Monthly Archives: August 2009

OLIGARHY–Say it.

I don’t watch Glenn Beck, but many of my coworkers do, even though, as union-represented workers, Beck views us as favorably as he would a piece of chewing gum stuck to his shoe.

As I cleaned a locker room today I overhead two of my brainiac coworkers discussing Glenn Beck.  One juicy quote:  “Beck says he’s really scared about the goings on at the White House.”  No elaboration on the scary goings on, I guess it was enough to know the virtually fearless Glenn Beck looked at President Obama’s White House and knew fear.  Another choice cut: “Beck says the congress isn’t even writing the health care bill, ACORN and SEIU are!”  (Queue omininous music)

Here’s a clip of the Beck show.  Please watch it and tell me just what the hell this lunatic is saying. 

First, a quibble:  There is no such word as OLIGARHY.  The word Beck wants is OLIGARCHY.  The “ingredients” on Beck’s blackboard don’t add up to, or even spell, OLIGARCHY.

From wiki:

An Oligarchy (Greek Ὀλιγαρχία, Oligarkhía) is a form of government in which power effectively rests with a small elite segment of society distinguished by royal, wealth, intellectual, family, military or religious hegemony. The word oligarchy is from the Greek words for “few” (ὀλίγος olígos) and “rule” (ἀρχή arkhē). Such states are often controlled by politically powerful families whose children are heavily conditioned and mentored to be heirs of the power of the oligarchy.[citation needed] Oligarchies have been tyrannical throughout history, being completely reliant on public servitude to exist. Although Aristotle pioneered the use of the term as a synonym for rule by the rich, for which the exact term is plutocracy, oligarchy is not always a rule by wealth, as oligarchs can simply be a privileged group. Some city-states from Ancient Greece were oligarchies.

Beck is half-right–quite unintentionally, but still half-right: we do have an Oligarchy; we do have rule by an elite few; we do have a ruling class.  In part, it has been this way from the beginning of our Republic.  Elite “electors” chose our leaders, not a popular vote (the system has been tweaked over time).  Many of our early presidents handed the ball off to a hand-picked successor (ex/ Jefferson to Madison to Monroe to J. Q. Adams).  In our current national politics we have dynastic, oligarchical families like the Kennedy’s, Bush’s and Clinton’s.  We had George Bush Sr. serving as president, eight years later we had his son Jr. serve, and at some uncertain date in the future we will most likely see a presidential run by the “good” Bush son, Jeb (formerly Governor of Florida).  William J. Clinton was president from 1993-2001.  His wife, Hillary R. Clinton, formerly a senator from New York, now Secretary of State, ran for president in 2008, and will most likely run again in 2012 or 2016.  Joe Biden’s son are eye-balling political careers, as are, certainly, many other Senator’s sons and daughters.  The US Senate is in every respect nearly a carbon copy of Great Britain’s House of Lords.

Additionally the Republican and Democratic advisers and power-brokers hold executive positions in an interconnected web of multinational corporations, banks and think-tanks.  The same names appear and reappear behind-in-scenes and in supporting roles:  Robert Rubin, James Baker III, Henry Kissinger, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Phil Gramm.

The 21st century Titans of Industry, like the Walton heirs (Wal-Mart), spend tens and sometimes hundreds of billions supporting and opposing legislation.  The Walton’s specifically have fought a PR battle for years against the Estate tax.  Through their media campaign, the Estate tax has been rechristened the “Death Tax”.  While this tax only effects multi-million dollar estates, average citizens fear paying it due to the phethora of misinformation spread far and wide by Wal-Mart money.  The situation becomes tragic when one realizes the framers of our Constitution supported an Estate tax to guard against the rise of–wait for it. . .oligarchs. 

Health Care giants have fought off meaningful reform since the Truman administration. 

Beck’s boss, Rupert Murdoch, controls a massive media empire spanning the globe and including Fox News and the Wall Street Journal.  Murdoch shapes what we think and feel by controlling what we see, hear and read.  His “news” channel is light on news and heavy fluff and opinion (see Glenn Beck show, O’Reilly Factor, Hannity, etc).

