Aug 5, 2012

August 6, 2012: Nowhere Man, Wimp Factor II Sulu, Howdy Doody Time

“Doesn’t have a point of view
Knows not where he’s going to” ---the Beatles, “Nowhere Man”

Dullard “Mitt” Romney returned home this week to be greeted by a cover spread in Newsweek magazine with the headline " Wimp Factor”.  It was a reprise of the old Newsweek edition in 1988 on George H.W. Bush during his campaign against the diminutive Michael Dukakis.  Newsweek ran with that theme about Bush the Greater because good old George appeared limp-wristed and had a penchant for hewing too closely to Reagan Republican Orthodoxy.  Having raised the cry for a “kinder, gentler America” he quickly reverted back to the old faux bravado with his now infamous challenge to “Read my lips…”  The press, sensing a lack of resolve, quickly raised the “wimp” issue.

But when it comes to “Quayling” before the forces of reaction, old George was a mere piker compared to the man from” nowhere”.  Upon close examination there is not a single issue of substance, not a single issue of consequence that Dullard Romney has not previously staked out that he has not, within recent months, reversed himself.  In 1994 he told the press that he would be a greater champion of Gay rights than Ted Kennedy.  In those days he supported a woman’s right to choose, as Governor of Massachusetts he signed a law banning assault weapons, and instituted universal health reforms.  All of these things he has now repudiated, and refuses to run on his record as governor lest he remind once again the Idiot Wrong that is the base of his party  that he cannot be trusted.

Moreover when Rush to Judgment Limbaugh savaged Sandra Fluke this spring over women’s reproductive rights, Nowhere Man was nowhere to be found.  When Michelle Bachman periodically utters another of her insane conspiracy theories, or Donald Trump challenges the President’s birthplace, or any of a number of inanities and insanities are uttered by the Idiot Wrong, the Dullard is nowhere to be found.  He is not your father’s Romney and it leaves the nation wondering when will he stand up to the forces of ignorance, racism, intolerance and stupidity.
One suspects that he will not, for there is nothing in the record of his political career that does not smack of unlimited political expediency.  He is a shell, an empty shirt, driven by nothing but blind ambition. 

There are two reasons a man seeks the public trust.  The first is to do something; the second is to become somebody.  Dullard Romney is of the second order.  We’ve seen this before, and all too recently with Dubya.  Both “boys” see in the Presidency a chance to step from the long shadows of their fathers.  Both ‘boys” are using the public trust be become somebody; to become men.  Both are politicians who are hollow at the core, men seeking office to fill the emptiness in their souls, to find an affirmation otherwise unattainable.  It is a validation in form only—not in substance—and the elevation of such a person to the highest office in the land can only bode ill for the body politic.   

With the Scumlords working the ropes, Romney is increasingly looking like old Howdy Doody: a wooden head, an empty chest, and able to posture only with the support and by the manipulation of his puppeteers.   The problem is that in the oval office there is no Buffalo Bob to give a moral compass to this marionette.

August 5, 2012: Foot Soldiers of Fascism, Slumlord Becomes Scumlord, Bitter Irony

“Obama is not Hitler.  It is not the President who would put the state in exclusive service to corporate interests; it is the “Teabaggers”.  It is they who are the foot soldiers of fascism.”

                            ---from the “Quotations of Chairman Joe”

I bring up this business with the EGG movement from 1995 by way of illustration.  Like the contemporary “Teabaggers” this group represented a movement long on rhetoric and short on solutions; a movement giving vent to anger and frustration but exhibiting a pervasive ignorance not only of how our world is organized, but of our collective history; a movement purportedly representing the hopes and dreams of hard-working ordinary people, but in fact servicing the narrow interests of a select and wealthy few. 

The most singular issue sparking the emergence of the so-called Ethics in Good Government movement was opposition to zoning.  Ionia County was then one of only 2 remaining counties in the state that had not adopted a county-wide zoning ordinance with such issues left to the local townships to decide and enforce.  No one had proposed county-wide zoning but that didn’t prevent a group of right-wing nuts from launching the movement.  Appearing on the local radio program “Viewpoint”, spokesmen for the group openly cited references to zoning in the 1920 Communist Manifesto as evidence of evil intent. It was, of course obfuscation, a smear.  I don’t think there is such a thing as a 1920 Communist Manifesto. I’ve read the works of Marx and I can testify that nowhere in his writings does the word “zoning” appear. In any case, like old Joe McCarthy, they would level these charges but never produce the documentation.  Nevertheless such nonsense went unchallenged on the air, giving credence to the cretins and further fuelling the fires of fear.  The real problem with zoning was of course the implicit threat such a regimen would impose on the freedom of our slumlord to further exploit and abuse his neighbors.  What the eggheads in the EGG movement refused to understand was the implicit contradiction in their behavior: they thought they were foot soldiers in the cause of justice and freedom, when in fact they were acting in the narrow interests of a cheap-jack real estate hustler.

