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Over the River and Into Default

Turkey

To Grandmother’s house we go!

Actually, I wish we could go to Grandma’s, because she had common sense, unlike anyone in the House GOP caucus.

My grandparents, born 1892 and 1897, taught me a lot about coping with life’s problems. Principle #1: you’ve got to eat. Crises can happen, and when they disrupt your routines, go back to your routine. Get some food down, you’ll think better.

Principle #2: choose the obvious solution, even if you don’t like it. Not liking it is how you know it’s the right thing to do.

Which brings me to John Boehner. Apparently he didn’t have a grandmother, because he consistently chooses everything but the right thing to do.

So he flails – in public – while we all wonder if he’s going to take down the entire world economy. Which is to say, the standard of living of everyone on earth.

From México to Russia and Greece, the world looks on in shocked disbelief. The New York Times reports other countries are “Viewing U.S. in Fear and Dismay.”

We should take that gavel and knock some sense into John Boehner. (usnews.com)

We should take that gavel and knock some sense into him. (usnews.com)

But thanks to my dad, I’ve seen this act before. It gets old; this is a rerun. The cheap little drama wasn’t entertaining the first time.

So House Republicans are out of control. And Boehner’s the worst of them.

My father got out of control a lot; my grandparents were very experienced at handling a crisis. The first thing was to get him under control. Feed him, then talk some sense into him. Make him do the right, obvious thing.

Because everything he was doing was avoiding the right, obvious thing.

Boehner should, as we all know, reopen the government and raise the debt limit. Put an end to this public spectacle.

(Sidebar: the public spectacle doesn’t bother people who are out of control. What would be mortifying to you or me just seems par for the course to them.)

Flailing

If it means he no longer gets to be Speaker of the House, well, that’s too bad. Unfortunate. Not necessarily his fault entirely. But then again, he’s the one flailing in public.

He’d feel better to just go ahead and do what needs to be done. Afterwards we can talk if he feels like it.

This was my grandparents’ basic solution. I don’t know how they “made” my dad do the right thing most of the time, but they did.

Every time he got in trouble, he ran home. Usually he wanted his parents to bail him out. They did that at first, but over the years they got a little smarter about making him be responsible for himself. He still robbed them blind, though.

I guess John Boehner doesn’t have a home to go to; no Grandma. I’d feel sorry for him, except he’s pathetic.

One excuse after another; “the Tea Party made me do it.” No, they didn’t, John; nobody can make you do anything. Now straighten up and fly right.

He could have been a hero to the American people. Instead he’s sacrificing the whole country so he can keep his title – for another day or week or month.

It’s obvious the Crazy Caucus will cut him loose the minute he no longer suits their purposes.

Yoo-hoo! Yoho, you're a bozo.

Yoo-hoo! Yoho, you’re a bozo.

They’re out to bring down the U.S. government.

It’s no longer about Barack Obama anymore, much less Obamacare. They’ve given up on that entirely. They want to destroy the government, while insisting “this is the greatest country on earth.”

Not without a government, it isn’t.

This is a civil war without shots being fired yet.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, although I wouldn’t put it past them. We’ve seen the Tea Party’s violent tendencies before.

Tea Party rally, August 14, 2010. (therightperspective.com)

Tea Party rally, August 14, 2010. (therightperspective.com)

We saw it in all the furious arguing over “gun rights” last winter. Polls said 90% of Americans support background checks so criminals and crazy people can’t buy guns, but Boehner and the Republicans blocked it – while insisting they were “doing the will of the American people.”

We’ve seen the war on women, including a skirmish yesterday on including a “conscience clause” in the Continuing Resolution to reopen the government, so fundamentalist employers don’t have to pay for birth control under Obamacare.

Birth control! Really?

Birth control is health care. A lot of women take it to regularize their menstrual cycles. Preventing pregnancy is only one reason doctors prescribe the Pill. Every woman’s body is different, and they don’t need politicians telling them what they can and can’t do to take care of themselves.

Abortion is also health care. My other grandmother died the same day she gave birth to my mother. Didn’t Boehner watch “Downton Abbey” last season, when Lady Sybil died? Complications of pregnancy kill women worldwide – and the United States has a shamefully high maternal death rate.

We’ve seen the absolute willingness of fundamentalists to go to war over Gay and Lesbian rights.

Now that they’ve lost in this country, they’re exporting their war on Gays to Africa and Russia.

(The New Civil Rights Movement)

(The New Civil Rights Movement)

Strict Tea Party Libertarians don’t care so much about private sexual issues, but many of the Tea Party politicians are also fundamentalists. Issues get mixed in the spaghetti salads of their minds.

Then there’s the argument about “socialism.” They think Joseph Stalin has come back to life and is occupying the White House.

Ron Paul, of the racist newsletters, gave the keynote speech at the 50th anniversary convention of the John Birch Society. His son Rand Paul had to let go a racist staffer earlier this year.

This is a bloodless civil war. Many issues come together – racism, homophobia, economic decline, failure in Bush’s Wars, immigration, put-upon men crying that women have taken over the world – and now we have a faction trying to take down the U.S. government.

Boehner is James Buchanan, who was President just before Lincoln; a Southern sympathizer and appeaser trying to run out the clock on his term before the great war came.

Lincoln got elected and it came.

America's worst president. Lived for years with his male friend. (Wikipedia)

America’s worst president, Buchanan was a “bachelor” who lived for 14 years with Vice-President Rufus King. Andrew Jackson called them “Miss Nancy and Aunt Fancy.” (Matthew Brady/Library of Congress via Wikipedia)

These are very bad times. I wish Boehner’s Grandma would slap him upside the head, but no such luck.

I know what my Grandma would do with him. She was an Eisenhower Republican. She lived through the Depression. She believed in paying her bills. She bought U.S. Bonds. She saw my Granddad ship off to World War I and my father fight in World War II. She knew the difference between patriotism and selfishness.

John Boehner and these Republicans are no patriots. He’s willing to screw the whole country so he can keep riding around in his limo.

For what? Another day, another week, another month?

This won’t last. The question is what comes next. It’s going to take all the President’s skill to avoid a bloodletting. Does he have it in him? No one knows.

He’s been strong in this current crisis, and his party is united behind him. But he wasn’t strong the last time, which helped get us into this mess.

