The Opposition

DDWe have become a country of opposition. Not opposites, but opposition: the difference is subtle yet important. Opposites stand on different sides of the same process. Sight reading or phonetics, the goal is to teach reading. Opposites have different strategies but share the same goals; they have a common commitment. It is how the Republican-led senate under Bob Dole passed the King Holiday bill. How Hillary ended up voting for Halliburton’s war fund. Opposites, surprisingly, are often eager to accommodate and make their differences less important, to claim the high ground.

Opposition, on the other hand, creates two distinctively different processes. Opposition fundamentally changes the nature of politics. Opposition places its emphasis on winning, gaining greater power, protecting its position, and accumulating wealth. More importantly, opposition can exist even when there is only one player. It can undertake its mission even if the other political players refused to engage. Republicans have turned opposition into a one-sided game.

Opposition (not opposites!) reigns on health care, budgets, women’s issues, foreign policy, military budgets, education, income, media, guns, crime, race, voting, the environment, regional conflicts, food and speech. That’s the short list.

In opposition states, powerful economic forces are quietly establishing shadow governments. Their first opposition task is to reshape public opinion in these key states. Here, in South Carolina, well before the March 30 deadline for candidate filings, a massive barrage of ads began with the intent of shaping voters attitudes and politics. Daily, voters are asked to reject the expansion of Medicaid in a state at the bottom of every health matrix. The opposition treasure chest is so huge it can conduct guerrilla operations in plain sight within states without the rest of the country knowing what is going on. The opposition is tireless in its efforts to win applause for appalling lies.

The main tool of opposition strategy is micro-management. Campaigns, ads, legislation, miscues are cause to pounce and magnify every wedge and thorn, all behind a media fortress where the misrepresentations can not be engaged. Media is no longer a tool of communications. For the opposition, it is also a barricade. The opposition uses media as a shield while making false claims highly visible.

At one point, corporate opposition claimed increasing levels of carbon dioxide would “green” the planet. “They call it pollution, we call it life!” one series of ads claimed. The opposition has tried to redefine rape, make women issues about the pocketbook even as they oppose raising wages and disenfranchise voters as they claim to be protecting voting as a constitutional right.

But nowhere has the opposition been more egregious than on the issue of child safety in South Carolina.

Children under the protection of the state ought to be safe from death, but in 2012 in South Carolina, 76 children died while assigned to the state’s Department of Social Services (DSS). That’s an average of more than one a week. The state’s governor, Nikki Haley, vigorously defends her DSS director, saying under her tenure the death rate for South Carolina children under DSS care had fallen by 25 percent—from 101—nearly two a week, on average.

This macabre reasoning is a big part of the new opposition at the core of politics, in which the opposition puts an optimistic face on tragedy, citing cheery claims of success in the face of massive failure. Sometimes the opposition will do the opposite: it will blow up a tragedy to epic proportions so that the grief is entirely out of balance. Either way, the opposition tries to tip the moral scale. Continue reading The Opposition

The Anti-Christ (for Dummies)

nance2Anti: Opposed to; against.
Christ: Central figure of the Christian faith and originator of its teachings.

Christ told his followers to feed the hungry.

If you are an elected representative who votes to cut off food stamp recipients, you are  anti-Christ.  You are also a despicable human being.

Christ admonished true believers to treat others as they themselves wished to be treated.

If you are a politician who supports laws that treat women, gays/lesbians, those of another faith, race or ethnicity as unequal, you are anti-Christ.  You are also a dumbass bigot.

Christ told his flock that they are their brother’s keeper.

If you fail to “keep” your brother by refusing to extend his unemployment benefits in his time of dire need, you are anti-Christ.  You are also a selfish prick.

Christ bade those who truly loved Him to give up their worldly possessions, and come follow Him.

If you are a mega-church minister living in luxury thanks to church members donating money they can ill afford to do without, you are anti-Christ.  You are also the lowest form of scum imaginable.

Christ said that as we do to the least among us, so we do unto Him.

If you vilify those whose very survival depends on government assistance by calling them lazy parasites who are sucking the nation’s coffers dry, you are anti-Christ.  You are also a lying little fuck.