Fast forward to the present: today we have on our hands a national movement funded entirely by billionaires through their henchmen. The singular issue sparking the so-called “TEA” movement is taxes.  As in Taxed Enough Already, as their placards proclaim.  This movement emerged full-throated in April of 2009 just in time to protest tax deadline day.  Never mind that no one was proposing a tax increase, never mind that the tax code being the object of such protest was that of George W. Bush, never mind that President Obama had just cut the taxes for 95% of the American people. Moreover, the United States ranks 23rd among the top 30 industrial countries in taxes, and Federal Taxes under Obama have claimed the lowest share of personal income since 1952.  Like the zoning issue in Ionia years before, this was a completely bogus issue designed only to gin up a growing rage that would subsequently be used in the service of greed.

Moreover, like the EGG movement those many years ago, the “TEA” movement has been revealed to be nothing but a so-called “AstroTurf’ movement.   Like the EGG movement it purports to be an entirely grass-roots effort, but is in fact organized and funded for the purpose of servicing the moneyed interests.  Where once only a local slumlord stood behind his spokesman shouting from atop his soap box, now stands the Koch Brothers and other Billionaires through groups like the so called “FreedomWorks” and the “Club for Growth”, working the ropes upon the national stage. The national Scumlords have here replaced the local Slumlord; with the operatives in question behaving none the wiser.  It is a bitter irony.  The populist revolt has been hijacked and put in the service of reactionaries.  Progressivism is threatened by an emerging Regressivism, Reform has taken the form of Reaction in the service of the emerging corporate dictatorship.  None dare declare what stands clearly before their very eyes: protesters in paramilitary camouflage; people showing up to political meetings armed. None dare call the TEA movement what it is.  None dare call it Fascism.

Aug 4, 2012

August 4, 2012: Raising Lazarus, In Service of a Villain, Not Your Father’s Romney

Seventeen years ago, in August of 1995, a movement was born in Ionia County Michigan calling itself the “Ethics in Good Government”, or EGG for short.  It was headed up by a lay preacher named Cliff Lazurus and funded by Ionia County’s most nefarious slum lord.  Brandishing the usual right-wing platitudes about government tyranny and black helicopters about to be sent by the U.N. these would be reformers organized a recall effort against nearly every elected township official not in line with their agenda, be they Democratic or Republican.

This movement emerged in the immediate aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing in which members of a Michigan Militia were implicated.  In a rehearsal for what would be repeated in 2009 by the so-called “Teabaggers”, township halls were flooded with irate citizens shouting down town meetings, many protesters dressed in the camouflaged garb of Militiamen uttering dark threats to township officials. It was pure brown-shirt tactics carried out at the local township level with the predictable effect.

I happened to hold the position of Democratic Party Chairman at the time, and was also employed at the local radio station as an account executive.  As the local scene was reaching a crisis, it so happened that the head of the Ionia County Republican Party, who happened to also be the elected county prosecutor, was making his monthly appearance on the radio station’s daily “Viewpoint” program.  I decided to put off making sales calls and wait and speak with him when the program ended.

When the program was over I went into the studio and sat down.  “Ray”, I said, “we have a problem.”  I then suggested that the parties join forces and publicly announce that we would, both parties, support any township or county official so challenged by this group whatever their party affiliation.  “Can you get your group to go along with it?” he asked.  ‘I’ll resign if they don’t” was my reply.  So we agreed to each of us go to our respective parties and get motions passed to the effect that we would support elected members of the opposite party if challenged by this group.

The respective meetings, were both tumultuous, for such action was unheard of in this jurisdiction.  The Republicans had a tougher time of it since most members of the EGG group were libertarians and more closely aligned ideologically to their party.  Indeed several of the chief organizers were at the Republican affair.  But, as the majority party holding nearly all the county-wide offices , they were, as I pointed out to the Republican Chairman, in a position where they had much more to lose.  On our side I made the point that if we wanted to be players on the county level we needed to stand up and take a position in defense of sound local governance.  After previously securing the support of several of the local party chieftains the motion was introduced at our monthly meeting and, after much haggling, and with more reticence, it was passed.  On the other side, a much more heated ordeal produced an identical result.

