Friday, August 05, 2011

A Witness To HISTORY: This Is REALLY Cool!

 Just imagine, a 96 year-old man appears on a CBS TV show in 1956, the year of his death, as the last living witness to the Lincoln assassination. He was five at the time. Samuel J. Seymour's life spanned two centuries, in which he lived through some of the most consequential events in American history: the Civil War, two world wars, the beginnings of the civil rights struggle, the invention of the car, the airplane, the atom bomb, film and television. He was one generation — his parents' — removed from when the Founding Fathers walked this earth. That's mindblowing ...

In February 1956, two months before his death, 96-year-old Samuel J. Seymour appeared on the CBS television show "I've Got A Secret." His secret: he witnessed Abraham Lincoln's assassination when he was five years old.

Sure enough, Seymour has been widely recognized as the last surviving person in America who had been present at Ford's Theatre the night of Lincoln's assassination on April 14, 1865.

According to the Washington Times, Seymour attended the Ford's Theatre performance as a young boy with family friends. He was told upon arriving in Washington, “Sammy, you and I and Sarah are going to a play - a real play. And President Abraham Lincoln will be there."

Seymour's recollection of the event includes a shot ringing out, someone in the President's box screaming and Lincoln slumping forward in his seat. He also caught a glimpse of John Wilkes Booth jumping from the box to the stage.

A Maryland native who later lived in Arlington, Seymour died on April 12, 1956, two days before the anniversary of Lincoln's death.

TEA PARTY Remedial Ed: Aren't You Glad Chris Christie Didn't Say YES?

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, darling of the wingnut media, whose every utterance is given immediate first-page splash on our favorite wingnut rag, The Daily Caller, was nowhere to be seen in the shrivelled RightWingVille organs this morning:

HMMM ... I WONDER WHY. Here's a clue; let Lawrence explain:

Can we get a reaction from Christie worshipper and DC fave, the Coultergeist? Anyone ... Poor Jeff, anyone?! It seems they're too busy savaging T-Paw while embarrassing Jon Huntsman. (Someone must have made a substantial donation to the Mittster's campaign ... But that Isikoff scoop, involving a shell organization and possible criminality, didn't make the DC front page, either!) Okay, a search reveals Matt Lewis at least posted the Christie statement in his blog ... but, let's face it, Lewis isn't much of a wingnut.

I mean, AL GORE calling for "an American spring — you know, the Arab spring. The non-violent part of it isn’t finished yet, but we need to have an American spring, a kind of an American non-violent change where people on the grassroots get involved again. Not in the Tea Party-style.” — made the DC first page with a typically misleading headline. And look! There's some white space next to the Gore blurb, right at the bottom of the DC front page, in which to squeeze in even the bulky Governor Christie, for whom my respect (even though I cannot endorse a single one of his policies) has jumped exponentially.

I guess in their multifarious, well-funded right wing agit-prop operation, this wingnut rag just isn't as efficient as our little blog at posting RELEVANT NEWS ...

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Hostage-Taking Has Only Just Begun — HellOOO TEAPARTYVILLES

Those who continue to insist the GOP didn't score a major victory are just plain wrong. The severe austerity measures of this debt deal and the resulting economic contraction will not only lead to millions of jobs lost but, as many economists including (but not only) Paul Krugman have warned, will lead to a repeat of 1937 when FDR was convinced by Republicans and conservatives in his party (the ideological twins of Geithner, Summers, and YES, President Obama) to tackle the rising deficits despite strong economic growth that was pulling us out of the Great Depression. FDR took his foot off the Keynesian government investment/"spending" accelerator in jobs, infrastructure, enduring projects (roads, bridges, dams, national parks, environmental conservation projects) whose legacy carried over to succeeding generations. And this is what happened — See chart and Rachel's (we MISSED ya!) awesome report:

And here's Paul Krugman on Keith's freedom of news zone:

Back in 2009 when we were still reeling from the Bush economic collapse some wingnut jackass pegged an "Obamaville" sign ("Hooverville," get it ...) on a chain link fence enclosing a 'tent city' in Colorado. Cheap shot, of course, considering the President's imperfect and inadequate stimulus saved or created some three million jobs. Still, the "optics" of charging fat cats $35,000 for a high end ticket to attend his post-austerity bill birthday bash, are terrible. The wingnut blogosphere is taking the President to the cleaners for this ... speaking of self-inflicted wounds: $35,000 is an unemployed American's average ANNUAL living wage.

