It's April, which in the real world generally means... screwing!
In California, it means political TV advertising. Poor, poor California.
In early June, Californians get to vote in two competitive Republican primaries and for (or against) several ballot propositions. The non-competitive nature of the Democratic primaries for governor and US Senate will assure higher GOP turnout for all the other junk on the ballot.
The highest-profile ballot initiatives is Prop 16. Why does it have the highest profile? Because it's a massively-funded, totally-obvious corporate action by Pacific Gas & Electric. And it's a big no-win situation for voters and good governance.
Here's the core of Prop 16: If passed, it would add another fucking page to the state constitution which would require a two-thirds vote before a local government could get into the energy business.
Now, I'm generally against "public power." Power is a 100% no-fail requirement for modern society, and PG&E does a pretty great job of it. The very idea of handing over the responsibility of producing power and maintaining the grid to a San Francisco city agency... um, no. In fact, Bay Guardian publisher Bruce Brugmann got public power on the SF ballot a few years ago, and it lost. We know better.
Prop 16 would effectively end new public power projects, which have had successes and not-successes in various municipalities and counties. So here's the deal with the Devil that a voter has to sign if she wants to put a stop to public power across the State.
1. Do the bidding of a corporation's shareholders, whom you already pay every month. PG&E is the sole contributor to Yes on 16, to the tune of $23M. You can't watch local TV or open your mailbox without being touched by this (and Meg Whitman's particularly steamy brand of bullshit).
2. Amend the state constitution again. State government is broken because the constitution is a zillion pages long, because special interests con voters at the ballot box over and over.
3. Take political power away from localities.
4. Endorse slimy gimmicks. Here are just a few examples of how PG&E is trying to fool all of the people.
a. They've branded this amendment... you ready for this?... The Taxpayers Right to Vote. Are you against taxpayers having the right to vote, Generalissimo?
b. Direct mail that's covered with solar panels and sunflowers. Oh look, it's a clean power initiative!
c. A core message that's couched as a quote from the California Taxpayers' Association and California Chamber of Commerce. (Who knew that two organizations of people could say one thing at the same time?)
"It's hard to believe but right now voters have no say when local governments spend billions of dollars to get into the business of providing electricity."
Yes, it's nearly inconceivable that people could elect representatives to decide how to spend their tax money. WHAT KIND OF SYSTEM IS THIS???
Prop 16 is, like "Do you think my best girlfriend is pretty?", a question that has no good answers. But NO seems slightly less terrible than YES.
Now that Health Care Reform is the law of the land (well, almost), and the law contains neither death panels, nor suicide pills, nor mandatory abortions provided by SEIU thugs, Republican arguments are coalescing around the individual mandate to purchase insurance. Starting in 2014, if you don't have health insurance, you must come up with a $695 tax penalty per household member (up to a limit, depending on the size of your household and your income).
The argument against this mandate goes something like this:
This law forces people to buy something and penalizes them if they don't want to. The Constitution does not permit this sort of federal power.
Our system is rife with wildly popular examples of tax policies to encourage specific behaviors. For example, if you don't want to buy and carry a mortgage on a house, you pay a substantial tax penalty. If you don't want to produce as many children as your body permits, you pay a substantial tax penalty. If you don't want to contribute to a 401(k) plan or health FSA, you pay a substantial tax penalty.
And then there's Medicare. Every paycheck, you buy Medicare insurance. You don't get to opt out.
Of course, you can also make the case that our tax code is a destructive source of friction upon our economy. I couldn't agree more. Now tell that to someone whose house is only affordable because they get to write off their mortgage interest.
In the meantime, let's stop pretending that the Marxocrats invented a new form of state slavery.
I've never been so ashamed to be a white person.
If you watch right-wing TV or listen to right-wing radio, you'll hear this meme over and over:
Al Gore has terrified gullible citizens about global warming -- a threat that's at best scientifically controversial -- in order to consolidate his own wealth and power. He flies around in a private jet between his two suburban castles and his elite conferences, and his net worth has increased from $1 million in 2000 to more than $100 million today. When he gets his cap-and-trade or other carbon tax schemes, he'll be a billionaire.
