Dec 30, 2011

December 29, 2011: Four Years Gone, Reach Out In the Darkness, Requiem for Benazir.

The following is from a post at this time 4 years ago following the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhuto. In honor and remembrance, I have reposted one of my favorite columns.

“I think it’s so groovy now
That people are finally getting together
I think its wonderful now
That people are finally getting together
Reach out in the darkness
Reach out in the darkness
Reach out in the darkness
And you may find a friend” --Friend and Lover “Reach Out in the Darkness” 1968

I was standing in line at a gas station when that song so rarely played stabbed my consciousness like hot steel on a cold night. It seems so long ago now as we approach yet another presidential election cycle, the 10th such season of promises, since that song was popular, since that terrible time when the universe came unhinged. There was a certain inexorable logic behind that season of tragedy. The nation was deeply divided between rich and poor, black and white, young and old, war and peace. The Tet Offensive had demonstrated the total bankruptcy of our war policies and the nation, after several long summers of rioting and rage was bracing itself for another “long hot summer”. Yet we had emerged strong and promising, pregnant with possibilities, challenging the established order, dreaming things that never were and asking “why not”?

First Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota emerged to challenge Lyndon Johnson for his party’s nomination. In February, McCarthy nearly defeated Johnson in New Hampshire. By mid-March Robert Kennedy, after re-assessing his situation was drawn into the race, and by the end of March Johnson announced his retirement. It seemed as if the heavens had parted and a new dawn had come to America. But throughout the season dark clouds loomed on the horizon like the ugly protesters that ringed the outer fringes of the Kennedy rallies.

I remember watching on television Robert Kennedy announce his candidacy for the presidency on March 16 from the old Senate chamber. Kennedy had been drawn into the battle much sooner than he had wanted, preferring to defer a presidential bid until 1972 or 1976. But the conflicts both at home and abroad had caused many of his friends and political supporters to look elsewhere and Bobby knew that his national stature demanded that he step forward. I watched with a certain foreboding as he picked up the mantle of his brother and began the campaign, hoping for the best but fearing the worst.

As April Fools day dawned Johnson had fled the field and it seemed as if victory would come without firing a shot. But within days the long national nightmare began. Martin gunned down in Memphis and the rioting that followed, the entrance of Vice President Humphrey into the race to carry the standard of the party regulars, and finally, after winning all the remaining primaries save Oregon (which went to the anti-war McCarthy); Bobby too was gunned down as he reached for his party’s nomination. Within 90 days it was over, all that remained was to vent our rage at the convention. It was like a Greek tragedy beginning with the hubris of youth, and ending by cursing the fates; beginning with so much promise and ending with the ultimate booby prize: Richard Nixon.

“Let me please introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I lay traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reach Bombay”
--- The Rolling Stones “Sympathy for the Devil”

In this frame of mind I returned home. Going into the living room, I turned on the television and up came the financial news network. I was watching the market numbers and noticed on the crawl space a news report that former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto had been assassinated following a political rally. I turned to CNN and followed the initial reports that she had died following an explosion set off by a suicide bomber. Later this was revised to include shots fired at her motorcade at close range. It felt like de ja vu all over again.

The truly redeeming quality of politics is that by participating one can experience a certain mobility otherwise unattainable. Through political action one can transcend one’s station in life and meet not only interesting, though largely self-absorbed, individuals but on occasion rub shoulders with the powerful. In 1968 I was drawn into the Kennedy campaign, first working with his advance men organizing a political rally at Campau Square in downtown Grand Rapids, and then later in Indiana running a sound truck and doing door-to-door work in Michigan City and Marion. And so it was that four years later a son of a poor factory worker found himself in a Hotel room in Cambridge Massachusetts sitting on a bed talking politics with Benazir Bhutto.

She was 19 at the time, a freshman at Radcliff, daughter of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, young, intelligent and articulate. I was 23, a senior at Grand Valley State. We were drawn together as participants in the Harvard Invitational Model United Nations held at Cambridge Massachusetts. She was representing, of course, Pakistan. I was representing, not so obviously, the United States. I was deep in my senior thesis on the New York City Draft Riots of 1863 when I received a call from Dr. Junn, the head of the political science department, asking if I wanted to participate in a model U.N. sponsored by Harvard. I asked which country we would be representing and he told me the United States. It seemed a set up: why with all the colleges and universities attending would Harvard ask a small teachers college in western Michigan to represent the United States? The answer: Vietnam. Here was a golden opportunity for the debate teams of Harvard and Yale, not to mention several others, to beat up on United States foreign policy. We would be the perfect “straw man”.

We called a meeting of the several members of our delegation and I was chosen chairman, principally because I had written several papers on Vietnam and was something of the resident expert on the subject. This made me in effect the United States Ambassador to the United Nations playing the role of then UN Ambassador George H.W. Bush. I preferred to see myself as a young Adlai Stevenson but was forced to consult the record, largely one of abstaining from votes on Security Council resolutions that characterized the Nixon White House. Fortunately I knew the history of Vietnam and American involvement in it as well as all the arguments in favor of our prosecution of the war. In addition I was an outspoken early critic of the war and knew the arguments of dissent. So it happened that I became the unanimous choice to sit at the Security Council and face the debate teams of America’s most prestigious universities.

The first day was a rough go. Villanova, representing Germany stood with us, but the school representing France bolted to our adversaries and followed the Chinese by launching an all out attack on American “imperialist” foreign policy. Represented by the University of Utah, who had spent two weeks with the Chinese delegation at the UN in New York, the debate teams of Harvard and Yale representing countries like Cuba lined up with several others to oppose our intervention in Indochina. At the end of the first of the three day session our delegation met at our hotel suite to map out strategy given that many of the participants were not faithful to the policies of the governments they were purporting to represent, but were instead using the forum to express personal opinions. We determined that drastic action was needed. I asked how much money we had brought with us. Dr. Junn gave me a figure and asked why. I responded that we must now do what diplomats the world over have always done—order large quantities of alcohol and play the gracious host. In a word: PARTY!

We sent someone out for the requisite liquor and let it be known that our suite, which in due course became the entire floor, would be scene for an “international” social event. It was during a bit of banter with my friend from Utah, a slightly older man who had fought with the Montignard tribesman in Vietnam and who would later, playing the Chinese role magnificently, refer to “running dog American Imperialism” that I was elbowed by a young lady who introduced herself as the representative of Pakistan and asked if I could speak with her. We went to a room and she impressed upon me the urgency of the United States introducing a Security Council resolution concerning India and, if memory serves, had something to do with Kashmir. I told her I would do the best I could and we talked for some time about Pakistan and its relations with her neighboring countries, Kashmir, and the United States.

The next day I met with her again, but unfortunately things were tight at the Security Council as I struggled to stave off a full fledged assault on the United States. Benazir stopped by and importuned me once again but I tried to explain that I had greater problems to deal with at the moment. She left disappointed. Finally, midway through the second session, the Council voted by a majority of one to strike Vietnam from the agenda. We had dodged a bullet but there were still issues in South Africa, Rhodesia, and elsewhere that consumed the time. Mostly it was theatre. I had stopped while walking through the “yard” and bought a socialist rag being hawked by a vendor which I read whilst the Chinese “Ambassador” from Utah railed on about “American Capitalist Imperialist Aggressors”. The Chairman of the Security Council, who was in real life a legal counsel to the United Nations, asked me in a terse Eaton accent if the United States had any response. I remember saying’ as I peered up from my worker’s party rag, “It is the position of the government of the United States that the ranting of the honorable ambassador from the People’s Republic is unworthy of comment and that if he is interested in serious boilerplate I have a copy of an excellent publication he might find informative”. In any case events dictated that Pakistan would not emerge as a major player as long as the Cold War lasted. I had tried to teach, on that day so long ago, an important lesson in international politics: that the United States has no friends, it has only interests; and that United States support could be uncertain.

But it was not Benazir’s nature to remain undeterred. Critics, and there were many in Pakistan, saw her re-emerge as a political figure too closely allied with the United States. She had promised to allow the Americans to use Pakistani territory to establish bases of operations against the growing lawlessness in the tribal provinces along the Afghan border where Bin Laden is believed to have taken refuge. But most importantly she represented, as her father before her, an attempt to transform Pakistan from tribal feudalism into a modern secular liberal democratic state.

