Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Quiet Joy of Christmas

December 25, Christmas Day, is reserved by Christians as the day they celebrate Jesus Christ's birth.  There is no real indication that the Christian Messiah was actually born on that day, but it was decided long ago, and there it is.   But little by little the reason for the season was crowded out; St. Nicholas came along and then morphed into Coca Cola Santa.  Pine trees were brought into houses and decorated with ornaments having more to do with sweet and cute than with Jesus.  Mistletoe hung over doors, candles twinkled in windows, and Currier and Ives made a fortune with their prints of winter scenes--a far stretch from the birthplace in Bethlehem.

The complaints about the secularization of Christmas have a certain legitimacy.  The celebration of a sacred birth has been usurped and turned into a holiday that bears no resemblance to the original intent.  Shopping is a major proponent of the new Christmas.  Drinking is right up there, too.  It wouldn't be Christmas without the traditional overindulgence.

But I maintain that there are enough joyous moments, quiet moments, loving moments--in fact, memorable moments at Christmas to keep the holiday sacred (as in protected and defended) in the hearts of Christians and non-Christians alike.   We love the lights and the music, the laughter of little kids, the connections with friends and family near and far away.

Let's face it; Christmas is prime time for cliches.  Even the hardest hearts succumb to Christmas.  (There is a reason Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is dragged out, re-read, or re-made year after year.  We need to pretend the Scrooges will come around, if even for one day. )

I love the memories of candle-lit Midnight masses.  I'm still thrilled by Christmas hymns; in fact, this old heathen's dream is to sit in the Mormon Tabernacle and listen up close and personal to the Tabernacle Choir singing "O Holy Night"

Besides family images, it's the quiet winter scenes that, oddly, remind us of Christmas.  There is nothing religious about them, nothing having to do with the birth of a Messiah, but they stir feelings in us that we can't seem to do without this time of year. 


I wish love and joy and wonder to all.  I wish the weight of the world would come off the shoulders of those who are suffering, even today. I wish our memories would include them, even tomorrow.  I wish this wasn't just wishful thinking.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Amazing Endurance of Remarkable Words

Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty, or your recklessness. . . Little did I dream you could be so reckless and so cruel as to do an injury to that lad. It is, I regret to say, equally true that I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty, I would do so. I like to think I'm a gentle man, but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me. . Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?  Have you no sense of decency?    Joseph Welch to Sen. Joseph McCarthy, Army-McCarthy hearings, June 9, 1954

My mother and I were watching the hearings on our small black-and-white TV set that summer day in 1954--the day Joseph Welch calmly but forcefully challenged Joe Mccarthy's hold on the depths of the baseless paranoia both Washington and Main Street had been wallowing in for almost a decade.  I was sixteen years old but I've never forgotten the sound of Joseph Welch's voice--the mix of rage and sorrow as he spoke those words.

Something big happened then, and I'm remembering the look of amazement on my mother's face and my own feelings--of absolute joy and shuddering fear--when Welch finished talking.  The hearing room erupted into wild cheering.  Within minutes the room had emptied, every reporter rushing out to file the story.  I didn't know until I read it recently that afterward McCarthy looked around the empty room, threw up his hands and said, "What did I do?"  Within days the Senate voted to take his power away and, for all intents, he was done.

There are some who will always believe that Joseph Welch's words were what brought down McCarthy, stopping those meaningless, hateful hearings once and for all.  The fact is, for many years before there had been scores of people at work trying to expose the insanity of McCarthy's crusade against Communism--"The enemy within" that had all along been essentially toothless. (In 1952 Jack Anderson and Ronald May wrote "McCarthy: The Man, The Senator, the "Ism", spelling out his tactics, exposing his lies, and warning of the consequences if he wasn't stopped.)

Edward R. Murrow's "See it Now" program on March 9, 1954, broadcast three months before the Welch/McCarthy blow-up, was made up entirely of  footage and quotes by Sen. McCarthy himself--more damning than any second-hand account could have been.  On that same day, President Eisenhower wrote a letter to a friend criticizing McCarthy's approach (later telling an aide that McCarthy was a "pimple on the path to progress").

But what we remember today are Joseph Welch's words, used as a kind of easy shorthand to put a stamp on Joe McCarthy's downfall.

 Throughout our history, we've given certain quotes almost magical attributes in order to condense and clarify the stories behind them.  We want to believe that all it took was a single utterance and--poof!--life changed.

When Lincoln delivered his speech at Gettysburg in 1863, he said, "The world will little note nor long remember what we say here. . ."  He was wrong, of course.  Nearly every schoolkid learned "Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. . ."   I thought for years that it was the speech that ended the Civil War, and, by rights, it should have.  The speech contained phrases of such heartbreaking beauty, it should have ended any signs of conflict.  In fact, the war went on for more than two years--the final battles fought many months after Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. 

In 1933, when FDR told the country during his first Inaugural speech, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself", there was plenty to fear that was much more tangible, but it was exactly what he needed to say at exactly that moment.  Did that one sentence ease the pain of the years to come?  No.  But it's a sentence etched into the American psyche, pulled out as needed, even now.

In 1961, John. F. Kennedy said in his Inaugural address, "Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country."   Fifty years later, we're still repeating those words, hoping everyone else is listening.

In the summer of 1963, Martin Luther King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered his "I have a dream" speech.  The entire speech is quotable, but he ended with these words:
. . .When we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:   Free at last! Free at last!Thank GodAlmighty, we are free at last! 
The speech was widely covered (and was recently called the top American speech of the 20th Century), but racial inequality didn't end on that August day.  Some would say it hasn't ended yet.

In June, 1987, Ronald Reagan stood at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate and shouted "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"  Fully half our nation still believes that's all it took to tear down that wall, magically  ending the Cold War and easing any remaining misery.

Magic words.  Enduring words that live on through generations, through the shudderings of history, pristine and precise, owned by their creators without fear of creative editing or plagiarism. 

I thought about these words and their ultimate impact last week as I listened at different times throughout the day to Sen. Bernie Sanders as he stood at a Senate podium delivering his 8 1/2 hour marathon speech, knowing in his heart that the end result would be the same, with or without his mighty efforts.  As I listened, enthralled and grateful (wishing my mom could have been there), I wondered which of his words, if any, would be the magic words still resonating generations from now. 

Bernie Sanders is a plain-spoken Vermont man.  His words are rarely lush or even memorable.  I do not swoon when I hear Bernie speak.  I sit up and take notice.  Bernie had facts, he had figures, he had charts, he had tragic, poignant stories told to him by real people.  He repeated himself and apologized for it.  He wasn't reaching for the perfect sound bite. 

So will it be these lines that end up in Notable Quotes?

