Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy 2011-Don't Let The Insanity Throw You

If President Obama doesn't go Big and dictate the terms of the debate over the next year, we will be treated to wall-to-wall House insanity. The rules I wrote about the other day are actually even stranger and Congressman Ryan will assume more power than any other Budget Chairman in history. The pledge of Gentleman John Boehner is to get federal funding back to the 2008 levels--without any cuts to defense, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. The genius tasked with accomplishing this is Ryan. Also, add the proviso that there can be no tax increases of any sort. And even throw in the new condition that Republicans do not have to accept the figures from the CBO, which dictated the limits on Democratic legislation for the past two years.

Progressives should throw some spanners in the works in the House. Since every bill is supposed to be evaluated in terms of its constitutionality and that criteria is determined by the doctrine of original intent, Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul should team up and question the constitutionality of defense appropriations for a standing army,(which was not envisioned by the Founding Fathers), appropriations for the CIA and the intellgence community, and, of course, funding for the FBI. I would love to see the Tea Baggers argue their way out of those objections.

Congressman King from Iowa vows to investigate the "reparations" of the Pigford II settlement. This could turn out to be educational for the American public to learn about how black farmers were disenfrancised. Luckily for the administration, the FBI has the accounting of Pigford I, which showed only 3% fraud, a remarkable record for a government program. King also wants to hold hearings on ACORN because a large percentage of teabaggers really believe ACORN stole the election for Barack Obama. I wonder if King will investigate ACORN man of the Year in 2008--Senator John McCain. Also, King is hung up about the New Black Panthers and why the DOJ threw out the voter fraud case against them. I get the sense that King has a thing about blacks. Of course, the secondary target in these investigations is Eric Holder, who has been very nonchalant about the prospects of testifying everyday. He cites his experience during the House's impeachment attempts against Clinton.

The other Congressman King from New York vows to investigate radicalism among American Muslims. This is sure to have wall-to-wall coverage on Fox News. I guess King has a thing about Muslims.

Rep. Issa wants to start his investigations into the Countrywide Mortgage scandal. The conservative view is that the sub-prime mortgage fiasco was the fault of Chris Dodd and Barney Frank and encouraging mortgage lending to minorities. He vows to move on from there. One of the key objectives for House Republicans is to "prove" Republicans were not responsible for the economic collapse of 2008. What's so interesting so far is that the GOP has not suffered any consequences for their very real role in the economic collapse.

Rep. Issa and his GOP cronies also want to investigate the vigor with which the Obama DOJ defended the DOMA Act, which had been declared unconstitutional by a Reagan-appointed judge--which never gets mentioned by the new GOP. The House Republicans believe this will buy off the anti-same sex marriage crowd. We should have a decision soon on California's Prop 8.

There will be a Battle Royale over the EPA regulating green house gases and carbon emissions. The House Energy Commmittee has already vowed to not only challenge the EPA but also will hold hearings to debunk the science of climate change. This is a payback to the Koch Brothers, who fund every climate change denial program in the United States, without exception.

One of the coolest sleights of hand of the new GOP leadership is that they don't have to account for the increase in the deficit if they modify any of Obama's plans like healthcare. This gets them off the hook. The Republican plan proposed during the healthcare debate actually increased health costs in general and the government deficit specifically and covered considerably millions less people. In the new regime, they don't have to account for this.

For those who remember separate bathrooms in the pre-civil rights days, this year will see a return to that time when teabaggers propose separate bathrooms in the military for straights and gays. There has already been a trial balloon sent to the Pentagon on this. To their credit, they shot it down. But this should be interesting.

On Foreign Affairs, we should expect the new House to be seditious. There will be an attempt to actually pressure the Obama Administration to stay in Iraq longer than this summer. Also any pressure put on Israel to move to a two-state solution will be roudnly denounced by the House. Also, we should expect a full-court effort to strip the budget of foreign aid at the levels requested by the Administration and any funding for multilateral efforts of cooperation.

2011 will also see a wholesale attack by states on pensions and the social welfare system and educational systems. Even Jerry Brown has said he has to cut California's educational budget another 25%. The new Republican governors already have launched their initiatives to cut government employees, end pensions and to cut ties to federal government programs like Medicare. At least Jerry Brown is going to ask for tax increases, has launched an effort to form the new health insurance exchanges mandated by the new law and embraced the high-speed rail efforts of the Obama Administration.

The states will provide more nonsense than one can imagine. Arizona's new immigration law has over 24 new copies being introduced around the country. Unfortunately, handicappers believe at least six of these will pass. Also,the anti-abortion crowd believes their last chance is to introduce "Personhood Laws", which would severely restrict abortion and contraception. One such law lost in Colorado but a slew of them are being introduced in the South. Also several states are introducing laws not to participate in the federal healthcare reform. On the other hand, states like Vermont are actually moving to expand healthcare coverage.

Two days ago, CNN conducted a poll on whether you want the Obama policies to succeed or fail. 67% of Americans want them to succeed. 67% of Republicans want them to fail. The contrast is stunning. It seems that Obama has started to get independents back into the fold.

Even on things like healthcare,it has been widely touted that only 43% of Americans support the new healthcare program, while 57% oppose. Sounds great until you see that 13% who oppose didn't think it went far enough. So we will have to see how the House monkeying around with the bill affects public opinion.

The new House doesn't start with enormous support. Today, Congress has an 8% approval rating and Obama is still in the high 40s. President Obama is still at least 3 times more popular than Gentleman John Boehner.

In the freakshow department, Andy Martin, anti-semitic Birther, has announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for President. Meanwhile, Neil Abercrombie, the new Democratic Governor of Hawaii, vows to silence the Birthers. He finds their treatment of the President outrageous and wants to fight them. Why? Well,he was in Hawaii when President Obama was born and he knew both his parents and is mad as hell about the birthers' insult to Hawaii.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

GOP Hijinks

Be prepared this coming year for alot of symbolics and loud noise, while your pocket will be picked by the expert corporate lobbyists now staffing the New GOP House members.

We start next year off with the reading of the full Constitution. I'm sure we will see a daily rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance next. This is the ole' Lee Atwater technique of wrapping yourself in the American flag and talk loudly about such things as the deficit but don't do anything about it.

We hear alot about the will of the people. Newt Gingrich is saying that the new Republican House could be as revolutionary as the Democratic House of the 1930s. Interesting that Newt should avoid talking about the recently ended 111th Congress, which rivalled the Democratic Congress of the 1930s in accomplishments.

This all would be interesting to observe because the internecine war has already started among Republicans, but the sad thing is that it affects all of us now. Less than half the American people even know that the Republicans won a chamber of Congress. The so-called people's will actually runs counter to the 2010 election results. It still is baffling and sometime I hope I read something that explains how the 2010 mid-terms happened.

January 1 starts the 2012 campaign. I am going to try being disciplined and not get into this nonsense at this stage. The Republican line-up already is amazingly weak. But then again so were their winning candidates in 2010. And no, I don't believe the reapportionment of congressional seats will affect the 2012 election.

What we do know is that, despite the bipartisan compromises in the Lame Duck session, we will see less of that this year. By and large, except for the debt ceiling vote and the defense budget,it's going to be an all out war by the Republicans to block, roll-back and thwart all of President Obama's achievements in the last two years. Already,key health insurance lobbyists have been hired by the House Republicans to de-fang Obamacare. Corporate lobbyists have been hired to be the chief of staffs for the incoming teabaggers. So we know the charge of teabaggers as an astroturf movement is already true.

I feel for Paul Krugman's dilemma about trying to be an urban, erudite observer of the political and economic scene without going over the edge. Krugman has already called out the Republicans as big frauds on the deficit by analyzing their new Cut-Go rules.

The Cut-Go rules in the House reverse the Democrat's PayGo rules, which mean you must come up with revenues for every increase in program spending. With the new regime, all tax cuts are sancrosanct, especially all those we have learned about in the last two years such as rewarding American corporations for out-sourcing American jobs. You got a preview of what is to come when the American Chamber of Commerce lobbied against the 9/11 Responders bill because it would close loopholes for foreign companies in the U.S. The New York Chamber of Commerce was so incensed at the national chamber that they both endorsed the bill and slammed the U.S. Chamber, which anonymously bankrolled all the Repubican Senate and House candidates in the mid-terms.

The Cut-Go rules explicitly say that tax-cuts do not contribute to the deficit--something which sent Paul Krugman around the bend. You will hear this for the next two years and Republicans will actually move to make the tax cuts for the top income-earners permanent. You will also see no decline in any defense spending by either party.

Ergo,the Cut-Go rules mean that for every increase in program spending an equal amount must be cut from somewhere. The juicy target for Republicans will be anything that is connected to the social welfare system. Despite having campaigned on preserving Medicare against the Democrats--remember that campaign slogan--Republicans will go after Medicare and Medicaid with a meat axe. In fact,anything that is effective economic stimulus will be a target--unemployment insurance,the remains of the stimulus package and state governments. Already the Republican House members have openly stated that the states, who are in dire financial shape, will receive no assistance.

The first vote we have been told is to cut Congress' budget. That actually may be a good idea for the next two years. Republicans are also toying with the idea of passing declarations of disapproval about other Obama programs. This lets them get on record about the past two years.

The war between the economic conservatives and the social conservatives has already erupted. The Religious Right wants to stall the repeal of DADT by stopping any funding for its implementation. Others on the Religious Right are vowing to attack the policy by focusing on the policy of showers in the military. That's right--showers. Already conservative groups are starting to disassociate themselves from CPAC because they accept GOProud, the Republican gay organization as members. You will see this played out on the House floor.

I find these so-called constitutionalists fascinating. If they disagree with a military policy, then if the Commander-In-Chief is a black man,you can interfere with the executive's perogative by insisting you can change it.

We will see more of that from the House--evenforeign policy initiatives, which will fly in the face of commonsense and the real national interest. Ricky Cantor has already pledged his allegiance to Bibi Netanyahu. Expect to see inflammatory statements about the Iran policy over the next two years.

There will be hearings on Radical Islam in America to gin up the anti-Muslim sentiment in the country. Also,we will see new restrictive policies on immigration.

