December 27, 2010

John Boehner’s Tea Party Nightmare

This is a showdown I simply can’t wait for. For all of the fanfare that the Tea Party thugs and their peanut gallery shared after the 2010 midterm elections, as soon as they get into office I’m eager to see how many of them settle into the political realities of office and how quickly they do it. How many of them turn on their campaign promises – the same way they’ve accused the people they’ve ousted – and how many of them take money from special interests, how many of them make sad excuses for their own misconduct, and how many of them are caught up in scandals because of their inexperience and ignorance. It’s just a matter of time.

One of those showdowns that I’m waiting to see is this one – a vote coming up on raising the Federal Debt Limit, a process that’s all but required for the government to continue functioning at this level. One that doesn’t imply that the government is borrowing more money or needs to borrow more money, but one that authorizes Congress to exercise their own borrowing power if necessary – something that won’t go over well at all with the Joe Six-Packs whose idea of news is the Drudge Report and what their friends forward to them via email without fact checking it.

From The Daily Beast, which has a great rundown on the scenario:

Rep. John Boehner owes no small part of his imminent promotion to the speaker’s office to the Tea Party, whose support he courted early and often en route to a landslide takeover of the House. But he may lose that support before he’s even begun to wield his new power.

The movement scored one of its first major substantive victories this week, rallying Republican lawmakers against a $1.3 trillion stimulus over its inclusion of $8 billion worth of earmarks—many of which they had proposed themselves.

The coming vote on the debt limit promises to be even more contentious. The federal government will run out of money early next year unless more borrowing is authorized, and even the most extreme budget slashing proposals out there will still means deficits for at least the medium term. A failure to pass the bill could spark a financial crisis, shut down the government, and turn big business against the GOP, making it a must-pass measure. But it’s also a bill that’s easy to demagogue, as the many Republicans who attacked incumbent Democrats for their votes on increasing the debt limit on the campaign trail discovered this year. The Republican caucus voted unanimously against the last increase in the debt ceiling, and a number have already signaled they won’t authorize another once they’re in the majority. After two years of heated rhetoric on the issue, Boehner is already warning conservatives to cool it.

We’ll just have to wait and see whether Speaker Oompah-Loompah will be able to control the dogs in his own yard, but I’m less worried about that – I think it’s inevitable – than I’m curious to hear whether the far-right conservatives who burned effigies, threw racial slurs at black Congressmen and homophobic slurs at others, will be able to hold back their rage when they realize that Washington isn’t at all like their own back-woods, and when they realize that the realities of the political process requires a thought process that’s nothing like the kind of across-the-fence “this is what I would do if I were in Congress” nonsense that most Americans love to ignorantly gab disparagingly about the federal government.

The real test will come again in 2012, when this influx of Tea Partiers will be put under the microscope for their achievements – or rather more likely – their lack thereof.

[ John Boehner’s Tea Party Nightmare ]
Source: The Daily Beast

Sarah Palin is the “Misinformer of the Year”

I can’t really say this is a surprise, but I’m glad to see that someone who pays attention to media agrees with what most of us already know: Sarah Palin wouldn’t know the truth if it came up and shot a moose in her backyard. Media Matters for America has labeled Palin “Misinformer of the Year,” citing everything from Death Panels to her “broad” experience in foreign policy that turned into no experience at all. Here’s what they had to say:

This year, we’ve chosen Sarah Palin — former half-term governor, current Fox News contributor and prolific Facebook user — as our Misinformer of the Year.

This year, Palin stood out for her sheer ability to dominate our national conversation and draw the attention of the entire news media to her factually challenged claims and vicious attacks. She has blurred the line completely between media figure and political activist.

From spreading lies about “death panels” to cropping Obama’s comments about “American exceptionalism,” from her comfortable perch at Fox News to her self-promoting books and reality show, Palin has truly broken new ground in misinformation.

The video really makes the case, check it out:

[ Misinformer of the Year ]
Source: Media Matters for America

Historic START Treaty Wins Overwhelming Senate Vote, 71-26

Chalk this one up along with the rest of President Obama’s achievements – and more proof that he’s definitely earned the Nobel Peace Prize that he has (note people can’t complain too much about his global anti-proliferation goals anymore.) The START treaty was part of America’s “rebooted” relationship with Russia, which had been strained under President Bush for a number of reasons – his own ignorance and warmongering agenda notwithstanding.

That said, there were worries that congressional Republicans would oppose any advances in the peace process and in the push for the world’s major powers to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons, and sure enough a bunch of them voted against it partially because of old Cold War beliefs, and partially because of a desire to oppose any achievement of President Obama’s, and partially because of their own personal political agendas.

Even so, the START treaty sailed through the House and the Senate thankfully, and will make the world a safer place overall. When I heard the news, the first thing I wondered was whether or not the Doomsday Clock would be turned back a minute; it seems like this would be a great occasion to do so.

