Wednesday, October 26, 2005


America attacked!

We spend so much time worrying about what foreign terrorists might do to us, we often neglect to see what domestic forces are doing to us. While we fret and worry about anthrax or small pox, our elected officials are chipping away at our Social Security and Medicare. Never mind the bomb in the New York subway. What are you going with your exploding debt if you get sick and end up in the hospital? You probably won't be filing bankruptcy, now that President Bush has gotten his way. And if things continue to go his way, you won't even have food stamps to take the place of the company pension you once thought was safe.

Average Americans are under attack, and they don't seem to be paying attention.

Just look at Congress and its scheme for financing rebuilding along the Gulf Coast after Katrina. Eager to look concerned and compassionate for the folks down in Louisiana and Mississippi, those bleeding hearts on Capitol Hill plan to spend $50 billion. Sounds great, except for that small print we learned about this week. Oh yeah, Congressional Republicans say, we forgot to tell you that we'll offset this expenditure by cutting programs that benefit regular folks. Under discussion for cuts are Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps. Louisiana and Mississippi, the two states Washington is pretending to want to help so badly, stand to lose as much as $100 million and $46 million respectively in food stamps expenditures.

Also on the table is a proposal to raise fees to lenders who are in the student loan business, which is sure to further tighten an already-tough credit market for college students and their families who face skyrocketing tuition. In essence, we plan to help Americans by taking away programs we have in place to help them. Make sense?

U.S. Rep Todd Akin, a St. Louis-area Republican, seems to think so.

"We have to make some tough choices, and we have to figure out how we're going to pay for it," he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "We need to use the hurricane as an incentive to tighten our belt."

And there you have it straight from the mouth. A frightening number of right-wingers in Washington have viewed Katrina, not as a dire situation requiring immediate relief from suffering Americans, but instead as an opportunity to ram through a political agenda that most people have rejected more and more loudly in recent months. Weakened environmental regulations. Softer workplace safety requirements. Loosened standards for rewarding federal contracts. And now $50 million in cuts to programs that have benefitted Americans for decades but which right-wingers despise. That might be end up a truer legacy of Katrina than any footage from the New Orleans Convention Center.

Amazing, isn't it, how Republicans have suddenly morphed into budget hawks. Controlling our mounting deficit seems to be a concern only now.

"Why are we trying to find offsets for rebuilding Biloxi, but not for the cost of rebuilding Bagdhad?" asked U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, a Democract who happens to be my congressman.

Indeed, nobody on the Republican side of the aisle has felt compelled to find offsets for the war in Iraq or President Bush's massive tax cuts for the wealthy. In fact when asked if we should offset Katrina spending but cutting out the pork-laden highway boondoggle passed last summer, Tom Delay pointed out the dire importance of some new highway overpasses in his district. Apparently, we sould only wring our hands over spending when it benefits average Americans. Otherwise, the drunken rampage continues unabated.

Let me point out that many Washington Republicans, some quite conservative, also are standing up against these offsets. They include one of our Missouri senators, Jim Talent, and Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who in spite of being a right-wing ideologue frequently shows heart and concern for the least fortunate among us.

Meanwhile at your local Wal-Mart

Laurels were heaped earlier this week on the world's largest corporation for finally ponying up to subsidize affordable health coverage for its employees. Yet, days later we learn that the company is thinking up its own agenda of offsets. The New York Times has reported that a memo sent by Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart's executive vice president for benefits, suggests cutting 401(k) contributions, lowering life insurance benefits and raising premiums on employee spouses.

The memo goes on to point out that employees with seven years seniority are costing the company considerably more than employees with one year without a commensurate increase in productivity. I think I would be a little concerned if had been with Wal-Mart for more than a few years, but from what I hear, those morning pep rallies have gone far in clouding their judgment. But in a victory for disclosure, Chambers admits in her memo that 46 percent of the children of Wal-Mart workers either go uninsured or are on Medicaid.

This is just the latest in a long line of disclosures underscoring Wal-Mart's crappy treatment of its own people. And we haven't even begun to discuss the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs to China or Mexico because of Wal-Mart's unrelenting pressure on suppliers to keep costs low.

Apparently the Todd Oldham designer toasters and the cute pit bull in the commercials aren't the only reasons to shop at Target.