The good news is that the new House Republican policy of 72 hours to circulate a bill before a vote will turn out to be unworkable. First, the committee chairperson has to determine the constitutionality of the law, then the full committee will have 72 hours to examine the bill, then the committee vote. Second, before a full House vote, the bill again must be determined to be constitutional--with a specific citing of the appropriate article. Then we have 72 hours before the vote.

Now let's backtrack to Gentleman John Boehner's schedule--Two weeks on, One Week off. The House meets Tuesday through Thursday. So 72 hours equals a House week. So by my calculation, it will take at least one month to six weeks before a bill goes from committee through the full House. That doesn't include time for debate.

So the game to watch is what little rewards to corporations get plugged into legislation. The GOP knows no voters care about these things, while they are the real reason they are there. With the new army of lobbyists now holding official staff positions,these little treats will get too numerous to mention or keep track of.

John Boehner keeps calling Obama's agenda "job-killing"--even though the private sector under Obama has created more jobs than the entire Bush Administration did in eight years. But one key promise by the new House Republicans is to create jobs. They will not have any excuse--although they will make one up. But anything like an infrastructure initiative,etc. will be done directly between the House and Senate Republicans and President Obama. I also feel the same with the debt ceiling measure.

Otherwise,let loose the dogs of war.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Peace On Earth, Goodwill To All

As we take a short break for the Holiday Season,you can look forward to some of our upcoming posts as previews of 2011, the year of the deluge.

Coming shortly, we look at Obama at Half Time, an assessment of his accomplishments to date,which are quite a few. We also urge Obama to go Big in order to get the political lift he will need to soar past the "revitalized" GOP. While persistent in his attempt to secure real change, the President needs to articulate the Big Picture and try to outline his own mythic American dream for the future. This would help put his brand on the era.

Our third post will look at what the GOP plans for 2011, both in terms of changing House rules and policy priorities. There will be many traps laid for Obama over the next year but none that are insurmontable.

Also, the last gasp at stimulus, we look at the last arrow in the quiver--building a new infrastructure. But, it's got to be new, not simply an improved old infrastructure.

And, sadly, we look at the implications of the recent DOJ rulings on the Gitmo detainees and the crusade to get Julian Assange.

In our reading corner, we examine Richard Hughes' two books--Christian America and the Kingdom of God, and Myths America Lives By. Inspired by Martin Marty and Robert Bellah, Hughes dissects our civil religion and walks us through the centuries' old attempts by evangelicals to get America called a "Christian" nation and why that would not be a good idea for all those involved.

Supporting Hughes' concern about the Religious Right is James Carroll's DVD documentary Constantine's Sword, which is a terrific expose of Christianity's deep-rooted anti-semticism and how Christianity, after three centuries of being a non-violent movement, became identified with war. Carroll, a former Catholic priest and the son of an Air Force General, frames his film with the intense efforts by evangelicals to proselytize at the Air Force Academy.

And as a mind experiment, you might want to look at the Christmas story as a prime example of an anti-imperialist narrative. Richard Hughes brought this up in his discussion of how divergent American 21st Century Christianity is with the original. In Divinity School, we would look to the Jewish tradition for the titles of Jesus--Lord of Lord, King of Kings, Redeemer, Son of Man, etc. But we were missing the game--all the honorifics also applied to Augustus Caesar. And I'm more persuaded that this was the origin--not the Hebraic titles. The Kingdom of God naturally clashes with the Kingdom of the World. And the Gospel created by the early Christian movement was clearly aimed at opposing the Empire. I guess the National Security Council under George W. Bush didn't catch this when they talked of the American empire.

Have a Happy Holiday and A Healthy, Fruitful New Year.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hapless Harry Rides the Ranch

I got my television fix while out in Ohio. I pity everyone who watches on a regular basis. The only positive is that old black and white movies look spectacular on new televisions.

But you will have noticed that the new GOP sank to more depraved depths in this lame duck session. Remember this was the political party who impeached Bill Clinton in a lame duck session. With troops fighting in two known wars and a couple other ones on a 24/7 basis, we saw Lindsey Graham,John Kyle and Tom Coburn moan about working around--near--in the proximity to the Christmas holidays and on at least two occasions I saw these senators moan about missing dinner at a time when Americans are lucky to have dinner.

Then we were treated to the serial lying, which drives me up the wall. Every one of the bills debated had already been through committee hearings and had been debated on the floor over the last year. It's not like the Senators hadn't seen them before or heard about them. I guess the good news in all this was that it's obvious that the new GOP doesn't like to work. I still believe the tax cut for the wealthy was their way of getting a bonus because they felt the 111th Session worked them too hard.

With absolutely zero expectations for this lame duck session, it was an amazing success. Besides the tax cut deal, we saw the repeal of DADT, despite the on-screen tantrums of Country Last McCain, the ratification of the New SALT Treaty,the unbelieveable passage of the 9/11 responders bill by consensus and the largest Food Safety Bill since the Depression.

For all this, I still think Harry Reid deserves the Time Man of the Year.

A little late in the day but the Beltway pundits are finally saying that the 111th Congress has surpassed in accomplishments almost every Congress since the 1960s and rivals some under FDR. Norm Ornstein of AEI comments that given that this Congress existed in the most dysfunctional political environment ever, the 111th was one of the tope three most produtive Congresses snce 1900. As he said, "Making sense of all of that can make your head burst."

Howard Fineman of Huffington Post acknowledged the achievements of the last two years but warns that without significant improvements in the economy this might not turn to the Democrats' benefit. In fact, one of the most bizarre events was the rebellion of the middle class against the very Congress which was trying to strengthen it.

But the Harry Reid's and President Obama's victory laps may be short-lived as the new Republican House will come in with a radically different agenda. Republican observers claim that the GOP will try to dismantle the achievements of the last two years by de-funding President Obama's signature achievements and by embarking on sharp cuts in government funding just at the point the economy still needs some stimulus.

We'll wait to see the train wreck of next year. But let's give Harry his due.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Goodby DADT

As Hapless Harry said," They say this isn't the right time to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. They're right. It should have been done yesterday."

Expected but still stunning. The vote was 65 to 31 for repeal.

Harry Reid called on the immediate end of discharges, while the whole repeal process will take about a year to implement.

The Administration's actions on this over the last few months have been frustrating and sometimes downright confusing. President Obama said he wanted it repealed legislatively and many of us doubted it could be done with the current political climate in Washington. He was right and he should be congratulated for a major triumph of civil rights.

First, it was the blacks they wanted to exclude from the armed forces, then women, then gays. Strike 3, you're out.

And before the vote, Harry Reid tweeted Lady Gaga that DADT was about to become history. Now that's a pair.

Despite taking a hammering from the gay and lesbian community, President Obama deserves credit for his advancing gay and lesbian rights in the last two years. First, it was the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime Bill, second, it was hiring more gays, lesbians and transgender people than any other administration, third,assuring partners' rights in healthcare for government employees and later in the healthreform act, and now fourth,the repeal of DADT, one of his campaign promises. He is also the only sitting President ever to address the Human Rights Committee about concerns of gays and lesbians.

Same-sex marriage is the only thing left and that's up to the courts. Gays have won against DOMA and in several states won the right of same-sex marriage, and will probably win on Prop 8 later this month or the next.

But like the civil rights gains for African-Americans,we will again face an enormous backlash. Already,the Christian Right organized to defeat the Iowa Supreme Court judges who ruled for same-sex marriage and now want to replace the rest. The Family Research Council will be fund-raising like crazy among its prayer groups to attack sitting congresspeople who voted for the repeal. And as we've seen in the last week, born-again Christian military personnel are claiming they will leave the service since they are not allowed to proselytize among their colleagues, while gays can be open about their lifestyle. Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association only yesterday went on a tirade of how homosexuals are pedophiles. The angst among the Christian Rights is palpable and will be one of their organizing principles for 2012.

Beaten, John McCain sounded the clarion cry for the reactionaries--calling it a part of the "liberal agenda" developed by people who never served in the military. Is that like the Iraq War being organized by people who never fought in a war? Let's not forget for a moment that gay and lesbian servicemembers lobbied hard for this legislation and know what price they have paid for their silence. To them, we save bravo for a victory well deserved.

Congressional Mayhem

The Senate approved unanimously the International Protecting Girls by the Prevention of Child Marriage Act of 2010. In the Senate there were 42 co-sponsors and people like the YMCA actively lobbied for it. It is estimated that over 60 million young girls are forced into marriage every year in developing countries. The bill would have put the United States in the lead in fighting these marriages as a violation of human rights. There were 112 House co-sponsors. But it died in the House because Gentleman John Boehner and Ricky Cantor objected to the expenditure of funds for the bill--this a day after getting billions in tax-cuts for the rich--and because the Christian Right argued it might--might--lead to more abortions.

The President addressed the country through his weekly address that the Senate needs to ratify the New Start Treaty for the sake of the country's national security. Since every living Republican Secretary of State supports the treaty as well as two former Presidents, this would seem to be a no-brainer. As President Obama said, party differences stop at the water's edge. Oh no,they don't. Senator Corker of Tennessee, the man who was against the Auto industry bailout,went on the floor of the Senate to link the New Start Treaty to DADT. If the Democrats managed the vote to repeal DADT, then Republicans would kill the New Start Treaty. Who knows where this bluff will lead. But it's clear that Republicans, who once held the edge in national security matters, have now lost it in my mind for a long time to come.

If an undocumented immigrant or a foreigner volunteers to fight for our country, isn't it rather logical to allow that person--if they lived through a war--to apply for American citizenship? Or if a similar person is in college, wouldn't you want that person to remain in the United States and become a citizen? That's why the DREAM Act was thought up by a wide group of bipartisan sponsors. While it passed the House,the Latin community has spent the last two days lobbying the Senate intensely. Now this act is labelled as part of the "liberal" agenda, having once had as a cosponsor Orrin Hatch of all people. Harry Reid promised during his campaign he would bring the Dream Act up on the Lame Duck Session. He did.

This is an act, which over 70% of Americans support. The cloture vote for the Dream Act was 55 to 41. In other words, it did not reach 60 to be even voted on. In essence, the Dream Act died with every single Republican voting against it. Hopefully, the Latino community will remember those who opposed it.

