Thursday, January 31, 2013

We Knew It All Along! The Truest Thing of All!

Let's be honest.  Getting to say "we told you so" is great fun.  Especially when it's to such complacent, self-righteous folks as the Republican operatives who ran the 2012 campaigns.  They thought they knew it all, and they were wrong.  So let's look back at 2012 one more time and snicker yet again.  I know we should probably be good sports and stop crowing over the GOP,  but they are still making equally dumb calls.  Thus we are actually doing them a favor by pointing out their earlier goofs.  Gives them another chance to shape up.

Let's start with Chris Christie.  We said they should pick him at least for their vice-presidential candidate.  (I posted this twice, once a year ago this month.)  They didn't, and their choice of Ryan cost them a lot of support from women and independents and scared a lot of seniors regarding Medicare.  Further, Christie turned around just before the election and bit the GOP on the-you-know-what by praising Obama for his help after Hurricane Sandy. Christie was also reminding people how necessary the federal government is, something the GOP doesn't accept.  On the face of it, it was Christie himself who kept himself off the ticket, but that was after he could see what a loser Romney was.  If he'd been asked early, he might have accepted.  Not enough to save Romney but it would have helped the GOP brand from being so completely repugnant.

Moving right along.   We said that the 4 million new Latino voters would win the election for Obama.  That happened.  We said the youth vote was so huge a demographic that it didn't have to reach a record level in 2012 in order for Obama to win.  That turned out to be true too.  We said that Nate Silver and the Pew Research polls were correct in predicting that Obama was winning.  True again.  We pointed out that the Obama campaign was spending ad money much smarter than was Romney and that this would matter.  It certainly did.  We also said from Day One that Romney was a terrible candidate.  And that was the truest thing of all.

Most of all  -  over and over again  -   we said that no force in elective politics is more potent than the campaign volunteer at the voter's front door.  Not ad money.  Not mailers. Not paid phone calls.  Money does not win elections.  Volunteers do.  Now a new study of the 2012 election campaign establishes once and for all that this is absolutely true.  Obama beat Romney because of the Obama volunteers at voters' doors.   And this is actually the very truest thing of all.

It's nice to be so right!  But especially about this.  I have preached this doctrine for 45 years, having figured it out by studying the precinct-by-precinct results of my first campaign.  Where we had walked, we had won.  In an adjacent, demographically-twin precinct where we had not walked, we lost.  Further, both the walked and unwalked precincts  had been exposed to the same amount and kind of advertising.

But nobody wanted to hear this.  Professional "political consultants" and political ad agencies and paid campaign managers all drowned me out.  Forget the grassroots! they cried.  They are too much trouble to manage!  Forget the headquarters that would be their "home".  We don't need that stuff.  We just need money for ads and mailings and "boiler room" telephone people paid by the hour.  And we don't want that grassroots money either!  Too much trouble to raise money in small amounts.  Let's corral the fat cats!

What they didn't mention is that they all got a cut on what was spent.  They got 10 or 15% as "management fees".  Every ad. Every mailer. Every paid phone call.  Beaucoup bucks into their pockets!  No, siree, they didn't want grassroots campaigning and a door-to-door effort because  THESE DID NOT PUT MONEY IN THEIR POCKETS!

For 20 years I battled the Democratic party establishment in California on behalf of my grassroots campaigns.  The ugly midnight phone calls with the filthy language coming at me.  The attempts to invoke city ordinances to shut down our headquarters.  The staged "coups" that always flopped.  On and on.  In retrospect, I think they spent more energy fighting me than fighting the GOP.  Because I not only threatened their path to money but to power.  They thought I wanted something, some power spot. Bosh!  My idea of a good power spot is eating pizza with a bunch of folks after a long autumn Saturday knocking on doors.  And throw in a pitcher of beer!   Ironically, the greatest power spot of all is to want nothing for yourself.  Then nobody can buy you or control you.  That's real power, baby!

When I did get a power spot with Jerry Brown's administration in the 1970s,  it was bizarre.  I hadn't worked in his campaign.  I didn't know the man.  I never asked for the spot.  But I went ahead and did some good work for him.  Or, rather, I did it for the people of California because I never owed Jerry Brown one damn thing nor anybody else either.  In fact, I quickly grew to dislike Jerry Brown.  But I had a good time, got lots done, and earned every single penny I got paid.  A very fine non-payoff.    

