Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Republicans Begin Devouring Their Own

It didn’t take the GOP long to begin devouring its own.

No sooner had the Senate passed The Stim yesterday but notorious right-wing funder-in-chief Richard Mellon Scaife’s front organiza- tion, “The National Republican Trust PAC,” sent an urgent e-mail to fellow travellers asking for money to defeat Senators Arlen Specter, Susan Collins and Olympia Snow – all of whom voted for the measure and two of them are up for re-election in 2010.

In large, bold faced type, the e-mail screamed:

We were close to defeating this outrageous plan.

But then three traitorous Republican senators broke ranks to back Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Harry Reid, and the Democrats.

Who are they? Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine.

These three senators have betrayed not only their colleagues but also the basic principles of the Republican Party.

Apparently, to Scaife and Scott Wheeler, executive director at NRTPac, it’s alright to let a coughing, wheezing nation sink into a death throe of unemployment, foreclosures and business failures that would make 1929 and 1930 seem like a garden party by comparison; hell, we’re already teetering on the edge of that particular precipice. Better that than betraying the Republican Party.

But nowhere does the e-mail mention that all of the other House and Senate Republicans – including Specter, Snow and Collins – were busy betraying their country for years while supporting “the basic principles” of their party. Apparently, these basic principles include rubber-stamping everything from the Cheney-engineered and oil industry-written “energy plan” to passing the (un)PATRIOT Act, blindly supporting Bush’s Iraq War folly, turning a blind eye to torture, ignoring Al Gonzales’ crimes at Justice, doubling the national debt and bungling the first half of the Wall St. bailout.

Yes, Mr. Scaife, it’s understandable why you are so determined to rid the party of its few remaining reasonable people and stuff it full of lead headed toadies. Clearly, what will bring the party out of the wilderness voters kicked it into the past two elections are more folks like Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty. Oh, and Richard Mellon Scaife.

Party First, Last, Always

The irrational harangue NRTPac’s Wheeler sent out continues:

Those of us who were forced to watch in pain as liberal Republicans defected to support Democrats now have an outlet for our frustrations.

The truth is that these three liberal Republicans are RINOS – Republicans in Name Only – who are notorious for siding with Democrats when important legislation comes up for a vote.

By supporting The National Republican Trust, you know your donation will be used to punish those RINOs who have sold us out time and time again.

Besides voting to save the Republic from economic catastrophe, exactly how did Specter, Snow and Collins sell out the Republican Party “time and time again”? For a week, Specter blocked the Senate Judiciary Committee from voting on Eric Holder’s Attorney General nomination. Collins pushed tons of tax breaks into The Stim while removing billions for upgrading schools and helping ease state budgets. Snow voted to send Sam Alito to the Supremes.

To Scaife and NRTPac, an elected official’s sole purpose is to support the Republican Party, the nation be damned. To them, the Senate isn’t really “the world’s greatest deliberative body” but a place where Republican Solons do what Rush Limbaugh says.

Really Goofy People

Naturally, NRTPac has its own program to stimulate the economy: More tax cuts for Richard Mellon Scaife and his friends. This despite the fact that economists on the right and left – including Nobel Prize winners – agree that tax cuts won’t get us out of this Republican-engineered economic morass.

But just in case people receiving the e-mail think The Stim might actually be a good idea, Wheeler tosses in the kitchen sink:

It is critically important that we do this, because Obama is planning to push through in the coming weeks for programs like socialized healthcare, reducing our military strength — even legalizing millions of illegal aliens.

Socialized healthcare? When did the president say anything about socialized healthcare? He does believe, like a majority of the country, that everyone should have health coverage but he never whispered a hint about “socializing” medicine.

As for reducing our military strength and legalizing “millions” of illegal aliens, what is Wheeler smoking? Not even socialist Senator Bernie Sanders talks about reducing an overblown military or unconditional amnesty for illegal aliens.

Scaife and Wheeler are really goofy people. What’s sad is there are equally goofy people who’ll read the e-mail and send money.

- With a h/t thanks to Jill Parlee. -

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The GOP Floats Out To Sea, Alone On A Shrinking Iceberg

There isn’t much point showing the Republican Party that they’ve lost it completely and are floating out to sea, alone and abandoned on a shrinking iceberg like an aged bull walrus driven from the herd.