He needs to understand this is a fight for the U.S. government. It isn’t about him, even though he’s Black and all that. It’s about government itself, with anarchists the enemy. My advice: don’t heat this cold war into a hot one, but understand we’re in the fight of our lives.

The enemy’s within, and they must be crushed.++

steam_roller

They’re not crazy, they’re fascists.

I’ve been frustrated for some time at the naiveté of current political analysis by American liberals and centrists, who can’t make hide nor hair out of the antics of the right. Their most common explanation is, “Those folks are crazy.”

And you can see why; they say some loony stuff. “Birtherism” is perhaps the best-known example; even President Obama’s birth certificate is no kind of proof to these people – because they’re not looking for proof or interested in facts.

I could put up a whole rogue’s gallery of public figures who are part of this faux movement, and fill this space with some of their wild quotes – but I won’t do it. You know already, you see them every day online and on the boob tube. So instead I’ll post a photo you might not expect.

When Chuck Grassley, longtime Republican Senator from Iowa, started trotting out the so-called "death panels" as a way to kill the Affordable Care Act, I knew the end was near.

When Chuck Grassley, longtime Republican Senator from Iowa, started trotting out the so-called “death panels” as a way to kill the Affordable Care Act, I knew the end was near. He didn’t believe a word he said – and he didn’t care that he was uttering a bald-faced lie. Mild-mannered Chuck Grassley from good old Iowa!

This is not your grandparents’ Republican party. Those people were patriotic, they did what they thought was right for the country. Today’s Republicans say and do anything they can think of to increase their power at the country’s expense.

The crazier the statement the more they like it. They’ve left shame behind; their only interest now is propaganda. It makes money; it gives them power.

It makes President Obama look reasonable and intelligent to most Americans, but weak and vulnerable to his enemies. That’s how they want him to look. They don’t care why he looks that way, as long as they can make people think they smell his blood.

Mike Huckabee, the genial fundamentalist, claimed yesterday that Benghazi will force Obama to resign.

Watergate was a systematic attack on the Constitution. Benghazi was a terrorist attack on a consulate.

Watergate was a systematic attack on the Constitution. Benghazi was a terrorist attack on a consulate.

To me, the only commentator who comes close to articulating what’s really going on here is Rachel Maddow. She doesn’t describe it as a fascist takeover of the GOP, but that’s what it is.

It comes in a form we’re not used to, especially in the United States, where we’ve never had a sizable fascist movement before. And these people don’t look like the fascists of old.

I’m not calling them Nazis; they’re not. They’re much closer to Mussolini than Hitler, especially in the desire of some right-wing factions to align the state with big corporations. Think the Koch brothers, trying to take over the Los Angeles Times. They’re part of the corporatist wing which failed to elect their puppet Mitt Romney.

There’s also a populist wing called the Tea Party, which is itself a catch-all term for numerous factions; the Grover Norquist wing, the NRA wing, the anti-abortion/birth-control anti-Gay wing, and others. Appealing to all of them (but often losing control of its own narrative) is the “right-wing political-entertainment complex” of Fox News and radio talk shows – which are more about making money than ideology. Rush Limbaugh’s a rich man, but Rupert Murdoch is a lot richer. All they care about is ratings – and they know that to get ratings, they have to throw red meat to their audiences, more and more every day. In that light, Huckabee is late to the party, and fairly pathetic.

They know what they’re doing; it’s all deliberate. It’s why they just make stuff up anymore; two days ago Limbaugh blamed Obama for the kidnapped women in Cleveland.

Stop calling them crazy. Stop being surprised by them. Recognize that every one of these developments is the result of calculation and market research. They’re attacking your democracy, and they won’t quit until they win or are destroyed.

(Their factionalism does give me a little hope. Tea Partiers are not natural allies of billionaires, which is why Big Business moved quickly to co-opt them with FreedomWorks.)

Like every other country, America’s always had racists, reactionaries and rich guys. What’s new is that this time they’ve also got Republicans. That didn’t happen by accident; Republican politicians have nowhere else to go. They are out of popular ideas, now that Reagan’s dead; the public doesn’t like what Republicans stand for, or we’d have privatized Social Security under G.W. Bush. They can’t win national elections, or even states they used to win, so now they’re doing everything they can think of to restrict voting.

My grandparents were staunch Republicans, but they would never have voted for these people. It’s anti-American to eliminate voting rights. That’s like trampling the flag and desecrating the graves of our War Dead; something shocking, unheard-of, un-called-for.

But in 2013 we need not to be shocked anymore by these antics. We need to expect them, and then we need to defeat them, while we still can.

Otherwise the plutocrats will move in, before Democrats figure out what hit them. (Poor Harry Reid; have you ever seen such an ineffectual majority leader?)

When Rep. Todd Akin made his wild claim that after rape, “the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down,” do you think he didn’t know what he was saying? Do you think he was just misinformed?

Or do you think he made a reasonable political calculation, that the passion of an organized minority (people who hate abortion) can outvote a disorganized majority?

That’s what they did last month in the U.S. Senate, when they voted down background checks to keep guns out of the hands of murderers and psychopaths. An organized minority, especially if it’s got money, can defeat a disorganized majority every time.

That’s how government works! That’s why lobbyists write legislation you have to live under.

In 2008, 52% of young voters went out and voted. Two years later, only 25% of them turned out, and the GOP won back the House of Representatives. Two years after a financial meltdown caused by Republicans, Americans voted them back in!

In 2012, young voters came back to the polls and Obama was re-elected. Romney’s predicted landslide didn’t happen, and for the first time more Black Americans voted than Whites by percentage.

But here’s the really telling statistic for what’s happening now.

Source: Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind poll

Source: Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind poll

Forty-four percent of Republicans think “an armed revolution might be necessary.”

That is, civil war.

Do you hear the drums beating? Maybe you should, although I can’t really blame you if you’re in denial. That’s where Democrats and pundits are right now, along with most Americans.

“Fascists? Didn’t we beat them in World War II?” Yes, but that was a long time ago – and those fascists were foreigners. These are home-grown.

“Oh, stop being an alarmist!” (I agree it’s bad for ratings among liberals, but I’m not getting paid to write this blog. Meanwhile, you explain why 44% of Republicans think “an armed revolution might be necessary.”)