I sensed all those years ago that Benazir was in large measure enamored with all things American, attending an American university, adopting western dress, and with her father attempting to impose a western style republic on a tribal culture. I felt then it was risky business. Many transformational political figures have paid the last full measure for their effort. The Gracci brothers in ancient Rome, Julius Caesar for creating pax Romana, Lincoln, the Kennedy’s; and in her own part of the world Mahatma Gandhi, Neru, Indira and Rajib Gandhi, her own father. I watched with a certain foreboding as she went home to once again pick up the mantle of her father, hoping for the best but fearing the worst; and as I watched her bloody return from exile I told my wife that Benazir was going home to die. It had the inevitability of 1968 about it, as certain as the setting sun.

Go gently into that good night Benazir Bhutto; we are left now to reach out in the darkness.

December 28, 2011: Boner Backs Down, Crumbs From the Table, Cowardice on the Ramparts

We have been treated this week to the spectacle of one John Boner doing some serious backtracking as his Rescumlican majority were forced to cave in to pressure from the White House and their Senate colleagues and approve the extension of reductions in payroll withholdings for what John McCain and Sarah Palin so derisively dismissed as ’Joe Six-Pack’ and his family. As it stands, befitting the partisan brinksmanship that has characterized the behavior of the No-Nothing Party, the compromise reached extends for only a paltry two months as the Rescumlicans use whatever tools they can for the benefit of their rich benefactors, this time being the oil companies over a proposed pipe line into the United States from the oil-rich sands and shale of Canada.

Meanwhile public approval of Congress continues to plummet to record lows. It is ironic that the American people should blame their institutions for this mess. After all, they voted for gridlock by returning the idiot-wrong to power, why then should this come as any surprise?

The great chasm that is dividing the parties, itself merely a reflection of the divisions within the country, grows ever wider. Yesterday Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Oklahoma, announced that he will not seek re-election giving the Rescumlicans an ever greater probability of taking control of the Senate. Nelson’s announcement is part of a series of setbacks for the ‘Democratic Leadership Council’ that championed the election of people like Nelson, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, and others who have either lost bids for re-election or are now retiring rather than face a referendum on their actions while in office.

What many tried to tell them, as they sold the soul of the Democratic party for what they saw as safe political strategy, was that by gutting national health care, and adopting what in effect was simply a weak and watered down health insurance reform bill, they would lose in the bargain their own political base and gain no pass, for their misguided efforts, from the modern Rescumlican party. So, with the dawn now of the next election season, we can say goodbye to the likes of Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman as we said goodbye to Blanche Lincoln and several others last year. You will not be missed, for your service has not only brought about the discrediting of Democratic Party values, but has cost your party it’s majority in the bargain. We did not elect you to be Bush-Lite, We went to the polls and voted as Democrats, not for some watered-down version of Bush-Cheney. We voted for change and got chump-change. We elected you to be our champions and for your cowardice on the ramparts you have earned the calumny of Democrats everywhere.

Dec 22, 2011

December 20, 2011: Caribou Barbie, Not a Single Precinct Captain, Pipe Dreams of the Lotus-Eater.

Let me reiterate: the political process does not recognize unorganized opinion. It is almost ridiculous to have to utter these words, so apparently obvious stands the reality, but when dealing with Rescumlicans, particularly those on the idiot-wrong, the business of rendering obvious what is apparent and clear to the rest of humanity is a work of paramount, albeit futile urgency.

So today it was reported that Caribou Barbie, otherwise known in this column as the ‘guttersnipe’ from Alaska, has told Fixed News that she has surveyed the Rescumlican field and found them wanting. Again, a stopped clock is right twice a day, and so it is with the idiot half-governor late of Alaska. It was the last part of her statement that caught my eye. Bemoaning the lack of real Presidential timber currently in the field she went on to say that “it is not too late for someone else to enter the race”.

Forty years ago this may have been true, but with the number of primaries and the front-loading of nearly all of them--particularly the big states--it has long since become necessary to raise nearly 100 million dollars before the first citizens gather at caucus across the state of Iowa and cast the first ballots. Only a complete political neophyte could possibly have uttered such an absurdity, for the time has long passed when the money would have been raised to staff the field operations, set up the phone banks, purchased the voter lists, printed the mailers and brochures, set up the internet sites, bought the newspaper, radio and television advertising. With Iowa only now a matter of days away, New Hampshire quickly to follow, and with only 120 days or so left before the issue will be decided, it should be patently clear to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of such things that it is far too late to even think of throwing one’s bonnet into the ring. But not Sarah Palin who, despite having been on the last national ticket, appears to have learned nothing about Presidential politics.

If she is testing the political waters for a possible late bid, she will find that her supporters have long since been laboring on behalf of other candidacies, that she is woefully short of money, and that she is without a single precinct captain. None of this registers in the simple mind of the ‘guttersnipe’, who’s prevailing psychosis can be measured in the awful gap between her ambitions and her achievements; a chasm that can only be bridged by the pipe dreams of the lotus eater.

Dec 20, 2011

December 19, 2011: Adults in the Sandbox, Ron Paul as 'Spoiler', Precious Little Time Left.

“A Republic does not recognize unorganized opinion”
                                        ---from the 'Quotations of Chairman Joe'

It was announced over the weekend that the Des Moines Register, Iowa’s most prominent and influential newspaper, has endorsed Mitt Romney in the upcoming Republican contest. Citing ‘Baby Huey’s’ record of rabid partisanship and calling him a ‘divider’ and not a ‘uniter’ the paper’s editorial board chose Romney instead because of his record at not only cleaning up the failing winter Olympics held in the 1990’s in Utah, but his ability to work across party lines to move the state of Massachusetts forward on several important issues.

Today, was announced that Bob Dole, former Senate Majority Leader and 1996 Republican Presidential Candidate also announced his support of Mitt Romney for the Presidential nomination.

It has been my experience that there is almost an inverse correlation between a press endorsement and winning an election. Most of the candidates I have worked for over the years, including myself as a candidate for County Commissioner, have received, sometimes reluctantly as in my case, the endorsement of the local paper only to see office slip from our grasp albeit by the narrowest of margins. Conversely, I have worked in and managed campaigns were we did not get such endorsements and walked to victory. It is as if the public takes perverse pleasure in thumbing their collective nose at the megaphone of the elite.

Be that as it may, it is refreshing to see the adults in the playground begin to pass judgment, for it is clear that several of the Rescumlican wannabees are completely devoid of the maturity and judgment, not to mention native intelligence and political organization, to be serious Presidential contenders.

Still, one must remember, the Iowa contest will not be decided by primary vote, or even a closed primary vote, where only registered party members cast ballots. Instead delegates to the national convention will be chosen at causes held in living rooms and school gymnasiums all across the state. Only those candidates who reach a certain ‘threshold’ of support will be considered, meaning that those supporting say a lightweight like Michelle Bachmann will soon discover that she has insufficient support and will then throw their weight behind another candidate, say Rick Santorum or Ron Paul. This is the reason Bachmann has taken on Ron Paul in the latest debate, not only has Paul perhaps the best organization in the state, but his pre-caucus polling numbers suggest that many of Bachmann’s and Santorum’s supporters are looking for a place to go after the first ballot and they would rather have Paul be in the position of having his supports desert him and come to them instead of the scenario that now seems likely. Clearly, this system, being so closed and involving such a low percentage of the qualified voters, gives immense advantage to those who have spent the time and the resources to build an organization and are now among the front-runners. As with Obama’s victory in Iowa four years ago (see previous posts), often the winner becomes every one else’s second choice.

This scenario favors Ron Paul, inasmuch as he has the national exposure and, like a stopped clock, is right twice a day. In his case he managed to parlay his opposition to the war in Iraq into a great deal of campus support in 2008 building a national organization and name recognition in the process. His ideas on spending and taxes are deplorably regressive and reactionary and will do material damage to the middle class should he prevail, but his early emergence on the war issue blinded many in the upcoming generation as to his domestic agendas. As a consequence he now stands before us as a first-tier contender who has the campaign experience and the organization to be a real spoiler in the race.

