Still Gutless After All These Years!

For many years, Teapublicans have cowed Democrats into compromising their ideals.  In fact, Democrats have become so accustomed to withering under partisan attacks many now give up their principles willingly.  Witness the news from just the past two days.

Yesterday, the Obama administration dropped controversial new safety standards for children who are hired to work on farms.  Apparently, the lies and misinformation circulated by Teapublicans that the new standards would negatively affect family farms was enough to make the administration’s testicles shrivel to 2009 size.

Then today it was announced that, with the help of 13 Democrats, the Republican-led House passed a student loan bill that includes cutting the Prevention and Public Health Fund; part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  The end result is to reduce funding for women’s and children’s health programs.

Who needs the Supreme Court?  It would seem that some Democrats are willing to help Teapublicans kill “Obamacare” themselves.

Also today, former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi stated that she was willing to embrace cuts to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare as part of the Simpson-Bowles Plan to reduce the national debt.  Say what?  Whatever happened to protecting safety nets from the Teapublican ax?  What happened to ending tax breaks for the wealthy?  What happened to fairness in opportunity and income distribution?

The events of these past two days capsulize one of the greatest problems with our government.  Teapublicans whine and bully and threaten to get their way without concern for the welfare of our citizens and our nation.  They can count on Democrats to drop to their knees and metaphorically pee their pants.  And Democrats seldom disappoint them.

Damn, it’s difficult to be a Democrat!

How “Starve The Beast” Became “Starve The Poor.”

For years, Teapublicans have marched to a tune called “Starve The Beast.”  The premise is that government has gotten too big and expensive so, in order to bring it under control, they must deprive it of the revenue needed to fund it.  As band-leader-in-chief, President George W. Bush cut taxes, primarily for the wealthy.

As a result of those tax cuts, two unfunded wars and a bill designed to buy the votes of seniors in time for the 2004 election, the Bush administration squandered the Clinton-era budget surpluses and led us into massive deficits and an ever-growing national debt.

Rather than being alarmed by these Bush decisions, Teapublicans reveled in them.  And, when the economy collapsed in 2008, Teapublicans recognized two opportunities:  One, by blocking every attempt to speed up the recovery, they hope to make President Obama a one-term president.  Two, by howling about the enormous deficit and debt they created, they hope to make it easier to cut government and the things Teapublicans seem to hate most: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

They say Americans can no longer afford such programs.  They point to the long-term “instability” of Medicaid and Medicare while failing to admit that much of that instability is caused by the skyrocketing medical and pharmaceutical costs they refuse to address.  I believe their hatred for “Obamacare” is driven by the fact that it will help mitigate costs, thereby saving Medicaid and Medicare.

Likewise, Teapublicans seem to relish every new report on Social Security that shows the program running out of funds in the not-too-distant future.  They point to the large group of retiring Baby Boomers as the reason the program needs to be privatized (gotta get it out of the clutches of big government, you know).

What they fail to mention is how easily Social Security could be permanently fixed.  Either increasing individual contributions to the plan by little more than 1 percent or removing the cap on incomes above $106,000 would protect Social Security for future generations.  But that wouldn’t allow Teapublicans to meet their long-term goals of privatizing Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

As for the people whose health care would be left at the mercy of large, greedy insurance companies and the retirees who might be relegated to dumpster-diving the next time the stock markets crash, no worries.

Teapublicans are more than willing to starve the poor in order to Starve The Beast.

Whatever Happened to The “Liberal” Media?

Oh, that’s right! The “liberal” media was never more than a figment of Teapublican imaginations and conservative radio nutjobs!

As I pointed out in a previous post, following the demise of the Fairness Doctrine, conservative talk radio has overwhelmed progressive and moderate talk radio. And the wackos on Fox News Channel have dominated cable news with Teapublican talking points. Those who rely on these stations for news are, instead, given an earful of conservative opinions, half-truths and outright falsehoods…all presented as absolute facts.

Moreover, the effect of the attacks on mainstream media has been to cause them to dance around the truth in order to avoid even more attacks from the right. As a result, the mainstream media tend to downplay or overlook stories that contrast with the conservative narrative.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. A recent examination of Sunday morning TV news programs by Think Progress found that, between June of 2011 and February of this year, 70 percent of the guests were Republican. And the latest survey from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism ( found that news coverage has been slanted against President Obama. The study states, “Of all the presidential candidates studied in this report, only one figure did not have a single week in 2012 when positive coverage exceeded negative coverage—the incumbent, Democrat Barack Obama.”

No matter. As long as legitimate news services refuse to pass along conservative crackpot theories as “news,” conservatives will continue to rant about bias. And conservative writers and media hosts will continue to claim that they alone are presenting the truth that the mainstream news media won’t.

