Monday, March 29, 2010

Conservative Failure

Bill Clinton Apologizes to Haiti for Effects of Free Trade

The "free trade" craze wiping out Haiti's farmers by flooding the country with cheap American rice. The same this happened in northern Mexico with cheap (heavily subsidized) American corn.

On March 10 Bill Clinton apologized to Haiti. See With cheap food imports, Haiti can't feed itself

[W]orld leaders focused on fixing Haiti are admitting for the first time that loosening trade barriers has only exacerbated hunger in Haiti and elsewhere.

They're led by former U.S. President Bill Clinton - now U.N. special envoy to Haiti - who publicly apologized this month for championing policies that destroyed Haiti's rice production. Clinton in the mid-1990s encouraged the impoverished country to dramatically cut tariffs on imported U.S. rice.

"It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake," Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 10. "I had to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else."

Here is how it happened:

Three decades ago things were different. Haiti imported only 19 percent of its food and produced enough rice to export, thanks in part to protective tariffs of 50 percent set by the father-son dictators, Francois and Jean-Claude Duvalier.

When their reign ended in 1986, free-market advocates in Washington and Europe pushed Haiti to tear those market barriers down. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, freshly reinstalled to power by Clinton in 1994, cut the rice tariff to 3 percent.

Impoverished farmers unable to compete with the billions of dollars in subsidies paid by the U.S. to its growers abandoned their farms. Others turned to more environmentally destructive crops, such as beans, that are harvested quickly but hasten soil erosion and deadly floods.

This is just one more example of conservative failure. Decisions based on ideology eventually hit a wall of reality. Free trade wiped out American manufacturing. Free market deregulation wiped out our economy. Low taxes wiped out our infrastructure and competitiveness. It's time for progressives to find their voice and vision, stop reacting to conservative nay-saying, and get the country moving in a positive, progressive direction.

It's about time!

Happy Passover!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Sin!

Pope Benedict XVI attends Palm Sunday Mass at the Vatican,   03/28/10. (photo: Getty Images)

Pope Benedict XVI attends Palm Sunday Mass at the Vatican, 03/28/10 (photo: Getty Images)

A moving and searing essay by John Cory on "The Catholic Church Scandal." A must read.
My views on child abuse and child molestation are harsh and unforgiving and forged by the fires of my own childhood. I give no quarter on this issue.

I have no kind words or forgiving thoughts for the Catholic hierarchy or their enablers, which brings me to Bill Donohue's article on the CNN Opinion web site. You can read what he says here but I'll give you my version:

Child abuse and molestation is bad but this stuff happened a long time ago and times were different then and besides everyone does it including churches, schools, businesses and even the Jews. This is all about picking on the Catholic Church for headlines.

Mr. Donohue - you are performing a cheap parlor trick of turning the Catholic Church into the victim here and frankly, it is disgusting. The victims are at the center of this issue, not you and your Catholic ego.

This is not an attack on the Catholic Church. It is about holding the men accountable who lead the Church. And that includes the Pope.

In the wonderful novel "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini, Baba tells his son Amir: "There is only one sin and that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft... When you kill a man, you steal a life. When you tell a lie, you steal someone's right to the truth."

Men, not God, not Church, stole innocence and trust, privacy and possession of one's body and spirit. Can there be a more heinous crime?

While you dress your Cardinals and Pope in fine linens and moral rectitude, the molested cover themselves in revulsion and self-loathing believing they did something to cause this crime.

While you parade about with burning incense and wafers of contrition the raped and battered wander in doubt and confusion as to how God let this happen.

While you sprinkle the Water of Oblivion and chant sacred liturgies the true victims suffer the holy trinity of abuse, alienation and abandonment.

How dare you cloak the Church in victimhood.

Should the deaf children thank God that they were not able to hear their rapist's grunts and gasps of pleasure at defilement?

Should the molested thank God that they eventually became old enough to no longer be attractive to priests? Or should they have prayed for faster transfers?

Should the abused take comfort in the knowledge that it was only a few "bad apples" in the Church and they were just "unfortunate" to be among the chosen prey?

What you defend is not the Church but the silence of power, the sin of willful ignorance and the sin of omission by those who turned a blind eye to the torture and horror at the hands of God's devoted servants.

What you defend is the murder of the soul.

The first day of abuse becomes an eternity of pain and despair and night becomes a never-ending reel that assaults the senses. The smell and feel of sin forever burned into the brain haunting the heart and soul.

I don't know how to explain this horror in a way to make you understand.

I can tell you that abuse smells like Old Spice and Vaseline Hair Tonic wafting in the air with each blow. I can tell you that abuse tastes like oatmeal on a dishrag in my mouth to keep me from screaming. I can tell you that abuse burns like a tub of scalding water boiling away my sins and it stings like the slice of a knife to bleed out that evil blood inside of me. I can tell you that the sound of abuse is an icy echo: I'm only doing this because I love you. If you were good, you wouldn't make me do this.

