Category Archives: politics

The downgrade

So Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. long-term debt from AAA to AA+ (with a negative outlook). Ouch. Yeah, it’s a bit of a joke. After all, these are the jokers who declared Lehman Brothers AAA a month before they went bankrupt. They rated junk mortgage securities AAA, leading directly to the financial mess we’re in now. And we can argue till the cows come home about whether S&P oughta be in the business of downgrading our credit rating because our political system is so dysfunctional.

Doesn’t matter. What does matter is that they did. They looked at the recently completed debt ceiling debate and determined that although we haven’t defaulted, and probably won’t in the near future, our idiocy is so complete that creditors should think twice or more about extending further credit.

Now, that would probably suit the TeaPublicans just fine. They seem to relish the idea of the United States becoming a backwater country where the majority of its citizens have little to no access to decent health care or education. And why wouldn’t they? Stupid, sick citizens are much easier to bully into submission. And the handful of others who know better? Just throw ‘em in jail, shoot ‘em if you have to. That’s what they do in places like Zimbabwe, Syria, Yemen and Iran. Never let a little inconvenient truth bother you.

And all of this could have been avoided. We’ve had so many chances. After Reagan put us on this wretched road to ruin, Americans wised up after a term of George Bush Sr. and elected Bill Clinton, at the time branded The Most Liberal Man On The Planet although he was a Blue Dog at best. Never mind, though, he was certainly far better than another four years of GHWB, or, god forbid, one of the other whackos who could have been on the Republican ticket. You know, people like Pat Buchanan and David Duke.

The GOP Noise Machine went into high gear of course, lying and stretching the truth at every possible moment to paint Clinton as Evil Incarnate. It worked to some extent, but it didn’t wholly work because Bill possesses one of those thing the Republicans like in their candidates: He’s Affable. You wanna have a beer with him. So what if he had sex with that woman? I mean — and here’s where the Right Wing Crap Machine worked wonders — look at that bitch he’s married to.

But after two terms and a deficit surplus, the Noise Machine had also done a job on the man who should have been Clinton’s successor, the truly more liberal Al Gore. And Gore was hampered by a tendency to appear rather wooden, plus, it appears that an awful lot of Democrats/liberals/progressives at that time had not caught on to the Republican Bullshit Machine strategy: Lie at every opportunity, and make the other guy out to be in league with the worst things you can think of. And if all else fails, ridicule from the lowest common denominator.

Thus, George W. Bush. Of course, the conservatives needed a little boost from the Supreme Court, but honest to god, it never should have been close enough to go there. The Noise Machine works very, very well, indeed. See Kerry, John – Swiftboating.

After eight years of up is down, black is white and Alice doesn’t live here anymore, it’s a wonder any of us could even walk. But walk we could and unbelievably enough of us had seen through the LSD haze to actually not give the presidency to another Republican. But the Noise Machine had a hand in who did select too. See Clinton, Hillary – Clinton Derangement Syndrome.

Again, we selected a very moderate, albeit black, Democrat who was again portrayed as The Most Liberal Man On The Planet despite no evidence to support that contention. But we, suckers that we are, thought we had a chance. My god, a black Democrat in the White House, majorities in the House and Senate — we’re saved!

Except we weren’t. The right started its anti-anything but them campaign with its most ugly component yet: Racism. Well, they actually tried that with Bill Clinton. Who do you think came up with “the nation’s first black president?” Problem of course, was that Clinton clearly isn’t black.

Barack Obama is, and racism is a ready-made weapon so easy to deny. “Tar baby!” “Oh, I’m sorry if anyone was offended. I didn’t mean that as a racist statement.” And, with our well trained stenography pool ready to bring every utterance to the national media, nobody but us crazies ever challenged the clear bullshit. So while the our so-called journalists bring on birthers to talk about whether or not Obama was born in the United States (doesn’t matter, idiots, his MOTHER was), nobody challenges the racism fueling charges that Obama is from Africa, that he’s Muslim, that he’s anything but a good ol’ boy. Seriously, do you honestly think that conversation would be going on if Obama’s father were named Olsen and he was born in Norway?

But the Machine had done well making sure a natural compromiser was elected president. That’s what community organizers do, yknow. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but when one side deviously plots to suppress the other side and uses good intentions to doom the process from the start, well, that’s another matter.

And then there was the Tea Party, rabidly taken up by my colleagues in the stenography as some kind of populist movement despite the clear evidence that it was and is funded by billionaires and political insiders. Follow the money, my friends. Follow the money.

And the politicians, never ones to take any kind of principled stand (with rare exceptions. See Sanders, Bernie – Socialist, Vermont), bent and twisted any which way the wind blew to make sure they stayed in office.  Then came 2010, and the intentionally ill-informed won big in those places where once more moderate conservatives might have flourished. And now, the stage was set.

A barely Democratic president, a Senate with a narrow Democratic majority, a House full of full-on crazies with little to no understanding of anything beyond Well, sheeit, I’m a US Congressman now! and a House constituency of the ignorant masses who don’t realize Medicare is a “socialist” program nor that their champions have every intention of destroying it.

