Month: December 2009

A Fitting End of the Year in Idaho Politics

Idaho Governor Clement “Butch” Otter ends 2009 with a demonstration of the type of leadership he has displayed throughout his time in office. In a bit of pathetic, hypocritical grandstanding, Otter threatens to sue the United States if health care passes.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter on Wednesday threatened to sue the United States should health care reform become law as currently drafted in bills that passed the House and Senate.

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Otter said the bill passed last week by the Senate is unconstitutional, expensive and inequitable to states that didn’t get special breaks. Otter said Congress is moving to sacrifice “fiscal responsibility, sound judgment and constitutionality for political expediency.”

This is the same Butch Otter that wanted to  cut  state retirees from the state Blue Shield plan that they had paid into for many years, and put them into Medicare to save the state money.  However, to the delusional Governor, suing the Federal government seems to be a good use of taxpayer money.

So it goes….   Best wishes to all…. Have a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

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The Tea Party Gullibles

This from the Idaho Statesman:

Tea Party Boise appears to be keeping its promise to sustain its efforts on behalf of conservative policies in 2010. The January events include an inaugural annual meeting and a Statehouse rally with other Tea Party groups. Tea Party Boise also is surveying its members for direction on the group’s future.

“The fight begins now, so stay tuned, stay involved with us,” says an unsigned e-mail to Tea Party Boise members last week.

The survey asks members whether the group should remain nonpartisan, encourage conservatives to run for office, publish evaluations of candidate records, and collaborate with the national Tea Party movement. It also asks about policy issues, including term limits and earmarks, and whether members would support “nullification” legislation seeking to empower Idaho to oppose any federal law that violates the U.S. Constitution.

Yes, that nullification idea is a sure winner. Too bad John C. Calhoun isn’t around to help you draft that legislation.

The Boise rally drew 2,500 protesters to Capitol Park, Boise police said. The group used the rally to build membership. Tea Party Boise publishes an electronic newsletter and operates a Web site.

The December newsletter says 2010 will be “The Year of the People” and criticizes a number of Obama administration initiatives, including health care reform, economic stimulus, cap-and-trade and trials in civilian courts for accused terrorists. It calls global climate change “the biggest hoax in history.”

Actually, the “Tea Bag” movement is the biggest hoax in history.  The so-called “grassroots”, populist uprising is as “astro turf” as you can get.  According to TPMMuckraker, most of the money contributed by the gullible public who gave to the Tea Party PAC went to the GOP public relations firm that created it.

The political action committee behind the Tea Party Express (TPE) — which already has been slammed as inauthentic and corporate-controlled by rival factions in the Tea Party movement — directed almost two thirds of its spending during a recent reporting period back to the Republican consulting firm that created the PAC in the first place.

Our Country Deserves Better (OCDB) spent around $1.33 million from July through November, according to FEC filings examined by TPMmuckraker. Of that sum, a total of $857,122 went to Sacramento-based GOP political consulting firm Russo, Marsh, and Associates, or people associated with it.

Look Under a Rock- There is Jim DeMint

The Right Wing bloggers are in a feeding frenzy blaming Obama and Sec. of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, for failing to catch the “crotch bomber”.

Tea bagging Senator Jim DeMint (R SC) appeared on Fox News to express his “concern” about the failure of the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) to “connect the dots”.

Asked by host Chris Wallace whether he was concerned that “the Obama administration has not done as good a job as it should have in connecting the dots,” DeMint replied “Chris, I am concerned, because it’s related to another issue that we’re dealing with now in the Senate. The administration is intent on unionizing and submitting our airport security to union bosses’ collective bargaining”

DeMint adds the odd interjection about “another issue” because he is trying to deflect the fact that he is responsible for the lack of leadership at TSA. What DeMint fails to mention (and Wallace does not call him on) is that the good Senator from South Carolina has a hold on the conformation of Erroll Southers as head of TSA. Why would DeMint jeopardize the Nation’s security by refusing to confirm a leader at TSA who could effectively coordinate airport security? Because he is afraid Southers might possibly allow airport screeners to unionize.

