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Friday, September 07, 2012

Alice in Demo Land


Calhoun’s Cannons for Sept 7, 2012

            Three days of the Republican convention.  Three days of the Democratic convention.  And I have just one question:  What the hell happened to this country?
            Really.  How did the ethos of work hard, help your neighbor raise his barn and he’ll help with yours, build for the future so your kids will have it better than you,  get transmuted into the ethos of Ayn Rand:  Money equals success, taxes are theft, go raise your own damned barn, and the next generation can look out for themselves?
            When did we stop being a nation of hard-headed pragmatists – pay your bills, grow your business, invest in the future – and turn into air-heads willing to believe voodoo economics, the “trickle-down” fake theories of David Stockman who later admitted that he made it all up?  In a consumer/capitalist society, trickles go upward, not down.  Henry Ford figured that out years ago.  He paid an unheard-of living wage so his workers had enough money to buy his product.  No salaries, no buyers; no buyers, no factory; no factory, no Henry Ford.
            When did companies move out of what economists call “the virtuous circle of growth?”  Back in the day, Frank W. Abrams, chairman of Standard Oil of New Jersey, wrote, “The job of management is to maintain an equitable and working balance among the claims of the various directly affected interests groups . . .”  i.e. stockholders, employees, the community, the public, the nation as a whole.
            The Virtuous Circle resulted in and sustained the middle class, encouraged ongoing prosperity for the maximum number of people, ensured stability, kept Ayn Randian greed in check.  How quaint it seems now.  In its stead, we have Gordon Gekko, the rapacious Bainer whose overriding goal is to maximize profits for a small number of stakeholders, push all value to the first-quarter bottom line, loot the company and scamper for the Cayman Islands, with all that rapacious, short-sighted behavior rewarded by hefty bonuses and favorable back-room-written tax laws.
            How could anyone think that such behavior wouldn’t lead to bubbles and theft and corruption and crash?  Did the average American somehow think that he would be exempt from the destruction that was heading his way?  Is that why he kept voting into office wholly-owned Corporate Pols who would promise him pie then vote into law policies that would actually deliver dead flies to the working and middle class? 
            Was it because the Kool Aide the Ayn Randers were delivering was a slow acting poison?  A drug that dulled the mind so nobody noticed until it was too late? Or was it because The Big Lie always works? 
            And when did we become a country that decided Big Lies were acceptable? Lie about war, lie about Wall Street, lie about anything, since winning and holding power at any cost was the only thing that counted.  And if you were rich,  famous and brazen enough, you could get away with anything.  Who would stop you? After all, as a Republican operative once famously said, “We create our own reality.”  Is that what turned the old Republican party of fiscal responsibility and prudent conservatism into math-challenged Neo Know-Nothings waving vaginal probes? 
            So here we are, Battered Wife Nation, a country poisoned by fake reality – trickle-down “job creators,” my ass -- hammered into believing that the majority of us don’t deserve anything – no decent health care, no decent wages, no decent schools, or roads or bridges.  We were told that all that mattered were the stock market numbers and we believed that lie.  We were told that unions were to blame for our jobs being shipped overseas, so we hated unions.  We were told that teachers and firemen and government workers were blood-sucking leeches, so we kicked them into the street.  We were told that black people and brown people were either the enemy who would steal our outsourced, non-existent jobs or were “welfare queens” stealing our taxes, and we believed that.  We were told that more tax breaks for the wealthy took priority over helping our unemployed neighbor, helping the poor and the old and the sick, and we believed that, too.
            We forgot our civics lessons; if you want a better congress you have to vote in better congressmen.  Instead, we elected clueless monkey-wrenchers, ideological hacks and wing nuts, then wondered why nothing reasonable got done.  And when outrage and blunt honesty was the only sane response to the disaster our apathy and inattention had called down on upon our heads, we were told we should shut up and accept our downsized serfdom with a smiley face and grab our own bootstraps.  Pluckiness was demanded, not fierce, righteous anger.  It was Mr. Mcawber over Madame Defarge.
            So, here we sit, sick, hurting, and befuddled at the corner of Battered Wife Nation and Enough Already! with the hour late, real economics (arithmetic, not theory) and real Mother Nature (hot enough for you?) bearing down on us – two actual real realities that do not deal in lies, care nothing about ideology and take no prisoners.
            Happily, one antidote arrived at the convention.  Former President Clinton, the Big Dawg himself, got down off the porch to call out and fact- check the Republican’s false narratives with the cheerful exactitude of a finger-waving schoolmarm. So now we’ll see how many people were tuned in and paying attention and how many were watching football on another channel.
            Which, come to think of it, is pretty much how and why we got into this mess in the first place.      
                 

