Month: March 2009

What Brown Has Done For You

You have probably been following the latest outrage on Bill O’Reilly’s part. If not, the Keith Olbermann segment below should get you caught up.

All just the usual wacko give and take between Olbermann and OReilly until you read this.

Since the launch of our Stop Supporting The O’Reilly Harassment Machine campaign on Wednesday afternoon, more than 10,000 of you have taken action. Thank you for all your support! In just two days, here are all the successes we’ve had:

– UPS announced it will no longer advertise on The Factor

Wow! The Think Progress write-in campaign actually resulted in UPS pulling their advertisements from O’Reilly’s show, The Factor.”

This restores my faith in grassroots blog campaigns.  UPS will certainly have my business from now on.

Dim Bulb Award

lightbulb

Dusting off the award

Here we are  deep into the legislative session and I have resisted handing out the “Dim Bulb”  award to anyone this year. This hesitancy was not because there hasn’t been the usual amount of stupidity on display, because, of course there has been.

But you must remember to win the award run-of-the-mill dimness won’t do. Winners must not only display jaw dropping ignorance, but they must also have such a complete lack the self-awareness they have no sense of shame, and, in fact, revel in their dimness.

We shoulda never went there

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Today the House passed (51-17) a non-binding memorial sponsored by Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, to declare Idaho’s sovereignty from the federal government and ask the feds to “cease and desist” from violating that sovereignty.

According to Betsy Russell at Eye on Idaho,

Harwood read from the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and told the House, “With them words, the states of this United States created the federal government.” It was meant to be an agent for the states, he said, not the other way around. Harwood decried federal actions that push states to comply under threat of losing federal funds. “They’ve moved us in a direction that we can’t afford to go … and we shoulda never went there,” he said. And he told the House that he believes the United States is not a democracy and not even just a republic, but a “confederacy,” adding, “To be accurate, we’re a confederated republic.”

Rep. George Sayler, D-Coeur d’Alene, a retired high school government teacher, gently pointed out that we are not a confederacy and that we fought a civil war to clarify that point. Not that it did much good.

Harwood is one of those Idaho Republican legislators who graduated from the “School of Hard Knocks.There is no point in confusing him with facts

Dim Leading the Dim

Two more of the dimmest of the dim followed Harwood’s lead.

Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, spoke out in favor of a return to the gold standard, and said he supported the memorial because of its statements against the federal reserve system. Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis, also spoke in favor of the measure.

UPDATE: Harwood digs the hole deeper. Again from Betsy Russell,

Political scientists said Harwood’s dead wrong, and a longtime Kootenai County human rights activist said the use of the term “confederacy” is offensive. Harwood said, “If I’m wrong, then I guess I’m wrong. But my understanding of it all was that we were a confederated republic.” He said he thought President Lincoln changed things so that states couldn’t secede, but that the nation remained a confederacy. “Lots of things that have happened in the history of our country never get told in college courses.”

That’s right, Dick, stay away from them college courses with their lies and all.

Bloated Floaters and Snouted Sappers

garth

Starting today and running through the end of the month, the Boise Art Musuem features a wonderful exhibit by Idaho artist, Garth Claassen.  The exhibit consists of 85 drawings and is entitled “Bloated Floaters, Snouted Sappers and the Defense of the Empire.”  The title alone ought to be enough to induce you to see the exhibit. Read more about it here.

Who are the Bloated Floaters and Snouted Sappers?  Here is how Garth describes them:

They are people who’ve gotten themselves into some kind of predicament. People who are trying to control this and control that, working so very hard at something that may not have a real point and probably isn’t a good idea.

You look at history, these series of attempts to keep these people penned in or keep those people out, to monitor this or construct that. It’s all done with great energy. There’s a lot of action and dust and everything, and nothing happens.

Garth is a friend. In the fifteen years that I have known him, I have never heard him raise his voice or say a negative thing about anyone. I am beginning to think I understand his secret. He has the artist’s ability to see the absurdities of life and laugh.

Ever since reading Garth’s description of those who attempt  “to keep these people penned in or those people penned out, to monitor this or construct that” I have noticed a drop in my stress level. Rather that rant and fume about the wingnuts on the right Bloated Floaters and Snouted Sappers, I have made a game out of deciding who should go in each category.

So, here is my take on the difference between the two groups. A Bloated Floater is someone who is full of gas, floating untethered above the fray, spouting “truths” down at the rest of us.  Here is an obvious candidate from the media. Here , here and here are a few more. Notice how addictive this can be. I have barely scratched the surface and haven’t even included politicians, national or local.