Of course, it is not just DeMint willing to obstruct National Security for political points.

…over one hundred Republican Representatives voted against a 2010 appropriations bill which set aside $1.1 billion for explosives detection systems.  These are the same kind of systems which would theoretically detect the kind of explosives Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had attached to him when he tried to blow up flight 253.

The “No Everything” Republican party strikes again.

The Terrorists know they are winning when…

From Associated Press Writer, Joan Lowy:

Some airlines were telling passengers on Saturday that new government security regulations prohibit them from leaving their seats beginning an hour before landing

The regulations are a response to a suspected terrorism incident on Christmas Day.

Air Canada said in a statement that new rules imposed by the Transportation Security Administration limit on-board activities by passengers and crew in U.S. airspace. The airline said that during the final hour of flight passengers must remain seated. They won’t be allowed access to carryon baggage or to have any items on their laps.

Flight attendants on some domestic flights are informing passengers of similar rules. Passengers on a flight from New York to Tampa Saturday morning were also told they must remain in their seats and couldn’t have items in their laps, including laptops and pillows.

These new FCC rules will certainly fool the terrorists! they will never think to light their bombs before the last hour of a flight.

Mike Crapo Grandstanding About Health Care.

Idaho Senator Mike Crapo has spent the last week flooding the media with a call to sign his on-line petition opposing Health Care legislation. In addition to hearing the constant radio ads, I have had to put up with daily “robo calls” filled with lies and misstatements about the Senate bill and ending with a plea that I get on line and sign the petition.

Crapo, who has no real political power or influence, hopes to convince gullible Idaho voters that this petition will turn the tide and defeat the legislation, thus making him a national leader of the health care opposition.

Here is his “news release” on the official web site:

Washington, D.C. – More than 19,000 people, starting with Idahoans but spreading nationwide to all 50 states, have signed an online petition opposing the current health care reform legislation before the U.S. Senate. The online petition was prepared by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo, who has been on the Senate floor and national cable television programs leading opposition to the bill because it raises taxes on the middle class, increases premiums for many people now carrying insurance, cuts senior programs and fails to lower health care costs.
“There has not been a piece of legislation this decade that has come with more opposition to it than this health care reform bill,” Crapo said. “I support health reforms, but not a bill like this that puts the government in charge of doctor-patient relationships. Three days ago, I asked Idahoans if they would join me in petitioning the United States Senate to defeat this bill. The response has been remarkable. We now have more than 19,000 signatures, and that number continues to grow by the hour.

Of course, Crapo knows the petition is just grandstanding. In fact, according to The Hill, Crapo is well aware that the legislation is a done deal and the Republicans will not be able to repeal it any time soon.

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) said Republicans are unlikely to be able to repeal the legislation anytime in the near future.

“Technically it could be peeled back if the circumstances were right,” Crapo said during an appearance on a conservative news radio syndicate. “But we would have to have a president who would sign such a bill, and we would have to have 60 votes in the Senate — not just 50.”

“So it would be a very tall order, and frankly, the likelihood’s that that’s not going to develop in the near future,” he added.

The “Noughties”- Rise of the New Oligarchs

The decade of the Noughties is coming to an end. I have no doubt historians will consider it to be among the worst in American history.  Juan Cole has written a fine essay on his blog, Informed Comment, where he describes the decade as the “Rise of the New Oligarchs”.

We have always had robber barons in American politics, but the Neoliberal moment created a new social class. At about 1.3 million adults, it is not too large to have some cohesive interests, and its corporations, lobbyists, and other institutions allow it to intervene systematically in politics. It owns 45 percent of the privately held wealth and is heading toward 50, i.e. toward a Banana Republic.

