Silence.

September 8th, 2010

In 1968, Richard Nixon won the presidency by invoking The Silent Majority. These were the supposed decent, hardworking people, too busy to protest the doings of our government. They were not like the lefties. In reality, Nixon’s constituency was a majority of angry white people reacting against the changes brought to America by the civil rights movement. Despite what Glenn Beck and other right-wingers say, Martin Luther King was never their hero.

Now the Silent Majority has become the noisy, angry mob called the Tea Party. What has remained the same is the hatred that inspires them. The behavior of anti-Islamists surrounding The Park 51 project and the Dove Church Koran Burning rally planned for September 11 should make that pretty clear. (Is that Dove, as in peaceful little birds?)

Today, the silence is coming from the politicians on the right. With great conviction, General Petraeus has asked Pastor Terry Jones to call off the Koran burning, pointing out that it may well cause the loss of soldiers’ lives. The only politicians with any chance of influencing the Koran burners are on the Republican right — John McCain, Sarah Palin, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, you know the lineup. None of them have opened their yaps.

McCain, above all, should speak out. But he hasn’t. His silence is worse than his bullshit.

The GOP is making PR hay out of Obama’s drilling moratorium in the Gulf. I think the problem’s fixable. We simply need the will to fix it.

The outcry is from Louisiana’s 75,000 oil workers. They are rightfully disturbed that the drilling moratorium will hurt them greatly. But before we relax it, we must do some math: BP has the assets to pay those 75,000 workers $100,000 each. 75,000 x 100,000 = 7,500,000,000 Yes $7.5 billion.

In 2009, BP made $14.96 billion. Twice the amount necessary to let those workers relax a bit on their now polluted land.

The $7.5 billion figure is 1/100th the amount we paid out to the too big to fail banks in 2008. Isn’t this at least a one one-hundredth part of the bank disaster?

Jindal and all those other gulf coast Republicans want to put this on Obama. But it was their own lack of regulations that caused the problem. Obama has to stand up and point out the simple facts of the math. Put it in perspective.

Angrily.

We’ve seen how the senate has been hobbled by the need to line up 60 votes to pass a bill. With a hundred senators, you’d think 51 votes would do the trick. That was the plan. But along came the filibuster in 1851 — talking a bill to death — which effectively allowed those opposed to the legislation to hijack a debate on any issue. In the U.S. Senate, in order to end a filibuster, you need sixty senators. That’s a supermajority.

PG&E has a monopoly on electric power, and the majority of us would like that monopoly to come to an end. Proposition 16 is PG&E’s plan to save their greedy asses by requiring a supermajority to upend any of their schemes. And supermajorities are hard to come by.

Their ads say “It’s hard to believe but right now voters have no say when local governments spend billions of dollars to get into the business of providing electricity.” Why, they ask, shouldn’t taxpayers have the right to vote on this? Because the deck is stacked. Their own literature tells us, “Prop 16 requires two-thirds voter approval before local governments can spend or borrow public money to get into the electricity business.”

Two thirds. It’s even worse than the 3/5 vote required in the senate to break a filibuster. Why not simply require unanimous voter approval?

“Yes on 16″ has so far raised $28.5 million. All of it from PG&E. This was explained to PG&E stockholders as a good use of PG&E funds. Otherwise, the company would have to spend “millions and millions of shareholder dollars to defend it repeatedly” every time a muniicpality thinks of taking a competitive route to its power supply. This, from a company that made $1.22 billion in profit in 2009.

By the way, one of Prop 16′s endorsers is the California Chamber of Commerce. You may remember all the No on Health Care advertising. The Chamber of Commerce brought you that. You want to put a Hitler mustache on something, put it on the “Yes on Prop 16″ campaign.

Jefferson’s words.

March 30th, 2010

Texans proudly drove Thomas Jefferson out of the nation’s textbooks two weeks ago. Probably because he was the founding father most responsible for promoting the idea of the separation of Church and State. Of course, that’s what you’d expect of a Deist, those pushers of the idea that, while God created the universe, He wasn’t a magician. Jefferson’s God didn’t part seas, turn anybody into a pillar of salt, or carve commandments in stone. Thomas Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence, but what Texans want to know today is, what has he done for Christian America?

None of the conservatives on the textbook committees mentioned it, but Jefferson was into miscegenation — that nutty practice where white people have sex with black people. In past times their offspring were called quadroons, octoroons, mulattos. You might refer to these people as multiracial, but no real southerner would. At any rate, with Sally Hemings, one of Jefferson’s slave women, he begat a family that numbers in the hundreds today.

