A fervent wish for my 1000th post

If I could have one wish, and only one wish,

I would wish that transparency and accountability
would be integral parts of politics and business.

Capitalism and politics have lost the sterling reputations they should have because

  • most businesses practice neither in the quest for the almighty dollar and
  • politics shun both because politicians lack the courage of their convictions in the quest for power.

That said, one could get carried away with transparency:

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The Incredible Chootz-pah!; or, Just How Stupid Must You Be to Be a Politician?

We all have events and deeds in our lives that we’re ashamed of. Many committed youthful indiscretions are chalked up to “he’s being a kid” or “she just needs to grow up a little” or (my least favorite) “boys will be boys”.

Most of us learn from those events and deeds and grow up a bit and don’t repeat them.

However, it would seem that many politicians, already full of hubris (or because of hubris), just don’t absorb those lessons well.

  • California governor Arnold Schwarzeneger not only had a years-long affair with his children’s nanny, but actually fathered a child by her and kept her in his employment — and all of this before he ever ran for governor! He had to know that news of his actions would eventually leak. (Schwarzenegger and his wife are now in divorce proceedings.)
  • U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner made a habit of sending unsolicited pictures of his genitalia to women. He had to know that news of his actions would eventually leak. (Weiner resigned his seat in the House.)
  • Former House Speaker Newton Gingrich, now running for the highest office of the most powerful country on Earth, cheated on his (sick with cancer) first wife, divorced her, married his paramour, and then cheated on her, divorced her, and married his new paramour. (Gingrich continues to run for President.)
  • Married businessman Herman Cain, also running for the highest office of the most powerful country on Earth, not only had four different women file complaints about his unwanted sexual advances (and no one knows how many more that didn’t file), but continued to have a years-long affair with a woman that he “thought was a friend”. He had to know that news of his actions would eventually leak. (Cain is reportedly “reconsidering” his campaign.)

All of these politicians (and many, many others) knew what they had done, knew that they were pursuing a career where (at least nominally) moral fiber is looked upon as a desirable attribute, and yet continued to flash, adulter, and procreate outside societal bounds.

Did they really think they’d get away with it? Did they really think people were that blind and stupid? Did Michele Bachmann really think she could simultaneously 1) claim that “big government” was giving away too much money, and 2) accept annual 5-figure farm subsidy payments for a farm that produces nothing, and 3) deny that she’s getting farm subsidies despite tax returns that give proof to the contrary?

Why the HELL would you want to vote
for people like that?

“There’s at least one sane man in Cloud-Cuckoo-Land.”

Bernie Sanders

I like Bernie Sanders.

For those of you who don’t know him, he’s the only real politically independent member of Congress these days. (Joe Lieberman is one of those “who’s bidding the most for my favor” sorts of independents and doesn’t count.)

Sanders spent 7 terms in the U.S. House as an independent and is currently the junior senator from Vermont. Like many New Englanders Sanders is not shy about letting people know how he stands on the issues. He classifies himself as a Socialist, and usually ends up siding with Senate Democrats on most issues.

Sanders campaigned against the bank bailouts that has continued to allow banks and other financial institutions to continue trading in risky ventures. He filibustered the Senate for 8.5 hours to rail against extending the Bush-era tax cuts that have given the rich a shot in the arm and reduced federal revenues substantially. He opposed all U.S. military action since Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Sanders has recently introduced a bill into the Senate that calls for removing the payroll cap on Social Security payments. That would mean that those taxpayers who make more than $106,000/year will no longer have all income above that level exempt from Social Security benefit payments. It will increase revenue to the SS fund substantially.

That seems a fair move. It helps increase the solvency of the Social Security fund without cutting benefits or raising the rates of the payroll deduction for the rank-and-file.

Of course it’ll piss off the corporate shills and Koch meat puppets in Congress.

Write this man and your own Congresscritters and tell them you like what you see.

Out of this world

“You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an instant dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics seem so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck, drag him a quarter million miles out, and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch!’”

–Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 astronaut

(Thanks, Joe.)

Fresh from Morality Central…

The Intercom rang. “What is it, Michael?”

“Uh, Sir, I…uh, think we may have a situation here.”

God heaved a sigh. “Okay, my calendar’s clear for the next split millenium. C’mon in.”

There was a knock at the Door, and a winged angel quietly stepped in. A piece of Paper was clutched in his hand.

