Saturday, October 22, 2011

Our Long National Nightmare is Ending

President Obama on Friday, announcing that the last American troops in Iraq will be home by the December holidays:

"So to sum up, the United States is moving forward from a position of strength. The long war in Iraq will come to an end by the end of this year. The transition in Afghanistan is moving forward, and our troops are finally coming home. As they do, fewer deployments and more time training will help keep our military the very best in the world. And as we welcome home our newest veterans, we’ll never stop working to give them and their families the care, the benefits and the opportunities that they have earned.

This includes enlisting our veterans in the greatest challenge that we now face as a nation -- creating opportunity and jobs in this country. Because after a decade of war, the nation that we need to build -- and the nation that we will build -- is our own; an America that sees its economic strength restored just as we’ve restored our leadership around the globe."

What's the Matter with Iowa?

Expanding a bit on points in my "Evidence" post, and indulging in petty politics for a moment:

Iowa is a diverse state, more so than it's given credit for.  But the Iowa GOP is not, most reporters say, and especially not the core GOPers who vote in their caucuses.  It is heavily Rabid Christian Right, or Teavangelical.  And therein lies a tale, or two.

It will be the first test for the GOPer prez sweepstakes.  If Newt Romney wins it, conventional wisdom sez that the nomination is his, because it's where he's weakest.  So far he's not even campaigning there.  Recently there have been hints that his campaign sees an opening, because he's doing surprisingly well in polls and nobody else is running away with the field. 

So the Iowa caucus will test this presumption: that the Iowa GOPer participants are all about Teavangelical dogma and prejudices (otherwise known as "social issues" or "culture wars") and don't much care about electability or the economy or anything else.  That would be just about be deep-sixed by a Romney win.  Except...

Everybody else is running as a Rabid Right Xtian.  But nobody is emerging as the favorite--maybe nobody is pure enough, or has thrilled enough people, or spread enough money around--who knows? ( Most of them don't have much money to spread around, 'cept Cowboy Rick.)  So they could divide the Teavangelical vote and Romney could win, except...

He's Mormon.  That makes him dangerous as far as Tvans are concerned.  He may not get enough votes to prevail even in a divided Tvan field.  Or, at the last minute, in a panic at giving the Mormon the win, people unite around one Tvan.  Michele.  Herman KochCain.  Rick Sanctimonious. Mitt Gingrich.   Or Cowboy Rick. 

This is where you gotta like Cowboy Rick, on paper at least.  He's got the money and organization.  And Tvans might be convinced by that, because a Tvan who wins here, will need to win in South Carolina, Florida, etc.  Cause Newt Romney will likely win New Hampshire.  Only Cowboy Rick can make the case that he has the resources to move on.  But he's doing poorly in Iowa so far, so this would be a last minute, hot-breathing, now let me drive you to the caucus argument.

But this is only if  Iowa Tvans show a new capability of being reasoned with.  If they can be, maybe Tvans elsewhere can be.  If not...then we may be looking at a Tvan independent/third party candidate, because these folks won't settle for a non-Tvan, like that Mormon.

The wild card in all this is Ron Paul.  He's not Tvan but he's not Romney, and he's got a core of very particular true believers.  If he wins Iowa, it upsets the media narratives, and the conventional wisdom is that he won't win anywhere else.  But this is not a conventional year.

Whoever the non-Romney winner in Iowa is, that person's one hope is that the Kochheads show up at the victory party with a big, big, big check.  Which oh yeah could happen.  Then what's the matter with Iowa matters.  

Friday, October 21, 2011

Robin Hood in the 21st Century

I don't know much (yet) about the Robin Hood tax proposal in the UK, which my old stomping grounds of Adbusters is promoting for general use, with a global march on Oct. 29.  But Bill Nighy is an actor I admire greatly, and this ironic "commercial" for this idea is worth watching for him alone.  (He's in some of the Johnny Depp Pirates movies, but among his best screen roles is another and much less known pirate movie, called Pirate Radio.  A great movie about 1960s rock in the UK. )  Still, the idea has obvious appeal, and may well become a 99% Movement proposal.  