After all, new party chair Michael Steele doesn’t know that when you work, you have a job and vice versa; it doesn’t matter who signs the pay check.

House GOP members should split the cost of a dictionary with Steele because many of them harrumph the stimulus is “just a spending bill,” not grasping that stimulating the economy means government spending. I learned that in a Grade 5 unit on the Great Depression.

Even more preposterous, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell decried the stimulus as not being in Republican interests; I guess he forgot that his party spent 12 years enacting laws protecting “Republican interests.” It’s what heaved us into this nose-diving, sink-hole of an economy to begin with.

He also forgot that his party was routed in two straight elections because Americans had their fill of “Republican interests.”

The nonsense being spouted by the GOP might play well in red corners of the South and among well-heeled donors in Houston or San Diego. But when laid against the desperate faces of the unemployed in Elkhart, Indiana or Fort Myers Florida and Peoria Illinois – all cities in counties that voted for John McCain – who jammed civic centers this week to hear Pres. Obama answer questions about fixing their seemingly-hopeless plight, it is easy to see how divorced from reality the Grand Old Poopniks party has become.

Bury Reagan Already

Just as Democrats ran against Herbert Hoover until well into the Sixties, the Republicans have been trotting out Ronald Reagan for nearly three decades without any real reason except he was a kindly old man with hair dyed orange.

But while Hoover let the country slide deeper and deeper into the Depression, becoming the villain of multiple generations of Americans, Reagan did nearly as much harm as Hoover but pulled off creating a much better persona. Ever seen a picture of Hoover smiling or Reagan frowning? As Will Bunch pointedly documents in Tear Down This Myth, despite what Republicans claim today when invoking their hero, Reagan raised taxes, spending and the government’s size during every year of his two term presidency except the first.

In truth, the so-called Great Communicator was just the ultimate flim-flam artist of his time, slicker than P.T. Barnum but just as adept at remembering “there’s a sucker born every minute.”

The trouble with the Republican Party today is three fold:
1. They actually believe the myth Michael Deaver and Nancy Reagan created about Reagan as a low tax, small government prophet.
2. They somehow believe that Reagan did a good job running the nation during his eight years, forgetting Iran-Contra, Star Wars and a tripling of the defence budget.
3. They think he was responsible for ending the Cold War and bringing the Soviet Union to heel even though it was crumbling economically and socially for at least 10 years before Reagan.

The faster Republicans realise that Reagan was the Wizard of Oz, the quicker they will be able to rehabilitate the party instead of remaining a bunch of braying obstructionists yowling at an eager but dwindling band of fellow travellers.

Recognizing Bankruptcy

There are two sure-fire signs the GOP is intellectually bankrupt: Since the election, it asked Joe the Plumber for advice and it touts Sarah Palin is its next Great White Hope. Between them, I’m not sure they have enough smarts to open a childproof aspirin bottle.

Yet the Democrats in Washington still think the Republicans are worth listening to and actually seem to be paying attention to what they say.

According to Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, every dollar of government spending on projects such as infrastructure returns $1.75 to the economy while every dollar of tax cuts returns only 75-cents to the economy. Even a kid running a lemonade stand in front of her home on a hot August afternoon can figure out which is a better deal. So why did Dems allow 42% of the stimulus package to get eaten up by tax cuts? Yes, some cuts will benefit the middle class but, in dollar terms, the biggest chunk goes to the rich and scandalous – meaning GOP contributors and large businesses.

It makes political sense for Pres. Obama to tell audiences that many who oppose his stimulus bill do so from “sincere conviction.” And there may be one or two people in the House and Senate who do have philosophical objections – but no more than that. And Democrats ought to stop molly-coddling them.

John McCain? He’s such a weathered old whore that, in the same speech this week in the Senate, he opposed and supported tax cuts in the bill. Mitch McConnell? Besides looking like he always smells something bad, he hasn’t stood for a principled idea since arriving in Washington. John Boehner? There’s a photo of Boehner next to the word "charlatan" in the dictionary.