I love people.  I love community.  I love people working together and being happy doing it.  How much "community" is there any more in our society?  A political campaign fills a deep need in people to get together and do something good.  Win or lose, it's wonderful.  So I'm really glad the experts have now absolutely certified that the precinct worker is IT in politics.

I'm also glad because it has put a thumb in the eye of the moneyed interests that would buy our elections.  We now know that as long as we work in politics and go door-to-door, we can beat the fat cats, Citizens United or no Citizens United.  So hurrah for grass-roots campaigning and the precinct worker!

It's a pretty good old world after all, isn't it.

Now bring on the pizza and beer!


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Hinge of History: the Second Inaugural

Watching the Second Inaugural meant watching history take a mighty turn.  It wasn't just the investiture of one man as president. It was the marking of a new age for all humanity.  In a very real sense, we all got inaugurated, all of his supporters here and around the globe.  It was OUR day!

Obama recognized this in his speech.  Even as he emphasized that we have work yet to do in order to achieve equality for all our citizens, he was reminding us of how far we have come and that his being president is a monument to that progress.  He didn't have to expressly say this last; just his being there at the podium and talking about the struggle for equality was enough to make the point.

And the point is an enormous one:  An African-American has been elected to a second term as president.  His election  -  unlike the first one  -  can't be discounted by cynics as due to an economic crash or to Bush and the GOP having otherwise messed up so wildly.  Obama got re-elected because of our progress toward equality over the past two centuries.  

This ongoing achieving of equality is central to his vision of America and that of the Democratic party.  He was virtually silent about this vision in his two campaigns and in his first term.  You'd have thought he was just another white guy.  But at the second inauguration he was free, free at last, to say it like it really is:  America is about equality.  

Given the demographics and outcome of this last election, the GOP had better get out of the way of this vision or perish.  This vision should and will prevail.  None of us for whom this election was a victory  -  women, minorities, gays, the poor, the elderly, the children  -  are going back.  We are not going to be subservient to the ever-greedy machinations of the already super-rich.  Nor are we ever going back to how things were when I was young:  If you weren't a white male Protestant, you didn't count.  You weren't there.  You were nothing and nobody.  You only mattered when it looked like you might get something because then one of those white males would tell you that you couldn't have it.

That's changed.  It began to change even before demography swung in favor of right prevailing over might.  As Obama pointed out, it began to change because of Selma, Seneca Falls and Stonewall.

But it took a dreadfully long time to change.  We can't wait that long for the next chapters of equality, among them the restoration of some income equality.  When the labor unions were virtually destroyed in the Reagan era, there was nothing left to protect the middle class, and the middle class has taken an awful beating since, flat-lined on income in the last decades while the incomes of the rich soared as much as 4000%!

I don't begrudge the rich what they have.  I grew up as the poor cousin of wealthy folks and saw the sad problems lots of money can bring to families.  But I also know that lack of money can also bring sad problems.  We've got to do what Obama urges:  through education, better infra-structure, and R&D, we have to create the jobs that can pay good wages and put our middle class back on its feet.  We also have to reverse the destructive impact of rising health care costs on our personal finances and on those of the federal and state governments.  And we have to fight back against global warming or nothing else matters.

Can we do these things?  Of course, we can.  We have been inaugurated now.  Our time has come.  We women, and the men of good will who stand with us  -  we can do this.  We who are young or very old, of varied race, ethnicity, religion, or of varied sexual orientation  -  we can do this.  We are empowered now.  Our power flows from the bravery and sacrifice of Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall.  A dear price has been paid right up through this last election.  The dollars we sacrificed to the Obama campaign cost us dearly in necessities foregone.  The hours of volunteer work were hard.

Now we have to get behind Obama's efforts to govern.  We also have to GET RID OF THE GOP HOUSE MAJORITY.  Until we do, we are hampered in going forward.  But we are not stopped!

You can't stop history.  And WE are carrying history forward now.

It is a joyous burden!



Sunday, January 20, 2013

Four Good Men, Two Farewells, A Second Inauguration

President Obama and Joe Biden were officially and quietly sworn in today for their second terms of office.  Tomorrow will be the gala public ceremony.  Congratulations to two very good men we can all be proud of and grateful for.  Congratulations to all of us who helped secure their second terms.

There used to be more good men like them, but death has recently thinned the ranks of the truly admirable. Today word comes that Stan Musial has died at age 92.  He was one of the all-time greats of baseball and a very good person.  He had integrity, modesty, a sweet nature, and a hell of a batting average earned by hard work and talent.  He was called Stan the Man.  That said it all.  He was definitive.  He was The One.

