Wednesday, February 25, 2009

RECESSION: Gov. Jindal's Bail Out . . . to Disney World

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has weakened Republican credibility even more after delivering his response to President Obama's speech to Congress on Tuesday night. The Associated Press noted that Jindal's speech, broadcast nationwide from the Louisiana Governor's mansion, was, "Insane. Childish. Disaster. And those were some of the kinder comments from political pundits."

Even Rush Limbaugh had to scratch around in the back of his painful plaudit pantry to try to put some sort of positive face on Jindal's threadbare recitation. Blaming President Obama for being an inspirational orator, Rush grumbled, "We cannot shun politicians who speak for our beliefs just because we don't like the way he says it."

The choice of the 37 year old Jindal, a relative political newcomer, to be the one to deliver his party's party line was certainly consistent with other recent lackluster GOP selections including Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin as their Vice Presidential candidate and recently elected National Republican Committee Chairman, Michael Steele whose most noticeable talent is divisive ranting right off the bat.

Sarah Palin, who is basically clueless, can at least connect with the dwindling rabid hard core Right Wing base when given a list of talking points. Jindal fell flat with Republicans as well as Democrats as he unconvincingly mumbled his way through tired 'government is the problem' sop. New York Times conservative columnist, David Brooks, minced no words about Jindal's comments given the dire economic crisis the nation now faces, calling them,"insane" and tone-deaf."

Jindal is the son of Indian immigrants, and, unlike Sarah Palin, is, indeed, a Rhodes Scholar. He has attracted the attention of the GOP because of his improbable political rise to power in Louisiana. Interestingly, Jindal and Palin have extreme religious experiences in common. Palin, a Pentacostal who speaks in tongues, had an African witch doctor on a visit to her church chant and pray to cast out any lingering demons that might be after her. The demon bashing ritual, held in Palin's Alaska church, is still a YouTube favorite.

Jindal, a devout Catholic, detailed in an essay he wrote in 1994 for The Oxford Review how he took part in an exorcism to cast out a supernatural spirit that had possessed his friend. Jindal wrote that he believes her cancer was even cured by their ritual in addition to sending the demon packing. Palin and Jindal both scare the hell out of many Americans.

It may be telling that Governor Jindal, after delivering his Obama response, later went upstairs and helped his wife and children pack for a planned trip to Disney World. You can't make up this stuff. They left today and I have to wonder if Bobby will make a visit to The Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square at Magic Kingdom Theme Park his first stop. It is a 23-minute stage show featuring every American president, past and present. Then, after that he could find a nice spot on the street outside to watch the 'Disney Dreams Come True Parade.' It passes right by the Hall of Presidents.

Jindal needs a nice vacation from work before he returns home to Louisiana to refuse tens of millions of dollars in federal emergency unemployment benefit stimulus assistance. He won't accept the needed Federal money because that would mean Louisiana would finally have to expand access to unemployment insurance programs in his state to part time and other workers who now get nothing under ancient deep-South eligibility requirements.

Jindal makes it clear that he thinks that kind of use of federal dollars to help folks who need it most is just plain Goofy.

Graphic by Larry Ray with apologies to Mickey

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cable TV: A Republican Punch and Judy Show

merica's Cable TV carnival midway is more and more becoming our modern day equivalent of the old traveling Punch and Judy Shows. Viewers gaze at the loud animated talking heads, following the verbal head-bopping, screaming and whining as the partisan puppeteers perform almost hourly on TV.

This has been a boon, especially to angry deluded and ignored Bush-era Republicans. They still do not want to admit that the only way to fight rising joblessness is for the US Government to spend lots of cash, in a hurry. Even though they have no moral right to lecture America after the past eight disastrous years, they loudly repeat the old disproved arguments that tax cuts and tax credits alone will solve our growing problems. The truth or logic of what they say matters little. Their show must go on, for re-elections are not far off.

