Thursday, February 26, 2009

They Really Think You Don’t Count.

They” being Washington's K Street community, the nation's lobbying groups.
They” were among the 52.4 million people who watched President Obama's first address to the Joint Session of Congress on Tuesday, according to Nielsen data. They did not like what they heard. Or maybe they were ecstatic…
after all, lobbyists only make money when their clients are nervous.

Big industry is always threatened by Progressive change. Big industry always attacks legislation that puts the individual American’s health above their own ability to exploit human beings. It was widely reported today, most notably in the Wall Street Journal that big industry like agriculture, health-care/pharma and coal mining are already drafting lobbying campaigns to stop the Obama administration’s initiatives.

Watch your TV closely. Watch for some egregious lies coming down in the next couple of months, maybe sooner, on behalf of the health-care industry.

The first step in the lobbyist’s big war against the hardworking people of the United States? The former chief executive of HCA, Richard Scott announced the creation of "Conservatives for Patients Rights.” He is backing this new special interest group with a $20,000,000 campaign to enact health-care legislation based on “free market” principles.

If a term like “free market” principles doesn’t sound like an oxymoron to you by now, you’re either filthy rich, or your diminishing fortunes have driven you hopelessly insane.

I won’t get into Agriculture and the predictably untrustworthy defense contractor lobby. Either of these industries would gladly promote a pointless war if it helped their bottom line.

Lobbyists really think you and I don’t count.

After all, they don’t work for America; they don’t work for you and me.
Lobbyists work for transnational industry.
They only respect our ability to call our Senators, our Congressmen, and they will lie and pay millions if not billions of dollars in media buys to deceive us. They will do anything to lull you into a state of doubt and confusion so that you will accept the things their clients sell you and forget about what you actually deserve, what you actually need.

But we know what the truth is.
We know health-care is our right. It should be standardized. It should be the best it can be. It should available to all regardless of region, class or creed.

Why do the English, the French, the Scandinavian countries, Cuba and even our northern neighbor Canada have something that we don’t?
Because health-care is big, big business. The health-care industry would rather Americans die slowly and go broke than have to get them the care they need when they need it. Your dollars matter more to the health-care industry than your life.
Never forget it.

I predict these will be among the first lies to come from the health-care industry lobby:

The lobbyists will say that Universal healthcare coverage will eliminate your choices:
How about the choice between no doctor… and no doctor? Which is the choice too many Americans have right now.

The lobbyists will say, the government can’t handle healthcare, it can’t do anything, the government used to run the Postal System.
The Postal System has been in operation for over a century. Without it, the supply chain of entire industries would fail. One of the Postal system’s biggest costs in fact… is health-care for its active employees and retirees.

The lobbyists will say that under a nationalized health-care system, treatment will be “rationed.”
Are you enjoying the portion you are getting now? Are you getting any? Are you enjoying the fair and equitable system under which you call and beg while making your way through labyrinthine voice mail systems built to exhaust you, so that you’ll give up on the reimbursements and coverage you are paying for?

The lobbyists think you don’t count, and they are betting on your ignorance or their ability to make you ignorant.

Prove them wrong by signing this petition today.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Throw Away the Keys

Last Week, former Republican Presidential candidate Alan Keyes launched into an attack on President Obama that can only be labeled as insane. Mr. Keyes, who also lost a Senate race to the President, called him an abomination. He also questioned his legitimacy as President and questioned whether military leaders should be taking orders from him. Believe it or not, these are direct quotes:

"Obama is a radical communist, and I think it is becoming clear. That is what I told people in Illinois and now everybody realizes it's true. He is going to destroy this country, and we are either going to stop him or the United States of America is going to cease to exist."
He then added:

"We are in the midst of the greatest crisis this nation has ever seen. And if we don't stop laughing about it, we are going to find ourselves in the middle of chaos, confusion and civil war."

I have no idea how he came up with the "radical communist" idea, but saying that we have to "stop" him is very dangerous language. There are many in this country who are not happy with the fact that we have a black president, we certainly don't need semi-legitimate leaders of the opposition party calling for him to be stopped. This attempt to de-legitimize Obama was echoed this week by Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, who questioned whether Obama was actually born in the United States by saying that he hadn't seen his birth certificate. My co-contributor here SJ already spoke about the Republican response last night in which Bobby Jindal said that the federal government was a failure in their response to Katrina, so therefore they couldn't be trusted to fix the economic problem.