Thus, we have a gutted fairness doctrine and the end of anti-trust concerns in ownership of mass media, allowing a multi-billionaire like Rupert Murdoch to buy up major media properties and to establish a cable television channel which is nothing but oligarch propaganda.

They established ‘think tanks’ like the American Enterprise Institute, which hires only staff that are useful agents of the interests of the very wealthy, and which produce studies denying global climate change or lying about the situation in Iraq. Bush-Cheney were not simply purveyors of wrong-headed ideas. They were the agents of the one percent, and their policies make perfect sense if seen as attempts to advance the interests of this narrow class of persons.

It is the class that owns our mass media, that pays for the political campaigns of ‘our’ (their) representatives, that gives us the Bushes and Cheneys and Palins because they are useful to them, and that blocks progressive reform and legislation with the vast war chest funneled to them by deep tax cuts that allow them to use essential public resources, infrastructure and facilities gratis while making the middle class pay for them.

Dismantling the policies and structures implemented by the new Oligarchs is not impossible. It does, however, appear unlikely to happen anytime soon. As Cole points out, this new social class is comprised of corporate interests, lobbyists and media who have been able to systematically intervene in American politics in unprecedented ways.

Progressives who are unhappy because the economy has not been re-regulated, affordable health care has not been made available for all, wealth has not been redistributed, a green economy has not been established, foreign intervention has not been ended and the powers of the “Imperial Presidency” have not been revoked during the first year of the Obama Presidency need to take a deep breath. Even with hard work and committed effort on the part of Progressives, it is likely to take another decade to undo the abuses of the last.

Senator Whitehouse calls out the Paranoid Republicans

Richard Hofstadter was one of the most insightful historians of the 20th century. In two essays, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1963) and The Paranoid Style in American Politics (1965), Hofstadter identified themes that have been deeply ingrained in American political life. It is safe to say that both essays are even more relevant today than when they were originally written.

The Paranoid Style in American Politics was first printed in Harpers Magazine and recently described by its editor as one of the most important and most influential articles published in the 155 year history of the magazine.

Writing in the wake of the 1964 Presidential election, Hofstadler states that:

American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind.

He describes the paranoid politician in the following way:

The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms — he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization… he does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish. Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated — if not from the world, at least from the theatre of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention. This demand for total triumph leads to the formulation of hopelessly unrealistic goals, and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s sense of frustration. Even partial success leaves him with the same feeling of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes.

Hmm– remind you of anyone?–  or, to be more accurate, any political party?

The comparisons didn’t escape Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.  The following clip is a bit lengthy, but it is worth watching. Whitehouse call out the Republicans and remind them that their “day of judgement” is coming.


Branding the Pope

It appears that Father Guido Sarducci is in trouble- no more “Pope-soap-on-a-rope”. The Vatican has decided that they hold the copyright on any image of the Pope©.  From now on the Vatican and the Vatican alone will be able to cash in on images of the Holy Father. I guess if you are interested in worshiping graven images, you need to buy them from the authentic purveyors like this.

Vatican City, Dec 19, 2009 / 12:23 pm (CNA).- The Vatican made a declaration on the protection of the figure of the Pope on Saturday morning.  The statement seeks to establish and safeguard the name, image and any symbols of the Pope as being expressly for official use of the Holy See unless otherwise authorized.

The statement cited a “great increase of affection and esteem for the person of the Holy Father” in recent years as contributing to a desire to use the Pontiff’s name for all manner of educational and cultural institutions, civic groups and foundations.

Due to this demand, the Vatican has felt it necessary to declare that “it alone has the right to ensure the respect due to the Successors of Peter, and therefore, to protect the figure and personal identity of the Pope from the unauthorized use of his name and/or the papal coat of arms for ends and activities which have little or nothing to do with the Catholic Church.”

The declaration alludes to attempts to use ecclesiastical or pontifical symbols and logos to “attribute credibility and authority to initiatives” as another reason to establish their “copyright” on the Holy Father’s name, picture and coat of arms.

