Republican Noise Machine Accuses President Of Politicizing 9-11

The full Republican media “noise” machine is rising up in a full-scale “hissy fit” because the President pointed out that Osama bin Laden was killed a year ago, under his watch. They are pretending to be absolutely outraged, accusing the President of politicizing the killing of bin Laden.
Yes, that would be the very same Republicans known for this:

Here is the 9-11 video shown at the Republican National Convention (oh, no, no politicizing here, look away, look away):

Yes, these Republicans: (Watch the whole video, and remember.)

Yes, those Republicans.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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The Politics of 2012 and Maybe 2016

Will Sarah Palin, Congressman Paul Ryan or Newt go under the bus? This is quite a polemic for our Republican brethren that have always made hay on their brilliant use of language while we Dems contemplated our sleepy intellectualism. Perhaps finally in the aftermath of the failed assassination attempt on Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, the President’s irrefutable victories, and the Arab spring — maybe the forces have finally aligned for the Democrats together with social media to counter balance the megaphone of the Right wing propaganda.
Given that language and propaganda are not working, who will be the first to be thrown under the bus for the greater good of the Republican Party? Will it be Sarah our old pal from the McCain campaign that has built a $25M industry around her 2008 candidacy to the chagrin of the Party elders? Or will it be the “real” Palin appropriately coined as such by the supporters of Michelle Bachman on national television? Or have the women folk run their course in Republican Land? And if so has the time come to “man-up” with a few good, old white conservative male Governors from Conservativeville – like Tim Pawlenty or Jon Huntsman? Or better yet will it be Newt who inappropriately danced on the head of Congressman Paul Ryan and his budget plan — only to refute it later? Sadly, for the Republicans all of this is off putting for guys like Mitt, or even Governor Chris Christie that appeal to the moderates of both parties.
Admittedly, any candidate, male or female, needs the proverbial brass cajoles, or other such accoutrements to challenge this sitting President after the take down of Osama bin Laden. This factoid together with Obama’s recent tough stance on the Middle East clearly levels the playing field. The scare tactics of the past cannot work at this rodeo particularly when bundled with the wholesale lunacy of the Republican leadership on the debt ceiling, Medicare and the budget. Vice President Biden in an LA Times piece summarizes well when referring to the Osama take-down as a “defining moment” for the Obama presidency. Certainly, this together with the broken Republican message machine is having an impact. Terms like “Mediscare” are not getting the same kind of traction as “ObamaCare” did just last year, or the coinage of the term “entitlement” used to pollute a whole generations’ thinking on Medicare and Social Security. Of course, Newt and his merry gang of language shapers keep trying to spin, but it is not sticking. Maybe in Newt’s case, folks have had enough of those that behave badly, pander family values, but live on the edge of exorbitant wealth. For him it appears that there is just no way to explain away things like the Tiffany’s account to the Middle Class. Further is there now cause to wonder if the day has come for Sarah, sweet Sarah, who walks the walk on reality television, but lives shall we say in Palin vernacular, high off the hog.
Indeed, the President and the Party are on the right side of the budget, Medicare, Social Security, national security, jobs and climate change. But can he and the Dems maintain this momentum when the banks, remember those pesky money men, continue to behave poorly. The reality is that folks are as fed up with these fat cats as they are with the empty threats of Right wing rhetoric and the bad behavior of men of a certain age and power whether they represent Hollywood, government or international politics.
Note to the Democratic Party: clean up the banks, the bankers and all of the bad behavior of their ilk and 2012 is a shoe-in, and maybe even 2016. Let’s think like Republicans and chart the waters for the next eight years.

What Sen. Spector’s Party Switch Tells California Voters

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.
Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen (“Single-Bullet“) Specter switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party this week.  Rush Limbaugh reacted to this news by welcoming Specter’s departure, and added, “take McCain with you.”

Specter left because the extremist wing of the Republican Party — the ones who listen to and agree with Rush Limbaugh and will tolerate absolutely no compromise of any kind from the most extreme conservative positions — have taken over and are driving others out. This rightmost element, who call themselves the only “real Republicans” have a special name for people like Arlen Specter and John McCain.  They call them “RINOs.”  RINO stands for “Republican In Name Only” and refers to Republicans who are not conservative enough to meet approval of the absolutists.  (What is conservative enough?  Half of Texas Republicans want Texas to secede from the United States.)

Arlen Specter is hardly a liberal.  He has a solidly conservative voting record, (after switching parties he voted against President Obama’s budget), but not conservative enough for the hard core purists.  John McCain won the ire of this element for not supporting torture.