Accordingly the way was cleared for me to meet with Mr. Vogt, the County Prosecutor and hammer out a joint press release in which we came to the defense of our elected representatives.
It made front page in the Ionia Sentinel-Standard and touched off a howl of protest from the EGG group to the effect that we were silencing them with strong-arm tactics, violating in the process their constitutional rights to free speech.   

Working weekends on a second job at the local dollar store, I spent a lazy Sunday afternoon composing a letter to the editor in which I took the would-be Adams’ and Madisions’ to task, informing them in no uncertain terms that they have never been restricted from speaking, that we as political parties have a right to function as anyone else in the political arena, and that the next time they read the constitution they should do so only after enlisting the help of someone who can explain to them what it means.

Two days after my letter was published I got a visit at my home.  It was Cliff Lazarus.  He spent nearly two hours trying to convince me that the objects of his organization were right and honorable.  I told him that he was in service of a villain; that the only object his sponsor had in mind was to ensure that no ordinance would be put into place which would require him to fix up his properties, nor sell homes without sewage hookup or floors to people who were mentally challenged.  Cliff did his best to persuade me, but I told him that if he was going to throw that lame shit I can hit it out of the park at will, and the letter to the editor was a roof shot clearing the light standards.  “Cliff”, I said, “I can crank that kind of response out in my sleep”.  He returned disappointed to his movement leaving me to wonder once again how the “lord works in mysterious ways”. 

The public actions taken by the leadership and both political parties in the face of local barbarism served to energize the local community.  The day after the Sentinel published my letter to the editor, I was making my rounds down Main Street when out stepped John McNamara, then the City Attorney.  “Great job, Joe”….he yelled out as we headed in opposite directions. Accordingly the EGG movement quickly began to lose traction.  In the subsequent recall elections only one elected official, an Orleans township supervisor was recalled from office.  Later when the slum lord himself stood for election to the County Commission he was roundly drubbed in a heavily conservative district. 

Past as Prelude:  I am recalling these events as a demonstration of what happens when the power structure decides to act.  This is what happened in the 1950S when Bill Buckley led those in charge of the Republican Party  to purge itself of the John Bircher’s.  This is what happened when the Republican establishment joined forces with those on the “left” to censure Joe McCarthy.  This is what happened when the Democratic Leadership spoke out against the idiocy of the Libertarians posing as “leftists” at the Democratic National Convention in 1968.  We are beginning to hear murmurs within the Conservative movement in opposition to the Idiot-wrong.  The Speaker as well as John McCain have mildly chided Representative Bachmann for her charge that one of Hillary Clinton’s aides has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and that the movement is infiltrating the State Department.  A Republican Congressman from Ohio has resigned his seat, citing the inability of his party to be reasonable and to compromise in order to get anything done.  A New York Congressional Republican has likewise criticized his party’s intransigence.  What’s missing here, is what was missing in Ionia County prior to that meeting at the radio station between the two party Chairmen—the voice from the top.

This is not your father’s Romney.  George took on the tin hats in his party, openly fielding Republican challengers to elected Republican members of the house that were so far wrong that they would prove useless in the greater effort to move the state forward.  George, famously, refused to endorse Goldwater in 1964, uncomfortable being associated with extremism.  George not only took stands on principle but, more importantly, acted on them.  Not so his son.

Aug 2, 2012

August 3, 2012: Hang Down Your Head Tom Dewey, Ignorance Abroad, A Horse is a Horse of Course.

Not since Thomas Dewey challenged Harry Truman in 1948 has a campaign for the Presidency been conducted on terms so vacuous, so devoid of content, so breathtakingly mundane.  In Michigan, Romney waxed long upon the virtues of the trees, opining that they are “just the right height”, and talked about the “lakes”, not just the “Great Lakes, but all the lakes”, without saying precisely why he is so fond of them.  In Tennessee he sang the theme song of Davey Crockett.  Being a “Boomer”, and an early “Boomer” at that, Romney should know the theme song to the old Disney T.V. show.  Davey Crockett in the hands of Walt Disney was all the rage in the mid-1950s.  The nation was awash in Crockett T-Shirts and “Coonskin” caps.  In fact I had one myself, won in a local Wonder Bread Coloring contest.  But Willard fumbled the lyric singing “he killed him a bear when he was only three” Any Baby-Boomer worth his salt knows that the song goes “he kilt him a bar when he was only three”.   Willard “Mitt” Romney is campaigning for the Presidency in such a way as to make Thomas Dewey and even old Dubya look like policy wonks. 

