Stormy Monday, 6/24/13

This afternoon, the Senate will probably attempt a vote on an omnibus amendment to the comprehensive immigration bill, following last week’s agreement on inclusion of border security measures. If the amendment passes, the bill moves one large step closer to Senate approval. This coincides with a TV ad sponsored by the US Chamber of Commerce debuting today, featuring Rand Paul and Marco Rubio (and someone named Paul Ryan) pitching the need for reform to skeptical Republican viewers. Presumably, Rubio was plenty hydrated before the cameras rolled.

Yesterday, Paul told CNN’s Candy Crowley that the failure of his proposed amendment granting Congress final authority to decide if border security is adequate will lead him to vote against the bill. Pendejo.

Speaking of immigration, Edward Snowden is said to be seeking asylum in Ecuador, aided by legal advisers provided by WikiLeaks. The leaker’s passport has supposedly been revoked, but he traveled to Russia on Sunday from his previous fastness in Hong Kong.

Tuesday, Massachusetts voters will fill John Kerry’s Senate seat with either Democratic House veteran Ed Markey or self-described “moderate Republican” Gabriel Gomez. The latest polls put Markey up by eight to 12 points, which Gomez tacitly acknowledged on Fox News over the weekend by discussing his intention to make another run for office if he loses this one.

With Congress as useless on climate change as it is on most other issues, the President will lay out a series of executive measures in a Tuesday speech at Georgetown University. Details of the speech have been closely guarded, but the fate of the Keystone XL Pipeline will apparently not be part of the subject matter, and might not be announced until 2014. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 6/24/13

Take Five (Party Down edition)

ONE: “Please run for president. Please run for president.”

They nominated an entitled, anti-charismatic corporate raider whose positions change with the tides and whose religion is considered by much of the party’s base to be a cult, and they still can’t seem to shake off their amazement that they failed to regain the White House. Nevertheless, Republicans are already desperately rummaging around for their next presidential contender, and they might want to be careful what they wish for.

Donald Trump has apparently spent about a million bucks on “electoral research” in advance of a possible 2016 run. Although he routinely overstates his net worth, this kind of money is no big deal to Trump, and of course we’ve all seen this reality show before, when he hinted and flirted and teased about thwarting a second Obama term before finally endorsing Romney, so perhaps there’s nothing to this beyond typical Trumpian hot air. Or maybe this is how he gets revenge for being dumped from the program at the Republican National Convention. Or maybe he’s serious, in which case it’ll be a groove watching the party scramble to cut him off at the knees.

With no apparent awareness of the irony, Trump recently told a gathering of the Oakland County Republicans in Michigan:

“Everybody tells me, ‘Please run for president. Please run for president.’ I would be much happier if a great and competent person came along.”

TWO: Ventura Biway

But what if an even more egregiously self-aggrandizing blowhard came along instead? Former Minnesota Governor and inveterate clod Jesse Ventura was in Saint Paul last Friday to honor a retiring State Patrol sergeant, and mused about an independent run in 2016:

“… 2016 is an opportune moment because there’ll be no incumbent,” he told reporters after the reception. “I believe one issue that would carry me to victory … I would give the people of America to their first opportunity to elect a president who doesn’t belong to either party, since George Washington.”

Or at least their first opportunity since 2012, when the last spate of deluded independents threw their hats in the ring to no avail. If a Ventura candidacy might worry The Donald at all, the Star Tribune has some reassuring words for him:

The fact that [Ventura] lives in Mexico much of the year and that he would want shock-jock Howard Stern as his running mate suggest that this seed might never germinate.

And if it ever does, Candidate Trump could just tap Gary Busey for his running mate, and the balance of kitschy weirdness would be instantly restored.

THREE: Yawn Top of the World

As for that entitled, anti-charismatic corporate raider I mentioned above, he and his arrogant, peevish, spectacularly insincere spouse are back in the news, because… well, frankly, I have no idea why. Perhaps they’re already tired of playing with their car elevator.

