour after hour in states such as Ohio and Florida so that their voices could be heard. And what they said was “four more years for Barack Obama.”

Will this change the GOP in time for the next election?

I doubt it, especially since both Senate Minority Leader McConnell and House Speaker Boehner have already signaled their intention to obstruct any plan to raise taxes on the wealthy.  Congressman West of Florida, defeated in Florida by Democrat Patrick Murphy, is still pursuing a law suit to sequester the ballots and voting machines in an attempt to delay Murphy's swearing in (reminds me of what the GOP did to keep Sen. Al Franken out of his seat for months), even though his first law suit was thrown out.

It's probably going to take the election in 2014 to convince the still-sane members of the GOP (assuming there are any left by that time) that it might be time to return to consensual reality.

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Friday, November 09, 2012

Friday Cat Blogging

I'm Not So Sure

(Political cartoon by Matt Wuerker and published at Daily Kos.)

There's a very interesting article up at the Los Angeles Times on the effect of super PAC spending in the 2012 election.  The authors seem to be indicating (at least from their lede) that the outrageous sums spent during this election really didn't make a difference when it came to the outcome.

In the end, the old truism held: Money isn't everything.

Deep-pocketed "super PACs" and other independent groups dumped more than $1 billion into the 2012 election, largely on behalf of Republicans, injecting a harsh tone into races across the country and driving record spending. But they failed to have the dramatic impact both sides anticipated after such intense saturation of the airwaves.

Tuesday's results challenged the notion that GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney had a strong edge because of heavyweight allies such as Americans for Prosperity, Restore Our Future and the two Crossroads organizations that were cofounded by Karl Rove, the political strategist and former advisor to President George W. Bush.

In fact, groups allied with President Obama claimed more success, even though they were outspent. Unions gleefully noted that they exceeded the number of voter contacts made in 2008 — one result of the Supreme Court decision that allowed corporations and unions to spend money on direct political activity. ...

The election exposed a limitation of super PACs and tax-exempt advocacy groups: Prohibited from coordinating with candidates, they served primarily as a weapon to mow down opponents, rather than a means to communicate a positive vision. And the preponderance of groups working on Romney's behalf may have overloaded voters.   [Emphasis added]

I would be willing to accept that conclusion but for the fact that President Obama also availed himself of super PAC  money even after he claimed he would eschew it.  Still, however, there's an argument to be made that the super-saturation of television, radio, and the internet caused voters' eyes to glaze over.  I think what won the election for Obama and down-ticket Democratic candidates was the spendid ground-game of the Democrats, something the GOP failed to do this time around, apparently counting on the ads to rouse their base and basest-base to show up.

That said, the L.A. Times article notes that and suggests, albeit implicitly, what we can expect in the future (presumably in 2014):

Even as they reflected on their losses, top conservative groups said Tuesday's results would not slow them down.

"We are not about just one year or one election or one issue," said Tim Phillips, president of the nonprofit advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, which spent more than $190 million in the two-year cycle — a large share on ads pummeling Obama on the debt and his energy policies. "It's about building for the long haul, and that's what we're committed to doing."

AFP's contributors are not discouraged, he said. "They tell us this is a long ballgame."   [Emphasis added]

So, the super PACs and 501 (c) 4 groups will be back, presumably with a little more discipline and a little more coordination.  We're not there yet.

And the Republican governors and state legislatures will continue to try to suppress the vote.

The president better do a better job over the next two years.

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Thursday, November 08, 2012


David Horsey's recent column makes some salient points on President Obama's victory on Tuesday.  I'm not so sure, however, that the GOP is quite ready to take them into consideration.

The people have spoken. President Obama has won a chance to move beyond the stunted progress of his first term and, perhaps, become a historic president. On the losing side, the Republican Party remains shut out of the White House and has blown a chance to take over the U.S. Senate, largely because it catered to the narrow concerns of tea party zealots and social conservatives who imagined themselves as the only authentic Americans but who are, in fact, way out of step with most of the people in this country.

If Republicans fail to learn the lesson of this election they are fools. If they continue to let Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity set the angry, extreme tone for their philosophy; if they continue to let anti-science religious fundamentalists dictate their social agenda; and if they think Mitt Romney fell short because he was not conservative enough when, in fact, he only began to catch on with moderate voters when he suddenly veered from his self-proclaimed “severe conservatism” and transformed back into a Massachusetts moderate; then they are doomed to become a party of the past.   [Emphasis added]

The problem is that the GOP still controls a number of state houses and legislators.  I anticipate continuing efforts to suppress the vote via voting list purges and draconian identification card requirements.  I also think that voter intimidation and voting machine tampering will continue.  Unless and until stiffer laws are drafted and enforced on vote suppression, intimidation, and fraud, the GOP figures it will still have a shot at keeping the control of country in the hands on the white male 1%.   Convicting some of these yahoos and giving them hard time might make a difference we all can live with.

Until then, the GOP will continue with the likes of the Tea Party and Mitt Romney.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Mental Health Day, Sorta Kinda

I pretty much stuck to my promise not to get all wound up in election day/night fervor, so I really don't have any serious commentary at this point.  What I do have is a couple of cartoons which I thought caught some of the highlights of the past couple of days.

(Editorial cartoon by Kevin Siers / The Charlotte Observer (November 6, 2012) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge.)

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on 11/07/12.  Click on image to enlarge.)

More tomorrow.  Maybe.


Tuesday, November 06, 2012


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

The big day has finally arrived.  I've decided to spend most of the day away from the internet and the newspapers and the radio.  This evening I'll check in to see just what things look like, but I don't intend to stay up all night following all the details closely.  At least at this point.  I just hope that the outcomes are decided by Wednesday morning, although I have a hunch not all of the races will be.