Lovable Lindsey Graham, South Carolina's bachelor Senator who is disliked not only by liberal progressives, but also by ultraconservatives back in his home state, has a way with words. When he uttered, on live TV, "If I may say, if this is going to be bipartisanship, the country's screwed," there were looks of puzzlement and incredulity. His House minority party voted against the stimulus bill. That's what opposition parties do. But America is not "screwed" to use Lindsey's eloquent oratory, just because the Republicans marched in lock step with their No vote. They offered no new or remotely useful alternatives to help reverse the course of the deepening recession. The lack of help from impotent Republicans in an historic time of crisis caused no screwing whatsoever . . . of America or anything else.

Virginia's Representative and Minority Whip, Eric Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the US House of Representatives, is being touted as a latter day Newt Gingrich. Cantor has been all over the airwaves with his authoritative, stentorian monologue, kvetching about the fatal flaws in the Democrat's stimulus bill. It is mostly so much hysterical bull. Cantor, performing on Fox News a few weeks ago, gave one of his examples of fraud and waste, recounting that in a meeting with President Obama, he asked if the President "could use his influence on this process to try and get the pork barrel spending out of the bill. I mean, there's $300,000 for a sculpture garden in Miami."

What a ghastly picture of utter waste . . . on art! Except it was totally false. Cantor staffers pulled an example of a National Endowment for the Arts project funded under its budget last year then said it was in the projected stimulus bill. It is not. Even after awarded Cantor a "Pants on Fire" false rating for his claim, he has continued to make it repeatedly. But he puts on a real righteous show for TV. Never matter it is tacky Punch and Judy drama.

And let’s not forget TV’s crying soap opera star, Senator John Boehner. Even his own party seems to be trying to lower the Minority Leader’s profile on TV after repeated gaffes. A master of the mis-quote, Boehner announced, "Israel is a critical American ally and a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, not a 'constant sore' as Barack Obama claims."

Well, President Obama said no such thing. The ‘constant sore’ reference was to the entire problematic Middle East situation. The public should still have that image of Boehner, like a jolly Punch character, actually handing out checks from the tobacco industry on the House floor. Yet he would lecture the new President.

Cable TV news and commentary channels seem to make little distinction between featuring a live two-headed mule on their shows or a live falsehood-spouting politician. Both can astound, disgust and amaze viewers. But the mule cannot talk. However, it can bray just like politicians. More and more, the off button on the TV remote seems the best choice.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rebublican Obstructionists Still Don't Get It

n November 4th, 2008 Americans overwhelmingly said ENOUGH! Voters said they had had enough of penny-pinching, closed-minded conservatives trashing our economy and our worldwide reputation. Yet those very conservative paragons of parsimony still haven't gotten the message: "No one wants to hear from you any more."

The Republicans have been working overtime telling GOP Grim Fairy Tales about "their plan" to fix America's problems. Problems their leadership actually caused. The "liberal media" they have loudly denounced for decades has opened the airwaves to feature the worst and loudest of the nay-saying tale tellers, day after day. Boehner's braying, Vitter's vitriol, Hutchinson's hollering, Ensign's exaggerations, and McCain's moaning has created a dismal daily din.

The three Republican Senators who did vote to approve a desperately needed stimulus bill have been hailed as heroes for joining the Democrats and low-life kamikaze rejects by their GOP chamber-mates.

Instead of thinking about America first and a looming, worsening recession, these Righteous Right-wingers are thinking mostly of themselves and their political futures. They know that their "base" back home, as ultraconservative and ultra-narrow as they are, will not hesitate to poison the next primary when they come up for reelection. The rabid folks back home will pick a new, even more strident wing-nut candidate to run against them if they don't toe the line and oppose anything that doesn't start with the words tax-cut, tax-credit or tax-rebate.