Equally odious are the Snouted Sappers. These are people who slither under the radar, poking their snouts into everyone’s business and sapping the life out of their victims with their self-righteousness. Obviously, any religious fundamentalist with a public forum makes this list. We could start here and work our way down to the local level, but there is no point in me providing more examples. The real fun is creating your own list. Give it a try. It is a real stress reducer and worth a few laughs.

I believe, in the final analysis, Garth is right about the Bloated Floaters and Snouted Sappers, “There’s a lot of action and dust and everything, and nothing happens.”

Who Do I Shoot?

muley

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck’s brilliant novel about the Great Depression, should be required reading for anyone hoping to understand our current economic crisis. Although it lacks the complexity of the novel, the movie adaptation by John Ford is a classic in its own right.  Ford was able to distill Steinbeck’s message in any number of finely honed scenes.  One of my favorites is the scene where Muley and his son try to understand how their family can be evicted from the land they have farmed for three  generations. 

MULEY: You mean get off my own land?

THE MAN: Now don’t go blaming me. It ain’t my fault.

MULEY’S SON: Whose fault is it?

THE MAN: You know who owns the land — the Shawnee Land and Cattle Company.

MULEY: Who’s the Shawnee Land and Cattle Comp’ny?

THE MAN: It ain’t nobody. It’s a company.

SON: They got a pres’dent, ain’t they? They got somebody that knows what a shotgun’s for, ain’t they?

THE MAN: But it ain’t his fault, because the bank tells him what to do.

SON: All right. Where’s the bank?

THE MAN: Tulsa. But what’s the use of picking on him? He ain’t anything but the manager, and half crazy hisself, trying to keep up with his orders from the east!

MULEY: (bewildered) Then who do we shoot?

 

As the CEO’s of corporations, banks, and insurance companies march, one by one, before Congressional committees, average Americans are asking the same question- Who is to blame?  Politicians, seeing an opportunity to score political points, are falling all over each other to demonstrate their outrage. Republican Senator Charles Grassley has gone so far as to suggest the executives at AIG “either resign or commit suicide.”  Today he backtracked to say that he only meant it “rhetorically.”  But that is the problem. Politicians are all about rhetoric rather than action. 

So, what about Muley’s question?  Whose fault is it? Who is to blame?  I suppose we can say Wall Street and the financiers are to blame. But honestly, what did we expect? By their very nature they are all about maximizing profit. They were just doing what they received those outrageous salaries and bonuses to do.  

To me the answer is obvious. The fault lies with those who worship at the alter of the free market. The Libertarians and “take a bite out of government” ideologues who view government as the enemy are to blame for our current crisis. And, of course, those very politicians who are crying the loudest now are responsible for the orgy of deregulation that has been their guiding idea since the days of Reaganomics. 

A perfect example is Idaho’s senior senator, Mike Crapo.  Senator Crapo has been positioning himself as “shocked” by the excesses while, at the same time, co-sponsoring with Senator Christopher Dodd the “Depositor Protection Act of 2009” that will provide FDIC insurance to those companies “too big to fail.”  What Crapo never mentions is that, as a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs he has led the fight to deregulate the financial industry. 

According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics

The last time Congress seriously debated how to regulate the financial industry, the result was legislation that allowed the nation’s largest banks to get even larger and take risks that had been prohibited since the Great Depression. A look back at that debate, which was over the 1999 Financial Services Modernization Act, reveals that campaign contributions may have influenced the votes of politicians who, a decade later, are now grappling with the implosion of the giant banks they helped to foster. Those members of Congress who supported lifting Depression-era restrictions on commercial banks, investment banks and insurance companies received more than twice as much money from those interests than did those lawmakers who opposed the measure.

Until the U.S. government threw a taxpayer-funded lifeline to Wall Street banks drowning in a sea of bad debt, the potential for these financial giants to go under had been dismissed. The banks were “too big too fail.” It was the 1999 legislation, commonly referred to as Gramm-Leach-Bliley (for its sponsors’ names), that cleared the way for these companies to grow so large.

Not only did Crapo vote for Gramm-Latch-Bliley, he joined Phil Gramm in fighting for it in committee and on the Senate floor. His efforts to deregulate the financial industry didn’t end there.  As recently as 2006 Crapo was leading efforts to provide even more “regulatory relief” through the “Financial Services Regulatory Relief Act of 2006.” Crapo said on the floor of the Senate in support of the bill,

 After many months of negotiations and discussion with regulators, industry, consumer groups and other interested parties, we now have a bill before us that will provide important regulatory relief for financial institutions.

