An embarrassment to his tradition

I have a distant cousin with nearly the same name.  Generally the “fame” is relative and minimal, but sometimes it becomes amusing as during the last week or so when he’s been active in the media, saying some very good things with which I largely agree.  Of course, since our names are similar I also get both kudos and criticisms intended for him.  Makes me wonder if he got any hate mail for times I’ve been quoted in the media, or had things I’ve written show up on Time or on MSNBC.

At any rate, here’s the bottom line, and the areas in which Gregory A. Prince was right on track.

Coming down to the wire we see the Romney campaign becoming more and more desperate, more and more unhinged.  We also, though not by the campaigns design, been exposed to a plutocratic, social Darwinist attitude in the candidate that makes him, if anything, even less likable than previously thought.  It’s a problem, a real problem.

To this end a different Greg Prince – a distant cousin – wrote a scathing review in the Huffington Post, which was later picked up and expanded upon by Senator Harry Reid.

When the news of Mitt Romney’s Florida video broke on Monday evening, I was incensed — but not for its political implications. His arrogant and out-of-hand dismissal of half the population of this country struck me at a visceral level, for it sullied the religion that he and I share — the religion for which five generations of my ancestry have lived and sacrificed, the religion whose official mantra is “to take care of the poor and needy throughout the world.” My first impulse was to rent an airplane towing a banner: “Mitt Romney is Not the Face of Mormonism!”

Unlike my cousin, I have never been a supporter of Multiple Choice Mitt.  I might have supported him in the ninties when he was running for Senate against Ted Kennedy – and attacking him from the left.  But since then he’s gone so far off the deep end nobody knows what his beliefs are any more, that is if he has beliefs other than that he should be president.

But Romney’s confusion is typical of what we find on the religious right, and within the larger LDS community he and Harry Reid share. The prosperity gospel has combined with the nastiest form of Randian social Darwinism writ large.

And Jesus wept.


Dialing up the crazy

A friend put the following graphic on his Facebook page.

Reality impaired, as expected

There’s as much nonsense there as might be expected considering the source.  But it’s worth looking at a few things point by point to better understand how the Tea Party views itself, as well as their misunderstanding both of the Occupy movement, as well as economics and government in general.

Let’s start with the first line.  It says, “Government collusion with special interests is an OUTRAGE!”  Screaming capitals in the original.  This is nonsense.  In the vernacular “special interest” means “any group to which I do not personally belong.”  Americans have the right to assemble, the right to speak, and the right to petition their government.  If a group of people with a common interest choose to pool their resources to advocate more effectively they are within their rights to do so.

We run into trouble in two places.  1) transparency.  If you lobby in the public arena you should expect your involvement to be public knowledge.  Unfortunately federal disclosure laws have been neutered recently though many states still have fairly rigorous requirements.  2) Limitations on direct contributions.  The infamous Citizens United case against contribution limits has blown the doors off the bank and the money will be rolling in, often without adequate disclosure. I agree it’s a bad thing but Tea Party antipathy is puzzling – their buddies Thomas and Scalia delivered precisely what the Tea Party’s corporate patrons have been seeking.   Unfortunately it will probably take a constitutional amendment to fix this given the state of affairs.

Next line, “Government shouldn’t give special treatment to favored business.”  Well, it’s a catchy line but I don’t see any reason to believe either the right or the left actually believes this.  Neither side governs that way, American business is always protected and always favored.

Then, we find “The Bailouts were WRONG,” again with screaming caps.  There is much to be criticized in how governments the world over have responded to the financial crisis.  But if government intervention was wrong, does that mean allowing the unnecessary collapse of the world economy was right?  This is the same logic by which children are left to die of cancer rather than seeking medical treatment, and is not to be taken seriously.  The problem is not that government acted, but that it didn’t tie enough strings.  We STILL have financial organizations which are too big to fail.  We have yet to see any prosecutions for the outright fraud that dominated the financial sector for years.  THAT is why people are upset.

Now we have finished where these particular Tea Party types think the causes are in agreement.  First line of divergence is Break vs. Fix the system.  Again they err, both believe the system is broken.  Where they disagree is on the nature of the problem and the solutions.

Now on bailouts, supposedly the left says “we should be bailed out too” while the tea party says nobody should be bailed out.  The point Occupy makes here is the inherent unfairness in government focus – directly at Wall Street rather than Main Street and with policies that encourage concentration of wealth rather than growth of the middle class.  Meanwhile the Tea Party types want the government to keep their damned socialist hands off their medicare.