He puts to shame the other athletes in the news this week:  the two football players at Notre Dame, one accused of rape and the other suspected of a role in a weird his-girl-friend-died fraud.  Musial also shames the doping baseball players who did NOT get into the Hall of Fame this week because their records were fraudulent.  He also shames Lance Armstrong, who is fraud personified.

Stan Musial was not only a fine athlete and a good person but also a good guy in politics.  In 1960 he campaigned for the young JFK.  They were both the same age, and JFK joked with him about some critics saying JFK was too young for his game and Musial was too old for his.  They were both winners at what they did and both were classy.  Among the presidents since JFK, only Obama approaches JFK's level of classiness and intelligence.  Since Stan the Man, too few athletes have been such good guys as he was.

We lost another class act a few weeks ago.  Dave Brubeck died at age 91.  If you don't know who he was, you've missed something delightfully important:  West Coast Jazz.  Coming into full glory in the 1950s, it was also called "Cool Jazz".  And it was cool.  It was ultimate cool.  As was Brubeck himself and the other guys who played at the little clubs in San Francisco or tiny ones like The Haig on LA's Wilshire Boulevard.  The jazz greats of Cool Jazz are legend and include Stan Getz, Jerry Mulligan, and Russ Freemann.  ( I had a fight a decade later with Russ Freeman, but that's a another story for another time.)

I was in those clubs that summer in the 1950s for what's since been called "The Summer of West Coast Jazz". It was then that everything came together for this great art form, right there in those tiny clubs midst the cigarette smoke and the light glinting off the horns and the glowing wood of the bass.  I was just a teenager, fifteen or sixteen.  We'd go to the Haig or some other little club on Wilshire or to one in the African-American neighborhood along West Adams.  I don't recall that we ever said a thing about the music or why we were going to these places.  It just seemed the natural thing to do.  We didn't drink anything beyond cherry Cokes.  We were certainly the youngest in the miniscule audience.

That troubles me.  I may soon become the last person alive who actually heard those guys that magical summer.  If so, it's wrong.  I don't have the musical vocabulary to tell you what it was really like.  Something wonderful happened right before me, and I am but a mute witness.  Maybe the recordings are enough, especially the greater truthfulness of vinyl.  But some experts maintain that there is no substitute for live sound.  How unfitting, therefore, that memory of that live sound will die with me, just an almost-accidental visitor at a wondrous scene.  

What will never die is the stature of Brubeck and Musial.  They are among the great for as long as people care about music, baseball and goodness.  It is fitting that we remember them this week of the Second Inauguration because Obama honored them on behalf of the nation while there was still the chance.  He hosted Brubeck at the White House as a Kennedy Center honoree in 2009, and he gave Musial the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

Of Brubeck, he recalled him playing in Hawaii when the president was just a young sprout like I had been in the 50s.  Of Brubeck, Obama said, "You can't understand America without understanding jazz, and you can't understand jazz without understanding Dave Brubeck."

Of Stan Musial, President Obama said,  "He is an icon untarnished, a beloved pillar of the community, a gentleman you'd want your kids to emulate."

Farewell, Dave and Stan the Man.  Thanks for walking through almost a century with us.  Getting old is not onerous when one realizes the quality of those who have shared the road.

And may the angels sing thee to thy rest.



Friday, January 18, 2013

FLASH! House GOP Chooses New MacGuffin!

In a posting earlier today, I suggested that the House GOP climb out of its self-created nightmare and  stop threatening the world with the economic disaster of not lifting the debt ceiling.  Obama is not going to trade them anything for the debt ceiling, and they now look like reckless terrorist idiots by holding the debt ceiling hostage.

So how do they save face while backing out of this?  All the House GOP has to do, I suggested this morning, is change the narrative by changing the "MacGuffin", the thingbobby that supposedly drives the plot but isn't really what the story is about.  Like the meaning of "Rosebud" in "Citizen Kane".  The House GOP had failed to catch Obama's interest by holding the debt ceiling as hostage, so now their embarrassed question was, "What do we do next?"

Change the target.  Change the goal.  And that's just what they have done this afternoon!  And it is hilarious!

Now the MacGuffin is a Senate budget resolution.  Pass a Senate budget resolution and we'll give you a lift of the budget ceiling for three months, sayeth Eric Kantor, number two man in the GOP House leadership.

Folks, it doesn't get any sillier than this.  This has got to be the world's worst MacGuffin ever!  This won't play in Peoria or anywhere.  A Senate budget resolution?  What the hell is that, everybody asks, and who gives a damn about it?  What nonsense!