Christ clearly stated that we should care for the sick and dying.

If you are a governor who refuses to expand Medicaid because your standing among fellow Party members might be negatively affected if you do so, you are anti-Christ.  You are also an arrogant asshole for thinking that your political aspirations are more important than those you condemn to sickness and death.

Christ said, “Blessed are the Peacemakers”.

If you are a politician who promotes war over diplomacy, you are anti-Christ.  You are also a coward who would see others die rather than be labelled a bleeding heart liberal by your warmongering political colleagues.

If you fill your campaign coffers or your collection plate by doing any or all of the above while holding yourself out as a Christian, you are anti-Christ.  You are also a self-serving,  hypocrite whose actions are beneath contempt. Continue reading The Anti-Christ (for Dummies)

Stormy Monday, 4/21/14

StormyMondayAmong other heightened security precautions, helicopter flyovers were conducted over Boston as law enforcement officials scanned for signs of excessive radiation in advance of today’s marathon. If all goes well and the roughly 36,000 expected participants and many thousands of spectators remain safe, an added bonus is that Big Papi won’t have occasion to utter the F-word to a sold-out Fenway this year. Unless it’s regarding the inability of the Sox to play .500 ball through their first 19 games, of course.

Deadbeat Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy continues to host dozens of heavily armed nimrods who apparently believe the Bill of Rights somehow guarantees freedom from grazing fees, or something. Compounding the nimrod factor, Nevada Senator Dean Heller, a – surprise! – Republican, recently described Bundy’s flea-bitten mob of sycophants as “patriots” and is now demanding a Senate hearing into the brouhaha.

The President heads to Asia on Tuesday for an eight-day junket including stops in Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and the Philippines. He’ll likely tout the supposed benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the sprawling, dubious multilateral trade deal whose negotiations the Administration has admitted are currently at an impasse over a variety of issues. The trip was originally scheduled for last fall, but was postponed when Republicans decided to stamp their collective feet, hold their collective breath, and shut down the government.

Conveniently, perhaps too conveniently, the rescheduled trip comes on the heels of the Administration’s shocking refusal to respond to an online petition to deport Justin Bieber, a petition which garnered almost three times the signatures officially required to trigger a response. Really, Mr. President? Really? Continue reading Stormy Monday, 4/21/14

Sunday Talks, 4/20/14

So light ‘em up, folks. Here we go! (And don’t forget to share the Easter candy!)

On ABC’s This Week, House Homeland Security Committee Chair Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and former New York City police . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 4/20/14

Friday Talking Points [300] -- Our 4/20 Acronym Contest Challenge

FTP3Three hundred of these columns? To coin a phrase… far out, man.

We’ll get to patting ourselves on the back in a bit, but first we’d like to propose a party game for this weekend’s big 4/20 festivities across the land. So put this in your (metaphorical) pipe and smoke it.

The rules for this contest are pretty simple. First, you’ve got to picture a day in the future when the Weed Wars are completely over, with marijuana reform having won the biggest victory of all: a complete change in the federal government’s viewpoint. Not just rescheduling, but descheduling, in other words. The feds throw in the towel and decide to treat marijuana not as a dangerous and illegal drug, but as a regulated vice like tobacco and alcohol. In other words, total victory for the reformers.

OK, got that image in your mind? Here’s where you need to get creative. If marijuana is descheduled, what would happen to it, in terms of the federal government? Well, they would take it away from the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and hand it off to the official “vice control” agency. But (and here’s where the contest comes in) then they’d have to rename this agency.

The obvious choice would be to add it to what used to just be called “ATF” or sometimes “BATF” — the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. This name was expanded a while back to include explosives, making “BATFE.” Now, the easiest way to change the name gives us a rather strange acronym for the new Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, Explosives, and Marijuana: “BATFEM.” Um… we’re not sure that’s an improvement over “Batgirl,” really.

