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Same old, same old

Jonathan Alter at Newsweak has a post that is full of fail:

Why the Midterms Matter
The GOP’s agenda has to be stopped.

But elections aren’t just about who wins. They’re about what happens when one or the other party wins. We’re so eager to promote ourselves with the smartest take on how President Obama and the Democrats got themselves in this pickle that we haven’t done a good job explaining the stakes. We manage to sever cause from effect.

Let’s say you’re an independent voter who wants to send Obama a message on Nov. 2. Have the media told you what that would say? Here’s a clue: moderate Republicans are extinct. With big wins, the Tea Party will transform itself from an insurgency into the driving force within the GOP. Gains in statehouses and legislatures will allow right-wingers to use the 2010 census to redraw district lines that will entrench them in power until 2020. Back in charge in Washington, they will likely block even centrist choices for courts. Extremist senators like Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn will move from being irritants on the fringe to players at the center of our politics.

The Democrats have controlled both houses of Congress for four years, including a period when they had a filibuster-proof supermajority. They have held the White House for nearly two years following eight years of George the Lesser.

So, leading into the midterm election the best argument Alter can make is “ZOMG! The Republicans are worse!!?

That’s pathetic.

The Democrats are not facing a GOPer tsunami because of the Tea Partiers or the Chamber of Commerce. They are gonna get a big can o’ Whoop-ass opened on them by the voters because they failed to do what they were elected to do.

In 2006 and 2008 people voted for change, but all they got was more of the same old, same old.

Here’s the worst part:

Health insurers flirted with Democrats, supported them with money and got what they wanted: a federal mandate that most Americans carry health care coverage. Now they’re backing Republicans, hoping a GOP Congress will mean friendlier regulations.

The bankers and all the other malefactors of great wealth are doing the same thing. The Democrats sold out their constituents (that’s us) thinking they had some wealthy BFF’s to replace us with.

They got hustled, but we got screwed.

Hopenchange motherf**kers!

An update on Juan Williams’ firing

Juan Williams' steepest descent to Fox News

I found this article from the NYTimes on Peter Daou’s Twitter stream.  It’s about the fallout from Juan Williams’ firing:

Of the thousands of complaints that have saturated NPR in the wake of Juan Williams’s firing earlier this week, some of the most telling have been from callers describing themselves as long-time “viewers” of NPR who warn that they are going to “stop watching.”

Stop laughing.  It’s rude.

But wait!  There’s more:

In an interview on Friday, Vivian Schiller, NPR’s chief executive, defended the decision to dismiss Mr. Williams and said it was not the product of political or financial pressures.

His contract was terminated, she said, because “he had several times in the past violated our news code of ethics with things that he had said on other people’s air.”

On one such occasion last year, Mr. Williams said on Fox that Michelle Obama has “got this ‘Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress’ thing going,” an allusion to a leader of the black power movement of the 1960s.

In each instance, Ms. Schiller said, “We called him on it, we had a discussion, we asked him not to do it again.” NPR’s ethics code states that journalists “should not express views” in other outlets, like TV shows, that “they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist.”

People deserve second chances, Ms. Schiller said, but “we made the decision here because, at a certain point, if someone keeps not following your guidance, you have to make a break. And that’s what we did.”

By the way, Juan Williams filled in for Bill O’Reilly on Friday.  So, it’s too late to take him back even if NPR wanted to.  But why would they want to?:

Jennifer Houlihan, a spokeswoman for New York Public Radio, said the issue “was not hurting” pledges. “We’re hitting or surpassing our goal at this point,” she said.

Oo!  Oo!  Fire Mara next time.  I’ll double the donation I used to give.  Better yet, stop being sycophantic Obama toelickers and I might even start watching listening again.  Yeah!  Purge the whole organization of Obots.  Concentrate on reporting the news like you used to do when you didn’t kiss conservative or “creative class” ass.

Do something different, like, oh, I don’t know, how about journalism?