"The House Republican Economic Recovery Plan," posted on the web by the GOP, lists five steps they claim will actually move us up out of their mess without spending any money at all. It seems clear why serious recovery plan economic experts didn't show any interest in hearing all this again:

"Immediate Tax Relief for Working Families"
"House Republicans propose reducing the lowest individual tax rates from 15% to 10% and from 10% to 5%." No stimulus here. No plan for badly needed infusion of cash money. Instead a promised annual benefit of $500 in tax relief on the low end all the way to an astounding $1,200 under the 10% bracket. Non-working families are not mentioned. Maybe they will get a coupon for some boot-straps by which to pull themselves up.

"No Tax Increases to Pay For Spending"
"House Republicans believe that any stimulus spending should be paid for by reducing other government spending, not raising taxes." The trillion dollar tooth fairy will visit America's pillows, perhaps?

"Assistance for the Unemployed"
Here, they make a little bit sound like a lot, proposing "to make unemployment benefits tax free so that those individuals between jobs can focus on providing for their families." And they will allow that largess for nine whole months, March to December 2009! What the hell else would we be focusing on while unemployed? Imagine the joy a year from now at tax time when you are still jobless but don't have to pay taxes on jobless benefits for 9 months of last year!

"Stabilizing Home Values"
"House Republicans propose a home-buyers credit of $7,500 for those buyers who can make a minimum down-payment of 5%." That breathtaking plan would only be for "responsible buyers," by the way. They say nothing about "responsible lenders." Nothing about buying up all their buddies' toxic sub-prime mortgages. That would involve spending taxpayer moolah.

"Help for America’s Small Businesses"
"House Republicans propose to allow small business to take a tax deduction equal to 20% of their income." You bet . . . 20% of no income will yank shuttered small businesses right up out of this mess.

Nobel laureates, respected economists and lions of the financial world have characterized the present economic crisis as potentially as bad as the crash of 1929. All are clear that only massive quick infusions of cash from the U.S. Government can initiate a turn-around in the dangerous cycle of joblessness, tight credit, business failures and increasing human suffering across America. The private sector alone cannot pull it off without help, and repeating past mistakes like those made in Japan in the 1990's clearly will not work either.

Republicans will continue shouting loudly that the experts are wrong, and that repeating Bush's failed triple try at tax cuts will still, somehow, do the trick. They have to keep up the noise for the base back home. Pitifully, the rest of the Americans outside their home districts are of little concern to them because they will not be voting in their forthcoming primaries. And these bozos wear American flag pins in their lapels.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Obama Press Conference: What a Difference!

President Barack Obama's first prime time press conference should be marked as another historic American moment. Because for the first time in decades we saw an American president patiently, intelligently and completely answer questions from the press.

He genuinely listened to questions from the assembled press corps. Unlike most other presidents since FDR, he took their loaded, presumptive questions and addressed them straight on, with no prepared notes, replying in great, logical detail. His manner was relaxed, persuasive and intelligent.

After eight years of George Bush's evasive, sophomoric and defensive prattle it was energizing to hear a president who clearly knows what he is talking about and who can communicate it in a clear and understandable way. Never resorting to breezy slang, Obama reassuringly demonstrated his wide grasp of the issues and his ability to analyze them.

Again, it seems clear that the pundits and news guessers continue to underestimate Mr. Obama. Their cheap shots and shallow predictions are hollow. He is intellectually miles ahead of the prognosticators and nay sayers. In only 20 days in office he has shown impressive, thoughtful control after being thrown into in a maelstrom of inherited wars, the GOP's massive budget deficit, and the prospect of an economic meltdown not seen since the 1930's.

FDR reportedly had more than a thousand news conferences. Ike was skittish about doing live press conferences and had his recorded for later release. Reagan used his charm as an actor to create a halo effect with the press and public, but he all but stopped press conferences after the damaging heat he took following his Iran-Contra scandal. George Bush Senior became crankier and more confrontational with the press, the worse things got with his one term presidency. Bill Clinton was great with the press, dodging and weaving with long and passionate explanations, but alas, he too shut down his press contacts after the Monica tsunami washed over his desk.

