Thursday, February 21, 2013

Moronic Inferno

Once more unto the brink my friends.  We unhappy many, we band of blatherers.  Once more our GOPer congressmorons are taking Americans through an elective crisis, a self-inflicted disaster rapidly becoming a self-fulfilling catastrophe.

Congress passed a law mandating across the board cuts in the federal budget, with no judgement allowed in what is to be cut.  The uber-morons of Fox and the Rabid Right don't think these cuts are even deep enough, yet just about everybody else recognizes they'll cripple the country and sink the economy.  These cuts were meant to be this bad--to be soooo bad that Congress would do anything to forestall them, even come up with rational budget changes that would cut the deficit without trashing the economy.  They didn't, and now the cuts are coming.

Did they have to do this?  No.  Can they stop it easily by just...well, stopping it?  Yes.  Are they talking like they will do that?  No.  "As simple as it is stupid," as Rachel Maddow says.

President Obama outlined some of the consequences:

Now, if Congress allows this meat-cleaver approach to take place, it will jeopardize our military readiness; it will eviscerate job-creating investments in education and energy and medical research. It won’t consider whether we’re cutting some bloated program that has outlived its usefulness, or a vital service that Americans depend on every single day. It doesn’t make those distinctions. 

Emergency responders like the ones who are here today -- their ability to help communities respond to and recover from disasters will be degraded. Border Patrol agents will see their hours reduced. FBI agents will be furloughed. Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let criminals go. Air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, which means more delays at airports across the country. Thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off. Tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find childcare for their kids. Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose access to primary care and preventive care like flu vaccinations and cancer screenings."

Though Medicare and Medicaid aren't affected directly, the cuts will of course hit the poor hardest.  They'll hit  families with children as Head Start gets cut, teachers are disappeared. But as the President noted, the business class will also feel it, at the airport.  And those are just some of the direct consequences.  When people lose their jobs, a lot of other people eventually lose their jobs too.

There's a kind of apotheosis to this latest apocalypse, partly because there's no ongoing drama.  No negotiations, just fatalism.  Unless Speaker Banal's attempt to blame this all on Obama is a clever preliminary to saving the country from him by cancelling the cuts--by declaring victory and going home--there is no exit strategy.  Congress isn't even bothering to be in session.  

This is the seventh time GOPers have gone to the brink in a hostage-taking, manufactured crisis, since Obama was elected (the first time.) Each time, the U.S. economy has paid, the federal deficit has grown because of it.   And it's not like they've gained political advantage.  The latest polls show President Obama's approval at from 51% to 55%,  with GOPers anywhere from 20 to 40 points behind that.  Most Americans surveyed believe this is the GOPers fault.

So what's really at work in this moronic inferno (a phrase coined by Martin Amis in the 80s)?  Apart from the imploding GOP, on the brink of a nervous breakdown, or more likely having one.

Maybe they have to manufacture apocalyptic crises because they dare not face a real one--one so big and frightening that they can't even admit it exists, let alone put in the emotional work as well as the long, difficult intellectual and political work to confront it.  It's a crisis that is going to be here for a very long time, and it can't be ignored away.  And the longer we fail to confront it with all the energies we possess, the worse it is going to be.

  Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday called for action to combat climate change and spur the American economy by investing in clean energy technologies.

"We share nothing so completely as our planet," Kerry said in his first major speech since becoming secretary of state at the University of Virginia. "If we waste this opportunity, it may be the only thing our generation - generations - are remembered for."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

This Week in Fascism (Updated)

Uncivil War among the GOPers has become so vicious that a Tea Party group had to apologize for creating the above portrait of Karl Rove as a Nazi stormtrooper.  They're still a tad upset that he wants his billionaires to back non-crazy (i.e. non-Tea Party) candidates.  So to review: a Rabid Right fringe of the Republican White Peoples Party thinks Karl Rove is a Nazi.  Pot, kettle, black?

Also in the department of reaping your own damn whirlwind, John McCain faced his own Rabid Right whites  in Arizona, shouting at him for not deploying soldiers to shoot to kill on every inch of the southern border.  Another GOPer suggested a model for our border security should be East Germany.  Build up that wall, Mr. Gorbachev!

But the prize goes to the Show Me state, where a GOPer legislator wants to make proposing a gun control law a felony crime in Missouri.  You know the old saying in politics, if you can't beat 'em, arrest 'em!  Or as stormtrooper Karl might say, if you can't arrest 'em, beat 'em!

But actually the prize for effectively installing fascist dictatorship while hidden in plain sight goes to the state of Michigan, which re-installed its Emergency Manager law that was voted down in 2012 (but this time in a new voter-proof package!) and is looking towards the GOPer state government-mandated totalitarian takeover of the big prize, the city of Detroit.  