Recently the polls were showing ‘Baby Huey’ in the lead, Romney second, Paul Third. Bachmann and Santorum have been maneuvering to try to replace Paul so as to survive the Caucus and head to New Hampshire. To this observer, that seems unlikely. Neither have the organization to sustain them and their increasingly shrill campaigning will not suffice in this non-primary setting. From here it looks as if Paul may be the spoiler as Gingrich’s support begins to wane. Romney, I think will hold, but the party is still looking for some kind of viable alternative to the Mormon, and is now torn as it looks to alternatives. Gingrich, with all his baggage and his inability to organize, will struggle to win this contest. For Romney, despite his religion, has the inside track. That’s why the voices of influence are beginning to jump on his bandwagon. The issue will be decided at the South, the question being will the party be able to ‘organize’ around an alternative in time to grab the prize from the Mormon’s grasp. Not in Iowa, not in New Hampshire. Romney will hold his own in Iowa, win New Hampshire and then the real contest begins.

What the ‘tea baggers’ and the idiot wrong have to understand is what George Wallace did not. It is not enough to campaign and get crowds, one has to organize and for that there is precious little time.

December 17, 2011: The End of an Error, What Lurks Beneath, Hang in the Balance.

This year witnessed two important, if not earth-shaking events: the end of Glenn Beck’s stint on Fixed Noise and our military withdrawal from Iraq. What these will mean in the coming years will, from this vantage point, be difficult to surmise but one can only hope for the best.

After years of haranguing his audience with increasingly shrill, paranoid and, at times, delusional commentary Glenn Beck had become an embarrassment to even the likes of Roger Ailes at Fixed Noise. It is difficult to say at what point his daily tirades went over the line but for those of us who never thought we would live to see the day that the depths of journalistic depravity would never be sounded at the Murdock flag station it was indeed a happy day to see the fool crawl back under the rock that is talk radio; but we are left with only half a victory knowing that he still has the microphone and can still poison the well of public opinion. Why is it that these conservatives are such corpulent ignoramuses? Why is it that they all have the same prison pallor? Why is it that they every one of them--Boortz, Limbaugh, Beck, Rove, Coulter--all have that same pasty countenance one normally encounters when one overturns a rock to reveal what lurks beneath? Perhaps this is why John Boner spends so much time in the tanning booth, for they all know that their moribund ideas will not withstand the light of the noonday sun. In any event cable television, if not talk radio, has become that much more civilized.

Speaking of civilized, the Iraqis’, in the immortal words of Bob Dylan, now too have god on their side. It was announced this week that the United States is completing its military withdrawal from Iraq after nine and a half years of conflict. Much was made of the events here in the States with the nightly news showing the American Flag being lowered for the last time in Baghdad juxtaposed with scenes of welcome home celebrations as our soldiers return to their homes and families. The press, as always, has given a veneer of success and happiness to the event with the implication being that the withdrawal was at our initiative with the Iraqi government ready to step into the breach. John McCain, always the polecat at the barn dance, looking for yet another way to savage this President and lamenting the premature end to his hundred-years war, took to the Senate floor to condemn the administration for pulling out of the beleaguered country.

The truth is otherwise, for the United States did not go into that good night voluntarily or quietly. In fact for months the administration negotiated with the Iraq government to allow us to leave several thousand Americans in the country holed up in military bases that would serve as a quick strike force should trouble (say the nationalization of the oil fields) develop. The Iraqis, eager to further legitimize themselves by ridding the country of foreign occupation balked. Even so the final stumbling block, it has been reported, proved to be the question of “extraterritoriality” wherein U.S. forces were subject to U.S. not Iraqi law. Having had enough of the likes of Blackwater shooting up the country only to be tried and largely let off by U.S. authority using U.S. military justice, the Iraqis balked at continuing the practices. The result was that we were, not so politely, asked to leave. And so the curtain falls, and we witness the end of yet another error.

Of course the supporters of the conflict will rightly point to the nascent Iraqi experiment in republican government and, misreading history, will claim that it was the much heralded ‘push’ engineered by George the Lesser, known in this column as ‘ol two-cows’ that was responsible for the successes that we have had. This has the salutary effect of legitimizing our military involvement and helps salve the wounded national conscience.

But even after nearly a decade and trillions of dollars in the effort it is difficult, at this distance, to speak with anything like confidence in the outcome. Just how far is the reach of Malaki’s government, how honest or efficient it is, and what is it’s span of control are, at this reading, matters of conjecture. I suspect only time will tell. What is clear is that the major ethnic and religious divisions still lurk just beneath the surface ready to re-emerge as soon as the United States is safely out of the equation.

The press, as always, follows the ambulance or in this case the pictures. Scenes featuring the changing of the guard and homecoming celebrations replete with assurances that it was our military intervention that made all the difference give this latest foreign adventure all the trappings of success that we gave to our dalliances in Cuba and the Philippines. In fact, what stability the central government in Baghdad now enjoys has much more to do with the several tribes and Sunni factions that --outraged by the arrogance and ruthlessness of Al Qaida --changed sides in 2007 and moved quickly to re-establish some semblance of order. Still, withal, one hears reports even recently of large scale suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism. How long the relative peace will last is still a question in dispute.

But there is also a larger story. The infrastructure in Iraq is still a shambles even in the wake of massive infusions of American aid. Electricity in Baghdad is available, in some neighborhoods, only a few hours each day. Sanitation systems are in ruin. Military roadblocks dot the landscape even in the nation’s capital. Why is that? Why after all these years and so much money are things still this bad? The answer is graft, corruption and the security issue. Billions have simply disappeared and security has been so bad that construction projects have been delayed or cancelled. How then can we see this as a success, and what does that augur for the future of the country? In the opinion of this observer we have done what we should have done, at least after the mistake to invade Iraq in the first place, and that is simply declare victory and go home.

But for the Iraqis and their government the end-game and our alliances hang in the balance.

December 15, 2011: The American Nightmare, American Paradox, Gullible's Travels.

The “American Dream” is becoming an American nightmare”
                                               ---from the 'Quotations of Chairman Joe'

The news services today led with stories concerning the nature of the American economy. One in two Americans, according to newly released census data can now be classified as either being impoverished or as “low income” giving further evidence of the decline of the middle class, and further impetus to the political polarization of the country. Meanwhile it was reported that six of the Walton’s, owners of Wal-Mart, are worth as much as the lowest 30% of the population. This is not without consequence. Over half of the schools, as reported on Yahoo yesterday, fail to meet federal education standards as the nation stands powerless to act.

It was also reported today that the Obama Administration is about to back off it’s efforts to levy a surtax on millionaires to pay for cuts in payroll withholdings on the working class. Once again the great unwashed--the ‘tea-baggers’ and the libertarians--have served the interests of the wealthy by holding hostage the crumbs from the table in the interests of protecting the wealthiest among us. Nothing, it appears, will stand in the way of the headlong drive to concentrate wealth into the fewest hands in the shortest time possible.

The paradox is that the American people, duly assembled, elected this divided government virtually guaranteeing ‘gridlock’. It was clear going into the election booth a year ago that the Rescumlicans would, following like sheep their unofficial icons of ignorance--Beck and Limbaugh, do nothing but grind the wheels of governance to a stop. And so they have. It is said the ‘Politics is the art of the possible”; that any political figure or any administration is constrained by what are, in reality, a set of limit of possibilities at any given time. In a republic these possibilities are imposed by the electorate by periodic elections if elections are to mean anything. Exercising their constitutional, if not their god-given, right to err, the great unwashed stampeded by the hysteria ginned up by the idiot wrong acted to nearly eliminate any further possibilities. As a consequence Obama has been further restrained by the modern Lilliputians in an ongoing farce known as “Gullible’s Travels”.

Dec 16, 2011

December 13, 2011: Another Man‘s Religion, ‘Baby Huey’ in the Lead, Spectator Sport.

“There is nothing more ridiculous than another man’s religion”

                                             ----from the “Quotations of Chairman Joe”

On an NBC panel tonight, featuring Chris Todd and other election analysts, recent polling has confirmed the surge of ‘Baby Huey’ to the head of the pack as the former House Speaker gains the lead. Gingrich is only the latest following Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, Texas Governor Perry and most recently Hermann Cain to challenge Mitt Romney for the lead in various straw polls and public opinion polls, as the ’fundamentalist’ base of the Rescumllican Party searches desperately for some alternative to the Mormon from Utah. Whether ‘Baby Huey’ is allotted more than his fifteen minutes of fame remains to be seen.