And Little Bush was just a mess. He hated having to submit to actual unrehearsed questions from the press. With no teleprompter to read what someone else had written for him to say, he became twitchy and was likely to say any damned dumb thing. And he did. For eight long years.

That is why President Obama's cool, sincere and informative responses to the press's questions were reassuring at a time when America needs reassurance. Mr. Obama was clearly in control of his press conference. He referred to a carefully planned list of those upon whom he might choose to call. Even veteran White House correspondent, Helen Thomas, got a detailed answer to her rather rambling, whiny, loaded question, but she did not get to talk over Obama for a follow up. He nixed that with professional dignity and when it was over, it was over.

There was also an open offer from Obama to the wailing, recalcitrant conservative Republicans who still have not understood the clear message from the American people. His door remains open to talk when and if they ever come to their senses and start to pitch in with good ideas to correct the disaster their policies have largely caused our nation. They may be sorry they passed up the offer if Obama is forced to really play hard ball.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

STOP: Clear Cutting Boy Scout Forest Land

In the early 1950's the camaraderie of Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Explorer Scouts was the glue that held together small communities like the one in which I grew up in South Texas. In 1953, I got to see America on an old troop train car used to transport Boy Scouts from South Texas via rail from Corpus Christi, Texas to Irvine, California for the World Scout Jamboree, and back. We stopped at Carlsbad Caverns, The Grand Canyon, The Great Salt Lake and other such national landmarks en route. None of us would have ever been able to visit these places otherwise.

No drugs or gangs back then. Young parents were just starting to grab hold of the new, exciting 50's, raising their kids in a new era of hope and prosperity following WWII. Scouting was good, down to earth, and no tort lawyers were involved in limiting how kids played under the guise of "safety and protection."

We were rough and tumble. Camping trips resulted in bee stings, minor burns and scrapes and one buddy even survived using a big poison ivy leaf as toilet paper after doing his business in the bushes. Someone suggested paying a nickle each to get to see the huge water-balloon sized blisters that erupted from his buttocks. But we all survived, learning to be decent kids, to respect nature, and to be polite to elders among some other good early life lessons.

So understanding all that, you will not be surprised that I hit the damned ceiling when I learned that a recent Hearst Newspaper investigation has revealed that " . . . the Boy Scouts have sold at least 34,000 acres of land to logging corporations, allowing big business to level forests that were supposed to have been preserved for Scouts to camp, hike and enjoy unspoiled nature."

Credo Mobile, a 24 year old respected civic advocacy group, has gone to bat to stop the land sale for clear cutting. Credo has the established and respected clout to take on madness like mindless National Council trustees blithely selling off land dedicated to Boy Scouts and intended to instill a respect for nature and the environment.

You can add your voice as well. This kind of Bush-era total disregard has to stop . . . particularly when it is wholesale rape of the environment at the level of the Boy Scouts of America.

Here's the petition and link so you can let your voice be heard. Hope you will take two minutes and join in.

When you think of the Boy Scouts, the first thing that comes to mind is
not clearcutting. It may surprise you to learn, then, that a recent investigation by Hearst Newspapers showed that the Boy Scouts have sold at least 34,000 acres of land to logging corporations, allowing big business to level forests that were supposed to have been preserved for children to learn about and enjoy nature. Additionally, some of the logging in question may have violated state rules. According to the Hearst investigation, one council in Washington state allowed an area to be logged without leaving trees to protect a stream which is home to endangered salmon. I just took action to tell the Boy Scouts of America National Council to end its practice of allowing forests to be logged and endangered species to be put at greater risk. I hope you will, too. Please have a look and take action. Click HERE:

Boy Scout in my composite graphic above by Norman Rockwell

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Last Note from Bush and Friends

Due to recent budget cuts and the rising cost of electricity, gas and oil, as well as current market conditions, the Light at the End of the Tunnel has been turned off.
We apologize for the inconvenience.

George & Dick