The Limbaugh branch of the party have been working to drive moderate-right members like Specter and McCain out, and are increasingly successful.  Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe, another target of this element, warned that,

“being a Republican moderate sometimes feels like being a cast member of ‘Survivor’ — you are presented with multiple challenges, and you often get the distinct feeling that you’re no longer welcome in the tribe.”

This demonstrates just how far the Republican Party has moved from its roots.  They have drifted so far away from their mission that even their last Presidential candidate is being urged to leave the party!  They have drifted so far from their mission that the “party of Lincoln” has a solid contingent supporting having their states secede from the Union!

This hard-core extremism is also being demonstrated in California, where not a single Repubilcan will vote for a budget — any budget — because their strategy for the state is to “let it go into bankruptcy, let it go off a cliff, we need to prove a point.”  The reason that crazy-sounding line has quotation marks around it is because it is a quote.  It is also the definition of extremism.  And, combined with the 2/3 rule that lets them block budgets, it is the reason California is becoming ungovernable.

Roberts and Trounstine at Calbuzz write that, “the California Republican Party is doomed to minority status” by this extremism.  For example, California Republican Party chairman Ron Nehring said of Specter’s defection,

“The Republican Party didn’t leave Arlen Specter. Arlen Specter left the Republican Party some time ago,” Mr. Chairman said in his statement. “Arlen Specter decided on his own – no one forced him – to violate core Republican principles by voting for the wasteful $787 billion stimulus bill while every single House Republican, including California’s entire Republican delegation, voted with taxpayers in opposition instead.”

In other words, it violates Republican principles to vote to help the people.  The “taxpayers” they “support” are their wealthy and corporate campaign donors.  And, they add, it doesn’t make sense for Party leaders to “applaud Specter’s defection, as if losing prominent party members holds the key
to growing the party and returning it to majority status.”

Why they are wrong:  The hard-core conservative values these people support are “limited government, free markets and personal responsibility.”  But what is this government that they want to limit?  Abraham Lincoln, another RINO, famously said that our American government is “of the people, by the people and for the people.”  So today’s Republicans want to limit the people’s ability to make decisions (government by the people) and instead hand this ability over to “the market” (ruled by big corporations.)  They want to replace a country where we watch out for and take care of each other (government for the people) with a system where we are all left on our own at the mercy of these corporations — which they call “personal responsibility.” 

There is an alternative to the extremist right’s approach.  Progressive values and policies are better for people.  Instead of limiting our government progressives believe that the people should have more power to make the decisions that affect all of us.  Instead of a one-dollar-one-vote “market” approach to decision-making, progressives believe in one-person-one-vote equality where people are on an equal footing, with an equal right to benefit from our common resources. 

Progressives believe in a community-based, democratic approach to deciding how we should run our state and country.  We’re here for each other, not just for ourselves.

So let’s welcome all those disenfranchised Republicans into our tent. We’re big enough and tolerant enough of differing opinions, so long as the best interests of the people are at heart. I think they’ll like being part of a true democracy where the people come first.

P.S. See Assemblymember Nancy Skinner’s invitation to Republicans.
Click through to Speak Out California and leave a comment.

CA’s Budget Problem Is Paragraph 10

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
Today’s San Jose Mercury News front page story is about California’s budget problem: that they are still one vote short. But Californians reading the story are not told why one more vote is required, not are they told who it is required from — until the 10th paragraph. The 10th paragraph reads,

The votes were there in the Assembly. But in the Senate, only two Republican senators were prepared to buck party orthodoxy and vote to raise taxes. Three were needed.

Even in this 10th paragraph readers are not informed that every Democrat is voting for the budget.
Before this paragraph, readers are told that “lawmakers” cannot agree and that “the deal still was held hostage by the thinnest of margins.” But there is nothing telling them who or why.
The reason this is such a problem is that the people of California need this information, to help them play their part in the functioning of our state government. The voters need to know who to hold accountable or they will not make their wishes known through calls to their Assemblymember’s or Senator’s office. And they can’t make informed decisions at election time.
This is typical of stories about the budget impasse — across the state the major newspapers, radio and TV stations are not giving the voters the information they need in order to participate in their government. The result is that the state is becoming ungovernable — and going broke.
So let’s be clear about what is happening here. California’s elected Republicans have all signed a “no-new-taxes” pledge with Grover Norquist’s organization. (He’s the guy who says the plan is to make government small enough to “drown in a bathtub.”) So now they see the budget crisis as an opportunity to force mass layoffs of state employees and reductions in support for people who need things like state-supplied oxygen tanks. They call that “reducing government.” And even with all the budget cuts that the Democrats have all voted for, they still will not vote to pass a budget. They want more, and then more, and then they want the state government to go away.
This is ideology. They repeat an ideological mantra that will ruin the state. And they say this is their goal — to get rid of government. They say government is bad. They say government spending is bad. They say taxes are bad. They say corporations are good. Ideology.
California can not continue to fund our schools, universities, roads, public safety, firefighters, health services, services to the poor, blind and elderly, provide funding for local government, etc. without additional revenues. Do the Mat (George Skelton, LA Times):