[ Historic START Treaty Wins Overwhelming Senate Vote, 71-26 ]
Source: TruthOut

December 20, 2010

What Progressives Don’t Understand About Obama

This piece hit home in a way that few rarely do – partially because I can see myself in the author for more than one reason, and by proxy I see myself in the logic behind the way President Obama argues and negotiates with people on his side and across the table from him.

It’s remarkable how much progressives – with whom I stand, especially – want someone who rides into Washington, guns blazing, shooting down conservative ideals and missteps with glory, taking us all the way to a progressive American utopia and ultimate victory for the truth and justice that we all know is on our side. The problem is it just doesn’t work that way, ever, and regardless of the fervor around President Obama, he’s not that guy – he can’t be that guy and expect to get anything done. And this – this piece explains why.

I couldn’t possibly cut it, so I’ll present the whole thing here, with all credit due to Ishmael Reed, writing for the New York Times:

Not all of my white teachers viewed me as a discipline problem. To the annoyance of my fellow students, one teacher selected me regularly to lead assembly programs. A high school teacher insisted that I learn about the theater. She was an America-firster who supplied me with right-wing pamphlets and magazines that I’d read at breakfast and she didn’t seem bothered by my returning them with some of the pages stuck together with syrup.

But most of them did see me as an annoyance, and gave me the grades to prove it.

I’ve been thinking recently of all those D’s for deportment on my report cards. I thought of them, for instance, when I read a response to an essay I had written about Mark Twain that appeared in “A New Literary History of America.” One of the country’s leading critics, who writes for a prominent progressive blog, called the essay “rowdy,” which I interpreted to mean “lack of deportment.” Perhaps this was because I cited “Huckleberry Finn” to show that some white women managed household slaves, a departure from the revisionist theory that sees Scarlett O’Hara as some kind of feminist martyr.

I thought of them when I pointed out to a leading progressive that the Tea Party included neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers — and he called me a “bully.” He believes that the Tea Party is a grass-roots uprising against Wall Street, a curious reading since the movement gained its impetus from a rant against the president delivered by a television personality on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

And I’ve thought about them as I’ve listened in the last week to progressives criticize President Obama for keeping his cool.

Progressives have been urging the president to “man up” in the face of the Republicans. Some want him to be like John Wayne. On horseback. Slapping people left and right.

One progressive commentator played an excerpt from a Harry Truman speech during which Truman screamed about the Republican Party to great applause. He recommended this style to Mr. Obama. If President Obama behaved that way, he’d be dismissed as an angry black militant with a deep hatred of white people. His grade would go from a B- to a D.

What the progressives forget is that black intellectuals have been called “paranoid,” “bitter,” “rowdy,” “angry,” “bullies,” and accused of tirades and diatribes for more than 100 years. Very few of them would have been given a grade above D from most of my teachers.

When these progressives refer to themselves as Mr. Obama’s base, all they see is themselves. They ignore polls showing steadfast support for the president among blacks and Latinos. And now they are whispering about a primary challenge against the president. Brilliant! The kind of suicidal gesture that destroyed Jimmy Carter — and a way to lose the black vote forever.

Unlike white progressives, blacks and Latinos are not used to getting it all. They know how it feels to be unemployed and unable to buy your children Christmas presents. They know when not to shout. The president, the coolest man in the room, who worked among the unemployed in Chicago, knows too.

Reed isn’t just right here, he’s so right on the dot that you’d be able to verify his accuracy with an electron microscope. If Obama were as aggressive and militant as a lot of progressives – especially some who have served in government long enough to know this is the truth (I’m looking at you, Robert Reich,) he’d fail instantly as everyone – include people in his own party and on his side, dug in against him or simply failed to support him.

He’s doing this the right way – and while it’s not as fast as progressives would like and it’s not as winner-take-all leave-no-prisoners as many of us would like it to be, we need to remember that each step forward is a positive one, and one we would never have gotten had the other guy been elected.

[ What Progressives Don’t Understand About Obama ]
Source: The New York Times

December 13, 2010

Green Strategy Now

In the wake of the midterm elections, now that Republicans have control of the House of Representatives and will summarily go forward crushing any initiatives towards keeping the air and water clean in America, reducing our country’s global impact on climate change overall, and squashing any potential for renewable energy, smart grid technology, and domestic energy production – all in favor of lining the pockets of their friends in the oil and gas industries by forcing us to import more oil from abroad and bomb the hell out of anyone who opposes us – environmental activism groups are ever eager to win the ground war for the minds and sensibilities of voters.

The new strategy involves taking the truth to the streets, and making sure that the American public, which seems to be woefully undereducated and ignorant of climate, science, and environmental issues, gets an opportunity to hear the truth instead of the political talking points from industry that is all too ready to whine that any improvement in the condition of our planet will come at the cost of jobs or taxes.

Following the defeat, and faced with an immediate deadline for averting global catastrophe, greens big and small are going more local and becoming more confrontational. But there is wide variation in what that means.