The assembled analysts were quick to point out the Achilles heel of the emerging Rescumlican field. Romney, running nearly even with Obama is the most electable but will have a hard time getting his party’s nomination, presumably because of his so-called ’health plan’ in Massachusetts and his earlier positions on taxation and social issues. Gingrich while facing an easier road to the nomination is reviled by Democrats and Independents alike and faces a daunting task winning the general election. So ended the analysis for further penetration into the political realities will reveal the darker side of American politics, places nightly commentators and news anchors fear to tread.

Simply put, to any honest political observer it is readily apparent that the fundamentalist base of the modern Rescumlican Party will not nominate a Mormon to carry its standard into the general election. Focusing on Romney’s so called “moderate” political record and pointing out--correctly--that the Massachusetts health care law is anathema to the political base of his party, the political pundits cover only part of the story and present only half the analysis.

Deviations from bedrock orthodoxy have not cost national political figures their party’s nomination. Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Bush the Greater, Bob Dole, John McCain and even Ronald Reagan deviated from orthodoxy when the recognized both unpopular and god-awful public policy when they saw it. Nixon instituted wage-price controls, gave us the Environmental Protection Agency, even called for a guaranteed annual income, Ford was Mr. Pragmatist incarnate, Bush raised Taxes, Dole worked with Democrats at least some of the time, even Reagan raised taxes and increased federal spending. However much is made of Romney the moderate, Romney the Compromiser, Romney the Reasonable, this is not what the fundamentalist base of his party finds troubling. It is Romney the Mormon.

To Southern Baptism, the place to which the modern Rescumlican party went in search of succor as it embraced southern politics after the flogging it took at the hands of Lyndon Johnson, Mormonism is seen as a nothing more than a cult. Through the eyes of Southern Baptism Mormonism not only appears ridiculous but, like Catholicism, is seen as a “cult”. Anyone embracing such a cult must, by definition, lack the moral fortitude and perhaps the intelligence necessary to see ’the light’. Such a man is disqualified from high office. It is the reverend Wright issue all over again unalloyed with issues of race.

The press, of course, not eager to offend the southern audience or the religious fundamentalists, fixes instead on the horse race betting as it always does that the public will be content with form rather than substance. Meanwhile in churches all across America, as in 1960, a campaign will be waged against the “Mormon’ discounting his beliefs as ludicrous and, by extension, his political standing. The analysts are right of course. Romney will find it hard to get the party nomination for he will fight to a near draw in Iowa, win New Hampshire and then head South where he will hit a brick wall. The question for the political base of the party is whether it can coalesce around a viable alternative, someone suitably protestant, in time. Enter Baby Huey. Oh yes he’s changed his religion. The once suitably Baptist, then Episcopalian is now Catholic.

December 10, 2011: Sold, Exile on K Street, The Gingrich That Stole Christmas.

Flashback: it is 1994 and the Rescumlicans have taken control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. At the head of the Rescumlican delegation was a brash young Congressman from Georgia who, after recruiting a bunch of right-wing ideologues and fashioning his so-called “contract on America”, ran a national campaign designed to gain control of the House. The campaign while proving successful produced an agenda that was not so successful. Only one of the ten planks in the platform that was the “contract” ever passed the house, none became law. For instance, the part calling for term limits became an almost immediate casualty.

Gingrich, having engineered the electoral upheaval, became the new incoming speaker. Not only did he prove brash, arrogant, and a bit uninformed, but--in what proved to be an early version of “unitary theory of government” immediately upon taking hold of the speaker’s gavel began to behave as if he were the center of government, as if he were in London and was now, as titular head of the house, serving as Prime Minister. It got so bad that at one news conference President Clinton had to remind the assembled reporters, if not the nation, that “I am still relevant”.

In a prophetic gesture, on an early January morning in 1994, as Gingrich was about to take the Gavel former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder of Colorado led a small band of Democratic members up the steep steps leading to the upper reaches of the capital dome, stepped outside and over the dome of the capitol building stretched a huge “sold” sign. It was a telling if brief demonstration in protest of what was surely to come.

Within hours a certain reprobate named Tom Delay would be elevated to the position of majority Whip of the house and would assist the speaker in forging alliances and otherwise selling the interests of the people to the lobbyists of K street. For 12 long years ’we the people’ were sent into exile as the k-street lobbyists took control of the national government.. What followed was not only massive rounds of deregulation, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, which allowed the banks to re-enter the stock market, but the shutdown of the federal government over Baby Huey’s attempt to gut Medicare, massive cuts in domestic spending, ending with the Jack Abramoff scandals. In fact, in the waning hours of Rescumlican control in 2006, long after Baby Huey was driven from office by his own party, one of the last acts of the malignant majority was an attempt to do away with the 40 hour work week.

In the weeks following the election of 1994 leading up to the holidays, as the shadow of Baby Huey stood over Washington and about to assume power, I entitled an entry to my journal “The Gingrich that Stole Christmas”, referring to what he was about to do to the already tattered social safety net. I remember one of the national journals had a similar revelation and stole my headline. It was, like Congresswoman Schroeder’s gesture, prophetic.

In fact Baby Huey, in his short stint as Speaker, had embroiled himself in so many confrontations, so many unpopular legislative initiatives and so much scandal (his book deal with Rupert Murdock being one of them) that he had by the late 1990’s become a poster child for Democratic Party fundraising. The mere thought of giving “le infant terrible” any additional leverage proved so repugnant and the Rescumlican majority had dwindled to such narrow margins that the leadership of the House--Bob Michaels of Illinois and a young John Boner of Ohio among them--approached the speaker after the 1998 elections and informed him that they would vote with the Democrats if he stood again for Speaker. Gingrich, by then perhaps the most reviled politician in America, promptly resigned not only his position as Speaker of the House, but his seat in congress. From there he assumed new roles as professor, writer, and yes, lobbyist.

Much has been made of Gingrich’s marital difficulties and the circumstances surrounding his separations and divorces but, like Herman Cain, much of this fixation obscures the greater point. Gingrich, for all his professorial manner, all of his attempts to portray himself as a “policy Wonk” in the mold of Bill Clinton, is pure fa├žade, for underneath the image lurks an agenda of pure greed. It is this greed, symbolized by congresswoman Schroeder’s trek up those steep stairs to the roof of the capitol, that is the real point. Under Gingrich, the House became a cesspool of corporate greed on the make with the House serving as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Corporate Cartels. It wasn’t so much the hypocrisy of Gingrich presiding over the votes to impeach President Clinton over an affair with a White House intern while the Speaker was having his own affair with his own intern, as much as the hypocrisy of presenting a Rescumlican agenda of economic opportunity while in the process selling the people’s government to the very forces that will bring the end of such opportunity.

Like Nixon, Gingrich is banking on the half-life of the collective memory of the country and is busy out and about refurbishing his “image”. But like the “new Nixon” this represents simply another Madison avenue make-over in service of the larger agenda which is to service the interests of the national and international cartels at the expense of the larger national interests and, perhaps, the republic itself.

December 9, 2011: Herman Cained, Splendid Diversions, Ultimate Uncle Tom.

It was announced over the weekend that presidential wanabee Hermann Cain, he of Godfather’s Pizza, has announced the suspension of his presidential campaign amidst the increasing number of revelations concerning untoward sexual conduct. The latest being a long affair with a woman ending as he was announcing his bid for the White House.

All of this is interesting, if not amusing, but hardly new to presidential politics. From the campaign against Thomas Jefferson in which it was alleged, correctly late twentieth century science would reveal, that Jefferson had fathered several children with his slave Sally Hemmings to the famous campaign against Grover Cleveland, where the opposition slogan ran “Ma, Ma, where’s my pa? He’s gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha”, to Nan Britton’s famous affair with Warren G. Harding in the white house, to Gary Hart and the “Monkey Business” revelations, to the many Clinton peccadilloes, Hermann Cain is only the last in a long list of public figures caught in such scandal.

