Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Republicans Sharpen Knives To Greet Commerce Secretary Pick

He's been a director at Boeing and Disney, and the US Chamber of Commerce's boss said he had "extensive knowledge of the private sector and years of experience successfully running a major company...."

So why are Republicans sharpening their knives and foaming at the mouth to shank John E. Bryson, President Barack Obama's nominee for Commerce Secretary?

Although Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue said, "we hope Mr. Bryson will be a strong voice for American business," words that might normally send GOP pols bowing and scraping, Republicans have displayed nothing but disdain for the appointment necessitated by former Commerce Secretary Gary Locke's posting as Ambassador to China, and former China Ambassador Jon Huntsman's abandoning his post to seek personal glory and fortune as a GOP presidential candidate. Republicans rarely need any excuse to obstruct any Obama appointment, but Bryson is guilty of a singular offense in the Republican eye:  Bryson has something of an environmentalist background.

Not such a rabidly extreme environmentalist background that it would have precluded Bryson running the San Onofre nuclear power plant, which Bryson's company for twenty years, Edison International, owned. But, enough of an environmentalist background that he hadn't spent 24/7/365 for twenty years defiling the nation's air, water and land by spewing toxic waste and sludge over every available rock, tree and plant. To Republicans, anyone who hasn't actively clear-cut every forest, pumped toxins into every well, slimed flaming oil sludge onto every coast, and actually wrapped the planet with enough greenhouse gases to eradicate all life is just a limp-wristed, pencil-necked enviro-commie.

As a callow youth, Bryson helped found the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has grown to be a leading environmental group. Bryson also headed up BrightSource, a - horrors! - solar energy company.  Now, Republicans figure anybody who has anything to do with solar power, unless it's smashing their panels and setting their factories on fire, has got to be an enviro-commie.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) said as much, calling Bryson a "green evangelist," meaning that was somehow a negative thing. "With gas prices at nearly four dollars a gallon...the nomination of John Bryson...seems deeply out of touch with our current energy challenge."

Issa is the one who seemed out of touch, as gas is way over $4 a gallon anywhere people don't speak with a twang or a drawl, and that first-class rocket-ship ticket to the planet Republitopia where you can go after you've made Earth uninhabitable was just a joke. Darrell, listen carefully: There's no such planet, there's no such rocket-ship, and whatever you paid for that ticket has already been spent on booze and hookers.

Besides, Darrell, Edison International already greased your palm with $56,000 for you and your PACs. Isn't it enough that San Onofre has been spilling sulfuric acid and hydrazine regularly over the past couple years? Must there be a full nuclear meltdown and explosion wiping out all of LA and San Diego to make you happy? They're your constituents, fergawdsakes.

Apparently, Issa looks at footage from the Fukushima nuke disaster in Japan and pouts, "How come we never get anything good like that?" And, the $56K Issa got from Edison is chump change compared to the $140,000 oil companies shovelled his way. Highest bidder, and all that.

Issa and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), another well known oil industry - let's see, what's a word that means someone who would do filthy, disgusting, immoral and unhealthy things for money?  oh, yeah - advocate, fears Byrson won't be on board when the oil moguls and coal magnates want to turn America into an open pit they can suck hydrocarbons out of to sell to the highest bidder. Republicans love talking about drilling babies, some sort of sick paedophilia fixation, so Americans can enjoy lower gas prices, but in fact, their oil and coal mogul cronies just want to pump more profits by selling anything they get overseas.

In recent months, the US exported more oil than it imported. After all, what oil company in its right mind would want to pump more oil to make gas prices lower?

Inhofe has vowed to sink the Bryson nomination, musing that he may place a "hold" on it because of Bryson's environmental bona fides. Inhofe will vilify Bryson as supporting cap and trade, as though that, too, were some sort of bad thing.

"By selecting John Bryson... President Obama is clearly demonstrating that he has no intention of backing down from his job-killing agenda," Inhofe sneered. Well, at least Obama's slightly oil-mogul inconveniencing agenda. Inhofe wouldn't want anyone inconveniencing the oil industry that's plied him with $1.2 million over the years.

Inhofe, incidentally, is not some sort of ancient Egyptian demon. Let's quash that rumor right away. You're thinking of Imhotep, who helped build the Step Pyramid of Saqqara in the 27th century, B.C. There is no need to ask Inhofe for a birth certificate.

Other Republican Senators vowed to hold the Byrson nomination hostage until Obama sends them trade agreements with South Korea, Columbia and Panama. The President favors the agreements, but he has refused to send the deals to Congress unless Republicans okay extending a program that helps get health care and financial aid for any workers who lose their jobs as a result of the deals.

Business groups want both too, but, apparently, Republicans would rather see displaced American workers beaten, poked, stabbed, set on fire and eaten by rats. That's why they're trying to wipe out Medicare and Social Security. John Yoo probably just deletes RNC emails without even reading them nowadays, because he just can't think of any more ways to torture people.

So, unless Republicans get someone who will uproot and burn every tree and plant and blade of grass, who will poison and putrefy every lake and river and stream and well, who will bulldoze and blast every mountain and hill and pile of rock, who will grind every square inch of America into a toxic radioactive wasteland strewn with the broken bodies of desperate survivors bereft of medicine or shelter, there will be no Cabinet Secretaries confirmed anytime soon.

After all, Republicans all have first-class seats on that rocket-ship to that other planet, where most of them, at least mentally, live already.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Philandering Senator Resigned, But His Bagman Remains Defiant

Earlier this month, the Senate Ethics Committee released its preliminary report on the tawdry John Ensign affair, as in matter, or issue, which was, of course, about Sen. John Ensign's (R-NV) affair, as in adulterous sex scandal. Ensign resigned days before the committee released its report and referred criminal charges to the Department of Justice, but his henchman and bagman, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) isn't in the clear yet, either.

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, who clearly have a tough and very, very long row to hoe, has filed a complaint with the Ethics Committee against Coburn, as they seek to shine a light on his role in the Ensign affair, matter, issue. CREW filed the original complaint that brought down Ensign. Well, technically, Ensign's behavior brought down Ensign, but CREW did help bring it folks' attention.

Coburn, for his part, brushed off the numerous report references to his part in the Ensign affair, matter, issue, telling C-Span, the Washington Post, and anyone else who'd listen that he was "proud of what I did and the way I did it," which, according to Coburn, wasn't what the Senate Ethics Committee reported he did. The report's findings, Coburn claimed, were a, "totally inaccurate characterization of what happened."

Days after the Ethics Committee report came out, Coburn stepped down as one of the "Gang of Six" Senators who had been trying to negotiate a budget compromise. Talking to Democrats was bad enough, but with the report out, Coburn might have wanted to open up some space on his calendar.

The particulars of the Ensign affair, matter, issue, were widely reported at the time, as were the details of his affair, sleazy adulterous scandal, philandering. OK, one more time:

Ensign and Coburn were, in 2008, roomies at a Washington, D.C. townhouse at 133 C Street SE, which was owned by a Christian group known as The Fellowship. The Fellowship, based across the river in Alexandria, VA, runs the house to help out like-minded pols The Fellowship believes were chosen by Jesus to lead the world, and bring Christian values to a wider audience. There were regular prayer meetings and spiritual advisers on hand, and lots of pols swung by. Turns out former Gov. Mark Sanford of shacking-up-with-an-Argentine-woman-while-supposedly-hiking-in-the-Appalachians fame also lived there when he was a legislator, as had former Rep. Chip Pickering (R-MS), who suffered the ignominy of having his wife sue his mistress. Perhaps those Bible groups focused too much on fire and not enough on brimstone.

Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) also caught some z's at the house, so, as not everyone who's stayed there's become famous for having his fly in somebody's ointment, "den of inequity" is probably a little strong. Or not.

Ensign was playing disgusting games of hide-the-salami with Cindy Hampton, the wife of Ensign's friend and aide, Doug Hampton. Ensign's friends tried a couple of times to convince Ensign to end the affair, screwing around, philandering, but failed. Coburn was apparently one of those friends. Later, they tried to get Ensign's father to talk to his boy. Hampton confronted Ensign, somehow got $96,000 from Ensign's father, and quit working for the Senator. Later, Hampton, struggling to make ends meet with $96,000, set himself up as a lobbyist and told The New York Times the Senator sent him clients. Ensign admitted he did help Hampton get clients, and helped those clients get what they wanted, but not because there was any quid pro quo.