It’s Republican dogma in the Capitol that to vote for a tax increase is “career-ending.” Even if true — and there’s evidence both ways — so what?
These are folks, after all, who sermonize against making politics a career, publicly pretend to worship term limits and preach the virtues of private enterprise. You’d think they’d be eager to return to the private sector. Yet, they’re afraid to risk losing out on their next political job.

Another item not reported is that the Republicans demanded a huge tax cut for large corporations — the very kind that are killing off California’s smaller independent, job-creating businesses.
And they still won’t vote for the budget. And the public still doesn’t have a chance to learn what is going on here.
Click through to Speak Out California

The Press Is Fogging The Reason For The Budget Stalemate

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
Friday morning’s San Francisco Chronicle story, Legislature’s approval rating at a record low, illustrates why California’s budget impasse continues. From the article,

“Democrats and the minority Republicans have hunkered down, with neither side willing to make the compromises needed to put together a budget plan that can garner the required two-thirds support.”

The budget problem is that reporting like this keeps the public from understanding what is happening in Sacramento.
Here is what is happening with the budget:

  • The Democrats have offered plan after plan, accepting deep budget cuts, some borrowing and offering various ways to raise revenue.
  • The Governor has offered a plan, with deep budget cuts, borrowing, and a temporarysales tax increase.
  • The Republicans have refused to compromise, refusing any budget that raises any revenue at all, not even asking the extremely wealthy to pay the same sales taxes that the rest of us have to pay.

It is just that simple. The Republicans have been blocking the budget and they are getting away with it because the press refuses to report that the Republicans are blocking the budget. If the press reported this simple fact public pressure would build and the Republicans would have to yield.
Update – A comment on the possible budget “compromise”: It just kicks the can down the road by delaying dealing with our problems. It doesn’t fix anything, and cuts essential services from the people who need government most. In fact it just makes it much, much harder to solve the problem in the next budget because it steals revenue from next year.
Click through to Speak Out California

California’s Conservatives Want To Get What They DON’T Pay For

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
California’s elected Republicans continue to block any and all efforts to pass a budget, because any honest budget must ask the wealthy and big corporations to pay their fair share. Even the Governor’s extremely modest one cent sales tax increase was too much for them.
So let’s talk about paying a fair share. David Sirota has a good column today at the Campaign for America’s Future blog, The Aristocrats, Part II – Starring George Will. In the column Sirota writes about wealthy Republicans who complain when regular people get decent pay for performing services that benefit … guess who … wealthy Republicans. Sirota writes,

In a column about underfinanced municipal pension systems today, Will expresses deep anger that veteran police, firefighters and municipal workers eventually get paid well for their services. In one California town on San Francisco Bay, Will tells us that – gasp! – “after just five years, all police and firefighters are guaranteed lifetime health benefits.” The horror.
Such salaries and benefits, of course, are part of a bargain: Enticing people to turn down the high-paying private-sector job and instead run into burning buildings (firefighters), do the dangerous work of apprehending criminals (police), disposing of sewage (garbage collectors) and administrating all the other services that conservatives pretend aren’t necessary (municipal workers) requires, well, an enticement – namely, the promise that making such a public-minded choice will result in decent and stable pay and benefits.
When you accept a public sector job, that’s the bargain: In exchange for being willing to do a tough job and accepting that you won’t have the chance to make hundreds of millions dollars like a corporate CEO, you are rewarded with the chance – if you play by the rules – to make a pretty good living.