This war, if God forbid it comes, will take place before a backdrop of huge unemployment and economic dislocation, caused by speculators and plutocrats on Wall Street, and political gridlock on Capitol Hill, which Americans voted for. Economic hardship is often a precursor for war.

How many states now have Republican super-majorities in the Statehouse? Those are the bright orange ones in this map, while the bright blue ones are controlled by Democrats. Only three states are split.

USA Today newspaper

USA Today newspaper; click to enlarge.

In the U.S. Senate, all states have equal voting power. Two Republican no-names in Idaho can cancel out Feinstein and Boxer in California – and they consistently do.

When the chairman of the House Science Committee denounced science as “straight from the pit of hell,” who was he talking to, but the organized (and armed) minority?

He wasn’t crazy. He was calculating.

Let me mention now in passing the role of fundamentalist religion in all this. My mainline Episcopalians never pass out voters’ guides the Sunday before an election. But Baptists and megachurches do every time; organized minority vs. disorganized majority.

My final point concerns the rise of violent anti-Gay fascism in France. You might think the French would know better, having suffered under the Nazi occupation in World War II – and mostly the French do know better, that’s why they voted Socialist and passed same-sex marriage – but an armed minority can cause a lot of damage to an unarmed majority.

Police had to use tear gas to subdue anti-Gay rioters last month. (London Telegraph)

Police had to use tear gas to subdue anti-Gay rioters in Paris last month. Were they really that anti-Gay, or were they using opposition to same-sex marriage, ginned up by the Catholic Church, to win power? (London Telegraph)

I don’t have a crystal ball, but I don’t like what I see; not from the President, not from Democrats in Congress, not on MSNBC (especially Chris Matthews, whom I admire as a person) – and not online, where my Facebook friends continually yap that “them folks is crazy.”

No. Them folks is dangerous and we’d better be prepared. Let’s start by realizing what’s really going on. The birthers know better, all of them do; but many people have a deep-seated hatred of this African-American President, at the same time we’ve got mass unemployment, terrorist attacks, same-sex marriage, undocumented immigrants and (since 1962, but who’s counting) no organized prayer in public schools. Chuck Grassley had better ride that wave or he might drown. So he’s all for Chuck Grassley and America be damned.++

VIDEO: “The Thaw” – militarized, fist-thumping children in (dare I mention) Idaho

These Republican Whigs & Know-Nothings

FreeVector-President-Washington

Washington was elected twice as an independent, but he favored a strong central government, which became the Federalists’ position. But some people are still fighting that notion today. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison secretly introduced the notion of state nullification to conventions in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Is the Republican Party disintegrating before our eyes? I think so, although it’s hard to make any sense of what’s currently going on in politics and no one can predict the future. But suppose it is; would that explain why we have total gridlock in Washington, a Congress with an approval rating of 9% and this series of self-inflicted financial crises over the “fiscal cliff,” the sequester and threats about not raising the debt ceiling?

Pundits don’t seem to know; after all, no one alive has seen a political party dissolve. We don’t know what the telltale signs are anymore – although parties do come and go, as the Whigs and Know-Nothings can attest.

History seems to show that a party goes belly-up when the nation rejects its policies, but its leaders aren’t capable of change. There just stops being a reason it exists anymore, so its members walk away and join other groupings. What are the signs this is happening to the GOP?

Take CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference just ended in suburban Maryland. Thousands of reporters were accredited to cover it from all over the world as if it were an important event, but it mostly turned out to be a circus. There was Mitch McConnell, who’s 71, in front of a roomful of activists who are 22, denouncing the Democrats’ frontrunners in 2016 as a rerun of the “Golden Girls” – despite those frontrunners’ being younger than he is. Hillary Clinton is 65 and Joe Biden is 69. Yuck-a-day!

It was slightly entertaining to watch McConnell deliver this line; he has no lips and apparently no teeth, but he almost broke out in a smile at his own utter hilarity.

The gals were fabulous - a concept McConnell knows nothing about.

These gals were fabulous – a concept McConnell knows nothing about.

Donald Trump gave a talk, which ranged from rambling to incoherent; his big criticism of Mitt Romney (last year’s failed Republican, in case you’ve forgotten already) was that he didn’t brag enough about how rich he is. American admire success, Trump said – which must be true because it’s the only reason anyone’s ever paid attention to him. The news was that nobody showed up to hear Trump deliver this pronouncement. I think Toupée Man has finally worn out his welcome.

DONALDTRUMPSAUDIENCE

When no one shows up for Trump, the end is near.

A few bored reporters generated some discussion of Sen. Rob Portman’s switch in favor of Gay marriage, two years after his son told him he’s Gay, but the only people excited about that were old people, interviewed here and there by obscure bloggers with videocams; the College Republicans who dominated the event mostly said Portman was right – if you asked them, because they weren’t talking about Rob Portman.

The weekend winner was Rand Paul, a nominal Republican who’s really a Libertarian. That party is likely to scoop up some Republicans if the collapse happens. Paul won the CPAC straw poll for President in 2016. He won’t win anything else, but he did win that.

A forum on broadening the party’s demographic base devolved into a White Power diatribe, with the featured speaker, K. Carl Smith of the Frederick Douglass Republicans, having to listen to a Tea Party activist who claimed that Whites have been “systematically disenfranched” by the U.S. government and that slaves ought to have thanked their masters for giving them food and shelter.

Not a good sign when you’re trying to broaden your base. Not a good sign a-tall!

The Tea Party in some version may try to organize itself as a post-Republican party, though after the spectacle of Dick Armey showing up with armed guards to clean out his desk at FreedomWorks (and pocket an $8 million settlement), it’s hard for me to see them as serious. Mother Jones magazine reported that FW paid radio talkers Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh to extol the group on the air every week, which Armey opposed as not cost-effective and insulting to activists. The main beneficiary, Armey said, was FW’s president Matt Kibbe, who used staff members to write a book he profited from.

When political hustlers are in charge of the “grass roots,” there is no there there. So what’s to become of John Boehner?