Oh, and the completely out in the open No. 1 goal of the Republican party: Get rid of the black guy in the Oval Office in 2012 if not sooner.

So despite Standard & Poor’s culpability in the our economic morass, somebody there had the sense to realize that the United States was indeed on a slippery slope and it isn’t one to socialism. It’s sliding into what’s much closer to the corporate-run colonies of the British, Portugeuese, Dutch, Spanish and French empires. Seriously — they were all about profits and coopting some local group to give their corporate rulers some legitimacy. And the corporate rulers, of course, answered to the crown back home.

In America, though, we’re dispensing with the crown. The corporate rulers answer to no one.

And that’s very, very dangerous, something even Standard & Poor’s can’t ignore. The debt ceiling fight, then, was our last chance before someone outside started taking action. Obama must have known. That’s where the Grand Bargain came from. It was the only adult proposal made, one that in all likelihood would have satisfied S&P that we were seriously about fixing the economy. Of course, just lifting the fucking debt ceiling and focussing on a jobs plan probably would have worked too, but the TeaPublicans would have none of that and instead pushed for this showdown, a playground battle royale.

So Obama offered the Grand Bargain and the TeaPublicans, so enamored of their rich overlords that they cannot conceive of taxing them one penny more than they already are, poor over-taxed bastards, said no fucking way. And the pitiful “debate” that followed showed S&P, and every other sane person on the planet, that the lunatics indeed have taken over the U.S. government, and no one is safe.

The reasoning, which people who aren’t TeaPublicans actually note contains criticisms of both Republicans and Democrats, is far more damning to the GOP. Here’s the full report, go read it. You can be sure the TeaPublicans won’t. They were satisfied with the press release. But here’s the key passage. S&P says the recently completely debt ceiling deal is a step in the right direction, but is not sufficient to correct the slide. Previously assessments have given the United States the benefit of the doubt, S&P says, assuming that reason will overcome the pitchfork-bearing masses. No more:

Compared with previous projections, our revised base case scenario now assumes that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, due to expire by the end of 2012, remain in place. We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act.

And there you have it. If those tax cuts don’t expire, S&P says, the credit rating will likely slip to AA. Killing those tax cuts off might — might — “stabilize” the rating at AA+.

So what’s it all mean? Basically, we’re screwed. And the Republicans and Democrats are to blame. The Republicans for all their lying and bullshit and the Democrats for showing their bellies every time the GOP or Fox News yells “Boo!” And that dysfunction, which is what S&P is talking about, isn’t likely to change, because our politicians are too addicted to being in Washington to see what’s really going on in the world around them.

Instead, they’ll take what S&P says and make further cuts into “entitlement” programs, along with things like education, public safety, environmental regulation, banking regulation — basically anything that a civilized society needs to thrive — keeping only enough to maintain the military dictatorship the Teahadists so desperately yearn for.  Austerity times 1000. This is how Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq, and we really do have weapons of mass destruction.

I don’t pretend to know why the rich want it this way (even less why the lied-to masses work so hard to make it happen), but I do know this is how they want it. Follow the money. At the end you’ll find people like the Koch Brothers whose only goal, for some unfathomable reason, is to get richer.

I also know it will get better. But not, apparently, before it gets a whole lot worse.

Stuck in the middle

I noticed during my reading this morning that someone else — maybe Andrew Sullivan? — had beaten me to the punch on this one, but I’m gonna say it anyway.

The purpose of the debt debacle is to gather ammunition for an impeachment.

Frankly, I’m surprised the whackadoodle House hasn’t already done that. Guess they’re setting it all up just in case Obama wins a second term and they get their expected majority in the Senate. #seenthismoviebefore

It’s been clear since the Clinton presidency that Republicans, especially the wackier end of their spectrum — which is about all that’s left now — do not see any Democratic president as legitimate. Look at the crap they pull. Lying about Al Gore’s statement about the internet. Swiftboating John Kerry.

They’ve had a hard time with this president. The Kenya thing hasn’t gathered much traction. He’s not getting blow jobs in the Oval Office. What better to do than trash the economy completely and let him take the fall, right out the door.

Isn’t that what they said in the very beginning? That they wanted him to fail? Nothing about wanting the country to succeed, just wanting this particular president to fail.

That’s just the Republicans in Congress, of course. The rank and file have other ulterior motives, most of which are egged on and stirred by the Congresscritters and their bosses in the right-wing hit media. The rank and file, they’re just rabble, y’know, but rabble can serve a good purpose when you get ‘em all stirred up with lies and fearmongering. The not-even-below-the-surface racism is a sure-fire hit.

Add my beloved see-no-evil-hear-no-evil-speak-no-evil colleagues to the mix and you have the most dysfunctional country in the world this side of Somalia. In the civilized world, the main response has been one big “WTF.”

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear. There isn’t a debt crisis. That’s wholly manufactured by the right, spread by the media and bought lock, stock and barrel by Democrats. Making this Custer’s Last Stand is a little like having a huge argument over whether to pay the water bill while the house is burning down.