The Evidence is In

The evidence is in: it is that the evidence doesn't matter.

In connection with an upcoming event I'll get into later, I've been reading about the Great Depression period, and politically, there's an awful lot that's familiar: namely the same amnesia just a few years after near catastrophe, the same irrational politics, including hysterical media figures and ignoramus right wingers.  There are big differences--for instance, that the economic collapse was so much worse that FDR was given much greater power by an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress to act fast and on his own.  But the political culture was not all that different.  Which means--and I don't know if this should be comforting or not--that today's apparent insanity is not all that unusual, given the roiling changes and fear out there.

But it does help explain why this craziness, and especially this inability to confront real evidence and realistically address problems, is so ascendant.  It's probably in that Bob Dylan quote up there: "It's not dark yet.  But it's getting there."  It isn't dark enough.  Not yet.

But everybody knows it's getting there.  People just fixate on different causes, and ignore evidence to the contrary.  Really, really ignore it.

Not everybody, of course.  The Occupy Wall Street/99% Movement is basically trying to bring back a sense of reality, as well as urgency.  But when it comes to GOPers especially, to that "coalition" of the self-serving and determinedly deluded, they insist on really, really ignoring the evidence.

How else to explain the discourse at the GOPer presidential debates.  Apart from what's become a generalized explanation--that many if not most of the candidates aren't serious candidates, they are just enhancing their brands for the lucrative Rabid Right (Corporate plus Teavangelical) markets.  There is a pandering to the particular fantasies, feelings and primarily hatreds of the "base," that doesn't really care about any evidence to the contrary of their believed realities.  Or as Jonathan Bernstein perfectly puts it: "It's not Rick Perry and Mitt Romney who aren't serious; it's the party they're trying to lead."

Clearly congressional GOPers aren't serious about addressing the economic suffering.  They defy political realities as well as economic ones, and make clear, stark choices that feeds perfectly into the 99% narrative and the Democratic analysis.  When the Senate filibustered and therefore killed the part of the jobs bill that provides funding to rehire and keep on the job teachers, police, firefighters and first responders, refusing the minuscule millionaires' tax that over two-thirds of the electorate favors--where is the political sanity, let alone the governance sanity, in that?  They made it possible for Harry Reid to say with very obvious accuracy that they killed "a bill that would have kept 400,000 teachers in the classroom and first responders on the job because they refuse to ask millionaires to pay their fair share."

Also on Thursday, most GOPers refused to give President Obama any credit for a successful outcome in Libya.  The GOPers have such hypnotic (and probably other) power over America media that they are able to suppress evidence from public consciousness of a record that would make any other President a lock for reelection.  To the point where people apparently have to feel apologetic for noticing it.

And of course, the truly momentous example of ignoring all evidence is denying the realities of the Climate Crisis.  Yet another study released Thursday concluded that scientific issues raised by skeptics had no meaningful effect on the conclusion that global warming is real, and very, very evident.   But it won't matter.  Climate Crisis denial is faith-based, including faith in whatever you have to say to make a lot of money from people paying you to believe what they tell you.   It's also fear-based, which accounts for that percentage of people who swing back and forth on the question.  Most of the deniers are irredeemable, but this group will swing back to accepting the reality right in front of them, when it's so dark for so long that the darkness can't be denied.

I confess that I can't figure out what's going to happen with the GOPers in their presidential selection process.  I'm a bit confounded by Cowboy Rick's weakness in the polls, and without winning Iowa (he's way back in the pack now), no one seems likely to derail Newt Romney, despite GOPer disdain for him.  And that's the true test of this unreality: the "base" is requiring such purity of simplistic stands and grievances that are so patently unrealistic for anyone who has thought for even two seconds about them in the real world, that no one is going to satisfy them.   "It's not Rick Perry and Mitt Romney who aren't serious; it's the party they're trying to lead."  (Well, actually I don't think they're serious either, in the sense of having serious approaches and solutions to serious problems.)