Mitt is currently hosting a two-day something-or-other in Park City, Utah, attended by Chris Christie and Paul Ryan, among others. Ann, meanwhile, recently talked to CBS, vaguely, about possible ’16 nominees:

“There are some great candidates out there and, you know, I think Mitt and I are always very, very partial to Paul Ryan but, you know, we don’t even know if he’s going to run… but there are some good candidates.”

Mitt had his own interview with the Wall Street Journal, and talked, vaguely, about his personal life, which sounds a little like a Habitrail: Continue reading Take Five (Party Down edition)

How Come Big News Is Seldom About Big Ideas?

Have you noticed how we now log our tragedies by their dates?

We have killed more of our own citizens with guns than have died in all the wars the US fought since the Revolution (212,000+).

Robbing Peter to pay Paul, it’s March, time to take advantage of the wind energy from the GOP check-kiting plan to use empty Treasury coffers to pay government debt in lieu of their first choice of default.

When is the time ninety percent of Americans agreed on anything? Astounding, across the hills and vales of the majestic plains below the purple mountains, ninety percent of America agrees on purchasers of guns being reviewed by background checks. 

Old Westerns had heroic characters famed for the use of guns, who often worked indirectly on-screen to prevent the ownership and use of guns for self-defense or to settle disputes, due to the lessons learned from their own personal, on-screen (or back story) experience (fictionally!). As famed gun users in a violent era, no Western movie hero argued on-screen for increasing the ownership of guns. Those who assembled armies of guns were labeled bad guys. Of course, the NRA would now call good guys trying to limit guns a fantasy. The NRA position is now the one endorsed by Hollywood’s worst outlaws. (I call their view a curse. And at least thirteen senators want America to become the OK Corral.)

Maybe the two or three members of Congress from Florida who are calling the shots for a full congressional investigation of Jay-Z and Beyoncé visiting a children’s dance troupe, an arts school, and an elderly, well known Cuban singer, and Jay-Z being photographed with a Cuban cigar and the two eating in privately-owned restaurants while visiting Havana will come in time to see such a call as a demand for government to grossly intrude in the lives of citizens (a position the Congress members profess to abhor!), and more importantly, a spurious, non-productive use of government resources, a waste of money for political frivolity that represents the excesses that give government a bad name (and negate the fervent claim of fiscal fidelity put forth by these same Congress members who are suddenly eager to practice a violation of their core campaign, party, and personal principles!).

The couple had the proper license for cultural exchanges that meet US guidelines for travel to Cuba. To call the famous couple’s trip “tourism” is another example of the petty insignificance associated with outsized, politically faked outrage (their indignation targeted at wealthy minority celebrities who didn’t stay up late in South Beach clubs). The Cuban people themselves seem to disagree with the American Congress members; they cheered wildly, smiled, clapped, and were excited everywhere the couple went. (Was this a state demonstration ordered by Raul Castro?)

The Congress members manufactured a non-issue to stoke anger and resentment. Do you believe there is a patriotic cause to be served by closing cultural contacts with Cuba—and leaving open the pipeline to Mitt Romney’s Grand Cayman accounts?

In fact, what has the boycott of Cuba proven other than we can boycott Cuba? Did it improve the lives of Cubans? Bring them closer to full liberty? Topple the regime? End human rights violations? Or comfort an old anger?

Both Virginia and Florida have new state educational standards that differ for children based on their ethnicity and race. In Florida, the tax dollars of a black parent buy fifty percent of the standard that the tax dollars of a white parent do. When vouchers are created, vouchers for black parents will buy fifty percent less education than those of whites—but both meet state-approved standards. Suddenly, black children will be successful in charter schools—achieving an official, approved state standard fifty percent lower than the one set for whites.

Who thinks of these things?

How come big news is never any longer about big ideas?

GOP Senator Mitch McConnell, the Minority Leader of the Senate, brought up a big name this week, a seminal event in America’s history, Watergate. In his description of the leak of a strategic meeting for his re-election, he conveniently compared it to the famous Watergate break-in (done by operatives working for a Republican Presidential campaign effort!) and re-wrote the history of political taping: he suggested the tapes were obtained by bugs placed in his office!