The Legacy of Trayvon Martin.

Following his tragic murder, the circumstances of Trayvon Martin’s death have focused national attention on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law authored by ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council).  It’s not as if the law is unique to Florida.  Like most of the thousands of bills ALEC has authored over the past 30 years, it was peddled to conservative legislators all over the country.  More than two dozen states have some version of the law.

Now that the publicity generated by Martin’s death has shone a bright light on ALEC, a growing number of the organization’s sponsors have severed ties with the group.  Coca-Cola, the Gates Foundation, Kraft Foods, McDonald’s, Pepsico, Wendy’s and Yum! Brands (A&W, KFC, Long John Silver’s and Taco Bell) have all announced they will no longer donate money to ALEC.

But we need to starve ALEC of all the funds it needs to control our legislatures.  We must keep writing ALEC sponsors. We must tell them that we will not support them as long as they support ALEC.  Ending ALEC, the Goldwater Institute and dozens of other such undemocratic organizations would be a great first step in taking back our government. 

And it would be a fitting tribute to the young man who was the victim of a senseless killing.

Latest Vatican Reprimand Says It All.

On Wednesday, the Vatican stepped into the fray between the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the American bishops.  Not surprisingly, it came down hard on the side of the bishops.  Saying the group, which claims to represent 80 percent of the 57,000 nuns in the US, had failed to make the “Biblical view of family life and human sexuality” the centerpoint of its teachings, the Holy See and company accused the group of promoting “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

In other words, in the opinion of the Vatican, the nuns were spending too much time worrying about poverty and social justice, and not enough time spewing anti-feminst, anti-gay propaganda.  (Imagine that…women not attacking the rights of other women!)

This latest reprimand comes from an out-of-touch group of unmarried old men who apparently believe the only proper role for women is to be subserviant to their husbands and almost continuously pregnant.  It’s a group of arrogant men who believe there is no acceptable role in society for gays, except maybe as priests. 

This is the same unbroken chain of clueless old farts who called for the slaughter of the “heretics” who left the Church, such as my Huguenot ancestors.  It’s a group whose predecessors virtually invented torture in order to make their victims admit to “crimes against the Church.”  A group of men who, to this day, refuses to acknowledge that the Inquisition was a mistake.  The very same group of men who allowed their subordinates to molest children for hundreds of years and then turned a blind eye to the victims who had the courage to step forward.

At this point, I should say that I have enjoyed the friendship of many devoted Catholic priests, nuns and parishioners over the years. For the most part, I find them to be joyful, caring and compassionate people. I don’t blame the majority of Catholics for the anti-feminist, anti-gay, out-of-touch political action group that the heirarchy of Church has become.  I blame the Vatican.  And I blame those who use their positions and pulpits to push their political views like the nitwit Bishop Daniel Jenky who recently used his homily to compare President Barack Obama to Hitler!

Is it any wonder that the Catholic Church has been losing members faster than any other religion? 

Sen. Phil Gramm. A Legacy Of Failures.

Unquestionably, Gramm’s actions as a US Senator were failures for consumers and our economy. But given the massive profits of the “too big to fail” financial institutions, they were great successes for Wall Street and large corporations.

In 1999, then Republican Senator Phil Gramm co-sponsored the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act, aka the Financial Services Modernization Act, aka the Citigroup Relief Act which was enacted by the 106th US Congress and, unfortunately signed into law by President Bill Clinton. It repealed part of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 which had successfully protected consumer finances by erecting firewalls between banks of deposit, security investment companies and insurance companies. The Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act removed those restrictions allowing financial institutions of all kinds to consolidate.

The bill was crafted to provide legal cover for Citigroup which, a year earlier had been formed by the merger of Citicorp and Travelers Group. For the first time since the Great Depression, the merged organization combined banking, securities and insurance services that included Citibank, Smith Barney, Primerica and Travelers.

For Wall Street, it was the best legislation money could buy.

But Sen. Gramm’s meddling on behalf of large financials didn’t stop there. In 2000, he sponsored the Commodity Futures Modernization Act which was also signed into law by President Clinton. It weakened yet another post-Depression law, the Commodity Exchange Act of 1936, freeing over-the-counter derivitives transactions between “sophisticated parties” from regulation under federal securities laws. It is the law that permitted credit default swaps.

Combined, the two Gramm-sponsored laws created an environment of massive profits for Wall Street and led to the 2007 subprime mortgage crisis which cost the world economy an estimated $7.7 trillion! And if that doesn’t give you cause for concern, consider this:  Despite being the poster boy for our current economic problems, Gramm was selected as the senior economic adviser for John McCain’s presidential campaign.

Had McCain been elected with Gramm advising him, imagine where our economy might be now!