But this is such a powerful trajectory right now that its very insanity seems to say that it has to play itself out, and nobody knows where this is going.  There's enough in the polling data to permit the hope that the country won't be crazy enough to replace President Obama with one of these virulent crazies--and I include Newt Romney in that assessment, judging him by his campaigning words.  But it is really hard to see how any of these growing problems--and especially the combination of a collapsing economy with a collapsing climate--are going to be realistically addressed,  if Congress stays as crazy as it is.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Romney Revealed

In honor of the Vegas debate Tuesday, of which TPM said, "The gloves were well and truly off, and the crowd moved on from booing only hypotethical sick people, or real gay soldiers, to booing basically everyone on stage."

Unfortunately, we can't read Newt Romney's lips when he dissed those thousands of American homeowners who face forclosure thanks to shady practices and bank greed, when he told (for real) a Nevada newspaper: “Don't try to stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom."

You might also enjoy this confession in pictures of Cowboy Rick's reaction to his rise and fall.

And after all this hilarity, you might want to check back into the real world, via the latest Occupy Wall Street news. Don't miss the Robin Hood Tax video with the incomparable Bill Nighy.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The 9% That Counts (With An Illustrative Update)

9% has entered the news in a very important way, and this time it's not the 9% that Herman KochCain is proposing for a national sales tax.  In fact, it is the 9% of news stories that's the scandal.

It is the percentage of stories that cover President Obama favorably in the American media, according to a new Pew study.  That's not 90% or 19%--it's 9%. That's right--the liberal lamestream media included.  9% of the coverage of President Obama was favorable. It is the lowest percentage of favorable coverage of any current candidate for the office that President Obama currently holds.  By a lot.

In contrast, Cowboy Rick got 32% favorable coverage, Herman KochCain 28% and Newt Romney 26%.

President Obama also got the highest percentage of negative coverage, with the exception of Mitt Gingrich who beat him by a point, 35% to 34%.  For Romney, the unfavorable was 27%. 

The only good news in this study might be that a bare majority of the coverage was deemed "neutral."  But Pew wasn't seeing the significance of it in that way:

"One man running for president has suffered the most unrelentingly negative treatment of all: Barack Obama. Though covered largely as president rather than a candidate, negative assessments of Obama have outweighed positive by a ratio of almost 4-to-1. The assessments of the president in the media were substantially more negative than positive in every one of the 23 weeks studied. In no week during these five months was more than 10% of the coverage about the President positive in tone."

And this kind of coverage continues.  Here's the first sentences of a Christian Science Monitor report on President Obama's speech on his Jobs Bill in North Carolina: "When the going gets rough, blame the other guys. That appeared to be President Obama's game plan Monday..."   Beginning with a questionable and negative premise, it takes the GOPer point of view.  It's a GOPer talking point press release. (Here's another story that reports what President Obama said and how it was greeted.)

Add this to the non-coverage of what the President of the United States says and does (and then pundits complain about what he's not saying or doing, mostly because they don't know what that is) and it is a significant wonder that once again, President Obama is trusted by Americans to fix the economy over the GOPers by some 15 points.

But this is still a scandal.  That the media will not cover, of course.

Update: I missed this contemptible (and awfully familiar-sounding) lead to a report on this study in NBC's First Read: "When times get tough for politicians, they're usually not shy about blaming the media for their sagging fortunes."  Once again, a questionable judgment as a premise, and even worse, a false report.  This is a report about the Pew study.  Nowhere does it say that any politician (notably one would assume, President Obama) blamed the media for anything.  The study blames the media, and this story is itself evidence of the study's accuracy.  It is a defensive "news story" that is gratuitously negative about President Obama. 


Pundits note the quick rise and fast fall of a series of Rabid Right GOPer presidential candidates, and are having a hard time taking the latest seriously: Herman Cain, formerly the head of a pizza company with an ethnically insulting name, and now the leader of the anybody-but-Romney pack.  But there is another kind of pack reason to take him very seriously.  In fact, two hundred million reasons.