I think this is a very dangerous road that the Republicans are going down. I'm not sure where it leads, but there needs to be a someone in the party who is willing to stand up to this nonsense. This is what happens when a party is left with only extremist members. Most moderate Republicans were voted out of office. A moderate Republican in Congress would not be able to withstand a primary challenge from a far right candidate. Their strategy at this point seems to be to disagree with the administration, regardless of the merits of the program, and then try to minimize the President as much as possible. They have no new policies to put forward, in fact Newt Gingrich reintroduced the zero capital gains tax idea (he first brought this up over 10 years ago) as the solution to the financial crisis.

The last time the Republicans were out of power they came up with the "contract with America" in which they pledged smaller government and less regulation and that American people eventually responded to that message. The Republicans squandered that good will over the past eight years. They proved that once given the keys to government, they were in fact more wasteful than the Democrats had been. So what is their new idea? Smaller government and less regulation. However I think the American people have already been down that road. Given the fact that they have no new ideas to present, they have basically resorted to name calling. The stimulus bill is a "spending" bill. The President isn't legitimate. The Democrats are going to grow government. No solutions, just more nonsense.

Perhaps this will all fade away with time. Perhaps a more moderate voice will emerge from the Republican party. Perhaps there will eventually be a well thought out alternative to this administration's policies. However, for now, we are stuck with the nonsense that is epitomized by people like Alan Keyes.

My Follow Up to Governor Jindal’s Response, as Well as a Little Something about “Volcano Monitoring”

By the way, this is volcano monitoring.

While there are a lot of problems with the stimulus bill, the 140 million dollars set aside to pay for “Volcano Monitoring” is not part of the “pork” that the GOP is suddenly, spontaneously worried about. We have US citizens and military personnel living in the shadow of potential volcanic threats in many regions stateside and around the world. These Scientists also monitor for earthquake events. I guess Governor Jindal thinks that’s on the order of goofball experiments and hobbies, but I don’t think Americans in the Hawaiian Islands or in Alaska or California for that matter, think this is unimportant. I wonder how much Governor Jindal would think we should spend monitoring volcanoes, if there were one in his very own state of Louisiana. No one who lives in the Gulf States thinks there should be cuts made to the Weather Bureau’s budgets for monitoring tropical storms right?
No one thinks that the systems that could warn us of another Katrina are funded by "pork" or runaway spending right?


It’s funny, Republicans didn’t complain when the Bush administration and the Republican controlled congress spent like drunken sailors, (which is to say, they spent money we didn’t have and lowered taxes on the Rich) and created the herculean deficits we live under now. Now that there is a move to inject money (Which I have many, many problems with but that’s for another post) into the very same economy they allowed to fracture, they are becoming budget hawks.

How nice. How responsible. How patriotic of them.

But after last night’s address by President Obama and the customary follow up address by the opposing party, I have a question of my own:
Why are we hearing from Bobby Jindal all of a sudden?
Isn’t it Republican Minority Leader John Boehner’s responsibility to reply? I have my own suspicions of why the GOP, a party that only trots out its members of color in calculated shows of inclusion, is suddenly shoving Governor Jindal into to the national spotlight, (but I will save them for another post as well.)

In his response Governor Jindal opened with:
"…Tonight, we witnessed a great moment in the history of our Republic. In the very chamber where Congress once voted to abolish slavery, our first African-American President stepped forward to address the state of our union."

Funny. You’d think he wasn’t talking about that same first African American President the GOP claimed was not fit to be President of the United States.

Now they’re proud, go figure.

Governor Jindal continued with:
Today in Washington, some are promising that government will rescue us from the economic storms raging all around us. Those of us who lived through Hurricane Katrina, we have our doubts.”

Really? No shit, Bobby.

Call me crazy, but I believe President Bush, his administration, his hand-picked appointees and the Republican Party are where Governor Jindal should be placing his doubts…
Oh, that’s right, -they were voted out of office.