As for those everyday low prices at Wal-Mart, hope you're enjoying them. We're all gonna need them, but the time these guys are done with America.

Monday, October 24, 2005


What Horrigan saw at the revolution

Post-Distpatch columnist Kevin Horrigan yesterday described what he saw at last week's right-wing pep rally at the St. Charles Family Arena, a star-studded affair with Sean Hannity and Oliver North. You can read about it here.

For those who don't wish to read Horrigan's column, it sounds like right-wingers are desperately trying to hold onto the illusion that they're on the vanguard of a revolution that has been fizzling and sputtering recently. Yes folks, I'm afraid 2005 will be to conservatives what 1972 turned out to be for liberals, a milestone year in which the rest of America tired and turned away from an ideological fringe's increasingly bizarrre and extreme excesses.

In the meantime, the right-wingers party on at the Family Arena with Hannity, who seems bankrupt of any idea beyond "Liberals hate America," and Oliver North, a thrice-convicted felon who lied to Congress (How is it that conservatives hate Clinton for lying to an FBI agent about having sex with a bimbo, but call North a hero for lying under oath to Congress over selling arms to one of our worst enemies in order to capitulate to terrorists?).

In the meantime, President Bush, whom they had trusted to carry the revolution to its ultimate destiny labors under an all-time-low 39-percent approval rating.

Americans are clearly saying, "Let's move on," but to what I'm not sure they really know.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Rendering unto Caesar

Recently, I shared with readers a bumper sticker I saw that said "Annoy a conservative: Share."

A regular conservative reader - perhaps my only regular conservative reader - responded thusly:

"Liberals would like the government to take your money, and share it with other people. Conservatives would like to keep their money, and share it themselves. You know, so many liberals are all talk and no action. Each and every reader of this blog should examine not just their heart, but their actions. Forget about what the government has done - what have YOU done?The conservatives I know steped into action when the recent hurricanes hit the southern coast. Many of them took days off work to pitch in with the relief effort, sunday school classes adopted displaced louisiana families providing food, shelter, transportation, and love. Meanwhile, liberals took this time as an opportunity to bash President Bush and argue for more taxes from their sugar daddy, the American public."

First of all, I have a hard time believing that not a liberal in America did anything to help as the reader states. I decided to go online to gather facts to prove him wrong. And you know what? This reader was proven right, well kind of right. I couldn't find anything that directly links conservatism with personal generosity. But I found some information that more than hints at a link. For one, the Catalogue of Philanthropy's Generosity Index ranks the states by charitable giving from most generous to least. At the top of the list was red stronghold Mississippi. And as I read down the list, I saw nothing but right-leaning states at the top. In fact, I had to get halfway down the list to find a blue state listed. The bottom is made up of nothing but left-leaning states, ending with Massachusetts. I went on to read articles pointing out that Christians give more than non-Christians, and broken down, that conservative Christians give more than mainline protestants or Catholics. And the less money one has, the more generous one is with the pocketbook, so we can't just say it's a bunch of Republican fat cats throwing their money around.

I must say, it stole a lot of thunder from me. It's certainly nothing a self-righteous liberal like myself can take pride in. It's a true reminder to those of us who like to think that we are truly the more compassionate ones. Conservatives have something to gloat about here. As a group, we liberals talk about compassion, but apparently only as long as someone else pays the bills.

Now does this give conservatives the last word on compassion? Absolutely not. It's truly impressive to give generously of one's own resources. But it seems awfully defeating to do that and then advocate government policy that necessitates such generosity. It seems illogical to give freely to the poor, then give political support to a trickle-down philosophy that has deindustrialized our nation, devalued jobs for the working and middle class, done little to provide economic opportunity to the poor and refused to find solutions to make health care more affordable and a quality education more accessible.

And then there's this laughable and naive proposition that we should get government out of the human services business, that if the government quit doing anything for anyone (except of course for large corporations), private agencies would just step in and fill the void. Giving some money to the Salvation Army is commendable, and spending one's spring break by going with a church group down to Kentucky is nice. But it's not enough. If it were, the government wouldn't have become the juggernaut it's often criticized as being, sometimes with justification. Remember, the New Deal wasn't created in a vacuum, and anyone who thinks America was such a great place for the average Joe before 1933, doesn't know a damn thing about history.