Has there ever been a Speaker of the House like this guy? He reminds me of the Wizard of Oz after Toto’s pulled back the curtain. Boehner just keeps fiddling his dials and pumping the smoke machine as if nothing has happened amiss. He announced this weekend that mere election results aren’t going to change his policies; why would losing have anything to do with it?

John Boehner's role model.

John Boehner’s role model.

Someone smart pointed out recently that when the Democrats were in the doldrums back in the 1980s, losing the White House to Ronald Reagan and the elder George Bush, it took them three elections to right the ship – and then they turned to that “New Democrat” Bill Clinton, a Southern governor who “ended welfare as we know it.” If the party had gotten too liberal, which was the popular if mistaken diagnosis, Clinton arrived to clean things up. (And he did carry a Southern state or two.) Today, of course, the Republicans have only lost two in a row to Barack Obama (or three of the last four popular votes, if you count George W. Bush in 2000), and it may be that Republicans still have another loss to come before they change, if they do. If they make it that long. I’m not sure they will.

They have no obvious talent waiting in the on-deck circle, while it was clear back in 1988 that Bill Clinton was a comer. The few Republicans being talked about in 2016 all seem to have huge liabilities. Gov. Bobby Jindal is universally praised as intelligent, but his draconian policies in back-swamp Louisiana keep running afoul of the courts, and while he made a brief splash for telling Republicans they’ve got to stop being “the stupid party,” he didn’t propose anything smarter for national policies. He didn’t say global warming is real, let’s support marriage equality or open up a path to citizenship for immigrants, so it’s clear he either doesn’t have convictions or doesn’t have the courage of them.

Jeb Bush, the “smart one” of Barbara’s boys, is running around hemming and hawing about immigration – he’s for the pathway, he’s not for the pathway, “you have to understand we wrote that book (that just came out) last year” when we thought Romney would win – and saying he loves his brother W., he didn’t do anything wrong and Jeb is proud of him. Try selling that to voters!

lehmanbros

It’s true that Jeb can hardly say, “That son of a bitch, he screwed me for life,” but if he doesn’t say it, he’s screwed anyway. Bye, Jebber, you should never have let W. outrun you in 2000.

Marco Rubio, Jeb’s protegé, doesn’t know how to be the Republicans’ Great Hispanic Hope. If he endorses the pathway, he loses the nomination; if he doesn’t endorse it, he loses the election. (Besides, he ain’t that goodlooking.) And did you see him the other day at CPAC? No, he said, we don’t need new ideas, we still have a great idea – “It’s called America.”

That and eight bits might get you coffee. Or not.

As for Chris Christie, the only Republican popular with Democrats (and that won’t last), he wasn’t invited to CPAC. He hugged President Obama after Hurricane Sandy and that supposedly cost the Mittster the election.

So they invited the Mittster instead. No one knows why; CPAC was one collection of losers after another.

The moral of the story: when journalists outnumber activists, CPAC has peaked. (Most of the college kids were really just looking to get laid anyway.)

Maybe there will be a Republican who surprises us, a backbencher in Congress most likely; someone who finally gives up on Boehner, McConnell, sequesters and cliffs and government shutdowns, and strikes out on his or her own course. But if that were going to happen, I would think the gun safety debate would be the place for it to start. Polls show 91% of Americans favor universal background checks on gun purchases, but the only Republican senator who favors running all names through the computer is Mark Kirk of Illinois, who’s recovering from a major stroke. (He had to learn to walk again, and has made a good recovery.)

Every other Republican in Congress is plowing ahead as if nothing has changed. They’ll continue to obstruct, won’t pass any legislation and their big worry is that they’ll get “primaried” by a more conservative candidate – which led Lindsey Graham, better known as Senator Huckleberry, to announce he’s the proud owner of his very own assault weapon.

Lady Liberty is showing her tits again.

Lady Liberty is showing her tits again.

The jokes just write themselves.

As I said, I don’t own a crystal ball. They don’t work even if you own one. But we do know what causes a political party to crash. They insist on policies that are unpopular. They lack a strong leader. (Reince Priebus, anyone?) They prove incapable of altering their strategy, tactics or campaign techniques. They lose favor with young voters and are opponents of change, which happens whether they like it or not; see Gay marriage. They end up fighting among themselves while their platform loses all coherence.

Maybe Chris Christie can clean up this mess; but his temperament is volatile and his policies are immoderate – destroy the unions, snuggle up to Wall Street; New Jersey has a lot of financiers in those New York suburbs. He should coast to re-election this year but I’m not convinced he has national staying power. If he’s the nominee, which would take major hocus-pocus, and Hillary Clinton runs in ’16, I think Dems would keep the White House. Maybe even Biden could keep it, if he takes off his shirt and washes his Firebird in the front yard.

(The Onion, and don't think Biden hasn't exploited this image for all it's worth)

(The Onion, and don’t think Biden hasn’t exploited this for all it’s worth)

That would be three straight losses for the Republicans. Then we’ll see if some young, attractive, pro-Gay moderate can inject new life in the party, or it just burns out like the Know-Nothings.

President Obama has often compared himself to Ronald Reagan, odious as that is to me. Reagan was so successful he changed the trajectory of politics for a generation, and succeeded in seeing his vice-president replace him. (That hasn’t happened since.) The problem for Republicans is that Reagan was such a transformative figure who made conservatism acceptable, that his party today doesn’t know how to extend and broaden what he began. They’re reduced simply to invoking him, paying homage to the great man, claiming him for what they’re doing 30 years later. But he’s been dead quite some time now, and a huge chunk of voters doesn’t remember him. His trickle-down economics didn’t work, even his budget director admits cutting taxes doesn’t raise revenue or grow the economy, and these sad sacks, who lack his charisma and polished charm, are stuck doing wash/rinse/repeat. He went right, so they go further right, all the way to Crazyland, but Americans don’t want that; we like Social Security, we like Medicare and Medicaid, we don’t want people starving in the streets.

Libertarianism is a dead end; a modern society requires a modern government, with food inspectors and air traffic controllers, scientific research and development; you can’t turn back the clock. We’re here, we’re queer – they’re used to it!

