Monthly Archives: August, 2009

Alpha-Political Verse 2009

From time to time, I write an alphabetical poem summing up a period’s zany and significant political moments, with links to my related satire.

Although Barack Obama’s administration is still relatively new, there’s already plenty of material for another piece of alpha-political poetry:

“A is for Alaska with its lovely Russian view.

B is for the Birthers who will rant and rave on cue.

C is for conservatives co-opted by the loons.

D is for each Democrat who caves and often swoons. …”

(Alpha-Political Verse 2009 continues here.)

Elegy

I was “introduced”, you might say, to the Kennedys when I was thirteen, in 1960.

My father, who had supported Eisenhower in 1952 and Stevenson in 1956, was supporting Kennedy in the 1960 election. JFK and my dad both graduated in the Class of 1940 from Harvard. Although I was born in California, to where my father had escaped his Bostonian parents after World War II, there was a little Kennedy in both of us. I inherited mine from my dad, of course. As for him, it was impossible to grow up a middle-class Catholic in Boston without being touched by the politics – Honey Fitz, the Saltonstalls, the McCormacks, James Curley, the Cabot Lodges, the O’Neils.

My dad died in November of 1960, just days before Kennedy became president. Three years and 11 days later, Kennedy was dead. By then, Teddy Kennedy had been elected to John’s Senate seat and I had been taken to Boston with my grandparents – the same people from whom my dad had fled after the war.

My father, Paul, and the Kennedys had something deep and abiding in both their souls and hearts: a sense that one’s purpose was to be of service to others. Paul did that in the only way available to him, as a high school teacher (and just before he died, a college professor) dedicated to the highest level of education for all his students. He was always on the edge of trouble with his employers, because he saw and fought the evils of educational institutions’ morphing into corporate training camps and statistically tracking children into segments destined to be marched into predestined careers. My dad, you see, was not a “go along, get along” sort of guy. He died, I think, of a broken heart …

[more at P! ...]

rumor mills

I listened in on the Obama conference call last Thursday for health care reform strategy. There was nothing in what I heard then which would lead me to believe that Obama has backed off the public option. During the conference call, he called the public option controversy “kind of manufactured” and generally blamed the cable news set for misleading the electorate as to what is in the bill. This whole thing about him saying “whether or not there is a public option”…people have to remember that the administration isn’t writing the legislation. Congress is.

It seems to me that a lot of the talk about the division on the left is trumped up by the media–”left,” “right” or “center”–which in no way wants America to have anything remotely like a national health care plan. So while at first I was taken in by the talk that Obama had thrown in the towel, I don’t believe it anymore. Things like this from the Washington Post, cite too few concrete examples of dissent on the left to make a trend, relying on unnamed sources to balloon the argument.

In any case, the show isn’t over yet.

Lockerbie Bomber Released But Was He Even Guilty?

As Libyan Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi is released from jail for his part in the Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie I wonder whether his impending death from prostate cancer will be the final part of the tragedy?

The justice system tells us that Al Megrahi was responsible for the deaths of 243 passengers and 16 crew on the ill-fated flight.

The truth, however, may be somewhat different…

Is there a Lockerbie conspiracy?

Netroots Nation: Longtime Obama aide Jarrett greeted with mild applause and some slight hissing.