So let me see if I understand this:
... because a Republican administration that governed for eight years made the Federal Government an operational shambles; because Bush and Michael Brown and the vast ranks of incompetents and sycophants they appointed couldn’t rescue a cat from a tree, much less a population from a catastrophic flood they had ample warning about;
-Jindal believes Government is incapable of responding to or solving big problems.


But Governor Jindal goes on, blowing smoke up our collective ass while essentially telling us to stop whining and stand up for ourselves:
We can have confidence in our future - because, amid today's challenges, we also count many blessings: We have the most innovative citizens ...the most abundant resources ... the most resilient economy ... the most powerful military ... and the freest political system in the history of the world. My fellow citizens, never forget: We are Americans. And like my dad said years ago, Americans can do anything.

Yes Mr. Jindal, I agree with your father, “Americans can do anything,” but that doesn’t mean their government should do nothing.

American potential and the enduring power of our people doesn’t mean that Washington can wash its hands of its responsibilities just because the GOP squandered the surplus of the late 1990s and doesn’t feel like correcting the mistakes Republican lawmakers made when they pushed for deregulation, and lowered taxes on those who are the wealthiest, and consequently benefit the most from their citizenship in this nation.

Sorry Governor Jindal.

Just because your party is not the functioning majority anymore doesn’t mean Government can’t accomplish anything.
It means quite the opposite in fact.


You can read Governor Jindal’s address in its entirety here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Jon Stewart Is Not the New FTC Commissioner, and Other Pipe Dreams Dashed…

I’ll let all the news and media junkies who know Stewart’s actual birth name chuckle amongst themselves. It would be pretty wild if the Daily Show’s host were picked for a government post… okay, it’s a stupid idea.
But well-intentioned stupid ideas are nothing new, nor are they ever going to go out of style.


The Obama administration has chosen Federal Trade Commission member Jon Leibowitz to serve as the next Chairman of the FTC.

Some of the recent assignments announced by President Obama have been predictably contrarian, (in keeping with his “Team of Rivals” fantasies) and other choices have been downright baffling (Keeping Ben Bernanke and even Robert Gates –-and even Christian Marrone?!) This Leibowitz appointment is actually a move toward sane, with-the-grain appointments in terms of the country’s needs and mood, being that the era of sweeping deregulation has fostered an era of criminal abuses at every level of our economy. It seems we need more cops and less policymakers in order to stop the bleeding, shore up the building, guard the homestead, etc., etc.… insert whatever metaphor you like here because the Dow Jones just lost all the additional value it had “created” in the last 12 years.

But this appointment of an MPAA lobbyist to the FTC should probably upset people who voted for the Obama/Biden ticket more than it does. After all, the FTC is responsible for reviewing and allowing mergers between corporations in keeping with antitrust laws among many other responsibilities of oversight on the federal level. While the President specified that only his cabinet would be barred to lobbyists (except when he decides on exceptions to this rule) the appointment of any lobbyist to a chairmanship of this scope is unsettling. The FTC enforces almost all of the entire body of consumer protection law in America, and most lobbyists that have represented industry associations like the MPAA have been famously hard at work against existing laws and regulations as well as bills that try to limit the practices of the businesses that may exploit consumers. A lobbyist is now in charge of the FTC; there’ll be no Senate hearings or vetting by either party because Jon Leibowitz doesn't need Senate confirmation: he’s already an active commissioner.

So much for “change.”

I keep hearing that “Washington is Washington” and that it is unrealistic to expect lobbyists to disappear from the political apparatus.
It’s the way things have worked since the old days, I keep hearing.
The thing is, I didn’t vote for the “same old, same old.” If I had, I would have flicked the lever for McCain/Palin back on November 4.

Jon Leibowitz is aggressively “pro regulation” on issues like online privacy and the emerging ad supported economies that rely on behavioral targeting and data mining of users online. That he scares all the people in marketing who want exploit online users (think about the nonsense Facebook recently tried with their sudden change in end user terms regarding “ownership” of information) isn’t enough to quell all doubts about potential conflicts of interest and concerns about ideological clarity coming into this job.