Meanwhile, not separated at birth:

Senator Ted Cruz

Senator Joseph McCarthy

Monday, February 18, 2013

Cardinals Not Happy with Pope Distraction

It’s not as if they’ve got nothing else to do. As the Cardinals gather for spring training in Palm Beach, they’ll be trying to figure out how to replace injured starting pitcher Chris Carpenter and the second baseman they traded to the Dodgers, Skip Schumaker. Among other problems.

And suddenly they’re faced with one more task: electing the next Pope.

“The Pope’s resignation just came out of left field,” said a clubhouse source at Roger Dean Stadium where the Cardinals train. “And the Vatican’s a holy mess. We were one game away from the pennant last year. We really don’t need this. It's a high massive distraction.”

One of the Cardinals’ coaches agreed, though not for attribution. “We’re breaking in a new second baseman. We’ve got to figure out how to keep Rafael Furcal and Jaime Garcia healthy. And Carlos Beltran isn’t getting any younger. But instead of concentrating on all that, we’ve got to go through all these bios and resumes, organize a conclave—Jesus, it’s a mess.”

Several observers noted that second year manager Mike Matheny will be under particular pressure. “Mike’s just figuring out what minor leaguers and draft choices to look at,” said one veteran scribe. “Now he’s supposed to come up with a supreme pontiff? The truth is nobody in the organization is prepared for this. Nobody even knows how to make the white smoke.”

Though only pitchers and catchers are present at training camp so far, the Cardinal organization insists that the election of a Pope will not interfere with the spring schedule. Not everybody agrees.

"They're working out a plan for like conclave in the morning, workouts in the afternoon, but who knows how long this is going to take?" said an informed batting practice catcher.

“We’ll probably cancel an exhibition game or two,” said pitcher Marc Rzepczynski. “Personally I’m rooting for another Polish Pope but I’m just one vote. Quote me as saying I’m keeping an open mind. And spell my name right.”

The Whimpering Warmongers

Beginning with Presidents Day, this week might well turn Zeitgeist's attention to the international arena, and wars past, present and to come.  On Monday MSNBC premieres a documentary on the presidential-level lies that promoted the Iraq war.  According to its narrator, Rachel Maddow, it will ruffle some political feathers.  Those same feathers are already in tatters, after an ugly barnyard brawl with Chuck Hagel.

The unprecedented filibuster stalling the new Secretary of Defense from taking office, and preventing him from accompanying the President to an important international conference this week, is definitely part of this mix.  The GOPer Senate filibuster, led by the permanently confused John McCain and the ever more craven Lindsay "Cracker" Graham, seemed like just another moronic inferno--continuous blather about issues that appointee Chuck Hagel had nothing to do with or will never set policy on, while neglecting to even try to find out if he can do the actual job of defense secretary.  But Josh Marshall at TPM makes a very interesting case that this is all still about Iraq and to a lesser extent Afghanistan, and the warmongering foreign policy those wars represented.  It's the neocon's last hurrah.

"Basically everything Barack Obama has done since coming into office has been to unwind the thicket of commitments, practices and open wars begun under George W. Bush. People who don’t know the policies and the agendas in detail can miss this," Marshall writes.  But the neocons know exactly what's going on, and they don't like it--they especially don't like that Republican Chuck Hagel agrees with this dismantling, and said so even while Bush Lite was in office.

The American people are so far past this that President Obama's announcement in the State of the Union that half the troops still in Afghanistan would be home by year's end didn't even make much news.  But the neanderthalic neocons don't care.  They have security consultants and gun manufacturers to feed, and their carefully cultivated mad voters' buttons to push.   But they're losing.  So they weaken their own country's defense and international standing, just to express their pique.

These are the guys responsible for thousands of deaths, billions of wasted dollars, immense human suffering and more than a decade of awful displacement of the energy and attention needed to save the planet.  No wonder they're reacting like terribly guilty criminals.

 But at least they're not going out with another bang.  Just with an ugly whimper.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Towards Climate Action

"Today was the day. Finally, powerfully, decisively -- the movement to stop climate change has come together," activist and writer Bill McKibben wrote in an email to supporters.

"This was the biggest climate change rally in US history. By our count, 50,000 people gathered by the Washington Monument and then marched past the White House, demanding that President Obama block the Keystone XL pipeline and move forward toward climate action."

Other sources put the number at 35,000--USA Today said "tens of thousands" in their story, with its unflattering photo of McKibben, so reminiscent of press coverage of early Civil Rights and antiwar marches.  The Sierra Club news release contains a list of speakers and excerpts from speeches.  Think Progress has a brief story and photos.