24 comments:

Ann Bonestell said...

Oh, Ann -- this is GREAT (as always)!! Thanks for writing and for being you. You made my day.

Sandra Gore said...

30% of voters will vote GOP no matter what.
But if the rest just used their heads for a millisecond, the election wud be a landslide for Obama - for moving forward.
Clearly the vast majority of this country benefits from gov't assistance - maybe as high as 99% ;)
That they don't run to the polls to vote in their self interest is an enigma I'll never fully understand.

Anonymous said...

Let's see:
If 99% benefits from government assistance, then it follows that only 1% are paying for the 99%?

Doesn't see quite logical or, if true, certainly wouldn't be fair to the 1%

How about 1% who actually need assistance, being supported by the 99%?

Maybe government spending is so out of control that some serious change is needed. If 100% of our elected government workers were to be required to be covered by the same national health care plan as they seem to want most of us and had absolutely no completely outrageous retirement plan, but had to be 100% in the Social Security program, and finally ban lobbyists from making campaign contributions of any amount, then maybe I would respect the elected federal officials.

Until then I'll look at each candidate and see who would actually work for the middle class and a whole lot less for themselves. I don't believe ANY of them these days!

Anonymous said...

Vote NO on any taxes this November!

TCG said...

When the President says "you are the change" he is right. I am changing my vote to Republican this time around.

He did not submit a serious budget plan this year, and not one legislator voted for it--not even the Democrats. Where was the necessary fiscal tough love that he spoke of last night when a re-election was not on the line?

He said that Governor Romney is lacking in foreign affairs knowledge, then today I read that Boris Yeltsen of Russia prefers that President Obama be re-elected over Romney (with all that flexibility that he will have after the election).

Ann is a very fine writer. I would love to get her take on the issue of the Democratic platform deleting the references to the Jewish capital of Isreal, a very significant factor in their dealings with the Arabs, and the omission of God.

The most interesting part of these items was the confusing and contradictory responses from many Obama surragates and the outright lies by Ms. Wasserman-Schultz.

Finally, the laughable vote by the delegates--going three times in a effort to get the outcome that the President desired, then finally just faking the result. Clearly, the Democrats are divided on these issues, and the President demanded the outcomes that would cost him the fewest votes, especially in Florida.

If this all occurred in Tampa last week, it would have made the Eastwood fiasco look like nothing, and I have a hunch that Ann would have had plenty to say about it, as she so elequently can.

Anonymous said...

Oh, TCG.

He did not submit a serious budget plan this year, and not one legislator voted for it--not even the Democrats. Where was the necessary fiscal tough love that he spoke of last night when a re-election was not on the line?

That's a little misleading. The reason Democrats didn't vote for the budget was because Republicans had "forced a vote on a version of Obama's budget that contained only its numbers, not the policies he would use to achieve them."

He said that Governor Romney is lacking in foreign affairs knowledge, then today I read that Boris Yeltsen of Russia prefers that President Obama be re-elected over Romney (with all that flexibility that he will have after the election).

That makes no sense at all. Because he's been President, Obama does, in fact, have more foreign policy experience than Romney. I don't know who your sources are, but you may want to check them again.

Because Boris Yeltsin died on April 23, 2007. In other words, he's not around to weigh in on the Obama-Romney debate.

