Tuesday, July 26, 2011

John Boehner's Real Message Last Night

Let's keep one thing in mind as we debate these votes on the debt ceiling: Congress is voting on whether to pay for stuff it's already passed during the George W. Bush administration - tax cuts for the rich, two wars, and a Medicare prescription plan. Republicans didn't pay for any of this in the Bush years when we were in control of the government, and we're sure as hell not going to pay for them now with a Democrat in the White House!

It was our good fortune that the economy tanked during the last year of President Bush's administration. The near collapse of the entire economy has played right into our hands. It matters not that Congress has voted on debt ceiling increases a hundred times over the years. What matters, in those stirring words of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, is not what we can do to help govern our country, but what we can do to defeat President Obama.

We handed President Obama a huge sack of economic doggie-doo back in 2009 and have fought tirelessly to undermine every attempt by the President and Democrats to bring our country out of the largest recession since the Great Depression. We have fought every attempt to rebuild our infrastructure, save the auto industry, reform the financial markets, care for our senior citizens, and sick children. We are working in every state across this once great and caring nation to weaken unions, degrade public education, and reduce environmental quality and insure that the protection of endangered species applies to venture capitalists and developers, not snails and frogs. We believe higher levels of particulate pollution is not a bad thing, a little mercury won't hurt, we've got enough swamps already, and a little lead is in the back yard soil won't hurt kids that much.

Exploitation of natural resources is what made our country great.

But back to the debt ceiling. We will not pay our bills unless the President agrees to our plans to take money away from senior citizens' social security and medicare, sick kids' medicaid, and the unemployed's insurance so we can give it to the rich. Medicare operates with administrative costs that are just a fraction of the private sector health industry; private health care plans like we envision would create ten times as many administrative jobs to do the same health care. Now, that's job creation. We have the highest medical costs of any country in the world with nowhere near the best outcomes. Our proposal to end Medicare will require us to spend more and more on ineffective administration of health care creating more and more bureaucratic low paying careers with ever more ineffective medical outcomes. What's not to like?

And this is just one example of our program. Our plans to privatize Social Security will result in untold billions of management fees for Wall Street fat cats unlike the current system which utilizes the safety and stability of the United States of America. Our plan to crash the economy of America and the world for political gain appears to be working. Why would we stop now?

Undermining the full faith and credit of the United States will be good for, well, I don't exactly remember who that will be good for, (I think I read that Eric Cantor's stock portfolio could benefit), but we cannot continue to afford to pay for tax breaks for oil companies, and corporate jets, and hedge fund managers, and the richest 400 families who own 60% of the nation's wealth. So something has to give.

And besides, the Tea Party doesn't listen to me anymore anyway.

So good night and good luck.

- Speaker of the House, John Boehner

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Prayer for Norway

We are too often confronted with trying to make sense of the senseless. The bombing and mass murders in Norway are now added to the list of atrocities we must reconcile. In the United States, we have our Timothy McVeigh and Unabomber and the KKK and Jared Loughner and all the civil rights murders and other armed militias with their violent ideologies and conspiracy theories. The Muslim World has its Al Qaeda which attacked New York City and later bombed a mosque in Iraq to incite a civil war for geopolitical purposes in the power vacuum following the removal of Saddam Hussein.

Norway now has its Anders Behring Breivik

These hearts of darkness stun us time after time. The faces of evil, as much as we would like them to look Middle Eastern, most often don't. The look like us. They look like an Omaha teenager. Or a kid from Arizona or Colorado. Or from anywhere, USA. This latest incarnation looks like he should be modeling sweaters in Norway. It's disturbing and frightening and perplexing as we do the psychological postmortems and find the threads of pseudo Christian or racial or Islamic fundamentalism and their accompanying chaos of ideological, economic, and political manifestos.

The immediate reaction of irresponsible media was to blame Muslims for the Norwegian attacks. How wrong that has proven. I'm listening to the Beatles' Norwegian Wood as I write this. It was written by John Lennon who was murdered in 1980. Yoko Ono issued a statement the next day, saying "There is no funeral for John," ending it with the words, "John loved and prayed for the human race. Please pray the same for him." So love and pray for the human race.

That's about the only thing here that makes sense.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Money Talks

On the debt ceiling vote - Despite President Obama's inclination to give away the farm, Republicans can't take yes for an answer, and so we are in a continued impasse with Republicans now deciding if they can't get everything we want, then they just might want nothing. Having heard the President offer a 5 to 1 cuts- to- revenues formula, Republicans threw a temper tantrum about taxes on the rich and eliminating subsidies for the 5 largest oil companies in the world and ending tax breaks for corporate jets.

It's an ideological fantasy world..........these are the same people who took a $300 billion surplus at the beginning of George W. Bush's first term and turned it into a TRILLION $$$ annual deficit in just eight years. If the Republican supply side theories were true, we would have a roaring economy now that taxes are at the lowest point in five decades. There may have been points in history where lowering marginal rates could generate marginal employment increases, but we've long since passed that point. The Laffer curve is now the Laugher curve among non-ideological economists.