The United States has spent $2 billion--that's right--to discharge 16,000 gay and lesbian servicemen and women. Not only is this a waste of money but it also doesn't include the additional waste of the millions spent training these service people. Forget the civil liberties argument on DADT. It's a big waste of money and it also perverts the Military Code of Honor--you have to tell the truth. This was Admiral Mullens biggest complaint about DADT--it forced service people to lie--which he thought incompatible with military service.

I've always been against DADT, even in the Clinton days. We're lucky to get as many people who volunteer to fight for our country as it is. But I never have really experienced the vitriol this issue conjures up. Last night the Washington Post printed a small piece about today's procedure and quoted advocates of repeal on their hopes for success. The posted comments were simply amazing by right-wing homophobes, who went into graphic descriptions of anal sex and the biblical admonishments against gay behavior. As in the same sex marriage debate, lesbians get a pass. The fixation on gay men was over the top and the webmaster for the Washington Post should have deleted these endless rants about the United States going the same way as Sodom. One earnest soldier posted a comment saying that he served with gays and found them focused on combat and that he was proud of them. This was countered by alleged Korean war vet saying his men won't serve with gays. Another commenter remarked that George Washington hired a gay general Von Steuben to train our revolutionary troops. The response to this was that Von Steuben was cashiered from the German Army for pedophilia. And off we went down the rabbit hole.

The Focus on Your Family, not Mine crowd--now known as the Family Research Group (or some other vanilla name) sent out a prayer request to their members to pray to defeat the repeal and also vowed to primary all Republicans who voted to repeal. And of course they named all Republicans who have been on the record to vote for repeal.

It seems they are going to do alot of campaigning. Hapless Harry went for the clouture vote this morning. Here again about 70% of Americans support repeal. The cloture vote passed by 63 to 33 so the standing alone repeal will have to be voted on. At last count I had 62 votes committed to repeal. Even before the vote, the Obama Administration informed Barney Frank they would not defend anymore the cases before the courts.

If it is repealed as it seems, we have to acknowledge the role played by Joe Lieberman, who actively rounded up the votes to repeal it, along with Susan Collins from Maine.

And special mention has to be made of the sad fate of John McCain. Now he's not only the first white man who ran and was beaten like a drum by a black man for President but he also lost on a gay rights issue this week. What a legacy!

In the How Do You Sleep At Night category (tip of the hat to John Lennon), the Republicans actually managed to block medical assistance to the 9/11 responders through filibuster. John Stewart's last show of the year is devoted to the 9/11 responders. Somehow this doesn't surprise me. The New GOP would like to have 9/11 as a holiday but not do anything responsible for those who ran through fire and flames to rescue people. It all makes sense really.

One horrible side note to this week in Congress is the passage in the Defense Bill of the prohibition of trying Gitmo prisoners in civil trials in the United States and closing down Gitmo. Even the Democrats couldn't muster up a reasonable explanation for this nuttiness.

As of now, I count 66 votes for the New Start Treaty. That's one short. We've been through all the ancillary reasons it needs to pass such as Iran, Afghanistan and other nuclear proliferation. Perhaps once the bluff is called, Republicans will buckle under.

And I am grateful that our media didn't forget Captain Beefheart. His death even made it in the Washington Post. Maybe I should spend the day listening to Trout Mask Replica.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Nation Mourns

Late afternoon news. The legendary Captain Beefheart, Don Van Vliet, died today of complications from multiple sclerosis. He was 69. Van Vliet lived in the desert in California for the last several years and shunned interviews or any publicity. He was the subject of an obscure documentary that focused only on his paintings and his desert habitat. To bail him out of financial trouble, Frank Zappa toured with Capitain Beefheart near the end of Van Vliet's career. They were old high school friends and Zappa had encouraged him to play music. Their partnership survives as the album "Bongo Fury." If Rock had an avant-garde, Beef was it. For trivia fans,a young Ry Cooder was a side man for the Beef on his first albums. The Beef's live performances have been issued as CDs over the past ten years, completing his oevre.

With his virtuoso friend Frank Zappa, the Beef is one of the most influential musicians Rock has produced.

"Green-Eyed Beans from Venus
Don't Let Anything Get between Us."

Good News for the Holiday Season--About Time

President Obama said yesterday he would sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigneous Peoples. The arc of history creaks toward justice. If my memory serves me well, it was almost a quarter of a century ago that I talked with Tim Coulter and Steve Tullberg of the Indian Law Resource Center about the United Nations effort to draft such a declaration. The idea at that time was the full participation of both American and Canadian Indians in the drafting of the Declaration would create a positive framework for something constructive for indigneous peoples around the world. By the active role of the American Indian community and non-profits devoted to Indian issues, it was hoped that the United States would support the Declaration. My own attempts to lobby the last American administration were pathetic. "American only defends the rights of individuals and not groups." was the refrain. Like corporations and the right to collective bargaining and the numerous Indian treaties. Anyway, to all those who advocated for the Declaration, a big bravo for creating something that is meaningful for planet earth. To the past and present personnel at the Indian Law Resource Center,you remind us how long and tough the road can be but that it can be worth it. With the recent settlement of the Cobell case, which went even longer than the United Nations Declaration,the Obama Administration has made significant progress in beginning to address old historical wounds. The President also said he supported the Native American Apology Resolution , which had been passed by Congress last year.

Other good news--Harry Reid failed in his attempt to bring the $1.1 trillion spending bill to the floor of the Senate. It will probably be replaced by a continuing Resolution. Why good news? Reid, who was pissed off by the Republicans who balked at the pressure of the tea party folks,immediately called for a cloture vote on DADT and the Dream Act for tomorrow. As of yesterday, there were 62 votes for the repeal of DADT. If the cloture vote succeeds, then there has to be a vote and DADT is likely to be repealed. I still have my doubts about the Dream Act.

The President signed into law the tax cuts and unemployment act. While both the right and left still are crying about it, none other than Charles Krauthammer opines that President Obama now has taken the high ground and captured the center and thus started his comeback at least a year ahead of Bill Clinton's.

The President met with the CEOs of major companies with the exception of the health insurance industry and oil companies. He tried to talk them into loosening their purse strings on the nearly $2 trillion they have been hoarding and getting them to invest in the economy and create jobs. Little noticed by the MSM was the news that the Administration's talks with China have paid off with new trade agreements. Today, President Obama is meeting with the major unions to talk about the economy and job creation. The man has begun to get his groove back.

In other great news, Ricky Cantor, Gentleman John Boehner's Number 2,has developed the new House calender for next Congress. If you recall the Republicans lose the House in 2006 because their was a public perception that they didn't do anything, having met only half the year. Well,this time they don't want it to be too exhausting. Cantor has decreed that for every two weeks the House works they will get a week off. He claims this will make the House more efficient and productive. So this means once again the House will sit for less than 6 months of the year. With Gentleman John Boehner's pledge to cut the congressional budget,this should put a little damper in Rep. Issa's crusade to investigate everything the Obama administration has ever done.

Hapless Harry Reid has to one of the most exasperating politicians to listen to and watch. But if he can pull off the repeal of DADT, the Dream Act,the New Start Treaty and the Tax Package in a lame duck session, he deserves Time Man of the Year and not Mr. Facebook.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Right Place the Wrong Time

All hail! Malcolm "Mac" Rebennack, Jr. has finally been elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The one and only Doctor John, the Nighttripper, deserved the honor years ago. Today when you hear him in concert, he's playing the whole New Orleans Songbook, a collection of blues and funk by the great piano players of the past.

Joining him is another American musical legend--and film actor--the great Tom Waits.
I like Waits work so much I even like Francis Ford Coppola's One From the Heart.

A greatful nation salutes them.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tuesday in Crazy Town

Run, Mike, Run! Michael Steele is running again for head of the RNC.

It's sad day when any President declares victory because the Senate voted to bring a bill to the floor. That's what we've come to. By 83-15, the tax bill will be voted on. Probably it will happen tomorrow because Senate rules mean you have 30 hours after the cloture vote for the floor vote. This can be waved. But if one Senator objects, then you can't. Progressives really shouldn't feel bad. The rich don't pay taxes anyway. And would we be concerned about the wealthy if the economy was humming along with low unemployment?

The Administration says that it has the votes for the New Start Treaty. Here the Senate can't filibuster because it's a treaty.

Steny Hoyer is readying a stand-alone repeal of DADT for the House. They've already repealed it but it looks like the Senate will only entertain their own stand alone. Maybe because people are saying time is running out and no one wants to stick around. However yesterday those soldiers discharged for being gay filed suit to be reinstated which brings home Gates concern of having this linger forever and be resolved by the Courts.

Speaking of courts, Virginia Judge Henry Hudson appeared to have a conflict of interest problem on the healthcare bill since he owned shares in a consulting company which lobbied against the bill. The Obama Administration downplayed yesterday's ruling, pointing to some 22 challenges of the healthcare bill, which have either been dismissed or ruled against. Ricky Cantor agrees with the Cooch that this case--the only one they won so far--should be short-circuited to the Roberts Court, Limited immediately.

But problemo--conservative law professors who analyzed Hudson's opinion says the judge committed a big Whopper--he basically over-ruled the Commerce Clause in the Constitution. They claim he didn't heed the "Necessary and Proper Clause" of the Constitution and say that opinion has to be thrown out as a matter of course. Interesting. Sorry, Charlie. The other trivial part of the opinion is that he upheld the healthcare bill, except for the individual mandate. The individual mandate is the only part of the bill the health insurance industry insisted on because it would brng them 40 million new customers.

Julian Assange's lawyer told David Frost--remember him--on Al-Jeezera that there indeed was a grand jury secretly empaneled in Alexandria to nail Assange. Assange was granted bail this morning in the U.K. Michael Moore chipped into pay the bail.

Richard Holbrooke died after his aorta ruptured. Seen as vital to the Afghanistan War strategy, he reportedly said as his last words," You've got to stop this war." I have a little problem accepting this. Remember Bill Casey's famous last words, "I believed." Casey's widow always denied Woodward's account of this, saying that Casey at that time was brain dead. I tend to believe Sophia.