It makes me think of a conversation I had with a good friend from my College days, named Ethan Callender, who reminded me that Obama did not run as a Progressive and made no promises to Progressives in exchange for their votes. He never once said that he would challenge the Democratic Party establishment or its ossified postures by committing a wave of Progressive appointments to either his cabinet or the government at large. President Obama merely promised “change.” I just assumed it meant a wave of Progressives coming into government, as well as the increasing influence of figures like Dennis Kucinich or Russ Feingold. Ethan said we should be more concerned with the functional abilities of the coming appointed officials after the eight years of incompetence we just suffered through. The problem remains though: the appointments largely will determine the will to make change, and it is from that will to make change that the ability to make change is generated in government in many respects.

And here we all thought that being the opposite of the Bush administration meant a Progressive administration… not necessarily.

So far, (and realistically speaking it’s only been a month,) acting in contra pose to eight years of Bush and Cheney actually means a kind of “practical centrism” and at least the visible, sometimes theatrical efforts at bipartisan alliance and the promotion of workable consensus.

Thinking that President Obama may have been some kind of messianic statesman who was going to take on all the aspirations and bundle all of the road maps of Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal”, Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” and Bobby Kennedy’s “Newer World” may have been some kind of pipe dream, or audacious hope on our part. The nature of the appointments and extensions of Bush Administration appointees that President Obama has already made, are a sign that our Commander in Chief may have to become more like Abraham Lincoln than he or any of us realized.

Lincoln’s legacy is complicated today by the assertions (assertions in his own rediscovered words) that while he did not believe in Slavery, he did not believe in racial equality either. Yet, who would put any other man in his stead, into that turbulent place in history when our country ceased to exist for months and years at a time? Someone like John Brown could never have been elected President. Lincoln was the best man America could have hoped for in the 19th century. He was a principled career politician with his eyes on the big picture, -everybody’s big picture. Most importantly, Lincoln was an able statesman who knew talent and intellect when he saw it, even when it came in the form of an adversary.
President Obama also understands that the country’s solutions may come at the price of letting political adversaries sit at the table. Our President may not be offered the luxury of letting America think he is ideologically pure, or letting us think that he is an answer to all the forestalled promises of past Presidents who promised “change.”

He is still the best person we could have possibly hoped to elect as President of the United States in 2008. There is no equivalence whatsoever between an Obama presidency and what would have been the McCain presidency, although I’m nervous about the open-ended “non plan” in Afghanistan. Pipe dreams notwithstanding, it’s still early. It’s early enough that I still eagerly await future appointments that make good on that postponed America...

I’m talking about the America that President Obama assured us all exists on election night.
Only Progressives want to work toward that reality.

I have the audacity to hope for something more than another lobbyist getting a high level government job just because he’d be good at it.

I have the audacity to hope for the change to come.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Do Black People Even Read the New York Post Anymore?

I was just going to let this particular bit of nonsense from this “barely-a-newspaper” go by without any remarks, but their published “apology” this week, and their general attitude toward the public here in New York City and by extension the nation is one of petulant, juvenile disrespect.

The New York Post has long conducted itself as though it had no more responsibility to the factual truth or to their readers than a high school newspaper. It’s the reason why I’ve never bought a copy. The New York Post just isn’t a newspaper I need to read.

Most people justify their reading of Rupert Murdoch’s Post with just two words: “Page Six.” Curiously, it’s a defense of reading a paper by citing the value of its least “journalistic” product. Rife with blind items, rumor and innuendo, -that even when true- are just not important. Sadly, the Business section, despite the 3rd Grade level sophistication of its article headlines, is actually spot on with great scoops and very direct, succinct coverage. It’s a solid daily report on the economy, and principal actors in the financial markets. But it can’t afford not to be, no business section can. I wish I could stomach the nonsense that surrounds it to get to that section, but that would be like digging through feces to get at a quarter. I’d rather just go borrow a quarter from someone.

If an intelligent person feels they need to defend and justify reading a local newspaper, then something is clearly wrong with the paper in question. Which brings us to their political cartoons. For many years, badly drawn and bereft of any complex tropes or commentary, these are not the kind of caricatures that would hold their own against the doodles in a kid’s Math notebook.

I mean seriously.

No one can prove that it was the New York Post’s intention to insult and demean the President of the United States with a racist characterization, -an animal comparison that is so old, stupid and base that it’s almost fallen out of vogue with the Klan. No can prove that the cartoon was intended to be an illustrated racial slur against Barack Obama. Conversely, no one can prove that it wasn’t… barring some internal memo or communication exposing the motives in developing this cartoon.