Yes, there is a BARGAIN at work here. We, the People have built a system that has been working pretty darn well for the rich. We built a system of roads, schools, courts, police departments and firefighters. We built up a system of laws. We work in the factories and offices.
So we built the system and the rules, and we enforce the rules, and it works out pretty darn well to make a few people really rich. But when we then ask for something BACK — pensions, health care, even worker safety laws — that is just too much. Never mind the bargain, the social compact that was in place. Asking for a penny sales tax increase or asking the wealthiest to pay the same sales taxes as the rest of us when they buy a yacht or jet, well NO that is just TOO much to ask! So they block the budget.
Sirota continues,

That is, conservatives want to renege on the bargain – forgetting the old adage that you get what you pay for, and you don’t get what you don’t pay for.
The hypocrisy of this logic is obvious when you consider that the Right rarely – if ever – complains about, say, executives ripping off shareholders and harming companies’ fiscal health.

So there you have it. California’s elected Republicans want it all, but don’t want us to ask the corporations and wealthy individuals who finance their campaigns to help PAY for it all.
P.S. Adding insult to injury, the column in which conservative George Will complains that firefighters don’t deserve health insurance and pensions was written to run on September 11. Some of us remember the incredible bravery and sacrifice of New York’s firefighters and how it demonstrated the importance of the physical, legal and services infrastructure that We, the People built.
Join the discussion at Dave Johnson, Speak Out California

Republicans Block Everything, Now Say Nothing Getting Done So Vote For Them

Remember how impeaching Bush was “off the table” so the Congress could get important work done? For a refresher, here is one conversation with Speaker Pelosi on this:

Dave Johnson (of Seeing the Forest):

We seem to be at a historic time right now with an administration that is starting to frankly assert that they are above the rule of law, and I’m wondering if you as Speaker can give us a short statement on this issue and what Congress is prepared to do to re-assert the rule of law of the people of the country.

(Follow [this link and scroll down] to read her response.) Then Mike Stark asked about impeachment. Her reply,

I made a decision a few years ago, or at least one year ago, that impeachment was something that we could not be successful with and that would take up the time we needed to do some positive things to establish a record of our priorities and their short-comings, and the President is… ya know what I say? The President isn’t worth it… he’s not worth impeaching. We’ve got important work to do… If he were at the beginning of his term, people may think of it differently, but he’s at the end of his terms. The first two years of his term, if we came in as the majority, there might be time to do it all…

Mike, of course, responded,

Mike Stark: Respectfully, that’s not the question. Respectfully, the question is whether or not the Constitution is worth it.

Many argue that impeachment will distract the Congress from passing a progressive agenda. That is a pipe dream. The Republicans in the Senate are blocking everything. The President will veto anything that passes. And if something somehow manages to become law the Republicans and the President will just ignore it anyway.

The following from today’s Wall Street Journal is right-wing propaganda so of course doesn’t explain that the reason nothing got done is that Republicans blocked everything. But this was the point we in the Netroots were trying to make — the Republicans are going to block everything anyway… Here is the right today: As U.S. Economic Problems Loom, House, Senate Sweat the Small Stuff,

Barring a burst of legislative activity after Labor Day, this group of 535 men and women will have accomplished a rare feat. In two decades of record keeping, no sitting Congress has passed fewer public laws at this point in the session — 294 so far — than this one. That’s not to say they’ve been idle. On the flip side, no Congress in the same 20 years has been so prolific when it comes to proposing resolutions — more than 1,900, according to a tally by the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense.

In November 2007 I made some predictions for what we would see happen in time for this year’s Presidential election. One of my predictions for the w008 election was:

3) Accusations that we have a Do-Nothing Ineffective Congress — Republicans are filibustering everything, and Bush is vetoing the rest. Every single bill. The media is already running with a “Dems won’t compromise’ and “Dems can’t get anything done” narrative and Congress is at a record low approval. You bet we’ll be hearing this – they are hard at work developing it. Unless the Democrats start making a lot of noise about this and sustain it -and get the media to report the facts – the Republicans will get away with it.

Guess what, the Republicans blocked everything, and now say the Democratic Congress is not getting anything done. Duh!
But who could have seen that coming?

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All You Need To Know about Republican Accusations

When you are deciding whether to listen to a Republican when they talk about Democrats as “appeasers,” consider this. Crooks and Liars has the story of Oliver North on Fox News backing up Republican accusations that Democrats are “appeasers.”
So who is Oliver North? Oliver North is the guy that Republican President Ronald Reagan sent to provide weapons and missiles to Iran.
Let me repeat that because many people today are either too young or don’t remember what happened in the 1980s. Not long after the Iranians stormed the American embassy in Tehran and took several American diplomats hostage for 444 days, Republicans gave them missiles and other weapons. Oliver North, hero of the American Right and Fox News pundit, gave advanced weaponry to Iran.
And now they call Democrats “appeasers.”
It’s called the Seeing the Forest Rule: When Republicans accuse others of something, it usually means it is something they are doing. (See also.)
Is there anything else you need to know about Republicans?