In the midst of this affair, issue, matter, Coburn was said to have acted as a go-between negotiating the price for Hampton's silence about Ensign's affair, philandering, adultery. Tim Coe, a "spiritual advisor" for The Fellowship, told the Ethics Committee that Coburn had approached Michael Hampton, John's dad, about getting his son to end the affair, running around, playing doctor. Daniel Albregts, Hampton's attorney, said Coburn was instrumental in negotiations between the Hamptons and Ensign over how much Ensign should fork over to buy the Hampton's house, so the dishonored couple could go somewhere and start over in peace, hopefully with about $8 million to lessen the blow.

Coburn told Senate investigators that he hadn't been a "negotiator." When the proverbial fecal matter struck the allegorical fan, Coburn at first declared that, as a physician and church deacon, his lips were sealed to everyone, including the Ethics Committee. Then, the FBI knocked on his door, and he threw Ensign under the metaphorical bus, which he filled with all his very real emails, notes, drawings, squiggles, pie charts and glossy 8x10 graphics with lines and arrows and circles in various bright colors.

Coburn's various assertions vary widely from other eyewitness testimony in the Ethics Committee report, so, like Lucy did when Ricky came home, Coburn still has some 'splainin' to do.

GOP Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum was also a roomie at 133 C Street SE, and CREW thinks he has some 'splainin' to do too, but that'll have to wait until some other, much more excruciatingly bad time for Santorum, to be revealed.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Republicans' Moron Wing Steps Up and Takes Over

The days are lengthening, the 2012 political season is getting underway, and the Moron Wing of the Republican Party is really revving it up.

Sarah Palin, undisputed Queen but by no means only courtier of the Moron Wing, dressed up in black leather and straddled a big, throbbing phallic symbol to the delight of swarming paparazzi in Washington, D.C. Sunday. Palin's vaunted and rabidly anticipated appearance at the Rolling Thunder rally, where bikers wrap themselves in American flags and proclaim their affinity for soldiers, veterans and, especially, POW/MIAs, drew the hysterical media response Palin, with sagging book sales, and Fox News had fervently hoped for.

Meanwhile, Michele Bachmann (R-MN) was seething somewhere. She had planned to make a big speech Thursday night at a GOP dinner in Iowa, possibly to announce her 2012 Presidential run, when Palin jumped up Thursday afternoon to tell everyone she was going to be wearing a tight black leather costume and straddling a throbbing phallic symbol over the weekend, causing all the TV cameras and photographers to run en masse from Bachmann's podium to Palin's.

Bachmann put a good face on it and said she'd been planning to tell everyone whether she would run in early June, but she ended up cancelling her Thursday speech anyway.

Palin's Shameless Self-Promotion Tour 2012 buses will roll through the Northeast next week, as Palin hawks her books, TV shows, and videos. It was not known whether or when Palin would be appearing nude, although the possibility of a wardrobe malfunction has always loomed.

Not to be outdone, GOP Presidential hopefuls have been scouring the nation for Moronic things to say and do in an effort to court the party's Really Stupid faction.

Most notably, former Senator Rick Santorum recently told everyone John McCain didn't know anything about torture. Santorum had been going on about how US forces had succeeded in tracking down and killing Osama bin Laden only because the Bush Administration tortured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. This wasn't exactly Santorum's fault entirely, because the GOP's official position is that US forces succeeded in tracking down and killing Osama bin Laden only because the Bush Administration tortured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Never mind that, apparently, it took years for anyone to read the KSM torture session notes for the part that said "bin Laden's hiding out at 123 Big Compound Way, Abbottabad, Pakistan."

Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who has always had a bug up his sleeve over torture just because he'd spent years shoved into stress positions at the Hanoi Hilton, had taken issue with the ridiculous notion that KSM blurted out bin Laden's whereabouts under the waterboard, stating there was no record of any such thing. When radio host Hugh Hewitt challenged Santorum's assertions and reminded him of McCain's stance, Santorum replied, "He doesn't understand how enhanced interrogation works."

Santorum probably meant McCain didn't understand how the torture machines themselves actually worked, seeing how McCain was usually too busy screaming in agony to notice which buttons and levers his torturers where manipulating. Nonetheless, there was a big brouhaha over Santorum's Moronic statement.

McCain, who can afford to be generous just on the $2,718,774 oil companies have given him over the years, said, "I think Rick realizes he made a mistake here."

"He should look at the record," McCain said of Santorum. "Not only did we not get good information (from torturing KSM), but we got bad information." McCain has recounted how he himself routinely lied to his torturers just to make them stop torturing him.

McCain did not immediately explain whether he thought campaigning was a form of torture.

Santorum, while not admitting he'd made any sort of mistake, said he respected McCain for his service. However, in a bid to placate the Really Stupid faction, Santorum made the Moronic statement, "I disagree with Senator McCain's view that the enhanced interrogation techniques used on a select few...detainees were unsuccessful, not do I believe they amounted to torture."

Mitch Daniels, who last Sunday announced he wasn't running for President, said if he had run, he would have won. To show the Morons he hadn't been cowed by them, when ABC's This Week asked whether Daniels thought he could have beaten Obama, he said, "Yes, I think so," then backtracked a bit and said, "I mean, no one can know."

But as Moronic as Palin, Bachmann, Santorum and Daniels might be, it was House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) who was insisting on making the most Moronic statements of all.

For days since a massive tornado ripped through Joplin, Missouri, Cantor has been insisting that any disaster relief to tornado-ravaged towns and cities must be offset by cuts elsewhere. Sunday, he told CBS' Face the Nation, "...Families don't have unlimited money, and really, neither does the federal government."

As Cantor is committed to slashing taxes on the very rich by another 10%, by "offsets" he means slashing even more from vital services like education and health care every American depends on.

Seeing how Missouri already gets about $1.40 from the federal government for every $1 the state raises in federal taxes, it seems like the Show Me state is already causing painful offsets in places like California, which gets something like $.78 for every dollar it sends Washington. Cantor would certainly like to see California and New York ($.79 per dollar) and New Jersey ($.61 per dollar) and other Blue states saddled with more offsets so money can be poured into rebuilding Missouri, Alabama ($1.66 per dollar), Mississippi ($2.02 per dollar) and other weather-battered Red States.

Actually, when you parse his words that way, Cantor seems less Moronic and more just another mainstream Republican scheming to destroy America the old-fashioned way: More tax cuts for the ultra-rich, paid for with more service cuts for everyone else.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Republicans Fight to Shield Their Wealthy Overlords

"Will no one rid me of this meddlesome Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?"

When King Henry II uttered something along those lines in 1170, only four particularly unsavory knights figured lopping off the top of Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket's head would be a great way to earn big-time toady points with His Majesty the King.

When America's Wall Street money moguls snapped their fingers in 2011, however, every Senate Republican in sight fell over each other to do whatever it took to block Elizabeth Warren's appointment as head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Republicans are fighting on every front to shield their big money overlords. From their scorched-earth battle to stop President Barack Obama's draft Executive Order requiring that big-money contractors reveal their political contributions if they want fat government contracts, to sinking Warren and the nascent CFPB, Republican vassals are brandishing battle-axes and broadswords to bludgeon and butcher any effort to stifle their plutocrat overlords' plundering of Americans.

It's now Memorial Day weekend, the beginning of what is normally a one-week recess, but Republican pols were so terrified Obama might install Warren by way of a recess appointment they called pro-forma sessions to technically prevent Congress from going into recess.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is critical to implementing Dobb-Frank, the landmark legislation enacted to curb the fevered abuses that crashed the global financial markets in 2008 at the climax of the Bush plutocoddling debacle.

The CFPB is scheduled to be get going July 21, but Republicans are scheming to sink the agency by blocking appointment of any director until the agency's mission is gutted, and figure if they prevent the agency from having a boss in the meantime, it won't be able to fulfill it's mission to prohibit "unfair, deceptive or abusive acts or practices."

Apparently, Republicans exist for unfair, deceptive or abusive acts or practices, and prohibiting them on Wall Street is anathema to them.  Apparently, Republicans figure if big money moguls can't conduct unfair, deceptive or abusive acts or practices, there won't be any ill-gotten billions in spoils and plunder, and there won't be any ill-gained millions in lavish gifts, contributions, and junkets for Republican snouts to root after in burgeoning payola troughs. Apparently, Republicans believe if big-money plutocrats can't conduct unfair, deceptive or abusive acts or practices, they might not make as many of the piles and piles of cash they're raking in on the backs of ordinary Americans they're driving to ruin and bankruptcy every day. Apparently, Republicans fear if their forefathers hadn't resorted to unfair, deceptive or abusive acts or practices, there might not be any Republicans at all today.

