Thursday, March 5, 2009

* Sitting Shiva – This is not a reference to one of the supreme Hindu gods, often depicted meditating in the lotus position. The term is used in the context of Jewish tradition. It denotes a one week period of grief and mourning following the burial of a deceased, when family members gather in one place and receive visitors. I thought of this tradition as the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held its annual coven in Washington D.C. last week. What is now the heart, core and soul of the Republican Party gathered to… well, I am not sure. Some of the leading speakers included Ann Coulter, Joe the Plumber and the whining star of the gathering, Rush Limbaugh, spokes model for the Republican/Conservative movement in America. The CPAC attendees desperately cling to an ideology launched in the Ronald Regan years that ultimately imploded during the George W. Bush years. The most recent incarnation of conservatism has been abandoned by the vast majority of the American people. The abandonment was not capricious. It earned its demise by yielding utter and complete failure. Let me count the ways:

Anti-unionism, unregulated free markets, deficit spending stapled to tax cuts for the wealthy, denial of science, ignorance of the needs of a deteriorating infrastructure, unconstitutional merging of church and state, abandonment of the needy and less fortunate in our society, policies that encourage greed and corruption, encouragement of a neocon philosophy that preaches preemptive war and imperialism and the promulgation that health care is a privilege, not a right. This is by far a complete list. I am confident that history will write a more comprehensive account of this movement that we now mourn and which has left us with considerable grief and bereavement.

How wide is the disconnect between CPAC ideologues and Main Street America? The Republican response to President Obama’s address to congress is telling. The person chosen to present the “other side” was Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Frank Rich, writing for the NY Times, made the following observation: “But like all zealots, Jindal is oblivious to how non-zealots see him. Pleading “principle,” he has actually turned down some $100 million in stimulus money for Louisiana. And, as he proudly explained on “Meet the Press”, he can’t wait to be judged on “the results” of his heroic frugality. The state of Louisiana ranks fourth in children living below the poverty line and 46th in high school graduation rates. The well-being of the majority of Americans was never a consideration of Reagan or Bush or Bush. The well-being of the “royalty” of society was the premise and the policy. The ultimate widespread failure of the policies is apparent to almost anyone not part of the CPAC clique. Governor Jindal, you are far from being a hero AND you do not walk among heroes.

* The Guiding Light of hypocrisy ~ I was against it before I did it even though I am against it – Few can forget the homophobic Colorado mega-church pastor Ted Haggart resigning in disgrace when it was revealed that he was having a homosexual affair. It is even easier to remember vocally anti-gay Idaho Senator Larry Craig attempting to drop his Fruit of the Looms in a public restroom. It should come as no surprise that a recent study found that conservative states in the union, the Red states that want to ban the sale of vibrators, dildos and sexually explicit material, have a higher incidence of visiting pornography sites on the internet than the citizens of the heathen Blue states. “Those states that do consume the most porn tend to be more conservative and religious than states with lower levels of consumption, the study finds… Eight of the top 10 pornography consuming states gave their electoral votes to John McCain in last year's presidential election.” I have often wondered how the holy rollers know what I should not be doing in the privacy of my own home. They certainly cannot be accused of not doing their homework. Now, just shut up and take a cold shower!

* Cynics of Green Energy ~ naysayers say no more – If anyone still believes that green energy solutions are impractical, unaffordable or unrealistic the prophets of profitability, also known as the Mafia, have spoken. “Italian police… arrested mobsters, businessmen and local politicians who allegedly used corrupt practices and bribes to gain control of a project to build wind farms in Sicily… Police in Trapani said the local Mafia bribed city officials in nearby Mazara del Vallo so the town would invest in wind farms to produce energy.” When the Mafia assumes the roll of lobbyist it is pretty certain that the business venture makes cents (sic). We are not talking about pie-in-the-sky idealists. Where is America’s own Al Capone when we need him?

* Drug efficacy ~ serious side effects – Last week, and on many previous occasions, I have noted evidence of congressman selling their vote to special interests. This week we learn about another hooker in pinstripes and silk cravat posing as a U.S. Senator. “The pharmaceutical industry that long has benefited from Sen. Orrin G. Hatch´s (R-UT) legislative efforts has directed large sums of money to a charity he helped found - and still raises money for - while also hiring the Republican lawmaker's son as a lobbyist.” This week our government begins exploring ways to reduce the outrageous cost of health care in America. Unless the decision makers such as Hatch are publicly and broadly exposed for their financially symbiotic relationship with the special interests that play a significant role in the high cost of health care, the American healthcare system and the economy will remain on life support. Ostensibly, Hatch represents the citizens of Utah. Among his extra-state constituents are pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Schering-Plough Corp., Eli Lilly and Co., Barr Pharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca Pharm LP, and Sepracor. Other Hatch “constituents” include medical equipment suppliers and health care providers. I suggest that the next time you want to write a letter to your congressman, drop it off at your pharmacy. It will get there faster.