He ignored the rich irony that the content of the tapes brought the presidency of Richard Nixon down. Nixon’s tapes revealed and documented acts illegal and unethical. McConnell’s tapes called for focusing on an opponent’s mental health issues. McConnell’s own mental health and morals should be questioned and come under inspection. He lies. He is delusional (by any standard). He utterly lacks standards of social behavior. He violates community ethics. He is unable to accept responsibility. He is devoid of honesty or fair play. Will the same personal flaws that once got Richard Nixon impeached get Mitch McConnell reelected?

In the House, McConnell has a kindred spirit in Paul Ryan. In submitting his budget plan for marking, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) detailed the rules Paul Ryan and his staff specified “by which revenues and spending would evolve.”

Ryan told the CBO to assume his Medicare plan would hold costs to half a percent above GDP growth. He required the CBO to assume spending on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program would grow at the rate of inflation. He told the CBO to assume that federal spending, outside of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, will fall to 3.75 percent of GDP in 2050. He chairs the committee that oversees our national budget!

The President apologized to California’s Attorney General for saying she was America’s “best looking” state Attorney General. In a country whose largest media event, the Super Bowl, included Jay-Z’s wife in full breakdown mode, and after a CBS memo for the Oscars, the Onion’s Oscar night misstep that many called “free speech,” thousands of scatological posts about the President’s own sexuality (one asking the First Lady how it feels to be “a beard”) and scathing comments about the First Lady’s body image, none which rise to the level of a comment using the phrase “good looking,” why all the noise?

The point here (and for the whole piece!) is to point out that when an event or phrase is singled out and profiled, it is generally tied to a deeper cultural meaning that the media ignores, one hidden by the obvious and transparent political claims being made. And these deeper meanings must be reviewed and weighed not as tit and tat or good and bad or double evils or final reasons (or tennis returns! Go Serena!), but for the weight they add to or take away from the collective progress, peace, and love, and how they mark our path. 

The diet of Republican politics has a lot of fat and greasy palms and bad choices for America’s health. But the GOP has staked a claim on obscuring facts and proclaiming the end of the world.

Fact: No President in history has been as emotionally public and transparent as Barack Obama. (Try to imagine any GOP President or nominee saying to a crowd, “I love you back.”) His hugs of Michelle I sometimes feel should be private, so intimate do they appear. (I have written here of eagles locking talons!) But to my memory, his words should have been public; beauty is a gift and an aesthetic that we can appreciate, and should not be tied to the idea that its acknowledgement belittles others or crosses a conventional line of correctness—but more, in the complex of my own memory, I have waited for this day, because I am a Southerner and I remember the hoped-to-be pardoned Scottsboro Boys and I remember Emmett Till. Continue reading How Come Big News Is Seldom About Big Ideas?

Freedom's Noble Name

Karl Marx would either laugh or be terribly perplexed by what has been wrought from his dialectic. With all of their bluster, the GOP has now stood Marx on his head. Against every assessment of his philosophy, the progress that comes from the clash of opposing forces has come to a standstill, especially in the states, and on jobs and wages. And states are the place where workers have the best knowledge of taxes, services, economic development, wages and power.

And despite wage stagnation, unemployment, low saving rates and other family income issues hiding in plain sight, workers seem unable to unite. Online, support for raising the minimum wage to nine dollars is overwhelming. Yet the expected firestorm of legislative action, lobby days, public rallies, organizing and bill writing at the state level is almost non-existent.

Democrats are missing a chance to take advantage of a winning bi-partisan opportunity, one in which personal interest and motivations meld perfectly with good public policy. One in which plenty of research and previous experience refutes the knee-jerk resistance that Republicans offer, as they never offer a single measure that advances workers’ income. Real inroads into the Republican base in red states is possible. The growing income gap, the direct refusal of Republicans to consider raising the minimum wage while focused on deficits and cutting spending leaves them exposed. Democrats, Carpe diem!

Robert Reich, President Clinton’s former Labor Secretary, makes two telling points. One, there’s plenty of capital available to pay higher wages; it’s being used by businesses to buy or take over other corporations or to make giant buybacks of their own stock. Both increase shareholder value. Two, total private worker compensation is now 57% of GDP, the lowest it’s been since Eisenhower.