There is not a bonfire in Hell big enough for the souls of these people to burn in as far as I am concerned. And the statute of limitations should match the term of punishment and damnation - eternity.

The perpetrators stole innocence and purity, trust and love, and beautiful childhood souls like they were nothing more than trinkets of idol pleasure.

But the greatest theft came from the Cardinals and Bishops and authorities. They stole in silence just like a thief in the night. They were soundless accomplices to the murder of souls.

They stole truth from those who needed its protection most. They stole the right to be heard and to be believed. They stole love and hope and the sanctity of the church.

They stole God.

To defend any of this is to steal the last vestige of dignity and honor and justice from those who deserve it most.

There is only one sin and that is theft.

Thou shalt not steal.

A Christian, A Muslim, A Jew...Oh My!

Pete Souza/White House

Last year's White House Seder

One evening in April 2008, three low-level staff members from the Obama presidential campaign — a baggage handler, a videographer and an advance man — gathered in the windowless basement of a Pennsylvania hotel for an improvised Passover Seder.[...]

So begins the story of the Obama Seder, now one of the newest, most intimate and least likely of White House traditions. When Passover begins at sunset on Monday evening, Mr. Obama and about 20 others will gather for a ritual that neither the rabbinic sages nor the founding fathers would recognize.

In the Old Family Dining Room, under sparkling chandeliers and portraits of former first ladies, the mostly Jewish and African-American guests will recite prayers and retell the biblical story of slavery and liberation, ending with the traditional declaration “Next year in Jerusalem.” (Never mind the current chill in the administration’s relationship with Israel.) [...]

That event was the first presidential Seder, and also probably “the first time in history that gefilte fish had been placed on White House dishware,” said Eric Lesser, the former baggage handler, who organizes each year’s ritual.
There is a viral video spreading over the internet which speculates that "Barack Hussein Obama might be a secret Muslim." The evidence offered is that "Obama bowed before a Muslim king, Obama talked about members of his family who are Muslim, Obama quoted from the Koran, Obama defended Islam as a religion and Obama visited a Mosque while visiting Turkey.

Seeing the picture of President Obama raising a glass of wine while sitting at a Seder table makes me wonder if this picture will cause the right wing-nuts to speculate whether Barack Obama is really secretly a Jew!

Quote of the Day

Via Andy Borowitz:

"The whole Hitler Youth thing is starting to look like a bright spot on the Pope's resume."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Negative of For Profit Healthcare

Newborn with Birth Defect Denied Coverage

Health Care Provider Tells Texas Family Baby's Artery Problem is a Pre-Existing Condition; Won't Pay for Surgery

(CBS) For newborn Houston Tracy, the historic health care overhaul came too late.

Houston, born March 15 at a Texas hospital, suffers from a defect in his arteries. When his parents, Doug and Kim, applied to have his corrective surgery covered under their insurance, they were denied, with their carrier claiming Houston had a pre-existing condition, reports CBS station KTVT.

The Tracys are fighting the decision by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas.

"They kept saying it's preexisting, it's preexisting, but I don't know how it can be preexisting on a baby that was just born," Doug Tracy said. "If it's mandated that everyone have health insurance, than how can one be denied?"

Legislation passed this week by Congress and signed by President Obama that would end the practice of denying coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions does not go into effect until September.

The congenital heart defect causes the two major vessels that carry blood away from the heart to become switched.

"He was born with what's called transposition of the great arteries," Doug Tracy said. "It's heart wrenching; I hated it."

The Tracy's are both small business owners and do not carry health insurance for themselves. They do carry insurance on their two other children and tried to get insurance for Houston, but they found out Wednesday his coverage was denied.

The health care provider declined to comment specifically on the Tracys' case, and released this statement to KTVT:

"We will work closely with our customers to keep them informed of any changes that may result from the new law. We will continue to review the bill's requirements on our business and their respective time frames to ensure full compliance."

The Forth Worth Star-Telegram received this explanation from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas:

Our policy is that if a family has existing coverage with us, a baby can be added to the contract within 31 days without the need for underwriting to assess the baby's eligibility."

The condition Houston has is rarely detected before birth.

"My whole pregnancy was simple, it was easy, no complications, doctor visits were great," Houston's mother, Kim Tracy, said. "Perfect sonograms, great little pictures and then, he wasn't perfect."

Houston had life-saving surgery at Cook's Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth shortly after being born.

"He's doing really good," his mother said with a smile. "he's a little tough guy."

Why aren't all the right-wing anti-government people who believe that health reform legislation will get between them and their doctor not upset and screaming and holding rallies that insurance companies are truly the clog in the wheel of health care?

I don't get it!

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Cloward-Piven Conspiracy Theory

Glenn Beck, a T.V. personality and doomsday forecaster, refers to it. Jim Simpson, a self-described businessman and former George H.W. Bush White House budget analyst, is a leading proponent of it. David Horowitz, a conservative writer, coined the phrase for it.

