Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tea Party, Specter of Beck makes USDA and NAACP Cave. Can we get any Lower?

Over the last few days we've heard plenty about former USDA regional director Shirley Sherrod's firing over a speech she gave about an event some 24 years ago which was recently doctored by a Right Wing blogger to appear racist, but turns out to have actually been about reconciliation.

When slimy Tea Party defender and Acorn nut Andrew Breitbart's "expose" appeared on his blog "Big Government", accusing Sherrod of making racist remarks at a long-ago NAACP meeting, heads which should have remained clear in the face of the dubious evidence took to exploding left and right. 

This whole process has been fascinating--the doctored tape, the rush to judgment--not just by Sherrod's bosses but by her friends in the NAACP, the complete and total turn-around when the entire tape was revealed, the reluctant then abject apologies, and finally, the icing on the cake:  The ludicrously manipulative indignation for the poor woman's plight by the likes of Glenn Beck, whose specter hung like a pall over the entire affair. 

I've seen and heard it all now (including Keith Olbermann's brilliant, scorching Special Comment last night). 

I've watched the interviews with Shirley Sherrod and mightily felt her pain.

I watched Tom Vilsack's apologetic press conference and didn't doubt for a moment his sincerity. 

I watched Andrew Breitbart apologize to no one, since, as he says, his actions were against the NAACP because they dared to attack the Tea Party.

Here's what bothers me most about the whole thing:  Governmental department heads, and possibly the White House, made the decision to fire this woman within three hours of finding out that Glenn Beck was going to talk about her on his show that day.  

This Glenn Beck:

 And this Glenn Beck:

And this Glenn Beck:

What have we come to, we Americans in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, when even our duly elected government officials, leaders of the most powerful government on earth, stalwart defenders of the Constitution, cower and cave in the presence of a daffy TV bozo?

I don't believe President Obama had anything to do with the firing of Shirley Sherrod, but he has everything to do with the cowardly, doggedly clueless climate surrounding every department under his wing.

Keith Olbermann said it best:

Mr. President, please stop trying to act, every minute, like some noble, neutral figure, chairing a government of equal and dispassionate minds, and contemplative scholars. It is a freaking war out here, and the imagined consensus you seek is years in the future, if ever it is to be re-discovered.
This false consensus has gotten us only the crucifixion of Van Jones, and a racist gold-shilling buffoon speaking from the Lincoln Memorial on the 47th Anniversary of Dr. King's speech, and now it has gotten us Shirley Sherrod. And your answer is to note a "disservice" and an "injustice."
Sir, get a copy of the Michael Douglas movie "The American President." When you get to the line where he says "I was so busy keeping my job, I forgot to do my job" — hit the rewind button. Twenty times. "Fired up?" "Fired up?" Anybody? Anybody?

What does it take for us to be fired up?  This perversion of American politics has to come to a screeching halt.  We're not all blithering idiots--at least not yet.  So who's afraid of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann and the All Powerful Tea Party?  Not me and not you, but I'm not feeling any better about it.  We don't count.  When the government and the press kowtow to the likes of those dangerous buffoons, they become nothing more than powerless sidekicks.   That's just nuts.

So really--what does it take for us to be fired up?  The media clowns are taking over the country and millions of us are watching with fascination and dread.   Our pathetic attempts at dissent are nothing more than annoying flea bites to the all-powerful.  It's time for the heavy artillery.  It's time for some leadership from President Obama.   He has to be made to understand that it can only come from him.  He has promises to keep, and we can't let him forget them.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

It's Jobs and then it's Jobs and after that it's Jobs

Consider: in 1928 the richest 1 percent of Americans received 23.9 percent of the nation's total income. After that, the share going to the richest 1 percent steadily declined. New Deal reforms, followed by World War II, the GI Bill and the Great Society expanded the circle of prosperity. By the late 1970s the top 1 percent raked in only 8 to 9 percent of America's total annual income. But after that, inequality began to widen again, and income re-concentrated at the top. By 2007 the richest 1 percent were back to where they were in 1928—with 23.5 percent of the total.

Each of America's two biggest economic crashes occurred in the year immediately following these twin peaks—in 1929 and 2008. This is no mere coincidence. When most of the gains from economic growth go to a small sliver of Americans at the top, the rest don't have enough purchasing power to buy what the economy is capable of producing.

Robert Reich, The Nation, July, 2010 

 The first task is to rebuild our industrial commons. We should develop a system of financial incentives: Levy an extra tax on the product of off-shored labor. (If the result is a trade war, treat it like other wars—fight to win.) Keep that money separate. Deposit it in the coffers of what we might call the Scaling Bank of the U.S. and make these sums available to companies that will scale their American operations. Such a system would be a daily reminder that while pursuing our company goals, all of us in business have a responsibility to maintain the industrial base on which we depend and the society whose adaptability—and stability—we may have taken for granted.
 Andy Grove, How America Can Create Jobs

Despite all the perks we've been giving to corporate America, it's not at all clear that the private sector will ever again create enough decent jobs to support a middle class society in this country. Right now the economy is supposedly growing, but employment isn't. So what is growing? Well, the obscene bonuses and pay packages of corporate America and Wall Street --- the only growth that counts for our financial elites.
We're at a critical point in the jobs crisis. Nearly 30 million of us don't have jobs or have been forced into part-time jobs. It's not like there's no work to do. We have millions and millions of kids to educate. We desperately need to slash our energy use--and with an army of workers, we could weatherize every home and business in the country. Our bridges and roads will take decades to repair. We need to build an entire national system of efficient public transit.
When Wall Street is in trouble, we come to the rescue with trillions in bailouts. We've poured hundreds of billions more into two wars. But when it comes to investing in our people to get needed work done, we can't seem to summon the will or find the cash.
 Les Leopold, Why All the Idiocy about Unemployment?