While certainly entertaining, and sometimes a bit unseemly, these behaviors have served to derail several recent presidential bids and brought disrepute or resignation on several congressional leaders, but at some level have served as only splendid diversions. What’s lost in the ongoing revelations in this case is that most, if not all, of these “affairs” occurred while Mr. Cain was head of the National Restaurant Association. That is while he was functioning in his capacity as a lobbyist on Capitol Hill.

The internal contradiction implicit the spectre of an emerging spokesman for the “tea baggers” and the idiot wrong being nothing more than a lobbyist seeking direct rather than indirect political access has been lost not only on the conservative base of the Rescumlican Party but on the larger nation as a whole.

So now Hermann Cain, perhaps the ultimate “uncle Tom” takes his place as a minor footnote in the dustbin of history. No matter, for he will be well taken care of for waiting in the weeds is “Baby Huey” otherwise known as Newt Gingrich who now emerges as all other alternatives have self-destructed as the chief rival of Mitt Romney for the nomination by the Party of Greed. Cain represents precisely the kind of man to which Baby Huey will sell this country upon his elevation to the presidential chair.

Take heart Hermann, you may still have a future.

Nov 13, 2011

November 13, 2011: Adam Raised a Cain, Trouble in Every Paradise, You’ll Have to Decide

“Lost but not forgotten,
From the dark heart of a dream,
Adam raised a Cain” ----Bruce Springsteen “Adam Raised a Cain” (1)

As the Herman Cain campaign for the presidency becomes awash in the tidal wave of sexual scandal, the businessman from Georgia has found a way to blame God almighty for his troubles. 

In an article by AP columnist Ray Henry entitled “Cain says God persuaded him to run for president”,  Henry writes that Cain said that it was God who convinced him to enter the presidential race and quoted him as comparing himself to Moses by saying to his lord “You’ve got the wrong man, Lord.  Are you sure?”

Is this the uttering of a man with a messianic complex, or simply another in what is becoming a long line of presidential  wannabees whoring for support from the idiot wrong.  Perhaps it is neither, perhaps it is both.

Since the dawn of man, certainly since the dawn of religion, men have been about the business of blaming the lord for every misfortune.  This is especially true where his relation with woman is concerned.  Take the case of Lilith and Eve. “In Jewish folklore, from the 8th-10th Century Alphabet of Ben Sira onwards Lilith becomes Adam’s first wife, who was created at the same time and from the same earth as Adam.  This contrasts with Eve, who was created from one of Adam’s ribs.  The legend was greatly developed during the Middle Ages, in the tradition of Aggadic midrashim, the Zohar and Jewish mysticism.  In the 13th Century writings of Rabbi Isaac ben Jacob ha-Cohen, for example, Lilith left Adam after she refused to become subservient to him and then would not return to the Garden of Eden after she mated with archangel Samael. (2)  Regardless of the veracity of this account it is clear from the scriptures that there is trouble in any paradise, for in the first chapter’s we hear Adam complain to the Lord that eating the forbidden fruit was caused by the woman.  The woman here being the culprit and the Lord an accessory for giving Adam this woman in the first place.  And so we see the beginnings of a long and disgraceful tradition of casting blame for one’s personal shortcomings on those immediately at hand and, failing that, upon the Lord himself.

There are now 4 women who have come forth to claim that they were sexually harassed by Herman Cain while he was heading up the National Restaurant Association, one of whom has come public with graphic details.  Cain’s supports have quickly questioned her word by pointing out that she had filed similar charges against another employer About the veracity of at least some of the charges there can be no doubt since at least one of them is under a court “gag” order reached as part of a settlement agreement in legal action taken against Cain at the time of the incidents.   He, of course, claims his honor despite having settled the lawsuit and paid undisclosed damages. 

Nevertheless the idiot wrong, always impervious to empirical evidence, demonstrates once again that ideology trumps the historical record.  Accordingly Cain claims to have raised more money since the scandals broke and his standing among primary voters seems to be holding firm among the tea baggers and other deniers’ of truth.

This slight-of-hand is, of course, deftly accomplished by hiding the evidence behind the curtain of religion.  Accordingly,  BEAMER Cain has called upon the name of the Lord to sanctify the endeavor and, as if to say, whatever the fallout  from such an effort will also be the Lord’s doing. 

Let’s take the President of Pizza Pie at his word.  Let’s assume, for the moment, all that is unfolding is by “intelligent”, if not divine,  design.  Why would the Lord want Cain in the race if, in so doing, the effort is destined to go down in a flaming ruin?

Could it be that the Lord is disgusted with the flat-taxers and by goading Cain into the race bring  further disgrace to the movement to shield the rich from further inconvenience?   Could this also be the reason that the other champion of “flat tax” Rick Perry was struck dumb in last week’s Rescumlican debate in Pontiac Michigan?  The lord works in mysterious ways.

“I can’t think for you
You’ll have to decide
Whether Judas Escariot
Had God on his side” -----Bob Dylan “With God on our Side”.


                    (1). Html.
                    (2).  http://en/
                    (3).  Op.cit

Nov 5, 2011

November 5, 2011: Return to Custer, A Word about The Word, Pigs Breakfast.

“He that controls language, controls everything” –from the “Quotations of Chairman Joe

It was during one of my visits to the “farm” (1) that I received one of my great life lessons.
Following the usual talk with grandmother, I had occasion to speak with grandfather and my great-uncle Lionel.  Lionel was, for his time, a learned man; one of the few in the family to have actually walked the halls of higher learning in the early 20th century.  He was well read and could converse intelligently on nearly any subject from agriculture and applied mechanics to philosophy and religion.  He understood, as those that lit the prairie fire that was the “progressive movement”, that language is everything.

This is a biblical concept and, befitting a descendent of Methodist clergy, an especially Protestant one.  For when God said “let there be light” and, by the power of the word alone, there was created the “big bang” it is a very powerful thing indeed.  But to us mere mortals the power inherent in the ‘word’ assumes other, more modest, manifestations. 

In the temporal world the ‘word’ is a symbol.  The ‘word’ cannot embrace everything; wrap its arms around the entirety. The word ‘carrot’ for instance, is not a carrot.  It is simply a series of symbols in the form of written or spoken letters and sounds that convey the idea of a ‘carrot’.  One cannot see the carrot upon the page or in the ear; one cannot smell it or taste it.  One can only conjure the idea of it as it corresponds to one’s experience in encountering the ‘thing’.  Or, take for instance, the word ‘house’.  What kind of house, a palace, a mansion, a Victorian, a hovel?  What does one mean?  To answer this, a whole dictionary of words to explain the noun or pronoun, be they adjectives to define the noun, or adverbs to describe the action have evolved to give greater clarity and meaning.  For instance, H.C. Brunner describing New York City’s “Shantytown” for “Scribner’s Monthly” in the mid 19th century had this to say:  “The shanty”, he wrote, “is the most wonderful instance of perfect adaptation of means to an end in the whole range of modern architecture”.  There was not any general method for describing a shanty, “each must be studied by itself” for in the tangle of ramshackle dwellings, “individual combinations are lost in the prevailing lawlessness of line and hue.” The shanty architect said Brunner, “revels in unevenness”. (2) While colorful, and reflecting a certain bourgeois bias, Brunner’s attempt to capture life among New York’s ‘other half’ fails to wrap its arms around the smells, the poverty, the fears, the insecurities in a city where fully a quarter of the adult population were members of gangs.    

The ‘word’, it transpires, is not the same thing for us mere mortals. The ‘word’ is not the thing, the word is only a pale symbol of the thing but in the absence of the genuine article it must stand as substitute. This is why the ‘word’ is constantly subject to interpretation be it Bible or Constitution; for however hallowed the word upon which it is written it is still a pale substitute for the genuine article.  What is meant by “honor thy father” or the 10th Amendment is left to the interpretation of the larger society at any given time and, more troubling in our age, the individual.  To insure some modicum of consistency a whole series of doctrines, reference materials, bodies of law and interpretations have been put forward over the centuries establishing various “traditions” in which to put the original “word” into some relevant context.  To this end certain words assume certain meanings in the social traditions assuring that discussion and debate occur within the generally understood boundaries of those traditions be they religious, cultural or national. 