In the interest of civility, I am abandoning the term "Tan Man" or "Old Swizzle Stick" for John Boehner. Since he showed his sensitivity on 60 Minutes, I'm going to call him Gentleman John Boehner. One slight problem in his interview--he wept when he talked about children having the same opportunity as he did to achieve the American Dream. Then why does he never reflect that attitude when it comes to policy? Boehner did admit Obama was "smart, even brilliant", which is better than Huckabee calling Obama "amateurish". Gentleman John longs to play 18 holes of golf with Obama, since he played some 190 rounds of golf this past legislative year. That should give us hope that the next Congress won't do anything too negative.

So President Obama is going to stay in D.C. and not depart to Hawaii until the Start Treaty is approved. He already gave Michelle her Christmas gift--he signed the Child Nutrition Act.

The Left criticizes that the administration cut food stamps by two billion down the road to pay for the bill. The Administration had already raised the sums spent on food stamps by some $50 billion the previous year. This stuff is just more trivial carping.

The Economist Intelligence Unit put out their Democracy Index for 2010. They rate by full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid system, and authoritarian regime. We're number 13--I think. Norway is number 1 as a full democracy. So much for American exceptionalism. Remember they hate our freedom.

George W. Bush gave a radio interview yesterday and he wants everyone to stop referring to Bush Tax Cuts. He apparently hates the term.

Mitt Romney has surfaced to denounce the tax deal. He thinks workers should pay for their own unemployment compensation. I guess this is the next permutation of a "compassionate conservatism." Or maybe he suggests all American workers should have golden parachutes. I'll take it.

The recent Bloomberg poll reinforces what all polls have said before and after the election--more Americans trust Democrats , than Republicans on economic issues. So what was the mid-term all about? We will see soon enough the fruits of the voters' labor.

So we're down to tax deal (basically done deal), New Start Treaty (looks good), DADT (iffy) and the Dream Act (I believe dead duck.) Then we will wait for the tsunami of the next Congress.

Gentleman John Boehner says his first vote will be to cut the budget for Congress. Hmmm.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt

Buried in my storage unit is the Umberto Eco essay of this title. But ,thanks to Chris Hedges' "American Fascists:The Christian Right and the War on America"(Free Press 2006), we have access to Eco's view of Ur-Fascism. The essay closes with a quote from Franklin Roosevelt (November 4, 1938): "If American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force,seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens,fascism will grow in strength in our land." Eco concludes that freedom and liberation are an unending task.

The fourteen ways:
1. The first feature of Ur-fascism is the cult of tradition. Traditionalism is of course older than fascism. But there can be no advancement to learning. The truth has already been spelled out once and for all. All we can do is keep interpreting its obscure message.

2. Traditionalism implies the rejection of modernism. Nazism was proud of its technology but its ideology was based on blood and earth (Blut und Boden). The Enlightenment--the Age of Reason--was seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In a sense this explains the extreme right's explanation of the origins of our constitution--the Enlightenment has to be erased. Ur-Fascism is irrationalism.

3. Irrationalism depends on the cult of action for action's sake. Thinking and culture is a form of emasculation. That's why we have the rhetoric of "degenerate intellectuals","eggheads", "effete snobs", "pointy headed liberals". Fascist intellectuals are mainly engaged in attacking modern culture and the liberal elites for betraying traditional values.

4. The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. The modern scientifc community praises disagreement as a way to imporve knowledge. For Ur-Fascism, disagreement is treason.

5. Besides , disagreement is a sign of diversity. Ur-Fascism grows up and seeks consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist is an appeal against intruders. Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.

6. Ur-Fascism derives from individual or social frustrations. One of the most typical features of historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle-class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation.

7.To people who feel deprived of a clear social identity, Ur-Fascism says that their only privilege is the most common one, to be born in the same country. The only ones who can provide an identity to the nation are its enemies. At the root of Ur-Fascist psychology is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one.

8. The followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies. This actually is tricky in Eco's typology because he notes that Ur-Fascists constantly shift in rhetoric between seeing the enemy as strong and then as weak.

9. For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but life is lived for struggle. Life is permanent war.

10. Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology, insofar as it is fundamentally aristocratic, and aristocratic and militaristic elitism cruelly implies contempt for the weak. Ur-Fascism can only advocate a popular elitism. Every citizen belongs to the best people in the world, the members or the party are the best citizens.

11. Everybody is educated to be a hero. Heroism is the norm for Ur-Fascism and it's linked to the cult of death. In his impatience for a heroic death, the Ur-Fascist frequently sends others to death.

12. Since both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Ur-Fascist transfers the will to power to sexual matters. Hence the subjugation of women, the condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits and homophobia.

13. Ur-Fascism is based on selective populism, a qualitative populism. It is for the so-called Common Will but against "rotten", "corrupt" parliamentary democracy.

14. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak. This is an impoverished vocabulary and an elementary syntax, all aimed at limitings the instruments for complex and critical reasoning.

Umberto Eco penned this essay in response to the rise of George W. Bush in the United States and Belasconi in Italy. Like Laurence Britts' essay yesterday, it is to remind people what the essence of fascism is and what signs to look for if it re-emerges. Remember when this essay was written, Benito Mussolini's granddaughter was accepted as a respectable politician, while spouting fascist thoughts. That and the rise of the New Right in Italy with its vast media empire caused immense concern among the more conscious of Italy's intellectuals.

The Shrivelling of the American Soul

Professor Richard T. Hughes writes in today's Huffington Post on "Christian America and the Kingdom of God" and laments how the Christian Right has perverted America's understanding of Christianity and itself. Hughes is the professor of religion at Messiah College. His column is a must read, especially on his observations of how a Mormon,Glenn Beck, and Sarah Palin became the spokespeople for the Christian Right. He correctly notes that Beck, according to fundamentalists, belongs to a cult. Hughes' critique is that the Christian Right's agenda is almost exclusively non-Christian and never addresses the fundamental New Testament issue of the poor. He says that the original Christian Right avoided the issue of the poor and unfortunate among us in theory but now they have done so in practice. All you have to do is listen to Christian Right Congressman Steve King from Iowa criticize extending unemployment benefits because the "unemployed are too lazy and don't want to work."

Hughes cites theologian Paul Tillich about the necessity of a religion to be universal and not simply parochial in its outlook in order to have legitimacy and validity. Hughes addresses the overwhelming evidence ignored by Beck and the fundamentalists that the gospel is a social gospel and that the Kingdom of God is linked in the New Testament to our treatment of those less fortunate than ourselves. According to Hughes, Jim Wallis of the Sojourners and author of "God's Politics" while in seminary scissored out all elements of the New Testament that referred to the poor, the sick, the hungry and homeless and had little text left over.

The problem with the hegemony of the Christian Right over America's perception of Christianity is that it corrodes American support for those more humane aspects of Judeo-Christian values that support the idea of the general welfare and the common good. A side effect, in my opinion, is that the younger generation is fleeing Christianity in the United States not because of the appeal of a more secular philosophy but rather because of the bigotry, homophobia, and the downright hate shown the poor by Christianity's most vocal proponents. This has led to the "shriveling of the American soul".

And speaking of which, Judge Henry Hudson, an appointee of George W, ruled today in Virginia that the individual mandate of the healthcare bill was unconstitutional. This was the case brought by Christian Right Attorney General of Virginia The Cooch. So that's 3 to 1 so far in favor of the healthcare reform bill. As I said yesterday, the GOP finally found the friendliest judge.

And just down the street from my office, a grand jury is sitting here in Alexandria to indict Julian Assange of something. Lawyers have said that the Espionage Act of 1917 is a little moth-eaten to be used against Assange and Wikileaks. So we'll see how imaginative the court is.

ABC has a story today that demonstrates what's wrong with the press. The article is whether the rejection by Republican Governors of the high-speed jail money jeopardizes OBAMA's PLANS. It jeopardizes alot of things like several thousand jobs but the high-speed money is being parked in California and Washington and Florida. At least part of the national network will get built. I look forward to riding the Vancouver-to-San Diego run.

But the story is really about the states' affected--Wisconsin, Ohio and New Jersey. I read a blog by an Ohio Democrat, who blasted Kasich's decision. The writer pointed out that the high-speed rail was an integral part of the state's redevelopment plan. It was to link Cleveland to Columbus and then to Cincinnati. The immediate effect of "not taking federal funds" is the layoff of 10,600 workers. The Wisconsin newspapers are going nuts over their new Republican Governor turning down the high-speed rail. Here the regional plant for making the tracks,etc. will have to relocate to Illinois and over 6,000 people will be laid off.

One thing we know about Bobby Jindal is that, whatever ideology, he never turns down money for an infrastructure project. The Stimulus money for the rehabilitation of the rail system and new trolleys for New Orleans has brought in 11 private sector dollars for every Federal dollar. We call that the multiplier effect, which is exactly what was going to happen in the Midwest states, which have been in a state of Depression since the Clinton days. Challenge to Obama's Plans--not the way I would look at it.

Today we are heading to the tax vote, which looks like it will pass the Senate. Again this vote is framed as a challenge to President Obama. I sort of understand but one of this year's resolutions for the press is to refrain from making every little political event a "challenge", a "hurdle", a "test" for Obama. Think back to the 2008 campaign, we have not had a single day since when Obama wasn't being tested over something and placing everything in jeopardy if he doesn't triumph. I don't remember anyone saying "Torture presents a serious challenge to George W."

Meanwhile, Republicans are trying to throw a new spanner in the works on the START Treaty. They want longer hearings over the Star Wars provisions in the treaty. Since they have lost all reputable Republicans on the merits, might as well revisit the past with the Gipper.

The Dream Act would save from $2-3 trillion on the national debt. It passed the House but is being hung up in the Senate because Republicans oppose it. Over the weekend, Republican congressmen were caught in flagranti making racist comments on the bill. Curiously, some of these were self-identified Christian Right members. Lest we forget, this bill was first generated with massive bipartisan support under the W regime. After all, if an undocumented immigrant volunteers and serves in our military, don't you think they should have a crack at citizenship? Or should we ensure they die and award it to them posthumously? I give this bill very little chance to pass.

The new House will bombard us with anti-abortion legislation. They have one specifically aimed at defunding Planned Parenthood. They have another one, which is really tricky, aimed at preventing any insurance company that covers abortions in other medical programs from participating in any of the healthreform programs such as the state exchanges. And of course, they have a Stupak on Steroids bill, which will prevent any government entity anywhere for all time to even contemplate abortion. Just last week we heard people like Senator Coburn claim that there were problems with the Defense Appropriations Bill because it "might" allow abortions under TRICARE. He didn't say it did. Coburn pulled this stunt with aid to Haiti, where he made the same claim, which proved to be faolse but held up aid to the country for months.