And let me also say to conservatives, lest they gloat too much, considering that charitable contributions persist at less than 2 percent of GDP, I don't think anyone has a whole lot to be proud of, be they on the left or right.

Liberals, open up your checkbooks and give more freely of your time. To do otherwise is just plain hypocritical. Conservatives, the check you wrote and the time you spent at the soup kitchen don't absolve you of a responsibility to stand up for social justice.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


This is no way to run a blog!

Maybe it's just that nobody except the most extreme ideologue likes Bush anymore, so throwing stones at him now seems cheap and gratuitous, like kicking a dead mule. Maybe the conservative movement seems equally pathetic these days, undone by its own arrogance, hubris and venality. Or maybe it's just that I've gotten pretty damned lazy. Whatever the case, I haven't made a posting in something like nine days, and that's no way to run a blog.

It's not as if the world has vanished, and there's nothing to write about. In fact there are many ideas germinating in my mind, so why don't I just get them all out into cyberspace now and be done with it?

1) It's been great fun watching the conservative movement imploding in recent weeks taking the GOP down with it. It appears the Republican big tent has lost a lot of its hot air and it's coming down around their heads. In fact, the right-wingers have now turned on their sugar daddy in the White House over the Harriet Miers nomination. The likes of Robert Bork, George Will, William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer are red-faced with rage, and they do have a point. I mean, who the hell is this woman? I lived in Dallas for many years and I never heard of Miers; her two years there on the City Council completely escaped my notice. Of course, I'm far from the first to point out the laughable White House cronyism this nominatin illustrates. Maybe if it fails, Bush should check to see if his dentist or accountant are looking for a career change.

2) Meanwhile, some conservatives support the nomination, making me wonder what these folks are up to. "I can't reveal it all," James Dobson said last week in an attempt to assuage the fears of fellow conservatives, "because I do know things that I'm privy to that I can't describe because of confidentiality." Yikes! Should we be scared by this?

3) Remember those hopes for a silver lining after Hurricane Katrina that might bring a worldwide focus to social justice and renewed effort to fight poverty. Even President Bush suggested it was time that we all turned to these goals. According to today's New York Times, that was perhaps a lot of hot air from our president. Instead, the White House is focusing its efforts on right-wing social engineering down on the Gulf, something I reported on a couple of weeks ago. "This is not the time to expand the programs that were failing anyway," said some guy at the kneejerk right-wing Heritage Foundation. As if furthering failed right-wing trickle-down economic policies will do anybody any good. Yet another squandered opportunity from the Bush White House. Read all about it here.

4) David Brooks, every liberal's favorite conservative, writes here about how tiresome this left-right debate has become for the vast majority of Americans, even for many liberals and conservatives. It was tiresome 10 years ago, and it's become practically intolerable. Yet, we have two parties that continue to fan the flames. Both are too bankrupt of ideas and too lazy to try to unite Americans, so instead they spread outrage like so much manure, hoping to nurture weeds of discontent. (Sigh. I can't believe I just said that) I'm not an ideologue, although I am pretty darned liberal. I've cast my lot with the Democrats, knowing they've badly failed America, but seeing them as a dim hope in an otherwise hopeless situation. Like most Americans I just want someone to help us save our country.

5) And it's sure not Hillary Clinton. I don't think she's the devil incarnate. But I do see her as a supremely divisive figure, and after eight years of Clinton and eight years of Bush, Americans are tired of the divisiveness. Most of us are looking for plain vanilla, hopefully plain vanilla who solves problems like the budget deficit and the cost of health care. I wonder if a seance will bring Eisenhower back from the dead.

6) Here's a slogan I read in The Nation magazine: "Make levees, not war."

7) After spending $30 for the first time ever to fill up my car last week (and I know that's a fraction of what some are paying), I was thinking about how these days the image of Jimmy Carter wearing a cardigan doesn't look so silly anymore. Too bad we chose not to listen to him.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


Equal time, even for Republicans

Unlike right-wingers, who think that only their ideas should ever be heard, we liberals believe that a diversity of viewpoints makes America great. That's why we have a response today from a conservative on my posting of a few days ago on Tom DeLay's indictment:

Did y'all actually READ Delay's defense info on his sight?