Eighty percent of all income in recent years has gone to the top 1 percent. The richer people become much richer, the middle class shrinks. Millions of Americans fall out of the middle class and into poverty.   That is not apparently enough for our friends at the top who have a religious ferocity in terms of greed. They need more, more. It is similar to an addiction. Fifty million is not enough. They need $100 million. One hundred million is not enough; they need 1 billion. One billion is not enough. I am not quite sure how much they need. When will it stop?
Or these?
If there is anything we can say about the American people, we work hard. We, in fact, work longer hours than do the people of any other country, industrialized country, on Earth. We are not a lazy people. We are a hard-working people. If the jobs are there, people will take them. If people have to work 60 hours a week or 70 hours a week, that is what they will do. But we have to rebuild this economy. We do not need tax breaks for billionaires. We need to create jobs for the middle class of this country so that we can put people back to work.
Or maybe these:
We all have our share of addictions. But I would hope that these people who are worth hundreds of millions of dollars will look around them and say: There is something more important in life than the richest people becoming richer when we have the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world. Maybe they will understand that they are Americans, part of a great nation which is in trouble today. Maybe they have to go back to the Bible, whatever they believe in, and understand there is virtue in sharing, in reaching out; that you can't get it all.
   I think this is an issue we have to stay on and stay on and stay on. This greed, this reckless, uncontrollable greed is almost like a disease which is hurting this country terribly. How can anybody be proud to say they are a multimillionaire and are getting a huge tax break and one-quarter of the kids in this country are on food stamps? How can one be proud of that? I don't know.
This is good:
I think one simple thing we have to do is tell the crooks on Wall Street--and I use that word advisedly--history will prove that they knew what they were doing. They were dishonest. The business model is fraudulent. There are honest people who occasionally make a mistake, but there are other businesses that are based on fraud and assume they are never going to get caught. When they do get caught, the penalty they have to pay is so little that it is worth it because they end up getting caught 1 out of 10 times, but they make a whole lot of money, and then they pay a fine and somebody goes to jail--very rarely, though--for a year. That is what you are seeing on Wall Street.
 And this:
  So it seems to me we have to defeat this proposal, and that in defeating this, we are going to tell the American people there are at least some of us here who understand what our jobs and obligations are; that is, that we are supposed to represent them, the middle class of the country, and not just wealthy campaign contributors or bow to the interests of the lobbyists who are all over this place.

 Bernie Sanders, fortified with nothing more than a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of coffee, stood on principal last week and spent an entire day talking to his colleagues, talking to the American people, talking to anyone who would listen.  He stood at a podium, never leaving for even a bathroom break, and talked until he could barely get the words out, until he could barely stand.  He wasn't filibustering; there wasn't anything yet to filibuster.  He was giving it all he had, because he believed purely, strongly, that giving a tax break extension to the top one or two percent of income earners was the absolute wrong thing to do.

You might not have known it if you were simply watching mainstream media that day, but the internet universe was erupting, exploding--passing messages all day long about Sen. Sanders and the fact that he was still speaking.  Twitter overloaded a couple of times (the top hashmark being #FiliBernie) even into the next day, as quotes from his speech were relayed. It was one of those moments.

I half expected Bernie to finish with the words of Joseph Welch:  "Have you no sense of decency, sirs, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"  Because if anyone knows from decency, it's Bernie Sanders

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

So what do you say, Toopers. Can we get a little help here?

The tax cut deal rewards Republican obstructionism by giving the wealthy the tax breaks they demanded.  It throws away precious resources needed for investments in jobs and our economy on upper income tax cuts that will do very little to propel economic growth—setting up excuses for the deficit hypocrites to argue for even more cuts to programs serving working families.  It lards the tax cuts for the top 2 percent with an indefensible cut in the estate tax – giving yet another bonus to the super-rich.  Taken together, this package locks in the growing income inequality that has plagued our country for at least another two years – and quite possibly much longer. 

It is unconscionable that the price of support for struggling middle class families and workers who have been unable to find jobs for months and months and months is yet more giveaways for our country’s wealthiest families.  Millions of jobless workers have lived in fear for months while Senate Republicans had the gall to use their hardships as political leverage for the benefit of the rich.
AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka

The Toopers, or the Two-Percenters,  the over-the-top Lords and Ladies of the Land (along with every single one of their Republican toadies and even a few Democrats--all of them high up there on Santa's Naughty List), just got the gift of their dreams from America's so-called leaders.  They got exactly what they wished for--again.

Rocks in their stockings is what most of them deserved, but instead, we the peons, the peasants, the huddled masses, the mythical "of the people, by the people, for the people", get to foot the bill for this wildly extravagant cave-in to the usual suspects.

President Obama said he had to give in to tax cuts for everyone because it was "abundantly clear" that the GOP wouldn't agree to anything else.  So that's it, then.  The marauders have taken over the village and the mayor, shaking in his boots, has handed them the keys.

Come out of the shadows, peasants, it's up to us now.  We can't physically fight them; they're too strong and the only ones with weapons are afraid of them. Multitudes who should be with us are victims of a crazy Stockholm Syndrome and are siding with the enemy regardless of some big time royal screwing.  Nobody is going to help us.  We're on our own.  We could use a Hobbit or two.   A Shrek would be good.  Inigo Montoya, where are you?  Paging Robin Hood.  Waiting. . .

In the War Room we've spread the constitution out on the table, pored over it 'till our eyes have gone fuzzy, looking for the one loophole that will stop this thing, this invasion, this onslaught.  Turns out the only loopholes are the ones the Toopers found.

Bugger! Foiled again!

But there is one thing we haven't tried.  We haven't appealed to the Toopers themselves.  (Face it:  We've never appealed to them, but we're out of options here.)  We've been ignoring them lately, but there are signs that at least a few of them feel at least a little guilt about taking it all and giving only crumbs back.

A group of them, Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength, even sent a letter to the president:
Dear Mr. President, we are writing to urge you to stand firm against those who would put politics ahead of their country.
For the fiscal health of our nation and the well-being of our fellow citizens, we ask that you allow tax cuts on incomes over $1,000,000 to expire at the end of this year as scheduled.
We make this request as loyal citizens who now or in the past earned an income of $1,000,000 per year or more.
We have done very well over the last several years. Now, during our nation’s moment of need, we are eager to do our fair share. We don’t need more tax cuts, and we understand that cutting our taxes will increase the deficit and the debt burden carried by other taxpayers. The country needs to meet its financial obligations in a just and responsible way.
Letting tax cuts for incomes over $1,000,000 expire, is an important step in that direction.

I admit I don't recognize many of the names on that petition,  but there are some high-profile gazillionaires who have made the same obvious argument:  Gazillionaires should pay taxes, and lots of them, because--boy howdy, they've sure made the profits.   (Some of them even audaciously say their Big Bucks should stay right here in the U.S.A instead of going abroad, but that's another story for another day.  First things first.)