The GOP hasn't  just blinked.  It's put a sack over it's head!  It's permanently disqualified from the threatening game.  This is like a little kid threatening to go out in the yard and eat worms.  It's pathetic!  Put the GOP in the same penalty box with Lance Armstrong.  Hey, you are out of here for not knowing how to do it right.

These GOPers have disgraced themselves.  And cast a shadow on the fine old game of politics. They lack class, imagination, a sense of responsibility, decency and skill at the game.

Take back their keys to the washroom!  And go have a good laugh!

Obama wins again!



Alfred Hitchcock Whispers to the GOP and Obama Wins Again!

Aha!  Did the GOP leadership in Congress take note of my recent blog about rescuing themselves from the "debt ceiling crisis" they have threatened?

No, of course not.  But it's fun to think so.  And certainly my posting went up just as the GOP was headed into a two-day retreat this week to contemplate its next moves.  Though the retreat was closed to the press, word leaked out.  (It's harder to keep secrets in D.C. than to keep white cat fur off of black upholstery.)

"Hey, guys," the House GOP leadership reputedly told the members, "let's not be so quick to refuse to raise the debt ceiling. Golly, fellas, that could make big problems for the nation, the world and  -  most of all -  our chances of re-election.  Let's not get blamed for Armageddon even if you like the idea of smashing everything.  Let's choose a different MacGuffin.  Let's just threaten a little smashing, not smashing EVERYTHING!"

Now of course John Boehner and Paul Ryan didn't use the term "MacGuffin".  They aren't that hip.  It's a term supposedly created by Alfred Hitchcock as the label for a plot device that drives the story but is actually not very precise or important.  Such as the meaning of "Rosebud" in "Citizen Kane".  Most of the time the audience largely forgets the MacGuffin as the motives, schemes, and adventures of the characters take over the story.  In spy stories it's often a copy of "the plans".   Plans for what?  Who cares?  Do you remember what the MacGuffin was in "North By Northwest"?  Nobody does.

My suggestion to the GOP was to forget the debt ceiling as a MacGuffin and pick something else that allows them to beat upon their one and only issue   -   the lame one of debt 'n deficit.  In other words, pick another MacGuffin.

And so they are!  Ryan made noises about being "responsible", i.e. forget the debt limit as a hostage.  Boehner quit ginning up the debt limit hostage talk.  Some other team leaders talked about being "good followers", i.e. not insisting on Armageddon.  The gist of it all was an apparent massive backing away from the debt ceiling extortion Boehner had previously announced.

Hats off to Obama!  He has apparently succeeded  in calling the GOP bluff.  He's learned quite well that you can't do business with the House GOP as responsible, patriotic and intelligent people because they aren't.  The only one who MAY qualify as such is Boehner but he has no power.  He can't deliver the votes.  He can't make a deal.  Thus he is a zip-zero-nada!  Forget Boehner!  Let McConnell handle him, i.e. manipulate him into letting necessary votes come to the floor of the House where Democrats and 17 Republicans can enact what must be enacted as happened with the "fiscal cliff".

You don't like all this "gamesmanship"?  Go see the movie "Lincoln".  Tell me that freeing 4 MILLION people from slavery wasn't worth the gamesmanship that made the 13th Amendment a reality.  Tell me how else a polyglot society of wildly different beliefs is going to make it through the next 226 years as we have since adopting the Constitution.  We have ALWAYS done it this way!  We are the oldest government in its same form, and it's always been messy.  As Churchill said, "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others."  When gamesmanship and politics failed, we got the Civil War.

Just be glad that Obama is now playing the game with no illusions.  And let's see what the next GOP MacGuffin is.

(NOTE:  Ever notice how just four people "said" virtually everything:  Churchill, Hitchcock, Mark Twain, Will Rogers.  Make that five.  Add my mother.  Or yours?)  

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sedition? Secession? Assassination? Civil War?

These are the times that try men's and women's souls.

Especially the scary language that's being used on the right.  And especially the language being used to incite resistance and hatred toward President Obama and his proposals to curb gun violence.

In recent years we have heard all manner of incendiary language from Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle and their cohorts.  Everything from "Lock and load!" to "Second Amendment remedies".  Nowadays Governor Rick Perry is no longer alone in suggesting that secession may be a good idea. Now extremists frothing at the mouth on TV and radio have promised outright war against the Obama administration over gun control, including direct personal violence against any federal agents seeking to enforce federal gun law. Further, the far right is calling the President a dictator who will use his executive powers to unilaterally take away their guns.