The Tent Cities, terrible expressions of abject poverty and homelessness in this, STILL the world's wealthiest nation, have mushroomed across the land, especially in Tea Party red states in the South. They're tragic and they will grow, consequentially for this administration, as a result of this calamitous debt ceiling cave-in. The time is NOW for We, The People to mobilize and begin taking our country back from these extremist Republican/Teabaggers, or as Bill Maher calls them: SCUMBAGGERS.

And let's call the TENT CITIES for what they are: TEAPARTYVILLES.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Bill Maher Gives B'Day Prez Advice ... And Stephie A MIGRAINE!

With Dr. Michael Eric Dyson at the helm, doing a good job of subbing for Big Eddie, Bill Maher was truly a GUEST OF HONOR, representing the bruised and battered feelings of progressives so well, saying WHAT NEEDED TO BE SAID. Bill puts most so-called "political analysts" to shame, with fellow comedic genius Jon Stewart, who told the President: "don't lay this turd on us!"

Meanwhile, Stephanie Miller and her faithful posse of Obama worshippers gave our B'Day Prez a BIG HUG because those NASTY progressives are SO MEAN to him! Aww ...

Pat Buchanan DOUBLES DOWN On His Racism!

Can you believe it? The ball is in the MSNBC empty suits court. Keith seized the following racist eruption in Pat's triumphalist blood-lust defense of the Teabaggers. I actually agree with Pat on one thing. Calling the Teabaggers "Hobbits" is an insult to Frodo and Bilbo Baggins. Keith nabbed him for today's Worst Persons In The World, along with a drunk wrestling wingnut and the aforementioned racist Rep. from Colorado. All in all, a pretty typical catch in RightWingVille. Watch:

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Is Pat Buchanan Next To Follow Mark Halperin To The MSNBC "Briar Patch"?

In an a cringe-inducing exchange with the Reverend Al, MSNBC's resident nativist Pat Buchanan kept referring to President Obama as "your boy." Then he repeated the offensive term to describe the Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who had rightly called the debt deal a "Satan sandwich." Paging the MSNBC suits: Is there a qualitative difference between Mark Halperin's "dick" insult to the President and Buchanan's "your boy?" I don't see it. But I find it interesting that both Halperin and Buchanan hang out at Moron Joe. Just imagine how they must talk out of earshot and camera range.

TEA PARTY Remedial Ed: Embrace Your RACISM, Even In Debt Deal

It had to happen, didn't it. Some Teabagger RATBASTARD in the House had to make the public RACIST statement about President Obama to seal the deal with the TEA PARTY SEAL OF APPROVAL. Listen to this SCUMBAG. The Teabaggers are utterly despicable, disgusting excuses for humanity. Apology: TAR BABY = QUAGMIRE. Yeah, right.

There's ONE THING, At Least, We Can All Celebrate About The Debt Vote

Congresswoman Gabby Giffords' emotional return to Congress to cast her vote:

What Keith Said And A Super Congress That Is Neither

Man, at least there's a spot somewhere on cable for freedom of news. Countdown is a port of call — Rachel and Big Eddie, too — from the storm-tossed seas of collaborationist corporate media everywhere else on cable.

The Idiot Punditocracy have largely dismissed the so-called "Super Congress" composed of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, 12 in all, as just another do-nothing Congressional committee or commission that is a meaningless part of the debt deal. WRONG. It may thrill Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, and their cohorts because they will not be directly blamed for cutting the Big Three (Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security).