However, even those of us unfamiliar with the workings of any individual newspaper’s editorial procedures know that there is a process of submission and approval for any piece of content in a newspaper. Am I to believe, that this idea was pitched, reviewed and approved with not one single human being at the NY Post raising the issue that this would at best be misconstrued as an insensitive gag, if not an out and out racist joke?

I don’t buy it, literally and figuratively.
Maybe the editors and publisher thought the controversy would be worth it. Maybe they thought it wouldn’t be interpreted that way. But it’s highly improbable. It’s on the order of the New York Post doing a pro Democratic Party cartoon without knowing it. Does anyone believe that’s possible?

The New Yorker Cartoon we discussed here on Random Thoughts last summer inspired a lot of rage and talk of boycotts as well. That magazine cover’s problems were caused by its complicated but direct satirical presentation of some of the more asinine racist associations being pushed by Republican Party supporters in the media. It too baffled the public because of the impossible idea that an editorial staff did not foresee that cover on the newsstand causing so much anger.

I still see one or two people of Color reading the NY Post on my way into work on the train, but there used to be a lot more. I suppose I will see even less now. This is not good. The newspaper model in New York City and around the nation is in great danger right now. Those free newspapers are not the answer. Free newspapers are too dependent on the marketers that sponsor them with ad buys. Real journalism costs real money, and the only way to ensure most of it isn’t a series of veiled press releases is to use our own money to pay for it.

Do not boycott the New York Post.

The answer is the public’s demand for a better New York Post with journalistic integrity. The public must demand a paper that thinks twice before engaging in controversy for controversy’s sake. This newspaper that Alexander Hamilton founded could be a great and relevant paper again. If you don’t like the fact that these cartoons suck, if you don’t like the fact that Wednesday’s cartoon was at best a cynical attempt at getting publicity through controversy, or at worst the latest sour-grapes racist insult to our President…
-Write to the newspaper.
Let the New York Post know how you feel.

The Black and Hispanic readers on my morning commute are the last holdouts who manage to somehow look around the Post’s Op Ed pages and its general posture toward minorities in America. There is a certain shame, perhaps a self-loathing, implicit in walking around with a copy of the New York Post under your arm if you are Black or Hispanic. It’s a paper you have to rationalize reading if you are of a minority race.

People will say they read it for Page Six, or for the sports, but no one I’ve met, Black, Hispanic, White or even Republican cops to reading the paper for its own sake.

I wonder if Rupert Murdoch knows that, or if he even cares.


Friday, February 20, 2009

“It’s Like Deja Vu All Over Again.”

Yogi Berra’s increasing relevance as a philosopher should worry us a little these days. It’s not because of Berra’s seeming contempt for proper syntax or his unconscious insistence on utilizing the oxymoron as metaphor. I think the fact that Berra’s witticisms are becoming progressively significant, (at times unwitting Kafkaesque explorations of paradox,) and stingingly pertinent is a sign of just how bad things are, all over, in American politics. Like many of Yogi’s past off hand remarks, American politicians make apparent sense on the outside, are confusing beneath their surface, and exist in utter contradiction to their principles when one steps back a few paces to look and listen again.

The seating of Roland Burris should never have been honored. Harry Reid should’ve stuck to his guns, -impotent guns such as they were. I’ve used a lot of space and a lot of foul language on this blog to strike at Rod Blagojevich, someone who has never put the state of Illinois before his own interests. Roland Burris is able, experienced and well known. Mr. Burris has a long record of public service which could have translated into a certain muscularity when it came to the difficult work of passing bills and representing his state. All things being equal, he could have been an excellent choice… but all things are not equal. Burris was appointed by a Governor who stands accused, recorded on tape, of trying to sell that same Senate seat. The cloud of corruption around Mr. Burris’ appointment should have been enough to make him step aside and refuse said appointment by Governor Blagojevich. But as I wrote earlier, in response to a post by my collaborator on this blog no one should expect any politician to walk away from a seat in the Senate.

With things being so “different,” it’s very easy to see what’s still the same, and what’s still wrong in politics.