Taking Back Our Government.

Over the past 30 years, no organization or group of individuals has had a more negative impact on our nation than ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council).  Sponsored by many of the world’s largest corporations, ALEC’s membership consists of the most partisan conservative legislators.  It maintains an ideological staff that writes legislation and peddles it to its members in every state legislature.  In turn, those legislators sponsor the bills, often without even reading them. 

ALEC’s website brags that, each year, nearly 1,000 ALEC-authored bills are introduced in legislatures throughout the US. ALEC has given us some of the nation’s most extreme bills, including the “Stand Your Ground” law that is at the center of the Trayvon Martin murder, Arizona’s infamous SB 1070 anti-Latino bill, anti-union bills and many others designed to promote an extreme ideology and to serve ALEC’s corporate masters.  And its legislation becomes more divisive every year.

How can we stop it?

Last week, several former sponsors showed us the way to defeat this insidious group.  Due to the public attention focused on the “Stand Your Ground” law, Coca-Cola, the Gates Foundation, Intuit, Kraft Foods, McDonald’s, Pepsico and Wendy’s announced they would no longer sponsor ALEC. 

We need to remind the other sponsors that they, too, are vulnerable to public backlash over ALEC’s extreme ideology.  Following is a partial list of the organization’s corporate sponsors according to  Contact them and tell them that you will hold them responsible for extreme legislation such as the “Stand Your Ground” law.  If we’re successful, we can starve ALEC of the funds it needs to continue to make a mess of our political system., American Express, Amway, Anheuser-Busch, Arby’s, ARCO, AT&T, Bank of America, Bankers Insurance Co., Bayer Corp., Bell Atlantic, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, BP America, Bristol-Myers Squibb, CenturyLink, Chevron, Chrysler Corporation, Coldwell Banker, Comcast, ConocoPhillips, Cox Communications, Deere & Company, Dell Inc., Del Webb Corp., Dow Chemical, DuPont, Eli Lilly, Excel Telecommunications, ExxonMobil, Farmers Group Inc., FedEx, Fidelity Investments, Ford Motor Co., Frito-Lay, Fruit of the Loom, GEICO, General Electric, General Mills Restaurants, General Motors, Georgia-Pacific, Gerber Products, Harris Bank, Henkel, Honeywell, HP, Humana Corp., IBM, International Paper, JC Penney Co., Johnson & Johnson, Koch Industries, LaSalle National Bank, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Long Term Care, Inc., Marathon Oil, Mars Inc., Mary Kay Cosmetics, Microsoft, MillerCoors, Monsanto, Motorola, Nationwide Insurance, Nestlé USA, Northern Telecom, Novartis, Outback Steak House, Pennzoil, Pfizer Inc., Procter & Gamble, Prudential Financial, Reynolds American, Ryder Systems, Salt River Project, Sara Lee Corp., Schwan’s Sales Enterprises, Shell Oil, Sony Corp., Sprint Nextel, State Farm Insurance, Texaco, TicketMaster, Time Warner, The Traveler’s Companies, Unilever, United Airlines, UnitedHealthcare, UPS, VALIC, Verizon, Visa, Walgreens, Wall Street Journal, Wal-Mart, Washington Times, Wausau Insurance, WellPoint, Xcel Energy, and YUM! Brands (owner of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Long John Silver’s and A&W).

The Politicization Of Everything.

The publicity for the Trayvon Martin killing served to emphasize the depths of our culture.  When the Samford, Florida Police Department announced that the killer, George Zimmerman, would not be charged, Martin’s family was understandably outraged.  They asked MSNBC’s Rev. Al Sharpton to pick up the case and publicize it nationally.  Of course, that meant that Fox News Channel and right-wing radio had to take the side of George Zimmerman.

If a travesty such as the Martin case can be politicized, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that every other part of our culture is viewed through the same divisive lenses.  We have politicized science, education, health care, contraception, religion, race, women’s rights, the environment, the military, our judiciary, veteran’s affairs, Social Security, Medicare, guns, energy, agriculture, sports and, of course, journalism.

That hasn’t always been the case.  Prior to the early 80s, evolution was considered settled science.  Few questioned our education system.  Religion did not intrude in the classroom, except in parochial schools.  Outside of our military, no one carried guns except police and criminals.  And the media were bound by high standards of objectivity.

What changed?

Following the debacle of Watergate, the moribund Republican Party made an unholy alliance with evangelical leaders. Later, the Fairness Doctrine was repealed unleashing conspiracy talk radio.  Evangelists flooded radio and cable television with conservative politics and the message that Christianity was under attack.  Greedy right-wing mouthpieces like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck filled the airwaves with their theories of a New World Order.  Rupert Murdoch built a media empire on hate and Teapublican talking points.  And worst of all, the National Rifle Association and American Legislative Exchange Council began writing legislation and recruiting state legislators to serve their ideological agendas.

