Sunday, September 13, 2009

A new era of McCarthyism

The Democratic Activist

Wow ... these are actually the guys to whom today's conservative leaders and point men of the Republican party like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Neal Boortz (and even Republican politicians) are so enamored, encouraging, and devoted.

Check out the young teenage kid in the sixth photo with the t-shirt that reads:

"The cure for Obama communism is a new era of McCarthyism."

Yep ... that's just what America needs: a new era of McCartyism!

(And a right-wing military coup to topple the U.S. government, like "Hondurus did it.")

That's conservatism for you.

And don't be fooled, folks. That's exactly what today's Machiavellian right wingers have in mind for America ... only more, worse, and with added sting provided by our un-American legal and mass media information systems that now legitimize corporate unaccountability and government secrecy, indefinite detention, rendition, torture, etc.

Glenn Greenwald points out that this is NOT a new development, however, as the media is currently claiming. The conservative movement has been leading adherents toward exactly this kind of extremely dangerous lunatic fringe ideology for decades, now.

(FYI: It seems that South Carolina's flirtation with reactionary eccentricity certainly didn't begin with Governor Mark Stanford's torrid Argentinean love affair or Congressman Joe Wilson's inability to control his urge to act like a spoiled second grader. Apparently, The Palmetto State has always been a hotbed of off-the-far-right-edge lunacy and antics.)

The left also lies ... but today it's those on the right who tell the VAST VAST MAJORITY of outrageous, made-up, "pants on fire" lies, because to today's American (generally Christian) conservatives, lying (along with all manner of unethical, and unChristian behavior) is simply regarded as a perfectly acceptable and laudable political tactic (just count the few outrageous lies of the left vs. the LEGION outrageous lies of the right at nonpartisan fact-checking site PolitiFact.com).

It's a simple fact: the right wing has freely chosen to become a rotten, immoral, self-aggrandizing, anti-democratic bullying force, caring far more about cultural control, political domination, and selfish self-interest than anything else (and precious little about actual integrity, honor, honesty, or the needs and rights of anyone who disagrees with them).

Bullies generally understand only one thing: a swift, damaging punch to the face. Unfortunately, that's normally the only thing that works to keep them from trampling on others' freedoms.

It's okay to defend one's self. We do need to stand up and strongly put down their violence, hate, cheating, thieving, and lying, and to make a habit of pushing back quickly and powerfully. While we don't have to become like the right wing bullies in order to do so, we musn't EVER be AT ALL reluctant to loudly declare and make clear the corrupt, vile, repulsive, dangerous, and self-centered sickness of their behavior.

As proto-Democrat and liberal fighter Harry Truman said:

"I never give them hell. I just tell the truth, and they think it's hell."

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Why are we liberals such losers?

The Democratic Activist
Radio host Angie Coiro asked on air the other why Barack Obama wasn't fighting like he ought to be for a public health insurance option and for real health care reform.

I called her, and told her what I though was the answer to her query:

The reason that Barack Obama doesn't fight is because ... he's a loser, or a liar.

Like most Democrats, Obama doesn't approve of fighting. He's the non-violent type, which means that when confronted with crooked, lying, thieving, morally and ethically bankrupt bullies like those that comprise the core of the current American right wing, he doesn't put up his fists and fight fire with fire. He just doesn't fight. That's not what he does. He's a gentleman. He talks. He reasons. He gives eloquent speeches. He seeks consensus. He naively believes that only nasty, uncouth ruffians (like those on the right) put up their dukes and engage in actual fisticuffs.

Liberals have become so accustomed to being the whipped puppy that even when we have all the cards, even when Democrats have a filibuster-proof senate majority, an overwhelming majority in the House, AND the presidency, we still have this tremendous innate tendency to roll over, cave, compromise ... and lose. We let FOX decide which executive branch appointees get to keep their jobs and which must go. We change good legislation because "the righties are telling mean lies ... and the people believe them!" We accept the specter of a Democratic president continuing and even expanding the draconian neoconservative policies of his Republican predecessor and breaking promise after promise to us, his dutiful left-wing lap dogs. Because, like him, we don't fight. Because we're too good for that. And because (horrors!) we might lose some congressional seats if we did.

Losing is what today's progressive Democrats do. We're really, really good at it. It's who we are ... or, rather, who we've become. We've become so used to losing, in fact, to being the beaten, abused, bullied kid on the school yard, that it's very hard for us to imagine actually winning, anymore. Real victory is not an easy image to form in our minds. We can only really see ourselves losing, or if we're lucky, compromising to the point of losing ... EVEN WHEN WE HAVE ALL THE POWER.

It's called "learned helplessness." Like "battered wife syndrome," the problem is a diseased self-image. The inability to view one's self as worthy of respect, and the accompanying unwillingness to fight even when one really does have the power to do so. We liberals are losers. And that won't change unless and until we wake up, grab ourselves by the balls, squeeze REAL hard, and start swingin' for the damn fences.