This dictator nonsense isn't coming just from the wild "fringe".  Sen. Rand Paul calling Obama a "king" and a "monarch" is right in line with the "dictator" label other right-wingers are bandying about.

This is not good.  This is the way it begins.  I remember the run-up to the assassination of President Kennedy.  This is the kind of noise on the right that preceded that killing.  Indeed, this noise is worse  than that preceding the assassination of Kennedy and even more explicitly violent.  It's the language of sedition and treason.  It's urging the killing of our democratically elected leader and the violent overthrow of our duly-elected government.  Indeed, it is an attack on all of us who voted for Obama, an attempt to retroactively steal our votes from us by nullifying our choice of government.

It''s seditious and disgusting.  And it is criminal.  Advocating the violent overthrow of the government is outlawed by the Smith Act, 18 USC Sect. 2385.  And it carries a twenty-year jail sentence.  We civil libertarians don't like to invoke such laws or penalties because of our tenderness for the First Amendment and our cherished right to criticize our government.  But no one has a right to violently overthrow our democratically-elected government nor successfully incite others to do so.  Nor do states have the right to secede from the Union nor nullify duly-enacted federal laws.  These last two issues were settled 150 years ago by the Civil War.  Nor does anyone have a right to incite the killing of our elected leaders or federal officers.

The most comfortable thing is to continue to view the far-right as a bunch of toddlers having a screaming tantrum in their playpen.  They lost the election.  They may have to accept some controls on the gun trade.  They have an African-American as a president.  They can rant all they want and it won't change anything.  So why pay them any attention?

 Until one of them picks up a gun and aims it at President Obama and fires.

That would change everything.

So how long can we tolerate the obvious urging to violence that increasingly disgraces our public discourse?  And is there anything we can do to cool it down?


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Debt Ceiling? The Game is Afoot!

So now we look at the debt ceiling.

Primarily, there are two things at stake.  First, will the GOP stick by its vow not to lift the debt ceiling and thus destroy the full faith and credit of the USA while plunging the world's finances into Hell?  Second, will Obama stay firm on his pledge not to deal on this issue and thereby remove the debt ceiling from its hostage role now and hereafter?

Nate Silver pointed out in his blog yesterday that Obama can hang tough because, unlike the GOP, he faces no more elections. If the GOP crashes the economy, Silver argues, it will take the entire blame and is the only player vulnerable to paying a price.  I have already noted in a prior blog that the GOP Congressional Tea Partyers don't give a hoot about future elections for their party as long as the GOP voters in their individual ultra-red districts are happy.  They also aren't patriotic or humane or intelligent enough to care about destroying our economy and plunging the world into chaos.  They are the equivalent of psychopathic, i.e. no regard for the actual results of their actions.

It's very hard to do business with, or play a game with, a person who just doesn't care, for whom there are no rules, who doesn't even understand the game or the business at hand. It's like playing a board game with a four-year-old who keeps changing the rules.  Nothing you can say or do will persuade these debt ceiling people because they WANT the armageddon of a mighty crash.  They hate government, they hate Wall Street, they hate the international economy, and they hate people in the "47 per cent" who need (and have earned) their veterans benefits and their Social Security checks.

Thus it all comes down to John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and the few non-crazy Republicans left in the House and Senate.  They can save the world if they choose to, just as they pulled the plug on the "fiscal cliff" two weeks ago.  Each GOP leader could allow the vote to raise the debt ceiling to come to the floor of his respective house.  With Democratic votes, it will pass in each with just a few GOP votes necessary in the House.  That's all very simple.

But why should John and Mitch do thus?  To save the world?  Are they different from the Tea Party GOP?  Well, yes, they are.  They do not drag their knuckles on the floor.  Or not quite.  And they probably care about the GOP doing better nationally than it's been doing.  They just lost a presidential election they were "supposed to" win.  Ouch!  And undoubtedly McConnell would like to see more Republicans getting elected to the Senate because that's the only way he can ever be majority leader of that august body.  He knows his guys can't win statewide elections if public perception of the GOP is in the cellar.  And the GOP was "supposed to" win the Senate last year.  Double ouch!

All that Boehner and McConnell need are "hooks to hang their hats on".  This is a political expression meaning (sort of) "the barest excuse".  If Obama can give them something, just any old thing, to make it look like they got something, then they can cave in and let the debt ceiling be raised.