“What is it this time, Michael? Frothy Mix step in it again?”

“No, Sir. It’s worse. Crazy Eyes didn’t vet her staffers very well. Again.”

God gestured at the Paper. “Let’s see it.”

~~~

It seemed that Peter Waldron wasn’t the nice, well-organized campaign staffer that Michele Bachmann hired him to be. Waldron spent February 2006 in jail in Uganda under arrest for terorism. He was caught with possession of assault rifles and ammunition, with intent to distribute. The local police thought he might have been planning to help local militias hunt down and capture Joseph Kony, a warlord with a $1.7 million bounty on his head. Others suspected the timing of the arms importation, just before the first free elections in Uganda in 20 years. Waldron was released and deported after pressure was applied to the Ugandan government from the Bush Administration.

Others thought Waldron was trying to set up his own political powerbase with the idea of turning Uganda into a “Christian nation”. Waldon is good friends with Martin Ssempa, a Ugandan evangelist who has been spearheading the move to make homosexuality a crime in Uganda (and in some cases a capital crime).

Waldron is now a high-level Michele Bachmann staffer, reportedly working in the faith-based support campaigns in Iowa and South Carolina. He…

~~~

“Oh, for Son’s Sake!” God slapped the Paper down on His Desk. “Where do these idiots find these idiots??!”

Michael shuffled uncomfortably.

God stared out His Office Window for a moment. “First it was Huckabee and his ‘coming back to God’. Then it was Perry trying to summon My Presence at that rally of pinheaded religionists in Texas. Now it’s Bachmann. What the hell has happened to My Faithful?”

Michael cleared his throat. “Uh, Sir, what about releasing a plague or something…”

“No, no. Aren’t the American people suffering enough as it is? Besides, that would just make martyrs out of those morons.”

God heaved a sigh. “I’d do the Burning Bush thing on Perry’s head, but that ugly animal hide on his head would just go up like a torch.” Pause. “I’m just going to let things ride, I think. Bachmann will try to weasel out of this, as usual, and I’m not inclined to save her ass.”

Michael started to leave, but just then his cell rang. He picked up, listened for a moment, turned back to God who was still staring out the Window, and murmured, “Uh, sir, Christine O’Donnell just walked out of an interview on CNN, and she’s on the horn…”

Without looking up God interrupted, “Her I’ll burn! She’s a witch, anyway.”

Confessions of GOP politicians

ThinkProgress has an outstanding blog journal of the Republican candidates’ “debate” from Faux News last night.

Among the more interesting highlights:

9:07: Romney says he wouldn’t raise the debt ceiling without first rewriting the Constitution to make it impossible to fund Social Security, Medicare and the military at the same time.

9:12 Newt Gingrich rings in with first mention of Ronald Reagan at debate. Says Reagan’s 1981 tax cut led to seven years of growth. Gingrich failed to mention Reagan’s 1982 tax increase.

9:17: Pawlenty wants people to look at his record in Minnesota. Like one-third of his budget relying on the 2009 Recovery Act?

9:20 Bachmann says she “fought cap and trade” by introducing legislation to reverse lightbulb efficiency laws, which has nothing to do with a cap-and-trade system.

9:33: Cain chides Chris Wallace, tells him he never said that Americans have the right to ban mosques in their community. That’s exactly what he said–to Wallace.

9:35: Herman Cain says that a combination of “high fences and wide open doors” is the principle the country was founded on. In fact, immigration into the United States was completely unlimited until the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. Immigration from Latin America was unrestricted until the second half of the 20th century.

9:40: “I don’t believe in raising taxes,” Romney said. Yet in a 2004 presentation to Standard & Poor’s, his administration touted tax hikes as a reason that Massachusetts should get its credit rating raised to AA.

9:53: Romney said he would issue a waiver invalidating ObamaCare on his first day in office. A president doesn’t have that authority.

9:55: “I will not rest until we have a filibuster-proof Senate,” Bachmann said. Yeah, like that will happen.

9:57 Santorum scores with first gay-bashing of the night, taking a hit at Bachmann for saying that marriage should be left to the states. He generally attacks federalist themes from his fellow candidates “there are things the states can’t do,” cites Lincoln as an authority and appears to compare state-initiated marriage equality and Mitt Romney’s universal health care plan to slavery. “Does that mean that the state has the right to impose polygamy? To pass sterilization? No! We are a country based on morals.”