A week before Obama's capitulation to the rich,  Warren Buffett told Christiane Amanpour,  “If anything, taxes for the lower and middle class and maybe even the upper middle class should even probably be cut further.  But I think that people at the high end -- people like myself -- should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we’ve ever had it. The rich are always going to say that, you know, just give us more money and we’ll go out and spend more and then it will all trickle down to the rest of you,  but that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on.”

Well, yeah, Warren, plenty of us did catch on.  We're here, waiting for a real leader, and getting pretty antsy about it.  You may not be it (in fact, I'm pretty sure you're not), but if we don't find someone pretty soon who can twist arms and make those Toopers holler "Tax me! Tax me!  Make me be good!" there will be no happy ending for any of us.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Immokalee: A Grassroots Journey to a Penny a Pound and a Victory of the Meek

“The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has just proven that when you get up every day to fight for what is right, when you don’t give up even when all the odds are against you, when you don’t compromise on basic principles of fairness, and when you build a strong grassroots movement, economic justice will prevail over greed, and the least fortunate can successfully stand up to the powerful."   Sen. Bernie Sanders, 11/17/10 

In March, 2009, I came across an incredible story of modern-day slavery and worker abuse in the tomato fields of Florida, one I couldn't believe I hadn't known about until then.  I wrote a piece called, "Harsh Realities in a Country gone Mad with Greed":
This is one of those stories that will seem so unbelievable, so beyond the pale, so, well, un-American, you might be tempted to either disregard it completely or cast it in a fictional light in order to escape the obvious conclusion: There are horrors perpetrated on human beings in this country that rival those in the worst of the worst of any third-world country.

Everything that happens in this story happens because the ones with the power could not, would not, control their greed. Everything that happened to these people happened because there was nobody looking out for them. The perpetrators knew they were living in an era where laborers were a dime a dozen. If one died off, there were plenty more where they came from.
This is the story of the cruel exploitation of produce pickers, but it didn't happen in the 1930s of Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath", or in the 1950s-60s of the "Harvest of Shame" , or before Cesar Chavez began to organize migrant farm workers. It happened--and is happening--right here, right now, under our watch, in the 21st Century. (Read the rest here.)
I promised at the time that I would keep the story going, that I would report on the progress, that I wouldn't forget it or ignore it--but, aside from a few links and retweets, I did just that.

I don't pretend that anything I might have passed along would have made a difference, given the paltry number of readers I welcome regularly to my blog, but thankfully there were advocates with real power who backed the workers, who strong-armed the packing companies, who threatened and carried out boycotts of the chains buying tomatoes from those companies.  And finally, last week, after  a struggle lasting more than 15 years, their efforts have begun to pay off. 
From The NationAt a news conference on a farm outside of Immokalee in southwest Florida, Jon Esformes, operating partner of the fourth-generation, family-owned Pacific Tomato Growers—one of the five largest growers in the nation with more than 14,000 acres in the US and Mexico—declared, “In a free society, few are guilty, but all are responsible.”
And with that he announced an agreement with the 4000-member Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to implement a penny per pound pay raise—which stands to increase workers’ annual earnings from about $10,000 to as much as $17,000—and establish a code of conduct that includes an external complaint resolution system, shade and protective equipment in the fields, and a worker-to-worker education process on their rights under the new agreement.
A penny a pound.  It may not sound like much, and--let's face it--it isn't, but this was a company who joined the discussion kicking and screaming and came out at least pretending to recognize the folly of their former ways.  The penny-a-pound concession is what they were after, but it takes a back seat to the fact that tomato pickers deserved to be treated like human beings and they didn't stop fighting for that very simple right until they had won it.

 It didn't hurt that four Democratic senators from the north, Ted Kennedy, Bernie Sanders, Dick Durbin, and Sherrod Brown, became advocates for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, holding a Senate hearing about the abuses in April, 2008, and, at least in Sanders' case, following up and keeping sunshine on the story until the first baby steps were taken last week, when Pacific Tomato Growers, shunned by every fast-food chain in the land and many major supermarkets, finally hollered Uncle.

In January, 2008, Sen. Sanders went to Immokalee to see the conditions there for himself: 
In talking with workers who go out into the fields I learned that they make approximately 45 cents for every 32-pound bucket of tomatoes they pick. This wage has not increased since 1998; and in fact, farm worker wages have dropped 65 percent in the last 30 years, after adjusting for inflation. I also learned that while it is possible under optimum conditions to make as much as $10-$12 an hour, the average hourly wage is far lower than that. In fact, most workers in the tomato fields earn about $250 a week in income. Why are wages so low?
I also learned that there is no overtime when workers work more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week. There are no benefits. Health care is a serious problem especially for people who do hard, physical work as they do in the tomato fields, yet employers offer no health insurance. The housing that I saw was deplorable and extremely expensive. It was not uncommon for eight or 10 workers to be paying $500 a month to live in a trailer which, in the city where I was mayor, would never have passed a safety inspection.
"Is it really going to take an act of Congress to get Florida's tomato pickers a raise?" an editorial in the St. Petersburg Times asked. "The men and women who work the fields in Immokalee earn 45 cents on average for every 32-pound bucket of tomatoes harvested. It is a meager wage that has not been raised in more than 20 years. Yet when a couple of fast food giants generously agreed to pay workers an added penny per pound, the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange sabotaged the deal and has refused to negotiate even after congressional leaders offered to be intermediaries."
 So last week, more than two and a half years after the senate hearing, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, 4000 strong, won for their people a meager pay hike and a promise of better working conditions.   Still, they see this small victory not so much by what they gained but by how they gained it.  They showed the people willing to work on their behalf that they were worth the effort by being smart about their protests.  They came out of the shadows to shine a light on what a human being working under those conditions was forced to endure.  Many of them couldn't speak or understand a word of English, but a necessary dialogue took place and the people with the power to help understood the need and went to work.

It won't go without notice, by me, anyway, that Sen. Bernie Sanders stopped what he was doing, went down to Florida to take a look, and didn't give up until the thing was done. (I'm not surprised that Ted Kennedy worked hard to get this thing done either, even as his final illness was taking its toll.) 

To his credit, Florida governor Charlie Crist, after initially refusing, finally met with the CIW in March, 2009 and publicly condemned the actions of the growers.

 Still, it took until now, after a dozen years of food chain and supermarket boycotts, after a senate hearing on field worker abuses, after scores of TV, newspaper and magazines exposes, and more than a year and a half after Gov. Crist signed his letter of farm labor support, before the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange finally knuckled under and agreed to a penny a pound increase and a promise of a stab at fair play.

One final note:  It's apparently not over till it's over.  Publix Supermarkets still refuses to agree to the Fair Food Principals, so the CIW and certain Florida churches are collecting pennies in penny folders to hand out to Publix managers as a reminder.  It's their Thanksgiving message:  "Farm Workers in the fields are Family, too". (More reading here.)