Alternatively, they can decide to change the game entirely by saying that the target is no longer the debt ceiling but is sequestration.  If you've forgotten what sequestration is, see my prior blogs. Or just skip it entirely because it doesn't matter what McConnell/Boehner pick as the thingbobby.  All they have to do is create a target they CAN hit and then tell the Tea Partyers that they have won a great victory.  They can say, for example, that they are shutting down the government to protest the raising of the debt ceiling but raise the debt ceiling anyway.  That makes no sense, but neither do the Tea Party people.  Shutting down the government for a couple of days isn't world-shaking.  Newt the Gingrich did it in the Clinton era.  The only adverse results were that I didn't get to see the Vermeer show at the National Gallery, the GOP lost the House in the next election, and Newt Gingrich was driven into the wilderness from whence he has disgustingly returned of late.

Boehner/McConnell will, in short, think of something.  After all, they started this scenario, and thus they have the power and the duty to find their way out of it.  (Next time I'll whisper a suggestion to them.)

Cleverly, Obama's White House has rejected the platinum coin ploy.  Not rejecting this Monoply money solution would have telegraphed that Obama was taking the GOP threat seriously.  This he has been studiously careful not to do.  It's also why he has not discussed the alternative of invoking the 14th amendment.  You don't start counting life boats before you've struck an iceberg.  He is acting as if he will not deal with the GOP on the debt ceiling and, further, that he doesn't believe they dare do the deed. Therefore, he proposes no solutions. The GOP stepped in the cat's dish; the GOP can clean up the mess.

So far the world markets have joined in Obama's apparent belief that the GOP is bluffing.  The stock market is up.  Fed paper is selling well and with low, low interest rates.  Consumer spending in November-December was higher than originally thought.  

So Boehner and McConnell go on lurking behind the kitchen door, threatening to jump out and shout "boo".  Just as in 2011.  But everybody knows they are there behind the door and that they did not blow up the world in 2011.

It's awfully hard to get scared when the kids pull the same non-stunt twice, isn't it.  We been there. We done that.  It's old, John and Mitch.

Stop playing and get serious, guys.  Pay the bills the government already owes.  As for lowering the debt, get back to us when the economy is stronger.  Then make us an offer we really can't refuse. And not something involving the kitchen door.



Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Asteroid and the Debt Ceiling and Lincoln

Good news!  Maybe you can wipe two worries from your burdened brow!

An asteroid the size of three football fields will likely NOT hit earth in 2029 as previously feared.  The chances have dropped from 2.7% to one in a million.  (Sort of makes me think of Nate Silver, writing about statistics again. Ah, those were the days!)

Until scientists told us the good news yesterday, I was unaware of the asteroid threat.  Now I sort of feel cheated that I didn't get to worry about it before the threat ended.

The other worry we can perhaps unworry is the debt ceiling.  Undistracted by the three football fields of looming asteroid, I've been thinking a lot lately about the debt ceiling and its approaching "debacle".  The GOP House is threatening not to raise the debt ceiling unless Obama accepts big cuts in spending, especially in Medicare and Social Security.  He has already announced he's not going to play this game of the debt ceiling being used as a hostage and that he will make future cuts only if accompanied by increased revenue.  Therefore, it is predicted that if he doesn't blink, the GOP will effectively put the USA into default on its debts around early March, including those to foreign countries, and the world's monetary and fiscal systems will crash as resoundingly as if hit with three football fields of asteroid.  We will all be in the deep dooley-doo!

You will recall the GOP tried this same hostage stunt in 2011.  Obama ended it by agreeing to the "sequester", i.e. a trillion in cuts over 10 years, with half from defense and half from everything else beginning on January 1, 2013.  This was a superbly smart move by the poker-playing President because the GOP House will NEVER be able to suffer through that half trillion in defense cuts.  Baby, the defense industry is the biggest source of their campaign funds and their post-Congress fat jobs!  Now Obama still has the sequester to use as a counter threat to the GOP's threat to not raise the debt ceiling.  Though the sequester was supposed to begin on January 1 of this year, Ol' Joe Biden got it shoved off for two months  -  which is just about the time the government bumps its head on the debt ceiling.  Nice move, Joe!

Now, some of you are probably saying,  "STOP ALREADY!"  You are disgusted with the gamesmanship.  "STOP  THE GAMESMANSHIP AND JUST GOVERN!"