In Haiti are Sarah Palin and Billy Graham's little boy, Franklin, to do missionary work. Ms. Palin learned that Haiti was poor and Americans have it so much better. FYI--this makes here now as qualified in foreign affairs as George W was. She's been to Hong Kong and Haiti; he was to Mexico and China.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Storm Clouds from the Right

I wanted to write about American exceptionalism and the recent embrace of empire by our political elites but the news I posted below about the threats from the extreme right require a review of fascism.

The Council for Secular Humanism in their magazine Free Inquiry has an article by Laurence Britt entitled "Fascism Anyone?". I've always found secular humanists to be boring and tedious and somewhat dry and studiously irrelevant to present times. But they do represent a strain in our own democratic thought processes. Laurence Britt warns us all that fascism's principles are wafting in the air today,"surreptiously masquerading as something else, challenging everything we stand for." Britt warns his reader that few people remember the characteristics of a fascist regime and that the consciousness that led to Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Germany have created later protofascist regimes and could again.

Britt analyzes Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco's Spain, Salazar's Portugal, Papadopouloa's Greece, Pincohet's Chile and Suharto's Indonesia. He argues that these seven regimes reveal fourteen common threads that link them in recognizable patterns of national behavior and abuse of power.

1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. Catchy slogans, pride in the military, demands for unity coupled with suspicion of things foreign that often bordered on xenophobia.

2. Disdain for the importance of human rights. Regimes viewed human rights as of little value and a hindrance to realizing the objectives of the ruling elite. The population through propaganda was brought to accept these human rights abuses by marginalizing , even demonizing, those being targeted. When abuse was egregious, the tactic was to use secrecy, denial and disinformation.

3. Identification of enemies/ scapegoats as a unifying cause. The most significant common thread with all these regimes was the use of scapegoating as a means to divert people's attention from other problems, to shift blame for failures, and to channel frustration in controlled directions. The regimes would incite "spontaneous" acts aggainst the target scapegoats.

4. The supremacy of the military and avid militarism. Ruling elites always identified closely with the military and the industrial infrastructure that supported it. A disproportionate share of national resources was allocated to the military, when domestic needs were acute.

5. Rampant sexism. These regimes viewed women as second-class citizens. They were adamantly anti-abortion and homophobic. They codified their attitudes in draconian laws that enjoyed the support of the orthodox religion of the country.

6. A controlled mass media. Sometimes under direct government control. But there were more subtle pressures out on the media, which included control of licensing and access to resources, economic pressure, appeals to patriotism and implied threats. Strangely the predecessor for the official Nazi media was called Fox News, an extreme right-wing media organization.

7. Obsession with national security. The national security apparatus was under the control of the ruling elite, operating in secret and without constraints. Questioning its activities was portrayed as unpatriotic and even treasonous.

8. Religion and the ruling elite tied together. Most of these regimes attached themselves to the predominant religion and chose to portray themselves as the militant defenders of that religion. A perception was manufactured that opposing the power elite was tantamount to an attack on religion.

9. Power of corporations protected. While personal life of ordinary citizens was under strict control, the ability of large corporations to operate in relative freedom was not compromised. The ruling elite saw the coporate structure as a way to ensure military production but also as a means of social control.

10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated. Organized labor was inevitably crushed or made powerless. The poor formed an underclasss that was disdained. Being poor was considered a vice.

11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts. Intellectual and academic freedom were considered subversive to national security and the patriotic ideal.

12. Obsession with crime and punishment. Most of these regimes maintained draconian systems of criminal justice with huge prison populations.

13. Rampant cronyism and corruption.

14. Fraudulent elections. When elections were held, they were usually perverted by the power elite to get the desired results. Common methods included maintaining control of the election machinery,intimidating and disenfranchising opposition voters, destorying or disallowing legal votes, and turning to the judiciary beholden to the pwoer elite.

If you spot any of these trends in the United States, please alert your neighbor and under no circumstances report this to authorities. Some one should probably call Bernie Saunders. Laurence Britt does us a service by reminding us what these regimes were really like and what constitutes their basic characteristics. In the past we were protected from these tendencies because repugnant political ideas were not expressed because people knew enough to filter their thoughts. The current outbreak of extreme right-wing rhetoric has led to the mainstreaming of these thoughts and practices.

See Christopher Hitchens' attack on the teabaggers and those that accept them in the Republican Party in this issue of Vanity Fair.

Purging Lake Woebegone

George Soros got the attention of Forbes yesterday when he said that Fox News, Glenn Beck, the Tea Party and Americans' ability to fantasize unrealistically about their political system raise the prospect of dictatorial democracy.

The Late Doug Payne and I in the late 1980s and early 1990s speculated about the same thing. With the global era of democratization occurring at that time, we saw trends of what we called authoritarian democracy in places like Colombia and Russia. That is you could have a formal democracy with the internal reality of a repressive authoritarian regime. This trend seems to have become more prevalent by the late 1990s and early 21st Century.

In the United States, we came very close in the last administration. Their embrace of the unitary theory of the executive had only been practiced in the Mexico of the PRI Party and Hitler's Germany. Also, the United States declared a state of national emergency that exists to this day. The effect of this has been the longest suspension of civil liberties in our history. Now these suspensions are being formalized in a series of court cases. All you have to do is read the Patriot Act and its follow-up to get a clear sense of the voluntary--bipartisan--abridgement of civil liberties. Then we have the record "looting of America" by the corporations and banks.

But the extreme right-wing reaction to the election of Barack Obama and ,to a lesser degree, the economic collapse of our system has unleashed more worrisome portents for our political future. They appear as small signs. The stomping of a protester by a Rand Paul campaign officer. The thuggery in the Joe Miller campaign. The fights against Harry Reid supporters by the Sharron Angle teabag supporters. You have the next Speaker of the House openly meeting with Randall Terry of Operation Rescue, a man who has incited the killings of doctors who practice abortion. Or watch the serial bullying of New Jersey Gov. Chris Chrissie. And the list goes on and you can fill up the blanks better than I can.

Another sign is that Muhammed Ali Hasan, the founder of "Muslims for Bush" and the biggest Republican organizer among American Muslims, has openly switched parties because of the GOP's racism and bigotry about Muslims. We have already experienced a year of anti-hispanic actions, including the infamus Arizona law, which the GOP is trying to replicate around the country.

The scale of this trend can be found by yesterday's move by the Minnesota Republican party. They suspended former Senator Dave Durenberger and former Governor Arne Carlson for two years and prohibited them from going to the 2012 Convention. Both men had a record of decency and honorable political service. The ostensible reason was their refusal to support Republican Governor Bob Emmer. Republicans wanted Emmer to prolong the appeals process against Democrat Dayton so that Tim Pawlenty could remain as Governor in the interim and work with the Republican legislature to finally dismantle the progressive system of government Minnesota has built in a bipartisan way for more than a generation.

To the media, the Minnesota Republicans tried to brush aside their own actions as saying these men were no longer relevant to today's party and members were frustrated by their past actions. So like all small-d democratic parties you purge them. I've never heard of this happening to honest and decent people in either party. Crooks and felons I understand.

This past summer we saw the same thing happened to Maine's Republican Party. The Party of Margaret Chase Smith, who fought Joe McCarthy,was literally taken over by the teabaggers with a platform that made the John Birch Society seem mainstream. Now the governor-elect Tom LePage has already alienated the citizenry and he hasn't taken office yet by appointing the most radical right-wingers in the state, who also don't have any experience at all in government.

Remember first they came for Bob Bennett of Utah, then Bob Inglis of South Carolina, then Mike Castle of Delaware and now Dave Durenberger. They obviously have no shame.

It really might be good news that John Boehner and his cronies have hired industry lobbyists as chief of staffs rather than people known in the Republican party. In other times, I would be appalled but at least they are not that far down on the food chain.

Meanwhile Senator Bernie Sanders channelled Jewish prophets in his scorching jeremiad on the deliberate destruction of the American working and middle-class and Washington's "culture of vultures". In his 8 1/2 hour blast at the American economic system and how Washington enables it, Sanders gave the most detailed and accurate summary of our current economic problems. He scored #4 on Twitter world-wide and was the recipient of a spontaneous money bomb to his campaign. Watch this space, nothing is more tempting for a brownshirt than a Jewish Socialist. It should get vicious for him in Vermont in 2012.

But he missed that President Obama's compromise was probably the last time one could reach any accomodations with the New Republican Party. It might well be that President Obama's strategy was to co-opt the last Republicans standing that have any reality-based politics.

I hope George Soros isn't right. But it does look like the next two years will be very rocky. Look to the states for the real action. We are already seeing states under the new Republicans try to opt out of Medicare and federal programs that assist the poor. Governors in Wisconsin, Ohio and New Jersey has turned down--at a penalty of hundreds of millions of dollaers--over $1.5 billion in federal funds for fast trains. Despite three court rulings against State's challenging the healthcare reform bill, Republican attorney-generals are still shopping for the friendlist judges.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bravo Bernie Sanders!

Senator Bernie Sanders is having his Network moment by speaking for hours against the tax deal and ,more importantly, how the United States got to such a position where the top 1% have 23% of the national income, which is more than the entire bottom 50%. The Washington Post had an interactive poll on whether Sanders is wasting everyone's time or making a valid point. 87% of those responding said he was making a valid point. And, probably, most heroic of this lonely gesture is that he really is filibustering in the classic sense and not idly threatening as the republicans do. Alas, Bernie, great speech--which polifact has fact checked and found "true"--but the Big Dog spoke this afternoon and called the tax plan a great deal. The cloture vote will happen at 3pm on Monday. Big Dog referred to Krauthammer's column as showing it was a bonus for Democrats. And they even trotted Mark Penn out on television. But it was Bernie who captured our hearts and minds.

I still think it's a great deal even though the Obama Administration has gotten a bit ham-fisted in their sales pitch. First, Larry Sumners threatened a second Depression if it didn 't go through. Then, one wheels out Bill Clinton, the father of triangulation.