Neither of the two uses of capital stimulates the economy or produces jobs, but they add market value to the balance sheet. The balance sheet is the writ of GOP economy policy. They will smother the idea of increasing the minimum wage, and other progressive policies on tax breaks and physical and social investments, by allowing sequestration to take place, literally smashing the recovery. We will lose 750,000 jobs this year. It will affect services from air traffic control to meals on wheels.The Army reports layoffs of 250,000 workers by year’s end.

The narrative for putting blame on Obama has started; Paul Ryan calls Boehner’s claim of getting 98% of what he wanted the result of President Obama seeking “partisan advantage.” Mr. “98%” Boehner now calls it “the President’s sequester.” Continue reading Freedom’s Noble Name

A Dialogue of Givers and Takers

Barack Obama, at his inauguration, spoke memorable words: “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.” He called for the unity of the country, especially its national legislators in the House and Senate.

House Budget Chair, Paul Ryan, who ran for Vice President against the winning Democratic ticket, later said these words in a television interview:

All of the statements and all of the comments lead me to believe that he’s [Obama is]thinking more of a political conquest than a political compromise…”

We must choose our battles carefully, and stay united in them to succeed. We can’t get rattled. We won’t play the villain in his [Obama's] morality plays. We have to show that — if given the chance — we can govern. We have better ideas.

No doubt, among those better ideas is Speaker of the House John Boehner’s main priority — a national priority of the “will of the people,” he says — to “help make abortion a relic of the past… Let that be one of our most fundamental goals this year.”

Neither the House Budget Chair or the Speaker of the House mentioned jobs or made jobs a top priority. Ryan seemed to forget about all those millions out of work that he mentioned at every stop during the campaign. For him, did they just go way, having served their usefulness?

The President did not mention jobs directly in his speech, but he expressed three fundamental national principles, endorsed by polls that show his focus on jobs to be “the will of the people.” The first: Continue reading A Dialogue of Givers and Takers

Just Wonderin'

For the past few days, I can’t help but wonder how Romney/GOP supporters have justified their support and votes to the people in their lives.

How did you explain to your daughters that you voted for the party that wants to curtail their rights, and thinks that a pregnancy resulting from “legitimate rape” is a blessing from God?

What did you say to the disabled vet down the street about how you voted for the candidate who didn’t think them important enough to make his “laundry list” in his speeches, and the party that consistently votes against initiatives to protect their rights, fund their ongoing care, and put them back to work?

Where did you find the words to explain to your neighbor with a pre-existing condition that you supported the party that wants to repeal Obamacare – leaving them uninsured and facing the possibility of bankruptcy due to medical bills?

How did you explain to those in your community who have had their jobs outsourced or disappeared that you stood in solidarity with the candidate who profited from that outsourcing, and who destroyed businesses for his own personal gain?

What did you tell your relatives – especially those living on the social security they earned, and those presently serving in the military – to justify having voted for a candidate who dismissed them as being part of the 47% who are parasites looking for a government handout, unwilling to accept responsibility for their own lives?

How did you explain to your children, who you have taught to tell the truth at all times, that you voted for the candidate who had lied consistently throughout his campaign?

What did you tell your unemployed friends about having voted for the party that has demonstrated its willingness to fight any initiatives that would expand the jobs market, simply because it would make Obama look bad if the unemployment numbers rose rather than diminished? Continue reading Just Wonderin’

From Here to Anonymity (Man of a Thousand Farces edition)

With a shudder, it occurred to me the other day that I’ve been writing about Willard Mitt Romney, off and on, for nineteen months. There are very few things I dream of spending nineteen months writing about, and he sure as hell isn’t one of them. Nevertheless, with Romney down to his final hours of pretending he can become President of the United States of America, the travail continues.

First, though, let me get Paul Ryan out of the way. Whatever he was thought, or hoped, to bring to the Republican ticket, what Ryan mostly brought was additional opportunities for ridicule, and even the shallow entertainment value thus provided got old fast. The vaunted conservative policy wonk – a “numbers guy” whose numbers (when he bothers to offer any) never add up, a “serious thinker” whose cherished political convictions are a bumper sticker pastiche of Ayn Rand’s Epistles to the Terminally Selfish, a small-government zealot whose entire life, pretty much, has consisted of feeding, if not gorging, at the public trough – has been surprisingly useless to the ticket. And I say “surprisingly” because I’d assumed that merely by naming a running mate, any running mate, the top of the ticket would receive a little less scrutiny, thereby benefiting the campaign. Happily, I stand corrected.