Well, honey, this is how governing is done in America and always has been.  Take a look at the Constitution with its  three-fifths of "persons".  What in hell do you think that was all about?  It was part of the "game" of compromise used to put this country together.  It's also why the nation's capital is in a "district" and not in a state. It's why the electoral college is weighted too much in favor of small states.  It's why we kept slavery for about a hundred years after birthing the union.  It was the only way to get the union and thus become an independent country.  Yes, it was gamesmanship.  And slavery was a horrible and sinful price.  But that is how it was done.

Likewise the movie "Lincoln".  The same sort of gamesmanship that put slavery in the Constitution in the 1780s was used to destroy it in enactment of the 13th Amendment in 1865, and that's what the movie "Lincoln" is about.  A number of commentators who were dreadfully hard on Obama over the dealing that went on re the Affordable Health Care Act  saw "Lincoln" and announced that "Aha!  Now we understand!  This is how it's done!  Bribing and threatening and cutting deals, etc. It's Lincoln's way!  It's the AMERICAN  way!  It's DEMOCRACY!"

Well, of course it is.  How else did they think it got done?  Do they really think that opposing forces who passionately believe in their own position just decide after half an hour of tea and conversation to meet the other guy half way?  When at their backs they have crowds of supporters armed with pitch forks, rails, feathers and tar?  Please grow up, you Democratic-leaning talking heads, and get real.  (No use asking the GOP-leaning commentators to get real.)

Especially get real about the huge untruth the media have perpetuated about the supposed "intransigence of both sides".  This is a big fat lie.  The GOP has virtually monopolized intransigence.  Not Obama nor Joe Biden nor anyone can cut a deal with the GOP when (a) a major faction of the GOP wants NO DEALS EVER but prefers a catastrophe and (b) the leader of the House has no power and can't deliver votes even on his own legislation.

You can't cut a deal all by yourself.  There has to be someone to deal with.  The GOP is largely leaderless.  Governing-wise, there ain't nobody home at the House.

So how will the debt ceiling "game" go?  Will there be a "trillion dollar platinum coin"?  Obama invoking the 14th Amendment to thumb his nose at Congress?  No Social Security checks going out and me starving?

Tune in soon for the most likely trajectories.  And let's hope that the best of these trajectories have a better than the one in a million chance the scientists now give the asteroid because I don't want to go hungry waiting for a Social Security check that doesn't come.

P.S.  Can someone explain why we now measure things in football fields?  We didn't use to.  




Friday, January 4, 2013

What About the GOP House?

Clearly the present GOP control of the House of Representatives is the worst internal threat to the stability of the United States since the Civil War.

In fact, it is civil war, even to the extent that supporters of the most radical GOP element are talking about secession.

Oh, why don't they just go!  We may have made a big mistake in compelling them to stay the first time around.  (But more of that another time.)  But the truth is that we can't wait for the Tea Party types to self-deport.  We have to do something about the House now.  The current GOP threat of a debt ceiling debacle come March shows they just don't give a damn about this country.  They'd rather default on our nation's credit and plunge the world's finances into chaos than use some good sense about dealing with the debt.

And that's because it really isn't about the debt.  We've always had a huge debt.  The one at the end of WWII was a far, far higher percentage of GDP than today's.  My Republican aunts and uncles were screaming about the debt back when I was a little kid.  Let's say 70 years ago.  And you want to see REALLY big debt?  Take a look at what GOP hero Reagan did!  More debt than you can shake a stick at.

The Republicans, who have been terrific debt-creators, are now piously shaking the debt stick for two reasons.  First, it's their only issue.  And it's a simple-minded one.  Since their hard-core followers are themselves pretty simple-minded, the debt issue works just fine for them.  And it's code for racism.  As translated by my GOP simple-minded racist neighbors here in rural Pennsylvania (whom I love anyway),  the debt is mainly caused by all those you-know-who-lazies on welfare who live in the cities.

The second main reason for the GOP doting on the debt issue is because it is their ticket to getting rid of federal government.  The Tea Partyers genuinely hate, fear and loath federal government.  So they don't care if a failure to pay our debt brings down our government.  They WANT it down.  They don't care if the economy also crashes.  Because "the free enterprise system", thus freed of the government, will jump in and fix everything.  You're darn tooting it will!  Just ask my neighbors!

You don't believe they think this way?  Well, they do.  And these are the folks who have elected the Tea Party Republican members of the House.  In turn these T-P members of Congress don't give a hoot how "bad" they make the GOP look nationally by their idiotic intransigence.  They don't care that they are ruining "the Republican brand", thus making it virtually impossible for the GOP to ever win the presidency or even the Senate.  These T-P House members don't care about any of that!  They don't care about anything except destroying  the government.  Except for the military, of course.  Because if we have a strong military we need not give a hoot about what other countries think of our credit rating; we can just bomb the hell out of them!