Subtext: Gore has accumulated $100 million in wealth based on a hoax and a conspiracy he has perpetrated. His self-serving advocacy for "climate protection" is only more evidence that anthrogenic global warming isn't real, but is merely a conspiracy that enriches its main players. That scientists cannot really agree on man's impact on the climate is only more evidence that global warming is at best a wasted concern, and at worst a con job.
For example, here's Laura Ingraham interviewing the editor of Climate Depot on Fox "News." Climate Depot is a clearinghouse site for news and opinions that dispute global warming, and is owned by CFACT, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, a non-profit funded by oil and automotive companies to oppose regulation or collective action on the environment.
This is just one appearance of the "Gore got rich off the hoax" meme:
Did Gore get rich after leaving office? Absolutely. His wealth expanding by two decimals was detailed in Fast Company two years ago. How did Gore make his moolah?
Why has Al Gore been such a wild success in business?
One problem he had in politics, he says, was identifying an issue too early--"'predawn' is the term I use"-- to be able to act on it. But "in the business world, particularly at a time when things are moving so swiftly, if you can see it early, you can make a business opportunity out of it." He pauses. "For whatever reason, the business world rewards a long-term perspective more than the political world does."
To serve the narrative, however, the "hoaxers" fixate on his founding of Generation Investment Management, which they claim consists of companies that stand to profit handsomely from cap-and-trade and other stringent environmental regulations.
The US taking action against carbon emissions will also create losers, both politically (Republicans) and financially (oil companies, coal companies, shipping, transportation, and heavy industry). These potential losers' best strategy is to discredit the theory of what they call "AGW" (anthrogenic global warming) by discrediting its advocates. "Global warming isn't real; it's just a scheme to make a few people like Al Gore rich and powerful," is now the accepted and assumed narrative on the Right. And as goes Al Gore, they hope, so goes future regulation.
"Who do you think you are, attacking South Carolina's esteemed US Senator Jim DeMint (R), just because he's letting all the other states hoard federal earmarks at our expense? Don't you get it? How can we pound the ridiculousness of your critique into your little snail-brain?"
How about with a carefully-worded op-ed?
DeMint Watches Out for Us All
Recently your newspaper published a letter from state Rep. Bakari Sellers attacking U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint and his opposition to congressional earmarks.
There is a saying that the Jews who are wealthy got that way not by watching dollars, but instead by taking care of the pennies and the dollars taking care of themselves. By not using earmarks to fund projects for South Carolina and instead using actual bills, DeMint is watching our nation’s pennies and trying to preserve our country’s wealth and our economy’s viability to give all an opportunity to succeed.
Jim DeMint is like a Jew! Hey, what are you getting upset about it? It's in a good way. Everyone knows that Jews get rich by being cheap about the little things. C'mon, it's a saying! Some jackass once said something about "being penny-wise and pound-foolish," but that guy obviously knew nothing about crafty Jew mercantilism.
Louis C.K. did a clever bit years ago about how awesome it would be if stereotypes were more positive. Like, "You know why I love Chinese people? Because they're made out of candy. And Puerto Ricans can fly!"
The late defensive end Reggie White also once shocked the Wisconsin state house by giving a speech in which he "praised" races and ethnicities for their shared characteristics, like "Hispanics are gifted in family structure, and you can see a Hispanic person, and they can put 20, 30 people in one home."
And let's not forget the former president of the University of Maine, who claimed, shockingly, that blacks were better basketball and football players than whites because the "muscle structure of the black athlete typically is more suited for certain positions." And then there's Jimmy the Greek.
So let's give South Carolina GOP county chairmen James Ulmer and Edwin Merwin (ha ha ha) a break or two. How many of the 40,000 white people in their counties have ever even been to shul?
I'm a reluctant Verizon Wireless customer. Their coverage is fine, but their smartphones blow.
But my 13-year-relationship with Verizon (nee GTE, nee Bell Atlantic-Nynex Wireless) is about to end. Why? Because they're sponsoring the Friends of America rally on Labor Day, including special guests Sean Hannity and The Nuge.
I'm not sure exactly why an American would also be a Friend of America, but I do know this: the rally's definition of Friend of America is "giant coal mining and coal services companies." And conversely, the Enemy of America is anyone who wants to see the USA burning less coal, for a million great reasons.