Get money out of politics vs. getting politics out of money.  Idiocy on the face of it of course.  Government policy affects business in so many was, you simply can’t get “politics” out of it.  You can, and should, protect the middle class from the plutocracy.

Then we come to the old canard about “other people’s money” vs. “keep my own money”.  Civilization comes at a cost and nobody does it completely on their own.  The line above then refers to spending money we don’t have.  For both we really can’t improve on Elizabeth Warren’s infamous viral video on the social contract, and on the cost of doing things the Republican way.

The next comparison is increase government power over the economy vs. reduce government power over the free market.  For starters, the economy and the free market are not the same thing, and many of the problems we have faced from the financial meltdown to the BP disaster in the Gulf to tainted food killing people comes about from too LITTLE obersight of the market, not too much.

Another stereotypical contrast is “tax the evil fat cats” vs. Taxed Enough Already.  This falls apart when reviewed in the context of reality.  You have as many if not more wealthy liberals and the problem is income inequality and the decline of the middle class, not that wealth is inherently evil.  As long as the radical right misunderstands this distinction they will continue to miss the point completely.  As for taxed enough, taxes are at their lowest rates in fifty years, we’ve run up trillions in debt demanding services yet refusing to pay for them, and we now suffer the consequences.  Our infrastructure is decaying.  Our schools are crowded and underfunded.  Some cities are failing to replaced burnt out street lamps and some counties are tearing up paved roads, making them back to dirt and gravel, due to budget constraints.  We used to be a nation that did things.  We built the Interstate highway system. We built Hoover Dam.  We went to the moon.  Nothing like that is remotely possible in today’s political climate, and it’s a shame.

The capstone is “replace” vs. “restore” the Constitution.  Restoring the Constitution is precisely what the Occupy crowd has in mind, and the tea party pretensions to “own” the Constitution or have magical dispensation toward its understanding is little more than hubris padded by asshattery.  It’s well documented that when it comes to the Constitution, they simply are poorly informed.  Sadly, they don’t know history either.

All in all, a poorly thought out piece of propaganda, certain to please the intended audience but doing little to contribute to the discussion or to educate.


Into the abyss

And so the shutdown begins.  The GOP controlling the Minnesota legislature has demanded complete capitulation to their agenda and if they don’t get it they’re perfectly willing to drive off the cliff.  This should be viewed as educational given current goings on in Washington DC as things portend badly both for the ongoing debt limit discussions, and the next budgetary cycle in general.

Yesterday the Monica Davey wrote in the New York Times about how Minnesota may be ungovernable.   University of Minnesota political scientist Lawrence Jacobs is quoted:

It’s a very sad day for Minnesota.  It’s a state that had a well-earned reputation for being well governed where, at the end of the day, politics were done in a fair and efficient manner. And it’s now on the cusp of ungovernability. There’s a new ethic here that compromise is weakness.

Well….let’s be clear about a few things.  The GOP has not come to govern, they have come to burn down the house. With billions of dollars separating the legislature from the governor in final budgetary negotiations, they offer $200 million in adjustments as a compromise while demanding it be deducted elsewhere, and pretend they have given up the keys to the ranch.  Meanwhile Governor Dayton has reduced his budgetary request by over $2 billion and wisely refuses to go any lower.

MNPublius has a good graphic which shows what’s really going in with the respective negotiating positions and how much each side in the debate has offered.  The Minnesota GOP refuses to allow even the smallest tax increase even upon those making over $1 million a year – despite the fact that the wealthiest pay a significantly smaller share of their income in state taxes than do the poor and middle class.

Republicans refuse to negotiate in good faithAs it became apparent a compromise would not be reached the “cone of silence” over negotiations collapsed and the details of competing offers are not pretty.  The Star Tribune reports part of the GOP offerings included over $700 million in deferred payments to Minnesota school districts – this on top of the roughly $1.5 billion in “deferred” payments we know the schools will never see, and issuing “tobacco bonds”, adding to the state’s debt without clear benefit as with infrastructure, etc.

Talks also broke down because of Republican insistence on inserting policy provisions – voter ID requirements, abortion restrictions, etc. – into what should be clean budgetary bills.

Presidential wannabe Tim “hard times in the land of” Pawlenty presided over Minnesota’s desperate race to the bottom.  He kicked the can down the road time and time again, unwilling to demonstrate the leadership and political courage necessary to undo the damage he initiated as majority leader in the Minnesota House.  Minnesota used to be a national leader in health, education, job creation, innovation – now we’re middle of the pack, and only because the GOP hasn’t turned us into Mississippi.  Yet.  But they’re still trying.

Kudos to Governor Mark Dayton, who’s turning out to be a lot stronger and smarter than any of us anticipated, on standing firm and protecting Minnesota’s heritage of effective, responsible government.

The state government is now running with a skeleton crew – just a few essential services such as prisons and the state patrol are operating.  It will be interesting to see how long this lasts, but let there be no confusion.  Negotiation and compromise takes two parties EQUALLY willing to participate.  Thus far the GOP proposals have been a joke.  They must do better.  Minnesota demands no less.


Knowing the enemy

This isn’t exactly new news, but the book taking France by storm is a short (13 pages) call to arms against the real enemies of the day.

The Independent   reports:

Take a book of just 13 pages, written by a relatively obscure 93-year-old man, which contains no sex, no jokes, no fine writing and no startlingly original message. A publishing disaster? No, a publishing phenomenon.

Indignez vous! (Cry out!), a slim pamphlet by a wartime French resistance hero, Stéphane Hessel, is smashing all publishing records in France. The book urges the French, and everyone else, to recapture the wartime spirit of resistance to the Nazis by rejecting the “insolent, selfish” power of money and markets and by defending the social “values of modern democracy”.

It doesn’t exist in translation yet, I haven’t found it as an eBook, and thus far the only source I’ve found domestically is here.  But it sounds like it’ll be worth a read. 

I prefer to not read large quantities in French, and I’d prefer the electronic version, but lacking those options and at only 13 pages, I’m tempted to purchase sooner rather than later. 

You might like it as well.  If you don’t read French, it’s sure to be available in translation soon.

Wingnut Welfare in Action

Good for the New Yorker, following the money trail that set up so much of the right wing infrastructure.

With his brother Charles, who is seventy-four, David Koch owns virtually all of Koch Industries, a conglomerate, headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, whose annual revenues are estimated to be a hundred billion dollars. The company has grown spectacularly since their father, Fred, died, in 1967, and the brothers took charge. The Kochs operate oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota, and control some four thousand miles of pipeline. Koch Industries owns Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia-Pacific lumber, Stainmaster carpet, and Lycra, among other products. Forbes ranks it as the second-largest private company in the country, after Cargill, and its consistent profitability has made David and Charles Koch—who, years ago, bought out two other brothers—among the richest men in America. Their combined fortune of thirty-five billion dollars is exceeded only by those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests.

Hat tip: C&L

They’re melting, they’re melting…

Bill Maher has a good piece in the LA Times on the GOP meltdown.

It’s been a week now, and I still don’t know what those “tea bag” protests were about. I saw signs protesting abortion, illegal immigrants, the bank bailout and that gay guy who’s going to win “American Idol.” But it wasn’t tax day that made them crazy; it was election day. Because that’s when Republicans became what they fear most: a minority.

The conservative base is absolutely apoplectic because, because … well, nobody knows. They’re mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it anymore. Even though they’re not quite sure what “it” is. But they know they’re fed up with “it,” and that “it” has got to stop.

Yep.  The party of  “not Obama.”

Paying the piper

Are progressives finally getting serious about fundraising for blue dogs?  It made sense to put party first when Democrats were in the minority, but with a solid majority the time has come to look for quality.

Chris Bowers opines:

If we keep sending the Blue Dogs millions of dollars in small, online donations every year, then there is no incentive for Blue Dogs to ever change their behavior, or for Democratic candidates to not seek out membership in the Blue Dog coalition. Currently, being a member, or prospective member, of the Blue Dog coalition provides you access to a network of Hill staff, corproate lobbyists and their PACs, large donor fundraisers, and press releases back home to talk about how you aren’t like those other, dirty liberal Democrats. If we want to change Democratic behavior in Congress, we have stop adding even more incentives for Democrats to become Blue Dogs. Instead, we must offer strong disincentives for them to become Blue Dogs, such as a significantly reduced access to online, small donor fundraising.

Unfortunately, in Scott Murphy’s case, small online donors raised over $300,000 for him even after Murphy had stated he was applying to join the Blue Dogs. That has to stop. Before we raise money for other congressional candidates in 2009-2010, we have to extract promises from those candidates that they won’t join either the Blue Dogs (for House candidates) or Evan Bayh’s groups (for Senate candidates).

No more money for the Blue Dogs. We can’t continue to ratify their efforts to push the Democratic Party to the right. There are plenty of candidates and organizations working to push the party in the opposite direction to whom we small online donors should give our money.