Have a loving and bountiful Thanksgiving.  Enjoy your long weekend.  But there is no end to the turkeys out there, so I'll see you on the front lines again next week.

(Remember the CIW and farm laborers everywhere by buying Fair Trade.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

It's Our Fault There are no Jobs. Or at least it's not Their Fault.

 Former congressman Ernest Istook, The Heritage Foundation's latest hit man, played Hardball with Michael Smerconish tonight,  taking his turn at spinning the usual GOP yarns on the state of the economy and weaving from them some damned fine solutions for stimulation and job creation.

Ernie says that cutting off unemployment benefits is the right thing to do, before people become dependent on getting gov'mint handouts, and besides that, we just can't keep doing this forever.  And if there aren't jobs out there right now, there could be.  Dammit.

Ernie says giving tax breaks to everyone--including that one or two percent who own it all already--is the right thing to do because that's the way you get the economy rolling.  (This economy, the Obama economy, that is, and not that economy, the Bush economy.  You fool.)

Ernie says there are two trillion dollars just sitting there waiting to be paid to willing and able workers if only the gov'mint would stop scaring those potential employers by threatening higher taxes and re-regulating the deregulations.

Ernie says nobody's gonna hire under those circumstances.  And Ernie ought to know because Ernie used to be in congress and now he's a "Distinguished Fellow" at the Heritage Foundation.  Add to that the fact that Ernie is a Republican and you can take those words to the bank. (But don't expect to get anything back for them.  The banks aren't giving out money.  They're scared, too, poor 'lil guys.)

Trillions of dollars for millions of jobs are out there, available, Ernie says, but small business employers are afraid to hire for fear it might cost them too much and they might run afoul of a couple of dozen obscure regulations and then really bad things might happen.  So they're sitting on their businesses, not wanting to expand, not willing to spend a dime to make a dollar because. . .

because. . .

they're afraid this current government might possibly come up with some pro-socialist, anti-business funny business.

Well, hogwash, poppycock, and besides that, bullshit.  Those people don't even make good liars. (Poor Rep. Gregory Meeks tried so hard to refute.  I salute the refute, honestly I do, but he might as well have saved his breath.  Lalalalalalala.  They can't HEAR you!)

Ryan Chittum looked at the coverage of the unemployment benefits extension over at Columbia Journalism Review today, using real facts and real figures.  It's just one of a dozen dozen responsible refutations of the Istook and Friends idiocy above, but they might as well be ant hills on a mountain for all the attention they get.

It's a crazy world out there.  I guess you heard the Republicans won the House. . .


Monday, November 15, 2010

Get out there and BUY your job. What is WRONG with you people?

Yes, the mid-term elections are over and the crying jags have pretty much stopped, so, while I'm  shocked at the damage comfort chocolate has done to some people's butts. . .

. . . I have just one thing to say about the overall impact of the glorious orgy of wastage known as the 21st Century American Campaign for Public Office So's I can Live off the Public Dole Whilst Killing it for Everyone Else:   Humph!!! (and also "We'll just see about that, lads and lassies!")

In a country where the U.S. total debt is nearing 55 gazillion dollars, where the interest alone is over 3 bajillion, where the official number of unemployed citizens is almost 15 million but the actual number is 26 million, where we owe so much money to China they could conquer us simply by calling in their debt. . .in that country, our country ('tis of thee), the politicians--those bloody buggering bastards--spent 4.2 billion dollars on campaign advertising in order to secure for themselves not just any jobs but--get this--government jobs.

So when we kept calling for jobs, jobs, jobs we apparently didn't make it clear that we were talking about ours, not theirs.  For months now, we've been concentrating on getting the votes out for people who needed a job so badly they spent more than most of us will earn in five lifetimes in order to get it.

Is it asking too much, then, to expect that they'll come up with some meaningful ways of building a job market in the Greatest Country in the World so that the people who voted for them can get in on the American Dream?

Money doesn't buy votes, it provides a glittery gift box for perceptions.  Real people still have to get out there and cast their ballots and it's those same real people who suffer and bleed when their own government turns against them at a time when they need them most.  What those 30 megakillion pieces of silver bought this time is the perception that real people aren't suffering and bleeding.  Not worthy people, anyway.

This election was baffling in that one faction, the anti-government Republican Tea Party, ran on a platform of aggressively disinterested blind-eye and won.  They convinced millions of the most vulnerable among us that even though they'll be taking paychecks from the government and accepting all the perks that government will allow, and sitting in the halls of government deciding and voting on how best to stop the government from doing anything--it's what the American people want, by God, because they said so.  (And how did they say so?  By voting the anti-governments in, of course.)

So it's all about the job but not all about the jobs and once again we're on our own, getting ready to shout from a mountaintop into the wind, hoping a few tiny word-wisps will escape the updrafts and waft down to earth, finding purchase on a mighty magic rock capable of transforming those syllables into actions that might actually mean something.

But in case that doesn't happen, there's always this: 

(I was hoping you weren't going to read this far.  I got nothing.)


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Michael Moore and Lawrence O'Donnell: Man, those Republicans! They get it!

Oooh, that hurts. The two Democrats who still admit they're Democrats sittin' and jawin' about how Obama got it wrong and the Republicans got it right. 

Okay, we know the message the Republicans have honed to perfection is this:  Cut the budget and the taxes and keep Big Money happy and the government will fall and life will be good.  It's a downright nutty message, considering the state of our economy and the pain that's been inflicted on the working class by the people who keep spreading it, but they get away with it because while we, the lousy, lonely hoi polloi, keep complaining about their cheating and their lying and their back-stabbing, Obama and the Dems in congress keep stroking them and feeding them in hopes that they'll lie down and sleep awhile. 

They're animals, for chrissake.  They're not going to do it!

Moore:  "This is what I love about Republicans.  I honestly secretly  really admire them because, man, they have guts.  They come in with both guns blazing; they take no prisoners. . . There's 420 bills that the house has already passed that the senate could pass right now because we have enough votes to do that.  Yet they won't do it, I know they won't do it.  Even the simple child nutrition bill. They won't do it.  but I'll tell you what--if this was--the shoe was on the other foot--if this was the Republicans in a lame duck session, dammit, they'd be passing as much as they could because that's how they are.  Because they believe in something.  And that's why Americans love the Republicans.  Because they just believe in something."

O'Donnell: "And their guts come from a very simple minded position:  cut taxes.  Which is their answer to everything, including job creation.  I've asked Republicans, 'tell me how you would create jobs'.  The answer is the same every time:  'I would extend the low tax brackets we currently have for everyone, especially and including the top tax brackets, because low tax brackets miraculously create jobs'.  Though there is no evidence for that."

Moore:  "There is absolutely no impirical evidence to support that position. . ."

O'Donnell:  "But who cares?  The Republicans hang in there."