So while all this political posturing goes on, Americans are still out of work, have no insurance and are sinking in this morass of an economy launched on the downhill fast track by Ronald Reagan.

See, here’s the thing. Government revenues are down because the rich skate and because unemployment is high. Spending is up because we’re fighting three wars (at least) and unemployment is high.

The rabid see the common denominator there — unemployment — and thinks the answer is to cut social services. The rest of us see the common denominator and think, “We need to raise revenues and cut out these bullshit wars.”

Three percentage points. From 35 percent to 38 percent. That’s all letting the Bush tax cuts for the rich would do — raise the rate three points. And that’s not on all the rich’s income. That’s only on income above $250,000. That’s why it’s called “the top rate.” But the Republicans can’t let go of this “raising taxes” meme — because it works on the rabble, who will never hear that the United States has one of the lowest tax rates in the world.

They won’t hear it because they only listen to the echo chamber that echoes their own views uncritically. Easiest way in the world to control a significant number of voters.

Speaking of echo chambers, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it so finely tuned. For days, it’s been harping on Obama — “where’s the plan,” say all the pundits, the presidential cabinets and the rabble that completely lacks any ability to think for itself because, apparently, that’s socialist. Never mind that it’s the job of Congress to come up with the plan.

When the House passed Boehner’s debt bill the other day, my inbox was full of press releases, by Twitter stream full of tweets — all talking about Obama’s supposed “lack of leadership.” I may actually agree on that one, but not for the same reasons. After all, what do they think all those meetings were?

As I’m writing this, the players announce they have a deal. It pretty much sucks, all the way around. Who’s surprised? Rock, meet hard place. It could be a whole lot worse though, and it could be a whole lot better. And, of course, the echo chambers are in full force. The Republicans are declaring victory except where they aren’t, and the progressives are declaring Obama a complete and utter failure worse than George W. Bush and possibly Herbert Hoover.

Just a little note on that and then I’ll get to my real point: The spending cuts don’t go into effect until 2013, the very same day the Bush tax cuts for the rich are set to expire. Let’s see what happens between now and then.

Now, my real point. Progressives, this is something we are just going to have to learn to live with: We will never, ever, ever get legislation we can approve of unconditionally. Ever. Never. Not. Gonna. Happen. Know why?

Ever heard of the bell curve? It looks like this. And in the case of society, the bell curve is constantly in motion. Moving forward. Progressing. Always. At times the people on the curve move backwards, or regress, but the line itself — forward.

So what you have is progressives out on the forward end of the curve. There aren’t very many. As you get closer to the center, there are more people on the line. Then once you pass over the very center, the numbers decline again until you get to the Tea Party, where, again, there are few.

So, you say, shouldn’t progressives and Tea Parties get their way about an equal percent of the time, seeing as how they are roughly in equal numbers?

Well, no. And here’s why:

Remember, the line is moving forward, into the unknown. Progressives are driving that forward move. The Tea Partiers are back there at the end of the line trying to at least hold it still and if possible pull it backwards. They get more of what they want all the time because of a) inertia and b) fear of the unknown, both products of the vast middle. But, because society does march ever onward, progress happens regardless. Just considerably slower than any of us want. It’s the evolution of humanity.

So, anyway, back to my original premise, that this whole mess is about impeachment or some other way to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama. It’s what they do. They hate Democrats, liberals, progressives, progress, change, open society, growth and especially people of color and queers. It’s who they are. Obama may not be much of a progressive, or even a liberal sometimes, but he’s a pragmatist about where we are. And here we are, stuck in the middle.

 

 

The lie of the centrist

Paul Krugman says centrism is a cult that is destroying America, and I think he’s right. Not that the right isn’t doing its part — it is. But it’s this insistence on being in the middle of two “extremes” that is killing us.

Centrists wear blinders that keeps them from telling the truth, from knowing the truth about the right. And the prime offenders: My beloved colleagues.

Think about what’s happening right now. We have a crisis in which the right is making insane demands, while the president and Democrats in Congress are bending over backward to be accommodating — offering plans that are all spending cuts and no taxes, plans that are far to the right of public opinion.

So what do most news reports say? They portray it as a situation in which both sides are equally partisan, equally intransigent — because news reports always do that. And we have influential pundits calling out for a new centrist party, a new centrist president, to get us away from the evils of partisanship.

It makes me crazy. Back when I worked for a big media outlet, we didn’t have execs coming down to tell us we had to toe the party line. We did it ourselves, as if we were afraid to do our jobs. Somewhere along the line — and it started with Spiro Agnew’s “nittering nabobs of negativsm” — we lost the will to tell the truth and instead adopted a policy of stenography. “He said she said” isn’t journalism. It’s minutes of the meeting.

What all this means is that there is no penalty for extremism; no way for most voters, who get their information on the fly rather than doing careful study of the issues, to understand what’s really going on.

You have to ask, what would it take for these news organizations and pundits to actually break with the convention that both sides are equally at fault? This is the clearest, starkest situation one can imagine short of civil war. If this won’t do it, nothing will.