So, Thomas Jefferson, an integrationist, a liberal, and lukewarm on God. No wonder Sons of the Confederacy, Tea-Partiers, and all the other neo-secessionists are so quick to disown him. Hell, take his picture off the nickel. Change all the street and road signs to Jefferson Davis. And shitcan reruns of “The Jeffersons.”

But there is one hitch. These Hate-Partiers have got to stop quoting Jefferson’s words: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” You may even have seen the slogan on Timothy McVeigh. He’s said to have been wearing a T-shirt with the saying on the day he set off the bomb in Oklahoma City. Sure, the quote is poetry to all these bigots, but here’s a better Jefferson quote (and I think right-wingers might have fun trying to parse the irony): A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.

False equivalence.

March 24th, 2010

“We got to get these crazies on the left and the right to come together somehow.” With that, a friend of mine counseled peace and goodwill among the citizenry. He said it with great earnestness and I believed he meant it. That’s what bothers me.

Who on the left tells his followers to throw bricks through the windows of opposing congress members? What lefty decorates his website map with gunsight crosshairs to indicate the opponents of health care? Where are the liberals spitting in Michelle Bachmann’s face? Where are the posters depicting Senator McCain as Hitler, Michael Steele as a Ubangi, Browning automatic pistols as the way to silence the conservatives?

Imagine a schoolyard argument — one kid puts up his middle-finger, the other pulls a gun. The principal begs them to behave, and mutters “Kids!” as though the behavior was equivalent. He does not even call the police.

The left and the right are not equally crazy. People who arm themselves to threaten a government that’s working to protect the population from disease and misery, they’re the nutcases.

Snorkeling.

March 11th, 2010

I’m a fan of NPR’s news quiz, “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” in which the moderator puts to a celebrity guest three possible answers to a question about a news story. Only one of the answers is correct, but it is the panel’s job to couch all three answers in facetious terms, so that they sound equally outrageous to the guest.

So I offer this one to the NPR quiz show:

Eric Massa, a Democratic congressman from upstate New York, resigned in disgrace yesterday. Among many charges was that he sexually harrassed male staff members. When Larry King asked him straight out, “are you gay,” Massa refused to answer, implying that the question itself was inappropriate and therefore unfriendly to gays. One of the behaviors Massa was accused of by his former shipmates in the Navy was “snorkeling.”

The question. Snorkeling is a) The practice of placing your testicles over the eyes of your partner, forming a mask. Then the breathing apparatus is formed by placing the end of your penis into the receiver’s mouth. b) The act of drinking one’s own cum through a straw after ejaculating in your partner’s rectum. Or is it c), completely penetrating ones head into another person’s anal cavity and breathing by putting two straws in your nose

According the the Urban Dictionary, all three answers are correct. In fact, the dictionary presents a total of eleven answers, all pretty much plumbing this fascinating territory.

If you wonder how a story regarding the seamy behavior of a nonentity can command the 24 hour news cycle, join the club. (Although I did enjoy watching the air leak out of Glen Beck, who had such high hopes his Massa interview would demonstrate the perfidy of the Democratic Party). To see what a difference 40 years can make, watch “The Most Dangerous Man in America,” the documentary about Daniel Ellsberg. It’s so energizing to see the press stand up to corruption. Ellsberg, the New York Times, and about seventeen other big city dailies brought Nixon down.

Eric Massa’s crimes are fun to hear about — for fifteen minutes or so. But a congressional sex scandal? News Flash, it’s not news.

Tiger Woods improves his lie.

February 19th, 2010

I was bored. I wanted something today other than Tiger. But it was all Tiger, all day long. Fourteen minutes of scripted mush repeated over and over. It might have been worth watching if he’d spoken from the gut, without a script. But he didn’t. And it wasn’t.

I couldn’t get away. Channel after channel, all Tiger. Then I found curling on CNN. Watching curling is like watching golf. It’s probably okay if you play the game. Both games were invented in Scotland. I was amazed by the excitement. “It’s coming down to the final stone!” Rhythmic stomping. USA. USA. USA. (Yes, the USA just beat France).

We’ll know curling’s got a future when we demand to know who their champions are fucking. And they have to hire people to make their apologies sound sincere.

Banned on the SuperBowl.