More on Mara: Eric Boehlert says he never said NPR should fire Mara Liasson and neither has Media Matters.  Boehlert says that NPR should address the Code of Ethics conflict that Mara has with Fox.  I agree.

Of course, I think Mara has already done significant damage to NPR’s brand and getting rid of her would be only one step in a long painful road to recovery.  It has to take on the Obots in its ranks too before I come back.  But, Ok, give her a warning and a choice: stay off of Fox if you want to make absolutely sure you don’t violate NPRs code of ethics or find another job.  Seems fair to me.  I would have fired her by now but maybe all she really needs is a 6 months performance plan and a hard ass editor with a big red sharpie.  She might even leave on her own.

Dear Democratic Party: Stop sending me email

In the past couple of weeks, you have been cluttering up my inbox with one appeal after another.  5 minutes for this; $5 for that.  I’ve heard from every liberal senator under the sun.  Al Franken, you know I love you, truly I do.  But save the bandwidth.  Bernie Sanders, I know your heart is in the right place.  But it’s not your heart I’m worried about.  It’s your vote.

Look, guys, I know you’re frustrated by our inability to commit.  Our enthusiasm gap has made you angry.  You’re fed up with meeting a brick wall and can’t seem to move us forward.

Don’t blame us.  You did this to yourselves.  Your efforts have been insufficient.  You had every advantage given to you on a silver platter and you squandered it.  We find your “accomplishments” unpersuasive.  Please, please, please, don’t continue trying to sell us on the healthcare reform act that made our insurance rates rise.  Don’t think we haven’t been paying attention to the fact that the Lilly Ledbetter Act is not the same as the Paycheck Fairness bill that never got out of committee.

Your accomplishments amount to pulling us back from the brink of Depression with an ill structured bailout of the finance industry and a stimulus package that was just barely enough to keep some people employed over the past 2 years.  That’s it.

You pissed off women in huge numbers.  No, don’t even get me started.  You guys absolutely cannot be trusted to protect reproductive rights or equality.

And we can’t trust you to protect Social Security either.  Many of us in our 40’s and 50’s have paid into Social Security all our lives.  Our retirement plans all have social security factored in.  It is too late to pad our nest eggs-even if we had the money to do it.  Your lack of spine in getting the rich to pay their share of taxes is maddening, especially if it means we end our senior years in poverty.

The very least you could do is kill the Catfood Commission NOW, before the election, because your chances of stopping that train afterwards are close to nil.

I can’t possibly predict what will happen in November.  Voters are pissed with both parties.  They don’t know what to do.  But I guarantee that if things get worse after November, life will get very interesting for your party.

And although you and the rest of the A list bloggers are sick of hearing this, your present troubles go back to the slash and burn primaries of 2008 when you deliberately torched half of your own party for Obama.  You made your bed when you sold us out back then.  Some of the working class you disenfranchised took their dishes and went to the Tea Party.  Some of us stayed true to our working class liberal values and disengaged from the Democratic party. You saddled us with a president who is unprepared to do his job.  His policies have lead to a great deal of present hardship and future misery.  And now you don’t have the votes you need to win in November.  You did this to yourself when you allowed yourselves to be steamrolled by a bunch of whiny “creative class” voters and a billion dollars in Wall Street money.

Are we afraid of what’s to come?  Yeah, probably.  But we can’t give in to fear.  If you guys lose in November, take our advice and purge your ranks of the idiots who got you into this mess.  Tell the brats to shut up about the Clintons.  Do the right thing for a change.  And for God’s sakes, get a primary challenger for Obama.  The guy doesn’t know what he’s doing and it is killing you.

Good luck.  You’re on your own.

Just like us.


El Cheeto Grande

Remember two years ago when we were running around with our hair on fire telling people (who wouldn’t listen) that Obama was going to be bad for the country and even worse for the Democratic party?

Remember how we predicted that the Democrats would probably lose Congress in 2010?