So what is it? Richard Kim describes it in his essay, "The Mad Tea Party and the Cloward-Piven Conspiracy Theory."
Leftists like to say that another world is possible, but I was never quite sure of that until I started reading tea party websites. There, a government of leftists is not only possible, it's on the cusp of seizing permanent power, having broken American capitalism and replaced it with a socialist state. Down that rabbit hole, Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel are communists, and "The Left"--which encompasses everyone from the Democratic Leadership Council to Maoist sectarians--is a disciplined and near omnipotent army marching in lockstep to a decades-old master plan for domination called the "Cloward-Piven strategy" or, as of January 20, 2009, "Cloward-Piven government."
"What is this plot?"

According to David Horowitz, who apparently coined the expression, Cloward-Piven is "the strategy of forcing political change through orchestrated crisis." Named after sociologists and antipoverty and voting rights activists Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, who first elucidated it in a May 2, 1966, article for The Nation called "The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty," the Cloward-Piven strategy, in Horowitz's words, "seeks to hasten the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with a flood of impossible demands, thus pushing society into crisis and economic collapse." Like a fun-house-mirror version of Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine theory, the Cloward-Piven strategy dictates that the left will exploit that crisis to push through unpopular, socialist policies in a totalitarian manner.

Since Obama's election and the financial crash of 2008, Horowitz's description has been taken up by a clutch of tea party propagandists--from TV and radio hosts Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin to WorldNetDailyNational Joseph Farah, National Review editor Stanley Kurtz and The Obama Nation author Jerome Corsi--to explain how both events could have happened, here, in the U-S-A. In their historical narrative, it was Cloward and Piven's article that gave ACORN the idea to start peddling subprime mortgages to poor minorities in the 1980s, knowingly laying the groundwork for a global economic meltdown nearly thirty years later. Beck calls Cloward and Piven the two people who are "fundamentally responsible for the unsustainability and possible collapse of our economic system." It was Cloward and Piven who had the diabolical idea of registering (illegal or nonexistent) poor and minority voters through Project Vote and the Motor Voter Act, thus guaranteeing Obama's "fraudulent" victory. And it is the Cloward-Piven strategy that guides the Obama administration's every move to this day, as it seeks to ram through healthcare reform, economic stimulus and financial regulation (all of which, in reality, have enjoyed majority support in many polls taken during the last two years). [...]

There you have it. The world as we know it is being taken over by "Leftist!" As Kim notes, "All of this, of course, is a reactionary paranoid fantasy."

Nevertheless--history and facts be damned--it is Horowitz's caricature of Cloward-Piven that is now the Rosetta stone of American politics for the tea party's self-styled intellectuals. Glenn Beck has brought up Cloward and Piven on at least twenty-eight episodes of his show over the past year. Beck is sometimes aided by a blackboard on which he has diagramed something called "The Tree of Revolution," which links Che Guevara, SEIU and ACORN's Wade Rathke to Saul Alinsky, the Sierra Club's Carl Pope, Bill Ayers and, perhaps most improbably, to White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. In the center of the tree's arching trunk, above SDS and Woodrow Wilson (!?) but below Barack Obama, who adorns the tree's crown, Beck has scrawled "Cloward & Piven."

Beck's tree, however, is derivative of and pales in comparison with the flow chart created by Jim Simpson...

Suffice it to say, if Beck and crew believe half of this crap, they belong in an asylum in the middle of Shutter Island, where they can tend to their survival seeds and sleuth out imagined conspiracies apart from the rest of the human population. The danger, however, is that they will maroon a sizable portion of the electorate there with them. Since Obama's inauguration, references to the Cloward-Piven strategy have popped up with increasing frequency in op-eds and letters to the editor of local newspapers, including those in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Mexico. Snippets of Simpson's tome or Beck's rants appear frequently in the comments section of blogs and articles; a search for the term "Cloward-Piven strategy" generated more than 255,000 Google hits.

"Why does the Cloward-Piven conspiracy theory hold such appeal? And what, if anything, does it accomplish?"
On one level it's entertainment. It allows believers to tease out the left's secrets and sinister patterns. Since none of the evidence that supposedly confirms the existence of the Cloward-Piven strategy is, in fact, secret, this proves rather easy to do, and so the puzzle is both thrilling and gratifying.

On another level, the theory is an adaptive response to the tea party's fragmentation. As Jonathan Raban pointed out in The New York Review of Books, the tea party is an uneasy conclave of Ayn Rand secular libertarians and fundamentalist Christian evangelicals; it contains birthers, Birchers, racists, xenophobes, Ron Paulites, cold warriors, Zionists, constitutionalists, vanilla Republicans looking for a high and militia-style survivalists. Because the Cloward-Piven strategy is so expansive, it allows tea party propagandists to engage any one--or all--of the pet issues that incite these various constituencies. For some, the left's "offensive to promote illegal immigration" is "Cloward-Piven on steroids." For others, it is the Cloward-Piven "advocates of social change" who "used the Fed, which was complicit in the scheme" to "engineer" the 2008 fiscal crisis. In his speech at the tea party convention in Nashville, WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah notes that Obama was just 4 when the Cloward-Piven strategy was written. "We think," Farah said. He paused dramatically before adding, "Without the birth certificate we really just don't know," as a sizable portion of the audience broke into applause.[...]