In that video clip Michael Moore talked about a new website that lists Obama's achievements in a really clever way.  I forgot to go to the website that night, but this morning I had an email from that very bunch.  I've been getting a lot of emails with achievement lists lately, but this one is fun.  (There are two versions, one using WTF and one using WTH.  So you just know, don't you, that I'm going to use the "heck" version.  But when you get there you can switch to the WTF version. It's exactly the same, but one is for me and one is for you.):

But we still haven't answered the question of how we light a fire under Obama and the Dems in congress.  They're feeling dismal after the mid-terms when they should be feeling stupid.  It's not like we haven't been trying to tell them.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Give 'em Hell Harry's Mad Miracle

For most of the 1948 campaign season, the only person who believed Harry Truman could win an elected term was Harry himself.  The politicians, the punditry, if not the entire country, thought poor Harry--who was not now and never would be FDR--was laughably unelectable. Not a chance in hell.

William Manchester recounts in his superb book, "The Glory and the Dream, a Narrative History of America, 1932-1972", in a chapter called "A little touch of Harry in the night", how little faith anyone had in the failed haberdasher saddled with no evident charisma, a high nasal voice, and a deadly, read-it-right-off-the-page speaking style:

It was going to be so easy.  "Truman is a gone goose", said Congresswoman Clare Boothe Luce, the lovely blond lawmaker from Connecticut, and although Democrats flinched, no one contradicted her.  Since the Republican sweep of the off-year elections in November, 1946, every public opinion poll, every survey of political experts had spoken with one voice:  If Harry Truman ran for the presidency, he would be doomed.  Gallup reported that between October 1947 and March 1948 the percentage of Americans who thought the President was dong a good job had dropped sharply--to 36 percent--and that if he ran then we would lose to Dewey, Stassen, MacArthur or Vandenberg.

"If Truman is nominated," Joseph and Stewart Alsop told their readers, "he will be forced to wage the loneliest campaign in recent history."  Even he had misgivings. . .he asked Secretary of the Army Kenneth C. Royall to tell the general that if Ike would run for President on the Democratic ticket, Truman would be proud to be his running mate.  Eisenhower asked Royall to convey his heartfelt gratitude to the President, but with it his regrets.  Possibly he thought that with Truman as his vice-presidential nominee he would lose."

Almost immediately after Truman announced he was going to run, on March 9, 1948, most of the party's leaders demanded that he withdraw.

The Bronx boss, Ed Flynn, refused to appear on the same platform with him and he literally had to be strong-armed into his seat. People who should have been by his side snubbed him.

The Southern delegation made plans to break away from the party and support their own candidate, Strom Thurmond.  It threatened to be a four-party race, with two of them Democrats. (The Progressive Party was the fourth.)

A planned meeting of wealthy Democrats--potential supporters--had to be cancelled when only three of them agreed to show up.

When Truman's name was mentioned at a Los Angeles rally the speaker was booed.

Some of the big names, including Elliott Roosevelt, Claude Pepper, Walter Reuther and Hubert Humphrey came up with an "extraordinary idea".  Why not draft General Eisenhower instead?  (That idea went up the chain without anybody apparently knowing that Ike was a conservative Republican.)  They went so far as to insult Truman further by sending him a telegram asking him to be chairman of the Draft Eisenhower Committee.  (The Dem leaders had high hopes for Ike right up until the day before the convention, when he finally announced that he "would refuse to accept the nomination under any conditions, terms, or premises.")

So they were left with Truman.  The Republicans and the press were having a field day, but what nobody knew was that Truman's aides had finally convinced him that he had to play the underdog and go on the attack.  Truman hated PR and gimmicks and anything else that smacked of phony posturing, but he knew how to get mad.  According to Manchester, the brilliance of his campaign from then on was that Truman was throwing out his canned speeches--he never could read them without sounding wooden and insincere--and replacing them with plain Missouri talk.

After a couple of successful off-the-cuff speeches to small groups, his aides started thinking big.  Someone came up with idea of taking the Presidential train across country to go stumping.  Truman dipped into his $30,000 travel allowance--clearly unethical in any sense of the word but ignored by the Republicans, who saw it as a quaint trip to nowhere--and used it to campaign in as many whistle-stops as he could manage in two weeks. By the time he got back to Washington he had covered 9,500 miles and had delivered 73 speeches in 16 states.  He followed Clark Clifford's advice:  "Be controversial as hell."  He got the crowds riled and he liked what he saw.  They were with him.  "Give 'em hell, Harry!" got its start on that trip when someone in the crowd shouted it out, and he was wily enough to keep it going.

The Washington press corp, following him, had to admit "the President had almost made [us] forget that he didn't have a chance."

But it was back to humiliation again in Washington when he found his own party still working feverishly to find someone to take his place.  Almost to the last  minute he couldn't find anyone to run with him as vice president, until finally Alben Barkley said he would do it.

So on July 14, the night of the Convention, Truman found himself in a small, dank room under the platform with a balcony overlooking an alley, trains shaking the walls as they thundered by.  He waited there for more than four hours, as the nominating speeches and voting went on above him.  It was nearly 2 AM before he was finally allowed to give his acceptance speech.

I can only guess that spending four hours nearly alone in that empty, smelly, noisy room made him mad.  When Alben Barkley was nominated by acclamation but he, Truman, had to share the votes with others, that must have made him mad.  That nobody in that hall thought he had a chance in hell to win must have made him mad.  Whatever the reasons, Harry Truman gave the speech of his political life and got those people up on their feet.  In the middle of the night, when it was over, Convention Hall rocked with the sounds of a standing ovation.
This, in part, is what he said:
I accept the nomination. And I want to thank this convention for its unanimous nomination of my good friend and colleague, Senator Barkley of Kentucky. He's a great man, and a great public servant. Senator Barkley and I will win this election and make these Republicans like it -- don't you forget that. We'll do that because they are wrong and we are right, and I'll prove it to you in just a few minutes.
This convention met to express the will and reaffirm the beliefs of the Democratic Party. There have been differences of opinion, and that's the democratic way. Those differences have been settled by a majority vote, as they should be. Now it's time for us to get together and beat the common enemy -- and that's up to you.
Confidence and security have been brought to the American people by the Democratic Party. Farm income has increased from less than 2 1/2 billion dollars in 1933 to more than 18 billion dollars in 1947. Never in the world were the farmers of any republic or any kingdom or any other country as prosperous as the farmers of the United States; and if they don't do their duty by the Democratic Party, they're the most ungrateful people in the world. Wages and salaries in this country have increased from 29 billion dollars in 1933 to more than 128 billion dollars in 1947. That's labor, and labor never had but one friend in politics, and that was the Democratic Party and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

And I'll say to labor just what I have said to the farmers; they are the most ungrateful people in the world if they pass the Democratic Party by this year. The total national income has increased from less than 40 billion dollars in 1933 to 203 billion dollars in 1947, the greatest in all the history of the world. These benefits have been spread to all the people, because it's the business of the Democratic Party to see that the people get a fair share of these things.