And yes, I think this is a moral issue. The “both sides are at fault” people have to know better; if they refuse to say it, it’s out of some combination of fear and ego, of being unwilling to sacrifice their treasured pose of being above the fray.

No, not blinders then. Blindfolds. With blinders, you can at least see what’s in front of you. But with blindfolds, you see nothing, and that’s what my colleagues — and others who claim to be centrists — see. Nothing that matters, and very little that doesn’t.

At least Krugman tells the truth about the right.

But my feeling about those people is that they are what they are; you might as well denounce wolves for being carnivores. Crazy is what they do and what they are.

Which points the finger right back at the centrists — and Democrats who, what, don’t want to rock the boat?

So, no, both sides aren’t equally at fault. Not in this instance, and not during the 2008 election campaign when racism and ugliness owned the Republican campaign and my colleagues bought the lie that “both sides do it.” No, they don’t. That’s not to say that some left wing bloggers and such don’t get nasty. Hell, I get nasty. But I never advocated shutting down the government to keep George W. Bush from getting re-elected. I never heard one single Democrat say that either, or say that their No. 1 priority in 2004 was to prevent a second term.

What I did see, and continue to see, is constant capitulation on the part of Democrats to Republican threats , just to make something happen. And now, the president has drawn the line.

I just hope he has the guts not to move it — or, worse yet, erase it altogether.

Nightmare in Norway

A bomb explodes in Oslo. A half hour later, there’s a massacre on an island camp. What’s the first thing my colleagues say?

Al aeda. Looking through my reader, I see things like “all the hallmarks of al Qaeda.” “Why does al Qaeda hate Norway?” And that’s just from the progressives.

Really? A terrorist attack in Norway, and the first thing we do is start talking about al Qaeda? Are we that conditioned?

And in Norway, Muslims on the streets are harassed.

Turns out, it wasn’t Islamic extremists. It was a Christian extremist. That would have been, and in fact was, my guess the moment I understood that Norway has a liberal government, and the attacks took place at government buildings and a camp run by the ruling Labor Party.

But not in America. And now that it’s known who perpetrated this vile attack, what are we saying? “Lone wolf.” “Isolated incident.” “Whacko.” The same things we say here when right wing extremists perpetrate terrorist attacks. Because, apparently, we’ve all bought into the myth that only Muslims are terrorists.

A post on Facebook talked about the “terror attack” in Norway. A response to that post suggested reconsidering use of the word “terror” because “it appears to be the work of one lone sicko.” Fortunately, a response to that said it was “one lone sicko terrorist.”

What the hell is our problem? Let’s look at this. Definition of the word “terrorism”:

  1. the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.
  2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.
  3. a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.
Sounds pretty accurate to me. This guy bombed a building, killing seven people, and then went to the camp and started shooting, killing dozens. And creating fear. Terror. Ipso ergo facto, the dude’s a terrorist, and he perpetrated a terrorist attack. Period.
But we don’t want to say that. Easier to attribute the attack to a sicko, a whacko, a lone wolf than to accept that some Christians are just as extreme as any Islamic terrorist you can find. And just as deadly.
That’s just wrong. Anders Behring Breivik is a terrorist. So are Jim David Atkisson, Paul Hill, Scott Roeder, James von Brunn, Timothy McVeigh and a host of other right wing — and Christian — extremists.
And I’ll tell you something else. The same goes for a bunch of fear-mongering cretins in Congress and former members of administrations that used terror to get what they want from the American people. Falls under that third definition up there.
It’s damn time we started calling them what they are.
Fortunately, in Norway, the government doesn’t plan on spreading more terror in response to this act of terror. In fact, Jens Stoltenberg said just the opposite. The answer, he said, is more democracy.

The other extremists

We know only too well about the extreme right wing, the ones who are actually running the Republican Party these days. And then there’s the extreme left wing, the ones the extremists on the right wouldn’t know if one bit ‘em on the ass because they’re too busy thinking Barack Obama is a progressive.

But there are another group of extremists we rarely mention. I’m talking about the radical middle, those extremist moderates who like to point on either side of their political ideology and harumph a lot.

Now, there are some moderates who are truly moderate moderates, not extreme at all. But let’s just get this out of the way right here and right now — they’re not the ones I’m talking about.

You know who I mean. The ones who think fans of Glenn Beck and “tree-huggers” are the same, just on different sides of the ideological divide. They’re champions of the “both sides do it” meme And they love to be all superior about it. But I gotta tell ya, they’re just as damaging as any of the other extremists.

Maybe I’m biased here … ok, I’m definitely biased … but I don’t see the logic in thinking that people who advocated armed rebellion against a president they don’t like and people think we ought not destroy the planet that keeps us alive are some kind of moral equivalent. There’s just no there there.