And our conservative-leaning populace sucked it all in.

So here we are…arguing about racism, judicial “activism,” contraception, the origin of “personhood,” immigration, Bible studies and prayer in the classroom, religious messages in government buildings, cutting taxes for the rich, guns on campus, etc., etc., etc.

And all the while we’re arguing, the real problems such as a crumbling infrastructure, economic inequality, the exodus of high-paying jobs, too-big-to-fail corporations, climate change, the extinction of wildlife, an increasingly inaccessible and unaffordable health care system, and massive national debt are only getting worse.

Teapublican Lie #27.

“President Obama’s stimulus failed because it didn’t hold unemployment under the promised 8 percent.”

In fact, President Obama’s transition team based that projection on the GDP numbers from the 3rd Quarter of 2008, which showed an economic decline of 3 percent.  However, in the 4th Quarter of 2008, the US economy fell off a cliff resulting in a decline of 8.9 percent; far worse than anyone expected.  So the original recommended stimulus could not possibly have reached the goal of 8 percent unemployment.  And Teapublicans threatened to filibuster the stimulus if it was made any larger.

As he took office, President Obama faced the worst economic decline in US history…even worse than the Great Depression!  Not only had the GDP declined at the rate of 8.9 percent, the economy was shedding 800,000 private sector jobs each month.

Despite unprecedented opposition by Teapublicans, the Obama administration’s policies have dramatically turned those numbers around.  Since taking office, the GDP has turned from the 8.9 percent decline to a sustained growth rate of 2-3 percent.  And the economy has added an average of roughly 200,000 jobs each month.

That’s a sustained turnaround of 11-12 percent in GDP and a positive swing of approximately a million jobs per month!

Almost any fair-minded observer would label the turnaround as utterly miraculous.  Indeed, a British economist stated that to have done more, “President Obama would have to have been Winston Churchill on steroids.”

Conspiracy Talk Radio.

“Thug, socialist, bully, liar, un-American, racist, most dangerous president in US history, the food stamp president, Kenyan, communist”…these are only a few of the things that are regularly said about President Barack Obama on talk radio.

Conservative hosts raise fears about a “New World Order.”  They talk about President Obama’s “Czars.”  They claim that the auto industry bailout and “Obamacare” are the beginning of a “complete government takeover.”  They claim that Republicans were shut out of the negotiations for “Obamacare.” They insist that liberals are trying to take away religious freedom.

Of course, none of these things are true.

But, for those who rely on the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Michael Medved, Michael Savage, Dennis Miller, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, G. Gordon Liddy, Michael Reagan, et al, for their news, these things have been accepted as absolute facts.

When the Fairness Doctrine was abolished in 1987, large media conglomerates began adding conservative talk radio shows.  By 2007, 91 percent of talk radio was conservative.  In cities like Philadelphia, Dallas and Houston, conservatives controlled 100 percent of talk show content.  In no major city did progressive content match or exceed the conservative rants.  Even in so-called liberal San Francisco, conservative content overwhelmed progressive content 69 percent to 31 percent.

Of course, Teapublicans still claim the media is dominated by liberals.  And, when confronted with the facts, they claim the reason for conservative dominance is that these talk shows appeal to the majority of Americans.  Again, that’s not substantiated by the facts.  In 2010 (a big year for conservatives), a Gallup poll found that liberals and moderates outnumbered conservatives 55% to 42%.

So what’s driving the conservative ideology in our nation’s media if it doesn’t reflect the beliefs of the majority of Americans?  It’s propaganda intended to shape beliefs.  Why?  Conservatives tend to support large corporations, and media conglomerates are large corporatons.  Their propaganda appeals to those who are inclined to believe that government is evil…that it’s squandering their money…that lazy “others” are living off their hard-earned money.  Moreover, many of those same people want to believe that their problems are not their own fault.  They’re the fault of “pointy-headed, over-educated liberals.”

Contrary to claims by conservative radio hosts that they’re telling the “truth that the lamestream media are hiding from you,” they’re presenting half-truths and falsehoods in order to increase ratings and profits.  Their manufactured hatred of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama have made them tens of millions.  If you doubt that, just look at the lifestyles of Boss Hawg Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

So what can be done about this growing barrage of nonsense?  Ignoring it won’t make it go away.  The best way to fight back is to hold the advertisers accountable.  Write letters and make phone calls to the sponsors of these hate-filled talk shows.  Tell them you will no longer buy their products.  And be sure to tell them why.

I still believe that, when confronted with the choice, most advertisers would rather make money than make political enemies.