Monday, October 8, 2012

I shall be released

Joan McCarter (McJoan) and Digby were this week's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays.

Federal appeals court upholds early voting in Ohio
PA counties misinforming voters about photo ID law

Among the many advantages Europe has in keeping its abortion rates low is that they start giving good sex education very early. The other, of course, is easy access to contraception, which should be a no-brainer, but apparently you need some brains to work this one out. Laws against abortion, of course, do not stop or reduce abortions, but they do kill women. I say people who want to ban abortion should be put on the spot about this: "How can you call yourself 'pro-life' when you won't do anything that reduces abortion but you want to kill women?"

Scott Brown gets photographed in scanties and becomes a US Senator. A woman models underwear when she's 18, and years later gets fired from her job as a high school guidance counselor. Even though she'd already disclosed her prior career when she was hired and everyone knew about it. What causes this? (via)

Scalia would probably have an easier time of it if he'd just read what Jefferson and his pals actually wrote instead of trying to read their minds after death.

Matt Stoller had a number of things to say about the debate and why the media can now get the horse race it wants, and this:

The reason Obama did poorly is simple. He is bad at governing America. He hasn't solved the foreclosure crisis, the jobs crisis, the climate crisis, the energy crisis, the financial crisis, the debt crisis, the health care crisis, or really, anything. He can't point to very much that Americans broadly like, except killing Bin Laden and the auto bailout. His second term agenda is to cut Social Security, Medicare, frack, cut corporate taxes, bust more teachers unions and pass more neoliberal trade agreements. He is proud of this record. So are his people. But he knows he can't run on it because it's unpopular, so instead, he presented himself as a nice likeable guy.

He frequently complimented Romney, agreed with him on most core policy arguments, and just generally avoided pointing out the many times Romney was lying. He didn't bring up social issues like abortion, or really, any weak spots for Romney. He tried to present himself as a fighter for the middle class, but he doesn't actually respect people he perceives have less strength than he does. Obama believes in pity for the middle class, not respect. Nor does Obama like Romney. So Obama came off passive and unpersuasive, making a case he didn't believe in. It's like George W. Bush, who couldn't put two words together fluently unless he was talking death and destruction, and then he was a virtuoso rhetorician. Obama is at his best when he is talking about himself and his family, because that's what he likes and believes in. That's why his 2008 campaign worked, because it was all framed around Obama The Savior. It was mass narcissism (and even then, he only narrowly beat John McCain). If you're wondering why Obama is a bad speaker now, where the old Obama went, just recognize that he's only a great speaker when it's all about him, because that's where his interest is. The talent is there, the character, not.

Mike Lofgren in The American Conservative on the Revolt of the Rich:
Stephen Schwarzman, the hedge fund billionaire CEO of the Blackstone Group who hired Rod Stewart for his $5-million birthday party, believes it is the rabble who are socially irresponsible. Speaking about low-income citizens who pay no income tax, he says: "You have to have skin in the game. I'm not saying how much people should do. But we should all be part of the system."

But millions of Americans who do not pay federal income taxes do pay federal payroll taxes. These taxes are regressive, and the dirty little secret is that over the last several decades they have made up a greater and greater share of federal revenues. In 1950, payroll and other federal retirement contributions constituted 10.9 percent of all federal revenues. By 2007, the last "normal" economic year before federal revenues began falling, they made up 33.9 percent. By contrast, corporate income taxes were 26.4 percent of federal revenues in 1950. By 2007 they had fallen to 14.4 percent. So who has skin in the game?

If you formalize it and do it right up front and in public, it's not called bribery. We do this with large and small things, and pretend that's not what it is.

I really don't find it at all surprising to hear that an Obama campaign official threatened an NAACP employee who was critical of Obama. It's bad form, but not surprising.

RoboRomney Agrees with you! (But I can't understand why Dave says he needs a new category on his blog. He's been running that blog for over a decade, and liars have been a constant feature of the political landscape. He only noticed now?)

LBJ presents first Medicare cards to elderly couple

Landscape Photography by Aly Wight
Glass Sculptures by Robert Mickelson
Landscapes by Patrick Hamilton

I'd forgotten all about this, but it's nice to see the Smothers Brothers do one straight.


  1. LBJ is presenting the first Medicare cards. He saw it as a step towards universal health coverage, which would make Medicaid unnecessary.