February 9th, 2010

Before the SuperBowl, everybody was talking about the Tim Tebow ad. When I saw it, I could not figure it out. There was his mom talking about how she almost lost Tim. Then he comes into frame, hugs his mother, and tells her he loves her. But unless you were pretty far left or far right, and had followed your favorite blogs/talking heads/whatever, you wouldn’t know the ad’s point was to bolster the anti-abortion movement. Maybe it did accomplish what it was out to do, though, because the next day I went to the Focus on the Family website, its sponsor, and watched a ten minute interview with Pam and Bob Tebow, Tim’s parents. The video was both dull and offensive in a quiet, well-spoken way. Pam and Bob did talk a lot about praying for a pregnancy complication to right itself so that Pam didn’t miscarry. She mentioned that a Phillipina nurse suggested she might have to have an abortion. Pam prayed to God, who said No, and that was that.

Had it not been for NOW’s annoyance with CBS for agreeing to run the ad, I would not have heard about it. Part of the controversy, of course, was the network’s gutless refusal to run an ad promoting the gay dating site, ManCrunch.com. But I believe ManCrunch benefited from the fluff as much as Focus on the Family. In 1930, James Joyce’s novel, Ulysses, was banned in Boston. It became a best-seller.

But here is an ad for another Christian organization. This ad was banned from the 2006 SuperBowl. You need no more proof that network executives are gutless, amoral fuckups.

Look who we’re in bed with.

January 31st, 2010

These are the countries that disallow gays to serve openly in the military: Cuba, China, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Jamaica, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, South Korea, Syria, Turkey, Venezuela, Yemen, United States.

With the exception of South Korea, Turkey, and Jamaica, all are countries that the United States has accused of being tyrannies.

Today this headline from the Huffington Post: “Pentagon starts clock on lifting gay ban. Warns it will be several year process.”

America has no leaders. Not in congress. Not in the oval office.

In 1992, Australia, a macho society if there ever was one, ended discrimination based on sexual orientation. Bob Hawke, the Prime Minister, told the military leaders it was going to happen. Three months later, it happened. The generals and admirals stomped their feet, shook their heads, cried bloody murder, and threatened to leave the military. Hawke said, fine. You don’t want your pensions, do what you wish. Their bluffs called, the brass shut their mouths and soldiered on. Australia’s military readiness is fine.

This is a disgrace. It’s time for our president to quit promising and act.


A pleasant development.

December 9th, 2009

I’m actually surprised, but I find myself hopeful about this latest incarnation of the health care bill. Expanding Medicare us the slippery slope (and I mean this in a good way) towards socialized medicine. The Republicans, I think, have been caught off guard by this — they’ve been vocal about being in favor of Medicare (of course they never were) because their older voters don’t want anybody taking it away.

If Medicare, expanded by only a decade’s worth of beneficiaries, works out, there’s a good chance it can be expanded further. And the public option had been weakened so badly that it looks worse than useless.

I’m with Howard Dean and Anthony Weiner on this, and I know they’ll be glad to hear it.

Mitigation.

December 2nd, 2009

Nobody in my camp is happy with Obama’s new Afghanistan policy. But giving the generals everything they wanted should have come with a few strings. (Of course, we learned what he thinks of strings when he approved our bail out policies).

(1) Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, is a policy Obama could rescind immediately. He just doesn’t seem to have the backbone. His argument is that if he does it by a Presidential Signing, it could be reversed when he leaves office. So the fuck what! It’s pertinence in Afghanistan policy is that many hundreds of the gays who’ve been kicked out of the service are Middle East language specialists. Point that out to the bigots and let them howl. But end that stupid guessing game now.

(2) War tax. I don’t like paying taxes any more than anybody else, but it’s one of those sacrifices citizens of all countries are asked to make. Why should the only people making sacrifices be the ones who find themselves stuck in the military at the wrong time? They serve tour after tour. Bush was afraid to ask anything of his countrymen. We didn’t elect Obama to follow the Bush Doctrine. But he’s doing it. I think he’s afraid to ask Americans pay for the war, but a president’s job is to do what must be done.

(3) Mandatory Service. During the campaign Obama talked about having America’s young people serve in some capacity. If not the military, the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, something. But no. Should Obama ask young people to lift a finger — both those in and out of his base — his popularity might suffer.

We might be in for a disaster in the middle east. But it doesn’t have to be an unmitigated disaster.

Roll-your-own tax breaks.

