The Watering Hole – Saturday, June 30, 2012 – GOP Is Acting Out, Again

Pity the poor Republicans. They ranted and raved since the day President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law and swore it was an unconstitutional power grab by the already-bloated federal government, and that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to marry each other. Oh, and that abortion you wanted? Sorry, but they have about eleven hundred reasons why you shouldn’t plan on going through with it. At least, not today. But Obamacare is unconstitutional! Well, funny thing, our nation’s ultimate authority on what is and isn’t constitutional determined that, yes, indeed, Obamacare is constitutional. (Here’s a way to see the decision itself, as well as a neat word cloud of the decision.) It appears the only thing the law got wrong was on threatening states with losing their Medicaid if they didn’t comply, or something like that. Oh, and the administration’s legal rationale for why the PPACA was constitutional was wrong, too. But Chief Justice of the United States (that’s his actual title, BTW. Did you – well, all but one of you – know that? ;)) John Roberts found a way around that and said something could be collected as a tax and not under the authority of the Commerce Clause. I don’t know, I’m not trained in understanding all this legalese. All I know is that the Roberts Court just handed the Republicans a major ass-whoopin’, and they’re going all nuts saying they won’t implement the law (even though they have to), and we still think it’s unconstitutional, so we’ll just nullify it (Hello, Civil War II). And now they’re going to take a break from bashing voting citizens who are gay and/or have vaginas and repeal the entire law! Of course that’s just theater because we know perfectly well a repeal won’t pass the Democratic Senate, so why do it? I’ll tell you why. Because the Republican Party is hell-bent and determined to prove to you that government just doesn’t work, and they’ll achieve that by doing the worst possible job they can.

So, what else is on your mind? You can tell us. We’re complete strangers that you’ll probably never meet in your life. What could possibly go wrong? ;)

This is our daily open thread — comment on anything you want!

Friday Night Music: Under the Radar, and Way Under the Radar

In my first post I told you that I admired talented musicians whose devotion to their craft outweighs their quest for fame and riches. The Wiyos, named after an 1880’s street gang in New York City facetiously refer to themselves as ‘the next ragtime, jug band, minstrel supergroup’. Cats and I have seen them play several times, when they venture out of their Brooklyn digs to perform elsewhere. You don’t often come across washboard players as talented as Michael Farkas.

Every major city has a ‘hot club’ band, playing the Django Reinhardt inspired hot jazz out of Quintette du Hot Club de France. Paired with Stephane Grapelli, this formative group played some of the most original jazz of the era from the French gypsy tradition. Le Hot Club de ma Rue toil in and around Montréal. I almost got them to play at a Meals on Wheels fundraiser when I was director in Pottstown, PA. One of my staff spoke French, but a long delay prevented us from moving forward. In any case, they are pretty damn good.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, June 28th, 2012: Decisions, Decisions

On this, the day on which the Supreme Court is supposed to announce their decision regarding the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), I offer first a few articles from Wednesday’s Washington Post:

In the first article, John Boehner issues a typical lugubrious pronoucement, and Eric Cantor chimes in, too:

“We’ve made it pretty clear and I’ll make it clear one more time: If the court does not strike down the entire law, the House will move to repeal what’s left of it,” House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters Wednesday morning. “‘Obamacare’ is driving up the cost of health care and making it harder for small businesses to hire new workers.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) added that the health law “was a mistake. We would like to see the kind of health care that will allow patients to make decisions, not bureaucrats here in Washington.”
[Yes, the kind of health care that will allow patients to make decisions, like whether they should get that needed prescription, or buy food. Patients, not bureaucrats, can make their own decisions unless the patient is a pregnant woman.]

“As we know, this bill has also presented big problems for our employers,” Cantor added. “Small businessmen and women are having a difficult time keeping the lights on, much less hiring new people. ‘Obamacare’ just makes it more difficult because it makes it more expensive for these business people to create jobs.”

[Then what was keeping those business people from creating jobs in the Bush years, before "Obamacare"?]

As I commented on an excellent article at our local online newspaper, the Southeast-Brewster Patch, “And does Speaker Boehner not see that the two are connected? Does he have any explanation as to WHY healthcare costs continue to rise? Do the Republicans who want to repeal the PPACA – and yes, some say “repeal and replace” – have any concrete solutions to the rising healthcare costs?”