It also explains the mystery of Cain's rise.  He is the wholly owned product of the Koch Brothers, as reported in detail by the Washington Post.  The Kochheads are said to have committed two hundred million dollars to the coming election, through pacs and whatever else Citizens United allows them to do.  That money can be further leveraged in the states that GOPers installed by the Kochheads control. 

Despite his complete lack of any knowledge of foreign policy or much of anything else, and with the extreme TEvangelist dogma he is not shy about spouting as guiding his actions, he is a candidate high in the polls thanks largely to his Koch connections.  His chances at the nomination are dependent on the Kochs.  The extent of catastrophe for the country even if he is nominated, let alone elected (and don't forget the changes in voting laws instituted by Koch-directed ideologues in a number of states), cannot be overestimated.

In response to the Post article, he said he was proud of his connection to the Koch Brothers. His credibility in terms of being a serious candidate is 999% due to the Kochheads.  And so I now dub thee Herman KochCain.  

A Faith in Hope

President Obama spoke at the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.  These are some of his words:

"We forget now, but during his life, Dr. King wasn’t always considered a unifying figure. Even after rising to prominence, even after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. King was vilified by many, denounced as a rabble rouser and an agitator, a communist and a radical. He was even attacked by his own people, by those who felt he was going too fast or those who felt he was going too slow; by those who felt he shouldn’t meddle in issues like the Vietnam War or the rights of union workers. We know from his own testimony the doubts and the pain this caused him, and that the controversy that would swirl around his actions would last until the fateful day he died.

I raise all this because nearly 50 years after the March on Washington, our work, Dr. King’s work, is not yet complete. We gather here at a moment of great challenge and great change. In the first decade of this new century, we have been tested by war and by tragedy; by an economic crisis and its aftermath that has left millions out of work, and poverty on the rise, and millions more just struggling to get by. Indeed, even before this crisis struck, we had endured a decade of rising inequality and stagnant wages. In too many troubled neighborhoods across the country, the conditions of our poorest citizens appear little changed from what existed 50 years ago -– neighborhoods with underfunded schools and broken-down slums, inadequate health care, constant violence, neighborhoods in which too many young people grow up with little hope and few prospects for the future.

Our work is not done. And so on this day, in which we celebrate a man and a movement that did so much for this country, let us draw strength from those earlier struggles. First and foremost, let us remember that change has never been quick. Change has never been simple, or without controversy. Change depends on persistence. Change requires determination." 

" Dr. King refused to accept what he called the “isness” of today. He kept pushing towards the “oughtness” of tomorrow."

And so, as we think about all the work that we must do –- rebuilding an economy that can compete on a global stage, and fixing our schools so that every child -- not just some, but every child -- gets a world-class education, and making sure that our health care system is affordable and accessible to all, and that our economic system is one in which everybody gets a fair shake and everybody does their fair share, let us not be trapped by what is. (Applause.) We can’t be discouraged by what is. We’ve got to keep pushing for what ought to be, the America we ought to leave to our children, mindful that the hardships we face are nothing compared to those Dr. King and his fellow marchers faced 50 years ago, and that if we maintain our faith, in ourselves and in the possibilities of this nation, there is no challenge we cannot surmount.

And just as we draw strength from Dr. King’s struggles, so must we draw inspiration from his constant insistence on the oneness of man; the belief in his words that “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” It was that insistence, rooted in his Christian faith, that led him to tell a group of angry young protesters, “I love you as I love my own children,” even as one threw a rock that glanced off his neck."

"And so at this moment, when our politics appear so sharply polarized, and faith in our institutions so greatly diminished, we need more than ever to take heed of Dr. King’s teachings. He calls on us to stand in the other person’s shoes; to see through their eyes; to understand their pain. He tells us that we have a duty to fight against poverty, even if we are well off; to care about the child in the decrepit school even if our own children are doing fine; to show compassion toward the immigrant family, with the knowledge that most of us are only a few generations removed from similar hardships.