10:29: Byron York asks Bachmann if she would be submissive to her husband as president. Bachmann says that she interprets “submissive” to mean respect. That’s not what that word means to anyone else in the world.

10:36: Santorum says allowing a raped woman to receive an abortion would “put her through another trauma,” so we should force her to carry her rapist’s child for nine months instead.

10:56: In closing, Herman Cain cites a “poet’s” lyrics that “Life can be a challenge / life can seem impossible.” The poet? Disco singer Donna Summer.

Poor Mitt Romney

He can’t get as high in the polls as he wants to be, so he hires a loon.

Robert Bork, for those of you too young to remember, was a U.S. Supreme Court nominee back in 1987. He was a hard-right conservative who was voted down by the Senate (along party lines, natch) 58-42. He crawled back under whatever slimy rock he had crawled out from under and disappeared from public view.

Until today.

Mitt Romney does well in the Republican presidential candidate polls among moderate Republicans and those Democrats disenchanted with Barack “Middle Man” Obam–two groups that are about as common as pork short ribs at a Ramadan dinner. So Mr. Romney up and hires himself someone who can bolster support from the wackadoodle fundie Teabagger crowd.

Let’s take a look at Mr. Bork’s views to see exactly why:

  • In 1965, Robert Bork condemned the Civil Right Act:

“The principle of such legislation is that if I find your behavior ugly by my standards, moral or aesthetic, and if you prove stubborn about adopting my view of the situation, I am justified in having the state coerce you into more righteous paths. That is itself a principle of unsurpassed ugliness.”

There is no basis for judicial intervention to protect any other form of expression, be it scientific, literary or that variety of expression we call obscene or pornographic.

So, he denies legal racial equality, legal gender equality, the right for a woman to control her reproductive health, and wants to deny free speech protection to anything other than political expression.

Poor Mitt Romney. He doesn’t realize what he’s let himself in for.

“We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders.”

Yesterday’s post contained a clip of the Dildo Diaries containing an interview with Molly Ivins. That got me to thinking about one of the finest political writers of our times.

For those of you who are unfortunate enough not to be familiar with Ms. Ivins, she is the embodiment of what should have been the old-school Texas political system. She was interested in both conserving and preserving what is right about our country, and changing the fire out of that which is not.

She supported many liberal beliefs, but there was no politician or political system, left or right, that was safe from her rapier wit and razor-sharp word processor.

Here is the full-length version of the speech. (Molly’s entrance is at 17:00):

Her view on George W. Bush and the 2004 presidential election:

And here is Ms. Ivins’ last column, from early 2007 (emphasis mine):

The purpose of this old-fashioned newspaper crusade to stop the war is not to make George W. Bush look like the dumbest president ever. People have done dumber things. What were they thinking when they bought into the Bay of Pigs fiasco? How dumb was the Egypt-Suez war? How massively stupid was the entire war in Vietnam? Even at that, the challenge with this misbegotten adventure is that WE simply cannot let it continue.

It is not a matter of whether we will lose or we are losing. We have lost. Gen. John P. Abizaid, until recently the senior commander in the Middle East, insists that the answer to our problems there is not military. “You have to internationalize the problem. You have to attack it diplomatically, geo-strategically,” he said.

His assessment is supported by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the senior American commander in Iraq, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who only recommend releasing forces with a clear definition of the goals for the additional troops.

Bush’s call for a “surge” or “escalation” also goes against the Iraq Study Group. Talk is that the White House has planned to do anything but what the group suggested after months of investigation and proposals based on much broader strategic implications.

About the only politician out there besides Bush actively calling for a surge is Sen. John McCain. In a recent opinion piece, he wrote: “The presence of additional coalition forces would allow the Iraqi government to do what it cannot accomplish today on its own — impose its rule throughout the country. … By surging troops and bringing security to Baghdad and other areas, we will give the Iraqis the best possible chance to succeed.” But with all due respect to the senator from Arizona, that ship has long since sailed.

A surge is not acceptable to the people in this country — we have voted overwhelmingly against this war in polls (about 80 percent of the public is against escalation, and a recent Military Times poll shows only 38 percent of active military want more troops sent) and at the polls.

We know this is wrong. The people understand, the people have the right to make this decision, and the people have the obligation to make sure our will is implemented.