I don't know all the facts, but the facts that are public sure make this look like a witch hunt.
It looks like two PAC were set up which Delay was on the board of, the TRMPAC (Texans for a Republican Majority) And another one which I can't remember. These PACs were given money by corporations, legally. These PACs Gave money to the RNC and RNSEC, which are not political parties, but are considered PACs, just as the DNC is.

Ronnie Earle is trying to convict Delay on a "conspiracy" charge (you Dems really love that word) that says that Delay Conspired with other Repubs to skirt the Texas Election Code that says "A corporation or labor organization may not knowingly make a contribution [to a political party] during a period beginning on the 60th day before the date of a general election for state and county officers and continuing through the day of the election."

by having corporations give money to the TRMPAC who in turn, gave money to the RNC and RNSEC. Now, even if the RNC was a political party, this would not be illegal, unless, the law said that a person is in violation of the code if his intent was to funnel the money to the political party, which, it does not. So, even if the RNC WAS a political party, which it is NOT, the worst Earle has on Delay is that his PAC acted within the context of the law to its political advantage, the same way all us Americans do when filing our tax return.

There just doesn't seem to be ANYTHING here, and, yes, it does seem that Ronnie Earle has a political agenda. Yes, Earle has convicted more Democrats as district attorney in AUSTIN..duh. Since Austin barely has enough Republicans to fill a phone booth, its hardly surprising that its Dist. Attorney, even when overtly partisan, has convicted more Dems. Earle has clearly CONDUCTED his investigation in an openly partisan manner, as indicated by the Houston Chronicle:

The Houston Chronicle called into question Earle's impartiality and judgment:"The fact that Earle refuses to recognize his blunder and would do it again calls into question whether he has the necessary impartiality and judgment to conduct the investigation that to a great extent will determine whether Texas election campaigns will be financed and perhaps determined by corporations or by individuals."
(Self-inflicted wound; District attorney's poor judgment in speaking at a Democratic fund-raiser provides an unintended boost for DeLay's defenders., The Houston Chronicle, May 20, 2005)

Now, unlike the "elite" media which takes right-wing potshots without comment, The Mouth gets to respond to feedback from critics.

First of all, the fact that Ronnie Earle serves as DA in a mostly Democratic county has nothing to do with the ratio of Republican vs. Democratic officeholders he has prosecuted. None of those names I mentioned in my posting were local politicans; they all were statewide officeholders. The twist here is that Earle serves the county where the State Capitol happens to be located and where Texas politicians of all stripes do their dirty deeds. As a result, he has the latitude to prosecute any criminal activity that takes place in his county no matter who commits it. In fact, his office even has a public integrity section that investigates politicians and bureaucrats, something unique to Travis County.

Bill Clinton, one of my least favorite Democrats, would certanly applaud your explanation of why DeLay and TRMPAC did nothing wrong. You have chosen to take the most legalistic and narrow view of what the players did here, and refuse to look at how their actions subverted the spirit of the law, and most likely the letter of it. I suppose you'll be asking me next for a definition of the word "is." The fact is, Texas law forbids corporate contributions to political candidates, and the maneuverings and machinations undertaken by TRMPAC and the RNC amount to money laundering. There's no doubt their intentions were to subvert the law and undermine the integrity of the 2002 state legislative election.

Please note from my column the other day that I haven't ruled out that DeLay might not be convicted by the time this is all over. But I wouldn't bet the ranch on it. William Gibson, the foreman of the grand jury that indicted DeLay, told NPR this morning that the jury was shown e-mails and phone logs, which cast our House majority leader in the most negative light. Also to consider is the speculation, discussed Friday on PBS' NewsHour, that an insider has perhaps "flipped" and will testify against DeLay to his own ass.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying all of this thoroughly. Remember a decade ago how it seemed the threshhold of proof was awfully low to brand President Clinton with all manner of crimes. All that was needed was mere allegation and even innuendo, and the lynch mob would come calling. Seems as if that threshhold has been raised skyward in recent years. But then that's the kind of moral and ethical exucse-making we've come to expect from the Right.

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