I repeat; no one should expect any politician to walk away from a seat in the Senate. But Roland Burris really should have refused this appointment. He should have stepped aside because in going along with a crooked Governor’s design, he was letting Rod Blagojevich further exercise his powers, -powers he had proven too weak and irresponsible to wield.
Burris himself is now tainted by allegations that, far from being a simple tool, a token cynically used by Rod Blagojevich to distract the American public and its lawmakers in the final days of his senate-seat-for-sale scandal, Burris actually talked and discussed terms with Rod Blagojevich’s surrogates.

Roland Burris, like Rod Blagojevich before him is not stepping down. That’s not how they do it in Illinois apparently.

The colossal gall required to stand there before a sea of microphones explaining a lie is monstrous. I’d often wondered back when I was in college how the old Tamany Hall operated so brazenly in old New York. I now have a sense of how graft is re-described, contextualized, and euphemized as to seem like nothing more than a series of misunderstandings on everyone’s part. The game Rod Blagojevich and now Roland Burris are playing with the public is a trial of mental endurance. Blagojevich and Burris are testing how many times can they deny the obvious, cite technicalities and feign ignorance before the media, and the public let it all slide.

The Illinois legislature must do what it failed to do before:
They must call for an immediate special election.

This might mean not getting a Democrat seated, this might not even mean a “clean” politician when all is said and done… but it will be a definitive end to these distractions that have interrupted the business of the people of the state of Illinois.

Illinois deserves better.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Holding Pattern

The Attorney General set off a firestorm of controversy today when he spoke up about Americans and their attitudes towards race relations. Mr. Holder said:

“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,...we, as average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race.”

This is not a controversial stand. Even Barack Obama tried to distance himself from talking about race after giving his speech in Philadelphia. We, as a nation, simply do not like to talk about the subject in any constructive manner. There is a lot of talk going on about race, but mainly it takes place in homogeneous groups. Whites talk about blacks, blacks talk about Hispanics, Hispanics talk about Asians, Asians talk about whites and so on. Rarely is there a frank discussion between people of different races.

Barack Obama's election as President is not a panacea that fixes all of our race problems. He now takes the place of Bill Cosby as everyone's cool black friend, but that does not change the way that people perceive each other. There were many people who voted for Obama because "he's one of the good ones". The Attorney General was talking about the de facto segregation that takes place on the weekends when people are no longer forced to share the same work space or lunch counter. He was talking about Where people choose to worship, who they choose to associate with and who their kids play with. Mr. Holder said:

"Saturdays and Sundays, America in the year 2009 does not in some ways differ significantly from the country that existed almost 50 years ago. This is truly sad."

I am honestly tired of the controversy that comes up every time someone brings this up. What exactly are Mr. Holder and people like him supposed to say? It feels as if some on the Right would like to say, "you got the Presidency, so shut up about race already". As if that one event has somehow turned us into the Cosby family and friends. Minorities continue to be "mistakenly" shot by cops all the time. The next time I hear of the cops shooting an unarmed white kid from the suburbs will be the first. There was a story on Real Sports this month in which the son of a former major league player was tailed by the cops from a restaurant to his house. The cops mistakenly entered his license plate and got back a report of a stolen car. They stopped him on the front steps of his house, made him get on the floor. When his parents, in their pajamas came out, they were forced to assume the position and when the son protested the handling of his mother, he was shot and almost killed. This happened in an affluent suburb of Houston. Now you cannot tell me that in the exact same situation with a white teenager, that the cops would not have handled that situation differently. That is the reality of being black in America.

The story of the murders of black men during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina have gone largely unreported, even though the White people of the neighborhood that the shootings occurred in seem unrepentant and even proud of what they did. That is America. That is what the day to day life is for a black man in America. You walk around with a bullseye on your back. I have had my own run in with the police and I can tell you that my life is held much more cheaply because of the color of my skin. Now should we be talking about this? You're damn right, we should be talking about this. This problem isn't going to go away because we ignore it. Segregation didn't disappear because we ignored it. The Government tried to ignore slavery for 100 years because they hoped that it would just go away. Even the revered Thomas Jefferson himself, while talking a big game about liberty and justice for all, kept slaves until the day he died. Jefferson decided that his generation couldn't solve the slavery issue so he was just going to pass it to the next. It took 60 years for the bloodiest conflict in US history to finally solve the problem.