Here’s a little blast from the past:

Break their back, crush their spirits

by kos
Thu Oct 09, 2008 at 11:14:58 AM PDT

See, here’s the deal — we’re going to win the White House, we’re going to win big in the Senate, and we’re going to rack up big gains in the House. Republicans know this and are preparing for the worst. Now think of 2004 — we really thought Kerry was going to pull it off. Remember that? And remember how utterly devastated we were when Bush pulled it off? The pain was so much worse because we expected to win.

So with conservatives bracing for the worse, they won’t experience the kind of pain we did. Not unless we deliver a defeat even worse than their worst nightmares. And I’ll be honest with you — I want them to hurt as much as we did. I want their spirits crushed, their backs broken.

So the way we do that is we deliver a defeat worse than they ever imagined. We do that by winning states that have no business turning Blue — like North Carolina, Georgia, Indiana, and so on — states that were easy Bush victories in 2004. We do that by electing a 60-seat supermajority in the Senate. We do that by defeating their leadership, like Mitch McConnell in the Senate. We do that by defeating their heroes, like wingnut go-to hero John Shadegg. We do that by making sure a record number of Americans reject conservative ideology, leaving it utterly discredited.

The day after the election, I want to see an electoral battlefield littered with defeated Republicans, their ranks demoralized, their treasury in heavy debt, and no real leadership to take the helm. I want a vacuum so complete, that a bloody leadership battle between the neocons, theocons, and corporate cons shakes the GOP to its core, and leaves it fractured and ill-equipped to stymie the progressive agenda, much less ramp up for an even bleaker (for them) 2010.

Guys, that’s why I don’t worry about complacency. We’re not out to win this thing. We’re out to crush them.

So, Mr. Moulitsas, how’s that “permanent Democratic majority” thingie working out for you?

Q: What do you call someone who is so disconnected from reality that they’ve constructed their very own world where they’re always right and everyone else is wrong and they’re so oblivious to what’s happening around them that they can’t see disaster even when it’s looming over them like the Mother of all Tidal Waves?

A: Mr. President

Worst President Ever

It’s Saturday and Wonk sez, “Liberté, Egalité, Sororité”

Good morning, everyone. I’m going to go ahead and dive into the headlines coming out of France and Europe right now, and then bring this back to America at the end, with a Wonk rant of course.

France Pension Protest: One Family’s Perspective

(Associated Press)

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch reporting in Paris on Friday’s big and hotly contested pension reform vote — French Senate passes pension overhaul raising retirement age to 62.” The increase, which is a gradual one from 60 to 62 by the year 2018, still has yet to get the green light by both a parliamentary committee and another vote by a joint session of parliament, steps which look likely to go through. According to the French Senate’s press office, the committee will begin meeting on Monday, meaning the measure could be voted into law as soon as Wednesday, though its final passage does not look like it will be doing anything to stop the protests.

Polling released yesterday from the BVA Institute indicates that nearly 70% of the French people support the strikes and street demonstrations. The Christian Science Monitor has more on what to expect next on that front — New France strikes to follow Senate passage of pension law.” On the future of the protests: “Once the bill passes and the school holidays kick in, however, union leaders will have to walk a fine line between cadres who want to continue striking and those that do not. To this end, the two days of demonstrations called on Thursday are considered a compromise.” The two days being referred to are next Thursday and the first Saturday of November. The article also reports on how oil workers have taken to blocking the country’s refineries in addition to striking. Police force was used on Friday at the Grandpuits refinery near Paris. Three protesters were injured.

The BBC published a piece Friday called Contrasting views on the age of austerity,” in which, as the BBC describes it, “people from three different countries – two of whom work in the public sector – share their contrasting views on their government’s action and the public response.”

The first person is Helen Stollery, age 23. She works in the public sector in Maidenhead, UK. Here is a taste of what she had to say:

I think people in Britain have a different culture to those in Europe – and I don’t think we’ll see the same level of strikes.

People here are more accepting of the changes that have to be made. Our state retirement age has been going up for some time and people have accepted the changes.

There’s no point in resisting something that is inevitable.

