Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Republican Fiasco: Choice Is Between Bad and Very Bad

The Republican pragmatists refuse to stand up. For all practical purposes, the pragmatists are politically dead in the Republican Party. By blackmailing the American people, the tea party Tories are about to give us either a bad deal (a compromise where Republican right wingers get most of what they want) or a very bad deal (where Republicans get almost everything they want). That's assuming the tea party zealots don't simply cause the US to go into default, in which case, it's anybody's guess what will happen next.

Even the wealthy billionaires who paid for the tea party movement are beginning to wonder what they have unleashed.

Healthy economic activity in the modern world depends on pragmatism and it depends on reasonable expectations. Do not expect the economy to do well if Republicans create chaos while also killing jobs and the economy.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tea Party Tories vs. Republican Pragmatists

The Plain Dealer carries a Washington Post article that briefly mentions one of the most despicable acts I've ever seen by the U.S. House of Representatives:
The Republican-controlled House voted Tuesday night to slice federal spending by $6 trillion and require a constitutional balanced budget amendment to be sent to the states in exchange for averting a threatened Aug. 2 government default.

The 234-190 vote marked the power of deeply conservative first-term Republicans...

In Washington, there are very few Republican pragmatists left. Over the years, I have often disagreed with Republican pragmatists, but—this has to be said bluntly—at least they're not nuts like the tea party Tories. Of course, there are different kinds of Republican pragmatists. Some are moderates, some are conservative. But they're not totally nuts.

There were conservative pragmatists during the Reagan era who listened to the conservative radicals of the era but refused to throw millions of poor and middle class Americans under the bus. The conservative pragmatists did damage but at least the damage was limited.

There were moderate Republican pragmatists during the 1960s. Some of them were courageous. Despite putting rules in place for this and limitations on that, they helped pass important legislation of the era that ultimately benefited a large majority of Americans.

For those of us who were paying attention, there were certainly radical conservatives in the 1960s who were totally nuts. Some followed an angry George Wallace. Some were members of the ridiculous and much caricatured John Birch Society (I have previously written how John Birch members would hand out dimes on Halloween along with right wing leaflets for children to give their parents).

To repeat the above, on July 19th, 2011, the nuttiness of the tea party Tories manifested itself in a vote in the House to cut the US budget by $6,000,000,000,000. Pardon the zeroes, but to simplify, and repeat once more, that's $6 trillion dollars 'trimmed' from the US budget. Right wing Republicans in recent years have found all kinds of cute ways to make something unreasonable sound just fine. Cutting $6 trillion is not fine. There are two issues here. The first one, which is actually the more critical issue in the long run, is that such a budget cut would increase the power of the super wealthy and decrease the power and well being of everyone else. It would continue the erosion of democracy that we have seen in the last ten years.

The second issue is the one that hits home if voters bother to think about it. Cutting the budget that severely means putting a lot of people out of work.

If you don't have money for teachers, you put a lot of teachers out of work.

If you don't have money for law enforcement, you put a lot of police officers, agents and investigators out of work.

If you don't have money for fire trucks and overtime during fire season, that's a lot of fire fighters out of work and lot of property destruction.

If you don't have money for highways, you put a lot of highway workers out of work and you pay a lot of money and repairs for tires and vehicles.

If you don't have money for research, you put scientists and engineers out of work who are needed to make the US competitive.

If you cut down the number of people in the military, you put tens of thousands of soldiers on the street without a job because the budget for helping them get the necessary education, health care and housing is too pitiful to do them much good, since all of the above people would also be out of work.

Since early 2007, when Bush was still president and failing to mind the store as banks and financiers ran amuck, most Americans have experienced economic troubles that our country has not experienced since the 1930s. Those troubles will continue if Republicans keep cutting jobs at the state and federal level. Private industry cannot absorb the number of people who would be out of work if the tea party Tories at the state and national level continue to have their way.

In the end, the tea party folks are phonies. They have far more in common with Kenneth Lay, Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump than they do with average Americans. The tea party folks don't care about you and I. They care about the wealthy, the privileged, and the well-connected. Real American patriots in 1776 were fighting against the rigged and gamed system that the British Tories were pulling on Americans with the substantial help of George III. A rigged and gamed system is exactly what tea party Republicans want more of.

The Senate, with the help of the White House, appears to be leading the way to a less onerous bill (with a crucial nod from some pragmatic Republicans), though that bill is not likely to help us move forward through what is likely to be a difficult period in the next few years. But it is preferable to the bill tea party radicals want to pass. 'Preferable,' but largely useless in terms of what our country needs.

In the end, thanks to the tantrums of the tea party radicals, we're in trouble. There is no way for our economy to continue to move forward without serious attention to our infrastructure and considerable reform of business as usual.

Tea party folks are business as usual Republicans. They make noise, but at the end of the day, they shovel billions into the pockets of those who need it the least and those who continue to ship American jobs to other countries such as China. We cannot solve our economic future by leaving it to corporations that make useless toys, finance costly scams, or treat Americans as easily manipulated cash cows, while leaving millions of people out of work.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Rupert Murdoch: The Kingmaker and Political Manipulator

Rupert Murdoch is a Republican politician. He doesn't hold office, but he's a politician, nevertheless. He doesn't sit in the House of Lords but he acts like a Lord with all the privileges and powers that go with office. But not a Lord in the British House of Lords as its been in the last 100 years or so. He's from the House of Tories, circa 1776. He's tea party. Except, of course, the tea party Republicans are really Tories defending lies, corruption and privilege to the hilt. They want to kill Medicare, but pretend on Tuesdays and Thursdays that they don't. They want to kill Social Security but pretend on Mondays and Wednesdays that they don't. They want the economy to fail under Obama, but pretend that they don't on Thursdays and Saturdays.