My colleagues do it all the time, because they think it makes them “balanced.”  Riiiiiiggghhht. Balanced, like a pound of feathers and a pound of radioactive material are really the same thing. Balance in journalism isn’t an equation. Balance is digging into your story, getting all sides — because really, there’s never only two — and then writing a story that tells the truth. But that’s just too damned hard anymore. My beloved colleagues don’t have time to do that with all the fancy dinners with the president and make-up sessions for the Sunday network talkies and the 24-7 cable gabfests.

Maybe the extremist middle got that way because of what they see on the tube. I don’t pretend to know how it happened, but I do know that it’s a dangerous place. It’s the reason the meteoric rise in right-wing violence in this country barely gets a mention on the news, and when it does, it’s just some “lone wolf” or “isolated incident.” Calling it that means you don’t have to do the work to find out what’s really going on, although, truth be told, the work’s already been done by people like the Southern Poverty Law Center, who, by the way, get labeled a “liberal” group and therefor can’t be trusted as a source. Unlike, say, the conservative Heritage Foundation or the American Enterprise Institute, who are regularly treated as if they have some special knowledge and understanding of our country that makes them better than, say, the Center for American Progress, that radical leftist communist group.

It’s also a reflection of just how far right our political spectrum has gone. Now here’s the thing — the country, the people, they haven’t gone that far right.

So, Nunzia, you say, if that’s the case, how do we keep getting stuck with all these right-wing crazies in office? Well, my friends, it’s partly because of redistricting and partly because my colleagues feed the madness. Instead of talking about how, say, Michele Bachmann has a little problem understanding that the First Amendment protections for freedom of speech apply to everyone and not just who she likes, they spend days and days and days making weiner jokes or telling us about the trials and tribulations of former child stars who don’t get it that they are not queens of the universe.

We, the People, as Dave Johnson calls us, are being fed a load of bullshit, and unfortunately, some of us aren’t up to the task of sorting through it to find out what the real score is.

My colleagues treat Paul Ryan’s budget plan, for example, as if it’s just another plan to try to eliminate debt, different from the Democratic plan. I’ll say it is. It’s just another way to gut government and stick it to the poor, plain and simple. But they won’t say that. They’ll say that Democrats say it is and Republicans say it isn’t, except that’s not what Republicans say. Republicans, in fact, won’t answer that question.

And what my colleagues won’t do is question the very idea that the deficit is the problem. The problem they don’t seem to see (and no wonder, living in WonderWashington as they do) is fucking jobs. There aren’t any. Republicans said they’d work on jobs when they got into office this last time, but they’ve done absolutely nothing. Instead, they started in on social hot button issues like same sex marriage and abortion. But my colleagues don’t mention that either. They have no institutional memory of what was said or done last week, much less during a campaign a year ago, unless someone brings it up — and Democrats notoriously won’t do that.

And so the radical middle stays there, swearing both sides are as bad as the other and if they’d only come together and stop the bickering everything would be just fine. Can’t we all just get along? Well, in my book, it’s damned hard to get along with somebody who’s entire being is centered making sure the rich get richer and everybody else just shuts the fuck up and takes what scraps they can dig out of garbage bins.

But to the extremists in the middle, it’s all just partisan noise, amplified to ear-splitting distortion by my clueless colleagues.

Can’t we all just get along? Sure we can. Just as soon as we drop the feudal nonsense and start realizing that we humans really are all in this together. Hear that, radical moderates? I regularly hug trees, and I will gladly work with all of the other sides in this world, but there are some ground rules — no discussion about anything can go anywhere without some agreement on where we’re starting and where we’re going. And that, my friends, is precisely why debate in Washington is useless.

Conservatives think everything is hunky dory if it weren’t for those filthy liberals screwing with everything that makes this country great. Progressives think that we’re in a heap of trouble and it’s just gonna get worse if we don’t do something real about it. See? There’s not one iota of agreement in where we are. And if we don’t know where we are, there’s no way in hell we can figure out where we’re going.

Tweaking the story

This shit just pisses me off. Really. It does. My colleagues can be such tools sometimes. So I’m working, and alluva sudden I see tweets proclaiming that the Eville president has done dissed his legal advisors who told him he needs Congressional approval under the War Powers Resolution to continue providing military support to NATO’s fight in Libya.

Now, I happen to agree. The fight in Libya is at least for a good reason for a change, but the law requires that Congress grant permission to extend such activity beyond 60 days, which ended on May 20. It’s true that all presidents since the law was established in 1973 have contended that it unconstitutionally infringes on the president’s responsibilities as commander-in-chief. All presidents except Obama, that is. His position is that what we’re doing in Libya doesn’t pass the “hostilities” test because we’re not actually fighting. It’s not our bombers, and there are no troops on the ground. The United States is just providing support, y’see. Nixon, by the way, vetoed the act, but Congress overrode the veto.

Maybe they’re even right about that. But it is the law. And 10 congresscritters have filed suit in federal court against Obama over it.

But anyway, none of that is what irks me so much. What irks me is this. Here’s the New York Times (which broke the news) headline on the story:

2 top lawyers lost to Obama in Libya war policy debate

The story is about disagreement among the president’s legal advisers. Two of them — the Pentagon’s general counsel and the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel — said Congressional approval was needed. Obama’s other lawyers, including both the White House and State Department general counsels, said otherwise. Obama went with the latter.