Instead of making nice to vulnerable Senators such as Susan Collins and Olympia Snow, Democrats ought to let them know – using every Senatorial courtesy possible – that if they buck Obama on the stimulus, health care reform and other key measures, they won’t know what hit them in 2010 when they’re up for re-election.

It’s one thing to try fostering a spirit of bi-partisanship in Washington. It’s another to give away 45% of much needed stimulus dollars as tax cuts for the wealthy and for business. If this is a start, what will happen when health care finally reaches the Hill?

Monday, February 9, 2009

February Is A Poignant Month

February is a poignant month for it marks my parent’s wedding anniversary and mother’s birthday, and both come a few weeks after the 10th commemoration of her dying. Probably because Barack Obama’s inauguration is still fresh in my mind, and she was a lifelong progressive Democrat, I’ve been thinking a lot about Joyce lately: More than anyone else, even more than events or friends or causes, it was Joyce who gently nudged me further and further left during her lifetime.

It might seem like a long journey from being the youngest daughter in a family that escaped the worst effects of the Depression to a post-war, suburban wifey with two kids playing in the yard who made a mad dash inside when they smelled cookies coming out of the oven, to becoming a woman so vocally and actively incensed by the world around her that she ended up on one of Richard Nixon’s enemies list.

It might seem to be a long journey but it really wasn’t. Well, not for Joyce.

Raised in a family that managed to financially cling to some scrap of the middle-class through the Great Depression, she grew up in a home where her father ruled. Period. If her mother displeased my grandfather – the grandchildren all called him Papa – somehow, he simply refused to speak to anyone in the house. Sometimes, the silence went on for days.

Doing well in school was very important but so was setting the table properly and helping to get dinner ready on time. Evenings were spent doing homework lying on the floor in front of the humungous Stomberg-Carlson radio in the living room. Family vacations were annual, usually in August at a resort near Green Lake, Wisconsin, a small place with housekeeping cabins that barred Jews, Irish and – it goes without saying – blacks. Since my grandfather was Jewish, when they were very little Joyce and her sister needed a bit of coaching before the trip: “We’re Jewish at home but not on vacation.”

Outwardly, mother grew up an ordinary girl in an ordinary home with ordinary expectations and ordinary dreams. And Joyce was well on her way to living the kind of ordinary life her parent’s anticipated for their two daughters.

Until she hit the University of Wisconsin.

An Early Contrarian

Joyce had it in her head that she wanted to study architecture, a dream that lasted until her first meeting with an academic advisor. That’s when she heard, for the first time in her life, there were limits that come with being born female: “Don’t be silly,” she was told. “Girls can’t be architects. Have you thought about teaching or nursing?”

“Have you thought about encouraging students instead of making them feel like a fool?” was her tart response. She rose to her full five feet nothing tall and stomped from his office feeling as if she were a giant.

Thus was the first early budding of a trouble-making radical.

In fact, after her session with the advisor in 1939, she actually tried organizing a campus protest. Unfortunately for Joyce, she was the only girl at UW that year interested in studying architecture, let alone be willing to protest. The whole thing fizzled before it began. According to Joyce, the only protest her freshman year promoted staying out of the new European war, a rally she refused to attend even though her entire sorority went because she thought America would be in the war eventually and ought to start preparing rather than pretend it was an irritating inconvenience involving “foreigners.”

Without explanation or reason, my mind snaps to when my sister and I were kids.

One morning as we were eating a Rice Krispies breakfast, mother heard the garbage truck in the alley over the snap, crackle and pop in our bowls. She leapt from the table as if shot from the Quaker Oats cannon – cereal figured heavily in school day breakfasts – and ran out with a bag that Dad forgot to dump in the pail on his way to work. Wearing no makeup and one of those "lush, plush" Target robes made out of some synthetic fabric that squeaks when you rub it against itself, Joyce headed out the door before she had time to apply make-up. Besides the green robe, she wore a pair of faded, fluffy slippers, her hair was still in rollers. (Remember rollers? I still can't fathom how anyone slept with them in their head.)

Anyway, she dashed down the alley looking like the Mad Woman of Genza shouting, "Am I too late for the garbage?" The guy hanging off a step on the rear of the truck yelled back, "Plenty of room, lady, jump in."

She had a parallel haunting experience with the man who read the Minnegasco meter when I was about 11.