I don't anticipate any major changes, even if President Obama is re-elected.  The Democrats will probably hold the Senate (with one or two new progressives), and the Republicans will probably hold the House (again, with a few new progressives).  The 113th Congress will be pretty much like the 112th, which means little will get done.


Unless we do a little kingbirding on our elected officials' backsides.

For those not familiar with kingbirding, it's a term I coined back in June.  Let me reprise a few of the salient sections from that post.

"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 that's what I intend to do for the next two years.  I'd really love some company on the journey.  If you need persuasion, maybe Marge Piercy's poem will do the trick.

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Monday, November 05, 2012

Money Money Money

I seriously considered taking a mental health day today, but I need to vent a little more on the outrageous amount of money being poured in elections.  On Saturday I posted on the Open Secrets summary of expenditures for the national elections.  Yesterday I read Michael Hiltzig's report on the money pouring into the campaigns for and against the various propositions on the ballot in California.

As I've mention before, the California legislators are apparently incapable of doing their jobs when it comes to making hard decisions.  They don't want to risk making their owners or the voters unhappy, so the tough issues wind up on the ballot in one form or another.  Additionally, special interest groups, understanding the legislators reluctance, figure if they can get enough signatures and money, they can bypass elected officials completely.  Either way, it's a lousy system.  That's unfortunate because the initiative process wasn't designed for this kind of manipulation.

Michael Hiltzig would agree, I believe:

No one today can overlook that it's California's self-indulgent initiative process that's attracting the big political bucks into the state, the way a magnet attracts scrap iron. Year in, year out, the torrent of spending on initiative campaigns swamps the money spent on traditional candidates.

Tuesday's ballot, with 11 propositions attracting $350 million in campaign spending, is another data point. Not even Meg Whitman's gubernatorial campaign in 2010, in which the candidate spent $144 million of her own money on her way to a $160-million bottom line, comes close — and that exercise in futility set a spending record. ...

The typical initiative campaign today consists of flagrantly misleading TV commercials produced by companies or wealthy individuals intent on concealing how the passage or defeat of a given measure will line their pockets with gold. With the exception of Steyer's Proposition 39, Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30 tax initiative and a handful of non-economic measures, Tuesday's lineup mostly involves narrow corporate goals on one side or another.   [Emphasis added]

 Given those corporate goals, it's really no mystery where a lot of the money is coming from.

Looking at contributions of more than $1-million among the top contributors on each initiative (thanks to for crunching the data from the California secretary of state's office), we find that about $80.5 million came directly from corporations. Most of that was spent by Monsanto, DuPont, PepsiCo and other food mega-marketers to defeat Proposition 37, which mandates the labeling of foods prepared with genetically modified ingredients (some foods, not all, which is a major problem with the measure).

But that's just $80.5 million on one proposition.  There are many more, and money has been pouring in on both sides of each issue.  Hiltzig examines some of the other big spenders, including unions which are bitterly fighting Prop 32, which effectively bans unions from making political contributions to all kinds of election matters yet does not include a similar ban for other special interests including corporations.

That points us to the principle that initiative spending often begets more initiative spending: None of that money would have to be donated if not for the $60 million in influence on the other side devoted to stripping unions of their political voice.

So, that's why this election has turned out to be so expensive.  It shows just what the priorities of the corporate interests, i.e., our owners, actually are.  The state of California and 99% of its citizens are far down the list of the priorities, if they are there at all.  With understated eloquence, Hiltzig provides a gauge:

...What would $350 million buy out in the cruel, cold world? It would cover 10%, maybe even 15%, of the cost of American Red Cross relief for East Coast residents battered by Hurricane Sandy. It would cover four years' tuition and fees (at current rates) for 2,760 students at the University of California, or 14,657 students at Cal State.

Or it could reverse almost all of Gov. Brown's budget cuts for CalWORKS, the relief program for families with dependent children, including restoration of the exemption from work requirements for parents with a child at home under the age of 2. It could lessen by two-thirds the impact of budget cuts on the state's community colleges if Brown's Proposition 30 tax increases don't pass. If your social empathy lies elsewhere, it could make the investment bankers at Swiss-based UBS entirely whole on their losses from the botched initial public stock offering of Facebook.


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Sunday, November 04, 2012

Sunday Poetry: Marge Piercy

The Low Road

What can they do
to you? Whatever they want.
They can set you up, they can
bust you, they can break your fingers, they can
burn your brain with electricity,
blur you with drugs till you
can't walk, can't remember, they can
take your child, wall up
your lover. They can do anything
you can't stop them
from doing. How can you stop
them? Alone, you can fight,
you can refuse, you can take what revenge you can
but they roll over you.

But two people fighting
back to back can cut through
a mob, a snake-dancing file
can break a cordon, an army
can meet an army.

Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction.
love, massage, hope, sex.
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play bridge and start
an organization. With six
you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no
seconds, and hold a fund raising party.
A dozen make a demonstration
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;
ten thousand, power and your own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.

It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again after they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.

--Marge Piercy

(Something to keep in mind this week and the coming months, if not years.)

Sunday Funnies:Another 2-fer

(Editorial cartoon by Tom Toles and published by the Washington Post 10/30/12.  Click on image to enlarge.)

(Editorial cartoon by Kevin Siers / The Charlotte Observer (October 31, 2012) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge.)


Saturday, November 03, 2012

Bonus Critter Blogging: Hippopotamus

(Photograph by Donna Eaton and published at National Geographic. Click on the link to find out more on freshwater mammals.)