They do, however, admit that they want to cut the budget to the bone. And that makes them job killers seven days a week.

But I digress, though Lord Murdoch is certainly a tea party Tory if there ever was. He was a Tory in Australia, where he was born and inherited a small newspaper empire—and privilege. He was a Tory in the U.K., where he began to accumulate wealth—and privilege. Being greedy, he moved on to the U.S. and remains a Tory both in the U.S. and the U.K.

I sort of met Rupurt Murdoch once. We were invited to the same event along with many other people. I never said a word to him, nor did I have any desire to do so. But I watched as he entered with his entourage and his enormous ego, dripping with disdain, not only for his sycophants but even for those at the event. I watched the sycophants vie with him for attention, nervously and aggressively, while Murdoch played a kind of power game with them. The group and their 'Lord' went to the farthest corner away from everyone else and did not pay the least bit of attention to the event they were invited to. They were all more important than the rest of us. These were people from Fox News and, who knows, perhaps there were two or three people from the British tabloids that Murdoch owns.

All too often the ethics of organizations reflect the ethics of the owners. The tabloid scandal in the UK undoubtedly flows from Murdoch's values (see Carl Berstein's article in Newsweek). It's apparent he likes to twist arms, particularly if he can make a lucrative deal. He was hoping for a lucrative deal through British Sky Broadcasting. But he appears to have overreached. Here's just a small taste, from the BBC:
Under pressure from the entire British political establishment, Mr Murdoch has also dropped plans to buy out the rest of British Sky Broadcasting.

And on Friday he saw Rebekah Brooks resign, the chief executive of his UK newspaper business News International - the very executive who he explicitly wanted to keep in the job.

Now Mr Murdoch's business faces investigations in the UK and potentially the US and Australia, risking further revelations that could harm his reputation.
Make no mistake. Mr. Murdoch is a bean counter. There is no way that he could have failed to notice where the money was going for some of the illegal activities of his so-called 'reporters.' To get 'scoops' as often as his reporters did can only happen in a corrupt environment where reporters feel free to break rules not so much for newsworthy, need to know stories, but largely as an instrument of power.

Anyone who doesn't think Murdoch is willing to throw his weight around to get what he wants, take note of this story on The Huffington Post:
Under assault in a phone hacking scandal, News Corp. has met a self-imposed deadline for reporting its 2011 political contributions online.


The company's board approved a new disclosure policy for its political giving in April after two donations by Rupert Murdoch, the Australian mogul who controls the company, raised concern among shareholders. Murdoch gave $1 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and $1.25 million to the Republican Governors Association.

That's a lot of money for a political campaign from a single donor. I strongly oppose the rich and powerful being able to make such huge contributions. You cannot have a democracy for long if wealthy 'Lords' have that much power. The real patriots of 1776 felt that way. They were being hindered by the Tories in America and the Tories in Britain who acquired their power through birth, privilege and corruption. And those Tories didn't mind breaking their own rules to accumulate more power and wealth.

Some might argue the the scandal in the UK has nothing to do with Murdoch's behavior here. Think again. Here's another story, from the AP:
The AP is reporting that the Justice Department is looking into the allegations that News Corp. hacked into the cellphones of 9/11 victims. We're told to expect a statement from DOJ shortly. More when we have it.

These days, the leadership of the Republican Party is trying to turn the United States into a third world country. The rich get richer and everyone else falls further and further behind as consumers get screwed and jobs get sent to China and elsewhere. There's no excuse for this behavior. We are a democracy and though it doesn't feel like it sometimes, we're still a free people. For the hundreds of millions who live in third world economies, they barely manage the necessities of life and they rarely feel free. Instinctively, without knowing what a third world economy was, the patriots of 1776 were fighting the very policies that even today would turn us into vassals of the rich and powerful.

The paragraph above makes the essential point of this post. But it's worth noting one last point. The scandal in the UK is proof of what many of us have know for some time: Fox News is the product of the best bullshit that Mr. Murdoch's money can buy.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

The Priorities of Republican Politicians Are Not Yours and MIne

There's nothing ethically or politically pure about either major party in the United States. But the Republicans these days make a point of specializing in protecting the super wealthy, largely because they want to enjoy some of the same privileges themselves.

Talking Points Memo has the story:
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), a leading advocate of shrinking entitlement spending and the architect of the plan to privatize Medicare, spent Wednesday evening sipping $350 wine with two like-minded conservative economists at the swanky Capitol Hill eatery Bistro Bis.

I don't mind talented people making money. But giving wealthy people money they don't need by cutting Medicare, privatizing Social Security, cutting jobs and cutting back on services is outrageous. Where is the sense of outrage in this country?

Do people realize that corporations are holding billions of dollars in reserve that could stimulate the economy and create jobs? Where is the outrage? If these guys are going to sit on that money—a good percent of it is Bush's bailout money, by the way—then yes, we ought to tax it to get the economy moving again.

Do people realize that global warming is real and most of these fat cats are sitting on their asses doing nothing so they can have a few more bottles of $350 wine and swing a few more sweetheart deals with the help of politicians like Paul Ryan? Where is the outrage?

Paul Ryan doesn't care about people like you and me. Neither do most of the other politicians in the Republican Party. What they care about are the people who can buy that $350 bottle of wine and fork over hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions.

When is it going to dawn on people that the tea party folks are Tories? They're the folks we fought in 1776 who wanted to rig the system for the rich and powerful and the privileged few?