Perhaps some of my questions were answered by this paragraph in the same WP article:

“Beyond their general comments, neither Boehner nor Cantor provided specifics on their path forward, waiting until the court rules before spelling out any further plans. But Republican aides have said in recent weeks that the House is unlikely to vote on any significant health-care-related legislation before the November elections — other than efforts to repeal the entire law if the high court doesn’t — preferring instead to keep focused on more overt attempts to boost job creation, strip away federal regulations and renew various tax cuts.”

[De-regulation, and tax cuts for the corporations - yeah, how'd that work out for Bush? Sigh]

I’ll leave you with two more articles from WP, one infuriating, one informative.

Possibly by the time you finish reading this post, the SCROTUS/SCREWEDUS (thanks, RUC) will have announced their decision. Hopefully, we won’t have to see a repeat of this:

Justice Antonin Scalia

UPDATE: The SCOTUS has decided that the Individual Mandate is Constitutional, read the text of the decision here.

This is our daily open thread — have at it!

The Watering Hole: June 27 — Cape Kiwanda

Photo by Charles Meier

As you can see, the sandy beach around Cape Kiwanda attracts the surfers.  For me, the attraction is the giant effing rock!

Composed of basalt, Haystack Rock [and the Cape Kiwanda rock] was formed by lava flows emanating from the Grand Ronde Mountains 10 to 17 million years ago. The lava flows created many of the Oregon coast’s natural features, including Tillamook HeadArch Cape, and Saddle Mountain.

I bet there are puffins out there…

This is our daily open thread — Sorry it’s so late!!

The Watering Hole, Monday, June 25th, 2012: Two Images

Bainglorious (Image credit: Bain Capital/The Boston Globe

After seeing the above Mitt Romney photo for about the 100th time (this time accompanying a thread at TP), I decided to refresh my memory as to the origin of the photo. Checking a couple of search results, I noticed this, from the National Journal:

“Asked on Fox News Sunday about a whimsical ["whimsical"?] black-and-white photo of Romney and his colleagues at a private equity firm smiling and posing with money in their pockets, hands and teeth, Romney explained that the image was taken after they won their first round of investment, which he said was roughly $37 million.

“We posed for a picture to celebrate the fact that we raised a lot of money,” he said, adding that he anticipated the photo will surface repeatedly in the election if he becomes the Republican nominee. “I know there will be every effort to put free enterprise on trial,” he said.

Asked whether President Obama might try to paint him as Gordon Gekko, the famous corporate raider from the 1980s movie Wall Street, during a general election matchup, Romney said he anticipated just such a move.

“Of course he will,” Romney said, “in part because he has been the great divider.””

Romney’s official Massachusetts State Governor’s portrait

In my search, I also ran across an ad in the Boston Globefor a book about Mitt Romney, written by two of the Globe’s writers. Here’s a couple of teases from the ad:

THE REAL ROMNEY
By Michael Kranish and Scott Helman of The Boston Globe

Chapter 9: The CEO governor: “his campaign produced television ads designed to preemptively beat back any Democratic attacks. It was a lesson learned from the Kennedy onslaught eight years earlier, which had typecast him as a heartless corporate raider. This time Romney would define himself, instead of letting his opponent do it for him.”

Chapter 10: Health care revolutionary
It was a sunny October afternoon in 2008, and Mitt and Ann Romney were making a return visit to the Massachusetts State House to meet with the portrait artist Richard Whitney. Together they walked to the third-¬floor office Romney had once occupied, its broad windows offering expansive views of the Boston Common and bustling downtown. Whitney needed photos to paint Romney’s official portrait. Romney had been clear about the image he wanted to convey for posterity. Wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and striped tie—the dress uniform of a businessman—he would be sitting on his desk in front of an American flag, next to symbols of two things he held dear. The first was a photo of his wife, the center of his personal universe. The second was the Massachusetts health care law. “He wanted to be remembered for that,” Whitney said.