But that’s not how the story is that spreading through the InterTubz. Instead of being a story about a policy disagreement among the advisers, the story is about how Obama “overruled” his legal advisers, “rejected” their counsel, “dismissed” their views, proceeded with the war “despite” the lawyers’ view and is worse than Hitler. As if they were the only lawyers he consulted.

Even the Times is a little misleading, focusing on the two lawyers who disagreed. Here’s my headline:

Obama’s legal team split on Libya action authority

Now, doesn’t that sound more fair? More accurate? But it wouldn’t be American journalism if it didn’t echo the right wing’s crazinesss. Hell, even John Boehner believes the War Powers Act is unconstitutional, but that hasn’t stopped him from screaming to the high heavens that Obama is violating it.

Journalism isn’t what it’s supposed to be these days. Seeking the truth and telling it isn’t in the job description. Getting ratings is.

But that’s not how I roll. In this case, I completely agree with the Pentagon and DOJ lawyers. But that doesn’t mean I don’t tell the story right.

There is such a thing as journalistic integrity, even if an awful lot of my colleagues have forgotten what it means. Of course, they wouldn’t be acting like they are if the American public wasn’t so hell bent on bullshit and Charlie Sheen. But journalists are supposed to cut through the crap, not repeat it.

At least that’s how it works in my world. Wish it were true across the board.

Indoctrination

My mother and father were from two very different protestant denominations, neither of which were particularly fond of any other denomination usurping their right to be the One True Way. The result: My mother and father stopped going to church, and, by extension, I never did.

To make up for the lack of religious education, they sent me to every Vacation Bible School known to man. Every summer. Fortunately, I guess, they were all scheduled for different weeks. I spent my summer singing “Jesus Loves the Little Children” (a song that adults seemed not to remember), making macaroni crosses and hearing bible stories about the Lamb.

This was a good thing, because VBS lacked the hellfire and brimstone of the Sunday church meeting, and I had very little bullshit to wade through and step out of as an adult. Apparentely that’s not so much the case anymore.

There was the “Kids on Fire School of Ministry,” subject of the 2006 film “Jesus Camp,” where kids learned to “take back America for Christ.” The camp shut down after the film’s controversy got to it, but I have no doubts that many such camps still exist. There, kids learn to walk up to strangers and offer to share with them the “good news” of the gospel, and then mutter “fucking A-rabs” as they turn away if their uninvited subjects are dark and refuse.

And then there’s things like the Tampa 912 Project. 912? Glenn Beck, anyone? What’s it all about? Here — let Jeff Lukens, the conservative writer who organizes the thing, tell you:

We want to impart to our children what our nation is about, and what they may or may not be told.

Just guess what that means. For one thing, they’ll teach kids about the “gold standard” by giving them hard candies to use at a store. But a “banker” will exchange their candies for paper money, which becomes less and less valuable over the course of the week. Here’s more:

Another example: Starting in an austere room where they are made to sit quietly, symbolizing Europe, the children will pass through an obstacle course to arrive at a brightly decorated party room (the New World).

Red-white-and-blue confetti will be thrown. But afterward the kids will have to clean up the confetti, learning that with freedom comes responsibility.

Still another example: Children will blow bubbles from a single container of soapy solution, and then pop each other’s bubbles with squirt guns in an arrangement that mimics socialism. They are to count how many bubbles they pop. Then they will work with individual bottles of solution and pop their own bubbles.

“What they will find out is that you can do a lot more with individual freedom,” Lukens said.

Sound like fun? I’m sure they’ll include some special lessons that include revisionist history from Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann. Here’s Digby:

These people are raising their kids to be insufferable, proselytizing Ayn Rand adolescents or black-clad teen-age loners who love Death Metal and hate their parents.

Hey, sign me up. Sounds a lot like those parents in rural Pennsylvania or New Jersey or somewhere who named their son “Adolf Hitler” and said it had nothing to do with Naziism or anything like that. They gave their daughter the middle name “Aryan Nation” too, but I suppose that had nothing to do with white supremacism either.

There’s one word for this kind of crap: Indoctrination. Kinda funny, doncha think, that’s same word these right-wing lunatics use for public education. Or Beck’s “FEMA camps.”

Gimme that old time Vacation Bible School. At least that’s survivable.

 

Miscalculation

What? We’re still here? Well, hell’s bells. I guess Harold Camping was wrong about that end of the world thing. I’m sure he’ll figure out where he went wrong, though, and come back with the real date for the end of the world. But unless he comes up with something a few million years from now, we can be quite certain that he’s wrong again.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we won’t blow up the place ourselves before Earth’s natural end comes about. We’ve sure got the capacity to do that, and our own politicians seem to have no problem edging us in that direction whenever and wherever possible.

But now that we’ve dodged this bullet, maybe we should all take a deep breath and another look at what we’ve wrought here.