I was also convinced it was damn near impossible that a person could look more ludicrous than Ryan did in his now-infamous “Hey Girl” beefcake shoot, but I erred on that score, as well. In a world where Ryan could become the vice-presidential nominee of a major political party in the first place, not only was it possible, it was probably inevitable. When I saw the photos of the assistant-Commander-in-Chief-wannabe at a soup kitchen he was never invited to, stylin’ for the cameras as he scrubbed clean pots and pans, his grinning wife standing nearby, I experienced that vilest of emotions: feeling embarrassed for people too oblivious to be embarrassed for themselves. Mixed, of course, with newly refreshed loathing.

Yet even this sleazy perfidy pales beside the Romney/Ryan campaign’s crass exploitation of the Hurricane Sandy disaster, when a scheduled Dayton campaign rally was hastily converted into a “storm relief event.” BuzzFeed has a terrific piece on the debacle, brimming with ghastly details, but the short version is that Romney’s handlers rushed to Walmart, spent $5,000 on groceries and other items the Red Cross didn’t want, handed them out to attendees so that the attendees could then “donate” them back, and all the while were blithely unconcerned that the obviously phony event would be exposed as, well, obviously phony. Not quite as spectacularly phony as George Bush’s victory jig on an aircraft carrier, granted, but culled from the same Republican playbook. Not satisfied with this smarmy charade, Romney then embarked on some epic hurricane-driven flip-flopping over just what he would or wouldn’t do with FEMA were the country to lose its collective mind and elect him, and topped it all off Wednesday morning in Tampa by urging 2,000 perfervid supporters to dig, uh, not very deep:

“So please if you have an extra dollar or two, send them along and keep people who have been in harm’s way, who’ve been damaged either personally or through their property, keep them in your thoughts and prayers…”

As the media continued to stream horror stories from Sandy’s wake, Romney’s Thursday afternoon rally in Virginia Beach was interrupted by a protester, who asked:

What about climate? That’s what caused this monster storm! Climate change!

As the candidate silently watched with his trademark vacant leer, the crowd began the boorish “USA!” chant Republican mobs, weirdly, use to try and shut up people they disagree with, as the protester was hauled away. Stinky little scenes like this have been integral to the Romney campaign, rather than isolated, garish eruptions of excessive exuberance, as they tended to be characterized back when Sarah Palin – or Ryan 1.0, as I now think of her – incited GOP crowds by claiming that Barack Obama “palled around with terrorists.”

As the last day of this sordid, abysmal campaign crawls by, we can at least be grateful that a few heretofore-obscure details are becoming clearer. That sure beats having to wait for the impending slew of tell-all books by Romney/Ryan campaign insiders, most of which will be read all the way through only by reviewers (and only because they’ll be paid to do so).

The recent plague of plutocratic extortionists threatening their employees with dire consequences for failure to vote Romney comes to mind. In These Times helpfully connected the dots back to a June 6 conference call where the candidate himself urged such a course: Continue reading From Here to Anonymity (Man of a Thousand Farces edition)

Take Five (Wieners Circle edition)

ONE: The Boy Can’t Help It

I’m convinced that the Republican Party is running some sort of “say the stupidest thing that pops into your head” contest for its membership. Maybe the reasoning, if there actually is any, is that it keeps their names in the news.

A case in point is Todd Akin. His Senate candidacy notwithstanding, I’m guessing few people had ever heard of Akin before August, when the six-term Congressman decided to share his decidedly pre-Renaissance views on rape and pregnancy with KTVI, a St. Louis television station. Ever since, it’s nearly impossible to get through a day without hearing something from or about him.