    1. Here are some of the comments Harry Truman made at the 1965 signing ceremony for the Medicare law:

      [indent]>>>>>...This is an important hour for the Nation, for those of our citizens who have completed their tour of duty and have moved to the sidelines. These are the days that we are trying to celebrate for them. These people are our prideful responsibility and they are entitled, among other benefits, to the best medical protection available.

      Not one of these, our citizens, should ever be abandoned to the indignity of charity. Charity is indignity when you have to have it. But we don't want these people to have anything to do with charity and we don't want them to have any idea of hopeless despair.

      Mr. President, I am glad to have lived this long and to witness today the signing of the Medicare bill which puts this Nation right where it needs to be, to be right...<<<<<[end indent]

    2. And here are a few of the remarks the then sitting president, Lyndon Johnson, gave at the same ceremony:

      [indent]>>>>>Many men can make many proposals. Many men can draft many laws. But few have the piercing and humane eye which can see beyond the words to the people that they touch. Few can see past the speeches and the political battles to the doctor over there that is tending the infirm, and to the hospital that is receiving those in anguish, or feel in their heart painful wrath at the injustice which denies the miracle of healing to the old and to the poor.

      And fewer still have the courage to stake reputation, and position, and the effort of a lifetime upon such a cause when there are so few that share it.

      But it is just such men who illuminate the life and the history of a nation. And so, President Harry Truman, it is in tribute not to you, but to the America that you represent, that we have come here to pay our love and our respects to you today....

      There are more than 18 million Americans over the age of 65. Most of them have low incomes. Most of them are threatened by illness and medical expenses that they cannot afford.

      And through this new law, Mr. President, every citizen will be able, in his productive years when he is earning, to insure himself against the ravages of illness in his old age.

      This insurance will help pay for care in hospitals, in skilled nursing homes, or in the home. And under a separate plan it will help meet the fees of the doctors.

      Now here is how the plan will affect you....

      [edit--I leave this out but, in my mind, Johnson's discussion of the benefits are worth reading through in the original text, found at the link, for various reasons.]

      In 1935 when the man that both of us loved so much, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, signed the Social Security Act, he said it was, and I quote him, "a cornerstone in a structure which is being built but it is by no means complete."

      Well, perhaps no single act in the entire administration of the beloved Franklin D. Roosevelt really did more to win him the illustrious place in history that he has as did the laying of that cornerstone....

      But it all started really with the man from Independence. And so, as it is fitting that we should, we have come back here to his home to complete what he began....

      But there is another tradition that we share today. It calls upon us never to be indifferent toward despair. It commands us never to turn away from helplessness. It directs us never to ignore or to spurn those who suffer untended in a land that is bursting with abundance....

      And this is not just our tradition--or the tradition of the Democratic Party--or even the tradition of the Nation. It is as old as the day it was first commanded: "Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, to thy needy, in thy land."<<<<<[end indent]

    3. In the spirit of don't hate the game hate the playah, I had posted those passages a while back in a thread at Corrente. The thread is a long one and I don't recommend that anyone wade through it but I thought we ended up establishing that President Obama is completely misinformed as to the stunning scale upon which both Social Security and Medicare, the signature programs of the Democratic Party, were launched.

      Here was Obama back on December 7, 2010 responding to a question from a [black] reporter:

      [indent]>>>>>...Most Americans, they’re just trying to figure out how to go about their lives and how can we make sure that our elected officials are looking out for us. And that means because it’s a big, diverse country and people have a lot of complicated positions, it means that in order to get stuff done, we’re going to compromise. This is why FDR, when he started Social Security, it only affected widows and orphans. You did not qualify. And yet now it is something that really helps a lot of people. When Medicare was started, it was a small program. It grew....<<<<<[end indent]

      [To SZ, yes I know you're more in sync with Harry Truman's justification for social insurance as expressed in his remarks above than with Lyndon Johnson's.]

    4. Thanks for the accurate aside, CMike.

    5. The reality was that the first generation of Medicare beneficiaries were to get benefits they had not paid for themselves with a dedicated tax. After quoting that verse of scripture Johnson went on to say [my emphasis]:

      [indent]>>>>>And just think, Mr. President, because of this document--and the long years of struggle which so many have put into creating it--in this town, and a thousand other towns like it, there are men and women in pain who will now find ease. There are those, alone in suffering who will now hear the sound of some approaching footsteps coming to help.