“Consequently, the use of anything referring directly to the person or office of the Supreme Pontiff… and/or the use of the title ‘Pontifical,’ must receive previous and express authorization from the Holy See,” concluded the message released to the press.

This seems pretty unenforceable to me! But, I guess the point is- if you can’t beat them, co-opt them.

Risch Lies, Who Cares?

Outrage fatigue sets in….  Editor and Publisher is going out of business. Investigative reporting is a thing of the past. Media Matters doggedly soldiers on. Fortunately, here in Idaho, we have at least one reporter, Dan Popkey, who is willing to follow up on political hackery and spin with stories like this:

The Idaho Legislature’s budget office said Friday that state Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, has his facts right in a dispute with U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho.

Rusche on Thursday critiqued Risch’s claim made Monday that the Senate Democrats’ health care reform bill would mean “massive” tax hikes or “massive” education spending cuts in the states.

Rusche based his argument on the bill’s provision that the federal government would pay 95 percent of the cost of expanding Medicaid to 160,000 Idahoans beginning in 2017, after picking up the entire cost between 2014 and 2016.

Rusche said the reform would save Idaho at least $13 million a year and not force cuts or tax increases in the state.

Risch countered that the federal match for Idaho would be only 90 percent, saying the bill would cost Idaho another $10 million annually.

Legislative budget analyst Amy Johnson, citing an analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures, said Rusche was correct about the 95 percent match for Idaho in the current bill.

Risch spokesman Brad Hoaglun said that Rusche “could well be right” about Idaho. But Hoaglun noted that Risch’s original comments in Senate debate were focused on the burden reform would put on states overall. The average matching rate for all 50 states will be 90 percent.

Hoaglun also said the bill is a moving target and could be substantially amended. “There may be winners and losers and Idaho could be a winner. But that could all change tomorrow.”

Everywhere else there is silence. There will be no outrage from politicians or the media. Risch is just one more Republican party hack who knows he can lie with impunity. After all, his lies and hypocrisy pale when compared to the constant barrage coming from faux news and the leaders of the party of “no”.  Al Frankin may be right, “We are entitled to our own opinions. We’re not entitled to our own facts.” but, without a mainstream media willing to inform the public, participatory democracy is doomed.

It seems obvious to me that Obama, is a pragmatist. A pragmatist is willing to set aside ideology to find solutions to problems. That position, of course, is guaranteed to generate critics from any and all ideological camps.  John Dewey, Pragmatist and, arguably, America’s greatest philosopher claimed that the enemy of effective problem solving is “either-or” thinking; thinking that allows ideology to blind one from working towards creative solutions. Effective problem solving, according to Dewey, necessitates an understanding of the distinction between terminal ends and “ends-in-view”.

As long as we are wedded to the purity of our solutions, we will never accept meaningful change. Global warming and health care are the two latest examples of the dangers in confusing final “ends” with “ends-in-view”. I am very disappointed with the current health care legislation. I prefer a single payer system like those in most of the enlightened democracies in the world. I cringe to watch slimy politicians like Nelson and Lieberman subvert the public will. But, the irrationality of adopting an “either-or” position is obvious. A less-than-perfect health care plan is better than our current situation. It is an “end-in-view,” something achievable now and open to further change as its strengths and weaknesses become more apparent.

There needs to be authentic public dialogue for pragmatic solutions to have a chance of success. This is not happening in the main stream media where real dialogue is confused with demagoguery; where ideologues from both extremes are invited to invent their own facts without check.

In one of his greatest works, The Public and Its Problems, Dewey explored the ways in which “special interests, powerful corporate capital, numbing and distracting entertainment, general selfishness, and the vagaries of public communication” subvert the possibilities for a true public dialogue that might lead to a clarification of the common interest and a willingness to work towards an identifiable “end-in-view”. The subversion has extended far beyond what Dewey anticipated in 1927. It used to be said that Pragmatism was America’s philosophy. I am afraid those days are gone.