Sunday, May 30, 2010

What we should be getting sick of by now.

by Rich Miles

You ever wonder why extreme left-wing pols (like, oh I don't know, Barack Obama among many others) get so squirrely and turn hard-right once they get in office? It happens almost every time, if you wanna take a look back at the last 100 or so years of history. Now why is that, ya reckon? I mean, it isn't as if being right-wing is all that productive a personal philosophy to espouse in the long run. So why is it that so many pols who seem to be lefties aren't so eventually?

Well, I'll tell you - it's because they're bought and paid for by elements of the right - who have more money than God, and can spend it on people who are in a position to make their lives even more comfortable and happy and WEALTHY.

That's it in a nutshell, and if you consider long and hard, or maybe not even so long and hard, you'll see it: all, and I mean ALL of our politicians, and most especially those who campaign as leftwingers, are on the take from rightwing forces beyond our ken and in most cases beyond our control. And until we collectively wake up and cop to this rigged system, and try to do something about it, we're going to continue to see this same system of government in our faces.

You think I exaggerate? You think even the righties in this country couldn't afford to buy that many politicians? Or that there couldn't possibly be that much political will to pay off that many pols, or that there couldn't be that many pols who are that corrupt, that willing to be bought?

Well, you're wrong. On all counts, and probably a few more besides, you're wrong.

Because if you give it a bit of thought, nothing, and I mean NOTHING else makes sense with the set of circumstances under which we live today.

Let me clarify one small point: I am not suggesting that all the left-of-center politicians in this country are literally being bribed with cash in hand. In fact, that particular method of bribery is, while not completely obsolete, probably the least common method.

No, the way most pols are on the take these days is, unfortunately, perfectly legal.

It's called campaign contribution. And it is every bit as much bribery as any bagman-delivered, paper sack full of 100's in the night that any thug ever handed over.

I mean, what else can one call it, when a political boss arranges to deliver 100's of thousands of dollars' worth of cash money to a candidate's campaign, in anticipation that the politician will vote in accordance with the contributor's wante and needs? How is it in any way materially different from bribery, except that it's legal?

And all of our so-called leaders, from the Federal to the hyper-local level, are engaged in the practice, and are proud of it!

So that explains why no one, or nearly no one (Russ Feingold comes to mind, but damn few others) keeps their principles intact beyond the first year or so in office. Especially but not exclusively at the Federal level.

And I'm serious - it's all of them. What we're going to do about it, I cannot say. Just getting rid of them all would create a power vacuum, and might even manage to get rid of a few good ones.

But rid of them is what we need to be. I'm talking about nothing less than an overthrow (a PEACEFUL one) of the entire U.S. government. But if we're going to do it, we'd have to have in place some safeguards to ensure that we wouldn't get another batch of the same bunch of corrupt bastards.

SO what do you make of it? Do you think I'm overstating? I mean, you're wrong, but you're welcome to be so.

We have to do something about this. It'll take a long time to effect it, but we gotta do it. If we don't, we'll live under this yoke forever, as we have so far.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Free Speech

by Rich Miles

I just happened to land on FreeSpeechTV today. It had been rather a long time since I'd looked at it, and I had forgotten how much it quite literally gladdened my heart to watch them and realize that there are still some folks in the world who really honest to gosh DEFEND DEMOCRACY in the world and in the United States.

It sounds like a given, an axiomatic, to defend democracy in the United States. I mean, that's our system of government, our way of life, right? But if you're not already aware that democracy is being kicked in the nuts at every turn, watching this channel will make you so, and will make you want to join them. We have little chance on a day-to-day basis to stand up for genuine democracy, most of us - how often can most of us afford the time and expense of protesting the government's misfeasance and malfeasance? How often can most of us, busy earning our daily bread, go off to parts abroad to make our voices heard on various and sundry topics? And because it's so infrequent that most people can afford the time, it does indeed gladden the heart to see these folks on FSTV really going at it - really digging for the stories and interviews and video that no other station will show us.