And as of now, the Cloward-Piven strategy is most often used to put two classes of people on the tea party's enemies list: those who work for the Obama administration and those who work to increase the political power of poor people of color.[...]

Perhaps most critical, the Cloward-Piven conspiracy theory pushes the tea party's kettle closer to a boil. In its obsession with voter fraud and the potential illegitimacy of the 2008 election--and the democratic process itself--the conspiracy suggests a tit-for-tat strategy for victory: if the left is going to cynically manipulate the system to produce tyranny, then so will we. How? To begin, there's the tried-and-true tactic of suppressing the poor minority vote--which would next place Project Vote in the tea party's cross hairs. But why stop there? Like every good conspiracy theory, this one too is a call to arms.

This article sheds light onto the theory that forms the basis for the Tea Party conspirators as well as the lunatic talking heads and right-wing fringe. it is enlightening!

If the Tea Party proponents, the conspiracy theorists together with the right wing talking heads are jumping down the rabbit hole, does anyone know how to close the door?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

More than 18 Years Ago...

In October, 1992, Sinead O'Connor appeared on Saturday Night Live. Her performance has become infamous.
She was singing an a cappella version of Bob Marley's "War," which she intended as a protest over the sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, by changing the lyric "racism" to "child abuse." She then presented a photo of Pope John Paul II to the camera while singing the word "evil," after which she tore the photo into pieces, said "Fight the real enemy," and threw the pieces towards the camera.
O'Connor was harshly criticized for her action and ostracized by fans. In a 2002 interview with, at a time when more information was being uncovered about the Vatican's knowledge of the abuse of children by priests, she was asked if she would change anything about the SNL appearance. She replied, "Hell, no!"

Sinead O'Connor's personal experience with the church as a young girl coupled with Pope Benedict's recent hallow apology regarding the sexual abuse of priests, has led O'Connor to write a moving essay.

First watch her SNL performance from 1992 HERE. Then read her essay below.

Sinéad O'Connor - WAR - SNL -

The Washinton Post March 28,2010
When I was a child, Ireland was a Catholic theocracy. If a bishop came walking down the street, people would move to make a path for him. If a bishop attended a national sporting event, the team would kneel to kiss his ring. If someone made a mistake, instead of saying, "Nobody's perfect," we said, "Ah sure, it could happen to a bishop."

The expression was more accurate than we knew. This month, Pope Benedict XVI wrote a pastoral letter of apology -- of sorts -- to Ireland to atone for decades of sexual abuse of minors by priests whom those children were supposed to trust. To many people in my homeland, the pope's letter is an insult not only to our intelligence, but to our faith and to our country. To understand why, one must realize that we Irish endured a brutal brand of Catholicism that revolved around the humiliation of children.

I experienced this personally. When I was a young girl, my mother -- an abusive, less-than-perfect parent -- encouraged me to shoplift. After being caught once too often, I spent 18 months in An Grianán Training Centre, an institution in Dublin for girls with behavioral problems, at the recommendation of a social worker. An Grianán was one of the now-infamous church-sponsored "Magdalene laundries," which housed pregnant teenagers and uncooperative young women. We worked in the basement, washing priests' clothes in sinks with cold water and bars of soap. We studied math and typing. We had limited contact with our families. We earned no wages. One of the nuns, at least, was kind to me and gave me my first guitar.

An Grianán was a product of the Irish government's relationship with the Vatican -- the church had a "special position" codified in our constitution until 1972. As recently as 2007, 98 percent of Irish schools were run by the Catholic Church. But schools for troubled youth have been rife with barbaric corporal punishments, psychological abuse and sexual abuse. In October 2005, a report sponsored by the Irish government identified more than 100 allegations of sexual abuse by priests in Ferns, a small town 70 miles south of Dublin, between 1962 and 2002. Accused priests weren't investigated by police; they were deemed to be suffering a "moral" problem. In 2009, a similar report implicated Dublin archbishops in hiding sexual abuse scandals between 1975 and 2004.

Why was such criminal behavior tolerated? The "very prominent role which the Church has played in Irish life is the very reason why abuses by a minority of its members were allowed to go unchecked," the 2009 report said.

Despite the church's long entanglement with the Irish government, Pope Benedict's so-called apology takes no responsibility for the transgressions of Irish priests. His letter states that "the Church in Ireland must first acknowledge before the Lord and before others the serious sins committed against defenceless children." What about the Vatican's complicity in those sins?