Harold Camping isn’t the only one to fuck up his calculations, y’know. The Republicans do it all the time, and the Democrats too,  just not as badly. Paul Ryan, for example. He calculated that he could propose gutting the security net for the elderly, and nobody would raise a stink about it. He was wrong. He doesn’t admit it, but he is wrong, wrong, wrong. Not that that will stop him and his buddies from trying again.

That’s the plan. Conservatives want to shrink government, and the best way they know how to do that is not the logical, smart way. They won’t raise taxes on the filthy rich, who can afford it. They won’t get us out of ridiculous wars. They won’t stop proposing defense contracts that even the Pentagon says they don’t want (just so they can bring the pork … I mean, the money, to their districts). And they won’t do a damn thing about creating jobs, which, as the rest of us all know, is a sure-fire way to bring more money into government coffers to pay for things we need.

And that’s the point. They don’t want to bring more money in. They want the aforementioned filthy rich to get filthier and richer. And how? Why, at the expense of the rest of us — and especially anyone who might need a helping hand. Conservatives want to strip every single piece of social program out of the government. Why their sheeple don’t see that, and why my beloved colleagues refuse to call them on it, I have no earthly idea. But since the earth didn’t end, we’re still gonna have to deal with the problems we’ve created.

There’s a lot of hand-wringing going on about the deficit right now. It’s pretty steep. But the interesting thing is that in the past 30 years, it’s only been Republican presidents who’ve left us holding the bag with a deficit. The one Democratic president left us with a surplus, which was quickly decimated by the next Republican, one George W. Bush.

And George W. Bush left us in such horrid shape that even a Democratic president, particularly one who spends so much damn time giving away the farm, isn’t likely to give us a surplus this time.

But two things will cure this deficit: End the wars, and tax the goddamn rich. We already know that cutting taxes on the rich doesn’t do anything but make them richer. So why the wait?

And a third thing will seal the deal. Sink some money into public programs, like, just to draw something off the top of my head, infrastructure. Our roads and bridges and power grids and all are crumbling. The Republicans don’t want to fix them, because … well, I don’t know why. They’re just idiots, I guess.

But I’ll tell you this — if we don’t start fixing the problems we have, we’ll certainly see the end of the world as we know it, if not the end of the world entirely. Harold Camping won’t get it, but jeez, the guy’s gonna have his own private rapture before the real end comes about.

The end isn’t near — but change is. And this is a calculation we cannot afford to fuck up.

Right and wrong can’t be measured in political polls

Morality. We liberal/progressive types get a lot of flack for allegedly have loose or bad morals. We know that’s not true, but the reason we get that label is, I think, a skewed idea of what morality is, and, more importantly, what it isn’t.

In my book, the one I haven’t written, morality is a universal trait. And because it’s universal, it has nothing to do with what any man or group of men decide.Cultural norms and customs aren’t morality. Morality is knowing the difference between right and wrong.

It’s not about who we have sex with, or when or how. It is about how we treat other human beings. Most of us have an innate ability to treat other human beings with respect and dignity, to do what we can to help out. The problem lies with those of us who don’t see the rest of us as full human beings.

The Founding Fathers, for example, didn’t quiet see blacks as full humans. Three fifths of a human was the best they could do, and unless you were five fifths of a human, you could not have the same rights, if any as, as those who were whole and completely human. In the eyes of other humans.

It’s an old, very old way of thinking, and it’s on the way out. Those who still cling to that archaic outlook are backed into a corner these days, and, since they believe their very identity is threatened, they are willing to do anything at all to stop the march of progress, the march of morality.

The Founders weren’t really immoral men. It’s just that morality, in the 18th century, was a tad more narrow than it is now — for most of us, anyway. Morality, progress, they grow. Sometimes there are steps back, but never for long. Always forward, ever-expanding. Even Thomas Jefferson, who owned slaves himself, had an inkling of the true meaning of morality.

Self-interest, or rather self-love, or egoism, has been more plausibly substituted as the basis of morality.

Self-interest. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Dred Scott decision, in which a slave, Dred Scott, sued for his freedom — and that of his family — in 1847. The case went to the Supreme Court, where, sadly, he lost in 1857. He died the following year, after he and his family had been returned to their original owners — who by that time had become abolitionists — and were freed. But here’s what Chief Justice Roger B. Taney wrote in that infamous decision, hoping to send the legal questions about slavery once and for all.

Consequently, no State, since the adoption of the Constitution, can by naturalizing an alien invest him with the rights and privileges secured to a citizen of a State under the Federal Government, although, so far as the State alone was concerned, he would undoubtedly be entitled to the rights of a citizen, and clothed with all the rights and immunities which the Constitution and laws of the State attached to that character.

no State can, by any act or law of its own, passed since the adoption of the Constitution, introduce a new member into the political community created by the Constitution of the United States.
(The authors of the Constitution viewed blacks as) beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.

It would give to persons of the negro race, … the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased, … the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might speak; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went.

And, my friends, therein lies the very source of the conservative drive to delegitimize the first black president of the United States. Y’see, the Supreme Court never got around to overruling the Dred Scott decision, although the court did note that the 14th Amendment had overturned one part of it, making the ruling in 1873.