We have been working together for victory in a great cause. Victory has become a habit of our Party. It's been elected four times in succession, and I'm convinced it will be elected a fifth time next November. The reason is that the people know that the Democratic Party is the people's party, and the Republican Party is the Party of special interest, and it always has been and always will be.

The record of the Democratic Party is written in the accomplishments of the last 16 years. I don't need to repeat them. They have been very ably placed before this convention by the keynote speaker, the candidate for Vice President, and by the permanent Chairman.
This last, worst
80th Congress proved just the opposite for the Republicans.
(Read the entire speech here.)

Later, on September 5, came the cross-country trip aboard the "Truman Special" (not the presidential car)--32,000 miles and 250 speeches.  Manchester says this about the newly energized Truman:
"Much that Truman said was absurd or irresponsible and some of it mischievous.  Harried and forlorn, supported by only 15 percent of the nation's newspapers, told on every side that he was wasting his time and everyone else's, he was capable of delivering demagogic lines.  "The Republicans," he said, "have begun to nail the American consumer to the spikes of greed."  He called them "gluttons of privilege," called Dewey a "fascist" and compared him to Hitler, and to over 80,000 listeners at the National Plowing Contest in Dexter, Iowa, he charged that "This Republican Congress has already stuck a pitchfork in the farmer's back."
Even after his staff showed him an October Newsweek cover that read, "FIFTY POLITICAL EXPERTS UNANIMOUSLY PREDICT A DEWEY VICTORY", Truman believed he was going to win.  He spent hours working the electoral numbers and finally put his predictions in an envelope, sealed it and gave to someone to hold until after the election.  When they opened it later, they saw that he had predicted 340 electoral votes for himself, 108 for Dewey, 42 for Strom Thurmond and 37 marked "doubtful".  He was so sure he was going to win he never flinched, no matter how bad it looked to everyone else.  (The final electoral votes for Truman were 304, 189 for Dewey.)

You know the outcome.  You know that every prognosticator gave Dewey the win.  The Chicago Tribune wasn't the only news outlet to write their "Dewey Wins" leads ahead of time.  When Truman got back to Washington, he passed a huge sign across the front of the Washington Post building that read, "Mr. President, we are ready to eat crow whenever you are ready to serve it."

Manchester writes:  "In a letter to his own paper, Reston of the Times wrote that 'we were too isolated with other reporters and we, too, were far too impressed by the tidy statistics of the poll.'  Time said the press had 'delegated its journalist's job to the polls.'  Several angry publishers canceled their subscriptions to the polls.  The pollsters themselves were prostrate.  Gallup said simply, 'I don't know what happened.'"

What happened was that Truman didn't give up, he didn't compromise and he didn't conciliate.  He went on the attack against the Republican-held 80th congress and whipped them to death with their own deeds (or non-deeds, as the case may be.  The highlights of his stump speeches were his tirades against the "do-nothing Congress", and it worked.  Along with Truman's victory, the Democrats took the majority in both houses).

One final footnote:  After the election, the Survey Research Center of the University of Michigan conducted a poll of the polls and found that two weeks before the election a full 14 percent of the Truman voters hadn't yet made up their minds.  Both Roper and Gallup did their own after-election  research and found much the same conclusion:  One voter in seven made up his or her mind within two weeks of the election.  So, as Manchester points out, "Using either the Michigan figures or Gallup-Roper's, one finds that some 3,300,000 fence-sitters determined the outcome of the race in its closing days--when Dewey's instincts were urging him to adopt Truman's hell-for-leather style and slug it out with him, and when he didn't because all the experts told him he shouldn't."

Is there something to be learned from this?  I don't know. It's a different president, a different time and a different Democratic Party.  What I do know as I'm writing this is that Mitch McConnell's speech before the Heritage Foundation is being played over and over again--the one where he says loud and clear, "we'll cooperate with you, Mr. President, when you give us everything we want".

In the background, in my head, I'm hearing our president's post-election speech--the one where he still thinks the answer is to make nice with those vicious megalomaniacs--and I want Give 'em Hell Harry to grab Obama the Oblivious by the scruff of his neck and whap him one upside the head.

If anyone could do it, Harry could.  Harry was no angel; he was a politician, for god's sake--but he knew how to spot incorrigible rogues, and he knew how to destroy them with the truth.  I doubt he stayed awake nights wondering if he was liked.

President Obama can't quite see the challenge in taking on his most relentless enemies.  He's supposed to be working against them.  They're supposed to hate him.  He's supposed to be a Democrat and he's supposed to remember what that means. There's an employee handbook out there somewhere for Democrats but this new bunch refuses to read it.  It says right on page 1, paragraph 2, they can be fired for that.

(Many thanks to my husband, who steered me to this chapter while we were talking about how Obama should handle a congress that just says no.  It won't do a damned thing to change anything, but man, it felt good to be immersed in a story about a Democrat who wouldn't give up his principles.)


Friday, October 29, 2010

Amid the Sturm und Drang, a Moment Sublime

This was a week of dizzying visuals--Christine O'Donnell flubbing a radio interview and then threatening to sue the station if they air it. A reporter being strong-armed and handcuffed for questioning a candidate. A woman being thrown to the ground and head-clamped by a jack-booted patriot who now wants an apology from her.  A Democrat thrown to the ground and body-slammed at an Eric Cantor rally.

And just when I thought things were getting about as disturbing as they could get, up pops Charlie Sheen in another installment of his Hey wait!  Watch this! crash and burn melodrama.

Add to all of that the incessant news that the Republicans (now an arm of the Tea Party) are likely going to take over the house and possibly the senate, and I had every good reason to hate this week. I didn't realize, when I kept going back again and again to immerse myself in the few magnificent moments from an earlier "Last Word"where Lawrence O'Donnell apologized to RNC chairman Michael Steele for comments he had made the night before, that this was my therapy, my solace, my way of establishing that there are, in fact, some remnants of humanity still struggling to grab hold. 

I missed the original program, but I heard about it the next day, when the blogosphere was abuzz with the news that Lawrence, just days into his new MSNBC show, had made what looked a whole lot like  racial slurs toward Michael Steele in a pre-recorded intro.  This is what Lawrence said:

 As the first congressional election during his party chairmanship approaches, Michael Steele is dancing as fast as he can trying to charm independent voters and Tea Partiers while never losing sight of his real master and paycheck provider, the Republican National Committee.

Okay, that wasn't good.  I'm a huge Lawrence fan, going back to his days with The West Wing, my favorite TV series of all time, but this--coming so soon after his icky, un-Lawrence-like interview with Alvin Greene, where O'Donnell's main concern seemed to be the origin of Alvin's nick-name, Turtle, and whether or not the poor man was a witch.