Senate Democrats and Republicans have colluded to take Big Three cuts away from the beaten path of political discourse, under the radar so to speak, by handing it off to a slash-and-burn committee composed of Republicans and Democrat/DINOs. As usual, Democrats were routed by goose-stepping Republicans who will always vote in lock-step to make cuts and prevent tax increases, while peeling off one or two DINO votes to pass the cuts, because all it requires is a simple majority.

My candidate for the Medicare executioner in the Democratic Party is Kent Conrad. He's a retiring DINO from North Dakota who has already come out in favor of so-called "entitlement reform" on the beneficiary side. Another one is the corporatist DINO from Virginia, Senator Mark Warner. They are members of the so-called Gang of Six. Understand, the Gang of Six have already agreed in principle to beneficiary cuts. Senator Tom Coburn, a Republican right winger has proposed with Traitor Joe Lieberman a hike in the eligibility age of Medicare from 65 to 67. Call it a trial balloon. This is their "die quickly with no health care" proposal for seniors between the ages of 65 and 67.

And the COLA "adjustments" which are agreed to for Social Security, will cost beneficiaries, "According to the advocacy group Strengthen Social Security, the chained-CPI could lead to annual Social Security benefit cuts of $560 for those aged 75, $984 for those aged 85 and $1,392 for those aged 95." Hey, to millionaires like President Obama and Senators Conrad and Warner $984 is a pittance they write off in their tax returns. But to millions of retirees, that's real money.

You won't hear this from the Idiot Punditocracy or from the Obama apologists out there with their hear-see-speak no evil attitude. And you won't hear it from good folks fighting the good fight like Senator Bernie Sanders, because Senate decorum constrains him from naming names. But he has already sounded the alarm about this probably unconstitutional "Super Congress." He has already warned that if the cuts to the Big Three come, they will come from Democrats.

So I'm naming names. Obviously, the "Super Congress" will have at its core the Gang of Six. It makes sense for a whole lot of reasons, not all of them conspiratorial. These guys have been immersed in this downsizing government cutting frenzy — just on paper for now — for months. They have the expertise, they've done the groundwork, and they've already agreed on a broad, conservative bipartisan framework for real cuts that will hurt millions of our citizens. Based on his compulsive obsession with "finding the center" in  all things, as the astute Howard Fineman noted, can't you just picture President Obama loving this?

Some of those who are feverishly powder-puffing and slapping lipstick on this PIG of a deal say, not to worry, the "Super Congress" won't make any cuts in an election year. That may be, but it's a gambler's calculation, not a certainty, I don't care how many bridges out there they've got to sell us. The composition of this group is intended to be, well ... shadowy, just like in those sinister conspiracy movies. It's a stealth cut-and-slash torpedo aimed at the weakest point of the so-called phony "firewall" protecting the Big Three. And since at least two or more of the prospective members (Conrad, Coburn, Lieberman?) are retiring, the political pressure will be off their backs and they'll be able to give cover to the rest of their Senate colleagues. Congress likes nothing if not the avoidance, at all costs, of making tough decisions — or should I say, standing up on principle, even if it threatens their political careers.

Today, once again, the President served notice that "YES" (that's the latest version of "yes, we can" — CUT) so-called eye-of-the-beholder "modest" cuts to Medicare are coming. He is in general agreement with proposals by the Gang of Six, which will soon morph into the "Super Congress." And these cuts are to be funneled through this stealth "Super Congress" process. It's insidious and it's gutless — perfect adjectives for Congress. That's why "institutionalists" like Reid, McConnell, and Boehner are so excited about such a diabolical legislative device, whose principal function is to give them political cover for cuts to the Big Three that are opposed by 60 to 80 percent of Americans.

So please, when it happens, I don't want to hear Stephanie Miller moaning and bawling into her coffee. No need to pour coffee on your genitals, Steph; feed your brain instead. Accept that President Obama isn't the knight in shining armor who will ride in to save the day — as your na├»ve, starry-eyed Obama-lovers believe — but a center-right, corporate conservative Democrat who has choices to make and options to take. He has a presidential decision-matrix like no other. He has the bully pulpit. He's not "handcuffed" by anything or any faction, unless it's by choice and except by his constitutional duty and the duties of co-equal branches of government.