The first observation we have to make on this clause is, that it puts at rest both the questions which we stated to have been the subject of differences of opinion. It declares that persons may be citizens of the United States without regard to their citizenship of a particular State, and it overturns the Dred Scott decision by making all persons born within the United States and subject to its jurisdiction citizens of the United States.

But back to morality. Taney’s opinion that blacks were inferior to whites exists today, full and strong, within the ranks of the conservatives. It’s the proverbial elephant in the room, at least as far as my colleagues are concerned. They cannot, they will not, say definitively that racism is at the heart of the birther movement.

Of course, the conservatives react this way to any non-conservative president. Democrats are socialiasts, traitors, immoral, evil, out to destroy the country. Delegitimizing all the way. Because we’re not real Americans, and, as we all know, only Americans are full and complete human beings.

Is it moral to favor the rich over everyone else? Is it moral to deny what’s obvious, like, say, that tax cuts for the rich do not create jobs? Is it moral to vote to end the safety net we created for the elderly? Is it moral to cut funding for housing counseling as we continue to let banks make their own rules about mortgages? Is it moral to allow the destruction of the environment — which we depend on for our very survival, the air we breathe, the water we drink — for the almighty dollar?

In that book I haven’t written, not much promoted by the TeaPublicans is anywhere near morality. Far from it. It’s downright immoral.

We live in very ugly times. That happens on the cusp of change. That change may not be completed in all of our lifetimes, but it will be completed. And then even our ideas of morality, of right and wrong, may seem as old-fashioned and wrong-headed as the so-called morality of the right seems to us today.

There’s something Vichy about Senate Democrats

If the Republicans are Nazis (and I’m not saying they are — this is just a hypothetical) but if they are fascists, then the Democrats, particularly those of the Senate,  are the Vichy regime of America — collaborators of the first rank.

I can tell by the sound of crickets chirping that some of you don’t understand the reference. I mean, it is a World War II-era reference, waaaaaaaay back to 1940s.

Vichy, France, was home base for France’s German-collaborating puppet government after Germany occupied France. Collaborators. Doing the Germans’ dirty work for them.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say Barack Obama is Marshal Phillippe Petain, the French prime minister and World War I hero who was head of the Vichy government (and 84 years old when he got there, thus becoming France’s oldest head of state). That would more likely be some Blue Dog like Ben Nelson, so-called Democratic senator from Nebraska, who helped make the Affordable Care Act the almost useless mess that it is. Nelson and others like him (Joe Lieberman comes to mind) wouldn’t go along with the more progressive parts of the bill (the ones that would really help people) so those were dumped in favor of Republican proposals that they refused to vote for anyway.

So it is with Vichy regimes. Petain changed France’s motto from  “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” (“Liberty, equality, fraternity”) to the more fascist “Travail, famille, patrie” (“Work, family, fatherland”).He was later sentenced to die for treason, but his protege Charles de Gaulle must have felt sorry for him, so he commuted the sentence to life in prison, where he died in 1951, completely senile and requiring constant care. So it is with reactionaries.

France, though, has a strong right wing element, and once they stole Petain’s coffin from the cemetery on the prison island where he died, demanding that he be buried in some place of honor. He was reburied with a presidential seal on the coffin, but back at the burial ground on Ile d’Yeu.

De Gaulle, in case you want to know, fled to Britain as Petain was handing France over to Hitler. He formed a government in exile there, but alas, the allies, including the United States, recognized the Vichy government as the rightful government of France until the 1944 liberation. Typical, don’t you think, for the United States to recognize the right wing government, even if it is controlled by the very people you’re fighting a world war against?

End of history lesson. The Democrats, most of them anyway, are the Vichy government of the United States, rolling over and caving to Republicans every chance they get. Mustn’t make waves. I’m not sure why they do it. Petain was a reactionary, right wing asshole. Maybe Democrats really are, too.

They sure do like the money that pours in from the same big corporations and lobbyists who fund the Republicans. And real progress in this country won’t happen until that’s stopped. The Vichy-crats drag their feet on making it happen, although they occasionally talk the talk. They just don’t vote the vote.

We’ve got some big fights coming up in Congress — the debt ceiling (whether we’ll let the government default) and Paul Ryan’s lunatic budget. Democrats in the House, most of whom aren’t Vichy-crats, what with the defeat of most of the Blue Dogs last year, pulled a good one on the Republicans the other day.

The GOP put forth an amendment that made Ryan’s budget look like a walk in the park. Normally, these things are defeated by a coalition of Democrats and a handful of  “moderate” (read; not completely insane) Republicans. But this time, all 170-something Democrats voted “present,” and since the House passes such things by a majority of the votes cast, a bunch of conservatives had to change their votes to “no” to keep the damn thing from going to the Senate. Now the TeaPublicans can’t go say it was the Democrats who beat them, because it wasn’t.

Don’t know why they didn’t take their chances with the Vichy-crats on the other side of the Capitol. They might have gotten somewhere there.