I look at the hapless Alvin Greene, the unlikely and astonishingly inarticulate and unprepared  Democratic senate candidate from South Carolina, and see someone who needs protecting.  Alvin Greene needs a mom out there.  Whatever his original reasons for running for high office, he's finding himself the laughing stock of an entire nation, and yet he plugs on.  Time and time again his handlers set him up for the worst kinds of abuses, and he obediently goes out there and does the job as well as he's able.  That he can't now and probably never will be anything other than poor Alvin doesn't seem to phase either his handlers or the members of the media who see his fumblings as great sport.

I sincerely expected better of Lawrence O'Donnell.  And just when I was ready to concede that even someone with Lawrence's integrity can sell out to popularity-grab and celebrity-lust, he makes a dazzling come-back with his apology to Michael Steele:


 I'm not a huge fan of Michael Steele, truth be told, but that was about as classy an act as I've seen from a Republican in a long time.  I want to believe, after watching that clip over and over again, that we have a chance.

If, on Wednesday, November 3, we wake up to a whole new world of the same old crap, I'll somehow manage to get through the day by remembering that fleeting moment of political man's humanity to political man.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Still looking for the WikiLeaks Heroes


While nearly everyone in my world is cheering the release of a staggering 400,000 classified U.S documents by the website, WikiLeaks, in order to expose war crimes and atrocities by the U.S and its allies during both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, I can't help but dread the direction in which we're heading.

There are so many whistle-blowers I admire.  It takes great courage to go against the wind and do what's right.  Many of them have suffered mightily for their bravery.  (I would hope I could be as brave if the time came.)

Leaks have come in handy at times when the truth refused to surface without them.  (But even the seemingly benign can be destructive.  Ask Valerie Plame.) This is not an indictment of either method of letting the sunshine in.  Sunshine is good.  It warms us all.  But the flip side of sunshine is that if we're not careful it'll burn us.

My problem with this story is the cavalier approach to the theft of thousands of pages of classified government documents by a person who took an oath to guard them with his life, if necessary.  I've lived with, and known, people who held high security clearances, so it could be that I'm more sensitive than some to the obligations and fidelity a security clearance requires.  There is a long process of life-scrubbing scrutiny before a security clearance is awarded.  It can often take months of investigation, delving into every aspect of an applicant's life, past and present.   No one I know who ever went through it took the designation lightly.  I haven't asked them, but I think I can safely say that none of them would consider the acts of either WikiLeaks or Bradley Manning, the soldier who leaked an un-named number of documents, as anything other than acts of treason.

I hate war.  I hate everything about the bloody, messy reality of war-- the lies, the propaganda, the cover-ups, the lives lost in the name of honor or vengeance or blood-lust or money.  So, having said that, it seems reasonable that I should be rejoicing in the release--even the unauthorized release--of the unavoidable truths of the messes we've gotten ourselves mixed up in.  I'm not. I can't.

There is no doubt that there have been cover-ups in the numbers of casualties on both sides in both current wars.  There is no doubt that there have been atrocities and killings, with thousands of innocents caught in the cross-fire--and with each revelation we react with a kind of impotent fury that has become all too familiar.  So when whistle-blowers like Bradley Manning or Julian Assange come along with undeniable proof that we have good reason to distrust our own government, a nation as battered and war-weary as ours is going to let loose and hail them as heroes.

It's easy to forget in the heat of it that what we have here is a security breach of massive, unprecedented proportions, with unimaginable repercussions.

We know that Bradley Manning, a 22-year-old intelligence analyst stationed in Iraq found himself with way too much time on his hands and started "rummaging" through computer files he knew full well were off limits to unauthorized PFCs--even ones with secret security clearances.
"If you had unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months, what would you do?" he asked.
We know that before he was caught he managed to download thousands of text and video files and pass them on to WikiLeaks for unauthorized publication.
"Hillary Clinton, and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning, and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format, to the public," he wrote to a hacker friend.
What we don't know yet is why this young soldier was allowed access to such sensitive documents and given so much time alone.  It must have seemed unreal, even to him, as he bragged about how easy it was to accomplish such an unbelievable breach.  (That's the rest of the story.  How could this happen when they're so security-conscious we still have to take our shoes off at the airport?)

Whatever the answers, I won't be celebrating the release of those documents.  It sets up a whole new dangerous phase for us--where the ideals of free speech and transparency trump the security of our country.  When the wholesale theft of mountains of classified documents becomes a heroic deed, it sends a signal that anarchy is now the favored act of rebellion. 

I guess I would be careful what I wished for.  This is what the Tea Party wants, too.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The GOP's big plan: Yell "taxes" in a Crowded Theater, Send in the Clowns, Boffo Box Office*

I woke up this morning with a mad, radical thought in my head: What if I'm wrong and those damned Republicans really are right?  What if, after all their clowning around, it turns out they actually have what it takes to allow us to pack up our troubles in our old kit bag and smile, smile, smile?

It sat me right up, this thought that I've been fighting against that bunch for so long I've completely lost sight of what they might actually stand for.  Ye gads, what if Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are just the kind of visionaries it takes to shock us into lasting prosperity?

I can't say my eureka moment energized me enough to cause me to leap out of bed, but around my third cup of coffee it came to me that in order to understand my potential new pals I must go to the source and see what they have in mind for us once they've regained control of congress and have set to work fixing all of the things they so successfully screwed up in the first place.

I went to, the one-stop-shopping place for all things Republican, and wasn't a bit surprised to see Sarah Palin waiting for me at the door.  I got past  her, side-stepping the booth where they're lining up to get on the Get Pelosi Fired bus, then found myself in some pretty nasty alleys and a few dead ends, but I forged on, looking for the magic portal marked "Solutions", the entrance into proof-positive that the Republicans have only our best interests at heart and are working feverishly toward making America the Land of Plenty for more than just the ultra- ├╝ber- super-rich.

So. You're pretty sure I found it, right?  You can't wait to read concrete evidence that the Republicans have actually come up with better recovery plans than anyone could even have imagined--that a miraculous fix is in the works, ready to be implemented as soon as they're in power again.

I'll bet you're thinking I'm going to have to eat a whole field full of crow after all the naughty words I've used against them.

Not so fast, mateys.  This is all I found:  A six-part section called "Issues".

The first, National Defense, is the longest, at 177 words, and starts out, "President Ronald Reagan's approach to America's national defense, which successfully confronted the Soviet Union and ended the Cold War, is as essential today as it was then."
Okay. Nothing new there.

Issue number 2 is Health Care:  "We support common-sense health care reforms that would lower costs, preserve quality, end lawsuit abuse, and maintain the health care that Americans deserve.  We oppose government-run health care, which won't preserve the physician-patient relationship, won't promote competition, and won't promote health care quality and choice."
Americans deserve this kind of health care?  And this wins you brownie points?