I scream at the radio when I hear invertebrate progressives discussing "what we'll do if the public option doesn't pass," how maybe we should be willing to compromise and settle for a triggered (i.e. fake) public option or a neutered "co-op" option, how maybe we shouldn't "make the perfect the enemy of the good."

HELLO?! THE PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS IN THE HOUSE HAS 84 MEMBERS (NOT COUNTING THE MINORITY CAUCUSES) ... THE BLUE DOGS HAVE JUST 54!! WE'VE GOT THE POWER TO STOP ANY BILL WITHOUT A STRONG PUBLIC OPTION!! WE'RE IN CHARGE HERE!! THERE'S NO REASON TO COMPROMISE!! NO REASON TO LOSE!! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU THINKING?? WE ACTUALLY CAN WIN THIS!!

We could win, that is, if we'd only stand up, take hold of the power we've already got, screw the "political risk," and fight with the actual intention of flattening the opposition.

But that means doing actual harm to the other side, and taking real political chances. Progressives don't do harm, and we certainly don't do risk. Hurt is not what we do. We're opposed to that. We help. We don't fight. We're above all that. We're the nice guys. We're non-violent. We're terminally cautious. We're losers.

Make no mistake, this altercation with the right is a street fight. The way it works is simple: the guy with the stronger determination to HURT the other guy wins. That's it. That's all. Unlike we liberals, the Becks, Limbaughs, Hannitys, O'Reillys, and Palins of the American political scene TOTALLY understand and gleefully embrace this fact.

But we liberals see ourselves as pathetic weaklings who can't prevail, but who might be lucky enough to compromise on our ideals and hang onto a few moldy crumbs carelessly dropped by our right-wing overlords. We lose because we're afraid to risk tearing our precious designer clothes in a real scuffle, finally throwing hard punches squarely into the faces of the bullies who we've allowed to steal our lunch money, depress our spirits, and rape our country all these years. And now, increasingly and ironically, our most critical fights must be with fellow Democrats. Because today, it's the conservative half of the Democratic Party that's become the chief obstacle to progressive reform in America.

There was a day not too long ago when liberals knew exactly how to win. We knew how to message. We knew how to be fiercely loud and proud of liberalism and the hope it represents for humanity. The thought of a bloody nose didn't scare us. We knew how to take a stand on principle, and not take "no" for an answer. We knew about catching garbage from the other side and throwing back twice as much in return. We knew what courage was. We knew how to call crap crap. We once knew how to show up by the hundreds and thousands at town meetings and our own version of "tea bag" protests (Does anyone remember sit-ins? Civil disobedience?). We knew how to filibuster and use congressional rules to our advantage. We knew how to stick to a goal and counter b.s. with ferocity and furor. We welcomed hate from the other side, instead of falling to pieces in the face of it.

I'm sick of all this. I'm fed up with losing. I'm tired of liberal compromise, of cowering and caving to corrupt conservatives. I'm ill from the crushing disappointment that comes from supporting Obama and the other cowards in the Democratic Party establishment who only seem to know how to roll over, take their humiliation, and then ask "May I have another, please?"

Sure, compromise is necessary in the real world of politics. But not habitual, automatic compromise from a position of weakness and resignation which leads only to one defeat after another, or, at best, to a glacially slow pace of reform that we simply cannot afford in this day of global climate change, a severely wounded American democracy, and a dying American middle class.

And of course there are a number of liberals today both prominent and lesser-known who fight like crazy (like Dennis Kucinich, Glenn Greenwald, Jane Hamsher, the folks at BuzzFlash, et al). But they fight in virtual isolation, overwhelmed by right-wing nut cases who seem to come out of the wood work every time Rush says "boo." While tea-bagging right-wingers are holding town hall meetings hostage and monopolizing mainstream media messaging, the most that most of us progressives do is sit at computers writing blog posts like this one. Almost all of us can do more ... a lot more. I can. You can. We all can. We all must.

Most of all ... WE LIBERALS MUST NOT COMPROMISE WHEN WE DO NOT HAVE TO.

The elephant in the living room is our friend. Why are we so afraid to ride him and trample the forces that are devolving America, remaking her as a corrupt, cruel, fear-based, third world nation right before our own eyes?

We don't need to lie. We don't need to be physically violent. We don't need to decide, like the Republican Party has, that the end justifies the means, that winning is ALL that matters, that deliberate deception is a great political tool, that the only ethical obligation is to one's own narrow self-interest, that because might makes right we've got some Darwinian right to dominate and restrict the voices and choices of others.

We don't have to become like the right in order to beat it. We just have to stop being losers.