Peons and patsies like Andy Stern of SEIU and the organizers at ACORN are just red herrings.  If they had real power, we’d have Universal Single-Payer Health Care (or Medicare for all).  If they had power, the Employee Free Choice Act would’ve passed by now (so-called “card check” is still stalled/blocked in the Senate–and the “card check” provision for organizing a union has already been stripped from the bill, leading one to ask, what’s a card check bill without card check?)

Glenn Beck is crazy.  Glenn Beck is right, but for all the wrong reasons.  Glenn Beck needs to stop pissing on ordinary Americans like ACORN activists and SEIU members and target the real muck-a-mucks.  Most importantly, Glenn Beck needs stronger meds and a dictionary.

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Hate and Death-threats from the Pulpit

I grew up attending church.  I’ve read the Bible from beginning to near end (I’m still stuck in Acts).  I’ve heard a lot of sermons.  But I have to confess, I just don’t get guys who read the same Bible I do and then arrive at this:

“God Hates Barack Obama, I hate Barack Obama. I hate Him. God wants me to Hate Barack Obama. Someone who commits murder should get the death penalty”, said Anderson.

Anderson then compared President Obama to Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, as “…evil sadistic butchers of history.”

“A madman is in control of this country,” said Anderson. “Barack Obama is one of the rulers of the darkness of this world,” screamed Anderson.

And this:

“Let me tell you something: Barack Obama has wrought lewdness in America. America has become lewd. What does lewd mean? L-E-W-D? [Pause] Obscene. Right? Dirty. Filthy. Homosexuality. Promiscuity. All of the — everything that’s on the billboard, the TV. Sensuality. Lewdness! We don’t even know what lewdness means anymore! We’re just surrounded by it, inundated with it!

… And yet you’re going to tell me that I’m supposed to pray for the socialist devil, murderer, infanticide, who wants to see young children and he wants to see babies killed through abortion and partial-birth abortion and all these different things — you’re gonna tell me I’m supposed to pray for God to give him a good lunch tomorrow while he’s in Phoenix, Arizona.

Nope. I’m not gonna pray for his good. I’m going to pray that he dies and goes to hell.When I go to bed tonight, that’s what I’m going to pray. And you say, ‘Are you just saying that?’ No. When I go to bed tonight, Steven L. Anderson is going to pray for Barack Obama to die and go to hell.

You say, ‘Why would you do that?’ That our country could be saved.” 

Those are snippets from a real-life, actual sermon entitled “Why I Hate Barack Obama”, given by Pastor Stephen Anderson at the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona. The sermon was given on Sunday, August 16, the day before the president visited Arizona and gave a speech on Afghanistan and Pakistan to the VFW at the Phoenix Convention Center. The speech was “picketed” by the usual assortment of folks, plus a Andre 3000 on HGH looking dude with a sidearm and an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle slung over his shoulder.

Here the plot, as they say, thickens: The AR-15 dude, real name Chris Broughton, is a member of  Anderson’s Faithful Word Baptist Church. He heard the “I Hate Barack Obama” sermon and had previously consulted his “spiritual adviser”, Pastor Anderson, and told him of a plan to take his AR-15 to the site of Obama’s speech. Pastor Anderson gave approval and legal advice on how to attend the rally with his rifle without getting arrested.

You don’t have to be a genius to connect these dots.  In their minds the president is evil and deserves to die.  Moreover, they are praying for him to die.  If you strip away all the phony BS reasons for openly carrying an assault rifle in the public square, at the end of the day the purpose of a gun, especially a weapon like an AR-15, is to KILL people.  Maybe Pastor Steve and Liberty guy Chris are just poseurs.  But their words and actions send a two-fold message:  The sermon outlines the argument for why they believe the president deserves to die; Carrying the gun to an Obama speech shows others “look how easy it is to get close to the president with a lethal weapon.”  At the very least Anderson’s sermon is incitement of violence.  At the very least Broughton carrying a rifle in the public square is intimidation of his fellow citizens–maybe even terrorism.

In Bush’s day these clowns would’ve been getting waterboarded at Gitmo by now.  They should count their blessings that the current president is more adherant to the rule of law and the US Constitution.

I don’t know who, besides Broughton, attends Anderson’s church.  I hope just a few elderly bigots and hatemongers.  But one website said Anderson has a congregation filled with young families, and he has five children himself.  Do the children listen to this hate?  Do they absorb this awful vitriol week after week?  That’s borderline abuse.

If you have a strong constitution, here’s a steaming pile of hate for you to listen to.

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Senator Ted Kennedy is dead

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From Joshua Micah Marshall:

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), a giant of liberalism in the latter half of 20th century who was often overshadowed by the memory of his slain brothers, died of brain cancer late Tuesday night in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. He was 77.

First elected to the senate in 1962 at the age of 30, Kennedy went on to serve in the body for 46 years — longer than all but two senators in United States history, Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D) of West Virginia and Sen. Strom Thurmond (R) of South Carolina.

Kennedy’s long political career was filled with a mix of historic legislative accomplishment, tragedy and recurring scandal. Kennedy was the key legislative mover behind the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which abolished the national origin quotas that had been in place since the 1920s, as well as a key supporter of numerous Great Society programs. Yet his central role in passing this and other path-breaking liberal reforms in the late 1960s was soon overshadowed by the incident on Chappaquiddick Island in 1969 in which the passenger in the car Kennedy was driving, Mary Jo Kopechne, died after he drove off the edge of a bridge.

Kennedy later fought a bitter primary battle against President Jimmy Carter in 1980 but failed to wrest away the nomination. And in the years following he gave up the presidential ambitions that had hung about him like an aura since the death of his brother Robert Kennedy in 1968.

By the early 1990s, with a new marriage to second wife Victoria Anne Reggie, Kennedy began to emerge as an elder statesman of the Democratic party and its often diminished liberal wing. His reputation as a consummate legislator and conscience of his party began to eclipse the burden of his brothers’ legacy and personal indiscretions which had cast a shadow over the first quarter century of his senate career.

In the final two years of his life, Kennedy provided critical support which then-candidate Barack Obama used to secure the Democratic nomination and later the presidency. And he lived to see an historic and as yet unresolved political confrontation over comprehensive health care reform, which he called “the cause of my life.”

Ted Kennedy is dead, long live Health Care Reform.  After the shock, and the sadness of his death wear off, it seems to be the liberal blogosphere concensus (judging from the comment sections of a few lib blogs) that the principal ramification of Senator Kennedy’s passing will be sucessful passage of meaningful health care reform.  If done correctly, the Edward M. Kennedy Health Care Reform Act of 2009 would indeed be a fitting tribute to the late, lamented Lion of the Senate.

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Postal Workers Offered $$$ to Retire

From the APWU webpage:

Union Negotiates Monetary Incentive
For Retirements, Separations

Moratorium on Excessing Through Oct. 9

APWU Web News Article #099-09, Aug. 25, 2009

APWU-represented employees who retire or separate on or before Nov. 30, 2009, will receive a monetary incentive of $15,000, in accordance with an agreement negotiated by the union. The incentive will be paid in two installments to eligible employees.

“This agreement achieves a long-standing objective of the APWU,” said union President William Burrus.

Read the whole post here.

Read the entire text of the agreement in a PTF file.

What this means:  Lots of folks are going to jump ship–and to them I say goodbye and good luck and good riddance (to some).  It means the USPS may get alittle leaner and meaner, but we’re still in bad shape unless health care is fixed to ease the burden of retiree and current employees’ health care costs. 

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The Widening Gulf. Or, has the “Silent Majority” became the Surly Minority

I love reading Leonard Pitt’s columns–even though, being true, they are often major bummers.  This one’s too good to slice and dice, here’s the whole column:

Strains of change breed strange politics

By LEONARD PITTS

Our story so far:

Last year, Barack Obama was elected president, the first American of African heritage ever to reach that office. If this was regarded as a new beginning by most Americans, it was regarded apocalyptically by others who promptly proceeded to lose both their minds and any pretense of enlightenment.

These are the people who immediately declared it their fervent hope that the new presidency fail, the ones who cheered when the governor of Texas raised the specter of secession, the ones who went online to rechristen the executive mansion the “Black” House and to picture it with a watermelon patch out front.

On tax day they were the ones who, having apparently just discovered the grim tidings April 15 brings us all each year, launched angry, unruly protests. In the debate over healthcare reform, they are the ones who have disrupted town hall meetings, shouting about the president’s supposed plan for “death panels” to euthanize the elderly.

Now, they are the ones bringing firearms to places the president is speaking.

The Washington Post tells us at least a dozen individuals have arrived openly — and, yes, legally — strapped at events in Arizona and New Hampshire, including at least one who carried a semiautomatic assault rifle. In case the implied threat is not clear, one of them also brought a sign referencing Thomas Jefferson’s quote about the need to water the tree of liberty with “the blood of . . . tyrants.”

It remains unclear, once you get beyond the realm of Internet myth, alarmist rhetoric and blatant lie, what the substance of the president’s supposed tyranny might be. “Socialized healthcare?” Given that our libraries, schools, police and fire departments are all “socialized,” that’s hard to swallow.

When and if the implied violence comes, perhaps its author will explain. Meanwhile, expect those who stoked his rage — i.e., the makers of Internet myths, alarmist rhetoric and blatant lies — to disdain any and all moral responsibility for the outcome.

These are strange times. They call to mind what historian Henry Adams said in the mid-1800s: “There are grave doubts at the hugeness of the land and whether one government can comprehend the whole.”

Adams spoke in geographical terms of a nation rapidly expanding toward the Pacific. Our challenge is less geographical than spiritual, less a question of the distance between Honolulu and New York than between you and the person right next to you.

Such as when you look at a guy who thought it a good idea to bring a gun to a presidential speech and find yourself stunned by incomprehension. On paper, he is your fellow American, but you absolutely do not know him, recognize nothing of yourself in him. You keep asking yourself: Who is this guy?

We frame the differences in terms of “conservative” and “liberal,” but these are tired old markers that with overuse and misuse have largely lost whatever meaning they used to have and with it, any ability to explain us to us. This isn’t liberal vs. conservative, it is yesterday vs. tomorrow, the stress of profound cultural and demographic changes that will leave none of us as we were.

And change, almost by definition, always comes too fast, always brings a sense of stark dislocation. As in the woman who cried to a reporter, “I want my country back!” Probably the country she meant still had Beaver Cleaver on TV and Doris Day on Your Hit Parade.

Round and round we go and where we stop, nobody knows. And it is an open question, as it was for Henry Adams, what kind of country we’ll have when it’s done. Can one government comprehend the whole? It may be harder to answer now than it was then.

The distances that divide us cannot be measured in miles.

I sat dumbfounded for several minutes after reading the last line: The distances that divide us cannot be measured in miles.  I was sitting at the dining room table at my parent’s house, my seven-month old happily bouncing in his bouncer by my side.  My father was futilely trying to carry on a conversation about something but I couldn’t tear myself attention away from Pitt’s final words.  The distances. . .cannot be measured in miles.  I thought about my [redacted], who had turned an Obama ‘o8 sticker into a monkey-like (most likely unintentional) caricature in which she had scratched out the “‘o8” in Obama ‘o8 and added “. . .is left behind” (a Rapture reference, perhaps?); thought about my [redacted], who once in 2006 had remarked that everything would be alright if we just “lined up behind the president”, and now sports a giant NObama magnet on his fridge; thought about a coworker, who remarked Obama was unfit for office ( partially) because his father was a drunk, his mother was a whore, and because Obama was younger than this coworker; thought about my [redacted], who just couldn’t vote for Obama (even though he’d never before voted for a Republican candidate for president) for some reason he just couldn’t put his finger on.

I feel the distances between us growing, and I’ll be damned if I can think of a way to bridge them. 

(This post is not meant to throw anyone under the bus.  I love my family very much, but sometimes, their politics and/or religion weird me out.  I think this is the case with lots of folks.  Despite this, upon further review I removed the names of the “guilty” parties)

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The Second Second Second Coming

This post’s a doozy, done over the course of 3-4 very late night blog sessions involving massive amounts of diet cola.  Reader, you are forewarned. 

THE SECOND COMING    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
    The darkness drops again but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? (1920)

For a few weeks, I’ve had the recurring thought that the current situation involving the protests at the Health Care Town Hall meetings–and to reform in general–is reminiscant of another period in American history: the later 1960’s. 

Todays birthers seem so much the descendants of the opponents of civil rights legislation in the 1960’s; In place of Black Panthers and Weathermen we have Patriots and Militias, 9/11 truthers and Glenn Beck 9/12ers readying to “refresh the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots and tyrants”; Instead of flower children chanting “hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” we have Christians Zionists praying for armageddon and screaming “Heil Hitler” at Israeli/Americans who praise national health care.

I must be locked into some 60’s holding pattern, as completely by chance I picked up and read Joan Didion’s “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” book last week.  Didion’s title came from a William Butler Yeats poem, “The Second Coming”, reprinted at the top of this post. Yeats wrote the poem in 1920, and some think the poem is a response to the horror of the Great War, WW I–that Yeat’s believe was after such a epic conflict–epic not only in scope but in carnage, in loss of life, in the awesome destructive powers of the new war machines–the second coming of Jesus Christ and the end of the world could not be far off. “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”, Dideon’s essay, is filled with runaways, drugs, dippy hippies, tales of gang rapes, and the sense that impending doom is rapidly descending on the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco.  Didion’s center–American values, morals, family structure and decency–was not holding.  LSD and free love and flower children and napalm and the draft and the domino theory were causing things to fall apart.

Didion was right.  Kids ran away and gave away their bodies to needles and strangers and turned on and dropped out.  JFK was killed and X was killed and Martin King was killed and Bobby Kennedy was killed. LBJ couldn’t take anymore and Nixon won. Viet Nam raged out of control and America raged out of control with riots and marches and fire and we lost the war and we lost the peace and we lost the center and things fell very badly apart.

But it wasn’t the end.  Yeat’s rough beast’s hour never came round after the Great War. Indeed, within a couple of decades the ashes of the Great War reignited and Europe was aflame in another epic conflict, this time between Axis and Ally. The effects of the so-called “countercounture” documented in Didion’s essay are still a subject of much debate, but it is clear that the United States of America survived the sixties. Perhaps are society is hopelessly fragmented because of that decade, perhaps it was always divided from its beginnings. Revolutionary versus Tory Loyalist. Abolitionist versus Slavers. North versus South. Industrial versus Agrarian. Rich versus poor.

Is the “rough beast” coming around now, at last?  are the indignant birds reeling? 

Consider our country’s debt.  Consider the wars without end in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Consider our President, half-Kenyan and half-Kansan and believed by a very vocal minority, a mob “full of passionate intensity”, as it were, to be pure evil–the anti-Christ maybe.  Some members of that mob attend the town halls and the tea parties.  Some members of that mob carry semi-automatic weapons openingly in the public square. 

I believe this country will survive this, our current “Second Coming” moment of history. We will probably get a crappy health care reform bill that will only benefit Health Insurance companies and need to be tweeked over time to be made good. And our country may well go bankrupt at some point in the near future. We may very soon lose our status as lone Super-Power. Despite events on the ground, eventually we’ll have to leave Afghanistan and Iraq and either declare victory over whatever is was we were fighting there or at least achieve a Nixonian “Peace With Honor”. We may again see blood and violence in the streets, and pipe bombs and Wacos and 21st century Weathermen and Watts. But, to paraphrase President Abraham Lincoln, this noble experiment in democratic government, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men were created equal, will not perish from the earth.

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Keep America safe, don’t leave home without your assault rifle.

It’s getting weirder out there.  Another guy, supposably insprired by the “Tree of Liberty” guy in NH, brought his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle to a Obama rally (perfectly legal in Arizona–which the clown describes as “still the (lawless)wild west” in the video).  Even weider–and scarier, the stunt was organized by a man connected to the Viper Militia, from which members were convicted for trying to bomb a Federal building during the 1990’s.

Let’s hope these clowns are just posers and not about-to-explode time bombs in the mold of Timothy McVeigh.

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