This was the meaning behind the question posed to me by my great Uncle as he sat, a mere 100 pounds of swollen joints, (3) in his wheelchair behind his desk in the living room of the old farmhouse. 

“Tell me Joe” he asked (as if to say you’re a college boy now, you should know this), “what’s the difference between a contradiction and a paradox?” 

“I’m not sure,” I replied.  A look of resignation emerged followed with a touch of mild disappointment. Then quickly his eyes brightened and a smile crossed his face as he saw an opportunity to impart a lesson to the emerging lad. 

“A contradiction is when something appears to be false and is false”, he said.
“A paradox is when something appears false and is true.” 

“Ah”, said I, recognizing a certain mastery of language but uncertain as to its full meaning.

It took years to understand that full meaning of that little exchange: however one defines the terms one must be careful about the use thereof, for each term has a specific and a general meaning depending upon the context.  Carelessness, he seemed to be saying, sows confusion. He meant more than that of course, but it would take much longer to see all the ramifications therein.  To use terms interchangeably, carelessly, can be more than confusing it can be dangerous.

Later Lionel’s brief lesson would be reinforced by admonitions from professors not to use Totalitarian, for instance, as a substitute for Authoritarian, for they are not the same animal. 
These are lessons to heed, if only imperfectly, as one goes about conducting public discourse.

In this context there is nothing more ridiculous than Glen Beck standing before a blackboard equating communism and fascism. Why anyone would seek counsel from someone who, like Limbaugh, has chosen to elect himself out of an education is beyond me.  To equate Obama with Hitler and Stalin in the same breath or to equate Islam with communism is to do violence against the language that approaches rape.  It is either a deliberate smear or the wailing of a lunatic or both, but in seeking to destroy the meaning and context of the terms, Beck and his ilk go about sowing the seeds of confusion so as to create fear and, by so doing, stampede the next election.

Watching Beck I learned, finally, the rest of the lesson taught so long ago in Custer: making a pig’s breakfast of the language is more than confusing, it is dangerous.
(1)               (1)  See post of December 15, 2010 for discussion of the “farm”
(2)               (2)  Brunner, H.C., “Shantytown” Scribner’s Monthly Vol. 20 pp. 855-859
(3)  Great uncle Lionel suffered from Rheumatoid arthritis for most of the latter part of his life.
(3)               (4)  Happy Guy Fawkes Day


Oct 30, 2011

October 30, 2011: Imagine There’s No Pizza, If 9 were 6, Thin Crust and Red Meat.

"Cain performed "Imagine There's No Pizza", a gospel-flavored parody of the John Lennon songs "Imagine" and "Give Peace a Chance", at an Omaha Press Club event in 1991. A video of this performance became popular during his 2012 campaign. "(1)  This, according to Wikipedia Cain performed with a group of “female backup singers while he wore white preacher’s robes”.  Let’s take a look at this erstwhile Rescumlican presidential wannabee and see how he cuts the pie.

Herman Cain emerges unto the presidential stage boasting a background as businessman and radio talk show host, both of which immediately disqualify him from further consideration.   Let’s look at the Business record:
“At age 36, Cain was assigned in the 1980s first to analyze and manage 400 Burger King stores in the Philadelphia area. At the time, Burger King was a Pillsbury subsidiary. Under Cain, his region posted strong improvement in three years. According to a 1987 account in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Pillsbury's then-president Win Wallin said, "He was an excellent bet. Herman always seemed to have his act together."  At Burger King, Cain "established the BEAMER program, which taught our employees, mostly teenagers, how to make our patrons smile" by smiling themselves. It was a success: "Within three months of the program's initiation, the sales trend was moving steadily higher."[34]

His successes at Burger King prompted Pillsbury to appoint him president and CEO of another subsidiary, Godfathers Pizza. Cain arrived on April 1, 1986, and told employees, "I'm Herman Cain and this ain't no April Fool's joke. We are not dead. Our objective is to prove to Pillsbury and everyone else that we will survive." Cain, over a 30-month period, reduced the company from 640 stores to 563 . As a result of his efforts, Godfather's Pizza sales were reduced from $275 million in 1986 to $242.5 million in 1988. Godfather's Pizza was performing poorly, and had slipped in ranks of pizza chains from 3rd in 1985 to fifth in 1988 . In a leveraged buyout in 1988, Cain, Executive Vice-President and COO Ronald B. Gartlan and a group of investors, bought Godfather's from Pillsbury. Godfather's sales remained level with Cain as CEO, ending at $265 million for 540 stores in 1996, when he resigned.” (2)

So for all the “smiling” introduced by Cain he enjoyed modest success whilst at Burger King but nevertheless presided over a contraction at Godfather’s Pizza resulting in the closing of stores and the reduction in annual earnings.  Imagine another cheerleader in charge of the national destiny!

One must approach Pizza men with gloves on for the level of ignorance is truly threatening to the republic.  I am reminded of Tom Monihan taking ownership to the Detroit Tigers in the mid 1980’s.  He immediately replaced the retiring Jim Campbell with the University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembeckler.  How a college football coach would be suitable as general manager for a professional major-league baseball team only Monihan could discern.  The fact is that it wasn’t a very good fit.  Within a few short years the Tigers would begin that long slide that led to the eventual loss of nearly 120 games in a single season and would take over a decade to rectify.  In fact, things got so bad, that the league contemplated for a time taking over the team while Monihan still ran the show.  One of Domino Pizza’s executives tried to explain the situation to a reporter late in the Monihan era. “You don’t understand my boss”, he said.  “Whenever Monihan is confronted with a problem his answer it to put more pepperoni on it”.  Therein lies the problem.

Simple solutions for simple minds.  The question is which head holds the mind of the simpleton, the erstwhile candidate or the collective cranium of his following? Perhaps it is one or the other, perhaps it is both. 

For our purposes let’s review the 9-9-9 proposal set forth by Cain in the Rescumlican debates as the leitmotif of this attempt to simply weigh the product down with more pepperoni. The "centerpiece" of Cain's presidential campaign has been the "9-9-9 plan", which would replace all current taxes (including the Payroll Tax, Capital Gains Tax, and the Estate Tax) with 9% business transaction tax; 9% personal income tax rate, and a 9% federal sales tax. According to Cain, corporations would be able to deduct costs of goods sold (provided the inputs were made in America) and capital expenditures, but not wages, salaries and benefits to employees. Deductions, except charitable giving, would be eliminated. The federal sales tax would not apply to used goods. Cain also said that the 9-9-9 Plan would lift a $430 billion dead-weight burden on the economy..

Herman Cain stated the following summary about the 9-9-9 Plan:
“Our current economic crisis calls for bold action to truly stimulate the economy and Renew America back to its greatness. The 9-9-9 Plan gets Washington D.C. out of the business of picking winners and losers, using the tax code to dole out favors, and dividing the country with class warfare. It is fair, simple, transparent and efficient. It taxes everything once and nothing twice. It taxes the broadest possible base at the lowest possible rates. It is neutral with respect to savings and consumption,capital and labor, imports and exports and whether companies pay dividends or retain earnings.(3) This, of course, is pure balderdash.  It is neither fair, transparent or efficient and it does not tax everything once and nothing twice.  My wages, for instance, are taxed at the workplace, at the supermarket, and with several value-added taxes as goods make their way through the production and distribution chain. Wealth, of course, walks away from the table unburdened.

According to the analysis of Howard Gleckman the Tax Policy Center,
“When you get right down to it, Cain’s [9-9-9] plan is a 25 percent flat-rate consumption tax — not all that different from the FAIR tax that he says is his ultimate goal. This tax would be paid three times: first on wage income, again at the cash register as a sales tax, and yet again by businesses on their sales minus their cost of goods and services. For tax junkies, the first is a flat tax. The second is a retail sales tax and the third a business transfer tax. But they are all consumption taxes.

Although Cain has spoken about having designated 'empowerment zones' wherein a lower percentage, such as 3%, is paid instead, apart from this consideration, some have called Cain's plan more regressive than current policy, thinking it would raise taxes for most households, but cut them for a majority of those with the highest income.’