To say that we are bound together as one people, and must constantly strive to see ourselves in one another, is not to argue for a false unity that papers over our differences and ratifies an unjust status quo. As was true 50 years ago, as has been true throughout human history, those with power and privilege will often decry any call for change as “divisive.” They’ll say any challenge to the existing arrangements are unwise and destabilizing. Dr. King understood that peace without justice was no peace at all; that aligning our reality with our ideals often requires the speaking of uncomfortable truths and the creative tension of non-violent protest.

But he also understood that to bring about true and lasting change, there must be the possibility of reconciliation; that any social movement has to channel this tension through the spirit of love and mutuality.

If he were alive today, I believe he would remind us that the unemployed worker can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there; that the businessman can enter tough negotiations with his company’s union without vilifying the right to collectively bargain. He would want us to know we can argue fiercely about the proper size and role of government without questioning each other’s love for this country -- (applause) -- with the knowledge that in this democracy, government is no distant object but is rather an expression of our common commitments to one another. He would call on us to assume the best in each other rather than the worst, and challenge one another in ways that ultimately heal rather than wound."

"It is precisely because Dr. King was a man of flesh and blood and not a figure of stone that he inspires us so. His life, his story, tells us that change can come if you don’t give up. He would not give up, no matter how long it took, because in the smallest hamlets and the darkest slums, he had witnessed the highest reaches of the human spirit; because in those moments when the struggle seemed most hopeless, he had seen men and women and children conquer their fear; because he had seen hills and mountains made low and rough places made plain, and the crooked places made straight and God make a way out of no way.

And that is why we honor this man –- because he had faith in us. And that is why he belongs on this Mall -– because he saw what we might become. That is why Dr. King was so quintessentially American -- because for all the hardships we’ve endured, for all our sometimes tragic history, ours is a story of optimism and achievement and constant striving that is unique upon this Earth. And that is why the rest of the world still looks to us to lead. This is a country where ordinary people find in their hearts the courage to do extraordinary things; the courage to stand up in the face of the fiercest resistance and despair and say this is wrong, and this is right; we will not settle for what the cynics tell us we have to accept and we will reach again and again, no matter the odds, for what we know is possible."

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

“Of all skepticism, the saddest is the refusal to believe in the possible.”

William Salter

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Is God a Democrat?

An irresistible item from T.G.'s Political Wire:

Anita Perry said yesterday her husband Rick Perry was called by God to run for president and noted some of his rivals for the Republican nomination "may feel like God called them too."

Apparently, according to
Bloomberg, that's very true.

Karen Santorum, wife of Rick Santorum,
said her husband was also called, noting "we believe with all our hearts that this is what God wants."

Michele Bachmann
said she regularly receives "assurance" from God about her direction, including running for office.

Herman Cain has also
said that God wanted him to run. "I just know at this point I am following God's plan."

All of which might cause one to wonder, is God confused?  Or...

Going Global

On Saturday the 99% Movement demos went global--to the tune of 951 cities in 82 countries.  Here's a streaming link, and a link to the special Think Progress site on the protests.

The New York demonstration was the largest so far--it filled Times Square.

Who are the 1%?

Also on Saturday the March on Washington for Jobs and Justice happened in DC.  President Obama will speak at the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on Sunday.

Meanwhile, an economist from Moody's Analytics--the usually GOPer friendly outfit that calculated that President Obama's American Jobs Act would add  nearly 2 million jobs and boost the economy--said that the GOPer congressional plan announced last week would likely hurt the economy and push the U.S. back into recession. 

But Cowboy Rick's Mrs. told a man who lost his job she could sympathize, because her son had to quit his position at a bank because Obama's government regulations wouldn't let him stay at his bank and work on his father's presidential campaign.  Nonetheless, the Bad Lip Reader people were not involved in her statement, and the Onion was not the source of the report.