The Friends of America rally website promotes a petition against the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill that will be our country's first serious attempt to regulate carbon emissions. That petition is sponsored and hosted by the National Mining Association.
Most of the other sponsors of Friends of America are coal mining and mining services companies. Why is Verizon Wireless rolling with this crowd? I sent them an email, and "Gary the Supervisor" responded as such, in its entirety:
The sponsorship you're concerned about was a local decision to support the community and sell our products at the event. It is not a statement of our policy on any public issue.
Big coal is absolutely terrified of carbon regulation, so they're mobilizing political rallies like this one to kill it. And Verizon thinks they can financially support this (or apparently any) political rally without it being a "statement of our policy."
Well, perhaps Verizon could also financially sponsor Klan rallies, Berkeley anti-Israel rallies, and militia recruiting sessions. Hey, sponsorship doesn't mean support, right?
The Truthers have been banging their heads against the wall for almost eight years with little traction. The Birthers have been doing much better; probably millions of white rednecks have hung all their fear and disgust about our first Scary "The Other" President on his wildly improbable illegitimacy. The Deceptors’ beliefs are doomed never to find mainstream acceptance; they’re almost as complicated as reality.
Birthers: a subculture of wacko right-wingers who believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and has never produced evidence of birth in America, and maintain this belief in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.Truthers: a subculture of wacko left-wingers (primarily) who believe that 9/11 was an inside job propagated by the neo-cons and military investors to start WWIII for power and financial gain.
Deceptors: a subculture of pan-ideological wackos who watched “The Obama Deception” on Google Video and now believe that Barack Obama is merely a puppet of stateless financial interests bent on forcing the world into indentured slavery.
But what if the Birther, the Truther, and the Deceptor movements merged? The Debruthers! Think about it. With their collective batshit power, they could take this evil regime down!
I've even gotten the narrative started:
Mombasa-born Muslim Barack Obama blew up the Twin Towers and WTC7 with explosives at the bidding of the Rothschild banking family, so that Bush would turn America into a security state and Alan Greenspan would ignite a credit bubble, putting America’s citizens and businesses in hock to the global financial oligarchs. Then Hawaii state officials, at the bidding of the bankers, created fake a birth certificate and doctored the birth announcements in the Honolulu newspaper archives. This set the stage for Obama to be elected president, place financial insiders in positions of political power, create citizen dependency on the state, increase national indebtedness, take our guns away, and institute mandatory national service. This clears the way for Obama to enforce an form of Islamic fascism in which ownership of all assets falls into the hands of the shadowy Jews who placed him in power.
Admit: that's some compelling shit right there. It all makes so much sense.
If I start a blog about this, do you think I could get on Hannity?
If I might break away from my typical cynical grumbling for a moment, I'd like to say something nice: The first four months of the Obama Era have been extraordinary. The change has been as radical as expected, and while our new president isn't doing everything right, the most serious change has been doing anything at all.
Yesterday's pro-active capitulation of the Health Care-Industrial Complex is case in point. Leaders of America's largest health care corporations and associations stepped up and said, "We're going to try to rein in cost increases." While some on the left are decrying this as mere PR by a private industry trying to maintain its profitability, this move by Big Healthcare is utterly striking. You couldn't imagine anything like it occurring in any industry under the asleep-at-the-wheel stewardship of the Bush-Cheney years.
For the first time in 15 years, health care is hot again. (It was still only lukewarm during the Medicare drug benefit debate a few years ago.) Which is, of course, reminding us of "HillaryCare," perhaps the most frustrating public policy debate since the Reagan years.
This is how I remember it: After Bubba wins the election, he puts Hillary in charge of health care policy. She convenes a panel of experts, hold a few hearings, and then go behind closed doors to pound out a plan. They emerge with nothing short of a real healthcare system, which America has always lacked. Republicans attack it sight unseen, which turned out to be their exact strategy. Creating a healthcare system means creating a management structure, which also looks like a giant government bureaucracy. The plan fails.
In desperation, Senate Dems try to get symbolic targets like "90% coverage" into bills. Those fail, too. It all fails. A few months later, Democrats are swept from office in the GOP revolution.
With Dems running the policy-making branches of government for the first time since '94, healthcare is back. And so are our memories of the last time that we tried to fix this horrifying non-system of ours.