“However,” (the article continues) “this analysis of Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 Plan seems to have forgotten payroll taxes. With payroll taxes the employer and the employee split the tax.” This agruement is, of course, bogus. Once again, to wit: All of the value generated to pay the taxes is created by the worker.  The employer simply hijacks his portion of the tax burden as part of the wealth he ‘expropriates” from the worker and affixes his name to it.  Ask the proponents of these schemes if they really think the capitalist will give back all that is currently being withheld instead of simply pocketing it.  The fact is these costs are duly factored in to the “costs of labor” by any business accountant worth his salt belying in the language the actual fact that the entirety of the tax burden is in fact borne by labor.
“In a October 18, 2011 debate several of the other contenders for the GOP nomination attacked the plan, with candidate Rick Santorum  referencing the Tax Policy Center's claim that 84% of Americans would pay more and that the plan would entail "major increases in taxes on people," a charge Cain has refuted ." (3)

Even Republicans, it seems, can spot a red herring when they see it or, perhaps, more pepperoni that the pie can hold. The 9-9-9 plan could just as easily been 6-6-6 for all the care that has been taken in considering the effect it would have on the commonweal.  Beware of the Pizza man bearing gifts for you will be left with thin crust and as much red meat profit demands.

As a simple litmus test ask yourself why, when these proposals are floated, do not the wealthy bankers, hedge fund managers, holders of derivatives and credit default swaps, or other icons of the rich and powerful howl in agony?  The answer is that these proposals are their proposals. (4)  Pete DuPont made the mistake of putting them on the table himself and, by so doing, being altogether too transparently self-serving.  Now they hire the political ignoramus, or the well-healed shill to do it for them.  Pimps for the Grand O’l Prostitute, the GOP., of which Herman Cain is only the latest in a long sorry line.
4. Note that Cain has worked for the Koch brothers “ Americans for Prosperity” a wrong-wing stink tank funded by the Koch family for the purposes of furthering greed in America.  This is yet another attempt to run regressive tax proposals up the pole in the name of “fairness” and “prosperity” when in fact it is nothing other than an effort to relieve the Koch’s of any remaining stigma attached to the concept of “Noblesse Oblige”.

October 29, 2011: Fool Me Two Times, Arms around Ignorance, Some Things Never Change

 "Fool me two times girl
fool me twice today
fool me two-times baby
i'm going away
fool me two-times yeah
once for tomorrow
once just for today"....... Parody of  The Doors "Love Me Two Times". 

How does one get one’s arms around such ignorance?  Where does one begin?  At MSNBC and Current TV as well as the publications of Rachel Maddow and Al Franken, a veritable cottage industry has arisen to try to answer the outrageous assertions coming hourly from the “idiot wrong”.

This headlong drive to stupidity, this “will to ignorance” finds many manifestations, most recently in the form of tax proposals by Rescumlican wannabees Governor Rick Perry of Texas and former Pizza executive Herman Cain.  These proposals, a 20% “flat tax” put forward by the Texan and the so-called 9-9-9 proposal by Mr. Cain are derivatives of the old rescumlican push to eliminate whatever progressivity still exists in the tax code in favor of the seemingly “fair” flat tax.  For our purposes, I’m republishing a previous post on the then so-called “fair tax” proposal that was floated in the 2008 election and championed by yet another conservative neophyte Governor Huckabee of Arkansas.  Here, then, is how it looked four years ago.  Some things never change:

“Why is it that every time one sees a fundamentalist preacher turned politician campaigning for the Presidency he has the Bible in his left hand, his right index finger in your face and a tax cut for the rich in his back pocket? It is difficult to say, perhaps overweening ambition, perhaps the reluctance or the inability to understand something as complex as economics, perhaps intellectual laziness, perhaps a simple willingness to be a shill for wealth. But in any case we are now presented with another such spectacle this time in the form of Mike Huckabee, our very own Elmer Gantry.

He arrived late to the Presidential sweepstakes and took up the twin causes of God and good government in an effort to gin up the support of the fundamentalist wrong that heretofore were seen to have controlled the proceedings. Initially his message was a welcome variant from the old standard in which Christ was seen not as the apostle of greed but became, briefly in the hands of the Reverend Mike, once again the God of compassion. Accordingly Mike spoke eloquently, if only briefly, of our collective need to tend to the least among us. But his campaign, after Iowa, gained little traction with victories limited by religious and sectional boundaries. In order to breathe new life into his flagging effort, the Huckster has now transformed himself into a full-throated champion of the so called “Fair Tax”, not so much to win the nomination but to pick up the broken petard of Pat Robertson and become the new Champion of the idiot right.

Accordingly he is now out canvassing the country saying that “in Arkansas if it can’t be fixed with duct tape it cannot be fixed, and the tax code and the IRS cannot be fixed with duct tape”. There you have it in a ‘nut’ shell. If it cannot be fixed with duct tape it must go. Well Mike, I hate to break the news but you cannot fix the schools with duct tape, you cannot fix the military with duct tape, you cannot fix the roads with duct tape…..shall we get rid of those too? Talk to any heating and cooling contractor and you will learn that in fact one cannot fix anything with duct tape, not even ductwork. But it is by these standards that the Huckster wages his war to rid us of the onerous Internal Revenue Service.

No one, especially a progressive, is about to defend the present system of how we tax ourselves in these United States. The present tax code is as close to a ‘flat’ tax as we have seen in generations, with nearly all the progressivity having been taken out of it. But the problem of taxation in America is not that we are being taxed too much, for we rank near the bottom in overall taxation among industrial countries. It is that the near elimination of the graduated income tax of our forefathers has produced a society that has increasingly become more bifurcated between great wealth and the struggling rest of us. This tax proposal, coming as it does on the abject failure of a straight out ‘flat’ tax proposed by the likes of Pierre DuPont in his Presidential campaigns, is even more regressive. It would move the tax burden increasingly from the wealthy unto the backs of the working middle and lower classes; increasing the taxation on work while nearly eliminating the taxation of wealth.

When our forefathers introduced the graduated income tax they understood, as the ‘boomers’ apparently do not, that it is better to tax wealth than tax work. Reasoning from the tenets of Adam Smith, the founder of modern free-market capitalism, that work produces wealth, our forefathers rightly concluded that it would be counterproductive to tax work since it was through work that all wealth originates. Better, they said, to tax wealth at a higher rate. By taxing wealth at higher rates it leaves work with a relatively lighter share of the overall burden, freeing it to generate more wealth. This reasoning took the form of the distinction, in the terminology of our ancestors, between what was called “earned” and “unearned” income. Better they said to tax at higher rates unearned income (income from rents, interest and profits), than earned income (income from wages). Accordingly heavier taxes were laid upon the upper income tax bracket (in the 90% range), capital gains and estate taxes. The result was a more egalitarian society, one in which the fruits of our collective labor were generally shared, a society in which we witnessed the explosive growth of a large industrial middle class.

But the ‘Boomers’, the grand recipients of our forefathers collective wisdom, saw nothing in the lessons taught that we felt obliged to learn. Accordingly we have followed the siren song of greed introducing one tax ‘reform’ after another from the tax limitation craze set off by Howard Jarvis in California in the late ‘70s, to Ronald Reagan and the Republican assault on the graduated income tax, to the several flat tax proposals, and efforts to eliminate outright the capital gains and estate taxes. Let us take a brief look at the latest entry in the tax ‘reform’ craze put forward by the conservative stink tanks. The effort, such as it is, requires more from us than it deserves.

John Kenneth Galbraith once termed economics the ‘dismal science’, and although he was referring to the writings of Smith, Malthus and Ricardo, he can also be read to understand that approaching a study of economic theory or practice is like going to the dentist. Accordingly one approaches the study of the “Fair Tax” with all the enthusiasm of facing root canal work.