Take a look if you haven't before - or even if you have. On Dish Network, it's on Channel 9415. I have no idea where it lies on any other satellite or cable system, but it's abbreviated FSTV, and it's almost certain to be off in that bunch of channels that has the "weird" stuff - in the netherchannels. Which is a statement about how the guardians of our airwaves or cable boxes or satellite systems view the whole concept of free speech - I guess we gotta have it, but let's kinda "hide" it off in a corner somewhere. But if you discover that your TV system doesn't have FSTV, then tell them to get it. Tout de suite.

But in any case, it's worth looking for, and watching once you find it. Get to searchin'.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Opening salvo - almost literally

by Rich Miles

Fella named Timothy Egan, does a little writing for the New York Times from time to time, has pointed out a few early hypocrisies among the tea party lot. Here's what he says - it made me laugh, perhaps it will you too. I think the funniest part is the constituency the Tea Partiers are gonna have to ream up the ass in order to carry out their alleged agenda - it's the constituency that is currently their mainstay. Hoo boy - what an all round goat fuck this is going to be:

Sex, lies, and hypocrisy: does an election day get any more entertaining? And that was before Republicans in Kentucky voted against the advice of the top Republican in Kentucky, and voters in Pennsylvania sent a Democrat to Congress who vowed to take on Democrats in Congress.

First, let’s share one last moment with the day’s diversions. Nothing playing at the local octoplex can match that video of Rep. Mark Souder, the evangelical, family-values Republican from Indiana, giving a lecture on sexual restraint — with his then-secret mistress as the interviewer. He announced his resignation on Tuesday, leaving an homage to high school chastity clubs that should be shown at the Smithsonian, in continuous loop.

At the same time, the Democratic candidate for Senate in Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, called a news conference to explain how he had “misspoken” in claiming fictional service in Vietnam. Most of us have the same problem. I can swear I played third base for the Red Sox, and hit a dinger over the short fence at Fenway. Or was that whiffle ball with the kids?

If we can make it to November without any more distractions from the pious and the fabulists, it could be a fascinating election. I may be dreaming, but the vote of 2010 might be a mashup for the ages, one of those rare referendums on real stuff.

The Tea Party — that is, the talk-radio-grumpy-old-men wing of the Republican Party — now has some things to answer for, and will have to do more than pose as background for a media narrative on 24-hour cable.

In the Kentucky senate race, those pistol-packin’ partisans who think President Obama was born in Kenya and want government to go away are claiming Rand Paul, who routed the party establishment pick, as one of their own. This is a good development. For who makes up the Tea Party? At their rallies, you see a lot of people on Medicare and Social Security.

Now they have Rand Paul, with his libertarian heritage, to carry the banner. Dr. Paul has promised to fight for “liberty and limited government.”

If we take him at his word, he should move against the biggest obstacles to liberty and limited government in the federal budget: Social Security and Medicare. Since 1966, those two mandatory programs for old people have grown from 16 percent of the federal budget to nearly 40 percent. Medicare now covers about 45 million people. Those deficit-contributing citizens, all those people at Dr. Paul’s rallies with spare time on their hands, would be a logical target.

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Tea Party supporters rallied in Sacramento on Tax Day, April 15.
After all, is it not socialism to force younger taxpayers to pay for the shortfall on behalf of an expanding pool of older Americans? Doesn’t Ayn Rand’s philosophy hold that Wall Street should be free to run wild, that a national health care system for the elderly is tyranny and that the only way for people to live freely is with “full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism,” as Rand said?

We need to have this discussion; it is the fundamental disconnect among people who call themselves Tea Partiers. Rand Paul is the perfect person to force the issue. His father, Ron, was dismissed as a gadfly when he took fellow Republicans to task for putting a trillion dollars worth of wars on the credit card. Let’s see if the son also rises to fight.

In Washington state, many in the Tea Party are backing a former professional football player, Clint Didier, in the Republican race for Senate. He rails against taxpayer bailouts and encroaching socialism. But he doesn’t hate Big Government enough to refuse at least $140,000 in farm subsidies he’s taken since 1995, or the taxpayer-financed irrigation water that keeps his patch of eastern Washington from being barren.