Since '94, things have only gotten worse. Healthcare is now more than 1/6 of our total economy. The rest of the advanced world gets 100% coverage, no insurance burden on employers, no medical bankruptcy, higher life expectancy, and lower infant mortality, all for about half of what we spend here. We oddly support an expansive Medicare system (a giant medical bureaucracy) while we fear creating any sort of real system for everyone else. We prefer skyrocketing premiums and hidden costs to anything that smells like "taxes." Or so they tell us.
And then we have our friends Harry and Louise.
Harry and Louise are one of America's great political myths. They were the stars of a paid campaign by the Coaltion for Health Insurance Choices, itself a front group for the insurance industry. In a series of ads, Harry and Louise moped around their kitchen fretting about the government assigning them a new doctor, and a faceless idiot Washington bureaucrat deciding which procedures are covered. (As opposed to their employers' insurance companies telling them which doctors they could go to, and which procedures would be covered.) Harry and Louise turned American opinion against the Clinton plan, and health care reform was dead forever.
Or so I've heard. I never saw a Harry and Louise commercial, and neither did anyone else I talked to back then. In fact, few people saw the ads at all, except in the TV news reports that covered the debate. The campaign targeted deeply anti-government audiences like Rush Limbaugh's, and saturated markets where national media opinions were formed (primarily two cities on the eastern seaboard).
In the past two weeks, as health care reform has heated up again, the media has rediscovered its own myths about Harry and Louise. Their role in the HillaryCare debate of '94 has been elevated to that of Archduke Ferdinand's in starting World War I.
Will we see another anti-reform campaign? Undoubtedly. Obama's plan is to create a public insurance option to cover the uncovered, while preserving the current employer-based system. (The New Yorker had an excellent analysis of how we reach universal coverage given our current conditions and traditions.) The long-term hope -- or fear, depending on your perspective -- is that the public system will effectively control costs and ration care. What does that mean for private insurers down the road? It's scary for them -- and for Dittoheads, teabaggers, and other anti-government types -- to contemplate.
And they'll try to scare us, too. But doing nothing since '94 has only pushed our healthcare non-system deeper into decline. The cost issue is undeniable -- even right-wingers admit that health care may not be an unalienable right, but it's definitely too expensive.
This time, the "nothing" option isn't really an option at all.
If you know me, you know that I’m very old and wise. And in my very long life, I’ve learned a great many important things.
Primary among them is that all political ideologies are the same:
All political movements are, in essence, attempts to reposition society's winners and losers. Our winners are virtuous and make the world richer and freer and fairer, but their winners just want to make themselves richer and more powerful at the expense of the people.
Now that Obama has proposed a cap-and-trade system for CO2 emissions, a policy which his opponent also championed during the 2008 campaign, the Right has decided to go apeshit about global warming.
For example, CNS News:
And the Dakota Voice:
Folks, don’t fall for more socialist lies aimed to remove more of the money you earned from your pocket to make even bigger government which aims to rob you of more of your God-given liberties... Isn’t it time you took a look at how thin the “facts” are behind Al Gore’s religion, and join the rest of us in rejecting this anti-American nonsense?
And Doug Ross:
Never mind that almost all greenhouse gas is water vapor. But since the Statists can't measure water vapor and condensation, they attempt to wrestle control of carbon dioxide instead, by claiming it's toxic. But the point is, they want to control you... The economy is on life support, so what does the Enviro-Statist do? He grabs more power. Because they don't care about the economy, they care about power! They're not about preserving or improving our society, they're bent on destroying it.
And Rush says:
Ditto! And one more for good luck:
Personally, I think the jury is still out on the relationship between carbon emissions and climate change, and it's unlikely we'll ever know the answer for sure. It's hard to look at data without bias; but the more I try, the more fuzzy the link seems.
I'm down with cap and trade, however. Emissions are disastrous for lots of reasons, and the costs of oil imports go way beyond $2 or $4 gas. If we taxed oil just to pay for our foreign policy distortions and international borrowing costs, gasoline would be priced at twice its current level.
But that's socialist talk. And as we all know by now, global warming is a phony phenomenon invented by left-wingers who want to destroy our way of life just to increase their own power. Everyone knows Al Gore just doesn't want to get a real job, after all.