Next is Eleni Hondrou, age 38, from the public sector as well, in Athens, Greece. A sample of Hondrou’s remarks:

For now things are relatively quiet in Greece. Most people are trying to adapt and get on with their lives on a lower standard of living

Reductions in my allowances mean I have lost 20% of my annual income. I have had to cut many things out of my life.

We had no choice but to make those changes in May because things were so bad, we were on the verge of bankruptcy.

But we never know what will happen next. We rely on our external creditors. If we have to borrow more money at a higher rate – and if that means we have to take further reductions then I don’t think people will accept things peacefully.

Finally we hear from Brian Hind, a 40 year old American farmer from Kansas. Briefly from his comments:

The cuts in the UK and elsewhere in Europe are just something that the governments have to do. Things won’t be as bad as they will be for us in America – we’re making things worse by delaying cuts.

Also from the BBC a little later on Friday — Pension reform vote: Views from France,” which highlights reactions to the passage of the pension bill from three residents of France.

The first reaction is from Heidi Garnier of Charenton-le-Pont. An excerpt:

France seems to be the only country in Europe where people want to retire as soon as they have left nursery school.

I am very satisfied with the result of the vote. I discussed it with my husband and we have the same opinion.

Georgina Thompson, a teacher from the suburbs of Rouen who is active in the national strikes, had this to say in her comments:

I’d probably say that I’m disappointed without being surprised by the outcome of the vote in the Senate. President Sarkozy has clearly shown that he’s unwilling to heed what the strikers and protesters have to say.

The decree of application hasn’t yet been published; there are already a number of demonstrations and strike actions planned in and around Rouen over the next few days and I’ll be taking part.

There does need to be some kind of pension reform, but I’m not convinced that this is the type of reform we need.

There are other problems with the French economy, for example many people being laid off before the age of 60 and not being able to make up their full pension.

The whole system really needs an overhaul – not these measures that are being proposed.

I am losing money by striking, and I was back at work today and will work tomorrow in order not to lose out on holiday pay.

And, this view from Alexandre Aba of Grenoble, an unemployed computer aided designer:

I’m really annoyed about this at the moment, because the strikes are preventing me from getting to job interviews. We can’t use the trains or drive anywhere because of the fuel shortage.

At this time of crisis, strikes are extremely disrespectful to the private sector, who are effectively paying for civil servants.

Going on strike is one thing, but messing up our economy is another and these strikes are so bad for France’s reputation.

Additionally, if you have a few minutes and haven’t done so already, check out the video up top from the Associated Press. It is one French family’s perspective on the importance of protesting.

Moving along to a couple editorials that caught my eye. I enjoyed this one from The GuardianFrench lessons: pension protests. As the welfare state is rolled back all over Europe, a cause is being fought in France which we would do well to watch.” Another op-ed, this one from the Financial Times — “France vents its fury as Britain takes a chilly dip.”

From Barbara Whelehan, on SS here in the US, via bankrate.com, with a title that piqued my interest, “Vive le Social Security,” until I read the first half of the entry, which was rather meh. It misses the point that the degradation of worker rights is what’s at stake at the broader level so quibbling over the best age to retire is neither here, nor there. The second half is more interesting, though, to say the least:

Tax the rich
There are other ways to save pension systems besides raising the retirement age. As I pointed out on two previous occasions, the Special Committee on Aging came up with 30-plus solutions to fix Social Security. My favorite solution is to eliminate the cap on Social Security taxes. Right now, only earnings up to $106,800 are taxed. If the cap is eliminated, high earners would get a smaller check (so what?), and Social Security would remain solvent over the next 75 years.

This solution can be taken a step further. In a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Ken Langone, a co-founder of Home Depot, suggested that rich people shouldn’t get Social Security checks at all. “It makes little sense to send Treasury checks to high-net-worth people in the form of Social Security,” he writes. “I guarantee you that many millionaires and billionaires will gladly forgo it. …”

Hey — this is not my idea. It’s coming straight from the mind of a wealthy capitalist.

Here’s a link to that Special Committee on Aging report from May, by the way. Just in case you were curious or needed a refresher.