The Tea Party may gasp on, but ask Claire McCaskill and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) how they like being in the Senate. As for the gun freaks after Sandy Hook, it’s plain we don’t want to live that way; it doesn’t make us safer. Obama may or may not succeed in cutting the budget when we ought to be raising it – who would he negotiate with for this “grand bargain”? – but his best bet is just putting Air Force One on auto-pilot until 2014. If Ashley Judd knocks off Mitch McConnell, the Party of No will be nowhere.++

party-of-no

Mitt Pulls a Boner

There’s no need to stick a fork in him, since there never was any blood in him in the first place.

It’s been four days now since Mother Jones magazine published Mitt Romney’s comments at that $50,000-a-plate fundraiser last May in Boca Raton, Florida, in which he asserted that 47% of all Americans are freeloaders who consider themselves “victims,” take no responsibility for their lives and expect the government to give them “free health care, free housing, free food, you name it.”

Poor little rich boy, with his 12% tax rate (in 2010; no one knows about the past) and $77,000 deduction for his wife’s dancing horse. He resents every police officer, firefighter, military veteran and active duty soldier, teacher, social worker, waitress, desk clerk, retail employee and factory worker, as well as every retiree, orphan and disabled person scraping by on Social Security, because they “pay no income taxes.” The horror of it all!

I’ve got news for you, pal. Everyone who works for a paycheck and gets Federal taxes deducted is paying income tax – along with FICA and Medicare.

While the media bleats about “payroll taxes,” those are income taxes. You make some income, you pay some tax. That’s how it works. Those are income taxes.

Every worker in this country pays income taxes.

True, they may get some of it back at the end of the year, but they’re paying income taxes. Believe me, the Federal government appreciates the float.

I’ve never gotten all of mine back, nor do I know anyone who has. Most people are glad to get a little refund on April 15, on what they paid in income tax.

Romney insulted half of America in front of his rich friends.

Meanwhile, I’m really disappointed in Howard Fineman (Huffington Post) and the rest of the pundits on MSNBC. They’ve been all over Romney for his idiotic remarks, but they won’t come out and tell the truth, which is that he’s just lost the election. It’s over. He’s done.

Fineman’s just covering his ass.

There’s nothing fine about Howard Fineman. The man needs a haircut in more ways than one.

“Oh,” the pundits say, “there’s a lot of time left, the debates are coming up, we could have a foreign crisis, this is way too soon to make a call.”

They won’t, but I will: President Obama will be re-elected this November.

Does anyone expect Mitt Romney to have a strong debate performance? He can’t even run a respectable campaign. He thinks the rich are supporting the middle class, when it’s the other way around!

Republican pundits know this election is over; but the Democrats profess to worry. And while some of this is strategic perhaps – people do still have to vote, after all, and that’s 50 days away – they end up not telling the truth, when the only reason they’re on TV is to tell the truth.

As a former reporter I understand the impulse to hem and haw. No one likes making a public mistake and having to eat crow. It’s a lesson reporters only learn by making public mistakes, and doing it often enough that by the time they’re Fineman’s age, you couldn’t drag them out on a limb. But they end up looking foolish anyway.

By pronouncing the presidential race over early, they could talk about the U.S. Senate instead. I think the Democrats will pick up a few seats, which will strengthen Obama’s hand in his second term. I think Maine will flip, that Angus King, the independent former governor, will win and caucus with the Democrats. I think Missouri’s going for Claire McCaskill. I think Tammy Baldwin could win in Wisconsin. Elizabeth Warren has pulled out to a lead in Massachusetts.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is sinking millions into trying to defeat former Gov. Angus King, but Mainers are an independent bunch.

Romney’s bonehead remarks will drag down Republicans in the House, too, maybe not enough to yield control to the Democrats, but the Tea Party is running out of tea. Republicans won’t be partying come November.

Here’s what’s happened. Romney isn’t ready for prime time and everyone knows it. He’ll still get millions of votes and carry some states, but he has proved himself incapable of governing the country, since he can’t even run a campaign. He isn’t ready to be Commander-in-Chief. Obama will win the military vote; he’ll win veterans.

Between now and Election Day attention will shift to the down-ballot races, those governors, senators and House races, and Republicans will find their candidates are too conservative. They have the Tea Party to thank for that, and after the election there will be a bloodletting.

I’ll be curious to see if Richard Mourdock wins in Indiana. He’s the Toilet Paper guy who beat Sen. Dick Lugar in the primary, but now Mourdock’s in trouble. His opponent is a conservative Democrat, Joe Donnelly; he may have a shot. He isn’t very talented and he doesn’t stand for much, but at least he’s mainstream; Mourdock is not. Hoosiers are used to splitting their tickets. I’ll also be interested to see if John Gregg can pull an upset in the governor’s race; he’s folksy, a smalltown guy, and he’s likable. He needs a lot to break his way in the next two months, but as a former Speaker of the state House, he knows what he’s doing. It would be very important to LGBTs in Indiana if Gregg can come from behind over Rep. Mike Pence, who’s already announced his anti-Gay, “pro-family” witchhunt if he gets elected. Indiana Democrats are going to need a lot of money, but Romney and the Tea Party are certainly a cause for hope now.

When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Obamacare, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana) compared the decision to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The bottom line: Romney’s going to depress turnout. That gives Democrats a chance to win.

Pay no attention to Fineman, he’s more worried about covering his hiney than covering the news. Obama’s got this one, and America will be safe for four more years.++

Even older Republicans have come to trust this man with foreign policy and the military. He killed off Osama bin Laden, and Mitt Romney did not.

Their Anti-Gay Prejudice Precedes Their Bible-Quoting

The kid does make it to sanity, thank God.

Last night I watched a documentary on Netflix called “This Is What Love in Action Looks Like.” It’s about a 16-year-old Gay boy whose fundamentalist parents shipped him off to a “Gay cure” residential program in Memphis, Tennessee, against his will.

I found it hard to watch, partly because of several poor choices made by the filmmaker (failure to attribute some sources, sitting for a pseudo-interview instead of just facing the camera himself, and constant use of MySpace, the declining social network, as a framing device, which gets old very fast) – and, of course, the topic. It amazes me that in 2010 there were still people – some of them adults – going for the “Gay cure,” paying through the nose for unqualified hucksters to shame them morning, noon and night.

This week Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, the umbrella group for “ex-Gay” ministries, has finally agreed there’s no such thing as a “Gay cure.” Good for him; he has a bit of integrity at last.