If we don't talk nothing gets done. If we all just assume that our cool black friend will make everything okay, then we are lost. We have made great strides, there is no doubt about that, however we still have bridges to cross and streams to ford. Now is not the time to take a break from talking about race issues, now is the time to talk about them more than ever. Let's talk about the reasons why such a high percentage of blacks and Hispanics aren't finishing high school. Let's talk about why the teenage birth rate is climbing. Let's talk about why our prisons are disproportionately populated by black men. Let's talk about the cause, not the effect. Let's talk about crumbling schools and hospitals. Let's talk about the cycle of poverty. Let's talk about hopelessness. Let's talk about why the American dream is out of reach for so many. Let's talk about why, we as a country, think that's just fine. Having a Black president is the perfect opportunity to talk about these issues. Let's not miss this chance. I will end with another quote from Mr. Holder:

“It is an issue we have never been at ease with and, given our nation’s history, this is in some ways understandable. If we are to make progress in this area, we must feel comfortable enough with one another and tolerant enough of each other to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

There Are Two Americas…

…maybe several more, but at least two. Investment Banker Bernard Madoff lives in one, the rest of us live in another.

It’s well into February. The Obama administration has been off to a blistering start. Only Right wing pundits like establishment hacks Michelle Malkin and Sean Hannity can see the dark side of having a fast moving, hard working administration during times like these. The sight of President Obama briskly going about business, answering questions intelligently with credible force of reason, calmly calling on Helen Thomas (welcome back baby) infuriates Far Right mouthpieces, like Rush Limbaugh for one. You’d have to really hate your country to pine for the days of George W. Bush’s press conferences. One would have to really despise truth, justice and the nation’s stated ideals… and I’d suppose they hate America if I were given to betting on the inner workings of the minds of others. I’d accuse them of hating America if I had something to gain by shutting down GOP demagogues. I’d call them anti-working class, anti-middle class or unpatriotic to neutralize any point they might raise. The truth is, these days the Right wing echo chamber is doing a fine job of shutting itself down.
Right wing policy makers, pundits and “journalists” are offering us no new direction, no new policy other than the same tired, free-market, help-the-big-guys-out-first, trickle-down, Reaganomic nonsense that brought the country to this low.
They are still extolling the virtues of allowing the Rich to pay less taxes proportionately than the rest of the country.
The GOP is still the party of some “other America.” They are still the party of the top 1% and can no longer hide it behind monosyllabic sloganeering.

The Fox News Empire, various DC think tanks, and all the free-market tax-cut hawks in government want to take credit for promoting and supporting the deregulation that made the excesses, abuses and criminality on Wall Street possible (read profits), but none of the responsibility for its consequences. Hank Paulson for one, was not only a high profile actor on Wall Street as the CEO of Goldman Sachs, but the man caught holding the bag last year, or more accurately the man who saw there were snakes in the bag. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson will never be congratulated for identifying the apocalypse of creative instrumentation in the financial world because the problem with our last Treasury Secretary was that; derivatives, the explosion in hyper-leveraged-intra-bank-financing, and the bizarre housing bubble they were built upon, didn’t bother him until that other “other America” crumbled under the weight of predatory lending.

…The man had the nerve to ask for all but a blank check from American tax payers on behalf of his community of liars, cheats and thieves.

There have been several appointments and “disappointments” in the almost entire month since our new president was sworn in. It seems that most influential Democrats at the front of the line for appointments don’t think much of raising our taxes but also don’t think that tax laws apply to them. It’s not much of a way to turn the country around.

Who are these people?
What culture is this where one class of people routinely steals from the rest of the country and gets away with it?
The answer is “the other America.”

The other America” is a term that has historically been used to signify the downtrodden; the poor; the destitute; those hidden masses who suffer below the grinding wheels of “prosperity.” -You know, the poor saps who keep losing their 401ks every ten years or so when the stock markets tank. The truth is, most of us are overwhelmingly much closer in economic stature to the working poor, exponentially so, than we are to the Richest people in our nation. For a middle class American to refer to the poor as “the other America” is something of a joke. -And it’s a joke being played on him. It’s a joke that allows him to identify with the top half of the country, as opposed to the bottom half.