I'm just going to stop there because it's clear you have integrity issues, TCG. If you want to be taken seriously, you should check the facts.

Anonymous said...

It's also clear you have "issues", very closed minded issues, and are not about to understand anyone you disagree with.

It is time to look at the economy and unemployment, neither of which has Obama provided any clear leadership. Obama is a good person, just not a strong leader at this time in history.

TCG said...

Anonymous 2:32:

Of course you are right--I meant Vladimir Putin. Thanks for the correction. Mr. Putin prefers President Obama because he believes that he will be more willing to compromise US security in the name of being liked by foreign nations. Has nothing to do with who has more experience in foreign affairs. Thanks again for the correction.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Obama and his supporters have nothing left to do than blame Republicans for 'stopping the President's Budget'. (I assume because Republicans are so 'bad').

Why?

In my opinion President Obamas excuse(s) only highlights he does not have the political clout to force his budget through Congress; as well as lacking the negotiating skills to work with all parties to achieve a non-partisan budget; and further highlights he has surrounded himself with lap-dog advisors who offer unsound advice to President Obama.

I am sure that President Obama is a kind and thoughtful man. He gave it his all. He deserve respect for his attempt

However, his policies have failed.
His policies will continue to fail.
That failure is harming every American by burying them under mountainous debt.
If Obamacare is not overturned, matters will get far worse as Obamacare is not sustainable under any realistic tax revenues scenario.

If allowed to continue, in the end Obamacare will collapse under the ruinous debt it created.

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous person at 2:46 PM,

You don't seem to understand because, frankly, you don't know who I am and you're quick to make judgments. I clearly understand what's going on and I make sure to use facts because people, like you, decry people who use facts as those who "[don't] understand anyone [they] disagree with."

TCG acknowledged the correction I made. We're dealing in the realm of facts, not disagreements. You don't "disagree" with facts.

Back to TCG: I found this article about Putin that further clarifies your point. Here is the relevant information:

President elect Vladimir Putin of Russia said he can work with whoever is elected in the United States, including Mitt Romney who once referred to "Russia as the number one geopolitical foe of the United States" - What do you think about that?

PUTIN: “Yes, we can. We'll work with whichever president is elected by the American people. But our effort will only be as efficient as our partners will want it to be."

As for Mr. Romney’s position, we understand that this is to a certain extent motivated by election campaign rhetoric, but I also think that he was obviously wrong, because such behavior on the international arena is the same as using nationalism and segregation as tools of US domestic policy. Its effect on the international arena is the same, when a politician, a person who aspires to lead a nation, especially a great country like the U.S., declares someone to be an enemy a priori”, Putin said.

I don't think Putin is embracing Obama necessarily, but rather he takes issue with Putin for his rhetoric.

Anonymous said...

*Putin takes issue with Romney

TCG said...

Mr. Putin thinks that Governor Romney will not be as "flexible" as President Obama would be.

Excuse me for being so skeptical on this issue, but when the President gives up significant missle defense programs in Europe, to the dismay of our allies, and gets nothing substantial in return; lets Russia and China obstruct our efforts to effectively negotiate a stop to Nuclear weapons development in Iran; and actually passes the word to the Russians that he can be more "flexible" after the US people re-elect him (since they may not like what he wants to actually do regarding Russia)it is no suprise to me that the Russians prefer President Obama to deal with in the future.

Thanks for reviewing my point of view.

Anonymous said...

I'm no expert on foreign policy, but I'm a news junkie and find this subject fascinating.

TCG, I believe you're referring to the New START treaty that Obama had ratified last year. That treaty received bipartisan support.

That treaty essentially phases out our nuclear arsenal along with Russia. This actually strengthened our diplomatic ties to Russia. It was then-President Ronald Reagan who heavily pushed for nuclear disarmament. In fact, Reagan met with Secretary General Gorbachev in 1986 in hopes of mutually phasing out nuclear weapons, but Reagan wouldn't budge on giving up some key missile defense systems.