Apparently RMoney only wanted to be remembered for his historic health care law for as long as it was politically expedient, i.e., until President Barack Obama touted “Romneycare” as a basis for the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare.” Now, of course, RMoney says that repealing “Obamacare” is on his Day-One “To-Do” list upon his inauguration.

Meanwhile…an article in yesterday’s Boston Globe describes RMoney’s relationship with Michael Milken, the junk bond king – a relationship that continued even while Milken was being investigated for insider trading.

So, which image of Mitt RMoney do you think with be remembered by posterity?

This is our daily open thread — have at it!

Sunday Roast: Inside Job

Inside Job is a 2010 documentary film about the late-2000s financial crisis directed by Charles H. Ferguson. The film is described by Ferguson as being about “the systemic corruption of the United States by the financial services industry and the consequences of that systemic corruption.”

After watching this film, I better understood what happened to cause our economy — and economies all over the world — to collapse.

We know what happened.  We know how it happened.  We know why it happened.  No consequences have been issued, except for the fallout that rained down on regular people like you and me.  All of the banksters involved are still in place, in one form or another, and they still have enormous power over us and our economy.

This.  Could.  Happen.  Again.

It’s a virtual guarantee.

This is our daily open thread — Discuss

The Watering Hole Saturday June 23, 2012 – Guilty!

Jerry Sandusky, the former Assistant Football Coach at Penn State University, has been found guilty on 45 of 48 counts of child sex abuse. This is good, as the 68-year-old Sandusky will likely spend the rest of his life in prison, however long that may be. Child molesters are not generally liked by prisoners, and are often the victims of unfortunate accidents, many of them fatal. So why bring this up on a political blog?

Sandusky was caught by another assistant coach, Mike McQueary, raping a boy in 2001! And many people knew about the abuses, including the ones that happened after that 2001 incident, and yet it took more than a decade before any awareness of the severity of his crimes was made public. How could this have taken so long to come out? Why did Penn State feel the greater good would be served by keeping Sandusky’s actions quiet? Is college football so important to American Society that we would allow children to be sexually abused just to protect one school’s football program? Sandusky shouldn’t be the only one facing prison time for his actions. The people who knew about them and did nothing must answer for their inactions.

This is our daily open thread — comment on anything you want!

Music Night, June 22, 2012

I consider Neil Young to be the most influential American (well, Canadian) rock musician, post-Elvis. In 1966, he co-founded Buffalo Springfield (along with Stephen Stills) a band who, in combination with the Byrds, virtually created folk rock, and then country rock, with
the two bands also providing many of the musicians that would continue to morph from band to band and define American rock music for many years to come.

Crosy, Stills and Nash were interesting, but at least to my view, only became huge after Young joined the band. THeir first LP has some terrific music, but nothing to compare with the material on Deja Vu and a good deal of what followed. Young experimented a lot over the years, but (my opinion, again) his best work has always been with Crazy Horse. His influence is clearly stamped on groups like My Morning Jacket and the Jayhawks; it’s safe to say that Grunge would never have existed without Neil Young.

Young’s voice never had the range and beauty of Crosby, Stills or Nash but unlike them, he still has his voice, still sounds like a young Neil Young. In his later years he has dedicate a great deal of time and money to various anti-war and eco-friendly causes. And he’s not only retained old geezer fans like myself, but innumerable time over the years I’ve heard a young person declare that “Neil Young is cool.”

The Watering Hole: June 22 — Mendacious Mitt

All cartoons are posted with the artists’ express permission to TPZoo.
Paul Jamiol
Jamiol’s World

I think our Paul has nailed Mitt Romney’s award wall, don’t you?

My inspiration for the title of this post came from this article in The Guardian, “Mendacious Mitt:  Romney’s bid to become liar-in-chief.”  Mitt Romney may be the biggest liar I’ve ever seen; he can firmly hold two completely contradictory positions within one speech or interview.  If he’s ever called out — which is unbelievably rare — he simply tells another lie, confidently claiming he never said what he clearly did say.

I thought it was shameful when John McCain jettisoned his remaining integrity while running for president in 2008, but WOW, Mitt Romney makes McCain look like George Washington by comparison.