Tea Party/Republican threats on the debt ceiling vote are to default on the debt and plunge the world into a depression unless President Obama and Democrats agree to kill Medicare, privatize Social Security, lay off a million teachers, police officers, firefighters, public utility workers, highway maintenance workers, public hospital nurses, etc., etc., etc., take hundreds of billions if not trillions of $$$ out of the economy, end unemployment insurance, cut children off medicaid, break all the remaining unions, eliminate collective bargaining rights, lower peoples' wages everywhere, increase taxes on the poor and middle-class, throw people off their health insurance plans, and using that money for tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires and tax-payer subsidized corporations making record profits while paying no taxes and out-sourcing work to China or India, and let rich people and corporations own and run everything. Republican Governors across the country are working examples. Their negotiating theory is an all or nothing approach where what's yours is ours and what's mine is mine.

But there are fractures appearing:

The US Chamber of Commerce has sent a letter to Congress stating the obvious - the debt ceiling must be raised. Wall Street is getting a bit tired of the Tea Party antics now that its own profit margins are threatened. As long as the Tea Party charade only hurt other people, it was fine, but now...............not so. Defaulting on US debt includes their money.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell came up with an ingenious solution: we'll cede all Congressional authority to the President on the debt ceiling issue and create a system whereby a only a super-majority vote could overturn the President's raising of the ceiling. Republicans would, of course, retain the right to complain about it later. Talk about cynical.

And the Republican rank and file still are waiting for a good candidate:

Sarah Palin's movie is playing to empty theaters according to news reports now that her few diehard fans have seen it.

Mitt Romney continues to have problems with his past "success." One really was a success - the Massachussetts health insurance program but is now the bane of Republican mostly because Barack Obama adopted it as a model for his own health insurance reform act. The second is Romney's job destruction and the thousands of layoffs he orchestrated working for an equity firm. Not much job creation there.

Michele Bachmann's anti-gay positions and her past church affiliations with their anti Catholic views is beginning to catch up to her. Michele Bachmann's husband is proving a liability right now with his anti-gay Christian counseling clinic which received Medicaid $$$. Now there's a Medicaid practice which could be eliminated. Spouses probably shouldn't be an issue, but she is a partner in the business and should have to answer questions about it. So far, she's refusing to talk about it. She and her husband left their anti-Catholic church days after she announced her run for the presidency.

Herman Cain's anti-Muslim rants are, I hope and pray, starting to lose their appeal.

Tim Pawlenty's role in leaving Minnesota a financial basket case and his remarks that in the event of a default we should pay the Chinese before we pay military salaries is perhaps not the best soundbite to have out there.

Newt Gingrich's "delusional," in the words of a Republican strategist, campaign is hemorrhaging money mostly for private jet transport.

Jon Huntsman or Rick Santorum haven't appeared in press reports for days.

Other Republican candidates have disappeared into the fog and other potential candidates are still sitting on the fence.Governor Rick Perry, George W. Bush's Lieutenant Governor in Texas, is another possible entry. But his weird political philosophy which has included threats of secession from the United States, the dismantling of any semblance of a social welfare net in Texas, along with some right wing Christian affiliations, and Confederate worshiping rhetoric pose problems.

So there you go; I'm predicting that the Chamber of Commerce and Wall Street arm of the Republican Party will force the passage of the debt ceiling increase. After all, they purchased the Republican Party, and it better do what they say. Adolescent Tea Party tantrums and horn blowing aside, money rules.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

A Memorable Fourth of July

It must have been in 1963 or 1964 in Friend, Nebraska, a town of about 1,000 people on Highway 6 about 40 miles west of Lincoln. I was on the Pee Wee or Little League Baseball team and we had played our game and whether we won or lost, I don't remember. But after the game we were to have fireworks, and boy, did we.

Doc Pollard, the dentist in town, was responsible for the fireworks show after the game. So out in center field he parked his 1954 Desoto or 1953 Plymouth or Hudson loaded with fireworks and was one by one removing them and shooting them off to the delight of the small town crowd. The town dentist was something of a celebrity as I remember.

The children, having frolicked through the mosquito fogger's fog as that sweet blue smoke filled the streets surrounding the ball park, were back in the bleachers or sitting in the infield to watch the patriotic display. Doc Pollard lit the fuses and stood back to watch as the rockets and explosions and sparklers and pyrotechnics regaled the crowd.

Then things got interesting. An errant rocket or spark or ember made its way into the Desoto or Plymouth or Hudson filled with the remaining fireworks and it was a grand explosion! Or rather a series of explosions. The rocket's red glare filled the vehicle with light and smoke. The bombs bursting in air gave proof through the night that the car was still there. But barely.

Rockets shot through the exploded windows in all directions scooting across the ground, trails of brightly colored exhaust and explosions marking their trajectories. Kids gathered on the infield ran for their lives! I was hiding behind a telephone pole for cover. I was skinny enough back then that this was quite effective. No one was hurt as I remember.

The explosions continued for several minutes as the car was engulfed in flames.... Eventually the fireworks ended but we watched the car burn...... It was all quite spectacular! I have vague recollections of the local fire department finally extinguishing the flames.

We lived across the alley from Doc Pollard's dental practice and for months we could see the burned out hulk of his Desoto/Plymouth/Hudson parked behind his office. I don't remember if he ever drove it again or not. Or whether he was asked again to manage the fireworks.