November 18th, 2009

Criss Cross and Farmer’s Gold are two roll-your-own tobacco brands. They just pulled their product from the shelves. Sounds good. But they pulled it in order to reprint the packages to say “Pipe Tobacco.” The product hasn’t changed a bit — it’s still made for cigarettes — but the tax on it is 2400% less. Sounds not-so-good.

This is an example of the same federal oversight that cracked down so brutally on the Wall Street greedbags.

It started out reasonably enough. Obama signed a law expanding children’s health benefits, and to pay for it he increased taxes on the tobacco companies. We can’t get enough of that, as far as I’m concerned. But there’s a loophole and, coarse as pipe tobacco is, it found its way through. More lawyers, more lobbyists, blowing more smoke up our asses about the horrible restrictions on Freedoms under which tobacco companies suffer.

The same Republican party that wants to limit the right to abortion wants to increase your right to lung removal. That is, of course, if you’ve bought the lung removal plan as part of your insurance package.

A gun under your pillow.

November 13th, 2009

I have two friends, A and B, both a little over 70, both Democrats, both very well informed. I thought that would be enough — that we would all agree with my every position. I think in our own way, we’re as divided as the Republicans.

A has lived in a beautiful high-rise tower in Pacific Heights since the seventies. About 30 years ago, a burglar rappelled from the top down to his eighth floor apartment, quietly let himself in through the floor-to-ceiling sliding windows, found A’s wallet, and took the money. Nothing else was missing. A slept through the theft.

Recently, A told me he bought a pistol. I asked him why. “Well, the burglary, of course.” I asked him, amazed, why after all these years he felt he needed it. “I’ve just been thinking about it for a long time and now I’ve done it.”

What I can’t understand is why the prospect of a gunfight with a burglar makes more sense than to simply budget for another theft. A burglar wants to take something of value. That’s all. So keep $40 or $50 bucks in your wallet on your nightstand and sleep through, or pretend to sleep through, your next burglary. As unlikely as that might be. I don’t know if it was part of his argument, but A gave me a significant look and said, “The police officer I talked with says this kind of thing happens when the circus is in town.” Trapeze artists are underpaid, I guess.

Friend B had been taking all this in. He lives in a tall building in the neighborhood as well. He agreed that having a gun would be a good thing. Although he does not yet have one. I guess I was getting strident — I kept asking the same question over and over: Why do you want to confront a burglar with a gun? Isn’t he going to have the jump on you? B said, “Yeah, but if he does decide to take me out, at least I have a sliver of a chance.” I guess B’s strategy is to let the intruder know you’re awake then see if he attacks. Or does he simply mean to shoot first? What satisfaction is there in shooting a cat burglar?

But the entire argument is absurd. I’m 68 and have never been robbed. (Oh, In the military, I had a nice Italian silk suit taken from my locker, which I had left open). The chances of any of us being burgled is pretty unlikely, even if the circus does come to town.

If I was a burglar and wanted a gun, or more guns, I’d go to households where people are know to keep guns. I don’t think the deterrent value is high. So sleep with a gun under your pillow, if you want. But if your intruder carries a gun, he’s going to be ready to use it.

Chance favors the prepared gunman.

There are 435 congressmen and women in the House. 257 of those are Democrats. If the 178 Republicans vote as a block — as is expected — the Democrats would have needed 218 votes to prevail in tonight’s vote.

I watched the vote on the Health Care bill on CNN tonight. It was tense — better, frankly, than most of the World Series games.

For the longest time, the Republicans had 177 up on their side of the tote board while the Dems slowly clicked upwards — 215, 216, 217, and then 218, and a huge cheer. The Affordable Health Care for Americans Act, passed the House. Final score, 220 to 215. It is now ready to go to the Senate — probably with a lot more nail-biting.

Then something unexpected happened. Under the Republican column, the numeral one appeared. I was certainly curious, but it was many minutes before newscaster Don Lemon said it was a congressman from Louisiana. A southern Republican from Louisana broke ranks?

Yes. The man was Joseph Cao, a freshman congressman who grew up in Vietnam. In 2008, he beat the crooked Democrat, William Jefferson by only a 2% of the electorate. Jefferson is the guy who was caught with $90,000 in ill-gotten funds in a freezer in his home.

What strikes me as fascinating and heartening, is that there could be in this hyper-authoritarian atmosphere, a Republican strong enough to break ranks. The fact that Cao was seated next to Eric Kantor, the House Minority Whip, is even more impressive.

As I write I am hearing Nancy Pelosi thanking those who voted for the bill. I just heard her say the words “…they have courage.” I hope the freshman Republican is one of those on her mind.