Greenpeace, which had lobbied to improve the proposed bills but did not support them, is refocusing on local actions and alliance building, particularly against coal mining and burning. The fight against coal is one recent bright spot in the environmental struggle. For several years the Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, numerous local outfits and, more recently, Greenpeace have waged a grassroots campaign using mass protest and direct action like mountaintop occupations, as well as financial and political pressure, and so far have prevented the construction of 130 proposed new coal plants [see “Cracking Big Coal,” Robert S. Eshelman, May 3]. Direct action against coal directly cuts emissions, and in so doing it supports the various regional cap-and-trade structures like RGGI in the Northeast and the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), Davies points out. “Those mechanisms only work if there are some real emissions reductions,” he explains.

The Sierra Club, under the leadership of its new director, Michael Brune (who had headed the more radical Rainforest Action Network), is also redoubling its efforts against coal. The Club, which had supported Waxman-Markey and its EPA gutting before Brune took over, now considers protecting the EPA one of the “bright lines” that must not be crossed. Brune says, “Our top priority is our Beyond Coal campaign, to clean up and close down coal plants and replace them with clean energy.” Other priorities include building a movement by connecting with local activists, linking these antipollution and antimining fights to global climate issues, and working with the nascent clean-energy industry to help it become more organized and vocal.

This is important because when it comes to politics the clean-energy industry is bizarrely passive. While coal and oil buy influence, manipulate the public discourse (routinely lying in the process) and demand massive government subsidies, the wind and solar companies sit by politely.

The truth of the matter is that the environmental movement and green energy industry will need to take a much bigger stand and speak with a much louder – and hopefully collective – voice in the halls of government. The old fossil fuel industry has no intention of quieting down and giving them a room at the table, and in the absence of their voice, none of us win.

[ Green Strategy Now ]
Source: The Nation

December 6, 2010

Tea Party Caucus Takes $1 Billion in Earmarks

Literally moments after taking the seat of power, the Tea Party thugs who essentially elbowed and mud-slung their way into political office did exactly the thing they promised all of their so-called friends on the campaign trail they wouldn’t do: start hungrily collecting money for pork projects and personal pet projects in their home districts by taking over a billion dollars in earmarks.

Frankly, it’s not surprising – even people as ignorant as the Tea Party fanatics have to understand that the only way to stay in office is to make sure you bring home the pork -I mean bacon- for your home district, and the way to do that is to make sure you get as many pet projects approved in spending bills as possible, and that of course means earmarks. After all, the so-called “have it out on the house or senate floor” method of approving local spending would take time and then put their projects in the public light and subject them to scrutiny, something that the Tea Party simply can’t stand up to.

Members of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus may tout their commitment to cutting government spending now, but they used the 111th Congress to request hundreds of earmarks that, taken cumulatively, added more than $1 billion to the federal budget.

According to a Hotline review of records compiled by Citizens Against Government Waste, the 52 members of the caucus, which pledges to cut spending and reduce the size of government, requested a total of 764 earmarks valued at $1,049,783,150 during Fiscal Year 2010, the last year for which records are available.

“It’s disturbing to see the Tea Party Caucus requested that much in earmarks. This is their time to put up or shut up, to be blunt,” said David Williams, vice president for policy at Citizens Against Government Waste. “There’s going to be a huge backlash if they continue to request earmarks.”

In founding the caucus in July, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she was giving voice to Americans who were sick of government over-spending.

Oh Bachmann – your ability to talk out of both sides of your mouth never ceases to amaze me. Let’s get to the proof though, shall we? Shine the light on the cockroaches, as it were:

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), for one, attached his name to 69 earmarks in the last fiscal year, for a total of $78,263,000. The 41 earmarks Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) requested were worth $65,395,000. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) wanted $63,400,000 for 39 special projects, and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) wanted $93,980,000 set aside for 47 projects.

Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) takes the prize as the Tea Partier with his name on the most earmarks. Rehberg’s office requested funding for 88 projects, either solely or by co-signing earmarks requests with Sens. Max Baucus (D) and Jon Tester (D), at a cost of $100,514,200. On his own, Rehberg requested 20 earmarks valued at more than $9.6 million.

More than one member can sign onto an earmark. Still, there are 29 caucus members who requested on their own or joined requests for more than $10 million in earmark funding, and seven who wanted more than $50 million in funding.

Most offices did not respond right away to a request for comment. Those that did said they supported Republicans’ new efforts to ban earmarks.

Walk the walk, but never talk the talk, eh, GOP?

So what does the Tea Party do when confronted with the reality of politics that they claimed was so broken and horrible? Break one of their first and primary campaign promises before they’re even really in power. I wonder how the torch-and-pitchfork mobs that elected them will respond to the news? Will they hang them too and claim they’re “spending too much” and that this is more “dirty tricks by big government,” or will they look the other way because after all, they’re more like them than that brown fella in the White House?

We’ll see.

[ Tea Party Caucus Takes $1 Billion in Earmarks ]
Source: The Atlantic