So what do y’all think of Whelehan’s suggestions? How about anyone reading this who is at all sympathetic to the GO-TEA-Party’s fiscal arguments? On the one hand, “hands off my social security and Medicare” and on the other “Taxed Enough Already”? How do your respond to the issue of “taxing the rich” to preserve social security? It’s an honest question, I’m genuinely inquiring, and here’s why. I think there is a lot of overlap between the basic concerns of the grassroots left and the grassroots right when it comes to the social safety net–it is the elites who benefit from us staying locked in tribal fights (Socialist! Teabagger!) rather than coming together and trying to find common ground and solutions on concerns that we share.

As I wrote back in March, we need to have more summits on ideas, not angry splashes of tea and coffee at each other. There is so much at stake and we are the ones who are hurt by staying stuck in our tribalist mindsets against each other, while the elites, both on the left and right, laugh all the way to the bank. I think all of us–those of us who come at issues more from the left and those of you who come more at them from the right–need to make more an effort to get past the stuff we disagree on so we can get some movement on the stuff we do agree on. The future lobbyists of America that make up our Congress are not going to do this work for us. After the midterms, when Obama starts presenting us with those “very difficult choices” he spoke of over the summer, how will we respond?

Will we join together, putting aside our childish, superficial taunts at each other over teabags and Marxism? I know George W. Bush liked to sneer at the Frannnch, but at least their country is united when it comes to workers. Will we be united when it’s our turn to fight the retirement age increases?

Or, will the left stay paralyzed thanks to its apologist faction which demonizes anyone trying to hold Obama accountable? And, will the right keep shrieking about socialism, when what we are actually experiencing is crony capitalism, corporate welfare, and lemon socialism, which is really socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor, where profits are privatized and losses are socialized? Will the left keep mocking the unwashed masses and making the same tired old cracks about misspelled signs? Will they keep their noses turned up so high that they can’t see the legitimate populist frustration coming out of both the left and right in America? Will they keep reflexively shouting “racist” at anyone who tries to raise a valid criticism of Obama’s agenda?

Will the right keep looking for the robinhoods below them instead of the corporate robinhoods robber barons above them? Will they keep ignoring the fact that it is the bonus class who have waged classwarfare on all of us, shifting the focus away from corporate greed and malfeasance while pitting middle class against working class? Will our country stay hostage to the politics of division, meant to keep us focused on fearing each other–from mosque-builders and 9-11 families, to Mexicans and other ethnic minorities, to straights and gays and lesbians, to liberals and teapartiers, to women and the children they choose to have or not have? Will we stay slave to these “wedges,” while the corporations and the banks take their bedroom relationship with our government to the next level and produce the next bastard child policy that we can’t afford?

Or, will we finally reject what has wedged between us and rise to what Hillary said so elegantly in her message to LGBT youth:

Because the story of America is the story of people coming together to tear down barriers, stand up for rights, and insist on equality, not only for themselves but for all people. And in the process, they create a community of support and solidarity that endures. Just think of the progress made by women just during my lifetime by women, or ethnic, racial and religious minorities over the course of our history —and by gays and lesbians, many of whom are now free to live their lives openly and proudly.

I have a stubborn belief in the American people, and I hope against Hope™ that we’ll join together and stand up for ourselves and a working and middle class that gets its workout out of these trying times and a strengthened, rather than diminished, safety net for the older generation and their children and grandchildren. We will sink or swim based on whether or not we recognize that we are the 99% of this country that is all in this together.

Before I go…. On this day (October 23) in 1915, somewhere between 25,000 and 33,000 women marched for their right to vote on Fifth Avenue in NYC.

Photograph shows four women carrying ballot boxes on a stretcher during a suffrage parade in New York City, New York. # Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-132968 (b&w film copy neg.)

Also for Canadian readers, I came across Celebrating women’s history,” an entry written by husband and wife historian team in a local paper from New Westminster, on October being Women’s History month in Canada.

Have a lovely weekend, and please chime in with what you’re reading and what’s on your mind this Saturday morning!