Benedict's apology gives the impression that he heard about abuse only recently, and it presents him as a fellow victim: "I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them." But Benedict's infamous 2001 letter to bishops around the world ordered them to keep sexual abuse allegations secret under threat of excommunication -- updating a noxious church policy, expressed in a 1962 document, that both priests accused of sex crimes and their victims "observe the strictest secret" and be "restrained by a perpetual silence."

Benedict, then known as Joseph Ratzinger, was a mere cardinal when he wrote that letter. Now that he sits in Saint Peter's chair, are we to believe that his position has changed? And are we to take comfort in last week's revelations that, in 1996, he declined to defrock a priest who may have molested as many as 200 deaf boys in Wisconsin?

Benedict's apology states that his concern is "above all, to bring healing to the victims." Yet he denies them the one thing that might bring them healing -- a full confession from the Vatican that it has covered up abuse and is now trying to cover up the cover up. Astonishingly, he invites Catholics "to offer up your fasting, your prayer, your reading of Scripture and your works of mercy in order to obtain the grace of healing and renewal for the Church in Ireland." Even more astonishing, he suggests that Ireland's victims can find healing by getting closer to the church -- the same church that has demanded oaths of silence from molested children, as occurred in 1975 in the case of Father Brendan Smyth, an Irish priest later jailed for repeated sexual offenses. After we stopped laughing, many of us in Ireland recognized the idea that we needed the church to get closer to Jesus as blasphemy.

To Irish Catholics, Benedict's implication -- Irish sexual abuse is an Irish problem -- is both arrogant and blasphemous. The Vatican is acting as though it doesn't believe in a God who watches. The very people who say they are the keepers of the Holy Spirit are stamping all over everything the Holy Spirit truly is. Benedict criminally misrepresents the God we adore. We all know in our bones that the Holy Spirit is truth. That's how we can tell that Christ is not with these people who so frequently invoke Him.

Irish Catholics are in a dysfunctional relationship with an abusive organization. The pope must take responsibility for the actions of his subordinates. If Catholic priests are abusing children, it is Rome, not Dublin, that must answer for it with a full confession and a criminal investigation. Until it does, all good Catholics -- even little old ladies who go to church every Sunday, not just protest singers like me whom the Vatican can easily ignore -- should avoid Mass. In Ireland, it is time we separated our God from our religion, and our faith from its alleged leaders.

Almost 18 years ago, I tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II on an episode of "Saturday Night Live." Many people did not understand the protest -- the next week, the show's guest host, actor Joe Pesci, commented that, had he been there, "I would have gave her such a smack." I knew my action would cause trouble, but I wanted to force a conversation where there was a need for one; that is part of being an artist. All I regretted was that people assumed I didn't believe in God. That's not the case at all. I'm Catholic by birth and culture and would be the first at the church door if the Vatican offered sincere reconciliation.

As Ireland withstands Rome's offensive apology while an Irish bishop resigns, I ask Americans to understand why an Irish Catholic woman who survived child abuse would want to rip up the pope's picture. And whether Irish Catholics, because we daren't say "we deserve better," should be treated as though we deserve less.

Sinead O'Connor, a musician and mother of four, lives in Dublin.

Maybe somebody should have listened to her in 1992.

Republican Game Plan

Is there a game plan that is beneficial for the American people? Or is the GOP plan just to be obstructionists? WATCH:

History of Reform

Trapped Inside an Echo Chamber

Eric Boehlert analyzes, the "Fox News, health care, and the right-wing nervous breakdown." He asks, "So how did it all go so terribly wrong for health care haters?"
My hunch is that over the past few months, the right-wing media, along with self-adoring Tea Party members, made the mistake of believing their own hype. They convinced themselves that not only did 2 million people take to the streets of the nation's capital last September to protest Obama (a number that was off by 1.9 million), but that "millions" more had marched coast-to-coast over the past 12 months (a number that was completely fabricated). They fastidiously constructed their own parallel universe and convinced themselves that last summer's mini-mobs at local town hall forums had defeated health care reform. They thought their rowdy show of force, complete with Nazi and Hitler posters, and even some protesters parading around with loaded guns, had changed the debate.

Listening to Limbaugh, they thought they were dictating the agenda. Watching Fox News, they though they reflected the mainstream. And reading right-wing blogs, they thought they had killed health care reform.

What really happened?

Wrong, wrong, and wrong. It was the sudden and rude realization that, instead, they'd spent the past few months trapped inside an echo chamber, I think, that created the volcanic and unhinged response we've seen play out in recent days. It's the kind of childish and hysterical reaction I didn't think we'd ever witness from a major political movement.

What if Democrats behaved as if the sky was falling?

Indeed, imagine if this is how progressives and Democrats had behaved during the run-up to the Iraq war, the last time the country found itself in this kind of national public policy "debate." Imagine if the liberal pundits and opinion makers had reacted to the prospect of war not with thoughtful anti-war analysis (analysis that, it turned out, was dead on), but instead opted for tantrums and shameful vitriol, the way right-wing pundits have in recent days and weeks.