However, his announcement is causing him to be slammed by others in the “pray away the Gay” movement, a story you can read here in The New York Times: “Rift Forms in Movement as Belief in Gay ‘Cure’ is Renounced.”

So far Exodus seems to be holding most of its supporters, though some have left the group. The Times article contains this killer quote:

Robert Gagnon, an associate professor at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and author of books on homosexuality and the Bible, last week issued a public call for Mr. Chambers to resign. “My greatest concern has to do with Alan’s repeated assurances to homosexually active ‘gay Christians’ that they will be with him in heaven,” he said in an e-mail.

The quote marks around Gay Christian are Gagnon’s. The man can’t even write an e-mail without insulting millions of people. Some Christianity, huh?

Meanwhile a website I sometimes visit has a video up from something called The David Pakman Show in which Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out, a pro-LGBT group, debates a military chaplain who claims he can exorcise the Gay out of him.

It isn’t worth watching, unless you also get a thrill out of seeing Pat Robertson predict that God will send a hurricane to destroy Orlando because of Gay Day at Disney World.

Not very amusing, to my taste. Seen one, you’ve seen ’em all.

There was a time, early in my activist career, when I used to appear on television a lot, talking about Gay stuff. That’s partly how I became, for a few years anyway, “the most famous Gay person in Ohio,” according to Cleveland magazine. Such a title, eh? I’m sure I could have pawned that for a peanut butter sandwich.

I mostly did it because no one else would. Now there are plenty of spokespeople. I think I was fairly good at it, but I quickly realized that I didn’t care to debate homophobes about whether we have a right to exist. Wayne Besen can, if he wants; I find it boring, and useless, and even worse, insulting.

Elie Weisel shouldn’t have to go on TV and sit next to someone denying the Holocaust, just to satisfy some misguided journalist putting on “both sides of the story.”

There’s only one story about the Holocaust; it happened, six million were murdered.

There are six million stories about the Holocaust, but skinheads and bigots can’t tell you one of them.

I’m no Elie Weisel, of course; just one little Gay guy in the Midwest. And what’s happened over the centuries to GLBT people is that we’ve mostly been picked off one by one, not as part of an organized, nationalistic genocide.

Death is death, and injustice is injustice. They don’t give prizes for who’s the most oppressed, and if they did the Jews would win.

However, none of them would show up to collect their plaque. And I really think we shouldn’t either.

Wayne Besen is free to do his thing; maybe it’s useful to someone. But the journalism involved is badly flawed.

TV did the same thing to Martin Luther King, Jr.

And no, reporters, it’s not a matter of “giving the other side enough rope to hang themselves.” That was never TV’s motivation in the Civil Rights Era. There was only one side to the story, and CBS, NBC and ABC were too scared to say so. Their big fear was that Southern stations would cancel the network news and they’d lose money. Lester Maddox and his axe handles got on TV to safeguard corporate profits.

So here’s little David Pakman, who found himself a chaplain in a freak show. And here’s Wayne Besen, thinking he can get some logic through to the audience over the intertubes.

We need to understand that bigots’ prejudice precedes their Bible-quoting. They learned the prejudice before they were old enough to read.

Uh-oh, boys holding hands…

This fact, that the bigotry comes before the religious “justification,” is important for LGBTs, especially Christians, to remember, because we can easily get caught up in debates with homophobes just like Wayne Besen and others do, without any cameras rolling. Principles of the faith, such as listening to others and respecting them, almost seem to require it.

But in 2012, let’s be aware of the Law of Diminishing Returns. In my experience, homophobes understand one thing only: power. They shut up when we show up.

That’s what happens in the movie; the teenage boy blogs on MySpace about being trapped in Christian hell, and protesters show up where he’s being held against his will.

The protesters are smart, loving and kind – just like Gay people mostly are – and eventually the state of Tennessee shuts the place down for providing mental health services without a license or qualified personnel.

No doubt, Alan Chambers has experienced much of the same; that’s the reason for his shift. He and his board members have finally realized those queers make some good points.

There isn’t any “cure,” and Exodus has finally stopped claiming there is one. Praise the Lord for small favors.

President Obama has come out for same-sex marriage in an election year. That is, he finally did the right thing he was afraid to do before.

I remain half-bemused and half-appalled at the Big Media descriptions of all this. While there are more and more LGBT voices being heard, of writers, thinkers and activists, Big Media’s still playing it straight, focusing on rising poll numbers supporting equality. I guess they’re so caught up in the moment (and the homophobic history of their companies and profession) they can’t get much perspective. They don’t seem to know why attitudes are changing, beyond that a generational shift is taking place.

Well, yes, but that doesn’t explain it. The facts are on our side!

We’ve always told the truth about ourselves, including the science, what’s known and what’s unknown. We’ve told the truth like Martin did and Elie still does.

He knows what he’s talking about; he lived through it, and he’s even got pictures to prove it.

The generational shift is happening because we’ve got the facts, our opponents put out bald-faced lies – and the rising generation can tell the difference.

They were not carefully taught the prejudice – for which we have the civil rights movement and especially the women’s movement to thank.

They told the truth too.

It will be interesting to see what happens when America stops denying global warming – but that apparently will take another generation, and I’m not sure I’ll live that long.

Truth Wins Out is well-named, Wayne Besen; I give you credit for that. (Their slogan is “Fighting Anti-Gay Lies and the Ex-Gay Myth.”)

Though really, you should have dressed up like Linda Blair and made that chaplain exorcise your Gay away right on camera.++

Whaddayou bet her makeup man was Gay?

 

Government of the Rich, by the Rich, for the Rich

Unlike his predecessor, the sphinx Alan Greenspan, the current Fed chairman actually speaks to the public.

Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, was on the “60 Minutes” teevee show last night, explaining why the Fed is spending $600 billion to buy U.S. debt, an untried strategy he hopes will prevent deflation – falling prices and wages like Japan experienced in its “lost decade” of the ’90s, and the U.S. went through as the 1929 stock market crash deepened into the Great Depression.