Third issue, Energy:  "We believe in energy independence.  We support an 'all of the above' approach that encourages the production of nuclear power, clean coal, natural gas, solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, as well as off-shore drilling in an environmentally responsible way. We oppose so-called cap and trade legislation that would impose a national energy tax on families and small businesses that would kill jobs and raise utility prices."
Just kidding about that Green energy stuff.  We're not really going to push that.

Education is number 4:  "We believe that maintaining a world-class system of primary and secondary education, with high standards, in which all students can reach their potential, is critically important to American's future. We believe in the power of school choice, that giving parents the ability to send their children to better schools--not keeping them trapped in failing schools--is an important way to enable children to get the quality education they deserve."
Okay, public ed, the jig's up. You're outta here.

Issue number 5 is Economy:  "We believe in the power and opportunity of America's free market economy.  We believe in the importance of sensible business regulations that promote confidence in our economy among consumers, entrepreneurs and businesses alike.  We oppose interventionist policies that put the federal government in control of industry and allow it to pick winners and losers in the marketplace."
In other words, carry on, O Leaders of the Pack.  Your money is safe with you.

Number 6, the final issue, is the Courts:  "Republicans believe a judge's role is to interpret law, not make law from the bench. Judges in our court system, from district courts to the Supreme Court, should demonstrate fidelity to the U.S. Constitution.  We trust the judicial system to make rulings on the law and nothing else."
Phew, glad this one was last.  Sure stinks up the place, doesn't it?

So that's it.  There's nothing else.  Notice what's missing?  There's not a single solitary mention of the need to protect American workers or the need to create American jobs. Not a thing about the poor and middle classes, who are suffering the most in this depression masquerading as a recession.  Nothing about bankruptcies or foreclosures or people lining up at job sites, at food banks, at homeless shelters. Nothing about vets living on the streets. Nada bout kids having their health insurance canceled out of spite.  Nothing in there to sully their devotion to the Fat Cat sponsors who count on them to keep the "You line our pockets and we'll line yours" roundelay going.

Okay, they're as bad as I thought they were only just yesterday.  But I should sleep well tonight, ready for battle again tomorrow, because I've seen the nightmare and it is them.

But in case you're still leaning toward voting the bums back in because the Democrats just aren't doing it for you, you might want to read "The 'Teach-the-Dems-a-Lesson' myth" by Robert Parry.  It's an eye-opener.

(*Boffo box office:  Old Variety headline meaning a film, play or performance has raked in the big bucks.)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Shut your damned Enthusiasm Gap and get out there and DO something

We all know that certain people who make it a practice to depreciate the accomplishments of labor - who even attack labor as unpatriotic - they keep this up usually for three years and six months in a row. But then, for some strange reason they change their tune- every four years- just before election day. When votes are at stake, they suddenly discover that they really love labor and that they are anxious to protect labor from its old friends.
I got quite a laugh, for example - and I am sure that you did - when I read this plank in the Republican platform adopted at their National Convention in Chicago last July: "The Republican Party accepts the purposes of the National Labor Relations Act, the Wage and Hour Act, the Social Security Act and all other Federal statutes designed to promote and protect the welfare of American working men and women, and we promise a fair and just administration of these laws."
You know, many of the Republican leaders and Congressmen and candidates, who shouted enthusiastic approval of that plank in that Convention Hall would not even recognize these progressive laws if they met them in broad daylight. Indeed, they have personally spent years of effort and energy - and much money - in fighting every one of those laws in the Congress, and in the press, and in the courts, ever since this Administration began to advocate them and enact them into legislation. That is a fair example of their insincerity and of their inconsistency. 

The whole purpose of Republican oratory these days seems to be to switch labels. The object is to persuade the American people that the Democratic Party was responsible for the 1929 crash and the depression, and that the Republican Party was responsible for all social progress under the New Deal.

Now, imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery - but I am afraid that in this case it is the most obvious common or garden variety of fraud.

FDR, September 23, 1944

Okay, I feel like the mother hen here--the dotty old mother hen who keeps repeating herself, even when it's clear that nobody wants to listen.  We mother hens do this, not because we're so keen on being royal pains-in-the-ass, but because we're keen on looking at the big picture and keeping it real. 

So, yes, I've said this before and I'll say it again:  We Dems/Libs/Progs need to do everything we can to keep the Democrats in control.  If we don't, the Republicans win and their gloating will take the form of locking us in towers and throwing away the keys.  They haven't even won yet, but on the strength of polls and pundits telling them they will, they're already planning ways to kill the few puny safety nets we've been able to jimmy into place.

So along with the satisfaction you get from gunning for the Democrats who in your view are either clueless or cowardly or in bed with the corporates, you might want to give a thought to how all that griping is fueling the other side.  They're loving these little internecine battles, because while all that spitting and hissing is going on, they can move on down that low road with nary a care in the world. 

I'm not going to rehash the horrors that will be unleashed if the Republicans take over congress, because there are others who have done it much more thoroughly already.  It will be bad.  You know that.  It will be so bad, we'll wonder how we could have let it happen again.  We'll pretend we didn't have anything to do with it--that the Big Money/Tea Party juggernaut was just too much for us.  But we'll be lying to ourselves, won't we?  All of this energy going toward attacking our own should be going toward attacking them. They are the enemy of the people, the destroyers of the universe (given half a chance), and we have an obligation to heal the wounds, not make them deeper.

The One Nation rally should be enough to convince us that we have the power if we'll only just use it.  It's a lie that we are a right-leaning country.  We couldn't have accomplished as much as we did if we had historically followed the dictates of the right.  We would never have had a healthy labor movement, a vibrant middle class, a claim to the title of greatest power on earth, without liberal pressure and sweat.  We built this country; they tore it down.  Now we're trying to rebuild and they're on the fast-track to tearing it down again. 

 The press is profiting from the looniness of the Right Wing and spends almost all of their time mooning over them.  Meanwhile, the good folks with mountains of practical, beneficent ideas but no talent for hawking them sit around and wait their turn.  Still, I'm seeing encouraging signs of a momentum building.  The Huffington Post, for example, has a new page called "Third World America", where real people talk about real problems and real solutions.  Elizabeth Warren finally has the president's ear, and someone is actually quoting the irrepressibly sensible Bernie Sanders.   Al Franken's heart is a hit on the senate floor.  Rachel Maddow has become an unlikely and refreshingly brilliant star.  Lawrence O'Donnell--smart guy in his own right--has his own show.  Michael Moore gives the Dems five steps to a win and in his follow-up he sees some progress.  And President Obama is beginning to sound like his old self.

It's a start.

So what's it going to be?  The Republicans taking over congress and making sure none of our programs ever see the light of day?  Or the Democrats winning a clear majority, sending a message to the entire country about where our priorities must lie? 

I'm declaring a moratorium on Democrat-bashing until the elections are over.  If you're not willing to get on board, I'm blaming you for everything that happens from here on out.

Have a nice day.