So, more than most politicians, Crapo is responsible for the current crisis. More than most, Crapo is to blame. Not only does he refuse to accept blame, he now would have us believe it is finally time to consider the question of whether there are some corporations “too big to fail” and to trust him to lead the discussion.  

I can think of five good reasons not to trust him. Here are Crapo’s top five contributors during his last decade in the Senate.

  1. Citigroup Inc
  2. JPMorgan Chase & Co
  3. Goldman Sachs
  4. Credit Suisse Group
  5. Securities Industry & Financial Mkt Assn

I am guessing Crapo believes all five are/were too big to fail.

Dead End Meets North End

otter

This from the Idaho Statesman this morning. “The future of Idaho is not contained in the North End.”

Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, elicited that response from Gov. Butch Otter’s budget chief Wayne Hammon after asking about the lack of bike paths in the governor’s transportation funding package.

“I know it sounds frivolous,” LeFavour said, “but this emphasis on cars and roads with a total lack of dedication to public transportation. We can’t keep going down this path. We need to prepare for the future.”

Hammon replied: “The future of Idaho is not contained in the North End. There are people all over this state that don’t have the option of riding their bike to work.”

The quip drew “oohs” in the viewing gallery and in the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

When chided by Sen. John McGee that he would not be able to show his face in the North End, Hammon joked, “I always go to Java Downtown anyway.”

After the meeting, Elliot Werk, D-Boise — who rides his bike to the Capitol Annex often — said Hammon was expressing 1950s view of transportation.

“It’s a shallow view of what transportation is,” Werk said, adding that travel only by car is leading to obesity, pollution and funding of Middle Eastern nations.

I am beginning to understand Hammon’s thinking. The future of Idaho is not contained in Boise, so no trolley system. The future of Idaho is not contained in the Treasure Valley, so no light rail system. In fact, the future of Idaho is not contained in public transportation or alternative transportation. The real future of Idaho is to stay stuck in the 1950s.

Bushvilles

sacramento-hooverville1

During the Great Depression shantytowns sprouted up all over America. Thousands of families, unable to pay their mortgages, lost their homes and were forced  to find alternate forms of shelter. These encampments made of cardboard, canvas and any other materials that could be scavenged were originally thought to be temporary, but, in many cases, existed throughout the depression. The large shantytown in Seattle, for example,  continued until 1941 when a  “shack elimination” program was put into effect and it was torn down.

 Of course, we remember these  shantytowns by the name given them by their bitter inhabitants, “Hoovervilles”. The photo above is of one of the largest Hoovervilles on the west coast along the bank of the American River in Sacramento, California. 

sacramento-tent-city

Fast forward to today.  As more and more economists are flirting with the “D” word to describe the current economic crisis, the rest of us see the more obvious parallels between then and now unfolding  daily. Last Friday Sacramento’s local CBS affiliate reported that a tent city has developed in the bank of the American River.  When the main stream media picked up the story, the tent city was already being described as a “Bushville.”

House Republicans- A Confederacy of Dunces

dunces

Just  when you think it is impossible for the Republicans to be anymore irrelevant, clownish and childish,  you read the following:

The top Republican in the House is seizing on the latest spike in unemployment to call for a freeze on government spending and to urge President Barack Obama to veto a $410 billion spending bill.          

Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the jump in unemployment to 8.1 percent and the loss of 651,000 jobs in February is a sign of a worsening recession that demands better solutions from both parties. [snip] Boehner said he hoped Obama would veto the bill. He urged the president to work with House Republicans to impose a spending freeze until the end of this fiscal year.

As Pat Garofalo points out, a spending freeze is exactly the wrong thing to do at this time. The economy needs stimulating and a spending freeze is the perfect “anti-stimulus.”

But under the current economic circumstances, this is a far more damaging policy then it was six months ago when McCain was touting it. The economic stimulus package’s main purpose is to close the GDP gap and jumpstart the economy by spurring spending by households, government and the private sector. A spending freeze would act as an “anti-stimulus,” cutting spending precisely when it’s too low and the economy is moving too slowly.   Are these Republicans trying to ensure that the stimulus fails? Or is it that this group simply has no new ideas?

Even Conservative David Brooks realizes the plan is insane.