It seems to me that the American people are already onto Mitt’s mendacity, and are fucking sick of it, but will it hold?  Tell a lie often enough, and it becomes truth, right?  Yeah, I’m worried…

This is our daily open thread — TGIF!!

queue

Butterflies line up to drink in a small pool just off the banks of the South Fork Trinity River, Trinity County, California.

Clear and cool, the river just below Hell Gate campground became a baptismal font for a dusty bird from the desert.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, June 21st, 2012: $$$$

(R)Money

Newsmax.com emailed me the following opinion piece, summarizing much of the wrongness which is the result of the SCOTUS’ “Citizens United” decision. I don’t think I could add much to this:

The Best Government Money Can Buy

Tuesday, 19 Jun 2012 10:35 AM
By Susan Estrich

“My friend Kathleen and I have had a running debate for decades now about whether it is possible to bring reform to the marriage of money and politics.

I’ve been in favor of all kinds of regulations (including those that as a campaign manager I drove a truck through) limiting the role of money, and wealthy donors, in elections.

Kathleen has argued from the beginning that “my” limits wouldn’t work in practice and shouldn’t survive constitutional scrutiny in theory, and that the best and only workable system is one that allows unlimited contributions but requires immediate disclosure. [Personally, I think that Kathy is completely wrong: "immediate disclosure" is unworkable and probably unenforceable.]

And now we’ve both lost.

My failure is, of course, the most apparent. The regulations haven’t worked. You could blame the Supreme Court for making it impossible (You can’t have regulation if it isn’t comprehensive, and you can’t be comprehensive with all these Super PACs and independent committees operating outside the system.), or you could argue that with so much at stake, people will always find loopholes. In either event, it is clear that the so-called limits on campaign contributions only limit those who don’t want to contribute even more.

People are spending six and seven and now eight figures — eight figures! — to support their candidates.

This might be fine (or at least better than total failure) if we had full disclosure of who was spending what on whom. We don’t.

Today’s news accounts of record spending are based in part on the decision by Sheldon and Dr. Miriam Adelson to contribute some $10 million to a Mitt Romney Super PAC, bringing their contributions to date to a total of $35 million in this presidential race. That’s a lot of money. But at least the Adelsons are upfront about what they are doing.

In fact, there are other groups collecting money out there, in just as large chunks, who are not revealing who is giving it to them. No disclosure. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in the landmark Citizens United case (which turned on the spigot of unlimited corporate cash) went on and on about the value of disclosure — but guess what. This campaign season, you can give millions to an organization like American Crossroads (aka Karl Rove’s group) and remain anonymous.

No accountability. No disclosure. And therefore, no ability to find out exactly what anyone is getting for their money.

Make no mistake: Published or not, candidates know who’s helping them, particularly when it gets to seven or eight figures.

Forty years after the infamous 1972 election, the election in which cash changed hands in exchange for favorable treatment by regulators, the election that spurred reform of our campaign finance system, we have returned to where we were — but with many more zeros, greater sophistication and no guarantee of disclosure. And whoever wins this election probably won’t change a system that worked for him or her, either at the presidential or congressional level.

Decades ago, when I first thought about running for office, what turned me off was the amount of time my friends who were candidates had to spend raising money. Politics, I understood, is not for people who like policy, but for people who excel at selling: cars, encyclopedias, themselves.

In the years since, a bad system has gotten worse than I ever could have imagined. It’s not just that the numbers have sprouted zeros, but that we’ve lost all vestiges of post-Watergate shame. Nothing embarrasses anyone.

Back in the 1988, when I explained the rules (antiquated now) about raising soft money and creating a party-based Victory Fund that could accept unlimited contributions, Michael Dukakis looked at me aghast (could I possibly be right?) and said he simply wouldn’t be comfortable with someone donating more than $250,000. He understood, as any honest pol will admit, that when someone is giving you that kind of money, how could your judgment not be affected?

Today, $250,000 is kid stuff.

And here’s the worst part. From all I know, the Adelsons care deeply about public policy issues, including support for the state of Israel. They have so much money that they don’t really need anything in exchange. But for many of those giving, a six-, seven- or eight-figure contribution is peanuts compared to the benefits they stand to reap if their favored candidate is elected.

The best government money can buy. And we don’t even know who is doing the buying.”