What this new treaty does is offer flexibility and mutual respect between the U.S. and Russia. The treaty was a very hard compromise, so Russia is not getting unjustly enriched by what Obama put into place. Therefore, I think when Putin talks about Obama being "flexible," he's talking about the assurance that Obama will, at least, be at the bargaining table -- unlike Romney.

As far as Iran goes, that's a very complex issue because Russia and China have their own relationships with that country and have much stronger economic ties to them than we do. No matter who is elected to the Oval Office, it's going to be difficult to get Iran to stop producing nuclear weapons.

Keep in mind that Russia and Syria are obstructing the UN from forcing sanctions on Syria, despite President "Flexible" Obama putting his foot down. The U.S. is still contesting Russia on several grounds. It's very complicated, and hard to pin problems on one party or one candidate, really.

Churadogs said...

Saw Bill Maher's show last night; one of his guests was the author of The Wire (one of the best TV shows of all time) and he made a critical point: Too much of what this country focuses are quick fixes, outcomes that are supposed to manifest in 6 months, 1 year, 4 years, when the reality is, it took 30, 20, 10 years for the fruits of the policies that put us in this mess to ripen. He likened it to the difference between planting annual crops and planting an olive tree, which would take 7 years before you'd get one olive. Said he, we need to start focusing on long-term changes, ones that may take 5, 10 years to work. (Obamacare is just such a program; it puts in place the beginnings of a mechanism/system that has the potential to change HOW we deliver healthcare. There's a recent report out on Medicare/Medicaid's waste and fraud -- 700 billion or more -- and all of it is caused in large measure by the system itself -- i.e. uncoordinated fee for service, useless tests and proceedures, etc. So, our overall medical delivery system is an overly expensive mess with worse outcomes than other "civilized" countries' health care, but instead of using Obamacare as a basis for change, people want it dumped immediately. Which would return us to a system that has NO real mechanism in places to fix it.) Again, that's the problem -- quick fixes. You haven't cured the world in 4 years? Out the door with you. Company doesn't return high yield in the first quarter, Bain it and loot it. And so forth.
If we want to fix anything, we have to get serious about Direction (what, exactly is it we do want?) then STRUCTURE, then constantly tested "workability" then TIME and more evaluation.

Churadogs said...

Comment continued:
But that's not what I see happening. What's on tap now (and has been for years) are hidden agendas that have nothing to do with bettering life for all Americans; they have to do with getting and holding power for certain groups. So the system is manipulated by master manipulators, (We make our own reality, remember?) the public is bamboozled (and, yes,lazy and uninformed,) the watchdog press is asleep on the porch, and so the treasury gets looted. This isn't democratic self-governance, it's an organized political crime syndicate.

Really, we can do better but we can't do anything until we start being honest with ourselves and one another. There have always been dueling polarities in the American psyche: collective vs individual. Somewhere there is middle ground and somewhere there is "arithmetic," i.e. does it actually work and can it be made to work better? We can't find that middle and that workability without knowing (truthfully) what we want and we can't test that workability without time and accurate (arithmetic) proper feedback loops.

And I don't see much of that. I see sensible programs deliberately killed off by fake language -- DEATH PANELS! SOCIALISM! GOVERNMENT TAKE OVER OF HEALTHCARE, DESTROY MEDICARE AS WE KNOW IT, & etc. Fake language is deliberate deceit, not problem solving. You cannot fix something when you have falsely described it.

"We need to get rid of this evil socialistic carburetor."
"Uh, excuse me, but that's an exhaust manifold you're pointing at."
"No it isn't, it's an evil socialistic carburetor."
"Look, here's a picture of it in the car's manual, says right there, 'exhaust manifold."
"No it isn't . . . ."

And you're now in the middle of the Monty Python "Dead Parrot" sketch. You can't get anything done when you're in that place.

Anonymous said...