      There are those fearing the terrible darkness of despairing poverty--despite their long years of labor and expectation--who will now look up to see the light of hope and realization.
      <<<<<[end indent]

      Johnson was thirty years into fighting a multi-front war on poverty at the time, the **"affluent society"** being a game changing phenomenon of somewhat recent vintage. Johnson well understood the political value of having citizens pay for their own government administered pension and old age medical benefits in advance. However, there was a lot of urgency in the sixties to delivering the new medical program's benefits to a generation which had not paid into the new system directly.

      I think certain movement conservatives, ever after, have gotten away with misusing the memory of the reality of that era to confuse the debate about government administered insurance programs on through to the present day.

  2. Wow, that Matt Stoler doesn't pull punches. I totally ate that one up, but I can't really say my agreement with him is based on anything solid. Obama's narcissistic empty platitudes send me fumbling frantically for the off button, so that I really can't claim to know the substance of his speeches with any confidence. Besides being not that different from Bush in his evil and cravenness, he is also to liberals what Bush was to conservatives - just a cypher on which they project the illusion of virtues that are just invisible to me.

    1. It's deliberate, since the substance of everything Obama has been saying is, "The New Deal is an antiquated band-aid we can no longer afford, and we have to get rid of it."

  3. I don't come here often, so forgive my ignorance, but what are the alternatives to Obama? He isn't a disease, but a symptom. Any ideas on the cure?

    1. The point is that the Dems need to get the message that we are not going to accept these Reaganworhsiping DLC types anymore, and if they want us to vote for them, they need to earn our votes with something better than the lesser of two evils. This is long past the point of "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good" as the Obamabots want to portray it. At least if we get a shit sandwich from the Rs, the R's will get the blame for the shit, and hopefully someday there will be a visionary D who might try a liberal approach to politics and policy for a change. And besides, I totally agreed that Obama is the greater, not the lesser, of the two evils on offer.

  4. Obama "doesn't actually respect people he perceives have less strength than he does." And how much strength does he have? Not as much as he thinks, I'd say.

    Leeds man, what kind of alternatives do you have in mind? Jill Stein would be an alternative. But it's unlikely she could win. The main thing is that the American electoral process can't fix things: it's too corrupt. So the alternative is more direct, organized action, the kind that pressured previous Presidents to push through Social Security and other social programs and protections for other citizens. They didn't do it out of the goodness of their hearts, they did it to save capitalism.

    1. Stein has my vote. and i say so to anyone who asks, and have for a while. i'm done with democrats like obama and until they start putting up people who talk and act like Stein, i'm voting green. the more of us who say so, the greater her chances of if not winning, at least showing that there is a viable alternative.

  5. what kind of alternatives do you have in mind?

    I have no idea. I agree that the system can't be fixed from within. I was hoping Occupy would snowball. Something will eventually give, probably with attendant unpleasantness.

  6. i have long believed that anti abortion folks in this country are about one thing and one thing only: the production of white babies. so long as white women are forced to have children and denied access to reproductive freedom, the anti-choice right will be happy. every time i travel thru rural areas in the north, i'm really struck by this fact. so many anti-choice ads and images line the roads of rural MN, WI, SD... and there are hardly any in places like say, the south side of chicago. i also have never seen a 'mommy don't kill' me billboard with a black or dark skinned baby, only pink cheeked blue eyed cherubs.

    1. They've got "emergency pregnancy centers" ads featuring WoCs up on the subways in NYC, where I live. They're after poor women of color, too, not just the rural poor majority.

    2. yeah, but you should see it out here in the midwest. like i said: i've lived in urban areas where people of color are in the majority, and you just never see the same concentration of propaganda. sure, there are "abortion alternative" centers in urban areas. but you've really got to drive some of these backwater highways in the north to grok what i mean. the last time i was in MN (which just happens to have one of the largest concentration of blonde/white people in the nation) there were more "mommy don't kill me" ads than even billboards for stuff like gas, or mcdonald's. i was shocked, honestly.

  7. "I really don't find it at all surprising to hear that an Obama campaign official threatened an NAACP employee who was critical of Obama. It's bad form, but not surprising."

    Wasn't this the regime known as the "veal pen" from early in Obama's term, wherein any special interest group or member thereof who dared to criticize the Nobel Laureate (for rescuing the European banks via TARP?) would find him/her/itself blacklisted by major donors, unemployed and unemployable within liberal/progressive citcles, etc?