Yup…what she said.

This is our daily open thread — I’m sure that all of you have something to say, so have at it!

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, June 20, 2012: Does it really Matter?

Ok, so for the next few months, if you’re in a “swing” State, you’ll be inundated with SuperPAC commercials designed to get you to vote against your own best interests. We will also be systematically bombarded with messages from the Mainstream Media designed to influence our thinking.

IT’S ALL A SHOW. IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER.

If the Powers That Be really want Obama out, all they have to do is raise gas prices to about $5.00/gallon. Instead, gas prices are going down, heading into the summer vacation season. That’s not to say they won’t go up between now and the election – but they are an accurate predictor of where our economy will head. So, pay attention to the pump, not the talking heads.

Ok, that’s my $0.0199 cents. And you?

OPEN THREAD
JUST REMEMBER
EVERYTHING I SAID
DOESN’T REALLY MATTER

 

Guest Blog by TerryTheTurtle: November 2012 – The First Citizens United Election and the Last of the American Democratic Experiment?

I think there’s no secret that as a foreigner, I view the American democratic system with an outsider’s eye. It’s the view of one who has not been taught in school from the first day that the American Democratic Experiment is unique, unparalleled and somehow ‘divinely ordained’. It may have been once, but IMO it now more resembles the last days of the Roman Empire when a horse could be Senator  (or even higher office?) and seats were bought and sold in order to ‘rubber-stamp’ the sociopaths and megalomaniacal dictators who ran the place into the dust while plying the plebs with ‘bread and circuses’.

IMO, The SCOTUS ruling on Citizens United (CU) has delivered a fatal blow to the American Democratic Experiment. I think many of you sense it, but until this November’s election is done and the impact of the unlimited corporate money which is on its way now from the American fascist establishment into the election process, you won’t be able to appreciate just how deadly that ruling is.

At the time it was passed, dissenting Justice Stevens wrote:

[Citizens United] “threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation. The path it has taken to reach its outcome will, I fear, do damage to this institution.” He wrote: “A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold.”

And Stevens took a swipe at corporations too:

“Stevens discussed how the unique qualities of corporations and other artificial legal entities made them dangerous to democratic elections. These legal entities, he argued, have perpetual life, the ability to amass large sums of money, limited liability, no ability to vote, no morality, no purpose outside of profit-making, and no loyalty”

Let’s recap briefly the new rules of the game that Citizens United brings.

1. Anyone and that means any person, or corporation (even foreign owned or registered ones like Halliburton) can spend whatever they want to say whatever they want to influence you the voter as to who to vote for. Money equals free speech under Citizens United and it doesn’t matter where the money comes from and it is the money that decides which ‘free speech’ you hear and which you don’t. Spend just one evening watching Fox ‘News’ and you know what this means.

2. The people and corporations who will spend the most money are the ones who have the most to spend and are most likely to gain from ‘buying’ an election – that is the rich, the 1%, who will have their bought-and-paid-for politicians write the rules in their favour so that they will accumulate even more wealth.

3. They don’t have to tell you who they are in some cases (e.g. 501c4s like the NRA and Karl Rove’s patently fascist SuperPAC for some reason), and even if they do, you won’t know who and how much until *after* the election is decided.

St. Ronald Raygun (yes, really!):

“It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.”

So welcome America to the ‘Best Democracy Money Can Buy’ - this 8 minute video recaps all I have said here and more and also calls for a constitutional amendment to redefine persons and therefore undermine CU. I for one, have no confidence that an amendment will go anywhere – to start with it would require 67 Senators who do not owe their office to corporate money to be ready to vote and November 2012 is coming first. IMO CU is an irrevocable and fatal wound to the American Democratic Experiment (1776 – 2010 RIP) – it was a good run everyone.

The Waltering Hole, Monday, June18th, 2012: Bannerman Castle, Revisited

I don’t often read the local “Southern Dutchess Focus” of the Poughkeepsie Journal newspaper, but this past Saturday’s cover caught my eye. The color photo dominating the page was headlined: “Concerts, tours set on island”; in the photo, a couple of tables full of people are dining near a hedge in the forefront, with part of a castle ruin looming beyond the hedge. I immediately thought of Bannerman Castle, about which our own WaltTheMan had once written, and a quick glance at the caption under the photo confirmed that it was, indeed, Bannerman Castle.