Economies spiral up and they spiral down; growth that’s too fast means that prices keep rising while wages don’t keep up. That’s called inflation and it’s bad, because a worker’s dollar doesn’t buy what it used to. Growth that’s slow or non-existent puts pressure on prices, including labor; employers cut paychecks, and even though a loaf of bread might turn a few cents cheaper, workers have less money to buy bread. That’s called deflation and it’s every bit as bad.

Steady growth that balances out prices and wages is the ideal, and that’s what Bernanke and the Fed are trying to achieve. However, his TV interview indicates this is a very tricky time for the world economy. Fed chiefs never go on TV; the last guy, Alan Greenspan, perfected the low art of using long words to say absolutely nothing in public. He didn’t have to; he was the chairman of the Federal Reserve, one of the most powerful men in the world.

So Bernanke’s appearance was fairly remarkable – less because of his immediate message about the $600 billion ploy, than because he also had to answer other questions from his interviewer, Scott Pelley of CBS News.

Bottom line:

• Unemployment is going to stay sky-high for years. (This cannot be good news for President Obama’s re-election plans.)

• The recent recession is over according to the economists, but another one, a double-dipper, can’t be ruled out.

• Education is key to an individual worker’s employment prospects; college grads have a 5% unemployment rate, while high school graduates are twice as likely to be unemployed. (Meanwhile states are cutting education funding and school districts nationwide are laying off teachers.)

• The Federal government’s budget deficit must be brought down – but not this year while so many people are suffering and deflation is the real scare.

Pelley couldn’t get Bernanke to condemn the Republican plan to extend the Bush tax cuts for millionaires – but the Fed chief did sound a mild alarm about the destruction of the middle class. To me, that was the most important part of the interview.

Excerpt from The New York Times:

When asked about rising inequality in the United States, Mr. Bernanke offered a response that was likely to be embraced by liberals.

“It’s a very bad development,” he said. “It’s creating two societies.”

One rich, one poor.

The Times chose to couch this inappropriately, in my view, as a call for revamping U.S. tax policy to eliminate what Bernanke called “inefficiency” (and the rest of us know as deductions, tax breaks, subsidies and giveaways), so that overall rates can be lowered and more money can be raised. The Times’ analysis is Beltway-speak, as Bernanke appeared to endorse parts of the regressive platform of Obama’s own Blue Ribbon Panel in Charge of Screwing Americans, featuring such winning proposals as raising the retirement age Till You’re Dead.

It’s entirely possible to eliminate the deficit without screwing the middle class, but you’ll never hear that out of a Blue Ribbon Panel, because rational solutions don’t conform to the current media blare.

Still, Bernanke went on about the widening gap between rich and poor, now the largest inequality in the developed world and the worst in U.S. history:

Mr. Bernanke added: “It leads to an unequal society, and a society which doesn’t have the cohesion that we’d like to see.”

That to me is the point; we’re losing our middle class, and even the Fed chairman knows that’s a grave danger to America and the entire world.

So sort the wheat from the chaff; I wouldn’t give you a copper penny for the Simpson-Bowles blue ribboneering, for Beltway obsessions or faulty Villager-speak. The chairman of the Federal Reserve has admitted we’re destroying our country.

And we’re doing it under Barack Obama just as we did under George W. Bush. The incompetence of the Current Occupant is astonishing to me; I’m sorry I ever promoted him, but that’s water under the bridge now. What shall we do? Where do we go from here?

It leads to an unequal society.

I’d happily blame all the usual suspects, not just Obama but McConnell, Murdoch and Limbaugh, if not for the fact that both parties and a majority of voters have arranged all this exactly to their liking.

We’re now governed by the same corporations whose TV commercials we lap up like dogs at the feed trough.

The USA is no longer a democracy, it’s a plutocracy. The Fortune 500 runs everything, having bought the entire Congress.

And why not? It was there for the plucking, since Americans decided 30 years ago (shortly after the Watergate scandal) that we wouldn’t be caught dead financing political campaigns with tax dollars.

Who does that leave to pick up the tab? The people with money.

Democrats are as eager to spread their legs for campaign cash as Republicans are. So this is the result, government by Halliburton, Exxon and Archer Daniels Midland.

It’s simply “the free market at work” – the same people who’ve screwed you over and over and taught you to like it.

Nor is this a new phenomenon; the basic alignment of political parties today in the United States actually dates to 1896, when William McKinley sold the Republican Party’s soul to Wall Street while William Jennings Bryan pleaded with voters not to crucify workers on a “cross of gold.” It’s ancient dusty stuff from the history books, and if you’ve never heard of it no one can blame you all these years later.

But the die was cast, the storm was unleashed, and now we are inheriting the wind.

It’s December 2010 and Mitch McConnell effortlessly jumps through mental hoops to argue for extending tax cuts for millionaires, while middle class people are losing their homes by the millions.

Obama and the Democrats will go along with this, to get unemployment benefits of $250 a week extended yet again for the New Poor. It’s already been, what, two years since we shed ten million jobs?

Campaigning for the House and Senate is expensive work; D’s are as eager as R’s to sell their souls. There’s only one political party in America now, the Corporate Suckups; the libs and the cons may caucus separately, but for the most part they agree that whatever Murdoch says goes.

On the margins of political life – say, if you’re Gay or Hispanic, Native or Muslim or Black, military or female, sick or disabled – it matters very much whether the D’s or the R’s control Congress and the White House. But it doesn’t matter much to anyone else. So what if 80 House seats changed hands? So what?

The Voters are parked on their couches watching Unreality TV and soaking up corporate propaganda, thinking it’s entertaining. They don’t care that rich people are making big bucks selling them worthless products and inedible, dangerous food, as long as it all looks glamorous, numbs their brain cells and makes them smile.

At the close of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Ben Franklin said we chose not a monarchy but a republic – “if we can keep it.”

We still have the outward form, but it looks to me like the republic is lost.

Americans are resilient, and in extraordinary times we’ve achieved amazing things. I hope we never lose that capacity. But I don’t see anyone leading us in any direction but corporate hell.

I hate to say it, but as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, this is the middle class’s own fault. They’re afraid of change (Gays in the military! Same-sex marriage!) and easily seduced to vote against their own best interest, thus enriching the wealthy to exploit them every damn time.

It leads to an unequal society.

And Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.++

We invented this character; now we get to live with the results.

Tea Party? No. Fascist Backlash.