Republicans figured if July 21 rolled around with no head for the CFPB, the agency couldn't begin its work regulating the financial markets and protecting consumers from the Republican cronies' depredations.

Another way Republicans are fighting to shield their wealthy masters is by doing anything they can to stop Obama from issuing his Executive Order requiring companies getting fat government contracts to disclose their political contributions.

The President figured if big corporations were going to shower politicos and agency heads with cash, contributions, and golfing junkets to Polynesian resorts to snag fat contracts while pawning off the American people with substandard widgets that fall apart at the first sign of use, folks ought to know about it.

Republicans howled and moaned at the President's abuse of his power. Apparently, Republicans exist to be showered with cash, contributions and golfing junkets to Polynesian resorts in exchange for handing out fat contracts to their liege lords for useless, substandard, and nonfunctional widgets.

Unlike 1170, when only four knights stepped up to murder Thomas Becket, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and 19 GOP Legislators, along with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and 26 GOP Senators stepped up to lambast the President's bid for transparency.

The GOP toadies shrieked, "This proposed EO seems like a blatant attempt to intimidate and potentially silence certain speakers who are engaged in their constitutionally protected right to free speech." Well, the President's draft EO is at least a blatant attempt to intimidate and potentially stop the bribery, kickbacks and general shovelling of dumptruck loads of cash at GOP pols eager to auction off America's freedom to the highest bidder.

It is understandable Republicans would be upset. After all, from big oil to such groups as the Business Roundtable and US Chamber of Commerce, who rank among the most vehement GOP overlords opposed to Obama's draft Executive Order, the vast majority of seamy "contributions" go to the GOP. During the 2010 elections, Republican candidates were bestowed with $122,000 of the $150,000 the Business Roundtable and the US Chamber Commerce sloshed into the fray. The oil industry alone has plied GOP Senators with $21 mil over the last decade or so.

Republicans muttered some sort of convoluted rationalization that the Executive Order would actually, "increase political considerations as a determining factor in how federal contracts are awarded," because, "losing contract bidders could then point to the differences in their disclosed contributions and those of their competitors..." Republicans are saying bidders would either complain they made big bribes but didn't get their fat payday, or they didn't make big bribes and lost out to a bidder who did. Well, yeah, that is sort of the idea.

From lavishing big money subsidies on oil magnates to plundering Medicare for their insurance company cronies, from unleashing money moguls to run roughshod over consumers to pillaging Social Security for Wall Street tycoons, Republicans are shamelessly pulling out all the stops in their war on America.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Senate Rejects Ryan Medicare Buster In Near Party-Line Vote

Forty Senate Republicans stumbled through the smoking wreckage of New York's 26th Congressional District election, crawled over ruined ambitions and vanished visions of grandeur, and fell on their swords by voting in favor of Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) disgraced and rejected House scheme to plunder Medicare, hand its money to the GOP's insurance industry cronies, and pawn off future seniors with vouchers that won't cover even a third of the cost of the private insurance premiums, deductibles, and other expenses the plan would force the seniors to incur.

The smoke had barely begun to clear from the western New York battlefield where the GOP had poured $3.4 million and thrown in their best and most powerful troops, only to suffer a crushing and humiliating defeat. Speaker John Boehner had charged across the western New York horizon, bellowing defiance. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor had gone over the top, exhorting his troops. Karl Rove had sent some of his best money moguls. It had all been for naught. A petite Erie County Clerk who'd spent her days helping local folks get their driver's licenses had faced down the thundering hordes of corporate mercenaries and plutocrat phalanxes, and had dealt the Republican juggernaut a stunning blow.

It was Kathy Hochuls who'd earned the (D-NY) notation after her name, but it was the people of New York's 26th Congressional District who had drawn the line in the sand, and had told the GOP no one would plunder Medicare on behalf of their plutocrat cronies today. Those stolid citizens had waited in the chill morning air for their polling places to open, so they could turn back the Republican tide that threatened to bankrupt and abandon them to pain, misery and horrific death in their declining years.

And, in the gray dawn that followed, forty Republican Senators, no wiser for the previous day's slaughter, charged across the Senate floor and whithered before a stolid Democratic line. Ryan's House budget, built around tax giveaways to the rich and slashing Medicare out of existence, went down to a 57-40 defeat, and every Republican Senator save Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), Scott Brown (R-MA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Rand Paul (R-KY) would carry the gaping shame of their vote forever afterward into whatever political purgatory awaited them and the 235 Congressional Reps who had gone before them.

Snide Paul Ryan, the narcissistic sociopath who believed anyone who couldn't afford to pay cash on the barrel head for health care didn't deserve to live, had the audacity to whine on MSNBC's Morning Joe that Democrats were "shamelessly demagoguing and distorting" his plan to eliminate Medicare and force future seniors into the private insurance market with a handful of worthless discount coupons.

Apparently, to Ryan, eliminating Medicare wasn't about the hundreds of millions of Americans who would be left destitute and bereft of medical attention because they couldn't pay the tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket his plan demanded of future seniors. Apparently, to Ryan, eliminating Medicare was about how clever and handsome and celebrated Paul Ryan was, and how grateful insurance corporations would shower him and his cohort with fawning praise and lavish gifts and junkets.

Apparently, to Ryan, eliminating Medicare wasn't about the hundreds of millions of Americans who had worked all their lives and paid their taxes in a system built around employer-based health insurance that had no contingencies for caring for those too old and infirm to work, save for Medicare. Apparently, to Ryan, eliminating Medicare was about how everyone in America would chant his name and willingly, happily suffer any pain and any misery because he, Paul Ryan, the transcendent vision of ideal chiseled manhood and virility, had told them they were disgusting losers who didn't deserve medical care because they hadn't lied, cheated and stolen their way to personal fortune when they'd had the chance.

Shameless demagoguery? Ryan's henchman Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) said it best when he told a constituent worried about losing Medicare, sneeringly, "You want the government to take care of you...My question is, 'When do I decide I'm going to take care of myself?'" Woodall told his constituent to go to Canada if she wanted universal health care, but America was better because, "There aren't many places to find the freedom to succeed by the sweat of your brow."

That Woodall's plutocrat overlords succeeded by the sweat of others' brows, and that those brows were now to be abandoned to the dung heap, troubled Woodall or Ryan or Cantor or any of the Republican horde not at all. Woodall and Ryan and their ilk figure to "take care of themselves" by delivering fatter tax windfalls to their Masters, and don't care who has to die toward that end, except that they die grateful for the chance to serve His Woodallness and His Ryanhood.

Demogoguing? Recall that the 26th Congressional District had been Ryan's and Woodall's henchman Chris Lee's seat. Chris Lee, the shameless narcissist who'd posed shirtless before his mirror, preening and flexing his muscles, certain that a woman he'd pathetically found on Craigslist would swoon at the sight of his overwhelming naked magnificence. Click here and take a good look. I'll wait.

Shameless narcissist Chris Lee's self-portrait is at once the essence and final damnation of the self-possessed, self-absorbed, self-declared flower of the Me Generation that marches from hair salon to tanning booth to cosmetic surgeon with stacks of GQ and Cosmo back issues saying, nip me, tuck me, botox me, perm me, highlight me to look like the prissy trust fund frat boy I am or ought by right of God to be.

Shameless narcissist Paul Ryan, so intellectually bankrupt he's impressed by Atlas Shrugged, obsessively seeking in its barren pages meaningless validation of his self-serving, self-idolizing, self-aggrandizing vision to sacrifice the lives and well-being of millions of his own countrymen and women for no reason but to endow history's richest, most powerful misers with ever greater tax subsidies and to reap whatever rewards his perfidy wins him.

It is in Woodall's words that we can see the essense of these Stepford Republicans. Only in the barren, intellectually-, socially-, emotionally-bankrupt minds of Lee and Ryan and Woodall and Palin and Bachmann and all the rest of the coiffed, blow-dried, tinted, tanned, nipped, tucked, sculpted cookie-cutter living undead Stepford Republican zombies can the glory, the grandeur, the vision, the hope, the beauty, and the promise of America be reduced to just another place to make money.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hochul's Special NY Election Win Sends GOP Medicare Busters Reeling

Riding a tide of unprecedented voter turnout, virtual unknown Kathy Hochul, an Erie County Clerk, scored a stunning upset victory over all comers in a race widely seen as a referendum on Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) Medicare-busting Republican 2012 budget proposal.

The Associated Press called the election for Hochul an hour after the polls closed, when, with 71% of precincts reporting, Hochul led Corwin 48% to 42%. The race had been complicated by the presence of failed GOP contender and Tea Party darling Jack Davis, who garnered 8% of the vote.