Bannerman Castle on Bannerman Island (officially “Pollopel Island”)

The historic castle, built in 1901 by military supplies dealer Frank Bannerman, was severely damaged over the decades by explosion, fire, and, eventually, neglect. In 2011, fundraising and lobbying efforts were begun by the Bannerman Island Trust. According to a February, 2011 article in Private Island News (always part of my daily reading, how ’bout you?):

The castle on Bannerman Island – also known as Pollepel Island – is under the domain of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The primary public action group is the Bannerman Castle Trust, Inc., a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness of the castle’s plight and stabilizing the structure itself – which has decayed more and more with every winter on the stormy Hudson. It will take a lot of work to bring the castle back to its former glory – but at this point, the Trust would be happy with just keeping its hollow remains standing…
Picturesque boat tours around the island are becoming popular, and the Trust offers “hard-hat” tours of the ruins with all proceeds going towards restoration.”

According to the Poughkeepsie Journal‘s article, this year the Bannerman Castle Trust’s goal is to collect at least $150,000 in donations:

“This summer will be an important one for the Bannerman Castle Trust. By Sept. 12, the group needs to raise $150,000 to secure a matching $150,000 grant from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund…To attract more visitors to Bannerman Island this summer, a new touring experience has been created allowing people to take a self-guided tour; afterward they can enjoy a boxed lunch from a local restaurant, and hear live music. The “boxed lunch” tours will be on the third Sunday of every month through October.”

WaltTheMan had made me aware of an historical landmark in my area of which I had been previously ignorant. I think that the least I can do to thank Walt would be to help the Bannerman Castle Trust reach its fundraising goal. By doing so, I’d feel that I was, in a very small way, making Walt proud.

This is our daily open thread — comment on anything you want!

Sunday Roast: Sauvie Island

Soon, these flowers will be over-flowing the sides of these beds.

A view across the wheat field.

Cathedral Park, below the St Johns bridge.

The beautiful St Johns Bridge, located near Sauvie Island.

Photos by Charles Meier

Sauvie Island is a lovely and pastoral island in the Columbia River, just west of Portland.  The island has a quiet country atmosphere, with wheat fields, nurseries, veggie stands, several inhabited Osprey nests, and a “clothing optional” beach on the east side of the island.  I haven’t been…

This is our daily open thread — Enjoy

The Watering Hole – Saturday June 16, 2012 “Tucker Knows Better”

Earlier in the week, a reporter named Neil Munro, who works for Tucker Carlson’s virtual fish wrapper, The Daily Caller, interrupted President Obama as he was delivering prepared remarks in the Rose Garden.

Tucker Carlson, in his ever-increasing desire to be labeled history’s biggest dick, defended the reporter’s behavior saying, “What’s wrong with asking the president a question?” Nothing. In fact it’s a perfectly legitimate expression of our First Amendment rights. Except that there is a time and a place for such questions, and during the president’s prepared remarks is not one of them. And as Shep Smith of Fox News Channel said of his colleague, “Tucker knows better.” And yet Tucker sees nothing wrong with it. Why does anyone pretend Tucker Carlson matters anymore?

This is our Open Thread.  You don’t have to complain about Tucker Carlson, but I won’t stop you if you do.

The Watering Hole: June 15 — Planet Earth, Handle With Care

Now and then, I need a reminder that the political ugliness in this world is not the only thing of which we’re made, so I search out the beauty of this planet on the YouTubes.

This video is comprised of clips from the BBC series “Planet Earth,” and it helps restore my perspective, within the greater scheme of things.

My favorite part is…all of it.  In particular, I can’t help but notice the amazing and powerful effects of WATER in etching the wonderful and gorgeous features of our home.

A quote from one of my favorite movies sums it up…

Sayuri: My mother always said my sister, Satsu was like wood. As rooted to the earth as a sakura tree… But she told me I was like water… Water can carve its way through stone. And when trapped, water makes a new path.

I can relate.

This is our Friday open thread — What’s on your mind?