Bloomberg News has commissioned a Nation Poll on the federal budget deficit, which Americans believe is "dangerously out of control". The poll was commissioned shortly after the release of the Catfood Commission's findings.The public wants Congress to keep its hands off Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. They oppose cuts in most other domestic programs and defense. They want to maintain subsidies for farmers and tax breaks like the mortgage-interest deduction. And they are also against raising the gas tax. The poll did see concern over the debt fall from 53 in October to 48% now.

Americans claim they want to balance the budget over the next 20 years. They opposed more than a dozen possible spending cuts and tax increases. The majority backs raising the cap on earnings covered by the tax on Social Security to over $108,000. Two-thirds would means test Social Security and Medicare benefits. Six out of 10 would end tax cuts for the highest-earning Americans. Seven out of 10 favor a tax on Wall Street profits.

Republicans are split on eliminating tax cuts for the wealthy--50% opposed, 47% supporting. On the end of a cap on earnings, the Repubicans are evenly split. Half of Republicans want to see both Medicare and Social Security preserved. Only 35% of all respondents back a system in which government vouchers would help people pay for their health insurance. 82% opposed benefit cuts to the Medicare health-insurance system.

72% of those earning $100,000 or more are opposed to any reduction in the Medicare Health program for the poor.

The Tea Baggers want to see a dramatic overhaul of social security--49%, compared to 41% of Republicans. Teabaggers want an overhaul of Medicare by 52% over 43% Rwepublicans.

On a new sales tax to eliminate the deficit, 46% are in favor and 49% are opposed.
53% favor a freeze on nondefense discretionary spending. But cuts in defense are opposed by 51% versus 45% in favor.

In other words, Americans are really concerned about the national debt but don't want to make any sacrifices to deal with it. It's clear from the poll that any efforts to cut the national debt will be despite popular opinion and not with its support. But it is nice to see Americans actually support the social welfare net.

The Pete Peterson Foundation held townhall meetings around the country and tried to persuade people to accept cuts to social security and Medicare. Interestingly, no one was buying this either. They opted for 10% cuts in defense. The Foundation didn't offer an alternatives higher than that. Otherwise, these townhall meetings would have gone for more defense cuts. The result was not to the liking of the organizers.

With the taxcut program, President Obama is moving ahead with his tax code overhaul. Appearing on NPR this afternoon was the man who was a major force in the last tax reform project twenty-five years ago--Bill Bradley. Bill Bradley talked about how and why the tax rates were lowered in the 1980s and spoke about how they have to be flattened again and the loopholes closed as they were then. He said that it was the closing of loopholes rather than raising tax rates that made the difference. he said that the current loopholes cost the government a trillion dollars a year. He pointed to the fact that this coming year will mirror the situation in 1986--one party controlling the Presidency and the Senate and another the House. That the time is perfect to start the process, which Dollar Bill said will take a long time. He said no one believed it could have been done last time but he talked about the bipartisan nature of the give and take necessary.

Tax Cuts, DADT, New Start and Debt

While Bernie Sanders is filibustering the tax cut deal on the Senate floor as I write,the Democrats added two sweeteners--ethanol subsidies and cash grants for renewable energy projects. By the end,this is going to look like a Christmas Tree, which will superpass the stimulus package.

The New York Times' editorial was on the mark today,blasting the Senate for falling to repeal DADT and the Republicans blocking medical assistance to the 9/11 First Responders. And I thought 9/11 was a Republican holiday. I guess they didn't want to share ownership with people who had to clean up the mess. That's beginning to sound all to familiar.

The roller-coaster end to DADT has made me dizzy. The Advocate, the gay paper, had a splendid statement by President Obama criticizing the Senate vote and pledging to get DADT repealed. Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins promise to bring up the repeal as a stand alone bill at the end of the Lame Duck Session. But now, DADT is no longer a civil rights or moral issue, it's a political nuisance. Bob Gates wrote in today's Washington Post that if Congress doesn't repeal then he's at the mercy of the courts and this will create a situation where the Pentagon will be played like a yo-yo. If this session of Congress does not repeal, then this closes Congress off as the vehicle for its justified demise. For everyone's sanity, President Obama will have to end it by executive order and stay all discharges of gay personnel. But an executive order will disappoint because there will be an agreed upon timeline that the Pentagon must implement the order.

One interesting note--the father of DADT--former Senator Sam Nunn came out yesterday and said it was time for it to be repealed.

It's fascinating to watch the Guardians of National Security--the Republican Party--delay the Defense Appropriations Bill--for the first time in 49 years. All because they want the tax cuts for the rich. Neat, huh. Aside from DADT, the Defense Appropriations Bill contains vital support for veterans' mental illness programs and the treatment of PTSD as well as a restructuring of the military's TRICARE health insurance system to cover families. The Obama Administration has been trying to upgrade medical services for military personnel suffering from PTSD for the past year and a half and the effort has floundered because of this delay in Defense. Remember under George W., the treatment for PTSD was each victim was given Rick Warren's Purpose-Driven Life. I wish this was just a cruel joke but under W. PTSD sufferers were treated as the shell-shock victims of WWI.

Susan Collins finally ran out of excuses not to support the New Start Treaty. She asked for either President Bush to endorse it. President George H.W. Bush sent out a terse statement he backed the ratification. Condi Rice, finally came out of the closet (not that one), and openly supports ratification, making it every Republican Secretary of State for the last 5 Republican Presidents. Now both Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins have openly supported the ratification of the treaty but Jim deMint is threatening to filibuster but no one knows why.

President Obama obviously was listening to me yesterday. He told NPR that he would be presenting proposals to reform the entire tax code to Congress next year. This was how I thought he would avoid the 2012 Rich Tax trap. He also met with Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson of the Catfood Commission yesterday and talked about what measures they suggested he would adopt. He has already put a freeze on government wages and looks like he may adopt the McColm Social Security measure of raising the cap on the FICA tax, which would instantly solve Social Security's problems for about a century.

The Pew Foundation has a new poll out that shows that Americans are deeply concerned about the national debt but when they asked what should be done Americans favor tax increases and cuts in programs but no one can agree on any. Well, only two--freezing government wages and raising the cap on the FICA tax. Beyond that, there is no agreement on anything. Andrew Sullivan believes this provides President Obama with an opportunity to nail the inconsistencies of the GOP to the wall by outlining his plan to reduce the national debt in the State of the Union Address.

I solved the national debt problem by taking the interactive survey at the New York Times. It was a wonderful exercise. I did it by 45% in program cuts and 55% in tax increases. And voila, I got it down gradually in a manageable way. I've heard from others that they did too. So if Times readers can solve the debt, anyone can.

Republicans are flabberghasted that Democrats are rebelling at President Obama over the tax deal. Charlie Krauthammer woke up to the scene by rightfully saying that Obama picked the Republicans' pocket and laid the ground for his re-election. But Ralph Nader says that Obama should be challenged politically from the Left. Remember when Nader ran in 2000, that really came out well.

I had enjoyed the comeback of progressives in the field of policy ideas. It's been a good four years of solid policy proposals. But now, they have gone into a funk over the tax deal and become self-referential again. I hope progressive snap out of it because conservatives are in the death spiral of epistemic closure. We can't afford it to happen to the Left.

Meanwhile, the new Republican House has been hiring lobbyists like mad for key staff positions. Old Swizzle Stick Boehner has hired key lobbyists against the healthcare reform for his staff. Teabaggers have hired former employees of Koch Industries. The teabaggers in all their populism marched over to K Street on promises their campaign debts would be retired by corporations. Maybe the Democrats should wake up and see that the next two weeks are the last hurrah for now of any progressive change. Then the Battle Royale will begin and President Obama will have moved on to the Middle East Peace Talks and Afghanistan.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Let's Pretend--The Framework Agreement on Tax Cuts

In his feisty performance at his Tuesday press conference, President Obama said he didn't want the American people to be collateral damage in the political dispute over tax cuts and extending the unemployment insurance. Depending on your own political vantage point, Obama either abandoned progressives, capitulated to the Republicans or proved to be pragmatic.

Conservatives like Jennifer Rubin , the new right-wing columnist for the Washington Post, called it the "worst press conference of any President"--I guess, even worse than Nixon's where he said he wasn't a crook.

Andrew Sullivan in his Daily Dish complimented the President, saying that the tax cut compromise actually deflates all the anti-Obama rhetoric from the Republicans since they made a deal with the "most socialist President in history".

David Broder woke up from his coma to write that Obama just placed himself in the political sweetspot in American politics--the Independent Center--and has boxed the Republicans in the corner.

Democrats complain that his postponement of the tax fight puts it in the middle of the presidential election year. The teabaggers are furious and Senator DeMint is against it because of "the cost of extending unemployment benefits". No populism there.

I found on yesterday's Dailykos a fascinating post of someone using a mathematical formula devised by political scientists to project Presidential elections on the growth in the economy and other economic factors. With no tax deal, Obama gets 49.5% of the vote in 2012, while with it he gets 53.5%. It's a fantastic exercise.

The early projections from economists say that this package will create or save 2.1-3 million jobs. Moody Analytics revised their GDP numbers to project a 4% growith in the economy, rather than the modest 2.5%.

I always worry that the Obama Administration doesn't spell out the effects of some of the programs they advocate and instead hide behind Washington speak, listing programs by their congressional known names. Then the average American doesn't have a clue what they are talking about. What I found fascinating was the Black community's response to President Obama announcements. Blacks flooded call lines at talk shows to voice support. There is a simple reason--they understood what the extension of unemployment does for their community, where unemployment is at Depression levels, and what some of the working class tax cuts mean. And, believe it or not, all the alarm about Social Security raised by FireLakeDog and other liberal bloggers is just B.S.

So let's pretend that we have not heard about various additions and subtractions from the plan and say it passes as outlined by the President. What happens:

1. Unemployment insurance will be extended for 13 months. The failure to extend these benefits would not only be immoral but also it would cause the loss of 600,000 jobs. This prevents the loss of benefits to 2 million people this December and over the next year 7 million people will no longer have to worry about their benefits ending.

2. Working families would not see their taxes rise $3,000 on january 1. The Bush era middle class tax cuts would extend for two years with the additional Obama provisions that were added under the Stimulus package. In effect, Obama's largest tax cut in American history will be extended in full for two years. This was his core tax cut pledge from the election campaign.