Ann, you and your readers are both correct. It's time to fire the whole bunch and employ non-professional politicians.

The answers to solving the problems of this great nation lay with the common workers, not lawyers, bankers, oil futures speculators and media reporters. The CEO's of industry would probably do a better job of righting the financial recession, but they should only serve a single term, then pass the torch to another leader.

BTW, American workers/voters/tax payers are not lazy!

More and more taxes are not the answer. If Medicare has problems, it is not necessarily corrupt, probably needs fixing, but not by politicians controlled by medical/pharmaceutical lobbys.

If politicians were not constantly fishing for campaign funds for their next run, the system would be improved noticably. Should there be a lifetime professional poitician who has never worked as a common man?

TCG said...

To: Anonymous 10:56 PM

Thanks for following up on the arms treaty issue.

Let's see if we can agree on this--In the electoral college voting system that our country uses, President Obama is going to win all of the votes that California has and there is really nothing that anyone can say or do to change that. Therefore, that is certainly not my intent.

For me, the point of reading blogs like this one is to share points of view with others, and learn some things. If a point is made that catches my interest, I will research it.

Yes, I was referring to the "NEW START" treaty. In my opinion, this type of treaty was necessary during the cold war. At the point when START 1 expired, we held a great advantage over Russia in nuclear defense systems. Theirs was old and obsolete--ours, not so much. We had no good reason to make that large concession without gaining something substantial from Russia, which we did not. Yes, some Republicans voted for this treaty in the end, but I never said that Republicans are always right.

In my opinion, in an effort to appear conciliatory with Russia, the President continues to overlook Russia's many violations of human rights. Mr. Putin ran a rigged election, and ran a strongly anti-American campaign in the process. Russia has also provided arms to Bashar Assad which he uses to massacre his own people. Additionally,Russia is building a Soviet port in Syria, with Syria and Iran's blessing. They are empowering Iran in every way possible to gain nuclear weapon capability in spite of our interest in having that not happen.

Our President responds with promises of more co-operation once he is re-elected, so the American people won't hold it against him at the ballot box in November.

This is why, in my opinion, Mr. Putin would rather be dealing with President Obama than his opponent in the future--he is pretty much having his way with him, and expects more of the same in the future.

Just my opinion. Thanks.

Churadogs said...

TCG, I suppose the question is, what's the end game of nuking Iran now? for example. Is it worth it? Ditto for starting an arms race with Russia. Sabre rattling only gets you down a road that's difficult to get off. So, are there other pressure points that can also work? If so, why not try both carrots and a few sticks.

As for human rights, Russia's ALWAYS violated human rights. Nothing new there to suddenly get upset about. The choice has always been, you deal with the murderous thugs you're stuck with, and see what deal you can make with them that will better the situation, not make it worse. Plus, you're making the assumption that Putin will get the best of Obama. I do not make that assumption.

Also, need to remember that each country has strategic needs of its own that are as legitimate as our own. We have always acted like OUR interests are the only ones that matter. Not true and is a mindset that gets us into trouble.

And, also need to keep in mind, so much of what we see and read is kabuki theatre -- misleading symbolic semaphores meant for public consumption while behind the scenes things are being done that can allow all sides to get some of what they want without losing face. Fear of public and personal humiliation has started many unnecessary conflicts.

Wise leaders know that "winning" comes in many forms, not just dead bodies on a battlefield. And the poisonous political climate we've created hampers and hinders our presidents by limiting them from trying a variety of ju-jitsu ploys -- ie. they'll be accused of being appeasement monkeys, or commies, or anti-American,etc.

Machiavelli would laugh at our naive, ridiculously childish political mentality.

Alon Perlman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alon Perlman said...

Ditto

Any Medici newborn in swaddling would chortle at it too. I caught the Bill Maher episode last night, it had many more wisdoms. We had occasion to mention this on this blog years ago; The old USSR without any accountability to it's citizens operated on a five year planning cycle. Here we don’t give an incumbent president even three years. In fact most of the campaign anti Obama rhetoric is still more than three years stale and quite effective. The percent of GOP voters (or was it delegates) that actually believe he isn’t a real citizen is ridiculous (60%?)that was on the Mahr show.
The Barack Hussain Obama-Osama meme is still strong, even after Barack Killed Osama.