We don't even really have to give 'em actual hell. ALL WE HAVE TO DO, as Harry Truman, a true liberal fighter, once said, is: "... just tell the truth, and they'll think it's hell."

There are plenty of times and situations in which reason and argument can win the day, when fighting like hungry, brawling cats is rarely if ever necessary to bring about the best possible outcome. 

The American political arena in 2009, however, is not one of them.

Why doesn't Obama fight?

Because up to now ... he's been a loser. Or else he's not the principled liberal that he represented himself to be during the 2008 presidential campaign, the kind of leader our sickened country needs so badly right now.

Are you?

Are we ... as liberal Democrats?

In a couple of short months, the ultimate fate of the public option will probably provide clear answers to these critical questions.
The Democratic Activist

Friday, July 24, 2009

Up to 22,000 Americans die each year from ... lack of health insurance

The Democratic Activist
Can you imagine the sense of emergency there'd be in Washington if seven full-fledged 9-11 attacks happened each and every year, year in and year out?

"What's the rush to enact health care reform?" is the question being asked by Republicans and conservative Democrats.

What's the rush? Are they serious? Seven 9-11 attacks every single year ... and "What's the rush?" is all we get from these so-called people's representatives!

If anyone needed further proof that conservatives in congress care not for the needs of average Americans but rather for the profits of big-time corporations, this calculated, politically-motivated foot-dragging combined with the fact that as many as 22,000 Americans die each and every year from lack of health insurance is that proof.

We need strong health care reform that puts the lives and good health of ordinary citizens ahead of the financial gain of the parasitic private health care industry and a few ultra-wealthy corporate pirates who profit directly, handsomely, and unconscionably from our needless suffering and dying ... and that means a robust, non-profit public health insurance option (known as the"Public Option") that puts the American people first while saving huge amounts of money ($180 billion per year) at the same time!


But conservatives are doing their best to deny the American people their right to real, quality, affordable health care by stalling and delaying health care legislation in Congress and spending $1.4 million each day on lobbyists in an effort to kill the true populist reform that the Public Option represents.

Only by taking the time (just a few minutes) as often as possible to contact our U.S. senators and congressional representatives can we ordinary people hope to beat back this attempt to pay for the obscene profits of private health insurance providers, drug companies, and HMO's with our good health and the lives of up to 22,000 American men, women, and children each and every year.

Here's the toll-free phone number for the Capitol Switchboard in Washington, D.C.:

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1-800-828-0498.

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After calling the number above, tell the operator you would like to speak with your two senators and congressional representative (you may be asked for your home state and zip code). Tell each of them that you want congress to stop conservative political shenanigans designed to drag out and ultimately destroy health care reform, and insist that he or she work energetically to see to it that a robust "Public Option" is included in any bill sent to the President Obama for his signature. Make sure each one knows that your vote in the next election could hinge on whether or not he or she does this. Be polite, but firm, as you leave your message with the staff person who will take your call.

You may want to do as I've done, and store the Capitol Switchboard number using the speed dial function of your cell phone, so you can make calls while commuting, waiting in line here or there, etc. Calling every day is not too often!

This is not a game. We're talking about life and death, here ... as many as 22,000 American lives and deaths every single year ... along with the life or death of our nation's economy ... unless real health care reform (and that means inclusion of a strong Public Option) is passed into law as soon as possible.

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The conservative ethos in a nutshell

The Democratic Activist
Do you find this as jaw droppingly unbelievable as I do?

We now have a conservative military writer calling for "... censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media."

Military attacks ... on journalists?

In the Journal of International Security Affairs, Ralph Peters wraps the modern conservative ethos into a convenient nutshell for us, and illustrates all by himself better than any defender of American constitutional values ever could one of the main reasons our country is currently in such precarious straits:

The point of all this is simple: Win. In warfare, nothing else matters. If you cannot win clean, win dirty. But win. Our victories are ultimately in humanity's interests, while our failures nourish monsters.

"Win at any cost. Just win, baby. Nothing else matters. Nothing. NOTHING. If you can't win clean, win dirty. We're right, they're wrong. We're good, they're evil. Therefore anything and everything we do is okay.

Glorify the bully. The Rule of Gold, instead of The Golden Rule. Power over principle. Lie, lie big, and lie often. The end justifies the means. I'm BIGGER than you ... so SHUT UP!"

It's the essence of evil, still quite alive and well on the American right ... embraced by all but perhaps one Republican member of congress (Ron Paul), and all but a few dozen congressional Democrats.

There's no question that the same ugly potential exists on the left – but for now the problem is a function of the firmly rooted infection of ultra-nationalism (and barely latent fascism) that's taken over America's right wing.

What's more important to you: the country, or the constitution?

If you answered the former, you've got the virus.

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Demand a special prosecutor!