For instance, imagine if the anti-war movement, and its highest-profile media supporters, had attacked military families whose sons and daughters were fighting in Iraq as the invasion unfolded. That kind of abhorrent behavior would have been universally condemned as just being beyond the pale. Yet last week, as its opposition to reform grew increasingly futile, the GOP Noise Machine dedicated lots of time and energy to mocking and attacking cancer-stricken patients, as well as a motherless 11-year-old boy who had the audacity to speak out in favor of health care reform.

Limbaugh's immortal words to the boy: "Your mom would have still died, because Obamacare doesn't kick in until 2014."

How do you describe this kind of erratic, disturbed behavior?

To me, the attacks indicated a withering of the right-wing media's shrinking moral compass, not to mention common sense. (Mocking the seriously ill is a winning political strategy?) It was another tell-tale sign of the unfolding, and unstoppable, nervous breakdown.

Because how else do you describe this kind of erratic, disturbed behavior? And it's worth repeating: This wasn't coming from minor, fringe players. It's been coming from the supposed leading lights of the conservative media; leading lights who, blinded by paranoia, have suffered a collective collapse and can no longer make sense of their surroundings.

There's more tho this article. Read complete article HERE.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"We are in a dangerous place."

John Cory has a most compelling article, "The Surreal With the Fringe on Top."

Tea Party rally, Washington, DC, a protester wraps himself in an  American flag, 12/07/09. (photo: Getty Images)

Tea Party rally, Washington, DC, a protester wraps himself in an American flag, 12/07/09. (photo: Getty Images)

Reader Supported News | Perspective

It was supposed to be about humaneness and empathy and our social contract with each other. It was supposed to be about compassion and caring for one another like we would do unto ourselves. It was about health and healing and caring.

It became shouts of "nigger" and "faggot" and "baby killer." It became spit dripping off a Congressman and faxes with "nooses" and racial slurs and phone calls to the homes and family members with vile and threatening and disgusting messages from good "Christian" Americans.

It became vandalism against Democratic offices across the country. It became vandalism or maybe worse against the brother of a Congressman when his address was listed on Tea Party web sites and elsewhere.

When told the address was not the Congressman's, but his brother and his wife and four young children, Nigel Coleman responded: "Do you mean I posted his brother's address on my Facebook? Oh well, collateral damage."

And now 10 Democratic members of Congress find the need for extra security for their families and themselves.

The GOP leaders may try to distance themselves by calling these incidents "isolated." Or using Bill Bennett's logic: "Crude judgments about race is what the left does. The isolated idiots on our side who do this are not only wrong, but adopting the tactics of the left."

Mealy-mouthed denunciations, while castigating liberals, is nothing more than tacit approval of violence and vigilante mob mentality.

We are past the playground snickers of sticks-and-stones. We are past so-called "heated rhetoric." We are long past decency and decorum.

We are in a dangerous place.

The GOP has warmly embraced the Tea Party movement and its offspring. Will the GOP step forward and condemn them now? Strongly and forcefully?

People will get hurt. And who will be first to deny that their words and encouragement had anything to do with a "few crazies?" The GOP.

You can stop this, Republicans. You should stop this, Republicans. You must stop this, Republicans, or you are nothing more than accomplices in the reckless endangerment of citizens and families and the very democracy you claim to love.

Or you can choose to play politics with people's lives because of the power it might give you. After all, what is power without some collateral damage?

It was supposed to be about something good.

It was supposed to be about loving our neighbor as ourselves.

It was supposed to be about life.

It is now about death and destruction and decimation.

It has become surreal with the fringe on top.

Time To Chill

Inflammatory language has become the norm for the Republican Party. Whether the leaders of Congress actually mean what they say is not the point. The lack of civility is turning into negative actions by their followers.

It began with racial epithets and homophobic slurs.
Democrats in Congress have received threatening letters. They have had bricks thrown through their office windows. Is this vandalism or terrorism?

Rachel Maddow dedicated her show to the issue of 'Intimidation.' WATCH:

The Republicans tried to explain the reasons for the anger before they acknowledged the inappropriateness of the actions.

Rachel Maddow has an excellent analogy of the situation. "If you set a brush fire you are responsible for where it goes and where it burns." The politicians and conservative talking heads need to be responsible and accountable for the violence that is erupting.

Via Crooks and Liars:
"We get to vote every couple of years or so. Violence is for dictatorships, not democracies. Like it or not, they're not going to turn the US into
Teabagistan, no matter how hard they wish it, or how nasty they get."

The Bush Hand Wipe

Bush wipes his hand on Clinton's shirt after he shakes hands with Haitian residents. WATCH:

The Party of NO...

as heard through the screams of John Boehner.

Some are suggesting that this will be
the Republican party anthem of the 2010 elections.