Amanda Marcotte, with an assist by the American Bridge 21st Century PAC, introduced another Akin Rhapsody in Ridiculousness recently when she shared C-SPAN video footage of Akin speaking on the House floor in 2008 about abortion providers:

Who wants to be at the very bottom of the food chain of the medical profession? And what sort of places do these bottom-of-the-food-chain doctors work in? Places that are really a pit. You find that along with the culture of death go all kinds of other law-breaking: not following good sanitary procedure, giving abortions to women who are not actually pregnant, cheating on taxes, all these kinds of things, misuse of anesthetics so that people die or almost die. All of these things are common practice, and all of that information is available for America.

Akin, like the rest of his party, despises the Affordable Care Act, but if he were the “reading various things and attempting to process them into a clear and cogent worldview” type, he might be delighted to hear about a new study which underscores the abortion-reducing potential of the ACA:

When more than 9,000 women ages 14 to 45 in the St. Louis area were given no-cost contraception for three years, abortion rates dropped from two-thirds to three-quarters lower than the national rate, according to a new report by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis researchers.

The report doesn’t mention what percentage of abortions still performed were on non-pregnant participants, women who presumably just enjoy the heck out of the process and don’t want to wait until they actually have a pregnancy they want ended. And don’t even get me started on all those “culture of death” doctors who devote themselves to aborting non-existent embryos, whooping all the while like the hopped-up teenagers who terrorized Dana Andrews and his family in Hot Rods to Hell.

Akin also made the news, not for the first time, for his finances. If only he didn’t spend so much time jawing obsessively about things he knows absolutely zilch about, perhaps he would do a more conscientious and thorough job with those pesky disclosure forms:

Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin on Thursday released a decade’s worth of federal financial reports he has updated with nearly $130,000 in state pension income that he received, but failed to disclose, over that time.

“This was an unintentional oversight and I regret any inconvenience this may cause,” the Missouri congressman wrote in a letter dated Tuesday to the chairman of the House Ethics Committee…

This marks the second time that Akin has amended a decade’s worth of personal financial disclosure reports while running for the Senate.

In July 2011, Akin amended his reports from 2001 through 2010 to show his stake in properties owned by family partnerships in the St. Louis and Cape Cod, Mass., areas.

Cape Cod? Could he be a – gasp! – closet liberal? Fear not, grasshopper; Akin’s odious opinions, misinformed views and general ignorance of the planet on which he lives recently earned him lavish praise from fellow rightwing doofus Pat Boone, and there’s no more cranium-emptying assurance of regressive bona fides than that. Akin was so goshdarn tickled about it that he featured the endorsement on his campaign site:

“I’m strongly supportive of Todd Akin for US Senator from Missouri. My ancestor Daniel Boone would be, too–he and Rebecca had 10 kids, definitely pro-life. Todd’s opponent is resolutely of the “pro abortion” camp which championed, just last year, the “termination” of over 600,000 baby girls. Todd Akin will represent the true values of Missouri families.”

Golly Moses. And if the legendary Pat Boone can’t put him over the top, Akin just got reinforcements in the form of America’s most beloved breeding pair, the Duggars. The continuously copulating conservative couple will hold rallies for Akin in Osage Beach, Farmington and Poplar Bluff on October 15 and 16.

Might as well pack your bags, Claire McCaskill, and book a ticket for some commie bastion like New York or Hollywood, or Cape Cod, where you can get yourself a post-menopausal abortion just for the hell of it at one of those unsanitary, tax-dodging pits you love so much.

TWO: The Doctor Is Sick

If Todd Akin really wants to find the very bottom of the food chain of the medical profession, he should start with his colleague Paul Broun, who has represented Georgia’s 10th District since 2007. Broun is a homophobe, an Islamophobe, a religious fanatic, a climate change denier and such a vigorous “traditional marriage” champion that he’s been hitched four times. He’s also a medical doctor and has a degree in chemistry. Broun recently appeared at the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet and horked up this:

“All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell,” Broun said. “And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior…

“You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth,” he said. “I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.”

But wait, there’s more!

“What I’ve come to learn is that it’s the manufacturer’s handbook, is what I call it,” he said. “It teaches us how to run our lives individually, how to run our families, how to run our churches. But it teaches us how to run all of public policy and everything in society. And that’s the reason as your congressman I hold the holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington, D.C., and I’ll continue to do that.”