3. There is a $120 billion payroll tax for about 155 million Americans. This had been recommended by the Catfood Commission as one of the easiest ways to stimulate the economy. Nouriel Roubini endorsed the idea earlier in the year as one of the key ways to spur growth in the economy. This means more money in one's paycheck immediately.

4. Reforming the Alternative Minimum Tax ensoures another 21 million will not have any tax increase.

5. The provision of 100% expensing for businesses next year means that businesses can buy the equipment they need and write it off their taxes completely. This was a key component urged by small businesses for the last two years and been denied by the Republicans.

6. President Obama secured a two-year increase of the full Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit. This provides ongoing tax cuts to 12 million low income families with a total of 24 million children. He also won an extension of the American opportunity Tax Credit for two years. The AOTC includes a partially refundable tax credit of up to $2,500 to help students and families cover the cost of college tuition. The Earned Income Tax Credit means an additional $800 in assistance to families with 3 or more children. This benefits 6.5 million working parents with 15 million kids. The Child Tax Credit ensures a $1,000 tax credit to 10.5 million lower income families with 18 million children. If you are struggling to make ends meet, you learn quickly about these opportunities and these are the pieces in the puzzle must appreciated by the working class.

7.The Complete expensing of business expenses , according to the Treasury Department, could generate more than $50 billion in additional investment this coming year. This provision alone has been called the largest temporary investment incentive in American history.

8. There is a two-year extension on the Research and Development tax credit and other tax incentives to support business expansion.

O.K., I give you all this if you give me two-years of tax breaks for the top 2%. A good deal? In terms of money, all of the above is several times the cost for the wealthy tax breaks. Remember President Obama went into the negotiations simply with the thought of extending middle class tax cuts and getting an extension of unemployment benefits. So, who got the better of the deal? And who helped the most people suffering in these times?

If you want to be an ideologue, be my guest. If you actually want to move the country along, take the deal.

Is there a better and more efficient way to stimulate the economy? Of course, there is. But through this negotiation, President Obama gets a back-door stimulus package that may surpass his first stumlus package. He would not have gotten this passed in any other form. He gets the Republicans to back off the cries about the deficits until these sophisticated issues can actually be negotiated. He also ends any rationale by the Republicans to be obstructionists. His slap at progressives also distances himself from being tagged as a leftist--which he never was. And, he cleverly becomes the only populist in the Washington crowd--clearly the man fighting for the average American.

I recognize Republicans never listening to a word President Obama says but Democrats have no excuse. In his press conference, President Obama said he wants to discuss the whole revision of the tax code in the discussion about the debt next year because it is inequitable and unfair. Apparently, no one heard him. Apparently, no one heard him talk about Republicans taking hostages. He has hung the mantle of tax cuts for the rich only just at their doorstep. I think he got it right when he said those tax cuts were the essence of their economic philosphy.

So what if Mitch McConnell boasts about Obama abandoning course. At least Republicans now are starting to "spin" again and not just lie. This is an advance in my view.

Remember the priorities--Get out of the Economic Mess we're in; then lay down the foundation for a new economy. I think President Obama got it right.

But clearly we are in for another Health Reform ride the last days of the LameDuck session.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Highlights of Brzezinski in Der Spiegel

Der Spiegel interviewed former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski about the Wikileaks release of diplomatic dispatches. With his East European mind, Zbig raised some interesting questions about the authenticity of some of the documents and speculated elsewhere that they seemed to be deliberate plants or fabrications to sabotage American relations around the world.

Here are some of his latest comments.

On the effect of the release of the diplomatic dispatches. " There was a saying once in Vienna during the good old days of the Habsburg Empire that when things went wrong and people were asked for comment, the comment usually was "Well, it's catastrophic but not serious." And that's the way this is.

On the problems the cables raise: "There are slightly mystifying aspects of this whole operation. I do see some strange degree of emphasis on some issues. Just look at the degree of emphasis that has been put in the initial wave of revelations on discrediting several pro-American Arab governments by highlighting their demands for military action against Iran. That could be very tourblesome within some Arab countries. It's also interesting that so much emphasis is put on leaks that could be calculated deliberately to damage American-Turkish relations."

Der Spiegel remarks about the reliance of America on "very unreliable partners".
Zbig: "Is any of that news? America has relied on unstable partners throughout its history."

Der Spiegel talks about the rise of India and China and the potential decline of the United States and wonders whether Americans are aware of this trend.

Zbig:" I am very worried that most Americans are close to total ignorance about the world. They are ignorant. That is an unhealthy condition in a country in which foreign policy has to be endorsed by people if it is to be pursued. And it makes it much more difficult for any president to pursue an intelligent policy that does justice to the complexity of the world."

Der Spiegel:"yet the American Right is still convinced of American exceptionalism>"

Zbig: " That is a reaction to the inability of people to understand global complexity or important issues like American energy dependency. Therefore, they search for simplistic sources of comfort and clarity. And the people that they are now selecting to be, so to speak, the spokespersons of their anxieties are ,in most cases, stunningly ignorant."

Der Spiegel: Advice to Obama

Zbig: "To relax and to carry on. His basic instincts on the large issues of foreign policy are fundamentally correct and in tune with history."

Morning in America

The American taxpayers made a profit over $25 billion from the Citibank stock sale, showing our socialist President still knows how to make money. By the way, last year he actually cut the budget deficit by the largest amount in American history.

So what gives with the tax deal. Pat Buchanan and Dick Morris are trumpeting the tax cuts for the rich as a total Republican victory. But there is silence from all the tweeting GOP congressmen. Literally no one has commented on it.Right-wingers are posting their anger at the RINOs for bowing to the socialist President.For their part, the Left is in an uproar. The Democratic Underground and DailyKos had a field day of people arguing that progressives must primary President Obama and testimonies from former Obama campaign aides saying they are fed up with him. Bill Maher calls him a "wuss", Ed Schultz has thrown in the towel and former Republican Young Turk Cenk says that the President has been rolled. Democratic congressman Ellison told Ed Shultz he won't be used to criticize the President because the problem was the Republicans and the President fought for the poor. Bernie Sanders says he will filibuster the Senate agreement and outgoing Republican Senator George Voinovich said he will vote against extending any of the Bush era tax cuts. The House Democrats apparently left the White House yesterday angry as hell.

If you want a sense of where President Obama is coming from, you should listen to his speech yesterday in North Carolina where he outlined at length where he wants America to go in order to economically compete in the future. It is clear that his eyes are on a larger prize than whether rich people get tax cuts. He outlined the disadvantages the United States finds itself in with regard to education, infrastructure, alternative energy supplies and computer science. Buried beneath the tax cut deal was the President of the United States calling on the nation to step up to this generation's "Sputnik Moment". If you take this speech with his MIT speech, you will get a clearer idea of where the President is coming from and going to--and it's not liberal, conservative or even moderate.

The great Monday morning strategists in D.C. think Obama should have the tax cuts extend only a year so he can make it an issue in 2012 and force a vote then. Others believe that he should have extracted more from the Republicans. Still others thought he should have stood firm and let all the tax cuts go down on principle. Katherine Vander Heuval thinks Obama has just made himself a one-term President because his base now will abandon him. Paul Krugman says that the President comes off as weak.

The other day I said I liked how Obama made decisions and I warned it did make him look weak. But let' examine the deal. He extracted 13 more months of unemployment insurance from the Republicans, the payroll tax holiday, which will benefit all those earning less than $100,000,the child tax credit, the student tax credit, the business tax credits, which the GOP really did oppose, and the Earned Income Tax Credit. Yes, the rich get their Christmas gift and yes these all increase the deficit. But notice that the Republicans suddenly forgot about the deficit when the rich got their goodies.

In short, as Ezra Klein pointed out, forestalling the deficit emphasis for a few months, the Obama Administration actually came out of this deal with an ugly, maybe not so efficient stimulus package, which the Republicans swore they were against. What this lays the framework for is the infrastructure debate in the next Congress. And Congressman Ellison was right--the President's part of the bargain helps the poor and the unemployed in this country.

Now what I want to know is what ideas do the Republicans have any more. They got their way with the tax cuts for the rich but they virtually have run out of ideas. They've run the whole Just Say No strategy. There's nothing left. In looking at the prospects of the next Congress, the Obama Administration knew the tax deal was the last gasp for any stimulus--ugly or not. So they went ugly. I loved my Lakers alot growing up but the Celtics always beat them going ugly.

We are now down to the remaining items of the Lameduck session. The New Start Treaty, which I gather was an ancillary topic in the tax discussions, the Dream Act and DADT. Harry Reid who owes his re-election to Hispanics wants to bring up the Dream Act before the Defense Appropriations. It's hard to remember that there was wide bipartisan aupport for the Dream Act. John McCain was even one of its cosponsors. Not anymore. I think it is dead. The gay military personnel believe the New Start Treaty can wait until the next Congress so that DADT can be repealed . I disagree. If the New Start Treaty isn't approved now, the whole committee process has to start again with the new Congress. And now Mitt Romney has penned an Op-Ed opposing the New Start treaty,going against the collective wisdom of the last five Republican Presidents. The votes are almost there for the New Start Treaty. If not now, it would not be approved for the rest of Obama's first term.

On DADT, Mitch McConnell is basically lying--no surprise--about the time it takes to pass the Defense Appropriations Act. It has already been debated five times already. Democratic aides have researched his assertions that it needs about two weeks to pass. Almost every defense appropriations bill over the last five Administrations has taken five days and even less. McConnell then claims that this bill is contentious because it allows for military health care to pay for abortions. Give me a break. But Bob Gates told the soldiers yesterday he was very pessimistic about DADT being repealed by this Congress and he feels the courts will make them. Jolting Joe Lieberman shocked everyone yesterday by saying that he thinks the Senate should stay in session past Christmas to repeal DADT. Here it really does come down to President Obama and Hapless Harry Reid. They really shouldn't have the issue hung up by the incredibly shrinking John McCain.

The Prop 8 trial has started and the first part of the proceedings was a wangle about whether the defendents had standing. The government of California refused to defend the case and the question is whether proponents of a ballot measure actually have the legal weight to argue in its defense. One other issue was whether a clerk from Imperial County, made famous by the David Lynch movie "Inland Empire",is a state or local official and whether Imperial County has any stake in the decision. The second half of the proceedings was taken up with the three judge panel asking pretty sharp questions of the anti-gay lawyer.