The idea came out of the bowels of Americans for Fair Taxation as a simple shell game in which the tax burden would be shifted from income taxes on profits and wages to what is, in effect, a national sales tax. Now even a flat rate tax of say 10 or 12%, as our friend Pierre DuPont proposed, has at least the appearance of ‘progressivity’ inasmuch as that the more one makes the more taxes one pays. But the so called “Fair Tax” proposes a 23% sales tax on all goods and services. It would eliminate taxes on savings and investments, all estate taxes, and virtually every other form of taxation. The result is that the tax burden would be shifted entirely onto consumption. What this means is that there becomes an inverse relation between income and the effective level of taxation. That is the lower your income the higher the percentage of your income to taxation. Those at the lowest levels, required as they are to spend virtually every cent on necessities, would pay the going rate. The higher one’s income the more can be put aside for saving and investment which, under this scheme, is shielded from taxation. Yes say the proponents but when it is withdrawn it is spent and taxes are paid on it. No say we critics because the interest on this money is earned and compounded while in the bank and is not subject to taxation. “Unearned” income, which is income nonetheless, is not subject to taxation unless and until it is spent. Suppose it is not spent, suppose it is left to constantly multiply itself over a period of time. Yes when it finally is withdrawn from the bank to make some purchases it is taxed but in the meantime it is tax free. Wages are not so lucky. One is presented then with the spectacle of the worker being taxed at every turn while the investor merely clips his coupons and watches his money grow.

What the inventors of this scheme have done is take the entire cost of government and raise the money by levying a consumption or sales tax. The proposal, with the requisite misleading moniker of ‘Fair Tax’ has the appearance, like the flat tax, of fairness. Everyone pays the same tax, right? Wrong. Everyone pays the same tax, as now, at the checkout counter, but not everyone pays the same effective tax. Whole parts of the economy, principally the investment community, earn money but are exempt from taxation. So for instance, the poor slob earning $15,000. a year pays an effective tax at the going rate of 23% while the billionaire, because so much of his money is off earning income at compounded rates tax free, pays an effective rate of less than 2%.

What makes this shell game so appealing is the deceptively simple complexity of it. It reminds me, in a perverse way, of the objections modern Republicans raise to the idea of returning to a graduated income tax. “The rich already pay the lion’s share of income taxes”, they point out parroting the talking points of the Republican National Committee. The Rich do pay nearly two thirds of all income tax in this country. But that is precisely the problem. The fact that the upper ten percent carry such a burden is not due to the unfairness of the present system or to the horrors of reinstituting the tax code of John Kennedy or even Jimmy Carter. It is due, quite simply, to the fact that the wealthy now own such a large share of the economic pie. No the answer is not to lower taxes on the all too heavily burdened upper classes, it is instead to raise those taxes and return a greater share of the wealth to those who labored to produce it in the first place. What is needed is a candidate for President to look the American people in the eye and tell them that what we want to see is the middle class paying 80% of the income taxes, because under this administration the middle class will control 80% of the wealth.

There are other problems with this so-called "fair tax" proposal:

There is the question of the effective tax rate. Proponents say that it is 23% but for the scheme to be income neutral—that is for it to generate as much money into the federal treasury as the current system—the effective tax on goods and services would be at least 30% and, according to the President’s Advisory Panel on Tax Reform, as much as a 34% in order to fund government at present levels. In fact according to economist William Gale of the Brookings Institution taxation at the 23% rate would blow a 7 trillion dollar hole in the budget over 10 years and he projects a more realistic rate of 31% or higher in order to reach present levels of funding.(see This new tax would be levied at time of purchase on new homes, rent, interest on credit cards, mortgages and car loans, doctor bills, utilities, gasoline (current taxes would not be repealed) legal fees, ad nauseum.

Conservative radio talk-show host Neil Boortz contends that there will be a 22% reduction in prices as companies will be able to produce and sell goods and services cheaper because they would no longer be required to withhold taxes. This is a blanket admission, by one of the scheme’s principal proponents, that by passing the savings on to the consumer wages will in effect be cut by at least 22%. In other words the money now being withheld would not be returned to the worker but would instead be passed on to the consumer who would then realize the savings when the product is purchased. For the worker, on the other hand, the tax burden remains but must now be paid at the check out counter. The tax must be paid, albeit at the reduced price, not with one’s old ‘gross’ income but with one’s old ‘net income’ that is what was previously left after the old IRS got done with it. Assuming that all of the savings are passed on to the consumer this is at best a simple economic wash. No real savings emerges.

Now either prices increase or wages must fall. Either the employer pockets the monies formerly withheld and passes the savings on to the consumer in which case it is a dead wash—if, and it’s a big if, all of said savings are recycled back to the worker as consumer. The worker is then confronted with a giant leap in retail prices. If the schemers allow us to keep all our earnings and we have all of our former paycheck in hand then prices we will face will be as high as 34% greater. In any case the system, as presented, is a wash. The proponents contend that it will raise as much money as the present system. The question is why make the change?
The answer lies in the hidden agendas. Remember these are the same folks that have been toying with the tax code now for nearly a generation, killing with a thousand cuts the golden goose given us by our ancestors. It began at the 1976 Democratic National Convention when Jimmy Carter, as he accepted his party’s nomination for the Presidency, called the American tax code a “disgrace to the human race.” The problem facing the nation at the time was that the tax code as it had evolved in the postwar era had not been adjusted for inflation. Greater numbers of working Americans were now lifted, by the hyperinflation of the era, into higher tax brackets fuelling a nation-wide tax revolt. Carter in calling for reform gave voice and legitimacy to this growing concern. Instead of simply adjusting the tax code for inflation the Democrats stalled and it was left to Ronald Reagan to do the reforming.

Posturing as a progressive Reagan, much as ‘Ol Two-Cows would do two decades later, put conservative stink tanks in overdrive spinning ‘tax reform’ that had the veneer of being progressive but in effect shifted the tax burden increasingly from wealth to work. Accordingly they cut the highest tax brackets from 72% to 35%; they cut the capital gains tax in half, made similar reductions in the estate tax. They increased Social Security withholding taxes and cut federal revenue sharing meaning that state and local governments, funded on flat rate income or sales taxes, were left to make up the difference. This had the effect of further shifting taxation over the entire spectrum from the graduated income to more regressive forms of taxation. To add insult to injury they eliminated the exemptions for consumer loans, most medical bills, and other previous exemptions that the middle class had enjoyed so as to raise the needed revenues. The result, as has been noted by Republican turned independent Kevin Phillips, is that there has been a growing gap between rich and poor and the middle class, now owning a smaller share of the national economy than at any time since before 1929, is shrinking relative to the rest of the economy. The economic high tides of the 80’s and 90’s did not, as Reagan had promised, raise all boats; and under the maladministration of ‘Ol Two-Cows, over 5 million have slipped through the now tattered safety net into poverty. It is from advocates such as these that the latest incarnation of ‘tax reform’ in the shape of the so called ‘fair tax’ comes. The question poses itself: why trust them?
The shell game gets complicated. The proposal calls for a “Prebate” program in which those at the lowest levels will be reimbursed for taxes paid giving the act a ‘populist’ veneer but this would ensure, under a revenue neutral standard, that the middle class will bear a greater share of the burden. And, to be fair, the proposal does for the first time shift social security funding in such a way as to make the rich belly up to the bar and pay more. But the fact remains that this is perhaps the most regressive tax proposal to ever have reached the national political debate since early in the nineteenth century. It is a shell game in which wealth walks away from the table nearly scot-free.

Nor does the ‘Fair Tax’ eliminate the IRS as the Huckster would have us believe. Some agency, however named, will have to collect the taxes. Taxes, in the new form would simply be collected not by the employer but by the merchant. How the retail industry will react to this burden is unclear. This proposal, by their own admission, will not cut the overall tax burden it will simply shift who will pay it. To suggest otherwise is to hint at a hidden agenda in which the real purposes are to simultaneously cut taxes on wealth and cut government revenue so as to further savage governance. It gets harder to fund the OSHA or the Consumer Protection Agency, when funding has gone dry. Whatever the real intent, one smells a rat under the kitchen sink.

It is doubtful that neither the Huckster nor Neil Boortz has studied Econ 101. If they had they would be able to recognize so obvious an economic shell game. Let us give them the benefit of the doubt and put this present misunderstanding down to a lack of proper schooling. To assume otherwise is to understand that they have become mere shills for great wealth, mere apologists for their corporate paymasters, and mere pimps for the GOP-- the Grand Old Prostitute.

In the immortal words of ‘Ol Two-Cows’, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me, fool me three times, ‘won’t get fooled again’. No! No! “
For another assessment of the impact of the “Fair Tax “proposal see: