Wednesday: Banjoville, Georgia. A microcosm of Trump Nation.

Good Afternoon

This little section of delight in the North Georgia Mountains…I’ve spoken before of the cross-section of folks who live and breed in the town of Banjoville. Simple kinds of folk, why the sign welcoming people to our county states as much:





I’ll give them the “Scenic Beauty” but as far as the “Friendly People” …that is open for debate.

I’ve noticed the Trump situation has made the bold hateful comments more mainstream. it is acceptable and standard and now common place to find this shit among the facebook pages of the typical Banjoville resident.

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(One of those comments is written by a superintendent of schools…more on that later in the post.)

But there is something more to it than all this hate, which is deep seated in the back mountain town mentality that populates so much of the nation. The Trump Nation. It is a nation that would never support a Cruz or Rubio, because when it comes down to it…they have Latino blood.

There was a tweet I saw yesterday that sums the whole thing up perfectly.


Yes, when it all comes down to it, White always wins.

And this is what I see everywhere I go in Banjoville.

A White Right Wing Christian Hate that is prejudice against any and all who is not “one of them.” Living in a town like that is hell. My family has experienced the discrimination first hand many times. To this point I bring you the reason for this post. The Trump Nation embodied in Banjoville, what does this mean for society.

We live in a town where the Sheriff’s Office is so blatant about their total embrace of the practice of Separation of Church and State. This is the painted image that greats you as you walk into the Sheriff’s Office:


It is a picture by an artist, Beth Sweigard, known for painting fetuses and a sad Jesus…


….or Jesus at the Jewish Peoples’ Wall…


When I first saw that Patriotic Jesus poster in the sheriff’s department, I immediately thought about that other spectacular artist…Jon McNaughton.


Yeah, he is the artist who immortalized Clive Bundy above as some kind of western hero for the nation….


You want a real laugh, take a look at the gallery of patriotic work here jonmcnaughton. com /patriotic/

I’ve seemed to have gotten carried away there, I need to get back to the Banjoville Sheriff Dept.

Everywhere you look there is proof that the Sheriff is a holy man, even a plaque that states he has been to church more times than any other man alive on the planet. ( I kid you not.)

Tell me that a person who is not a “real” Christian will have a equal chance at justice in that building. (The color of their skin goes without saying…back before the State of Georgia forcibly frightened all the immigrants out of town, the officers made most of their arrest by stalking the Spanish Sunday Mass up at the Catholic Church…and pulling over any car leaving the church.)

How about the fine Doctors in the area? Who proudly display their affiliation in The Oathkeepers…Oh yeah, we even have one who is a leading authority member of the affiliation. How does this affect his service to the public…the entire public. (Well, I guess since he is in private practice that is not a legitimate question, but if he is the only doctor your insurance plan accepts what then?)

Then you have the teachers and administrators at the schools, counselors who are partial to the local Banjoville White Christian. Coaches who are prejudice against players… teachers who will penalize a student if they are the wrong” color or even the wrong Christian faith. (Y’all remember Catholics are a no go as well.) This is not something made up…this really happens and it effects the future lives of students.

This is the view of a Trump Nation from my little Banjoville. The hate and bitterness is nothing new, it is just becoming bolder in its execution.

Now he’s hooked the Christian conservatives: Accept it, Donald Trump’s not fading — even more on the right are buying his snake oil –

Donald Trump might actually be able to pull it off. A new, nationwide poll from CNN/ORC shows that Trump’s lead in the Republican polls has grown even stronger going into the Iowa caucus, which kicks off the primary season. He’s reached 41 percent support amongst Republican voters, which is more than double what his closest contender, the even more ridiculous Ted Cruz, has. Even more startlingly, Trump’s supporters seem more assured of their votes than the supporters of any other candidate. It seems Trump might do what seemed to be impossible: Overcome the resistance of party leaders to grab the nomination.

…things are looking a lot better for Trump than anyone could have predicted. Part of the issue is that his closest contender, Ted Cruz, hasn’t made the progress he clearly thought he would at this late stage.

Mea culpa time. I’ve long thought that Ted Cruzhad a strong chance of knockingTrump out of the race, and that Cruz would either win the nomination or at least winnow it down so that Rubio could sneak up and grab it. In my own defense, the theory was pretty sound. I argued that Christian right voters would move away from go-nowhere candidates like Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson and coalesce behind a single candidate. It seemed that Cruz, who is an even nastier bully than Trump but speaks fluent evangelical-ese in a way that Trump can’t master, was well-positioned to suction up those Christian right voters.

The evangelicals did abandon the smaller candidates but, in a somewhat surprising twist, they flocked to Trump. Cruz’s once robust support amongst evangelicals is plummeting. He now has only 20 percent of the evangelical vote, whereas Trump has 37 percent of their support.

And now Jerry Falwell Jr. is endorsing Trump. This is doubly huge because Cruz used Liberty University, which Falwell is the president of, as the stage to announce his run for presidency. But such is the Trump-momentum that Cruz is getting left behind even by those whose support he thought he could count on.

Trump’s ability to win over evangelical voters is the surest sign yet that his campaign will not collapse as quickly as every predictive model imaginable suggested it should. Prying Christians off Trump should have been easy! He’s been married three times and literally cheated on his first wife in a church. His attempts to pretend he cares about religion have been limp and unconvincing, and yet, his base of support with evangelicals is only getting stronger.

The best explanation for why comes from Adam Lee of Daylight Atheism, who points out that “evangelicalism isn’t especially concerned with beliefs, nor has it ever has been.”

“Whether it’s Prohibition and communism, dancing and divorce, or abortion and gay marriage, evangelicals’ pet causes have changed radically over the decades,” he adds. “The issues themselves have only ever been important as a boundary marker, a way to delineate Us from Them.”

Trump fails comically to convince anyone he’s ever even cracked a Bible, he is the master at the “us vs. them” narrative. It turns out this is actually all the majority of Christian conservatives needed. All that stuff about Jesus and family values was merely window dressing. All that really matters is being told that people like them are better and more worthy than other people, and whoever can do that the most effectively — turns out that’s Donald Trump – will beat out the competition.

The us vs them….no that is not the right way…it is more like I said above, Trump pulls this “he is one of US” or “they are not one of us”… is more like the wording to me. One of Us being the key phrase. Us being only White Caucasians, accepting Jesus as your Savior kind of Christian, Us.


Anyway, that is my observations of Trump supporters, for another look, take a gander at this: The Return of the Middle American Radical An intellectual history of Trump supporters.

Trump not only got Jerry Falwell yesterday… Evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr. endorses Trump – The Washington Post . He also got: Sheriff Joe Arpaio to Endorse Donald Trump in Iowa – First Draft. Political News, Now. – The New York Times and today: Donald Trump wins John Rocker’s endorsement |

A long read here: How Trump Happened –

However, I think the reason Trump happened is because of the media’s lack of calling Trump out for his racism, sexism, and every other thing the bigoted asshole has done.  Of course the Media isn’t only to blame. I think the corporate powers are a YUUUUGGGEE part of the problem too.

Watch this interview from The Young Turks that touches on the media and corporate sponsors.

Oh, the other points of the interview are very well taken, but y’all get the message here.

Just take a look at the headline from The Washington Examiner: Why can’t Donald Trump handle Megyn Kelly? | Washington Examiner

WTF is that?

Maybe I am being sensitive?

Although the article is not as bad as the headline makes it…

This feud has gotten ridiculous. Republican front-runner and businessman Donald Trump is now threatening to boycott the upcoming GOP debate if host Fox News doesn’t remove Megyn Kelly as a moderator.

I don’t usually like the argument that takes the form of, “if candidate can’t stand up to X, how can they stand up to the Islamic State?” But I do wonder how Trump will be able to handle anyone as president if he can’t take the sort of pointed questions about his weaknesses that originally soured him on Kelly.

It all started last August at the first GOP debate, when Kelly asked Trump about the New York businessman’s comments toward women in the past. The question was one of the most memorable of the debate, and prompted Trump to later claim: “you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes … Blood coming out of her wherever.”

Kelly has recently poked fun at former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Trump, and hosted National Review editor Rich Lowry, whose magazine has come out against the Republican front-runner.

And here we are. This insignificant back and forth has caused Trump, for the fourth time this cycle, to threaten to boycott a debate. Trump said he would boycott two CNN debates if CNN President Jeff Zucker didn’t donate money to charity. He also threatened to pull out of the CNBC debate if the format wasn’t changed (rival Ben Carson made a similar threat as well).

This makes Fox News spokesperson Irena Briganti’s statement all the more relevant: “Donald Trump is just trying to build up the audience for Thursday’s debate, for which we thank him.”

Trump is unlikely to actually boycott the debate and host his own town hall for rival networks, as he has claimed he would do. But if he has no plans to actually do this, his ongoing comments and actions toward Kelly are troubling.

How will Trump handle a hostile press if he is president? We know the press will be more harsh toward a Republican president, and that the press is especially hostile toward Trump, so will he just shut them out? And does Megyn Kelly, on a right-leaning network, really need to be public enemy number one to the Trump campaign?

I realize that this, like everything Trump does, is for attention, but it ultimately brings into question his ability to handle adversity and criticism.

That and imagine his fat sweaty fingers on the button of our nuclear arsenal.

Trump: ‘Obviously’ I Was Joking About Shooting People And Not Losing Votes

“It Was Like a Fascist Rally”: Sikh Protester Ejected From Trump Event Speaks Out

On Cruz and Rubio, Jesus thumping there way to Iowa:

Ted Cruz’s Evangelical Gamble – The New York Times

Rubio presses ‘Judeo-Christian values’ in Iowa | TheHill

Cruz’s Constant References to Jesus Drive Millions to Atheism – The New Yorker

Other links…

Trump Said He Bought Windows From China Because America’s Were Too Expensive – The Daily Beast

The Progressive Policy Donald Trump Just Embraced | ThinkProgress

Donald Trump endorses an idea liberals love: letting Medicare negotiate drug prices – Vox

Noam Chomsky Says GOP Is ‘Literally A Serious Danger To Human Survival’

As Donald Trump and Ted Cruz Soar, G.O.P. Leaders’ Exasperation Grows – The New York Times

Well what do you expect when you have GOP politicians like these:

Maine Gov. LePage: Bring back the guillotine

Racist, bigoted Facebook posts from top schools official can’t be tolerated

Leaked Documents Undermine Official Story Of Flint Water Crisis | ThinkProgress


In other news:

Denmark approves controversial refugee bill allowing police to seize asylum seekers’ cash and valuables | Europe | News | The Independent

Is the Oregon Standoff Over Yet?

Ammon And Ryan Bundy Arrested In Oregon; One Militant Dies In Shootout With Law Enforcement | ThinkProgress

After Bundy Arrest, Remaining Militia Says They Will Continue Occupation And Are Prepared To Die | ThinkProgress

Eyewitnesses Give Conflicting Accounts Of How Rancher Was Killed In Standoff

Christie ‘Glad’ That ‘Thin-Skinned’ Trump Skipping Fox News Debate


That is all, more updates and links in the comment section below.

This is an open thread y’all….

Tuesday Reads: Wisconsin Recall Madness!

Good Morning!!

Today is the day of reckoning for Wisconsin. Voters will go to the polls today to decide the fate of Governor Scott Walker and five other Wisconsin Republicans: the Lieutenant Governor and four state senators. If the Democrats can win just one of those seats, they will regain the senate majority.

I think everyone here knows the genesis of this recall battle, but here’s a quick explainer from Chris Cillizza at the WaPo. Cillizza also speculates on possible surprising outcomes from the election.

Cillizza allows that Barrett could conceivably win and the Democrats could retake the senate–the latest poll by PPP had Walker leading by only 3 points, within the margin of error. The poll also suggested that Barrett had the momentum as of yesterday. On the other hand, InTrade had Walker’s chances at more than 90% late last night. The truth is no one really knows for sure, because the turnout and enthusiasm on each side will tell the tale. Cillizza, being a Villager, still thinks Walker will win, but thinks the Senate could switch.

When they filed petitions to recall Walker himself last fall, Democrats also filed papers to recall another four state senators — Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, and Sens. Pam Galloway, Terry Moulton and Van Wanggaard, (Galloway resigned earlier this year; Republican state Rep. Jerry Petrowski is running for her seat.)

They need only win one race to take control.

Fitzgerald is likely safe given his heavily Republican district, although Lori Compas, his Democratic rival, has attracted a lot of media attention.

But Democrats are bullish on the races against Moulton and Wanggaard. Both districts went for President Obama in 2008; Wanggaard’s went narrowly for John Kerry in 2004. Whether Barrett wins or not, they expect to take back the state Senate.

Moulton faces former state Rep. Kristen Dexter; Wanggaard faces former state Sen. John Lehman (D). Outside groups have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on both sides. State Rep. Donna Seidel (D) also has a shot at beating Petrowski; before Galloway the seat had gone Democratic for two decades.

Cillizza points out that if Barrett wins and the Democrats take the state senate and could get some of the Walker legislation overturned before another election could give the senate back to the Republicans. The other possibility, Cillizza mentions is that Democrats could defeat Walker’s Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, but that’s pretty unlikely. She’s leading in the polls at the moment.

The Seattle Times had a good article on Sunday about the national issues that are at stake in the election today.

Under fire for cutting budgets at the expense of public employees, Walker would be the third governor in U.S. history yanked from office in a recall election. Walker has an edge, but the race is close.

The campaign will mean more than who governs Wisconsin. It’s a test case of the larger clashes in American politics that are driving elections for the presidency and control of Congress, highlighting divisions over the costs of government.

With more than $30 million raised from conservative donors, many of them from other states, and visits from a who’s who of high-profile Republican governors (New Jersey’s Chris Christie, South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and Virginia’s Bob McDonnell), Walker’s campaign to survive the recall has the feel, the money and the stakes of a national race.

The state vote is raising questions that will echo nationwide. Can a tough-minded conservative Republican force cuts in government at the risk of angering public-employees unions and win a swing state such as Wisconsin? Will voters think he’s doing the best he can in a tough time? Or will they rise in a grass-roots backlash against the well-financed Republican effort?

Admittedly, that article has a Republican flavor, but it does do a pretty good job of spelling out the issues. For a more left-wing perspective, here’s a lengthy piece at by Sarah Jaffe of Alternet: Wisconsin’s Recall Drama Down to Nail-Biting Finish.

Wisconsin’s recall is, as reporter John Nichols put it, the kind of “renegade politics” that are disdained by the national Democratic party and even some state Democrats. It is being driven by the same activists who turned out by the thousands to occupy their capitol when Governor Scott Walker attacked workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively.

Now, a day before the biggest recall yet—of Governor Walker, Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, and four Republican state senators—the fight will be won or lost where it began: on the ground.

There’s a lot of big outside money pouring into Wisconsin, mostly to pump up Walker’s attempt to hang on to his seat, but the one thing that money can’t buy is an excited, driven grassroots movement. If Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett beats Walker on Tuesday, it will be because of thousands of volunteers getting out the vote person by person.

“This is really a case of Walker raising $13 million against possibly the most widespread grassroots get-out-the-vote effort in the state’s history,” Matt Reiter, co-president of the Teaching Assistants’ Association at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, told AlterNet.

Please try to check that one out. It’s long, and very informative. John Nichols of The Nation (mentioned prominently in Jaffe’s piece) is Wisconsin native, and has written a book about the struggle in his home state. Here’s a piece Nichols wrote yesterday: How To Buy A Recall Election.

Governor Scott Walker is not trying to win the Wisconsin recall election that will be held June 5.

He is trying to buy it.

If the embattled governor does prevail, he will provide essential evidence not of his own appeal but of the power of money to define our politics.

On the other hand, if Walker is defeated, a template will have been developed for a people-power, message-power politics that might be able to challenge big money.

And there is no question that what is in play is very big money.

Read the gory details at the link.

At Salon, Josh Eidelson writes about the possible effects of some Wisconsin voters’ “resentment” of union workers on the recall outcome.

If Scott Walker survives tomorrow’s election, there will be plenty of reasons. Many people will point to his huge cash advantage, for good reason. But no factor will have been more important than the decades of decline in U.S. union membership.

“Unions had their place,” a woman named Jerri told me soon after I arrived in Wisconsin last week. “They did their part back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, and then they got too big, and are abusing their power.” Jerri and her husband, Tim (both declined to give last names), were eating at a bar in Wauwatosa, the purple Milwaukee suburb that’s home to Scott Walker. They both work in sales: She’s in retail at the mall; he’s in wholesale, selling caskets. Tim said Walker’s union “reforms” were necessary because local politicians had been “looking out for the union” instead of “people like me.” He said unions are for people who don’t “feel they should have to work very hard.” Jerri complained that unions “are sucking off my teat.” Public workers’ benefits, she said, “should be the same as anybody in any kind of private job.”

That last statement is most telling. While resentment toward unions has grown since the 1950s, it’s not because they got too big. It’s because they got too small. A multi-decade drop in unionization left fewer Wisconsinites who are union members or live in union households. Meanwhile, because governments are less prone than businesses to terrorize workers or shut down facilities to avert unionization, public sector unionization has remained more stable. In 2009, for the first time, there were more total U.S. union members in government employment than in the entire private sector.

That one is pretty scary for those of us who care about quality education and public services.

The Wall Street Journal highlights the importance of turnout in the recall election.

Both sides say few voters remain undecided, after more than $63.5 million in political spending saturated the airwaves and clogged voters’ mailboxes. A weekend survey by the Democratic group Public Policy Polling found Mr. Walker holding a slight lead and only 3% of likely voters undecided. With few voters left to persuade, the main question is which side will win the turnout battle.

Labor groups and their allies knocked on more than 300,000 doors during the past few days and placed more than 400,000 phone calls, said Brian Weeks, the assistant political director for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.

Unions historically have had a strong ground game. But Republicans said they took a page from labor’s playbook and have developed a coordinated get-out-the-vote effort, which could also give the party a boost in the November presidential election, helping the GOP equal the Democrats’ election-day machinery.

Felicia Sonmez and Rachel Weiner of the WaPo write about the battle of “TV ad spending vs. boots on the ground.” They say that this election:

serves as a proxy for the national battle between Democrats’ much-touted ground organization and Republicans’ fundraising advantage.

With Walker ahead in the polls and leading Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) in the money race by more than 7 to 1 – and with GOP-aligned outside groups far outspending their counterparts across the aisle — Democrats maintain that their shot at victory depends on a far superior get-out-the-vote operation buoyed in large part by organized labor.

According to Monica Davey at the NYT,

About 60 to 65 percent of Wisconsin residents of voting age are expected to go to the polls on Tuesday, the state’s Government Accountability Board said. That would be a higher turnout than two years ago, when Mr. Walker and a wave of Republicans largely swept state and federal offices here, but not as high as the more than 69 percent turnout in 2008, when Barack Obama easily won the state.

Only time will tell. We’ll have a live blog this evening so we can follow the results together. Now I need you to let me know what else is in the news. I look forward to clicking on your links.

In the Land of White Ribbons

First we had the Arab Spring then the European Summer.  The American Autumn manifested itself in the Occupy Wall St. Movement.

Welcome the Russian Winter.

Saturday nearly 35,000 young, mostly university-educated protesters, the new Russian middle class, gathered in Moscow in peaceful demonstration.  Reportedly, a police presence on the order of 50,000 greeted them.  But still they came and marched to voice opposition to Russia’s recent election results.  Vladimir Putin’s party won the parliamentary election after multiple reports of election fraud and ballot box stuffing.  For instance, in Chechnya [hardly a place of Putin-love] the party pulled 94% of the vote.  Putin has announced his plans to run in Russia’s March presidential elections to the dismay of many citizens, who charge that fraud and corruption run rampant throughout the country’s political system.

Demonstrators, donning white ribbons, marched in various cities around the country to say: Enough is enough.

Dismissed by the official Russian press, the white ribbon demonstrators were ignored by state television, which focused on small, flag-waving pro-Putin groups. How did the word get out?  Social media—Facebook and twitter.

In an attempt to disrupt the protests, Russian authorities circulated rumors that young men present at the rallies could be stopped by police and conscripted into the army.  Health officials reportedly warned citizens to stay home for fear of contracting a virulent flu or Sars.  Twitter feeds were jammed and robo-calls flooded phone lines with messages of state propaganda.

Sound vaguely familiar?

How much press is OWS getting today with its West coast port demonstrations?  How many words have been spent denigrating protesters as un-American losers, slackers, even dangerous criminals?  Let’s not forget the MSM’s reluctance to cover OWS, the strange lack of network film footage during police actions, particularly as the encampments were dismantled.  Twitter feeds jammed, cameras turned off.

Still, the world is watching.  The world is pushing back.  Everywhere.

Fiscal Jabberwocky

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!"

It’s not often I get to post pictures of mythical beasts for a few days in a row but here I go again. Plus, I’ve gotten another chance to use one of those wonderful Alice in Wonderland book illustrations.  Too bad they’re attached to posts where the perverse wonderland rules.  It seems to be a year for fictional monsters in Op-Eds and real ones in congress.

David Stockman, Budget Director for Ronald Reagan, has joined the ranks of Republican advisers calling shenanigans on the Boehner/Tea Party Republicans AND the dithering Obama Dems.   He must be very financial and professionally secure.  His op-ed in the New York Times draws blood on all sides.  He starts out telling President Obama what is what then moves on to hammering that petulant ninny from Wisconsin, Paul Ryan.  Go read it if only for the creative use of words like that in the heading above.

On the other side, Representative Ryan fails to recognize that we are not in an era of old-time enterprise capitalism in which the gospel of low tax rates and incentives to create wealth might have had relevance. A quasi-bankrupt nation saddled with rampant casino capitalism on Wall Street and a disemboweled, offshored economy on Main Street requires practical and equitable ways to pay its bills.

Ingratiating himself with the neo-cons, Mr. Ryan has put the $700 billion defense and security budget off limits; and caving to pusillanimous Republican politicians, he also exempts $17 trillion of Social Security and Medicare spending over the next decade. What is left, then, is $7 trillion in baseline spending for Medicaid and the social safety net — to which Mr. Ryan applies a meat cleaver, reducing outlays by $1.5 trillion, or 20 percent.

Trapped between the religion of low taxes and the reality of huge deficits, the Ryan plan appears to be an attack on the poor in order to coddle the rich. To the Democrats’ invitation to class war, the Republicans have seemingly sent an R.S.V.P.

Stockman call the entire situation “fiscal jabberwocky”. Good turn of phrase that.  He then moves to skewering the FED and adds Chinese currency pegging into the villain mix.  I guess there’s nothing like a good rant when you can get primetime ink.  This seems to be an interesting foray into harsh policy critique for economists with a republican bent.

Stockman, like Bruce Barlett and even David Frum are yet more Republicans who are pointing out the current GOP leaders are no more serious about budget reform than the Democrats are. The main difference is the GOP has better slogans and marketing, and slides into full blow demagoguery more easily.

But in terms of actual strategies for intelligently addressing the issue? The most glaring truth is the lack of leadership on both sides of the aisle.

The Barry Ritholtz blog post  on Stockman’s op ed does score some points on mentioning the leadership chasm, but, even more telling is the absolute adherence to fairy tales over reality in policy making these days. Is there an economist in the House?  Joe Wiesenthal says that Stockman is suffering from “fatalistic populism”.   Here’s Stockman’s ending barb to prove that point.  It’s also the two sentences that offer up the policy solution.

So the Ryan plan worsens our trillion-dollar structural deficit and the Obama plan amounts to small potatoes, at best. Worse, we are about to descend into class war because the Obama plan picks on the rich when it should be pushing tax increases for all, while the Ryan plan attacks the poor when it should be addressing middle-class entitlements and defense.

I’ve said many times that the Bush tax cuts just need to expire.  I’ve also said that since the Reagan years we’ve basically started chumming our economy by jumping into interventions wherever and whenever.  Afghanistan and Iraq are two such adventures that need to be de-funded and ended.  We also need to reign in the congressional and pentagon weapons fetish which is basically whipped into a frenzy by free spending lobbyists for companies like Halliburton, GE, and Boeing.  I can only image what they all want the drone budget to look like.  MENA appears to be filled with hives these days.

So many of our fiscal problems would go away if we would just put things back to the where they were 10 years ago.  This includes putting  Wall Street back in its box instead of letting it go completely gaga  with nonstandard, unregulated financial innovations. We can’t afford Obama’s muddling policies that seem like voting present while Republicans go wild with his inability to stand any firm ground.  I believe he got elected to undo the Dubya years. Instead, he’s put the Dubya policies on steroids.  So, if most of us–that would be voters–are saying let’s take it all back to the Clinton years, what I’d like to know is who are the real conservatives and who are the real radicals?

They ALL Suck

We have gone through the Mirror to a new perverse American Wonderland.

The true lessons from the last two elections have been pretty clear.  Voting for “throwing the bums out” just brings worse bums into play.  Also, voting for relative unknowns hoping that will change the direction of the country because of their ‘outsider’ status doesn’t work either.  Sooner or later, they all become part of the problem.  The current crop of new faces is a pretty good indication that voters should be using better criteria than change, hope, not part of the DC establishment, and talks a good talk.  I wake up feeling like Alice who went through the looking glass into some perverse alternate reality.  The problem is that there really seems like there’s no way back.

The displeasure is obvious in the polls.  For the last two elections, folks voted for ‘outsiders’ and got even more dysfunctional government.  This latest crop of newbie politicians seems to come in with a ready-made interest group on their coattails. The interest of the general populace isn’t even in the equation any more.  We’re worried about unemployment, paying for expensive basics like food, health care, and gas at the pump while the current crop of elected officials just keep inventing surreal crises that simply feed their base’s interests and their donor’s pockets.

Right now, the majority of voters are screaming none of the above. Congress and the White House are hopelessly out of touch with the priorities of the electorate.  When the public says its concerned about the economy, it doesn’t mean they are obsessed with the Standard & Poor’s downgrade of US debt instruments.  I told you that after they got their tax cuts for billionaires through, raters would do that during the debt ceiling fight, right? 

The Tea Party and the White House seemed to be in cahoots–despite seemingly being at odds with each other– to funnel what’s left of US wealth into the Wall Street Gambling Casino by either giving tax breaks to businesses who flee the country for higher stakes or rich people that buy ‘financial innovations’ that create risk and volatility in markets . This all happens along with funneling federal projects straight to them through no-bid government contracts and privatization schemes.  These things also enrich market parasites like brokerage firms and insurance companies.  I don’t get why people don’t connect these charades with the dismal economy and vote their interests.  Maybe it’s because there’s really no one to vote FOR any more.  There are only folks to vote against.  Angry people do not make good decisions as a general rule.

President Obama has gotten no bounce from his reelection campaign announcement, with his job approval rating dropping by 7 percentage points since January, his personal popularity at a career low and 57 percent of Americans disapproving of his handling of the economy. Yet he leads the potential GOP field.

There are chances for the Republicans in next year’s elections, with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, in particular, nipping close to Obama in the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll. Economic pessimism, its highest in two years amid soaring gas prices, raises serious political peril for the president. But he benefits from two factors: personal approval that, while down, still exceeds his job rating, and substantial doubts about the opposing party’s lineup.

Forty-three percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they’re satisfied with the choice of candidates for the GOP nomination for president next year, compared with 65 percent satisfaction with the field at exactly this point four years ago. Nearly as many leaning-Republicans are dissatisfied with the field as are satisfied, and far more have no opinion of their potential candidates: 17 percent now vs. 3 percent at this point in 2007.

If those three are my choices, I’d rather opt out of the election and the country.  This is dismal!  No one is really satisfied with the presidential line-up.  I don’t know about you but my choices at the local level have been abysmal for years.   If there’s one candidate that really looks like they could actually make a change, a group of anti-abortion nuts, businesses, or other niche interest group comes out of the woodwork to tank them.  Our political system is like the proverbial septic tank letting the worst float to the top.

Obviously, money drives races any more.  It’s unlikely we can get that changed unless every state starts a ballot initiative for some kind of campaign finance reform.  Politicians are like crack addicts that are unlikely to go to rehab and more likely to sound like Charlie Sheen and his ‘winning’ chimera.  The problem is that now we have narrow interests funneling money into advertisements–ala swiftboating–that look like the message come from grass roots movements but are they really are the same old, same old that bring the same old, same old to Washington.  It’s only a new face. It is not a new person or an agenda of real change.

I’m still amazed to find any one that doesn’t see the astroturf in the Tea Party with the now obvious funding of the Koch Brothers and the like.  I’m sure that the investigation into all those ‘little’ donors to OFA will turn out finding yet another, perverse form of bundling. As Caro from Make Them Accountable believes, it’ll probably show that a bunch of Goldman Sachs people bought prepaid debit cards and had a hey-day.  The media is so corporate any more that they won’t focus on the jobs crisis, they’re running with the political pack to funnel more public assets to their stockholders.  Only the farthest reaches of Internatlandia appear to still be on the good side of the New American Looking Glass.

What a mess!  I’m beginning to think we’re just on the verge of the collapse of the empire and there’s not much we can do about. The last ten years have been all about the wrong things.  Just today, the UK Guardian released information on the relationship between big Oil and the Blair government’s decision to invade Iraq.  I’m just assuming that there’s a Dubya/Cheney set of meetings and memos there too.  More proof to support our well-founded skepticism of any motive but obscene profit-seeking from the already powerful and wealthy. We know that entire Iraq debacle was as contrived as ignoring the policies that would create jobs and growth and actually do something about the federal debt and deficit.  The emphasis recently on tax cuts has simply exacerbated all the problems but is still held up as the panacea.  The arm waving and speeches are just distractions from the real agenda.  Sadly, some folks still want to believe that those fresh faces really are more than just masks.

It’s like we’ve all gone through the mirror to some evil wonderland.   Help, we’ve fallen through and we can’t get up or out!

Right off a Cliff

Where are mainstream Republicans these days? What has happened to the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Eisenhower? Prior to the Reagan years, Republican women were front and center in volunteering for planned parenthood, supporting the ERA, and working for abortion rights. First Lady Betty Ford was a proud feminist and one of the first women to put women’s health issues–including women with drinking problems and breast cancer–on the map. President Richard Nixon was responsible for many of the agencies that protect the environment. The current party is chock-full of science denying Theocrats and economics-denying Corporate Fascists. It’s making a sham out of the two party system. We may now have a window open wide enough to stop some of this.  We should ready ourselves with the facts and act now.

An online conversation has been initiated with the publication of Ron Brownstein’s article in the National Journal on Thursday called ‘State’s Rights’. It is front and center in starting a discussion among Democratic bloggers, journalists, and other liberal/progressive sympathizers.  States rights was code for the right to own slaves during the first 100 years of this country’s existence.  It is now code for the right to discriminate against the GLBT community, insert the government into an individual woman’s gynecological care, and bust unions. The racial overtones have not gone away since the worst of the hateful verbiage is aimed at stopping any policy goal attempted by President Obama.

Any one who has read me over the last few years knows that I am not a big fan of this President and I’m even less of a fan of his zealous followers.  However, it would take a fairly dim bulb to not see the racism implicit in many of the Republican attacks against him. Attacks range from the extremely bizarre personal assertions that he is a secret Muslim, foreign born, and a devout socialist/communist to a complete rewrite of any policy initiative.

Obama is about as conservative of a Democrat as one can find these days which has been one of my issues with him all along.  His actions and words have not stopped the endless attacks on absolutely everything he attempts by Republicans and their monied interests.  These tactics were first used against former Democratic President Bill Clinton but have reached some kind of hyper-extortionate apex today.  It’s to the point that I firmly believe some of these Republican extremists would rather take the country down with them than negotiate something other than an ideologically pure outcome.  Brown’s article and examples focus on the current bloc of extremist Republican governors with their take no prisoners policies.  While his focus is mostly on the impact on Obama, I believe his larger point should entice us to think bigger.

But one senior Obama administration official, who also had a close view of Clinton’s interaction with Republican governors, contends that ideology is trumping interest for the governors in many of these new disputes. Health care reform, for instance, asks states for no new financial contribution to expand coverage through 2016 and only relatively small participation thereafter; because 60 percent of the uninsured live in the states where a Republican holds the governorship, their residents would receive the most new federal aid if the law survives. “One had the sense in the mid-1990s that conservative governors were doing whatever was in the best interest of their state,” the senior official said. “This time, the Republican governors appear determined to make an ideological point, even if it costs their state a great deal.”

Whatever the governors’ motivations (one man’s posturing, after all, is another man’s principle), their unreserved enlistment into Washington’s wars marks a milestone. It creates a second line of defense for conservatives to contest Obama even after he wins battles in Congress. It tears another hole in the fraying conviction that state capitals are less partisan than Washington. And it creates a precedent that is likely to encourage more guerrilla warfare between Democratic governors and a future Republican president.

American politics increasingly resembles a kind of total war in which each party mobilizes every conceivable asset at its disposal against the other. Most governors were once conscientious objectors in that struggle. No more.

I can remember attending Republican conventions in the early 1980s during the first hint of the unholy alliance between religious fanatics along the line of a Christian Taliban with the John Birch Society version of libertarians.  It was a terrifying spectacle.  At the time, the more pro-business and hoity-toity conservative elements in the party were willing to use them like pet pit bulls because they were incredibly organized at the grass roots level and they voted. Republicans traditionally had a much more difficult time turning out voters and their GOTV machines were dwarfed by the Democrats who could rely on well organized and managed union membership.  This is one of the reasons why there is also the huge attack on the last standing unions now.  They’re worth a fortune come election time and no Republican campaign strategist worth anything underestimates them.  We can clearly no longer underestimate the religious zealots or those gullible to the rants of Glenn Beck.  They’ve become a contagion.

Back in the day,  the young me argued that this form of big daddy government intervention put forth by religionists and Birchers was basically enabling powerful business monopolies and drop kicking the constitutional mandate to deny the establishing of a state religion.  It was against the very core ideology of  historical Republicanism.  I got no where.  This was especially true as Nixon’s southern strategy began to work its evil influence on bringing in the remaining racist elements of the old Dixiecrats who frankly were all for the government taking care of any one that wasn’t like them.  This added the last nail in the traditional coffin of the party of Lincoln. That sin is now manifesting in the xenophobia against Muslims and Hispanics in addition to African Americans topped by the anti-science bias from the religionists and the pro-monopoly market creation from the corporatists.

It appears that many old school Republicans now see the results of opening this Pandora’s box. They are horrified and have been trying to stuff the demons back into the chest.  Now, you see those same folks that opened their kennels filled with poodles to the pit bulls are now acting absolutely appalled by the rising influence of absolutely whacked extremists like Glenn Beck.  Scarborough, Rove, and Kristol are currently trying to put the Beckheads back into the box.  Those of us that don’t vote Republican could afford to ignore this if it were just some intraparty feud.  It’s gone beyond that with the rise of tea party hysterics and billionaire libertarian Daddy Warbucks’ propaganda machines. In many states, the Republican party infrastructure has been commandeered by the pit bulls. The poodles–like Arianna Huffington and Markos–have long left their confines. They are morphing traditional Democratic Party concerns.  The same divisive issues that used to motivate the base to do the GOTV and show up at the polls has managed to bring this new crop of Republican governors and congressional members to a critical mass.  They refuse any middle or even right of middle ground.  They won’t negotiate on the usual country club Republican issues. It’s no longer a GOTV ploy for them because they are true believers.

Steven Benen explores this quandry in his blog at WAPO today.

Keep in mind, it’s ideology, not practical concerns, that lie at the heart of these governors’ reactionary moves. The states turning down investments for high-speed rail, for example, were effectively handed a gift — jobs, economic development, improved infrastructure — but Republicans like Rick Scott and Scott Walker turned down the benefits because of a philosophical opposition, deliberately hurting their state in the process. The administration was effectively throwing a life-preserver to a Republican who’s drowning, only to be told, “We don’t like government life-preservers.”

The same is true of health care, which would be a boon to states, but which far-right governors resist for reasons that have nothing to do with public policy.

Bill Clinton faced a watered-down version of these Republican pit bulls over a decade ago.  Dealing with them is how he got his reputation for triangulation.  He seemed uniquely placed to make some small progress then–that now seems impossible now–because of his past position as a southern governor with a decidedly homespun and folksy manner.  President Obama has none of this going for him.  He is surrounded by Businesscrats that are unlikely to fill the void. The only thing he’s managed to do is to gain the ear of the Chamber of Commerce types.  These folks are hardly going to be sympathetic to social justice or middle class bread-and-butter issues.  Additionally, right wing media sources and timid main stream media sources are playing into the hands of the outrageous.  We have media enablers instead of investigative journalists.

That is why it is absolutely essential that whatever is left of the Democratic grassroots need to make one extremely loud noise right now.  It is unconscionable that a rewrite of history, science, and economic is taking place while many of us are simply standing around with gaping mouths.  I’ve spoken many times about the absolute lack of economics that is driving austerity programs.  It’s already showing signs of slowing economic growth down at a time when unemployment is unacceptably high. This is only going to multiply as the days and months unfold.  Ask yourself if we can really afford another recession?

I was also disheartened to read that science is not fairing well either. Scientific American has a thought provoking piece up on the overwhelming science behind global warming and climate change.Their title should be rhetorical but it is not: ‘Why Are Americans So Ill-Informed about Climate Change?’

Near the forum’s conclusion, Massachusetts Institute of Technology climate scientist Kerry Emanuel asked a panel of journalists why the media continues to cover anthropogenic climate change as a controversy or debate, when in fact it is a consensus among such organizations as the American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Physics, American Chemical Society, American Meteorological Association and the National Research Council, along with the national academies of more than two dozen countries.

“You haven’t persuaded the public,” replied Elizabeth Shogren of National Public Radio. Emanuel immediately countered, smiling and pointing at Shogren, “No, you haven’t.” Scattered applause followed in the audience of mostly scientists, with one heckler saying, “That’s right. Kerry said it.”

Such a tone of searching bewilderment typified a handful of sessions that dealt with the struggle to motivate Americans on the topic of climate change. Only 35 percent of Americans see climate change as a serious problem, according to a 2009 poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

It’s a given that an organized and well-funded campaign has led efforts to confuse the public regarding the consensus around anthropogenic climate change.

These extremists are even rewriting the already right wing Ronald Reagan’s legacy to make it seem more extreme to support the legitimacy of their radical agendas.  Here’s an example I found this morning on ThinkProgress on Reagan’s views on unions. Scott Walker’s fantasy world includes his vision of being Reagan’s heir. Yet, here is Reagan himself on the union movement in Poland during one of his radio addresses to the nation.

REAGAN: Ever since martial law was brutally imposed last December, Polish authorities have been assuring the world that they’re interested in a genuine reconciliation with the Polish people. But the Polish regime’s action yesterday reveals the hollowness of its promises. By outlawing Solidarity, a free trade organization to which an overwhelming majority of Polish workers and farmers belong, they have made it clear that they never had any intention of restoring one of the most elemental human rights—the right to belong to a free trade union.

The one thing that I learned early on when dealing with these people from within the Republican party itself in the pre-Reagan and early Reagan days is that they believe their courses are so righteous that they will lie and do anything to support them.  If we do not hold their actions and lies to the light of day, our country will be completely overrun by by folks that are anti-science, anti-economics, anti-rational thought, and anti-democracy.  We’ll have a theocratic plutocracy in fairly short order.

It is absolutely imperative that we put pressure on the media and Democratic politicians to fact check these people, stand up to them, and expose their lies to the public.  It is possible that we’ve caught a tipping point in their overreach process. If this is the case, it means we have to work with the momentum now.  Nothing short of our democracy and our children’s future is at stake here.  We cannot be complacent and we cannot be left with mouths wide opened.  We also cannot rely on leadership from the very top.  If you’re in one of those states that is acting up, act now!!!  Find and support your version of the Wisconsin 14.

On Wisconsin! (Breaking News)

Wisconsin Fights Back!

Public employees, largely teachers and many of their students, have been protesting in Madison for three days, flooding the Capitol building with people and signage. Many Wisconsin schools have had to close due to sick-outs by large percentages of the state’s teachers.

The fight in Wisconsin has become a flash point for a national debate over budget deficits and how to solve them, with both sides recognizing the high-stakes battle will become a template for other states, no matter who comes out on top. A large defeat for unions in the battleground state of Wisconsin—the birthplace of AFSCME— would have public policy repercussions.

The Democratic Party’s Organizing for America, the leftover campaign apparatus from the Obama campaign, has entered the fray, filling buses and running phone banks for unions in Wisconsin. President Obama offered his opinion, declaring Walker’s measures an “assault on unions” despite admitting he hadn’t looked into the details.

Democratic Senators fled the state of Wisconsin to prevent a quorum call that would allow Governor Scott Walker and the Republicans to start the process of gutting the right to organize and form collective bargaining units for state employees like teachers and police. All 14 of the Democratic senators have actually left the state. The State Patrol has been sent to fetch them by State Senate President. Most people guess they’ve fled to Illinois somewhere as a group.

Meanwhile, a second day of protests surrounded the capitol building in Milwaukee.

From WISC TV in Madison:

No Democrats were present at the start of the state Senate session shortly after 11 a.m. to vote on a bill stripping public employees of collective bargaining rights. The Democratic members are currently out of state, WISC-TV reported.The Senate’s Republican majority sought to convene on Thursday to pass Gov. Scott Walker’s union bill. The Democrats’ move means the Senate can’t act at this point.Now, police officers are looking for Democratic lawmakers who were ordered to attend a vote. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said law enforcement officers were searching for Democrats after they were ordered to attend the Senate session.Republicans need one Democratic senator to be present. Calls to Democratic leaders weren’t immediately returned. Republicans ordered a call of the house to force Democrats to show up. Seventeen Republicans were present so the session began without the Democrats. Calls to Democratic leaders and others in the 14-member caucus weren’t immediately returned.Thousands of people clogged the halls of the Capitol for a third straight day in opposition. Observers in the balcony shouted “Freedom! Democracy! Unions!” as Republicans tried to start debate.

There are a lot of reports in the local press on the impact of the rallies and protests. While the right wing has focused on the need to shut down schools due to teacher’s calling in sick to attend the protest, it appears students have joined the ranks of the protesters.

Walker and Republican leaders have said they have the votes to pass the plan.That didn’t stop thousands of protesters from clogging the hallway outside the Senate chamber beating on drums, holding signs deriding Walker and pleading for lawmakers to kill the bill. Protesters also demonstrated outside the homes of some lawmakers.

Hundreds of teachers called in sick, forcing a number of school districts to cancel classes. Madison schools, the state’s second-largest district with 24,000 students, closed for a second day as teachers poured into the Capitol.

Hundreds more people, many of them students from the nearby University of Wisconsin, slept in the rotunda for a second night.

“We are all willing to come to the table, we’ve have all been willing from day one,” said Madison teacher Rita Miller. “But you can’t take A, B, C, D and everything we’ve worked for in one fell swoop.”

The head of the 98,000-member statewide teachers union called on all Wisconsin residents to come to the Capitol on Thursday for the votes in the Senate and Assembly.

“Our goal is not to close schools, but instead to remain vigilant in our efforts to be heard,” said Wisconsin Education Association Council President Mary Bell.

The proposal marks a dramatic shift for Wisconsin, which passed a comprehensive collective bargaining law in 1959 and was the birthplace of the national union representing all non-federal public employees.

The same situation is happening at the Ohio Statehouse as about 1,800 have joined protests there.

Public workers jammed the Statehouse today as the Ohio Senate continued to hear testimony on a bill that would eliminate collective bargaining rights for state employees and change the rights of local government employees. The workers, many wearing bright red T-shirts, filled the Statehouse atrium and rotunda while others milled about outside. They voiced their opposition loudly, sometimes echoing into the Senate hearing room and competing with the speakers testifying in support of Senate Bill 5. The State Highway Patrol estimated the crowd at 1,800

Attempts to break state employees unions are also being made in Louisiana.