I think the San Francisco Chronicle article this morning is on the right track. The judges will issue a narrow decision--one that might not take it to the Supreme Court. Their questions appear to be zeroing in on a Colorado ruling that took rights away from gays, which courts later overruled. In the Prop.8 case, you have some gays that are married in California, some not allowed to, and this creates different classes of people with and without rights. I think the Court will overrule Prop 8, ratify Vaughn Walker's opinion but not embrace its full meaning. In any event, gays will be allowed to marry at the end of the day.

I am betting now on DOMA being the case that makes it to the Supreme Court on gay rights. That's too bad because I think Ted Olson and david Boies have been beyond superb.

Meanwhile in the world of Wikileaks, Julian Assange is in prison in the UK and denied bail. According to Wikileaks spokespeople, if Assange was jailed, the files on BP, Bank of America and Gitmo will be released. If actually imprisoned or killed, the insurance file will be dumped on the world stage.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday Mishmash

Bravo to Nate 'The Great" Silver,baseball's leading statistician, for taking a break from politics to do an analysis of Derek Jeter's salary compared to performance and the compartive prices of other shortstops. I tend to believe this column printed in the New York Times led to the Yankees' upping the offer and snagging Derek for the next 3 years. Jeter now stands to become the first Yankee to pass the 3,000 hit level,to surpass Mickey Mantle's record for most games played as a Yankee, and to top Ricky Henderson's stolen base record for the franchise.

Dick Cheney in a moment of lucidity told Tim Russert that the tax cuts for the wealthy did not create any jobs and that they only account for 25% of the national debt. I have an ingenious solution to Cheney's Interpol problem. Since Cheney literally doesn't have a pulse anymore, his lawyers should claim he's dead, thereby sparring the Obama Administration from having to finesse the arrest warrant. The bonus to this is that he can take advantage of the Estate Tax, which is due to re-appear in 2011.

Since it looks like the tax cuts for the wealthy will be extended, Glenn Beck will get $2,500,000 in tax breaks and Mitch McConnell, whose net worth is $34 million, will get enough of a tax break that he will earn more than the President of the United States. Not bad for saying "no"

James Fallows writes in the Atlantic about how John McCain became a shell of his former self. Fallows likens McCain's fate to that of Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh, who became right-wing crackpots in their old age. Regenary, the right-wing publisher, has printed a new book extolling Lindbergh's politics when he was challenging FDR. It must have been underwritten by the Koch Brothers, who are trying to rehabilitate their families' reputation during that period.

For his part, McCain is trying to run out the congressional clock on DADT as GOP spokespeople claimed in the Sunday news shows,saying DADT is dead for this Congress. Don't bet on this.

Remember to revisit Prop 8 trial tracker tomorrow as the oral arguments begin at the 9th Circuit Court on same-sex marriage in California. So far, no names have been announced about the defenders. Boies and Olson are back up for the same-sex marriage advocates.

Meanwhile in Illinois, the Governor signed the bill allowing same-sex marriage and partnerships. What's interesting about this bill is that it allows for "marriage-lite" for both gays and straights. Straight couples can opt for domestic partnerships instead of marriage. A little shot across the bow was said by government authorities when they told the press, "No church can define marriage." Ouch!

Nate Silver in today's New York Times does a post-mortem about the House races. In short, he concludes that the Republican 60 seat pickup was a result of the polarization in those districts and that over 48 of them were districts where McCain had won in 2008. he also notes that the Democrats picked up all seats in Massachusetts, suggesting that the Coakley candidacy was incredibly weak when she lost to Scott Brown.

Newton Leroy Gingrich sort of thinks he may run for President so far. Stay tuned. He came up with an ingenious suggestion that the "rich" should determine when their tax cuts end. After all aren't they the ones who built America?

Robert Kaplan is an author I have enjoyed over the years but he leaves me today with a sophomoric article in the Washington Post, which will pass in this town as wise, saying that the problems in the world today are the result of the weakening of empires, including our own. He extols the fact that both the United States and the Soviets were "missionizing empires" and deplores China's reluctance to play the same role, exporting their values. He tut-tuts that China is not stepping up to the plate to accept their leadership role in this age. A strange argument but one that was heard on the Senate floor this week uttered by the "Liberator of South Ossetia" himself, John McCain.

Kaplan tells readers--wrongly--that we do not face the same fate as the Soviet union because of our wealth and personal freedom. This stuff just fries me. We have a war against the Middle Class--the Poor lost out two decades ago--,the world's largest debt, and the greatest shrinking of personal freedom in a generation but, no, Robert thinks we can go on with building up our military power. I guess the royalties for his books have been so good that he doesn't have to live in everyday world. I suggest Kaplan may be hanging out too much with Niall Ferguson, who has been on a global speaking campaign saying the American empire is threatened by the country's social benefits.

Dick Lugar risks being renditioned by teabaggers to Arizona to placed in Governor Brewer's death panels. Lugar praised the President for his outreach to Republicans, claimed the Republican leadership appreciated it and said that Repubicans have to come up with some constructive programs and can't be the party of no. The Teabaggers are issuing a Fatwa against Senator Lugar for faintly praising the Muslim President.

Actually the founder of the Tea Party Express said this week we should return to the days when only those who owned property could vote. Does a car count?

The new Teabagger Governor of Maine,LePage, discovered something interesting. He is urging his Attorney-General to sign on to the case against the Healthcare Bill because when Maine becomes the 35th state,the law becomes null and void. Isn't that Great? It's also wrong. A great state now run by a total moron.

But in Virginia, we have the great Cooch, our fanatic Attorney-General, who now wants to streamline his appeal on the healthcare bill straight to the Roberts Court,Inc. You see the first federal court suit here in Virginia upheld the constitutionality of the individual mandate. Now Cooch doesn't just want an appeal he wants the final decision while Gumba Tony Scalia is still on the court.

I recommend reading Andy Rowell and Eveline Lubbers' "Ken Saro-Wiwa was framed, secret evidence shows" in today's The Independent (U.K.). This article details the multi-year investigation by Nigerian authorities into the military's killing of four Ogoni elders whose murders led to the execution of the playwright and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995. The article should be read not only for this infamous case but also for the tawdry atmosphere around all abuses. Remember Saro-Wiwa was charged with murdering the elders for their moderate stance on issues in Ogoniland. The article details the activities of the military leading to killing the Ogoni elders and later to the whole frame-up and execution of Saro-Wiwa. And one of the details--those gratuitous details that show up in human rights cases--is the delivery of Ghana Must Go Bags filled with money to Lt.Col Okuntimo and how they spill open with guards present. The bags were the Shell Oil Company's payoff to the Colonel. Will anything be done?

The whole Wikileaks controversy has certainly opened the door to politicians' inner fascism around the globe. Both Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin call Julien Assange a traitor--even though he's Australia. Mike wants all leakers executed. I object--I don'tthink Scooty Libby should be executed. Mitch McConnell calls Julian Assange a "high-tech terrorist". Australian journalists are calling for Donald Assange, Julien's 20year old son to be kidnapped and used as ransom for his father's return. I guess this is Colombia-style democracy. Senator Lieberman,I-Knesset, said he got Amazon's cloud network to drop Wikileaks. And the woman who has accused Assange of sex with a broken condom turns out to have worked with the CIA and on other issues with anti-Castro groups organized by Carlos Alberto Montaner. (Full discloser--Carlos is a friend of mine.) Meanwhile,the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom are doing an all-global press to shut down any Wikileaks websites and their new tweeter accounts.

Now,let's focus on what our Government thinks of us. The Middle Eastern governments have basically enforced media censorship on the Wikileaks stories and shut down all internet sites commenting on it. We expect that. And we expect Russia and China to do the same as human rights activists have protested for years about authoritarian governments waging cyberwarfare against dissidents. Aside from the amateur hacker in the first days of the story, it has been the United States' government ,which has unleashed the electronic war to swamp every and all Wikileaks websites. It makes me sick to see our country is the best in the world at this. I had always felt it was Iran and China, working with a software called "Rain" that were the champs in suppressing information.

Now graduates students in Ivy League Schools have been warned not to read Wikileaks if they want a job in the State Department. Government employees have been warned not to read any of the Wikileaks' cables--even in the press? We have heard that lives at danger. American diplomats have been fanning out across the globe to offer their sources the opportunity to relocate for protection. How much of this concern is based on realistic threats I don't know. But the attitude of American politicians to the American public certainly is eye-opening.

Is there anything you have read that suurprises you? Are you shocked to find that Hamid Karzai is not a Jeffersonian Democrat? Are you surprised to find that an American defense contractor procured young boys and drugs for the Afghanis they are training as policemen? Were you stunned to find that the Saudis want to fight Iran to "the last American"? I'm not sure that the American public is shocked by anything in these cables.

But what I cam certain is that the over-reaction to Wikileaks will stir up more anti-Americanism than before. It seems very peculiar that we are hunting down Julian Assange with an insensity we lack against Bin Laden. Our plea to interpol was immediately after Assange said he was going to dump thousands of documents about an American bank. The Iraq and Afghanistan dumps--which were massive--elicited a very nonchalant response from Bob Gates at the Pentagon. Or maybe it has been Assange's call for both Hilary Clinton and Obama to resign for ordering spying on the United Nations that triggered the harsh reactions. I thought both statements showed how Assange was actually very naive about politics in general. We've been spying along with everyone else on the United Nations for decades.

But one question I do have is why the manic urge to shut down Wikileaks but no such effort has been made to close down the Jihadi websitesthat recruit new Al Qaeda members. We have Al Qaeda in Yemen recruiting American college kids from Virginia and relaying praise to the FT. Hood shooter. These websites actually kill people and yet we haven't made a move on them. I know it's so we can obtain intelligence on these groups so we allow them to operate. Meanwhile, troubled youths destroy their own lives and maybe others.

The simple lesson on Wikileaks is to keep your condom on, others the feds will come get you.

If you want to own a part of American history, the Unibomber's parcel of land in Montana is on sale. Unfortunately, it doesn't include the cabin. The last time I looked the cabin was at the Newseum here in Washington.