The Tea Party faction in Congress threatened its insanity to roll our risk-averse president. And it worked. It didn't have to be this way. As a result, millions of people who are hurting too much already will hurt more. That's the reality.  It's time for the President to take sides. (And I find it unbelievable that it's even necessary to say this.) But ultimately, it's up to us to take our government back. The front lines are in the states. In Wisconsin, where we are fighting back against Republican insanity and overreach. Then it's on to Washington.

If the President is unable or unwilling to lead, then we will take the point. As Keith was saying:

Bill Maher (UNCENSORED): We're ALL Socialists, Especially The Teabaggers ...

Because, as a percentage of the population, they're most reliant on government socialism like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security — or sucking off the government teat, like the hypocritical Bachmanns — not to speak of living in states which take in the most gub'mint revenues to federal taxes paid. So, these Teabaggers by their own definition, are the DREGS of humanity as double- and triple- and quadruple-dipping FREELOADERS.

Here's Bill Maher singing the just praises of civilized European socialism, unmarred by the cleaned-up Lawrence version with long-winded, preachy, self-indulgent intro which makes promoting even otherwise good video segments a problem. The man's pomposity ("but enough about me") knows no bounds. Give it a rest, Larry-O. Especially, after that unsuccessful recovery intro ... "the President blinked." Uh-oh. WEAK!

Bill had Teabagger Matt Kibbe next to him during the entire 'New Rules' segment. Too bad we couldn't see his facial expressions, doubtless tortured or blank.

Monday, August 01, 2011

The President May Have Surrendered, But We Don't Have To

There aren't many options left to progressives after this craven pact with the devil was struck by the President with Republican extortionists. Ironically, President Obama may have been adept and committed at hunting down and killing Osama Bin Laden, but when it came to dealing — metaphorically, let me be clear — with factional political terrorists in a political entity representing the narrow slice of America's ruling class, Wall Street, the corporations, and right wing extremists, literally fewer than 30 percent of the voting population, the President caved like a bottomless sinkhole.

Why he's done it is a question for "psychosocial" historians, to coin a term from a Tea Party sympathizer. We've all got our own ideas, but it's really irrelevant, when the evidence is in the deeds more than the words. The President laid Social Security bare when it was not implicated in this despicable travesty, this manufactured crisis. He negotiated with Republican leaders behind closed doors and away from the cleansing sunshine of transparency. He betrayed our trust on Medicare, too, by accepting the Coburn-Lieberman proposal to raise the eligibility age from 65 to 67. And the so-called "modest adjustments" to the cost of living calculation in Social Security will result in thousands of fewer dollars in the pockets of beneficiaries who rely primarily on fixed incomes and benefits from Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to live.

The President's sang froid, so ably demonstrated in the killing of Osama and when he plays military commander-in-chief which he clearly loves, carries over to his constituents. Intellectually he may feel it, but "no drama Obama" seems incapable of demonstrating compassion, empathy, or outrage as Paul Krugman noted, when the situation clearly demands it. He reminds me of a highly skilled heart or brain surgeon who cannot afford to become emotionally attached to any of his patients.

The President failed to push back against the relentless assault of extremist Republicans bent on destroying every vestige of the New Deal and the labor unions, which created the foundation for our prosperous middle class, every vestige of government itself. Today, incredibly, he is collaborating in the downsizing of government, ultimately to "drown it in the tub." President Obama failed, at every turn, to present the Democratic narrative rich in American history and culture and decency as an alternative to this monstrous Republican vision of plutocratic, autocratic, undemocratic, unconstitutional, anti-government rule. (Why the hell is Harry Reid so enthused about a "Super Congress" which will render the larger body a rubber stamp status of the kind which defined banana republics?)