The Congressman didn’t explain precisely where in the Good Book he received the guidance that induced him to vote against, among other things, mandatory troop rest periods between deployments to Iraq (August 2007), SCHIP reauthorization (September 2007), the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund (October 2007), funding to combat AIDS, malaria and TB (April 2008), requiring OSHA to establish combustible dust safety standards (April 2008), GI Bill expansion (May 2008), FDA regulation of tobacco (July 2008), the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (January 2009), financial regulation (December 2009 and June 2010), expansion of unemployment benefits (April, July and November 2010), the Mine Safety Act (December 2010), income tax deductions for small businesses (April 2012), and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2012 (May 2012).

I guess you just have to read between the lines. Continue reading Take Five (Wieners Circle edition)

Doubt and Absent Details

Milt Romney’s campaign reveals three phrases. First: “failed,” which labeled every idea, action, and presidential step as wrong. Second: “blame,” which faulted micro-community trends and global, macro-trends as Obama’s mistakes. The third and current: “doubt,” which assesses Obama’s body of work (policy, personal character) as inadequate and intolerable. “Failed” delivered body blows during the primaries and after; “blame” launched before the NCAAP speech and continued to the convention. “Doubt” now deepens (“He’s a good man,” “he just doesn’t get it.”) and opens the door to failure and blame to conclude that Obama is (no doubt!) irretrievable.

Anger, fear, and disgust are the three top notes of the Romney campaign, but fail, blame, and doubt give the campaign a sophisticated emotional strategy, a multi-tiered series of complex steps to channel outrage and hostility into exuberance against President Obama and votes for Romney.

Analysts missed these subtle but powerful changes of tone and direction, especially the introduction of doubt, with its list of lies as evidence that enables hate to be embedded in the open. Why doubt now?  Doubt is civil but deadly. “I doubt” sounds more humane than “I hate.” Doubt is the transformative stage, the call for action, an emotion of assessment and judgement. Doubt casts its shadow on the future, is put forth as the decision paradigm. It appeals to all with rigid or mixed feelings about Obama.

The President’s response, which is to ignore the attacks by discussing America’s future, rightly points out that unless we go forward, nothing will change. In fact, matters will get worse–especially if we accept an appeal to our worst instincts. Three things any elder can tell you about living: rough patches in life occur without being anybody’s fault and with little you can do except weather the storm until conditions change; look high and low before you abandon a search; and you can’t pour corn from an empty sack.

It’s evident as Democrats stretch the helping hand to every hamlet, building a community that Old and New Testament standard bearers and others of faith can embrace, the GOP rejects its path of history, tradition and progress, pointing out on social media that 150 years ago, Democrats were like modern Republicans, xenophobic, biased, restrictive, hungry for power and eager to subjugate others by gender, color, preference, and stereotypes. It is amazing that a 150 year-old bridge of bias is still alive and thriving. Having changed parties and mutated into a more virulent strain, it has new food: the budget. Debt, deficits. Disasters. The new shape of the old distrust.

And when the numbers don’t add up, Romney-Ryan add in the old social values, amplifying the threats lampooned in Reconstruction cartoons: party and privilege are more important than the people, encouraging decline and decay within the heart;  putting forth that some don’t measure up and never will, danger lurks. They say: stupid can’t be fixed with hope.

Democracy’s nemesis is fear, not dictatorial force. Herd fear, ridicule its “failure,” pretend government is a shopping spree. But spend billions to amplify its dread as media, once the watchdog, loops its clips, saying only, “wow.” Wow.

Large and small, this election will measure a direction for tomorrow’s America. The Republicans seem interested in a last stand. When power and privilege, as they see it, is returned to the right hands and protected from those who would share it with others in a national shopping spree. Democrats see it as a step forward, a means of touching many hands and preserving the tried paths that bring progress and prosperity, education and health care. Continue reading Doubt and Absent Details

Sunday Talks, 9/9/12

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, will be back in the spotlight after this week’s Democratic National Convention, appearing on three of Sunday’s television talk shows. (Wow, having Republicans on . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 9/9/12