It gets worse.  This week the campaign went abroad in search of photo-ops, headlines and campaign contributions.  It quickly became a comedy of errors as the clown from Utah stumbled over himself outraging in the process the Brits, the Palestininians, the Poles and a sizeable chunk of the public back home who are deeply embarrassed for him.   First he touched off a mild firestorm on Fleet-Street when the British press took him to task for mildly suggesting that they weren’t ready for the Olympics.  British Prime Minister David Cameron openly challenged the challenger by suggesting that it is much easier to organize an Olympics out in ‘the middle of nowhere’ and the London Mayor before a gathering of about 60,000 raised a chorus of cheers by asking the assembled if they were ready.  Next it was on to Israel where the club-footed Romney once again stumbled, this time on the rocks of middle-east politics: this time suggesting Israeli cultural superiority over the Palestinians.  Then it was on to Poland where an aid cursed the press which was growing tired of simply witnessing the fool walking around to no apparent purpose.  Having answered a total of 3 questions from the press pool they were in the words of Gretta Van Susteren the fox newsperson sent to cover the trip, left to feel like animals in a petting zoo.  So now Romney has limped back into the states leaving his wife and her horse in London where the beast is set to compete in an Olympic event from which the Candidate has now distanced himself. 

However Romney runs, wherever Romney turns, he confronts not Obama, but Romney.  In an interview with NBC’s Brian Williams Romney professed not to know much about the horse or the event or even when the event will be held.  Telling NBC that the horse belongs to his wife and feigning little interest in it saying that he is too busy to even attend the event whenever it is held, Romney moved to put as much distance between himself and the dancing, prancing equine as politics and physical distance will permit. Under no circumstances will he be photographed watching the beast but, it has been reported, it did not prevent the Vulture Capitalist from declaring the horse as a business deduction to the tune of $70,000 in his only so far publicly released tax form.

This is how one with hundreds of millions of dollars in personal wealth gains admission into the lowest tax bracket in the country.

“Go to the source
And ask the horse
He’ll give you the answer
That you endorse”  --Theme Song to the Television Show “Mr. Ed”

But the horse presents problems of a different color for it threatens by simply showing up to overshadow the performance overseas of the candidate himself.  Should the horse take a Gold Medal, and win in the process the hearts of the world perhaps Willard will consider not John Bolton as Secretary of State, but the Dancing Horse instead.  It would certainly be an improvement for the horse is unlikely to be a neo-con and would certainly, on any given occasion, give you the answer that you endorse.   

Romney isn’t the solution, as Obama says, he is the problem.  He is the poster boy for how the United States has gone off the rails since that actor from California took office.    

August 2, 2012: Odd Man Out-Front, Flat-Earthers, Completely Baked

“The odd man out, in the Republican contest in Michigan, will be Mike Huckabee who is exploring the outer geographical limits of fundamentalist appeal.  He will discover that those of us who hail from Ludington’s old fourth ward like our whiskey strong, our talk straight, our women loose, and our children and our politics without benefit of clergy.” ---from the “Quotations of Chairman Joe”

I wrote these words about the candidacy of Mike Huckabee in my post dated January 14. 2008
The same fate awaited Rick Santorum this time around in the Michigan and Ohio primaries.  Romney had besmirched himself years earlier by writing in the Detroit News that, with regard to the then pending auto industry rescue, Detroit should be allowed to go bankrupt.  That kind of tone deafness to the interests of the people has brought previous and constant embarrassment ranging from his critical remarks concerning the dress of his supporters at NASCAR races, his criticism of donuts baked for him on a campaign stop, and his remarks about liking to fire people and not paying a penny more in tax than he is required to by law.  Romney worked to ingratiate himself by speaking before a nearly empty Ford Field in Detroit about how beautiful the lakes are and that the “trees in Michigan are just the right height”.  Ever the political whore, his efforts might have gone for naught had it not been for the ham-handed and self-destructive efforts of his only remaining foe.

In the race to see who could lose Michigan, Santorum began by saying that he nearly “puked” when he read John Kennedy’s speech in Houston Texas about the separation of church and state.  Then followed a series of right-wing fundamentalist statements about abolishing birth control; witnessing once again predictable breaking of Southern Fundamentalist populism upon the forbidding rocks of the outer geographical limits of Fundamentalist appeal. The result was that in the process of losing both the Michigan and Ohio primaries, he lost the Catholic vote as well. The way was now cleared for the previously unthinkable to happen: the party of the Fundamentalist Christian wrong is about to nominate for president a former bishop of the Mormon Church.  This paradox has left us with the “odd man out-front”. 