Unbelievably ... America chose to join the cabal of torturing nations

~~~

Do you know the tragic story of the death of Alyssa Peterson, a U.S. interrogator in Iraq and former Mormon missionary who killed herself in Tal Afar on September 15, 2003 after refusing to take part in the torture of U.S. detainees?

From a recent article by Greg Mitchell appearing in The Huffington Post:

Appalled when ordered to take part in interrogations that, no doubt, involved what we would call torture, [Alyssa] refused, then killed herself a few days later, in September 2003.

"Peterson objected to the interrogation techniques used on prisoners. She refused to participate after only two nights working in the unit known as the cage. Army spokespersons for her unit have refused to describe the interrogation techniques Alyssa objected to. They say all records of those techniques have now been destroyed."

The official probe of her death would later note that earlier she had been "reprimanded" for showing "empathy" for the prisoners. One of the most moving parts of the report, in fact, is this: "She said that she did not know how to be two people; she ... could not be one person in the cage and another outside the wire."

The U.S. military lied about Alyssa's death, and tried for years to cover up the truth and keep even her own parents in the dark about how she died. Eventually, our government was forced to admit the facts about what had happened to Alyssa.

It's an incredible, awful, and heart-wrenching story, particularly for Mormons, particularly right now, as the spotlight of truth finally begins to fully illuminate the abject prevarication, gutless terror, and brutal depravity of the Bush/Cheney torture program and the horrible crimes committed under their orders in the name of all Americans.

Click here and here to read about Alyssa's story.

Critically important is the recently revealed fact that the Bush/Cheney torture program was originated and conducted for a purely political purpose. America's "enhance interrogation program" was not, as we've been deceitfully assured for so long, implemented to "save American lives" and to "prevent another terrorist attack on U.S. soil."

Not at all.

Contrary to the big lie continually fed to us by Bush, Cheney and others in their administration in an attempt to keep knowledge of their brutal, self-serving, truly Machiavellian criminality secret from the country they were supposed to be serving, the recently released report from the Senate Armed Services Committee makes clear that one of the central reasons that the United States began – for the first time in our history – an official policy of torturing prisoners in our custody was to elicit false confessions of a link (any link) between Sadaam Hussein and Al-Qaeda so that President Bush could justify and rally support for his planned invasion of Iraq. Although the CIA had already had already made clear that there was so such link to be found, the Bush/Cheney Administration was desperate and determined to find one, even if it meant relinquishing the power of our moral example in the world, abandoning America's most cherished and central values, and turning our country, the United States of America, the same one that Ronald Reagan called a "shining city on a hill," into a torturing nation, one of the "bad guys," a trampler of the rule of law and of the commandments of common human decency.

How unbelievably, stunningly, and horribly surreal this is. What in the world has happened to us ... that in this country, this America, we're even asking the question "Does torture work?"

Jesse Ventura, Navy Seal and former pro wrestler and governor of Minnesota, a self-described Goldwater conservative, proved the deceitfulness of the Bush/Cheney pro-torture neoconservatives during an interview on May 11, 2009 with Larry King (following are excerpts from the transcript):

[Waterboarding is] drowning. It gives you the complete sensation that you're drowning. It is no good, because you – I'll put it to you this way, you give me a water board, Dick Cheney, and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.

That's why torture is no good in a court of law, because if you're torturing someone, they are going to tell you what they think you want to hear to stop the torture.

Let me say this: they say it's prevented things by us torturing.

If that's the case, then why haven't we caught bin Laden? Because we got his people ... and if we tortured them, they ought to be able to tell us where he's at. See, it don't work. We haven't captured bin Laden. We haven't done anything.

Torture does not work.


America is the Constitution. Absent the rule of law equally applied to all her citizens, America no longer exists. She is defeated. Dead. Gone. Torturing prisoners is against the law, and those who commit or order such serious crimes must be punished accordingly, if America herself is to survive.

Remember George Washington, who refused to torture British prisoners during our nation's most critical time, our war for independence from England ... even though the British were torturing our own prisoners and the very survival of our newly born country was at stake?

Remember World War Two, when German soldiers fought fiercely just to be captured by the Americans rather than by the Soviets, because they knew the treatment they'd receive as U.S. prisoners would be entirely different than what they would face as Soviet captives?

Remember when we, the U.S.A., were the "good guys?" Although we've never been perfect or without sin as a nation (far from it), we used to value holding the moral high ground and for more than 200 years earned the respect and admiration of the entire world (and the eager cooperation of most of it) for doing so.

If we don't loudly and actively condemn this barbarity and act swiftly and surely to prosecute those who ordered, enabled, or committed torture in our name (remember, some detainees were tortured to death in U.S. custody – a capital crime), we risk no less than the loss of our identity as a nation that stands for, not against, the rule of law.

Manadel al-Jamadi – tortured to death in U.S. custody (Nov. 2003)