You know I voted for Obama but I did not come away that impressed with what I saw this Saturday morning from longtime aide, friend and confidante Valerie Jarrett. Ms. Jarrett spoke for about an hour and a half during the last day of Netroots Nation, the annual get together of Kossacks and fellow travelers who schoomze and network and can afford to pay about several hundred dollars to do so. Hey, if I wasn’t reporting this I couldn’t afford to go. I got a press pass worth 200 bucks.
The format was that Baratunde Thurston was to lob her questions, mostly softballs apparently, and she was to hit away but I felt that I didn’t really learn very much other than “give us time” and “I trust Obama”. Those are beginning to not be very satisfying answers when you’re continuing a lot of shockingly bad Bush policies.
Here’s a sample of what Valerie gave us. So, Baratunde reads a question that asks what blogs, specifically the president reads, and whether he reads them on a Mac or a PC. She answers back that the president reads lots of blogs but couldn’t or didn’t know (more likely) which ones he read and that she can’t tell you whether he uses a Mac or a PC. Do you feel more informed, about anything?
Or here’s another one: Baratunde reads another question off his computer and this time it’s about Tom Daschle. And she goes on about what a cool and swell and great guy Tom is. I’m trying to get what world she’s coming from. Actually, its clear now that Daschle would have been a horrible addition. First, he rejoined some awful insurance lobbying firm that pays more money than God to promote evil policies. Second, even though he says he likes the public option, he came out against it in his role as insurance company hack. Here’s the thing: would he have ever left the insurance industry even if he had joined the administration? And does Kent Conrad want a cushy job as an insurance hack lobbyist as well? Must be.
Or, and here’s another one, she actually had the nerve to talk about how the Obama administration has limited the influence of lobbyists in his White House. She must not have read all those stories about how he cut backroom deals with Big Pharma that would have undercut House and Senate efforts to regulate these industries. I think this story was broken by the Huffington Post by the way, thus forcing an Obama ally into some real journalism.
Did I mention that there was slight hissing and even some boos? Well, its not Valerie. Its the record of the administration. Valerie is a professional and has to back the boss. But if you really wanted a concise picture of the administration so far, I really think this Ian Walsh post hits it on the head.
Miscellania: Healthcare, Unemployment, Resistance and Obama
by: Ian Welsh
Sat Aug 08, 2009 at 22:00
After visiting Victoria for a week, let’s do a quick roundup post

Healthcare: I remain convinced that nothing that will come out of this Congress won’t be pretty awful. My current belief is that what will be passed will mandate everyone buy insurance but because of inadequate cost controls and subsidies will leave ordinary people forced to buy insurance which will increase in price faster than wages. The optimistic view would be that once everyone is in the system, pressure will build to make the system actually work. We’ll see, even if true, there’ll be a lot of pain in between.

Unemployment: According to the BLS, the economy lost 274,000 jobs, but the unemployment rate dropped from 9.5% to 9.4%. Welcome to the world of statistics that don’t mean what you think they do. People who want jobs, but who are convinced they can’t get one and so aren’t looking actively don’t count as unemployed. So the number of employed people can go down and the unemployment rate can go down. In other words, we’re a long way from things getting better, they’re just getting worse more slowly.

Resistance: The American right has decided on a policy of resistance to Obama which can be summed up as “thuggery”. People are being trained and financed to go out and shout down Democrats or intimidate them. There has already been some violence, there will be more. The Obama administration thought they could avoid the rise of the refusnik right by refusing to act on most social issues, which is why they abandoned their promises to gays and have generally been unwilling to move on other social issues. They took the lesson of the Clinton administration to be “don’t inflame the fanatics on the right-avoid social issues, and don’t slash the military”. They were, of course, wrong: the radical right (and there is hardly a non-radical right left) will oppose Obama no matter what he does and if Obama is unwilling to use to the full might of the administrative apparatus against them, they will simply take advantage of his weakness to escalate. Tactics which are seen to work, will not be abandoned, to the contrary, they will be used more and more.

Obama: Obama’s active period is about over. Health care “reform”, if he gets it through, will probably be the last major policy. While there are rises and falls, his overall popularity is trending down and that will probably continue. The “honeymoon” is over, and it was used primarily to shove through a lousy stimulus that won’t lead to enough of a recovery, and with luck (for him) a bad global warming bill and health reform that isn’t. Fortunately, banks and financial firms have been bailed out and are making lots of money, and should be in a position to reward Obama with significant funding in future elections.

Unless they decide that the Republicans will give them everything they want, too.