So our challenge is to come up with a better acronym. The rules: you can use either “marijuana” or “cannabis,” and you can change “bureau” to “agency” or “commission” or any other governmental collective noun. This means you can add an M or C to the core letters A, T, F, and E; and then use a B or A or C (or whatever) at either end. Got that? So who has a better acronym than BATFEM for the real end to marijuana reform: what to call the bureau or agency that would federally regulate marijuana? This once seemed like pie in the sky — too much to even hope for — but is now within the bounds of possibility. So scramble those letters, and post your entries in the comments! Get creative!

As we’ve noted in these pages for the past few months, 2014 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for marijuana reform. The Colorado and Washington experiments are proceeding apace, the Attorney General is now actually “cautiously optimistic” about the success of these experiments, and the only real question people are asking is “which state will be next?” Alaska may move first, as full legalization is on the ballot there in August.

However, not everyone is on board (just to get serious for a moment). The head of the Drug Enforcement Agency tried his hand at a little scaremongering in front of Congress, warning that with legal marijuana edibles lying around, there was an increased risk of dogs eating it with harmful consequences. The prompted one of the most brutal takedowns of such propaganda we’ve ever read (from the Washington Post), which provides a long list of dogs mercilessly killed by drug raids gone horribly wrong. It’s not for the faint of heart, and neither is this equally-brutal takedown which lists 13 human victims killed by Drug War hysteria.

In non-marijuana news, Vladimir Putin has finally responded to my April Fool’s Day column (well, not really…) by insisting that Alaska is too cold for Russia to want to annex: “Is Alaska really in the Southern Hemisphere? It’s cold there, too. Let’s not get hot-headed.” No word yet on any response (hot-headed or not) from Sarah Palin.

What else? The Pulitzer awards were handed out to the reporters which covered the Edward Snowden story, surprising exactly nobody. The federal government decided — after getting some justifiably bad press — they would no longer attempt to collect questionable “debts” that were over ten years old. Here’s just one of the stories of the folks caught up in this effort:

Mary Grice, a federal worker who lives in Takoma Park, Md., never got the refunds she was expecting to see in her mailbox this year. The government seized her checks because of a $2,996 debt that was supposedly incurred under her father’s Social Security number. Her father died in 1960, when she was 4, and her mother received survivors’ benefits thereafter.

But 37 years passed between when the Social Security agency says it overpaid someone in the Grice family and when Mary Grice’s refund was taken. She was unable to find out from the agency exactly who received the overpayment — her mother or perhaps her father’s first wife, both of whom are no longer living.

There’s a word for this sort of thing: Biblical. “Visiting the sins of the fathers on the sons,” to be blunt, should not be the policy of the federal government, and we’re glad someone woke up and realized this.

We’ve got some idiocy from Republicans to highlight in the talking points, but here is one item up front, just because. Scott Brown, former senator from Massachusetts, would now like to become the future senator from New Hampshire (after getting beaten by Elizabeth Warren in the Bay State). Speaking at a rally for Brown was former New Hampshire governor John Sununu, who made a rather bizarre pitch that tried to tie Senator Jeanne Shaheen (the Democrat Brown is challenging in New Hampshire) to other Democratic senators, saying: “She votes with Elizabeth Warren. She votes with [Ed] Markey. She is the third senator from Massachusetts.” Um, really? You really think that line’s going to work to promote an actual former senator from Massachusetts? I guess John Sununu thinks New Hampshire voters are pretty dumb.

And, finally, some non-idiocy from the Republican Party of Nevada. At their party convention last weekend, they decided to jettison the planks of their party platform which opposed same-sex marriage and abortion. This is an attempt to move the party away from these hot-button social issues, and it bears watching to see if the GOP in other states decides to follow Nevada’s lead or not. We’re guessing “not,” but we could always be wrong….

 

Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

Obamacare had another very good week, but we’re going to get to that in the talking points as well, so we’ll just mention it here in passing.

John Kerry had a pretty good week as well, pulling together a fragile agreement to de-escalate tensions in Ukraine. It remains to be seen whether it’ll work or not, but the surprise was that anything was agreed to at all — expectations that Kerry could deliver were pretty low, before the announcement.