Santorum was quite right when he said that Romney is the wrong man to take on the Democrats over health care since what emerged from the ugly days of conservative brown-shirt politics was a law that simply duplicated what Romney himself had done in Massachusetts.  What Santorum didn’t say but what other rivals for the nomination like Rick Perry of Texas and Newt Gingrich did say was that Romney represents a form of crony, exploitive, risk-averse Capitalism that Perry promptly and aptly dubbed “Vulture Capitalism”, the modern Capitalist ethic in its most nefarious form.  As such, Romney stands as a poster boy for not what is right with the system, but what is wrong with it.  The result has been that the former Governor of Massachusetts who gave the state universal health care, and reduced the rate of its job creation to 47th among the 50 states, has been left to run from his record as an elected official and reduce his campaign to a series of meaningless platitudes hoping against hope that the memory of the electorate is short and that the voters don’t look too closely. 

Meanwhile a note to the flat-earth leaders of the Rescumlican Party:  Senator James Inhofe (Rescumlican Oklahoma) has long ridiculed the scientific evidence of Global Warming, or Climate Change as it is now called.  He has stood in the well of the Senate and said that Climate Change is the biggest hoax ever perpetrated upon the American people.  Yesterday the temperature at Oklahoma City reached 112 degrees, and is expected to top 114 today, an all-time record.  In fact the temps at Oklahoma City were expected to top 110 degrees for three straight days.  A week ago, it was announced by the weather bureau that over 41,000 new high temperature marks were set this year in the United States alone, and that 2012 will be the warmest year on record.  Senator Inhofe I want you to spend this recess speaking to your constituents, not in some air-conditioned arena but out in the open sun where you can tell your supporters with a straight face that this isn’t happening. As an added benefit perhaps after you have stood sweating in the heat your head will become, like the earth you stand on, completely baked.

August 1, 2012: The Thrill is Gone, Purging of Moderates,

“The thrill is gone
The thrill is gone away
The thrill is gone baby
The thrill is gone away
You know you done me wrong baby
Gonna be sorry someday”        ----B. B. King “The Thrill is Gone” (1)

Since the good people of this country have elected grid lock over progress the know-nothing, no-nothing Congress has managed to pass a mere 80 bills in the last session, the lowest on record.  Accordingly the Congress now has an approval rating now in single digits, lowest on record. Richard Nixon upon leaving office, Paris Hilton, used car salesman, all have higher ratings as this congress continues to ignore the problems facing the country as it votes now for the 31st or 33 time (depending on the count) to repeal ObamaCare.  Today, as over half the counties in the entire United States are now declared disaster areas—mostly due to the drought—Congress went on recess to get back to the urgent business of getting their individual and collective backsides re-elected but not before tabling indefinitely the farm relief bill.

Such is the state of political life in these here United States.  The purging of “moderates” from the Rescumlican party continues unabated as the likes of Richard Lugar of Indiana are eliminated in primary challenges by the idiot wrong.  Today a clown named Cruz defeated Rick Perry’s lieutenant governor in the Texas Senate primary in a contest to succeed the retiring Senator Hutchinson.  Cruz won the race with heavy backing by the so-called “Club for Growth’ and other right-wing operatives and by openly accusing his opponent of the sin of moderation.  So far wrong has the base of the Rescumlican party drifted that they now have abandoned their attacks on liberals and are now vilifying moderates.  What is now emerging are a new class of would be freshman senators who openly ridicule and deride the very idea of compromise.  It’s now our way or the highway and the mischief th to the political and economic order are too frightening to contemplate.  If elected and if this wrong-ward drift continues to find validation at the poles, what will happen the next time the debt ceiling is reached?  Will we default on our obligations?  Already Moody’s has lowered the credit rating of the nation the last time the idiot wrong engaged in such economic brinksmanship.  What will happen to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, housing assistance, food stamps, education funding, highway bills, farm supports, etc.?  

The thrill is gone.  Gone are the day when Obama could campaign on hope and change, for, alas, the nation has seen hope and change dashed on the rocks of Rescumlican obstructionism.  Instead we are now facing a campaign based on fear.  Romney and his Rescumlicans will do what the Scums have always done: wage a campaign based on divide and rule, label the President the resident Alien, raise fears about the future, and intimidate and restrict access to the polls.  Obama and the Democrats are left with no alternatives now except to raise fear about the prospect of the king-hell Vulcher himself presiding from the oval office as we watch the operatives of Wall Street finish the job of picking our pockets clean.