Wednesday, March 31, 2010

#215 IrAfPak: Obama's Fatal Vision

"The United States of America does not quit, once it starts on something. We will prevail ..." said their Commander-in-Chief to 2500 troops at Bagram Air Field north of Kabul, during a "surprise" visit this week. His words must also have come as a surprise to any students of History in Obama's audience.

"But what about Vietnam, Mr. President?" one might have shouted. No, these were loyal troops, "fighting for our freedoms," as their mothers would have insisted halfway around the world. The President and former scholar/teacher (no less) might have have responded, at apparently an advanced stage of his denialism: "There's a huge difference ... and I'll think of it in a minute--but, soldier, you're comparing the two?! Look here, we sent more 50,000 of you people to their deaths in Southeast Asia; we haven't hit 1000 here in Afghanistan, and not quite 5000 for the whole Middle East megilla. Apples and oranges. Long way to go yet, men."

"I'm a woman, Sir. But let me follow up with: What then, or whom, are we fighting for?" This is how Obama put it, un-asked, to the troops (not a made-up quote):

Your services are absolutely necessary, absolutely essential to America's safety and security ... Those folks back home are relying on you. We can't forget why we're here ... We are going to disrupt and dismantle, defeat and destroy al-Qaida and its extremist allies. (AP story here)
Some in the audience might well have been frozen in "The Two-thousand Yard Stare" (Tom Lea's WWII painting used once before in DM #185 "The Middle-East Quagmire"), if it weren't for the generic hoopla erupting after the President's gung-ho pep-talk.

No one to point out for the Head Honcho that these "extremist allies" are Afghans too--Talibans only militarily (in the mujaheddin tradition) with their own cadre of foreigners helping out minimally (al-Quida) to kick out those other foreigners--but otherwise they are non-Arab Pashtuns ethnically, Sunni Muslims religiously, and (like us, ironically) Indo-Europeans linguistically, just as is current President Hamid Karzai and his government. They were all true-blue Talibans only a few years ago. When we were Talibans too! Everybody is fighting everybody else, including themselves. These subtleties may have been lost on Obama's audience. Best to stick with "Kill al-Qaida!" (more)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

#214 Victory Choo-Choo III--"Foreign" KIds

And that includes our own.

But first, kudos to President Obama for signing yet another installment of the Nuclear Arms treaty with the Russkies--it's been twenty years--which reduces by 50% the 95% of all nuclear weaponry on earth "controlled" by us and them. Let's see ... that adds up to only 100% M.A.D. left to go. Not to mention the other 5% (un)controlled by mutually-assured, destructive madmen.

However, let's by all means keep up those symbolic gestures toward global peace, wheel-spinning though they are in real terms. Hey, our children won't be vaporized in a future nuclear war after all; they'll just keep dying in the good-old-fashioned, untidy way. More on that in a minute.

But talk about symbolic value! The US/Russia accord, signed after a year or so of intense negotiation (we're told) lends further credence, however belated, to Obama as Doer. Say what you might, and I have, Could our "new" President ever be accused, even by the wildest-eyed wing-nut, of NOT workin' his ass off at the job?! Consider this: two "master strokes" of the pen, involving THE two major areas of concern for any President--domestic policy with Health Care, and foreign relations with the Nuke Treaty. And it was all done with rather a flourish, both signings coming within days of each other.

The President IS on on roll, no doubt about it. Polls are up already this week. Can all this can be of much-needed help for foreign kids here at home, and those abroad?

YES for Immigration Reform. There were rallies all over the state of North Carolina last week (in conjunction with a general "march" on D.C.) protesting the need for more humane laws for "illegals"--especially in alleviating the plight of their children, who had absolutely no choice in ending up here, and their access to main-stream health care, educational opportunities, and gainful employment. Being an undocumented alien himself--well, Obama has certainly been singed by the flames of bigotry and xenophobia in that regard--he and the Congress should now be able to get something done.

Especially poignant at the Raleigh rally were testimonies from two young men of Hispanic heritage (yes, this is really what it's all about) just ready to graduate at the top of their high-school class. Outlook for college: bleak or non-existent. Our otherwise outstanding Community College system, for example, recently restored their right to matriculate (a long story, fraught with the usual prejudices), but these guys will still have to pay out-of-state tuition (that was the "compromise") at about three times the rate of in-state, even though they've been here virtually all their lives. Not fair. And they were well-spoken (perfect English naturally), intelligent young men whom I couldn't help compare with some of the inarticulate free-riders on NC State's and Duke U's basketball teams, interviewed at about the same time on the same local channel. "March" madness all around.

NO for IrAfPak. Because Obama's on the wrong side here, simply. Bite my tongue, but this fatal flaw will end up making him an LBJ--grudgingly remembered for his history-making domestic programs (Civil Rights, Medicare, etc.), but cursed forever for his foreign policy disasters. Lest we forget, President Johnson was responsible for the death, disfigurement, and dislocation of millions of people. Including innocent children, of course. Sound familiar? Look at it this way: for last-President Bush, Iraq is already on record as HIS Vietnam. No win. A bloody fraud of a war, and still going on. Moreover, to understate, he had less than zero domestic accomplishments to counterbalance it. Thanks to his inept and self-serving helmsman-ship we're still "underwater" in more ways than one. Obama will fix that I think, the way things are going, but When will he come to realize that the whole Middle East theater is now his very own Vietnam? And, so far, he's Bush.

It's so very, very lucky that Obama got some sort of health-care reform passed. And I'm sure there will be more social-justice measures on the books before too long. But JUST A WEEK AGO he was in real danger of becoming another G.W. Bush--rightfully ranked as the worst President ever-- failing not only on the foreign, but on the domestic front as well. Now if Obama would only stop killing kids overseas.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

#213 Victory Choo-Choo II---More Kids

"Suffer the little children to come unto ..." Obama and the newly motile Congress, for suffering enough hath come unto them, yea and verily-wise. Much still needs to be done--NEWS FLASH: as of this verily moment the Prez is trying to keep a roof over the heads of millions of them--but before we get into that and bank-fraud and unemployment and immigration and other things that need fixing if only for the sake of our kids, let me say one more word about the HCR Act ... and the kids.

Surprised to learn after a little more research--'tis an Act of Many Pages--that, besides the crucial OUTLAWING of the pre-existing-condition thing and EXTENDING coverage to age 26 (which would presumably get the most indolent of offspring through college and a little beyond), the new law provides for a comprehensive WELLNESS program for children in conjunction with pediatricians and appropriate health providers. Is this not RELIEF abounding for parents?! Or parents to be? The particulars are a bit complicated, so I'll refer you to an approving summary by Dr. Judith Palfrey, President, American Academy of Pediatrics, here.

She's just one, by the bye, of the the vast majority of medical people and health organizations ("A.M.A." says it all) who've been behind Obamacare--even when it had Public Option so named--since the beginning. Once again: if Republicans and Blue Dogs want to run their 2010 campaigns AGAINST all of this, my advice would be on the order of "suicide is painless," as the old M*A*S*H theme-song would have it.

Point is ... President Obama's on a roll and knows it. So immediately after passage of the HCR Act, he was hard at work bringing aid and comfort to millions of home-owning families hoodwinked by bank-fraud or crippled by the unemployment epidemic that Wall Street and the Big Banks are responsible for in the first place. Some sort of "mortgage relief" will be put in place to avoid the horrors of FORECLOSURE for parents who face the prospect of homelessness for themselves and their children. (NYT here)

And speaking of the Great Recession, efforts to get us out of it and avoid it happening again should gain momentum on the coattails of the HCR victory. Maybe the Congressional Democrats will start doing what the American people put in them in the majority to do. Really, since 2006. And if you please, forget the phantom of bipartisanship. Doesn't exist for the "Hell no!" party, as recently dubbed by Sarah Palin. The so-far dystesticular Dems have now got a proven hero in Obama, and my goodness can it be so hard to give him back essentially the same REGULATIONS for the economic sector that the Reagan era took away?--which was the root-cause of our recent financial almost-apocalypse. And millions of kids on the street, or sold for medical research.

Finish regulating Wall Street and the "Too-big-to-fail" Banks; put the new Consumer Protection Agency in place; meanwhile above all get JOBS for the parents of these kids. That's the Obama/Congress agenda, post-HCR. The unemployment crisis is most distressing right now for most Americans, say the polls. Specifically, we need about 11 million new jobs just to get back on track and stay about even. The Obama team and Congress are working on so-called "jobs bills" right now, according to reports. Good ... though from what I've read, the solutions under discussion--like tax-breaks for hiring the jobless--fall ridiculously short of the figure just quoted. Like in the 200.000 range.

The Real Jobs Solution, which an emboldened Obama and his Congress must enact now, is the wherewithal to put the unemployed Dads and Moms directly to work for the Federal Government. Everybody knows our INFRASTRUCTURE lies a-crumblin' while there are, ironically, millions out-of-work who could be a-fixin' it? Bridges, roads, sewers, schools, parks. C'mon, it worked for FDR and the blighted economy of his day. And let's be be honest: about a third of the people in this country are paid for their work with their very own tax-money, as it is. It's also called Corporate Welfare.

Listen, we've already loaned about a 100 billion to the Banks and Carmakers; can't we loosen up a "loan" of a paltry 4 or 5 billion or so (from what I understand) to get people directly into those "shovel-ready" jobs we've heard tell about? Wouldn't be nice for the peasants to get a "bailout" for a change? Moreover, it would be a loan, of sorts: lent against the returns of a recovering economy. After all, the newly employed are going to sink those wages in the local Kroger for the family groceries, and to buy gas and oil from Fred's Texaco to take their kids for a Sunday drive. Now that they've got the money, and the joy of a job. It all comes back. (more)

Monday, March 22, 2010

#211 HCR--Public Option Passes!!! (sort of)

Just as the Blogman predicted many posts ago. Okay ... it dare not speak its name, but the Public Option is a part of the Bill passed yesterday, at least in embryo. As long as we're into health-speak, let's call it "sub-public" or "pre-public"--analogous to the medicalese of "sub-clinical" or "sub-symptomatic" or "pre-something-or-other" (like cancer)-- all euphemisms that physicians are wont to use as ass-coverage for conditions that are not quite there, but not-enough-not for the medicos to bet their malpractice insurance on it. In this case the condition is benign, and in a healthy state of viability.

For just barely visible in the full-body scan of the Health Care Act of 2010 is the germ of government-run health care. The GLOBAL ideal, ultimately. The sub-pre-public-option symptomology is right here:

The uninsured and self-employed would be able to purchase insurance through state-based EXCHANGES with SUBSIDIES available to individuals and families with income up to 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL = $22,050 for family of four).

FUNDING available to states to establish exchanges ...

Individuals and families who make between 100 percent and 400 of the poverty level and want to purchase their own health insurance on an EXCHANGE are eligible for SUBSIDIES ... Eligible buyers receive PREMIUM CREDITS and there is a CAP on how much they have to contribute to their premiums on a sliding scale. ( summary)
What you've just read is a LEVER that can lift the world--or, as the "losing" side, the Republicans and Blue Dog Dems, will soon characterize it, a CANCER that will grow into full-blown "socialized medicine." (Let's hope so.) They will do this, mark my words, when they discover that their "government-takeover" propaganda just isn't going to work, because the new bill is so overwhelmingly PRIVATIZED, at least on the surface. The losing side has actually "won" a great victory--the insurance companies have been SAVED--at least in the short term. Our NC Blue Cross CEO, for example, is quoted as being quite fond of the outcome, as will the American people, soon enough.

I'll get back to those key provisions in a minute, but the fact is that the new bill IS a bipartisan one--the Republican nay-saying ironically brought that about--a bill no different in essentials, for example, from one that Nixon (yes) was trying to work out with a Democratic Congress years ago (Watergate intervened), or, most notably of late, the Ted Kennedy-Mitt Romney program (despite the latter's denialism) of near-universal health care instituted for Massachusetts, a state with a powerful insurance-company presence, by the way. And that's the point. Except for Veterans and Medicarians, it will be much the same old market-place, buy-and-sell, private health insurance business as usual, under the new bill. Big-Health-Insurance got a windfall, in fact: 30 million new customers! They're still nominally in charge, for awhile.

However, the "reform" bill (by no means an "overhaul") has just enough reform in it to TAME the private insurance monopoly, and over time, I believe, to kick it to the curb. Setting aside the long-overdue prohibitions on pre-existing-condition exclusions, lifetime-coverage caps, and important others, the key words in the quote above are EXCHANGES, FUNDING, and SUBSIDIES. It doesn't take a Fred Hayek or anyone from the Chicago School to recognize "The Road to Serfdom" (DM #94-95)--call me a happy serf, then, when it comes to health care. For, in fact, Who's really in charge? You guessed it: the gub'ment--whether State, or ultimately Federal. They will have enormous LEVERAGE to control what's going on in those "free-market" Exchanges.

Of course there will be healthy competition among the various companies in this "food-court" (it's been called) approach to buying insurance, but the Feds are going to be paying close attention to Who gets What-and-How-much funding, and Where the buyer-subsidies will be spent. Even to the point of setting up their own stall if the private companies don't cooperate, price-wise. It's conceivable, and the precedent for going to such extremes is in the bill. Here it is: up until 2014 health insurers don't have to cover ADULTS with pre-existing conditions, so the government will. A special "temporary" entity, administered and funded by some federal agency or another, will be set up to insure "high-risk" folk who will not be eligible for coverage by private companies until that time. What can we call this little wrinkle?--unadulterated Public Option.

The KIDS get it six months from now. That's why the little darlin' pictured above is making faces at the insurance companies and their bed-fellows in Congress. (Let's pretend.) She's got a pre-existing condition. And there's nothin' they can do about it. No separate federal program though: Big-Health-Insurance must expiate its cardinal sin of denying coverage to high-risk children virtually NOW.

I'd like to see the Republicans and Blue Dog Dems run their campaigns this year on a platform of repealing THAT. Make my day.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

#210 That Other Health-Care Vote--IrAfPak

And speaking of St. Dennis of Cleveland, here's the Mother Teresa of anti-war protesters, Cindy Sheehan, in her most iconic photo-shoot at an earlier demonsration. It could just as well have been taken yesterday, the Seventh Anniversary of the War In Iraq, where she got martyred in just the same way. Yes, St. Cindy (hyperbole, but NO sarcasm intended) and eight of her acolytes were arrested for "crossing" something or other (read: cops) as they were donating their flag-draped coffin-replicas outside the White House fence as usual once again. Not-arrested were THOUSANDS of others--GLAD TO REPORT-- similarly protesting the needless loss of American lives in the Middle East. (AP here)

All this--while at the Capitol a few blocks away Tea-Baggers and other toxic Dregs and Lees of Society were protesting a bill that would help stop the needless loss of American lives under our current health-care system. (HP here). Priorities, ah priorities.

Now on yet another anniversary of the unjustified and wasteful war in Iraq, the protesters can add Afghanistan Redux, whatever the cause of its earlier beginnings. Soon, our ground troops will follow the robot bombs dropping on Pakistan, and already contingency plans have been laid for intervention in Iran, Yemen, and Syria. Not to mention an old favorite, North Korea. "TOMORROW'S WARS ... that could tie up American troops for decades," said one meshugga Pentagon official with undisguised self-satisfaction (see THAT whole megilla in DM #179-180).

I've blogged and flogged, but America IS war-crazy, and I'm just not sure how we're going to get out of it. Well, "war-crazy" at the top, anyway. Neurobiological Science has discovered that, since WWII, American Presidents--whether Republican or Democrat--have undergone some sort of malign mutation that makes them want to kill foreigners. Hasn't fully affected the commoners yet--they're always in the majority against--but most of Congress seems always genetically inclined. With its permission, implicitly or otherwise, our Commanders in Chief over the last three decades have INVADED and/or BOMBED:


So it's lucky we've got our own CRAZY PEOPLE out there to be on the side of REASON. Borderline lunatics like Ralph Nader and Cindy Sheehan (who lost a son killing foreigners) can be counted on--yesterday, in fact--to take up the cause. Nader maintained that Obama has essentially followed the policies of the Bush administration: "He's kept Guantanamo open ... continued to use indefinite detention," and so on. But I much prefer St. Cindy's less cerebral, more in-your-face, 60's style of protest. As she was being cuffed and led away, she gestured toward the White House and shouted:
Arrest THAT war criminal!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

#209 Vox Populi--Rep. Dennis Kucinich?

Love this little guy, with the giant babelicious wife. St. Dennis of Cleveland was martyred again last week in the House of Representatives, just like his avatar, St. Denis (> Dionysius, right) of Paris, some 1750 years ago by Druid priests for preaching the gospel to the Gauls. Kucinich was beheaded too, by a negative overkill-vote of 365 to 65. For what? For simply preaching the gospel of turning the other cheek, a bedrock Xianism that the pagans in the Lower House just didn't want to listen to, vis a' vis Afghanistan.

Of course, what kind of "cheek" is in question. You guessed it. The other, other one. Let's turn around and get our ASS the hell out of Afghanistan, before we get 'em both shot off. The Congressman's defeated Resolution would have mandated the withdrawal of all troops within 30 days of passage. The consensus press is arbitrarily labeling it out-of-hand a "symbolic resolution" (e.g. WashPost here), and as usual for Kucinich's quixotic efforts he gets a big round of ha-ha from most everybody. But NOT from Reps. Ron Paul and Patrick Kennedy who voted in favor--nor from the "silent majority" that I'll speak for in a minute.

Mid-Note: Paul and Kennedy?! Talk about strange bedfellows. Well, they're both talkin' true Libertarianianism--not the greedy, solipsistic Ayn-Randianism of the Tea Baggers--rather that all-the-way-round-the-circle meeting point of right and left political wings ... at least when it comes to WAR. Defensive ones only, etc., etc. We've blogged and blogged enough about that. Worth watching the Kennedy rant (here). Apoplectic. But he's right on target in condemning the mainstream media for saturating their time with gossip about Rep. Eric Massa's "groping" escapades rather than paying attention to the ongoing bloodshed in the Middle East--as occasioned by the Kucinich Resolution.

Anyway, it's about that totally futile sacrifice of a thousand American lives so far, and the unconscionable martyrdom of untold thousands of civilian "collaterals" (another horrendous case headlined last week)--that the Voice of the People can still be heard. And the "Kucinich Sixty-Five" speaks for them, granted only symbolically, perhaps. But according to the polls, over 50% of Americans STILL oppose the 100.000-troop "surge" that President Obama is STILL proceeding with, and will no doubt continue to get funding for. Of course I wish there were a higher number of us in the majority opposed to IrAfPak altogether--but what's with the lopsided majority in the House of Representatives opposed to the Voice of the People?!--as can be seen in the "symbolic" beheading of Kucinich et al. and their good intentions. In this case, and in their continued funding of a wasteful war, the members of the House are just not "representative" at all.

A final note. The "little big man" from Ohio is also eligible for sainthood by dint of his opposition to the health-care reform bill in Congress. What? Yes, I want it to pass, despite it's flaws. Obama needs it; and by association the country needs it if we're EVER going get ANYWHERE toward real Reform of our blighted system. Non-passage, I fear, will delay our joining the rest of the civilized world for years to come. However, Kucinich hasn't cast his vote yet (the Prez is lobbying fiercely), but if it's a "Nay" we'll know his martyrdom is based on principle. Inevitably, this country's health-care will be a public, tax-payer-driven, single-payer program modeled on Medicare. You heard it here. Problem is ... St. Dennis wants it NOW. Let the beheading begin.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

#208 Vox Populi--Still Audible over the Static

Health-care-reform-wise. Oyez and yea verily, the Voice of the People has been muzzled and muddled of late by those who perpetrate myths about deficits and death-panels, along with whatever obscurantist and obstructionist tactics they can muster--okay, Congressional Republicans, Blue Dog Dems, Fox News, Teabaggers, and others in cahoots who have been known to strangle grannies in their wheelchairs and rape toddlers in their beds, just to make a point. With all due respect.

All of this SEEMS to have resulted in the loss of support by the American People for Health Care Reform. NOT SO, as you'll see below. But first the facts, opinion-poll-wise. Once upon a time that all "meta-analyses" of the various polls showed that the electorate favored Reform by a "landslide" majority for a long period of time before and after the election of President Obama. The figures the Blogman was quoting during that time, up until late fall of this last year, ranged from 60-75%--say roundly two-out-of-three adult-folk populating this country.

However, once Reform was haltered and led down to the swamp-pits of Congress, it's true that public support seemed to founder in the face of that Slough of Despond. Republicans and Blue Dogs are fond of quoting opinion-surveys that show that more people now oppose Congressional proposals, Democratic OR Republican, than favor them; and that 55% of Americans now want lawmakers to suspend work on legislation, while 39% want them to pass it (e.g. Gallup). Yes, BUT ... these responses, please note, are based on what CONGRESS has managed to DO with Health Care Reform--basically muck it up--rather than on outright disapproval of the idea of HCR itself. And remember, overwhelming public disapproval of Congress qua Congress (forever topping 80%) has to be automatically and sadly front-loaded into any such results.

Notwithstanding, here's the irony: the Populi really DO support the health care bills currently being wrestled with in Congress ... but are being so misled as to know it not. This month's AARP Bulletin that arrived in the mail last week (can't find an internet-version link) makes this clear. When the common, not-in-dispute elements of the House and Senate bills are distilled out, the Vox is overwhelmingly FAVORABLE. In fact, we're back to the approval numbers of old. The Bulletin summarizes a January survey done by the non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation, whose health-care profit-arm, Kaiser Permanente, by the bye, would obviously have nothing to gain by the following revelations (very slightly paraphrased for clarity). Here are the percentages of people who said they now support health-care reform legislation after being informed as to what was already there:

73%--Tax credits to small businesses to cover employees [Republicans must have pushed this to the top, but okay];

67%--Health insurance exchanges , with or without Public Option, to help people get coverage [very gratifying--Big-Med's weakening influence, hopefully];

66%--Existing coverage unchanged/optional for most people;

63%--No more denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions [why this percentage isn't way over the top ... is puzzling];

62%--Expansion of Medicaid to cover more low-income people [should be higher, but reflects, I guess, a "compassionate conservative" weighting];

60%--Coverage of children under parent's insurance until age 26;

60%--Closing the "dough-nut hole" in Medicare (prescription-drug) Part D.

This is what the unanimous voice of the Republican opposition (and their profit-arm Faux News) lately calls "cramming health care reform down the Peoples' throats"--???!!! Well, yea verily listen and take heed, ye willful and partisan obstructionists: their throats seem to be voicing approval pretty clearly here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

#207 Health-Care Reforrn Strategy--"No-Pay"

You've heard of "co-pay." All right. Well, here's an alternative for those of us--just about every American below the the top 5% of income-earners in this country--tyrannized by the health insurance industry. No-Pay. Not my idea--it comes from none other than that populist and revolutionary on the far left, Mitt Romney. That's right, that same guy who has runwayed his neo-con Presidential pret-a-porter right through one campaign and is now dressing up for another ... is really a master of disguise.

He blew his cover last week though. It was inevitable. There are some things too difficult to hide. Like working, when he was Governor, with the late Ted Kennedy to provide a program of virtually UNIVERSAL health care (2% shy) for the people of Massachusetts. He did his best to obfuscate its glaring similarities with Obamacare during the news interview in question. Fail. Just too obvious.

So the Presidential aspirant had to resort to his secret code--perfectly understood by his fellow subversives and neo-anarchists. DON'T PAY YOUR MEDICAL BILLS. Very simple. This will bring the medical-industrial complex to its knees, no matter what happens in Congress and on Obama's desk over the next several weeks, or months, or never, involving our health-care system. If read cryptographically, the message rings out loud and clear from Romney's key response to whether or not he supports universal health care:
Oh, sure. Look, it doesn't make a lot of sense for us to have millions and millions of of people who have no health insurance and yet who can go to the EMERGENCY ROOM and get ENTIRELY FREE CARE for which they have NO RESPONSIBILITY, particularly if they are people who have sufficient funds to pay their own way. (video)
Here's the signal: Mitt Romney knows that his audience knows that ER care is not free. Far from it. He would want us simply to assume that he's aware it costs $800 just to walk in, and that figure, along with up to many thousands in additional costs, will be billed to the walker-inner and reported to the credit bureau and the county sheriff if not paid. Insurance or not. Otherwise, the alternative--that he's a complete idiot, or worse: a lying hypocrite--is unthinkable. So we must take his words as a call to action. There should be no doubt "Mittens" (undercover code-name) is telling his own "fifth-column" in the audience to spread the word to the uninsured and under-insured to become "refuseniks" in the cause. How? By simply taking out the fifth word of the above quote: "doesn't." Try it. Then it all makes sense.

Especially "revolting" are his last words, directed toward the middle- and upper-classes. Even if you have "sufficient funds to pay," or co-pay, your "own way"--DON'T. Support your under-class brothers and sisters in the fight for Reform. Truly radical.

Can we doubt such a man? Or his credentials? He's a straight-arrow Mormon, after all. Not to worry that he believes that Native Americans are descended from the lost tribes of Israel; that Jesus visited them in America after the Resurrection; that God lives on a planet near the star "Kolub"; and that Romney himself could become the god of his own planet--President of the U.S. be damned--sometime in the afterlife. Moreover, that last one makes him completely impartial, a disinterested party in the whole business. He doesn't even need health insurance: he wears magic underpants.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

#206 "Let's Amend the Constitution"

Speaking of money and politics, the Supreme Court's over-ruling, the Dodd amendment, Common Cause, and cabbages and kings (q.v. last post)--the title above is actually a FaceBook group-page set up by a hot-headed lawyer in South Carolina, of all places. He also happens to be a son of mine. Consider him "team-member" for the day.

His is a grass-roots effort to let the People clean up the hen house. After all, Why leave it to a fox like Sen. Christopher Dodd--who ultra-ironically has his own sullied past vis a vis moneyed interests in the Capitol lobby (AIG-gate)--or any other member of a corrupted Congress that has thus far failed to police itself? The People can do it, constitutionally as all hell, through successful petition of two-thirds of their state legislatures. To quote my son (and How often does this happen on Planet Earth?)--
My concept was to form as broad a group as possible, not to pander to any particular ideology, and maybe, with the power of numbers, leverage some change in the way Washington D.C. does business. I think that Independents, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and Greens can all agree that money wields too great an influence on our Congress and I tried to make this group about changing that.
It's really, though, the THREAT that counts. Like me, he believes that an actual Constitutional Convention would be a precarious thing in perilous times. In addition to opening the floor to all species of radical agenda here at home, there's the external danger to worry about. As he reminds us in a private email:
I agree, a Constitutional convention at this time in our history could have unpleasant effects, especially if Al Qaeda strikes in the midst of such a convention ... but if I get enough folks that are voters , it is possible that the pressure and publicity of such a group [and others, I would add] could get some changes done in Washington.
If any BlogManFans out there would like to have more information, to comment, to sign-up, etc., click on the site here. But let me directly quote one clause of the proposed amendment to give you the flavor of the thing:
No lobbyist, corporation, non-profit entity, association, or person acting on behalf of such may provide to a member of congress, or other Federal employee any gift exceeding the cost of a cup of coffee in a single day.
Now, if the cost of the Starbucks Grande keeps escalating, or the cup of coffee has its provenance in the digestive tract of an Indonesian palm-civet--that protocol might itself have to be amended.

Friday, March 5, 2010

#205 Bad Boys in Congress?--Cut Off Their Allowance

As you might a naughty child. After all, they just haven't been keeping up with their chores. Look at the sad state of the Capitol--front steps haven't been shoveled. GARBAGE needs to be taken out. Been collecting for months. And for all the money we pay 'em every week. Tsk.

Sen. Chris Dodd is on the tube lately suggesting a semi-solution: a Constitutional amendment that would effectively overturn the surreal Supreme Court ruling recently which overturned laws against Corporate whore-mongering in state and federal elections. It's more than okay now. Corporations is People, just like you and me, and it/him/her/they have as much right to buy advertising--money = speech--for a high-priced Congressional prostitute as anyperson else, on top of stuffing money directly into the candidate's G-string. All this thanks to another sacrilege committed by those same five altar-boys on the Court--appointments by Reagan/Bush/Bush/Cheney which will demon-haunt the American people for generations to come, alas.

Many years ago, and for two or three, we were charter members (for a small donation) of John W. Gardner's Common Cause, which the liberal Republican (an extinct breed) started up in 1970. The estimable Mr. Gardner was even for a while a working member (Secretary-HEW) of the socially-activist LBJ administration, and was popularly known for his influential and oft-quoted book (a good short read then and now) on improving leadership in American society called Excellence: Can We Be Equal and Excellent Too (1961), still in wide circulation. The sacred purpose of his populist organization?--to throw the money-changers out of the temple of American Republican Democracy. Mission statement:
Common Cause is a non-partisan, grass-roots organization dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, re-inventing an open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest [shades of George Washington's SOTU], and empowering people to make their voices heard in the political process.
And to make the word flesh: pass laws that keep private money out of public politics, put simply. In effect, let the democratic, progressive income-tax do the speaking for the American people.

Common Cause was surprisingly successful early on, but primarily on the Presidential level. The new "people's lobby" in Congress was instrumental in passing FECA, the Federal Election Campaign Reform Act of 1974, which still obtains today, most recently in McCain v. Obama, each dealing with public-funding protocols in their separate ways. CC also helped bring down a President. It sued Nixon in 1972 over secret, and thus illegal, donations to his campaign organization, the infamous CREEP ... won ... and Tricky Dick was gone two years later. Ironically, Common Cause is one legacy Nixon could have been proud of.

Now, the Roberts-Court ruling goes against just about everything the late (2002) John Gardner's organization stands for. I can already hear the wheels grinding here in North Carolina, which has fairly enlightened laws on the books about corporate campaigning. Basically: noway, nohow. But now at my back I'll hear hurrying near the campaign chariots of Big-Med and Big-MIC (Military-Industrial-Complex)--corporate entities so top-heavy in our state, and, well, the country too. All too obvious as represented in the ice-bound photo above.

But maybe Common Cause to the rescue. I hadn't noticed it in the news for years till up popped Bob Phillips, Director of the North Carolina chapter, on the local news channels. He brought it home. Every single NC law against corporate interference in the public election process is now invalidated by the Supreme Court opinion. Unlimited funds from corporation treasuries can go to pliable candidates from city council to senatorial race. Anonymously. Of course they'll need to identify themselves with something like "Paid for by Americans in Favor of Apple Pie"--but really, will the average voter discern the "sham-corp," as Phillips calls them? There's little hope for transparency here, considering the source, but he's going to his best in the state legislature.

There's little hope in reversing the Court anytime soon, either, short of imprecatory prayer. Or the Dodd amendment. But the latter has it's own built-in liability. A Constitutional Convention. Where all bets are off, and anything goes. Every wing-nutty idea from anywhere over the political spectrum (fill in the blanks) would be in play. Everybody in the know knows that even the THREAT of amending the U.S. Constitution is a dire and dangerous one. And exactly why it might just thaw the freeze-dried hearts and minds under the Capitol dome.