For all their supposed devotion to the Founding Fathers and the Constitution, the Tea Party is actually seditious.  You want to bring down a government?  Destroy it monetarily and fiscally a la Germany post-WWI.  Goodby, fiscal and monetary stability!  Hello, Hitler and the Brown Shirts!

So what to do we do about the GOP House of Representatives?  Arrest the crazies for conspiring to overthrow the government?  Gosh, I'd love to!  But we liberals won't, will we?

Tune in next time for "What Do We Do Now About The Crazies in Congress?"  (Got any ideas?)




Thursday, January 3, 2013

Obama v. the Hard-Hearted Liberals

Yes, you read that correctly:  "hard-hearted liberals".

Liberals are supposed to be kind-hearted.  Even soft-hearted to the point of being soft in the head, according to some conservatives.  But a number of prominent liberals were not being kind at all this week during the "fiscal cliff crisis".

They were absolutely furious that Obama was willing to cut a deal with the GOP that raised taxes on incomes above the $400,000 level instead of the $200,000 level.  And they wanted a lot more tax reform than just the rate hike.  In their view Obama had the GOP over a complete barrel and could have got whatever he wanted.  Further, in their view, he got nothing in return for his concession on the tax hike level.

Nonsense!  He never had complete mastery of the board because there was always the possibility that the GOP would decide to do the jump and then dawdle around long enough at the bottom of the cliff to rattle the markets, further depress consumer spending, and start us into another dip of recession.

Worse, however, was that the GOP had 2 million hostages and their families, perhaps as many as 4 to 6 million people.  These are the folks dependent for their very survival on unemployment compensation, and their unemployment compensation was running out.

Running out now!

Obama had no way to save these people from terrible suffering except to give the GOP something in return for the extension of those unemployment benefits.  So he gave them the $400,000 tax hike level. Some well-off folks will be paying less taxes so that between 2 and 6 million other folks can eat and pay their heat bills in the middle of winter.

I call that a damn good bargain.

It also kept billions of dollars flowing into the economy because nothing gets spent faster than unemployment compensation.  So the deal was a twofer:  help for those in dire straits and a stimulus that helps save other people's jobs.

Paul Krugman, folks at MoveOn, and some other liberals are scoffing at Obama because he did the kind and smart thing.  They can't see it as smart because they think they know everything.  But they don't know what politics is really like.  We call it a game but it isn't.  It's about people.  And if you play it as a game with the idea that winning means beating the hell out of the other guy or doing only the cleverest economic thing, then you are not worthy of being in politics.

Politics means having the power to hurt or help people,  to strengthen or diminish the country.  It's not a game.  Real people can get hurt.

In the Nixon recession of the early 1970s, Silicon Valley was caught in one of those cyclical recessions the electronics industry has been having since there were vacuum tubes.  Good, educated, hard-working family men who had done everything they were supposed to  -  served in the military, got their education, become engineers and techs, stayed loyal to their companies  -  were out on the streets and could not get jobs.  They were disgraced, they blamed themselves, and they were desperate.  You'd see them in clown suits waving ad signs at gas stations for a few bucks an hour.  One I knew lived for 2 years on canned tomato soup after his unemployment compensation ran out.  Another went home after a fruitless day of job-seeking, put a plastic bag over his daughter's head and then over his and killed them both.

That's what it means to to run out of unemployment compensation. It means being hungry, cold, desperate.  Obama worked as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago.  He knows what it means.

And it ain't gonna happen on his watch!

Thus he chose the people over the other stuff some liberals wanted.  That's not "selling out".  It's not being "soft in negotiations".  It's not stupid economics.  It's being a mensch.

And if you don't know what a mensch is, just keep your eyes on President Obama and he will continue to show you what a good, decent man really is, what a mensch does.  He is what the pueblo Indians call "a valuable man."  The value is in his importance to the community.  Among the Irish, he was the clan leader, not by blood but by election as the man who would take care of the people.

He's George Bailey.  Yeah, that's who he is!  And we are blessed to have him in Washington taking care of the folks.

So Happy New Year, you old savings and loan!  And Happy New Year, Mr. President!  Have a good time in Hawaii.  You've earned it, kiddo!

We'll raise Mr. Potter's taxes more next time!  Yes, we can!

P.S.  "Mr, Potter" is Hollywood-speak for Mitt Romney!  We haven't forgotten his taxes at all!