Congress must work for the people in the resolution of this fiasco. Ted Kennedy’s proposal to control the money and tighten oversight is a welcome first step. And if Republicans want to continue to rubber-stamp this administration’s idiotic “plans” and go against the will of the people, they should be thrown out as soon as possible, to join their recent colleagues.

Anyone who wants to talk knowledgably about our Iraq misadventure should pick up Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s “Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone.” It’s like reading a horror novel. You just want to put your face down and moan: How could we have let this happen? How could we have been so stupid?

As The Washington Post’s review notes, Chandrasekaran’s book “methodically documents the baffling ineptitude that dominated U.S. attempts to influence Iraq’s fiendish politics, rebuild the electrical grid, privatize the economy, run the oil industry, recruit expert staff or instill a modicum of normalcy to the lives of Iraqis.”

We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we’re for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush’s proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on Jan. 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, “Stop it, now!”

We miss you, Molly. We could surely use your wisdom again.

Your evening smorsgasbord of wackaloon politics

Herman Cain is channeling Joe McCarthy.

Rick “Frothy Mix” Santorum wants all women whose pregnancies threaten their health to shut up.

Frothy Mix also wants to invalidate legal marriages.

Herman Cain won’t sign anything he can’t read (which means “more than three pages”).

Rand Paul thinks Iran needs more American professors to use as human shields.

Michele Bachmann is…well, you name it, she’s believed in it/fought it/prayed over it.

 

“No one can prove there isn’t a teapot in orbit about Mars, but it isn’t very likely, is it?”

From Richard Dawkins, my favorite in-your-face skeptic, thinker, and atheist, from his TED talk in 2002:

“We’ve reached a truly remarkable situation–a grotesque mismatch between the American intelligensia and the American electorate. A philosophical opinion about the nature of the universe that is held by the vast majority of top American scientists. and probably the majority of the  intelligensia generally. is so abhorrent to the American electorate that no candidate for popular election dare affirm it in public. If I’m right, that means high office in the greatest country in the world is barred to the very people best qualified to hold it, the intelligensia, unless they’re prepared to lie about their beliefs. To put it bluntly, American political opportunities are heavily loaded against those who are simultaneously intelligent and honest.” (emphasis mine)

“I’m not a citizen of this country, so I hope it is won’t be thought unbecoming if I suggest that something needs to be done.”

He went on to suggest a wholesale “coming out” of American atheists from their philosophical closets. And to an extent, that has been happening in the last 10 years:

Thoughtful quote, no comment

“You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.‘” — Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell

“That depends upon what you mean by the word ‘is’.”

A grim laugh from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal:

“If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that’s well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does” — Senator John Kyl (and his office’s hilarious follow-up, “That was not intended as a factual statement”).

“Franklin Delano Roosevelt sent his advisers, his close-held friends, his Cabinet people, to go visit with Stalin in communist Russia to study what … Stalin was doing there so that FDR could replicate it here in the United States” — Representative Paul Broun

“One. That’s the number of new drilling permits under the Obama administration since they came into office.” — Representative Michele Bachmann

The pleasant (political) discovery of the day

Guess who said this?

As for the Republicans — how can one regard seriously a frightened, greedy, nostalgic huddle of tradesmen and lucky idlers who shut their eyes to history and science, steel their emotions against decent human sympathy, cling to sordid and provincial ideals exalting sheer acquisitiveness and condoning artificial hardship for the non-materially-shrewd, dwell smugly and sentimentally in a distorted dream-cosmos of outmoded phrases and principles and attitudes based on the bygone agricultural-handicraft world, and revel in (consciously or unconsciously) mendacious assumptions (such as the notion that real liberty is synonymous with the single detail of unrestricted economic license or that a rational planning of resource-distribution would contravene some vague and mystical ‘American heritage’…) utterly contrary to fact and without the slightest foundation in human experience? Intellectually, the Republican idea deserves the tolerance and respect one gives to the dead.

Give up? It’s from 1936.

Still don’t know? Look here.

I had no idea the man had a political bone in his body.

An electorate’s life

Vigilant 8 (thanks!) brings up this little reminder of why American politics is in such sad shape this year/decade/last 100 years:

“You let one ant stand up to us, and they all might stand up! Those “puny little ants” outnumber us a hundred to one. And if they ever figure that out… There goes our way of life! It’s not about food. It’s about keeping those ants in line.” — from A Bug’s Life