Add to that Republican weakness, and Obama’s inner circle may think they’re still cruising for reelection. I’m not so sure. Counting on your enemy’s weakness is a dangerous tactic, especially when you are doing little to ensure that they remain weak or that you remain strong.

I really think that’s the truth of the last six months of the Obama administration. I will forgive him for everything if he manages to pass a strong public option and I’m in a positiion to buy affordable healthcare. If not, that smattering of hisses and boos will turn into a chorus, and hit a depressingly high note right around the 2010 and 2012 election cycles

Netroots Nation Quick Impressions: LEAP’s Jack Cole

(Netroots Nation was held in Pittsburgh this year. I couldn’t really afford to go but then I remembered that I am the Pittsburgh Progressive Examiner and I got in that way. I even spoke to Markos for a couple of minutes…I don’t think he remembered me which is probably why I got a press pass…You know, when he announced this would be in Pittsburgh some months back I got the impression that he did that just to make sure I couldn’t attend. Thank goodness for lowly stature in the blogosphere…)

Pittsburgh Progressive Examiner
August 15, 6:35 AMPittsburgh Progressive ExaminerPhilip Shropshire

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Netroots Nation, the annual gathering of Kossacks (derived from the Daily Kos, a political must read by the way) and fellow travelers, ends today In Pittsburgh and I hope to do some reporting on Saturday’s events..

I did attend Thursday evening’s events at this year’s Netroots nation and I ran into people who, and I’m probably incorrect about this, I felt that I had known fairly well because I had read so much of their work and seen so many of their youtube vids.

One of those persons that I met in the flesh was Jack Cole, one of the elder retired spokesman for a really sane group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Every police officer involved in LEAP has done their share of drug arrests which, according to Jack at least, they feel a certain amount of shame about. I think Jack described the work he was doing with LEAP as a kind of penance.

This is a person and a group that I discovered entirely through Youtube and I believe they held a session on decriminalization on Friday which unfortunately I couldn’t attend. But here are some of the Youtube vids I first discovered and I immediately put them on rotation at the Acid Jazz Channel. (One note: Jack Cole appears second in this vid and is not Norm Stamper. Repeat: Jack Cole is not Norm Stamper.)

And here’s Norm Stamper’s interview with Reason magazine:

I did ask Jack one question that I was kind of curious about: I had noticed that most of the cops in LEAP were retired and I asked him if there were any active duty policemen who were members of the organization and was that dangerous? He told me there were 5 to 7 active duty police officers who were members of LEAP, although one of them had been fired but he won a big lawsuit against him worth over 800000 dollars. Apparently, he can’t actually do any police work anymore but they can’t fire him either. So, there might be a bit of a risk there for active duty police officers to get involved in LEAP. Or a big payday.

Who is John Towery?

John Towery is a professional informant who works for the US Army. He works on Fort Lewis, WA in ‘force protection’. Between September 2007 and July 2009, using the alias “John Jacob (agent_orange@riseup.net)”, he illegally infiltrated various anti-war and “anarchist” groups around the Olympia and Tacoma (WA) area including Port Militarization Resistance and Students for a Democratic Society. He also worked closely with the Smash ICE Campaign and Iraq Veterans Against the War. Much of his time was spent befriending anarchists or those whose views had anarchist characteristics. People who knew John Jacob described him as kind, generous, and friendly. He came to meetings and quickly became a trusted individual, leading to him becoming the administrator of the PMR mailing list which gave him access to the name and email address of almost every person in the organization. The information he collected was given to and used by various government bodies including The US Army, The Olympia Police Department, the Tacoma Police Department, The Federal Bureau of Investigation, The Washington State Patrol, and the Washington Joint Analytical Center. After his outing, he admitted to spying on these groups and passing on information to these agencies. This information collection on US citizens and groups engaged in 1st Amendment protected activities was clearly illegal under a number of statues and violated the rights and civil liberties of those involved.

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