No More Excuses


"Wingnuts" Hijacking Our Politics

The Harris Poll has the results of a poll that surveyed 2,320 adults online between March 1 and 8, 2010 regarding beliefs held about President Barack Obama.
A new book, Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America by John Avlon describes the large numbers of Americans who hold extreme views of President Obama. This Harris Poll seeks to measure how many people are involved. It finds that 40% of adults believe he is a socialist. More than 30% think he wants to take away Americans' right to own guns and that he is a Muslim. More than 25% believe he wants to turn over the sovereignty of the United States to a world government, has done many things that are unconstitutional, that he resents America's heritage, and that he does what Wall Street tells him to do.

More than 20% believe he was not born in the United States, that he is "the domestic enemy the U.S. Constitution speaks of," that he is racist and anti-American, and that he "wants to use an economic collapse or terrorist attack as an excuse to take dictatorial powers." Fully 20% think he is "doing many of the things that Hitler did," while 14% believe "he may be the anti-Christ" and 13% think "he wants the terrorists to win."

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,320 adults surveyed online between March 1 and 8, 2010 by Harris Interactive.

The actual percentages of adults who believe these things are true are as follows:

* He is a socialist (40%)
* He wants to take away Americans' right to own guns (38%)
* He is a Muslim (32%)
* He wants to turn over the sovereignty of the United States to a one world government (29%)
* He has done many things that are unconstitutional (29%)
* He resents America's heritage (27%)
* He does what Wall Street and the bankers tell him to do (27%)
* He was not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president (25%)
* He is a domestic enemy that the U.S. Constitutions speaks of (25%)
* He is a racist (23%)
* He is anti-American (23%)
* He wants to use an economic collapse or terrorist attack as an excuse to take dictatorial powers (23%)
* He is doing many of the things that Hitler did (20%)
* He may be the Anti-Christ (14%)
* He wants the terrorists to win (13%)

What Republicans, Democrats and Independents think

There are – no surprise here – huge differences between what Republicans and Democrats believe.

While few Democrats believe any of these things, the proportions of Independents who do so are close to the national averages.

One big surprise is that many more Republicans (40%) than Democrats (15%) believe the president does what Wall Street and the bankers tell him to do.

Differences by education

These replies are also strongly correlated with education. The less education people have had the more likely they are to believe all of these statements.

After reviewing these findings, John Avlon comments, "These new numbers are shocking but not surprising – they detail the extent to which Wingnuts are hijacking our politics. This poll should be a wake-up call to all Americans about the real costs of using fear and hate to pump up hyper-partisanship. We are playing with dynamite by demonizing our president and dividing our country in the process. Americans need to remember the perspective that Wingnuts always forget – patriotism is more important than partisanship."

So what?

So what indeed! These responses recall a favorite saying of our founder Lou Harris that "when you don't want to publish a poll finding you dislike, you should get out of the business." The very large numbers of people who believe all these things of President Obama help to explain the size and strength of the Tea Party Movement, a topic that will be addressed in another Harris Poll in a few days time.
According to John Avlon, "It should be a wake up call to all Americans and a collective reminder, as we move past health-care reform, that we need to stand up to extremism."

Is Domestic Terrorism Rising?

The Reality of Job Loss in the US

Via Dave Johnson from Campaign for America's Future:

Everyone knows that we have lost a lot of jobs to China since 2001. Now you can find out exactly how many, and where.

The Alliance for American Manufacturing and Economic Policy Institute released a report today titled, “Unfair China Trade Costs Local Jobs” by EPI's Robert Scott. Along with the report AAM has set up a website with an interactive map that shows job losses to by state and Congressional District.


Click the map.

It's bad. According to the report, between 2001 and 2008, 2.4 million jobs were lost or displaced with losses occurring in every Congressional district. (Note - This report does not track service industry job losses, and does not track indirect job losses.)

Here's the surprise: since 2001 we have lost more tech jobs than manufacturing jobs! -- We lost 628,000 tech jobs -26 percent of all jobs displaced by trade- between 2001 and 2008.

The main unfair advantages China uses to its advantage are:
1) Currency manipulation. China "pegs" its currency at a very low, or "weak" rate, so goods from China cost up to 40% less than they otherwise should.
2) Labor-rights suppression has lowered manufacturing wages of Chinese workers by 47% to 86%.
3) There is massive direct government subsidization of export production in many key industries.
4) China allows environmental degradation that ends up affecting all of us.
5) Intellectual property theft and piracy mean that American products that could be sold are stolen instead.
6) China has a number of policies that block U.S. firms from market access.

I joined a press conference call announcing this report, with Senators Charles Shumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Senators Schumer and Graham are introducing legislation in which "the wiggle room will be gone" and the Treasury Department must cite the Chinese for currency manipulation if currency is misaligned without having to say there is "intent," and impose additional penalties. Schumer:

"In the past Dem and Rep admins turned a blind eye to this problem. We are tired of the Chinese not playing by the rules that everyone else has to play by.

Later on the call Senator Schumer said,

Imagine if you had two stores across the street and one had a 40% price advantage – could charge 40% less than the other, where do you think people would shop?

[. . .] Every day we wait is a day we lose wealth, we lose economic advantage, we lose jobs.