And while it’s not exactly award-worthy, we have to at least mention the fact that Chelsea Clinton is pregnant. This is going to be a photo-op goldmine for Hillary, for the next few years. “This is my family” images with Baby Clinton should be seen as both inevitable and soon-to-be-adorable, at this point. Like I said, the news that Hillary will be a grandmother isn’t exactly award-worthy, but it will indeed positively influence her upcoming campaign. Continue reading Friday Talking Points [300] — Our 4/20 Acronym Contest Challenge

The Killing of America's Social Promise

DDIt’s amazing how lies persist. It’s mind-boggling how widely they are believed. It’s baffling how far and frequently lies are distributed. Lies kill the usefulness and benefits of truth, destroy its purpose. Lies take a large, tragic toll. Yet on they roll—spread and framed; applauded by people without shame. It’s astonishing how many people openly embrace their damage.

Many of the great temples and statues of Asia, marvels of human ingenuity and indefatigability, an awe-inspiring celebration of great common works, were pulled down in our times and destroyed by lies. Stone faces carved by hands thousands of years ago were smashed. Their rubble litters the courtyards that were once grand entrances of power or prayer. In Iraq, antiquities were looted. In Egypt, the artifacts of a vaunted history were stolen.

But lies don’t smash or loot—yes, they do! They guide the hands that do. They encourage and justify the actions.

Now lies have come home to kill.

An old man who spent 20 years in military service sworn to protect America has murdered three of the country’s own innocents—a 14-year-old child and his 69-year-old grandfather, a 53-year-old woman visiting her mother—and then yelled a repugnant salute of one of history’s leaders of genocide from the police car where he sat handcuffed. He pulled the trigger, but the murders were committed by lies.

Old biases live in death. In those who are without the moral intelligence to see that hate is blind and absurd, an evil of blame not righteousness. To preserve itself, the lie has to find a way to cross over and become an act. That act is a bright mirror of destruction on a global and personal scale. It might be a political act, a territory grab, or legislation. But it might be the lie repeated as a bullet. Truth rarely kills. Virtually every gun death is attached to a lie; whether it be domestic or social or political, the trigger pull is caused by false beliefs. Continue reading The Killing of America’s Social Promise

Stormy Monday, 4/14/14

StormyMondayYou’re no doubt delighted that your hardworking Congressional representatives have begun their desperately needed two-week break to recharge their batteries, get a little spring sun on their overwhelmingly white and male faces, and mull over “new” legislative ideas that haven’t a prayer of becoming law (which of course is, mostly, a good thing). On the brighter side, Virginia Democrat Jim Moran’s notion of adding a new housing stipend to Congressional remuneration appears to be a non-starter, so at least they’ll be lollygagging at their existing undeserved rate of pay.

Meanwhile, 2.4 million unemployed Americans will spend the same two weeks tearing their hair out over unpaid bills, wondering how they’re going to feed their kids, and continuing not to matter worth a damn to Republicans.

John Boehner kicked off his spring break today with a surprise visit to Afghanistan, accompanied by seven senior House Republicans. He’s expected to hug anyone in uniform he sees, lurch aimlessly around the streets of Kabul in search of happy hour, and top off the junket with a tear-stained tribute to whatever the hell it is American troops are supposed to be accomplishing there.

Following the Bureau of Land Management’s weekend return of 400 confiscated head of cattle back to deadbeat Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, the ludicrous confrontation between the government and Bundy’s creepy nitwit militia buddies appears to be over, at least until the BLM attempts to pursue other remedies against the scofflaw and the nitwits get all riled up again. Stay tuned.

Today and tomorrow in New York, China and the United States will hold talks on dealing with North Korea, followed by a third session in Washington on Thursday. While I have no expertise in international relations, it seems to me the two nations could do worse than shipping 400 head of cattle Kim Jong-un’s way for starters. It might at least buy a little time. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 4/14/14

Friday Talking Points [299] -- Happy 50th, Civil Rights Act Of 1964!

FTP3We have some “old business” to take care of here, first, before we begin. Last week, the subtitle of this column was “And Counting,” which referred to the 7.1 million signup figure reached by the Obamacare exchanges. Our point was for all Democrats to always tack this phrase onto any stat quoted about Obamacare, to make a very basic point. We’re happy to report that one week later, the official number has now changed. Which means the new slogan is:

“Obamacare signups: 7.5 million. And counting.”