If you’ve been looking for signs of a spine among the Democrats, consider representative Alan Grayson of central Florida. Yesterday, he explained the Republican health care plan on the floor of the House with the aid of home-made graphics. “#1, Don’t get sick. #2, If you do get sick, #3, Die quickly.”

When the Republicans demanded an apology, the first term congressman said, “I apologize that we haven’t voted sooner to end this holocaust in America.” Then the Republicans demanded he apologize for using the word ‘holocaust’. All this outrage comes from the fake anti-fascists who’ve been calling Democrats Nazis all year long.

Fortunately, for the missing ingredient in the whole debate — Truth — Grayson is not the apologizing sort. Look how he stood up to Wolf Blitzer and company. Also note that, as a Democrat in a conservative district, he isn’t afraid to offend the Republican base.

Please please please clone Alan Grayson and inject whatever makes him run into the rest of the Democrats.

New York Giants wide receiver, Plaxico Burress, is going to jail. He foolishly carried a loaded pistol into a nightclub. Going up the stairs, it slipped out of his waistband. He reached through his jeans to stop its fall, touched the trigger, and blew a hole in his leg.

Six months later, in August, thanks to the prodding of mayor Bloomberg, Burress was sentenced to two years in prison. He will be there when his wife gives birth to their second child. She is due in late November.

Plaxico Burress is a millionaire, he’s a champion. And he’s black.

During the month of August, gun-toting teabaggers, their weapons loaded, milled around a hall in Phoenix, Arizona, where President Obama was making an appearance. Many were photographed, even interviewed. Republican officials were quick to say they were protesting for freedom (pardon me if I don’t use the capital “f”).

The non-celebrity gunmen, hailed as “ordinary taxpayers”, were white.

Was Buress’s crime that he accidentally shot himself? Or was he accidentally born non-white?

This is Fucked-up — with a capital F.

He saw it coming.

September 16th, 2009

Watch this 2006 clip of the smug, excitable Arthur Laffer (Reagan’s top economic advisor and originator of the Laffer Curve) going up against Peter Schiff, the president of a small investment banking firm. Schiff predicted the present financial mess, pretty much to the nearest trillion dollar debt multiple.

If this piques your interest, forget CSI for one night and spend 57 minutes viewing Schiff’s speech to the Austrian Scholar’s Conference . If you’re a left of center, economically challenged person, as I am, you will learn some things worth knowing. Some you will like, some you won’t. (At about the 42:00 into the video, he has some hilarious material on our attitude towards debt with China).

Schiff is smart, he’s an entertaining speaker (reminds me of Bill Maher), and he will probably challenge the doddering Senator Dodd, in Connecticut. If Schiff wins, it will mean America will have elected at least one intelligent Republican.

Dissing the Prez.

September 10th, 2009

I don’t know when I first began hearing the verb, to diss. The kids picked it up from the rappers. One of the sources I looked at had it as a Jamaican-American coinage. Another simply said, “African American Vernacular English, short for disrespect.” It’s unsettling, but not unsurprising, that America’s first black President would also be the first of our Presidents to be dissed in an official setting.

The racist gasbags of the Republican party have been floating above the landscape since the Southern Strategy of the seventies and eighties, but they’ve become completely untethered in the past year. Threats against blacks have been shouted out at almost every right-wing gathering since Obama took office. The gun displays at the Town Hall meetings of August were exceptionally chilling because senior Republicans, unwilling to criticize their base, were complicit: “Hey, we’re not going to diss the Second Amendment.”

Joe Wilson, the South Carolina Congressman who yelled “You Lie!” at the President, is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. In recent years this organization has morphed from mere appreciators of the Confederacy’s causes and has now taken on a more activist role in thinly veiled white supremacy issues. If you have HBO, go to On-Demand and choose “Right America, Feeling Wronged,” the documentary made by Alexandra Pelosi during the late days of the campaign — when Obama’s chances began to soar. You’ll see a whole lot of Joe Wilsons, male and female, young and old, white and white. Full of hate and fear. And now, thanks to the Town Hall meetings, we know many of them are armed. Horrible combination.

I didn’t see Obama’s reaction to Joe Wilson’s cry, but I understand he simply sailed along on his lofty rhetoric. Fine. That’s what he does well. But a simple pause, a two-beat glare at the moron, followed by a subtly disgusted head shake would have been nice to see. But that’s not Obama’s style. On the other hand, he’s been dissed before. He obviously knows how to handle it.