From a recent article by Juan Cole:

... Obama is unwittingly allowing the Right to lay the groundwork for permanent move to presidential dictatorship. Obama says he doesn't want to re-litigate the last 8 years. That is frankly disingenuous. The last 8 years was never litigated. And crimes were committed. If they are not addressed, they will become norms, not crimes.

The United States must not torture – because torture is wrong, and because nothing is more profoundly un-American. And because it's illegal. And because it doesn't work. And because it works against us.

Period.

Please join with me and many, many others all across America in calling for serious congressional inquiry and the appointment of a well-funded, independent special prosecutor to investigate and hold accountable all those (from whatever political party) who so flagrantly violated our nation's most fundamental laws and values abrogating torture of detainees:

-

Attorney General Eric Holder
Office of the Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
Washington, D.C., 20530

Phone: 202-514-2001, 202-353-1555

Fax: 202-307-6777

Email: AskDOJ@usdoj.gov

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President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Phone: 202-456-1111

Fax: 202-456-2461

Email form: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/

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Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Friday, April 10, 2009

Capitalism: Down For The Count

The Democratic Activist
Just 53% say capitalism is better than socialism, according to Rasmussen, the conservative polling outfit.

20 years after communism went down for the count, capitalism is now on the ropes, battered, passing out, and going down. It seems that the accelerating endangerment of the American middle class coupled with the recent terrifying economic collapse caused by greedy, self-interested, fat cat Wall Street pirates let loose to police themselves and take whatever plunder they can steal from us (now in the trillions of dollars), Americans are waking up and starting to notice that both communism AND capitalism have clearly failed as economic systems.

The Rasmussen poll illustrates a long-term, leftward trend strongly favoring socialism over capitalism. According to the poll, American adults under 30 are almost evenly divided, preferring capitalism to socialism by a very slight majority (37% to 33%). That demographic is the future. In twenty years this segment of the population be occupying the seats of power in our culture, with likely an even more pro-socialist and anti-capitalist younger demographic coming right up behind them.

Hopefully, by that time, the steep tilt we're seeing in America away from Reagonomic, "free market," "free-for-all," "survival of the fittest," "you're on your own," "win at any cost" capitalism and toward cooperative collectivism will settle on a sensible compromise between the extremes of capitalism and communism, an American version of European democratic socialism, as the system that is capable of providing the greatest good for the greatest number in our country.

The future foreshadowed by the Rasmussen poll is a hopeful one, in which the selfishness of the Ayn Rand, "got mine ... get yours," "greed is good," Reagan 1980's is finally replaced with a societal ethos based on The Golden Rule (Matthew 7:9-12, Luke 6:27-31) instead of the Rule of Gold ("He who has the gold makes the rules").

Click here to read about the Rasmussen poll and get further details.

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Obama Sells His Soul

The Democratic Activist
Those of us whose jaws nearly dislocated from continual dropping at the arrogance, cruelty, and moral and ethical bankruptcy of the Bush/Cheney administration are now having to come to grips with an emerging pattern of evidence too dreadful to have imagined only a few months ago.

Notwithstanding pronounced improvement over the previous president in several important areas, it's becoming increasingly clear that, on the critical matter of civil liberties, Obama may end up being just as bad as (or worse than) Bush ever was.

Excerpts from a recent post by Glenn Greenwald:

So candidate Obama unambiguously vowed to his supporters that he would work to ensure "full accountability" for "past offenses" in surveillance lawbreaking. President Obama, however, has now become the prime impediment to precisely that accountability, repeatedly engaging in extraordinary legal maneuvers to ensure that "past offenses" -- both in the surveillance and torture/rendition realm -- remain secret and forever immunized from judicial review. Put another way, Obama has repeatedly done the exact opposite of what he vowed he would do: rather than "seek full accountability for past offenses," he has been working feverishly to block such accountability, by embracing the same radical Bush/Cheney views and rhetoric regarding presidential secrecy powers that caused so much controversy and anger for the last several years.

I could literally spend all day highlighting passages from the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross) Report that will turn the stomach of any minimally decent human being. Those morally depraved individuals who continue to mock and dismiss the notion that the U.S. Government, at the highest level, ordered the most brutal and inhumane torture should be compelled to read the Report in its entirety (and the Report is confined to 14 individual "black site" prisoners; it says nothing about what was done to the tens of thousands of other detainees at Guantanamo, Bagram, in Iraq and elsewhere -- many of whom died in our custody).

Andrew Sullivan highlights but one of the key passages from Mark Danner's article demonstrating the similarities between standard Soviet torture techniques and the ones the U.S. used repeatedly on our detainees. Note how warped our political culture is: Sen. Dick Durbin was forced to tearfully apologize on the Senate floor for accurately comparing our treatment of detainees at Guantanamo to the techniques used in Soviet gulags and by Gestapo interrogation squads, but those who perpetrated these war crimes have apologized for nothing, remain welcome in decent company, and are still shielded by our Government from all accountability.

Is this the vaunted "transparency," and "change you can believe in" that Obama endlessly promoted as the centerpiece of his campaign?

The following interviews by Keith Olberman explain in lay terms just how the terribly, terribly bad the Obama record on constitutional liberties is turning out to be. In them, Olberman rightly expresses dismay and disgust at how Obama is out-Bushing Bush in defending and even surpassing the dictatorial, autocratic, un-American claims of virtually unlimited executive power that Bush and Cheney became infamous for espousing and that Obama himself so strongly decried only months ago during his run for the presidency:




To avoid distraction from the economic crisis, disdain from some within the intelligence community, and a likely right-wing political smear and media onslaught, President Barack Obama, the constitutional law professor and new hope of the free world, has apparently decided to turn his back on the rule of law ... and to allow the crippling, disfiguring disease of irresponsibility, unaccountability, corruption, greed, and inhumanity at the root of our governmental, economic, and cultural problems to continue to progress unchecked.

Will band-aids, denial, broken promises, and repeating the awful mistakes of the recent past do anything real to heal the deeply serious, systemic illness of character of which our current economic woes are merely the most urgent current symptom?

No, they won't. In fact, by putting off the day of reckoning and allowing the true cause of our troubles to continue to fester, these dysfunctional responses only worsen our already rather dire predicament.

If you agree, here's how you can ...

TAKE ACTION!

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Contact President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and mainstream media companies and DEMAND immediate criminal investigation and prosecution of ALL Bush administration officials responsible in any way for the brutal torture of detainees in U.S. custody or illegal surveillance activities conducted against American citizens within the borders of our own country and an abrupt end to the Obama administration's wholehearted embrace of Bush's doctrine of imperial presidential power:

-

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Phone: 202-456-1111

Fax: 202-456-2461

Email form: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/

-

Attorney General Eric Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder
Office of the Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
Washington, D.C., 20530

Phone: 202-514-2001, 202-353-1555

Fax: 202-307-6777

Email: AskDOJ@usdoj.gov

-

Mainstream Media

Click here and here to contact various mainstream media outlets.

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Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Friday, March 27, 2009

Time Travel: Glass-Steagall Repealed in 1999

The Democratic Activist
Free-marketeers (nearly everyone in both houses of congress, Republicans and Democrats over the past 30 years) thought getting rid of Depression-era restrictions on banks couldn't possibly do any harm. All that "market regulation" stuff was "so 1930's." What we needed for the new century was "freedom," since the captains of finance (conservatives all) could certainly be trusted to police themselves and would never be so irresponsible as to risk the farm on dangerous speculative gambling.

Got that wrong!

As BuzzFlash put it ... find your deregulation villians and heroes here (the 1999 article in the New York times reporting on the repeal of Glass-Steagall):

CONGRESS PASSES WIDE-RANGING BILL EASING BANK LAWS

Exerpts from the article:

''The world changes, and we have to change with it,'' said Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, who wrote the law that will bear his name along with the two other main Republican sponsors, Representative Jim Leach of Iowa and Representative Thomas J. Bliley Jr. of Virginia. ''We have a new century coming, and we have an opportunity to dominate that century the same way we dominated this century. Glass-Steagall, in the midst of the Great Depression, came at a time when the thinking was that the government was the answer. In this era of economic prosperity, we have decided that freedom is the answer.''

''The concerns that we will have a meltdown like 1929 are dramatically overblown,'' said Senator Bob Kerrey, Democrat of Nebraska.

The opponents of the measure gloomily predicted that by unshackling banks and enabling them to move more freely into new kinds of financial activities, the new law could lead to an economic crisis down the road when the marketplace is no longer growing briskly.

''I think we will look back in 10 years' time and say we should not have done this but we did because we forgot the lessons of the past, and that that which is true in the 1930's is true in 2010,'' said Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota. ''I wasn't around during the 1930's or the debate over Glass-Steagall. But I was here in the early 1980's when it was decided to allow the expansion of savings and loans. We have now decided in the name of modernization to forget the lessons of the past, of safety and of soundness.''

Senator Paul Wellstone, Democrat of Minnesota, said that Congress had ''seemed determined to unlearn the lessons from our past mistakes.''

''Scores of banks failed in the Great Depression as a result of unsound banking practices, and their failure only deepened the crisis,'' Mr. Wellstone said. ''Glass-Steagall was intended to protect our financial system by insulating commercial banking from other forms of risk. It was one of several stabilizers designed to keep a similar tragedy from recurring ...''

Interesting that by and large it was only the sparsely populated left wing of the Democratic Party (Boxer, Wellstone, Feingold, Harkin, etc.) that thought repealing Glass/Steagall back in 1999 was a bad idea. The left got it right. Paying proper respect to skeptics of unchecked corporatism in just this one case could have entirely prevented the economic crisis and collapse through which the entire world must now suffer.

Why does the Democratic Party leadership (including, unfortunately, President Obama himself) still insist on flirting with discredited conservative economics while thumbing its nose at its prescient liberal base?

Perhaps the better question is how can the Dems as a group be moved back to the left where they belong?

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why can't I assess my own assets ... like banks can?

The Democratic Activist
When you or I apply for a refi loan, do we get to assess the value of our home ourselves because we think the market for that asset is "distressed," and in so doing hide our poor financial health and low aggregate net worth?

Certainly not. Don't be silly.

We have to pay $400 for a 15-minute independent property appraisal that determines the current market value of our home.

Well ... bankers have just been given the right to assess the value of their own assets, to just make self-serving guesses as to what they'd be worth in a "normally functioning market," in order to make themselves appear financial viable and hide their true insolvency!

One easy going rule for a small cadre of wealthy, powerful, corrupt Wall Street pirates, and another entirely different, difficult, harsh, and unforgiving rule for all the rest of us mere average Americans.

Excerpts from an article appearing in today's Huffington Post:

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fl.), who quizzed Herz on the accounting rule, said that the demand to change the rules is "representative of exactly the kind of thing that's put us in this position in general...We have people who break every rule in the book and then they think that the answer to their problem ss is to break more rules. It's given us some real insight into the human nature and the pathology of the people who have created these problems for America."

If banks are allowed to determine the value of their assets without regard to current prices, investors have less trust and confidence in the integrity of their books and their assets, which could further freeze markets and further drive down prices.

Treasury Secretary Timothy, testifying before Congress on Tuesday, expressed some support for the rule change, calling it a "constructive set of changes" that struck a balance "between preserving confidence in the quality of public disclosure, which is very important to getting through this, [and addressing] some of the complications of applying those standards in a market like we're experiencing today."

This is beyond outrageous, exasperating, ridiculous, and utterly unacceptable.

If you agree, here's how you can ...

TAKE ACTION!

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Public comments are being collected by the The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) until 4/1/09:

-

Email:

director@fasb.org

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Snail mail:

Technical Director,
FASB
401 Merritt 7, PO Box 5116
Norwalk, CT 06856-5116

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IMPORTANT: In your comment, be sure to include the following text (do so in the subject line for email messages, or in the first line of your letter):

File Reference: Proposed FSP FAS 157-e.

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Here's a sample message (feel free to copy all or part of it):

Mark-to-market rules must NOT be changed for a small subset of Americans, i.e. rich bankers, while the rest of us, ordinary Americans, get no such favor. If I go to refinance my home mortgage, will I be allowed to value my home at some fictional future price, because the current market for this asset, my home, is currently "distressed?"

OF COURSE NOT! Because I'm not a wealthy Wall Street billionaire banker!

Why should special rules be created that make life easy for a small subset of the American population? Doing so flies directly in the face of both the letter and the spirit of the U.S. Constitution (violating equal protection). It is literally un-American to allow one small class of people cushy privileges that the rest of the population doesn't have.

Again ... do NOT change mark-to-market rules to allow banks to hide their insolvency. I'm not allowed to assess the current value of my own assets, neither are you ... why should they be allowed to do so?

Please inform me as to the final decision made by the FASB on this matter.

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Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Friday, March 20, 2009

Krugman scores again

The Democratic Activist
Paul Krugman's right on the money, as usual:

I’ll leave to others the question of who knew or should have known that the bonus firestorm was coming; but it’s part of a pattern. At every stage, Geithner et al have made it clear that they still have faith in the people who created the financial crisis — that they believe that all we have is a liquidity crisis that can be undone with a bit of financial engineering, that “governments do a bad job of running banks” (as opposed, presumably, to the wonderful job the private bankers have done), that financial bailouts and guarantees should come with no strings attached.

This was bad analysis, bad policy, and terrible politics. This administration, elected on the promise of change, has already managed, in an astonishingly short time, to create the impression that it’s owned by the wheeler-dealers. And that leaves it with no ability to counter crude populism.

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/20/aig/

No question ... Obama's blowing it.

Conservative cabinet appointments have in fact foreshadowed a dangerous reluctance to abandon faith in the champions of Wall Street "free-for-all" capitalism and instead shift the power back to responsible regulation by those not devoted mainly to the cause of the ultra-wealthy and ├╝ber-powerful in America.

Why is common sense liberalism still so radiocative in Washington even after America's economy goes critical right before our eyes due to injuries sustained in a horrible Reaganomic trainwreck?