* Taxpayers ambushed ~ the cavalry is coming – It was announced this week that the Obama administration will overhaul how government contracts are awarded that would save about $40 billion dollars a year. The new rules “would make it more difficult for contractors to bilk taxpayers and make some half-trillion dollars in federal contracts each year more accessible to independent contractors.” This would be a refreshing change to no bid, no oversight contracts. Such policy reached its nadir in Iraq where billions of U.S. dollars were funneled through insider private no-bid contractors – much of it unaccounted for, much of it wasted on projects never completed or completed projects that are unsafe and in disrepair. To complete the picture, many of these same private contractors are U.S. companies that set up off-shore corporations to avoid paying U.S. taxes. If Obama can have an impact on what we now know has been a pervasive breakdown in our federal government, my November vote will have been well cast.

* We can have a lead role in oversight ~ the audition is now – “For every foreclosure in a neighborhood, home values drop by an estimated 1%. Credit Suisse says that if judges have the ability to write down mortgages, it will stem the tide of foreclosures by 20% and it won't cost the taxpayers a single dime… President Obama says that allowing bankruptcy judges to write down mortgages is an important part of his plan to arrest the downward spiral of the foreclosure crisis.” HOWEVER, corporation-favoring Republican and Democratic members of Congress and bank lobbyists are trying to stop that. The banks want to unload their bad loans on taxpayers. We should not let this happen. The website is providing a petition to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi demanding that bankruptcy judges be allowed to write down mortgages. Pelosi and congress gave in to the banks and their lobbyists in 2007 when this idea was first proposed. If more and more citizens voice their opposition to “Congress for Sale” there is some chance that our democratic process will avoid total bankruptcy. If we do nothing, then nothing is what will be accomplished. Below is the comment I made on the petition that I signed:

It is beyond time that citizens take back our government - a government that our elected representatives sold to the highest bidders. If you refuse to represent the interests of the American people then we will work to ensure that you experience the unemployment line. Yes - that long line that your sellout to special interests helped create. Congress is draped in disgrace and the American people are suffering the consequences. Perhaps it is poetic justice since we elected you. Shame on all of us!

* Being our own lobbyists - President Barack Obama said: "the special interests and lobbyists ... I know they're gearing up for a fight as we speak. My message to them is this: So am I." One of the tasks and great challenges that Obama is taking on is health care reform. The special interests and lobbyists present major opposition and will attempt to influence the Obama administration and congress. One of the ways that the American people’s interests and voices can be heard on health care reform is through petition. Congress must know that we are paying attention and have expectations. is providing a petition that will be sent to your representative and senators. Over 200,000 concerned citizens have already signed the petition. If you are concerned about the state of your own health care, the future health care of your children as well as the tremendous drain that the current system has on our economy, you may want to add your name. Consumers Union provides a similar petition.

* It is said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.”
David Brin

“Corruption and hypocrisy ought not to be inevitable products of democracy, as they undoubtedly are today”
Mahatma Gandhi


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Sue Katz said...

Here's what worries me about the Obama team and healthcare. They're looking closely at the Massachusetts plan put in during Romney's reign. Massachusetts is close to having everyone covered - because a person gets fined (!) if they don't buy coverage.

True, they raised the bar a bit on who can get subsidized healthcare, but the increase of accepted participants is only a fraction of what it needs to be.

Only single-payer insurance could provide an equitable coverage for all, and the Obama team took that off the table explicitly. What a shame. If we're going to agitate, it should be that the single-payer system be put back on the list for consideration.

Oh! And Happy International Women's Day, Stephen.

Ruth Z Deming said...

and Scott wondered if you'd have anything to write about now that Obama is in office!

Sign seen today outside the Abington, PA post office: Imprison Paulson. A woman had set up a table and invited passers-by to sign a petition to send Paulson and a few others to jail.

Who sponsored her? Lyndon La Rouche, still active at age 86, according to Wikipedia.

Happy Purim!