Joyce was carrying a load of laundry to the machine. I had left a bunch of toys around in the family room, through which she had to pass to get to the laundry area. One of the things not put away was my baseball batting helmet, which was supposed to be stored with my other equipment behind the Kenmore washer-dryer. Because her arms were filled, she put my batting helmet on her head.

Unbeknownst to mother, the meter reader had come in the house as he usually did if the door was open and walked downstairs. (Those were simpler, safer times and it was Minneapolis, after all.) Just as he entered the laundry room unnoticed, mother decided there was room to toss her bathrobe in the wash so he caught her standing in a bra and girdle – another bit of remarkable fashion yesteryear – with my batting helmet on her head.

The meter reader let out an embarrassed, “Oh, God, excuse me!” They stared at each other in dumbfounded surprise for a moment or two before the meter reader mumbled, "I hope your team wins, lady" as he ran quickly up the steps. That month, my parents received an estimated bill. And from then on, the meter reader always knocked - even if the door was open.

Now I’m back in 1968 and by the time Dick Nixon narrowly defeated our sort-of next door neighbor at the time, Hubert Humphrey, for president, it was a world where all around people were losing their heads while she kept hers.

Joyce had her first big political fight with dad over dinner one night when she called LBJ a liar over the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Phil, still stuck in a post-World War Two “my country right or wrong” mentality, was apoplectic that his wife, the mother of his children, the woman who kept the home fires burning while he was in the Navy during WW2, not only held an opinion different than his but dared to express it. Publicly. She wrote letters to our Congressman, both Minnesota senators and the local newspapers opposing the Vietnam War. Worse, as far as dad was concerned, she actually defied him and marched in an anti-war parade through downtown Minneapolis.

She knew she was right and history proved her so; eventually, she even convinced her husband.

Say what?

Phil, who spent his life convinced that he knew all there was to know and only god knew all the rest, actually came to see that Joyce was right about the war, if nothing else in their half-century marriage. He pushed through an anti-war resolution at a county Democratic Party convention and between his stand and mother’s letters, they so delighted Tricky Dick they got their mail opened regularly, their taxes audited repeatedly and their name on one of his countless enemy lists.

Tricky Dick And Mom

When the lists were released, finding her name on one was a highpoint of her life.

Joyce has been gone now for a decade. I'm glad I still carry around such vivid memories of her.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Bad Things Happen When Youngsters Write Ads

I know that it's typical in the advertising agency business for creative types to be about 14 years old but the trend seems to be slipping onto the client side, as well. Take the current commercials for the 2009 Lincoln Continental.

Apparently, no one on either the agency side or the account side is old enough to remember - let alone have lived through - the Vietnam War. I'm not sure they even read about the war or how it tore the US apart. But right now, Lincoln is running a spot where the music is an old Vietnam-era protest song, Ground Control to Major Tom. (And, yes, I used to think it was Major Tong, too.) It is an allegorical anti-war song about a pilot who becomes lost and trapped after being shot into space for a mission he doesn't understand.

OK, it's one thing when a major bank used a Bob Dylan song five years ago to attract accounts from then-increasingly wealthy (and now increasingly poor) boomers. But I hardly put The Times They Are A-Changin' in the same category as an anti-war protest song.

Since boomers are the only people who might be remotely interested in driving an overgrown, outsized tank like a Lincoln, why would the agency (or Ford, for that matter) want to dredge up all of those bad old memories of riots and draft cards and draft dodging and the generation gap? Why not something happy like a Beach Boys number (perhaps something like Little Duece Coupe) or even the Stones (maybe Brown Sugar) from the same era?

That the agency pitched the idea is one thing; agencies are always pitching lousy ideas to clients. But that the car company execs bought it is another matter altogether. And we're bailing out Detroit for this? No wonder the auto industry is in such bad shape.

Sadly, it’s becoming a widespread phenomenon not limited to Ford's Lincoln. The new Obama-fied Pepsi campaign is also using a lot of '60s tunes. And, anyway, the music belies Pepsi's current play-on-words tag line: Every generation refreshes itself.

I shouldn't think any of this speaks to the millenial generation. Or even the Pepsi generation, for that matter.