The consensus, no matter who says it and why, is that American manufacturing industries are no longer of Americans, by Americans, or even for Americans.  It's beyond a worrisome rumor, it's an established fact:  American manufacturing, compared to manufacturing world-wide, fills a niche no bigger than the size of an ant farm box.

Let's face it, the people in charge of keeping Americans working are not just incompetent or oblivious, they're the next best thing to the enemy.  The public sector is beyond just aiding and abetting the private sector, they're right down in the trenches with them.  Such a cacophony from Big Money, from the Right Wing, from  the keepers of the status quo.  Who could blame the people in charge for lending them an ear?

You kidding?  We could!  We should!  A whole lot of us DO!

A vast army of domestic terrorists bamboozled us, flimflammed us, fleeced us and left most of us bound and gagged, yet, incredibly, some truly wacky others are still begging for more.  Millions of real people are out of work, yet there are still millions of people (some of whom also fit into that out-of-work category) who can actually say the words "out-sourcing" and "off-shoring" without gagging or even flinching.  Many of them sip tea while repeating the words they've been brainwashed by the terrorists-in-gray-flannel-suits into saying:  "We don't want no stinkin' government in our lives".

Well, yes--we do.  We want a government that looks like a New Deal, acts like a New Deal, and actually IS a New Deal.  We want a works program.  We want a PWA, a WPA, a CCC.   We want a jumpstart because we're in serious trouble, I mean Trouble, that's Trouble with a capital T.

We need a Harry Hopkins, a powerful social worker for the masses, someone who cares more about people than about bottom lines.  Someone who won't stop talking, no matter who is trying to do the muzzling.  ( I see Elizabeth Warren in that role.)

We need a dedicated labor advocate.  I nominate Robert Reich.  (See above.)

We need an Eleanor Roosevelt, a conscientious, eloquent reformer who can  work with a cabinet bombarded on all sides by naysayers, greed-meisters, and relief-haters.  Michelle Obama could grow into it--she has the brains, the guts, the heart.  And who better than Michelle to convince her husband he needs to be our FDR?

Oh, and by the way:  We need to tax the hell out of the filthy rich and make them pay.  Then we need to spend what they're forced to fork over on social programs and American outlets for gainful employment.

Tax and spend, that's the ticket.  (Note that I can say that without even once gagging or flinching.)   This is an emergency.  Business as usual is not an option when the country is in crisis.  Rapid response is required.  Set up the triage teams and give them their assignments in this order:

1. Jobs
2. Jobs
3. Jobs.

And remind anyone who objects to the methods of care that we're in the midst of an emergency and they need to shut the hell up.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day II - I can hardly wait

"The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men." ~ Samuel Adams

Somewhere along the way we stopped calling our most popular summer holiday "Independence Day" and went simply with "The Fourth of July".  We love our Red, White and Blue, but this is the day we pull out all the stops.  Flags fly everywhere, the stars and stripes adorning everything from porches to paper plates to Uncle Sam hats to the holiday advertising pages of every newspaper.  Flags dress floats and bicycles and baby carriages in every parade in every little town in America.  

We love this day--the day to remember our liberty, our exceptionalism, our prosperity.  Those were the days, weren't they?

So what happened?

Not to be a downer on our very favorite day of the year, but I can't shake the feeling that "independence" is one of those words we're starting to look back on with nostalgia.   Does anyone even care that we're not independent anymore?

Our dependence on foreign oil and on anti-American big business and on the production and importation of goods from dubious nations across the globe is not what our Founding Fathers had in mind when they declared us an independent country and gave us our working papers. 

It started on July 4, 1776 when 56 men signed a paper declaring a dissolution of the 13 united states of America from England, the mother state.  Eleven years later, in 1787, a constitution, the wording hard-fought and brainstormed to death, became the law of the land.   The signers mulled over the first paragraph, realizing, I'm sure, that it needed some oomph if people were actually going to understand the motives behind it. 

They didn't start off with, "WE, the wealthy landowners, in order to keep our fiefdoms going. . .", or "WE, the 39 undersigned, in order to preserve our station and ensure a healthy profit margin. . . ".  

No, they began it like this:

WE, the people. . .of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America  

It all came out of a yearning for independence so strong an entire country was created, and in the course of a couple of centuries we became a model for democracy throughout the world--a force to be reckoned with.  You couldn't find a prouder nation anywhere.  We were going places.

That was then. 

Today, it's one of those days when the sun is warm, the breeze is balmy, and the shade of the old oak tree brings a delicious coolness.  A lemonade day.  A day for feeling good. The parade is about to start and there is no more beautiful flag in the world than the American flag.

So tomorrow we'll begin again.  Toward a more perfect union.  Toward more than just a day of domestic tranquility.  Toward an independence we, the people, promised to preserve.