Margaret Hamilton, absolutely fabulous as the Wicked Witch of the West.

I woke up this morning thinking about the upcoming election, that what we’re seeing is a fascist backlash since the election of Barack Obama.

I’m not sure that “fascist” is the right word, but it’s as close as I can come right now. “Right-wing extremists”? “Jack-booted thugs”?

The point isn’t the name-calling; the point is the backlash, and finding the most accurate description of these self-named “tea partiers” who have nothing to do with the Boston Tea Party. Our country is not controlled by a foreign imperial power. The Boston Tea Party was about independence, which is no longer an issue.

Instead what we’re seeing is a very large resurgence of John Birch Society-type ideology. It’s strange, because Americans dismissed these folks as the lunatic fringe 60 years ago. Why are they back?

Why are there so many of them? And why are they so loony?

• Christine O’Donnell tells us she is not a witch. Claiming to have flirted with being a witch made her money ten years ago, but now it costs her, so she isn’t one. Never was; “I am you.”

• Rand Paul’s county coordinator stomps a young woman on the head – and then demands an apology.

• Sharron Angle, doing a fast walk away from a reporter asking about her foreign policy, says, “Yes, we have two wars.”

• Carl Paladino threatens to “take out” a reporter.

• Joe Miller hires active-duty soldiers for his security detail, and they handcuff a reporter who annoys them.

• Ken Buck says Gay people are born with a predisposition like alcoholics.

• Jan Brewer, governor of Arizona, is incoherent and can’t even start an answer during a televised debate.

• Sarah Palin can’t tell Katie Couric what newspapers and magazines she reads – because she doesn’t read any.

Meanwhile the Democrats flounder too, unable to explain what’s going on in a simple pithy phrase.

Maybe that’s why I came up with “fascist backlash.” If you’ve got a better label, leave a comment. “Fascist” seems a little too strong to me, but I don’t know what else to call it. So focus on the backlash.

I just watched President Obama give a campaign speech in Bridgeport, Connecticut on behalf of Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic Senate nominee, whose opponent is Linda McMahon of phony wrestling and “Sexy Bitch” yacht fame.

The President spoke well, with all the fire and eloquence and truth-telling of his 2008 campaign.

I’ve been hugely critical of him, because he’s been the last person to understand the fascist backlash. But once again, listening to him today, I was drawn back into his vortex while it lasted.

He’s so talented, and so smart; he’s earning his increasingly gray hair, which he joked about today, then tore off a rip-roaring speech (without TelePrompters, as if that’s a serious issue).

He was heckled at one point by a sizable group of AIDS activists, and it was interesting to see how he dealt with them. George W. Bush would have manipulated the crowd to drown them out, and then had goons drag them off. Obama didn’t handle it that way.

He engaged them, answered them back, pointing out that Democrats are increasing funding for world AIDS treatment and research, not Republicans.

(President Bush did receive good marks on this issue – for Africa, not the U.S.)

From there Obama got back on message and roused the crowd; “If we turn out this year like we did two years ago, we will win.”

Fact is, I hate what he’s done/failed to do on Gay rights. When a politician starts hurting my people, as Obama has done with his “emergency” appeal on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, I turn against that politician.

Still, this guy might actually be learning on the job, so I waver back and forth on supporting him. I definitely want to minimize Democratic losses next Tuesday; if the self-proclaimed tea partiers win – any of them – it will be bad for the country. The fact is, none of them are qualified for the offices they seek; none of them. And this isn’t just ideology on my part; a Senate candidate proclaims, “I am not a witch”?

Angle runs away, Palin runs away, Wilson runs away, Brewer runs away; this is a conscious strategy to keep from answering questions. Palin thinks Twitter and Facebook are all she needs – but she’s wrong. You can’t govern a country by 140-character tweets.

So let’s recognize what we’re actually dealing with here: Obama prevented a Great Depression.

He’s paying the price for the Great Recession. He’s done several things right and several things wrong, but I’m still in my house and so are most of you.

The banking system did not collapse; it’s seriously messed up, as the foreclosure scandal illustrates, but banks are open, still taking deposits, still clearing checks.

It would be nice if they also made loans, but even FDR didn’t fix everything in a week. (And Obama’s no FDR.)

Maybe Obama’s naivete is finally wearing off; today in Bridgeport he pointed out that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s #1 goal is defeating him in 2012 – not creating jobs, not returning America to world leadership in education, science, technology and manufacturing, but defeating the Dems at all costs.

Where is the patriotism of Republicans? They parade it at every chance, but they don’t act patriotically. It’s all about politics to them, it’s all about the next election.

Meanwhile Sharron Angle threatens “Second Amendment remedies” – armed rebellion, treason – if she doesn’t win.

So does some black Republican preacher/candidate in Texas; “nothing should be off the table.”

That’s why so-called “tea partiers” showed up with guns last summer at Obama speeches. That’s why they march through the streets with AK-47s.

They’re threatening to shoot their way to power. I say that’s fascist.

Obama isn’t a Nazi, isn’t a socialist, isn’t that old bugaboo, a Communist. He’s a cautious and moderate Democrat.

He’s also Black, and that’s what’s brought out these extremists.

I wish he were more of a fighter (as he was today in Bridgeport) and less of a philosopher. But he is what he is, a far better President than the last one. Despite all of his missteps on Gay rights, he still deserves our support. He’s an honest man with convictions – and he invoked Lincoln again today, which I appreciate.

He mentioned getting us out of Iraq today, a subject never mentioned by any other candidate, and people cheered.

I wish he’d get us out of Afghanistan too; I supported his initial push with more troops there, but now I think it’s hopeless. We can’t tie the USA to a crook like Karzai, when the real issue is Osama bin Laden.

Al-Qaeda in Yemen is sending airbombs to synagogues in Chicago. Thank God, the Saudis and the Brits, they never got there.

We’re being battered on all sides, and so is our President. He sure isn’t perfect, nobody’s messiah, but the smart choice is to dance with the one who brung ya.

Angle, Palin, O’Donnell, Buck, Wilson? They’re Christian Dominionists; click the link. Palin is the worst; O’Donnell and Angle are the dumbest.

The shorthand way to understand them all is this guy. He sought total control, which is the opposite of human liberty celebrated in Boston.++