One explanation for the President's passivity, for his reluctance to fight for the high values and ideals which have distinguished the Democratic Party, and which coincided with our nation's prosperity in the 20th century, is that President Obama does not believe in them. Another is his calculation that this is what he needs to do in order to win reelection in 2012. He is wrong. But to accept the alternative that past is future, that great public works projects of FDR scope and targeted jobs jobs jobs programs to fix our crumbling infrastructure and reinvigorate our manufacturing base, means to take risks and engage the opposition in open political warfare. FDR and Truman relished it.

This President abhors it. He wants to be liked by all, especially his worst detractors, not realizing that as Albert Fried who wrote FDR And His Enemies said, "the legacy of a public figure is largely defined by the quality and number of his enemies." Even more distressing, President Obama has rejected Keynesian economics in favor of doubling down on the failed policies of the past 30 years. That is President Obama's biggest sin. He bought into the ideology of Reaganomics, of 30 years of declining wages, jobs, of a decimated manufacturing base, brought on by a "trickle-down" farce written on a napkin.

President Obama's posture toward his political opponents is less that of the most powerful leader in the world, and more akin to a community organizer seeking creative ways to extract a few concessions from powerful interests who held (in his mind) the strongest hand. The President has constantly pushed back against critics in his own party by stressing the limits of his power, seldom contemplating the use of the "bully pulpit" to, in effect, bully his opponents into submitting to his will. It's all about a one-way street named "Conciliation And Compromise" — and his opponents know and exploit it. Republicans "should be dancing in the streets," said the Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who called the deal a "Satan sandwich" because as one exuberant GOPer spiked, Boehner got a lot more out of this deal than he could have possibly hoped for only a few weeks ago.

Robert Kuttner dissects the President's capitulation to a small extremist faction and its consequences:
The United States is now reminiscent of countries that at various periods of their history have been either been paralyzed by minority extremist groups; or worse, have elected them to office.

The rise of the Tea Party right is a classic case of how a small, extremist faction seizes control when the political mainstream fails to solve deep national problems. It is an amalgam of a far-right that has always hovered around one-fifth of the electorate, swollen by the frustrations of previously apolitical people.

In much of Europe today, far-right populist parties now typically get 20 or 25 percent of the vote. With Europe's parliamentary and multiparty system, however, they don't get to govern, but in several countries they are now the second of third most popular party.

These parties represent about the same share of public opinion as the Tea Party in the U.S. But in America, with our two-party system and our constitutional machinery of blockage, if a determined minority gains control of one party it can bring responsible government to a halt. That is what has now occurred, and it will color our politics between now and the 2012 election, and quite possibly beyond.

As political scientist Andrew Hacker points out in an important piece in the current New York Review of Books, current House Republicans received a total of 30,799,391 votes in the 2010 midterm election. Barack Obama received more than twice that many, 69,498,215, in the 2008 presidential.

The falloff between 2008 and 2010 was only slightly worse than usual. However in 2010, the people who turned out most intensely were Obama's right-wing opposition. Many of the young and working class voters who came out to cast ballots for Obama in 2008 didn't see any reason to vote in the 2010 mid-term. So Republicans are behaving as if they have a radical mandate that far outstrips the actual support for their tactics and policies -- and Obama is failing to contest them.

How do you invite the radical right to take power? Start with thirty years of stagnant, declining living standards for most people. Then add a financial crisis made on Wall Street. Next, elect a Democratic president who raises hopes, but who turns out to be a close ally of the same forces that caused the collapse. Give that president a temperament that refuses to blame the right, and is mainly about seeking accommodation. The right then gets to put Washington and Wall Street in the same bucket, and blame the Democrats.

So you end up with a weak center unable to deliver recovery or reform, an angry, passionate right, and an enfeebled left reluctant to challenge their president until it is too late.

It is a fearsome time in the history of our Republic. And the politics of extortion by the Tea Party Republicans will not end with this deal. On the contrary, the deal will encourage more of the same.