OK, enough of that, let’s get on with the week that was. Tax time is right around the corner, and the I.R.S. is in the news again, and not in a good way. Seems due to a clause someone (nobody will admit to it) in Congress tacked on to a bill awhile back, the federal government can now go back further than 10 years to collect unpaid debts. Doesn’t sound so controversial, until you hear what “unpaid debts” really means to them: some ancient overpayment from the government (on Social Security, for instance) that they don’t even have records to prove — which were overpaid not to the people the I.R.S. is now going after, but instead, to their parents. Wow. I mean, just… wow. Paul Ryan better hope his family’s paperwork was in order.

This week was a big week for women’s rights, as the Senate pushed for an Equal Pay Act to “celebrate” Equal Pay Day. It was filibustered (of course), which just sets Democrats up in the upcoming campaign to push home the fact that one party cares about women’s rights and one party clearly does not. Republican responses to the whole issue ran from disrespectful to disdainful to insulting all the way up to kissing the women’s vote goodbye completely. When asked what Republicans would do instead on equal pay, the response was: pretty much nothing at all. Democrats are, reportedly, ready and willing to take this case to the voters out on the campaign trail. To top off this week in the ongoing War On Women, a Republican House member was caught on security camera (in his own office, no less) sucking face with a married underling. By week’s end, the aide was out of work, but Representative Vance McAllister — a “family values” kind of guy — was defiantly still in office.

Let’s see, what else? Two key pages of the Senate report on torture leaked out, so check them out if you want a preview (the two pages are a bullet list of conclusions) of the firestorm that is just around the corner, if the 400-page summary is ever released to the public. From just two pages, it seems pretty damning.

Charles Krauthammer offered up some sage advice for his fellow Republicans this week, on the subject of Benghazi, which can be summed up as: get over it — put it behind you. The chances Darrell Issa will follow Krauthammer’s advice are in the slim-to-none category, however.

The House passed Paul Ryan’s budget this week, and Democrats seem downright eager to use it out on the campaign trail, which is always a good sign. So far, President Obama’s had a crack at it, and Elizabeth Warren took the fight to Ryan’s home ground. This is who the GOP are — that’s the main message Democrats need to get across. So far, they seem to be doing a pretty good job of it.

Attorney General Eric Holder had an eventful week in front of Congress. After getting into a testy exchange with Louie “Aspersions On My Asparagus” Gohmert, Holder got in the final word: “Good luck with your asparagus.”

Kidding aside, though, Holder did get some pointed questions from the left as well as from the right. In particular, on why he refuses to reschedule marijuana — which could easily be one of those “my pen and my phone” executive actions Obama and Holder could take (the federal Controlled Dangerous Substances Act which set up the schedules clearly says the Attorney General can move a substance from one schedule to another with just a signature). Holder’s answers were less than responsive, shall we say, and basically consisted of “we’d be happy to work with Congress to do so” — which dodges the point entirely. Continue reading Friday Talking Points [299] — Happy 50th, Civil Rights Act Of 1964!

Life After the One Percent

DDI don’t know any members of the one percent, but my daughter does. She’s my eyes and ears in their camp. She’s been trained since birth to observe, synthesize and project at multiple levels, with the virtue and creativity of the human experience at the center of her assessments. We complain about the violations of privacy via our phones and e-mails, but the massive collection of our electronic imprint has no meaning without the hands and minds of people—and we should be focused on their intent along their methods.

History shows that the end game matters. And the goals of the game. I have always been less concerned about surveillance round-ups and wrongful prosecutions than I have about willful prosecutions—the kind I see in Florida and other states, where often those in the cross-hairs don’t reach the courtrooms.