America is not a country of “halves.”

While America can be divided into two distinct realities, they’ve hardly ever been halves at any point in our history. Back in 2004, I shuddered when then Senator Barack Obama said that there was no Black America, no White America...
-Now I know he meant there shouldn’t be… but there is. Denying these central truths, these corrosive inequalities in our nation are what allow them to continue and flourish.

Supporters of free market capitalism as it is unscrupulously practiced on Wall Street by investment banks and on the world stage by transnational corporations would probably say the tension between the Rich and those who aspire to be wealthy is what drives progress in civilization. They’d say it’s what moves history. Conversely, failure is what regulates fraud. Ruin is what enforces moral behavior in markets… As if bad ideas and criminality were never profitable. I’ll give you a moment to stop laughing.

The tension between the Rich and the Poor isn’t there to make anybody better, or move civilization forward. The chasm between the tiny wealthy minority and the rest of us only serves to allow the wealthy to live in a world of different standards and laws from the rest of us. The chasm serves to keep the Rich, rich.

Consider the fact that we have two prison systems: One for regular people who steal and break the law, “Federal Penitentiary,” and another one for people like Sam Waksal: “Minimum Security Prison.” If you’re as Rich as former NASDAQ chairman Bernard Madoff, you don’t have to sit in jail at all. You can just hang out under “house arrest” in your multimillion dollar apartment (which you should no longer have because you stole billions of dollars) until your trial, unlike let’s say, -someone who forged checks. Check forgers go right in with the rapists and other violent offenders… because they’re not Rich like Bernie Madoff.

There are at least two Americas. That promise of someday clawing our way into that “other America” keeps much of our society moving and yet it’s funny how the very promise of a thing… obscures the thing itself.


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Georgia Congressman Apologizes to Fat Drug Addict and Radio Personality.

is the way the headlines should have read this past week.

College drop out and draft dodger Rush Limbaugh, -bent out of shape because someone in the Conservative mainstream actually had the decency to point out that he is the incarnation of the most irrational and illogical elements in political culture, received an apology from Congressman Gingrey of Georgia, a Republican.

Gringrey apologized for defending his Republican House colleagues in a direct and succinct rebuke of Rush Limbaugh and other Right wing pundits at large in the media… That act of sanity and integrity lasted about a few days.

Clearly Republicans don’t have the fortitude to stick with their convictions regarding the irrelevancy of a hypocrite like Rush Limbaugh. I don’t believe that Gringey, or Boehner or any of the emerging upfront faces of the Republican Party have any respect for Sean Hannity or his fellow college drop out Rush Limbaugh. If they have any intelligence, and they have plenty by the way, there is no way that they can do anything but fake praise and feign admiration for people like Rush Limbaugh.

Who is Gringrey kidding?

Gringrey told the truth about a group of inveterate liars in the media who place their love of money and power above their own country’s future every day on the airwaves. Gringrey attempted, for a day or two to take his party back. He told the truth. But Wednesday, after several calls from Limbaugh's listeners, Gringrey reversed himself and basically said these inflammatory on-air weathermen are the future of the party. I call them “weathermen” because like on-air meteorologists, they are repeatedly wrong and consistently lauded for their inaccuracies.

Rush Limbaugh is the Republican Party’s recent past.
-Not its intended future.

Rush Limbaugh has in no way ever reflected America as it was; he merely took advantage of the scared masses of suburban and rural folks wanting simple explanations and places to put their anger. Congressman Gringrey tried to communicate Limbaugh’s irrelevance simply and directly. Limbaugh’s listeners didn’t want to accept that their fat little god in the radio booth just isn’t that important… and if they’d have thought about it for a moment, they would have realized that Congressman Gringrey was trying to tell them; -all the listeners in Limbaugh’s audience- that it is they who have the power, it is they who are the party, it is they who send people like Gringrey himself to Washington.

Those listeners responded by telling Gringrey that they’d rather Rush Limbaugh have their power and influence instead. They’d rather relinquish those most precious of American rights: independent thought, individual opinion, the right to speak your mind.

The tail is wagging the dog again in America… and it’s a very myopic, backward, fraudulent tail at that.