Putin can be an international playboy and a shrewd old style dictator simultaneously. Unlike Sadam he has no need to prove himself militarily. He is quite the ju-jitsu master himself. Neither China nor the New Russia benefit in the short term from destruction of the U.S., or even from a catastrophic economical collapse.
And as for the long term, they have historical national patience to know that we can do it to ourselves. Heck, they are both currently reaping benefit from conversion of their economies into whack forms of global capitalism. Double Heck, the Russians even learned the Afghan lesson before we didn’t.

So we should elect our leaders based on what foreign leaders SAY they like or don’t like? Like Putin couldn’t lie in order to affect a US election? Actually he was probably straightforwardly honest. A foreign policy virgin who tied himself to a particular prestated position wastes everybody’s time. Let alone that “the enemies of my enemies are my friends” philosophy has got a lot of people or nations into deep trouble.

As for actual executable policy; Romney plan contains the gems-“ Trade That Works For America• Curtail the unfair trade practices of countries like China
• Open new markets for American goods and services
• Build stronger economic ties in Latin America
• Create a Reagan Economic Zone to strengthen free enterprise around the world” (http://www.mittromney.com/sites/default/files/shared/presidentialaccountabilityscorecard_1_1.pdf)
Oh, it’s that simple? Sure boss, I’ll get right on it
Leveraging long time Russian ally Syria is all part of the game. Frankly, anyone dealing with Iran must be a little insane, but it is logical from the historical perspective. And frankly, I personally don’t like all the messages I’m seeing from the POTUS re some of that, but I have don’t doubt he “Gets” the Middle East. Like Bush didn’t and Palin could not. But better something that isn’t exactly what I want, than another parade of another emperor whose clothes can only be seen by “smart people”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Emperor%27s_New_Clothes)

Churadogs said...

Statecraft is often a game of six-dimensional chess played by devious sociopaths with a master's degree in theatre.. . . so good luck to everybody.

Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

This is worth a read, in fact, it ought to be required reading:

http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/09/edsall-the-ryan-sinkhole/?nl=opinion&emc=edit_ty_20120910

Anonymous said...

Can someone put sense to why Chicago teachers are striking? Are they really teachers or are they baby sitters for their parent(s)?

I understand helping, but when did schools become two meals a day? Where the hell are the parent(s)? This is Obama's home city/state, so what is going on? Are the parent(s) too damn lazy, too strung out on drugs and booze that they can't provide for the off-spring of their couplings of chice? Is unemployment that bad that the parent(s) can't buy food for the children that they, by choice, brought in to this world?

I know the answers aren't easy, but what in hell is going on in Chicago? It certainly isn't "progress"!

Churadogs said...

Anon: Our entire school system is fundamentally screwed up, from the way we fund our schools to what we want them to do and how to do it. We have also absolutely refused to deal seriously with the very real impact of poverty and income disparity on our educational system nor deal with the profoundly negative impacts poverty and broken communities have on both IQ and child development. (Plus we also refuse to seriously deal with poverty in America in general, including its negative impact on health, mental development, etc.)Instead, we started shoving that responsibility more and more onto the schools at the same time we both wasted money on schools AND starved them (NO TAXES!) or reshuffled how we fund schools, etc. It is a system that's set up for failure, but instead of getting serious about the deep, complicated issues impacting schools, we blame teachers and unions as a cheap fix. It won't work. The patient is in extremis and needs serious work. But you can't do that by treating schools as separate from our other social ills. They're deeply connected.

Gaaaggghh, don't get me started on schools. But if you want to get started, go talk to some teachers. We live in a "wealthy" community but the teachers can bend your ear about a whole litany of what they have to face on a daily basis. It's not funny.