Every police department now has the firepower—and mentality—of a paramilitary unit on rogue missions with a wink and little oversight from the state. New York City had the widest net, but other cities occupied neighborhoods in the name of crime which never seemed to drop. And when it did, it was rarely related to the local version of stop-and-frisk. Neighborhoods don’t require mass round-ups or the concentration camps supposedly being built somewhere in the northwest. Local rogue missions hide behind a screen of local crime and stereotypes; it parallels the gangs; it spirals until communities in the cities are isolated, targeted by legal and illegal operators until they spin out of control and the mechanisms of group actions required for safety and safe passage are broken down. Recording these cell phone calls didn’t improve security or domestic tranquility for many older working neighborhoods in urban areas.

In fact, I wish Florida had an accessible electronic database of calls in the case of Trayvon Martin. A quick check would have shown calls to his father, who lived in the complex where he was walking, and that he was talking to a friend about the usual teenage things. Maybe electronic surveillance would have exonerated him.

It’s a fantasy—and a stretch—but you see my point: the rapid accumulation of police and citizen armed confrontations with other citizens is increasing, and the alarm is silent. We are monitoring the wrong things. But America habitually looks the wrong way.

Turn your attention to the states for a moment. Both Florida and Virginia have developed state standards that are set at different levels by race and ethnicity. Asians and whites have to meet higher standards than blacks and Hispanics. Hear the outrage? No? Learning itself is being re-segregated by developing a two-tier system for knowledge, even when students attend the same schools. Discrimination, in the form of inequality, is officially mandated by the state.

In the meantime, in some systems, upper-income families are receiving vouchers to be used at charter, private, and parochial schools. This takes money away from public schools by allowing tax dollars to be assigned to the child rather than the system. It’s a plan that kicks the poor. Continue reading Life After the One Percent

“Free Speech Wins Big” in McCutcheon Ruling? It’s FALSE NEWS!

FalseNews

FalseNewsThe news hit the political front with the expected clash of ideologies. The left was appalled at yet another blow that would flood the political process with a tidal wave of cash. The right hailed their newfound “freedom” to extend their political reach with that tidal wave reaching across the entire nation.

While most of the media plainly state the ruling as striking down limits on campaign contributions, few are willing to challenge the Roberts Court claim that these limits “intrude without justification on a citizen’s ability to exercise ‘the most fundamental First Amendment activities’”.

Is the real purpose of campaign finance caps, as Investor’s Business Daily states, an unjustified means of “trying to prevent people financing their own political speech”?

Fact: McCutcheon v. FEC ends over 100 years of battling corruption through limits on campaign spending.

The 1800s were rife with accusations of individuals buying their appointments to the US Senate through the state legislators. One of the more notorious incidents involved William Clark, the “Copper King” of Montana. His bribery of state legislators was so blatant that the Senate refused to seat him after his first campaign, prompting this bombast from Mark Twain: “no one has helped to send him to the Senate who did not know that his proper place was the penitentiary, with a chain and ball on his legs.”

The New York State insurance scandal followed, exposing political payoffs and enormous sums of money for legislative lobbying.  Theodore Roosevelt came under similar attack during his Presidential election, along with Republican William McKinley who preceded him in office. In an effort to quiet the calls for investigations, President Roosevelt advocated “vigorous measures to eradicate” corruption, saying, “The power of the Government to protect the integrity of the elections of its own officials is inherent and has been recognized and affirmed by repeated declarations of the Supreme Court. There is no enemy of free government more dangerous and none so insidious as the corruption of the electorate.”

As a result, the United States gained our first anti-corruption legislation, the Tillman Act of 1907. While not as broad as many progressive leaders called for at the time, the Act prohibited corporations from making a “money contribution in connection with any election.”

Corruption remained so bad that it became necessary to eliminate state party influence on senate elections through the enactment of the 17th Amendment in April 1913. The Illinois State Grange bluntly proclaimed, “the United States Senate is largely composed of millionaires, who frequently owe their election to the lavish expenditure of money…” This was the feeling of a majority of the States at the time, who pushed for a Constitutional Convention to change the method of electing Senators.

One hundred years later, almost to the day, the five conservative justices of the Supreme Court would have us believe that money in politics is nothing more than a “repugnant” form of protected speech, like “flag burning, funeral protests, and Nazi parades.” Continue reading “Free Speech Wins Big” in McCutcheon Ruling? It’s FALSE NEWS!