The special election to fill New York's 26th Congressional District seat, formerly held by disgraced GOP Rep. Chris Lee of shirtless shower photo infamy, had been a yawner until the overwhelmingly solid Republican enclave's supposed shoo-in candidate, Jane L. Corwin, happened to mention she supported Ryan's plan to eliminate Medicare.

After that, things deteriorated quickly for former Wall Street denizen and multi-millionaire Corwin. Hochul pounced on Corwin's Medicare-busting stance and never let go. In a district that had been safely held by Republicans for some forty years and had voted for John McCain in 2008, Hochul went from unknown to well known, and inexorably closed the gap until she finally overtook Corwin and won going away.

Corwin never even had to take her top off.

Ryan's Medicare plan provided all the naked avarice Democrats needed. GOP heavy-hitters John Boehner (R-OH) and Eric Cantor (R-VA) ventured to western New York state to bolster Corwin's chances, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Karl Rove's pals, and other well-heeled party factors pumped $3.4 million into Corwin's cause to no avail. Eventually, Corwin began sidling away from Ryan's Medicare-busting, saying she would favor changes to Ryan's plan, but it was too late. The Ryan plan sunk Corwin.

Meanwhile, Olympia Snowe (R-ME) became the fourth Senate Republican to back away from the Ryan plan. She announced she would not vote for the House 2012 Budget when Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) brings it up for a Senate vote. Snowe joined fellow Maine Senator Susan Collins in opposing the scheme.

In recent weeks, GOP hopefuls Mike Huckabee, Donald Trump, Mitch Daniels, Jeb Bush, Haley Barbour and others have backed away from Presidential runs, although none have cited being saddled with the Ryan Medicare voucherization plan as a defacto running mate.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has been telling anyone who'll listen that he'd like to see Ryan himself run for President in 2012, albeit without a hint of sarcasm. "What Paul Ryan is about is real leadership," Cantor said. As House Budget Committee Chair, Ryan was the architect of the Republicans' vilified 2012 Budget, which endows the wealthiest Americans with another 10% tax break while slashing trillions in vital spending, and features the infamous voucherization of Medicare. Ryan's scheme would hand all of Medicare's money to insurance industry cronies, and force future seniors to buy private insurance with vouchers the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office figures won't cover a third of the cost of premiums, deductibles, co-pays and other expenses.

Upon discovering the Republicans' ignominy, the overwhelming majority of Americans disdained emptying their bank accounts in a vain effort to acquire health care for their sunset years, then dying painfully and miserably in destitution as their loved ones looked on in anguish and horror. Scores of Americans descended on Republican town hall meetings last month to let their tea party legislators know in no uncertain terms what they thought of Ryan voucherization.

"Overwhelmingly supportive," Ryan spun the Medicare onslaught despite needing a police escort to negotiate the gauntlet of screaming constituents surrounding one town hall gathering. Ryan apparently couldn't believe people wouldn't be happy to die horribly and miserably for the greater glory of Paul Ryan. Hitler had the same beef with the troops he sent to the Russian Front.

If that was the greeting Ryan got on his own turf, one had to wonder at Cantor's pushing his golden boy onto the Presidential campaign trail. Ryan didn't even relish running for an open Wisconsin Senate seat, fergawdsake. Perhaps Cantor sees Ryan as a threat to his own power, either as a rival or an embarrassment, and wants to see Ryan to really go down in flames.

The Medicare debacle has become the hardened tip of the spear skewering Republicans.

Last week, Jacksonville, FL elected its first Democratic mayor since about the time dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Alvin Brown shocked the GOP establishment by becoming the solidly Republican city's first-ever African American Mayor May 18. Brown, a moderate Democrat, won with a strong ground game, the help of old Clinton Administration hands, and local Republican businessmen.

But, the turning point might have come when Florida's Republican Governor Rick Scott endorsed Brown's opponent, Mike Hogan. It turned out that Scott wasn't Hogan's hero. Folks in Florida were peeved at their Gov for slashing education and turning away billions in federal funding for high speed rail. Despite having both a "Rick" and a "Scott" in his name, the governor's endorsement didn't help Hogan, and Jacksonville anointed its first black Democratic mayor.

In Washington, another Scott, this one Brown, stated that he, too, wouldn't be backing Ryan's plan when it comes up for a Senate vote. Brown (R-MA) said, "While I applaud Ryan for getting the conversation started, I cannot support his specific plan."

Rand Paul (R-KY) also found that he couldn't support the Ryan plan, although Paul had the convenient uber-right-wing excuse that Ryan's plan hadn't gone far enough. Paul claimed he couldn't support the Ryan budget because it didn't cut enough from the federal budget. Perhaps he might reconsider if Ryan promised to put Bush Administration torture master John Yoo in charge of Medicare reform.

You knew it was going to be long day for Republicans when the Corwin campaign, possibly alarmed that hundreds of people were waiting since early morning to vote at their polling places, asked a judge Tuesday afternoon for a court order barring certification of the election results pending a show-cause hearing later in the week. The judge impounded all voting equipment and proscribed canvassing paper ballots.

The Corwin campaign insisted such actions were "very typical" in close elections. While Republicans routinely sequester themselves behind locked doors with all the ballots until they come up with a result they like, it's suspicious for anyone to start complaining about the outcome before the voting.

"We want to make sure that every legal vote is counted fairly and accurately," Corwin campaign lackey Chris Grant said. New York residents had better keep a close eye on the GOP minions, as the only "legal" votes Republicans tend to recognize are the ones for their candidate.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pawlenty Kicks Off Presidential Campaign With Lies About Telling the Truth

Tim Pawlenty, the Republican former Minnesota Governor, has been mooning around the GOP Presidential trail for so long, it's hard to remember he hadn't actually declared he was running for President in 2012.

Pawlenty, affectionately known as Tea Pa among his GOP boosters, was among the first Republicans to form an exploratory committee back in March, just about the time nuclear power was becoming problematic in quake- and tsunami-devastated Japan, and flying into Tripoli International had become dicey for anyone not strapped into a French Rafale jet fighter. He participated in the May 6 GOP debate, and has been stumping around the country for months.

So, Pawlenty figured it was about time he told everyone he was running for President, lest people think he was just cruising for chicks, and told supporters in Iowa as much. Running for President, that is, not cruising for chicks.

"I'm Tim Pawlenty, and I'm running for President of the United States," he said. It was not immediately known how many in the crowd said, "Duh."

Pawlenty promised straight talk and honesty, then immediately began trotting out the Republican laundry list of lies.

"Politicians are often afraid that if they're too honest, they might lose an election. I'm afraid that in 2012, if we're not honest enough, we may lose our country." Tea Pa didn't specify who "we" were.

If Tea Pa were to be honest, he'd tell his audience that thirty years of Republican trickle-down, job-destroying coddling of the richest, most powerful plutocrats in history has plundered the wealth of history's greatest economic engine, and that the nation must reverse the Bush tax cuts for the rich and begin progressive revenue reform to balance the books. Instead, he's perpetuating the Republican lie that the only way to deal with the budget deficits and debts Republicans created with their tax giveaways is with more and larger tax breaks for the wealthy, paid for by more and deeper service cuts on everyone else.

If Tea Pa were to be honest, he'd tell his audience that thirty years of tax giveaways and subsidies had concentrated 84% of America's wealth in the hands of 20% of its population, and the imbalance has crippled the government and the people. Instead, he's perpetuating the Republican lie that lower taxes for the rich and subsidies to giant corporations will somehow create jobs, even though big companies are already sitting on more than a trillion dollars in cash and aren't investing in additional capacity or jobs.

If Tea Pa were to be honest, he'd tell everyone that Social Security is solvent for decades, and will remain solvent for the foreseeable future with a slight bump in payroll taxes on his rich buddies, and that Medicare is the nation's most efficient deliverer of health care services, with administrative costs of around 3% compared to 40% on the kind of individual, private insurance policies Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) wants to make future seniors buy. Instead, he's on board with the grand GOP scheme to slash benefits and plunder the Social Security trust funds, hand all the money to their Wall Street cronies, and leave Americans with nothing but the admonition that past performance, dodgy as it was, still doesn't guarantee future results. On Medicare, Tea Pa thinks "Paul Ryan's plan moves in the right direction," toward eliminating Medicare, handing all its money to insurance companies, and pawning off future seniors with vouchers the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reveals won't cover a third of the cost of premiums, deductibles, co-pays and other expenses.

If Tea Pa were to be honest, he'd tell Americans that while debt and deficits are concerns for the long term, right now, the world's bond markets are happy to scarf up as many US Treasuries as we can issue, and right now, America must be investing in infrastructure, education, innovation and rebuilding our manufacturing base. Instead, Tea Pa touts slashing investments, gutting education, and privatizing health care. He toes the Republican Party line that slashing government spending somehow creates jobs, because the government's thrift will somehow magically inspire the private sector to hire and grow.

"We tried Obama's way... and his way failed," Tea Pa crooned. "We're no longer just running out of money, we're running out of time. It's time for new leadership. It's time for a new approach. It's time for America's President, and anyone who wants to be President, to look you in the eye and tell you the truth." In just a handful of words, Pawlenty managed about a half-dozen lies:
  • tried Obama's way - Republicans have obstructed and hindered the President's every attempt at governing, from implementing health care reform, to the 2011 and 2012 budgets, to a simple, normally pro-forma vote to raise the debt ceiling.
  • his way failed - anemic as it might be, stifled by Republican meddling and obstruction, there is an economy recovery underway, spurred by Obama's limited stimulus efforts and fiscal policies.
  • running out of money - America has loads of cash. It's just in the hands of a wealthy elite who've done nothing to earn their windfall from the output of the greatest economic force in history.
  • running out of time - only because Republicans kick and scream and obstruct every move while overrunning every deadline with delays and piecemeal incremental hostage-taking.
  • time for new leadership - Pawlenty wants the old leadership, a reboot of the disastrous Bush-GOP Reaganomic trickle-down, supply-side, unregulated free-market bubble chaos that crashed the world economy.
  • time for a new approach - Pawlenty and the GOP approach isn't new, just the same transfer of wealth from the American people to the ultra-rich, this time focused on plundering of the two final reserves the GOP's plutocrat overlords haven't yet plundered: Social Security and Medicare.
Pawlenty got one thing right: It's time for a Presidential candidate to tell the truth. Clearly, Pawlenty isn't that guy.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mitch Daniels Won't Run, But Another GOP Candidate Says, "Ni Hao!*"

Jon Huntsman speaks fluent Mandarin, and has spent the last year-and-a-half in China as Barack Obama's ambassador to that nation. The former Utah governor and GOP presidential hopeful told Southern New Hampshire University students Saturday not to worry about China leapfrogging America to become the world's top economy.

"You hear how the Chinese economy is going to swamp us," Huntsman said. "Don't believe it!" Channelling Mad Magazine cover boy Alfred E. Neuman has apparently become standard procedure for Republicans on the stump. In defending Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) budget proposal gutting Medicare and replacing it with vouchers the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office figured wouldn't cover a third of future seniors' premiums, deductibles, co-pays and other expenses, Republican pols repeatedly howled that Democrats were trying to "scare seniors."

No health care when your old and sick? Don't worry! Be happy! No jobs after they've all been shipped to China? Mei wenti! (No problem!)

While Huntsman made the campaign rounds, another GOP hopeful joined the ranks of non-candidacy. The Donald ducked, Huckabee wasn't hounded, Haley hadn't barbered, Jeb was bushed, and now, no one's going to be singing along with Mitch.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels emailed supporters late Saturday night and told the Indianapolis Star that he wouldn't be tossing his hat into the ring for 2012. He had been courted by top party factors, and was a darling of so-called moderate Republicans, meaning Republicans who knew enough to be ashamed of racism, union-busting, and tossing seniors out of health care, but supported all those things anyway.

Tim Pawlenty, on the other hand, was expected to announce his run for the White House on Monday.

Daniels cited family concerns weighed on his decision to not run. Daniels is unusual among Republicans in that he didn't cheat on his wife, but his wife cheated on him. Cheri Daniels left Daniels and their four daughters, ran off to California with another man in 1993, then remarried Daniels in 1997.  It was unclear whether Daniels feared election campaign shots at his wife or from his wife.

Meanwhile, Jon Huntsman took a shot, metaphorically if not literally, at fellow Mormon Mitt Romney while campaigning at a New Hampshire gun shop. Asked what kind of hunting he did, Huntsman quipped, "Oh, large varmints."

Mitt Romney had bobbled his 2008 answer about hunting and guns, eventually stating he'd only hunted "small varmints" such as rodents and rabbits. It was not known whether Huntsman's reply was a veiled reference to killing humans, as there are, technically, no such thing as "large" varmints.

Huntsman has been careful to distinguish himself from Romney, as they both share Mormon and Utah roots, and backgrounds as governors and businessmen. Huntsman has put his campaign headquarters in Florida, and was asked by the Salt Lake Tribune about attending a South Carolina megachurch. Time Magazine asked Huntsman whether he was still a Morman, and Huntsman replied, "That's tough to define."

Huntsman most recently was ambassador to China for Barack Obama, but resigned from his post in April and has been assuring Republicans his stint with the Obama Administration hadn't tainted him with such things as good sense. Huntsman speaks Mandarin, so when the GOP's Chinese plutocrat masters want to scream at the President of the United States for not offshoring and outsourcing enough jobs, they could do so in their native tongue if Huntsman were to be anointed.

Republicans have relentlessly focused on budget deficits and debt while America's unemployment remains mired around 9%.  Republicans remain committed to ever larger tax breaks for the wealthy, while slashing services and investments throughout the rest of the economy. While focusing on income tax giveaways to the highest brackets, and subsidies to mature industry giants like oil, tax laws discourage investments in innovation and manufacturing in America. The GOP has opposed fiscal policies and administration efforts supporting manufacturing.

Republicans are committed to sending more and more manufacturing and innovation to China, and Huntsman could be their point man for a generation, if the GOP can maneuver him into the White House. As America offshores more and more jobs, evidence is growing that, increasingly, innovation is following manufacturing to those other shores. As America cuts back on education, infrastructure, and wages open warfare on the American worker, the continued de-emphasis on manufacturing remains a potent killing blow against America's economic prospects. 

Envious of China's heinous labor practices, Republicans have declared war on the National Labor Relations Board, with 176 House Republicans voting to eliminate the agency's funding. Meanwhile, prominent Senate Republicans were going after the NLRB for siding with workers who complained about job-slashing at Boeing's plants in Washington state. The NLRB said Boeing built a non-union South Carolina factory in retaliation for union labor unrest in Washington state.

If future aircraft were to be built in China, Huntsman can asked that they be shipped to the feji chang (airport).

It was not immediately known whether China would be supplying the software updates for Diebold's voting machines.

*Ni hao = Hello

Thursday, May 19, 2011

GOP Breaks Vow, Filibusters Appeals Court Nominee Liu

For the first time in six years, a presidential judicial nomination has been filibustered out of existence. Republicans may have been forced to accept a black president who won't shuck and jive at their command, but they drew the line at another Asian American sitting on the U.S. Court of Appeals. Republicans, who endlessly, vociferously denounced judicial filibusters, filibustered Goodwin Liu's appointment to the Ninth Circuit. The Senate voted 52-43, failing by eight votes to end debate and advance Liu's nomination.

Only one Asian or Pacific Islander, the Second Circuit's Judge Denny Chin, sits on a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals bench. Chin's appointment sailed through the Senate 98-0 last year when Democrats and Independents controlled the 60-vote threshold, apparently filling the Republican quota.

Liu, an eminently qualified University of California legal scholar, had been filibustered by the likes of John Cornyn (R-TX), known for pushing anti-Asian immigration policy and paling around with the right-wing racist Rockford Institute.

"He is unfit to serve as a United States judge," drawled Cornyn of Rhodes Scholar and former Supreme Court clerk Liu. Liu had garnered wide support, including nods from such conservative icons as Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr and Bush Administration torture master John Yoo, as well as judicial experts and intellectuals across the political spectrum.

Cornyn and the GOP cohort demanded respect for George W. Bush and the racketeers and thugs he pushed onto the bench, but they demonstrated no respect for Barack Obama's nomination or Goodwin Liu's qualifications.

When Bush was president, Republicans, eager to pack the courts with right-wing ideologues bent on shredding the Constitution and allowing their corporate cronies and reactionary social engineers to run roughshod over Americans' rights and legal protections, demanded that no judicial appointment ever be filibustered. "Up'er don vote!" they drawled and twanged. "Up'er don vote!"

For those unfamiliar with regional, genetically-stilted dialect, they meant "up or down vote."  Democrats meekly complied, conceding that elections had consequences. Today, corporations may pour unlimited funds into Republican coffers, and the Bill of Rights is an elective.

To be sure, Republicans canned Liu's nomination primarily because they want to wait until Barack Obama is gone so they can pack the courts with more ideologues who will oppress women and minorities, dismantle environmental, business and financial oversight, and give plutocrats free rein over ordinary Americans. But, it can be said that white supremacists would find it easier to dis the Asian nominee of a black President than the white nominee of a white President.

"Extraordinary circumstances" were the agreed grounds for a filibuster, and even the reactionary troglodyte Samuel Alito was spared a much-deserved filibuster. Republicans labelled respected jurists as "activist judges," and gloated over installing Republican ideologues whose rabid judicial engineering has driven the American legal landscape into the brutal wilderness of medieval patronage.

Republicans demanded their ideologues be confirmed without filibusters on principle, but demonstrated no principles in filibustering a judicial nominee exponentially more qualified than any Republican toady to ever don a black robe. In this, as in subsidies for oil moguls and compulsive serial adultery, the Republicans had no shame.

Actually, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) felt enough shame to vote, "Present."

"I wrote a law review article making a case that judges should not be filibustered, and that's the only thing I can do to protect my honor," Hatch said of his dishonoring himself, the nominee, and the President of the United States. A "Present" vote differs not on whit from a "No" vote, as it adds nothing toward mitigating the 60-vote threshold for cloture.

Four Senators did not vote. Max Baucus (D-MT) joined Republicans Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX), Jerry Moran (KS), and David Vitter (LA) in dishonor through abstinence. Ben Nelson (D-NE) was the only Democrat voting against cloture, and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was the only Republican to vote for cloture.

"I stated during the Bush Administration that judicial nominations deserved an up or down vote...and my position has not changed," Murkowski said, personifying the apex of integrity among the morally bankrupt.

"His outrageous attack on Judge Alito convinced me that Goodwin Liu is an ideologue," twanged Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

During Samuel Alito's Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Liu had testified, "Judge Alito's record envisions an America where police may shoot and kill an unarmed boy to stop him from running away with a stolen purse; where federal agents may point guns at ordinary citizens during a raid, even after no sign of resistance..." based on rulings Alito had made.

Graham and his Republicans cadre seized on Liu's simple listing of a right-wing judge's rulings as constituting an ideological radicalism so heinous as to be an "extraordinary circumstance" worthy of filibuster. Graham and his Republican horde no doubt believes shooting down unarmed children and pistol-whipping unresisting citizens is nothing to be ashamed of, so one would think pointing out those characteristics in nominee Alito would have been considered a positive character reference.

But, apparently, Republicans do have some shame. Just not enough to form a moral compass.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Republicans Committed to Couponizing Medicare: Just Ask Newt

Just because Republicans won't have Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) Medicare-busting couponization plan in the House Ways and Means Committee's version of their 2012 Budget, don't think the the GOP is backing off their dream of pilfering all of Medicare's money, handing it to their insurance company cronies and ditching future seniors with a handful of worthless vouchers.

Just ask poor old Newt Gingrich, former GOP House Speaker, serial philanderer, Tiffany and Co. platinum preferred customer and, once, the world's most powerful amphibian. Newt went on Meet the Press Sunday to get his 2012 Presidential bid off to a rousing start, and, possibly conscious of the fact that 84% of Americans think Ryanizing Medicare is slightly worse than blowing your brains out while electrocuting yourself in a bathtub filled with piranhas, mentioned that he might not be all for the GOP darling's senior death march scheme.

Gingrich said he thought Ryan's plan was "too radical," and "too big a jump." Ryan's plan would replace Medicare, which pays doctors and hospitals for medical care, with vouchers future seniors would use toward the purchase of private insurance. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office figures Ryan's coupons wouldn't cover a third of the cost of premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and other expenses. Newt, known for shooting from the hip, apparently did a little arithmetic, figured out most seniors wouldn't be able to pay cash for two-thirds of their medical needs, and worked out what being old, sick, and broke without a doctor added up to. He told Meet the Press, "I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering."

Now, Newt is trying to get the number of the truck that flattened him on the interstate.

Newt has had to crawl, or slither, or whatever it is Newts do, on his knees to the Great Ryan and beg His forgiveness. "I made a mistake," a chastened Gingrich told Fox News.

Newt cheated on his wife, repeatedly, excused himself for patriotic reasons, realized that was a bit much even for Newt, ran up a half mil bill at Tiffany's, and now he's made a mistake.

This shows just how committed the GOP is to plundering Medicare. If Republicans were backing off Ryanizing Medicare, they wouldn't be going Mad Max on any errant salamander trundling across a two-lane blacktop after questioning whether cutting future seniors off from medical care was the best idea ever.

"The fact is, I have supported what Ryan's trying to do on the budget," Gingrich backpedaled to Fox.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Gingrich's comments were, "a tremendous misspeak."

While pondering the grammatical stiltedness of contemporary Republican leaders, one has to wonder what sort of field the GOP is going to field for the 2012 presidential plebiscite. The ever amusingly tousle-haired "The" Donald Trump has decided being a billionaire reality TV-star is much more fun than being leader of the free world. Haley Barbour went back to his dinner, and Jeb Bush, revealing a remarkable lack of confidence in his party's current chances, has decided to wait 'till 2016. Mike Huckabee explained he wasn't running for anatomical reasons, misplacing his heart.

Now, it's clear that anybody who does run will have to carry the banner of Ryan's Medicare voucherization program. Whether it's Tim Pawlenty or Mitch Daniels, he will have to stand up in front of the American people and tell them how great it will be to get old without Medicare, and how much fun it will be to die horribly and miserably because they can't afford the 68% of health care costs Ryan's coupons won't cover. Whether it's Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann, she'll have to sit before network news cameras and say Democrats are just trying to scare folks by making the ridiculous claim that emptying your bank account in a desperate bid for medical care, then facing bankruptcy, ruin, pain, and death while agonized loved ones look on helplessly is somehow frightening.

Paul Ryan is an Ayn Rand sycophant who believes society owes nothing to losers who hadn't lied, cheated, and stolen their way to personal fortune when they had the chance. With his Medicare giveaway to insurance companies and voucherization as the cornerstone of the 2012 GOP Presidential platform, and the vast majority of the electorate fervently opposed to same, Republicans have pretty much signalled their election campaign must be nothing more than some sort of ignoble coup d'etat attempt. No one except the GOP brain trust wants to gut Medicare so billionaires can keep getting unlimited tax subsidies. If Barack Obama is going to be the thin blue line standing between seniors and death without health care, Republicans must figure they're going to gain the White House by some means other than the ballot box.

Unless that ballot box was built by Diebold.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Reid Punks Republicans Into Backing Big Oil Giveaways

When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) forced Tuesday's vote to repeal $21 billion in cash giveaways to America's biggest oil moguls, no one expected the proposal would garner the 60 votes needed to end debate and move it to a floor vote. As expected, the procedural measure failed to gain cloture along a mostly party-line 52-48 vote.

The two Republicans joining all but three Democrats voting for cloture were, predictably, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Mark Begich (D-AK), and Ben Nelson (D-NE), chose to pander to the Oily Ones, as did all the other Republicans.

The Democrats' bill would have cut tax subsidies to the Big Five oil companies, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, BP and Shell, that combined to rack up more than $31 billion in profits during the first quarter of 2011. Knowing Republicans would filibuster the bill, Reid moved for cloture Monday night, forcing the Tuesday vote, and forcing Republicans to go on record as oil mogul toadies who scream about cutting every government expenditure except multi-billion dollar giveaways to well-heeled corporate cronies.

Reid would have been stunned if he'd gotten cloture, and if the bill had passed. The bill had a bit of a constitutional problem, and would never have gotten a House vote, even if the GOP-controlled chamber had any notion of backing the measure.

"The question is, if the bill passes the Senate, it will run into a blue-slip problem," Reid said. In fact, any legislation that raises revenue must originate in the House of Representatives. As the Dem's oil subsidy slasher would have raised revenues by $21 billion, it was a constitutional no-no.

Reid and his merry cohort could care less about that. More to the point, Democrats got Republicans on record supporting tax giveaways to oil companies, and will get to bludgeon GOP colleagues for demanding cuts to every program under the sun while coddling some of the richest corporations on Earth at a time they were posting some of the biggest profits in history.

"Quite simply, we are talking about making drastic cuts to programs that touch the lives of almost every person in this country. Except for them," said Jay Rockefeller (D-WV).

Reid said he was confident some version of oil subsidy-killing would be included in upcoming clashes over deficits, budgets, and debt ceiling hikes.

Reid's move already created plenty of You Tube fodder, as when Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) whined the party whine that Democrats were just picking on oil companies because they were making obscene amounts of money.

"Really, there's no policy justification for it other than that they can afford it," Murkowski said. "Is this the kind of business climate we want for the United States?" Murkowski whined on. "And I really have to wonder, then, if the answer to that is 'yes,' who the next target will be, if making larger profits signals to Congress that you should be taxed at a higher rate?"

Ohmigosh! Taxes on profits! Heavenstobetsy!

Geez, Lisa, or can I call you Murk, that's sort of the point of income tax, isn't it? Besides, Murk, these here aren't even taxes on income. It's about not giving billions of dollar bills to oil moguls to stuff into strippers' g-strings.

Republicans cannot shake the disembodied voice in their heads that says government exists solely for toady politicians like Murkowski to steal money from ordinary folks and hand it the richest, most powerful evil Lords of the Earth as brazen favor-currying. Increasingly, it has become obvious to anything with an organized central nervous system that Republicans only care about handing ever larger piles of cash to their wealthy overlords in the form of tax breaks, subsidies and grants, and paying for it by gutting services for everyone else, all in the hope of getting themselves free rounds of golf and complimentary botox injections for life.

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Tom Coburn's (R-OK) move to end $6 billion a year worth of ethanol subsidies ran into similar opposition from Republicans decrying the move as a "tax increase" on big corn producers. Meanwhile, Republicans were paying for subsidies and giveaways by stealing little kids' lunch money.

Every Republican in creation has been shrieking about budget deficits and slashing every program that doesn't directly hand cash to some corporate mogul, potentate or tycoon. Rep. Paul Ryan's GOP budget proposal started with handing the richest Americans another 10% tax cut, moved on to slashing trillions in services for everyone else, and culminated in forking all the money in Medicare over to insurance company cronies while ditching future seniors with worthless coupons the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office figured wouldn't cover a third of the cost of premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and other expenses. The Medicare-busting was quietly shelved when four-fifths of America descended on GOP town hall meetings and threatened to rip Paul Ryan's creepy blue eyes out of his pasty matinee-idol face, but the big tax breaks stayed in.

Republicans are so committed to Medicare couponization, that, despite the general public's indifference toward the permanence of Ryan's baby blues, they've been tearing up poor old serial philandering Newt Gingrich for semi-dissing Ryanization. And, they haven't even started on plundering the Social Security trust funds on behalf of their Wall Street cronies.

So, Harry Reid and his Dem pals had an excellent adventure punking Republicans into fighting for oil company tax breaks, but the Republicans probably didn't even get it. Hopefully, the American people will.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Dems Take Baby Steps Toward Taxing Millionaires As GOP Snarls And Spits

Finally, finally, Senate Democrats have begun to take the first tiny, timid baby steps toward fiscal responsibility as they begin to explore the possibility of modestly raising taxes on millionaires. Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-ND) is reported to be exploring a budget proposal featuring a 50-50 split of spending cuts and tax hikes to address deficit reduction, which would make him half right. At a Democratic policy lunch last week, the Dem's draft 2012 budget proposal featured a 3% surtax on persons making $1 million or more.

Actually, Conrad's proposal would make him perhaps a quarter right, as the current Capitol Hill obsession with debt and deficit reduction is a nonsensical Trojan Horse that would cripple the middle class by dismantling the mechanisms of the society they depend upon, while threatening to sink the nation's tepid economic recovery.

Raising taxes on the ultra-rich, who've spent years devoured most of America's wealth, is the only road to fiscal sanity, and the vast majority of Americans know it. Poll after poll reveals Americans overwhelmingly understand that the rich must be made to pay back their share to the country that has graced them with the good life. A tiny sliver of the population has run off with the wealth of history's greatest economic engine, and they are squandering it on power-grubbing legal schemes, union-busting, Enronesque accounting scams, and slathering themselves with so many designer labels they look like prissy Nascar drivers.

Now, Republicans are holding the nation hostage over raising the debt ceiling, normally a pro-forma event, with demands for trillions of dollars in more cuts to vital government services.

On the slightly saner side, Conrad has been working with Senate colleagues on various budget proposals, all of which would cut about $4 trillion off the federal deficit over 10 years. House Democrats had earlier proposed budgets that raised some taxes on the very rich, but they had been shot down by the plutocrats' Republican toadies in that chamber. The Congressional Progressive Caucus' tie-dye and patchouli invoking "People's Budget" would have ended most of the Bush era tax cuts, reduced defense spending, and implemented incremental 1% tax hikes on millionaires to eliminate the federal budget deficit by 2021 without destroying Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

Republicans, on the other hand, covet plundering the Social Security trust funds so they could hand the money to their Wall Street cronies. More infamously, Republicans schemed to hand all the money in Medicare to their insurance company cronies, then pawn off future seniors with vouchers that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office revealed wouldn't cover even a third of premium, deductible, co-pay and other health care costs.

Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) Medicare-busting plan has temporarily been put on the back burner after a tsunami of angry opposition and blistering polls. Republicans figure unlimited corporate money unleashed by a GOP-friendly Supreme Court, along with Republican vote-delivering Diebold machines will yield them the Senate and the White House in 2012, so they can resume their Medicare and Social Security plundering schemes then, even if their debt-ceiling hostage-taking fails on that count.

Meanwhile, Democrats have begun taking tentative baby steps toward balancing the budget with a few taxes on the ultra-rich. Most Americans are unaware that 20% of the population owns 84% of the nation's wealth, while the bottom 40% owns just three-tenths of one percent. The rich have devoured the country's wealth, and lust for more. Republicans like Ryan want to cut their taxes a further 10%, and continue to lavish oil moguls and agribusiness with fat subsidies.

Unfortunately, the dialogue on Capitol Hill is still all about debt and budget deficits, although those problems are in fact fabrications that have nothing to do with America's fiscal well-being. Republicans who scream the loudest about deficits clearly care nothing about debt, as their only goal, unchanged for thirty years, is to reduce taxes on the rich by slashing services for everyone else.

Republicans scream about deficits only to cover their schemes to plunder Medicare and Social Security for their plutocrat masters. Everyone needs to remember Republicans were the ones who took the budget surpluses of the Clinton years and handed it to the very rich in the form of the Bush tax cuts. It was this handful of wealthy elites whose greedy, short-sighted narcissism and frat boy indulgence crippled American communities and tanked the global economy. It was America's Paul Ryans and Michele Bachmanns (R-MN) whose moronic me-first, anti-social Ayn Randian self-idolization cratered a great nation and brought the free world to the brink of insolvency at the behest of plutocratic overlords who don't even know how best to serve their own needs.

That these swaggering self-promoters blame the American people for the catastrophe they created is the height of insolence. America needs to tax the ultra-wealthy not just to balance budgets, but to curb the investor-fueled buy-outs, mergers and acquisitions that choke off entrepreneurial diversity and to halt gratuitous paper profits fabricated through asset liquidation, offshoring, outsourcing, and pyramid accounting scams designed not to grow the economy but to extract every larger mountains of tax-free cash.

Meanwhile, the nation's ability to function has become crippled. Across the nation, every community cannot field cops and firefighters and teachers for their children. The poor, elderly and infirm are increasingly pushed aside, access to health care denied so they will die horribly and miserably in squalor. The environment is laid waste by corporate polluters who act as though they can move to another planet once they've used up this one. Business and industry oversight is stifled to allow corporate snake-oil peddlers unfettered license to plunder and steal.

What America needs is to rebuild its economy, create new industries and new jobs, and prepare future generations to meet the challenges of an evolving world. America needs to buttress its sound foundation to care for its elderly and infirm. The constant harangue over deficits is all nonsense. The bond markets have no problem scarfing up as much American debt as they can lay their hands on. There is still nothing more sound than US Treasuries.

There is no issue that cannot be addressed, no problem that cannot be fixed, no challenge that cannot be met if American takes in hand the the revenue crisis created by years of coddling the indolent ultra-wealthy. By addressing the catastrophic imbalance of a tiny handful of shameless billionaires possessing four-fifths of the greatest wealth in world history, America can easily nurture its young, care for its elderly, restore its waters and wildlands, and fulfill for every American its promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tanks Alot: Army Nixes More Tanks, But Lawmakers Keep Snouts In Trough

First, it was the jet engine the Air Force didn't want. Now, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle want to build tanks the Army doesn't need.

The US Army plans to halt production of General Dynamics' M1 Abrams tank when the current run ends in 2013. About 15,000 Abrams tanks in all its versions have been produced since 1986, the current M1A2 version running at about $4 million per. The Army would like to shut down the Lima Tank Plant from 2013 through 2016 to save a few bucks, then reopen the facility in 2017 to upgrade existing tanks to M1A3 standard.

But, as they did with General Electric's alternate engine the Air Force didn't want for the F-35 fighter jet, lawmakers are whining about shutting down tank production for three years, and demanding the Army keep the production line rolling at a reduced pace just to keep money flowing into the trough. Despite all the hand-wringing over debt and spending, Congress can't pass up a troughful of slop to thrust their snouts into.

Last week, 120 legislators sent a letter to Army Secretary John McHugh urging him to keep the slop flowing into the trough so they could all keep their snouts buried deep in gravy.

"The end of Abrams production would shut down the unique national asset that is the US tank industrial base..." lawmakers whined. The group included Reps. Joe Wilson (R-SC), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) and Marcy Kaptur (D-OH).

Defense industry consultant Loren Thompson opined to The Hill that it would be more cost-effective to keep a small production run going than to shut down the program and start a new one later. He blamed the potential loss of workers and skill sets. "Skilled workers will go elsewhere for jobs, and suppliers will drift away," he said.

Whoa, there cowboy. Corporations offshore people's jobs, not the other way around. The workers aren't going to pull up stakes and head for China.

Many of these same lawmakers howled and shrieked when President Barack Obama championed building a high-speed rail network, or wind turbines, or light rail for cities. They screamed about socialism, about government intruding in business, and all manner of sky-falling horrors. But building tanks, that's all-American, and wholesome, and full of goodness, never mind the Army doesn't want more of the behemoth Main Battle Tanks designed to face off against Soviet armor in mass actions on the open plains of Poland.

Younger readers may not recall there used to be a country called the Soviet Union which purportedly had lots and lots of tanks poised to roll into Germany and take over the world. The M1 Abrams tank was designed to be the finest, fastest, most tank-proof tank in the world, capable of roaring over the countryside at freeway speeds destroying ten enemy tanks for every Abrams taken out of action. The Abrams was largely successful at accomplishing this aim, except the only Soviet tanks they ever blew up belonged to Saddam Hussein, and the Soviet Union morphed into Russia, which became our friend because it was run by capitalist gangsters rather than a communist Politburo.

Today, the Army has more urgent problems in the nooks and crannies of counter-insurgency warfare where 70-ton tanks are a bit unwieldy.

The Army would like to build a next-generation tank so far dubbed the Ground Combat Vehicle, which is in the on-again, off-again, design and planning stage. The Army wants the GCV to carry troops, be IED-proof, have all the latest electronics, and get around town as well as off the road.

Lawmakers are always screaming about letting generals figure out the fighting, except, apparently, when it comes to the equipment they need. Equipment means fat industry contracts, and lawmakers want to keep the gravy train going even if it means building $4 million tanks the Army doesn't want, while ignoring the development of GCVs the Army does want.

No wonder it took a hundred years to get troops decent boots.

In their letter, legislators asked the Army to keep the slop running into the trough in the form of building 70 Abrams tanks that would bridge the three-year gap between the end of the current production run and the 2017 upgrade of existing tanks to M1A3 standard. "It would seem prudent to invest those select resources in continued Abrams production," their letter stated.

Come on, folks, what's wrong with building some nice trains? American workers wouldn't turn their noses up at a paycheck, even if the vehicles they're building don't have massive 120 mm armor-piercing phallic symbols sticking out the front of them. Trains are phallic symbols too, you know. All those images of trains running into tunnels. Tanks rarely run into tunnels. Tanks mostly just like to hang out with lots of other tanks and raise their guns together and.... Oh, well, right. Wonkronk is committed to diversity in all its diverse-ness, and supports the repeal of don't-tank-don't-tell.

It took years for the Air Force to finally kill the alternate engine for the F-35 fighter jet, and the Army looks like its in for just as arduous a fight to kill production of tanks it doesn't want. From the shores of Tripoli to the Halls of Congress, the battle never ends.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Obama Should Demand Clean Debt Hike Bill As Business Snubs GOP Demands

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) traipsed back to Washington from their excellent New York adventures visiting the courts of their Wall Street overlords. While Cantor spun the sojourn as proof the financiers supported GOP demands for trillions in service cuts in exchange for raising the nation's debt ceiling, one had to wonder whether the duo had in fact been summoned by their masters to be excoriated on the plush floor treatments of corporate penthouses.

The nation's $14 trillion debt ceiling must be raised after May 16 or the US will eventually be forced to default on maturing debt obligations. Such an event would send global bond markets into chaos, and many an aforementioned Wall Street tycoon hurling himself off of high parapets.

Raising the debt ceiling is normally a pro forma event, but Republican pols are intent on holding the vote hostage to their radical ideological demands. Boehner told the Economics Club of New York Monday evening that the GOP would seek trillions in cuts to vital services and citizen entitlements, carving up everything from health care, aide to the poor and elderly, environmental protection, and oversight of business and industry. Boehner said Republicans would demand more in cuts than the amount the ceiling would be raised.

While plutocrats and big money tycoons normally relish slashing services so they could gobble up the savings in tax windfalls, they get nervous when the debt ceiling is leveraged to do so. If there's one thing that gives any plutocrat palpitations, it's someone messing with their precious bond markets.

Thus, Boehner's pep talk drew rousing silence from his royal audience.

"Disconnected from reality," one well-heeled attendee was heard to say as he strode purposefully from the room.

"It was predictable," said another Wall Street exec. "I think it was posturing."

Cantor, who rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday, said he's been buoyed by the message he'd heard from Wall Street. Of course, one of his minions, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) had spun catcalls from haranguing town hall crowds dissing his move to abolish Medicare as "overwhelmingly supportive."

Ryan's move to bust Medicare didn't make the cut when House Ways and Means Chair David Camp (R-MI) said he had, "no interest in bringing up House Republicans' proposal to replace Medicare with subsidies for private insurance" while working out funding for the GOP budget bid.

Likewise, Cantor's spin might require the perspective of context. When a vassal is called on the carpet by his sovereign, he says, "Milord is gracious and wise," whatever expletives milord might hurl his way.

Having tanked the global economy, trashed the real estate market, and runs up trillions in debt putting two wars on the nation's credit card, Republicans have suddenly gotten religion and can't say two sentences without whining about budget shortfalls, deficits and debt. Their avowed goal of destroying the Obama presidency has nothing to do with it, they piously proclaim. That the two sentences these debt rants interrupt are, "More tax cuts for the wealthy," and "More service cuts for everyone else" is a remarkable development in a pony whose repertoire consisted of the one trickle-down trick.

Even while claiming to seek debt reduction, Republicans still managed to call for another 10% tax break for their wealthy masters, and still managed to dig their heels in against ending subsidies to oil moguls. Ryan's GOP budget proposal sought to slash the top income tax tier from 35% to 25%. While busting Medicare didn't make the grade, the tax cuts are still in there.

Furthermore, Boehner and company had denounced ending billions in oil company subsidies as a "tax hike."

Any attempt to end any subsidy to well-heeled cronies is a "tax hike," according to Republicans. A bipartisan effort to end ethanol subsidies by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) has been attacked by the GOP's extremist tax iman Grover Norquist as a tax hike on corn growers.

Whoa there, cowboy. If ending $6 billion in subsidies to corn growers is a tax hike, just as ending $4 billion in subsidies to oil companies is a tax hike, then, surely, ending trillions of dollars of investments in education, health care, research, oversight, elder care, infrastructure, disaster preparedness, first responders, and child development are certainly all tax hikes.

In fact, looking at it that way, Republicans have spent thirty years jamming through the biggest tax hikes in history, crippling Americans' ability to live, work, raise families and grow an economy.

Republicans actually mean giving money away to their rich cronies is okay, but supporting ordinary Americans isn't okay.

Which brings us back to John and Eric's excellent New York adventure. For weeks, all the big time plutocrats, from the US Chamber of Commerce to the gentry gathered around the Economics Club, have warned against playing chicken with the debt ceiling lest something Really Awful happens to all those platinum-plated portfolios. Despite protests to the contrary, GOP pols don't come out of the bathroom without a note from those august personages, The People Who Count.

President Barack Obama should demand a "clean" bill to raise the debt ceiling by the $2 billion the government needs to keep functioning and keep its obligations on dough we already owe. Even former GOP Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill - the Bush cabinet guy, not the Yankee ballplayer - likened debt ceiling hostage takers with al Qaeda terrorists.

At least Obama knew what to do with the head of al Qaeda.