Sen. Graham,

It is hard for American political leaders to keep their head in the sand any longer. ... To ignore China''s currency manipulation is to ignore economic reality and the way economics works. ... I am hopeful they [the Treasury Dept.] will go ahead and speak truth to power and the truth is that China's currency is misaligned.

Previous administrations allowed all of this to continue with impunity. It is time to do something about it and bring the world's trade back toward some kind of balance.

The Money-Changers

It's time to throw the money-changers out of the temple of higher-education. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Nov 2006
Kevin Connor
has a report "on the ties between the private student lending industry and the six Democratic anti-reform Senators" in "The Money-Changers in the Senate."

Moneychangers In The Senate (PDF)

The student loan industry faces a serious challenge from advocates who question the reason for its existence, which is premised on massive, inefficient government subsidies.

With billions in profits on the line, banks have waged an intensive, multimillion-dollar political and lobbying campaign to maintain the status quo: subsidies for the banks, at students' expense.

Their expensive campaign has won them some support. On March 9, six Democratic senators—Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark.; Mark Warner, D-Va.; Tom Carper, D-Del.; Ben Nelson, D-Neb.; Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Jim Webb, D-Va.—sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to make him "aware of our concern" about reform efforts and urging consideration of "potential alternative legislative proposals."

What would prompt six senators to oppose efforts aimed at reducing lending costs by cutting out superfluous money-changers? The answer, of course, is the power of money, as deployed through a combination of campaign contributions and strategic lobbyist hires.

This report documents the extensive ties between the six senators and major players in the student loan industry. Read full report »HERE.
Sara Robinson puts forth several reasons why the conservatives want to keep the government out of the student loan business in her report, Student Loans: The Right's Hidden Agenda.

President Obama's "no-brainer" suggestion that the government get back into the direct lending business has such obvious fiscal merit that you'd think it would melt the heart of the most obdurate conservative. But it's getting resistance anyway -- which is proof that there's more than money at stake here. This proposal threatens two of the conservatives' most cherished goals; and they're willing to waste as much taxpayer money as it takes to keep us from backsliding away from the progress they've made.

The first goal is preserving privatization. The conservatives have been telling us for 40 years that there's nothing the government can do that the free market can't do better. Of course, most of us really get it now that "privatization" really means "paying 25% more for the same stuff and letting the private sector skim off the profit while sticking us with the messes." While privatization has worked well in some areas, it's been a disaster in others -- and this is one of them.

Robinson finds that the goal of the conservatives is to keep school loans with the private sector because of "the right wing's fundamental distrust of the middle class."

One of their big takeaways from the 1960s was that giving the masses a high level of education (as the GI Bill and the generous educational subsidies to the Boomers did) is one of the worst mistakes a would-be aristocracy can make. Send 'em to college, and the next thing you know, you've got a big, boisterous, pushy middle class pouring out into the streets demanding their "rights," asking the rich to share their wealth, questioning their bought-and-paid for government policies, and devising technocratic "fixes" to problems the corporate masters really would rather ignore. You can't manipulate 'em -- they're too smart for that -- so you can't make 'em do what you want. The upshot is exactly the kind of social chaos no self-respecting plutocrat should ever let happen on their watch.

Seen this way, defunding education -- especially higher education -- for the middle class and poor was one of the conservatives' most important (and effective) strategies for pulling the plug on the whole postwar progressive project. Best of all: over time, it blunted the influence of that despised class of degreed professionals (journalists, lawyers, accountants, engineers, biologists, etc. etc. etc.) who once aggressively monitored private industry on behalf of the public interest. Without those watchful eyes and ears, it got much easier for corporations to do whatever they pleased.

This essential hostility to higher education is the basic reason that there are now only two avenues left for a smart poor or middle-class kid who wants public help to get through college. The first is to sell your soul. The second is to sell your body.

Sell Your Soul
Soul-selling means taking on private student loans at interest rates so bogglingly high that you'll be up to your to eyebrow piercings in debt until you're 40. Once you're out of school and dragged down by that six-figure debt, they've got you trapped. The only way to afford an education is to sell your ideals for a corporate job you wouldn't have taken in your worst nightmares otherwise.
Sell Your Body
The other way is to demand that you underprivileged brats first join the military and put life and limb on the line in the service of the empire -- an experience that they reckon will make you safe to educate (assuming, of course, that you survive it at all, or aren't rendered senseless by a TBI). You'll be inducted into the military-industrial complex, indoctrinated in the conservative (or perhaps even fundamentalist Christian) worldview, broken of any insurrectionist tendencies, and rendered obedient and disciplined enough that any of that commie-fascist-terrorist liberal arts stuff they'll try to teach you later on at college will be less likely to stick.
What To Do?

This really is a no-brainer. Let's tell the conservatives that their ideas are out of date and wrong -- and then get the government back in the business of investing directly in our kids, and our future.

Click here to tell your Senators: Don't let lobbyists gut student loan reform.