Where is the Tea Party anger at these mostly red-county, fat-cat freeloaders who’ve been given nearly $250 billion in handouts over the last 15 years? I wait for the credible conservative candidate to make the case that taxpayers should not be stuffing nearly a quarter-trillion dollars into the pockets of people who keep high-fructose corn syrup in the American diet. With Clint Didier in the Senate race, at least we now have a poster child for corporate agriculture bailouts.

Too often, campaigns are about surface abstractions: liberty versus government control, real Americans versus Hollywood. But this year, large events of tragic and ongoing impact have occurred, prompting what should be a much bigger discussion of Real Stuff.

Those who argue for continuing the deregulatory trend of the last decade need to look at how well that worked for the families who lost their loved ones in the Massey coal mine, run by a company with a history of bucking government oversight while promoting politicians who do their bidding.

Those who think drill, baby, drill should be the national energy policy must consider the mortal blow to a marine ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico, because a global oil company didn’t want to spend the equivalent of a day’s profit on adequate controls.

And those who think the incomprehensible form of toxic capitalism that evolved in the snake pits of Wall Street should be left unfettered — in keeping with the emerging Rand Paul wing of the Republican Party and lobbyist-rolled representatives of both parties — should consider an astonishing figure from the Treasury Department.

The financial meltdown cost Americans $17 trillion in lost household net worth between 2007 and 2009, according to Alan Krueger, the chief economist for the department.

“How’s that hands-offey, non-regulatory thing workin’ for ya?” was the stinging tag of a recent cartoon by Stuart Carlson. It was meant as a punchline, but if this election does turn out to be about Real Stuff, it could also serve as a question every candidate will have to answer.

Friday, May 07, 2010

An Opportunity to Learn about Parliamentary Government

by Rich Miles

OK, kiddies - admit it: you've never really understood how the British government worked, and you're not sure you understand it now, either. Well, here's a brief primer, if you care. Now that there are threats of a "hung Parliament", it seems only fitting that we should expand our horizons a bit, and seek to understand how our mother country runs things.

OK - first off, the Brit equivalent of president is the Prime Minister. But here's the trick - the PM is the leader of the party that wins the majority of seats in Parliament. At this point in time, David Cameron of the Conservative Party should technically be PM - but because of this "hung Parliament" thing, he isn't. There's also the fact that the Queen has to ASK the leader of the majority party to form a new government, and so far, Queen Liz has not done so.

No. 10 refers to the Prime Minister's residence, No. 10 Downing Street. When the Queen requests that a party leader form a new government, he immediately moves into No. 10, and starts to make plans for where the government is going. But again, because the Queen has not requested a new government, Gordon Brown, the current prime minister, does not have to move out, and is still technically running things.

Usually, the queen makes her request pretty soon after the election. However, the closeness of this election has apparently slowed her up.

By closeness, we mean Conservatives (Tories) have 306 seats, the Labour party have 258, and the Liberal Democrats ('Lib Dems') have 57. The number needed for an outright majority is 326.

Now here's the rub: because no one party has a majority, the parties have to form a coalition government. But there is no saying what the coalition has to look like. At the moment, the Tories and the Lib Dems are in talks to form a combined majority, or a "coalition", so that there is a majority and something can get done instead of everything getting hung up ('hung') because there is no majority.

But here's the problem: the Labor party is the equivalent, more or less, of our Democratic party, and the Tories are most nearly the same as our Republicans, only without the snottiness most of the time.

So the Lib Dems, who are nearest in philosophy to our far left, liberal-progressive Democrats, are forced to compromise with the Tories, in order to form a majority coalition. They can also form a coalition with Labour, which will ensure a much larger majority.

This is in large part why a new government has not been formed yet.

Now, there is talk that there will be another election later in the year, in order to elect a real majority government, but there's no guarantee that will work either. The longest time between elections is 5 years, and the shortest is apparently just a few months.

In a lot of ways, their system works better than ours, as odd as that may seem right now. But they are only allowed something like 45 days of campaigning, and no TV advertising. Their prime ministers are not glamour boys like our preznits. And No.10 doesn't require as much lawnmowing as the White House.

Anyway, there are lots more differences between the two systems, but these are the main ones. So now you know. Perhaps the news from London will be a bit less confusing now.