Authoritarians

I’ve been thinking that the problem we are dealing with in this country is not an ideological left/right battle at all, but rather the rise of the authoritarian personality-type in our politics. Authoritarians have seized the label of “conservative” but this crowd is not at all conservative – not even anything like traditional Republicans. I have always had the sense that the current crop of “conservative movement” wingnuts would attach themselves to any ideology if it helped them achieve power.
Maybe what the country needs is a personality test before someone can run for office – sort of like the Strategic Air Command tests given to people before they’re allowed to handle nuclear missile launch keys…
What do you think?

America’s Two Party System: The Marketing Party and The Product Party

Co-written with James Boyce, first published at Huffington Post.
We do have a two-party system in America: The Product Party and The Marketing Party. We have one party that spends its energy and its resources creating a product that will improve the lives of its supporters, and then we have a second party, one that invests its energy and its resources managing perception.
One party offers substance but without the sizzle, and one is so incredibly adept at selling that it can charm you into supporting an agenda that helps only those who don’t need it, and actually hurts you and your family.
By mastering the management of perception and with an utter disregard for facts and reality, the Marketing Party’s agenda and vision gets implemented – despite its horrendous consequences for the country, and the world. It has never been worse than it is now. The chasm between their vision, its consequences and the lifestyle and security of the average American is mind-boggling.
Do not underestimate the power of marketing. With enough money, a good campaign and some time, you really can make people think and do almost anything. Exactly why do you think Coke and Pepsi outsell all the other brands – because their sugar water is vastly superior to others? Exactly why do you think one brand of shampoo is “premium” and another is $5 a gallon – is it because they have different ingredients? No, it is because marketing works, especially on a public increasingly trained to respond.

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Last Week’s Kerry ‘Fiasco’ Was Very Good For Dems

I think last week’s media explosion over Kerry’s botched joke was a good thing for the Democrats.
In case you were on the moon last week, let me go over what happened. Kerry was making a joke about Bush not having studied hard in school and ending up getting us stuck in Iraq, and left out the word “us.” Republicans decided to try to trick people into thinking that Kerry – a war hero who had volunteered to serve in combat after graduating from Yale – was “insulting our troops.” They sent instructions out to their echo chamber to pretend to be outraged. They cranked up the phony outrage across the internet, got the story onto The Drudge Report, got Rush Limbaugh to “run with it,” and then the TV networks started non-stop coverage and commentary. It was an instant, manufactured media frenzy. And then it went away. Just like that.
So here is why I think in the end this was a very good thing for the Democrats.
1) It distracted the Republican machine. Kerry isn’t running for anything but the entire conservative outrage machine spent 2 days attacking him instead of talking about anything relevant to the election and to the concerns of voters. Who CARES what John Kerry said? This is not to run down Kerry, but for voters to care it has to be about SOMEONE OR SOMETHING THAT MATTERS TODAY. In this election what John Kerry said just doesn’t matter because he isn’t running for anything.
But the Republican noise machine IS capable of influencing the public and doing real damage. That was two days in which they could have been causing trouble and instead they were entirely focused on something that just does not matter.
2) Crying ‘wolf’ too many times reduces the effect of crying “wolf.” (That’s why they call it “crying wolf.”) The Republicans cranked up their machine to absolute full volume over something that wasn’t true and just didn’t matter, and everybody had to listen to it. So the realization that these people cry “wolf” is sinking in.
John Kerry DIDN’T SAY WHAT THEY SAID HE SAID, and everyone knew it. And it JUST DIDN’T MATTER and everyone knew it. They were crying “wolf” AND EVERYONE KNEW IT!
3) It allowed us a peek behind the curtain. We’re becoming more and more aware of how the Republicans do it, how the sound machine works and how the phony outrage and smear machine operates. We’re learning about their techniques. So we’re watching and learning, and this week was like a lab experiment for studying conservative outrage and smears. We are learning how to react, how to keep from getting sucked into the defensiveness game, and how to fight back. Two years ago the swiftboating of Kerry cost him the election. This year Kerry – and all of us by extension – understood more about what was happening and responded effectively.
So yes, I think last week’s media frenzy was, on balance, very good for the Democrats.