Meanwhile, the execrable Beltway media, a gaggle of sycophantic pack animals, thoroughly sussed by Paul Krugman, began beating the drum of so-called "moderate" compromise between the Tea Party and, as Jonathan Alter put it, the "left part of the Democratic Party" who will be "marginalized" by this deal. A perfect illustration of the surreal nature of the media coverage and the casual, almost elegant tidbit of misinformation which happens, literally, hundreds of times on any given "news" day, here is NBC's David Gregory from his rarefied perch as host of Meet The Press: "There are going to be Medicare cuts and Social Security cuts —  what are you going to do about the big drivers of the debt?"

When did Social Security, which remains solvent in its current trajectory for the next 26 years, suddenly become a "big driver of the debt"? A: When the Republicans and David Gregory made it so. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee which has escaped the Washington Beltway black hole, and thus speaks truth to power, issued a blunt statement: "Seeing a Democratic president take taxing the rich off the table and instead push a deal that will lead to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefit cuts is like entering a bizarre parallel universe — one with horrific consequences for middle-class families." Indeed, as I said, President Obama risks defining his legacy as the first Democratic president to sink a dagger into the heart of the New Deal. But I think he's okay with that.

Jonathan Alter who, together with Chris Matthews and leading MSNBC fantasist Lawrence O'Donnell, is a total Obama apologist, managed to retain remnants of his journalistic integrity as he tried in vain to provide context to what was unfolding as a horrifying lurch to the right by President Obama delivering Democrats into the grips of right wing terroristic political extortionists.

 When Alter tried to point out that this so-called "crisis" was entirely manufactured by the right wing in the House, which dominates Republican politics, Chuck Todd became most animated about identifying a phantom faction of some 40 or so "moderates" in the Republican caucus. Like the lost 9th Legion of the Roman Empire, that wandered in among the savages beyond the "known world" never to be heard from again. Among his Idiot Punditocracy colleagues, Chuckie obsesses the most with redefining the "center" of American politics to fit his own comfort zone. He's not too comfortable around liberals and progressives. He speaks well of so-called "institutionalists" who will save the day and the pocketbooks of "moderates" like himself.

Presumably, "institutionalists" like Darrell Issa, who is using his chairmanship of Government Oversight to lead a witch hunt against President Obama; or John Mica, Chairman of the Transportation Committee, who refuses to fund the Federal Aviation Administration — because he doesn't like unions — throwing thousands out of work and endangering the traveling public in the process. These are Chuck Todd's "institutionalists." Tell us, Chuck: How many of your lost "moderate" Republican legionnaires voted to defund NPR, terminate women's health services and Planned Parenthood, slash nutrition programs for children, deep-six jobs programs, and kill Medicare in the Ryan "budget" which would add trillions to our debt?

Crooks And Liars mocks Chuckie and his Idiot Punditocracy "Villager" pals "bemoaning the loss of all "those great 'compromisers'" in the House. I was almost expecting Chuckie to recall Chris Matthews' "40-yard line" metaphor — which is closer to the 10-yard line on the far right end of the field after consecutive penalties rolled everyone back to the "dark side." Good on Nancy Pelosi for having the integrity to tell it like it is, even as the President was twisting her arm and bending her to his will. Paul Krugman has been the most eloquent voice in the wilderness, sounding the alarm:
Make no mistake about it, what we’re witnessing here is a catastrophe on multiple levels.

It is, of course, a political catastrophe for Democrats, who just a few weeks ago seemed to have Republicans on the run over their plan to dismantle Medicare; now Mr. Obama has thrown all that away. And the damage isn’t over: there will be more choke points where Republicans can threaten to create a crisis unless the president surrenders, and they can now act with the confident expectation that he will.

In the long run, however, Democrats won’t be the only losers. What Republicans have just gotten away with calls our whole system of government into question. After all, how can American democracy work if whichever party is most prepared to be ruthless, to threaten the nation’s economic security, gets to dictate policy? And the answer is, maybe it can’t.
These are dark days for our nation. A phony "crisis" may have been averted, but in the process we have lost our soul.