Will Obama (finally) take Krugman's advice, bite the bullet, temporarily nationalize zombie banks and institutions like AIG, clean out the corrupt culture of "me first" greed that still so pollutes the waters of America business and finance, roll back the Reagan tax cuts on zillionaires, etc. – before it's too late to actually make a difference?

If not, he may find his own political capital account is bankrupt before his first 100 days are over.

You know what to do.

O's contact info:

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President Barack Obama

Phone: 202-456-1111

Email form: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/

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Thank you.

Pass it on.

===

UPDATE 3/22/09 : Frank Rich of the New York Times seems to agree with my assessement. In his latest excellent piece, Rich ponders the calamitous consequences should Obama's cozy relationship with and ridiculous coddling of Wall Street turn out to be his administration's "Katrina Moment." Read it here.
The Democratic Activist

Monday, February 16, 2009

Republicans Consider Nationalizing U.S. Banks ... But Obama And Dems Say No!

The Democratic Activist
The stimulus package just passed was better than nothing, clearly the right type of thing for our country to be doing at this juncture (though its spending provisions may well be far too small in scope to actually get the job done).

Nevertheless, much as I hate to say it, it's President Obama who's pulling in the wrong direction in the battle to restart the heart of the American banking industry and by extension that of the entire world economy.

Things have gotten so bad that, unbelievable as it sounds, even die-hard Republicans in Congress like Lindsey Graham and Peter King now want to do the right thing and will consider nationalizing U.S. banks ... but not Obama!

Huh?

That's right. Read all about it right here.

When far-right conservatives are to the left of tippity-top Democrats like Obama and Schumer on the most crucial economic question facing the nation in 80 years, calling as they are for sensible democratic socialist economic solutions to pull our bacon from the fire in the current financial emergency in which we find ourselves ... you KNOW something really is WAY, WAY out of whack.

The Swedish Solution is in fact just what we need to turn this ship around. It worked for the Swedes in the 1990's, and it's probably the best shot we Americans and the rest of the world have at this point in time.

But first we'll need to convince our new Democratic president and old donkeys in Congress to stop beating around the Bush, follow Graham's and King's advice, bite the nationalization bullet, and finally get this ball in the hoop before it's too late:

---

President Barack Obama

Phone: 202-456-1111

Email form: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/

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Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Friday, February 6, 2009

Are High Federal Officials Above the Law? Prosecute Bush and Cheney!

he Democratic Activist
Obama's in charge now ...

And there's a new sheriff in town. Eric Holder's been deputized as the nation's new Attorney General.

But will Holder act?

Or did Obama's new A.G. make a deal with Republicans in exchange for confirmation not to uphold the law equally and fully investigate and prosecute heinous felonies committed by the Bush Crime Family?

Will the new Attorney General restore the rule of law in America, or establish as precedent that ours is a bifurcated legal system that holds average people harshly accountable even for relatively minor infractions but forks over "Get Out Of Jail FREE" cards to those elected to high federal offices who commit the most dastardly domestic and international crimes?

Activists ... do your duty!

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Attorney General Eric Holder

Phone: 202-514-2001

Email: AskDOJ@usdoj.gov

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Call!! Email!!

Do it now!!!

Thanks.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

PRESIDENT OBAMA

The Democratic Activist
It happened.

Hell has frozen over.

No matter how messed up our current circumstances are, no matter how bad things may get, we will always be able to remember that the impossible DID, in fact, happen on January 20, 2008 ... and that we can, therefore, make it happen again.

Yes, indeed ... we can!

Actually, hell has frozen over a many times throughout history. Let's not forget that the fact America exists at all is itself a miracle.

The four minute mile was regarded for the longest time as unbeatable, impossible (as was producing light without fire, climbing Mount Everest, conversing with people not present, or going for a stroll on the moon). In all of recorded athletic history, no one had run a sub four minute mile. This was still the case in May, 1954, when Roger Bannister finally did the "impossible" by finally breaking the four minute barrier. Within three years, 16 other runners were suddenly able to do the same thing. Now, gifted high school kids routinely run miles in under four minutes.

When you finally actually see a unicorn, in the flesh, right before you ... how do you ever look at the word "impossible" and think the same thing? These kinds of events crack "reality," and allow us to come out of our shells, transformed.

Today is a great day to be alive. I'll never forget it. Had breakfast and saw the television coverage of the presidential inauguration at my mother's home, with my mother, brother, wife, and 15-year-old daughter (who later watched President Obama's swearing-in ceremony in her first period history class ... how perfectly appropriate).

Miracles happen. Today was further proof.

And it's a good thing ... because we'll be needing at least a few more miracles in pretty short order!

For now, it's time to breathe in the air of a new world, watch the latest "unachievable" milestone recede in the distance, and marvel at the magnificence, the incredible good, of which we human beings are capable.

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist